Friday, March 14, 2014

Wendy Davis' new communications director

Appears to be just what she needs.

Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis’ campaign for governor has hired U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s former communications director.

Zac Petkanas, Davis’ new communications director, most recently was senior communications adviser for the Nevada State Democratic Party.

Before that, Petkanas was Reid’s communications director, and he was deputy communications director for Reid’s re-election campaign.

Not the 'Harry Reid' part.  This 'smashmouth' part.

In just the last few days, some members of the Capitol Press Corps have noticed a shift in how the Davis campaign is interacting with us. It also seems, for the moment at least, that the Davis folks are more nimble than before in reacting to events and seizing on chances to drive their narrative in the press.


After joining the Davis team, one of Petkanas’ first online statements about GOP nominee for governor Greg Abbott was that after the AG “campaigned with sex predator & fought equal pay for women, no wonder new GOP PAC hitting panic button in Texas." That’s apparently a reference to a new political action committee called Red State Women. As the name suggests, it’s an effort aimed at women here. It is also, one could argue, an attempt to counter any chance Davis might have at convincing GOP women to cross over and vote for the Democrat in November.

Even better is seeing the press releases this week also.

-- "Davis: Abbott took huge pay increase but fights equal pay for equal work" (on March 12, the same as his Tweet linked above)


The campaign Tweeted this to emphasize the first one, and Wayne Slater at the Dallas News wrote this in response to the second one.  So I would say Zac is off to a fast start.

Davis is in Beaumont today pumping up her volunteers, and my mother wants to go, so maybe I'll get a word or a photo with the candidate.  If I do, you'll hear about it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ted Cruz blames missing Malaysian jetliner on Obamacare

I'm sure there's more important headlines -- like Rick Perry getting booed on Jimmy Kimmel's SXSW remote, or Buc-ees desperately working to insure that the .1% of their customers who are registered to vote clearly understand that they are bipartisans, or even that the NSA has pretended to be Facebook as they tricked you into downloading malware -- but as winter finally breaks into a lovely spring (locally, at least), we'll go with this news.

BEIJING—The mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines jet over the weekend took a sinister turn today, as Sen. Ted Cruz (R—TX) revealed that two of the passengers on board had recently signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

“Although we cannot prove that this tragedy was caused by the White House’s misguided efforts at health-care reform, the math doesn’t lie,” said Cruz at a combined Tea Party/lobotomy convention. “Experts have said that the probability of two people getting Obamacare insurance and boarding a plane, and then having that plane crash, is less than one in a million.”

Cruz said it would be inappropriate to speculate on the exact mechanism by which health insurance could have caused the disaster, but noted that “crash” and “” had appeared together in news articles more than ten thousand times in the last six months. “Everywhere we look, we see the President’s fingerprints on this,” he added.

In related news, the White House offered its condolences to the families of those presumed dead on the missing jet. “What makes this tragedy even worse,” said spokesman Jay Carney, “is that one of those passengers was supposed to make the final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Find more riveting stories like that here, and now in the perpetually updating blogroll at the right.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The CIA can't cover their tracks

Nothing really bothered me more -- in the early blogging days -- than to come to the realization that the United States, represented by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, was kidnapping and torturing people in the wake of 9/11.  And close behind that, what we came to quaintly call warrantless wiretapping of American citizens.

A decade has passed and there remains no proper accounting for either of those atrocities.  The NYT op-ed board presents the state of that union today. (My emphasis throughout.)

It was outrageous enough when two successive presidents papered over the Central Intelligence Agency’s history of illegal detention, rendition, torture and fruitless harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects. Now the leader of the Senate intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, has provided stark and convincing evidence that the C.I.A. may have committed crimes to prevent the exposure of interrogations that she said were “far different and far more harsh” than anything the agency had described to Congress.

Senator DiFi, both long and recently a staunch defender of the surveillance state as it evolved over the past 12 years, has flip-flopped.  Her transformed thinking came about as a result of her discovery this week that yes, the CIA spies on senators too, just like it does the rest of us.  David Corn at Mother Jones immediately recognized the constitutional crisis, but you can read about that in a moment.

Feinstein’s speech detailed the lengths to which the C.I.A. had gone to hinder the committee’s investigation, which it began in 2009 after senators learned the agency had destroyed videotapes of the interrogations under President George W. Bush. Under President Obama, prosecutors exonerated the officials who ordered those tapes destroyed.

Feinstein said that when Senate staff members reviewed thousands of documents describing those interrogations in 2009, they found that the C.I.A.’s leadership seriously misled the committee when it described the interrogations program to the panel in 2006, “only hours before President Bush disclosed the program to the public.”

When the Senate staff compiled a still undisclosed 6,300-page report, it described these acts and also concluded that the C.I.A. had falsely claimed that torture and other brutality produced useful intelligence. The report has been going through the snail’s pace review and declassification process since December 2012. The C.I.A. disputed some of its findings. But Feinstein publicly confirmed on Tuesday that an internal review by the C.I.A. had reached conclusions similar to those in the Senate staff report. 

Almost flushed down the memory hole, but like a massive dump in a low-flow toilet, the CIA couldn't plunge fast enough.

It was the committee staff’s possession of that internal review — which the C.I.A. has refused to give to the Senate — that spurred what Ms. Feinstein said was an illegal search of computers (provided to the Senate staff by the C.I.A.) that contained drafts of the internal review. 

Ms. Feinstein said that staff members found the drafts among the documents that the C.I.A. had made available to the committee. She said she did not know whether the drafts were put there inadvertently, or by a whistle-blower. The Senate’s possession of the documents was entirely legal, she said.

Are we all caught up now?  This isn't an episode of Homeland, or 24, or House of Cards.  No teevee show can concoct a plot this nefarious.  It would be rejected as too outlandish by the producers.

The Justice Department now has a criminal investigation to conduct, but the C.I.A. internal review and the Senate report must be released. Feinstein called on President Obama to make public the Senate report, which he has supported doing in the past. She said that this would “ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.”

The lingering fog about the C.I.A. detentions is a result of Mr. Obama’s decision when he took office to conduct no investigation of them. We can only hope he knows that when he has lost Dianne Feinstein, he has no choice but to act in favor of disclosure and accountability.

Mo Dowd breaks it down for you if you're still not feeling any sense of urgency.

In his mad odyssey through the dark side — waterboarding, secret rendition, indefinite detention, unnecessary war and manipulation of C.I.A. analysis — Dick Cheney did his best to vitiate our system of checks and balances. His nefarious work is still warping our intelligence system more than a decade later.

Barack Obama, the former Constitutional law teacher who became president vowing to clean up the excesses and Constitutional corrosion of W. and Cheney, will now have to clean up the excesses and Constitutional corrosion in his own administration. And he’d better get out from between two ferns and get in between the warring Congressional Democrats and administration officials — all opening criminal investigations of each other — because it looks as if the C.I.A. is continuing to run amok to cover up what happened in the years W. and Vice encouraged it to run amok.

Langley needs a come-to-Jesus moment — pronto.

One last bit.

In June, Brennan had issued a 122-page classified rebuttal to the still-classified $40 million, 6,300-page Senate report. But Feinstein said on the floor that she found the C.I.A. riposte “puzzling,” given that the Panetta internal review admitted to what the C.I.A.’s rebuttal objected to. Given the C.I.A.’s 2005 destruction of videotapes showing the torture of two Al Qaeda operatives, Feinstein said she has now locked up in the committee vault in the Hart Office Building the parts of the (former CIA chief) Panetta review that her staff had printed out before it disappeared. She has also requested in writing that Brennan turn over a complete version of the review to the committee.

She said she has received no answers from Brennan, who is no fan of Congress or the media, to her formal questions about the agency’s actions and no response to her request for an apology. She was clearly appalled by the nerve of the agency’s acting general counsel, Robert Eatinger, in making a criminal referral to the Justice Department suggesting her staff is guilty of wrongdoing.

She noted that Eatinger, whom she identified only by job title, worked in the Bush administration as a lawyer in the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, which carried out the notorious detention and interrogation program. She observed archly that Eatinger’s name was cited more than 1,600 times in the Senate report.

In 2007, The Times’s Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane reported that when a C.I.A. official trashed those interrogation videotapes, he told superiors that two C.I.A. lawyers had signed off on it. One was Eatinger. In a Q. & A. at the Council on Foreign Relations just after Feinstein’s floor speech, Brennan told Andrea Mitchell that he is in no way trying to “thwart” the Senate. He denied that the C.I.A. hacked into Senate computers, noting that it was beyond “the scope of reason in terms of what we would do.”

But is anything beyond the scope of reason for the C.I.A. anymore? Shouldn’t someone have gone to jail now besides the guy who blew the whistle on waterboarding? It’s typical that Langley, which has bungled so much for decades, couldn’t even spy on the Senate properly without getting caught. 

Another appropriate question: was the CIA too busy spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee to notice that Vladimir Putin was about to usurp the Ukraine?  To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, we apparently are going to have refight the Cold War with the spies -- and their lawyers -- that we have, not the ones we wish we had.

And I don't trust any of those fuckers one little bit.  To David Corn, as referenced above.

What Feinstein didn't say—but it's surely implied—is that without effective monitoring, secret government cannot be justified in a democracy. This is indeed a defining moment. It's a big deal for President Barack Obama, who, as is often noted in these situations, once upon a time taught constitutional law. Feinstein has ripped open a scab to reveal a deep wound that has been festering for decades. The president needs to respond in a way that demonstrates he is serious about making the system work and restoring faith in the oversight of the intelligence establishment.

We'll stand by patiently as we wait for the president's bold, firm, authoritative response.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

More GOP journamalism, local edition

Good ol' Fort Bend Republican flack Burt Levine -- I've mentioned him here before a time or two -- has a piece in Houston Style about Kesha Rogers and her bid to be the Democratic nominee for the US Senate in November.  It's somewhat lacking in reality-based information, not to mention one of the elementary standards of journalism, however.

The article presents Rogers in favorable light, especially considering her demonstrative track record of abject lunacy.  That Burt wants to make a little mischief in the May primary runoff between Rogers and David Alameel is not the biggest problem, though.

The original included a quote from Harris County Democratic Party chair Lane Lewis praising Rogers.  The article you see now at the link I posted above has been been edited for removal of Lewis' name and mention of the HCDP.  Lewis clarified his non-participation in this Facebook status update yesterday.  As it turns out, Levine not only misattributed something said about Rogers to the wrong Harris Dem chairman and the wrong election, he also cut and pasted the bio data used in the story from Rogers' Wiki page.

I'm going to save Burt further embarrassment if he can prove himself himself capable of acknowledging his mistakes later today, but there are a few screenshots I can post, especially if any further edits to the Style piece are made.  You can follow the links I've embedded -- and read the comments at them -- to get the gist of it.

Burt: I hear Breitbart Texas has an opening.  You're qualified.

Update: the article has had another online revision without notification, adding this graf.

The former Chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party has said, "One of the things the Rogers at 37 years old is able to do is to engage young people. If she can turn out young people to vote for Democrats it is all the better."

That is indeed former HCDP chair Gerry Birnberg speaking in 2010, as previously linked.  Except that in 2010, Rogers was 33 years old.  And Birnberg did not reference Rogers' age at all in the Chronicle's account.