Dems Keep Promise: House Passes Ethics Bill

For this legislation to work, voters will also need to adjust their ‘œwhat’™s in it for me’ mindset. The days of overlooking the unethical actions of one’™s representative because he or she was able to ‘œbring home the bacon’ must cease to exist. While it is easy to blame our elected officials, isn’™t it also time for voters to admit our role as enablers and recommit ourselves and our country to the advancement of the greater good?

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

When Nancy Pelosi stated that this Democratic Congress would be ‘œthe most honest, ethical, and open Congress in history’, I’™ll admit I was skeptical though hopeful. Not long ago, I wrote that the much touted ethics reform seemed to be missing in action but today it looks like the Democrats have delivered much of what they promised with the passage of a comprehensive Ethics Bill.

While it appears that the bill may have omitted some of the reforms that have been discussed and suggested, for the most part, the legislation should be a huge step towards limiting the practice of purse string politics. Additionally, passage of the measure should help to bolster the dismal approval ratings of Congress and provide the Democrats with another achievement to tout in their 2008 election efforts.

The bill, drafted by Democratic leaders, passed by a vote of 411 to 8. It would require House and Senate members to disclose those lobbyists who raise $15,000 or more for them within a six-month period by ‘œbundling’ donations from many people. It also would bar lobbyists and their clients from giving gifts, including meals and tickets, to lawmakers.

Senators seeking targeted spending projects or ‘œearmarks’ would have to publicize their plans 48 hours before the Senate votes on the proposals in publicly available data bases, and declare their families would not directly benefit financially. The House made similar changes to its rules governing earmarks in January.

House members approved the new legislation even though some privately grumbled that it would complicate their fundraising efforts. Senate leaders expect opposition from some conservative Republicans, but they predicted final passage of the measure by week’™s end.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, signaled the bill will meet resistance in the Senate. It ‘œguts key earmark reforms that both houses of Congress approved overwhelmingly,’ he said.

Coburn particularly objected to a revision that would allow committee chairmen or the Senate majority leader ‘” not the Senate parliamentarian ‘” to rule on whether earmark disclosure requirements have been met.

No doubt there will be efforts to subvert the intent of the bill as politicians, driven by the need to raise campaign funds, will look for loopholes to exploit. Hopefully, the measure can be the first step towards refocusing elected officials on public service and good governance rather than the perpetual need to pander to powerful interest groups who dangle perks in exchange for pledges of financial support.

More importantly, I would hope the renewed focus on ethical behavior would begin to shift voter perceptions. Unfortunately, many voters have become so disenchanted with the state of affairs in Washington that they see little difference between the two parties and therefore even less reason to vote. That complacency has become a tacit acceptance of the bad behavior and an opportunity for politicians to further push the limits of propriety.

Lastly, while many constituents have grown to accept pork barrel politics’¦the practice of attaching earmarks to legislation for the funding of pet projects intended to benefit those they represent, perhaps politicians can begin to think beyond the narrow objectives that have made it more difficult to pass important measures.

For example, when efforts to require vehicles to achieve better mileage efficiencies are repeatedly defeated by politicians from those districts in which automobile manufacturing is a mainstay of the economy, the goal of reducing our dependence on foreign oil is thwarted. When that happens with virtually every issue, progress on overarching national issues becomes cumbersome, if not impossible.

Hopefully, this step towards reform will reduce the influence of special interest groups and allow elected officials to address important issues that have become mired down in the minutiae of manipulative lobbying.

For this legislation to work, voters will also need to adjust their ‘œwhat’™s in it for me’ mindset. The days of overlooking the unethical actions of one’™s representative because he or she was able to ‘œbring home the bacon’ must cease to exist. While it is easy to blame our elected officials, isn’™t it also time for voters to admit our role as enablers and recommit ourselves and our country to the advancement of the greater good?

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Democracy Be Damned: Rampant Corruption In Iraq

Sadly, in our efforts to achieve our objectives, we are likely supporting a number of people who could care less about the good people of Iraq and our noble goal. I may be a pessimist, but I’™m at a loss to envision the process whereby the thugs and thieves that have infiltrated the Iraqi government will suddenly elect to enact an equitable democracy.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

I understand the desire to be optimistic about the situation in Iraq but when each day brings a new scandal, a new article detailing the growing obstacles, or a call for more time to achieve our objectives, I simply cannot muster a smile. Frankly, if it weren’™t such a serious situation, it would be laughable.

Try as they might, the war apologists simply lack the ability to plug each emerging hole in a rationale that is long on rhetoric and sorely lacking in reality. Today’™s news about the rampant corruption in the fledgling Iraqi government is more of the same.

Supplies and medicine in strife-torn Baghdad’™s overcrowded hospitals have been siphoned off and sold elsewhere for profit because of ‘œuntouchable’ corruption in the Iraqi Ministry of Health, according to a draft U.S. government report obtained by NBC News.

The report, written by U.S. advisers to Iraq’™s anti-corruption agency, analyzes corruption in 12 ministries and finds devastating and grim problems. ‘œCorruption protected by senior members of the Iraqi government remains untouchable,’ the report sad.

The draft report obtained by NBC said the Iraqi Ministry of Health, which oversees the country’™s hospitals, is in the ‘œgrip’ of the Mahdi Army, the anti-American militia run by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

‘œContract fraud and employee theft of medicines, food, vehicles are viewed by investigators as the greatest problems,’ the report said, adding that ‘œmilitary sources have reported that the Mehdi Army [sic] finances operations from diverted medicines.’

In the Ministry of Oil ‘” the most important agency for Iraq’™s economy ‘” the report said ‘œcorruption is a major problem’ when it comes to refined oil products, such as gasoline and kerosene. The report said corruption in the oil ministry is partly to blame for lines of cars stretching for miles as Iraqis wait hours to fill up their tanks.

My recollection of the pre-war rationale was that Saddam Hussein was a corrupt tyrant who ruled the country with a strong and brutal military and an array of insider alliances’¦all of which led to great wealth for the chosen few and much less for the powerless masses.

As we approach five years of American occupation, I’™m afraid little has changed for the Iraqi people. In reality, one can make an argument that the situation is no better than it was under the Hussein regime. Reports suggest that there is significantly less electricity, gas and oil are in short supply or rationed, unemployment is outrageous, security is at best sporadic, and a select few use their power and authority to amass wealth while depriving others of basic necessities.

Saddam may be gone but his absence seems to have provided little more than an opportunity for others to step in and fill the power vacuum’¦and assume the all important role of plundering the wealth that the Bush administration once suggested would not only provide for the comfort and care of the Iraqi people; but would also pay for our costs to prosecute the war.

Given the state of corruption being reported, as well as the $10 billion per month we are spending to maintain our presence in Iraq, I would suggest that we completely miscalculated the potential obstacles and underestimated the level of lawlessness that would ensue.

An entire battalion of Iraqi police ‘œwas found to be nonexistent’ and corruption in the army is ‘œwidespread,’ with ghost employees and a shortage of supplies, according to the report.

The law allows the prime minister to exempt Cabinet ministers from prosecution and allows ministers to exempt their employees from prosecution.

‘œThis is tantamount to a get out of jail free card,’ Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, told NBC.

The top Iraqi anti-corruption investigator, Judge Rahdi al Rahdi, told NBC that ‘œin many important cases, ministers did not give us the permission to take their employees to court, the prime minister’™s office did not give us permission to take ministers to court.’

Rahdi said the total amount of missing money involved in his investigations into government misconduct is $11 billion.

Corruption is so serious that it is difficult for the government to function, according to Ali Allawi, a former Iraqi government minister.

‘œThe Americans who are supporting this political class, I believe really have no choice. This is a group they have been saddled with, or supported in power, and must grin and bear it,’ he said.

History tells us that this isn’™t the first time the United States hitched its wagon to a government of scofflaws with the thought that it would ultimately be to our benefit. Unfortunately, history also tells us that such regimes rarely endure as their greed and disregard for the people they govern makes them targets for overthrow’¦often by other groups intent on doing more of the same’¦all the while leaving the citizenry scrambling to survive while suffering through the excesses of each new governing body.

Delivering democracy and liberty may be a fundamental goal of George Bush, but the people of Iraq may be years away from embracing such a system. No doubt there are those who favor a fair and equitable society but as so often happens they are overwhelmed by those who have learned the art of manipulation and found their way into positions of power.

Sadly, in our efforts to achieve our objectives, we are likely supporting a number of people who could care less about the good people of Iraq and our noble goal. I may be a pessimist, but I’™m at a loss to envision the process whereby the thugs and thieves that have infiltrated the Iraqi government will suddenly elect to enact an equitable democracy.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Mitt Romney’s New Excuse, Probably Not His Last

Mitt Romney acted like a coward in his decision not to participate in the YouTube/CNN Republican Presidential debate, and maybe he’™s taking some heat for that. How can you tell? He’™s come up with another excuse, and this time he’™s attacking YouTube and spreading falsehoos.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Mitt Romney decided last week not to participate in the YouTube debate. He said then he didn’™t think it very dignified to accept a question from a snowman. (Of course, he’™ll likely accept one from FauxNews talking head, but there’™s no accounting for Romney’™s smarts, is there.) Now Mr. Romney has come up with a new excuse as to why he won’™t face public questions in the YouTube Debate. From the Chicago Tribune:

‘œYouTube is a website that allows kids to network with one another and make friends and contact each other,’ Romney explained. ‘œYouTube looked to see if they had any convicted sex offenders on their web site. They had 29,000.’

Actually, YouTube is the popular site that allows Internet users to upload and watch a variety of videos. The web site, which is owned by search-engine behemoth Google, also was a co-sponsor of the Democratic presidential debate held on Monday night.

The web site MySpace is the one to which Romney actually was referring. MySpace, owned by Rupert Murdoch’™s News Corp., said this week it had found 29,000 registered sex offenders who had submitted profiles to its site and removed them.

Let’™s make sure we’™ve got it straight. Romney won’™t participate in the YouTube debate, but he already participates on MySpace, on several MySpace pages. Yup, this is his page, probably right next to some sexual predator there on the tubes of the internet.

The real thing here is that it becomes obvious that Romney knows nothing about his subject matter. Yeah, virtually every American is for keeping porn out of the hands of children and keeping a rein on sexual predators. It sure as hell isn’™t a hard stand to take, and will get him cheers everywhere. This isn’™t rocket science, but still he screws it up by maligning YouTube with false information. After falsely attacking the YouTube people, he’™ll probably next say he’™s a supporter of business. We shouldn’™t believe that either.

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Falafel Shop vs. Photoshop

Who does ‘œvenerable’ news pundit Bill O’™Reily fear more than liberals? Liberals with Photoshop.

Commentary By: The Xsociate

So Bill ‘œMcCarthy Lite’ O’™Reilly threatened to bring down the Kossacks yesterday. And how, prey tell, would he accomplish such a feat you ask? Why by letting his 55+ median age viewers know that there are those with the knowhow and spare time to manipulate photographs via this new fangled software called ‘œPhotoshop’. Some even know how to (gasp!) post them online! The Horror!

Man, if O’™Rarely right is this upset about a rather bland photo posted by an anonymous diarist, I can only imagine the hategasmic fits my own photoshoppery would send him into.

(X-posted at The Xsociate Files)

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |

A War We Just Might Win…After Summer Vacation

I have empathy for the Iraqi people and I wish them well’¦but I’™m struggling to understand how many U.S. soldiers should give their lives so that the Bush administration can take another shot at convincing the American public that our government is bringing home the bacon’¦as opposed to feeding us another batch of baloney.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Michael O’™Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, write an upbeat assessment of the situation in Iraq in today’™s New York Times‘¦with an even more optimistic headline, ‘œA War We Just Might Win’. After eight days in the war torn country, they conclude that progress is being made, troop morale is high, and sectarian groups are beginning to cooperate in order to bring security.

At the same time, the Iraqi parliament announced today that it would begin a lengthy vacation despite the lack of progress on a number of critical issues that have remained stalled in the struggling government. The vacation is scheduled to end on September 4th’¦just days prior to the much anticipated U.S. assessment intended to evaluate the effectiveness of the recent troop surge.

Perhaps O’™Hanlon and Pollack failed to get the memo announcing the extended vacation’¦the same memo that suggests that even if the troop surge is able to bring improved security, the Iraqi government may well be incapable of stepping in and governing. Oh, and keep in mind that this is the same government that has refused to take control of numerous reconstruction projects that have been completed because they simply lack the ability and the expertise to do so.

From The New York Times:

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’™s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily ‘œvictory’ but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

Another surprise was how well the coalition’™s new Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams are working. Wherever we found a fully staffed team, we also found local Iraqi leaders and businessmen cooperating with it to revive the local economy and build new political structures. Although much more needs to be done to create jobs, a new emphasis on microloans and small-scale projects was having some success where the previous aid programs often built white elephants.

Well that settles it’¦I need to call my representatives in Washington and urge them to support the President in his determination to stay in Iraq as long as he deems necessary. Look, I have no doubt the added troops have made some marked improvements but we’™ve been here before and the problem remains the same’¦there are few reasons to believe that the Iraqi’™s are going to be able to govern once we reduce our presence.

Well over four years into the conflict and the Iraqi security forces appear no more able to maintain the security of Iraq than they were each prior time the Bush administration projected that they would be. Perhaps O’™Hanlon and Pollack received a personal assurance from the President?

From Reuters:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’™s parliament went into summer recess for a month on Monday despite failing to enact a series of laws that Washington sees as crucial to stabilizing the country and reconciling warring Iraqis.

‘œWe do not have anything to discuss in the parliament, no laws or constitutional amendments, nothing from the government. Differences between the political factions have delayed the laws,’ Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman told Reuters.

‘œBush cannot realistically go to Congress and say he has to keep U.S. troops there because the Iraqi government is doing a good job ‘” because the government is largely absent. It places him in a very difficult predicament,’ said Gareth Stansfield, an analyst at leading British think-tank Chatham House.

Washington has pressed the Iraqi government to speed up passage of laws that include measures to distribute Iraq’™s oil reserves and ease restrictions on former members of Saddam Hussein’™s Baath party serving in the civil service.

It views such laws as key to reconciling disaffected members of Iraq’™s Sunni Arab community, once politically dominant under Saddam and now locked in a vicious sectarian conflict with majority Shi’™ites that has killed tens of thousands.

Is Reuters talking about the same country? Maybe I’™m dense, but what would make the impartial observer conclude that success is just over the horizon? It looks like Reuters stopped their analysis one ridge short of the magnificent Mesopotamian miracle’¦you know’¦that place behind the curtain where the wizard walked O’™Hanlon and Pollack through the tangible transformation that is taking place.

Frankly, if victory is proving that 160,000 American troops can have an impact on a nation in a virtual civil war’¦well’¦maybe we’™re ready for a ticker tape parade. On the other hand, isn’™t it possible that victory would best be equated with a certainty that, upon the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Iraq can thrive as a functional nation?

Even the rose colored glasses of O’™Hanlon and Pollack only warrant the following conclusion.

In the end, the situation in Iraq remains grave. In particular, we still face huge hurdles on the political front. Iraqi politicians of all stripes continue to dawdle and maneuver for position against one another when major steps towards reconciliation ‘” or at least accommodation ‘” are needed. This cannot continue indefinitely. Otherwise, once we begin to downsize, important communities may not feel committed to the status quo, and Iraqi security forces may splinter along ethnic and religious lines.

How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.

Call me a cynic but the ongoing admonitions to ‘œgive it six more months’’¦the many assurances that ‘œwe’™re beginning to see progress’’¦and the optimistic assertions that ‘œthe Iraqi people are happily embracing democracy’ are all akin to lathering lipstick on a pig’¦you know, those animals that don’™t have lips’¦those cuddly creatures that no one’™s inclined to kiss even if they did.

I have empathy for the Iraqi people and I wish them well’¦but I’™m struggling to understand how many U.S. soldiers should give their lives so that the Bush administration can take another shot at convincing the American public that our government is bringing home the bacon’¦as opposed to feeding us another batch of baloney.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Monday, July 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

The GOP Dilemma: “Pro-Life For Hire” Candidates?

If the current GOP candidates fall short of the ingrained standard, perhaps it will force fundamentalists to consider the views of those they routinely discount as inadequate and intolerable. Unfortunately, I’™m afraid many Christian conservatives are going to have to be led to this newly emerging reality kicking and screaming.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

They say it’™s not nice to enjoy the misfortune of others’¦and while I generally support that notion’¦when it comes to politics, I’™m willing to make some exceptions. I have to confess that a New York Times article discussing the predicament facing the Republican Party in the 2008 presidential election with regards to the issue of abortion makes me happy.

That is not to say that the issue of abortion should make anyone happy; rather it is to say that I’™m pleased that GOP voters are having to confront the issue with a level of practicality that has been absent from their equation for many years. I find the potential for lessening the influence of absolutism a welcome change.

Six months before the Iowa caucuses, abortion opponents are trying to adjust to a strikingly different political landscape. For the first time in a generation, they face in Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, a front-runner for the Republican nomination who supports abortion rights.

Most of the Republican candidates are scrambling to demonstrate both their anti-abortion credentials and their ability to win. Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative stalwart, said she sensed ‘œconcerns’ at the grass roots about all the candidates at the front of the pack.

What many abortion opponents say they crave these days is certainty. Analysts say the Supreme Court could now be just a vote or two away from a major rollback of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision declaring a constitutional right to abortion. But the next president will be crucial.

Hadley Arkes, a professor at Amherst College and a leading social conservative legal thinker, said he had recently gotten ‘œfeelers’ from some in the Giuliani camp. But Mr. Arkes, an opponent of abortion, said he could not fathom a way the party could nominate Mr. Giuliani and remain the same ‘œpro-life’ party it has been for 25 years.

‘œYou change the constituency of the party,’ Mr. Arkes said ‘” either by showing that anti-abortion voters are not necessary to win, or by showing that anti-abortion voters are willing to subsume their cause to other issues.

Even so, Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, said recent poll analysis suggested that some anti-abortion voters may be willing to consider that possibility.

For far too long the issue of abortion has been characterized as an all or nothing construct’¦one that ignores the realities of the human condition and that places an unwarranted emphasis on one narrow aspect of morality’¦which often disregards numerous other concerns deserving of consideration and attention.

I understand the argument made by those opposed to virtually all abortions and I realize that their beliefs are not apt to allow for some degree of flexibility. Notwithstanding, those beliefs do not comport with reality and if the 2008 election can force a meaningful dialogue that leads to the entertainment of some reconsideration, then I’™m all for it.

Those opposed to abortion are frequently opposed to contraception, against comprehensive sex education, and in favor of abstinence pledges as a means to combat unwanted pregnancies’¦and the immorality they attach to sexuality. Portraying sex as wrong and immoral, in my opinion, contributes to the problem. Instead of giving young people a healthy perspective on sexuality, it promotes deceit and denial’¦both of which establish sex as a forbidden pleasure rather than as an expression of love.

If the 2008 election can serve as an impetus to change this antiquated construct and signal the beginning of the end to this virtual demonization of sex, perhaps we will have turned the corner on thirty years of the politics of regression and repression. I’™m all for finding ways to reduce the number of abortions’¦but not by adopting the mentality of moral measurement and criminal consequence that has permeated the Republican Party.

If the current GOP candidates fall short of the ingrained standard, perhaps it will force fundamentalists to consider the views of those they routinely discount as inadequate and intolerable. Unfortunately, I’™m afraid many Christian conservatives are going to have to be led to this newly emerging reality kicking and screaming.

In the meantime, pardon me for taking pleasure in the contortions that will inevitably illuminate the intransigence that has dominated the issue. My sarcastic side wants to watch the GOP candidates prostitute themselves to a constituency that seems to abhor all things remotely sexual. Indeed, before it’™s over, it should make for some rather strange bedfellows. Rather tawdry, don’™t you think?

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Monday, July 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

The New Front in the War on Terror — Northern California

I wish Michael Chertoff had told us his gut feeling was about pot brownies, or something like that. then we wouldn’t have gotten all worrried about Al Qaeda, and maybe would have been prepped to support the new front in the war on terror, the marijuana fields of Northern California. From the Record [...]


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

I wish Michael Chertoff had told us his gut feeling was about pot brownies, or something like that. then we wouldn’t have gotten all worrried about Al Qaeda, and maybe would have been prepped to support the new front in the war on terror, the marijuana fields of Northern California. From the Record Searchlight:

The nation’s top anti-drug official said people need to overcome their “reefer blindness” and see that illicit marijuana gardens are a terrorist threat to the public’s health and safety, as well as to the environment.

John P. Walters, President Bush’s drug czar, said the people who plant and tend the gardens are terrorists who wouldn’t hesitate to help other terrorists get into the country with the aim of causing mass casualties. Walters made the comments at a Thursday press conference that provided an update on the “Operation Alesia” marijuana-eradication effort.

“Don’t buy drugs. They fund violence and terror,” he said.

I’m not a militant about making marijuana legal or something, but it is pretty obvious that the War on Terror Drugs is not working, even to distract the country from the failure of the Bush Administration to wage successful war on real terrorists.

Monday, July 16th, 2007 by Steven Reynolds |

Genarlow Wilson: GOP DA Distributing Kiddie Porn?

The Genarlow Wilson case got stranger a couple of days ago.
As a refresher, Wilson was prosecuted in a Georgia court for engaging in consensual oral sex with a 15 year old girl when he was 17. If I remember my adolescence (and, I freely admit that those times are quite a distance in my [...]

Commentary By: Richard Blair

The Genarlow Wilson case got stranger a couple of days ago.

As a refresher, Wilson was prosecuted in a Georgia court for engaging in consensual oral sex with a 15 year old girl when he was 17. If I remember my adolescence (and, I freely admit that those times are quite a distance in my rearview mirror) this isn’t a particularly dramatic violation of social mores. Teens have sex. But what the kids in my day didn’t have were cheap digital video recorders to film an entire party.

David McDadeThe Republican DA who prosecuted the case, David McDade, has now released 35 copies of a video showing Wilson engaged in the sex act. The video was the primary evidence used to convict the young horn dog Wilson. Interestingly enough, the act that Wilson engaged in was a felony at the time he was charged (ergo, the 10 year sentence he received), but has subsequently been downgraded to a misdemeanor by the Georgia state legislature. Never-the-less, even though a judge ordered Wilson freed in early June, Wilson remains in jail because DA McDade appealed the ruling to the Georgia State Supreme Court.

When Scooter Libby’s sentence was commuted, Genarlow Wilson became a bit of a cause celeb in Left Blogistan, the thinking being: if George Bush could commute the sentence of a true evil-doer, certainly, he could commute the sentence of a young man doing excessive time for a victimless crime.

Well, to make a long story short, we know what the chances are of that happening.

But in a bizarre twist, in releasing the video, GOP DA McDade may have cost himself his job (at a minimum) and may be facing charges of distributing kiddie porn. While Wilson was “of age of consent” at the time the video was taken, the young woman was not. So, whether or not she consented to the act itself, she was still a minor, and McDade has released a sex video of a minor into the wild (or surely, it will make it into the YouTube wild eventually). Ergo, there are those who are calling for his resignation, and for kiddie porn distribution charges to be brought against him:

Douglas County District Attorney David McDade violated federal law when he distributed a videotape from a rape and child molestation case to legislators and journalists, the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta said Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said in a statement that federal law prohibits the distribution of the Genarlow Wilson videotape because it depicts minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. He warned that people who had received it would be in violation of federal child pornography laws…

I see it a bit differently. In my opinion, the release of the video was done as an act of pure GOP malice, to blunt the comparisons of the Libby and Wilson cases. As I noted, when Libby’s sentence was commuted, Wilson’s became an example of overzealous prosecutors and unreasonable sentences – almost the same excuse that George Bush used to give Scooter a “get out of jail free” card. Wilson had even served time (unlike Libby). Why do I say “GOP malice”?

When the comparisons between the Libby and Wilson cases started to get some traction online and in the media, it’s not a stretch to believe that someone in the Bush regime contacted someone in the Georgia GOP organization, and started sniffing around for something to make the “jailed honor student” and “youthful indiscretion” story go away. (Did I mention that Wilson is black?) So, GOP DA McDade had this great “mandingo” video of Wilson, and either offered it up or was directed by someone to release it in response to a media request. And voila – the specter of the over sexed black man is tossed into the public domain once again. Kind of a reverse Willie Horton, if you want to look at it that way.

It’s clear that McDade didn’t have to release the video. A simple motion could have been filed to seal the video because it contained graphic images of a minor. But no. Once someone like Al Sharpton started making comparisons between Scooter and Genarlow Wilson, it would have been very important for the GOP to rush copies of this video into production in order to discredit Wilson from a moral perspective. The bottom line is that a Republican District Attorney, an officer of the court and an officer of the law, either just didn’t think or made the distribution of the video at someone else’s request.

After doing a bit of research on the case, it seems pretty clear to me that the release of the video was premeditated and well-considered, for reasons that had nothing to do with a media request.

Georgians should be clamoring for McDade’s resignation today, and investigation into the circumstances of release of the video. And then, if warranted, child porn distribution charges should be filed against him. Since McDade has a history of being a strict “law-and-order” type of DA, and wouldn’t give anyone else the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he shouldn’t receive such a benefit either.

Update: I diaried this story at Daily Kos, and one commenter brought up an excellent point:

He may have been legal to have sex, but not to appear in the tape. Federal law and most states have defined minor as 18 yrs of age with respect to child porn images. So Wilson, and anyone else under 18 in the footage is considered a victim, under federal law. Someone will have to check Georgia law to see if it’s the same as federal law.

Everyone in receipt of the tape, with knowledge of its content, are subject to federal indictment, as is McDade and those who conspired with him. This conduct reveals the hypocrital position most GOPers have on this and other issues. Child safety is only important to the point it can’t be used to retaliate against an opponent or to support an agenda. And if I’m not mistaken, the victims could sue under “Masha’s Law”, who is also from Georgia…

“Masha’s Law” was introduced last year by GOP congressman Phil Gingrey (R-Ga). It was attached to H.R. 4472, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. Does that sound familiar? It should.

So, by Masha’s Law, could Genarlow Wilson sue the pants off of Douglas County, Ga. because he was a minor at the time the video was taken? I’m not a lawyer, and don’t play one on TV, but I think there’s a case – and it would probably be settled out of court – at which point, a further civil case could probably proceed against McDade by all parties in the video. This could get very interesting, indeed.

Strange case factoid: The name of Wilson’s attorney in the oral sex case against him is B.J. Bernstein. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

Saturday, July 14th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

An Inconvenient Son

Jimmy Carter had Billy. Bill Clinton had Roger. George Bush has, well, himself (and Jenna and Not Jenna). Al Gore has Al the Third.
Gore’s 23 year old son was arrested in Orange County, Ca. yesterday and charged with numerous drug offenses, including possession of marijuana and a Limbaugh-esque cornucopia of “happy pills”, all [...]

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Jimmy Carter had Billy. Bill Clinton had Roger. George Bush has, well, himself (and Jenna and Not Jenna). Al Gore has Al the Third.

Gore’s 23 year old son was arrested in Orange County, Ca. yesterday and charged with numerous drug offenses, including possession of marijuana and a Limbaugh-esque cornucopia of “happy pills”, all without a scrip’.

The upside? Young Al was driving an environmentally friendly Prius – at over 100 miles per hour – when he was pulled over on Interstate 5. Who said that hybrids don’t have some muscle? And, how in the hell does anyone do 100mph on the 5, even at 2AM? I’ve never driven I-5 (either north or south) when I’ve been able to do more than crawl, at least until the San Clemente exit…

Anyway, it’s hard to say if he’ll do any jail time, but it wouldn’t surprise me since he has a prior conviction on a similar charge. No word yet on whether or not the former Veep will petition George Bush for a commutation of his son’s eventual sentence.

Seriously, though, if the elder Al is secretly planning a run for the presidency next year, the arrest of his son could provide inconvenient fodder for the wagging tongues in the puditocracy.

Update: Here’s a link to an Associated Press video report of the arrest.

Thursday, July 5th, 2007 by Richard Blair |