TPM News

We're one step closer to learning whether the GOP-sponsored effort to secure the Green Party a spot on the Pennyslvania ballot will succeed. Today, a judge denied a Green Party effort to have the matter quickly resolved in its favor and punted the mess to the state supreme court.

It's just the latest step in ongoing battle between the Dems and Romanelli.

Funded by conservatives, Romanelli mounted a large-scale signature drive that netted nearly 100,000 signatures. He needed at least 67,000 to qualify, based on a Pennsylvania state law that requires candidates to gather 2 percent of the ballots cast for the largest vote-getter in the last statewide election race.

The Democrats have challenged Romanelli's signatures, alleging that nearly 70,000 of them are invalid.

But Romanelli's lawyer has tried to undercut the Dem's challenge by arguing that the law had been improperly applied by the state. The requirement of 67,000 signatures was based on Democrat Bob Casey's run in 2004 for state treasurer; but Romanelli's lawyer Lawrence Otter argued that the last statewide election was actually a 2005 judicial race.

If Romanelli's motion were to prevail, he'd only need 15,949 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. Today, a state judge ruled against the motion, but indicated that the case should ultimately be decided by the state supreme court due to its unique nature. Otter told me that he planned to file the appeal Monday.

Read More →

Kentucky's Attorney General has been pursuing an investigation of Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) since last year; in May, he finally won an indictment charging political favoritism in Fletcher's administration. Today, he got bad news. From the AP:

A judge on Thursday dismissed charges against Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher that had accused him of breaking state law by basing personnel decisions on political considerations.

A lawyer for the Republican governor had been negotiating a settlement to the misdemeanor charges for the past two days, Democratic state Attorney General Greg Stumbo said Thursday.

The special judge assigned to the case, David E. Melcher, dismissed the charges Thursday with prejudice, meaning they can't be brought again.

More, as always, at the BluegrassReport.

Journalism took another hit yesterday when a federal judge ruled the government could legitimately tap the phones of anyone handling "material that is not generally available to the public."

As one observer noted, that's just what a free press traffics. "If the press could only report on 'information generally available to the public,' there would be no need for a press," secrecy expert Steven Aftergood told JTA.

The ruling came in the AIPAC case, which deals with two pro-Israel lobbyists' receipt of classified intelligence from a Pentagon official. The two lobbyists had challenged the use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by investigators to secretly record their conversations. But the judge ruled that “collection or transmission of material that is not generally available to the public” qualifies as an activity that could merit wiretapping under FISA.

Read More →

So exactly how freaky is the rangy al Qaeda leader? Alleged former bin Laden lover/sex slave Kola Boof made a splash recently with her new autobiography, where she claims that Osama was obsessed with Whitney Houston, loved the B-52's and was more or less fixated on women's rears. But some have cried foul: yesterday we noted that bin Laden expert Peter Bergen charged that Boof's book was "rife with howlers large and small."

In particular, Bergen cited Boof's alleged retelling of a sexual liaison with bin Laden -- and his mentor Abdullah Azzam and extremist Sayyid Qutb, both of whom have been dead for years.

Au contraire, says Boof's publisher, Calif.-based Door of Kush Books. "We happen to know they're very much alive," senior editor Nafisa Goma wrote in an e-mail to us yesterday evening, "and at a later date, will use that information to discredit and humiliate Mr. Bergen[.]" (She didn't say when that might be.)

What's more, Goma said a movie "about Ms. Boof's book" is "being planned," and "such a major star as Janet Jackson may be taking on the [starring] role."

According to Goma, Boof is "not happy" with the idea of Janet Jackson playing her. Neither, we assume, is bin Laden, who would likely prefer Whitney Houston.

Full text of Goma's email after the jump.

Read More →

PBS recently weighed in on the Karen Czarnecki flap, saying they were fine with identifying the Bush-appointed Labor Department official only as a "conservative commentator" when she appears on one of their talk shows, where she sometimes discusses the Bush administration's labor policies.

That contradicts the opinions of top media ethics experts, as well as that of the network's own ombudsman, Michael Getler, who called the move a "big mistake" and a possible violation of the network's ethics guidelines. Yesterday, Getler responded to PBS:

Not to routinely identify [Czarnecki] more fully is not being fair and upfront with viewers, in my opinion, and amounts to withholding information they have a right to know.

. . . . [H]aving looked further into this, I also disagree with PBS's assessment. This, in my opinion, is a breach of faith with broad journalistic principles of full and pertinent identification and much closer to being a violation of PBS's own editorial guidelines than it is to meeting those guidelines, as PBS maintains.

Ariz. Congressman Won't 'Cut-and-Run' from DeLay "As GOP stalwarts try to distance themselves from former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Arizona's Rep. Trent Franks has remained by his side.

"The embattled DeLay spoke at a Franks fund-raiser on Capitol Hill in December. Franks gave $4,200 to DeLay's re-election committee in March, nearly six months after the then-Texas congressman was indicted by a grand jury on money-laundering and conspiracy charges. . . .

"'Congressman Trent Franks isn't going to cut and run from a friend when the going gets tough,' said [Franks spokesman Sydney] Hay, a former 2002 congressional candidate." (Arizona Republic)

Read More →

Say it ain't so! Peter Bergen, a leading Western expert on Osama bin Laden, says that the recent portrait of the terror kingpin as a Whitney Houston-obsessed, Van Halen-loving schizo pothead doesn't hold up. (Who saw that coming?)

"The worst book of the year, is surely Diary of a Lost Girl: The Autobiography of Kola Boof," Bergen writes on his personal Web site. "The book is rife with howlers large and small," he says:

. . . there is one vividly recounted scene in which Boof performs sex acts on a group that included bin Laden; Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s number two; Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden’s mentor, and Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian jihadist theoretician. Boof says this happened in Morocco in 1996. However, in 1996 bin Laden was living in Sudan, Ayman al Zawahiri was imprisoned in Dagestan, Azzam had been assassinated in Pakistan thirteen years earlier, and Qutb had been lying in his grave for three decades.

Well, cross that guy off your party "A" list. (Bin Laden, I mean. I hear Bergen can really cut a rug -- even to "Rock Lobster.")

Ah, Coingate. Thomas Noe, the Bush Pioneer who allegedly embezzled more than $1 million from a coin fund he managed for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, is on for an October trial.

That's not good news for Ohio Republicans, who've been battered by scandal for more than a year now. Noe's trial, which is scheduled to start October 10th, is expected to go on for months, which means that voters will have a steady reminder of the local GOP's ethical and criminal problems during the heat of the election season.

Noe has already pled guilty to federal charges that he illegally funneled more than $45,000 to the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign, but he's fighting state charges of Racketeering, Theft, Forgery, Money Laundering, and Tampering with Records relating to his management of the coin fund.

When is a reporter not a reporter?

The answer: when he/she writes for a blog, according to Kentucky officials.

Back in June, Kentucky's administration abruptly banned state employees from reading blogs. They claimed that it wasn't censorship -- but the proprietor of the blog, Mark Nickolas, sued (pdf) in July, claiming that the government censored Nickolas and other blogs because they were critical of Gov. Ernie Fletcher's (R) administration.

A recent motion (pdf) by Nickolas discloses emails between Kentucky administration officials showing what is an apparently very low opinion of blogs. In deciding whether to reply to one reporter's query, one official wrote to another, "John prefers that I not to respond to bloggers since they not reports (sic)." When another official figured out that whoever was calling was actually from a publication of the National Journal Group, and thus deemed worthy of their response, the other responded, "I'll call him then."

Read More →

We're nearing the first anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. Two Wall Street Journal reporters have a new book out, and it gives some necessary attention to an under-appreciated figure in the debacle: the former director of the Homeland Security Department's 24-hour watch command with the unlikely name of Matthew Broderick.

As head of the 24/7/365 Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC), Broderick controlled the "eyes and ears" of the Department. As reporters Christopher Cooper and Bobby Block point out, administration officials relied on his reports of events unfolding in the Gulf. Focusing on Broderick, the authors attempt to explain one of the key frustrations of the Bush administration's response: Why did it take them so long to figure out what was going on?

The answer: Broderick. (To his credit, Broderick has accepted blame for failing to properly inform his superiors. He resigned in March to take "an offer I couldn't refuse" from a private company, according to CQ.)

The ops center Broderick ran features 24-hour watchstanders, 16 50" flat-panel monitors, and access to real-time information from all over the government and the nation. DHS describes it this way:

The Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC) serves as the nation’s nerve center for information sharing and domestic incident management. . . . [T]he HSOC provides real-time situational awareness and monitoring of the homeland, coordinates incidents and response activities. . . . HSOC staff can apply imagery capability by cross-referencing informational data against geospatial data that can then pinpoint an image down to an exact location.

As the world has since learned, New Orleans' levees and floodwalls were collapsing in the early morning of Monday, Aug. 29, 2005. However, Broderick insisted for the next 30 hours that no breaches had occurred, and the levees had merely been "overtopped" -- "normal, typical, hurricane background stuff," he later told Senate investigators.

It wasn't until noon the next day when he confirmed news of the catastrophe to DHS Secretary Mike Chertoff.

Block and Cooper write (excerpted by the Wall Street Journal):

Read More →