Questions About Gannon Put To White House

Ken AshfordRight Wing and Inept MediaLeave a Comment

UPDATE: We are informed here that nobody gets a White House pass, press or otherwise, by using an alias. "Therefore, if Gannon was using an alias, White House staff had to be involved in maintaining his cover."

For those who don’t "get" the issue about Gannon (posted here), I think this letter from the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Rules (Rep. Louise Slaughter), to President Bush, gets it right:

Dear Mr. President:

In light of the mounting evidence that your Administration has, on several occasions, paid members of the media to advocate in favor of Administration policies, I feel compelled to ask you to address a matter brought to my attention by the Niagara Falls Reporter (article attached), a local newspaper in my district, regarding James "JD" Guckert (AKA Jeff Gannon) of Talon News.

According to several credible reports, "Mr. Gannon" has been repeatedly credentialed as a member of the White House press corps by your office and has been regularly called upon in White House press briefings by your Press Secretary Scott McClellan, despite the fact evidence shows that "Mr. Gannon" is a Republican political operative, uses a false name, has phony or questionable journalistic credentials, is known for plagiarizing much of the "news" he reports, and according to several web reports, may have ties to the promotion of the prostitution of military personnel.

Several weeks ago when it was revealed that radio/TV host Armstrong Williams had received payment from your Administration in exchange for his vocal support of the ‘No Child Left Behind’ initiative, I was stunned. For years now I have been leading the fight in Congress for fairness and accountability in the media; the Williams revelation only underscored the need for a media that has integrity, is balanced and expresses the local interests and concerns of its consumers.

Since that time, two more members of the media have been found to have received money from your Administration in exchange for their vocal, yet undisclosed support of Administration policies.

And just this morning we have learned that "Mr. Gannon" has resigned his post at the, so called, Talon News amid growing concerns over his controversial background and falsified qualifications. In fact, it appears that "Mr. Gannon’s" presence in the White House press corps was merely as a tool of propaganda for your Administration.

Mr. President, I am sure we both agree the White House Press Corps is an honored institution in America that should be beyond the scope of partisan meddling, and that a free and independent media is the cornerstone of our success as a democracy. Likewise, I am sure we can both agree the American people have the right to expect that journalists who question their President everyday are experienced, independent, and perhaps most importantly, unbiased in their approach.

I was already concerned about what appears to be an organized campaign to mask partisan propaganda as legitimate news by your Administration. That we have now learned this same type of deception is occurring inside the White House briefing room itself is even more disturbing.

That is why I am asking you to please explain to the Congress and to the American people how and why the individual known as "Mr. Gannon" was repeatedly cleared by your staff to join the legitimate White House press corps?

Mr. President, your Administration has driven the so-called "values" debate in this country. But the most important value for those of us in public service should always be honesty and integrity, particularly when considering the manner in which we conduct our affairs of state.

I would appreciate your prompt response on this matter.

Respectfully,

/LMS

Louise M. Slaughter

Emphases are mine.

Rose Colored Glasses Beyond Belief

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Social SecurityLeave a Comment

This is a true exchange. It happened in Omaha last Friday, when Bush was taking his dog-and-pony show on the road:

THE PRESIDENT: Good. Okay, Mary, tell us about yourself.

MS. MORNIN: Okay, I’m a divorced, single mother with three grown, adult children. I have one child, Robbie, who is mentally challenged, and I have two daughters.

THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. First of all, you’ve got the hardest job in America, being a single mom.

MS. MORNIN: Thank you. (Applause.)

Yes. Harder, I would think, because one of her children is handicapped. This woman has one hell of a tough row to hoe.

Moments later, with the same woman . . .

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, but nevertheless, there’s a certain comfort to know that the promises made will be kept by the government.

MS. MORNIN: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: And so thank you for asking that. You don’t have to worry.

MS. MORNIN: That’s good, because I work three jobs and I feel like I contribute.

THE PRESIDENT: You work three jobs?

MS. MORNIN: Three jobs, yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Uniquely American, isn’t it? I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)

Only an elitist, Kennebunkport-raised, never-earned-a-decent-living-in-his-life snob would respond in such a way.

Here’s the thing, Mr. Preznit. When somebody has to work two or three jobs to make ends meet, it is not because we Americans have that yes-we-can spirit.

This woman is struggling — she has a handicapped child. It’s not "fantastic" that she has to work three jobs; it is tragic. Don’t wave a flag in her face — help her!

The Saga of Jeff Gannon (Abridged)

Ken AshfordRight Wing and Inept MediaLeave a Comment

Jgw UPDATE (Chapter Seven): He can’t stand the heat, so he wisely gets out of the kitchen. White House will have to find a new lackey.

Chapter One: Who is Jeff Gannon?

With all this talk about media bias, nobody can beat Jeff Gannon. He is a member of the White House press pool. This is the kind of question he asks (this particular one was asked by Gannon to George Bush on January 26, 2005):

Thank you. Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock-solid and there’s no crisis there. How are you going to work — you said you’re going to reach out to these people — how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?

(Emphasis added). Pretty biased, huh?

Chapter Two: Yeah, but who IS Jeff Gannon?

He works with Talon News, an openly biased "media" outlet. In fact, he is their Washington Bureau Chief. He is also a contributor to the Free Republic. And he has a radio talk show. Hell, you can read about him at his aptly-named blog: http://www.jeffgannon.com/.

Chapter Three: What Are His Journalism Credientials as the Washington Bureau Chief of a News Service?

Good question. Since the recent controversy started (more on that below the fold), his Talon News bio has been delated, but it still exists here at GOPUSA. In a nutshell, this nutshell obtained a B.S. degree in Education from the Pennsylvania State University System, and attended the Leadership Institute Broadcast School of Journalism. What the bio doesn’t tell you is that the "Leadership Institute Broadcast School of Journalism" is a two-day right-wing seminar about journalism. That’s what qualifies him to get a press pass to the White House.

Chapter Four: Why Are You Telling Me This? Is There A Point?

Yes. Jeff Gannon isn’t his real name.

Chapter Five: So (Again) Who IS Jeff Gannon?

Here’s where the story gets interesting. The folks at Daily Kos have tracked down his true identity. It’s not too hard really. His GOPUSA bio says that he authors the website found at www.theconservativeguy.com. Unfortunately, much of what he authored has been removed, but some of it has been discovered and cached. Like this. Yeah . . . he’s not biased.

Anyway, Atrios among others was able to I.D. Jeff Gannon as James D. "JD" Guckert. James Guckert is the owner of several websites, including theconservativeguy.com. So that appears to be our boy.

Chapter Six: What About Sex? Is There Any Sex in this "Saga"?

Sure. The digging on Guckert aka Gannon has turned up some interesting facts. Here is his AOL homepage, containing this picture:

Jdg

And aside from www.theconservativeguy.com, what are some other websites associated with him? There is a full list here, but some of them are, well, odd for a conservative Republican.

Like Hotmilitarystud.com, Militaryescorts.com, Militaryescortsm4m.com.

Don’t bother looking for them. They are websites registered to him or his pseudonyms.

M4M? For those who don’t know, M4M is gay-web parlance (I’m guessing it means "men for men", but I don’t know for sure).

Remember, this is the guy in the White House press pool that the White House has handpicked to give them softball questions.

Jeff (or whatever the hell your name is), your days appear to be done.

This is an amusing and ongoing story about the hypocrisy and seemy underbelly of some conservatives. No, Roy Cohn ain’t dead, kids. If you want to read about it in more detail, go here.

Vote or Starve

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

Some Iraqis are alleging that they were told . . . well . . . let’s listen to their words:

”Two of the food dealers I know told me personally that our food rations would be withheld if we did not vote,” said Saeed Jodhet, a 21-year-old engineering student who voted in the Hay al-Jihad district of Baghdad.

I’m not sure what to make of this. It is, at this point, largely anecdotal, but keep an eye on this.

Meanwhile, while some conservatives have reported that 72% of eligible Iraqis voted, that number has been quietly downgraded to 60%. Still a great number, so there is still plenty to crow about. But again, one wonders how many on the right will still use the larger inaccurate number.

Here’s the full story —

IRAQ: Some Just Voted for Food

Dahr Jamail

BAGHDAD, Jan 31 (IPS) – Voting in Baghdad was linked with receipt of food rations, several voters said after the Sunday poll.

Many Iraqis said Monday that their names were marked on a list provided by the government agency that provides monthly food rations before they were allowed to vote.

"I went to the voting centre and gave my name and district where I lived to a man," said Wassif Hamsa, a 32-year-old journalist who lives in the predominantly Shia area Janila in Baghdad. ”This man then sent me to the person who distributed my monthly food ration.”

Mohammed Ra’ad, an engineering student who lives in the Baya’a district of the capital city reported a similar experience.

Ra’ad, 23, said he saw the man who distributed monthly food rations in his district at his polling station. ”The food dealer, who I know personally of course, took my name and those of my family who were voting,” he said. ”Only then did I get my ballot and was allowed to vote.”

”Two of the food dealers I know told me personally that our food rations would be withheld if we did not vote,” said Saeed Jodhet, a 21-year-old engineering student who voted in the Hay al-Jihad district of Baghdad.

There has been no official indication that Iraqis who did not vote would not receive their monthly food rations.

Many Iraqis had expressed fears before the election that their monthly food rations would be cut if they did not vote. They said they had to sign voter registration forms in order to pick up their food supplies.

Their experiences on the day of polling have underscored many of their concerns about questionable methods used by the U.S.-backed Iraqi interim government to increase voter turnout.

Just days before the election, 52 year-old Amin Hajar who owns an auto garage in central Baghdad had said: ”I’ll vote because I can’t afford to have my food ration cut…if that happened, me and my family would starve to death.”

Hajar told IPS that when he picked up his monthly food ration recently, he was forced to sign a form stating that he had picked up his voter registration. He had feared that the government would use this information to track those who did not vote.

Calls to the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq (IECI) and to the Ministry of Trade, which is responsible for the distribution of the monthly food ration, were not returned.

Other questions have arisen over methods to persuade people to vote. U.S. troops tried to coax voters in Ramadi, capital city of the al-Anbar province west of Baghdad to come out to vote, AP reported.

IECI officials have meanwhile ‘downgraded’ their earlier estimate of voter turnout.

IECI spokesman Farid Ayar had declared a 72 percent turnout earlier, a figure given also by the Bush Administration.

But at a press conference Ayar backtracked on his earlier figure, saying the turnout would be nearer 60 percent of registered voters.

The earlier figure of 72 percent, he said, was ”only guessing” and ”just an estimate” that had been based on ”very rough, word of mouth estimates gathered informally from the field.” He added that it will be some time before the IECI can issue accurate figures on the turnout.

”Percentages and numbers come only after counting and will be announced when it’s over,” he said. ”It is too soon to say that those were the official numbers.”

Where there was a large turnout, the motivation behind the voting and the processes both appeared questionable. The Kurds up north were voting for autonomy, if not independence. In the south and elsewhere Shias were competing with Kurds for a bigger say in the 275-member national assembly.

In some places like Mosul the turnout was heavier than expected. But many of the voters came from outside, and identity checks on voters appeared lax. Others spoke of vote-buying bids.

The Bush Administration has lauded the success of the Iraq election, but doubtful voting practices and claims about voter turnout are both mired in controversy.

Election violence too was being seen differently across the political spectrum.

More than 30 Iraqis, a U.S. soldier, and at least 10 British troops died Sunday. Hundreds of Iraqis were also wounded in attacks across Baghdad, in Baquba 50km northeast of the capital as well as in the northern cities Mosul and Kirkuk.

The British troops were on board a C-130 transport plane that crashed near Balad city just northwest of Baghdad. The British military has yet to reveal the cause of the crash.

Despite unprecedented security measures in which 300,000 U.S. and Iraqi security forces were brought in to curb the violence, nine suicide bombers and frequent mortar attacks took a heavy toll in the capital city, while strings of attacks were reported around the rest of the country.

As U..S. President George W. Bush saw it, ”some Iraqis were killed while exercising their rights as citizens.”

(Source)

Vietnam Redux?

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote: Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times (9/4/1967: p. 2)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3– United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam’s presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

***

A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson’s policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam.

***

Before the results of the presidential election started to come in, the American officials warned that the turnout might be less than 80 per cent because the polling place would be open for two or three hours less than in the election a year ago. The turnout of 83 per cent was a welcome surprise. The turnout in the 1964 United States Presidential election was 62 per cent.

Kudos to BesottedBlog, who prints the full NYT article.

The point being that it would be prudent for many on the right to understand that history has a funny way of not going the way one always hopes. This article was in 1967 — Vietnam’s end was years away.

By the same token, the quick access into Baghdad did not result in the success you once hoped. Neither did the capture of Saddam. And while we can all applaud the fact that our march into Baghdad was relatively bloodless, and that Saddam was captured, and that Iraqis did vote in large numbers, we still are nowhere near permanent peace and democracy in Iraq (much less in the Middle East) . . . or a more secure United States.

Or, as Harvey Keitel said in Pulp Fiction: “Well, let’s not start suckin’ each other’s dicks quite yet.” Let’s enjoy the good news, but — for their sake — let’s keep it in perspective: the election of a transitional governing body only means the beginning of the beginning of something; not a crossing of the goalline.

What Iraqis Want

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

This is one hell of a fractured country. I’m glad they are going through the mostly symbolic, but still important, act of voting. But that is of course only step one in building a country. The hard work hasn’t even begun.

Here are some interesting finds from a Zogby poll of Iraqis:

(76%) of Sunni Arabs say they definitely will not vote in the January 30 elections, while just 9% say they are likely to vote. A majority of Shiites (80%) say they are likely to vote or definitely will vote, as are a smaller majority of Kurds (57%).

Well, that’s pretty much what was expected. No surprise there.

Majorities of both Sunni Arabs (82%) and Shiites (69%) also favor U.S. forces withdrawing either immediately or after an elected government is in place.

Confirming what Ted Kennedy said — we’re part of the problem, not part of the solution. Good news for neo-cons who want to invade Iran though.

The poll also found that of Iraq’s ethnic and religious groups, only the Kurds believe the U.S. will “help” Iraq over the next five years, while half (49%) of Shiites and a majority (64%) of Sunni Arabs believe the U.S. will “hurt” Iraq.

Again, confirming Ted. Hey, will there be a day on LGF when we see a post to the effect that "Iraqis are ungrateful and fuck them"? Just wondering . . .

Here’s some good news: "Three-in-five (59%) favor a system where citizens are allowed to practice their own religion" . . .

But the bad news coda: ". . . while one-in-three (34%) would prefer an Islamic government."

Does anyone think THAT can be compromised away peacefully?

And finally, another non-surprise:

While a majority of Iraqis believe relations can be improved between Iraq and neighbors Kuwait, Turkey, and Iran, all ethnic and religious groups overwhelmingly rejected improving relations with the State of Israel.

Good Question Re: Iraqi Voting

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

Anyone know the answer to Thomas Schaller’s questions?

Of the 234,000 [Iraqis eligible to vote] living in the United States right now, only 90,000 are estimated to be foreign-born (presumably in Iraq); the remaining 140,000 or so were born here.

At what point does your foreign voting eligibility cease, may I ask?

For instance, if your grandparents were Iraqi refugees, but both you and your parents were born here, should you be eligible? (Sidebar: Notice how conservatives don’t talk about first-generation U.S.-born Iraqi children of refugees in that smarmy, they’re-draining-our-social-services way that, say, children of illegal Mexican immigrants who are cleaning the baskets for sub-minimum wage off the payrolls are derided.)

I’m no expert in international election law – somebody, please, help – but it seems to me you vote in one country or the other. Are these U.S.-born children of Iraqi defectors, refugees, and immigrants voting in the United States, too?

Everybody’s Getting Religion

Ken AshfordGodstuffLeave a Comment

The United Church of Christ gets it.  Kudos to them.

And Billie Miller, a woman in Ridgecrest, California , lost her religion a couple of weeks ago:

I can’t believe the vicious slander of some people who have the nerve to portray or suggest Jesus behaved as a Liberal. Jesus makes his position very clear. The wisdom of an "eye for an eye" would never occur to a Liberal.

Liberals are always talking about peace at any price, when Jesus said: Do not think I have come to bring peace, but a sword.

Liberals hate people who have managed to raise their station in life, and instead insist on giving money away to the irresponsible: Store yourselves treasures for Heaven for where your treasure is, there your heart is also.

but thankfully, she seems to have gotten her religion back:

Jesus was tolerant and loved everyone – especially the poor and outcasts. As a couple of other letters pointed out, I now see that in some ways Jesus Himself was not very like a modern conservative and that has me thinking. I also see that all who are religious have equal rights and no religion can be held above the others, whether in school or anywhere else.

Somebody say "amen".

VP Disgraces Solemn Service

Ken AshfordBush & Co.Leave a Comment

Hp12805b

Let’s hope he didn’t go around telling people to fuck themselves. From WaPo:

At yesterday’s gathering of world leaders in southern Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the United States was represented by Vice President Cheney. The ceremony at the Nazi death camp was outdoors, so those in attendance, such as French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin, were wearing dark, formal overcoats and dress shoes or boots. Because it was cold and snowing, they were also wearing gentlemen’s hats. In short, they were dressed for the inclement weather as well as the sobriety and dignity of the event.

The vice president, however, was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower.

Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood. It is embroidered with his name. It reminded one of the way in which children’s clothes are inscribed with their names before they are sent away to camp. And indeed, the vice president looked like an awkward boy amid the well-dressed adults.

Like other attendees, the vice president was wearing a hat. But it was not a fedora or a Stetson or a fur hat or any kind of hat that one might wear to a memorial service as the representative of one’s country. Instead, it was a knit ski cap, embroidered with the words "Staff 2001."

It was the kind of hat a conventioneer might find in a goodie bag. It is also worth mentioning that Cheney was wearing hiking boots — thick, brown, lace-up ones. Did he think he was going to have to hike the 44 miles from Krakow — where he had made remarks earlier in the day — to Auschwitz?

New VW Ad

Ken AshfordPopular CultureLeave a Comment

I thought I couldn’t be impressed by computer-aided special effects.

I thought I had seen it all. I was wrong. (Quicktime Movie — takes a while to load — to truly appreciate, make sure your sound is on)

Is Gene Kelly rolling in his grave?

The Toynbee Mystery

Ken AshfordWeb RecommendationsLeave a Comment

Sidewalk Signs like this one were first spotted in New York and Philadephia in 1996. They appear to be plastic and baked into the street or sidewalk.

The plaques make reference to Stanley Kubrick’s "2001" (and perhaps "2010"), but what do they mean?

Some publicity was generated about the bizarre plaques, and it turns out that these signs appear throughout the mid-Atlantic (e.g., Baltimore, Washington, etc.) and (how bizarre) Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.

Read more about the the Toynbee Mystery and see if these signs are in your neighborhood.

More Torture Bedtime Stories for Neo-cons

Ken AshfordWar on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

Hey, kids! Press "play" on your recording of Lee Greenwood’s "Proud to be an American" and snuggle up to this wonderful story:

Female interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay by sexual touching, wearing a miniskirt and thong underwear and in one case smearing a Saudi man’s face with fake menstrual blood . . .

I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free . . .

"I have really struggled with this because the detainees, their families and much of the world will think this is a religious war based on some of the techniques used, even though it is not the case," the author, former Army Sgt. Erik R. Saar, 29, told AP.

And I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me . . .

The man closed his eyes and began to pray, Saar writes.

The female interrogator wanted to "break him," Saar adds, describing how she removed her uniform top to expose a tight-fitting T-shirt and began taunting the detainee, touching her breasts, rubbing them against the prisoner’s back and commenting on his apparent erection.

The detainee looked up and spat in her face, the manuscript recounts.

The interrogator left the room to ask a Muslim linguist how she could break the prisoner’s reliance on God. The linguist told her to tell the detainee that she was menstruating, touch him, then make sure to turn off the water in his cell so he couldn’t wash.

And I gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today . . .

Strict interpretation of Islamic law forbids physical contact with women other than a man’s wife or family, and with any menstruating women, who are considered unclean.

"The concept was to make the detainee feel that after talking to her he was unclean and was unable to go before his God in prayer and gain strength," says the draft, stamped "Secret."

The interrogator used ink from a red pen to fool the detainee, Saar writes.

"She then started to place her hands in her pants as she walked behind the detainee," he says. "As she circled around him he could see that she was taking her hand out of her pants. When it became visible the detainee saw what appeared to be red blood on her hand. She said, ‘Who sent you to Arizona?’ He then glared at her with a piercing look of hatred.

‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land . . .

"She then wiped the red ink on his face. He shouted at the top of his lungs, spat at her and lunged forward" — so fiercely that he broke loose from one ankle shackle.

"He began to cry like a baby," the draft says, noting the interrogator left saying, "Have a fun night in your cell without any water to clean yourself."

God Bless the U.S.A.!!!

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons. — Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 – 1881)

When Right-Wing Bloggers Don’t Bother To Fact Check . . .

Ken AshfordRight Wing Punditry/IdiocyLeave a Comment

. . . you get a lot of sound and fury and well, egg-on-faces:

Last week, the University of Oregon asked one of its employees to remove a yellow "Support the Troops" sticker from the state-owned truck he drives.

Since then, it has been taking the heat from talk radio hosts and Internet bloggers who picked up the story and added several surprising twists.

"Magnetic yellow ribbons that say `Support The Troops’ have been surreptitiously banned by the administration at the University of Oregon," according to one blog.

"We have the University of Oregon telling employees that they can’t display yellow ribbon stickers that say support the troops," another reports.

None of which is true, UO President Dave Frohnmayer said. People are free to express their opinions on campus, he said.

"I’ve heard that we reprimanded the employee, that we’re banning free speech on campus," he said. "We would never dream of telling people what they can have on their private cars or what buttons they can wear."

Read the whole thing.

Will those who overstepped and hyped the yellow ribbon story admit that they overstepped and hyped it?

Can they admit that they shouldn’t have urged people to bother the University of Oregon until their facts were accurate?

Or will they dodge, weave, obfuscate, and unapologeticly out-Rather Dan Rather? I think we all know.

"Conservatives — our agenda outweighs accuracy and truth."

Hat tip: Lizard Queen