Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries from May 2006

Memorial Day: Remembering citizen soldiers

May 29th, 2006 · Comments Off on Memorial Day: Remembering citizen soldiers

Tags: Heroes and funny folks

Chicken soup for the soul of deprived blog addicts

May 27th, 2006 · Comments Off on Chicken soup for the soul of deprived blog addicts

Still recovering from that long weekend…

Ah, Dervala, if only! He’d have acted a whole lot smarter if that were so…

Tags: Metablogging

Arms length? Maybe. Clean hands? No.

May 25th, 2006 · Comments Off on Arms length? Maybe. Clean hands? No.

Just how stupid do Republicans think we are?

“Offensive and abhorrent.” That’s how NH GOP Chair Jayne Millerick described Chuck McGee’s behavior the day he pled guilty to a felony for the 2002 Election Day phone jamming. (Manchester Union Leader, July 29, 2004) “No one on our side is trying to gloss over the fact that something terrible was done by Chuck McGee,” said Ovide Lamontagne, an attorney defending the NH GOP against the Democrats’ civil suit. (Manchester Union Leader, January 8, 2006)

And yet both remarks were made as the NH GOP continued to do business with Chuck McGee, many thousands of dollars of business each year. Because after the phone-jamming started making headlines, after Chuck McGee was allowed to resign from his job with the NH GOP “to avoid distraction,” he got a new paid position within a month, as NH Executive Director for a conservative think tank.

When that job ended, in March of 2004, McGee once again quickly found a new job and executive title:
Vice President for Political & Corporate Communications with Spectrum Printing, a direct mail firm specializing in GOP candidates.

If McGee’s phone-jamming was “offensive and abhorrent” to the NH GOP, it’s hard to understand how he’s had the same job for two years, a job that depends on his ability to attract business from…the NH GOP!

I blogged about McGee’s ongoing GOP ties back in December. Now John DiStaso of the Manchester Union Leader has news of an even stinkier smoking gun: McGee’s now sending out invitations to “GOP Campaign School.”

One thing Republicans can hope to learn: election shenanigans up to the level of felony don’t seem to get you in trouble with the NH GOP.

Here’s a rough timeline of Chuck McGee’s employment:

Federal Election campaign, 2002
Chuck McGee, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Republican party, gets a flyer in the mail from NH Democrats with phone numbers to call if you want a ride to the polls. McGee gets the idea to “disrupt enemy communications” by jamming these numbers. He approaches several telemarketers, all of whom refuse to help him, and is stymied until James Tobin puts him in touch with Allen Raymond, an unindicted co-conspirator in a recent telemarketing scandal.
McGee tells NH Republican State Chair John Dowd about his phone-jamming plan, puts Dowd’s signature onto the $15,600 check that pays for phone-jamming, and emails GOP Marketplace a list of 6 Get-Out-The-Vote telephone numbers to jam.
Early in the morning, NH RSC Chair John Dowd tells McGee to stop the phone-jamming. Even so, nonstop hangup phone calls from Idaho telemarketers disrupt the first hours of election day for NH Democrats and the Manchester Firefighters’ Union.
January, 2003
NH RSC Chair John Dowd pays Chuck McGee a $6,000 bonus.
More Republican approval for Chuck McGee’s role in 2002 Elections: New Hampshire Young Republicans Federation gives him its annual “Gipper” Award.
Phone-jamming scandal finally makes local news. Chuck McGee resigns as Executive Director of the New Hampshire Republican party. The new NH RSC chair Jayne Millerick describes McGee’s false statements to local newspapers as “mistaken,” adding that he’s done nothing wrong and is resigning “to minimize distractions.”
March, 2003
Chuck McGee already has a new job as NH Executive Director for conservative think-tank Citizens for a Sound Economy.

December, 2003
FBI agent first interviews Chuck McGee to ask him about his role in the phone-jamming. (Chuck McGee’s testimony)
March, 2004
The Bedford chapter of the Citizens for a Sound Economy (B-CSE), described as “a project of McGee’s“, is fined several thousand dollars for illegal sign-posting. “Chuck McGee, state director of the CSE and spokesman for the local chapter, said the matter would be pursued but the group had higher priorities at the moment.” The national CSE later tells reporters (Manchester Union Leader, July 15, 2004) that McGee’s paid job with them terminated in March, although their website still lists him as executive director in July, 2004.

July 28, 2004
Chuck McGee pleads guilty to a federal felony in the NH phone-jamming; NH GOP Chair Jayne Millerick says what he did was “offensive and abhorrent.” (Manchester Union Leader, July 29, 2004)
August, 2004
The Bedford chapter of the Citizens for a Sound Economy (B-CSE), after various “Wild West” activities got them in trouble is “disowned and stripped of its title by the national group.” (Manchester Union Leader, August 23, 2004) The group is also seeking a new director for NH.

Chuck McGee has been Executive Director of Spectrum Monthly for more than two years–presumably since soon after he lost his job with CSE. This job was kept open for him during the seven months Chuck McGee spent in federal prison last year.

Update: NH Republican State Committe chair Wayne Semprini tells reporters that they have “ “absolutely nothing to do with” Chuck McGee’s GOP campaign school. Not that he plans to discourage NH Republicans from going to it, however…

That phrase sounded so familiar I looked it up–Wayne Semprini told reporters last week that Karl Rove’s $70,000 fundraiser had “absolutely nothing to do with” with their $80,000 legal bill for the phone-jamming civil suit.

Tags: New Hampshire!

Paku-paku, Mr. Pac-man!

May 24th, 2006 · Comments Off on Paku-paku, Mr. Pac-man!

“Ho ho ho!” That’s “refined feminine laughter” (sorry, Santa!) at least, according to this comprehensive list of Japanese “manga” sound effects. “Ho ho ho” is distinct from more general laughter (“ha ha ha”), not to mention:

  • fu fu fu (hu hu hu) = a strange laugh. M.J.: “The evil chuckle in the back of the throat.” (see also ku ku ku, pu pu pu)
  • ku, ku ku, ku ku ku = giggle in the throat
  • paku paku = opening and closing mouth, eating, gobbling. This is where Pac-man came from! (see also hau, gatsu)

Now, can you match each sound effect with its definition?

1. uzo uzo A. licking over and over
2. kotsu kotsu B. first the sound of a washing machine, then that of a dryer
3. koto, kotsun C. menace. A sound that evil creatures and nasty plants make. (see also gi gi and go go go)
4. bero bero D. slowly but surely
5. goun, guon E. little clink, like the sound of a glass being put down or a tear gem falling.

That’s 1 – C, 2 – D, 3 -E, 4 – A, and 5 – B. If you got these right, let me offer you pachi, the sound of clapping!

Tags: Learn to write funny

One more reason to turn down $2.8 million of RNC lawyers?

May 24th, 2006 · Comments Off on One more reason to turn down $2.8 million of RNC lawyers?

Judy Harrison–an experienced legal reporter who attended James Tobin’s trial from voir dire to sentencing–wants to know: Why did Tobin’s attorneys keep him from testifying?

Not putting a defendant on the stand may have been the biggest* mistake Tobin’s defense team made in a trial strategy that at times seemed to be more focused on a possible appeal than on getting at the truth of what happened.

Experienced white-collar-crime Attorney Jay McCloskey, for eight years the U.S. attorney for Maine, is clearly also baffled by their decision. McCloskey told Harrison that “in white-collar cases, my view is that your chances of winning are increased if you put the defendant on the stand.” Harrison lists the very few ways a defendant could hurt his own case:

  1. Jurors might not like him.
  2. He lacks the ability to communicate
  3. He might “hint at a previous criminal history.”
  4. He might “inadvertently admit to other crimes on the stand.”

(FindLaw gives a similar list.) James Tobin, with a successful career in politics, many friends, and a spotless past, had little to fear.

Keeping Tobin quiet hurt him in obvious ways:

  • Jurors don’t tend to like or trust defendants who plead the Fifth.
  • Despite Tobin’s silence, prosecution witnesses convinced the jury of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Because of Tobin’s silence, he couldn’t apologize or tell his own side of the story. Put this together with his lawyers’ futile claims that he’d done nothing illegal, and Tobin looked as if he didn’t think messing up an election was any big deal–something the judge explicitly cited when sentencing him to ten months in federal prison.

McCloskey also told Harrison that defendants don’t keep quiet to “take a bullet” for higher-ups. Maybe not–but James Tobin *might* be kept quiet if legal counsel advised him that this was in his own best interests. But was it? Is it still in his best interests? I don’t think so, but of course I am not a lawyer.

For me, this once again raises
the question if the RNC’s $2.8 million paid for Williams and Connelly lawyers to defend James Tobin
or for lawyers whose first interest was instead a cover-up on behalf of the RNC.

* In my opinion, keeping Tobin off the stand was only the defense’s third biggest mistake. The biggest mistake was Tobin’s failure to plead guilty and cooperate. The second biggest mistake was…something I’m not going to explain here, because DC lawyers don’t need any help from me with manipulating juries and jurors.

Tags: New Hampshire!

Meet Guy Goma, BBC blooper-saver

May 20th, 2006 · Comments Off on Meet Guy Goma, BBC blooper-saver

GuyGoma: Guy Goma in BBC blooper--first surprise and shock, then good-humored charm

As I drank morning coffee, still half asleep, I heard Frank upstairs simply roaring with laughter at his email, which (I later discovered) included this YouTube video of live-action bloopery.

Making a
long story short, a grad student or taxi driver (I’ve seen two versions) named Guy Goma was whisked into a BBC studio where a young woman interviewer informed her live TV audience that they would now be hearing from technology expert Guy Kewney.

Guy Goma’s expression, as he hears himself thus introduced, goes from pleasant acceptance to surprise and shock at amazing speed.

But what’s more remarkable is his grace and good humor, as he responds in French-accented English (he’s from the Congo) to the interviewer, to avoid embarassing her while in front of the camera.

Being put on the spot in front of live cameras is the kind of thing that happens in nightmares. Thanks to Guy Goma, I now have a warm-hearted, dignified role model for what I ought to do next.

Tags: Heroes and funny folks

Freedom for French fries, more important than for elections

May 20th, 2006 · 1 Comment

Congressman Bob “Freedom fries” Ney (R, OH) no longer heads the powerful House Administration Committee–for years now the graveyard of Congressional efforts to mandate a verifiable paper backup for US elections.

Diebold voting machines are used in 80% of US elections–but (I’m sure you already know this) they aren’t safe from hackers.

Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) has introduced H.R. 550, a bill that requires voting machines to create a paper trail, with a mandate to get it in place before the 2006 elections–but

  • despite the departure of Bob “Friend of Diebold” Ney,
  • despite the high stakes for democracy,
  • despite being co-sponsored by close to one-third of the members of Congress,

Holt’s bill is still (unbelievably!) stuck in committee:

“.. it was stalled in the House Administration Committee for two years by its chairman, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio. Rep. Ney stepped down from that post in January after being subpoenaed in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, but so far the new chairman, Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers, R-Mich., has shown no inclination to move the bill.” (Editorial from the Trenton (NJ) Times, April 4, 2006)

What can we do?

Free and fair elections are everybody’s business.

p.s. Thanks to my little sister for noodging me to write about this!

Tags: Editorial

Karl Rove and the phone-jammers: Why is this not surprising?

May 19th, 2006 · Comments Off on Karl Rove and the phone-jammers: Why is this not surprising?

Speaking of White House involvement in the NH phone-jamming scandal, guess which White House official has promised to headline a fundraiser to help the NH GOP cover the legal bills they’ve been running up since this felony?

Karl Rove.*

Karl Rove, the architect (in 2001) of the 72-hour task force–an all-out pre-election push to victory that got its national rollout in 2002, perhaps coincidentally the year that the then-Executive Director of the NH GOP Chuck McGee decided to try jamming NH Democrats’ phones.

The NH Republicans were keeping the name of their June 12 headliner quiet. After Democrats outed them, GOP leaders told John DiStaso of the Union Leader that the $70,000 they hope to raise from Rove’s visit has “absolutely nothing to do” with their roughly $80,000 legal fees for defending themselves against the Democrats’ civil suit.

And those legal bills just keep getting bigger. Several defendants’ lawyers were in the audience during James Tobin’s three-hour long sentencing hearing, and presumably billing those hours, on May 17.

Does Karl Rove’s assistance to the NH GOP also have “absolutely nothing to do” with James Tobin’s phone calls to the White House? Does Karl Rove also have “absolutely nothing to do” with RNC chair Ed Gillespie’s unnamed White House contact, the person who gave him the nod to pay Tobin’s lawyers?

In related news, there’s a good editorial today in the Portsmouth Seacoast News:

No time in jail is good time, but we believe 10 months in a federal prison is too light a sentence for James Tobin…We also believe there is more to this story and that Tobin did not act in a vacuum. Phone records show multiple calls between New Hampshire Republicans and the White House in the days surrounding the phone-jamming incidents, but the details of those calls remain a mystery.

Now we find out that former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who remains embroiled in his own controversy regarding the outing of a CIA agent, will be coming to New Hampshire shortly to fund-raise for the state Republican Party, whose coffers have been decimated by the costs of legal efforts to have Tobin, McGee and Raymond exonerated.

The fact that the man who virtually created the George W. Bush persona is working so hard to undo the financial harm done by the phone-jamming scandal raises even more questions about White House involvement…

There is a strategy that has been used by those in power in Washington for years that involves the sacrifice of subordinates in order to halt investigations. They claim the culprits have been punished so there is no need to look into the matter any further.

There is enough information out there to believe that is what is going on in the phone-jamming scandal. We believe the future of the Republican Party and this country hinge on getting a definitive answer on possible White House involvement in this operation, and we will pursue every means at our disposal to make sure that happens.

We hope others with more political clout join us in that effort.

* Yes, that Karl Rove:

Inside [his office], Rove was talking to an aide about some political stratagem in some state that had gone awry and a political operative who had displeased him. I paid it no mind and reviewed a jotted list of questions I hoped to ask. But after a moment, it was like ignoring a tornado flinging parked cars. “We will f— him. Do you hear me? We will f— him. We will ruin him. Like no one has ever f—ed him!”

Ron Suskind, Esquire, January 2003, “Why Are These Men Laughing?

Tags: New Hampshire!

Even more mysterious calls to the White House

May 19th, 2006 · Comments Off on Even more mysterious calls to the White House

What did the White House know and when did they know it? Current RNC ChaIr Ken Mehlman says that none of the many calls James Tobin made in the course of the phone-jamming conspiracy gave him any information about that plan.

Former RNC chair Ed Gillespie tells a different story–two different stories, in fact–saying that his decision to have the RNC pay $2.8 million or more for Tobin’s lawyers was made either before or after consulting with the White House.

Gillespie told the Washington Post that “”it’s the custom, not written anywhere, that you covered your people.”

And, speaking of things not written anywhere, check out the absence of any code of conduct* in James Tobin’s consulting contracts with the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Committee itself. The only bad behavior he’s told to avoid is revealing the NRSC’s secret list of donors.

* The RNC says it will now add a “Tobin clause” to future contracts, stating explicitly that they won’t pay for your lawyers. I hope they also check out some of the many online codes of conduct such as, for instance this one, which would have stopped the phone-jamming before it ever started:

When faced with a business decision that seems to have ethical overtones, here are several questions you should ask yourself to determine if your actions are proper:
1) Am I adhering to the spirit, as well as the letter, of any applicable law or .. policy?
2) Would I want my actions reported on the front page of a newspaper?
3) What would my family, friends or neighbors think of my actions?
4) Will there be any direct or indirect negative consequences for .. [this organization]?
…If you remain uncertain about what to do, stop and ask for help. Refer to the relevant section of this Code. Speak with your supervisor or, if you prefer, communicate with any of the other points of contact indicated in this Code.

Update: Why stop at “covering your people” by paying legal fees when you can just pardon them?

Tags: New Hampshire!

Phone-jamming: What real people think

May 18th, 2006 · Comments Off on Phone-jamming: What real people think

Something fascinating is happening today online at the Portland Press Herald story by Kevin Wack. Readers are posting impassioned responses to James Tobin’s ten-month sentence for phone-jamming. I was surprised by the near-unanimity in this morning’s first comments:

Justin of Saco, ME
May 18, 2006 7:44 AM
He should have to do more time for this…I question why the Herald staff isn’t looking more closely at the numerous calls he placed to the White House during this whole scheme? That is where the big story is.

Robert Malloy of Portland, ME
May 18, 2006 7:39 AM
He should have got a stiffer sentence… I also wonder why the RNC poured two million dollars into James Tobin’s legal defense–might they be covering up some naughty doings?

Phil of Portland, ME
May 18, 2006 7:36 AM
Regardless of how upstanding his character might be in other portions of his life, he made a “direct assault” on the democratic process, and feels no remorse in his actions. He should have received the maximum sentence.

vince of glassboro, nj
May 18, 2006 7:23 AM
How did I know before reading past the headline that this guy was a Republican ? He’s just another in a long list of GOP operatives that think nothing of playing “dirty tricks. To them the “frat house rules” are fine in our government. Gordon Liddy, Donald Segretti, Ollie North, Tom Delay, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.

Jim of Brunswick, Me
May 18, 2006 7:00 AM
He should have received the maximum sentence. According to the judge Tobin was not particularly remorseful and didn’t appreciate the gravity of what he had done. Another Republican scandal goes insufficiently unpunished.

Matt of Wells, ME
May 18, 2006 6:51 AM
No the sentence is not fair. He should have gotten LIFE. Anyone that interfere’s with an election is the most VILE enemy of our way of life. There should be no mercy for such criminals.

Later others chimed in, for the opposite point of view:

Jennifer of Arlington, VA
May 18, 2006 11:11 AM
I am outraged that the Portland Press Herald would sink so low as to ask its readers whether they think Jim Tobin’s sentence was fair. Jim Tobin is a man of integrity and heart, evident by the countless individuals who spoke out on his behalf. He should not be subjected to liberal criticism by folks who know little to nothing about the true facts of this case; and I would be willing to bet that most of your readers fall in that category. Mr. Tobin’s sentence is completely devastating to his family, friends, community, and church. There are far better ways to take shots at the Republican Party. Jim Tobin should not be your scapegoat.

Jeff of Portland, ME
May 18, 2006 11:00 AM
The reality, which most of you seem to have missed, is two other people who were obviously guilty threw a good man under the bus. They were trying to save themselves and lied and did whatever they could to get what they wanted, much shorter jail time for their crimes!!!! They should be ashamed of themselves, as should all of you who are writing comments with absolutely no frame of reference.

Rick Bornemann of Bridgton, ME
May 18, 2006 10:24 AM
Despite appeals to Jeffersonian rhetoric threats to the sanctity of voting, and whining about violated “rights,” the Tobin verdict was, and the 10-month sentence is, beyond ridiculous.

Mr. Tobin and friends engaged in a harmless, though silly, prank. It was the political equivalent of “jamming” a homeowner’s phone to ask whether he had Prince Albert in a can. We’ll also have to start arresting 10-year-olds when they violate another right – that to “privacy” – by using the phone to ask the elderly and other “vulnerable” people whether their refrigerators are running. And, the tykes advice to “catch it” would get them another 6 months…

Go read them yourself; this is a stirring example of free speech in action–messy, confusing, sometimes not a pretty sight. But it’s what our nation is built on; we can’t thrive without it.

Tags: New Hampshire!