view from mars

"Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

it's still not okay

News about our boy Virgil has been slim pickins of late, with the exception of the ridiculously widespread AP piece quoting him saying:
"I say if you are here illegally and you want to fly the Mexican flag, go to Mexico and wave the American flag."
Those of us who know anything about Virgil weren't surprised that it was (1) basically nonsense and (2) kind of creepy.

Here's what he actually said, in a correction piece carried by all those same media outlets:
"I say if you are here illegally and you want to fly the Mexican flag, go to Mexico to fly the Mexican flag."
Virgil just loves rallying against "illegals" -- it's one of his busiest legislative areas. He has really done a lot of work trying to get that great-big-wall-on-our-souther-border inserted into one or another bill, and has worked with some real power players of the republican party to draft this legislation. Like Duncan Hunter:
Goode, R-5th, recently joined Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, to outline their proposal for a two-layer fence from the Pacific Coast to the Gulf of Mexico. The cost is estimated at $5 billion or $7 billion by different sources.
As Congress gets ready to tackle immigration legislation, the Hunter-Goode bill - even before it is introduced - has drawn praise in some quarters as a means to secure a porous border, and derision in others as being unworkable.
“We need (the fence) to stop the flow of persons just coming into the country illegally, and also to reduce the threat of terrorism,” Goode said.

"To reduce the thread of terrorism"? The 9/11 hijackers flew into this country using an AIRPORT. But good thing Virgil is on top of things instead of worrying about securing silly nuclear reactors or the chemical belt in New Jersey or our ports or holding our administration's feet to the fire for not catching Osama. Priorities, right? Like handing MZM millions of taxpayer dollars...

Last I checked, the Statue of Liberty -- you know, that American symbol-of-symbols welcoming people from all over the world to take part in our experiment in democracy -- said this:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Let's get one thing straight. Big corporations who give tons of money to members of Congress for favorable legislation LOVE cheap labor. The immigration issue has nothing to do with protecting American jobs or terrorism. Think about that next time you eat a burger from McDonald's topped with a tomato picked by illegal hands.

So what's Virgil's deal? Why does he want to reject those "tired...poor..huddled masses" who risk everything to come here? Where are the soundbites blaming the true enablers of our illegal immigration problem? Instead of spending OUR MONEY ON A WALL ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FREAKING COUNTRY (as if that would really do anything), how come Virgil isn't focusing on forcing corporations to stop hiring cheap labor? I realize they are breaking the law -- that's why they were protesting. So that the law might be CHANGED (though, predictably, the corporate media dropped the ball and the hundreds of thousands who took to the streets were overshadowed by some silly minutiae.) It's funny how republicans are the party of law-and-order when it comes to sending brown people to jail or "back to their own country" but when the president breaks the law by authorizing warantless surveillance of American citizens, it's the law that needs to change.

It's not okay to blame people who come to this country to make things better for their families. It's not okay to say that they can't express their heritage however they want. It's not okay to deny people their freedom of expression or assert the superiority of American national heritage over that of another country. American national heritage IS heterogeneity.

Republicans love to drape themselves in the flag and claim moral superiority in this way. It's not okay. It's racist. And Virgil's made it a crown jewel of his reelection campaign.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

paul fain gets pissed

Paul Fain penned the C-ville Weekly's piece about our boy Virgil's recent ethical indescretions. You can read what I think about his article here or here. I also sent him an e-mail challenging certain crucial assertions of his article, one of which occurs in a timeline as follows:
Undisclosed month, 2003. Goode arranges for an initial federal outlay of $3.6 million for MZM to create an intelligence facility in Virginia’s Southside, also part of his district.

March 2003. At MZM’s Washington, D.C. office, company founder and CEO Mitch-ell J. Wade pays for and collects illegal contributions to Goode’s campaign.

I referenced a USA Today article:
By the time Goode arranged an initial $3.6 million for the center in 2003, MZM's PAC and its employees had given the congressman nearly $33,000 in campaign contributions, making them at that point by far his biggest financial supporter for the 2004 election.
Fain, in the reply:
I think you may have misread part of the timeline. In detailing the initial earmark of $3.6 million for the Martinsville facility I specifically state that the date of the inclusion and approval of this appropriation was unclear. The timeline reads that it was made in "an undisclosed month" in 2003. This was not meant to imply that the earmark came before Wade's March 2003 first documented illegal contribution to Goode's campaign. I'm sorry if this was confusing. I would have liked to have been more specific, but did not find a way to nail down the date of the earmark request in my reporting. Do you have access to that information? I was actually told that it's classified. I realize that the USA Today said the first contribution came before the $3.6 million. I could not independently verify their reporting, although I don't doubt its validity. However, in reporting a story like this I feel it's far better to be safe than sorry. The burden of proof is on the reporter, as always.
But it was confusing, and, because Fain knew about what USA Today found, the other burden of responsible journalism comes into play: presenting a whole story. What the hell do I know about journalism though, I'm just a kid. I would guess the editors couldn't find any fat to trim to add in that little bit, and include "though it could not be independently verified at the time of publishing." Instead, Fain is forced to write responses to inquiring readers like myself, which is surely the only way to explain the bundled panty bitchy tone.

Oh, so it gets way better. After I referenced his response here, Fain came on this site and in the comments clutched pearls even tighter and insulted me:
The author of this blog has now incorrectly trashed both my C-VILLE Weekly article on Rep. Goode and my response to the author's e-mailed complaint. (By the way, he never responded to an e-mail I sent to him. I guess it's more fun to take shots on a blog than to engage someone in an honest exchange.) So for the record, my article/time-line identifies two flurries of illegal campaign donations - collected by Wade and given to Goode in March 2003 and March 2005. It also describes two major appropriations for the Martinsville MZM facility, which Goode helped to arrange. The first outlay, for $3.6 million, was created during an undisclosed month in 2003. I could not independently verify when this money was approved. The USA Today said, vaguely, that it happened after Goode had been given the illegal funds by Wade. That may be true, but the bummer about being a reporter is that you have to PROVE and back up facts. I was able confirm that the second outlay, for $9 million in June 2005, came three months after Goode received more illegal money from Wade. The story/time-line states this clearly. I have no idea what point the author of this blog is trying to prove with this nit-pick. However, it's clear that he would have preferred a strident opinion piece to a fair, fact-heavy news article. Thank goodness for this blog, where the author can take unsubstantiated swipes.

I'm not a journalist, but I'm a reader. I support lots of businesses that advertise in that newspaper (it's free) so that makes me someone who has an interest in receiving a fair and thorough account when I read it for news. It's not all news because it's a community weekly, but everyone around here reads it -- and this story has received only superficial expositions from a large corporate media outlet.

I didn't "trash" anyone. I called out Fain because I was aware of a fact that he chose to ignore. (He has yet to explain how exactly his investigations turned up utterly fruitless.)

So this is what I get in return:
  • I think you may have misread part of the timeline.
  • I'm sorry if this was confusing.
  • Do you have access to that information? I was actually told that it's classified.
  • I guess it's more fun to take shots on a blog than to engage someone in an honest exchange.
  • It's clear that he would have preferred a strident opinion piece to a fair, fact-heavy news article.
  • Thank goodness for this blog, where the author can take unsubstantiated swipes.
As a reader, I expressed my concern to the author that he was failing to shoulder his responsibility as a journalist. While he wrote, "...despite Goode’s brush with wonkish infamy, it will probably take more than a confusing Capitol Hill imbroglio to take down the entrenched, five-term incumbent," he simultaneously enabled what he called Virgil's "squeaky clean image" by not presenting his readers with the full story, and, as a result, downplaying its severity and the questions that remain unanswered.

The March 2003 contribution is so crucial because, at least as far as we know, it represents a potential beginning of Virgil and Wade's quid pro quo. We already know so much that tells us that this quite possibly might be true, and, if it really were, then Virgil's "squeaky clean image" doesn't look so squeaky anymore. The Martinsville facility has become an important justification for Virgil's claim that he has brought jobs to his district. We need to know whether or not Virgil was thinking more of the people of the 5th, or whether he, after switching parties to help enable the current republican majority in Congress in exchange for a coveted seat on the House Appropriations uber-Committee and proposing that English be made the official language of the United States and proposing a resolution in favor of Christmas in the midst of last year's faux anti-Christmas hilarity and accepting money from Wade "in person" and being an anti-gay bigot, was thinking more of himself.

Maybe it doesn't matter because we readers will just "misread" things. But at least while we're here, let's not piss all over the relationship between reader and news-writer. I'm allowed to say whatever the hell I want to a journalist about their story, because it shouldn't be otherwise. I want the truth -- if I don't feel like I'm getting it in one of my primary sources for local news, then I'm going to let someone know about it.

Mr. Fain, you're a professional journalist. I'm 24 years old. Get a grip, simmer down, and instead of harassing my work e-mail account with multiple messages and comments on my blog, why don't you accept my criticism and do everything you can to verify (or disprove) the evidence you claim is questionable. If you can't independently verify what has previously been reported as fact, then report it, and then say that you can't verify it. Don't write a front-pager and cross your fingers that no one will notice that you flubbed. Give your reader the whole story, and do your damndest to get to the bottom of things. We are counting on people in your profession to DO THEIR JOB and check the secrecy needed to maintain the current rampant corruption taking over our government. Politicians are corrupt because the news media don't do their job and inform people.

I'm not saying you're not doing your job as a journalist, because it's important that people become aware at least that this relationship exists (or that corruption exists at all -- I had a friend today ask me what Halliburton was.)

I am saying that I think your replies to my inquiries are a little unhinged and scary. Accept that your readers are informed and will question your assertions. Stop harassing me. That would be great.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

more on mzm

Wow, MZM was in it deep:

In February 2003, MZM won a two-month contract worth $503,144.70 to provide technical support to the Pentagon's Joint Counter-Intelligence Field Activity, or CIFA. The top-secret agency was created five months earlier primarily to protect U.S. defense personnel and facilities from foreign terrorists.

The job involved advising CIFA on selecting software and technology designed to ferret out commercial and government data that could be used in what's called a Geospatial Information System. A GIS system inserts information about geographic locations, such as buildings, into digital maps produced from satellite photographs.

According to a "statement of work," the data that CIFA was interested in obtaining included "maps, street addresses, lines of communication, critical infrastructure elements, demographic and other pertinent sources that would support geocoding and multi-level analysis."

Geocoding involves assigning latitudes and longitudes to locations, such as street addresses, so they can be displayed as points on maps. Such tools increasingly are being used by U.S. corporations and law enforcement agencies.

MZM was to "assist the government in identifying and procuring data" on maps, as well as "airports, ports, dams, churches/mosques/synagogues, schools (and) power plants," said the statement of work.

"In many cases, the government already owns such data, and for reasons of economy, government-owned data is preferred," said the statement. It isn't clear why U.S. intelligence agencies couldn't do the work themselves.


In a March 8 letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a senior Pentagon official said that a review of the Cornerstone database had identified 186 "protest-related reports" containing the names of 43 people that were mistakenly retained in the database.

"These reports have since been removed from the Cornerstone database and refresher training on intelligence oversight and database management is being given to all CI (counter-intelligence) and intelligence personnel," said the letter from Robert W. Rogalski, an acting deputy undersecretary of defense.

The disclosure that CIFA was storing information on anti-war activities added to concerns that the Bush administration may have used its war on terrorism to give government agencies expanded power to monitor Americans' finances, associations, travel and other activities.

Virgil knew Wade personally -- why didn't he ever wonder just where that huge wad of cash was coming from? Why didn't he wonder exactly what kind of government work was being done by the group that contributed the most money by far to his campaign?

It was no secret that the Dukestir was squatting at Mitch's yacht, either.

How stupid does Virgil think we are?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

virgil spooked?

John Nichols in The Nation has this about Virgil:

Last week, the U.S. House voted on a perfunctory measure authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to designate the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home in Hope, Arkansas, as a National Historic Site and unit of the National Park System. It is notable that, at a time when Republicans are banging away on critics of the Bush administration for not respecting the office of the presidency, the vote was not the unanimous show of approval that might have been expected.

Republican members of the House forced a roll-call vote -- extremely rare on such matters -- and a dozen of them then voted against so honoring Clinton's birthplace.

The "no" votes came from Tennessee's Marsha Blackburn, Florida's Ginny Brown-Waite, Utah's Chris Cannon, California's John Doolittle, Virginia's Virgil Goode, Oklahoma's Ernest Istook, Texan Ron Paul, Pennsylvania's Bill Shuster, Georgia's Lynn Westmoreland and North Carolinians Virginia Foxx, Walter Jones and Patrick McHenry.


Goode, along with his friend Duke Cunningham, has been linked to the defense contractor MZM – the company accused of bribing Cunningham with millions of dollars in exchange for defense contracts. Goode recently donated $88,000 in political contributions he had received from MZM and its associates to charity. According to a USA Today investigation: "In more than 30 instances, donations from MZM's political action committee or company employees went to two members of the House Appropriations Committee -- Cunningham and Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va. -- in the days surrounding key votes or contract awards that helped MZM grow."

I wrote the C-ville Weekly about this last bit from the USA Today investigation right after their front-pager last week, and the author replied that he wasn't able to independently verify it. So instead, he created a vague timeline that clearly implies that Wade's contributions were not correlated with Virgil's little indiscretions, while failing to mention anywhere else in the article what USA Today (and others) have found. And then he said it was my fault for misreading it.

But back to the point -- why would Virgil take this stand, with only 11 others with him? How desperate he must be to cling to those particularly wingnutty votes that are surely imperiled by the antics of the GOP over the past four years -- that it comes, to this? I can't imagine that there would be any other reason to not support something like this, other than either spite or false-spite. In the latter case, of course the motivation is political.

Virgil wants us to believe that he is a high-grounder who stands up for the office of the presidency that Clinton allegedly tarnished. The jig is up for him and now it's time for him to explain his record and its results. And, like he's shown he's perfectly willing to do, he's playing on these old fires (Clinton-hating, this time, but also gay-hating, brown-people-hating, slut-hating) to trick us into voting against all those bad sinful things.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

digby is wrong

Digby said:
John at Crooks and Liars has the video of Bush congratulating Jason McElwaine the basketball player who has autism. I know that it was a cheap stunt on many levels, but I'm with John --- it was a nice thing for Bush to do on its own merits. And I have to say that Bush actually seemed like a real human when he was talking about it. For the first time in, well ... ever.
Here's the thing. This administration is all talk when it comes to its education policy. We see it cuts in college assistance, the imposition of guidelines that are out of the way of paltry school budgets, and this:
While President Bush has publicly acknowledged his admiration for the young star, his FY07 budget shows an indifference towards autistic children:

- In his proposed budget for next year, Bush has cut all funding for the National Children’s Study, a project that planned to investigate the causes of autism, asthma, and other serious illnesses.

- The President’s budget will eliminate Medicaid reimbursements for schoolchildren with disabilities, denying them “access to medical services they need to fully participate in school and learn to their greatest abilities.”

- The number of children diagnosed with autism and served by schools under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) increased by more than 500 percent in the last decade, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The President’s FY07 budget, however, will fund IDEA at $6.3 billion below the amount Congress recommended.

Bush’s visit with J-Mac was a great photo-op. But the best way for Bush to show his support is by providing adequate funding for programs to help autistic children.

At my school we host workshops, mainly attended by special ed teachers. The story is always the same: few resources on any level -- incompetent assistance, incompetent administration, disconnected/impoverished families. I work with this every day, and trust me when I say that I've never before imagined a system so decayed and neglected as some of the public school special ed programs I've come to learn about.

I know a family who relies on Medicaid reimbursements for everything -- medical care (medication, examinations, physical therapy, recreational therapy -- the norm in special ed), and, just as vitally, respite care.

So I know what Bush and his cronies don't feel when they sign off on these immoral budget cuts. It's how I know that this was just a repulsive PR stunt at a time of all-time low approval ratings from an administration whose specialty is this sort of thing.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

rabble rabble rabble

Lisa wrote this over the lo(ooooo)ng weekend hiatus I just got over:

While 5th District bloggers may not be able to have an impact on Virgil stepping down from office, we CAN do some digging and keep putting the information out to local media in letters about his record, campaign contributions and perhaps even his spending patterns (check this site in response to the one sideblogged by Waldo). We can provide data to his opposition after the 5th District caucuses and convention in April for use during debates with Virgil and publicity pieces.
It's not that I'm convinced Virgil really did use his spot on the Appropriations Committee to funnel money into MZM -- look, we don't have all the facts (probably never will) and a Justice Department that, as far as we can tell, isn't interested in Virgil's alleged acts of impropriety.

After all, when Mitch Wade said he "owned" Virgil, he probably just meant benevolently and liberally observed from afar.

The real issue is, Virgil's just another one of the loser republican House-lings coddled since the bargain sale of his soul to build their majority. "Join us? Get a choice spot on a key committee and an essentially safe seat while we are in power."

Meanwhile, what do we get in return? Lisa points our attention to this Times-Dispatch article re: Danville's-ranking-fifth-on-list-of-worst-job-markets-behind-cities-like-New-Orleans-and-Biloxi:
I was also unaware that, while 2,500 jobs had been created in the last two years, the net loss of jobs in the city is still 1700 (listed on page A13). Bringing jobs to the 5th District is what Virgil keeps talking about. Who knows, there might actually be an amendment to the bill he introduced in the House about the border fence between America and Mexico that requires 5th District voters to be given jobs on the project!

And Lisa's right on the money about our local media outlet's complete lack of interest in this story. There are tons of unanswered questions (Did Virgil receive anything else of value from Wade?; Did their relationship operate quid pro quo?; When exactly did the initial $3.6 million request occur/begin to occur?), but our local media have completely dropped the ball.

Virgil has screwed the Fifth District over, and once again the local corporate media have allowed this bigot to slime his way under the radar in the latest disappointment of his career.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

c-ville weekly hearts goode

So the C-ville Weekly threw its $.02 into the MZM/Goode story. It ain't worth much more than that.

I gotta say, I'm really disappointed in their coverage of the story. While this week's cover features a huge head-shot of Goode with the words "Bad times for Virgil Goode?" splashed across the bottom, I was hard pressed to find much criticism of any substance.

This passage seems to be the thesis:
However, Goode’s association with the lurid scandal could hurt his political fortunes. The affable Goode is immensely popular throughout most of the huge Fifth District, which is roughly the size of New Jersey, having won at least 63 percent of the vote in the last two elections. Even the two Democrats who are vying for his seat say the MZM affair will not be enough, by itself, to sway voters away from Goode. But it may have tarnished his squeaky clean image.
This passage seems to be the conclusion:
It’s too early to tell whether Goode’s constituents care about the scandal. Watkins of the Fifth District Republicans says people will view efforts to equate Goode with Cunningham or Wade as nothing but partisan attacks.
Watkins is actually Tucker Watkins, chairman of the Fifth's Republican committee. The author relies quite heavily on Watkins' remarks elsewhere in the piece:
Tucker Watkins, the Fifth District’s Republican chairman, agrees, predicting that the MZM case will have no impact on Goode’s run in Congress. “You’re talking about a guy who’s worked hard to bring jobs into the District,” Watkins says. “I think they’re barking up a real bad tree on this one.”
And here:
In both Richmond and Washington he developed a reputation as a man of the people (despite a net worth of between $1.2 million and $3.3 million). His office in Rocky Mount is rickety and his car has 270,000 miles on it, according to Watkins.

And here:
“Virgil Goode has a 33-year record in public office,” Watkins says. “Almost nobody questions Congressman Goode’s integrity.”

To further justify this storyline that appears throughout the article, the author includes this bit:
James H. Hershman, a professor at Georgetown University and expert in Virginia politics, thinks only revelations that Goode knowingly broke the law could force the popular congressman out of office. After all, he says, many of Goode’s constituents will see his dealings with MZM as being just that of their loyal Congressman trying to bring much-needed jobs to the Southside.

“He’ll probably survive it politically,” Hershman says.

The author relies on Hershman's assessment to make this bold claim:
But despite Goode’s brush with wonkish infamy, it will probably take more than a confusing Capitol Hill imbroglio to take down the entrenched, five-term incumbent.
It's actually not that confusing, and any reader who bothers with the article can see that right away as the majority of the text is spent summarizing the suspicious activity Goode has engaged in. "Expert" criticism is limited to comments made by Al Weed and Bern Ewert.

In the timeline that follows, the author notes that the initial $3.6 million earmark occurred during an "undisclosed month" in 2003 and then correctly identifies Wade's reimbursement of MZM employees to Goode as occurring in "March." From a previous article I cited from USA TODAY we learn the following:
By the time Goode arranged an initial $3.6 million for the center in 2003, MZM's PAC and its employees had given the congressman nearly $33,000 in campaign contributions, making them at that point by far his biggest financial supporter for the 2004 election.
According to USA TODAY at least, contrary to the Weekly's timeline, the contributions occurred before Goode's earmark arrangement. This bit of information is missing completely from the Weekly's timeline, and is even implied that the opposite is true. Wrong, and completely irresponsible.

Nowhere in the Weekly's article does the author note that these contributions were given within a very short time period, and fails to add that none of the contributors had donated prior to this burst.

Here's what I think the thesis statement of the article ought to be:
Goode did not respond to C-VILLE’s questions, faxed at his request, by press time.
If they had waited, maybe they would have been able to point out some of those questions that Goode curiously refused to answer from the Roanoke Times. Instead, we get drek like this:
Rev. Cecil Bridgeforth of Shiloh Baptist Church in Danville told C-VILLE during the 2004 election season that when federal money comes to the Southside, “people think he’s ridden in on this white steed and he’s given us this money.”

Goode was trying to fill precisely this role, at least in his public machinations, through his relationship with MZM.

Nice. What a man of the people.