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Archive for October, 2008

Documents from the alleged plot against Obama

Here are the criminal complaint and the affidavit filed against two men accused of plotting a racist murder spree and an attempt on Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s life. And here is the U.S. Justice Department’s news release, in its entirety and verbatim:

Jackson, TN — Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells, Tennessee and Paul Schlesselman, 18, of West Helena, Arkansas were charged in a federal Complaint, Friday, October 24, 2008 announced Lawrence J. Laurenzi, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, James Cavanaugh, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Richard Harlow, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service- Memphis Field Office and Troy Klyce, Sheriff of Crockett County. The Criminal Complaint charges Cowart and Schlesselman with the illegal Possession of a Sawed off Shotgun, Conspiracy to Rob a Federal Firearms Licensee, and Making Threats Against a Major Candidate for the Office of President.

“The allegations set forth in this Criminal Complaint are serious and will be treated as such, “ said Lawrence J. Laurenzi, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. “ The public can rest assured that federal, state, and local law enforcement are diligently working together to investigate and prosecute the alleged activity.”

According to the Complaint, approximately one month ago, Cowart and Schlesselman met via the internet through a mutual friend and both claim to have very strong beliefs regarding “White Power” and “Skinhead” philosophy. Cowart and Schlesselman began discussing going on a “killing spree”. The Complaint further alleges that Cowart and Schlesselman discussed robbing a gun shop (Federal Firearms Licensee) in order to gather weapons and ammunition. The Complaint notes the defendants were in possession of a sawed off shotgun.

On October 20, 2008, Cowart allegedly traveled from Tennessee to Arkansas to pick up Schlesselman in order to carry out their plan. The Complaint states that at this time, the defendants further discussed their killing spree to include targeting a predominately African American School and to continue their spree until their final act of violence which would be to attempt to assassinate Presidential Candidate Barack Obama. “The United States Secret Service takes all threats against Presidential Candidates seriously and is actively investigating the allegations,” said Richard Harlow, Special Agent in Charge of the Secret Service-Memphis Field Office. “The Secret Service does not comment on this type of investigation.”

The Complaint further notes that the defendants stated that they would be willing to die during this attempt. According to the Complaint, after soliciting a friend, to drive their car, between 11:00pm on October 21, 2008 and 2:00am on October 22, 2008, the defendants made plans to rob a house but were diverted when they arrived and observed a dog and two cars at the location. Cowart and Schlesselman then dropped the friend back off at home and then went to a local retail store and allegedly purchased nylon rope and two ski masks.

“It is critical that the alleged plot was interrupted,” said James Cavanaugh, Special Agent in Charge of ATF. “We give credit to the Deputies of Crockett and Haywood Counties. All forces of law enforcement have come together to stop this threat.”

The Defendants were arrested on October 22, 2008 by the Crockett County Sheriff’s Office. “Once we arrested the defendants and suspected they had violated federal law, we immediately contacted federal authorities, “ said Sheriff Troy Klyce of Crockett County. “The Sheriff’s Department is committed to keeping Crockett County a safe place for our all of citizens.”

Cowart and Schlesselman had their Initial Appearances in Federal Court today and are scheduled to be back in court for a Detention Hearing on October 30, 2008 in Memphis, Tennessee.

This case is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives- Memphis Office, the United States Secret Service-Memphis Field Office, with the assistance of the Crockett County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Posted on Monday, October 27th, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Elections, General | No Comments »

Butt says he was scammed, wink, wink

Richmond Councilman Tom Butt says he inadvertently blasted a forged letter singing the praises of Measure T, purportedly from the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. The chamber has been adamantly opposed to Measure T, which would levy a tax on the value of materials used in manufacturing.

In an updated email to his vast network of email subscribers, he says he was scammed. But he doesn’t sound too terribly sorry about it. It’s unlikely, after all, that Butt really believed the chamber had changed its position when he sent out the fake.

But here’s what Butt wrote:

“When I received a copy of a letter from a long-time member of the Chamber of Commerce appearing to support Measure, imagine my excitement! I wanted to share it with E-FORUM readers.

Well, it turns out that the letter was a fake. Apparently the original letter was emailed to Chamber members as an editable WORD file, and the Chamber member who sent it to me was disgruntled about the Chamber’s position on Measure T, which appeared to have been written by Chevron. “The devil made me do it, ” he said. “I just couldn’t bear to see my Chamber dues used to promote a political position I didn’t agree with.”

The scammer went on to say, “It’s okay if the Chamber’s political action committee, RichPAC, wants to campaign against Measure T; that’s not my money. But when they send out campaign literature on the Chamber’s letterhead, signed by the Chamber president, that’s going too far.”

“Anyway,” the scammer said, “It’s almost Halloween, and this was sort of a trick or treat visit to the Chamber Office. They declined the treat, and they got the trick.”

It reminded me of the Chamber’s last campaign against the 2006 Measure T, where the City Council subsequently directed the City to withdraw it’s $10,000 premium membership in the Chamber.

At any rate, the E-FORUM has completed its investigation and found the letter to be bogus. We apologize for this error and for any inconvenience it may have caused the Chamber of Commerce. Please delete the subject email and its attachment.

In the end, it seems the Chamber of Commerce was not the Chamber we wish we had but instead the Chevron-controlled Chamber we’ve got.”

Posted on Monday, October 27th, 2008
Under: 2008 November election | No Comments »

Pete Stark’s wife to head national pre-K initiative

Pre-K Now — a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten for all three and four year olds — has announced that Deborah Roderick Stark will lead “Engaged Families, Effective Pre-K,” which it described as “a new initiative to research best practices for engaging families in pre-k programs and to advance state policies that support those practices.”

Stark, 41, a San Lorenzo native with extensive experience in early-childhood education, is the wife of Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, with whom she has three children; she’s also a member of the First 5 Alameda County Commission.

Funded by the Picower Foundation, the new program aims to “highlight the fundamental role family involvement plays during the early learning years and the need for states to actively promote it,” according to a news release.

“Without a doubt, parent engagement in pre-k improves children’s successes in school and life,” Stark said in the release. “The pre-k years are not just the best time for teaching early learning skills; this is also the best time for educators to actively engage family members, reinforcing the notion that they are their child’s first and most important teachers.”

Engaged Families, Effective Pre-K will launch an 18-month listening tour involving families of 3- and 4-year-old children, in order to learn more about needs, opportunities and challenges faced during the early learning years. It’ll also convene a national panel of experts to review research on family engagement, identify promising practices and develop action steps that states can take to support meaningful family engagement in state-funded pre-k.

“When pre-k is done right, families benefit too, because from day one, they learn about the enduring role they’ll play in their child’s education,” Stark said.

Posted on Saturday, October 25th, 2008
Under: Pete Stark | 3 Comments »

Website features Obama pumpkin-carving pumpkin by Laura Enman pumpkin by Laura Enman

A reader just called and told me to check out, a website featuring pumpkin carvings of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

The picture on the right was identified as the work of Laura Enman of Oakland.


If you are so inclined, upload photos of your own Obama carvings to the site or download stencils.

Anyone know of a comparable site for Republican nominee John McCain?

Posted on Friday, October 24th, 2008
Under: 2008 presidential election | No Comments »

This week in big-time campaign cash

I knew it was coming, but it still hurts my head: The number of $25,000-and-up contributions to California campaigns and committees suddenly went through the roof this past week as Election Day neared and polls tightened. Given the sudden, enormous jump in notable contributions, I must resort to a more stripped-down format this week. The highlights in brief:

The campaign to defeat Proposition 8 raked in at least about $2.5 million this past week; I’m quite sure many of the big-ticket donations gathered at high-profile Southern California fundraisers this week have not yet been logged in as of this posting.

Chesapeake Energy doubled down on Proposition 10, putting another $1 million into the alternative fuels intiative from which it stands to make a bundle (though its ante is still chump change next to the $15.75 million put up by Prop. 10 proponent T. Boone Pickens‘ Clean Energy Fuels Corp.)

A bunch of Florida Republicans anted up for California’s proposed legislative redistricting reform.

And labor unions (especially the SEIU) and safe Democratic officeholders with money to burn tithed their cash to the Democratic Party, which seems to smell GOP blood in the water in districts up and down the state.

Details — so many details — after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, October 24th, 2008
Under: General | No Comments »

Richmond chamber says Butt forged Measure T letter

Richmond Councilman Tom Butt

Richmond Councilman Tom Butt

The nasty battle over Measure T in Richmond erupted this morning into counter-charges of forgery and humorlessness.

The offending document showed up online via Richmond Councilman Tom Butt’s vast email notice network that just about everybody in town seems to get.

The letter appears to be an electronic “Photoshopped” revision of an original “Vote No on Measure T” letter from Richmond Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Judy Morgan.

The forger kept the chamber’s letterhead and Morgan’s signature but rewrote the content to reflect a positive spin on Measure T.

Click here to download the Chamber of Commerce’s version of the letter.

Click here to download the forged version of the letter.

Butt, an ardent Measure T supporter, denied that he had anything to do with forging the letter.

He says he received it from an individual he declined to name and had no reason to believe it was inaccurate. So, he sent it out to his email subscribers in what’s affectionately referred to as the Butt Blast.

“I was overjoyed when I thought the chamber had changed its mind,” Butt said. “But if it was in error, I’ll track down the truth. Meanwhile, a little excitement never hurt anyone.”

Butt is renowned for his annual April Fool’s Day jokes on the town and the media.

But Morgan is not laughing. She says she learned about the letter when Measure T supporters began calling to congratulate her for finally seeing the light.

“This is the worst thing that Tom Butt has ever done,” Morgan said. “I don’t even know where to begin to repair the damage to my reputation and that of the chamber … I think he should think about resigning his position.”

Measure T would establish a fee on businesses of one fourth of one percent of the value of the raw materials used in the manufacturing process.

Critics, such as the chamber, say the burden will fall unfairly on Chevron and hurt other local businesses. Proponents argue that it will force local businesses to pay their fair share of impacts on the community.

Click here to read the text and arguments for and against Measure T at the League of Women Voters’ online Smart Voter page.

Posted on Friday, October 24th, 2008
Under: 2008 November election, Contra Costa politics | 1 Comment »

Disagree, but don’t be hatin’

Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin spoke last week in North Carolina about how small towns are the “pro-America areas of this great nation.” She later tried to walk it back.

Then McCain adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer tried to explain on CNN why the growing Democratic stronghold of northern Virginia is different from “real Virginia.”

And Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., last week suggested on MSNBC’s Hardball said she’s concerned Barack Obama might have “anti-American views” and the media should do “a penetrating expose” of whether other members of Congress are “anti-America.”

These kinds of statements are a cancer on American politics, a tumor nurtured and metastized by years of partisan hyperbole spewing from fringe radio talk-show hosts, bloggers and the like. If there’s one thing I can think of that’s truly “anti-American,” it’s believing that anyone who disagrees with you hates America. It’s nothing more than a crutch for the weak-minded who can’t adequately explain and support their own positions. It should be beneath us all.

What ever happened to civil discourse, the free marketplace of ideas, the loyal opposition? Why does patriotism have to include blind, unquestioning adherence to a particular party platform?

Get a grip, folks. Argue the issues, but don’t stoop to this phony, fanatical nationalistic chauvinism. Disagree on the policies, by all means, but don’t be hatin’ lest you become what you describe. Just ask Joe McCarthy.

UPDATE @ 1:20 P.M.: Here’s an example of the insane “agree-with-me-or-you’re-evil” rhetoric of which I spoke: James Pinkerton, a contributing columnist and writer for “The American Conservative” and a Fox News political contributor, had this column yesterday in which he notes that activist/organizer Saul Alinsky — who died in 1972 — once wrote that Lucifer (aka the devil, Satan, Beelzebub, whatever) deserved “an over the shoulder acknowledgement of the very first radical, from all our legends, mythology, and history … the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom.”

Why should we care? Well, Pinkerton goes on to note that The Washington Post in 2007 noted “Obama embraced many of Alinsky’s tactics.” And from there he goes on to talk about “the Obama-Alinsky-Lucifer connection.”

Seriously? Somebody paid this guy to write this drivel, to take our political discourse to this level? What an idiot.

Posted on Friday, October 24th, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Elections, John McCain, Sarah Palin | No Comments »

‘No on 8’ activists on Oakland’s streets

Sitting at my desk yesterday afternoon, I listened on the newsroom scanner as a police dispatcher sent officers to Fruitvale Avenue and Interstate 580, where activists for and against Proposition 8 were engaged in… well, agitated discussion.

Apparently no arrests ensued, but after taking a call from one of the “No on 8” folks this morning, I decided to take a spin up there today to watch as they returned. I sat in my car for about half an hour and watched five or six activists holding signs with slogans such as “Don’t teach the children to hate — No on 8” at the corner of Fruitvale and Harold Street, facing the off-ramp from eastbound I-580. I saw no “Yes on 8” signs and nary even a rude gesture, just a lot of honking horns, friendly waves and thumbs-up, at least for the duration of my stay.

Posted on Thursday, October 23rd, 2008
Under: Elections, General, same-sex marriage | No Comments »

Women strips off Obama shirt in Contra Costa election office

Rgistrar of Voters Steve Weir

Registrar of Voters Steve Weir

Unruly pro-Obama voters invaded the Contra Costa election office in Martinez late this afternoon, including a well-endowed woman who stripped off her Obama tank top in the lobby.

It’s illegal campaign within 100 feet from where people are voting and the county elections office is now open for early voting.

Registrar of Voters Steve Weir approached the women and advised them of the rules and asked them to remove the offending pro-Obama items or he would be forced to call the police.

One woman refused to remove her Obama button and voted anyway, Weir said. A second woman partially covered her Obama shirt with her purse.

But a third took off her Obama tank top to reveal a lovely tan-colored bra, Weir said.  She reversed the shirt and put it back on inside out right there in the the middle of the election office.

“She was stunning,” said Weir, a gay man who recently married his longtime partner in the county’s first same-sex marriage ceremony. “I can say that, can’t I?”

The women were also carrying digital and video cameras, also in violation of the law. It is illegal to bring a camera or recording device into the voting booth and take pictures or videos of people voting. (I’ll be watching YouTube to see if this shows up.)

Weir ended up calling the Martinez police. The police warned the women but didn’t arrest them. And they were all allowed to vote.

“We don’t want to stop anyone from voting but this group clearly came with the intention to cause a disruption and that’s not a good idea,” Weir said.

On the other hand, the disrobing does put Weir in the the running for the informal, annual Butte County award, the site of the first recorded incident in which a woman took off her shirt in a voting precinct.

Posted on Thursday, October 23rd, 2008
Under: 2008 November election, 2008 presidential election, Contra Costa County | 12 Comments »

Campaigning for liberals: Do they stay or go?

A few weeks ago, there was “Drive for Change,” an appeal to California Democrats to pack their bags and travel to battleground states and campaign for the Democratic presidential ticket.

Plenty of folks are doing it, too. In fact, the response has overwhelmed Obama campaign organizers in Nevada who fear the locals — who often view Californians with considerable and well-deserved scorn — will see it as an invasion. (I lived in Northern Nevada for many years and I know of what I speak.)

Now, Calitics blogger Brian Leubitz urges “Stay for Change.”

Lots of local candidates and state ballot measures need precinct walkers, too, he argues.

“This is California,” he wrote. “We have the people right here in this state to defeat these terrible props, and accomplish our goals.  But we need some progressives to stay here in California.”

Posted on Thursday, October 23rd, 2008
Under: 2008 November election, 2008 presidential election | No Comments »