Patterico's Pontifications

5/16/2008

It Aint Bragging If Its True (Ah, What The Hell…It’s Bragging Time)

Filed under: Blogging Matters,Law — Justin Levine @ 2:02 pm

[posted by Justin Levine]

Let history record that I was the first blogger to point out that the California gay marriage decision was far more significant than many first realized due to the fact that it labeled homosexuals as a “suspect” class entitled to “strict scrutiny” under an Equal Protection Clause analysis (essentially treating laws that discriminate against homosexuals the same way as it would treat laws discriminating against racial minorities).

But now that Marty Lederman has followed my lead on this, it seems to be getting all sorts of attention. Alas, my legal genius seems destined to continue in relative anonymity in the blogosphere. [Hey Court TV...Call my agent!]

But seriously, this is a vital aspect of the decision that has been largely drowned out in the more immediate political debate over the marriage issue. It may have a far reaching impact that has yet to be studied in legal circles.

[Justin Levine]

Why The Resort to a near Thermonuclear Exchange over Bush’s Remarks in Israel?

Filed under: 2008 Election — WLS @ 1:50 pm

Posted by WLS:

A curiousity exists concerning the vociferousness of the response by the Obama camp and its surrogates in the Dim establishment and the press over Bush’s comments yesterday tagging “some people” with the belief the US should “negotiate with terrorists and radicals.” 

One proffered explanation has been that the argument struck close to home, while at the same time ginning up the age-old campaign issue of whether the Dims are weak on national security and defense.

I don’t think that’s it at all.  I think its nothing more than the reality of identity group politics and the need for the Dim nominee to hold together most parts of the traditional lib-dem coalition.

What part is greatly at risk with Obama at the top?  Jewish voters, or course. 

I think the Obama campaign has known from day one that he’d have problems with Jewish voters given his South Side Chicago political roots.   There’s much hostility there as is evidenced by Obama’s own church and the influence of the Nation of Islam.

So, the plan all along has been to agressively hit back at EVERY mere suggestion that Obama would not be a strong supporter of Israel.   Any leak in the dike on this issue could be a flood, and given his weakness with white working class democrats, Obama cannot afford to lose large numbers of Jewish voters to McCain over the issue of Israel.  Thus the attempts in the media to demonize Joe Lieberman — Lieberman’s support for McCain is a STRONG signal to pro-Israel Jewish voters that there is much for them to fear from an Obama State Dept.

Watch this play out over the next few months.  Obama is going to over-react to every suggestion that he would be soft on Islamic nations over the issue of Israel.  

In what states might a loss of the Jewish vote hurt Obama electorally?  Pennsylvania for one.  Florida for another.

Bush picked up 19% of the Jewish vote nationwide in 2000 (with Lieberman as VP for Gore), and increased that number to 25% in 2004 against Kerry.

This is a demographic that is moving toward the GOP, not away from it.  This Politico article shows that even in the GOP melt-down in the 2006 midterm elections, the GOP share of the Jewish vote held steady at 26%. 

More interstingly, younger Jewish voters are more likely to vote GOP than their parents.  Jewish voters under 55 — 31% for the GOP.  Jewish voters over 55 — 24% for the GOP.

Now, I hadn’t read this Politico article — which is 16 months old — until after I started this post.  But it has this interesting passage which tracks my thoughts here:

Two variables stand out as having the potential to greatly affect the Jewish vote in 2008: The GOP nominee and Iran.

The nonpartisan American Jewish Committee’s 2006 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion showed 42 percent of respondents placing themselves left of center on the political scale, 25 percent right of center and 32 percent picking the middle of the road. If Republicans choose to nominate a socially liberal candidate like Rudy Giuliani or the just-right-of-center John McCain, expect a healthy jump in Jewish crossover voting.

But depending how the situation with Iran develops, a candidate’s social platform may pale in comparison to hawkishness. As Holocaust-denier Ahmadinejad ramps up Iran’s nuclear program and his anti-Semitic, anti-Israel rhetoric, the Jewish community is listening — to a degree.

In the AJC poll, 64 percent agreed that the Muslim world and the West are locking horns in a “clash of civilizations.” Yet only 38 percent supported the United States taking military action to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran’s hands, while 57 percent would support Israel taking such action.

“It’s a mistrust of the U.S. government’s handling of the situation in the Middle East that the U.S. could also mishandle Iran,” said AJC spokesman Eli Lipmen, adding that Jews who support military action “see that as supporting the survival of the state of Israel.”

The Republican Party enters the 2008 stretch with steady Jewish support, and time — and current events — will tell if more Jewish voters cross party lines to back the GOP.

Obama’s camp understands the implications of these numbers and is acting accordingly.  Obama’s prospects for winning the election will go down the tubes if McCain approaches anything close to 45-50% of the Jewish vote.

Jim Newton: My Paperweight Is Just a Paperweight

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 6:54 am

L.A. Times editorial page editor Jim Newton writes to respond to my post last night about Anita Busch and Anthony Pellicano. You should read that post before reading this one.

Newton confirms that he received a paperweight from Anthony Pellicano, but decries my post about the paper’s allegedly cozy relationship with Pellicano as a “nonsense tissue of innuendo”:

Dear Mr. Frey,

I’m not sure what I’m being accused of here. Did I, like dozens of people, receive a $5 clay paperweight from Pellicano some years ago? Yes. It was amusing and almost entirely without value. I lost it when I moved desks and haven’t seen it since.

I never had anything to do with the coverage of Anita’s case — did not attend a single meeting about it, did not work on any stories relating to it. Nothing. By then I was covering City Hall, and there was no reason for me to be involved in it.

My use of Pellicano as a source dates back to the Michael Jackson years when I was responsible for our coverage of the LAPD, and yes, I interviewed him, along with other sources — reputable and otherwise — many times throughout those years (well before I was married to Karlene, incidentally). Neither I nor anyone else ever suggested hiring him or “bringing him on board.” I interviewed him, checked the information he gave me, used it when it checked out, discarded it when it didn’t. I once interviewed him at his office — the only time I ever met him in person — but I never “toured” it other than to look around before and after talking with him. I treated him very warily, in part because I was warned against trusting him by other sources, notably Johnnie Cochran and the lawyers in his firm.

I have never “protected” my wife from anything at the paper or otherwise. She doesn’t need it.

If Anita or you or anyone has a challenge to anything I’ve written or done at the paper, I’m happy to address it. But this is a nonsense tissue of innuendo based on a paperweight.

Best,

Jim Newton

I didn’t accuse Mr. Newton of anything in my post, of course. I simply reported Ms. Busch’s observations of a curious fact: Mr. Newton’s wife suggested investigating the threat against Ms. Busch in part by consulting Pellicano, the very person who was later indicted for the threat. And the very person who gave Mr. Newton the paperweight that he displayed on his desk for a period of time.

It could be nothing more than a horrible coincidence that Newton’s wife had, in effect, suggested consulting the fox to see who had raided the chicken coop. But if you had a rose and a dead fish placed on your windshield, you’d probably start noticing coincidences.

Here’s the thing that the paper should not be brushing off: the attempt to contact Pellicano was made through Chuck Philips, who: attended Pellicano’s wedding without taking notes and saluted Pellicano; attended Pellicano’s verdict with no pen, no notebook, and no official reportial role; and who had an unmonitored conversation with Pellicano while Pellicano was incarcerated at the federal detention center downtown –something that could have happened only with the cooperation of Pellicano’s attorney. At the same time, Philips was touting Pellicano’s defense theories that the FBI had lied to courts to obtain permission to search Pellicano’s office.

This same Chuck Philips has built a career in large part on articles that cite off the record sources, concerning people with whom he has had cozy relationships. And he recently got slammed for one of those stories, when it emerged that he had been hoodwinked by a con man — on a story that he had repeatedly boasted he had locked down as tight as a drum.

Some of us out here are wondering how that happened. It certainly hasn’t been explained in any way that makes sense.

And we’re wondering whether the paper is looking into his past stories. And whether the paper is looking at how his apparently conflicts of interest — with Suge Knight, Anthony Pellicano, and others — may have affected his reporting.

For now, the paper seems protective of Philips and his longstanding reporting on people with whom he seems to have cozy relationships — often without disclosing how those relationships could be affecting his reporting. Yes, the paper retracted his story on the shooting of Tupac at Quad Studios. But it was treated as an anomaly. And there is no hint that the paper is looking at the bigger picture: if this story based on anonymous sources was bogus, what about the other ones?

Given this seemingly protective attitude, we look at coincidences. We look at relationships.

If the paper were to give some sign of really looking into Philips’s past reporting, maybe these coincidences and relationships wouldn’t be worth discussing. But when it seems like the wagons are being circled, I think they are.

In any event, I thank Mr. Newton for his response. I think we can safely say I won’t be placing anything on the L.A. Times opinion pages any time soon . . .

UPDATE: More on why this matters in another post — including details on when Newton was displaying the paperweight (after Pellicano’s alleged connection to the threats was revealed) and what the paperweight said (you may be surprised). Click here for details.

Anita Busch Calls for Investigation of Chuck Philips’s Pellicano Reporting

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 12:11 am

Anita Busch, a former L.A. Times reporter who was allegedly threatened by Anthony Pellicano — has released the following statement regarding Pellicano’s conviction:

I’d like to thank the judge and jury for their patience and wisdom on this case as well as the honest people in law enforcement who stopped others from being relentlessly attacked and terrorized. For that, I am eternally grateful.

The full story of Pellicano’s reach has yet to be told. To Pellicano and his wealthy clients, ‘winning’ meant completely obliterating someone’s life and livelihood. They saw the media as just another weapon in their arsenal and used and abused it to go after anyone in their crosshairs. For example, they used their PR connection to plant items in the New York Post’s Page Six to slam victims like Bo Zenga and Garry Shandling. And when their targets became FBI agent Stan Ornellas and U.S. attorney Dan Saunders, they tried to smear and discredit these decent men in the pages of the L.A. Times. The Pellicano case coverage in the L.A. Times as reported by Chuck Philips (who told the NY Times that Pellicano was his longtime news source) should be examined. It’s a case study of how Pellicano worked his media relationships to try to destroy his adversaries.

I called Ms. Busch this evening and she elaborated on the Chuck Philips angle. She told me that when she received a dead fish, a rose, and a note that said “Stop” on her windshield — a threat for which Pellicano was later indicted — a lawyer at the L.A. Times suggested that the paper investigate the matter internally, with the help of . . . Anthony Pellicano. It turned out that the lawyer is married to an L.A. Times editor who, in June 2003, had a Christmas gift from Pellicano on his desk — according to an L.A. Times reporter who told Busch about it.

What’s more, she said, Chuck Philips, who has written articles attacking the government’s case against Pellicano (and who attended Pellicano’s wedding in an apparently friendly capacity) was present for the verdict today . . . seemingly without a pen or notebook.

Part of this story has been reported previously in the New York Times:

A day after [Busch] found the package, records show, a man with a criminal record called her out of the blue with information about the threat. A private investigator had hired someone else to blow up her car, he told her. As Ms. Busch and her colleagues met with F.B.I. and police officials to consider their next moves, the newspaper’s lawyer, Karlene Goller, spoke up with a suggestion.

Maybe Anthony Pellicano would know something about this, Ms. Goller said, according to two Times employees.

Ms. Busch insists that Ms. Goller talked of “bringing aboard” Mr. Pellicano.

Ms. Goller declined to comment, citing lawyer-client confidentiality. But Paul Lieberman, a reporter who heard the suggestion, said he saw nothing untoward in it. “He was someone that knew” the criminal element,” Mr. Lieberman said.

A reporter who had long experience with Mr. Pellicano as a news source, Chuck Philips, said he had tried to reach him at Ms. Goller’s urging and did not get through. But, he added, it was “preposterous” to think Ms. Goller would have proposed hiring him.

At this time, Mr. Pellicano was not suspected in the threat against Ms. Busch. But wrongly or rightly, the discussions left her convinced that the paper was too cozy with him.

Busch told me that when Goller made the suggestion to bring Pellicano aboard, Busch flinched. She was disturbed by the idea that the paper was considering “bringing aboard” a private investigator to help investigate the threat, when Busch had been told that a private investigator had hired someone to blow up Busch’s car. According to Busch, Goller said, in an apparent attempt to reassure Busch, “He [Pellicano] has worked with us in the past and he’s done really well by us.” Busch said then-editor John Carroll decided that the paper was not going to call in a private investigator and instructed Goller to call the LAPD and FBI. “He made the right decision,” said Busch.

When evidence later emerged connecting Pellicano to the threat, Busch told me, she became convinced that Pellicano had relationships inside the newspaper that were at odds with her position. “I came to realize that there was something amiss inside the L.A. Times with Anthony Pellicano, and it became prudent for me to find out what the hell was going on inside my newspaper.” So Busch decided to search L.A. Times archives to see who had written about Pellicano before, to learn who had the prior relationship with Pellicano. She noticed two names: Jim Newton and Chuck Philips. (Take a look at a similar search I did here.)

L.A. Times editor Jim Newton is married to Karlene Goller, the lawyer who had initially suggested bringing Pellicano on board to investigate the threat against Busch. Busch added a fascinating detail. In June 2003, Busch said, a metro reporter who is still working at the paper came to her and said that he thought there was a conflict in the room regarding Jim Newton and Pellicano stories. (Busch told me who the reporter is, but asked me not to name him because he still works at The Times.) Jim Newton had toured Pellicano’s office years ago, the reporter told Busch. “It’s getting really strange around here,” he told Busch. “There’s a feeling that [Newton] will do anything to protect his wife. Go look at [Newton's] desk. There’s an old Christmas gift from Pellicano on his desk.” When Busch asked what kind of gift, the metro reporter told her it was a baseball from Pellicano. (A New Yorker story from July 2006 reported that Pellicano had once sent out baseball paperweights as Christmas gifts.)

“What’s happening?” Busch remembers thinking when the evidence emerged of Pellicano’s alleged ties to the threat against her. She recounted her distress at the feeling that “the man who threatened [me] has relationships at this newspaper.” She said that if anybody goes back and looks at the L.A. Times reporting on Pellicano’s case, they will notice a pro-Pellicano theme cropping up in story after story. “No other newspaper in the country questioned the veracity of the FBI or the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this case,” she said, but the L.A. Times did in several articles, often by Chuck Philips.

Regular readers of this blog will remember that Chuck Philips apparently has had a personal relationship of sorts with Anthony Pellicano. In June 2007 I wrote a post about a Chuck Philips article touting claims by the Pellicano defense team that “an FBI agent concealed information and then lied about it to convince a judge to let him search the Hollywood private eye’s office.” I cited to a Nikki Finke post from March of that year which noted that Philips had attended Pellicano’s wedding and was (according to Finke) “the ONLY journalist there not taking notes.” Finke also said: “Pellicano said hello only to two journalists there, Frank Swertlow and Chuck Phillips. In fact, Phillips and Pellicano saluted and smiled to each other.” Yet here was Philips, who seemed to have a personal relationship with Pellicano, reporting on his case and his arguments that the FBI had lied to the court. (Shades of Philips’s articles about Suge Knight.)

Busch told me an interesting fact that reminded me of the wedding story. Today, she said, Chuck Philips was present for Pellicano’s verdict. “I didn’t see him with a notebook or a pen,” Busch told me. She noted that Carla Hall was there to cover the verdict for the newspaper, and indeed, the story on the L.A. Times site right now about the verdicts is by Carla Hall and Tami Abdollah.

“The newspaper needs to look at every story that Chuck Philips has written about the Pellicano case,” Busch told me. “FBI agent Stan Ornellas, who had investigated Pellicano, was targeted in the pages of the L.A. Times, courtesy of Chuck Philips. And [Philips] also wrote a story directly questioning the ethics of [Assistant] U.S. Attorney Dan Saunders, who was responsible for prosecuting Pellicano.

“The L.A. Times needs to agree to an independent investigation of the newspaper’s coverage of any story involving Pellicano, and they should begin with the Pellicano case coverage. For the sake of journalism, I would openly cooperate with any independent investigation. I really hope they do the right thing.”

So do I.

UPDATE: I have forwarded the post to Jim Newton and Chuck Philips and invited them to respond. I think fairness dictates that they should have the chance to do so. I will gladly publish any response I receive (within reason).

UPDATE x2: Newton responds here.

UPDATE x3 12-15-08: Pellicano was sentenced today to 15 years in prison. Busch’s sentencing statement is set forth in its entirety here.


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