HAMMERNEWS- Michael Hammerschlag

Current Political Commentary by journalist Michael Hammerschlag; Thoughts on foreign policy, Republican outrages, liberal strategies, science by 8 year correspondent in Russia/Ukraine over 22 years and longtime commentator; Website: http://HAMMERNEWS.com

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

COOL HAND DICK- Questions remain in VEEPSHOOT

COOL HAND DICK - Questions Remain in Veepshoot
The Trouble with Harry by Michael Hammerschlag


FEB 13 -Feb 19 At the huge Armstrong ranch across from Padre Island Nat. Seashore in Kenedy Co. TX, VP Dick Cheney accidentally shot his hunting partner Harry Whittington in the face, neck, and chest in “clear sunny flat” conditions Sat 5:30pm, according to the TX Parks Accident report. Dick Cheney is a big time bird hunter. In western PA in 2003, “Cheney shot more than 70 ringneck pheasants and an unknown number of mallard ducks (adden.- in a few hours). The birds were plucked and vacuum-packed in time for Cheney's afternoon flight to Washington, D.C.” (Doesn’t PA have a daily limit?)

Incredibly the damaged pol pal checked out of the hospital Friday, appologizing to Cheney (see cartoon below, which was funny by it's outlandishness) for shooting him in a bravura performance- to no doubt immediately jet off to a hospital in Mexico or Antigua secretly. "My family and I are deeply sorry for everything Vice President Cheney and his family have had to deal with," he said. He was actually hit on the right side of chest and neck (which was coated by heavy layer of makeup and the yellow stain of disinfectant), not the left, as shown in the accident report. see FAILURE below

Possible CRIME 1: The Veep refused to talk to a deputy sheriff- a Captain Kirk (I kid you not- Charles Kirk), when he came to the ranch at 8pm; not until 8am, 14½ hours after the accident did he make a statement… or long enough for the alcohol, if any, to burn off. When your rich powerful people (or just average Joes) get together for shooting or boating or golfing, they usually get plastered as they celebrate their mastery of the universe. "None in the hunting party was drinking alcohol, witness Katherine Armstrong said. "No, zero, zippo and I don’t drink at all," she said. "No one was drinking." MSNBC had a now-deleted quote from Armstrong “There may have been beer available during a picnic lunch that preceded the incident. There may be a beer or two in there," she said….” Cheney had two drunk driving arrests in Wyoming, in Nov. 62 and June 63, although meaningless 4 1/2 decades later. In the Brit Hume interview, Cheney admits to having a beer at lunch. "I did ask the hospital spokeswoman Sunday whether there was any blood alcohol tests taken," said Times Caller reporter Kathryn Garcia in our interview, "and she laughed and said she was not aware. Today it was again asked in a press conference, and they said 'NO COMMENT' this time."

Possible CRIME 2: FAILURE TO REPORT ACCIDENT. Story of Cheney asking Armstrong to notify local paper is unlikely. It wouldn’t happen that way. Truth is, they probably attempted complete suppression of story (Whit said accident happened Friday when discharged), but she spilled the beans, realizing the scandalous effects of suppression. The Bush "Pioneer" was the former head of Parks-Wildlife Dept. and the Sheriff is virtually a hired hand in the mostly private empty county (414 residents-4th smallest in US), so she knew the story could be managed. Armstrong allegedly called an absent Corpus Christi Caller Times reporter friend (registration) at 8am and left a message, then called the newsroom at 11am and told young reporter Kathryn Garcia, who reported it at 1:48pm after confirming it with the White House and hospital (times are all CST).

In an Wednesday interview, Garcia swore by their account: "No we didn't root out this story ourself. We did get a phone call from Armstrong. We did not know Cheney was in town". Armstrong "didn't sound eager or anxiety ridden," Garcia said, "She sounded pretty calm. When I asked Lee Anne McBride (Cheney's spokesman), 'Why the delay.. would it have come out if the Caller Times had not contacted you?', she said, 'I'm not going to speculate.' " I wonder what would have happened if Whittington had died (see movie Fargo). Ridiculous effort to portray it as harmless accident- with a “pellet gun” or BB's ( it's a shotgun) and outrageously Whittington's fault. A 20 hour delay in releasing vital news to public- almost 2 day delay before McClellen not answering questions in an embarrassing press conference- and not a word from the pathological secretive Veep until 4 days elapsed.

Cheney talked for 25 minutes at 2pm for broadcast at 6pm Feb15 on, of course, friendly FOX NEWS. Now national scandals are only to be rebutted on the official propaganda channel. "Like Bonnie interviewing Clyde", said CNN's Jack Cafferty. "The image of him falling is something I'll never be able to get out of mind.. it was one of the worst days of my life [Harry's too]... We went over to him, obviously, right away.. I'm guessing (he was) about 30 yards (away)," said Cheney. So Harry was close, and not behind brush, and behind Dick- all egregiously reckless. "I'm the guy who pulled the trigger.. and shot my friend," said the Veep, backing away from his craven "Harry's fault " story. More interview at bottom.

Possible CRIME 3: Story is utterly not credible. ABC reports: According to Armstrong's account,
---she saw the incident from a car while Cheney, Whittington and another hunter, identified .. as U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein Pam Willeford, got out of the vehicle to shoot at a covey of quail. As Whittington went to retrieve a bird he had shot, Cheney and Willeford spotted a second covey. Whittington came up behind and failed to signal that he was there or announce himself, which is proper protocol for hunters.----

According to Whittington's statement in the sheriff's report, after he tried to find the birds he shot, Cheney and Willeford took off to join a second hunting group, that had flushed another covey. Harry went back to Armstrong's car, then traveled 100 yards towards the second group before getting shot. It was reckless to break up the group and obviously Cheney simply forgot that Harry had separated, or even where he was shooting, because to hit Whittington, he had to be shooting in a line at the Armstrong car into the sun. 100 yards away, Armstrong couldn't have really seen accident well as evidenced by her statement: "I saw him fall down-I thought he had a heart attack."

When you shoot a bird with a shotgun, the other people should stop and pay attention to where that bird fell and where that shooter is going. Separating a party into 2 groups that close together is extremely dangerous, and separating a single group truly reckless. And one doesn’t have to announce oneself from behind, a shooter should never shoot quickly behind him (let alone at dusk- 5:30pm), where the safe zone is for other members. Likewise no one can shoot when a party isn’t all together. This wasn’t just lame farm raised quail hunting; it was car hunting, an unmanly approach to the great outdoors- illegal in Texas unless done on the owner's land. Others say on such a large spread, it's normal to use vehicles, but if you're driving, where's the communing with nature.

Can a 1/11” pellet (#7½ load in 28 gauge shell), penetrate to the heart from 90 ft? A 90ft test shot on a lifesize human cutout by Caller-Times photog George Gongora shows a spread from the waist to the top of the head, whereas the filled in damage profile of the Parks-Wildlife report shows impacts from the mouth to just below the sternum entirely on the left side in a far more concentrated pattern. This would indicate a much closer distance, although some shotguns have a choke that controls the spread. A normal spread pattern at 90 ft. is a 44” circle, almost 4 ft. Even fully choked, the spread circle at that distance is 26”, whereas the Parks-Wildlife drawing of Whittington shows a tight circle of about 12-13”. Notice there are no pictures of the grievously wounded Harry, until he was released, where one can count 20 or so pellets in the visible area alone. It was not a "mild shooting", as FOX and Veepfans were pushing. Pellets penetated his trachea and one his liver, as well as the one that "migrated" to his heart (illegally, no doubt).

Possible CRIME 4: Like Cheney himself, who during 2000 race was pushed out of the ICU after heart surgery almost immediately to prevent questions about the ticket’s vitality, poor Whittington left the ICU only as a PR stunt to make Cheney seem less liable for what was just a “humorous accident”. He was a 78 year old shot in the face and neck and heart with up “to 200 2½mm pellets”, the most serious injury one can have, and reported as stable, which means he wasn’t dying (yet). That 28 gauge birdshot shotgun shell holds only 308 pellets *(3/4 ozz at 410/oz), so Whittington received 2/3 of the blast, difficult at 90 feet. "I don't think it was that far," says a Dallas hunter, "the effective range to kill birds (with that light shot) is only about 55 yards". Once the wounded elderly Harry was pushed out of intensive care monitoring, he perhaps was dying… of a heart attack. The injuries were so serious that they couldn’t remove most of the birdshot, "To go ahead and take each BB or pellet out, sometimes the treatment is worse than the affliction," said Dr. David Blanchard. It's likely that blithe Blanchard is also the same "Dr. David Blanchard" who is listed as Vice Chairperson of World Hope International, a Christian evangelical aid group. Leaving the hospital so quickly after a heart attack and procedure was likewise designed entirely to protect and exculpate Mr. Cheney.
Whittington's birdshot wounds- TX Park +Wildlife accident rpt (first diag should show wounds on the left side)

Failure to have proper hunting permit for quail hunting. Apparently the blasting veep failed to obtain a $7 UPLAND GAME BIRD hunting stamp, for which he and Harry were cited. POACHING

Kenedy County Sheriff Ramon Salinas III cleared Cheney almost instantly, before any proper investigation, and failed to interview the shooter in time to see if he was drunk or request a breathalizer test. Instead of investigating himself, he accepted hearsay statements from the former Sheriff Constable Ramiro Medellin (other members in a the second group that Cheney joined before shooting Whittington: Oscar Medellin; Geraldo Medellin was searching for the bird Whittington had downed), and waited till morning to send his deputy, despite a call by the Secret Service that evening. Deputy Gilberto San Miguel Jr. didn't interrogate 4 witnesses he waited 4 days before requesting affadavits from the other witnesses, never got one from Whittington and Cheney, and failed to tape Whittington's statement Monday because "his voice was raspy." The report doesn't nail down location, position, and direction of travel, making amorphous statements like "to the west of me" meaningless, because of the lack of reference.

Presumably shooting someone while under the influence is a serious offense in Texas (where MADD is based). The 50,000 acre ranch dominates the RI sized county (with the King Ranch and a few others- average size 70,000 acres ), and most of the 414 people in Kenedy County work for it. No doubt, the sheriff realized where his bread was buttered. The accident report is wrong- the first diagram shows the impacts on the left side of the body, whereas the 4th and the text shows them correctly on the right. Hunting accidents aren't incredibly common- they are at an all time low, about one for every 11,000 Tx licenses. "Two people died in 2005, down from Texas' most deadly hunting season in 1968 when 37 people died. "

Rolling Stone has a 2004 devastating account of Cheney’s propensity for causing disaster in everything he touches, from flunking out of Yale to trashing Ford’s reelection bid to almost bankrupting Halliburton to the Iraq War: The Curse of Cheney.
“He has the least interest in human beings of anyone I have ever met," says John Perry Barlow, his former supporter.”

Again the media is swallowing patently ridiculous contentions on a huge personal scandal- the first Veep involved shooting since Aaron Burr "won" his duel with Alexander Hamilton in 2004- such as "it was Whittington's fault". Apart from being contemptible and cowardly, that one reporter actually repeats that shows how redocile they've become and how clueless they are about guns. It's always the shooter's fault- like the person who causes a rear end crash, it's his job to avoid shooting the people or the dogs. One sobering realization about the recklessness of all this; with Cheney's omnipresent Secret Service detail, if Harry had shot Dick, he would have likely been riddled with far more than a load of birdshot.

TIMELINE of EVENTS (since adjusted by CNN to a more Cheney friendly version)- CC Times-Caller
click to enlarge

*another hunter computes 275 pellets in shell, making %striking Harry even higher

There were three of us who had gotten out of the vehicle and walked up on a covey of quail that had been pointed by the dogs. Covey is flushed, we've shot, and each of us got a bird. Harry couldn't find his, it had gone down in some deep cover, and so he went off to look for it. The other hunter and I then turned and walked about a hundred yards in another direction -- Questionable Statements
Q Away from him?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Away from him -- where another covey had been spotted by an outrider. I was on the far right --
Q There was just two of you then?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Just two of us at that point. The guide or outrider between us, and of course, there's this entourage behind us, all the cars and so forth that follow me around when I'm out there -- but bird flushed and went to my right, off to the west {sherrif's report says "there was a single bird that flew behind him and he followed the bird by line of site in a counterclockwise direction" which would be turning to the left; Witnesses agree with Cheney} . I turned and shot at the bird, and at that second, saw Harry standing there. Didn't know he was there --
Q You had pulled the trigger and you saw him?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I saw him fall, basically. It had happened so fast.
Q What was he wearing?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He was dressed in orange, he was dressed properly, but he was also -- there was a little bit of a gully there, so he was down a little ways before land level, although I could see the upper part of his body when -- I didn't see it at the time I shot, until after I'd fired. And the sun was directly behind him -- that affected the vision, too, I'm sure.
But the image of him falling is something I'll never be able to get out of my mind. I fired, and there's Harry falling. And it was, I'd have to say, one of the worst days of my life, at that moment.
Q Then what?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we went over to him, obviously, right away --
Q How far away from you was he?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm guessing about 30 yards, which was a good thing. If he'd been closer, obviously, the damage from the shot would have been greater. [Ah, it was]
Q Now, is it clear that -- he had caught part of the shot, is that right?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- part of the shot. He was struck in the right side of his face, his neck and his upper torso on the right side of his body.
Q And you -- and I take it, you missed the bird.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I have no idea. I mean, you focused on the bird, but as soon as I fired and saw Harry there, everything else went out of my mind. I don't know whether the bird went down, or didn't.
Q So did you run over to him or --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Ran over to him and --
Q And what did you see? He's lying there --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He was laying there on his back, obviously bleeding. You could see where the shot had struck him. And one of the fortunate things was that I've always got a medical team, in effect, covering me wherever I go. I had a physician's assistant with me that day. Within a minute or two he was on the scene administering first-aid. And --

SIMILAR POINTS in SLATE and KOS AP- Discrepancies in Veep account.