As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, March 23, 2007

OK, Time For Abu To Go

Caught in another lie.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales approved plans to fire several U.S. attorneys in a November meeting, according to documents released Friday that contradict earlier claims that he was not closely involved in the dismissals.

The Nov. 27 meeting, in which the attorney general and at least five top Justice Department officials participated, focused on a five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors, Justice Department officials said late Friday.

There, Gonzales signed off on the plan, which was crafted by his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. Sampson resigned last week amid a political firestorm surrounding the firings.

This was sure to come up in Sampson's testimony, which will happen next Thursday. But there probably won't be an Attorney General Gonzales to rat on by then. It's a matter of days for ol' Alberto VO5.

These new emails were in tonight's document dump of emails that fill the 18-day gap, which the DoJ deliberately withheld at first (though they claim it to be an oversight).

With this new information, it's time to stop the negotiating and demand that the White House and the Justice Department come clean. If Karl Rove can talk about the Purged Prosecutors in a public speech, there's no reason he can't talk about them to Congress.

Abu G is gone; if this wasn't a mortal blow, selling out his boss and claiming he shut down the wiretap investigation did him in. Just like a cornered animal, turning on his friends.

Now the attention turns to Karl Rove, who undoubtedly played a major role in this whole thing. The very odea of politicizing the Justice Department, of using the federal prosecutors as a means to shield Republicans and attack Democrats, the idea of turning policy into politics, emanates perfectly from Rove's lips. So do the after-the-fact accusations that the fired prosecutors weren't doing enough to investigate bogus voter fraud issues, something that anyone who reads Digby knows that Rover's been pushing for a while. And McClatchy pushes this angle too, and uncovering this rock reveals something extremely unseemly underneath.

Bush, his deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, and other Republican political advisers have highlighted voting rights issues and what Rove has called the "growing problem" of election fraud by Democrats since Bush took power in the tumultuous election of 2000, a race ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Since 2005, McClatchy Newspapers has found, Bush has appointed at least three U.S. attorneys who had worked in the Justice Department's civil rights division when it was rolling back longstanding voting-rights policies aimed at protecting predominantly poor, minority voters.

Another newly installed U.S. attorney, Tim Griffin in Little Rock, Ark., was accused of participating in efforts to suppress Democratic votes in Florida during the 2004 presidential election while he was a research director for the Republican National Committee. He's denied any wrongdoing [...]

Bush has said he's heard complaints from Republicans about some U.S. attorneys' "lack of vigorous prosecution of election fraud cases," and administration e-mails have shown that Rove and other White House officials were involved in the dismissals and in selecting a Rove aide to replace one of the U.S. attorneys. Nonetheless, Bush has refused to permit congressional investigators to question Rove and others under oath.

Last April, while the Justice Department and the White House were planning the firings, Rove gave a speech in Washington to the Republican National Lawyers Association. He ticked off 11 states that he said could be pivotal in the 2008 elections. Bush has appointed new U.S. attorneys in nine of them since 2005: Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Michigan, Nevada and New Mexico. U.S. attorneys in the latter four were among those fired.

Rove thanked the audience for "all that you are doing in those hot spots around the country to ensure that the integrity of the ballot is protected." He added, "A lot in American politics is up for grabs." [...]

Rove talked about the Northwest region in his speech last spring to the Republican lawyers and voiced concern about the trend toward mail-in ballots and online voting. He also questioned the legitimacy of voter rolls in Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

One audience member asked Rove whether he'd "thought about using the bully pulpit of the White House to talk about election reform and an election integrity agenda that would put the Democrats back on the defensive."

"Yes, it's an interesting idea," Rove responded.

This is about more than firing a few US Attorneys. This is about subverting American democracy in a very precise way. It's all crumbling down now, but Democrats must not waver, must overturn every single rock to find the truth. Abu G's already a goner. It's time to get to the bottom of the real scandal.

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Cancer Knows No Party, and Neither Does Blue Cross of CA

Elizabeth Edwards' acknowledgement of the recurrence of her breast cancer (which I hope is not more serious than the Edwardses made it out to be, but which I fear is) was but one story of cancer attacking prominent political figures. Tony Snow will have surgery for a small growth under his abdomen; he had colon cancer two years ago, so we hope that it's nothing more serious. And most tragically, conservative commentator and blogger Catherine Siepp succumbed to lung cancer. Cancer is not a disease that picks between political affiliations for who it afflicts, that much is clear. And so a problem affecting everyone must be solved with a universal solution.

Before she died, Catherine Siepp wrote about her experiences with Blue Cross of California. It was a bit shocking to hear a committed conservative talking about the failures of our health care system in such a frank and direct manner, but when a health insurance conglomerate acts so dishonestly, anyone in that position would be offended regardless of their politics.

By law, insurance companies aren't allowed to adjust your monthly premiums just because you get sick. But they can raise the out-of-pocket cap for all of their members anytime they like, which amounts to the same thing because it affects only the unvalued sick members. (And, of course, getting sick means that even while one's medical costs go up, the ability to pay goes down -- earnings potential is curbed when life becomes a series of treatment appointments.)

Lucky you, if you don't know what your out-of-pocket cap is. And if you're like every single healthy person I've queried, you probably don't. But you should know, because the out-of-pocket cap is the most important part of your policy, meant to stave off financial disaster in case of catastrophic medical expenses [...]

Another thing working in insurance companies' favor is that cancer patients rarely have the energy to argue about such nickel-and-diming. I recently managed to spend a morning forcing my way through multiple disconnects and transfers on the Blue Cross 800 number, but I was eventually told that the company would probably reimburse me for the extra $90 a month I was paying for that weekly anti-nausea drug if I filled out the right forms. My far bigger worry is that out-of-pocket cap, which is essentially what insurance is for. To drastically raise it seems the definition of bad faith.

Or so I thought -- until I began getting letters from Blue Cross in February announcing that it was retroactively disallowing the anti-cancer drug Avastin treatments it had been paying for since October, at $5,000 a pop every other week. It seems Blue Cross decided this new and expensive targeted therapy is experimental. (It looks as if Blue Cross is not asking to be repaid for my relatively unexperimental chemo, which had been costing about $2,500 every single week, but who knows?)

To decide after a therapy has proved beneficial that it's merely "investigational" and therefore should not be covered -- that, actually, seems the definition of bad faith.

Today, the LA Times reported that Blue Cross of CA is being fined a million dollars for illegally dropping the policies of sick clients for trumped-up reasons. Recission is harsher, but generally of a piece with what Siepp had to put up with near the end of her life. That fine is embarrassingly low (they made three billion last year) and won't make a dent in Blue Cross' policies. But at least the state of California has publicly stated that this health insurer is motivated solely by greed and will gladly let their customers suffer rather than carry out their responsibilities. As an individual policyholder with Blue Cross, exactly the profile that they dishonestly drop as a matter of routine, this scares the heck out of me.

I am truly sorry for Catherine Siepp and her family, along with any other family out there who has had to deal with the scourge of cancer. We need to ensure that these families get the best medical attention and all the support they need; it ought to be an inalienable right of this country not to have to suffer due to some corporate balance sheet. The current insurance system will never get us to such a goal.

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Greatest Hits of the Iraq Floor Debate

David Obey takes apart The Washington Post:

Jack Murtha on what hurts the troops (bullets, grenades):

Patrick Murphy gives the closing speech:

(Editorial comment: I don't totally agree with Obey on this, enticing people with farm subsidies for votes is in my view an odious practice. But he's dead right on Fred Hiatt and the war-lovers at WaPo. Glenn Greenwald has more.

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Some Movement on Iran

Even though the focus today is on Iraq, I want to write about Iran for a spell, because there are some interesting developments. As you know, the UN will shortly vote on yet another resolution which will put sanctions on Tehran for refusing to stop its uranium enrichment program. And Russia is completely on board, telling Iran that they would withhold shipment of nuclear fuel unless they stop the enrichment process. This is something new, to have the Russians play economic hardball like this.

Iran is unbowed and vows to pursue illegal actions if the UN carries through with sanctions. But I have to believe that the Russian intransigence gives them pause, even more so than the fact that the US is arming their enemies to the hilt. Iran's claim is that they're in desperate need of nuclear energy, and the uranium enrichment is only going toward that end. Russia cutting them off, then, will have a far greater effect than any other sanction. I think it's the only option that will really cool down the rhetoric and get everyone to the bargaining table. The question is whether or not the US will be sidelined in that negotiation in favor of Russia.

Incidentally, the US arming Middle Eastern Sunnis to combat Shiite Iran, while battling Sunnis and providing support to Shiites in Iraq, is as dumb as it sounds, and will have blowback consequences for decades if it's carried out. If the US keep the diplomatic coalition together and continues on a negotiating track with Iran, this entire crisis can be averted. I don't mind tough talk, but giving Saudis guns when they pretty much want to kill us too would be insanity.

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Bush Throws Another Hissy Fit

OK, so veto it. And then you run out of money in Iraq. Simple. What Atrios said:

The troops need funding which is why I'll veto the bill which would give it to them.

This is a fastball down the center of the plate for the Democrats. Let's hope they don't miss it.

UPDATE: He also used troops as a political backdrop for this speech, and as such violated the law. But of course, with this President, that's commonplace.

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Is There Anyone Left To Run The LA Times?

Weird story as Andres Martinez, the head of their editorial page, quits because he didn't disclose a relationship to someone in Brian Grazer's production company, and Grazer's guest-editing the op-ed page this Sunday (or was, until this happened). Martinez appeared to be mad that the Publisher would go over his head and cancel the Grazer edition of the op-ed page because of the appearance of impropriety, calling it a "vote of no-confidence."

So let me get this straight... the guy who ran one of the most anti-worker editorial pages in the country quits because his boss made an executive decision and usurped his authority?


Much more (possibly too much more) from Kevin Drum here and here. Who the hell cares if Brian Grazer guest-edits the op-ed page, no matter the reason why? Why is that suddenly a crime?

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The House Sets A Deadline

In a very close vote (218-212), the House passed an Iraq spending bill which sets a deadline for US forces to come home (September 2008). It's not the best bill in the world but it's the best deal the Democrats could get at this juncture. And what's more, the four California progressives (Lee, Waters, Watson and Woolsey) were allowed to vote their conscience. They didn't whip up support against the bill, but they were allowed to give their personal opposition to funding any more money for the war. So good for the progressives and good for Nancy Pelosi. The media stories will all say "Democrats vote to end the war," and I would expect people to take notice of that.

The Senate bill which mirrors the House Appropriation got out of committee.

Now here's what the Democrats ought to do. I know that the Republicans are vowing to filibuster in the Senate, and failing that the President is threatening to veto. LET THEM. And then pass the same appropriations bill again and again until the President signs it. If he truly wants the money, he can sign the bill. If not, he cut off funding for the troops. This is the message that needs to be sent to the Capitol. Today.

UPDATE: This should be the content of the Speaker of the House's press conference on the bill, after the President's expected remarks of "I'm disappointed, I will veto it, give me a clean bill."

"The Congress was asked to appropriate money for the troops in Iraq. We have fulfilled our duty. If the President doesn't like the terms, we're very sorry but we've done our job. The money is on the table and I'm frankly surprised that the President refuses to accept it. He ought to think about how desperately the troops need that money rather than his own political agenda.

If the President wants to continue this war, we in the Congress have given him all the money he needs. Our work is done. If he vetoes the bill, we'll have no choice but to send the same bill right back up to his desk for him to sign. We don't want to cut off funding for the troops. Apparently the President does. That's disappointing but it's the President's call."

The same kind of speech should be made by Harry Reid, directed at Republicans in the Senate.

The pressure is on Bush, not the Congress to craft something that Bush wants. Congress is done with the appropriations process. They shouldn't look back. This is the message that must be sent to the House and Senate leadership. Eseentially the message is this: take it or leave it. And if you don't like it, then stop your little war.

Why anyone would care about this President stamping his little feet is beyond me. The Republicans and the White House have to make a somewhat convoluted argument to turn the Democratic Congress appropriating money for the war into "the Democrats are cutting off funding for the war." The reverse argument is much cleaner. By vetoing the bill, the President is cutting off funding for the war. Literally. Very specifically. Without question. Why won't anybody say that?

The American people will get behind this if the argument is made clearly and simply. No majority would support the President getting carte blanche to continue the war. If he wants to do it, he should be compelled to accept the language of this bill.

Now, if he makes a signing statement, that's another matter...

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How You Know Arnold Schwarzenegger's a Republican

He subscribes to the real 11th Commandment of the GOP: Do as I say, not as I do.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger demanded Thursday that the 2008 presidential candidates stake out clear positions on domestic issues Californians care about -- such as immigration, climate change and health care -- instead of focusing solely on the Iraq war [...]

It was Schwarzenegger who ran in the 2003 recall race on a campaign of largely broad-stroke ideas, saying he would repair the state budget, ensure that "everyone in California has a fantastic job" and sweep out special interests from the Capitol.

And last year, as he ran for re-election, he pledged to tackle health care reform but offered few specific ideas on what he would propose.

It's very refreshing to see Mark Martin at the Chronicle notice this. Schwarzenegger pretty much INVENTED content-free campaigning. For him to make this kind of speech, petulantly asking Presidential candidates for specifics, is nothing short of deranged. Arnold doesn't even have the courage to get his own health care proposal introduced in the Legislature. Most of the "big ideas" that he's actually managed to pass weren't his, he merely acquiesced to them.

This is as stupid as Newt Gingrich decrying negative campaigning and attack-dog politics. Arnold Schwarzenegger's entire short political career has been devoted to sloganeering and hiding the hidden truth. Now he wants everyone else to be detailed... everyone but himself.

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Friday Random Ten

I'm very satisfied with this collection:

Sheila - Morphine
Carry The Zero - Built To Spill
Saint Simon - The Shins
Please Don't Rock Me Tonight - Fountains Of Wayne
Fell In Love With A Girl - The White Stripes
These To Come - The Shins
Lost Ones - Lauryn Hill
You Can Make It If You Try - Sly & The Family Stone
This Boy - Franz Ferdinand
Deep Shag - Luscious Jackson

Bonus Track: If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don't Want To Be Right - Luther Edwards (Luther died this week, so this is my humble tribute... one of the gret soul songs of all time.)

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why The California Majority Report Should be Sold For Scrap

If you read Calitics you would know that, after much introspection, liberal House members from California - Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters - have relented and voiced their support for the Iraq appropriation which would set an end date for the conflict.

Steve Maviglio reads Calitics but didn't before he clicked send about twenty minutes ago and slathered the egg upon his face, especially considering that the California progressives' shift to support of the bill was only the single biggest political story going on since this afternoon. And the article is a doozy. It shows a knee-jerk hatred of liberalism (and principles, for that matter), a defend-the-leadership-at-all-costs mentality, a thuddingly poor understanding of the fact that you might want to check Google News before you blog, and... wait for it... a hat tip to Ellen Tauscher for her work on helping whip the bill.

We all write things we'd rather take back, but I get the sense that this is the norm and not the exception over there.

I would say that the progressives' move on this bill mirrored mine. I think that too much enforcement has been stripped from this and too much of an argument given to the President to defy the resolution for my comfort. I also can't stand the fact that the House leadership larded it up with pork to buy votes, a disgraceful tactic that threatens to turn Democrats into an inverted fun-house mirror version of Republicans. And yet, this is the first bill which actually attaches an end date to our disastrous occupation in Iraq. The votes aren't there for much more, and yet progressives were decisive in this debate, ensuring that the end date reached the final bill. No war in American history has ended with one vote. This is a way to continue to build public support while really trying to end the war. And while progressives came around to understanding that and unifying the caucus, they showed their muscle to get the best bill that could possibly be done right now.

For some reason, Maviglio decides that any opinion other than that which has been given the imprimatur of the leadership is necessarily invalid. That's a positively Republican argument.

U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters, Lynn Woolsey, Diane Watson and Barbara Lee have announced they will vote against the carefully crafted compromise of the Iraq spending bill being pushed by Pelosi. More embarrassing: Waters and Woolsey are both part of Pelosi's leadership team.

Why are these four Californians throwing Pelosi and the overwhelming majority of their fellow Democrats under the bus?

They're not, but if they were, according to you, they would be doing so to stop 18 year-olds from dying. I know, it's really awful to rhetorically throw someone under a bus than do the equivalent of actually throwing hundreds of kids under a series of buses, causing them to die.

I don't know if this entire post was an attempt to name-check Tauscher and call her a "smart Democrat" or what, but even if it wasn't 100% wrong, it'd be embarrassing.

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Prosecutor Purge Update

I'm a little disappointed that my moniker of "Iglesiasgate" didn't take off - put then, the US Attorney scandal ended up moving past just David Iglesias, so it was not in the cards. But nevertheless, I'll soldier on and report developments in the scandal:

• Three of the fired prosecutors - David Iglesias, Carol Lam, and Paul Charlton - were ranked in the top 10 of all US Attorneys in number of convictions. Not surprisingly, these are arguably the three most controversial firings.

• While the Senate approved subpoenas for Karl Rove and other White House officials, Patrick Leahy has just about nailed down Kyle Sampson to voluntarily testify next week. This would be a very big hearing to follow, because Sampson is none too happy with being made the fall guy by the Justice Department. I would imagine he will lash out if given the opportunity. Chuck Schumer gave a preview of this last Sunday on Meet The Press, so it's not a big surprise.

• The D-Trip has run its first ad of 2008, and it's about Iglesiasgate, slamming Rep. Heather Wilson for her role in calling Iglesias and pressuring him to indict local Democrats before Election Day. There's plenty of time, but my sense is that Wilson is toast next year.

• One interesting thing about this scandal is how it has highlighted the continuing politicization of the Justice Department under Bush. These things were all happening in an obvious fashion anyway, but seeing that the DoJ would fire prosecutors who wouldn't play ball has put this in stark relief. And it's allowed journalists to view the DoJ's activities through this frame. There's the mysterious downgrading of the landmark class action lawsuit against tobacco companies, where the cash award sought suddenly went from $130 billion to $10 billion. And there's federal prosecutors seeking to reduce Jack Abramoff's prison sentence because of his cooperation with ongoing corruption cases, allegedly. The Abramoff story is the perfect example, because normally that wouldn't raise an eyebrow at all. If someone's being that cooperative, you tend to give leniency. But if and when nothing comes from his "assistance," then you know that the DoJ was giving a political favor instead of tracking down further corruption. And frankly, they don't get the benefit of the doubt anymore.

• Great writing about PurgeGate: Josh Marshall:

Okay, enough. The president fired US Attorneys to stymie investigations of Republicans and punish US Attorneys who didn't harass Democrats with bogus voter fraud prosecutions. In the former instance, the evidence remains circumstantial. But in the latter the evidence is clear, overwhelming and undeniable.

Indeed, it is so undeniable the president hismelf does not deny it [...]

Back up a bit from the sparks flying over executive privilege and congressional testimony and you realize that these are textbook cases of the party in power interfering or obstructing the administration of justice for narrowly partisan purposes. It's a direct attack on the rule of law.

This much is already clear in the record. And we're now having a big public debate about the politics for each side if the president tries to obstruct the investigation and keep the truth from coming out. The contours and scope of executive privilege is one issue, and certainly an important one. But in this case it is being used as no more than a shield to keep the full extent of the president's perversion of the rule of law from becoming known.

• More great writing: Sidney Blumenthal in Salon.

The man Bush has nicknamed "Fredo," the weak and betraying brother of the Corleone family, is, unlike Fredo, a blind loyalist, and will not be dispatched with a shot to the back of the head in a rowboat on the lake while reciting his Ave Maria. (Is Bush aware that Colin Powell refers to him as "Sonny," after the hothead oldest son?) But saving "Fredo" doesn't explain why Bush is willing to risk a constitutional crisis. Why is Bush going to the mattresses against the Congress? What doesn't he want known?

In the U.S. attorneys scandal, Gonzales was an active though second-level perpetrator. While he gave orders, he also took orders. Just as his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, has resigned as a fall guy, so Gonzales would be yet another fall guy if he were to resign. He was assigned responsibility for the purge of U.S. attorneys but did not conceive it. The plot to transform the U.S. attorneys and ipso facto the federal criminal justice system into the Republican Holy Office of the Inquisition had its origin in Karl Rove's fertile mind.

How little self-respect do you have to have to allow yourself to be nicknamed "Fredo"?

• Tony Snow continued his reign of embarrassment as White House press secretary by claiming, on numerous occasions today, that Congress "doesn't have oversight ability over the White House," which came as news to the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. This is the kind of argument that's so much bullshit that you almost start clapping at the audacity of it all.

• And finally: this may be the craziest aspect of this entire story. Brett Tolman, then a staffer for Sen. Arlen Specter, was apparently responsible for slipping the provision into the PATRIOT Act that allowed the Justice Department to appoint replacement US Attorneys without Senate confirmation. Funny story... turns out that he's now the US Attorney for Utah.

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Doin' It For The Kids

Let's give a big welcome to America's next Mr. Rogers, a man who loves children and just wants to help them, Abu Gonzales:

GONZALES: I’m not going to resign. I’m going to stay focused on protecting our kids. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done around the country. The department is responsible for protecting our kids, for making our neighborhoods safe, for protecting our country against attacks of terrorism, to going after gangs, going after drug dealers. I’m staying focused on that.

"Hello kids, and thanks for coming over to Mr. Gonzales' Neighborhood! It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for detainees with hoods, would you be mine, could you be mine, won't you be my neighbor?

Today, kids, we're going to talk about loyalty. Can you say that? LOY-AL-TY. Loyalty means you protect your friends and do anything for your friends and make sure your friends know that they're special. I'm going to tell you about one of my special friends. His name is George W. Bush. I met him when I was working as an Enron and Halliburton lawyer, and he brought me to work for him. My special friend liked me because I hated his dad as much as he did..."

Five years later, he was approached by the son. "I first got on his radar screen because I had turned his old man down for a job," Gonzales recalled...

"My special friend made me Secretary of State and then helped me become a judge! And I helped my special friend out too. That's what being loyal to a friend is all about!"

Gonzales's most surprising answer may have come on a different subject: his role in helping President Bush escape jury duty in a drunken-driving case involving a dancer at an Austin strip club in 1996. The judge and other lawyers in the case last week disputed a written account of the matter provided by Gonzales to the Senate Judiciary Committee. "It's a complete misrepresentation," said David Wahlberg, lawyer for the dancer, about Gonzales's account.

Bush's summons to serve as a juror in the drunken-driving case was, in retrospect, a fateful moment in his political career: by getting excused from jury duty he was able to avoid questions that would have required him to disclose his own 1976 arrest and conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) in Kennebunkport, Maine—an incident that didn't become public until the closing days of the 2000 campaign. (Bush, who had publicly declared his willingness to serve, had left blank on his jury questionnaire whether he had ever been "accused" in a criminal case.)

(Travis County Judge David) Crain—along with Wahlberg and prosecutor John Lastovica—told NEWSWEEK that, before the case began, Gonzales asked to have an off-the-record conference in the judge's chambers. Gonzales then asked Crain to "consider" striking Bush from the jury, making the novel "conflict of interest" argument that the Texas governor might one day be asked to pardon the defendant (who worked at an Austin nightclub called Sugar's), the judge said. "He [Gonzales] raised the issue," Crain said. Crain said he found Gonzales's argument surprising, since it was "extremely unlikely" that a drunken-driving conviction would ever lead to a pardon petition to Bush. But "out of deference" to the governor, Crain said, the other lawyers went along.

"My special friend sure got out of that one!

In Texas I also learned that loyalty means telling your friend what he wants to hear."

During Bush's six years as governor 150 men and two women were executed in Texas—a record unmatched by any other governor in modern American history. Each time a person was sentenced to death, Bush received from his legal counsel a document summarizing the facts of the case, usually on the morning of the day scheduled for the execution, and was then briefed on those facts by his counsel; based on this information Bush allowed the execution to proceed in all cases but one. The first fifty-seven of these summaries were prepared by Gonzales, a Harvard-educated lawyer who went on to become the Texas secretary of state and a justice on the Texas supreme court.

Gonzales's summaries were Bush's primary source of information in deciding whether someone would live or die. Each is only three to seven pages long and generally consists of little more than a brief description of the crime, a paragraph or two on the defendant's personal background, and a condensed legal history. Although the summaries rarely make a recommendation for or against execution, many have a clear prosecutorial bias, and all seem to assume that if an appeals court rejected one or another of a defendant's claims, there is no conceivable rationale for the governor to revisit that claim. This assumption ignores one of the most basic reasons for clemency: the fact that the justice system makes mistakes.

A close examination of the Gonzales memoranda suggests that Governor Bush frequently approved executions based on only the most cursory briefings on the issues in dispute. In fact, in these documents Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence.

"Now, one day my friend George moved to a big white house. And you know what, he took me with him! He made me his personal lawyer. I got to protect and defend my special friend as part of my job! Another way to do that is to find out what your special friend likes to do, and then make sure he's allowed to do just that!

"The nature of [a "war" against terrorism] places a high premium on ...factors such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors ... and the need to try terrorists for war crimes... [t]his new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners..." He also believed the determination "...eliminates any argument regarding the need for case-by-case determinations of POW status." The determination, Mr. Gonzales said, also reduced the threat of domestic prosecution under the War Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. 2441). His expressed concern was that certain GPW language such as "outrages upon personal dignity" and "inhuman treatment" are "undefined' and that it is difficult to predict with confidence what action might constitute violations, and that it would be "...difficult to predict the needs and circumstances that could arise in the course of the war on terrorism." He believed that a determination of inapplicability of the GPW would insulate against prosecution by future "prosecutors and independent counsels."

"And that brings us to today's lesson, boys and girls. It's about lying. Now, a lot of people would say that lying is wrong. And that's true. But as long as you're being loyal to your special friend, you can lie to other people some of the time. OK, all of the time!"

GONZALES: And so let me publicly sort of preempt perhaps a question you’re going to ask me, and that is: I am fully committed, as the administration’s fully committed, to ensure that, with respect to every United States attorney position in this country, we will have a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed United States attorney.

I think a United States attorney who I view as the leader, law enforcement leader, my representative in the community — I think he has greater imprimatur of authority, if in fact that person’s been confirmed by the Senate.

"We're running out of time, boys and girls. So let's think about what we've learned today. We've learned that special friends are very important - and when you have one, you should do whatever they say no matter what. You should break the law to make them happy, you should stop people from doing their jobs if it angers your friend, you should make it easy for your friend to do whatever he wants to other people, and in the end, everything will work out great! I'm going to finish with a song for my special friend, George W. Bush."

It's such a good feeling, to know you're employed
It's such a happy feeling, as long as you avoid
All of those nasty people, who want you to go
But your special friend George, he'll just decide no!
It's such a good feeling, a very good feeling, the feeling you know...
that I'll be back, when the day is new, and I'll lie more to Congress for you.
And you'll have prisoners you want to torture, I... will... too.

You know, you always make me feel so special. You know how you do that? By just your being you! Bye! Bye, boys and girls!"

(side note: Abu Gonzales is not a "General". He may be the Attorney General, but I've never heard anyone refer to any prior head of the Justice Department as a "General." Yet the CNN reporter does this on a couple occasions in this interview. It's of the same piece as the President constantly calling himself "commander-in-chief." These people are not military officers, they're would-be tinhorn dictators who wear the military shibboleths the same way Saddam or Hugo Chavez wear military uniforms.)

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What Congress Is Doing Right

Some Gallup poll numbers came out showing a plunge in approval ratings for Congress after a significant uptick. The numbers are still above what they were for the dreaded 109th Republican Congress, and other polls suggest Gallup may be an outlier. But I think that Democrats in general aren't doing enough to highlight successes. So allow me to note some.

I've been critical of the Democratic leadership for how they're handling the Iraq debate, and I think that things are moving out of conference committee entirely too slow. We have two major pieces of the first 100 hours agenda passed by both houses of Congress, and they've fallen off the radar screen for weeks. Getting those to the President's desk would do a lot to blunt criticism. Nevertheless, here are some encouraging items:

A trio of open government bills passed by the House would compel more records to be turned over during Freedom of Information Act requests, require public acknowledgement for donors to presidential libraries, and ensure that the public can scrutinize Presidential records. They sound like inside baseball, but they're crucial for history and the public record to ensure that government secrecy goes out with the Bush Administration. All of these bills had substantial bipartisan support.

• The Accountability in Contracting Act passed the House, which would minimize no-bid contracts (and require public justification for them), eliminate "cost-plus" contracts that make it financially beneficial for contractors to waste taxpayer dollars, mandate disclosure of any cost overruns, and close the "revolving door" whereby former federal government officials become contractors seeking business from government. This should also be called "The Most Sane Legislation in the World Act." The vote was 347-73.

• Byron Dorgan is leading the charge in questioning Halliburton's move to Dubai, which appears to be an attempt to slither out of having to pay taxes after fleecing taxpayers for years.

• The House is finally giving taxpayers in Washington, DC representation, moving toward passing a bill awarding two additional seats to Congress, one to DC and another to Utah, which would get one in the next Census anyway. The Bush Administration is threatening to veto this bill because everyone knows that people who live in Washington, DC shouldn't have a say in their government (?).

• A proposed bill by California Rep. Mike Honda would amend the No Child Left Behind Act to require parental opt-ins before military recruiters take their children's personal information. Right now every school must give the personal data of all their students to the military without notifying the parents. That's wrong, and this amendment would reverse it.

• I'm most pleased to announce that Sen. Dick Durbin, as he pledged in a blogger meeting I attended last month, introduced the Fair Elections Act, which allows for public financing of Congressional elections. He even got bipartisan support, as Arlen Specter (R-PA) cosponsored.

The Fair Elections Now Act would restore public confidence in the election process by allowing qualified candidates to receive campaign funds from the Senate Fair Elections Fund instead of asking for money from private interests. In return, participating candidates would voluntarily agree to limit their campaign spending to the amount allocated to them. This voluntary alternative to traditional privately financed campaigns would free candidates from the incessant, time-consuming money chase that has tainted public perceptions of elected officials and fostered abuses that undermine our democracy. Candidates could instead devote their time and energy to talking with their constituents about the issues that are important to them.

We're never going to totally get rid of the corrosive power of money in politics. But this bill would go a long way to restoring some basic fairness and allow legislators to legislate again.

• Finally, Nancy Pelosi has promised to bring a measure requiring Congressional authorization for any attack on Iran to a vote, and I plan to hold her to it.

This is all outside of the search for justice in the US Attorney Purge scandal. But it shows that the Congress is trying to do the people's business in many respects, and they ought to be recognized for that.

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Mitt Romney Campaign Announcement Due Any Moment, I Imagine

After this one, he's got to drop out of the race, right?

Rocky Anderson is a guy who has called for the impeachment of the President over and over and over again. He's openly challenging Sean Hannity to debate while Hannity ducks them repeatedly.

And Mitt Romney endorsed him. Not a zillion years ago, but in 2003! This is from Ann Coulter's favorite candidate.

I'm sorry, but Romney is one of the most hilarious Presidential candidates we've had in a long time. He's endorsed abortion rights, gay rights, the left-wing "Impeach Now" mayor of Salt Lake City and the words of Fidel Castro.

And he's running as a REPUBLICAN.

And he's seen as the most viable CONSERVATIVE in the race.


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Charlie Brown on John Doolittle Hating Our Troops

Just passing along an email I got from the Brown campaign. The Lt. Col. is not a happy camper:

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee passed the FY’07 Emergency Supplemental Spending Bill (H.R. 1591), which would fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, improved veterans healthcare services and military readiness, repairs to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and restore a crucial stream of funding to rural schools across the Western United States.

Rep. John Doolittle voted against the measure, which ties future U.S. aid to Iraq to a series of benchmarks laid out in a January 10th speech by President Bush. He also voted to strike language that would restrict the deployment of U.S. troops who are wounded, not properly equipped, or un-trained---offered as an amendment by the Committee’s ranking minority member, and Doolittle’s fellow DOJ corruption probe target Rep. Jerry Lewis.

The vote comes amidst mounting sectarian violence in Iraq , a resurgent Al Qaeda organization in Afghanistan , recent government reports describing the U.S. military at its lowest state of readiness since Vietnam , a VA system that is being overwhelmed by the influx of 1.6 million new veterans, and revelations of substandard conditions at military health facilities serving wounded combat troops.

“Time and again, John Doolittle votes to send young people into combat while denying them the tools they need to succeed in their mission and the quality aftercare they’ve been promised, commented Lt. Col. Charlie Brown. ”Leaving those who defend America exposed to preventable death, and our military unprepared to deal with future security threats is beyond irresponsible---it’s completely indefensible.”

The Supplemental bill would also restore $400 million through the Forest Service’s Secure Rural Schools Program, which provides rural counties a portion of the revenue generated by timber and land sales in national forests---funding up to 1/3 or more of public school operating budgets, as well as conservation and infrastructure projects in communities across the Western states, and California’s 4th Congressional District in particular.

When the current program expired in September of last year, the Bush Administration proposed a five year reauthorization. Congress failed to act in 2006.

“By letting the GOP controlled Congress fail to pass the crucial measure last year and voting against it again this year, Doolittle has left many of his constituents bracing for layoffs, teacher shortages, classroom overcrowding, and other problems,” Brown added. “He may have promised a new course, but he’s delivering the same old pattern of neglect and misguided priorities."

What else is there to say?

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Deja Vu in Iraq

It was 3 1/2 years ago when the top UN official in Iraq was killed in a bombing. Fortunately, the same didn't happen today to the Secretary-General, but essentially insurgents got a mortar within 50 meters of the Prime Minister and a major world leader in the Green Zone.

The other story out of Iraq that put me in the wayback machine was this one, a variant of which it seems like we see every time the US tries to get tough with al-Sadr and Shiite militias:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. forces have released a senior aide to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on the orders of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Maliki's office said on Wednesday.

Ahmed Shibani, who had been held for more than two years, is a senior aide to Sadr, a radical anti-American cleric who is also the leader of the Mehdi Army militia which Washington recently called the greatest threat to security in Iraq.

Shibani's release is likely to boost the standing of Maliki, a Shi'ite Islamist who relies on Sadr for political support. The Sadrist movement holds a quarter of parliamentary seats in the ruling Shi'ite Alliance.

Maliki is extremely constrained by the Sadrist wing of his government, and Juan Cole says that "Although the press keeps saying that al-Maliki will get street credibility because of the release, I can't actually believe that getting one Sadrist out of jail, who had been held illegally by the US for over a year, would make much impact on attitudes." The point is that he has to go to the wall for his Shiite compatriots, which means that, despite how the Administration is spinning it, we're being forced to take sides in a civil war.

Meanwhile, we've been training troops for so long in Iraq you'd think that everyone left in the country has been deputized, but it turns out that a lot of those "troops" are nothing more than names on a list who draw a salary. About 4 times as many troops would have to be trained before even hoping for the Iraqis to control any measure of security. It's a fallacy.

Then there's the continuing Whack-a-Mole (again via Juan Cole), where Diyala Province has become the new Baghdad, with 33 prisoners broken out of jail and 30 others dying in the escapade. "Insurgents battled Iraqi and US reinforcements, set fire to the police station, courthouse and 20 police vehicles before making their escape." But Baghdad is relatively slightly safer!

As much as we hear that we have a great new strategy to secure Iraq, everything that's happening has happened before. And the exact same spin is being applied to it. To quote Rep. Murtha:

Asked yesterday on CNN about the Bush administration's predictions that pulling out of Iraq could mean chaos for the region, Congressman Jack Murtha said: “Why would I believe that?" He added: "Nothing they’ve predicted has turned out to be true.”

Which is why I'm so disappointed that the House is not moving more aggressively today, along with the Senate, to mandate a return of US troops from this region where they try the same things over and over again with predictable results. Whether it's using the purse strings or setting definable end dates, something must be done to stop this Groundhog Day of a war.

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Elizabeth Edwards' cancer has returned, and that is a true shame. She joins the millions of families who fight long battles with this disease all over the country. She is in all of our thoughts.

John Edwards is not dropping out of the Presidential race as a cause of this. He described the cancer, which moved from Elizabeth's breast to her bones, as his doctor described it, not curable but completely treatable, like living with diabetes. And he said that "The campaign goes on strongly".

That's good for the country, but this is not a day to talk about politics in the context of John and Elizabeth. Best wishes.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Edwards Press Conference Tomorrow

Lots of rampant speculation on this. His wife was in the hospital the other day and Edwards cancelled a campaign trip to be with her.

It'd be a shame if he were dropping out because of family illness and I hope Elizabeth, who survived breast cancer in '04 and is amazing, is OK.

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Fall Into The Gap

So there are 18 days that are practically unaccounted for in the DoJ's document dump. There are scattered emails from the time period between mid-November and early December, but very little, and even those are a bit irrelevant to the larger questions about the case.

But get this from Tony Snow at the press briefing this morning.

HENRY: You keep saying the Justice Department, the response, the 3,000 pages, unprecedented, it’s very responsive. Why then is these this gap from mid-November to about December 4, right before the actual firings? Why is there a gap in the emails?

SNOW: I don’t know, why don’t you ask them.

HENRY: Well, you’re the White House, the Justice Department serves under…

SNOW: I know, but I’m not going to be the fact witness on Justice.

HENRY: But you’re the one representing that be this has been very responsive. Now when there’s a gap, you say go to them —

SNOW: Yeah, and I’ve been led to believe — I’ve been led to believe that there’s a good response for it, but I’m going to let you ask them because they’re going to have the answer.

"I've been led to believe there's a good response for it." Sure there is; they're hiding something.

Interestingly, here's one of the last emails before the gap:

Man, this is getting interesting. Not to mention the fact that they're claiming executive privilege and that the executive had nothing to do with the firings AT THE SAME TIME.

I think K-Drum has this cold.

They’ve now had nearly two months to come up with a simple, clear, understandable explanation for why they chose those eight to fire but not the others. So what is it? And why has it taken such an interminable amount of internal chaos to come up with something?

People aren’t stupid. If there were a simple, innocent explanation we would have heard it in January. The fact that the president of the United States held a press conference eight weeks after this issue first hit the media and still didn’t have a plausible story to tell suggests pretty strongly that there is no plausible story to tell.

If they could only have gotten their stories straight from the beginning, we wouldn't have known about any of this. But they couldn't, and here we are.

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"Limbaugh is Irrelevant" Schwarzenegger Suddenly Finds Limbaugh Relevant

It was kind of interesting that Arnold Schwarzenegger would publicly distance himself from Rush Limbaugh one day and bridge that distance by going on his show the next. And something even more interesting happened on that appearance.

Now, I don't think a whole lot of Rush Limbaugh, but he adequately reflected the core argument that conservatives have with the Governor; that Arnold has basically "agreed with liberals" rather than brought about any kind of grand compromise. I agree with that to the extent that Schwarzenegger is out of step with the nuttiest elements of his party, but he's still a good corporate con, make no mistake. The "post-partisan" thing is a fig leaf to try to get everyone to like him.

But is it me, or does Arnold act like he's never heard this kind of resistance to his post-partisan godness before? Judge for yourself; you can read the transcript at Salladay's.

RUSH: Wait a second. You -- you -- you -- you want to extend health care coverage to every child, even the child -- the children of illegal aliens, immigrants in the country, and you -- want to raise taxes to do, this and you call them loans.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, Rush, I just said that you're reducing the hidden tax of $14.7 billion. We want to get rid of the hidden tax that is being paid right now --

RUSH: Well, the tax --

SCHWARZENEGGER: Every single --

RUSH: Replace the hidden tax with a visible tax, it's still a tax.

It's fun to watch Arnold try to bullshit Limbaugh, and vice-versa, with their companion dishonest agendas that just aren't similarly dishonest. Fascinating as a car wreck on the side of the road.

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Viva Mitt

Here's a sure way to lose the Republican nomination: associate your campaign with the President of Cuba.

People chuckled when presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon raised in Michigan and elected in Massachusetts, bungled the names of Cuban-American politicians during a recent speech in Miami.

But when he mistakenly associated Fidel Castro's trademark speech-ending slogan -- Patria o muerte, venceremos! -- with a free Cuba, listeners didn't laugh. They winced.

Castro has closed his speeches with the phrase -- in English, ''Fatherland or death, we shall overcome'' -- for decades.

''Clearly, that's something he was ill-advised on or didn't do his homework on,'' said Hialeah City Council President Esteban Bovo. "When you get cute with slogans, you get yourself into a trap.''

This is one of those superficial things that always annoys me with modern campaigns - that moment when the white guy has to start talking in a language he doesn't know or understand to vote-pander. It doesn't impress anyone anymore, and it inevitably leads to awkwardness like this. This is like saying "white power!" at an NAACP meeting, I would imagine.

But that's not the only recent Romney item that raised an eyebrow:

The primary funder of an independent group that raised questions about the résumé of Sen. John F. Kerry during the 2004 presidential election has signed on to raise money for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's GOP presidential campaign.

Bob Perry, a Houston home builder, is named as a member of Romney's Texas Leadership Team in an invite for a fundraising event in Dallas on March 26.

Perry has earned a reputation for his willingness to finance "527" groups. He gained notoriety for the $4.5 million he donated to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group of Vietnam War veterans who questioned Kerry's military credentials. He funded similar pro-GOP groups in 2006, including the Economic Freedom Fund, which ran ads attacking Democrats in Georgia, Iowa and West Virginia, and A Stronger America, which financed ads attacking Democrat Mike Hatch in his Minnesota gubernatorial bid last year.

In 2006, Perry was the largest political donor in Texas, doling out nearly $400,000 to GOP Gov. Rick Perry's campaign alone (the two are not related).

I guess Mitt's going for an Administration filled with honesty, right?

One thing that has come out of 2004 is that anyone associated with the Swift Boaters is immediately demonized by a substantial segment of the population. Votes are hard enough to come by without something like this anchoring you down. Good job, Mitt: Tone deaf on multiple counts!

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Another Domino Falls in Purgegate

Via (who else?) TPM Muckraker, we have YET ANOTHER example of a federal prosecutor being fired for attempting to investigate a Republican. From The Arizona Republic:

Two weeks after Arizona U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton was ordered to give up his post, he sent an e-mail to a top Justice Department official asking how to handle questions that his ouster was connected to his investigation of Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz.

Charlton, one of eight federal prosecutors forced to resign last year, never received a written response.

It seems like Charlton was beginning his investigation into Renzi, and the Justice Department had some knowledge of it.

And this is curious.

In October, Justice Department officials confirmed that Renzi was the subject of an inquiry into a land swap that would benefit a friend and business associate. Renzi has denied any wrongdoing. He could not be reached Tuesday.

Renzi is a Bush loyalist. When Renzi was locked in a battle for his congressional seat last year, the president came to Arizona to campaign for him.

When the first list of U.S. attorneys targeted for ouster was drafted, Charlton's name was not on it. But his name was on a subsequent list, drafted in September. Although the Renzi inquiry was not yet public, it is likely the Justice Department was aware of the investigation, said a former U.S. attorney who is familiar with the protocol when a sitting lawmaker is involved.

"If we had anything of a major investigative nature, I would notify the Justice Department," said Melvin McDonald, who was Arizona's U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration. "Typically, that's what happens."

So DoJ confirmed an investigation in October. Charlton's name hit the target list in September. And surely, he began the investigation well before DoJ confirmed it.

So let's recap:

• David Iglesias, US Attorney for New Mexico, gets phone calls from Pete Domenici and Heather Wilson pressuring him to indict local Democrats, and we he resists their pressure, he's fired.

• Carol Lam, US Attorney in San Diego, emails the Justice Department about obtaining warrants to search the house of Dusty Foggo, #3 at the CIA, and the next day Kyle Sampson is writing people about "the real problem we have right now with Carol Lam.

• John McKay, US Attorney in Washington State, resists calls to investigate non-existent and baseless accusations of voter fraud, and winds up on a target list, eventually getting fired.

• Daniel Bogden, US Attorney in Nevada, was in the midst of investigations targeting current or former Republican members of Congress (Jim Gibbons?) when he was fired.

• And let's not forget Debra Wong Yang, US Attorney for Los Angeles, who, months after opening an investigation into Rep. Jerry Lewis, was hired away for $1.5 million dollars by the same law firm representing Lewis, which Josh Marshall says is part of "an odd pattern of pivotal investigators and prosecutors getting fortuitous promotions or offers of employment in the private sector at key moments."

Yeah, I think I see a pattern here.

Democrats in Arizona are being pretty aggressive about the Charlton case.

"Obviously, there needs to be an investigation," said Rep. Harry Mitchell, D-Ariz. "You need to find out the facts. It shouldn't be partisan at all."

On Tuesday, the Arizona Democratic Party wrote to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asking that it look into a connection between Charlton's removal and the Renzi investigation. The letter, signed by state party Chairman David Waid, said the investigation appears to have stalled since Charlton was forced out.

The newest e-mails, memos and other records raise fresh questions about whether there were political motivations for Charlton's ouster, as the documents indicate that Justice Department officials were still - after the fact - trying to settle on a complete explanation for why Charlton was called on Dec. 7 and told to resign.

DoJ is so busted.

UPDATE: Carpetbagger points me to this Max Blumenthal article that adds some context to the Charlton firing. He was put on the list for targeting at pretty much the same time that he opened the Renzi investigation. Prior to that, he was winning awards for running a model office. And the DoJ alibi for firing him is a... doozy:

The Justice Department and the White House offered a scattershot of alibis for firing Charlton. The Bush Administration's case against Charlton rested ultimately on the account of a little-known Justice Department official named Brent Ward, who claimed in a September 20, 2006 e-mail that Charlton was "unwilling to take good cases."

What accounts for this bizarre e-mail? And who is Brent Ward?

Ward first came to prominence in Utah, where as US Attorney during the Reagan era he cast himself as a crusader against pornography. His battles made him one of the most fervent and earnest witnesses before Attorney General Edwin Meese's Commission on Pornography; he urged "testing the endurance" of pornographers by relentless prosecutions. Meese was so impressed that he named Ward a leader of a group of US Attorneys engaged in a federal anti-pornography campaign, which soon disappeared into the back rooms of adult bookshops to ferret out evildoers. Ward returned to government last year as the chief of the Justice Department's newly created Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, where his main achievement has been the prosecution of the producer of the Girls Gone Wild film series [...]

According to the source, Ward's accusation against Charlton stems from a case he filed in June 2006. That month, Ward ordered Charlton to prosecute Five Star Video, an adult video store that registered on Ward's radar when it mailed copies of the DVD's Gag Factor 18, Filthy Things 6, Gag Factor 15, and American Bukkake 13 to customers across state lines. Charlton agreed to take the case, but as the source told me, Ward implored him to attach an additional US Attorney to it. Concerned about wasting the already limited resources at his disposal on a case of dubious value, Charlton hesitated. Despite his misgivings, he assigned the additional prosecutor--a key fact missing from the White House e-mails.

So, you have a maniac in the DoJ forcing frivolous porno investigations that Charlton FOLLOWS THROUGH ON because it's his job - and then when he's fired, the same maniac is used to claim that he doesn't take "good cases." Like the "American Bukkake 13" ring that has ripped this country asunder.

I'm at a loss...

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CO-SEN: Score One For The Good Guys

It's terribly early, but at least one Democratic pickup in the Senate is looking pretty good:

In a move that could help pave the way for Dems to grab a key open seat in Colorado, the only announced Republican candidate for the seat is expected to drop out of the race, The Washington Post reports. The move by former GOP Rep. Scott McInnis leaves the GOP without a candidate for the seat of retiring Republican Senator Wayne Allard — a top target for national Dems in their quest to expand on their 2006 electoral successes in the West.

The Republicans will obviously have a candidate, but McInnis was the least hard-core Colorado Springs fundie conservative, and the most likely to present a real challenge to Rep. Mark Udall, who will have a clear field for the Democratic nomination. Udall was going to be formidable anyway; without McInnis it could be a blowout, especially if Colorado goes blue in the Presidential race.

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Mr. Gore Goes To... OK, I'm Sick Of That Joke

We've come a long way in seven years, from Al Gore being a Presidential candidate with an avalanche of free media who was told by his consultants not to even bring up global warming during his campaign, to a principled visionary returning triumphantly to the Capitol with a single-minded purpose, to ONLY push Congress to action on the climate change issue.

In a return he described as emotional, Gore testified before House panels that it is not too late to deal with climate change "and we have everything we need to get started."

Gore's return to Congress marked the first time he had been in the Capitol since 2001 when he was the defeated Democratic nominee still presiding over the Senate in his role as vice president [...]

"I want to testify today about what I believe is a planetary emergency — a crisis that threatens the survival of our civilization and the habitability of the Earth," Gore told the House committees. "The consequences are mainly negative and headed toward catastrophic unless we act."

Gore gained international recognition with his Oscar-winning documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," as perhaps the leading spokesman on dealing with global warming.

A former congressman and senator from Tennessee, Gore received a friendly reception from Democrats in Congress.

"Welcome back, welcome home," said Rep. John Dingell (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Considering how this White House deals with the issue of climate change, by having political hacks heavily edit scientific studies, it's a bit refreshing to see someone on Capitol Hill who isn't cooking the books.

To underscore their charges of the administration's oil-friendly stance, Democrats grilled an oil lobbyist who was hired by the White House to review government climate change documents and who made hundreds of edits that the lawmakers said minimized the impact of global warming.

"You were a spin doctor," Rep. John A. Yarmuth (D-Ky) told the lobbyist.

Gore has a book coming out too later this year, The Assault on Reason, ensuring even more free media coverage. And his insistence on prodding government to work on climate change has led to a renaissance of thought on the subject, and even a compromise energy bill that at least moves in the right direction.

For a guy who keeps saying he's not running for President, he's sure doing a lot of things you would expect from a guy who's running for President. And if he did jump in the race, he'd probably have my vote.

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Hate The Troops Watch

Kagro X at the great Orange behemoth wrote a great post yesterday about House Appropriations Committee members voting to continue to send our troops over to Iraq without the proper equipment, body armor, rest times, and training. Whatever your feelings about the Iraq supplemental bill (I hate that it doesn't go far enough in enforcement of a deadline, and it's larded up with unrelated pork, but other than that...), any member of Congress dumb enough to let our soldiers go to war without everything they need for battle ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Under instructions from the National Republican Committee, George Allen, Conrad Burns, Rick Santorum, Jim Talent and others dutifully complied with their orders: say you support the troops, but vote to kill them.

This cold-blooded political manipulation cost thousands of brave Americans their lives over the course of four years, but only when the truth came to light did it cost these Republican traitors their jobs. Maybe it should have cost them much, much more, but the political system only gives us one option: dump politicians who vote to kill American troops.

We have two California Representatives who voted to put American lives in danger. There are about 10,000 reasons to dump Jerry Lewis and John Doolittle, but this is the most stark one. They both voted against giving our troops the body armor and equipment and rest and training they need before being shipped to Iraq.

I agree with Howie Klein:

There are no elected members of either house of Congress as dangerous to our country's safety and security as John Doolittle and Jerry Lewis.

Not only have both of these bloodsuckers drained the national treasury to give their defense contractor and lobbyist friends precious booty, they have talked about patriotism incessantly, yet committed the mostm unpatriotic act you can possibly commit, signing the death warrants of potentially thousands of Americans.

We have a great challenger to John Doolittle in Lt. Col. (Ret.) Charlie Brown, who came within a hair's breadth of defeating Doolittle last year. Reportedly, Tim Price may challenge Jerry Lewis in CA-41; he's committed to running if there's a special election to replace Lewis, should he be indicted (a possibility with both of these sorry excuses for public officials). We need to encourage Price to run and we need to support Charlie Brown, so we can rid this Congress of members who show nothing but contempt for our men and women in uniform.

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Yeah, we can reach all those new viewers on Fox News.

"Fox News viewers supported George Bush over John Kerry by 88% to 7%. No demographic segment, other than Republicans, was as united in supporting Bush. Conservatives, white evangelical Christians, gun owners, and supporters of the Iraq war all gave Bush fewer votes than did regular Fox News viewers."

I guess that's because Democrats ran and hid... oh wait, there was a Democratic primary debate on Fox in 2003.

There is no swing voter watching Fox News just waiting to be wowed by the Democratic brand. None. Doing a debate on their airwaves is like doing a live chat on Free Republic: useless.

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Game On

The House approved the Rove and Miers subpoenas. Sorry, Mr. President, new sheriff in town. The "freedom to lie" sessions aren't going to cut it anymore. Incidentally, that "compromise" was exactly the same groundrules that covered every other Congressional investigation (9-11 Commission, wiretapping, etc.), so it wasn't too novel.

It should be interesting to see how this played out. This is the firewall showdown; if the White House loses on it, they'll lose on every other subpoena, every other investigation, and you'll probably see mass resignations as people would rather run to a desert island than be hauled before Congress.

And doesn't it seem like the Democrats have learned negotiating skills from this President?

The committee rejected Bush's offer a day earlier to have his aides talk privately to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, but not under oath and not on the record.

Authorizing the subopenas "does provide this body the leverage needed to negotiate from a position of strenghth," said Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass.

Two can play hardball. Not sure that it's a good thing, but when you deal with a bully, you have to be just as strong.

UPDATE: I don't know if I mentioned this before, but it looks like the Justice Department did the firing first and tried to come up with the reasons later. This is precisely why Rove and Miers need to be put under oath. TPM Muckraker has more.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How Prescient

The I word, which I had put in a drawer and filed away, starting coming back up today solely by virtue of the President's obstinate refusal to accede to imminent subpoenas and turn over documents. That's prescisely the crime, as Atrios notes, on which one of Nixon's impeachment articles hung:

Article 3

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, contrary to his oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives on April 11, 1974, May 15, 1974, May 30, 1974, and June 24, 1974, and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas. The subpoenaed papers and things were deemed necessary by the Committee in order to resolve by direct evidence fundamental, factual questions relating to Presidential direction, knowledge or approval of actions demonstrated by other evidence to be substantial grounds for impeachment of the President. In refusing to produce these papers and things Richard M. Nixon, substituting his judgment as to what materials were necessary for the inquiry, interposed the powers of the Presidency against the the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, thereby assuming to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the sole power of impeachment vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives.

And, much like the Nixon years, there is a gap in reporting the documents to Congress, from between mid-November and early December, which is right when the prosecutors were fired.

Gonzales looks to be gone, and if he doesn't step down he could be impeached and even Republicans would back it. But this is a whole other problem now. The President is asserting executive privilege and steeling for a fight for no other reason than his own pigheadedness:

This mini-press conference was the most Nixonian performance of Bush's presidency, and his robotic repetition of the word "reasonable" to characterize his proposal to let Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and others be interviewed in a shady lagoon (not under oath, no transcripts made) could only remind Watergate buffs of the phrase "modified limited hangout". That's what's so strange about this percolatiing scandal. Instead of defusing it, dousing it, sedating it, Bush & co. have amped it up to a mini-Watergate decibel level of confrontation and document spew, complete with a former Watergate cast member. When Dick Cheney famously told Pat Leahy to go fuck himself, he and the rest of the administration clearly never anticipated the day when Leahy would return to powerful chairmanship; I think they internalized Karl Rove's visionary scheme of a permanent Republican majority and thought the future was in the bag. Now they're holding the bag and it's leaking all over their laps.

What's really at stake here is the whole theory underpinning the Bush, and really the Cheney, theory of government. It's true that this is a major lose-lose for the White House:

1. Karl Rove under oath: a dream come true. Enough said about that.

2. Karl Rove testifies in private, not under oath: public assumes that Rove can't possibly testify under oath without lying and/or incriminating himself. Implication: Rove and Bush have done something wrong.

3. Resist subpoena, claim executive privilege (i.e., no testimony of any kind): public assumes Bush and Rove have something to hide. Leahy's brings resolution citing Rove for contempt of congress. Resolution passes. Congress asks U.S. Attorney (ironic, yes) to bring charges.

--U.S. Attorney does not bring charges: public is reminded that U.S. Attorney was appointed by Bush. We know eight have been fired for not going after Democrats. Is this one of the ones who survived, i.e., a Bush guy? Did he/she not indict for political reasons?

--U.S. Attorney brings charges: litigate. Bush morphs into Nixon. Bush tries to run out the clock until January 2009. While he does, he gets nothing.

But that's not the point. This is about asserting the extreme, royalistic view of unitary executive power that has characterized this Administration from Day One. If Bush gives this up, he gives up every power he's ever asserted. He's painted himself into a corner and has nowhere else to go.

And this time, it's the President who is pushing the country toward impeachment, nobody else.

UPDATE: Kagro X has more, making a similar point that Bush has bet the ranch on this, but also explaining how they can wiggle out of a contempt of Congress...

In its investigative capacity, Congress has adopted for itself the use of a subpoena power that's roughly analogous to that more commonly seen in the judicial and law enforcement system, in which government prosecutors (employees of the executive branch) leverage the power of the judicial branch (in the form of its ability to sentence those brought before it for contempt, should they defy the subpoenas) to ensure compliance with the demands made.

But Congress is not the executive branch. Nor is it the judicial. Its independent enforcement powers are limited to only the most obscure and archaic procedure -- "inherent contempt" -- which hasn't been exercised since 1935, and with good reason: this procedure itself requires a trial before Congress. Not a particularly helpful substitute when you're trying to avoid a trial before Congress [read: impeachment] in the first place.

Instead, Congress depends for its enforcement powers on the executive branch. If you defy a Congressional subpoena, you face the possibility of charges of contempt of Congress, pursuant to the adoption of articles by whichever house is charging you. But those charges are not self-executing. In other words, they're a request that charges be brought. In order to be effective, those charges still have to be prosecuted in court, and that's up to the discretion of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. He's an employee of the "unitary executive," of course, and reports to the Attorney General [...]

That's some game, eh? Enforcement of the contempt power falls to the U.S. Attorneys -- the political strong-arming and contamination of which brought us to this crisis in the first place. Heck, you'd almost think they... planned it.

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Respect My Authori-TAH!

Here's the transcript of Bush's petulant, pissy-pants press conference. He essentially restated the offer to get Rove and Miers to be "interviewed" by Congress without being under oath, because they need to be given the freedom to lie. These are the nut grafs:

These extraordinary steps offered today to the majority in Congress demonstrate a reasonable solution to the issue. However, we will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants.

The initial response by Democrats unfortunately shows some appear more interested in scoring political points than in learning the facts. It will be regrettable if they choose to head down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas and demanding show trials when I have agreed to make key White House officials and documents available.

I have proposed a reasonable way to avoid an impasse. I hope they don't choose confrontation. I will oppose any attempts to subpoena White House officials.

These are typical macho intimidation tactics by the President here, designed to actually force a Constitutional showdown. I learned today that if Rove and Miers refuse to appear while under subpoena and are found in contempt of Congress, the US ATTORNEY'S OFFICE is responsible for prosecuting them. You know, the office that just purged itself of everyone but "loyal Bushies" and made sure that anyone going after Republican corruption or insufficiently going after Democratic corruption was dumped on their ass.

Bush would rather make this about the White House v. the Democratic Congress than the White House v. the law. He's asserting supreme executive powers that are nowhere to be found in the Constitution in the hopes that the Senate and House Judiciary Committees will blink first. For crying out loud, he's even lost Tom Tancredo.

Bush never gets angrier than when he's told he has to face up to responsibility. He doesn't respect the rules of government and thinks they should all be subservient to his will. This is a big game of chicken and the tribalists in the Republican Party will have no problem lining up behind their standard-bearer on this one. Stay strong, Democrats. This is about who you are.

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The Ninth Prosecutor

The President's remarks on the US Attorney scandal were the same kind of out-of-touch obstructionism and intimidation we've come to expect (he's essentially daring Congress to initiate a Constitutional showdown), so no need to replay it here. But Sen. Feinstein is pulling at another thread of the scandal, one little remarked-upon but potentially significant. It's about a legislator essentially bribing a prosecutor to get her off the trail.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Tuesday she wants answers about the departure of the former U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, who resigned last October before the Justice Department's dismissal of eight other U.S. attorneys sparked controversy.

"I have questions about Debra Yang's departure and I can't answer those questions right at this time," Feinstein, D-Calif. and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters in response to a question. "Was she asked to resign, and if so, why? We have to ferret that out."

Here's the real scoop: In May 2006, Debra Wong Yang was beginning work on the investigation of Rep. Jerry Lewis, the former chair of the House Appropriations Committee who was being scrutinized over handing out defense earmarks to political friends. Within a few months, Yang resigned... to work for the law firm representing Lewis.

About five months before Yang's departure her office had opened an investigation into ties between Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., and a lobbyist. When Yang left her U.S. attorney's job she went to work for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, the firm where Lewis' legal team works, but government rules required that she recuse herself from that case or any other she was involved with while a government prosecutor.

The Lewis case is connected to the ongoing corruption investigation in San Diego that began with the 2005 conviction of former GOP Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who is serving jail time for bribery. Former U.S. attorney Carol Lam in San Diego, who was among those dismissed last year, was prosecuting that case. Feinstein contends that Lam's dismissal had something to do with the her role in the Cunningham investigation, though the Justice Department denies it.

Not only that, Yang got $1.5 million dollars to go to work for Gibson Dunn. Ted Olson, the former US Solicitor General, works there too. And the Assistant US Attorney for LA, Douglas Fuchs, joined her.

So here we have the top two federal prosecutors looking into a public corruption case hired away from the government by the law firm representing that same corrupt official.

This is where government cronyism meets corporate cronyism...

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Enough Is Enough

The more I see the Hillary Clinton camp about as touchy as an armadillo, attacking Barack Obama at every opportunity and being disingenuous in doing so, the more I see her sinking into the same irrelevance that did in Mario Cuomo in 1988 and John Glenn in 1984. I mean, what the hell is this?

Senior advisers to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Barack Obama clashed intensely tonight at a forum for campaign managers here over the positions of the two candidates on the war in Iraq and the tactics being used by both campaigns.

The exchange occurred during what had been a civil – even placid – forum among senior advisers for three of the Democratic presidential contenders at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

The argument grew so heated that it silenced a room packed with students, faculty and reporters. It ended when Jonathan Prince, the representative of former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, shushed them to quiet down.

Fellas, pipe down. The Clinton campaign has been at this for a couple weeks now, even breaking out the Big Dog to claim that Obama wasn't as fully against the war as he's claiming now. ABC News looked at the record and isn't buying it.

The real point, however, is, WHO THE FUCK CARES? Taking someone else's quote and massaging it to fit your needs is not the stuff of champions. Those who are against the war should be using their position as a candidate for President to articulate against the war, loudly and forcefully. They should pull themselves off the campaign trail to do it, and hold daily press conferences on their progress; I guarantee the media will cover it.

This is really a load of nonsense and it seems to me that the Clinton camp is not ready for prime time. They so expected a coronation that they are lashing out at anyone that dares challenge them. It seems defensive even though it's an offensive posture. And the Obama camp doesn't come off looking much better.

I am really trying hard to ignore all this campaign stuff 20 months out but this jumped out at me as annoying. And for the record, Clinton and others have articulated real positions that would be beneficial for the country. I liked what Hillary had to say about the subprime mortgage debacle. And Senator Dodd made a principled and earnest stand to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. Even Bill Richardson struck a blow for state's rights and proper medical treatment by pushing for a medical marijuana bill in his home state. More of that, less useless sniping, please.

UPDATE: Absolutely right.

Free campaign advice to the Clinton and Obama campaigns:

Every public disagreement, no matter how serious or valid, will be portrayed as CNN is doing it now as a trivial schoolyard "spat." As it is only March, 2007, this gives them many months to infantilize and trivialize you as much as possible. By next year, all the public will know about you is that you are very silly people who have regular temper tantrums about nothing.

Thanks for hurting America, you two.

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Bush to make a statement on the US Attorney firing at 2:45 PT. Actually I don't think this will be Alberto VO5's resignation. But we'll see.

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This Is Wrong

Politicians are politicians, after all, and it's been drummed into their heads that pork for their districts will help them get re-elected (I'm not even sure that's true anymore, as plenty of pork-barrelers went down last cycle). But the Democratic Congress is severely risking their credibility with me on this one.

House Democratic leaders are offering billions in federal funds for lawmakers' pet projects large and small to secure enough votes this week to pass an Iraq funding bill that would end the war next year.

So far, the projects -- which range from the reconstruction of New Orleans levees to the building of peanut storehouses in Georgia -- have had little impact on the tally. For a funding bill that establishes tough new readiness standards for deploying combat forces and sets an Aug. 31, 2008, deadline to bring the troops home, votes do not come cheap [...]

Democratic leaders say the domestic spending in the bill reflects the pent-up demand from lawmakers who last year could not win funding for programs that had bipartisan support such as disaster assistance.

But in a formal veto statement last night, the White House denounced what it called "excessive and extraneous non-emergency spending." With unusually caustic and combative language, the statement dismissed provisions of the bill as "unconscionable," and said it "would place freedom and democracy in Iraq at grave risk" and "embolden our enemies."

You've now given the White House a talking point that resonates. This headline might as well have come from a Tom DeLay-led House of Representatives.

Not all pork-barrel spending is evil, but I strongly object to vote-buying by placing unrelated issues into must-pass bills to curry political favor. That's flat-out wrong. I wish somebody would propose a "No Unrelated Riders Act," but it'll never happen, because as you can see, both Democrats and Republicans need the tool to get their agenda through. If a bill can't pass on its own merits, it isn't worth passing. This is a time to legislate and not think up political ads, particularly with respect to the disaster of the Iraq War. I'm sure we'll see ads saying that Rep. Charles Boustany "voted to take funds from Katrina victims" and it will be wrong to characterize him out of context.

"It gives me no satisfaction to vote against measures that I have been working for since even before [Hurricane] Katrina, but I cannot in good conscience vote for a bill that does this to our troops," Boustany said yesterday, decrying what he called the "cheap politics" of using disaster aid to win votes on a measure this controversial.

Some Democrats are taking principled stands about this and I applaud them.

Even some Democrats say the issue of Iraq has become far too heated to be conducive to vote-buying.

"The profile and urgency of this Iraq vote really doesn't lend itself to these kinds of side deals," said Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), who has pushed drought relief for more than a year.

This Iraq bill is not a good bill as it is, not strong enough to enforce an end to our involvement in Iraq and begin a fully funded withdrawal. With all these pork products added on top, it's almost unconscionable. Plus, it's bad politics. A clean bill that gives members a Congress to be on the side of the Bush Administration or the American people would be far more effective. These silly games shouldn't be played.

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