Thursday, May 31, 2007

I Am Afraid Monica's Freudian Slip Is Showing or How Rachel Paulose Can't Catch A Break.

God I love this job. I have been following the really brain dead public relations campaign to rehabilitate the fading career of Rachel Poulose. Rachel is a young Republican with a wonderful resume. She seems to have some problem with the "little people." Shortly after she took the job of US Attorney in Minneapolis, four of her top aides got so fed up with her imperious ways they took demotions rather than spend time working with her directly. Instead of learning the obvious life lessons from that early debacle, she apparently has decided to fight back. As near as I can tell she has surrounded herself with a truly clueless PR posse that has done an absolutely crappy job. For example, last monday she tried to reintroduce herself just days before Monica Goodling was going to testify. That reintroduction didn't go very well. Neither did Katherine Kersten's followup whine.

Luckily for Rachel, Monica didn't have a lot to say about her, and it was mostly good. Monica did make some unfortunate comments about Rachel's predecessor, Tom Heffelfinger. Heffelfinger was the very model of a loyal Republican US Attorney right up to last week. All through the US Attorney scandal, even after he was found to be on the list of attorneys to be fired, he insisted that his resignation was entirely voluntary.

As has been typical of the Gonzales Justice Department, Monica found a way to really anger the former US Attorney. She criticized his professional work. As will be revealed below, the Clucking Stool thinks she might have suffered what we used to call a Freudian slip.

In response to a question from Representative Keith Ellison, Monica said, "There were some concerns that he (Heffelfinger) spent an extraordinary amount of time as the leader of the Native American subcommittee of the AGAC (Attorney General's Advisory Committee)."

Heffelfinger replied by telling KARE11 News he was "extraordinarily outraged" to hear his work criticized. Heffelfinger was proud of his work with Native Americans. He told the AP, again quoting KARE11,

"I did spent a lot of time on it," Heffelfinger said of the American Indian issue. "That's what I was instructed to do" by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Given the higher rates of violence suffered by American Indians, Heffelfinger said, the time was warranted, but it didn't take away from other priorities.

"I had to work hard, but I was comfortable with the mix of my local responsibilities and my Native American responsibilities," said Heffelfinger, who oversaw his office's investigation into the 2005 shooting that claimed 10 lives on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in far northern Minnesota.
Throughout the US Attorney scandal there is a common theme, a theme most of the loyal Bushies like Sampson, Goodling and their boss have yet to figure out--you just don't tell a proud professional that the work he is proudest of is crap, not unless you really want to have your hat handed to you.

This morning the LA Times carried a story by Tom Hamburger, Times Staff Writer, and former Minnesota native, tying Heffelfinger's good work on behalf of Native Americans to another overarching theme of the Gonzales justice department--the ongoing Republican campaign to suppress the minority vote. Yep, Heffelfinger refused to take part in a campaign to suppress the Native American vote, a campaign that involves two of our old favorites, Brad Schlozman and Hans von Spakovsky.

As you will recall Von Spakovsky and Schlozman are voting suppression specialists linked to Republican voter suppression campaigns in Missouri and Georgia. Since most poor people of color are Democrats, from the point of view of Brad and Hans suppressing the vote of poor people of color is a good thing.

The basic Republican voter suppression plan, as advanced in Missouri and Georgia, is for local Republicans to plant the frightening image in the minds of the local media and the general public of thousands of poor black people showing up at the polls to vote Democratic dozens of times.

For a lot of technical reasons the kind of "voter fraud" that concerns Republicans is virtually non-existent. That doesn't stop the patented Republican voter suppression campaign. The Republican solution to the terrible, but non-existant, problem of "voter fraud" is to require each voter to present a special and expensive voter ID card at the polling place on election day. Republican legislatures eagerly enact such laws. Members of the local media write puff pieces singing the praises of Republicans who have solved a truly frightening problem.

Since poor people can't afford to pay a lot for their voter or state ID, or they might not realize they need one until the last minute, voter suppression of the poor Democratic minority is almost a sure thing.

Ordinarily, the United States Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is all over such state statutes. After all poll taxes and the like are illegal under Federal law, and have been since Jim Crow days. Enter Schlozman and Von Spakovsky. Their job was to overrule or otherwise defang the career professionals in the civil rights division. Theirs was the most successful part of the Republican voter suppression campaign in the last couple of elections. In both, the Civil Rights Division, now largely manned by loyal Bushies, was essentially neutered. Fortunately, opponents didn't need DoJ help to convince the courts that the Missouri and Georgia laws were illegal.

There are 32,000 Native Americans living in the Saint Paul area alone. The ID they use in their daily lives is the ID card issued by their tribe. It is widely thought that a lot of those Native Americans vote for Democrats.

According to LA Times:
Citing requirements in a new state election law, Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer directed that tribal ID cards could not be used for voter identification by Native Americans living off reservations. Heffelfinger and his staff feared that the ruling could result in discrimination against Indian voters. Many do not have driver's licenses or forms of identification other than the tribes' photo IDs.
Heffelfinger had one of his staff e-mail the Civil Rights Division. It was made clear that Heffelfinger was very concerned about Kiffmeyer's directive and believed something needed to be done. The Times article continues
About three months after Heffelfinger's office raised the issue of tribal ID cards and nonreservation Indians in an October 2004 memo, his name appeared on a list of U.S. attorneys singled out for possible firing.

"I have come to the conclusion that his expressed concern for Indian voting rights is at least part of the reason that Tom Heffelfinger was placed on the list to be fired," said Joseph D. Rich, former head of the voting section of the Justice Department's civil rights division. Rich, who retired in 2005 after 37 years as a career department lawyer — 24 of them in Republican administrations — was closely involved in the Minnesota ID issue
Rich is the lawyer who received the e-mails from a member of Heffelfinger's staff. Rich started working the case. According to Rich Schlozman and Von Spakovsky promptly placed impossible conditions on the conduct of the investigation effectively squelching it.

According to the Star Tribune, one of Rachel Paulose's first acts after appointment was "to remove Lewis, who had written the 2004 e-mails to Washington expressing concern about American Indian voting rights." I wonder if that's when her management problems began?

UPDATE: I just remembered Hans Von Spakosky has a confirmation hearing scheduled for June 13. With this story breaking right now, maybe he is the guy who can't catch a break?

There's more: "I Am Afraid Monica's Freudian Slip Is Showing or How Rachel Paulose Can't Catch A Break." >>

Chet Edwards speaks

Edwards, a fairly Blue but not purplish Blue Dog Democrat, spoke earlier today at the local chamber of commerce luncheon. Here's a summary of highlights of his talk for my newspaper article for next week.

Precis: He’s OK with his vote in favor of the second Iraq supplemental May 24; is pushing hard on conservation, on energy matters, but favors opening the Florida Gulf to drilling; and favors some sort of immigration bill, and did not mention a “return” requirement as part of that.

The serious issues on his list of topics did begin with Iraq, then. Edwards said he was glad Congress sent a new Iraq funding bill to President George W. Bush, even though it did not have timetables or benchmarks that an earlier House bill, vetoed by Bush, did have.

“I’m glad we got the bill passed to fully fund the president’s request. I think it would be a mistake to pull all our troops tomorrow,” he said.

Edwards was one of the House Democrats who voted yes May 24 on a House vote concurring with a Senate amendment, the effect of which was to approve an Iraq spending bill without timetables for troop reductions or withdrawals, and without Congressionally-binding benchmarks on the Iraqi government. The overall vote was 280-142. Edwards also voted for the original House supplemental spending bill May 10, later vetoed by Bush, that did have timetables.

“Can we guarantee stability in Iraq? No … not even with a million troops,” Edwards continued. “That’s the job of the Iraqi people. I want to send a message to Iraqi leaders: Clean up your corruption. Take more responsibility. We’re not going to write a blank check of $10 billion a month forever.”

With $3 a gallon gas, this was bound to be his second topic.

“I’m afraid we’re paying the price for having a long-term energy policy,” Edwards said.

He said a major portion of the problem was lack of new U.S. gasoline refineries.
Referring to a 2005 energy bill that made it easier to build refineries, Edwards said we needed another one. He said he wanted to make it easier to build nuclear power plants, open up more of the Gulf coast, especially the Florida portion, for oil and natural gas drilling, and get automakers to make some serious improvements in fuel economy.

“If they can’t do a better job, we may not have an American car-manufacturing industry,” he warned.

Later, during audience questioning, Edwards said he was open to the idea of the government developing a strategic reserve for refined gasoline similar to the one it already has for crude oil.

Edwards picked up the thread from the Senate committee-level action on this issue.

“My guess is more than 50-50 we’re going to have an immigration bill this year,” he said.

He then explained what he thought needed to be addressed, and how.

“It’s not practical to think we’re going to hire enough agents to round up 12 million people,” he said.

He said he thought new legislation needed stronger border security and illegal immigrants in the country being put on a path to citizenship after paying a fine and being put on a waiting list (the Senate bill as it now stands also requires them to return to their country of origin).

Grimes County Democratic Party Chairman Larry Snook asked Edwards if he didn’t think this would require more bureaucracy, namely, things such as monitoring immigrants to make sure they did not have criminal backgrounds before putting them on a citizenship path, than would a “roundup” policy.

There's more: "Chet Edwards speaks" >>

Sneak peaks of Scooter Libby friends letters

To the readership:

Judge Reggie Walton has announced that more than 150 letters pertaining to the sentencing of Scooter Libby, both in support of him and in support of his hoosegow key being tossed away, will be released after his sentencing June 5.

Well, there’s no need to wait that long.

Let me tell you, my inside sources have obtained leaked pre-release copies. Here’s one:

Dear Judgie-Wudgie:

Please don't put Scooter-Pooter in the sandbox too long. Judie-Wwudie lubbes him so very much.

Judith Miller

And another:
Hey, Reggerino:

I’m the Decider, see? And, I decide that you should be replaced by … Tim Griffin.

George W. Decider, judge-commander-in-chief
Cc: Alberto Gonzales, head flunky and judge-hirer/firer

And this one:
Dear Judge Walton:

I. Lewis Libby has been defending the United States valiantly through his official work, so that we can fight liberal judges over in Iraq rather than fighting them here.

You, sir, are a traitor to our country.

Richard B. Cheney
Vice President of the United States

And one more:

Dear Judge Walton:

You remember that phone call you made three weeks ago???

I do.

Gen. Michael Hayden
Director of Central Intelligence
Former director, National Security Agency

Cross-posted atSocraticGadfly and Out of Iraq Bloggers Caucus.

There's more: "Sneak peaks of Scooter Libby friends letters" >>

Make yourselves at home, Political Animals

The Washington Monthly site is down, and I am suffering withdrawal!

I emailed Kevin and asked what was up - I got the following response:

Supposedly being worked on. No clue what the problem is, but the SQL
message is so bizarre that it seems like it must be some kind of
database corruption. Which, needless to say, would be bad.

Congrats on the ruling. I'd blog about it, but, um, you know.....

So like I said - make yourselves at home and go to town - As soon as Kevin emails me that the site is back up, I'll let you know.

There's more: "Make yourselves at home, Political Animals" >>

Okay, So We Kinda Disagree..

..So, naturally, I thought I'd take it out of comments and put it front page...because...well, hell, it's interesting.

- In one corner, me; concerned that Jack Kevorkian isn't getting due respect from the 'dignified death' movement. (Assisted Suicide, Right to Death, wev..)
- In the other corner, SocraticGadfly; stating that Kevorkian's baggage and "glory-hounding" makes him a bad choice for the face of said movement.

Read both posts; our debate appears to be about whether or not Kevorkian, because of what he did, should be recognized by assisted suicide advocates.

I imagine that the reality lies somewhere in between. Jack Kevorkian's acts and the push for the establishment of an acceptable and legal framework for handling end-of-life issues with was one of the hot button issues of the 1990's...And with Kevorkian's release from prison and the subsequent publicity surrounding it, is sure to become so again.

There's more: "Okay, So We Kinda Disagree.." >>

"I Am the President!!"

The man is SO out of touch with reality, it's scary. Perhaps it's time for a 12-step program:

The White House sees terrorists as born, not created by history, bearing the mark of Cain, not the mark of circumstance. There is a scarlet "T" written on their foreheads at birth and the only answer is to destroy them. This kind of thinking, of course, relieves the thinker of any responsibility for the presence of the insurgent-terrorist-whatever in our innocent midst.

What's more, there is not much real give in the administration's policies. True, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other American diplomats met Memorial Day weekend with the Iranians in Baghdad (a good first move but limited, since the Iranians have most of the power because of our incredible stupidity in Iraq). But by all reports, President Bush is more convinced than ever of his righteousness.

Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated "I am the president!" He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of "our country's destiny."
[emphasis added]

I know 5-year-olds who can't throw a better temper-tantrum. Some of them are smarter, too.

There's more: ""I Am the President!!"" >>

Appointed Counsel in Custody Proceedings

The Seattle Times today published a story about an upcoming Washington State Supreme Court case in which a woman claims that the Snohomish County Superior Court granted full custody to her ex-husband, as a result of her financial inability to secure legal counsel. Ever since Gideon v. Wainwright, in which the SCOTUS found that the right to counsel is part of the fundamental right to a fair trial, defendants who faced any amount of jail time were to be appointed legal representation paid for by the public (Federal, State, County governments).

This particular case is interesting. The two parties - Brenda Leone King and her ex-husband Michael King - are engaged in civil litigation, and in Washington State defendants are appointed public counsel in civil litigation only when the State is involved. When the conflict is between two private parties, appointment of counsel is not required. It makes sense for defendants against the state to be appointed counsel, as the resources which back up the AG's office far outweigh the resources most private citizens have at their disposal. And when civil cases are held between two high-profile parties, say, a single parent bringing suit against a large corporation, members of civil-society or private firms often offer pro bono counsel. Custody hearings, though, occur so often and are so private (indeed, they are fundamentally limited to the family unit) that such cases are unlikely to attract the aid of such organizations. However, the consequences of such hearings are critical; they determine, essentially, the quality of life of children.

I'm not a lawyer, nor am I legal scholar, but it seems as though the normative values that are inherent in Gideon v. Wainwright and public defender programs more generally are the same. The idea of appointing publicly funded counsel to poor defendants is rooted, normatively, in the idea that might does not make right. Clarence Earl Giddeon was convicted, originally, because he was poor. He was unable to successfully defend himself in the Bay County, Florida Circuit Court as he had no law training, and when competing against the formal training of the country prosecutor's office, the outcome was essentially a foregone conclusion.

While Brenda Leone King never faced the spectre of incarceration, it appears that there may be a chance that the outcome of her custody battle was rooted in her relative poverty. Her ex-husband was able to secure a lawyer, and with that lawyer came a slew of experience and legal resources. Perhaps the Snohomish County Superior Court's decision was, objectively, for the best, and Michael King is the best parent, but that cannot be known for sure as Michael King was at a distinct advantage in the proceedings. Let's say then that, objectively,Brenda Leone King is the best parent - she lost because she was poor. Her children are, potentially, living in sub-optimal conditions given the court's decision. The whole point of public counsel is to determine, as best as can be done, that which is objectively best, and when it comes to parenting and raising children, this is of fundamental importance.

Lucky for Brenda Leone King, lawyers from Perkins Coie, a well established and elite Seattle Law Firm, as taken up her case, pro bono, for the Supreme Court proceedings, and she has also found support from the Washington State Bar Association, and The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, based in Baltimore.

There's more: "Appointed Counsel in Custody Proceedings" >>

Libby Letters Update

Yesterday, Blue Girl and I figuratively went to Washington on behalf of Watching Those We Chose, and all bloggers, in relation to the issue of public transparency for the sentencing of Scooter Libby. Libby's sentencing is set for June 5, 2007. Under the specific ruse that bloggers might mock the efforts of the friends, supporters and co-conspirators of Libby to convince the Court that Libby was a great American who should be set free and feted as a hero, Libby's lawyer, William Jeffress, sought to secrete and seal said letters to the Court. A main stream big media consortium filed a brief opposing Libby's request, and we matched them pound for pound with our own brief on behalf of the interests of bloggers. Just so you know how we fared, WE WON!!

In a ruling issued a short time ago this morning
, Judge Walton entered his order releasing to the public all letters submitted on the Libby sentencing, with said release to be made immediately after the sentencing has concluded. This was the right decision for Judge Walton to make, but he should be commended for having done so, because there will be very powerful people very unhappy that their brazen efforts to soft peddle the criminal actions of Scooter Libby will be exposed for the whole world to see. That is a real shame isn't it?

Folks, Al Gore is right when he says that the internet is the last, best, great hope at equalizing the political discourse in this country. This is a great example of how that power can be implemented. A person in the west, me, collaborated with a person in the mid-west, Blue Girl, to file an important brief in a criminal case in the east, Washington D.C. This was all accomplished in less than two days following a holiday weekend and, on the third day, we have positive results. This is real power to accomplish really positive things. You all have it; now get back to work and use it, because we have more dragons to slay!

There's more: "Libby Letters Update" >>

Kevorkian out of jail - now what?

Many people in the right-to-die movement are viewing this as though he has the plague.

Read here for more:

To advocates, he is like the embarrassing dinner guest who ruined your last party with spilt wine and a drunken rant -- Kevorkian's name is rarely, if ever, mentioned.

“He’s the equivalent of a back-alley abortionist,” said Steve Hopcraft, a Sacramento lobbyist working to pass California’s assisted-suicide proposal, echoing a common sentiment.

Added Lloyd Levine, a sponsor of the California proposal: “Kevorkian is exactly why we need to pass this law.

“He operated with flagrant disregard for the law and took the law into his own hands. We cannot distance ourselves from Dr. Jack Kevorkian enough.”

Kevorkian defenders insist the movement should be grateful for him.
Neal Nicol, a Kevorkian associate present at nearly 100 assisted suicides, said today's activists should be thanking Kevorkian, not burying him.

“Had Jack not been here and did what he did, they wouldn't even be talking about assisted suicide in California,” said Nicol of Springfield Township.

I taught a class on death and dying in Michigan in the mid-90s. I agree that Kevorkian has stimulated debate about right-to-die issues, and has even pushed this issue far forward.

At the same time, though, while not calling him a "back-alley abortionist," he does carry some psychological baggage. Part of it seems to include his Warholian lust for his 15 minutes of fame, plus what almost seems like “survivor guilt” over the Armenian holocaust. Add to that what also seemed like, despite his dealing personally with patients, an almost clinical/technical focus on the mechanism of the assisted suicide, and he is not the best spokesman for the movement today.

Add also to that Kevorkian’s “brazenness” (glory-hounding might be a better tern) that grape_crush references below and, other than for news value, I’m not so welcoming of Kevorkian.

Add to that his lawyer, Geoffrey Fieger, who could almost be a poster boy for tort reform legislation, and I can't blame right-to-die people for wanting to keep their distance from Jack.

Cross-posted at Socratic Gadfly.

There's more: "Kevorkian out of jail - now what?" >>

Bushies fight to stop meatpacker from keeping meat safe

This is not a joke, but it should be. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is in court, once again, to block a Kansas meatpacker from testing all of its meat for mad cow disease. Currently, less than 1 percent of slaughtered cows are tested nationally for this lethal disease. That's no typo, but it is insane.

AP reports:

A federal judge ruled in March that such tests must be allowed. The ruling was to take effect Friday, but the Agriculture Department said Tuesday it would appeal -- effectively delaying the testing until the court challenge plays out.

I foolishly always thought that the role of the USDA was to keep our food supply safe. Apparently, the Bush Administration version of the USDA is designed to keep big companies from spending money and finding out embarrassing results.

Kudos to Creekstone Farms Premium Beef of Arkansas City for wanting to do the right thing. As for the USDA: What the heck are you people thinking?

There's more: "Bushies fight to stop meatpacker from keeping meat safe" >>

Sam Brownback: Creationist schwaffler and spinmeister

Let’s just deconstruct his New York Times creationism column.

He begins by talking about “belief” in evolution:

In our sound-bite political culture, it is unrealistic to expect that every complicated issue will be addressed with the nuance or subtlety it deserves. So I suppose I should not have been surprised earlier this month when, during the first Republican presidential debate, the candidates on stage were asked to raise their hands if they did not “believe” in evolution. As one of those who raised his hand, I think it would be helpful to discuss the issue in a bit more detail and with the seriousness it demands.

The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days.

This is one of the most disingenuous ploys of creationists. Frankly, you do not “believe” in evolution like you do in creationism.

Did Galileo “believe” in a heliocentric solar system theory? Did Newton “believe” in his theory of gravitation? Of course not.

Next, there’s this illogical false dilemma:
The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

Actually, of course, many people, including professional theologians, believe in some sort of theistic evolution that has plenty of room for macroevolution without considering it to rule out a divinity, etc. Note carefully the word “exclusively,” used (and I’m sure quite deliberately) to set up this false dilemma.

And, of course, “materialistic” is a four-letter word in this scenario.

Beyond that, we see the old false dichotomy between microevolution and macroevolution. The only thing missing is the word “kinds.”

Then, going beyond evolution to cosmology, Brownback talks about "facts," without talking about the actual facts, to avoid either huge lies or huge pants-crapping about the Big Bang and the date of the universe.
Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves.

And, he stops there and never mentions a single cosmological fact.

He then concludes with a diktat of faith thrown out as supposedly having empirical support, but again without listing any facts.
While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order.

What if man's likeness IS unique? So is that of a giant squid, or a planarium. As for the “likeness and image” of Genesis, theologians still have no consensus on what that even means.

Note: The author of this post has a graduate divinity degree. Please do not try this at home.

Cross-posted at The Philosophy of the Socratic Gadfly, my arts and philosophy blog.

There's more: "Sam Brownback: Creationist schwaffler and spinmeister" >>

Loyal Bushies As Immigration Judges -- What A Concept

We have heard a lot lately about immigration judges. According to the Legal Times America's 226 immigration judges handle about 300,000 immigration cases each year. They rarely issue written opinions while deciding cases ranging from the status of asylum seekers to the rights of immigrants marrying U.S. citizens. My niece and her husband who have been living abroad for the last several years will without doubt encounter one of our immigration judges when they return to the US with the little Chinese girl they recently adopted.

Starting at about $115,000 per year, plus full benefits, the pay is reasonably good. Immigration judges are considered civil service employees. When the Bush administration leaves Bush appointees won't have to find work. As mentioned immigration judges don't have to write much, so for most lawyers the work is relatively easy. All in all, the job of immigration judge is highly coveted.

According to the Legal Times

Historically, those hired for the positions were vetted by the Executive Office of Immigration Review and its recommendations were forwarded to the Office of the Deputy Attorney General — where they were almost uniformly approved. Sometimes this process took place without public advertisements for the posts and without competing candidates.
In recent years somebody realized that the job of "immigration judge" was a wonderful patronage opportunity. The Attorney General has the power to override the EOIR process and directly appoint whoever he wants. Again from the Legal Times.
The shift in the method of hiring immigration judges began late in Ashcroft’s tenure. At some point members of his staff realized that EOIR had long been appointing at least some immigration judges without open competition. Hearing of this, Susan Richmond Johnson, one of Ashcroft’s closest advisers, remembers thinking, “Why are we not using it? It’s an authority of the attorney general.”
This change led directly to the raw politicization of the appointment process revealed last week by Monica Goodling. If you are well connected within the Republican party, have a law license and are a loyal Bushie, you can be an immigration judge.

One of the judges appointed by the attorney general is Garry Malphrus. According to TPMMuckraker his story is pretty typical.
A former Republican aide on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Malphrus also worked on the White House's Domestic Policy Council before becoming a judge. But he really showed his stripes in 2000, when Malphrus joined other Republicans in making a ruckus (chanting, pounding on windows and doors) outside the Miami-Dade Elections Department -- the so-called "Brooks Brothers Riot" -- during the Bush-Gore recount.

Malphrus, of course, had no immigration experience when he got the job, McLure reports. He had that in common with a number of his peers, who had similar backgrounds:

Among the 19 immigration judges hired since 2004: Francis Cramer, the former campaign treasurer for New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg; James Nugent, the former vice chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party; and Chris Brisack, a former Republican Party county chairman from Texas who had served on the state library commission under then-Gov. George W. Bush.
It is pretty clear that treating the job of immigration judge as a patronage plumb didn't start with Goodling. Malphrus was hired before Goodling ever became involved in the process. According to Goodling's written testimony.
Around the time I became White House Liaison in April 2005, Mr. Sampson told me that the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) had provided guidance some years earlier indicating that Immigration Judge appointments were not subject to the civil service rules applicable to other career positions.
The DoJ maintains that "recent appointees have been well-qualified and that the department draws on candidates from 'diverse legal backgrounds' and 'considers applicants based on the totality of their professional records.'"

We can almost hear the Republican defense. Politicians love patronage jobs. After all patronage is how they keep their friends and supporters happy. Patronage is a key to maintaining political power. Bush gets to appoint some of his political staff to good paying jobs between campaigns. So what? If Democrats win, they can appoint their own campaign workers. Go win the next election.

Why is it important that we appoint seasoned and highly qualified people to be immigration judges?

An answer to that question might be found this morning's New York Times. Julia Preston reports on a study of 140,000 asylum cases--cases decided by our immigration judges and concludes that "asylum seekers in the United States face broad disparities in the nation’s 54 immigration courts, with the outcome of cases influenced by things like the location of the court and the sex and professional background of judges."

The variation from court to court is startling. An asylum seeker in Atlanta has a 12% chance of winning his case. An asylum seeker in San Francisco wins 54% of the time.

Even more shocking is the variation from judge to judge. In Miami one judge awards asylum to Colombians 5% of the time. Another judge just down the hall awards Colombians asylum 88% of the time. Read the entire article. It is shocking.

From the lowest municipal court deciding speeding tickets to the United States Supreme Court, every organized court strives for consistency. The rule of law insists upon the fair and uniform application of the law to the facts regardless of who is deciding those facts or applying the law. At the same time organized courts recognize that every judge is different. Every judge brings his or her experiences to the job. For that reason appellate courts review decisions, providing consistent supervision to subordinate courts. For that reason judges spend lots of time going to seminars. They talk among themselves. They look over each other's shoulders. New judges are most often drawn from the ranks of experienced lawyers practicing in the field, often in the same court. Consistency of decision is key to the perception that a litigant is getting a fair shake. It is a key component of the Rule of Law.

I don't know if the inconsistency among our immigration courts and judges started with the Bush administration, or if the problem has only been made worse by the AG's use of the job as a patronage plum. It is pretty clear that this is an issue that needs additional reporting.

There's more: "Loyal Bushies As Immigration Judges -- What A Concept" >>

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

WTWC takes a stand for all bloggers in the Scooter Libby criminal case

11:12 am 30 May 2007

(This post was picked up and temporarily occupied the top spot. Newer content from other contributors below this post. --BG)

Just a few minutes ago, an amicus brief was filed in Federal District Court in Washington D.C. petitioning for the public release of the pre-sentencing letters that were submitted to the court for consideration in the sentencing of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. For once, the blogs are pushing back after being singled out by Libby's attorney for scorn and ridicule. Two of the principals from right here at Watching Those We Chose are proud and honored to be the named parties in this formal legal brief filed with the court, not just on behalf of ourselves, but more importantly, for all of the blogosphere.

Bloggers across the spectrum did an incredible job covering and analyzing the Libby trial. Led by the groundbreaking work of FireDogLake, with Marcy Wheeler and Jane Hamsher live blogging the trial in real time from the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse, bloggers provided a level of coverage, opinion commentary and legal analysis that simply was not available anywhere else in the media, mainstream or otherwise.

Bloggers clearly provided something the public craved as well, because the traffic at sites working the Libby trial was off the charts during the trial. The efforts of bloggers were widely praised nearly everywhere, but are still clearly feared by the power brokers like Libby and his enablers. It was important to fight back against the slurs of Libby and his ilk, and we have.

Bloggers are here to stay, and we here at Watching Those We Chose are excited to be a part of this important effort.

Always knew I would be a party to a Federal Case before I shuffled off this mortal coil – but I was thoroughly convinced I would be a defendant…

Update: Here is a link to the brief. Sorry for the delay. (Adobe difficulties...h/t to No Quarter for posting that link as part of their post.)

There's more: "WTWC takes a stand for all bloggers in the Scooter Libby criminal case" >>

This Guy Is Our President?

No wonder people think America is in decline.

There's more: "This Guy Is Our President?" >>

Tim Griffin Out In Arkansas

I first became interested in blogging because I became really, really interested in Tim Griffin, the protege of Karl Rove and former boss of Monica Goodling, who was named US Attorney in Arkansas after Bud Cummins was asked to leave. I just couldn't understand why that happened. Anyway, it can be argued that the entire US Attorney scandal started with Tim Griffin.

The Arkansas Times reports that Griffin is out as US Attorney effective June 1,2007. According to the TPMMuckraker Griffin is talking with the Thompson campaign about a top job.

Last week Sara Taylor left the Administration. Griffin this week. Both tied to caging activities in the 2004 election. I wonder. Can Sara be far behind. And what about Karl Rove. Shouldn't he be looking for work about now?

There's more: "Tim Griffin Out In Arkansas" >>

Welcome Back, Jack

As of this Friday, Jack Kevorkian gets out of jail*, not exactly free. However, health issues and getting old aside, Kevorkian plans on continuing his advocacy for the right to die:

Kevorkian has told friends and corrections officials that he plans to continue his crusade to legalize assisted suicide, but that he will be less defiant in interviews and on the lecture circuit.
"He is totally out of the business of helping people die," said Ruth Holmes, a friend and jury consultant who met Kevorkian during one of his many criminal trials. "He's entering another phase of his life. He paid a big price for taking a stand."
More at the above link for the details of his release.

There's going to be a bit of a media brouhaha, not undeserved...Personally, I would like to hear his take on the Schiavo controversy, if he had the opportunity to follow any of it...But wishful thinking aside, what concerns me is not how detractors like the Catholic church and various right-to life groups will react to his release, but how assisted suicide advocates will treat him:
(Kevorkian's) release from a Michigan prison Friday -- one week before a planned California vote on whether to join Oregon as the only states to allow assisted death for the terminally ill -- could not come at a more critical or inopportune time for the movement, which has worked for years to legalize the practice and shed the ghoulish persona many associate with Kevorkian and his suicide machine.
Kevorkian -- who forced the nation to squarely confront end-of-life choices for the suffering and terminally ill, and who said he actively helped 130 people to die -- is now a pariah.
"He's the equivalent of a back-alley abortionist," said Steve Hopcraft, a Sacramento lobbyist working to pass California's assisted-suicide proposal, echoing a common sentiment.
Added Lloyd Levine, a sponsor of the California proposal: "Kevorkian is exactly why we need to pass this law.
"He operated with flagrant disregard for the law and took the law into his own hands. We cannot distance ourselves from Dr. Jack Kevorkian enough."
This greatly disappoints me; the 'Right to Death' movement in the US, such that it is, owes Jack Kevorkian a great deal of respect for giving up nearly seven years of his life to enter their cause into the public consciousness. Hopcraft and Levine seem to forget that Kevorkian's reason for his admittedly extreme actions was to get people to think seriously about how Americans handle the ends of their lives and to set up legal guidelines for euthanasia of the terminally ill.

Yes, Kevorkian brazenly broke the unspoken rule** against openly helping the slowly dying pass with dignity, but that rule was never a good one. The man is owed a large amount of respect from those that agree with the idea of assisted suicide...And if you don't agree with that idea, I hope you or a loved one never has a terminal illness to deal with.

P.S. If you live in California, call your representative today and encourage them to support the California measure.

* Kevorkian timeline here, if you are interested.
** But not the law, at least initially.

There's more: "Welcome Back, Jack" >>

Too Toxic For Lawyers?

The atmosphere is so toxic for US Attorneys that the DOJ cannot fill its openings.

As you may recall, Florida's US Attorney for the Middle District - Paul Perez - resigned in March 2007. While it has not yet been connected to the growing US Attorney Scandal, I think it ultimately will be as I argued here.

But, according to the Orlando Sentinel article, there is only one applicant for the opening:

But after U.S. Attorney Paul Perez announced March 13 that he was stepping down for a lucrative private-sector job, only one person applied for the post. So earlier this month, the job was re-advertised with an application deadline of June 15.

The best quote comes from Michael Seigel, the former number two in the district. It is hilarious for its back-handed slap of the entire administration:
"Being U.S. attorney at the end of the Bush administration -- most people would not see that as being a plus on your resume."
The reasoning, of course, is that an appointment at this stage in any administration will only be 18 months because the new administration will replace all US Attorneys. But, I don't think that will be the case.

Until the current scandal, it was conventional wisdom to replace US Attorneys at the beginning a new President's term. The current scandal, however, will change this just as Clinton's impeachment has forever changed the way we view impeachment.

Regardless of the "high crimes" committed by the Bush Administration, impeachment is now seen as a partisan tool. Bush will never be impeached because Republicans have tainted it and the media just laps it up. Today, my feeling is that the reason this administration acts with such impunity is they know any action Democrats take will be considered partisan hackery. I believe changing the US Attorneys at the beginning of an administration will be tarred with that same brush going forward.

Is it too Machiavellian to believe that the Cheney/Rove machine got their appointments in and then made sure they wouldn't be replaced by creating a cover scandal? There was a day I would say not. Today, not so sure.

There's more: "Too Toxic For Lawyers?" >>

S.Sgt. Donald B. Farmer

Yesterday, 29 May 2007, on the Western Washington University campus in Bellingham, Washington (the school at which I am currently earning an MA), a local anti-Iraq War group who displays the names of all the war dead around town on the weekend passed out little cards for students to wear in an effort to draw attention to the number of U.S. soldiers who have died since March 2003. Each card, about 2''X4'', had written on it the name of a fallen soldier, their home down, and the date on which they died. Attached to a long string, the WWU campus community spent the day with these cards our their necks. Protesting wars can be difficult, particularly in communities which host military bases or include large veteran communities. All too often "supporting the troops" is equated with "supporting the war," and when speaking out against the travesty of military action in Iraq, many misinterpret anti-war sentiment with, somehow, speaking out against U.S. soldiers. Of course, this is silly, as war protests are focused on criticisms of bad policy and not bad people (except, of course, bad policy makers). The Bush administration has made a concerted effort to disarticulate the war effort from the war dead - no photographs of home-bound coffins, limited media access to the front (tightly controlled 'embedded' reports not withstanding), and more recently, the moratorium on combat photojournalism which indicates, in anyway, the name of soldiers or the units involved. The action yesterday is, in my opinion, an important step toward recognizing that war affects individuals, and that soldiers are people with families, friends, and lives from which they were extracted to extend U.S. federal government policy beyond our borders. I am not a veteran. Nor are my brothers, my father, my mother, my aunts or my uncles. My grandfather was in the Army Air Corp./Air Force from 1947-1951 and never saw combat. The last member of my family to fight in an American war was my Mother's grandfather who fought in World War One. Of course, like many my age, I have friends from high school and college who are in the military and have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in the era of the volunteer military, I, like many, have few personal connections to these wars. It's easy, then, for me to ignore, in a self-interested way, the goings-on in the Middle-East and Central Asia. My taxes pay for bullets and bombs, prosthetics, and night-vision goggles, but I am not in a position to lose much, personally, from these wars. However, as a citizen of the republic, I do take very personally the policies of my government, and as a democratic citizen, I am in part responsible for such policies. While I do not fight, and do not stand to lose a loved one in these wars, it is my duty to participate in the public square and to work hard to end this conflict. I whole-heartedly support local civil actions like those at WWU's campus yesterday, and this blog entry is my little way of bringing to the public square the story of one soldier.

I've never met S.Sgt. Donald B. Farmer. I don't know his family, or his friends, and I am unaware of his hopes, dreams, goals, hobbies, or his political affiliation. My only connection to S.Sgt. Farmer is that his name, home town, age, and date of death were printed on a small white card that I wore around my neck for 9 hours on the Tuesday after Memorial day. I would like to apologize to anyone who knows him if they feel like I am politicizing his death; that is not my intention.

S. Sgt. Donald B. Farmer died in Kuwait on 19 December 2004, he was struck by a passing vehicle and killed, along with another soldier, while changing a tire. He told his mother that, after serving in combat in Iraq, his assignment to Kuwait would be safe; he was 33. In his final contact with his 16 year old daughter, he wrote that he would send money home for Christmas. He is survived by his wife and high school sweetheart, his mother, his 16 year old daughter, an 8 year old son, and a 12 year old step-daughter. He was the son of Zion Illinois, and a standout football and track athlete who joined the Marines after two years of college in North Dakota. On 18 January 2006, the Zion city council passed a Resolution of Respect for S.Sgt. Farmer and it passed, of course, unanimously.

His friends and colleagues remembered him as mature, social, and fond of barbecues. When stationed in Italy, one soldier-friend of his recalled a time in which Farmer saved her from getting hurt while in a fight, and noted how he always kept his subordinates in line and protected. While stationed in Germany, Farmer impressed upon a Captain a sense of responsibility and friendship, exchanging Christmas care-packages prior to his death on 19 Dec. The spouse of one of his soldiers recounted a time at which, while in labor, S.Sgt. Farmer took her husband off a mission so that he could witness the birth of his son; he was a man who understood priorities. He was a beloved member of the 180th Transportation Battalion, 13th Corps Support Command, Fort Hood, Texas, and has been sorely missed by all accounts.

S.Sgt. Farmer was a soldier, and he survived combat to die while performing a mundane task that any one of us has done time and again. His family most likely did not receive the financial benefits that come with combat death, yet his mission in support of the ground forces in Iraq was a critical part of the war effort. We hear, often, of soldiers and marines being killed by IEDs, snipers, and helicopter crashes, but it is not often that the soldiers who die in accidents are showcased. Farmer, I am sure, would have taken a bullet to save the life of one of his subordinates, and surely would have given his life in an effort to complete a combat mission. But his job was not to go out on patrol, or to defend the Green Zone from mortar attacks; his mission was to keep the machines of war in good condition, and to ensure that the tools combat soldiers rely on worked dependably. He did his job, internalized it, loved it, and made it a career.

I am not one for hero worship, and I don't put members of the military on a pedestal simply because they are in the military - soldiers are people, and people are good and bad. I know men and women in the military who I wouldn't trust to take care of a goldfish, and I know others who are Westpoint Graduates or career oriented Marines with whom I have shared some of the best moments of my life, and I judge them on their merits. I cannot say much about S.Sgt. Farmer with any certainly, but I respect him, and I respect how he lived his life, how he maintained contact with friends from afar, and how he built what is, by all accounts a fine family. It's a shame that he's passed.

It's easy to say that we will "never forget," but those words are cliche. Of course we will never forget the Iraq War, and the loved ones of the war dead will never forget their lost friends and family members, but we as a people must not forget what happens when we send our military to war. There exists a sacred promise between the people of the United States and the men and women of the military; soldiers will go anywhere and fight anyone so long as the civilians make sound choices as to when and where. The civilian leadership of the Untied States has besmirched that promise, and when this war ends, we all have an obligation to atone for that violation of trust.

There's more: "S.Sgt. Donald B. Farmer" >>

Katherine Kersten Whines Some More About Rachel Paulose

If you want an object lesson in how not to improve your public image, look no further than Katherine Kersten's whine on behalf of Rachel Paulose. Listening to the segment on the David Storm Show is painful. Maybe if Rachel would tell Kersten to just shut the f**k up, and spent the next 524 days working her ass off doing a bang up job as US Attorney in Minneapolis, she might be able to salvage her career. If she allows her PR team to continue with their pathetic campaign, Rachel won't be able to find work as a municipal clerk in a small Minnesota town.

Let us review. In the last week her Public Relations Team scheduled a press conference right in the middle of the runup to Monica Goodling's testimony. Of course, questions were asked Monica about Rachel's appointment. The morons at Powerline jumped in to attack the press for using the poorly timed presser to ask obvious questions related to her appointment. Now Paulose's chief apologist gives a whiny interview on a friendly talk show. She comes off looking whiny.

Earth to Rachel, earth to Rachel. The more your people talk, the worse you look. The best advice anybody could give you is shut up, become friends with the people who work in your office, and do your job to the best of your ability for as long as you are US Attorney. Take it.

There's more: "Katherine Kersten Whines Some More About Rachel Paulose" >>

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Were Enhanced Interrogation Techniques Inspired By A Gestapo Directive?

If you want to have nightmares read Andrew Sullivan's post in the Atlantic Online entitled "Verschärfte Vernehmung." The term is German for "enhanced interrogation," "intensified interrogation" or "sharpened interrogation." It was coined by the Gestapo in 1937 to describe a series of techniques used to torture political and other prisoners without leaving embarrassing marks. The similarities between the "enhanced interrogation techniques" approved by Alberto Gonzales, and the "sharpened interrogation techniques" employed by the Nazis are simply surreal.

Sullivan says

The Nazis were adamant that their "enhanced interrogation techniques" would be carefully restricted and controlled, monitored by an elite professional staff, of the kind recommended by Charles Krauthammer, and strictly reserved for certain categories of prisoner. At least, that was the original plan.

Also: the use of hypothermia, authorized by Bush and Rumsfeld, was initially forbidden. 'Waterboarding" was forbidden too, unlike that authorized by Bush. As time went on, historians have found that all the bureaucratic restrictions were eventually broken or abridged. Once you start torturing, it has a life of its own. The "cold bath" technique - the same as that used by Bush against al-Qahtani in Guantanamo - was, according to professor Darius Rejali of Reed College, "pioneered by a member of the French Gestapo by the pseudonym Masuy about 1943. The Belgian resistance referred to it as the Paris method, and the Gestapo authorized its extension from France to at least two places late in the war, Norway and Czechoslovakia. That is where people report experiencing it."
Sullivan actually includes an English translation of the torture directive from Gestapo Chief Muller.

Like I said read the entire Sullivan post. It will give you nightmares. Better yet, wait tell morning to read Sullivan. I wish I had. Sweet dreams.

There's more: "Were Enhanced Interrogation Techniques Inspired By A Gestapo Directive?" >>

Some Attack Ads Are Just Childish.

I know that it is early in the campaign season but those 30 second spots are starting to fly hot and heavy. Here is an attack ad that adds to the attack.

Jones responds with an attack ad of his own. Shocking.

Showwhat has a Tom Cruise Mastercard commercial that is priceless.

There's more: "Some Attack Ads Are Just Childish." >>

Sure would be nice to have Valerie Plame on the job about now

MOSCOW - Russia test-launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile Tuesday capable of carrying multiple independent warheads, the Russian Space Forces said.

The missile, called the RS-24, had not yet reached its designated target, a space forces spokesman said, declining to give further information.

Russian news reports said the missile is seen as eventually replacing the aging RS-18s and RS-20s that are the backbone of the country's missile forces.

Yes – You read that right. This morning the Russians tested a new MRV. For the uninitiated a MRV is a Multiple Reentry Vehicle. In layman's terms, one missile goes up, and multiple guided warheads fall back to earth. MRV’s are prominent players in my cold-war-steeped nightmares. Remember this bit about MRV's: some warheads can be set to “air burst” and kill a lot of people, and others can be set to “ground burst” for the purpose of destroying infrastructure. With a MRV, you don’t have to choose! Do both!

So much for that view of Pooty-Poot’s soul that the Useless Tool™ famously took a gander at.

Seriously – this is really bad, people. Bad to the point that my husband, upon hearing the news, poured a shot of whiskey in his coffee this morning, and he doesn’t drink. The country that could actually represent a clear and present danger to the American way of life is now in the catbirds seat, and we are suckin’ hind tit.

We are buried under a mountain of Chinese debt, accrued to finance a vanity war that was launched on lies. And a real threat looms, reemerging from the nooks and crannies of the Kremlin, and brings with it more danger than we need have faced.

In a week, Scooter Libby will be sentenced.

Scooter Libby committed a treason against this nation when he “outed” Valerie Plame Wilson, our number one intelligence asset on the issue of nuclear proliferation.

I do hope that at his sentencing, this action on the part of the Russians is taken into consideration by the judge, because the actions of Libby damaged irreparably the intelligence program that confronted issues like the advent of entire new Russian MRV IBCM systems.

[Cross-posted from Blue Girl, Red State]

There's more: "Sure would be nice to have Valerie Plame on the job about now" >>

Ron Paul Viral Abu Ghraib Ad

I know this is a "lefty blog" and all that implies, and I don't agree with Ron Paul on much, but it is refreshing to find a Republican candidate who doesn't endorse torture (er, enhanced interrogation techniques.)

I am a member of a large lawyer Internet group. So far Paul has received more positive endorsements from members of that pretty independent bunch than any of the announced Republican (or Democratic) candidates.

This is a viral ad that seems to be making the rounds. For Republicans, and I can only assume the people who made it are Republicans, to tie President Bush and the Bush Administration directly to Abu Ghraib is shocking. It is R rated, and it isn't pretty, so beware. Again the ad is viral, and nobody, let alone Paul, takes responsibility. It is not endorsed by anybody associated with this blog. As far as I know, neither is Ron Paul.

UPDATE: YouTube suggests that somebody named rpin2008 (whoever that is) claims responsibility.

There's more: "Ron Paul Viral Abu Ghraib Ad" >>

Lining up to face John Cornyn

Rep. Nick Lampson will run for re-election to his House seat instead.

Mustafa Tameez of Houston, a political consultant to Lampson, said this morning that Lampson, the Democrat who last year captured the U.S. House seat vacated by Tom DeLay of Sugar Land, intends to seek re-election instead—fully knowing that his district historically leans Republican.

A Senate bid is “not going to happen,” Tameez said. “It sounds goofy, but he feels like he made a commitment to the people of Congressional District 22.” Tameez said Lampson feels a Senate try would be “disingenuous.”

That’s because Lampson’s previous coquettish behavior about testing the waters for a run against Cornyn WAS “disingenuous.”

That leaves former state comptroller John Sharp, a 2002 lieutenant governor candidate, as the most visible of three declared Democratic opponents. State Rep. Rick Noriega of Houston and Mikal Watts, a San Antonio trial lawyer, are also declared candidates.

Sharp, a moderate Democrat with some degree of statewide recognition, has to be considered the inside favorite.

But, can he pull off doing better than he did in 2002? And, though he has won a statewide race, he doesn’t seem to have a lot of big-city pull. Cornyn is vulnerable, having hitched his wagon closely to Bush, but he’s not going to roll over and play dead; he’s hitched his political playbook closely to Bush’s, also.

There's more: "Lining up to face John Cornyn" >>

Goodling White House Contact Leaves Administration

During last week's hearing Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) asked Monica Goodling what Karl Rove knew about the firing of the US Attorneys. She responded that

There was an e-mail that Mr. Sampson forwarded to me, I think, on December 4, if I'm remembering correctly, that said that it had been circulated to different offices within the White House and that they had all signed off. I think it said that White House political had signed off. Political is actually headed by Sara Taylor but does report to Mr. Rove, so I don't know for sure.
Michael Roston reports that Sara Taylor has cleaned out her office and is said to be heading to the private sector. Taylor is on the short list of White House people facing a subpoena.

The blog Born at the Crest of the Empire speculates that Taylor may have resigned over Goodling's testimony concerning Tim Griffin and "caging."

Think Progess describes "caging" as an illegal voter suppression technique. The particular "caging" activity associated with Taylor and Griffin was aimed as suppressing the votes of African American service members living in Florida during the 2004 election.

"Voter suppression?" Hummmm. Where I have we heard that term lately?

I guess the holiday is over. Back to the Gonzales 9.

There's more: "Goodling White House Contact Leaves Administration" >>

Putting Our Heads In The Sand

Scott McClellan famously said during a press briefing on June 27, 2005

We'll continue to take the fight to the enemy. That's why we're fighting them in Iraq, and we're not fighting them here at home. We're fighting them in Iraq so that we can defeat them abroad, so we don't have to fight them here at home. That's one of the lessons of September 11th, is that we must take the fight to the enemy, and that's exactly what this President has done and will continue to do. And we recognize how high the stakes are in Iraq, and we will succeed.
"We Fight Them Over There So We Don't Fight Them Over Here" is one of the central themes in the Bush Administration's war on common sense. It is a sound bite defense of the Iraq War that has been repeated over and over again. For some it has become an article of faith.

Yesterday the New York Times published an article entitled Militants Widen Reach as Terror Seeps Out of Iraq by Michael Moss and Souad Mekhennet examining the growing problem of "foreign fighters" leaving Iraq to spread terror throughout the world.
In an April 17 report written for the United States government, Dennis Pluchinsky, a former senior intelligence analyst at the State Department, said battle-hardened militants from Iraq posed a greater threat to the West than extremists who trained in Afghanistan because Iraq had become a laboratory for urban guerrilla tactics.
“If any country says it is safe from this, they are putting their heads in the sand,” Maj. Gen. Achraf Rifi, general director of the Internal Security Forces in Lebanon. If that doesn't wake you up this morning, read the entire article. It's scary.

The next time somebody tells you "we fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here," tell him to take his head out of the sand. Iraq has become a terrorist finishing school. New terrorists are graduating all the time.

There's more: "Putting Our Heads In The Sand" >>

Monday, May 28, 2007

The War Prayer

If you want to read the words you can find them at Blue Girl's post at the Out of Iraq Bloggers Caucus. Personally, I prefer listening.

There's more: "The War Prayer" >>

Shame on Us

Cindy Sheehan announced this morning that she has given up because she has

endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called "Face" of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such "liberal blogs" as the Democratic Underground. Being called an "attention whore" and being told "good riddance" are some of the more milder rebukes.
Sheehan says
I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a "tool" of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our "two-party" system?

However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of "right or left", but "right and wrong."

I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike.

I am demonized because I don’t see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person’s heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?
That is exactly the point Andrew Bacevich made in his Washington Post Op-Ed.

Sheehan's 15 minutes of fame might be over but she is right. Being for an end to the Iraq war is not a matter of "left and right" politics, it is a matter of "right and wrong."

There's more: "Shame on Us" >>

The Loss Of A Single Soldier

Recently I took Steve Clemons and Josh Marshall to task for essentially claiming that the loss of Andrew J. Bacevich Jr. is somehow more tragic than the loss of any other American child. I stand by that position, but it should never be forgotten that Lt. Bacevich's death was just as tragic as any other in the unnecessary Iraqi war. On this memorial day his life should be honored just as we should honor the lives of all the others who have fought and died in our service.

Yesterday the Washington Post published an op-ed by Lt. Bacevich's father entitled I Lost My Son to a War I Oppose. We Were Both Doing Our Duty. It is a remarkable answer to the cretins who have written the Bacevich family to tell them that his father's anti-war writings are directly responsible for their son's death. I recommend everyone concerned about Iraq read it, and read it carefully.

There is a passage in the op-ed that I would like everyone to consider. The Bacevich family lives in Massachusetts. Senators Kennedy and Kerry both called to express condolences. Their Congressman, Stephen F. Lynch, attended the wake. Kerry was present for the funeral Mass. Hopefully the families of all of America's lost children receive similar expressions of condolence from their elected representatives.

Bacevich says that he got a brushoff when he suggested to each of them the necessity of ending the war. "More accurately," wrote Bacevich, "after ever so briefly pretending to listen, each treated me to a convoluted explanation that said in essence: Don't blame me." Emphasis added.

To whom do Kennedy, Kerry and Lynch listen? We know the answer: to the same people who have the ear of George W. Bush and Karl Rove -- namely, wealthy individuals and institutions. Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to Iraq, money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing. By comparison, the lives of U.S. soldiers figure as an afterthought.

Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.'s life is priceless. Don't believe it. I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier's life: I've been handed the check. It's roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning once he starts pitching next month.

Money maintains the Republican/Democratic duopoly of trivialized politics. It confines the debate over U.S. policy to well-hewn channels. It preserves intact the cliches of 1933-45 about isolationism, appeasement and the nation's call to "global leadership." It inhibits any serious accounting of exactly how much our misadventure in Iraq is costing. It ignores completely the question of who actually pays. It negates democracy, rendering free speech little more than a means of recording dissent.

This is not some great conspiracy. It's the way our system works.
Until the politicians stop listening exclusively to the rich and powerful the war will continue. Until we get their attention, our elected representatives, even liberal lions like Kennedy and Kerry, will continue to tell grieving families "don't blame me," as they eagerly take money from the rich and powerful in exchange for the priceless lives of our children.

The political pressure we need to apply to our representatives must be unrelenting. They must never forget that they are "our" representatives. Sorry Blue Girl, I am not willing to exchange a Summer of Death in the hope of a Republican collapse in the Fall. I don't want my government to have to send another Roger Clemens Inning Check to another family during the coming Friedman.

We have to continually work to peacefully end the Iraq war.

There's more: "The Loss Of A Single Soldier" >>

Sunday, May 27, 2007

3,454 and Counting

This Memorial Day, remember the dead, and the politicians who killed them.

Since last Memorial Day, roughly one thousand more Americans have died in this inhumane, horrible, foolish war.

In the period from Memorial Day 2006 through Saturday, 980 soldiers and Marines died in Iraq, compared to 807 deaths in the previous year. And with the Baghdad security operation now 3 1/2 months old, even President Bush has predicted a difficult summer for U.S. forces.

"It could be a bloody — it could be a very difficult August," he said last week.
A "very difficult AUGUST?" What about June? July? Evidently, Bush thinks it's going to get worse.

At least 103 American troops have died in the first 26 days of May, an average of 3.96 deaths a day. At that pace, 123 troops will have died by the end of the month, nearly double the 69 who died in May 2006. And it will be the highest monthly total since 137 soldiers died in November 2004, when U.S. troops were fighting insurgents in Fallujah.

And now, according to the New York Times, terrorists trained in Iraq are starting to take their fight to other parts of the world.

There's more: "3,454 and Counting" >>

The Talk Every Conservative Father Has With His Son?

This talk reminds me of the talk I once had with my dad. My brothers followed in his conservative footsteps. I was a terrible disappointment. He always wondered where he went wrong.

Do others recall a similar talk with your Dad. Please share it to the extent you can without breaking a father child confidence.

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He's Lost It: Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick Declares His Power "Absolute"

By Manifesto Joe

Among infamous serial killers, they're often named Wayne (Something or Other). Among Texas politicians, they seem to be named Tom (DeLay, Craddick).

If anyone comes close to Tom DeLay as an embodiment of the crypto-fascist outfit that the Texas Republican Party has become, that person must now be state House Speaker Tom Craddick.

This from various news sources: Craddick, when confronted Friday night with motions to remove him as speaker, declared that his power to disregard such motions is "absolute." His parliamentarian and her assistant resigned and were replaced after a two-hour recess. Many Republicans were angered and in shock. Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, was quoted: "I knew we had a speaker. I didn't know we had a dictator."

The New York Times reported:

"During the five-hour spectacle, Mr. Craddick outmaneuvered his opponents, lawmakers who tried to overtake the speaker’s podium were physically restrained and the House parliamentarian resigned before the House adjourned shortly before 1:30 a.m. Saturday. ...

"Democrats and Republicans complain that Mr. Craddick, Republican of Midland, has ruled with an iron fist. They say his style often forces them to vote against the interests of their districts."

Craddick is an almost 40-year legislator from Midland -- recall, just incidentally, that this is the flat, treeless, right-wing oilfield paradise where George W. and Laura Bush spent much of their undoubtedly idyllic childhoods.

He now faces an open mutiny within his own right-wing party, and for good reasons. He has faced an insurgency within Republican ranks for a while. No Democrat would ever have trusted him further than the next Republican lobbyist. But he has a well-earned reputation as a despot, and even the Republicans are rebelling against the megalomania that is in full display now.

Craddick's history as a tin-pot Napoleon is a long one. In '03, when the newly Republican-controlled Legislature was busy Gerrymandering the state's congressional districts, some of the Democrats in the Legislature split for Ardmore, Okla., where they could hole up and prevent a quorum. They said they actually had to cross the state lines to do this. The reason: Herr Craddick had ze state troopers out looking for zem, to bring zem in, unter ze orderz. Achtung.

Anyway, the House and Senate eventually managed, with then-U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's invaluable help, to Gerrymander Texas to a congressional Republican majority for the next couple of generations.

DeLay was eventually indicted on criminal charges stemming from alleged campaign finance violations. The trial is pending. And, let us not forget Craddick's role as one of DeLay's state Republican toadies. They were very tight back then.

But a general thing to ponder is the Republican Party's incredible talent for jacking itself, and the country, around, and usually both at once. In Texas, the problems with Craddick began right after the Republicans gained control of the state House for the first time in 130 years.

Democrats can be quite exasperating at times. But one thing I've noticed about Republicans, when they are taken seriously and voted into office: When given power, it takes them about one-tenth of the time to shit their britches.

I sincerely hope the situation can get better, and without so many diapers at public expense.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

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Parsing that pre-war intelligence report

“I’ll fire the next guy who asks about a post-war plan.” Donald Rumsfeld, 2003

(Yes, I know it is Sunday afternoon, and the report was released on Friday. But it is 229 pages long, and I’m not here to summarize a summary, even if it comes from McClatchy.)

Introduction & set-up

Two months before the war in Iraq was launched, two Intelligence Community Assessments (ICA’s) were compiled and widely disseminated throughout the administration by the National Intelligence Council (NIC). Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq and Regional Principle Challenges in Post Saddam Iraq both dealt with the aftermath of invading Iraq and overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein. Both predicted the mess in the Middle East as it exists today, both inside Iraq and across the wider region as a whole – but were stubbornly ignored, and planning for the aftermath was actively discouraged. That is probably the stupidest policy decision ever made. Stupid to the point of criminal negligence.

I realize that a new term has just been introduced, so lets define it before we go on. Outside the intelligence community it is not widely known exactly what an ICA is most people have probably never even come across the term. ICA’s, like NIE’s, or National Intelligence Estimates, distill into a single document the findings of disparate intelligence agencies. Unlike NIE’s, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) and the National Foreign Intelligence Board do not have to approve the release.

The conclusions drawn by the 2003 reports, released Friday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, are so prescient and so damning, I am left to work through the stages of grief after reading the whole thing.

It was all foreseen, and it was all dismissed, discounted or flat-out ignored. To tragic results.

Establishing Democracy

Before the invasion was launched, the reports warned that attempts to establish Democracy in Iraq would prove to be a Sisyphean challenge in a nation with no tradition of open Democracy and the absence of “loyal opposition” political actors. The possibility that Iraq would slide backward, regressing to an authoritarian past was seen as highly likely; and the greatest medium- to long-range obstacle to a Democratized Iraq would be the difficulty of establishing a stable, representative political system in which multiple parties alternate power.

The reports noted the absence of “Political Islam” in Iraq, but also noted that in the absence of the Baathist Hussein regime, that could change rapidly and present daunting challenges. This came to pass.

Security, Terrorism & al Qa’eda

The rise in terrorism and the emergence of terrorist groups aligned with al Qa’eda, predicated by the opportunity presenting itself, was foreseen as well. The reports predicted that actors aligning themselves with al Qa’eda would attempt to replicate the methods of striking against the occupying forces that had been modestly successful in striking back against the American forces in Afghanistan. Additionally, it was predicted that the lines between disparate terrorist organizations would become blurred.

Indeed, this is witnessed nightly on the national news when every bombing and every attack is attributed to al Qa’eda. Either those few fellows are mighty industrious, the invasion and occupation have proven to be a magnificently effective recruiting tool for the organization, or the lines have blurred to the point that all bad actors are classified as al Qa’eda, or all-of-the-above. (If I were taking an exam, I would select “D.”)

Additional volatile elements were present in Iraq that did not exist in Afghanistan: The disparate ethnic groups and the possibility of rogue elements of the Iraqi Army forming alliances with terrorist organizations. The latter possibility became a “probability approaches one” scenario when the Iraqi Army was disbanded and dissolved, and all those trained and well armed personnel were displaced from their careers and livelihoods, still holding all those weapons. (Paul Bremmer’s decision in 2003 to disband the Iraqi Army puts him in contention for the dubious honor of exhibiting the most perfect, abject stupidity of anyone on the planet, currently held by Douglas Feith.)

Divided Society & the Potential for Civil War

The intelligence community determined prior to George Bush’s decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power that the removal of Hussein would remove the stops that had prevented Iraqi society from devolving into sectarian strife. The years of Baathist oppression of the Shia majority would be avenged. Throughout Iraqi society, it was predicted, those who had suffered under the Hussein regime would retaliate viciously against those who had inflicted or enabled that suffering.

The only way reprisals and blood-letting could be avoided would be the presence of an overwhelming occupation force of 400,000 or more troops (see Desert Crossing). The invasion was launched with less than half the troops it was known would be necessary to secure the country after the removal of Hussein.

Refugees & Humanitarian Crises

Another “given” that was overlooked was the humanitarian and refugee crisis that would accompany the unrest that would certainly follow the removal of Hussein from power. It was estimated that 900,000 would be displaced internally and 1.45 million would become refugees. These numbers, as bad as they are, were gross underestimations. More than 2 million have been internally displaced, and at least that many have fled the country entirely. Food distribution is spotty, and the healthcare delivery system is in a shambles, frequently targeted by insurgent fighters from all sides. Health professionals, educated and with resources have left the country in droves. Those remaining are frequently the targets of attacks. The hospitals and clinics are attacked, but the doctors and nurses themselves are hunted down, attacked, tortured and killed outside of work as well, simply because they are non-partisan providers of health services.

The Emergence of Political Islam, & Rising Iranian Influence

Before the invasion, Political Islam had not found fertile soil in Iraq – due in large part to ruthless oppression by the regime of Saddam Hussein. The rebound over-effect that has played out was accurately forecast.

The intelligence community argued that an invasion of Iraq would cast ripples through the region, bolstering support for Islamist political parties in other countries, and would increase financial support for organizations that used terrorism as a tactic.

Neighboring countries, most with a vested interest in seeing Iraq remain intact. Various mechanisms would be employed by the neighboring nations as they jockeyed for control, and they would show little concern for American interests.

The biggest star on that stage would undoubtedly be Iran – (which made overtures to the United States that were rebuffed.) The intelligence community asserted that assuring Iran a place at the table when negotiating the fate of post-Saddam Iraq could help to defuse long-running tensions between the United States and Iran. The administration chose to instead scornfully dismiss Iran, and as a result, the tensions between the two nations have ratcheted up to near 1979-80 levels.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

It was determined by the intelligence community before the invasion that the military approach to eliminating Iraq’s (non existent) WMD’s would not deter other nations in the region and in Asia to abandon their nuclear programs, or even to back off on those development programs. Instead, nations would deem that the programs were necessary and proceed apace. If the invasion has had any effect in this area, it has been to achieve exactly the opposite ends – programs to develop nuclear weapons have increased in effort and intensity. The thinking behind that strategy: Get ‘em now, and use ‘em as a deterent before they can be preemptively attacked and the programs decimated.

Oil & Infrastructure

Before the war, it was known that Iraq’s water and power infrastructure was rickety at best, after a decade of sanctions against the regime of Saddam Hussein. It was also known that the next government of Iraq would require prodigious outside assistance to repair and restore the electrical grid and water purification systems.

In January 2003, those reports stated that securing the elements of the infrastructure would be crucial. (This has not been done, and the chlorine looted from water purification plants has been looted and used to make bombs with a secondary-kill capability.)

On the oil front, it was projected that if the oil infrastructure was relatively undamaged by the war, it would be possible to increase Iraq’s oil production by approximately 700,000 barrels per day, and that Iraq would be able to pay for at least part of their own reconstruction efforts. (This - the one aspect of the pre-war assessments that could have been considered "potentially promising" has not worked out.)

Thankfully, Pat Roberts is no longer chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, or this damning report would never have seen the light of day. (Thank you for the majority and the chairmanship, Missouri, Virginia and Montana voters!)

[Cross-Posted from Blue Girl, Red State]

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