Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Long History

The US Attorney scandal has exposed the Bush Administration's politicization of the Department of Justice, but it not the first time that the DOJ has been used the Administration in their effort to turn it into an adjunct of the Republican Party.

A recent pair of articles portray the dismantling of the DOJ's Civil Rights division, which foreshadows what happened with the firing of the US Attorneys for political purposes.

The first, by Joseph Rich -- the chief of the voting section in the Justice Department's civil right division from 1999 to 2005 -- who explains his role:

I spent more than 35 years in the department enforcing federal civil rights laws — particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies — from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.
His LA Times piece, Bush's long history of tilting Justice, describes the change:
Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.
As he noted:
The scandal unfolding around the firing of eight U.S. attorneys compels the conclusion that the Bush administration has rewarded loyalty over all else. A destructive pattern of partisan political actions at the Justice Department started long before this incident, however, as those of us who worked in its civil rights division can attest.

* * * *
It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.

At least two of the recently fired U.S. attorneys, John McKay in Seattle and David C. Iglesias in New Mexico, were targeted largely because they refused to prosecute voting fraud cases that implicated Democrats or voters likely to vote for Democrats.
The other, similarly titled Bush's long history of politicizing justice, by Alia Malek, a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division October 2000 to March 2003 , explained the evolution in detail in her Salon article:
Since George Bush took office, his administration has been not so quietly dismantling the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, which is responsible for enforcing the nation's civil rights laws, and doing it for the same reason the eight federal prosecutors were fired: to use the enforcement power of the federal government for Republican gain. Instead of attending to the Civil Rights Division's historic mission, addressing the legacy of slavery by enforcing anti-discrimination laws, the Bush administration has employed the division to advance the political agenda of a key GOP constituency, the Christian right and also, quite literally, to get Republicans elected.

* * * *
As it was happening, current and former employees tried to alert the outside world, with little success. But with the spotlight on the department and its attorney general, momentum may finally be building. Last week, a House Judiciary subcommittee held oversight hearings on the Civil Rights Division, and witnesses testified to the changes the Bush administration had effected there.

* * * *

The Bush administration's actions over the past six years seem almost prima facie evidence that it does view civil rights enforcement -- which had traditionally been on behalf of African-Americans, women and other racial, ethnic and religious minorities -- as a partisan matter. In perhaps a case of projection, it seems to have also expected career people to abuse their power on behalf of partisan goals.

Thus the administration sought to recast the division in its own image, by minimizing outside input, getting rid of career people and hiring loyal Bushies. Simply choosing John Ashcroft, a religious fundamentalist and political conservative, as the attorney general immediately indicated that Bush's promises to heal and unite the nation after the 2000 election did not translate into Cabinet choices that would reflect the divided political mood of the country.

This article provides a detailed look at the political process used by the Administration, with impunity, to corrupt the Civil Rights Division. Although a few articles were published about the issue, see, e.g., Civil Rights & Estate Taxes, not much attention was paid before now. Yet, the damage was done. As Malek observes:

History books will likely not be kind to the Bush administration. The consequences of the administration's actions, however, extend far beyond the fate of any one elected official.

Optimists believe that once this administration's term comes to an end in 2008, the division may once again be able to enforce the nation's civil rights laws without regard to partisan motives. Others, like Joe Rich, are more pessimistic. "They can try to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again," Rich told Salon, "but you've lost career people with the institutional memory to do that." In his testimony on Capitol Hill, Rich asserted that only "vigilant oversight" would restore the Civil Rights Division and the Department of Justice to their historic role of leading the enforcement of civil rights and protection of equal justice under the law.

Similarly, if the Bush administration is not penalized by the voters or their elected representatives for treating the Department of Justice as a political tool, there is nothing to stop successive administrations -- whether Republican or Democrat -- from doing the same when it's their turn in power.

John DiIulio, who served as the head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said in Why Are These Men Laughing?:

"There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus," says DiIulio. "What you’ve got is everything—and I mean everything—being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."

The Administration: Politics is all.

Cartoon of the Day

Mr. Fish (Dwayne Booth)


Friday, March 30, 2007

Justice

Pennsylvania is home to the first Supreme Court (it preceded the US Supreme Court by 67 years). For many years, it was considered one of the most respected state appellate courts.

The court is in the news because one of its members, Justice Ronald Castille, has challenged the right of an outspoken critic of the court, to voice his views. As the Pittsbugh Post-Gazette explained, Law professor keeping heat on Supreme Court:

Tension is thick between the state Supreme Court justice who wrote last year's opinion upholding judicial pay raises and a prominent critic of the state judiciary, Bruce Ledewitz of the Duquesne University School of Law.
Another Post-Gazette piece, Justice, law prof in spat over comments, described the dispute:

Their heightening differences came to light this morning during a hearing on a bill that would prevent state judges from receiving automatic raises every time federal judges got a pay raise.

Discussion on the bill in the State Government Committee was sidelined after Mr. Ledewitz told senators that Justice Ronald D. Castille threatened to take him to the judicial Disciplinary Board for calling him corrupt and calling the pay-raise decision a "judicial swindle."

The threat, Mr. Ledewitz said, came in a letter sent to another Duquesne professor. It accuses Mr. Ledewitz of violating a provision of the attorneys' code of professional conduct that prevents lawyers from knowingly making false statements about a judge's qualifications or integrity, said Mr. Ledewitz . . . .

Mr. Ledewitz said his statements were not false and, even if they were, criticism of the courts is protected under the First Amendment. He has said the court had a corrupt motive when it allowed judges to keep their raises -- which ranged from 11 percent to 15 percent -- even after raises had been repealed for other state officials.

"Bending the law to suit your own self interest is what I meant by corruption. I'm not accusing them of taking bribes, and I don't think anyone thought I was," he told reporters after the hearing.

Mr. Ledewitz said the letter was meant to intimidate him and, possibly, to keep him from testifying on judicial pay before the Judiciary Committee . . . .
The Inquirer, in Supreme rebuke for lawyer who took on Pa. high court, added:
It's not unusual for a lawyer to criticize a judge. If that criticism is considered to be over the line, the lawyer can face sanctions. However, it's considered rare for a member of the high court to strike back.

* * * *
Ledewitz, whose critical commentaries have appeared in newspapers across the state, told the Beaver County Times in February that the high court was "more corrupt than the legislature" for having thrown out the General Assembly's mid-term 2005 pay raise while protecting judges' raises. Ledewitz called that ruling a swindle.

Castille, the author of that decision, responded in a March 22 letter to one of Ledewitz's Duquesne law school colleagues in Pittsburgh, accusing Ledewitz of violating lawyers' rules of professional conduct and suggesting that the professor be sanctioned.

* * * *
In an interview yesterday, Castille said Ledewitz had made "baseless charges of criminal misconduct" against the court.

"It's shocking to think about a law professor accusing the Supreme Court of criminal conduct," said Castille.

Castille said he would not release a copy of his letter to Gormley, but read a portion of it to a reporter.

"While these statements may be the personal opinion of your colleague, they are charges an attorney cannot make against the Supreme Court and its members without subjecting that attorney to possible sanctions from the Disciplinary Board" of the Supreme Court, the letter said. "The charges appear to me to be clear violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct and, therefore, worthy of the board's attention."

Castille said he had not filed a complaint with the board but did not rule out doing so.

"I could do it. I haven't done it. I think he should apologize to the citizens of the state for slandering the court," the justice said.

Under the state constitution, the Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over matters of attorney discipline. Members of the Disciplinary Board are appointed by the court.

So under this theory of law, an attorney can protect free speech rights of others by representing them in court when a First Amendment claim is alleged (even if that individual had said the very same things that Ledewitz said), but the attorney himself does not enjoy those same rights when it concerns the court? That would be the rule if Castille's view prevailed.

I don't know Ledewitz, but I am an alum of Duquesne Law School and would not exactly call it a hot bed of radical liberal thought. When I attended the school, I would have categorized it as espousing moderate to conservative leanings. While I can't speak for its politics today, I wouldn't be surprised if it were much the same.

For example, I recently received an invitation to the Carol Los Mansmann award to be given to Justice Samuel Alito by Duquesne (which is the event that precipitated the letter from Castille). I respected Judge Mansmann, who was a law school professor of mine and was first appointed to the bench when I was a law clerk, but Alito is something else! I just rolled my eyes when I saw that he was getting a "Distinguished Public Service Award." Distinguished isn't exactly the word that I'd use to describe him, see Alito is All That.

And then there's Castille (who used to live a block away from me when I resided in East Falls). He has been in the news before. He was a former DA in Philly and has been mentioned as part of that office's problems with charges of selectively purging of blacks from juries. See, Rigged Justice, which notes that a training video produced by then DA Ron Castille, was used to teach new prosecutors tricks on how to remove blacks from juries without getting caught.

And there's the infamous Philly Mumia Abu-Jamal case -- the convicted cop killer whose case has been the subject of controversy for many years. Castille has a connection to that case, and his role has contributed to the claims that Mumia did not receive fair treatment, because he serve as a chief prosecutor on the direct appeal, and later sat as an appellate judge on the same case, but did not recuse himself. See
Classical Values.

Of course, I won't say what I really think of him -- I might get in trouble for expressing my opinion.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Justin Bilicki

Lawyers Looking Good



Bush comments on the US Attorney scandal during his skit at the Radio/Television Correspondents' Association Dinner.

Got to give him credit where credit is due -- he manages to make lawyers look good.

The full skit is here, Radio/TV Correspondents Dinner. See also, comedians Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood with Karl Rove, Give It Up for MC Rove!, at Crooks & Liars.

(Video via The Huffington Post)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Ed Stein, Rocky Mountain News

It's a Crime

An op-ed piece by Adam Cohen in the NYTimes, It Wasn't Just a Bad Idea. It May Have Been Against the Law, provides the answer to a question that was discussed by the LWL* last week. Our conversation centered on the possible illegalities in the US Attorney firings. There is no doubt that the dismissals were "wrong" and the court of public opinion has already judged the Bush Administration harshly in that regard. As a society, we just don't like the idea that someone could be terminated from their job for no reason, especially if they were otherwise doing a good job. Employment "at will" (or service at the pleasure of the President, the governmental equivalent) may be the law, but it's just not right or fair.

But, beyond that -- the question ultimately is: was there anything improper or illegal? As lawyers, we tend to focus on the legal repercussions of conduct, rather than the ethical or moral aspects. That is -- it may not be nice, but is it illegal? This determination, of course, is the necessary component in deciding if someone "has a case." When a potential client approaches a lawyer, that is the only relevant issue. In order to pursue a case (or defend a case that has been brought against a defendant) there has to be a wrongful action or injury.

Cohen addresses these issues:

The Bush administration has done a terrible job of explaining its decision to fire eight United States attorneys. Story after story has proved to be untrue: that the prosecutors who were fired were poor performers; that the White House was not involved in the purge. But the administration has been strangely successful in pushing its message that the scandal is at worst a political misdeed, not a criminal matter.

It is true, as the White House keeps saying, that United States attorneys serve ''at the pleasure of the president,'' which means he can dismiss them whenever he wants. But if the attorneys were fired to interfere with a valid prosecution, or to punish them for not misusing their offices, that may well have been illegal.

He then considers the range of possible violations of the law:

1. Misrepresentations to Congress. The relevant provision . . . is very broad. It is illegal to lie to Congress, and also to ''impede'' it in getting information. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty indicated to Congress that the White House's involvement in firing the United States attorneys was minimal, something that Justice Department e-mail messages suggest to be untrue.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made his own dubious assertion to Congress: ''I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney position for political reasons.''

* * *

2. Calling the Prosecutors. As part of the Sarbanes-Oxley reforms, Congress passed an extremely broad obstruction of justice provision . . . which applies to anyone who corruptly ''obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so,'' including U.S. attorney investigations.

David Iglesias, the New Mexico United States attorney, says Senator Pete Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, called him and asked whether he intended to bring indictments in a corruption case against Democrats before last November's election. Mr. Iglesias said he ''felt pressured'' by the call. If members of Congress try to get a United States attorney to indict people he wasn't certain he wanted to indict, or try to affect the timing of an indictment, they may be violating the law.

3. Witness Tampering. [It is] illegal to intimidate Congressional witnesses. Michael Elston, Mr. McNulty's chief of staff, contacted one of the fired attorneys, H. E. Cummins, and suggested, according to Mr. Cummins, that if he kept speaking out, there would be retaliation. Mr. Cummins took the call as a threat, and sent an e-mail message to other fired prosecutors warning them of it. Several of them told Congress that if Mr. Elston had placed a similar call to one of their witnesses in a criminal case, they would have opened an investigation of it.

4. Firing the Attorneys. United States attorneys can be fired whenever a president wants, but not . . . to corruptly obstruct, influence, or impede an official proceeding.

Let's take the case of Carol Lam, United States attorney in San Diego. The day the news broke that Ms. Lam, who had already put one Republican congressman in jail, was investigating a second one, Mr. Sampson wrote an e-mail message referring to the ''real problem we have right now with Carol Lam.'' He said it made him think that it was time to start looking for a replacement. Congress has also started investigating the removal of Fred Black, the United States attorney in Guam, who was replaced when he began investigating the Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Anyone involved in firing a United States attorney to obstruct or influence an official proceeding could have broken the law.

As usual, the Administration has managed to spin this in a way that the real issues have become obscured.

P.S. We spotted all but #3.

(LWL -- Ladies Who Lunch, a/k/a my officemates)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The New Axis of Evil

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter, has been interviewed lately by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show and Bill Maher on Real Time.

He also wrote an excellent op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Terrorized by 'War on Terror', on the "culture of fear mentality" that pervades our country today. It is a must read:

But the little secret here may be that the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant reference to a "war on terror" did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue. The war of choice in Iraq could never have gained the congressional support it got without the psychological linkage between the shock of 9/11 and the postulated existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Support for President Bush in the 2004 elections was also mobilized in part by the notion that "a nation at war" does not change its commander in chief in midstream. The sense of a pervasive but otherwise imprecise danger was thus channeled in a politically expedient direction by the mobilizing appeal of being "at war."

To justify the "war on terror," the administration has lately crafted a false historical narrative that could even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By claiming that its war is similar to earlier U.S. struggles against Nazism and then Stalinism (while ignoring the fact that both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were first-rate military powers, a status al-Qaeda neither has nor can achieve), the administration could be preparing the case for war with Iran. Such war would then plunge America into a protracted conflict spanning Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and perhaps also Pakistan.

The culture of fear is like a genie that has been let out of its bottle. It acquires a life of its own -- and can become demoralizing. America today is not the self-confident and determined nation that responded to Pearl Harbor; nor is it the America that heard from its leader, at another moment of crisis, the powerful words "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"; nor is it the calm America that waged the Cold War with quiet persistence despite the knowledge that a real war could be initiated abruptly within minutes and prompt the death of 100 million Americans within just a few hours. We are now divided, uncertain and potentially very susceptible to panic in the event of another terrorist act in the United States itself.

In the greatest irony of all, he says:

In the meantime, the "war on terror" has gravely damaged the United States internationally. For Muslims, the similarity between the rough treatment of Iraqi civilians by the U.S. military and of the Palestinians by the Israelis has prompted a widespread sense of hostility toward the United States in general. It's not the "war on terror" that angers Muslims watching the news on television, it's the victimization of Arab civilians. And the resentment is not limited to Muslims. A recent BBC poll of 28,000 people in 27 countries that sought respondents' assessments of the role of states in international affairs resulted in Israel, Iran and the United States being rated (in that order) as the states with "the most negative influence on the world." Alas, for some that is the new axis of evil!

Looking to the future, he asks:

Where is the U.S. leader ready to say, "Enough of this hysteria, stop this paranoia"? Even in the face of future terrorist attacks, the likelihood of which cannot be denied, let us show some sense. Let us be true to our traditions.

I have covered this topic on many occasions, see, e.g.,Over the Cliff, Remembrance of Things Lost and Sound & Fury, but Brzezinski has expressed the ramifications of the propaganda war on terror, which are devastating to us as a country -- and could be the source of our own destruction.

(Via Attytood)

~ ~ ~ ~
It is when power is wedded to chronic fear that it becomes formidable.
-- Eric Hoffer

Monday, March 26, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News

The New & Improved 5th Amendment

As I was driving home from work today, I heard a report on NPR that made me laugh so hard that I almost had to pull over to the side of the road.

Share the humor, you say? How about this news:

A lawyer for a Justice Department official involved in the controversial firings of eight United States attorneys said today that his client would not testify on Capitol Hill because she is convinced she would not be treated fairly.

The official, Monica Goodling, the Justice Department’s liaison to the White House, is invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and so will decline to answer “any and all questions regarding the firings,” her lawyer, John M. Dowd, said.
See NY Times, Justice Official Won’t Testify on Prosecutor Firings.

The best part is the reason for invoking the 5th:
But Ms. Goodling’s refusal does not signal that she has anything to hide, Mr. Dowd told the Senate Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Senator Patrick J. Leahy. Rather, Mr. Dowd said, it is a recognition of the “hostile and questionable environment” that has been spawned by the controversy.
Let's get this straight. She had nothing to hide. She's not using the 5th Amendment to avoid having to incriminate herself. She just doesn't want to subject herself to some nasty questioning that might be "hostile." Makes perfect sense. Who wouldn't want to do that?

And how does this differ from any witness called to testify in any proceeding in any court in the country who is subject to cross-examination by opposing counsel? Do you think the witness might feel that there is a hostile atmosphere permeating the controversy?

So, would the 5th apply in that situation as well? There may be some advantages. It would eliminate the controversial nature of courtroom proceedings. On the other hand, it might be a little bit harder to determine the facts and the truth, but I guess you can't have everything.

UPDATE (3/27): For a more definitive analysis of the 5th Amendment "meanie defense," see Christy Hardin Smith's take at FireDogLake, The Right To Remain Silent…Or Not.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Inquire No More

Brian Tierney, the new owner of that Republican Rag, formerly known as the Philadelphia Inquirer, is the subject of an in-depth article in Philadelphia Magazine, Press Lord 2.0, by Jason Fagone.

After reading this piece, it confirms my original view of the man. See The Good News and Bad News. He's an arrogant, obnoxious ad man who is ultimately only interested in pursuing his agenda of making money and spreading the truth -- the Republican version, that is. Tierney has no interest in journalism; no interest in making the Inquirer/Daily News better papers. He's merely interested in the product -- the spin is all, the facts -- not so much. Sound like any other Republicans you know?

Here's a window into the world of Tierney:

Tierney is just getting started. For the next two hours, he roams all over the 12th floor like a lost gymnast looking for his next apparatus — pointing to things he’s stuck on the walls, new honor boxes, cooler ads, any hard evidence of big changes. He shows me a table lined with dozens of local newspapers Tierney sees as his competition, papers like the Courier-Post and the Burlington County Times; Tierney flips through them every week to check out the ads and see “what’s going on in their communities.” He shows me a prototype of the “Inquirer Express,” a one-page capsule version of the day’s top Inky stories, boiled down to short paragraphs in the style of USA Today and “sponsored” with a large ad from Commerce Bank. ("It’s just a terrific win-win-win.")

* * * *
Tierney is a pitchman. That’s his culture. He sells stuff. Always other people’s stuff. Hoagies for Wawa, credit cards for Advanta, the blue-chip products of blue-chip companies like Aramark and Exelon, political candidates for the GOP. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t believe in some of the things he sells. He does. As a Catholic, he went to war with the Inky in the ‘90s over its investigation of Cardinal Bevilacqua’s spending priorities, then reached out to Catholic voters on behalf of George W. Bush in 2000. Later he handled PR for the Camden diocese and its law firm while they fought off those pesky allegations of child molestation that kept appearing under the bylines of those (totally biased!) journalists at the Inky. So he believes in the Church. Bush, too. In 2003, when Tierney chaired Sam Katz’s mayoral campaign, he resisted attempts to broaden his candidate’s appeal in a Democratic city by having Katz criticize Bush. At one early strategy meeting, a leading GOP consultant told Katz he should try to become Philly’s Mike Bloomberg, perhaps by coming out against the U.S. involvement in Iraq. Says the consultant, Chris Mottola, “I thought Brian was going to have a stroke. ‘You can’t do that! You can’t do that! The White House will never stand for that.’” Katz lost. Tierney says, “I’m post-political now,” though it’s clear that certain folks see him as the Great Right Hope; at a business breakfast in October, a man approached Tierney and said he thought the Inky should feature more “good news” that was “fair and balanced.” Tierney said, “I’ve got 1,400 letters just like yours. And five on the other side.”

* * * *
In the New World, where so many more outlets are selling content than ever before, on more electronic devices than ever before, the most precious commodity is mere exposure. Eyeballs. Insofar as journalists have value, it’s because they represent brands that can be leveraged across multiple platforms: TV, the Internet, books, screenplays.
Tierney is certainly not alone in this view of the future of the media, but that doesn't make it right. The paper is already showing the effects of this. We now have less original reporting, more AP and other wire service stories, the new The Reader's News Digest, and worst of all -- more conservative voices on the Editorial page. But that's his real agenda:
The bolder and newer the thinking, the better the story. So I’m guessing you won’t hear much more from Tierney about journalism as a vital public service. That was a useful story a year ago, when Tierney talked like a civic lion. These days, he wants to be a corporate turnaround artist like his friend Mike Hagan of NutriSystem — the kind of guy who’s celebrated in business-press features for Reviving The Brand. The idea that a newspaper owes something to its community beyond profits clearly isn’t what excites Tierney anymore, and maybe it never did. What excites him is the possibility that this cobwebby enterprise of American metro journalism — this business that belongs to the era of Charles Foster Kane — could be made to rhyme with the values and business climate of 2007, and that Brian P. Tierney could be the guy to make it happen. Forget the civic experiment. Philadelphia Media Holdings is a mere business experiment now.
In line with this, while catching up with my reading, I saw, in After loss, Santorum trying on a lot of new hats, that it looks like the Rick Santorum addition to the Inky (see Ricky@Inky?) opinion page is a done-deal. At this point, I guess it doesn't matter, I've already given up reading the editorial page of the Inquirer altogether. Of course, I'd write to voice my complaints about the Santorum column, but as the Philly Mag article makes clear -- Tierney's attitude would be: Frankly, dear Reader, I don't give a damn. You don't like the paper, don't read it.

I also believe that it shows the new direction of the paper. Brendan of Brendan Calling, writing at FireDogLake, YAWWWNNN noted that Philly voted against Santorum by 84/16% margin. This doesn't surprise me, because I don't think Tierney is interested in catering to the Philadelphia market. Tierney has decided to market his "brand" to the surrounding Philadelphia region -- the Philly/Jersey suburbs, who are more Republican, more interested in glitz than substance. So quality journalism isn't a criteria for success when that's your target audience.

I think that the only good thing I can say about the Inky these days is the news that Dan Rubin's (formerly of Blinq blog) new metro column is a keeper, see Phawker, Don’t Blinq, You’ll Miss It.

Sunday Funnies



Ahh, it's Sunday -- the day of rest. Thankfully, after the long week-end birthday bash for my 17 year old daughter. Last night was an evening with a dozen of her nearest & dearest friends, including the birthday cake at 11:30 pm (during which she caught her hair on fire while blowing out the candles), culminating in the "sleepover." Why do they call it a sleepover when no one sleeps?

Anyway, thought I'd relax with the Sunday Funnies. Enjoy.

UPDATE: For more, see onegoodmove, with the George Stephanopoulos' version of the Sunday Funnies.

Tags: ,

Cartoon of the Day

* Steve Breen, San Diego Union Tribune

Not My Decision

I'm just a little ole health care lawyer, not a con law expert, but as I've been following the US Attorney scandal, I've been puzzled by the President's attempt to hide from responsibility on this one. Although he has noted on several (many?) occasions that the US Attorneys serve at the "pleasure of the President," he also has studiously tried to avoid acknowledging his role in the firing of the US Attorneys. Yet, isn't he the only one who could make that decision? It's not something he could delegate without at least being involved in the delegation process and therefore having some level of knowledge of what was at issue. I thought, WTF do I know? Con law was long ago & far away from my area of expertise.

In all of the press on this, I hadn't seen this angle discussed. Until now. Anonymous Liberal, writing at Crooks & Liars, in A Decision The President Alone Must Justify. He also observes the distancing by the White House, but points out:

Here's the problem, though. As Marty Lederman points out, the relevant statute–28 U.S.C. 541(c)–vests the power to remove U.S. Attorneys with the president ("Each United States attorney is subject to removal by the President.") As we've repeatedly been told, U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President–not the pleasure of the Attorney General (and certainly not the pleasure of the Attorney General's chief of staff). The decision to fire a U.S. Attorney–much less eight of them–is unquestionably one for the president to make, so if President Bush was truly out of the loop on this, that's a problem in and of itself.
At Balkinization, Marty Lederman makes this same point, So Much for the Unitary Executive. Lederman follows the winding explanations of the White House to deflect from the President's personal involvement. After citing a Tony Snow denial that the President was even told of the decision, Lederman says:
That's fairly remarkable and troubling, if it were true -- that the Attorney General fired eight U.S. Attorneys who are, by statute, removable by the President, and did so without even getting the President's approval for such a serious decision!

That's why it's almost certainly not true. It's virtually inconceivable that the President did not sign off on the removals (even if he was not intimately involved in the discussions that led up to the final choices). The President, in his briefing, undermined Snow's subsequent claim:

"These U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. I named them all. And the Justice Department made recommendations, which the White House accepted, that eight of the 93 would no longer serve."
Further, he notes that the claim of executive privilege, even if otherwise applicable, would not likely apply if the President weren't involved in this situation.

So, Bush is the Decider-in-Chief, except when he's not. Then, I guess he's the Non-Decider.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Night Fun



Meditacion de Thais, Massenet
Sarah Chang & Berliner Phil.
Conducted by Placido Domingo

Today was a yo-yo day. My daughter and her friends had front row seats for the Sixer's Game for her birthday, so I was planning to luxuriate at my hair salon. Then, one of her friend's canceled, so I was going to go to the game with my husband & the gang. Next, another friend called who had tickets for a concert at the Kimmel. Her date was sick & couldn't go, so she invited me.

What to do? Me, who has nothing to do most nights, suddenly had too many options. Cancelled hair appointment. Said no to concert. Planned to go to game with the birthday girl. Maybe I could turn into a sports fan (2 basketball games, 2 Fridays in a row-- I think I qualify?). Then, the daughter invited another friend & I was off the list. I figured I'd now end up home alone, since all my options had slipped away.

Luckily, my friend didn't get another replacement, so we went to the Kimmel. The concert was part of its Master Musicians: Strings series, featuring Sarah Chang.

Great stuff.

And the Sixers won (an unusual feat, as I understand it). A fun time was had by all.

Another Day, She's 17


It was only yesterday that we celebrated She's 16!!

Now, we wake up this morning & you're 17.

* * *

Some facts on your special day:

You were born on a Friday
under the astrological sign Aries.
Your birthstone is Aquamarine.

You are: 6209 days old.
If you were a dog, you'd be 81.

On this day, in 1839, the term OK was first used. It was an abbreviation for "oll correct," based upon the then popular slang usage of the term.

In 1775, Patrick Henry proclaimed "Give me liberty or give me death."

And, in 1912, the Dixie Cup was invented.

Take What We Can Get




Our illustrious "aprincipled" PA Senator, Arlen Specter, who started the whole US Attorney mess by changing the statutory approval process, see Frick & Frack, has truly earned his "Wafflin' Arlen" name.

Via Attytood, Paul Kane of the Washington Post's Capitol Briefing blog, Specter's Sphinx-Like Vote, reports on the Senate Judiciary Committee's vote to authorize subpoenas:

After 90 minutes of heated debate, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) went along with Republican requests not to hold a roll-call vote. So, Leahy ordered a voice vote and barked out for all those in favor of the subpoenas to say "aye" - and all 10 Democrats clearly yelled "aye", as did Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

Specter, who is advocating a compromise in which Rove would testify publicly but not under oath and without being subpoenaed, clearly opened his mouth and seemed to move his lips.

Then Leahy asked for the "nays", and Specter's mouth didn't open a sliver. Capitol Briefing convened a meeting of reporters afterward to decide whether Specter had voted in favor of the subpoenas. There was no clear answer, no one could actually confirm whether they heard him say "aye".
After a bit of waffling by refusing to answer queries from the press on his actual vote, Arlen finally responded:

"The fact of the matter is that I did not say anything. I did not vote and say either 'aye' or 'nay'. I just sat there hoping that it would all go away through negotiations," he said. "Factually, I did not say a thing."

Is it clear then?

He simply has no position. The mouth might have opened, but nothing was said.

It is very clear to those who know Arlen. Specter, who has long had a reputation as "Wafflin' Arlen" because he is able to talk out of both sides of his mouth at once, see We're in Trouble, is taking it to a new level.

Arlen Specter: No Sound, All Fury. He stands for nothing.

(Video via Talking Points Memo)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Are You?



[“President Bush is a war criminal,” Mr. Anderson, a Democrat, said at a rally here on Monday marking the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq. “Let impeachment be the first step toward national reconciliation — and toward penance for the outrages committed in our nation’s name.”]

* * * *

“There’s a real resistance to change and an almost pathological devotion to leaders simply because they’re leaders,” he said . . . .

From the NY Times, In Utah, an Opponent of the ‘Culture of Obedience’, of Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. See also, One Good Move for video. As I said before, I think they got the better Rocky, see A Voice in the Wilderness.

Which leads back to Colbert: If you don't impeach him now, you guys are a bunch of pussies. Are You?

(Video via Eschaton)

Cartoon of the Day

* Tom Toles, NY Times

Memories

With the rumblings by the White House to resist any congressional subpoenas, the Chicago Tribune's political blog, The Swamp, reprinted the following article on executive privilege:

"From Day One, the chief challenge facing this White House has been to place maximum distance between [the President] and his behavior. That strategy has succeeded, but only with the help of mighty assaults on our common sense.

"In order to exonerate the chief, aides have made fantastic claims: that they lied to their personal diaries, that Velcro-brained lawyers couldn't recall crucial incidents, that files vanished or moved from one place to another as if by magic, that scores of people with nothing to gain from lying nevertheless perjured themselves, and that this contagion of amnesia, sloppiness and venality was just the gosh darnedest series of coincidences ever witnessed by man or beast.

"The wall of separation between [the President] and his deeds remains strong because minions have stuck to their alibis. But now comes an episode in which the Man from Hope stands alone. It is his recent attempt to claim executive privilege. . . .

"[The President] can't blame his lawyers for this latest feint. He alone can assert the privilege. The maneuver places him at the heart of his administration's ongoing effort to use executive privilege as a way of concealing the truth about whether the president exposed himself. It is almost impossible to think of this as anything but a tactic to . . . pump as much venom as possible into the political system.

* * * *

"What kinds of conversations does executive privilege protect?

"The courts have said a president generally can shield communications that reveal fundamental deliberative processes. That includes communications between aides as they try to develop recommendations for their boss.

"But protected conversations involve predictable categories: military, diplomatic or national security secrets or law-enforcement activities.

* * * *

"What are the limits on privilege?

"Earlier in this administration, [it was] decreed that the White House never would assert privilege in the face of a criminal investigation. He merely was reiterating long-standing executive-branch policy along those lines. President Ronald Reagan didn't invoke privilege in Iran-contra, and neither did [the first] President George Bush. . . .

"Evidently, [the President] wants to shield virtually any communications that take place within the White House compound on the theory that all such talk contributes in some way, shape or form to the continuing success and harmony of an administration. Taken to its logical extreme, that position would make it impossible for citizens to hold a chief executive accountable for anything. He would have a constitutional right to cover up.

"Chances are that the courts will hurl such a claim out, but it will take time.

And then, from Dick Polman's American Debate, "I'm sorry that the situation has gotten to where it's got," but now it's time to stonewall, there is this:
Under the doctrine of “executive privilege,” internal White House business “is not subject to questioning by another branch of government….A president must be able to place absolute confidence in the advice and assistance offered by the members of his staff. And in the performance of their duties for the president, those staff members must not be inhibited by the possibility that their advice and assistance will ever become a matter of public debate.” If presidential aides were to testify in public on Capitol Hill, “the candor with which (their) advice is rendered, and the quality of such assistance, will be compromised and weakened.”
Who authored the first article? Guess which political lefty:
"Sounds like you're reading an old column of mine,'' Tony Snow, the Bush administration's press secretary, said today, readily recognizing his nine-year-old words read back to him at a morning press gaggle in which Snow was arguing for Bush's right to protect the internal deliberations of his White House staff.
And the second quote? Bush perhaps? As Dick Polman explains:
So spoke President Richard Nixon on March 12, 1973, as he sought to defy the congressional leaders who were seeking to subpoena Nixon aides and thus find out the truth about the Watergate scandal.
If this is not eerie enough, there was also a report yesterday of a "gap" in the release of the records by the Justice Department in the US Attorney scandal -- an 18 day gap no less! See Talking Points Memo, who first reported it. As Editor & Publisher said, in Paging Rose Mary Woods: '18-Day Gap' in Release of Latest Emails in 'AttorneyGate':
As each day passes, the phrase "shades of Watergate" appears more and more often in the press regarding the conflict surrounding the recent firing of eight U.S. attorneys. There was the hiring of former Nixon legal adviser Fred Fielding (he was once rumored to be Deep Throat) by President Bush, the selective release of documents, the threat to oppose subpoenas -- and now something reminiscent of the famous "18 1/2 minute gap."
Brings to mind this image of days past:

(Photo via Attytood)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Happy Spring

It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!

~Mark Twain

* * * *


Spring is nature's way of saying, "Let's party!"

~Robin Williams

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Four (No More) Years


While I was lounging on the beach in Florida, others were marching in DC and elsewhere to protest the war in Iraq. On this 4th Anniversary of "all shock, no awe," I thought that I would note them:

Shaun Mullen of Kiko's House attended the DC march and compares the march in DC with an earlier protest march against the Vietnam War in 1967 in Vietnam, Iraq & A Tale of Two Marches. He also provides a perfect summary of the war in The Iraq War at Four: A Word Collage.

Here's some video from the Largest Minority on the anti-war march in LA.

Philadelphia Independent Media Center, in Fourth Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq Marked by Protests, Vigils, and Civil Disobedience, writes about the Parade for Peace march, held in Northwest Philadelphia on Saturday to encourage peace in face of the widespread violence in the Philly communities and Iraq.

(Photo from PRAWN - Philadelphia Regional Anti-War Network)

Cartoon of the Day

* Gary Markstein


Frick & Frack

From the Pennsylvania Progressive comes the latest on Pennsylvania's Dynamic Duo -- Specter and Santorum.

John Morgan notes that Arlen is planning to go for his 6th term in 2010, in The Specter To Seek Re-Election in 2010:

There has been much speculation that his recent health battles would convince him to retire. He had a bout with Hodgkins Disease from which he seems to have recovered. He has been the Senate Republican maverick of late however and there are persistent rumors Pat Toomey is gearing up for another try in 2010. That would be another interesting race. Democrats eyeing the seat include Chuck Pennacchio.
Of course, this may depend on the outcome of the US Attorney scandal. Specter was responsible for the change in the law that permitted the replacement of the US Attorneys without Senate confirmation, see One Down, One to Go. Salon describes, in Alberto Gonzalez's coup d'etat, that Specter now disclaims any knowledge:
To ensure that no U.S. attorney could be fired on a whim and replaced with a malleable hack, the relevant statute required that whenever a vacancy occurred in midterm, the replacement would be appointed by federal circuit judges rather than by the president. Getting rid of irksomely honest and nonpartisan prosecutors was difficult if not impossible.

But that wholesome safeguard was breached in December 2005, when the Senate renewed the Patriot Act. At the behest of the Justice Department, an aide to Sen. Arlen Specter slipped a provision into the bill that permitted the White House to place its own appointees in vacant U.S. attorney positions permanently and without Senate confirmation. So silently was this sleight of hand performed that Specter himself now claims, many months later, to have been completely unaware of the amendment's passage. (Of course, it would be nice if the senators actually read the legislation before they voted, particularly when they claim to be the authors.)

The staffer who reportedly performed this bit of dirty work is Michael O'Neill, a law professor at George Mason University and former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. As the Washington Times explained when O'Neill was appointed as the Senate Judiciary Committee's chief counsel, many observers believed that Specter had hired him to reassure conservatives of his loyalty to the Bush White House. Right-wing distrust had almost ousted the Pennsylvania moderate from the Judiciary chairmanship, and appointing O'Neill was apparently the price for keeping that post.

Evidently O'Neill rewarded Specter by sneaking through legislation to deprive him and his fellow senators of one of their most important powers, at the behest of an attorney general intent on aggrandizing executive power. The results of this backstage betrayal -- now playing out in a wave of politicized dismissals and hirings -- were perfectly predictable and utterly poisonous.
Somehow, I just can't believe that Arlen Specter was unaware of the provision. Based upon what I've read about his personality over the years, I can't imagine any staffer would act without Arlen's knowledge and approval. As John Fund of the WSJ noted a few years ago, Has He Snarled His Last?, "the worst job on Capitol Hill was 'Specter flunky.'" No way someone like that would ever dare act without the bosses' OK.

For another interesting take on Specter, see Whether he's trashing Anita Hill or habeas corpus, Arlen Specter can always be counted on to do . . . well, what he thinks is best for him from Down With Tyranny! and New Yorker piece, Killing Habeas Corpus.

And for ex-Pennsylvania resident, Rick Santorum continues in is post-Senate quest to amass as much money as possible. He has now landed the ultimate gravy train job -- counsel to a law firm which hopes to make money off his name. John Morgan reports that Santorum Joins Law Firm, noting that he joined the DC office of Pittsburgh firm, Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott. See also, the WSJ's Law Blog, Rick Santorum: From the U.S. Senate to CLE Classes.

For those who are interested in horrific speculation, blogger Stevie Z, in AttorneyGate, Here We Come!!, speculates that the latest scandal will lead not only to the departure of Gonzales, but Cheney as well. Then:
With Cheney gone, Bush would appoint a new VP, somebody he could easily blackmail. My money's on Santorum. There's something creepy about him and I bet there's already a dossier with photos in Rove's desk. In exchange for making sure Santorum would pardon Dubya, Rove would make sure the file never ends up on Bob Woodward's desk.
I'm not sure I buy the VP spot (or the rest of his nightmare scenario), but I sure concur with the creepy part.

UPDATE (3/22): As Pa Progressive noted in the Comments, further evidence that Specter knew about the insertion of the change in the US Attorney confirmation process by removing the 120 day limit was discussed in a post by John Morgan in the beginning of March. As the scandal was breaking, he wrote:
A further question comes to my mind as this scandal unravels: Senator Arlen Specter's involvement. When I spoke to his Judiciary Committee press spokesperson she explained his involvement as being a separation of powers issue. Since, under the old law a federal judge could remove an interim U.S. Attorney after 120 days if they hadn't been confirmed, he saw this as an infringement into the executive branch by the judicial branch.
At that time, his staff was well aware of the removal of the 120 day provision and didn't claim lack of knowledge by Specter. It was only later, as the scandal deepened, that it became convenient for Specter to avoid responsibility for being the individual who started the whole mess. Much better to stay on the sidelines on this one. Especially if he is really thinking of running for re-election.

UPDATE #2 (3/27): Santorum is spreading his wings (or, another crude analogy may also be inserted, if you like) yet again. The quest for glory (and money) is endless. The Allentown Morning Call is reporting the latest, Moore, Gore...and now Santorum?:
Less than three months removed from his congressional career, the former Pennsylvania senator said in an interview last week that he is planning two film projects in part to counter what he characterized as the stream of left-wing documentaries coming from Hollywood and independent filmmakers.

The first project, Santorum said, would explore the relationship between radical Islam and the radical leftists in various countries around the world, including Latin America. It would be about an hour in length.

The second would be a longer, broader documentary that he said would aim to ''change the culture of America.'' He declined to go into specifics about the proposal.
Doesn't he realize we are in the process of rejecting this change in the culture of America that he and his cronies have been spewing?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Home Again



My time with the snowbirds is over and I'm heading north to the snow (and cold).

Cartoon of the Day

* M.e. Cohen


The Sacrifice



Bill Maher's New Rules from March 16, 2007, including his closing Rule on Civil Rights:

And finally, new rule: liberals must stop saying President Bush hasn't asked Americans to sacrifice for the War on Terror. On the contrary, he's asked us to sacrifice something enormous: Our civil rights.


Bill must think he's Keith Olbermann.

See also, Crooks and Liars for video and transcript.

(Via onegoodmove)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Change of Heart

Not too long ago, I reported that the White House Press Corps was planning to dethrone Helen Thomas from her front row seat in the Briefing Room, see Hemlock for Helen. Colbert even did a skit on it, Move to the Back of the Bus.

It seems that there's been a change of heart. The Huffington Post says, in Helen Thomas Gets Her Front Row Seat Back In White House Press Room; Fox Shunted To Second Row, that:

[T]he White House Correspondent's Association decided that Thomas' pride of place in the front row — 46 years and counting — would be appropriately honored:
As the dean of the White House press corps, Helen is an institution. First with United Press International and now as a White House columnist for Hearst newspapers, Helen has covered every president since John Kennedy.
What great news!

Cliff Schecter notes that it may have been all of the "bad press" (calls, letters, email & blogging) that the WHCA received over this that changed their minds. Whatever works, I say.

(Via Crooks and Liars: How Helen Got Her Groove Back)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day



My favorite Irish song -- Danny Boy

Beannachtam na Feile Padraig

Cartoon of the Day



* John Dakow, Columbia Daily Tribune
Posted by Picasa

Hot, hot, hot

While the rest of my family is stuck in Philly dealing with sleet and snow, we were Hot, hot, hot in Miami. We were at the game, watching the Heat's 103-97 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.

This seems to be my new thing -- going to a sports event on vacation, see Take me out to the Ballgame. My brother's brother-in-law is an executive with the Heat, so he got us tickets to the game, including underground parking in the players' lot. On the way out after the game, we got to say "good game" to Shaq.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Head South, Young Woman


I'm leaving town just in time. The temperature is turning cold and nasty in Philly, just as I'm packing my bags for a short trip to South Florida -- sunny South Florida, I should say.

If I could just survive the airport hassle, see Agony Air, life will be good.

* Ok, maybe I'm not "young" but the play on "Go West, Young Man" was irresistible.

Cartoon of the Day

* Mike Graston, Windsor Star

iMistake



Here we have Steve Jobs unveiling the new iRack (via MadTV).

What is needed next is iMistake. It's the response to the Alberto Gonzales' ‘Mistakes Were Made’, acceptance of responsibility. As Balkinization said: Yes, mistakes were made. And he made them.

The new iTechnology from Apple that we really need is iMistake -- so someone in the Bush Administration could actually utter the words "I made a mistake."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Cartoon of the Day



* Mike Keefe, The Denver Post

And the Clout Goes On



Jon Stewart of TDS dissects the increasing clout of Cheney through all of the lowpoints of his reign.

For Karen.


Good Business

The business section of Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer featured an agency that provides aides to elderly and disabled in their homes, Older population, new health-care issues. An agency that is run by a friend of mine:

Sometimes the margins are so tight between what her agency gets paid to provide home health services and what she must pay the aides who do the work that Karen Kulp wakes up panicked and starts counting the dollars.

"It weighs heavily on my mind - when I'm in the shower, when I'm driving, whenever," said Kulp, president of HomeCare Associates, a worker-owned agency in Philadelphia.

In one way, it would not be hard to build profit, Kulp said. "You can make all your workers work 20 hours a week. Then you don't have to pay them any benefits. But it affects your quality. You can't give consistent care."

Aides visit several times a week, providing companionship and unskilled care, helping with bathing, toilet needs, meal preparation and tidying up.

Kulp's struggling with the margins reflects the entire industry. People need more care as they age, so demand is up. Yet workers are in short supply because of low wages and working conditions. Many agencies do not pay benefits, as HomeCare does.

But what is even more of a struggle is finding the money to pay reasonable wages - let alone benefits. The cost for private care is beyond the reach of many families.

Government reimbursements through Medicare and Medicaid have not increased in four years. They can range from $13 to $19 an hour, and vary by county, state, provider and individual circumstance, Kulp said.

For example, the government will reimburse the agency for home care of a disabled person at one rate. When that same person turns 60, the care is funded through another stream, which reimburses about $3 an hour less and brings the cost just below what HomeCare Associates pays an hour in wages and benefits.

* * * *

As it is, the agency payroll for home health aides eats up about 82 percent of every dollar from reimbursement revenues. The remaining 18 percent pays the rent, Kulp's salary, utilities and, among other items, the 5-foot-high by 15-foot-long wall of latex gloves the agency buys by the pallet and stores in its crowded offices.

* * * *

What makes HomeCare different from most other agencies is that it is a worker-owned cooperative. Employees can buy $500 shares after three months. Of the dozen directors, seven are worker/owners, who can vote to fire Kulp, if they want.

About half of the agency's 160 workers are shareholders. In 2004, they received a $900 dividend. In 2005, it was $400. Business was bad last year, so the directors voted to give all the employees a small bonus, forgoing their own dividends.

It all adds up to a lot of sleepless nights for Kulp, who joined the 14-year-old agency in 2001.

"When I wake up at night, I'm thinking over the margins," Kulp said. "Are there ways we can cut costs? Is there more business we can get? And can we do it without compromising our quality or without compromising the quality of our jobs?"

As the companion piece, Older population, new health-care issues, said of the home health workers in the "field" -- the homes of the elderly and disabled:

They are important eyes and ears of the medical profession, but they have the least status and power.

On the job, they do the toughest work: cleaning dirty bottoms, dealing with garbage, rodents, roaches, maggots, diapers, bedsores, rough relatives, rough neighborhoods.
Here we have a good business that provides needed services to a fragile segment of the population, yet they are inadequately reimbursed for their services by the government. They care about their employees as well as their clients. They are well run, so they should be a model, yet they are struggling. What's wrong with this picture? They aren't Halliburton.

Tags:

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Cartoon of the Day


* Tom Toles, NY Times

Terminator In Chief

Normally, the Bush Administration does not subscribe to the "Buck Stops Here" theory of governance, but it looks like there may be a detour to the desk of the President with this one.

The New York Times, White House Said to Prompt Firing of Prosecutors and the Washington Post Firings Had Genesis in White House are both reporting that the White House was involved in the US Attorney purge. In fact, the White House originally wanted to fire all of the US Attorneys, according to the Times:

The White House was deeply involved in the decision late last year to dismiss federal prosecutors, including some who had been criticized by Republican lawmakers, administration officials said Monday.

Last October, President Bush spoke with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to pass along concerns by Republicans that some prosecutors were not aggressively addressing voter fraud, the White House said Monday. Senator Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, was among the politicians who complained directly to the president, according to an administration official.
* * * *
In early 2005, Harriet E. Miers, then the White House legal counsel, asked a Justice Department official whether it would be feasible to replace all United States attorneys when their four-year terms expired, according to the Justice Department. The proposal came as the administration was considering which political appointees to replace in the second term, Ms. Perino said.

Ms. Miers sent her query to D. Kyle Sampson, a top aide to Mr. Gonzales, the Justice officials said. Mr. Sampson, who resigned Monday, replied that filling so many jobs at once would overtax the department. He suggested replacing a smaller group, according to e-mail messages and other memorandums compiled by the Justice Department.
The Post provides details on how it was orchestrated:

The e-mails show that Rove was interested in the appointment of a former aide, Tim Griffin, as an Arkansas prosecutor. Sampson wrote in one that "getting him appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc."

Sampson sent an e-mail to Miers in March 2005 that ranked all 93 U.S. attorneys. Strong performers "exhibited loyalty" to the administration; low performers were "weak U.S. attorneys who have been ineffectual managers and prosecutors, chafed against Administration initiatives, etc." A third group merited no opinion.

At least a dozen prosecutors were on a "target list" to be fired at one time or another, the e-mails show.

* * * *

Sampson also strongly urged bypassing Congress in naming replacements, using a little-known power slipped into the renewal of the USA Patriot Act in March 2006 that allows the attorney general to name interim replacements without Senate confirmation.

"I am only in favor of executing on a plan to push some USAs out if we really are ready and willing to put in the time necessary to select candidates and get them appointed," Sampson wrote in a Sept. 17 memo to Miers. "It will be counterproductive to DOJ operations if we push USAs out and then don't have replacements ready to roll immediately.

"I strongly recommend that as a matter of administration, we utilize the new statutory provisions that authorize the AG to make USA appointments," he wrote.

By avoiding Senate confirmation, Sampson added, "we can give far less deference to home state senators and thereby get 1.) our preferred person appointed and 2.) do it far faster and more efficiently at less political costs to the White House."

They expected a backlash and a plan to deal with it, dubbed Operation "Withstand Political Upheaval," as noted by the Times.

Via Talking Points Memo, who observed:
As has happened so many times in the last six years, the maximal version of this story -- which seemed logical six weeks ago but which I couldn't get myself to believe -- turns out to be true. Indeed, it's worse. We now know that Gonzales, McNulty and Moschella each lied to Congress. We know that the purge was a plan that began at the White House -- and it was overseen by two of President Bush's closest lieutenants in Washington -- Miers and Gonzales. Sampson is the second resignation. There will certainly be more.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Pat Oliphant


Blue Magic


Last Sunday's NY Times had an article on lovers of old cars -- Volvos in particular, see Vintage Volvos Earn Their Stripes (Ask the General Who Owns One). As the article described:

Let's face it, with a reputation as reliable transportation for safety-minded drivers, Volvos weren't all that hip in the 1960s. Nobody stuck big yellow flower decals on them. But as baby boomers morphed into responsible homeowners, those boxy Volvos started to look better and better. Their longevity added to the cachet. The company created a High Mileage Club for cars that had traveled more than 100,000 miles, and owners attached the club's emblems to their cars as a badge of honor.

Mr. Singher has the emblem for his 122S, which has been fully restored. He has also restored a 1967 1800S. The 1800 was Volvo's period sports car, best known for its dramatic fins and the fact that ''The Saint'' (played by Roger Moore) drove one on television.

Another Volvo fan is Colin L. Powell. The former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was often found behind the chairman's quarters at Fort Myer in Virginia tinkering with his cars.

''At one time I had six, stashed at various places around the post so the M.P.'s wouldn't find them all,'' he said in a recent interview. ''My usual pattern was to fix them mechanically and then do enough body work to get them through a quick Earl Scheib paint job.
Although I am now the happy owner of The Red Menace (my red Toyota convertible), before this car, we've pretty much always been Volvo people. My first Volvo, known as "Blue Magic" (pictured), was a 1983 DL Model that I bought brand new for $13,000. We still have the car & are members of the High Mileage Club, with 199,000 plus miles. We've had several other Volvos since then, mainly because the car is safe and reliable.

As the Times piece said:
Volvos were popularly believed to be for pipe-smoking liberal college professors. In a 1985 Doonesbury cartoon, Duke asks Honey how she knows that a potential organ donor for him is a liberal. ''They pulled him from a Volvo,'' Honey says.

Bruce Potter, president of Volvo Sports America, a club originally set up to cater to 1800 owners, said he did not buy the liberal tag. ''Volvos then were for people who didn't want to make car payments for the rest of their lives. Volvo said it best in one of the old ads -- the cars offered the best bang for the buck. They publicized the fact that the average Volvo lived 17 years in Sweden.''
We may not be pipe smoking professors, but we definitely meet the liberal tag and we qualify as people who are interested in the best bang for the buck.

Long live Volvo -- and it does live long!

(Via Steph)

Sweet Baby James




James Taylor
(my all time favorite)
Born this day in 1948
Sweet Baby James

See also, Turn our Thoughts.