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Archive for May 8th, 2008

Quote of the Day

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 8th, 2008 4:39 am by HL

Quote of the Day
“I don’t think we’re going to spend time solely in primary states.”

— Obama strategist David Axelrod, quoted by the Wall Street Journal, on shifting the campaign’s focus to the general election.


Bush Stacks FEC to Help McCain

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 8th, 2008 4:38 am by HL

Bush Stacks FEC to Help McCain
Looks like Mitch McConnell will finally allow separate votes on the FEC nominees, such that it can have a functioning board. After all this time when they couldn’t act for lack of a quorum, why break the log jam now?

McConnell and the White House are obviously trying to ease things for John McCain, who has had complaints against him filed with the FEC both by the DNC and readers of this blog. David Mason, the current Chair of the FEC who said that McCain could not withdraw from the public financing system without permission from the board, is being thrown under the bus

Looks like Mitch McConnell will finally allow separate votes on the FEC nominees, such that the organization can have a functioning board. After all this time when they couldn’t act for lack of a quorum, why break the log jam now?

McConnell and the White House are obviously trying to ease things for John McCain, who has had complaints against him filed with the FEC both by the DNC and readers of this blog. David Mason, the current Chair of the FEC (who said that McCain could not withdraw from the public financing system without permission from the board), is being thrown under the bus.

Bob Bauer:

If Mason gave offense, it was the result of his challenge to Senator McCain over the latter’s unilateral withdrawal from the primary matching fund system. It was an irritant at the time, and it would have been an irritant in the future when a reconstituted FEC will have to decide, with enough Commissioners reporting for duty, whether to pursue enforcement action against McCain. By dropping Mason, the Republicans improved their defense of McCain. Mason, the critic, is one vote that Republicans will no longer have to worry about. And however he would have voted in the end–and Mason might well have eventually found in favor of McCain–his continued involvement in the debate would have been awkward for the Republican side. Some will conclude also that Mason’s sudden disappearance from the stage is a message about the limits of regulatory and intellectual independence.

These are the probable reasons for the curtain falling on the Mason years. The reason for the White House to act now is to restore the FEC to full voting power, which is not usually a Republican priority but now serves the immediate need of giving Senator McCain the most direct, statutorily routine access to public funding for the general election. In this one move, the White House ended McCain’s accountability for his use or abuse of the primary public financing system while putting him in position to take money for the general.

For this maneuver to have been arranged for the benefit of Senator McCain, of all people–the John McCain who has regularly, severely criticized the FEC as a “corrupt” agency–is a remarkable turn in his career as a reformer. A Commissioner who acted to enforce the law, to just raise an important question of enforcement, has been stripped of his post. This was clearly in Senator McCain’s interest, this raw power play. It is also in his interest to have the FEC, back in business minus Mason, arrange for his money for the fall campaign.

It is inconceivable that McCain was not informed of the plan. In fact, it is highly probable that he was in involved in its formulation or its approval.

Even Democracy 21’s Fred Wertheimer, who has been loath to criticize McCain’s flouting of campaign finance law, can’t help but decry the wanton politicization of the FEC to benefit McCain:

The only apparent reason for President Bush to drop Commissioner David Mason at this stage, an FEC candidate he had twice proposed for the Commission, is to prevent him from casting an adverse vote against Senator McCain on important enforcement questions pending at the Commission. The questions deal with Senator McCain’s request to withdraw from the presidential primary public financing system and the consequences of a loan the McCain campaign took out and the collateral provided for the loan.

Under these circumstances, President Bush’s dumping of Mason can only be viewed as a bald-faced and brazen attempt to wrongly manipulate an important enforcement decision by the nation’s campaign finance enforcement agency.

The White House action today represents the political equivalent of obstruction of justice.

It is very similar to the improper way in which the White House and Justice Department previously removed U. S. Attorneys from their positions because of what they did, did not do or might do in various enforcement matters.

The nomination of Don McGhan for confirmation to serve on the FEC simply affirms that the White House and Senator Mitch McConnell have little interest in the enforcement of the nation’s campaign finance laws.

Mr. McGhan, who has served as counsel to the NRCC and as a campaign finance and ethics lawyer for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, has shown disdain for the FEC and for the nation’s campaign finance laws in his previous actions.

Christy has the rundown on why voter suppression whiz Hans Von Spakovsky (who remains on the list) is such an odious holdover. In a separate vote it’s likely he will still not receive confirmation, so the big trophy was Mason. It is as Bauer says a “raw power play,” and McCain should have to answer for the way he benefits from this kind of flagrant political manipulation and abuse of power.


Thursday News and Open Thread

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 8th, 2008 4:37 am by HL

Thursday News and Open Thread

I absolutely have to get back to work. I have jails to visit and briefs to write. Here's what I would be writing about if I had the time:

  • Never leave a reporter and two lawyers on a jury. Here's a report of the Uma Thurman jury deliberations from a reporter who served on the jury. On the other hand, perhaps he just helped the defendant in a bid for a new trial.

Tuesday morning, when we reconvened, a couple of my fellow jurors said they woke up sick to their stomachs. Another burst into the room saying he'd seen the drawings sketched by the court artists, and that they'd done a good job depicting us.

Aren't the jurors admonished to avoid media reports of the trial? Where would s/he have seen the sketch artist's depictions but in a newspaper?

More…

As for not leaving a lawyer on the jury,

I had a question. The charge was for the period from May 1, 2005, until Aug. 17, 2007, but Mr. Jordan's obsession wasn't pushed over the edge until August last year. Could we say he was guilty of the stalking charge, if he wasn't stalking her for that entire period?

One of the lawyers on the jury said that his behavior wasn't to be interpreted in a vacuum. Each of his actions during that period — from the praying-girl card Mr. Jordan delivered at the movie set to the notes he pushed through her door — was to be interpreted as one criminal act.

If that was the case, then I could say he was guilty.

The F.B.I. has withdrawn a National Security Letter.

The FBI has withdrawn an unconstitutional national security letter (NSL) issued to the Internet Archive after a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). As the result of a settlement agreement, the FBI withdrew the NSL and agreed to the unsealing of the case, finally allowing the Archive's founder to speak out for the first time about his battle against the record demand.

The ACLU has this press release.

NSLs are secretly issued by the government to obtain access to personal customer records from Internet Service Providers, financial institutions, and credit reporting agencies. In almost all cases, recipients of the NSLs are forbidden, or “gagged,” from disclosing that they have received the letters. The ACLU has challenged this Patriot Act statute in federal court in two other cases where the judges found the gags unconstitutional: one involving an Internet Service Provider (ISP); the second, a group of librarians. In the ISP case, the district court invalidated the entire NSL statute. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is expected to hear oral arguments in the government's appeal of that case next month.

Since the Patriot Act was passed in 2001, relaxing restrictions on the FBI's use of the power, the number of NSLs issued has seen an astronomical increase, to nearly 200,000 between 2003 and 2006. EFF's investigations have uncovered multiple NSL misuses, including an improper NSL issued to North Carolina State University.

There will be a Senate committee hearing on Iraq today, specifically, an oversight hearing on waste, fraud and corruption in Iraq.

DEMOCRATIC POLICY COMMITTEE HEARING WILL EXAMINE WHETHER AMERICAN RECONSTRUCTION AND ANTI-CORRUPTION FAILURES HAVE UNDERMINED THE U.S. MISSION IN IRAQ

The U.S. Senate Democratic Policy Committee will conduct a hearing on Monday, May 12 at 2:00 PM to examine the impact of American. reconstruction and anti-corruption failures on the U.S. mission in Iraq, Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-ND) announced Wednesday.

Witnesses will include two former Bush Administration officials who served in top posts in Iraq, and a retired two-star General with extensive experience in peace-keeping operations in Bosnia and as a civilian administrator for the United Nations in Kosovo.

SDSU students and a group of concerned parents will hold a mock graduation ceremony with 77 “missing” students today in protest of Tuesday’s announcement of a massive drug sting orchestrated by the DEA with the help of SDSU officials. Officials have described the five-month sting as a response to two recent fatal drug overdoses on campus, but those gathered today are criticizing the DEA’s show of force as counterproductive and are calling on the university to enact a life-saving Good Samaritan Policy that encourages students to call for help during a drug overdose emergency.

Today’s demonstration…will display 77 empty chairs and diplomas, symbolizing the 75 students arrested in the sting, as well as the two students who died recently of preventable drug overdoses. Large banners will be hoisted that read: “77 students are gone, but drug abuse isn’t” and “Save lives. Enact a Good Samaritan Policy.”

Their point:

“Sensational drug stings will do nothing to reduce the demand for drugs on campus, nor will they decrease the supply for these drugs for more than a few days,” said Randy Hencken, president of SSDP at SDSU. “ So long as students have the desire to use illegal drugs, and so long as the prohibition of drugs sustains a lucrative black market, drug stings will do little more than create openings for others to step in and supply drugs to SDSU students. This is a complicated problem that requires complex solutions but the discussion needs to start here.”

In interviews and a court filing Tuesday, lawyers for detainees at Guantánamo said they believed government agents had monitored their conversations. The assertions are the most specific to date by Guantánamo lawyers that officials may be violating legal principles that have generally kept government agents from eavesdropping on lawyers.

“I think they are listening to my telephone calls all the time,” said John A. Chandler, a prominent lawyer in Atlanta and Army veteran who represents six Guantánamo detainees.

Several of the lawyers, including partners at large corporate law firms, said the concerns had changed the way they went about their work apart from Guantánamo cases. A lawyer in Chicago, H. Candace Gorman, said in an affidavit that she was no longer accepting new clients of any type because she could not assure them of confidentiality.

The Center for Constitutional Rights filed the suit.

he new filing, by the Center for Constitutional Rights, came in a 2007 lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act in which Guantánamo lawyers are seeking records to determine whether they have been targets of surveillance.

The Justice Department declined to comment Tuesday. But in a legal response in March, its lawyers said they could neither confirm nor deny that detainees’ lawyers had been targets of such surveillance “because doing so would compromise the United States Intelligence Communities sources and methods.”

Here's the deal: They tell you you are being video-monitored without sound for your own protection when meeting with your client.

Several of the lawyers said a program of surveillance would be consistent with obstacles they had encountered in representing detainees. In 2004, officials proposed “real-time monitoring” of lawyers’ interviews with Guantánamo detainees.

A federal judge barred that, saying that listening to lawyers’ meetings failed to recognize “the exceptional place in the legal system of the United States” for attorney-client communications.

Guantánamo officials say they monitor attorney-client meetings for the safety of lawyers with video cameras but that meeting areas are not wired for sound.

But several lawyers said their clients had told them that shortly after detainees met with lawyers, interrogators had asked the detainees about topics that had been discussed.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is cooridnating the lawsuit. They say: They say,

ast night, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel filed an opposition brief in Wilner v. NSA, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on behalf of 24 attorneys who represent detainees at Guantánamo – including CCR staff attorneys Gitanjali Gutierrez and Wells Dixon, as well as law professors and partners at prominent international law firms. These attorneys believe they may have been targeted by the government’s warrantless wiretapping program that began shortly after September 11, 2001 because of their representation of Guantánamo prisoners labeled “enemy combatants” by the government. They seek access to records showing whether the government has intercepted communications relating to their representation of these clients.

“The existence of the spying program inhibits our ability to do our work,” said CCR attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez, a plaintiff in the case. “We sometimes have to warn clients and potential witnesses that their communications with us may be monitored by the government. The NSA program prevents us from assuring them of confidentiality, making clients and witnesses less likely to want to participate in any cases against the government.”

Although CCR argues that any warrantless surveillance of the plaintiffs would be illegal, not only have the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) refused to turn over the relevant records, they have refused to confirm or deny whether the plaintiffs were in fact subject to surveillance under the program. The newly-filed brief argues that the government must provide the records if they exist because the FOIA statute cannot be used to hide illegal activities.

For further informaton on the case and filing details, go here. “>here.

If you find other news of interest, please feel free to post in the comments.


Deep Thought

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 8th, 2008 4:36 am by HL

Deep Thought
Is West Virginia a big state?


Marketing Ethnic Cleansing: Israel Parties Like It’s 1948 on its 60th Birthday

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 8th, 2008 4:35 am by HL

Marketing Ethnic Cleansing: Israel Parties Like It’s 1948 on its 60th Birthday
The frenzy around Israel Independence Day is an attempt to freeze history in 1948 when public support of Israel was unequivocal.


CLINTON STRATEGIST TO CLINTON: IT’S OVER.

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 8th, 2008 4:34 am by HL

CLINTON STRATEGIST TO CLINTON: IT’S OVER.
Tags: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, US election 2008, Democratic presidential nominee
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Louisiana Robo Caller Unmasked!

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 8th, 2008 4:33 am by HL

Louisiana Robo Caller Unmasked!
Over the weekend, there were reports of robo calls during Louisiana’s 6th District special election, during which State Rep. Don Cazayoux had narrowly beaten Republican Woody Jenkins. In the calls, which went out to Baton Rouge’s African-American neighborhoods on election…


Principle Beats Pander

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 8th, 2008 4:32 am by HL

Principle Beats Pander

While every expert said the temporary gas tax cut was terrible policy, pretty much every pundit said it was great politics, showing Clinton knew how to connect with voters better than Obama.

Wrong.

After Clinton grasped for the pander move, Obama saw an opening.

Draw a stark contrast between their approaches to politics, move media focus to a substantive policy conflict and burnish the overriding message on which his campaign has long been based.

There wasn’t much outward bluster. But it took much inner toughness to plant that flag and stick with it.

The result: a big 15-point victory in North Carolina, and thin 2-point loss in Indiana (with Operation Chaos perhaps illegitimately creating Clinton’s margin of victory).

Both results strongly outperformed most of the recent polling.

Notably, Obama triumphed in the exit polls on the question of who is “honest and trustworthy.” 49% in NC and 45% in IN said Clinton was not honest. Only 27% and 30% respectively said the same of Obama.

He not only won the most votes and delegates yesterday, he won them in the right way — in a way that bolsters his message, forges trust and helps build a governing mandate.

Clinton sought to undermine him not simply with a pander move, but with continued borrowing of right-wing frames and arguments (obliterating Iran, deriding expert policy recommendations, mocking fellow Dems as “elitist.”) You can’t build a governing mandate that way.

But that’s a moot point, because she lost the argument and the night. And in all likelihood, the nomination.


Profit of Murdoch’s News Corp. triples

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 8th, 2008 4:31 am by HL

Profit of Murdoch’s News Corp. triples
News Corp., the owner of the MySpace Web site and Fox television, said third-quarter profit tripled on a $1.67 billion gain from the sale of its stake in DirecTV Group Inc. and advertising from “American Idol” and the Super Bowl…

Troop withdrawal added to funding bill
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Defying President Bush’s demand to send him a clean war funding bill, House Democratic leaders unveiled legislation Tuesday that conditions the money on withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and adds billions of dollars in domestic spending. House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wisconsin, outlined a $183.7 billion package that combines money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the remainder of 2008 with additional funding requested by the administration to continue military operations through early 2009.


Max Boot Compares Walled Baghdad Neighborhoods To American Gated Communties

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 8th, 2008 4:30 am by HL

Max Boot Compares Walled Baghdad Neighborhoods To American Gated Communties
Today, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Max Boot continued to cheerlead for the “success” of the surge in Iraq in an online debate. Boot insisted that Iraq has met two-thirds of the original 18 benchmarks, that the government’s offensive in Basra was successful, and that the so-called Sons of Iraq will always remain loyal […]

max-boot-bw.gifToday, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Max Boot continued to cheerlead for the “success” of the surge in Iraq in an online debate. Boot insisted that Iraq has met two-thirds of the original 18 benchmarks, that the government’s offensive in Basra was successful, and that the so-called Sons of Iraq will always remain loyal to the Shiite-controlled Iraqi state.

Boot concluded by conceding that there are walls separating Sunni neighborhoods from Shia, but dismissed the fact by stating simply that “there are walls around many gated communities in the U.S. too”:

It’s true that there are walls around Dora and other Baghdad neighborhoods. … But then there are walls around many gated communities in the U.S. too. The walls per se are not evidence of reconciliation, I’ll grant you that. But nor are they evidence that reconciliation is impossible. They are one of the important security measures implemented in the past year that is reducing violence and making possible political progress—which is real, whether you admit it or not.

There is a world of difference between American gated communities — where at least 7 million families have chosen to live — and the walls that divide Baghdad. The policy, begun last April, of walling off neighboring communities with a “12-foot high, three mile long wall” is hardly the benign trend Boot describes. The move was widely condemned by the Iraqi press, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered a halt to its construction almost immediately. As one Iraqi put it, “This will make the whole district a prison.”

Despite what Iraq war hawks are willing to admit, the surge has transformed Baghdad into an ethnically-cleansed and religiously divided city that bears little resemblance to its former character.