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March 31, 2007

Lewis & Clark, York and Public Memory

What do we collectively remember from history?  Over the last couple of decades we have begun uncovering and highlighting bits and pieces of history that went unnoticed for decades or even centuries because they hadn't been reported on sufficiently at the time or because they differed from the collective understanding of who did what.  Mostly, of course, the collective understanding was that white men did everything of note. 

Hanging out in Portland yesterday, waiting for my sister to come out from a doctor's appointment, I read an interesting article in the Oregonian about an African-American law student at Lewis & Clark in Portland, Charles Neal, who happened upon the tale of York, the enslaved black man who explored the West with Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery.  The more Neal learned about York, the more the injustice of his fate and the absence of public memory of this man, stuck in his craw.  Especially irksome was the lack of any memorial of any kind about York at a school named after the two leaders of the expedition, one of whom, William Clark, was York's owner. 

The Corps of Discovery "relied on every member to contribute as equals" on the 2-year journey.  York tasted freedom and equality and after the expedition, York asked for his freedom.  Clark denied him and more.

"I did wish to do well by him. but he has got Such a nation about freedom," Clark wrote in his journal. He is "insolent and sulky, I gave him a trouncing the other day." Clark then hired York out to a harsher master who could whip York into submission.

Neal and a group of fellow students asked the college president to back a plan to commission a sculpture of York.  Money is currently being raised to do just that and it is likely to be followed by a center for the study of public memory, dedicated to York.

Public memory, such an interesting awareness.  Here's more:

Public memory emerged as an academic field about 20 years ago and several campuses now have centers devoted to its study. Oral historians began to ask not only about what people remembered, but also why they remembered what they did. From that came the desire to learn more about systematic efforts to build a public memory and national identity from a shared sense of the past.

"Every culture has a public memory," says Mitch Reyes, a Lewis & Clark professor who specializes in African American public memory. "You have to start asking yourself, 'Who gets to be remembered and who gets to do the remembering?' "

From a social perspective, clearly the folks who have wielded the power and the pen have been remembered.  From a political perspective, I think the right caught onto this idea and figured out how to influence public memory over the last several decades and the left is only starting to catch up.  From an economic perspective, the wealthy, monied and corporate interests figured this out so long ago, they've forgotten it was anything but established truth. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 31, 2007 at 04:08 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (3)

Read It and Weep

What would have happened if Sandra Day O'Connor had allowed the Florida vote count to proceed and Al Gore had been sworn in as President in January, 2001?  Phoenix Woman provides a possible scenario over at Firedoglake.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 31, 2007 at 03:08 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 30, 2007

Spotted Owl AU: Tiny animals stop Australian mine



This certainly put the Northwest's Spotted Owl conflict in perspective: "The discovery of tiny, cave-dwelling animals measuring just 4mm in length has halted plans to develop a $10bn (£5bn) mine in Western Australia."


Read story at NewsCloud.

Posted by Jeff on March 30, 2007 at 12:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 29, 2007

Now, that's Blogging

A woman blogger from Berkeley has taken blogging to a new level.  She is in Kuwait trying to cover the Iraq War.  According to the S.F. Chronicle, Jane Stillwater, who writes a blog called Jane Stillwater's Web Log, just up and went to Kuwait with the hope that she would be able to embed with the U.S. military and report on what is going on over there.  According to the article:

Stillwater said she's going to Iraq to write about the war for "real people." She's tired of getting news from TV journalists who throw on a khaki vest for a few photo ops before flying home first-class.

She saved for her ticket to Kuwait, $1,072, the way she has saved for the many other adventures she has taken in her life, by living on peanut butter sandwiches, bicycling everywhere and living very frugally.  She has traveled extensively and is unconcerned about the lack of a translator.  Her media sponsor is The Lone Star Iconoclast, the 900-circulation, liberal weekly in Crawford, Texas.   The army is still trying to find her a unit in which she can embed.

She writes today from Kuwait, where she just arrived last night. 

On the flight over from Amsterdam, Stillwater found that the entire plane was filled with contractors talking about how much money they were making and the wonderful things they were spending it on.  She thinks its rather ironic that this is where the American Dream still lives. 

Stillwater says:

Who am I to try to put an end to this perfect world -- just because it is based on the quicksand of a million dead bodies?

If you want to tag along with this amazing woman, here's her blog.

H/t to Lisa.

AND MORE:  Jane is off to Iraq.  Today's post is about eating in the commissary in Kuwait.  Great food.  Salad bar.  FOX News on everywhere.  Yuck!  What is it about this government!!!

PS:  My sister, Lisa, just told me that she sent me the link not to post but rather to inspire me to go to Iraq.  Uh, I think I'll just read what Jane has to say. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 29, 2007 at 07:32 PM in Miscellany, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (2)

What does the Navy have against mammals?



Many Seattle residents don't realize they live across the water from a major nuclear submarine base, one which the Navy hopes to begin patrolling with sea lions and dolphins (like the ones that escaped after Hurricane Katrina). Aside from ethical concerns, Puget Sound is home to the endangered killer whale (technically a dolphin but apparently not interested in mercenary work) and its waters are often too cold (40F) for the softer warm water military dolphins. Ironically, we might end up with sea lions defending our country inside Puget Sound, while being shot with rubber bullets nearby to protect endangered salmon runs. Meanwhile, California has reinitiated lawsuits against the Navy for continued use of sonar suspected of harming wild mammals.

Is it time for the mammals to unionize? Read story at NewsCloud.

Posted by Jeff on March 29, 2007 at 05:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Free Quarters

For the 18 and under set. One per and they have to be there in person.

The new Washington State quarter will be released to the public at Fisher Pavilion at the Seattle Center next Wednesday, April 11th, from 2:00 - 5:00.  Governor Gregoire, her husband, Mike Gregoire, and the Director of the U.S. Mint, Edmund C. Moy, will do the honors at 3:00.


Free new Washington State quarters provided by BofA.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 29, 2007 at 05:42 PM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Step It Up! A National Day Of Action To Stop Climate Change

On April 14, thousands of concerned citizens will march through downtown Seattle as part of Step It Up, a national movement
to stop climate change. Join us to call on Congress to reduce global warming emissions by 80% by the year 2050!


MARCH through downtown Seattle with thousands of your friends and neighbors for the urgent need to protect our climate and communities.

RALLY for clean energy and smart transportation solutions.

GET INVOLVED.  Learn how to make a difference at the global warming Solutions Fair and connect with groups working for sustainable energy solutions in your community.  
 
Please join us so that we can send a loud and clear message to our elected officials that - now is the time for action!
 
Event Details
 
When: 
Saturday, April 14th


March:  Starts at 2pm at Occidental Park,  Seattle
Route:  From Occidental Park, north on Occidental Ave S, west on Yesler Way, north on Alaskan Way, end at Myrtle Edwards  Park
 

Rally:  Rally will begin at 4pm at Myrtle  Edwards Park.  Speakers include: King County Executive Ron Sims, Seattle Mayor  Greg Nickels, Reverend Lisa Domke, and KC Golden of Climate Solutions

Solutions
Fair:
  Will be open until 6pm.  Featuring live music, art and sustainable energy groups.

       
To RSVP: email stepitup@climatesolutions.org.

 
For more information:
Local website: www.stepitupseattle.org. (Includes information on transportation options)
National website: www.stepitup2007.org.
 
Step It Up Seattle partners include:

City of Seattle, Climate Solutions, Earth Ministry, FlexCar, Grist Magazine, King County, League of Women Voters, Martin Luther King Jr. County Labor Council, National Wildlife Federation, Northwest Animal Rights Network, NW Energy Coalition, Sierra Club, Transportation Choices Coalition, Washington Conservation Voters, Washington Environmental Council, Washington Wilderness Coalition, 2People
 

"If we're going to make the
kind of change we need in the short time left us, we need something that looks
like the civil rights movement, and we need it now. Changing light bulbs just
isn't enough."

-Journalist Bill
McKibben,
From Step It Up national website

Posted by Jon Stahl on March 29, 2007 at 02:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

"Voter Fraud" is Itself a Fraud

It's going to be a stressful day for Abu Gonzales' former chief of staff Kyle Sampson. He's slated to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he'll be expected to explain all about his role and his ex-boss's role in the firing of the USA Eight. Hopefully, at least one of the committee members will ask him some questions about the real reason John McKay was booted, because excuses like "insubordination" and "temperment issues" just won't wash.

From an op-ed in today's Washington Post:

But the notion of widespread voter fraud, as these prosecutors found out, is itself a fraud. Firing a prosecutor for failing to find wide voter fraud is like firing a park ranger for failing to find Sasquatch. Where fraud exists, of course, it should be prosecuted and punished. (And politicians have been stuffing ballot boxes and buying votes since senators wore togas; Lyndon Johnson won a 1948 Senate race after his partisans famously "found" a box of votes well after the election.) Yet evidence of actual fraud by individual voters is painfully skimpy.

...b-b-but, but... Bob Williams and Chris Vance said there really is a Sasquatch!

Or consider Washington state, where McKay closely watched the photo-finish gubernatorial election of 2004. A challenge to ostensibly noncitizen voters was lodged in April 2005 on the questionable basis of "foreign-sounding names." After an election there last year in which more than 2 million votes were cast, following much controversy, only one ballot ended up under suspicion for double-voting. That makes sense. A person casting two votes risks jail time and a fine for minimal gain. Proven voter fraud, statistically, happens about as often as death by lightning strike.

What happens more often is actual voter suppression and voter disenfranchisement, courtesy of the Republican party.

Those investigating the U.S. attorney firings should ask what orders went out to other prosecutors in the run-up to the 2006 election. Prosecutors are not hired-gun lawyers on a party payroll. They have a special duty to exercise their power responsibly, particularly in the context of a heated election. Pressure on prosecutors to join a witch hunt for individual voter fraud is a scandal, not just for the Justice Department but for voters seeking to exercise their most basic right.

If only someone could knock some sense into zealots like Tom McCabe. He still believes in witch hunts. But he's not wrong to believe that the goons in the White House will conduct witch hunts if pushed hard enough. He knows that dirty operators like Karl Rove can always be counted on to do whatever it takes to grab -- and hold onto -- power. Even if it means lying to Americans, lying to Congress, or sending emissaries to "push out" insufficiently loyal Republicans when it suits his purposes.

As for those Republicans who haven't yet strayed off the reservation, one sticks out in my mind: that pathetic excuse for a congressman who hails from Washington's 4th district. So I have to wonder if there's just one Democrat out there with the intestinal fortitude to hold Doc Hastings accountable for his ethical failures as a public servant. All it takes is one to file a referral on the ethics complaint made by CREW.

Just takes one.

Posted by shoephone on March 29, 2007 at 12:40 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

March 28, 2007

How Does a Nation Repent?

PBS's NOW ran an incredible piece last week about a delegation of thoughtful American religious leaders who went to Iran to talk with Iranians, particularly Iranian religious leaders.  One of the American women, dressed very modestly in a traditional chador as were all the women, said this was the first time any Americans had gone to Iran to just listen and try to understand what the Iranians were doing and why they were doingit. 

The show was pretty inspiring in itself.  Producer Jamila Paksima, who was born in Iran, went with a group of American spiritual leaders who included folks from the National Council of Churches, the Mennonite Church, the American Friends, the Episcopal Church, Sojourners, United Methodist Church and Pax Christi USA.  From the PBS website on the show:

The 13-member team met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, top officials in the government, and several of the ayatollahs who have a powerful influence on government policy. They were there to have dialogue about issues as nuclear proliferation, the Iraq war, and the holocaust. 

"When political leaders mess up, religious leaders ought to be here to go and build up the people, build up relationships, and bring the conversation up the high moral ground," said one of the U.S. delegates, Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, who represented Episcopalians, Methodists, Evangelicals and dozens of other denominations.

One of the American men, while riding on a bus, asked the question that has haunted me for all this time of the war.  "How does a nation repent?"  How does a nation, and clearly he was speaking about the U.S., repent and learn from what we have wrought and change direction as a result of our introspection? We didn't do much introspection or repenting after the Vietnam War or Gulf I and I'm thinking that led us directly to this place where this country was led into war by a cabal of perhaps a dozen neocons positioned well in the government.  We hadn't absorbed how much we are responsible for the consequences of our actions.   I really hope we can learn enough about how we came to decide to fight this war and how we have allowed it to go on so long. 

I think that we will have to grapple with this question in order to truly change direction for the future.

So how does a nation repent? 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 28, 2007 at 04:53 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reichert Moves Farther Right

Dan tracks Reichert by the numbers and finds, to his surprise, that Reichert is voting even more consistently with the Republican leadership than he did last session.  It's early in the session and Reichert's pattern is to vote consistently with the Republicans when he's not being watched and then vote occasionally with the Democrats when he is - just so he can keep that fake "moderate" label with the press. 

But Dan at "On the Road to 2008" watches him all the time and let's us know.  Check out his latest post.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 28, 2007 at 09:46 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (2)

Movements for Social Change -- From Tocqueville to Alinsky to Howard Dean

Social movements require impetus, nurturing and time to ensure growth, and effect real change. Over at TPMCafe, Harvard professor Marshall Ganz offers a great synopsis of the history of America's major social movements, how they operate today, and what we need to do in the future to bring more people into the "community", and spread "community" out across the country. A lot depends on the new populism. It's crucial that people-powered movements (the grassroots, if you prefer) figure out how to find their voices and use the megaphone in order to compliment or, in some cases, counteract the the elite groups with big money. Fortunately, we have a rich history of success on which to build.

In 1831, French aristocrat Alexis De Tocqueville came to America to study our penal system, but used the opportunity to investigate American democracy. He worried that political equality could so erode social relationships rooted in family, church, and guild that citizenship would turn into a series of arid exchanges between isolated individuals and a powerful state. That individualism uncurbed by claims of community, could not sustain a healthy polity in which the common good would receive its due.

But what he found was a vibrant society, sustained by civic associations. Modeled on parties organized to contest political power, the art of association had reached into all realms of public life. Associations had become the great “free schools” in which citizens learned the “habits of the heart” that made their new democracy work – an understanding of self-interest linked to the interests of others and thus requiring active collaboration in pursuit of common goods. When scale was required, collaboration was also modeled on parties – and government itself – that organized across locality, state, and nation as a self-governing three tiered representative associations.

In other words, he saw that we had learned that choices a few people make about how to use their money could be balanced by choices many people make about how to use their time.

Community organizing has come a long way since the days of abolition and temperance movements. What began as a uniquely American form of organizing -- gathering individuals who were committed to right moral wrongs, usually by way of church groups -- has evolved via a complex route that now finds us connecting with like-minded individuals through this remarkable thing called the World Wide Web. But is this world enough?

The internet finally proved to be a powerful cog in the wheel of Democratic politics during the election of 2006, by helping to connect people looking for a way to share ideas, stategies and message-framing tools, and even more so by creating effective fundraising mechanisms, like Act Blue, for electing progressive candidates. Still, there remains a need for old-fashioned, face-to-face events that reach out into neighborhoods and communities and bring people together for the purpose of both organizing and simple schmoozing -- while sharing a pint, of course.

Ganz takes us on a thought-provoking little journey, starting with Tocqueville, moving through Alinsky (the godfather of social organizing) and ending with Howard Dean, while making many stops along the way. His piece is well worth the read.

Posted by shoephone on March 28, 2007 at 01:42 AM in Inside Baseball, National and International Politics, Strategery, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (2)

March 27, 2007

WA State Dems Ahead of the Curve

Democrats in Washington and Oregon are more likely to be from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, as Howard Dean might put it.   A recent Pew Research Center poll asked whether than Democrats and Democratic-leaners whether they identified as Liberal, Moderate or Conservative.   

                      Lib    Mod    Cons     # surveyed   

Oregon              44     42       12           374
Washington       44     40        13           477
National            31      44       21       24,687
Utah                 38      37       22           117
California          38      44       15         2,427

The Ridenbaugh Press blog noticed this little tidbit amongst the larger news that we have had a dramatic shift in party identification over the past five years.  The Pew Report says:

In 2002, the country was equally divided along partisan lines: 43% identified with the Republican Party or leaned to the GOP, while an identical proportion said they were Democrats. Today, half of the public (50%) either identifies as a Democrat or says they lean to the Democratic Party, compared with 35% who align with the GOP.

And the Republicans in Washington and Oregon?  No news there.  Self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaners were asked whether they identified as being white evangelical Protestant conservatives, other conservatives, or moderate/liberals.  They lined up pretty much in the middle of today's self-identified Republicans:

State             Evan  Other Cons  Mod/Lib # surveyed

Idaho               23          47            28               148
Oregon            26          37            34               285
Washington      28          33            37               477
National           26          35            37           22,054
Utah                  1          62            32               270
California         19          39             40            1,896
Montana          27          36             36               112

And, if the numbers for Utah seem odd, that Mormons are considered to be in the Other Conservative category. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 27, 2007 at 08:59 PM in Inside Baseball, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Elections Have Consequences

...and if you're a Democrat who supports the Republican party, like Washington State Senator Tim Sheldon, you can be sure that one consequence of a 32-17 Democratic advantage in the State Senate is that you're going to be totally marginalized.  Like you deserve to be. 

And, Tim, it's not the "price you pay for being independent."  It's the price you pay for supporting Republicans like Dino Rossi and George Bush.

Posted by Jon Stahl on March 27, 2007 at 08:21 PM in Inside Baseball | Permalink | Comments (2)

Goldy Connects The Dots

Goldy delivers a nice debunking of the proposed NASCAR track for Bremerton, pointing out that there's a perfectly viable plan on the table to bring NASCAR to Kent that doesn't require a massive taxpayer subsidy.

This isn’t about bringing NASCAR to Washington state, this is about crafting a sweetheart deal for ISC and the family that controls it. For if they really wanted to bring NASCAR to Washington, there is better alternative, near the heart of our state’s population center, that would require little if any public subsidy: Pacific Raceways, near Kent.

Pacific Raceways is located on a 330 acre site just outside of Kent, a quarter mile off Highway 18, with it’s own dedicated off ramp. Just 20 miles from both Seattle and Tacoma, there are plenty of hotel rooms in the region, and no major transportation improvements would be needed. The site is already zoned, and has been operating as a racetrack since 1960. And perhaps best of all, the local owners have plans to privately finance a $135 million upgrade and expansion that would be capable of attracting NASCAR, IRL and CART racing events.


Posted by Jon Stahl on March 27, 2007 at 05:51 PM in Policy, The Politics of Business | Permalink | Comments (0)

Microsoft Fails to Improve Board Diversity, Appoints Another White Male


story photo
Microsoft's board consists of nine men and one woman: Reed Hastings, founder, chairman and chief executive of Netflix, the DVD-by-mail video-rental service, is joining the 10-member board representing Microsoft shareholders, the company announced Monday.


Read story at NewsCloud.

Posted by Jeff on March 27, 2007 at 12:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Environmentalists excited about Senate Bill 5412 to revise state transportation goals

The planning process for transportation in Washington State is frustrating for environmentalists because we use 1950’s auto-centric transportation planning.  This outdated approach causes transportation projects to be governed by a set of false assumptions where the state defines the capacity in a transportation corridor as how many single cars can move from point A to point B, rather than how to move the greatest number of people and goods through a corridor and how to create healthy and environmentally oriented communities.   The current auto-centric approach to transportation in Washington State creates limited choices in state and local planning and frames every transportation improvement as a choice between cars and more cars. 

State Senator Ed Murray’s Senate Bill 5412 will bring transportation planning into the 21st century by focusing limited transportation resources in a pro-environment and fiscally responsible way.  The bill (SSB 5412) is divided into five areas of focus: preservation, safety, mobility, environment and stewardship.  Lets take a closer look at why the bill would make a big difference in future transportation planning.

In the bill preservation is about maintaining, preserving and extending the life of prior transportation investments.  With federal funding virtually gone for transportation infrastructure, getting the most life out of prior transportation investments makes fiscal and common sense. 

Making safety a top priority is an important focus in the bill and it should be.  Too often in Washington State, a highway will be getting expanded in one community, while in another community the safety and security of a highway is compromised.  With our culture of car dependency, there is too much complacency about deaths and accidents on our states highway’s and roads and that culture of complacency must change. 

Creating mobility is an exciting part of this bill.  In the focus on moving cars on and off the ramps of highways we’ve lost sight of what it takes to move people and goods in our cities and on our roads.  It’s hard to imagine living without constant gridlock.  However, when we create transportation choices, the possibility of moving beyond the current nightmare becomes a reality because we can redefine the way we get around our communities by doing the right kind of planning for major road projects, provide important resources for our local roads, put funding into transit, and support walking and biking in our communities. 

Enhancing the quality of life with our transportation investments is the part of this bill that will look at the impact on the environment and how to create healthy communities.  Energy conversation will be a focus of the bill.  It is critically important as we begin to take responsibility for the long-term effects of a transportation system that is negatively impacting our environment in a fiscal and physical way.

Finally, the concept of stewardship of our transportation system is part of this bill.  For too long we have under funded the most basic kinds of maintenance and repair allowing our infrastructure to deteriorate to the point where the cost of fixing the infrastructure goes way beyond what basic upkeep would have cost.

We need this kind of pro-transit and pro-environment legislation more often.  The State Senate can be congratulated for moving the bill forward with such strong support, now it’s up to the State House and the Governor to show the same kind of leadership and recognize the progress that will happen with our transportation system  with the passage of SSB 5412.

Posted by EzraBasom on March 27, 2007 at 09:53 AM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (2)

March 26, 2007

Emmett Asks a Great Question

Will McKay bring down Rossi?  We are learning a lot recently about the insidious back-channel, Republican partisan maneuvering that led to John McKay's firing last December. 

Emmett over at Washblog connects the dots that our own shoephone (many dots) and Dave at Homestead Blog have laid down and asks about the impact on Dino Rossi and his presumed run at the governor next year.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 26, 2007 at 08:39 AM in Candidate Races, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

March 25, 2007

Sunday Funnies

Here are a couple of not-to-be-missed video-clips from Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher that smack down Bush big time. 

Here's Colbert daring Democrats to impeach Bush.

H/t to Darryl

And Maher laying out the basics in the Valerie Plame case in a clearer way than I've ever heard.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 25, 2007 at 11:26 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

McKay on Meet the Press: There's a Black Cloud Hanging Over the Justice Department

Ousted US attorneys John McKay and David Iglesias were featured on this morning's Meet the Press, and their statements made it clear just why investigations into the firings of all eight USAs are needed. Russert came out of the gate to ask if McKay thought he was replaced because he wasn't a "loyal Bushie."

No, I don't think that's right, Tim... My office had recently received a very outstanding evaluation for the work that the men and women in Seattle do here on behalf of the United States government. So, we're more interested in being loyal to where the evidence goes in criminal cases, and not in politics.

Iglesias was asked about White House counsel Dan Bartlett's criticisms that he was fired for lack of leadership and performance problems. Russert noted that former Deputy AG James Comey had said "David Iglesias is one of our finest." Iglesias said Bartlett doesn't have a clue as to what he's talking about.

Mr. Comey has a better idea of what I was doing because he was my direct supervisor. Mr. Bartlett was never my supervisor.

Iglesias and McKay both said the claims of bad performance were bogus. After Iglesias was fired he asked officials at the department for future job references, because he knew that if he'd been fired for performance issues they never would have agreed to furnish the references (which they did.) McKay was asked about criticism that he handled the lobbying for LinX poorly. McKay made clear that the DOJ has fumbled. First they gave him no reason for his dismissal, then they said it was due to performance issues and then they said it was a policy disagreement. He thinks those are all "red herrings."

I think what's really happening here is the department has gone back and tried to find reasons to justify their dismissals of us.

When Russert asked if they still have confidence in AG Gonzales they were pretty straightforward. Iglesias:

Right now I've got serious doubts, I really do.

McKay:

I think that there is, as I said, a cloud over the Justice Department and that is just going to have to be removed.

Russert (to Iglesias):

To this day, do you believe you were removed for political reasons?

Iglesias:

Absolutely, yes.

Russert (to McKay):

Mr. McKay, what have you learned from this?

McKay:

..I am learning that the importance of prosecutorial independence, integrity, compassion, fairness, those are the issues that guided all of us as federal prosecutors. Our colleagues remain in office, and I believe they're following the same thing. They're carrying a heavier burden today and I think they're up to the task. And I hope that the American people understand that the federal prosecutions and prosecutors do hold these qualities closely to them, notwithstanding all that's gone on in the last few weeks.

Iglesias is clearly very angry about the way he's been treated and the lies that have been told about him. McKay was more circumspect (he has a new job, Iglesias doesn't) but it's obvious he's appalled at what has transpired. They support investigations at the highest levels. To both men I say "thank you" for your service in the name of judicial independence. I think we're beginning to understand a whole lot about the inner workings of the Bush Justice Department...

(transcriptions are mine.)

Update: Stillwell's got more quotes from the MTP transcript, in his post McKay on MTP: intital thoughts, that involve McKay getting barraged with GOP complaints on the election, and how it played a part in the questions he was asked during his White House interview for the judgeship.

Posted by shoephone on March 25, 2007 at 08:41 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (13)

Who Was the Mysterious Washington State "Political Lead" in the McKay Firing? and Other Burning Questions...

The AP's Gene Johnson has written up a very compelling piece that includes a timeline on the last two years of McKay's tenure as US attorney, and then raises some serious unanswered questions. For example, what really happened in the three weeks between August 2006, when Gonzales' chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, went to bat for McKay on a federal judgeship saying, "it's unlikely we could do better in Seattle" and September 13, when Sampson listed McKay as one of the USAs the Justice Department should dump? That's quite a turnaround, in both time and attitude.

McKay got lots of pushback when he sent a letter to Deputy AG Paul McNulty (August 30) lobbying for more help in getting funds to expand the LinX system, a law-enforcement information-sharing program he was chosen to chair. There was also consternation among some in the DOJ that McKay wasn't seeking tough enough sentences on people his office had successfully prosecuted. McKay dismisses the notion that either of those two complaints is the real reason he was fired, which can only lead us to the natural question: Was McKay booted for not going after the state Democrats for voter fraud in the 2004 governor's election?

And what's the real reason McKay wasn't put on the short list for John Coughenour's federal court seat? Maybe it has something to do with one of the Republicans who was chosen to co-chair the judicial selection commission.

Last spring, Hastings appointed J. Vander Stoep, an old friend who had served on previous judicial selection commissions, as co-chairman of the one vetting Coughenour's potential replacements. Vander Stoep was a top advisor to Rossi's campaign.

Vander Stoep opposed McKay's inclusion on the list of possible replacements because McKay didn't answer his question on judicial philosophy to his satisfaction. McKay, said Vander Stoep, wasn't enough of a Bush guy. This, of course, is patently ridiculous when one considers that McKay was a famous supporter of the Patriot Act, and loved by the people in law enforcement. Not to mention, his most recent Justice Department evaluation couldn't have been more glowing. But Vander Stoep, apparently, had a point to prove. He told former Senator Slade Gorton -- who, according to the article, was "outraged" at McKay's exclusion from the judgeship consideration -- that McKay didn't have the proper experience because he'd tried fewer than 10 cases. That's another dubious claim, when one considers that, before becoming US attorney, McKay had been the top litigator at Lane Powell Spears and Lubersky. McKay also related to the commission the details of 14 cases he had been directly involved in.

Not surprisingly, Jenny Durkan remembers things differently from Vander Stoep:

Durkan, the Democratic co-chairwoman of the commission, and a lawyer for Gov. Chris Gregoire during the election, said McKay was obviously qualified to make the commission's short list. She also said Vander Stoep's account of the interview "does not comport with my recollection."

Vander Stoep's participation on the commission, after his deep involvement with the Rossi campaign, raises a blazing red flag. It's common knowledge by now that the entire state GOP hierarchy was on the warpath for McKay because of Rossi's election loss. On the other hand, I have to wonder why Durkan was chosen too, considering her deep involvement with the court case over the vote counts. Plus, she's a childhood friend of McKay's. I think there's at least the appearance of conflict of interest for both, due to the fact that McKay, as US attorney for Seattle, was an obvious choice for the judgeship short list. Still, there are other unanswered questions.

In a Decemeber 4, 2006 email, Sampson tells then-White House counsel Harriet Miers of the protocol DOJ came up with for notifying home-state Republicans of the impending firings of their USAs. This was the protocol:

-AG calls Kyl

-Harriet/Bill call Ensign and Domenici

-White House OPA calls California, Michigan, Washington "leads"

The fact that the White House OPA -- Karl Rove's Office of Political Affairs -- was chosen to call the Washington "leads" is clear evidence that Rove was already in the loop on the entire USAs matter. But curiously, as the AP article points out:

Also unanswered: who was the White House's "political lead" in Washington state, to be notified of McKay's firing? State Attorney General Rob McKenna, Hastings, Rep. Dave Reichert, Vander Stoep, then-state GOP chairwoman Diane Tebelius, and Mike McKay have all denied knowing who it was. Rossi did not return calls for this story.

So, who was the political lead? Among a myriad of mysteries in this whole affair, I think that little mystery is begging to be solved.

Posted by shoephone on March 25, 2007 at 02:16 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

March 24, 2007

McKay in Context

Fired federal prosecutor John McKay of Seattle is smack in the middle of one of the biggest stories that history will tell about this time.   Republicans, led by Karl Rove, have systematically focused on stealing elections in order to prop up their greed-propelled grasp on the reins of government. 

Rove does the numbers.  He knows which states are key to long-range Republican success.  Digby points us to a piece that the McClatchy news folks wrote about a speech that Rove gave to the Republican National Lawyers Association last spring: 

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

Rove's focus on "voter fraud" is historic.   

Digby uncovers an Atlantic Monthly article about an election that Rove managed in Alabama in 1994, that of Republican Perry Hooper, running for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. 

In the race for chief justice, which had been neck and neck the evening before, Hooper awoke to discover himself trailing by 698 votes. Throughout the day ballots trickled in from remote corners of the state, until at last an unofficial tally showed that Rove's client had lost—by 304 votes. Hornsby's campaign declared victory.

Rove had other plans, and immediately moved for a recount. "Karl called the next morning," says a former Rove staffer. "He said, 'We came real close. You guys did a great job. But now we really need to rally around Perry Hooper. We've got a real good shot at this, but we need to win over the people of Alabama.'" Rove explained how this was to be done. "Our role was to try to keep people motivated about Perry Hooper's election," the staffer continued, "and then to undermine the other side's support by casting them as liars, cheaters, stealers, immoral—all of that." (Rove did not respond to requests for an interview for this article.

The campaign quickly obtained a restraining order to preserve the ballots. Then the tactical battle began. Rather than focus on a handful of Republican counties that might yield extra votes, Rove dispatched campaign staffers and hired investigators to every county to observe the counting and turn up evidence of fraud. In one county a probate judge was discovered to have erroneously excluded 100 votes for Hooper. Voting machines in two others had failed to count all the returns. Mindful of public opinion, according to staffers, the campaign spread tales of poll watchers threatened with arrest; probate judges locking themselves in their offices and refusing to admit campaign workers; votes being cast in absentia for comatose nursing-home patients; and Democrats caught in a cemetery writing down the names of the dead in order to put them on absentee ballots.

And on it went.  Perry Hooper "won" that election eleven months later with the help of a tremendously sophisticated PR campaign, many appeals to different courts, including the federal courts, and heaven knows how much outright fraud.

If these tactics sound wildly familiar, there is a reason.  Fast forward to 2004 and our Washington State gubernatorial election.  The same tactics were used, undoubtedly by folks that Rove had either trained or was talking to every day or both.  Except in Washington State, a Republican judge in Chelan country ran a fair trial and stated that the Republicans did not have a case.  Then John McKay, the well-respected Republican-appointed federal prosecutor, who had conducted a thorough investigation of voter fraud in that election, refused to convene a federal grand jury because, as he said,  "we never found any evidence of criminal conduct."

For his troubles, McKay was listed as insubordinate by the DoJ political handlers and placed on the list of federal prosecutors to be fired.  From the PI article on an interview McKay gave:

He spoke out because he believed Republican supporters of Dino Rossi, still bitter over his narrow loss to Democrat Christine Gregoire, continue to falsely portray him and his office as indifferent to allegations of electoral fraud.

And McKay also said that "when top Bush aides interviewed him for a federal judgeship, he was asked to respond to criticism of his inquiry in which no charges were brought. He didn't get the judgeship".

John McKay is scheduled to be on Meet the Press tomorrow morning, along with David Iglesias of New Mexico.  Odds are John McKay spent his adult life doing his jobs well and fairly, aiming to end his career with an appointment to a federal judgeship.  It would be a lovely time for McKay to tell us why he thinks he was fired from his position as federal prosecutor and denied appointment to a federal judgeship. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 24, 2007 at 11:18 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Rubber stamp Reichert Votes to Continue Iraq Debacle

Hey Eastsiders, how do you like your Congressman now? Apparently, Dave Reichert thinks the President's policies in Iraq are just fine - and voted against the resolution to set reasonable limits on spending and troop readiness for Iraq and Afghanistan the other day.

So if you are wondering why the federal deficit is out of control and your children's futures are being mortgaged for a war in a country whose citizens are even fighting amongst their own religious sects (Shia vs. Shia and Sunni vs. Sunni)...you might want to give Sheriff Dave a call.

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Posted by Jeff on March 24, 2007 at 10:22 AM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (3)

March 23, 2007

Thank You, Nancy and the Dems

We had a big win today with the passage of the supplemental Iraq war spending bill, H.R. 1591, in the House where it squeaked by with a margin of 218 to 212.  That was an amazing feat on the part of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a rash of other Democratic leaders in the House, including our own Jim McDermott, whose announcement that he was voting for the bill yesterday was key to nudging the vote into the "win" column. 

The remaining five Democratic representatives - Baird, Smith, Inslee, Larsen, and Dicks also voted in support of H.R 1591.  None of the three Republicans voted for it.  Of the 212 members who opposed the bill, 198 were Republicans and 14 were Democrats.  Only 2 Republicans voted for the measure.

It isn't all we'd want by any measure and certainly will not bring the troops home quickly enough, but it was a lot.  And, it would support a new direction in Iraq were it to pass.  Now, we all know this isn't going to become law, not having to make its way through to a 60 vote passage in the Senate, something that would require some doing.  Not to mention a promised Presidential veto.  But they will keep trying and, in the meantime, the vote sent a message to the public and a message to the White House:

    1.  To the public - "We heard you loud and clear.  You want us out but not precipitously."

    2.  To the White House - "That's it.  You will get away with no more crap."   

The $124 billion bill would require that combat operations cease before September 2008, or earlier.   

In addition, here are the other main points:   

  • Ensure that U.S. troops have the resources and training they need
  • Improve healthcare for returning service members and veterans
  • Direct more resources to the war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan
  • Require Iraqis to take control of Iraq - by meeting the security, political and economic benchmarks established by President Bush

This momentous bill was a snapshot of where Congress is today on the Iraq War.   It's the first time they've really done anything to thwart the President's will and it was a pretty satisfactory punch to the gut of the administration, an administration that seems to understand nothing else. 

Naturally, the Republicans were against it because it promises to begin the process of holding dear leader Bush accountable.  Then that great unraveling begs the question why they themselves were so enabling of all that Bush has done. 

A entirely other group presented opposition as well.   A number of liberal Democrats, like Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, all members of the "Out of Iraq" caucus in the House, absolutely didn't think the bill went far enough in withdrawing troops from Iraq NOW.  But somehow, miraculously, with a fair amount of pork thrown in to change a last few votes, the bill passed.  And then Pelosi, choir master extraordinaire, led the Chamber in a tribute to that trio of female Democratic representatives from California who really wanted a stronger bill and voted against this bill but who also released the other 72 or so caucus members to vote in whatever way they needed to be comfortable. 

She did it.  Thanks Nancy.  Thanks to all of you.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 23, 2007 at 11:34 PM in National and International Politics, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (5)

Gonzales Won't Fess Up on McKay Firing

Attorney General Abu Gonzales -- he of lust for torture and illegal wiretapping fame -- deigned to speak with Tony and Jane on KIRO's morning news today, but only for the purpose of insulting them with his inability to tell the truth on John McKay's firing. You can listen here as they ask him three times in a row to explain why McKay was fired and each time he repeats the lame talking points given him by his Thursday afternoon luncheon companions, Repulican senators Orrin Hatch and Jeff Sessions. He finds three ways to say this:

Listen, we made a decision at the Department as to the appropriate way forward. There was nothing improper about the decision here … There’s no evidence whatsoever, and it’s reckless and irresponsible to allege that these decisions were based in any way on improper motives.

Did you catch that? It's "reckless an irresponsible" to ask legitimate questions of anyone serving in the Bush White House. Because really, you know they'd just prefer to send troublemakers like us on secret CIA planes to faraway countries to be tortured. They'd do pretty much anything to not have to answer a legitimate question. Goldy's got more of Abu's silly quotes over at his place.

Finally, Jane asks him how it could be that in August a Justice Department official was supporting McKay's appointment to an open federal court seat, and suddenly, one month later McKay was categorized by the Justice Department as someone who should be "pushed out." Instead of rattling off the talking points that he thinks are going to save him his job, Abu could have simply reiterated what McClatchy newspapers reported today: that it was directly tied to voter fraud issues and the fact that prosecutors who didn't go after Democrats on voter fraud in key states were expected to be tossed out on their ears.

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

(snip)

Frank DiMarino, a former federal prosecutor who served six U.S. attorneys in Florida and Georgia during an 18-year Justice Department career, said that too much emphasis on voter fraud investigations "smacks of trying to use prosecutorial power to investigate and potentially indict political enemies."

Several former voting rights lawyers, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of antagonizing the administration, said the division's political appointees reversed the recommendations of career lawyers in key cases and transferred or drove out most of the unit's veteran attorneys.

The fact that so many people are terrified enough of the Bush White House that they will only speak anonymously tells us that those in the White House are hiding a lot, and hell-bent on retaliating against anyone, of whatever political stripe, who dares to expose them for the criminals they are. I've said before that all roads to the White House must pass through the toll booth named Karl Rove. The strong arming of federal prosecutors over bogus voter fraud claims is vintage Rove. He pushed hard to get his golden boy, Tim Griffin -- a master at disenfranchising 70,000 voters in Florida -- appointed as US attorney in Arkansas. Rove also had his assistant, Glynda Becker, fielding complaint calls from the honchos in the WA State GOP who were freaked out about Gregoire's win for governor. And Rove relayed those complaints, personally, to Gonzales and Bush's former White House lawyer, Harriet Miers.

It is for these reasons that the Senate Democrats must not cave in on the issuance of subpoenas for Rove, Miers and other White House aides. They must testify and there must be a transcript of the testimony. Bush's claims of "executive privilege" are weak in this instance. It's time for Democrats like Chuck Schumer to quit with the playacting. Grandstanding on Tuesday only to wimp out with talk of compromise on Thursday won't get this party very far. I hope that Senator Patty Murray, who now holds the fourth most powerful seat in the Senate, will lean on her colleague to not give up the fight. We, the citizens of Seattle, deserve to know exactly why our US attorney was ousted.

Abu Gonzales is currently touring the country in a half-baked effort to convince Americans that he should be allowed to keep his job. But he's a coward. He gave KIRO that interview from safe harbor somewhere in Denver, Colorado. He's got some 'splainin' to do to the people of this city. I dare him to come to Seattle and face us in person. I dare him.

Update: Uh-oh. Abu's really in hot water now. Guess we won't be seeing him in Seattle after all, because it looks like the judiciary committees are going to want to have him back to clear something up. Here's what Abu told Congress on March 13th:

I knew my chief of staff was involved in the process of determining who were the weak performers - where were the districts around the country where we could do better for the people in that district, and that's what I knew," Gonzales said last week. "But that is in essence what I knew about the process; was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on. That's basically what I knew as the attorney general.

But the AP is reporting that the Justice Department's Friday Night News Dump proves Abu was a lot more involved in the firings than he originally stated.

Posted by shoephone on March 23, 2007 at 08:18 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Gregoire signs Internet sales tax bill into law - No word on Microsoft's Nevada Revenue

In this whole sales tax debate, I didn't see anything about Microsoft paying taxes on its $15+ billion in sales through it's Reno, Nevada subsidiary. Closing that loophole would capture 4x as much revenue as this bill. Nice try though.


Read story at NewsCloud.

Posted by Jeff on March 23, 2007 at 08:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Transit funding will be the big winner in the viaduct debate

Am I the only one seeing the irony in the end game of the whole viaduct debate? In a state where the gas tax, according to the state constitution, must be spent on highway projects transit funding has emerged as the big winner in the whole conflict over the viaduct replacement.

When was the last time you saw so many elected officials so focused on the need to put a substantial amount of funding into transit? With that said, where do we find the badly needed funds for transit?

I’m very excited by the funding possibilities, starting with the RTID vote this November. Lets put our money where our mouths have been and ride the wave of popularity of Sound Transit phase 2, by focusing a significant amount of mitigation funding for bus service and street improvements during the viaduct construction from the RTID package. When the construction is finished we can make those improvements permanent.

If Rep. Helen Sommers and other dinosaur legislators have their way, even in the face of a resounding NO vote, I’m certain they’d still like to cram another elevated highway down our throats (they’re playing duck and cover at the moment). Or can we challenge that kind of backwards politics and plan for a new future? Rep. Sommers sponsored an amendment to the supplemental transportation budget in 2004 that required all planning for a new viaduct be required to keep the same vehicle capacity. That budget is long past, and that requirement is no longer in place, unless it was slipped into some other legislation that my sleuthing failed to uncover. Moving forward we can start thinking about the future and about how to move goods and people in the region and stop focusing on highway planning that "moves cars" and doesn’t work.

With new transit funding coming, how does the 2 Billion slated for the viaduct replacement if the outcome is indeed a surface replacement?

For starters we could take a serious look at how to create freight mobility for trucks through Seattle. Do we need a new or improved freight corridor that runs the length of the city, that will move trucks away from the central waterfront? Can this corridor be designed so that it moves trucks through the city and away from the central waterfront, allowing the city to open that area up into open space?

What can we do to move traffic off I-5 and unto lean arterials that are redesigned to accommodate traffic driving through the city? Some folks may want to call these kinds of improvements small steps, I’d like to suggest that these are major steps needed to address congestion in this region that will require major funding. The 2 Billion is really just a starting point for the ongoing congestion problems in Seattle. Shifting that funding to other areas of the region for highway expansion is shortsighted and will only add congestion to the regions highways.

We need dramatic leadership from courageous leaders, who we've elected to office. I’m a proud Democrat and I’ve felt very hopeful seeing the successes in Olympia on all the meat and potato Democratic issues we’ve accomplished in this state, but it’s time to step up to the plate and look at urban issues and how as Democats we can unite around a pro-environment, and pro-urban agenda. An agenda that really will make the quality of life better for people in Seattle and the whole region.

Cross Posted on The Urban Environmentalist

Posted by EzraBasom on March 23, 2007 at 07:10 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Poll Shows Republicans Losing Lots of Ground

A new poll from the Pew Research Center for People and the Press shows that the American public is turning away from the Republican party in droves.

Public allegiance to the Republican Party has plunged since the second year of George W. Bush's presidency, as attitudes have edged away from some of the conservative values that fueled GOP political dominance for more than a decade, a new survey has found.

The survey, by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for People and the Press, found a "dramatic shift" in political-party identification since 2002, when Republicans and Democrats were at rough parity. Now, half of those surveyed identified with or leaned toward Democrats, while 35 percent aligned with Republicans.

What's more, the survey found the public attitudes are drifting toward Democrats' values: Support for government aid to the disadvantaged has grown since the mid-1990s, skepticism about the use of military force has increased and support for traditional family values has edged down.

The poll has a pretty tight margin of error at 2.5 percentage points. Only 3 in 10 people said they were satisfied with the way things are going in the country. Since the poll points out that the debacle in Iraq is only one reason for that dissatisfaction, the Republican party has quite a sinkhole to climb out of.

54% have a positive view of Democrats.

41% have a positive view of Republicans.

And, of course, our dear leader's approval rating is stuck like Crazy Glue at 30%. Can't wait to see how that claim of "executive privilege" works out for him.

Posted by shoephone on March 23, 2007 at 01:18 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (7)

March 22, 2007

Does Gregoire Lack Compassion for Breast Cancer Survivors?

From AssertivePatient: "I was told yesterday that the governor, Chris Gregoire, doesn't want the emergency clause in the bill that would raise the cap on WSHIP to a lifetime max of $2 million from $1 million. Of course, without the emergency clause, the change in the law won't help me, since my health insurance through WSHIP is going to max out in about September or October, leaving me to face $300,000 a year in bills for my cancer treatment. Pretty cold. And the governor herself is a breast cancer survivor. "

The governor needs to catch up with modern health practices. Women are living longer with chronically managed breast cancer. AssertivePatient has more than a million dollars in bills after years living with the disease. Shouldn't the state increase its coverage of these caps? Or should it build homeless shelters for cancer survivors? Read story at NewsCloud.

Posted by Jeff on March 22, 2007 at 02:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

George Bush: Obstructing Justice Every Which Way But Loose

Josh Marshall nails it:

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

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

The president himself says that in some cases US Attorneys were dismissed because they were too lax in prosecuting election fraud. What he does not say -- but what we know directly from the accounts of the players involved -- is that these were cases in which Republican operatives and activists complained to the White House and Republican members of Congress that certain US Attorneys weren't convening grand juries or issuing indictments against Democrats, even though these were cases where all the available evidence suggests there was no wrongdoing prosecuted. (It's all reminiscent of the bogus voter fraud allegations Republicans got caught peddling in the South Dakota senate race in 2002. Only in this case getting these charges into the press wasn't enough; they wanted to use US Attorneys to actual harrass people or put them in jail.)

(snip)

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

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

Yesterday, Dave Reichert said he thinks John McKay has been treated badly and that the reason for McKay's firing may be due to his efforts to get more DOJ support for LinX, his effective and successful information sharing program. There's certainly evidence in the DOJ's document dump to make one think it played a part in the firing. (See pdf 1-2, pp. 37-50 or pdf 2-3, pp. 26-49 from the House Judiciary site.) But as for being the reason, well,

McKay doesn't buy it. "They didn't fire me over that," he said Tuesday.

Following both McKay's and Josh's theories, it's easy to find a plethora of evidence pointing to retaliation over the Republican loss in the 2004 gubernatorial election and the fact that neither Mckay's office nor the FBI agents assigned to the voter fraud investigation found any cause to bring charges. That result turned the state GOP into a pack of rabid dogs. Tom McCabe fired off a letter to Doc Hastings, demanding that he ask the White House to go after McKay. McCabe also claims he spoke directly to the White House. Bob Williams, head of the EFF, fired off letters of his own -- one to Attorney General Gonzales insisting there was election fraud, and one to the AG's Inspector General, Tom McLaughlin, blaming McKay for not going after it.

State GOP chair, Chris Vance, was busy contacting the White House too.

Vance said he talked about the governor's race frequently with Glynda Becker, the western states contact in Karl Rove's political office at the White House.

Add to that the news from March 11, when Dana Perino said Rove was a conduit between GOP officials and the White House for those complaints:

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Rove relayed complaints from Republican officials and others to the Justice Department and the White House Counsel's office.

Hastings hasn't remained unscathed. After McKay revealed in Congressional testimony that Hastings' office contacted him to inquire about the status of the investigation into voter fraud (a violation of Chapter 7 of the House Ethics Manual) CREW filed an ethics complaint against Hastings. McKay also related that when he was interviewed for a federal judgeship by White House Counsel Harriet Miers and her deputy, William Kelley, in August of 2005, he was asked why he had "mishandled" the 2004 election.

It's safe to say that the White House had more than just a passing interest in the voter fraud issue and complaints about McKay's handling of it.

In other related voter fraud matters, Tim Griffin, Karl Rove's former assistant and RNC operative, had done exactly what the GOP wanted during the 2004 election in Florida. Election fraud expert Greg Palast documents Griffin's part in the "sickly brilliant" RNC scheme to wipe 70,000 voters -- mostly black and Hispanic, homeless, new college students and members of the military serving overseas -- from Florida's voter rolls. And for successfully executing that operation? Griffin was rewarded with the US attorney seat in Arkansas, pushing USA Bud Cummins out in the process.

It's my contention that all roads to the White House have to pass through Karl Rove's toll booth first. He's done a masterful job over the years overseeing opposition research and executing whispering campaigns. (Remember McCain's "brown baby"?) And, um, there was that little episode involving the outing of a covert CIA agent. The voter fraud incidents will, hopefully, soon be part of the record too, but now that subpoenas are being issued for Rove's testimony we will be witnesses to a barrage of resistance tactics from the White House that will, in Josh Marshall's words, be used as "a shield to keep the full extent of the president's perversion of the rule of law from becoming known."

The Bush White House may as well just hang out a shingle on the Oval Office door that reads: Corrupting Democracy and Justice -- in Every Nook and Cranny in America.

Posted by shoephone on March 22, 2007 at 01:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

March 21, 2007

Constitutional Crisis Looming

It is not just the fate of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that hinges on what happens this week in Congress.

We've known since the Democrats took control in January that it was only a matter of time before we reached a time when Congress and the White House hit an impasse that brings this country to a Constitutional crisis.  We also knew the general outlines of the issues that would bring us to such a point: Congress would ask for cooperation from the Administration about some controversial issue and the White House would refuse. 

It looks like we may be there.

The Constitutional Requirements for Congressional Oversight vs. the Unitary Theory of the Executive

Today, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law decided to require Karl Rove and four other top aides to testify publicly under oath about their roles in firing the eight federal prosecutors.  The full Judiciary Committee would have to authorize the subpoenas and would only do so if Judiciary Chairman John Conyers chooses to do so.  The panel is also asking for documents related to the firings that the Administration and Justice Department have refused to provide.

Separately, Senator Patrick Leahy, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that his committee would be issuing subpoenas to the same cast of characters tomorrow, Thursday.   He said:

Testimony should be on the record and under oath. That's the formula for true accountability.

The Bush Administration is playing the "Executive Privilege" card again and promises to do so every time they are confronted. The White House has insisted that the firings were appropriate.  Fred Fielding, old Republican hand and the replacement as Counsel for the President when Harriet Miers departed in January, has been "negotiating" with Congress.  He offered to allow Rove and the others to be interviewed in private without having to take oaths or having the sessions transcribed. 

Yeah, right.  This after some 16 days of documents from November 15 to December 4 just prior to the firings of seven of the eight prosecutors on December 7th, were discovered not to have been included in Monday night's document dump regarding the firings of the prosecutors.   

Subpoena Power Critical but Not Sufficient

When asked last fall what the most important thing about regaining control of the House was, Nancy Pelosi responded, "subpoena power".   However,  we have not had a situation before where the executive branch refused to testify, as they are likely to do in this case or any other, if required to do so under oath. 

We have seen time and again that the Bush Administration cannot be trusted to tell the truth.  Hence, the reason for putting them under oath.

But if they refuse?  That is new territory.  The tricky thing is that a confrontation with the White House would have to take one of two paths, neither one promising:

1) go through the courts up to the Supreme Court, taking as long as two years

2) go through the local federal prosecutor, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, who reports to the Attorney General

Impeachment as a Threat?

Kagro X, over at DailyKos, argues that the only real muscle that Congress has to make the administration cooperate is the threat of impeachment.  Even for those who would strongly prefer not to address the issue of impeachment, Kagro X says that it must be on the table as a threat if we are going to learn the truth in the case of the firings of the federal prosecutors or anything else.   When the administration tells Congress to buzz off and refuses to cooperate with the constitutionally mandate Congressional authority to provide oversight, what other choice is there going to be? 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 21, 2007 at 10:11 PM in National and International Politics, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (11)

GW Bush: "Executive Privilege." Sam Ervin: "Executive Poppycock."

Scene 1: The veiled threats, blatant threats and counter-threats are coming fast and furious now in Washington D.C. as George Bush digs in his boot heels against Congressional oversight. Tuesday his White House counsel, Fred Fielding (aka "world-class keeper of secrets") tried to make a deal with the House and Senate judiciary chairs, in which the White House would say "to Hell with you!" and the committee chairs would mumble "oh, thank you, master" in response. For some reason things didn't go according to plan (D.C. is so strange that way) and when Pat Leahy declared "I don't accept the White House's offer", Fielding smarted and said he wasn't going to negotiate. Harumph.

Fielding really ought to know better. He served as John Dean's deputy in the Nixon White House and claims to have learned about ethics and how to say no to unitary executives like Bush.

Scene 2: GWB spent the day being chaperoned by Tony Snow and Karl Rove at a GM plant in the nation's mid-section, then flew home posthaste to deliver the following message: "I will oppose any attempts to subpoena White House officials", complete with a sneer, a scowl, and the ka-razy eyed look he's been employing at news conferences of late.

Monsieur Leahy was sticking to his bayonets: "Testimony should be on the record, and under oath. That's the formula for true accountability." But this is why Fielding should have reminded Bush about Sam Ervin who, as chair of the Senate committee that investigated Nixon, didn't mince words when that king of paranoia tried the tactic of "privilege":

"Divine right went out with the American revolution and doesn't belong to White House aides ... That is not executive privilege. That is executive poppycock." With those words, North Carolina's Democratic Sen. Sam J. Ervin Jr. was stepping up the rapidly accelerating tempo in a showdown over secrecy between the U.S. Senate and President Nixon. If the president will not allow his aides to testify publicly and under oath before the Select Senate Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, Ervin vows, he will seek to have them arrested. The threat is not an idle one.

The whole Bushian obsession with executive privilege is a major deception. Numerous presidential aides have testified before Congress -- under oath. RJ Eskow points out that 30 of Clinton's aides testified, and they didn't all need to be threatened with subpoenas in order to make the trip down Pennsylvania Ave. More pointedly, Nixon got slapped down by the Supreme Court which, while allowing for the privilege in certain cases, said that it wasn't absolute. The Congressional Research Service puts it this way:

Congress has a constitutionally routed right of access to the information it needs to perform its Article I legislative and oversight functions. Generally, a congressional comittee with jurisdiction over the subject matter, which is conducting an authorized investigation for legislative or oversight purposes, has a right to information held by the executive branch in absence of either a valid claim of consitutional privilege by the executive or a statutory provision whereby Congress has limited its constitutional right to information.

So, unless there is an extraordinary reason why Congress shouldn't be allowed to exercise its constitutional authority of oversight, the president wouldn't have weight with the Supremes. Aye, there's the rub. Who knows what the current crop of Bush plants will do if a constitutional showdown makes it their way? Watergate and the ensuing cover-up were about actual crimes, so the Congress' right to know what was in those famous tapes made for a fairly clear cut decision. The US attorney firings may or may not be criminally related. If it can be shown that Carol Lam was dumped because she was getting too close to the White House with her indictments of Duke Cunningham (Congress) and Dusty Foggo (CIA), a case could be made for obstruction of justice. But the other seven firings could be related to any number of unethical interferences by the White House or DOJ -- and that makes for a more ambiguous set of circumstances.

Posted by shoephone on March 21, 2007 at 01:45 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)

March 20, 2007

Local Crime statistics in state have mixed pattern

In the past two years, my house in a good part of Seattle has been robbed, shot up with automatic paintball fire in the middle of the night and had my housemate's beater bike stolen the one night she left it outside, I feel that Seattle has some serious problems with property crime. "In 2006, Washington state had 186 murders and 2,658 rapes, compared with 204 murders and 2,772 rapes reported in 2005, according to the association. Robbery increased from 5,774 in 2005 to 6,351 in 2006."



Read story at NewsCloud

Posted by Jeff on March 20, 2007 at 11:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The DOJ 'Document Dump' -- Fear and Loathing in D.C.

I've just spent the last four hours poring through the Justice Department's document dump (totalling about 1,000 pages so far, with more to come) and most of it reads like an excruciatingly bad first novel. It's repetitious, disjointed and filled with characters possessing little self-awareness or social skills who, in the absence of any meaningful life purpose, have made ass-kissing and ass-kicking their raison d'etre. Sadly, it's not a novel. It's Your Government at Work. The insecurity and hostility of those populating the place is rivaled only by the idiocy most of us displayed in junior high school. The spoiled kids at the DOJ don't appreciate people with independent streaks and that's one of the main reasons they didn't like John McKay. He didn't fall in line well enough or often enough.

On August 30, 2006, McKay sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, outlining the great work that had been accomplished since the LinX -- an law enforcement information file-sharing program created by McKay and eventually adopted as the national model -- was put into place. But the letter also asks McNulty to please continue supporting the idea of expanding the program by lobbying for more Congressional funding and it's signed by about a dozen U.S. attorneys, at least one of whom later said she didn't realize her name would be added to the letter. I don't know the ins and outs of DOJ protocols but, apparently, this mixing of LinX program participants, a DOJ head honcho and a request to go to bat for the program's expansion was "outrageous." At least that's the word used by Mark Connor to Michael Elston in a DOJ email the next day. (Elston, if you will recall, is the DOJ official who threatened both McKay and USA Iglesias with getting publicly smeared if they didn't shut up to the press after their firings.) Interestingly, there's no email or other document showing that the DOJ relayed those concerns to McKay. To make matters worse, less than a month later, McKay spoke to the Seattle P.I. about the difficulty of prosecuting worthy cases when the budgets for the U.S. Attorneys Office had been cut for three years running:

The federal prosecutor for Western Washington says his office is "stressed to the limit" because of years of budget cuts that threaten to slow the pace of criminal prosecutions.

U.S. Attorney John McKay has issued this warning to county prosecutors and special agents in charge of federal agencies, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement: "We may not be as responsive as you want us to be on the cases you refer to us."

The office has been hemorrhaging prosecutors and support staff members even as the other Washington is poised to impose another budget cut for the 2006-07 fiscal year.

The office, which handles federal criminal prosecutions and civil cases involving the U.S. government, is down six criminal prosecutors and one civil attorney, leaving 58 assistant U.S. attorneys, McKay said.

Elston sent around an email the same day complaining, "Even when he's in Ireland he causes problems! He needs to stop writing letters." But again, there is no DOJ document showing any communication between the department and McKay about the issue. However, by now McKay's name had been added to an internal DOJ email on USAs the department was "pushing out" or "considering pushing out." Maybe it was the third strike. After all, McKay had been continually harassed by state and national Republicans for not charging somebody, anybody, for voter fraud violations in the governor's race the previous year. State GOP party boss Chris Vance, BIAW pitbull Tom McCabe and Evergreen Freedom Foundation's Bob Williams were so rabid about it they went and contacted the DOJ's Inspector General and Karl Rove's go-to gal for the Western States, Glynda Becker, about dumping McKay. Other USAs had been attacked for not going after Democrats too. It was only a matter of time before the various players in the department finally got their act together and devised a way to get rid of all the USAs they could in one fell swoop on December 7, 2006.

On pages 20 through 24 of the pdf. document 2-5 there's a chart on the ousted USAs, with one column describing the outside evaluation team's assessments (EARS), and one column for Justice's leadership assessments. The first bullet point of McKay's EARS says:

USA McKay is an effective, well-regarded and capable leader of the USAO and the District's law enforcement community. 

The first bullet point of the leadership assessmant says:

Pattern of insubordination, poor judgement and demonstration of temperment issues in seeking policy changes without regard to appropriate methods and tactics.

When you see the statements right next to each other in the pdf it provides a rather striking contrast. Maybe there really was a legitimate reason for the McKay firing but the DOJ has changed its stories on the oustings of the eight prosecutors so many times it would be impossible to discern which one is true. The only thing that's for certain in these thousands of pages is that "the U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president." It's certainty is due to the fact that the line is repeated ad nauseum throughout this extraordinarily bad piece of literature known as the DOJ Document Dump.

Since they keep reminding us that it's the president's pleasure that wasn't served by these prosecutors, isn't it time that the president himself -- "the decider" -- tells the American people the real reason he fired them? For certainty's sake? I mean, really. Hearing the truth from this White House, just once, would be... a real pleasure.

Posted by shoephone on March 20, 2007 at 05:23 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (16)

March 18, 2007

Interview with Eric de Place of Sightline Institute

Sightline Institute is trying to fill a huge gap in the Northwest - that of broad-based progressive think tank.  Sightline is the new name for the bigger-than-just-an-environmental organization that was formerly called the Northwest Environmental Watch.  The organization was founded in 1993 by Alan Durning, formerly a senior researcher at Worldwatch Institute in D.C.  Like many of us, he wanted to come back to the Northwest.  He later chronicled that move in his book, "This Place on Earth", which is now free as a PDF file on the Sightline website.

So he brought along the idea to establish a mini-Worldwatch Institute that covered the PNW.  Here's Worldwatch's mission from their website:

Independent research for an environmentally sustainable and socially just society.

The organization that would become Sightline found that they kept doing more than that but were still seen as primarily a watchdog agency, knee-deep in policy and well, boring.  But they were doing so much more.  Heck, they work on reproductive rights.  Who knew?  And for them, sustainability includes economic justice.  They felt like they'd outgrown both their name and their original mission.  So, about a year and half ago, they went through a re-invention process.  According to Eric de Place, Research Director at Sightline, the organization decided they want to "change the art of what is possible".  They want to look at the long-term fixes for the region, including how potential fixes impact the environment.

Here's their new tagline:

Sightline is Cascadia's sustainability think tank. We create tools to help you build a better Northwest.

Sounds good.  I thought I'd find out how they were doing on that.   

I talked to Eric as a result of an interview I did with Dean Nielsen here a couple of weeks ago.  Dean and I were discussing the state of the progressive movement here in Washington State and Dean had commented on the lack of well-rounded progressive think tanks here, organizations that could counter the sustained policy and communications impact of the Discover Institute, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation and a couple other smaller local think tanks on the right.  When I asked Dean who was building an infrastructure here, he said that Sightline was moving to fill that gap and it would take a while to see if they are able to do that. 

The interview is over the fold.

Interview with Eric de Place About Sightline Institute

What prompted you to make these changes in your organization?

EdP:  The name Northwest Environmental Watch was not a good indicator of what the organization did by that time.  People thought we did environmental work and only environmental work.  We had always worked on sustainability issues but for us that included working on reproductive rights and economic justice, for example.  Name a problem.  We dealt with it.  People thought we were a watchdog agenda, knee-deep in policy.  We do that, of course, but we see ourselves as a broad-based thinktank. We wanted to  change the art of what is possible.  We look at the long-term fixes for the region including how those possible fixes impact the environment.

We changed our name to make what we do more obvious to people.  At the same time we ran out the term of our 5-year plan.  As we began that process, we felt ham-strung by the name.  We realized we needed a major rethinking of who we were.  It was a fairly exhaustive process. with focus groups and surveys.  We talked to people who knew us well, as well as as those that didn't know us.

What did you want to see the organization do next?

EdP: We wanted to be more focused on how we communicate about what we do.  We are less about sustainability only and more about larger progressive issues.  Sustainability is still the heart of what we do but we want to work on a range of issues.  But it's hard to get attention on other issues.  For years we have monitored economic security in the region.  We want to help create an economy that really works for people.   

We wanted to gradually but fundamentally realign priorities.  We wanted to bring a recognition that we live in a place that is pretty unique.  We have a pretty forward looking history.  We hoped to bring a comparison between the different places within the region, sharing information from Oregon to Washington to Idaho to British Columbia. 

We pay attention to the different politics and the different policies - which ones work well, which ones work badly.  For example, Vancouver has had great success with a pedestrian focus and increasing density in the city.  It reduces congestion and increases mobility.  People are able to transport themselves in very energy-efficient ways with a lot of public transportation.  The benefits are huge.  Their reliance on fossil fuels is dramatically lower.  British Columbia has 1/3 lower fuel consumption than the rest of the northwest and better than the rest of Canada.  They have done a good job of fostering a liveable city while preserving farmlands and forests as well.  They have been very diligent at preserving the lower Fraser Valley. 

And of course, there are examples of lessons that go the other way, i.e Measure 37 in Oregon, the "property rights" initiative that passed in 2004.  Oregon had been a leader in protecting their land.  They were  duped into gutting land use and the results have been horrendous.  We can look to Oregon's experience and voters may have done just that.  Voters in Washington, California and Idaho defeated similar initiatives in 2006, Idaho's initiative by 3 to 1. 

Idaho?

EdP:  The issue in Idaho transcended party divides.  Folks were concerned about what is happening to Treasure Valley.  Plus, they like and trust their local representatives.  They seemed to say, "Why would I want to tie the hands of my local officials."  As well as being a land-use law, it was also a bill that ran against the grain of democracy. 

The initiatives in both Montana and Nevada were both thrown out by the courts.  Only Arizona passed theirs. 

Arizona, in a Democratic sweep year; Arizona, where they passed campaign finance reform?

EdP: It was a perfect storm with tons of ballot issues.  Most groups that would have been opposing it were tied up working on other issues.

So Sightline is seeing itself in an information broker position?

EdP: You might say that.  Sightline is in a postion to make the different policies and the effectiveness of those policies in various entities known. 

We also hope to become a place that articulates a shared vision of progressive values.  We want to take a vision of those values to business.

How do you define that vision?

EdP:  Sightline has three values/principles that came out of the redefinition process:  strong communities, fair markets, responsible stewardship. 

We also did a lot more.  We looked at how to concentrate resources.  We felt that our ability to communicate well was missing and we decided to make the research program focused on communication.  We've been paying attention to George Lakoff and others.  We will be doing a lot of research on framing.  We just hired a new staff member to think about how the progressive movement can tap into the underlying values of all Northwesterners.   

Where do you fit in with the other major environmental organizations, i.e. Climate Solutions and the WEC (Washington Environmental Council)?

EdP: We want to support their efforts as well as our own.  We meet a lot and have both formal and informal discussions about how those groups working on a shorter timescale can fit into the longer range focus of Sightline.  We want near-term wins as well as longer-term wins.  For example, we invested in defeating Initiative 933.  It was an opportunity not just to defeat a stupid ballot initiative but also to state why it's important to do land use planning, and why its important to support our democratic institutions.  We think we were able to reframe the debate.  It was tremendously gratifying. 

Anything else?

EdP:  There is one thing that is interesting.  We have learned a lot from understanding how the right-wing is successful, both here and nationally.  They consciously invested in the effort to spend decades coming up with forward-thinking ideas and practices.  Frank Luntz has done amazing work focusing the conservative agenda.They had a shelf full of stuff they could pull out when they got this President elected.  They were much more successful than they should have been, given how little their agenda actually appeals to folks. 
It was one of the things that stood out for us.  I mean, gee, how much more successful we could be, given we have an agenda people actually like.

That seems like a good place to end.  Thank you.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 18, 2007 at 11:20 PM in Interviews, Policy, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 19, 2003 - March 19, 2007. Who Won?

Tomorrow marks a grievous anniversary. It will be four years since this president, who swaggers all the harder at the mention of the phrase "commander in chief", began the debacle in which Washington State has lost more than five dozen soldiers. George Bush and his chickenhawk chums intended to Shock 'n Awe the Iraqis into quick, devastating submission. Even more insane thinking led them to believe our troops and our various viceroys would be showered with chocolate and flowers and kisses. Sadly, the president's dangerous misadventure has created a far different scenario -- one replete with IEDs, car bombs, snipers, explosives packed with chlorine gas and a fully formed civil war between Iraqi citizens who hadn't paid much attention to which sect of Islam, or Christianity, their neighbors belonged until the Americans showed up to invade their cradle of civilization. 

Heckuva job, George. Really.

The Sunday Seattle Times honors Washington's fallen and the nation's fallen, now 3,200 and counting. Our state's losses began on May 9, 2003 with the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Cedric E. Bruns, forever 22 years old, from Vancouver. Washington's most recent casualty was Army Specialist Ryan M. Bell, forever 21, from Colville, who died less than two weeks ago on March 5, 2007. The two oldest were 51 and 53, and the two youngest were 19. Two of our lost soldiers were women.

Have a look at their photos, think good thoughts for their loved ones and ask yourself if there's anything, even a small thing, that you can do to help stop the madness the cowboy president has unleashed, not only in Iraq, but all over the globe, where the post 9/11 goodwill has turned uniformly sour. Big efforts start with small steps. "Think globally, act locally" if you will.

We know how many "our side" has lost. When you read through the list of our nation's fallen you'll find it takes some time out of your day to actually say each name aloud and picture them in your mind. God only knows how many Iraqis have been killed because our government refuses to do an honest tally. If just for one day we can be honest and acknowledge that clever soundbites like "turning a corner in Iraq" and "freedom's on the march" simply don't honor the reality of what this war has truly cost in human lives and in hope. And then do the one little thing you can do, to help rectify what's been done to justice.

If you smile at me I will understand,

'cause that is something everybody everywhere does

in the same language.

I can see by your coat, my friend,

you're from the other side.

There's just one thing I've got to know

can you tell me please,

who won?

("Wooden Ships" - David Crosby/Stephen Stills, 1969)

Posted by shoephone on March 18, 2007 at 01:52 AM in Iraq, National and International Politics, Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (4)

March 16, 2007

Goldy Has A Great Point

Where's Rossi?  Goldy is asking the question and it's a great one.  Why is it that no one is asking what Dino Rossi thinks about any of the critical issues facing our state? 

The gas tax, I-912’s effort to repeal it, gay civil rights, the inheritance tax, the Viaduct, I-933’s attempt to dismantle land use regulation, and nearly every other editorial inducing issue… Dino Rossi, the titular leader of Washington Republicans, has refused to weigh in by publicly lending his voice of authority to one side or the other. You’ve got to admire his discipline and consistency.

But then, we shouldn’t really expect anything less from a man whose 2004 campaign was long on the promise of new leadership but short on any prior history thereof.

Goldy reminds us of that the time when a candidate like Rossi can get away without having to address these and other issues is past.  2004 might have been the last year that was fully possible.  We bloggers will be here to ask those questions and remind the local reporters to do the same. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 16, 2007 at 10:19 PM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (5)

Gonzales Apologizes -- Just Not to McKay

From McClatchy:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales apologized to the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys in a conference call Friday as he tried to hold on to his job amid the scandal over the firings of eight federal prosecutors.

The save-the-sinking-ship strategy includes the current crop of U.S. attorneys, but not the eight whose unjustified cannings started this whole thing. John McKay was probably busy educating law students at Seattle University this afternoon, anyway.

Administration critics and allies alike were startled by the degree to which politics appeared to be driving the planned purge of the Republican appointees in the months before the 2006 congressional elections. In one e-mail, one official said the plan was to replace "underperforming" U.S. attorneys and retain the "vast majority" who were "loyal Bushies."

On Friday, Democrats seethed when the Bush administration missed a deadline to turn over new documents in a congressional investigation into whether the firings were part of a larger effort to politicize the department. More Republicans also publicly questioned Gonzales' independence from Bush and his management of his staff.

Across the country, morale within U.S. attorneys' offices deteriorated, leaving many feeling misled by the Bush administration.

"They feel a strong sense of betrayal*," said a former Bush administration Justice Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his friends in the administration.

From Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, 1994 edition, Dell Publishing:

*betrayal [n1] exhibition of disloyalty

deception, dishonesty, double-crossing, double-dealing, duplicity, falseness, giveway, Judas kiss, let-down, perfidy, sellout, treachery, treason, trickery, unfaithfulness

Sounds a lot like the characterizations the "loyal Bushies" have been trying to hang around the necks of the Democrats the last six years. You can bet the denizens of the White House are thinking it's not much fun when the shoe's on the other foot.

Posted by shoephone on March 16, 2007 at 10:12 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (7)

Valerie Plame Wilson at Today's Hearing

Democracy in action today.  I puddled up both times I saw Plame talking in front of Waxman's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today.  We have been waiting so long to hold this hearing and Valerie Plame Wilson's story directly. 

We are only able to do it because Democrats retook the House.  PoliticsTV has the footage of Plame's remarks and another of the questioning by a few of the committee members. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 16, 2007 at 09:44 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (8)

Seattle Times Has Rick White Suspension Story

Yesterday, commenter Richard Pope revealed that he had contacted the Seattle clerk's office and found out that former Congressman Rick White is not currently allowed to practice law in the state of Washington -- much less practice as the U.S. attorney if chosen. Much thanks to Mr. Pope, who's publicizing of this information may have played a part in today's Seattle Times article.

Without an active bar license, White cannot practice law in state courts. To appear in federal court — where virtually all of the U.S. attorney's cases are heard — White will have to submit an application, be approved by a federal judge, and have a local attorney sponsor him, said Janet Bubnis, the chief deputy clerk in the U.S. District Court for Western Washington.

White, contacted at home Thursday night, said he could not talk about his situation "because the White House has very strict rules about commenting on this process.

"I understand I'm in a bad position," he said. "I wish I could explain, but I can't."

Likewise, a spokeswoman for Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, said his office would have no comment. Reichert was assigned to oversee the selection process to replace John McKay, a President Bush appointee who was fired as U.S. attorney last month.

"I wish I could explain, but I can't." This has given me the biggest laugh of the day and it's not even cocktail hour yet! I'm going to try that line the next time a client asks me how an entire gallon of primer got spilled onto their living room carpet: "I wish I could explain, but I can't." Or the next time the IRS asks me why I haven't filed my taxes for the last three years: "I wish I could explain, but I can't." There are just so many fun scenarios to concoct, while using that line as a response.

But I'm not on the short list of people being considered for the position of U.S. attorney. Rick White is.

And what about Congressman Dave Reichert's responsibility in this? He's the one who forwarded the short list to the Department of Justice. And does King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng, who worked with Reichert on compiling that list, have anything to say about it? For the record, I asked Reichert's D.C. office for a statement this morning, and they said they didn't know anything about it. So, I steered them to Richard Pope's comment and suggested they might want to aquaint themselves with the situation.

At least the woman on the phone in Reichert's office thanked me, rather than simply using a really unbelievable excuse, something on the order of: "I understand I'm in a bad position. I wish I could explain, but I can't."

Update: Lynn Allen called Dan Donohoe at Maleng's office earlier today to get a statement about SuspensionGate. She's still waiting for his response...

Posted by shoephone on March 16, 2007 at 02:18 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

March 15, 2007

State support could speed up timeline for creating rapid transit in Puget Sound Region

I’m very excited about Sound Transit phase 2, with plans for Light Rail crisscrossing the region, expanded commuter rail and new express buses. This funding for a dramatic expansion of rapid transit in the region is long overdue. The Sound Transit phase 2 ballot measure will likely be decided by voters in the RTA district in November.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

The problem is a Washington State government short on ideas for revenue and an inability to politically make rapid transit funding a priority. According to Rob Johnson, Regional Policy Director for Transportation Choices Coalition, Sound Transit is the only agency building a regional light rail system in the United States without financial support from the state government.

The capital costs for building the rail system, including the constraints of bonding capacity should not be shouldered by a regional government. The state must take their obligation seriously to fix our transportation system. With this kind of support, the timeline for building Sound Transit phase 2 could happen in 10 years, and not 25 years. As a region we are decades behind many other major U.S. metropolitan areas in our investment in transit. I know it can begin to sound redundant to constantly harp about failed leadership by state officials, and there is no doubt that we have moved forward in the last couple of years, reversing a major funding deficit for transportation, yet we require a change in direction that shifts our funding priorities.

Lets call a spade a spade, and stop pretending that WSDOT offers this state a plan for transportation. The “Washington State Department of Transportation” has a plan for building, maintaining and expanding highways, at a time when we need to be rethinking our auto-centric transportation system. We simply haven’t been asking the right questions about how to solve our transportation problems. By revising state transportation goals, we can reframe the questions and have the ability to explore more innovative solutions.

Cross Posted on The Urban Environmentalist

Posted by EzraBasom on March 15, 2007 at 09:31 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rick White to Replace McKay? That's a Joke -- Right?

Oh brother. It looks like the geniuses in the White House are playing a little game of cutesie, now that they've been caught in a whiplash of lies about their so-called standards for choosing -- and firing -- U.S. attorneys. And Sheriff Dave Reichert, as the Washington politician with the most seniority and experience best hair, is just the guy to help them make it through their long night of the soul.

Rep. Dave Reichert has submitted to the White House the names of three candidates for U.S. attorney for Western Washington.

Interim U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sullivan, former Republican congressman Rick White and Michael Vaska, a corporate attorney, have been recommended as a permanent replacement for John McKay, according to sources close to the process.

Clearly, Sullivan and Vaska have the expertise and experience necessary for the job of  top prosecutor. But White? It's true he has some years as a lawyer under his belt, but savvy in the tech world just doesn't put him in the same league as the others. His one claim to fame during his oh-so-brief stint as a Congressman was foisting the Telecommunications Act on us, something I wouldn't go around bragging about if I was him. So he's the empty shell in the shell game. A distraction at best -- we hope.  If only the Bush administration was as interested in filling Judge John Coughenour's old federal court seat -- the one that's been sitting empty for nearly a year. Just because King George didn't fancy the names put forth by the recommend committee is no reason to deny the citizens of Washington their right to have a fully functioning court in the Western District, is it?

We know Bush demands only one qualification for a job in his administration and that's undying loyalty. He's already throwing AG Gonzales under the bus for not sufficiently covering presidential butt (not that Abu's impending departure is anything to cry over) while grousing about being asked questions in Mexico -- how dare they!-- and feigning total ignorance about the sackings of those much too talkative U.S. attorneys. Like Gonzales, he mimics the line that "mistakes were made" but apparently, the only mistake was a case of really bad P.R., because those prosecutors deserved it for looking past phony allegations of voter fraud and immigration violations in order to indict real criminals like Duke Cunningham who just happened to be... Republicans. This presidentin' is hard bizness.

It's weird, though, that in one short week we are reminded of some of the more odious characters from Washington's recent past, like Rick White and Chris Vance. Who else from the annals of Washington's Republican clique is hiding in the wings? Considering that Doc Hastings, Chris Vance and Tom McCabe -- the B.M.O.C. from the BIAW -- have all been implicated in closely timed episodes (coincidence? I don't think so!) of harassing ousted prosecutor McKay over that tantrum-inducing election result in the governor's race, there must be at least a few other Perry Mason moments in store. I really hope so, because I tend to get bored easily and watching the White House unravel so thoroughly has been great entertainment, especially since Ugly Betty has been in repeats the last three weeks.

The other fun has been watching Democrats locate their long-lost spinal columns. I do heart Pat Leahy, and since he's promised to subpoena every Karl, Kyle and Harriet in his midst, I may have to actually start waking up early so I can catch the fireworks show over on the other coast. Ah well, I can always sleep next year.

Posted by shoephone on March 15, 2007 at 03:14 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (11)

March 14, 2007

Vanity Fair Article on 6 Generals Who Have Opposed the War

David Margolick, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, has written an amazing article about six retired generals who stepped forward a year ago to publicly oppose Donald Rumsfeld's handling of the war.  The article detailed each of these men's path toward doing something you know they never in their lives thought they would feel they had to do: speak out against their former boss.   The six found each other slowly; all had taken their first steps in this direction independently.

But while each man acted separately, all shared one experience: a growing outrage over the administration's incompetence, leading some of the nation's finest soldiers to risk their reputations and cross a time-honored line.

These are powerful stories about men who knew a lot more than any of us.  Lieutenant General Greg Newbold, retired from the Marines, tells of hearing about invading Iraq shortly after 9/11 happened, tells of the absurdity of the idea, struggles now with the decision he made at the time to go along.  These are good men.  They felt pressed to acquiesce and did.  Now they've decided to talk about their experiences.  It is very gripping, kept me awake reading way past my bedtime one night last week. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 14, 2007 at 09:51 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Last Day to Apply for DNC Internships

Amazing opportunity for someone who is in a position of being able to fund themselves for a summer internship at DNC Headquarters in D.C.   The DNC is taking applications for the Summer and Fall of 2007 for unpaid internships.   According to a commenter on the bloggers listserv where this information was posted, the interns are mentored and coached, not asked to do just grunt work, and that many of them go on to paid positions on campaigns. 

APPLICATIONS DUE TOMORROW, THE 15TH!

 There was a lot of back and forthing on this listserv about how critical it is that internships like this are paid so that a full range of folks are able to become interns.  For the last several decades, the Republicans have been lodging hundreds of interns in a large, comfortable dorm-like building that the RNC, or someone associated with them, owns specifically for this purpose.  They bring a lot of smart (well, smart in some ways) young people into the Party apparatus.  They also pay them afterwards in real jobs in Republican organizations.  This is a big part of how the Republicans have created such a superior infrastructure. 

For example, Republican interns from the State of Utah get subsidized dorm-like housing and a stipend. 

The Democrats are catching up, bless them, and other organizations are stepping up as well.  But by next year, I'd like to see these internships funded.  Heck, if there is one person from Washington State who applies for this internship knowing they don't have the money to do this but really wanting to, and that person gets in, I'll help raise some money for them to get there and scrimp by on.  (Help, I say.  Not be responsible for.) 

THE DEADLINE FOR SUMMER IS MARCH 15th!!!

Check out this site for more information and an application.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 14, 2007 at 09:11 PM in Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 13, 2007

That's A Big Double No

Looks like it's a resounding double-no on the viaduct replacement plan.  Everyone will doubtless read this as endorsement of their preferred plan (except Greg Nickels).  But it seems clear to me that the big winner is the Peoples Waterfront Coalition's "Transit + Streets" plan.  The "repair and prepare" option may also get another long, hard look. 

What do you think?

Posted by Jon Stahl on March 13, 2007 at 09:16 PM in Ballot Initiatives, Policy | Permalink | Comments (5)

We Ain't Seen Nothing Yet

It seems we're watching the Republicans disintegrate right in front of us.  Each week brings new revelations.  We hear about the firings of eight federal prosecutors, including John McKay of Seattle, for daring to either investigate Republicans or fail to investigate Democrats, whichever the politicians in that state were most interested in.  We hear that Dick Cheney was directly responsible for the outing of Valerie Plame and undermining Ambassador Joe Wilson when he dared to speak the truth about the administration's lies about taking us into Iraq.  We hear about the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Hospital and the low functioning of the Veteran's Administration.  We hear about the massive abuses of the Patriot Act, of agents improperly obtaining confidential records of people in the United States

It's one Katrina after another.  It's one case of failing to plan for the future after another, one banana republic sweet government deal for the companies willing to give out huge campaign contributions after the other.  It's corruption and cover-ups and it is not going to stop anytime soon. 

Interestingly enough, the public seems to get most of it, maybe because the scandals are coming so fast that the Republican spin machine can't spin fast enough.  Maybe because the traditional media is reporting better.  Maybe because its just too obvious.

CNN had poll numbers over the weekend showing that 69% oppose pardoning Libby and only 18% approve.  That's astounding, especially given that the spin was pretty heavy on this one.  In the same poll, 52% said they thought that Vice President Cheney was "part of the cover-up" to keep Fitzgerald from learning who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame.  Only 29% said no.   

There was a reason the Republicans feared the November election results.  In addition to losing control of the agenda, the Administration is beginning to be investigated and it is likely that far worse corruption will be uncovered.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 13, 2007 at 07:25 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (7)

March 12, 2007

Did Bush Tell Gonzales to Fire McKay?

Alberto Gonzales' days are numbered.

The New York Times is nailing the White House over its frantic -- and amateurish -- coverup operation in the firing of the U.S. attorneys. If only these fools had learned from Nixon's mistakes.

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 Gonzales to pass along concerns by Republicans that some prosecutors were not aggressively addressing voter fraud, the White House said Monday. Senator Pete Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, was among the politicians who complained directly to the president, according to an administration official.

Which Republican politician spoke directly to the president about firing John McKay? I'll pull a rabbit out of my hat and say it's the incomparable Doc Hastings. The same Doc Hastings who, until January, was the chair of the House Ethics Committee, a job for which he was keenly unqualified -- unless protecting Tom Delay against expulsion from the House was part of his job description, in which case he did yeoman's work. It appears likely that it was Doc Hastings who gave former White House counsel Harriet Miers the leg up when she asked McKay why he had "mishandled" the WA State 2004 gubernatorial race. Miers has already been summoned for an "interview" with the House Judiciary Committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee wants a crack at the president's Rasputin, Karl Rove. They've both been promised subpoenas if they don't appear willingly.

The NYT documents the sloppy load of lies told by the administration regarding the firings: statements by the White House that it only approved a list of possible firings after it had already been compiled when, in fact, the White House compiled that list itself, and the multitude of contradictory public statements that has been made in recent days to explain the firings. Michael Battle, the DOJ official who was tasked with delivering the pink slips, resigned last week. D. Kyle Sampson, the DOJ official who worked closely with Miers on which prosecutors to fire, and how to handle the fallout (in a document titled "Prepare to Withstand Political Upheaval"), resigned Monday. Senator Chuck Schumer is calling for Gonzales' resignation and it's anybody's guess who's next. There's even more damning evidence in Tuesday's Washington Post about the administration's lust for using those new powers inserted into Patriot Act II to replace prosecutors without Congressional approval.

So, the Thursday Afternoon Massacre of December 7, 2006 seems to be backfiring on the Bush administration, much in the same way Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre more than 30 years ago backfired on him. If history really does repeat itself, we could see a whole slew of resignations, along with a series of hearings to rival those which took place the summer of 1973. And just as those hearings revealed a deeper conspiracy than the bungled break-in at the Watergate Hotel, there is much more to this present-day scandal than meets the eye. Former Nixon counsel John Dean famously spoke of a "growing cancer on the presidency". The crimes of the Bush White House are more like the Ebola Virus, voraciously eating away at every living thing in its path.

Many people have just assumed that the lies that led us to war would be the eventual undoing of George W. Bush's presidency. But events have a way of inserting themselves, and no one, not even the president himself, gets to choose the final passages to that last hurrah.

Update: John McKay reveals some rather stunning details about Tom McCabe's direct involvement in the brouhaha over the 2004 governor's race. This news can't possibly help Hastings.

Posted by shoephone on March 12, 2007 at 11:48 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

A Last Pre-Vote Viaduct Post

If you haven't yet voted and haven't quite decided how you want to vote, I suggest you read this article and poke around on this site.  Add in, as I do, the idea of retrofitting the existing Viaduct to give us time to plan properly and you will be amazed how it starts to make sense to vote No/No. 

The article is written by the amazing Cary Moon, who co-founded the People's Waterfront Coalition, the organization that has been working for a surface/transit option for years.  She has written a wonderful piece in Grist Magazine on the Viaduct issue and how we got here.  Here's a teaser:

The politics seem to result from a weird mix of several factors. First, a reverence for highway engineers; they have data, they must be right, right? Second, some unproductive balkanization of transportation authority and funding divided across separate agencies; the highway department does highways, period. Third, a reluctance to admit we're really a city, and future Seattleites might actually like to live densely, use parks, walk and take transit. Fourth, an unconscious wild wild west obsession that makes otherwise reasonable people equate highways with freedom.

So these factors, assisted by some particularly stubborn elected officials, brought this Hobson's Choice upon us.

The one satisfying thing about this absurd battle coming to a head is how effectively a vote sharpens the focus. It has brought out the fact that both options perpetuate the status quo of car-dependence and drive us further toward the cliff of climate change. It revealed exactly how remarkable and precious this one opportunity is to create a civic heart on our downtown shore. It exposed "congestion relief" as a false promise; if you try to build your way out of congestion, you'll ruin your city or go broke trying. It got people to confront our responsibility to invest in a different future now, not just wring our hands while we continue business as usual. It got regular citizens quoting stats from success stories of highway removal -- Seoul, San Francisco, Portland, Milwaukee -- and realize our state highway department might be exactly wrong on this one.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 12, 2007 at 10:49 AM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 11, 2007

McKay Got a "Keep Quiet" Phone Call from DOJ

It turns out that ousted U.S. attorney John McKay got a threatening phone call from MIchael Elston, chief of staff to one of Gonzales' deputies, long before Bud Cummins did. Cummins immediately sent an email warning to the other prosecutors that DOJ was planning on smearing them unless they kept their traps shut. As expected, Elston is claiming total innocence -- he just doesn't understand how either Cummins or McKay could have misconstrued the nature of those calls. Hmm.

(H/T to Leslie in CA)

Update, from the "surprise, surprise" department: The White House fesses up -- to a point -- about Karl Rove's involvement in the U.S. attorney firings, and just in the nick of time too. Congress has made clear its intention to question him about it.

Posted by shoephone on March 11, 2007 at 03:50 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 10, 2007

Will Adam Smith File for an Investigation of Hastings?

During yesterday's broadcast of "The Conversation" on KUOW Adam Smith (WA-9) said he would call for an investigation of Doc Hastings' involvement in a breach of ethics in the John McKay matter.

Smith:

A line has clearly been crossed and we need to find out who crossed it and punish them...

(quote begins at 47:08 of podcast)

But he didn't commit to actually making it official. According to Rule #14 of the House Ethics Rules, Committee Authority to Investigate -- General Policy, there are five avenues for undertaking an inquiry or investigation. Obviously, a member of the House can initiate one, but in this case CREW has already filed a complaint against Hastings. All that's needed now is for a House member to file a referral on the complainant's behalf.

Information offered as a complaint by an individual not a Member of the House is transmitted to the Commmittee, provided that a Member of the House certifies in writing that he or she believes the information is submitted in good faith and warrants the review and consideration of the Committee;

Melanie Sloan, representing CREW, also spoke on the program and she's not counting on any member of the House to go the extra mile and file the referral. She believes public statements (like Smith's) will be made decrying Hastings' behavior and that will be the end of it. The Ethics Committee has practically been rendered moot in recent years due to a tit-for-tat tantrum between the parties. Both sides are terrified that filing a complaint against a member will automatically instigate a retaliatory move by the other side. Fabulous. Democracy in action. In Sloan's words, "Rules don't matter if no one's enforcing the rules".

So, what will it take for Smith, or any other House member, to do the right thing? Under the circumstances, Hastings' continued position as ranking member of the committee is untenable, because Rule #16, Duties of Committee Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, puts all the authority for determining the merits of a complaint and forwarding it to an investigative subcommittee squarely in the hands of (chair) Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, and (ranking member) Doc Hastings.

Adam Smith should be commended for going on the record yesterday and approving of an investigation. But he should also state whether or not he intends to do anything to make sure an investigation takes place.

Adam Smith

www.house.gov/adamsmith

D.C. office

(202) 225-8901

fax: (202) 225-5893

Tacoma office

(253) 896-3775

fax: (253) 896-3789

Posted by shoephone on March 10, 2007 at 03:23 PM in National and International Politics, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (6)

March 09, 2007

House Judiciary Committee Wants Answers From the White House on the U.S. Attorney Firings

TPMMuckraker reports that the House Judiciary Committee sent the White House a request for any and all documents related to the U.S. Attorney Firings. That includes: communications records within the White House; communications between the White House and members of Congress; the names of any members of Congress who had advance notice of the firings; the names of anyone in the White House who was involved in the firings. (Read the pdf of the letter here.)

The White House has until next Friday, March 16 to produce the documents.

They also sent a letter to former White House counsel Harriet Miers, subtly referencing the interview that she and her deputy, William Kelley, conducted with John McKay, where McKay was asked why he "mishandled" Washington's 2004 gubernatorial election. Here's the text of that letter:

March 9, 2007

Dear Ms. Miers:

We write to follow up on the hearings held in the House and Senate Judiciary Committees this week concerning the forced resignations of six U.S. Attorneys. At these hearings, a number of important disclosures were made, several of which raise very troubling legal questions about the conduct of officials at the Justice Department. Questions have also been raised concerning the involvement of the White House, which of course made the final decision to discharge the U.S. Attorneys. Enclosed is a copy of a letter we have sent to the current White House counsel, Fred Fielding, on these matters.

In order to further our investigation, we would appreciate the opportunity to interview you, hopefully on a voluntary basis, about your knowledge and activities concerning the termination of these U.S. Attorneys. Please contact Elliot Mincberg or Lillian German in the Judiciary Committee Office Building, 2138 Rayburn House Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (tel: 202-225-3951; fax: 202-225-7680). Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.

Sincerely,

John Conyers Jr.

Chairman

Linda T. Sanchez

Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law

They're giving Miers the opportunity to answer their questions "hopefully, on a voluntary basis" so that a subpoena won't be necessary.

Being the majority party in Congress certainly has its advantages.

Posted by shoephone on March 9, 2007 at 01:58 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

March 08, 2007

CREW Files Ethics Complaint Against Hastings

Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed an ethics complaint against Doc Hastings for his interference with former U.S. attorney John McKay's office over the 2004 gubernatorial election. From the complaint:

Mr. Cassidy’s call to Mr. McKay -- at Rep. Hastings’ behest -- violates chapter 7 of the House ethics manual, which prohibits members from contacting executive or agency officials regarding the merits of matters under their formal consideration. House rules also state that if a member wants to affect the outcome of a matter in litigation, the member can file a brief with the court, make a floor statement, or insert a statement into the Congressional Record. Directly calling officials to influence an on-going enforcement matter is not an option.

Moreover, the rules state that a member may not claim he or she was merely requesting “background information” or a “status report” because the House has recognized that such requests “may in effect be an indirect or subtle effort to influence the substantive outcome of the proceedings.”

The conduct of Rep. Hastings and Mr. Cassidy may also violate the requirement that members conduct themselves in a manner that “reflects creditably on the House.” In a precedent cited by the House ethics committee when it admonished former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), the House has held that members are prohibited from asking an executive branch employee to engage in an activity having an impermissible political purpose.

CREW’s complaint alleges that Mr. Cassidy contacted Mr. McKay to discuss an ongoing investigative matter for the impermissible political purpose of impacting the Washington gubernatorial election.

Hastings has some 'splainin' to do. It's bad enough that a member of the House Ethics Committee would engage in such activity, but quite beyond the pale for the committee's chair to be named as the offender. "Accountability" is not a word to be thrown around lightly, especially for the head of the committee charged with guaranteeing that accountability. Hastings, famously, wasted valuable time giving Tom Delay a free pass for playing footsie with Jack Abramoff. The fact that he is still the ranking member of the ethics committee is an abomination. If Democrats William Jefferson and Alcee Hastings (no relation) deserve the contempt of their colleagues -- and they do -- then Doc Hastings, in a position to know better, is at least as contemptible and should be thrown off the committee altogether. He will most certainly have to recuse himself from any procedings in an investigation of Heather Wilson and her part in the firing of U.S. attorney David Iglesias. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer needs to check himself from merely paying lip service to the issue of ethics. Now that Democrats have gained the majority, it's imperative that both investigations go forward.

Hastings shouldn't delude himself into thinking that the latest round of lies told by Alberto Gonzales and Karl Rove will protect him from scrutiny. The U.S. attorney firings have nothing to do with "serving at the pleasure of the president" and everything to do with retaliation for not being right-wing enough. Add to that George Bush's penchant for rewarding unqualified cronies (heckuva job, Brownie, anyone?) with high-level positions that, in reality, require more expertise than simply knowing how to host a $500,000 fundraising dinner, and you can see why the Republicans inserted a provision into Patriot Act II giving the administration the authority to replace the U.S. attorneys without having to obtain Senate confirmation first. Ya know, like the way we used to do it. But just today, the administration backed down and said it won't block legislation aimed at putting Senate confirmation of all U.S.attorneys back into law. I'm really starting to enjoy the newly elected Democratic majority. They're not playing softball with Bush anymore. Now, let's see them do the same with their "friends" across the aisle. Bush says he won't oppose, but getting Senate Republicans on board is the next necessary step.

Posted by shoephone on March 8, 2007 at 03:00 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

Comprehensive, Affordable Health Coverage for All Children

The value of having a progressive Democratic governor and a Democratic legislator with enough of a majority to flex its muscles will be clearer and clearer as this session moves into its final weeks. 

We already have an early win with the passage of SB 5093, the Children's Health Bill, in both Houses.  There was bi-partisan support (Senate 38-9, House 68-28) for this innovative bill but the leadership came from Governor Gregoire, the Democratic leadership and progressive organizations.  Washington State now leads the nation in providing comprehensive, affordable children's health coverage for all children.  This bill, which the governor will sign on Tuesday, offers affordable health coverage options to all children, including immigrant children.  Children in families above 200% of the federal poverty level ($40,000 for a family of four) will share the cost with sliding scale premiums.
 
That means that approximately 38,000 children, who are currently not able to obtain basic health care, will be able to do so immediately.  And there will be outreach to other eligible families to let them know they can enroll their children. 

Then, the bill gets really comprehensive.  The bill seeks to ensure that children will be able to see a doctor without a long delay; provides for what they call a "medical home", a clinic that supervises the child's overall health, and provides goals for nutrition and exercise in schools.  The bill also provides for coverage for all children of whatever income through a non-subsidized system for families of middle or higher incomes to obtain healthcare at more affordable rates.  That last part is one of most innovative parts of the bill and kicks in January of 2009. 

I thought I'd try to lay out the organizations and people who worked hard to get such a wonderful bill all the way through the process. 

Background

According to Jon Gould, Deputy Director of the Children's Alliance, a major long-time backer of this bill, Frank Chopp walked into a lobby day gathering four years ago and asked the children's healthcare backers in the room what should be the name of a program that would give all children in the state health coverage. 

Then we get to the two steps backward part.  The legislature sent a bill to then Governor Locke, championed by Senate Budget Committee Chair Dino Rossi, that cut children as many as 40,000 children off the healthcare rolls and put administrative hurdles in place that made it difficult for families to enroll.  Governor Locke signed it. 

Gregoire ran on this issue in 2004, charging correctly that Rossi was instrumental in preventing low income Washington children from obtaining healthcare.  (She didn't talk much about Locke's part in the two-steps-back bill.)  Then one week after taking office, she implemented an Executive Order that undid a cumbersome and punishing income verification process, provided for continuous eligibility for children whose parents incomes fluctuated somewhat and eliminated premiums for low income families.   Caseloads stabilized and the number of children covered began to go up.  Passage of a bill that year declared that Washington would have the goal of health coverage for all Washington children by 2010.

A strong coalition of children's organization and health care providers supported by a wide range of religious organizations and medical organizations began working with legislators.  That coalition has been unified on exactly what the policy should be and who should be covered.  In addition to a unified message, the group had a great lobbying team and a good grass-roots campaign.  The coalition included Group Health, The Washington State Hospital Association, the Community Health Network of Washington, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Group Health.  (Tell them thank you next time you're in!)

SB 5093 was an executive request bill.  It came from the governor.  Unlike most bills, it got better as it went through the legislature.  About three weeks ago, the Speaker, the Majority Leader and the Governor met and came out with a deal.  This bill was an example of the good relationships between the three Democratic leaders. 

Go with me over the fold for a few words from Senator Chris Marr, chief sponsor, and more on the details of the bill.  The PI has an editorial up this morning praising it as well.

New Senator Chris Marr Sponsors the Bill

Lisa Brown asked newly elected Spokane Senator Chris Marr to lead the charge in the Senate and it was ultimately his bill, SB 5093, that made it through. 

I talked with Senator Marr for a few minutes today about why this was important to him. He said that he has been intrigued by people saying that we need to be better consumers of healthcare.  Marr is past owner of a group of Honda dealerships in the Spokane area.  Prior to running for the State Senate from the 6th LD, I saw Marr speak forcefully two years ago for the Clean Car Bill in the legislature and effectively undercut the opposition by the national car dealers association.  I was personally thrilled that he ran and won (and that was even before I found out he was a Buddhist). 

Marr talks about his background running a business with 150 employees and serving as Chair of a Hospital Board.  He said that the working poor has had huge difficulties paying for healthcare and the result is higher health care costs for all of us.  Hospitals are required by federal law to provide care in the emergency room.  As a result the emergency room is the only health care that many low income people can get.  The idea that it is how they do health care becomes a family tradition and shunts all-important preventative healthcare to the side.   

The cost of this terribly inefficient healthcare is borne by all of us who pay health insurance.  Marr says that 27% of our premiums support the hospital emergency room care - care that should be addressed elsewhere for the benefit of all of us. 

Marr says there is not a lot of debate about the importance of this Children's Health Care bill.  The preliminary steps that have already been carried out by the state have proven quite effective in providing healthcare for children in low income families and in bringing down costs. 

For Marr, coming from the Spokane region, where 22% of the jobs are based on health care (vs. 11% in Puget Sound), the benefits to his constituents were also key.  He wants to change the world around health care and sees this bill as a good beginning.

Jon Gould says that Marr could not have been a better champion of this bill.  There were a number of Republican amendments that would have weakened the bill and Marr had a quick, cogent response to every one of them.  Gould said that for a freshman Senator, he's been as effective as anyone who's been in the legislature for a long time.

Marr wrote an op-ed in the Spokesman Review a month ago laying out his support of SB 5093.

The Bill

I'll let the Children's Alliance provide the details of the bill:

Senate Bill 5093 will provide affordable, comprehensive health coverage options to all children in Washington State. Beyond coverage, this bill seeks to ensure that children will be able to see a doctor, encourages high quality care through a medical home, invests in outreach to find and enroll eligible families and declares goals for nutrition and exercise in schools. All components are critical to improving the health and wellbeing of Washington children.

Key features of the children’s health legislation:

One unified program – Several health coverage programs will be consolidated into a single unified coverage program for children. All children receive equal treatment, regardless of citizenship status. Benefits are comprehensive: medical, dental, vision, and mental health. Consolidation of programs will streamline the process of determining eligibility and enrolling children for both families and the state.

No more waiting lists – The state budget will accommodate all children in families up to 250% of the Federal Poverty Level who enroll in public health insurance programs. These children will not have to be placed on waiting lists for coverage while the state budget is debated every year.

Sliding-scale coverage – This legislation opens up public insurance to families making up to 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL) in January 2009, with sliding scale monthly premium contributions from families above 200% of FPL. (200% FPL for a family of three is $34,340 and for a family of four is $41,300.) At a small cost to the state, families that currently lack affordable coverage options will now have a reasonable means of obtaining comprehensive health coverage for their children. Beginning in January, 2009, middle-class families (those above 300% FPL) will be able to obtain comprehensive coverage through the state at full cost.

Outreach to eligible families – About 70% of the children who lack coverage were eligible for public insurance even before this bill was passed. The legislation invests in comprehensive outreach to ensure that responsible parents have access to accurate information about available children’s health coverage options and the enrollment process.

Cutting the red tape – The bill directs DSHS to simplify the application and renewal process through mechanisms such as online applications to reduce the number of children who “churn” on and off public-supported health coverage programs.

Better care through “medical homes” – Quality improvement measures and targeted provider rate increases aim to provide coordinated regular care for children through “medical homes.” Children with “medical homes” have improved health outcomes.

Healthy schools – Healthy schools promote healthy lifestyles that result in healthier children. This bill declares goals for nutrition and physical activity standards in K-12 public schools and creates a legislative school health task force to ensure that Washington’s schools are healthy environments for the health and development of children.

The full bill is here.  The Children's Alliance's detailed summary is here.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 8, 2007 at 01:04 PM in Inside Baseball, Policy | Permalink | Comments (3)

March 07, 2007

Hastings/Cassidy -- Let the Spin Begin!

John McKay's bombshell at the hearings yesterday has led to more panic for the Republicans involved in the attempted coup at the U.S. Attorneys Office. Doc Hastings responded that there was nothing inappropriate about his former chief of staff's call to McKay. Now Ed Cassidy, the CoS in question, is whipping up some feverish spin of his own:

My conversation with John McKay was a routine effort to determine whether allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 gubernatorial elections were, or were not, being investigated by federal authorities...As the top aide to the chairman of the House Ethics Committee, I understood the permissable limits on any such conversation. Mr McKay understood and respected those boundaries as well. I am pleased that Mr. McKay recalls both our agreement to respect those boundaries and my subsequent decision to end the conversation promptly.

Good try, Mr. Cassidy, but it's clear that it's precisely because you didn't understand about the boundaries that John McKay had to take out a piece of chalk and teach you about them. He was so bothered by your seeming ignorance of protocol he had a conversation with his assistants about whether you and your boss were creating a problem by dancing oh-so-close to the line of interference.

And again, I just have to point out that as "the [former] chairman of the House Ethics Committee" during the period of time in which that call took place, Hastings is likely to be meeting with his lawyers today, because CREW is already on the case. Just ask Domenici and Wilson.

Speaking of lawyers, it turns out that McKay's memory includes a brief brandishment delivered to him by none other than Bush's very recently departed White House counsel, the supremely qualified Harriet Miers:

In remarks after the hearings, McKay said that officials in the White House counsel's office, including then-counsel Harriet E. Miers, asked him to explain why he had "mishandled" the governor's race during an interview for a federal judgeship in September 2006. McKay was informed after his dismissal that he also was not a finalist for the federal bench.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel declined last night to respond to McKay's comments.

Two questions. First, if Harriet Miers was accusing McKay of "mishandling the governor's race", is it even remotely believable that she wasn't speaking on behalf of the president? Secondly, when is Miers going to be called to testify before the judiciary committees?

The Seattle Times has more.

Update: TPM Muckraker reports that the Senate plans to subpoena five more Justice Department officals when it meets tomorrow. Where would we be without Josh Marshall and his team's fantastic digging into this story?

Posted by shoephone on March 7, 2007 at 11:23 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Post-Trial Add-Ons

Before I leave off writing about the Libby Trial, let's give the incredible Firedoglake team one more round of applause for all the work they did bringing the facts of this case to our attention for three long years.  Here's a last (at least until June) video-clip from Marcy Wheeler, who's been live-blogging from the courthouse.   She discusses the verdict, the likely sentencing time, Fitzgerald's comments and the jury's thoughts on the trial.  Hint: It didn't make sense that Scooter Libby was the only one on trial. 

While we're on the jury's thoughts, here is a riveting review of the entire trial by Juror #9, Denis Collins, a former newspaper person. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 7, 2007 at 09:29 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 06, 2007

McKay and Fellow U.S. Attorneys Tell the Real Story to Congress

When Mr.Cassidy called me on future action I stopped him and I told him I was sure that he wasn't asking me on behalf of his boss to reveal information on an ongoing investigation, or to lobby me on one, because we both knew that would be improper. He agreed it would be improper and he ended the conversation in a most expeditious manner.

John McKay landed a bombshell today in the Congressional hearings into the U.S. attorney firings when he revealed that he had been contacted by Ed Cassidy, former chief of staff to Washington State Congressman Doc Hastings, on the status of an investigation into voter fraud in the 2004 gubernatorial election. The video is here.

Hastings is scrambling to clear his office of any wrongdoing:

Hastings, in a statement also issued Tuesday, called Cassidy's conversation with McKay "entirely appropriate."

"It was a simple inquiry and nothing more -- and it was the only call to any federal official from my office on this subject either during or after the recount ordeal," Hastings said.

He said Tom McCabe, the executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, which backed Rossi, did contact his office in July 2005 to ask that Hastings urge the White House to fire McKay.

"I flat out refused to do so, which Ed Cassidy told him in the bluntest of terms," Hastings said."

Hastings is wrong on the first point. It is highly inappropriate for congresspeople (or their staff members) to inquire of a federal prosecutor about the status of an ongoing investigation. It's the reason Senator Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson are facing ethics questions today, because they did the same thing to David Iglesias. But at least Hastings had the good sense to beat back Tom McCabe's demand. Here's an excerpt from McCabe's menacing missive to the congressman, dated July 5, 2005:

I presume Mr. McKay has adamantly refused to investigate because he's a Democrat, and any investigation he conducts may harm his future political aspirations. I thought the process by which Mr. McKay, a Democrat, was appointed was reprehensible (ie. his brother's connections with Jennifer Dunn). But now it's time for the administration to admit its mistake and replace Mr. McKay with someone (a Republican?) who will conduct an investigation of election improprieties.

There's no doubt  the BIAW hasn't been having an easy time of it. First, Rossi loses the governor's race. Then a reliably conservative congressman won't take up their cause. And then they pour millions of dollars into buying judicial races in the last election, which ended up yet another failed project when their candidates lost. And by the way, from all reports, John McKay is a Republican. Small details.

But the other wrinkle is that Hastings was the chair of the House Ethics Committee at the time of that phone call from Cassidy to McKay. That puts his claims about appropriate or inappropriate behavior under a microscope, and if CREW doesn't look into this sitaution I'll be surprised.

There were so many riveting moments today it's hard to focus on them all in one post. The Senate hearings gave me gratification when people like Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) referenced a damning phone call between Michael Elston (chief of staff to Deputy AG Paul McNulty) and ousted prosecutor Bud Cummins, where Cummins sensed such a clear threat from the AG's office and the White House to keep his mouth shut that he felt it necessary to warn his peers. The senator got them to say they thought Elston's action would be seen as obstruction of justice had he approached a grand jury witness in the same manner. And of course, Republicans Jeff Sessions (AL) and Lindsay Graham (S.C.) proved themselves to be loyal White House stooges, filling up the space with their hot gas about how these prosecutors got canned for being too long in the tooth. And flashing us all back to his glory days as an attack dog, Arlen Specter, the pit bull of Pennsylvania (who slipped the provision into the new and improved Patriot Act making these firings, and unapproved patronage replacements, possible in the first place), recalled for us his performance as Anita Hill's worst nightmare, by going after the U.S. attorneys with the vim and vigor of prosecutor in his first big murder trial. He may be hoping for an Oscar. What he and the rest of the Republicans may get, instead, is a very comprehensive and detailed investigation into the Bush regime's obsession with power, secrecy, cronyism and ultimate failure at a time when the nation is energetically clamoring for accountability.

Posted by shoephone on March 6, 2007 at 07:09 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Libby Guilty on 4 of the 5 Charges

Scooter Libby was convicted of one count of obstruction, two counts of perjury and one count of lying to the FBI about outing Valerie Plame's identity as an undercover CIA agent.   He was found not guilty on one other count of lying to the FBI. 

The verdict came after 4 years of investigation, at the request of the CIA, a lengthy trial and 10 days of deliberation.  There was a lot that was uncovered during this critical trial - most importantly that Libby learned about Plame's identity from Vice President Cheney and that the entire Bush administration was focused on discrediting Plame's husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, about his findings that the administration lied about prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said that the case is over.  He does not plan to press any more charges in this case.  He also hit just the right tone about this case:

"The results are actually sad," Fitzgerald said. "It's sad that we had a situation where a high-level official person who worked in the office of the vice president obstructed justice and lied under oath. We wish that it had not happened, but it did."

Libby will be free until the sentencing in May or June.  There is not likely to be an appeal until that time.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi broadened the meaning of the trial nicely:

Today’s guilty verdicts are not solely about the acts of one individual.

This trial provided a troubling picture of the inner workings of the Bush Administration. The testimony unmistakably revealed – at the highest levels of the Bush Administration – a callous disregard in handling sensitive national security information and a disposition to smear critics of the war in Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid demanded that Bush promise not to pardon Libby.  He said:

It's about time someone in the Bush Administration has been held accountable for the campaign to manipulate intelligence and discredit war critics.

Nice work on the part of Patrick Fitzgerald and his team of prosecutors.  Nice to see that parts of our legal system are still working well.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 6, 2007 at 12:39 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 05, 2007

Selma Shows How Lucky We Democrats Are

The Democrats have candidates that are going to knock our socks off. 

There's been all this hype about the conflict between Obama and Clinton over the black vote.  Yeah, okay.   But what is really interesting is listening to both of their talks in Selma.  They were both outrageously good.

Barack Obama spoke at  Brown Chapel in Selma yesterday.  He is genuinely able to mix in facts with narrative with stories in a way that calls to us.  I'm betting that African-Americans are seeing Obama as a Martin Luther King for our times.  I'm betting that the rest of us, some sooner than later, will begin to see the same thing.  Because we are living in an age of YouTube, we non-blacks can get a fuller benefit of Obama's combination of preacher, social worker, seer and leader.  This page on Obama's website has two long video-clips of Obama's talk in a black church in Selma.  He is talking to black people in a black church.  But we get to listen in.  Find yourself something to do - yoga, cooking, rocking the 8-month old, something and listen in.  Or just be absorbed by it.  It's a treat.

Hillary Clinton, speaking at another church in Selma, got a rousing welcome for her remarks as well.  This much shorter YouTube video-clip of her talking is great as well and certainly seemed to have a positive impact on her audience. 

I so hope that we in Washington State get to come into the primary process before a candidate is anointed.  We are in a very critical time slot in the primary calendar next year.  There are the four early states between January 14th and Jan. 29th - Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina.  Then there is the huge Primary Tuesday on Feb. 5th when Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Utah all vote.  Then comes us - four days later.  Our primary caucuses are currently likely to be on February 9th, a Saturday.   

But do you really think the nation will have decided after Feb. 5th?  I don't.  I think the candidates will be coming to town on that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in preparation for our caucuses on Saturday the 5th.  How fun.   

Hat tip to Howie, writing at his other blog, "Seattle for Barack Obama".

UPDATE ON CAUCUS PORTION OF POST:  I just got a note from a friend with a link to an article in the Olympian that questions whether or not the state parties are even going to hold caucuses.   Odd.  I sat in a State Democratic Party meeting on Saturday where we spent a day mostly talking about the caucuses.  I'm sure this will be clarified soon but until then, it's confusing.    

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 5, 2007 at 10:03 PM in Candidate Races, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Michael Hood Pulls Out an Interview with John McKay

Holy Smokes!  Turns out Blatherwood's wonderful Michael Hood happened to interview John McKay, one of eight Bush-appointed federal prosecutors just pushed out by the same administration.  Michael says that he did an interview with McKay in 2005 for Seattle Magazine that is very telling.  Only a small portion of the interview was published in the article.  Here's what McKay said at the time: 

I can't be directed to do something that is unethical, wrong or illegal.

McKay testifies tomorrow about the firings; he is one of four who will testify.  Shoephone's been doing a great job of keeping us up-to-date on the DoJ Attorney General firings and what they might mean.   Here.  And here.  And here.

Here's a bit of what McKay told Michael two years ago.

Conservative activists are taking credit for Bush's unexplained canning of the moderate Republican. It was hot and Republicans honcho's were mad- many publicly criticized McKay. The Evergreen Freedom Foundationfiled a complaint to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about what it called McKay's lax oversight of the tight election victory of Democratic Christine Gregoire over Republican Dino Rossi.

Designated GOP hitter, Stefan Sharkansky led the pack. In a smug post last month titled "Buh-bye" on his Republo-blog, he says he doesn't know why McKay was fired but wrote that the prosecutor, "did nothing but sit on his thumbs when asked to investigate the allegations of potential election fraud in King County in 2004, (And the allegations have been supported by subsequently discovered evidence, no thanks to McKay)."

But McKay told BlatherWatch, "If there was evidence of criminal fraud in an election, we'd have investigated it. There was zero evidence."

If McKay says the same thing in front of the House Judiciary sub-committee tomorrow, things are going to get interesting.  Didn't you just know that these Democratic investigations were going to dredge up the most fascinating buddy-buddy corruption?  Now, the Democratic Congresscritters on that sub-committee will even be able to ask McKay specific questions based on Michael's notes. 

He said people claiming to be Republicans were telling him he was a bad Republican because "... I wasn't going to bring a criminal investigation into a highly political process."

But McKay said his office did more investigating on the case than he could say at the time.

"We closely monitored the civil case in Chelan County. We weren't announcing that publicly at the time and were careful not to imply it. People might have misconstrued that we were 'actively investigating,' which we were not."

If it had been an "active investigation," it would have meant the feds had individuals who were targets because there was evidence that they'd conspired to harm the election.

"There was no evidence like that," he said.

"On the one hand, we didn't want to inhibit somebody from coming forward if they had evidence of criminal fraud. On the other hand, we couldn't just say, 'Ok, this stinks, we're going to convene a grand jury.' That would have been irresponsible."

I relished it because I knew what the right thing to do was- that is- look for evidence, and make decisons based on the law and evidence. Never respond to political pressure. That's what prosecutors do."

Sorry, Michael, for quoting so much of your piece.  But it is a wonderfully important interview to share with the public.  There's more but I'll just give you one more small piece.  Go read the rest.:

Did his ethical and non-partisan handling of the case lose McKay his job with the ultra-partisan, loyalty-demanding, administration known for its payback-is-a-bitch politics?

No one knows that it did, and everyone, including McKay, has so far denied it.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 5, 2007 at 07:34 PM in National and International Politics, The Politics of Business | Permalink | Comments (2)

So, Let's Get Visionary on the Viaduct

If we take both Governor Gregoire and Mayor Nickels at their word that they are open to a Surface/Transit solution to the Viaduct problem, and I believe we can safely do that, we have an opening to do something visionary here in Seattle. 

I suspect we will wind up needing to prop up the Viaduct for a few years in order to maintain capacity and work out a truly good solution.  The Retrofit or "Repair and Prepare" solution has not been talked about much, outside of David Sucher's City Comforts blog.  But, really, it is the most prudent but also visionary approach and one that I hope both Peter Steinbrueck and Ron Sims focus on as they rev us up for a real solution once the No/No vote goes through.

Here's Sucher on the problems people have wrapping their minds around the "Repair and Prepare" solution:

Some remain silent out of fear.

Their silence is foolish but not irrational. From their perspective the danger (what they fear so much that they cannot even admit that a Repair is possible) is that the "Repair" will be done and the "Prepare"will be forgotten. No question, that is a real problem. It will take focus over many rears to create the infrastructure of transit which will even come close to allowing dismantling the Viaduct. During that long interim period new issues can shift public focus and the "temporary" Repair can become practically permanent. Consider the "temporary" structures of WW2; many were still used into the 80s.

Like all great works, changing the transportation patterns of a major city will take time. Time is the enemy of the deal and in this context the Repair is a danger to those simple enthusiasts who wish to simply "tear down the Viaduct" and let the Devil take the hindmost.

But the danger cannot be avoided. It must be faced squarely. A Surface/Transit option without an interim period of Repair — which interim period may be a decade or more even with the most vigorous pro-transit policies — is a stillborn Surface/Transit option. "You can't get there from here" unless you admit a Repair and make it part of your program. Wake up, dreamers!

The "Repair and Prepare" solution is not sexy.  In fact it is downright ugly.  When I lived in the Bay Area, many freeways and bridges had temporary reinforcements for years that were installed after the 1989 earthquake that took down part of the Bay Bridge and the Cypress freeway.  You get used to it and the benefits are tremendous.  It gives us time to do the right thing, financially, environmentally, and design-wise.   It gets around the capacity problems that a quick Surface/Transit solution alone create.

This is a case of ugly being the compost out of which visionary may rise.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 5, 2007 at 01:30 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (4)

March 04, 2007

Senator Domenici Admits Involvement in Firing of U.S. Attorney

Seattle's John McKay is one of four ousted U.S. attorneys who has been called to speak before Congress this week. David Iglesias, recently fired U.S. attorney in New Mexico, is expected to tell the committee members the real reason he thinks he was fired and to name names. That prospect has sent the White House and the Republicans into a tizzy, so in a feeble attempt to circumvent the coming storm they are engaging in some transparent "spin".

Today, New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici finally admitted, after many days of obfuscation, that he was involved in Iglesias' firing. He was unhappy that Iglesias was not prepared to indict a member of N.M.'s state legislature for his part in a kick back scheme in time for the November elections. The legislator in question was a Democrat, and Domenici (and possibly U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson) wanted a way to smear the state Dems so they and their party could reap some benefits in the upcoming election. Domenici's mistake was contacting Iglesias about the status of the investigation.

“I asked Mr. Iglesias if he could tell me what was going in that investigation and give me an idea of what time frame we were looking at,” Mr. Domenici said. “It was a very brief conversation which concluded when I was told that the courthouse investigation would be continuing for a lengthy period.”

We're sure to find out more details of that phone call, and any other contacts between Domenici and Iglesias, but even if Domenici is (cough) telling the truth about (cough) what transpired, that doesn't let him off the hook, because as John Solomon pointed out in the Washington Post on Saturday:

Any communication by a senator or House member with a federal prosecutor regarding an ongoing investigation is a violation of ethics rules.

Bummer for Pete. But Domenici is not the only public official showing questionable judgement. Soloman's article focuses on the the fact that the White House signed off on all the firings. Furthermore, the tales being told by AG Gonzales and Deputy AG Paul McNulty have veered from talking point to talking point, insinuating that the ousters were due to performance-related issues. That all fell through the trap door when McNulty finally acknowledged that at least one of the U.S. attorneys, Bud Cummins, was ousted in order to make way for a Republican party hack named Ted Griffin. Still, they are sticking to their stories on Iglesias and Carol Lam (recently fired in San Diego), by claiming those had to do with a lack of significant prosecutions on immigration and firearms violations.

Josh Marshall has a simple question:

If this whole business was about US attorneys not implementing White House policy on immigration and firearms enforcement, why all the secrecy about it?

I'm with Josh. Why all the secrecy? Unless the White House is going to try and shut us up with more excuses by conflating immigration policies with double-super-secret-classified information on Homeland Security or some such drivel. But they wouldn't dare attempt to control the masses and the MSM with more yellow-orange-red-alert fear-mongering... would they? The fact is, John McKay was implementing exactly the kind of intelligence information-sharing programs the 9/11 commission suggested and the White House rejected. Oh, and then there's the little matter of Carol Lam's successful prosecution of Republican Congressman "Duke" Cunningham for corruption. The White House didn't like that at all.

I'm getting out the popcorn for Tuesday's meeting between the U.S. attorneys and the House judicial subcommittee. I think it's going to be quite the show.

Updates: An assistant U.S. attorney writes a letter to Josh, skewering the Bush administration for "abandoning" the U.S. Attorneys office by slashing budgets and perverting the fourth amendment. The four U.S. attorneys will now be on a double bill, testifying before the House AND the Senate tomorrow. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed a formal ethics complaint against Senator Pete Domenici for breaking Senate rule no. 43. And the denizens of the White House scramble to cover their butts by sacking the executive director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (the man tasked with making the December phone calls and firing the U.S. attorneys). Of course, that doesn't prevent Congress from issuing him a subpoena too. (H/T to Lotus for the links.)

Forget the popcorn. Breaking out the bubbly.

Posted by shoephone on March 4, 2007 at 05:15 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (10)

Finally! A Politican With Enough Balls to Take on the ORV Crowd

State Senator Adam Kline lays it on off-road vehicle users:

Yes, I am sure there is the occasional responsible person who rides
one of these machines on land or water. And yes, like every human being
I have been pleasantly surprised to find my stereotypes broken. But
why, why, why, do folks insist on motorized "sports"? Those two words
are an oxymoron.

There is nothing sporting — athletic, physically demanding — about
riding any machine anywhere. And it's a damned annoyance to folks who
see the outdoors as a place to go for quiet and solitude and
self-exploration. I would be happy to ban the use of the internal
combustion engine off-road, by anyone without a handicapped sticker,
subject to a stiff fine. Maybe we could call this an anti-obesity
measure.

Like Kline, I'm tired of the sanctimonious whining of off-road vehnicle users, who think they have some sort of god-given right to pollute our lungs, our ears and our natural places with their toys.   Worse, people with $5000 snowmobiles, jet-skis and ATVs have the gumption to label people who object "elitists."

Thanks, Senator Kline, for having the courage to take on a well-funded, well-organized and just plain nasty special interest.  Those of us who appreciate safe, quiet, healthy outdoor recreation are grateful.

Posted by Jon Stahl on March 4, 2007 at 11:08 AM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (2)

March 03, 2007

State Dems Come Alive

Person after person said that yesterday's Democratic State Party Chairs Meeting was the best Party meeting they h’d ever attended.  I was impressed with the level of active, enthused involvement.  I have often suggested that the State Party was like a large boulder in the middle of a fast-moving progressive stream that was moving around the boulder, wearing it down at a glacial pace, but essentially paying little attention to it.  The national Party and the local party organizations have been moving ahead, innovating technologically and developing tactics and strategies that have made them relevant but it sure hasn't looked that way at the State level.

Up until now.

The 120 or so folks, of all ages, present in that room were not just sitting, listening to ho-hum speakers or arguing over arcane platform issues.  They were engaged in problem-solving and developing strategies to build up the Democratic Party in every precinct in the state.

When I live-blogged the PCO Training a couple weeks ago, Dwight Pelz, Chair of the State Democratic Party, invited me to live-blog the Democratic Party Chairs€™ Meeting in Ellenburg this weekend.  It was an opportunity that I didn not feel I could pass up - opening up the process to Democrats across the state.  I'm very glad I went.

Introductions

Dwight and Susie Sheary, Chair of the King County Democrats and currently Chair of the State Chairs, welcomed the group.  We went around the room and folks said who they were and where they came from.  Quickly.  Dwight then introduced the key Democratic staff present.

Dwight also announced that there will be a move nationwide to implement a new Voter File program interface.  Judging from the responses of the folks at the table I was sitting at, this is welcome news. 

Best Practices

Next up was a panel of three leaders of different types of Democratic organizations – Mark Hintz, Chair of the Snohomish County Democrats; Bob Esvelt, Chair of Stevens County; and Becky Lewis, past Chair of the 48th LD. 

Becky talked about how she built the 48th LD Democratic up, based on excellent work that the previous Chair had done.  She talked about recruiting PCO’s, building a core team of E-Board volunteers, and finding a great fund-raiser.  Delegate.  Delegate.  Delegate, she said.  She talked about the need for improving credentialing for the caucus process as key to speeding up the caucus meetings due up in February, 2008.   

Mark talked about the work he’s done as Chair.  He talked about having been a teacher and a coach, which made him focus on being organized.  He has a whole lot of people who make him look good.   He got involved with the Democratic Party in the state in the mid-90’s.  He started as Chair of the 39th LD.  It was a difficult time to get Democrats out.  He spent a lot of time there looking for Democrats and encouraging them to get involved. 

Mark talked about having been tired of being ignored by the State Party.  So his county began doing their own fundraising, an innovation for the Party at the county level, and working out their own methods for building the Party in Snohomish County.

He also talked about making use of the influx of people who came to the caucuses in 2004.  He recruited a lot of folks, often asking them to be in charge of the areas that they griped about. He focuses on getting the Democratic electeds involved with the Party.  He focuses on working with the LDs to help them build their organizations.  Mark doesn’t think he does anything innovative; instead he just stays with the basics, supporting others and getting them involved.  He works on empowering the others around him to do the best they can do.

Bob talked about the history of Stevens County and how it moved from being in the Democratic column to being in the Republican column in the 90€™s when the Republicans were able to convince rural voters that the Democrats would take away their guns and spend all their money.

His E-Board goals were communication, action, and activism.  They have been focusing on reaching out to new voters, raising money, and running Democrats. They use the media as best they can.  The Democrats have five out of ten of the county offices.  They do no€™t have any county commissioners and few legislators.  As an example of how they are working to change perception, Bob mentioned the items they tend to offer when they run raffles -€“ first is generally a shotgun, which got a lot of laughter in the room; second is usually a hand-made quilt. 

The county has also created a separate organization for the south part of their county, which borders on Spokane and has a different focus than the more rural areas of the county.

Open Mike

Dwight then facilitated open discussion on what can be done to integrate with other media.  He asked people present to talk about their experience with Drinking Liberally and the value of getting together regularly.  I jumped up and talked about getting around the conservative newspaper coverage, or lack thereof, in eastern Washington by developing more bloggers around the state.  Dwight also asked a couple of the Chairs to talk about the exchanges between the urban, resource rich districts and the redder districts. 

Other folks jumped up to share the best practices from their LD or County.  It was lovely to hear and was well received. 

Dwight’s Challenge

The afternoon was spent focusing on Dwight’s challenge to the individual LD and County Party organizations.  He asked us to make use of the thousands of folks who come to caucuses to recruit volunteers and then involve them as activists.  This is fertile ground to get email addresses and then get folks involved.  We can build the Party if we conduct highly organized, competent, calm and friendly caucuses.  He said we want to make a great first impression.  We want to ask participants to perform concrete tasks coming out of those caucuses as a means of keeping them involved in the Party through the election and on. 

The Goal

Dwight suggested that we need to dramatically increase the number of votes for Gov. Chris Gregoire, the key statewide race in 2008.  That is our goal.  He challenged each LD and County with specific performance measures, which will require specific, individual actions. 

People want to be part of something.  They want tasks.  They want to be held accountable.  It’s lonely out there as a PCO.  (Thank you for noticing.)

Tactics include

•    Voter registration
•    Voter identification
•    Boost turnout to caucuses
•    Conduct well-organized precinct caucuses
•    Create teams of volunteers 

District classifications

The Party assigned every LD to one of six groups for the purposes of common strategizing and gave each group slightly different targets to meet.  The groups were: 

•    Rural Eastern Washington
•    Rural Western Washington
•    Suburban Blue
•    Suburban Red
•    Suburban Swing
•    Urban Blue

Strategy Sessions

The participants then spent the remainder of the afternoon working together in their groups, thinking about what they could do to energize people to vote, then energize voters to attend the caucuses and finally to organize the LD’s to make use of the people who attend those caucuses to get more people out voting Democratic. 

Very cool.

Posted by Lynn Allen on March 3, 2007 at 05:01 PM in Strategery | Permalink | Comments (3)

March 02, 2007

Can we tear down the viaduct, improve traffic flow on I-5, and increase funding for transit all at the same time?

The white elephant sitting squarely in the middle of the debate about the future of the Seattle waterfront is the massive congestion on I-5 and the inability of state and local officials to find a solution to getting Seattle and the region out of gridlock. In the debate over the waterfront, the pro-elevated, pro-tunnel and surface proponents would serve Seattle and the region by coming to the table and figuring out a compromise that creates a solution to the North/South congestion in the city and on I-5, removes the elevated freeway on the downtown waterfront, and improves freight mobility. This solution will require an investment in roads and a dramatic investment in transit.

Like many people jumping off the pro-tunnel ship, I have no particular attachment to a tunnel on the waterfront. What I am attached to is creating open space in the city and the once in a lifetime opportunity to reclaim the Seattle waterfront by removing a horrid elevated highway and creating a beautiful public space in the center of the city.

What holds me back from an enthusiastic endorsement of a surface option for the waterfront is the likelihood of an extension of Aurora Avenue North, an extremely ugly highway and a major source of blight that should have already been redesigned to fit into North Seattle neighborhoods. I’m ready to entertain a scenario with no tunnel on the waterfront, but I’m unwilling to consider an expressway for the waterfront. Pro-tunnel and pro-surface folks need to get on the same page and agree that they are not only against a new elevated highway, but also against a new expressway for the waterfront. If the expressway emerges as the preferred option in the coming months the tunnel must remain on the table if we preserve 99 as a highway, and there is not enough political will to downgrade it to a boulevard.

In the absence of the waterfront tunnel, the 2 Billion for the viaduct that has been promised from the statewide gas tax must stay in Seattle and be used to address the traffic problems in Seattle. The focus of that funding should be on getting local traffic moving through the city on arterials that are designed better and making I-5 a longer distance option. For example, what if I-5 was designed for commuters from outside Seattle to get into the city in the morning and out of the city in the evening, and conversely for commuters inside Seattle to get out of the city and back in. For in city trips improved arterials could be used instead of I-5. This could be accomplished by reconfiguring the on and off ramps in a way that removes the ability to make short trips on the freeway. I’m not suggesting that this is necessarily the answer to our congestion problems, I’m simply pointing out that we need a radical approach to begin to change the driving patterns that create traffic on I-5.

One of the worst proposals on the table is to slide the viaduct funding into the pot to widen a new 520. This would only dump additional cars unto I-5, and only worsen our congestion problems. The Seattle delegation in the legislature needs to work together and protect the funding that has been earmarked for Seattle and at the same time make a real effort to tackle congestion on I-5. I haven’t heard a peep from legislators or the governor about what they’d do to try to tackle the problem of congestion on I-5, they act like it’s not their problem.

Is it possible to favor putting billions of dollars into highway improvements and be pro-transit at the same time? The simple answer is yes. The fact is, funding for transit can not come from the gas tax, because of our state constitution. I’m all for constitutional tax reform, but that is a much more complicated issue. If the choice today were between 2 Billion for Highway 99 and 2 Billion for speeding up the construction of Sound Transit, my vote would be with Sound Transit. However, as we all know this is not the choice, and in reality we need to put billions into rapid transit and at the same time billions into improving our highways in Seattle.

Transit funding is more than a gimmick for the pro-surface option on the waterfront. Transit funding has consistently been missing in transportation public policy. In Seattle we’ve missed too many opportunities for transit funding already, with the failed monorail as a perfect example. I regret that the MVET tax in Seattle was not preserved for a light rail or bus rapid transit in that corridor. It’s a good lesson that advocacy for transit funding must remain a priority regardless of where the highway dollars are being spent.

Cross Posted on The Urban Environmentalist

Posted by EzraBasom on March 2, 2007 at 03:42 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (6)

Health Care For All: A Possibility or a Pipe Dream?

There's a New York Times/CBS News poll out today that shows a majority of Americans think the federal government should guarantee health care for all. Most importantly, they're willing to incur a tax hike in order to meet that goal. And they think Democrats are more likely than Republicans to make that goal a reality.

Only 24 percent said they were satisfied with President Bush’s handling of the health insurance issue, despite his recent initiatives, and 62 percent said the Democrats were more likely to improve the health care system.

Americans showed a striking willingness in the poll to make tradeoffs to guarantee health insurance for all, including paying as much as $500 more in taxes a year and forgoing future tax cuts.

But the same divisions that doomed the last effort at creating universal health insurance, under the Clinton administration, are still apparent. Americans remain divided, largely along party lines, over whether the government should require everyone to participate in a national health care plan, and over whether the government would do a better job than the private insurance industry in providing coverage.

Though we are still stuck in the mud over whether a private or publicly funded system would be most effective, that gap is growing wider as well. Only 38 percent say the private insurers should hold the reins while 47 percent want a government-run approach. This really isn't a surprise. The recent election was about a major foreign policy issue -- the war in Iraq -- and a growing problem on the domestic front -- the lack of available and affordable health care. And Democrats won on both issues. There are now 47 million Americans who have no health insurance at all. That figure is an increase of 6.8 percent since year 2000.

Washington State has over 600,000 residents who live without proper health care, and that number is growing for adults as well as children. We have a good program for covering the uninsured, namely the Basic Health Plan, sponsored by former state senator (and current U.S. Congressman) Jim McDermott in 1987. The BHP covers over 100,000 low-income residents with basic health services. Those between 100-200% of the federal poverty level are subsidized, while those over 200% of the poverty level pay a reduced fee to be in the plan. It's a very effective program which has, unfortunately, suffered cuts when the state was in the red. Last year, thanks to our budget surplus, the BHP started adding enrollees again. As an example, it costs the state just under $48 million (in December 2005 dollars) to pay for 25,000 enrollments. That includes the benefit, communications and administrative costs. The plan's prescription drug purchasing is negotiated by a consortium of government and private entities. (Congressional Democrats wanted the federal government to have the power to negotiate prices for the new Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, but Bush and the Republicans said "no").

So, how do we reach the goal of universal health coverage? The insurance companies are not in business to lose money, but can they, realistically, be part of a universal system? Massachussetts passed legislation requiring everyone to buy insurance, and Schwarzenegger wants to do the same in California. Theoretically, it may be possible (and some will be subsidized) but it still leaves the insurance companies in a grand position. As the poll shows, Americans are beginning to feel more trusting of a socialized system.

The Washington State Legislature has put a whopping 166 health care related bills on the docket for the 2007-2008 biennium. Many of them are forward-looking, like HB1088, which improves delivery of children's mental health services. Some are long overdue, such as HB 1703, allowing DSHS to create a pilot program to locate domestic violence advocates and specialists in the offices of Children's and Family Services. One of the most comprehensive is HB 1569, "Reforming the Health Care System in Washington State". Since the pdf is 39 pages long I'll just point to a couple of sections: Sec. 402 requires that employers with more than five employees "adopt and maintain a cafeteria plan...that provides a premium only plan option so that employees can use salary deductions to pay health plan premiums." (Offering coverage is hard for some small business owners but, conveniently, HB 1638 provides tax incentives for employer-provided health care.) Sec. 404 requires that by year 2012 anyone 18 years or older "must obtain and maintain creditable coverage". So, is Washington State planning on going the way of Massachussetts and California in order to cover everyone?

Since there's a consensus that we want to see universal coverage, we need to start talking about what we are willing to give up to get there, because it isn't going to pay for itself. The NYT/CBS poll respondents said they'd pay up to $500 more a year and forgo future tax cuts to make the dream a reality.

What are you willing to give up so we can reach the goal?

Posted by shoephone on March 2, 2007 at 01:52 AM in National and International Politics, Policy, Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (6)

March 01, 2007

Sacking Attorneys and Packing the Courts

"I would never, ever make a change in the United States attorney position for political reasons", Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in Senate testimony in early January. In a Feb. 6 hearing, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told lawmakers, "When I hear you talk about the politicizing of the Department of Justice, it's like a knife in my heart."

Putting aside McNulty's gothic fantasies, recent developments in the Case of the Disappearing U.S. Attorneys point to this emerging reality: Gonzales and McNulty are lying. I've blogged about the mysterious firings of Bush administration U.S. attorneys here, here and here. The order came down on eight U.S. attorneys last December when they were notified they'd better pack their bags and move along little doggies. No reasons were given for their dismissals, only some vaguely worded whitewash from McNulty about performance-related problems. Hmm. Salon has a different take:

Suspicions about the unusual purge of eight U.S. attorneys in December exploded into the open across the legal community and on Capitol Hill after McNulty conceded in Senate testimony on Feb. 6 that the U.S. attorney in Arkansas, Bud Cummins, was pushed out for no other reason than to give someone else a shot at the job.

That someone else turned out to be Ted Griffin, a former RNC operative and little buddy to Karl Rove.

More recently, U.S. attorney Carol Lam, who is best known for nailing corrupt Republican Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham and his partners in crime, was replaced Feb. 15 by Karen Hewitt, who according to a Justice Department press release, "will serve on an interim basis until a United States Attorney is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate."

It's just such a darned shame that Hewitt has virtually no experience in criminal law.

Seattle's U.S. Attorney, John McKay, had a different problem. Apparently, he was over-qualified for the position. After the 9/11 attacks he:

...personally handled high-profile prosecutions, including that of Ahmed Ressam, who had driven across the Canada-U.S. Border with plans to bomb Los Angeles International Airport at the turn of the millenium. In 2004, at a time when poor coordination among law enforcement agencies had been judged at least partly to blame for the 9/11attacks, McKay developed an innovative data-sharing system that continues to be rolled out today in law enforcement offices nationwide.

But the skeletons really rattled out of the closet Wednesday with this little tidbit:

U.S. Attorney David Iglesias said two members of Congress separately called in mid-October to inquire about the timing of an ongoing probe of a kickback scheme and appeared eager for an indictment to be issued on the eve of the elections in order to benefit the Republicans. He refused to name the members of Congress because he said he feared retaliation.

(snip)

Iglesias, who received a positive performance review before he was fired, said he suspected he was forced out because he resisted the pressure and did not indict anyone before the election. "I believe that because I didn't play ball, so to speak, I was asked to resign," said Iglesias, who officially stepped down Wednesday.

The old McNulty-knife-in-the-heart-trick! And Josh Marshall inquires if Republican Reps Heather Wilson and Pete Domenici might have had a hand in it. Clearly, there's pattern at work here. U.S. attorneys, all appointed by Bush, must not engage in professional conduct that includes: investigating, indicting and convicting corrupt Republicans (like Cunningham); creating effective data-sharing programs across law enforcement agencies, like the ones recommended by the 9/11 commission; or waiting for stronger evidence with which to convict Democrats, even if it means not smearing them in time for Republicans to win an election.

The stench of the Bush administration's lies is finally choking off all the breathable air on Capitol Hill, and today the House Judiciary Subcommitte on Commercial and Administrative Law is voting on whether to issue subpoenas to Carol Lam, David Iglesias, Bud Cummins and John McKay. The Senate, ever the slow-poke, is working on its own plan for subpoenas. Getting these attorneys' statements on the Congressional record will be crucial to setting the foundation for issuing more subpoenas and further questioning Gonzales and McNulty -- under oath, with no crutch of plausible deniability to lean on. There is no hope of protecting the constitutional standard of an independent judiciary unless the Congress acts. Loopholes injected into the constitutionally questionable Patriot Act, giving the administration avenues to bypass Senate confirmation of U.S. attorneys, are a clear and present danger to that concept of independence. The future judges of district and circuit courts are often found among the ranks of the U.S. attorneys. And from there it is but a step to an appointment as justice to the Supreme Court. If we don't demand that this administration play by the accepted rules set down over 200 years ago, rules that preserve the delicate balance between the three branches of power, then we are surely looking down into a crevasse -- an empty, frozen cleavage where authoritarianism reigns. We'd better step deftly and get back onto the ridge. Otherwise, the democracy we've been taking for granted for so long is going to be left to evaporate into the clouds.

Update: The House Judiciary Committee voted to issue the four subpoenas.

Posted by shoephone on March 1, 2007 at 02:41 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)