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May 31, 2007

The Value of the Act of Campaigning

Yesterday evening I attended a kick-off gathering for Gael Tarleton, who is running to unseat Bob Edwards at the Port Commission.  I have been completely taken with Gael the couple of other times I've met her.  She is organized, passionate, knowledgeable and articulate.  I think she would be a great addition to a very stodgy, and sometimes dodgey, commission.

By the time I got to the event, I'd had a very long, hot day and had no paper to write on.  So I decided to forgo writing about her talk or the event this time.  However, just as I went to leave, I happened upon an interchange between Gael and one of her supporters that has stayed with me and that I wanted to share. 

They were talking about the act of campaigning and how much Gael was learning about the particular interests of individual voters.  The man, whose name might have been Martin, said it was amazing how people had one particular thing that they were concerned about and wanted the candidate to know.  He said, "This is what democracy is all about." Gael agreed and said that she had learned so much already from all these types of conversations and that the key for her was finding a point-of-view that could incorporate the many different perspectives of the people she talked with.  She found it both challenging and invigorating.

As I mulled that conversation over later, I thought that there are those candidates, like Gael, who use those interchanges to broaden their own perspectives and others who fend off perspectives that might force them to enlarge their picture of an issue. 

I also thought how valuable these meet and greets are with candidates - for us as voters and citizens.  It is a critical act of democracy.  And, it is not all about money, even though the raising money aspect is important.  I go to as many as I can fit into my schedule even if I know my finances will not allow me to contribute to their campaigns, much as I might want to. 

I want to know which ones are willing to consider new perspectives and which ones are pretty rigid in their thinking.   I want to actively participate in the act of democracy.

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 31, 2007 at 08:36 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (4)

On Meeting Elizabeth Edwards

No, not me, sorry to say.  Teacherken, a regular over at DailyKos, has some observations after meeting Elizabeth Edwards at a campaign event in Virginia.

It is a lovely read about a woman who is clearly extraordinary.  Here's a small piece of it:

Elizabeth is fairly short, although her presence is large.  She actually looks fairly good despite the health problems, and staff tries to make sure she gets sufficient down time.  She is a very warm person, engages well with people, and quickly learns their names, and what interests them, as she demonstrated multiple times when she was addressing the group.  She also has an easy sense of humor, and is quite comfortable making jokes at her own expense.  In one interchange she and I had during Q&A, she remarked that of course she was talking without specific detailed knowledge, and I assured her that as a blogger I do it all the time, and she laughed.

The event was held at the home of a well-known trial lawyer, whom the writer knows.  The lawyer said that he had met one of the professors at the law school that both Elizabeth and John attended and the professor said that Elizabeth was "easily the brightest and best student he had ever taught". 

Here's what Elizabeth said about the haircut since this one event has haunted the early part of the race:

She was of course asked about the haircut.  She explained that it was a campaign failure.  The only time John could sit for the haircut was at about 11:30 at night.  That meant the barber had to come to the hotel.  Apparently the normal salon rate was around $100, and as Elizabeth notes, John has a lot of cowlicks.  What made it so expensive was the time and the location.  They thought it was supposed to be paid from their private funds, and it was flagged that way within the campaign, but somehow someone goofed and paid with campaign funds, which of course created the problem. 

Like most of us, I think we on the Democratic side have a lot of wonderful candidates to choose from and I have no intention of weighing in on one over the other yet.  I must say, though, that Edwards' wife of 30 years and their relationship, stands right up there with his clear understanding of the value of labor unions and a focus on poverty as the pluses on his page in the candidate ledger.

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 31, 2007 at 08:13 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 27, 2007

Thoughts on watching Flight 93 and the Iraq vote

I wrote the following on my personal blog Idealog and thought I'd share an excerpt here:

What happened on 9-11 was deadly serious. Watching Flight 93 helps you get back in touch with that day. I think that has merits...as the past six years have slowly separated us from the pain of that day. But I don't get the sense that we've learned very many valuable lessons. If we're really to honor the 9-11 victims, we need to reassess everything about our country's current course and investments.

To that end, Congress' renewal of Bush's blank check for Iraq is a sad footnote to this.

By the end of the movie, I was most upset by the disconnect between the American people's will and the actions of their elected representatives. If our democracy ever existed in truth, it is badly damaged right now. Perhaps we can all put our efforts into redirecting the people's will on our government.

The following New York Times article speaks about how a judge is considering increasing the sentence of environmental activists, who committed serious crimes against property, using terrorism statues: "Last week, Judge Aiken rejected those arguments, ruling that some of the crimes could be sentenced under the “terrorism enhancement,” which can add substantial time to a prison term, if they were intended to retaliate against, coerce or intimidate the government."

In light of the recent Iraq vote and the situation there, I think it's important for all Americans to coerce our government albeit through strategic non-violent means and to some extent intimidating irresponsible lawmakers who have lost their way - with the threat of the people's next vote or political action. It frightens me to see a judge use that kind of language as if challenging the government might be some kind of crime. It is a very slippery slope when pressuring the government is seen as illegal. The government is an extension of us. We are not its minions.

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Posted by Jeff on May 27, 2007 at 12:35 PM in Iraq | Permalink | Comments (1)

Musing About Jerry Falwell and Conservative Christians

Pastordan, a mainstay writer at DailyKos, who also writes at Street Prophets, has put up a 3-part series on Jerry Falwell's legacy, the Christian right agenda and what we can expect from the next generation of conservative Christian leaders.  It's a nice summary of what is going on in that critical arena from someone who sees the world from a liberal perspective.  So for those of you who can't keep your James Dobsons distinct from your Rick Warrens, here goes a brief summary of what he said:

Falwell's Legacy

Pastordan began by examining the reports on the power and influence of what used to be called the "Moral Majority" and finds it quite overrated.  He goes to the Pew Forum on Religion and Politics who dispel the myth of the vaunted "values voter" in the 2004 election.  Their conclusion?

Values voters helped Bush win exactly zero additional states, and the question itself was so vague as to be next to useless. Checking other polls uncovers a very different picture: the 2004 election was decided on national security, not "moral values."

Pastor Dan continues to debunk the actual impact of the conservative Christian leaders with the research that has been done.  It appears that the leaders of that movement never made as much difference as they wanted folks to believe but it was very useful to them personally and financially to make it seem as if they did.  And, back in the day, Reagan seemed to understand that very well and kept these folks at arms length, unlike the current President. 

However the critical and chilling legacy that the right has left is the spate of conservative law schools that they founded, like Falwell's Liberty University and Robertson's Regent Law School, all of which have been either provisionally or fully accredited by the American Bar Association.  Regent, Monica Goodling's alma mater, was the first to come on board.  There are four other institutions that graduated their first classes in the last five years. 

A couple days ago, I was talking with a friend about the damage that Monica Goodling had wrought on the American rule of law and mused that there are 149 other Regent grads now working in the Bush administration.  The former Dean of Regent Law is now the head of H.R. in the executive branch.  It will take a long time to unearth them and begin to negate their influence. 

Life After Falwell: The Agenda

Pastordan talks about the theory that the new generation of conservative leaders is adding some moderating goals to the old divisive standbys of abortion and same-sex marriage - goals like addressing poverty and global warming and AIDS.  After an initial enthusiasm about these possibilities, pastordan again finds more talk than reality.  There are leaders who are interested in those issues, yes, but they do not appear to be willing to fight the old hands on priorities. 

Instead, there is some concern that the issue of abortion is merely less visible at the moment but is likely to pop up again in time to be quite explosive in the 2008 election.  Referring again to the April 2007 Pew report, he quotes:

But, as with same-sex marriage, events beyond the candidates' control could push abortion onto the 2008 agenda. Sometime in the next two months, the Supreme Court will rule on a pair of cases that challenge the constitutionality of the federal law banning what opponents call partial birth abortion. These cases offer the court an opportunity to rethink and possibly re-write a substantial piece of abortion jurisprudence. While Roe itself would not be directly overturned, the partial birth rulings could lead to the elimination of the "health exception," the requirement, first set down in Roe, that any law restricting access to abortion, such as the partial birth ban, allow for a waiver in cases where a mother's health is in danger.

<snip>

If the Federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban law is upheld, except for the narrowest of reasons, and the court rules that the health exception is not necessary, it would lead to a dramatic shift in what states can and cannot do to restrict abortion. States could then pass restrictions that would be easier to enforce, and many state legislatures, especially in the more conservative South and Midwest, would most likely attempt to amend existing laws to exclude the health exception. For pro-abortion-rights forces, such a ruling would be seen as nothing short of disaster, prompting them to pull every alarm within reach in an effort to bring the issue squarely into the limelight.

<snip>

These circumstances could dramatically raise abortion's profile in the coming campaign. Some of the current crop of presidential candidates may be forced to confront the issue more directly than Bush and Kerry ever had to.

Moving on to newer, equally scary agenda items, pastordan sees a new attempt to exclude groups of people from the people we see as subject to protection and law.  He cites immigration and says that many conservative Christian organizations, although certainly not all, support stricter immigration laws.  In addition, the right has been framing the War on Terror as a "clash of civilizations" between the Christian west and the Muslim East. 

This attempt to refocus conservative congregations on a new threat has already found its way into Bush's talk.  Remember his comment at a recent press conference where he responded to a question from a reporter (David Gregory?) with this:

They are a threat to your children, David, and whoever is in that Oval Office better understand it and take measures necessary to protect the American people.

Pastordan doesn't believe that all or even a majority of conservative Christian leaders buy into what he calls the "new hate agenda" but he says it bears watching.

Life After Falwell: The Leaders

He then looks at the likely results of the current changing of the guard going on inside the evangelical world.  The other leaders, like Dobson and Robertson, are aging.  there are a few rockstars amongst the younger leaders - folks like Ted Haggard (well, he was one) and Rick Warren and someone named T.D. Jakes, who was new to me. 

Pastordan thinks the organizational structure is very strong and that it is more diffuse. 

Tracking conservative Christian influence on politics is going to get a bit more difficult in coming years. More and more, it will be local pastors and anonymous advocacy groups who push the agenda.

The movement is in flux and it is unclear what direction it will go in.  There are opportunities for younger leaders but there is also the possibility that the movement could fragment.  Pastordan is clear that none of the younger crew are progressives by any stretch but may be folks that we can work with on single issues.  He lists the names of the next-generation leaders being tossed around in that world:

Frank Page
Rick Warren
Bill Hybels (Willow Creek)
David Barton (Wallbuilders)
Joel Hunter (Orlando pastor blackballed from presidency of Christian Coalition)
Richard Land
Richard Cizik
T.D. Jakes

Stay tuned. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 27, 2007 at 10:27 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 26, 2007

Murray and Cantwell Both Voted to Continue Bush's Iraq War

Not sure if everyone realized both our Senators in Washington voted to continue funding the Iraq War without a timetable. Essentially, Senators Murray and Cantwell gave Bush another blank check for the war.

37 Senators who failed us on Iraq and flushed the remaining credibility of the Democratic Party down the toilet.

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Posted by Jeff on May 26, 2007 at 01:52 AM in Iraq | Permalink | Comments (3)

May 25, 2007

Darcy Would Have Voted "No"

Darcy Burner has a YouTube up about the vote yesterday that gave Bush essentially everything he wanted on Iraq with no qualifications or consequences.  She called it a capitulation on the part of the Democrats and said she would not have voted for it.   

Here it is.

I think we are learning that changing the culture in D.C. is going to take longer than we thought in the heady post election timeframe last year.  It's not just the corrupt Republicans we have to take on.  It is also the often over-cautious Democrats.  Yesterday's disappointing votes in both the House and Senate can be seen as a spur to re-double our efforts to elect Darcy and other anti-Iraq war progressives.

Note: I have taken a job with Darcy's campaign, as Online Outreach Director, and will be writing more about that but for the moment, it seems like the right thing to do to make that known.

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 25, 2007 at 11:05 AM in Candidate Races, Iraq, Media | Permalink | Comments (5)

May 24, 2007

Local Nickels' son indicted with dozens in scheme to cheat casinos

Huge Seattle story off the AP wire: Jacob Dyson Nickels, the son of Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, has been indicted as part of an investigation into a multistate casino-cheating ring that allegedly stole millions of dollars by bribing casino employees to falsely shuffle decks. Read story at NewsCloud.

Posted by Jeff on May 24, 2007 at 02:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Should additional funding for BRT and regular bus routes emerge as a priority in 2008 for the city of Seattle?

The short answer is yes!

As we inch towards the end of this decade one thing is crystal clear, the need for transit funding remains an urgent need in Seattle and in the region.  We’re decades behind other metropolitan areas in the United States when it comes to building and funding rapid transit and bus service.  While we can feel proud of many aspects of our transit systems and the fact that we are finally building rapid transit with light rail, the sad truth remains that other metro areas began this process decades before Greater Seattle.  We’re stuck with a transit system that won’t improve until we create the funding and the plans that will meet the needs of this rapid growth region.

We can be proud of the steps that we are now taking with Metro and Sound Transit that will have a real impact on transit service and choices in Seattle.  Last year we passed the Metro Transit Now measure, creating funding for routes throughout King County, including BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) and improved service on regular routes in Seattle.  With Sound Transit, after 10 years of planning and building the nearly finished Sound Transit light rail line from SeaTac to downtown Seattle, it will finally come online in 2009.  This year we’ll also have ambitious plans for a dramatic multi decade investment in rapid transit for the region including expanding light rail in Seattle from downtown all the way to the suburbs North of the city.

With all this happening we're still left wondering how Seattle can expand existing regular route and create new BRT routes in addition to what’s already planned with Sound Transit and King County?

It leaves us thinking about 2008 and the need for action in the city of Seattle.  With voters showing their support at the ballot box many times for improving transit, city officials and transit enthusiasts can begin to consider a vote in Seattle that would offer a layer of funding for improvements of transit in the city.  I think these improvements should focus on creating BRT routes that connect neighborhood centers.  These neighborhood centers should be fully realized as transit hubs and become focal points for transit oriented development.  Additionally the city must focus on separating buses from general traffic and giving buses control over signal lights. These physical improvements will improve reliability and speed for our bus systems.  Most bus routes are on arterials that are managed by the city, so a commitment on the part of Seattle to reconfigure the arterials to support buses and create transit corridors throughout the city is critical.

With a proposal to create funding in Seattle for transit comes several controversial issues that are often brought out in public discussions about transit funding and where the priorities should be.  One major issue is the allocation of new transit funding in King County, where there is currently a rule that all new transit funding be divided into a 40-40-20 split, with Seattle receiving the 20 percent of the funding pie.  The other issue that frequently comes up is from the anti-light rail lobby.  These loosely connected individuals and groups often advocate for BRT and bus service funding as a more efficient use of “limited resources” than the construction and operation of light rail.

Lets start by looking at King County and the 40-40-20 split for transit funding. Sometime ago the County Council decided that all new funding for Metro bus service should be divided so that the Eastside receives 40 percent, South King County 40 percent and Seattle 20 percent.  Some people feel that this formula leaves little opportunities for expanding transit in Seattle because the lions share of the new money for transit is going to the suburbs and the suburban dominated council screwed the city by creating this formula.  I’m not going to split hairs on the notion that the city ought to be getting more transit dollars.  The formula is politically motivated, and has been orchestrated by the suburban dominated council.  It is also true is that for years transit service has suffered outside Seattle with routes that run very infrequently.  To truly create a regional transit system requires an investment throughout the region along with a strong investment in bus service in the suburbs.  For too long city of Seattle officials have clung to the notion that the city should not be in the business of providing funding for the transit system, and that philosophy must change.  Seattle voters are very pro-transit and will support increasing the funding for improved transit in Seattle.  Seattle officilas need to stop wishing the County would come up with the money and step up to the plate with a plan that creates additional funding for transit in the city.

For many years now, light rail foes have suggested that the current Sound Transit light rail project and the future extension in Seattle is preventing funding from going into BRT and improved transit service in the city.  I’m not going to argue that dollar for dollar, express routes could be created in Seattle and light rail could have been mothballed.  But, taking that anti light rail perspective misses the long-term benefit of creating a regional rail system.  Comparing the benefits of BRT and light rail is comparing apples and oranges.  Building a light rail system through the center of Seattle that will eventually connect with other parts of the metro area is a critical long- term investment.  I would venture to say that it is more than a shame that most of the funding for this long-term investment comes for the regional tax base (Sound Transit RTA district) and not from the state and federal government.  However, that does not mean that we should abandon our long-term plans for rail.  Rail offers the very best system to create a rapid transit system.  My advocacy for BRT in Seattle is really a proposal for creating a system in the short-term can be built until we can build rail.   Financially, Sound Transit has a full plate building the light rail system in Seattle, so the funding for BRT and bus improvements in the city must come from the city.

As a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) enthusiast I’ve often thought conceptually about how a layer of transit service could be added in Seattle that would connect neighborhood centers with rapid service to complement the existing routes that offer regular service.  City government has sketched out such a plan with the Urban Village Transit Network (UVTN), a component of the Seattle Transit Plan, that will make neighborhoods in Seattle transit hubs and connect the neighborhoods together with transit.   By creating Bus Rapid Transit in the short-term that connects neighborhood centers the city can evolve in a more transit friendly way.  Rail systems can be built on a longer timeline along transit oriented corridors.  A city with dense neighborhood centers that double as transit hubs served by BRT or rail will spur future transit oriented development and create a livable city.

With the gradual reconfiguration of the system that relies on transit hubs and is served by rapid service connecting with local buses, we’ll truly implement what Sound Transit, Metro and other local transit agencies have been shifting towards for several years.  In funding BRT in Seattle we’ll also need to fund improved frequency of regular routes, and then we’ll have a transit system that will offer transit riders a choice of routes that work together as a system.

With an environmentally oriented mayor, who has pushed through a landmark agreement among cities to reduce carbon and fight global warming and a city council that has constantly advocate for improved transit, we can move forward as a city and put funding into transit to improve the options and choices we have. We can also determine the path of development and growth in Seattle for future years to come.

Cross Posted on The Urban Environmentalist

Posted by EzraBasom on May 24, 2007 at 01:48 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 23, 2007

Big Names for YearlyKos Convention

There was a big announcement today about the presidential candidates who will be attending YearlyKos (Aug. 2-5 in Chicago).  They have John Edwards, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson set for a panel. 

It's time to sign up to attend.

There are a lot of reasons to attend YearlyKos and this is merely one of them.  There will be a range of big name Democrats, candidates for office and activist organizers and bloggers speaking and a lot of smaller topic panels and opportunities to meet other folks from around the country who care about the direction of this country.

For those of us who attended last year, it was an amazing thing to be in on the ground floor of the new, people-powered politics.  This year is likely to be very different.  YearlyKos has hit the big-time.  There will be a lot of sponsors, probably a lot more people and less ability to bump into the big-name bloggers or shake hands with Ambassador Wilson or talk with Arianna Huffington one-on-one.  It will be great in a different kind of way. 

So, if you think you might want to attend, pop over to the website.  Prices for attending go up on June 1st, the limited number of lower-fare, on-site hotel rooms are likely to disappear soon and the convenient flights are already filling up.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 23, 2007 at 11:45 AM in Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 21, 2007

McKay Says "No" to Political Office

Ousted U.S. Attorney John McKay wowed 'em in Wenatchee this weekend. At the annual conference of the Mainstream Republicans (a vanishing breed) McKay got standing ovations and support for his criticisms of the less-than-truthful Abu Gonzales. In addition to denying any interest in running for political office, he had a few other zingers to deliver.

He referred dismissively to "cybercowards," apparently meaning conservative bloggers who have criticized the lack of prosecution, and scorned the purported evidence of election fraud alleged by Tom McCabe, the aggressive, conservative executive vice president of the Building Association of Washington and a Rossi supporter.

McKay said he, four other federal prosecutors and a number of FBI agents conducted an exhaustive investigation of McCabe's complaint. He said McCabe's allegation that he, McKay, "failed to follow this up is utterly false and he knows it."

McKay said the evidence McCabe presented was "a joke from an evidentiary standpoint that a crime had been committed. ... Every FBI agent who looked at the evidence and every federal prosecutor who looked at the evidence that the BIAW sent in concluded that it was completely, utterly insufficient to move forward in an investigation."

Well, I can think of one conservative blogger who would be expected to not like that one bit. Oddly enough, Stefan Sharkansky, the man who claims he's found all the damning evidence of vote fraud, seems to be playing nicey-nice with McKay (though his commenters are in usual, furious form). What's up with that? I can't wait to hear the response from the base of the WA State GOP. The article doesn't mention Chris Vance's reaction to McKay's speech, which is curious, since Vance -- who complained long and loud to Rove's office about McKay in 2004/2005 -- was, supposedly, appearing at the same event. Neither does it mention Dino Rossi, who was also slated to be there.

Silence is golden?

Posted by shoephone on May 21, 2007 at 12:59 AM in National and International Politics, Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (3)

May 20, 2007

Clinton on Clinton

I have tended to put up a lot about both Edwards and Obama because they both play in the arenas I most appreciate - new media, labor, the war in Iraq, the two Americas. . .

But this video-clip of Bill Clinton talking about Hillary is pretty damned good and a great reminder about why Hillary might just be a good President if that is what comes about.

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 20, 2007 at 02:40 PM in Candidate Races, Media | Permalink | Comments (2)

I Predict: An End to Resistance to Stem Cell Research

Now that it appears there is a strong chance that embryonic stem cell research provides a remedy for male-pattern baldness, I'm guessing we'll see a lot less resistance to new lines of cells being made available to scientists.  It's like the old feminist saying,  "If men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament." 

Reuters has an article by Will Dunham that  reports on findings from a team of scientists led by Dr. George Cotsarelis, a dermatology professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.  The article says:

Mice with deep skin wounds can grow new hair, scientists said on Wednesday in a finding that offers hope for a baldness remedy for humans.

The mice regenerated hair at the site of the wound via molecular processes similar to those used in embryonic development, according to the research, published in the journal Nature.

The findings show mammals possess greater regenerative abilities than commonly believed. While some amphibians can regenerate limbs and some reptiles can regenerate tails, regeneration in mammals is far more limited.

If there is a cure for baldness and that cure comes from using stem cells to regenerate hair, I'm giving it maybe three years before there is a change in policy.  Of course in three years I fully expect that there will be a Democratic President and a strong Democratic Congress so the prediction isn't really worth much since a change in stem-cell research policy is likely to be one of the first changes that comes with sanity in both the Executive and the Congressional wings of government.  And, with luck, we'll never know if it would have occurred even under Republican domination. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 20, 2007 at 02:21 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (1)

Abbey Lincoln, Living Legend

Since I'm heading out of town for a long-desired vacation, I thought I'd throw off the shackles of political blogging for today and revel in my true love: music. One of my all-time favorite jazz singers -- the exemplary Abbey Lincoln -- is featured in the Sunday New York Times, on the occasion of her new CD release. Abbey is recovering from open-heart surgery, but her spirit is unbowed. She's had an intriguing public life, starting with deeply moving performances as an actress in films like Nothing But a Man, her marriage to, and musical collaboration with, drummer Max Roach, a real maverick -- with whom she recorded the historic We Insist! Freedom Now Suite -- and moving through to her long and varied solo musical career.

Ms. Lincoln would eventually be hailed as a successor to Holiday, for her interpretive prowess as well as a slight resemblance between their grainy yet supple vocal timbres. But that accolade was well beyond the horizon when she left Hawaii for Los Angeles, where she met the lyricist Bob Russell, who became her manager. “One time he told me, ‘Since Abraham Lincoln didn’t free the slaves, maybe you could handle it,’ ” she recalled with a laugh. “He named me Abbey Lincoln.”

Emancipation became a genuine preoccupation for Ms. Lincoln after she met Max Roach, the maverick bebop drummer she credits with “helping me find myself”; they married in 1962. In New York Mr. Roach brought her into his world of artistic experimentation and political engagement. Ms. Lincoln cut herself loose from her satiny image. She’s fond of recalling the emblematic moment when she burned the dress she sported in “The Girl Can’t Help It,” which had previously been worn by Marilyn Monroe. By 1960 she was vocalizing with a raw, spine-tingling power in Mr. Roach’s “We Insist! Freedom Now Suite,” a momentous civil-rights anthem.

The Freedom Now Suite was considered militant for its time, which just proves how screwed up this country's attitude towards racial equality was, a full century after the Civil War. Lincoln and Roach and the members of the band showed a lot of courage for producing that piece of work. But Abbey Lincoln wouldn't say she's brave. She would simply say she was being herself.

One of her best albums is You Gotta Pay the Band, recorded in 1991 with pianist Hank Jones and saxophonist Stan Getz, who made this his last recording before he died. They all shine, especially on the tune Bird Alone, composed by Abbey. There is something so intimate and haunting about her voice. The YouTube recording starts with Nina Simone singing The Look of Love, so if you want to zoom in on Abbey's performance of Bird Alone, nudge the time bar over to 5:15.

Another fine example of her musical expression is from the short-lived, but legendary, TV show, "Night Music", which aired for two seasons (1988-90) on NBC very late on Sunday nights and was hosted by David Sanborn. The song is the Randy Weston classic Hi-Fly, and it's really satisfying to hear Abbey's vocal rendition and Sanborn and fellow alto player, Phil Woods, trading choruses. "Night Music" was the only music show I can think of where the most eclectic group of musicians came together to perform in each broadcast. Where else could you see and hear jazz vocalist Betty Carter and (the Lovin' Spoonful's) John Sebastian in one show? Or how about the episode with Phillip Glass, Debbie Harry, Loudon Wainwright III and Pere Ubu? For those of us who were really loyal to the show, we figure it was the broadcast with country star Conway Twitty and the Residents, dancing in the backround while he sang, that caused the advertisers to pull out, spelling the end of "Night Music".

Memories can be beautiful, and yet...

So, have a listen to one of the very best musical storytellers and enjoy your Sunday, because as far as I can tell, the politics we need to challenge aren't going away anytime soon. But I am. And hiking above the waters of the Columbia seems just what the doctor ordered.

Posted by shoephone on May 20, 2007 at 01:36 AM in Media, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (3)

May 17, 2007

Obama Speaks to Labor in Trenton

The AFL-CIO has been interviewing the Democratic presidential candidates as part of a process to make certain that labor has a say in who the Democratic nominee is next year.  On May 1st, John Edwards held a Town Hall meeting in Seattle

On Monday, Barack Obama held his Town Hall in Trenton, N.J.  Regular Evergreen Politics reader and Democratic activist, Jack Smith, has been in New Jersey and agreed to go listen to Obama and write about what he saw and heard. 

Here's Jack:

What luck! I learned that presidential Candidate Barack Obama would be appearing at a labor sponsored event in Trenton, NJ where I am visiting on family business.  I donned my union-labeled duds, found my dog-eared union card, and located the local AFL/CIO office.  My goal -  to talk my way into a ticket for the May 14th event.  Anyone who knows me knows I will try talk my way out of or in to almost anything.  Yes, I did scored two tickets.

At the event, I tried to enter the press entrance until one of the organizers told me that the press sat in the back. I ended up in the second row.

Unifying our country is a leading theme of the Obama's message. This man is the result of a union between his white Midwest woman of Irish descent and an African man. This soft-spoken candidate embodies the strength that diversity brings to our country.  I believe his successes will, in part, measure our ability to disregard his appearance, even though he is an attractive man, and select based on his capabilities, understanding and experience.   I certainly hope so!

Before an overflow crowd of more than 600 AFL/CIO members, Obama responded to prepared audience questions about a dozen major issues. He offered a strong labor message including making the Employee Free Choice Act a Law. He gave powerful support for Health Care needs and he stated that Universal Health Care coverage could be a reality by the end of his first term.

On the Iraq War/Occupation, he proposed a phased withdrawal from Iraq. It was very satisfying to watch him put his vote behind his words two days later when he voted for the Feingold-Reid Amendment that would have brought about a phased withdrawal by March, 2008.

Sitting in the hall, I couldn't help but notice the security. The Secret Service and State Police were prominent but not obtrusive. I was left with an unanswered question:  "Why would such a gifted man risk his life and endanger his family to pursue his beliefs?" 

Obama certainly justified the excitement that motivated by me to attend. I can't say he won my endorsement, as I choose to stay neutral this early in the campaign. On the other hand, I certainly concluded that I will be proud to support him if (I trust Obama would say "when") he is the eventual Democratic candidate.

It is easy to understand the Time poll that says that, if the election were today, every major Democratic candidate would defeat each of the GOP candidates head to head!

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 17, 2007 at 11:04 PM in Candidate Races, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Did We Step Into a Tom Clancy Novel?

James Comey's testimony at Tuesday's Senate Judiciary hearing is stunning.  Comey describes thuggish behavior by Andrew Card, then Bush's Chief of Staff, and Alberto Gonzales, then WH Chief Legal Counsel; remarkably admirable action by an ailing John Ashcroft, then Attorney General; and a network of high-level Department of Justice folks determined to defend the rule of law from a White House staff gone terribly rogue. 

This is a White House staff that had and continues to have full backing from the President.    

PoliticsTV captured 20 minutes of Comey's appearance as he was being questioned by Senator Chuck Schumer of NY.  Comey was very uncomfortable talking about this incident although he evidently knew that someday his testimony would be required.  It is also fairly clear that we don't begin to know the extent of the backstory here.   

Take a look but strap yourself in first.  You can almost see Jack Ryan lurking in the background, helping the people protect themselves from a President of the United States determined to undermine everything this country stands for.  Were that it were only a novel.

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 17, 2007 at 07:21 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 16, 2007

More Evidence: U.S. Attorney Firings Are ALL About Bogus Voter Fraud Claims. Drip, Drip, Drip...

At this point, the Bush Justice Department is imploding from within. Four officials have resigned over the scandal involving the U.S. attorney firings. The White House and the DOJ are still stonewalling over the "misplaced" Karl Rove emails, and Abu Gonzales is actually starting to make criminals like John Mitchell and Ed Meese seem palatable. From McClatchy:

The Justice Department last year considered firing two U.S. attorneys in Florida and Colorado, states where allegations of voter fraud and countercharges of voter intimidation have flown in recent years, congressional investigators have learned.

That brings to nine the number of battleground election states where the Bush administration set out to replace some of the nation's top prosecutors. In at least seven states, it now appears, U.S. attorneys were fired or considered for firing as Republicans in those states urged investigations or prosecutions of alleged Democratic voter fraud.

<snip>

Congress has since learned that the White House and Justice Department were also pursuing voter fraud inquiries just weeks before last November's election in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New Mexico and were raising concerns about Nevada. 

<snip>

A U.S. attorney in Minnesota, who disagreed with the Justice Department on a case involving voting rolls, was asked to resign early last year.

It boggles the mind how deep into the poisoned well the corruption of the Bush administration flows, but even more startling is the fact that the people mired in the Bush filth so often worm their way back into the seat of power. The blatant criminality and rank incompetence of the worst seem to be celebrated and encouraged at the highest levels. How else to explain the elevation of the egomaniacal Paul Wolfowitz to the World Bank? Or the presidential campaign of Tommy Thompson, who can't stop himself from making the most foolish of gaffes? Or former Rove buddy and RNC official Tim Griffin -- a practiced hand at voter suppression tactics -- being installed as U.S. attorney in Arkansas, replacing the well-respected Bud Cummins?

The Democratic Congress has only recently begun investigations into the U.S. attorney firings, the disappearance of billions of dollars paid to contractors in Iraq, the adminstration's obsession with spying on American citizens and breaking the FISA law in order to do so -- the list is practically endless. And in each case, the legislators have found that, by just scratching the surface, the cover is peeling back to expose even more corruption underneath. It's like the Pentimento that Lillian Hellman famously wrote about, where the painting you see is really only the top layer of many, seemingly opaque, deeper layers that compose the original painting, revealing the true image.

The paint is slowly but surely peeling away from the Bush portrait. The images seeping forward are unparalleled in ugliness, but they are images that, literally, need to be seen to be believed.

Update: The Washington Post reports that a total of 26 prosecutors were considered for firing between February 2005 and December 2006. There were numerous lists circulating, drawn up by many different people at the DOJ, and the targets kept changing. The one constant is that those who were targeted and then kept on their jobs, had no idea they were targeted  -- or why.

Posted by shoephone on May 16, 2007 at 10:19 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Robert Greenwald Speaks Truth to Power

Independent filmmaker Robert Greenwald was called to testify before the House Appropriations Committee last week to talk about war profiteering, the subject of his latest film, Iraq for Sale.  He was great - earnest, articulate, and personable.

In this amazing YouTube exchange between Greenwald and Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA), we see Kingston making a complete fool of himself trying to change the subject in every way he can think of.   It's worth watching just to see the depths of idiocy that we have to contend with in Congress.  Forget another, bigger blue wave - which I do think we will get in 2008.  It would take a blue tsunami to get fools like this - a Republican on the Appropriations Committee from a southern state district with 4 military bases - out of Congress.

The good news is that with Democrats in charge, we are holding these hearings.  (We even get a cameo appearance by our own Norm Dicks.)  The other good news is that they were able to hear from a man who has, like so many of us, put his life on hold to work on rebuilding our democracy.  Through his company, Brave New Films, Greenwald has made a range of important films for our times, including Outfoxed, The Big Buy and WalMart: The High Cost of Low Price. 

Kingston gave Greenwald the opportunity to tell members of this committee, probably the most susceptible to corruption on the hill, that the films he makes are produced because of the people who give $25 or $50 to help him make these movies.  I loved that part.  And, if you are inclined to join in those contributions, here's the place to do it. 

Hat tip to Jack Smith

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 16, 2007 at 08:12 AM in Iraq, Media, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 15, 2007

Law School Classmates Criticize Gonzales

More than 50 of the 500 members of the class of 1982 at Harvard law School sent a letter to AG Alberto Gonzales urging him to restore respect for the rule of law.  The effort arose after a recent class reunion.

“As lawyers, and as a matter of principle, we can no longer be silent about this administration’s consistent disdain for the liberties we hold dear,” those classmates said in a letter to Mr. Gonzales today. “Your failure to stand for the rule of law, particularly when faced with a president who makes the aggrandized claim of being a unitary executive, takes this country down a dangerous path.”

The letter urged President Bush and Mr. Gonzales “to relent from this reckless path, and begin to restore respect for the rule of law we all learned to love many years ago.”

Hat tip to ReaderofTeaLeaves

UPDATE:  A DailyKos diarist, Ioo, has put up a picture of the letter that was published yesterday in the WAPO as an advertisement.

 

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 15, 2007 at 10:41 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Falwell's Dead

Jerry Falwell's dead. Or "Jimmy Cracked Corn and I Don't Care."

No reports yet on what killed him. Maybe he was struck down by the Lawd for saying all those hideous things about anyone and everyone who didn't follow his strict religious doctrines? Nah, it was probably just your basic heart attack. If only he had used his powers for good, instead of evil:

Born on Aug. 11, 1933, Falwell was not particularly religious until his sophomore year of college in 1952, when Falwell said he underwent a religious conversion. Instead of accepting an offer to play professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals, he transferred to the Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Mo.

Well, Jesus Christ. That was his first mistake. I know it was before the heyday of pitcher Bob Gibson's stint with the Cards, but c'mon. He passed up this opportunity in favor of a lifelong career of sliming people who didn't agree with him? Truly, I can't think of anything more despicable than the day Falwell blamed gays, feminists, "abortionists" and the ACLU for the 9-11 attacks. I really can't. So in these hours just after his passing, I can't find it in me to say anything resembling "rest in peace", because this creep made it his life's work to demonize and marginalize so many. I don't actually believe in Hell, but if I did, I'd tell Jerry Falwell to go rot in it.

Posted by shoephone on May 15, 2007 at 11:42 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (7)

Creighton's Meeting Notes Directly Contradict Davis and Dinsmore

Port Commisioner John Creighton's meeting notes directly contradict Pat Davis' and Mic Dinsmore's stories that Dinsmore's big payout was discussed among all the commissioners. And Commissioner Bob Edwards is still trying to stake out credible territory on the issue. From the P.I.'s Kristin Millares Bolt:

Creighton's notes from Jan. 10 make no mention of the payout.

They summarize talks about security personnel, the balance between paying overtime and hiring more full-time personnel and the financial troubles of the Odyssey Maritime Discovery Center at Pier 66.

Davis and Dinsmore also recall discussions June 8, but Edwards does not. "We all have our recollections, and various notes," Edwards said Monday.

A case of he said/they said? Even more interesting is that Dinsmore's notes, which mysteriously showed up in a port file recently (notes that I said looked as if they'd been written hurriedly, and after the fact), are, along with a certain memo, still a matter of mystery.

The catalyst for the differing stories was an Oct. 10 memo signed by Davis and Dinsmore that appeared to authorize payment of Dinsmore's salary by up to one year past his retirement date. Dinsmore said he expected to receive the money, though he was already due to receive $107,000 pension per year, according to a rough port calculation.

<snip>

Someone placed that memo into Dinsmore's personnel file, beginning a chain of events that would lead the human resources department to calculate the payout at $296,000 and prepare for its payment. The port says it does not know who put the memo into Dinsmore's file.

Posted by shoephone on May 15, 2007 at 12:20 AM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 14, 2007

McNulty's Out at DOJ

Paul McNulty resigned from the Justice Department today. He says he needs to make more money so he can put his kiddies through college.

McNulty also irked Gonzales by testifying in February that at least one of the fired prosecutors was ordered to make way for a protege of Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser. Gonzales, who has resisted lawmakers' calls to resign, maintains the firings were proper, and rooted in the prosecutors' lackluster performance.

Two other Justice Department officials -- Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson and White House Liaison Monica Goodling -- have resigned in the past two months over the U.S. attorney firings.

"It seems ironic that Paul McNulty, who at least tried to level with the committee, goes while Gonzales, who stonewalled the committee, is still in charge," said Sen Charles E. Schumer, D-NY, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It's "ironic", to say the least, especially since Gonzales -- isn't he the Attorney General? -- claims to not have a clue as to what's been going on in his department for the past year. To the list of those recently departed from the DOJ I'll add Michael Battle's name. He was the one who made the phone calls last December 7, firing the prosecutors. He was also the first DOJ official to resign over the matter.

Posted by shoephone on May 14, 2007 at 08:03 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

DOD blocks Soldiers Access to YouTube, MySpace and Others Sites

HuffingtonPost is carrying an AP Story about the Pentagon's new policy to block soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan from having access to websites like MySpace and YouTube. Their excuse is that the activity jams up DOD networks and could compromise security information.

The Defense Department cut off access to about a dozen popular Web sites last week on all department computers worldwide. Warnings of the shutdown went out in February, and allowed personnel to seek waivers if accessing the sites was necessary for their jobs.

The armed services have long barred members of the military from sharing information that could jeopardize their missions or safety, whether electronically or by other means. The new policy is different because it creates a blanket ban on several sites used by military personnel to exchange messages, pictures, video and audio with family and friends.

Members of the military can still access the sites on their own computers and networks, but Defense Department computers and networks are the only ones available to many soldiers and sailors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As if it's the U.S. Soldiers who are responsible for the disgusting and dishonest waging of these wars. As if the soldiers -- who are, literally, giving up their lives in order to line the pockets of people like George Bush and Dick Cheney and their cronies at KBR -- are to blame for the now commonplace security breaches in the Green Zone; for the behind-the-scenes shenanigans over oil revenue laws; for the long-standing hostilities between Muslim sects that were kept at bay during Saddam's reign but were unleashed when the neo-cons created a political vaccum in the region; for the debacle of leaving Bin Laden alive in Tora Bora and the subsequent resurgence of the Taliban, and on and on and on. Yeah, that's right. It's the incompetence of the soldiers? It's because the soldiers can't keep their mouths shut about security information??? I THINK NOT. But George Bush, who can't climb his way out of that paper bag with the words "28% Approval Rating" written in blood across it's frayed edges, is happy to allow his Penatgon to cut the soldiers off from their families and friends back in the states if it means extending the wars so that a few more dollars can be dumped into the Crony's Kitty. I'm sure the families of those soldiers will be made to understand what the real priorities are when the already fragile morale of our military has finally sunk to the bottom of the Euphrates River.

Update: In the last couple of hours, the AP has updated this story since the original appeared. Looks like the soldiers in the field have a lot to say about this.

Posted by shoephone on May 14, 2007 at 12:59 PM in Media, National and International Politics, Policy | Permalink | Comments (1)

Washington Post Tightens Noose Arounds Rove's Neck on Prosecutor Firings

Last year at this time, whoever would have imagined that Kriminal Karl Rove stood a better chance of losing his seat of power because of a few fired U.S. attorneys, and not because he outed Valerie Plame?

The Washington Post has an in-depth article on Rove's machinations over phony voter fraud charges and those fired prosecutors:

Nearly half the U.S. attorneys slated for removal by the administration last year were targets of Republican complaints that they were lax on voter fraud, including efforts by presidential adviser Karl Rove to encourage more prosecutions of election- law violations, according to new documents and interviews.

Of the 12 U.S. attorneys known to have been dismissed or considered for removal last year, five were identified by Rove or other administration officials as working in districts that were trouble spots for voter fraud -- Kansas City, Mo.; Milwaukee; New Mexico; Nevada; and Washington state. Four of the five prosecutors in those districts were dismissed.

It has been clear for months that the administration's eagerness to launch voter-fraud prosecutions played a role in some of the firings, but recent testimony, documents and interviews show the issue was more central than previously known. The new details include the names of additional prosecutors who were targeted and other districts that were of concern, as well as previously unknown information about the White House's role.

Justice Department aide Matthew Friedrich recounts how just weeks before last year's midterm elections he received a 26-page packet from Rove with data on MIlwaukee's precinct voting, information that he felt compelled to set aside because of strict rules over starting investigations so close to an election. But he was also concerned because he knew that Milwaukee was but one of the cities where Rove had complained of election fraud and Rove targeted its U.S. attorney, Todd Graves, for dismissal. Las Vegas was another one, and Daniel Bogden, that city's U.S. attorney, was fired last year as well. Freidrich handed over information about this to the congressional investigators.

It's just a bummer for Rove that people in the Justice Department are talking to the judiciary committees, which have turned their laser-beam focus on Rove because he's an old hand at this kind of political skulduggery. Also just before the election, Rove was interviewed by NPR's Robert Seigel at a silly event on the White House lawn, where administration officials roamed around the grounds offering up well-rehearsed talking points to willing reporters. The Seigel-Rove interview got heated when Rove yelled at Seigel, accusing him of bias against Republicans. Rove claimed he had access to more polls and better polls, which in his words "add up to a Republican Senate and a Republican House. You may end up with a different math, but your entitled to your math", Rove said. "I'm entitled to 'the' math."

Rove's math didn't work out too well for him. Now that Dems control the subpoena power, it's just a matter of time before the real constitutional crisis over executive privilege erupts, because it's not very likely the committees are going to backslide on getting Rove's emails. And they still want him to testify under oath and on the record.

Posted by shoephone on May 14, 2007 at 01:42 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 12, 2007

Jane Fonda and Stephen Colbert

Colbert was not able to stay in role when Jane Fonda came on his show to talk about her new movie "Georgia Rules".  Well, she didn't really allow Colbert to ask her much about the movie.  She started off where she ended up the last time she (along with Gloria Steinem) was on his show - kissing him.  This time she was on his lap.  Every time Colbert went to ask her a question that wasn't about the war, she kissed him - passionately.  It is pretty hilarious.  Here it is.

And one of her comments ought to enter the political lexicon: "We have to quit electing men to office who are afraid of premature evacuation."

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 12, 2007 at 09:09 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 11, 2007

Paul Allen's Toy Train is Already Short on Funding

Well, this could probably be filed in the "Totally Predictable" category. Seven months before it's slated to go into service, the South Lake Union streetcar is already short of funding. The original plan was that federal and state funds and a self-imposed LID on the neighborhood's businesses would cover roughly 80% of the capital costs. It was also expected that private money, in the form of advertising and naming rights at the maintenance facility, would cover the first two years of operating costs. It appears the scenario has changed since those heady days of yesteryear (2005), primarily due to lack of advertisers. As a way to assuage fears that endless streams of money from the city's general fund will be used for the project, the mayor wants the city to "loan" the streetcar $3 million for future operations costs:

So, Mayor Greg Nickels is asking the City Council to give the streetcar a line of credit -- up to $3 million -- to be repaid within 10 years. The council is expected to decide the issue next month.

The mayor's transportation adviser, Mike Mann, said new advertising money and fares paid by riders will eventually close the gap.

Metro Transit, which will operate the trains, plans to bill the city $2 million a year, compared to the city's original $1.5 million estimate. Startup costs will add $500,000, compared to the early estimate of $144,000. The current shortfall is about $1.5 million for the first two years of operations, said a City Council staff analysis issued this week.

This is exactly the kind of thing that Councilmembers Licata and Steinbrueck were concerned about when the council voted on the project almost two years ago -- not to mention Councilmember Tom Rasmussen's questions about rising steel costs for construction. But more than anything, they worried about this:

Rising costs would mean that the streetcar would soak up a greater share of Seattle's Metro Transit allotment than earlier thought, limiting bus-service expansion to other neighborhoods.

Last year the voters approved Transit Now funding to increase bus service in the county, but now that Metro will have to kick in more money and hours for the streetcar, will Transit Now routes suffer? By how much? I don't know the answer to those questions. Maybe Ezra Basom, occasional EP front-pager, can illuminate on this issue. In the meantime, some of the earliest concerns about the streetcar line -- which spans a mere 1.3 miles and doesn't even connect up with the transit hub at Westlake Center -- are being realized.

City Councilman Nick Licata, an early opponent, has long warned operating costs would rise.

"I think it's unfortunately indicative of how we're not paying attention to the more basic services around the city. How did Seattle become unaffordable? It's through a number of these projects that benefit a small sector of the population."

Posted by shoephone on May 11, 2007 at 02:05 AM in The Politics of Business, Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (4)

May 09, 2007

US Attorneys Rock the House at Seattle University

Wednesday's continuing legal education (CLE) seminar at Seattle University was a total success. Four hours is a little long to be stuck inside on a warm, sunny afternoon, but this was well worth the time and money. John McKay, David Iglesias and Paul Charlton were on hand to directly address the issue of their firings and the impacts this debacle has had on the Justice Department, the remaining US attorneys "in the field", and the American public now questioning the integrity and competency of Attorney General Gonzales. Just to give you an idea of how far these Republican appointees have come since being dumped and repeatedly lied to by the Bush administration, here's an excerpt from David Bowermaster's article in the Seattle Times:

John McKay, the former U.S. attorney for Western Washington, and David Iglesias, the former U.S. attorney for New Mexico, also said they believe White House political operative Karl Rove and his aides instigated the dismissals and ultimately decided who among the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys should be fired. But the White House on Wednesday flatly denied the firings were instigated by the White House.

During questions from a rapt audience, the USAs added that they believe the appointment of a Special Counsel is necessary to ferret out the truth about what happened to them, and who was responsible. They told similar tales of receiving pink slip phone calls from former Justice Department official Michael Battle, but no explanation of why they were being dismissed, and no warning in previous months that there was any problem with their performance.

Paul Charlton, former US attorney in Arizona, heard after the fact that his firing had something to do with his pushing for taped confessions in child molestation cases, a policy the FBI was adamantly against. (This is the same FBI that refused to listen to agent Colleen Rowley, who pleaded with her superiors to pay attention to the fact that Zaccarias Mussaoui was learning to fly an airplane, but not how to land one. The *genius* of your FBI at work.) Later, Charlton heard that his reticence to apply the death penalty in a murder case was the real reason. For the record, this case involved a meth dealer who killed his supplier and, unfortunately, there was no forensic evidence available. Charlton wanted a sentence of life in prison without parole. The DOJ ordered him to seek the death penalty. Well, to be clear, there was one piece of forensic evidence: the body. But they didn't have access to it. Charlton and his prosecutors knew where it was buried but they needed permission -- and funds -- from the DOJ to excavate it for use as evidence. The excavation could have proven the undeniable guilt leading to the death penalty sentence Gonzales was lusting for, but it would have cost over $500,000 to do it. The DOJ, only interested in the death penalty until it meant opening up the checkbook, flatly refused to pay for the excavation. Brilliant. The result: no body, no undeniable evidence, and no justification for a death penalty. And, oh yeah, Charlton had the audacity to personally request a discussion with Gonzales about it, but that was somehow against the rules. So they fired him. Very pretty. How many lies has the DOJ told about Charlton in the meantime?

Iglesias and McKay had similar experiences, receiving the termination call on December 7th, not being given any reasons, and subequently hearing a pack of lies being told about their performance. And then there were those threatening phone calls McKay and Bud Cummins got from the DOJ's Michael Elston, warning them to keep their traps shut or else. Laurie Levinson, former USA and current professor of law at Loyola (Los Angeles) was the moderator. She asked if they don't find it strange that no one in the Bush administration seems to know exactly who made the decision to fire them. All the USAs believe it originated from within the White House. And as Pennsylvania State University political science professor James Eisenstein noted, the U.S. Constitution provides for the authority: it is vested in the president. He is, as Eisenstein said, "the decider" in the hirings and firings. Not Gonzales, not the deputy AG's, but the president. However, the recent news that Gal Friday Goodling and Sampson the Aggregator were signed into service as "deciders" elicited only derision from the US attorneys. Much mention was made by Iglesias and McKay of the fact that "32-year olds, who have never tried a case in their lives, have been given the power to hire and fire" people resonsible for huge, complicated federal prosecutions. They lamented the lack of qualifications and expertise of those serving directly under Gonzales. If the Justice Department Zoo seems like it's being run by the animals, that's because it is.

More importantly, they spoke about the chilling effect that the firings have had on their colleagues. Iglesias said the US attorneys still remaining in their jobs are "sickened" by what's happened. Morale is terrible and "some are actively looking for work". There was also unanimity among the prosecutors that public corruption cases and alleged election fraud were obvious links between all the firings. As for the now infamous policy of the DOJ to place "loyal Bushies" in the prosecutor positions,  McKay was disturbed by seeing what he called "the ascendancy of personal loyalty tests to the president", rather than loyalty to the law and justice. Every panelist, including Eisenstein and associate law professor Christian Halliburton (Seattle University) said Gonzales has to resign because he is no longer effective. The question however, is who would replace him, and how effective would that person be in serving the law, and not the White House?

And just in case there was ever any dispute about how zealous the Bush Justice Department has been about going after Democrats at a much higher rate than they go after Republicans, the numbers don't lie. A booklet supplied by Seattle University Law School to all seminar attendees includes a study, with charts, by communications professors Donald Shields (University of Missouri) and John Cragen (Illinois State University) showing the incidence of Justice Department investigations into national, state and local political candidates and office holders from both parties, plus independents. From 2001 - 2006 these are the results:

Democrats investigated:

298

Republicans investigated:

67

Independents investigated:

10

Thursday morning, McKay and Iglesias will be appearing on KUOW's Weekday. Call early in the hour if you want to ask them a question. Hey, that reminds me: I wonder if Rick White will be calling in to the show. I had my eyes peeled but I didn't spot him anywhere at the CLE seminar, so I guess he's really not interested in practicing law again, after all.

Posted by shoephone on May 9, 2007 at 11:29 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (12)

Gonzales Incompetence Writ Large: the Secret Order

Via the intrepid bloggers at TPM Muckraker, we get to see the "secret order" that Gonzales gave in March 2006, ceding hiring and firing authority to Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling:

DELEGATION OF CERTAIN PERSONNEL AUTHORITIES TO THE CHIEF OF STAFF TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL AND THE WHITE HOUSE LIAISON OF THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

By virtue of the authority vested in me as Attorney General of the United States, I hereby delegate to the Chief of Staff to the Attorney General and to the White House Liaison of the Department of Justice the authority, with the approval of the Attorney General, to take final action in matters pertaining to the apointment, employment, pay, separation, and general administration of:

It then goes on to list all the employment positions that will now be under the thumb of Sampson and Goodling. So, I guess -- in addition to passing the buck all over the place, and refusing to take an ounce of responsibility over the unjustified firings of the US attorneys -- what Gonzales is really saying is that the prosecutors don't "serve at the pleasure of the president" at all. That was just a big fib. The prosecutors served at the pleasure of Sampson and Goodling. Hmm. But now that Sampson and Goodling have both resigned, who's in charge?

Posted by shoephone on May 9, 2007 at 10:37 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

May 08, 2007

Digby, Fallows, Wales and McKay

Digby has an incredible post up - with quotes from James Fallows of the Atlantic Monthly - on U.S. Prosecutor Tom Wales' murder in Oct. 2001 and the total lack of assistance that John McKay and the Seattle prosecutors office received from the feds.  The Seattle Times had learned early that law enforcement officers in Seattle had a pretty good idea who the killer was.  Problem is that Tom Wales was likely killed because of his involvement in gun control efforts. 

Bottom line.  The feds would not do anything that the NRA didn't want them to do.  Worth the read.

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 8, 2007 at 06:04 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 07, 2007

Mother's Day for Peace

Robert Greenwald and his production company, Brave New Films, has put together a Mother's Day YouTube that reminds us that Julia Ward Howe wrote the original Mother's Day Proclamation in 1870, at the end of the absolute horror of the American Civil War, calling on women of the world to unite for peace. 

In this video-clip, a round-up of Hollywood celebs talk about Mother's Day and then read Howe's proclamation. 

The clip is quite sweet and very much to the point.  It has been done as a fund-raiser for a particular ten-year old Iraqi girl, Salee, who lost a brother and both her legs just outside her home.  Money goes to a group called "Mother's Day for Peace". 

It was a good reminder for me that 1) Mother's Day is fast approaching and 2) this is exactly the kind of gift my mother most likes to receive.

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 7, 2007 at 03:02 PM in Media, National and International Politics, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 05, 2007

Back in 2002 . . .

. . . there were only a relatively small number of us on the Internet.  I was not one of them.  I came to the blogs in spring of 2004 and fell in love with democracy all over again.  In the three years since then, I've watched myself and so many other folks increase their participation in politics. There are all these folks who have created pieces of community, many small, some large and wildly interactive. 

I'm convinced that had we had the Internets in all their current glory back in 2001 and 2002, the Iraqi war would not have happened.  We would have been able to come together and make it clear to those Congressfolk that George Bush and those crazy neocons were out of their minds.  "No, of course you're not going to vote for that stupid war authorization bill, are you?  I don't think so.  Not and stay in Congress, you're not."

We would have highlighted those Congressfolk who were smart and courageous enough to come out against the very idea of the U.S. going preemptively into war with Iraq, a country not remotely connected with Al Qaeda  or the Taliban.  Ha, ha, ha.  What about going to war with Mugabe in Zimbabwe who'd ruined a whole country and been the cause of enormous loss of life and lands?  Or Nazarbayev of Kazachistan?

Meteor Blades did that over at Daily Kos today.  She (at least I think Meteor Blades is a she) listed the 156 Representatives and Senators who said, "NO" to that bill to authorize the use of military force in Iraq.  Included on that list were Senator Patty Murray, Congressman Brian Baird, Congressman Rick Larsen, Congressman Jay Inslee, and Congressman Jim McDermott.  And Congressman McDermott was sliced to smithereens for going to Baghdad to talk with people there and report back what he saw.  There weren't people there to back him up, to make it clear, as we were able to do when Nancy Pelosi went to Syria, that she speaks for us. 

I was living in California at the time in the district of Congressman Pete Stark.  We'd just been redistricted into his district so I hadn't had the opportunity to pay that much attention to him.  I'd been to a Town Hall of his; he was unusually good at staying in touch with his constituents.   He had come into politics specifically to oppose the war in Vietnam and his heart was consistently in the right place.  But he was tired.  He looked like he was just going through the motions.   I truly hoped that he would retire for his own good.  That's how de-energized he seemed to me. 

But boy, he rose to the occasion when it came time to speak against that terrible bill.  Turns out that Daily Kos gave over the content of the one post of the the day, October 11th, to Congressman Stark's incredible speech about why we shouldn't go to war with Iraq. 

It was a profound and prescient talk.  Here's an exerpt of the entire speech:

It sets a precedent for our nation - or any nation - to exercise brute force anywhere in the world without regard to international law or international consensus.

Congress must not walk in lockstep behind a President who has been so callous to proceed without reservation, as if war was of no real consequence.

You know, three years ago in December, Molly Ivins, an observer of Texas politics, wrote: "For an upper-class white boy, Bush comes on way too hard. At a guess, to make up for being an upper-class white boy."

"Somebody," she said, "should be worrying about how all this could affect his handling of future encounters with some Saddam Hussein." How prophetic, Ms. Ivins.

Let us not forget that our President -- our Commander in Chief – has no experience with, or knowledge of, war. In fact, he admits that he was at best ambivalent about the Vietnam War. He skirted his own military service and then failed to serve out his time in the National Guard. And, he reported years later that at the height of that conflict in 1968 he didn’t notice "any heavy stuff going on."

So we have a President who thinks foreign territory is the opponent’s dugout and Kashmir is a sweater.

It goes on.  It is both sad and lovely now in retrospect.  He foresaw the horrendous consequences of such a war - on our young men and women, on our treasury, our place in the world.  All of it. 

How I wish we'd been here then.  I was at march after march.  But we didn't have each other.  We didn't know how many of us there were. 

Plus it was very interesting to see what DailyKos looked like back then. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 5, 2007 at 08:43 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (8)

Must See Video of McKay on KCTS Connects

Josh Marshall at TPM has developed a wonderful new media, which he calls TPM Media.  He regularly puts up video-clips that uncover the Republican corruption.  On Friday, he put up clips of McKay on KCTS Connects from footage taped by local TPM readers.  It is even more powerful than I remember. 

I wrote about McKay's appearance on KCTS Connects and what appears to be McKay's motivation in not going quietly into the night after being fired by yet undetermined powers-that-be in the White House and DoJ.  He is a total believer in the rule of law and refuses to see it undermined by the corrupt gang in the WH. 

Luckily he is joined in this fierce belief by James Comey and David Margolis, both of whom are likely to be of significant help in the investigations that Leahy and Waxman and others are conducting from the House and Senate.

Watch Josh and McKay here.

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 5, 2007 at 09:01 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 04, 2007

Berkshire wealth clashes with Gates mission in Sudan

The Gates Foundation is back in the spotlight for irresponsible investing:

Some of Berkshire's wealth comes from PetroChina, whose parent company supplies a large part of the money that underwrites Sudan's military %u2014 as well as the janjaweed, according to the United States and the United Nations. The infusion of Berkshire stock places the Gates Foundation in conflict with its own efforts to help victims of the Sudanese civil war.

...

"We have seen no records %u2026 that indicate PetroChina has operations in Sudan,"
Buffett said in his letter to shareholders. "The controlling shareholder of PetroChina,
CNPC, does do business in Sudan. CNPC is 100% owned by the Chinese
government, and its activities may logically be attributed to the government of China.
[But] subsidiaries have no ability to control the policies of their parent."

Nonetheless, Buffett has allowed a shareholder resolution challenging the PetroChina
holdings to be placed on the agenda for Berkshire's annual meeting Saturday in
Omaha.

Critics have said Buffett was ignoring his ability, as PetroChina's largest outside
shareholder, to pressure CNPC and the government of China into ending the support
it provides for the genocide by its oil dealings with Sudan and by providing arms to the
Sudanese government and blocking U.N. efforts to stop the killing in Darfur.

By investing in PetroChina, Buffett signaled that the status quo in Sudan was
acceptable, said Timothy Smith, president of the Social Investment Forum, an
association of more than 600 financial institutions, research companies and
foundations.


Read story at NewsCloud.

Posted by Jeff on May 4, 2007 at 01:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rove Coached Moschella on His Upcoming Congressional Testimony

Oh please. At this point, anyone who still wants to suggest that Karl Rove wasn't intimately involved with the USA's scandal from the very beginning is just blowing fetid smoke. Now it's been revealed that he was coaching deputy AG Will Moschella on what to tell the House Judiciary Committee back in March. Politicizing the DOJ much?

According to McNulty’s account, Rove came late to the meeting and left early. But while he was there he spoke up and echoed a point that was made by the other White House aides: The Justice Department needed to provide specific reasons why it terminated the eight prosecutors in order to rebut Democratic charges that the firings were politically motivated. The point Rove and other White House officials made is “you all need to explain what you did and why you did it,” McNulty told the investigators.

The problem, according to the Democratic aide, is that Rove and Kelley never told Moschella  about the White House’s own role in pushing to have some U.S. attorneys fired in the first place. Moschella followed the coaching by Rove and others—and made no mention of White House involvement in the firings during his March 6, 2007, testimony to the House Judiciary Committee. “They let Moschella come up here without telling him the full story,” said the Democratic staffer.

Rove instructed Moschella to stick to the phony story about "performance-related issues". And since White House counsel Fred Fielding (who still pretends to have learned lessons from the Watergate cover-up) was also in the meeting, participating in the coaching, there may be a reason to investigate him as well. As always, the White House is not allowing Rove to testify before the judiciary committees unless it's in secret, and without a transcript.

Fat chance. This is where the "history repeats itself" part comes in. And since anyone in the White House forgot, it takes a lot of expertise to fully erase emails from a hard-drive...

Posted by shoephone on May 4, 2007 at 08:42 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 03, 2007

Jon Stewart to interview George Tenet on Tuesday

Did anyone read Maureen Dowd's second Tenet piece this week:

Instead of George Tenet teaching at Georgetown University, George Tenet should be taught at Georgetown University.

There should be a course on government called “The Ultimate Staff Guy.” A morality saga about how much harm you can do as a go-along, get-along guy, spending so much time trying not to alienate the big cheese so he doesn’t can you that you miss the moment where you have to can him or lose your soul.

If Colin Powell and George Tenet had walked out of the administration in February 2003 instead of working together on that tainted U.N. speech making the bogus case for war, they might have turned everything around. They might have saved the lives and limbs of all those brave U.S. kids and innocent Iraqis, not to mention our world standing and national security.

...

Thus endeth the lesson in our class on “The Ultimate Staff Guy.” If you have something deadly important to say, say it when it matters, or just shut up and slink off.

George Tenet will be on The Daily Show on Tuesday. If you saw Jon's interview with John McCain, then you know he's on his game. Let's see him take the CIA intelligence chief from 9-11 to task... Popcorn at my house!

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Posted by Jeff on May 3, 2007 at 11:56 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

John McKay - A Decent Republican

John McKay makes me believe that it is possible to be decent and to be a Republican.  I watched him on KCTS Connects this evening and he is a decent human being who believes in the rule of law, in the Constitution, in checks and balances and in doing what's right.  He also makes it clear to people that you do what's right, not what's expedient or will get you money or fame.  He is one of those old-fashioned, straight-arrow Republicans. 

I haven't seen someone who identifies as a Republican say much of anything with integrity in heaven knows how long.  I heard it this evening.  From what I understood from what he was saying, he decided to go public with the way in which he had been fired by the Department of Justice because we cannot afford to have the American public lose their confidence in the system of law in this country, and specifically in the Department of Justice.  He knows his former colleagues are carrying the burden of distrust - the sense that the American people cannot be certain that the government is doing what is right when they are investigating potential lawbreakers. 

Like James Comey, earlier today in the Senate Hearings, he is willing to say that politics entered into the considerations of what Albert Gonzales and others said and did.  And one has the feeling that McKay is not going to allow that to stand.  He is too loyal to the other folks who continue to do the work he did before he was fired.

When asked by Enrico Cerna, the host of KCTS Connects, if he had supported Gonzales for Attorney General, McKay said that he had known and liked him since Gonzales was a Supreme Court Judge in Texas. He had supported him to become the Attorney General. 

But McKay does not like what happened next.  He agreed with Cerna when Cerna asked if Gonzales was just covering for the President now.  He was distressed that Gonzales had said he didn't recall over 70 times in front of Congress.  He said he thought that Gonzales never understood that the public needs to have confidence that the folks in the Department of Justice will do their jobs fairly without concern for who is in the White House.

Wow!  This seems like the wrong guy to mess with.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 3, 2007 at 11:05 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

Jane's Thoughts on Returning to the U.S.

I continue to be intrigued with the blogger who went to Iraq, just up and went.  Jane Stillwater is back now and she's a pretty good writer.  It's like sitting down with a neighbor for coffee.  This woman goes on wildly interesting adventures and she is attentive to what's around her, like a writer might tend to be.   She is also a good thinker, putting together ideas that draw from a pretty good knowledge of what us humans have been up to over time.  At the same time, she is just a regular next-door neighbor person who has many of the same concerns and interests you and I have.  And we get to see that.

It's also clear that Jane connects to people no matter where they are on the political spectrum.  We can see that because they call her up after she gets back and tell her what is happening to them and she listens and commiserates and then tells us about it.  Here's what she says about a contractor friend she made while in Iraq:

Then I got a phone call from a man who used to work as a trucker for KBR in Iraq and I realized that he had a LOT more to worry about than me. "I was only over there for four months but already my body has aged 30 years and my muscle mass is just melting away." KBR paid him $8,000 a month to drive the big rigs all over central Iraq. "And I'd give every cent of it back in a heartbeat if I could get my health back." Fat chance of that happening.

"After four months living in a tent pitched over an old bombed-out bunker, blood and pus started coming out of my eyes. It really scared me and I tried to get back to the states to get treated. But the moment I left Iraq, KBR canceled my health insurance. I used to be able to hang 160 sheets of drywall a day. Now I can hardly help the neighbors move their front room couch."

KBR promised this guy COBRA after he was out but that never came through and now he's fully disabled and living on Social Security.  As Jane says, "In other words, the American taxpayer is now taking up the "benefits" slack for KBR -- just like we do for Wal-Mart."  And:

The contractor has lost three inches off of his biceps. What happened over there? Depleted uranium? "I wouldn't be surprised. Iraq is the most polluted country in the world. It scares the hell out of me." Then he added, "I think part of my nerve damage comes from wearing 56 pounds worth of body armor for 12 or 15 hours at a time because rather than up-armor the trucks, they up-armored the drivers."

In a previous post, Jane is talking about the cost of this war and what it will mean for us as a country:

Why has no one in America yet realized -- aside from possibly Harry Reid -- that we cannot AFFORD to continue to stay in Iraq? All of us pay our bills and balance our checkbooks every month. We all know the facts of life. If you ain't got the cash, they cut off your electricity. Can America afford to continue to pay the credit card bill on Iraq month after month after month? Ask the USSR for the answer to that one. We are going to HAVE to get out. But I digress.

Digress away, Jane, digress away.  Nice to have your perspective.

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 3, 2007 at 10:11 PM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 02, 2007

Darcy Asks Reichert to Change Course

Darcy has put up a video-clip talking about the disaster in Iraq and asking Dave Reichert to change course and vote with the Democrats on Iraq.  Reichert of course voted against the Supplemental Appropriations Bill that would have funded the troops but established timelines for bringing the troops home. 

It passed but Bush vetoed it. The Democrats were unable to over-ride that veto because Republicans like Dave Reichert voted with the President.

Darcy asks her supporters and constituents of the 8th CD to sign a petition that asks Reichert to change course in Iraq and cross the aisle to vote with Democrats to require the Iraqi government to meet specific benchmarks. 

Take a look. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 2, 2007 at 07:26 PM in Candidate Races, National and International Politics, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (0)

Interview with Gael Tarleton

NPI has a great post and podcast with Gael Tarleton, who is running for the Port Commission seat currently held by Bob Edwards.  I've met Gael a couple times and have been quite impressed with her thinking and with the experience in dealing with organizations that seems quite needed at the Port currently. 

I concur with Andrew that electing Gael and re-electing Alec Fisken will, together, bring a level of needed accountability and responsibility to the Port. 

Take a look at Andrew's piece.

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 2, 2007 at 12:11 PM in Candidate Races, Interviews, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

John Edwards - At Home with Labor

John Edwards acquitted himself well with labor yesterday at a Town Hall meeting set up as part of the AFL-CIO's efforts to make a difference in the selection of the Democratic nominee for President.  They want someone in the White House who will listen to them and, from what I heard afterwards just talking and listening to folks who had been there, Edwards could be that person.  We all agreed he was at home with this crowd.  There was no effort in finding an answer to a question.  He has worked shoulder to shoulder with labor for years, and by and large, what's important to labor is also genuinely  important to Edwards. 

He grew up in a working class family in a working class town and was the first in his family to go to college.  He knows what it does to a family and a community when the mill closes down.  And he has seen the benefits of what organized labor was able to do for working families in America by providing Social Security and Medicare.  Edwards talked about having walked picket lines and worked to bring labor and business closer together over the last few years.  He talked about the importance of strong labor laws. 

In response to one worker's question, Edwards said:

The difference between being unionized and not is the difference between poverty and not.

He gave an example of a hotel that is unionized in Boston and not in Miami.  In Boston, the workers get paid between $14 and $22 an hour and receive pensions and medical benefits.  In Miami, working in the same hotel chain, the workers get $6.50 an hour and no benefits. 

One of the things that most impressed me was his consistency and his ability to educate without over-doing it or preaching. 

Edwards said he not only talked about the importance of having a strong organized Labor with labor folks, he also says the same things when he talks at Chambers of Commerce groups or Democratic Party groups.  I believe him.  Although he talked about issues such as outsourcing and foreign visa for high-tech workers that brought rousing applause, he also talked about global warming and immigration issues with this crowd.  Global warming is not an issue that has taken hold with labor yet and some of what Edwards says about how he would address immigration is not agreeable to some labor groups.  He talked about these anyway.

I look forward to hearing about the AFL-CIO Town Hall meetings that Obama will hold in Trenton and that Clinton will hold in Detroit.  With luck, one of our regular readers will be able to attend and write about the Obama meeting and we can figure out a way to hear about Hillary's meeting as well.  It's an interesting process and I'm glad that the AFL-CIO is doing this.

David Postman also has an article on the Edwards visit to the Machinists' Hall yesterday.

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 2, 2007 at 11:29 AM in Candidate Races, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Comey Contradicts Gonzales on McKay

Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey -- incidentally, the man who named Patrick Fitzgerald to go after Scooter Libby for the Plame outing -- gave an interview Tuesday in which he directly contradicts the Justice Department's fabrications and says that John McKay was a good prosecutor who never exhibited any inkling of authority issues:

Comey, who became McKay's boss in late 2003, expressed puzzlement at Justice Department talking points released in recent weeks that suggest that McKay was fired, in part, for insubordination.

"It's inconsistent with my experience with John," Comey said. "John was a person of passion and energy and could wear his heart on his sleeve. But I never had any issues with him being insubordinate."

Comey also picked McKay to chair the pilot program for the LinX information-sharing system that many thought was so necessary post 9-11. After Comey left the DOJ, he was replaced by Paul McNulty, who originally praised the LinX program and McKay's leadership of it. But down the road apiece, McNulty and the department were unresponsive, and even hostile, to McKay's lobbying for more funds to expand the program (already deemed a success). Interestingly, exactly two weeks after McKay was fired, McNulty sent around a memo, lauding the program and confirming its expansion, based directly on the pilot programs in both Seattle and San Diego. In other words, he was, finally, doing precisely what McKay had been requesting him to do all along. And in the ensuing months, the DOJ has been sliming McKay for that request, flagging the situation as Exhibit A in the case for insubordination. Talk about a bunch of lying, scheming backstabbers.

Comey testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Posted by shoephone on May 2, 2007 at 01:39 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (7)