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Illegal Immigration - Terrorism Nexus Debunked

| Tue May 29, 2007 11:55 AM EDT

The anti-immigration forces have long pushed the myth that cracking down on illegal immigration is necessary to stop terrorism from seeping into the United States.

They might want to tell the Department of Homeland Security about their game plan. According to a new study that analyzed millions of records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, only 0.0015 percent of cases filed in immigration courts by the Department of Homeland Security have had anything to do with terrorism. Only 0.014 percent pertained to national security.

The rest were mundane immigration cases. According to the study, 85 percent of the charges involved infractions such as not having a valid immigrant visa, overstaying a student visa, or entering the United States without an inspection.

So the Department of Homeland Security's immigration department is protecting our country from over-ambitious graduate students instead of terrorists. Unless there really aren't any terrorists trying to sneak in across the southwestern desert, in which case someone might want to fact-check Michelle Malkin.

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UMass Hates Andy Card: Former White House Chief of Staff Booed at Graduation Ceremony

| Tue May 29, 2007 11:32 AM EDT

Former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was lustily booed as he was awarded an honorary degree during the graduate school commencement at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. We're not talking scattered boos from a radical students' group. This was a huge percentage of the commencement's attendees, including professors. Take a look.

The boo birds weren't angry with Card's pathetic involvement in the NSA wiretapping scandal that was recently revealed in former Deputy Attorney General James Comey's testimony before Congress. (Card joined Alberto Gonzales on the rush to John Ashcroft's hospital bed, where they hoped to convince a barely conscious man to authorize a constitutionally questionable domestic spying program.)

No, they were angry with Card over the big issue of the day -- the Iraq War. After all, it was Card who in August 2002 set up the White House Iraq Group, a group of foreign policy experts and political messaging gurus whose job it was to sell the Iraq War to the public. Karl Rove, Karen Hughes, and chief Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson were part of WHIG, as were Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley.

Of course, every member of that group either has or will go on to earn honorary degrees and make tons of money as a lobbyist, consultant, or think tank wonk. Screwing up can be big business in Washington -- the only people who will let you know how badly you blew it, apparently, are college students.

God Bless America And You Stay In Your Seat

| Mon May 28, 2007 11:45 AM EDT

Before September 11, 2001, the song "God Bless America" was played in Yankee Stadium only on holidays. But since mid-October of 2001, it has been played before the bottom of the seventh inning at every game. It seems like that would be punishment enough, but George Steinbrenner has taken the punishment a step further: While the song is being played, fans are not allowed to leave their seats.

"Not allowed" means that off-duty uniformed police officers, ushers, security personnel, and aisle chains are used to restrict the movement of patrons. One end of each chain is held by someone to prevent the chaining system from being a fire hazard.

A spokesman for the Yankees said that the system was put in place after hundreds of fans complained that other fans showed a lack of respect for "God Bless America" by not observing silence while it was played. The spokesman also said that no one has complained about the system. The Mets do not restrict movement during the playing of patriotic songs. However, several other teams do, but with personnel only, not chains.

The New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has stated that since Yankee Stadium is private property, the restriction practice is not illegal. However, if someone is arrested for disobeying the rule, the ACLU would consider stepping in.

Meltdown in the Texas House

| Sun May 27, 2007 1:50 PM EDT

"Good thing we've still got politics in Texas--finest form of free entertainment ever invented," the late Molly Ivins once wrote. Where's Molly when we need her? I smile wondering what she'd make of the latest dustup in the Texas House, where politics has never ceased to be a full-contact sport. Although the last physical scuffle in the U.S. Congress dates (I think) to 1902, when South Carolinian Senator John McLaurin punched a colleague in the jaw, the most recent one in Texas dates to Saturday, when booing and hissing Texas congressmen launched an insurrection against House Speaker Tom Craddick that ended with Craddick bolting from the chamber and Democrats, who stormed the speaker's podium, being restrained by the House sergeants-at-arms. Call in ESPN and set up the bleachers!

Craddick's iron-fisted rule over his fellow Republicans has made him increasingly unpopular among moderates in his party, who complain that his insistence on party discipline has put them at odds with the interests of their districts. As I reported in October, close followers of Texas politics have predicted that Craddick's strategy could backfire. Houston Republican Martha Wong appeared particularly vulnerable at the time, having kowtowed to Craddick on abortion and environmental issues. In November, her socially moderate constituents ousted her.

Wong's unsuccessful reelection slogan was "Be Right, Vote Wong." Add an "R" in there, and it could also be a perfect slogan for Craddick.

Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things: 5/25/07

| Fri May 25, 2007 10:35 PM EDT

While the rest of the country gets ready to kick off the summer this weekend, with barbecues or swimming or whatever you do, we in San Francisco are just battening down the hatches, as the fog rolls in and dampens our spirits that were so recently teased with a summery come-on. Appropriately enough, this week's Top Ten is a mish-mash of top-down party jams and huddled-in-a-blanket dirges, and if you can't handle the, um, mixture of heat and cold, then, uh, get out the kitchen.

mojo-photo-editors.JPG10. Editors – "The Weight of the World" (from The End Has A Start, out July 17th on Epic) (mp3 via Hayat Bayat)
The Birmingham combo's excellent, Joy Division-reminiscent "Munich" from 2005 unfortunately wasn't equaled by any track on their album, The Back Room, and I kind of wrote them off. However, a now-legendary performance at Coachella (opposite Madonna!) and some leaked tracks from their upcoming album are making me reconsider. This ballad, taking off from a "Just Like Honey"-style beat, is both quieter and more ambitious than anything they've done before

mojo-photo-simianmobile.JPG9. Simian Mobile Disco – Live DJ Set on BBC Radio 1's "Essential Mix," Sunday, May 20th, 2007 (mp3 via BBC Essential Mixes)
Okay, yes, I was in LA last weekend, and I upgraded to a rental car that had Sirius Satellite Radio, and I'm sorry, but rather than enjoy the soothing sounds of KCRW or the indie jams on, er, Indie, I stayed locked on Sirius Channel 11: BBC Radio 1, which was broadcasting live from their "Big Weekend" concert event. The broadcast was so compelling that I even listened to a whole Scissor Sisters live number ("Comfortably Numb") and I really, really hate them. But it was hearing this storming DJ set (from the duo currently vying with Justice for the title of Reigning Kings of Electro-skronk) that made the upgrade worth it

mojo-photo-common.JPG8. Common"The People" (from the apparently forthcoming album Finding Forever on Geffen)
Class-consciousness is sorely lacking in... well, jeez, in America in general, so it's nice to see prog-rapper Common taking up the cause. More importantly, he rhymes "Botswana" with "Obama." All this happens over a quirky sample, produced by Kanye West (in an apparent attempt to be reminiscent of J Dilla), with oddly cut-off vocals and infectious synth lines. He's no Dilla, but what are you gonna do

mojo-photo-spankrock.JPG7. Bjork – "Earth Intruders" (Spank Rock remix) (mp3 via Chazology)
Just as Mark Bell's clattering remix of "Hyperballad" seemed to lead the way to his production work on Bjork's next album, Homogenic, one can only hope that Spank Rock's rerub of "Earth Intruders" might lead to a new Bjork album infused with their hyper Baltimore style. Oddly, this mix turns the tempo down a notch, but still manages to feel freer and, well, more fun

mojo-photo-spoon.JPG6. Spoon – "The Ghost of You Lingers" (from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, out July 10th on Merge)
Depire the fact that this track from the Austin indie rockers is basically just piano, voices, and and some funky reverb, it sure reminds me of ELO. Maybe it's the minor 7th chords? Either way, it's not surprising everybody's jumping over themselves to grab (and give away) the leaked mp3s from the forthcoming album

New Elephant Arrives At Tennessee Sanctuary

| Fri May 25, 2007 9:22 PM EDT

Enjoy this latest news from the excellent people at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Dulary, an Asian elephant caged in a quarter-acre yard at the Philadelphia Zoo for 43 of her 43.5 years, has been given a second life on 2,700 acres in Hohenwald. She joins a small herd of other Asian elephants offered retirement from circuses, roadside zoos, and just plain abuse—many of them crippled or ill. The Sanctuary is home to a small herd of African elephants, as well. Dulary has taken to a natural elephant lifestyle like, well, an elephant.

May 5th, 2007: This was a good day for a grand adventure, and after only three full days of Sanctuary life Dulary was ready for more exploring. Her curiosity got the best of her as caregivers and dogs headed out towards the lake. Dulary dusted, grazed and played in a mud puddle as she made her way down the road that leads to the lake. She hesitated for a moment (but only a moment) as she passed through the open gate. She may have wondered why these people keep leaving all the gates open, but she did not waste any time; instead, she walked through the open gate and right up the hill. She loves the new grasses growing alongside the road and the mud was good enough to cover her body with, completely. When she reached the top of the hill the vegetation was more than she could resist, and that is where she stayed all afternoon and into the night.

Check out this video made in memory of Jenny, who arrived, crippled, at the sanctuary in 1996, whereupon her life improved exponentially--though no one could predict her incredible good fortune when Shirley arrived three years later. The two had lived in a circus together more than 20 years earlier, where they'd been as close as mother and daughter. Once reunited at the Sanctuary, they were inseparable for the next 7 years, until Jenny's death last October.

This place reconfirms my belief that elephants are simply incredible, and that people are capable of incredible good. --JULIA WHITTY

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Ohio Execution by Lethal Injection Takes 2 Hours

| Fri May 25, 2007 6:19 PM EDT

Lethal injection has gotten a lot of well-deserved scrutiny for being kind of cruel and unusual. The three-drug cocktail that is almost universally used in the United States is usually administered by a guard or other non-medical prison official, leading to a high number of mistakes, and the drugs are rumored to cause excruciating pain that often goes undetected. Governors across the country are halting executions in their state until the matter is investigated further. For example, former governor Jeb Bush put a moratorium on executions in Florida after it took a man named Angel Nieves Diaz 34 minutes to die, during which time reporters saw Diaz in obvious pain. Diaz's body had 12 inch burns on its arms after the ordeal.

Yesterday's execution of Christopher Newton in Ohio should add momentum to the fight against lethal injection. Newton took two hours to die. He had to be stuck at least 10 times with needles to insert the shunts where the chemicals are injected. An ACLU lawyer said that Newton had been effectively tortured to death.

This wasn't how it was supposed to be. Lethal injection was invented by an Oklahoma state legislator who wanted to see executions become more humane. But not only is there evidence that death by lethal injection is horribly grotesque, executions have actually become more common because the public has become more comfortable with lethal injection that it ever was with the electric chair (whose head fires -- executions where a prisoner's head would catch fire -- unmistakably illustrated the method's problems). That Oklahoma legislator is now a priest, and he preaches for the end of the death penalty. His remarkable story, and lots of info on the problems with lethal injection, can be found in this 2005 Mother Jones feature, "A Guilty Man."

Prosecutor Firings: Goodling's Testimony, the Gift that Keeps on Giving

| Fri May 25, 2007 6:05 PM EDT

Monica Goodling, former Department of Justice (DOJ) White House liaison and Senior Counsel to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before the House Judiciary Committee under the protection of a use immunity this past Wednesday. Former Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Paul McNulty bore the brunt of her freely flowing testimony. Goodling noted, referring to the DAG's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February, "The Deputy's public testimony was incomplete or inaccurate in a number of respects." (McNulty could face a criminal investigation.)

But McNulty is not the only one that stands to catch fire from the former DOJ White House liaison's testimony. While admitting that she may have used a political litmus test to screen career positions, as well as political appointees, she pointed a finger at the department's Office of Legal Counsel, claiming that in 2005 Kyle Sampson told her "some years earlier" the office had said civil service rules (rules that bar politics from being weighed as a hiring factor for civil service employees) do not apply to immigration judges as they do to other career positions. The Office of Legal Counsel has fired back claiming the office never held such an opinion.

And, as TPMmuckraker points out today, the appointments of immigration judges during Bush's tenure do look sort of fishy, calling upon a Legal Times article from last year for its information:

Among the 19 immigration judges hired since 2004: Francis Cramer, the former campaign treasurer for New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg; James Nugent, the former vice chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party; and Chris Brisack, a former Republican Party county chairman from Texas who had served on the state library commission under then-Gov. George W. Bush.

But the plot gets a little thicker. Goodling's lawyer, John Dowd, released a response to the Office of Legal Counsel's response. (And round and round we go.) Dowd wrote that Goodling realized there was no official order made by the Office of Legal Counsel and that Acting Assistant Attorney General Daniel Levin had made the suggestion. As TPM notes, this means it "came from the top." Stay tuned.

Rosie O'Donnell Leaving "The View" A Little Early

| Fri May 25, 2007 5:59 PM EDT

mojo-photo-view.JPGABC announced today that Rosie O'Donnell, controversial co-host of "The View," has permanently left the show three weeks earlier than planned, following a surpremely uncomfortable argument with her co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck on Wednesday. O'Donnell's upcoming departure had already been announced, and attributed to contract negotiations failing, but her often-combative presence on the show was clearly troublesome as well. On Thursday, co-host and producer Barbara Walters announced O'Donnell wouldn't be joining the show that day since it was "her partner Kelly's birthday;" today's announcement just stated she had now requested an "early leave."

Obama and McCain -- We've Got Ourselves a Pissing Match, Folks

| Fri May 25, 2007 4:24 PM EDT

After Barack Obama opposed the recently-approved war funding bill that replaces timelines for withdrawal with toothless benchmarks, John McCain said the position was "the equivalent of waving a white flag to al Qaeda." Mitt Romney also had harsh words.

Obama responded:

"This country is united in our support for our troops, but we also owe them a plan to relieve them of the burden of policing someone else's civil war. Governor Romney and Senator McCain clearly believe the course we are on in Iraq is working, but I do not.
"And if there ever was a reflection of that it's the fact that Senator McCain required a flack jacket, ten armored Humvees, two Apache attack helicopters, and 100 soldiers with rifles by his side to stroll through a market in Baghdad just a few weeks ago."

(For background on what Obama is referring to, see these blog posts.) McCain shot back less than two hours later:

"While Senator Obama's two years in the U.S. Senate certainly entitle him to vote against funding our troops, my service and experience combined with conversations with military leaders on the ground in Iraq lead me to believe that we must give this new strategy a chance to succeed because the consequences of failure would be catastrophic to our nation's security.
"By the way, Senator Obama, it's a 'flak' jacket, not a 'flack' jacket."

Who needs policy analysis, right? We've got eighteen months of petty sniping to look forward to!

Actually, this should take the humor out of this whole situation -- the insurgents made an example out of that bazaar McCain visited in a flak jacket, ambushing, binding, and murdereding 23 workers shortly after the Senator's visit.