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Replacement U.S. Attorney Accused of Vote Suppression

| Fri Mar. 9, 2007 3:08 PM EST

Calling an anti-Bush website GeorgeWBush.org was a stroke of genius that continues to pay off.

Remember Timothy Griffin, who replaced H. E. Cummins when the latter was unceremoniously sacked for not playing hardball with the Bush administration? Well Tim accidentally sent emails meant for senior RNC staff about a vote suppression scam he was running to addresses @GeorgeWBush.org instead of @GeorgeWBush.com.

The suppression scam, explained on Greg Palast's blog (H/T AlterNet), specifically targeted blacks and Latinos (and soldiers and the poor). That's a felony. But instead of firing or investigating old Timmy boy, the Bush administration fired the respectable Cummins specifically to make room for Griffin. An old buddy of Rove's, he's exactly their kind of guy.

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Crusading NYT Tax Reporter Strikes Again

| Fri Mar. 9, 2007 2:59 PM EST

David Cay Johnston covers taxes for the New York Times in the tradition of the very best muckraking journalists. Here's what I wrote about Johnston in an introduction to a long interview I did with him a year ago:

David Cay Johnston is one of the few people in the United States who's exposing the American tax code for what it is: backwards socialism. As a Pulitzer Prize-winning tax reporter for the New York Times, Johnston has, over the past nine years, uncovered the inner workings of a system that coddles, aids, and abets the rich in their various attempts to get out of paying taxes, forcing the upper-middle, middle, and working classes to pay for government on their own.
As Johnston showed in his book, Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich—And Cheat Everybody Else, few people have really closely examined the intricate loopholes, devices, dodges, and shelters that allow corporations and superrich individuals to pay shockingly little in taxes.

Johnston exposed $262 billion in tax fraud from his post at the Times and broke the story that Enron had used various offshore devices to avoid paying any taxes at all. If you've ever hated paying your taxes and had a creeping feeling that corporations and those in higher tax brackets aren't feeling the burden they way you are, take a look at what Johnston has to say.

Today, Johnston reports that the Bush Administration's push to privatize government has reached the tax code, compromising it in critical ways.

The Internal Revenue Service is asking tax lawyers and accountants who create tax shelters and exploit loopholes to take the lead in writing some of its new tax rules.

Hey, if you let energy executives write energy policy, why not let dirty tax lawyers write the tax code? But while some are critical of the move -- "Why don't we just privatize Congress and outsource the development of our laws?" asked the director of a research and advocacy non-profit, who noted that the outsourcing of regulation was reaching the point of absurdity -- others see this as a formalization of a problem that already secretly plagues the system:

Kenneth J. Kies, one of the most sought-after tax lobbyists in Washington, said the proposal "merely formalizes" the practice of lawyers sending the I.R.S. letters "saying, 'We think you need to issue some guidance in an area and here is our suggestion.'" He said a formal process would be more transparent.

Further reason to believed that all-consuming cynicism is warranted when thinking about the federal government. It's not enough that all of Bush's agencies and departments are in the pocket of big business -- the IRS needs to be in the pocket of the folks who do big business' taxes. So that way, rich CEOs can both play the game on an uneven playing field and not have to pay any taxes on the winnings.

(Hat Tip, Kevin Drum)

Gingrich Admits to Having Affair While He Pushed to Impeach Clinton over Lewinsky

| Fri Mar. 9, 2007 1:59 PM EST

He admitted this in an interview with Focus on the Family that will air today. No big deal though, because Gingrich has repented. "I've gotten on my knees and sought God's forgiveness," he says. Now that that's been taken care of, it's on to selling his new book: "Rediscovering God in America."

Libby Pardon Mania

| Fri Mar. 9, 2007 1:25 PM EST

It's all anyone is talking about. Will Bush pardon Libby? The Dems are urging the president not to. Libby allies are pushing hard and fast for an immediate pardon. Bush has said he will stay out of it for now.

Jonathan points out we should really move "past Libby and take a look at all the other players (Read: Cheney) in this sordid drama." I couldn't agree more, but there is one interesting question which Newsweek posed a few days back. Can Bush pardon Libby even if he wanted to? According to Newsweek, he can't. The VP's chief of staff "does not qualify to even be considered for a presidential pardon under Justice Department guidelines," reads the article. Here are the guidelines.

Well, so this isn't exactly true, because not all presidents follow these guidelines. But Bush has, so it could make the prospect for a pardon from him unlikely. Bush has been both stringent with the number of pardons that he has granted as well as with the manner in which he has granted them. One guideline that could impede Libby's pardon prospects is that a petitioner must wait five years or until released from confinement to file a pardon application. There is also the issue of acceptance of guilt, which according to Jonathan Turley, a GW law prof. I contacted for more information on this issue, is a "threshold expectation among pardon attorneys."

But really, I wonder if any of this matters. With pressure from Cheney and Libby allies, will Bush uphold his frugal pardon track record? Maybe not. According to Turley, if Bush pardons Libby, the controversy would indeed be escalated considering his refusal to pardon so many others, but he notes that Bush has one thing going for him -- low ratings. "It is hard to get any lower," says Turley. "He is down to the true believers and Koolaid drinkers at this point." Maybe Libby will get lucky.

U.S. v. Bush: The Movie?

| Fri Mar. 9, 2007 12:52 PM EST
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The movie rights to U.S. v. Bush, Elizabeth de la Vega's pseudo-nonfictional legal thriller about a hypothetical criminal case against George W. Bush, have just been sold. In the book, a U.S. attorney lays out the case against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Co., accusing them of having defrauded the nation by leading us to war through "deceit, craft, trickery, dishonest means, and fraudulent representations, including lies, half-truths, material omissions, and statements made with reckless indifference to their truth or falsity." Just imagine that line coming from the mouth of a rumpled, crusading federal prosecutor driven by the lonely belief that we're a nation of laws, not men, dammit! Only Hollywood can bring this to life, becasuse as we know, real U.S. attorneys like this get replaced with Karl Rove's former intern.

The book has been optioned by Robert Boris, director of the Rob Lowe classic Oxford Blues, and the writer of 1973's Electra Glide in Blue (tagline: "He's A Good Cop. On A Big Bike. On A Bad Road.") I only hope that he takes some liberties with the source material, which is set entirely in a grand jury room, and writes in a scene where Dick Cheney takes the stand and delivers the equivalent of Jack Nicholson's "you can't handle the truth" speech from A Few Good Men. Especially the part where Cheney, his temper rising, lectures the smart-ass prosecutor that "I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it." Then he threatens to rip the prosecutor's eyes out. I'd watch that.

Read our recent interview with de la Vega here.

Some International Women's Day Resources

| Fri Mar. 9, 2007 11:34 AM EST

We were remiss in not posting this yesterday, but here are some quick links to help you celebrate (?) International Women's Day one day late.

Jessica at Feministing has a video post describing International Women's Day events around the world.

Katha Pollitt has a post at TPM Cafe that hits on a lot of topics.

Here's the official website and you can find the history of International Women's Day on Wikipedia.

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How Do You Say "Huge Contrast" in Portuguese?

| Fri Mar. 9, 2007 11:26 AM EST

Via ThinkProgress, take a look at the different local reactions to President Clinton's 1997 trip to Brazil and GWB's current trip.

Congress to Open Hearings on Plame Case

| Fri Mar. 9, 2007 10:57 AM EST

A few days ago, Mike Tomasky wrote what a lot of us were thinking -- can we please get past Libby and take a look at all the other players in this sordid drama, the ones the jurors were practically begging to try. It's partially an instinct to nail Rove and Cheney for their role in the leak (even the jury knew Libby was the "fall guy"), but also a desire to use the Plame affair as a way into examining all the lies, corruptions, and malfeasance that led us to war.

Well, god bless Henry Waxman, because he heard our prayers both silent and vocal. In hearings that could begin as early as next week, Waxman will use the power of his House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee to fully flesh out every administration member's role in the Plame case. Possible witnesses include Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, Patrick Fitzgerald, and Dick Cheney himself. (As of now, that's all speculation.)

And FYI - You can find the "Plamegate" portion of the Iraq War Timeline here.

Bring in the Cops! Schwarzenegger's Bodybuilder Appointees are Chiropractic Fanatics!

| Thu Mar. 8, 2007 7:01 PM EST

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Who needs to watch "Conan the Barbarian" when there's the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners? The board, which includes two friends from Schwarzenegger's bodybuilding days, one of whom played a part in the film, has launched a coup. They've ousted the board's executive director and ejected their own lawyer, a deputy attorney general, from a meeting. The board is so mired in controversy, reports the Sacramento Bee, that five California Highway Patrol officers were called into a meeting last week to keep the peace.

The fracas centers around the regulation of California's chiropractics industry, which, second only to Hollywood and bodybuilding, is to Schwarzenegger as oil is to Bush. The Governator holds an honorary degree from Cleveland Chiropractic College. In 1999, the Bee reports, he granted an interview to a magazine called Dynamic Chiropractic, in which he said, "People who don't believe in chiropractic always ask me about it. I have now become like a spokesperson for chiropractic."

Schwarzenegger's chiropractic crusaders include Franco Columbu, a two-time Mr. Olympia and occasional actor, and Richard Tyler, the editor of a bodybuilding magazine who picked up Schwarzenegger from the airport when he first arrived in California in 1968, the Bee reported. Both men are also chiropractors, and have bristled at what they see as too many restrictions on the industry. They approved a resolution last week supporting a controversial chiropractic practice known as "manipulation under anesthesia," which was shot down in 2005 by the state's Office of Administrative Law and is the subject of lawsuits filed against chiropractors in the state for unlicensed practice of medicine.

At a meeting of the board in December, shortly before director Catherine Hayes was ousted and Tyler took over as "interim director" of the board, the Bee recounted that she clashed with Tyler over what chiropractors were capable of curing:

Tyler insisted that he had cured earaches in children by adjusting the atlas, the vertebra closest to the head, and using homeopathic remedies.

He then took Hayes to task for signing a pending review of a case stating that "no forensic or scientific evidence" supports claims that chiropractic and homeopathic remedies are helpful in curing earaches, adding that there is more than 100 years of proof.

The debate, though imbued with Californian flapdoodle, ultimately sounds reminiscent of the creationist textbook wars in Kansas. And the Lord said, be gone, earache! (and that'll be $19.95, in four easy installments!) Political Muscle, the Arnold-centric LA Times political blog, seems to agree that this whole scandal defies credulity. "There is nothing left to blog after that," they write. "Schwarzenegger has exceeded all expectations."


UPDATE: In a follow-up piece in the Bee yesterday afternoon, Schwarzenegger threw fuel on the flames. Though the board's website says it's supposed to "protect Californians from fraudulent or incompetent" practices, Schwarzenegger told the Bee that the board "represents the chiropractors." Ouch, my ears are hurting. I guess I need my atlas adjusted.

Walking the Plank Over the Grand Canyon

| Thu Mar. 8, 2007 6:42 PM EST

grand_canyon.jpgLike most lefties, I believe in protecting/respecting the environment and giving Native Americans a leg-up in exchange for the genocide we graciously offered them in the past. But what to make of it when Native Americans try to pull themselves from poverty by destroying the few precious lands they have left?

That is the question this article in the Washington Post asks about the Hualapi Indians' new "skywalk" over the Grand Canyon. The article does a good job probing the issue, but let me just point to a few of the things that made me want to laugh and cry and roll my eyes and throw up and have my eyes pop out all at once.

The skywalk is an attempt to draw tourism to the pristine Hualapi lands, where only a fraction of the Grand Canyon's 4.4 million-plus annual visitors stop. The skywalk is a 30,000-square-foot glass projection over the canyon itself. The tribe's attempt at a casino failed because most visitors to Grand Canyon West come from Las Vegas. The tribe was then approached by a man who leads tours from Las Vegas, who wanted to find a quieter way for tourists to view the canyon than from a helicopter, and wanted to increase their angle of vision from 180 degrees in an aircraft "to 720 degrees in a skywalk." More! Better! Even the Grand Canyon from a helicopter is not enough! I wonder how much better a view the skywalk actually offers.

The 84-year-old tribal elder who led the ceremony celebrating the skywalk's completion said: "Like the car and buses. The white man made it, and it came out strong. We've got to give it a chance."