Mojo - May 2007

Gonzales Giggles Through Testimony, Ignores Even More New Evidence

| Fri May 11, 2007 12:49 PM EDT

Yesterday I wrote that a ninth purged U.S. Attorney had been found and that Alberto Gonzales, who was going before the House Judiciary Committee, was going to have to answer some tough questions.

Well, as it happens, Gonzales displayed the same combination of (feigned) cluelessness and (unwarranted) chutzpah as he did when appearing before the Senate last month in order to avoid saying much of anything at all. A major difference? No defensiveness -- Gonzales seems to know he can't or won't be fired, and has stopped caring what Congress or the American people think of him. He giggled throughout his testimony, in the face of weighty and sometimes damning questions.

He might want to get serious. McClatchy reports new evidence that Karl Rove essentially used Gonzales' Department of Justice as the enforcement arm for his Machiavellian schemes. Just weeks before the November 2006 elections, Karl Rove and his deputies twice urged the Department of Justice (using Gonzo's chief-of-staff Kyle Sampson as a primary contact) to investigate voter fraud in New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin -- even though it is DOJ policy not to open such investigations shortly before elections because of the possibility of influencing votes.

But that was the point. The cases that Rove wanted investigated where shams -- the allegations of voter fraud in Wisconsin, for example, were two years old and had already been thoroughly investigated, with no results. And obviously the voter fraud Rove wanted investigated was all one-sided stuff -- Republicans being disenfranchised by Democrats and not the other way around. How do we know? Rove's evidence of voter fraud came from a 30-page report compiled by Republican activists.

That's right -- conservative activists on the ground were in direct contact with the president's top political adviser, who in turn tried to turn the activists' loony schemes into official Department of Justice policy. Are we a banana republic yet?

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Political Persecution of Michael Moore!

| Thu May 10, 2007 8:32 PM EDT

michael_moore.gifThe federal government is investigating Michael Moore for violating the trade embargo on Cuba in filming his latest documentary, Sicko. Read more on The Riff.

New Evidence that Administration Withheld Emails About Rove

| Thu May 10, 2007 6:53 PM EDT

A new twist in the lost email/purged attorneys scandal.

Murray Waas reports that the "Bush administration has withheld a series of e-mails from Congress showing that senior White House and Justice Department officials worked together to conceal the role of Karl Rove in installing Timothy Griffin, a protégé of Rove's, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas."

Specifically, the emails -- which Waas saw courtesy of a mutinous "executive branch official" -- show that Alberto Gonzales' then-chief-of-staff Kyle Sampson consulted with the White House when drafting a letter to Congress explaining what Karl Rove did and did not know about the installation of Griffin (intro to Griffin here).

Of course, Sampson told Congress Rove wasn't involved, which he was. The executive branch official who showed the withheld emails to Waas also told Waas that Gonzales not only knows about them, but has reviewed them all, and has elected to stay silent on the point.

I suspect that the average man on the street long ago lost track of every detail of the U.S. Attorneys scandal, and every different bit of foul play over at Justice. But things are getting so complicated, with so many moving parts, that pretty soon journalists, bloggers, and government officials are also going to lose track.

Maybe that's part of some exceptionally smart and exceptionally devious plan. But in my eyes, when the federal department you oversee is so poorly run, so wracked with scandal, and so thoroughly politicized that it's making everyone's head spin -- it's probably time to, you know, resign.

Troops Now Face Longer Deployments AND Less Time at Home

| Thu May 10, 2007 6:23 PM EDT

The troops have to be pretty upset with the military brass right now.

In April, SecDef Robert Gates announced that tours in Iraq and Afghanistan were being extended from twelve months to fifteen months. The move was necessary, Gates said, if the Army wanted to ensure that every combat veteran had at least one full year at home before being sent back into a war zone.

Well, word is leaking out that those twelve months at home are just a fantasy. According to Stars and Stripes, a company in Europe is headed back to Iraq only nine months after a 13-month tour.

Other companies made find themselves in the same situation, because a Pentagon spokesman is calling the one year at home between tours a "goal" instead of a guarantee. As for Gates, he's as confused as anyone. "I'll be very interested in finding out more about that," Gates told Stars and Stripes. "We just need to find out about that, because I made it clear that people would have 12 months at home."

Spotted on ThinkProgress, who highlights a LA Times article from a few days back titled "Long tours in Iraq may be minefield for mental health."

New Info on the Ninth Purged U.S. Attorney as Gonzales Goes Before Congress

| Thu May 10, 2007 11:43 AM EDT

I wrote yesterday that there is speculation on the blogosphere that the eight purged U.S. Attorneys were actually nine purged U.S. Attorneys. Today, the WaPo has all the major papers have confirmed it.

The Post runs down Todd Graves, former U.S. Attorney from Missouri and the center of yesterday's speculation, and gets him on the record. He says that one of his bosses at the Dep't of Justice made it clear in January 2006 that the DOJ wanted a change of leadership at Graves' office to "give another person a chance." According to Graves, the conversation "made clear to me the fact I was getting a push... I felt like I was no longer welcome in the department."

The emergence of Graves is significant because it means the DOJ was forcing U.S. Attorneys out of their offices months earlier than previously suspected, and because it contradicts Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' testimony that the scandal was limited to the eight Attorneys already well-covered in the media. And the "give another person a chance" rational is exactly the same as the one given to other purged Attorneys.

As for the developing notion that voting rights are at the center of this storm, check out this paragraph:

Graves acknowledged that he had twice during the past few years clashed with Justice's civil rights division over cases, including a federal lawsuit involving Missouri's voter rolls that Graves said a Washington Justice official signed off on after he refused to do so. That official, Bradley J. Schlozman, was appointed as interim U.S. attorney to succeed Graves, remaining for a year until the Senate this spring confirmed John Wood for the job. Wood was a counselor to the deputy attorney general and is a son of [Republican Missouri Senator Kit] Bond's first cousin, although the senator's spokeswoman, Shana Marchio, said Bond did not recommend him for the job.

Alberto Gonzales is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee right now, where he will face questions about this topic and about the allegations of a stunning lack of diversity in the DOJ's civil rights division.

Funniest Campaign Ads So Far Belong To...

| Thu May 10, 2007 11:42 AM EDT

Bill Richardson! If the whole campaign was composed of reciting Richardson's resume and quirky ads like these, the man couldn't lose!

Spotted on Wonkette.

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Global Warming Talking Points... A Push for Cap and Trade

| Wed May 9, 2007 7:27 PM EDT

Now that a majority of Americans want immediate action against global warming, what rhetoric and policy would best address this newly-bipartisan concern?

The message must inspire. And the most inspirational rhetoric emphasizes freedom, independence, and self-sufficiency, and taps into the "belief that America can do anything once we make the commitment," reports Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a Democratic pollster commissioned by the Center for American Progress.

On this particular point, however, Bill McKibben might disagree. The consultants say we should link healthy climate to economic growth, because clean energy would help to restore America as a leader in the world economy, create jobs, and raise incomes. McKibben, on the other hand, calls for no less than a philosophical rejection of the drive for economic growth.

What the firm considers a feasible political agenda:
•Mileage standards of 40 mpg
•Tax credits for people and companies using alternative energy
•A mandatory cap-and-trade market to reduce emissions by 2 percent per year

Speaking of which, the push for cap-and-trade made major headway this week. A major corporate petition has doubled its membership this week. The U.S. Climate Change Partnership now includes such giants as General Motors, Shell, DuPont, and Lehman Brothers. They have partnered with nonprofits such as Environmental Defense, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the World Resources Institute - plus two new groups, The Nature Conservancy and National Wildlife Federation. The want federal laws to curb the country's carbon emissions by 60 to 80 percent by 2050.

Also, ten states are creating the first mandatory carbon cap-and-trade program in the United States. They're trying to avoid the mistakes of the European Union's first go at it.

Cocaine In a Can, By Any Other Name

| Wed May 9, 2007 6:58 PM EDT

real_fake_thing_60x110.jpg

Surprise, surprise. In order to stay out of legal trouble, Redux Beverages, the maker of "Cocaine," a provocatively-branded energy drink, is in search of a new name for its signature product. This because last month the FDA accused Redux of marketing the drink as an alternative to the street drug (ya think?), leading some states to pull the cans off store shelves.

While "Cocaine" the drink may be out, cultivation of the real thing couldn't be more in, particularly among left-leaning South American leaders eager to flout the United States' expensive (and largely ineffective) interdiction campaign. Get the blow by blow here and here.

—Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell

Iraqi Parliament: U.S. Out of Iraq

| Wed May 9, 2007 6:49 PM EDT

In a comment to a previous blog post about the Baghdad Wall, a reader wrote:

The Iraqis don't want us out (at least not yet). If the Iraqis wanted us out now, they would communicate that to their representatives in the government, who would communicate it to us, and we would then leave. The fact is (as I saw during my time in Korea 30+ years ago), the Iraqis trust the Americans more than the trust fellow Iraqis. Thus, for now, they prefer we stay.

Even this reader must now concede that the Iraqis want us to get the hell out of Baghdad. Yesterday, a majority vote in the Iraqi parliament supported forcing the United States to set a timeline for withdrawal of troops.

So will we or will we not respect the budding Iraqi democracy? Reader poll in the comments section.

Immigration Officials Drug Detainees

| Wed May 9, 2007 6:37 PM EDT

Immigration agents drugged two men who were being wrongfully deported, according to the men and their lawyers. One man was in the country illegally and agents took him to the airport to deport him without notifying his wife or attorney. Before leaving, they asked him if he wanted a sedative and he said no. They then returned with an syringe, pulled down his pants, and injected him with one. When they arrived at the airport, they were ordered to return with the deportee because they had not followed proper notification procedures.

The other deportee had a legal stay or deportation, but was being "escorted" out of the country on a commercial jet. Agents had the man handcuffed, but when he asked to speak to the captain to explain what was happening to him, they took him to the ground and injected him with a sedative. The captain ordered them all off the plane.

The ICE officials' actions violated the agency's policies on sedating detainees as well as federal air regulations prohibiting the transport of drugged individuals. You have to question, too, whether it's not cruel and unusual punishment to deport people who may be persecuted in their native countries (as was the case with one of the men, a Chinese Christian) and then force-sedate them when they get upset about it.