Political MoJo

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

| Fri May 25, 2007 5:05 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.

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

| Fri May 25, 2007 3:24 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.

Stop the Presses: John McCain Voted!

| Fri May 25, 2007 3:10 PM EDT

Last week we noted incredulously that John McCain had missed 43 consecutive votes in the Senate (causing commentor JG to write, "You're complaining?! Have you checked his voting record??"). That streak extended three more votes and sadly has now come to an end.

After 46 straight missed votes, encompassing six weeks, John McCain finally found time to push himself back from the money trough of constant fundraising and cast a vote on behalf of the citizens of Arizona. McCain voted in favor of exempting children of certain Filipino World War II veterans from the numerical limitations on immigrant visas. Just so you know.

And, oh yeah, our taxes pay that man's salary. Which, it shouldn't need to be said, he continued to collect even though he failed to fulfill his most important responsibility as a senator.

IRS Terrorism Gumshoes: Look for "Middle Eastern Sounding Names"

| Fri May 25, 2007 2:59 PM EDT

Apparently the gumshoes over at the IRS have been investigating nonprofits for potential ties to terrorism in Keystone Cops fashion. According to a report by the agency's watchdog, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, IRS agents pour over nonprofit filings manually, cross-referencing them with a terrorist watch list that is woefully inadequate. "As a result, the IRS provides only minimal assurance that tax-exempt organizations potentially involved in terrorist activities are being identified," the watchdog reports. And that's not even the worst part. Responding to the dismal report in a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson today, Montana Democrat Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, reveals that IRS investigators resorted to racial profiling when looking into potential terrorist financing. "IRS personnel told TIGTA that they primarily look for 'Middle Eastern sounding names' when considering which tax filings to flag for further review." How has this screening process worked out for the IRS? Not very well. Baucus writes: "TIGTA investigators found that the current IRS screening process has never identified any person or organization with links to terrorists."

Death Toll Associated with 9/11 Still Climbing

| Thu May 24, 2007 5:01 PM EDT

Nearly six years after two planes crashed into the Twin Towers, the number of deaths associated with the attacks continues to climb. Yesterday, the death toll reached 2,750 after Dr. Charles Hirsch, New York City's chief medical examiner, amended the death certificate of civil rights attorney Felicia Dunn-Jones. Previously, she had been thought to have died of natural causes. Her certificate now notes that exposure to toxic dust from the ruins of the World Trade Center "was contributory to her death." Dunn-Jones' certificate is the first to be amended, but perhaps not the last.

More than 7,300 people, including New York City police officers, firemen, and other first responders who inhaled toxins during the city's 10-month cleanup effort, filed a class-action lawsuit against the city, complaining of deteriorating respiratory health.

New York Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Vito Fossella, who pushed for a review of Dunn-Jones' case, are continuing to pressure the city's medical examiner to review other cases. Although Hirsch has no plans to do so, his decision to amend Dunn-Jones' death certificate could have far-reaching implications and is likely to be cited as evidence in 9/11-related health suits filed against New York City.

Rudy Giuliani may also catch fire from these suits. The city's mayor, who has framed his presidential campaign around his 9/11 heroism, is facing criticism for his administration's handling of safety measures during the cleanup effort. The New York Times reported earlier this month that, according to public documents filed in a suit, the city "never meaningfully enforced federal requirements that those at the site wear respirators" and "officials also on some occasions gave flawed public representations of the nature of the health threat, even as they privately worried about exposure to lawsuits by sickened workers."

--Jessica Savage

Finally Time to Go Home to Diego Garcia

| Thu May 24, 2007 3:00 PM EDT

Americans may have never heard of Diego Garcia, but today Diego Garcia is very much on the minds of thousands of people.

After more than four decades, Chagossians get to go home to Diego Garcia, a British colony and US air and naval base. Yesterday the British High Court ruled in favor of the Chagossian people. The judges denounced the British government's move to "exile a whole population" from its home as "repugnant" and that the right of Chagossians to return home is "one of the most fundamental liberties known to human beings". The High Court also said that the government can no longer appeal as it had unsuccessfully tried three times in the past. Chagossians had won a legal victory in 2000, but in 2004 the British government overturned it via a royal prerogative.

Why were they kicked off in the first place? The British colony has been "colonized by the Americans" since the 1960's, when more than 2,000 inhabitants of the island were forcibly "repatriated" to Mauritius and the Seychelles. The Brits gave the Americans a 50-year lease, which will expire in 2016. The U.S. has launched memorable military campaigns from the Diego Garcia base, including bombing Afghanistan and Iraq.

In the past years, the US military said it was against the idea of allowing Chagossians back to their land because it would undermine the "security" of Diego Garcia. And while it has fought to keep the natives off the land, the US Navy still calls the Diego Garcia base its "Footprint of Freedom."

—Neha Inamdar

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Now You Can Shoot an Iraqi from the Comfort of Your Own Home Computer

| Thu May 24, 2007 2:39 PM EDT

Wafaacrop.jpg

It's not just a video game. A performance artist has been holed up in Chicago with a webcam and paintball gun trained on him. Right now Wafaa Bilal is out (late lunch?), leaving just a bedroom splattered with paint, so Web snipers are aiming for the plant instead. It's a statement on that American combination of high-tech trigger-happiness and apathy toward Iraqis. I was going to suggest Bilal was inspired by this technology, "computer-assisted remote hunting." But it's much worse. According to his bio, Bilal grew up in Iraq, and his 21-year-old brother still there was recently killed by stray American gunfire. Maybe he's trying to heal by reenacting the trauma, as they say. Black humor heals all wounds.

Thank you for the tip, Goode.

Oklahoma Bans Abortion in State Hospitals

| Thu May 24, 2007 2:03 PM EDT

We were hoping the governor of Oklahoma would veto a ban on abortion in state hospitals, with exception for only rape, incest, and when a woman's health is in jeopardy. But Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, let it pass yesterday. Here's the fate of other abortion bills this week.

"Adolescents Play Pranks..."

| Thu May 24, 2007 1:37 PM EDT

Last November, someone set fire to the central wing of a high school in Jena, Louisiana. Then white students beat up a black student because he went to their party. Soon after that, a white adolescent pulled a shotgun on three black adolescents in a convenience store, and then four black students jumped a white student as he came out of the school gym. Following that incident, in which the student received minor injuries, six black students were expelled and were charged with attempted second-degree murder. They face up to a hundred years in prison.

Conversely, the white boy who beat up the student at the party was charged with simple battery, and the boy who held three others at shotgunpoint was not charged with anything. However, his victims were charged with aggravated battery and theft after they grabbed the shotgun in self-defense.

If this sounds like scenes from a 1950s newsreel, that's because Jena is stuck in time when it comes to the issue of racial equality. Enter Jena mayor Murphy McMillian, who says that "Race is not a major local issue. It's not a factor in the local people's lives."

No kidding--he said that.

The latest incident at the high school involves some black students who attempted to sit on the "white side" of the school yard. There, they saw three nooses hanging from a tree. Enter school superindendent Roy Breithaupt, who says that "Adolescents play pranks. I don't think it was a threat against anybody."

Again, he really said that.

The Jena community isn't alone in dismissing violence and threats against women, people of color, the disabled, and members of the LGBT community as "pranks" and "jokes." But this particular piece of denial is so over the top, it would probably shock most reasonable people. The local ACLU calls Jena a "racial powder keg."

Immigration Bill Changing: Guest Worker Program Halved

| Thu May 24, 2007 9:25 AM EDT

Two days ago I wrote that the guest worker program in the Senate's immigration bill would probably be the first provision to be changed or killed. That's exactly what has happened.

Yesterday the Senate overwhelmingly voted to cut the guest worker program in half. Now instead of 400,000 immigrants receiving visas annually to work temporarily in the United States, only 200,000 will. The votes to reduce the number came from Democrats who see the guest worker program as a repeat of the bracero program intended to provide cheap labor to big business and Republicans who see the whole bill as soft on illegal immigration. Pro-business Republicans voted to keep the number at 400,000.

See how the vote broken down along party lines here. See Mother Jones massive and excellent feature on immigration, "Exodus," here.