Anybody know anything about Alabama politics? Because it appears U.S. Attorneys and various judges in Alabama took a far-reaching series of corruption cases that implicated both Republicans and Democrats and prosecuted only the Democrats. The result? Former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman is in jail, and and former Republican Attorney General Jeff Sessions is now U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions.

It's a big Time investigative report titled "Selective Justice in Alabama?" and one gets the sense Time's editors really wanted to leave that question mark off the end but didn't have the guts.

A while back, we mentioned that evangelical leaders had gotten together and agreed to consider a third party candidate if pro-choice, pro-gay rights Rudy Giuliani got the GOP nod.

Maybe that decision reflected widespread sentiment amongst their base, or maybe the base is mimicking the thinking of the Christian right's honchos. Either way, a new Rasmussen poll shows 27 percent of Republican voters would rather vote for a third party candidate (from the Christian right) than for Rudy.

Not good news for a guy who makes the case, on the campaign trail, that he is the only Republican that can beat the Democrats.

Huh, that's odd. I thought you weren't supposed to criticize the troops. But I guess it's okay if you're the White House and the troops you are criticizing are (1) not from this country, and (2) pulling out of the war. From the UK's Daily Telegraph:

The [senior White House foreign policy official] added that Britain would always be "the cornerstone" of U.S. policy towards Europe but there was "a lot of unhappiness" about how British forces had performed in Basra...
"Operationally, British forces have performed poorly in Basra," said the official. "Maybe it's best that they leave. Now we will have a clear field in southern Iraq."

Thanks for the help, chaps!

Michael Hirsh of Newsweek, who got it exactly right on Petraeus long before the General's much-ballyhooed congressional testimony, hits the lesson of this North Korean nuclear deal right on the head.

Hirsh explains why we couldn't have done this deal a year ago:

The real difference is one of attitude: a willingness to give even an evil tin-pot dictator like Kim Jong Il something he can take away from the table. In his case it seems to be mostly respect that Kim is looking for. That he can never have, but in an effort to avoid war and the horrors of nuclear proliferation... it may just be worth it to pretend. To grit one's teeth, normalize relations and live with his odious regime a little longer. Yes, what Kim is doing may amount to "nuclear blackmail," as the Bush administration once called it. But it's not as if this negotiation is going to set a precedent for every other rogue nation; it took North Korea 50 years and hundreds of millions of dollars to build the popgun nuke it detonated last October.

The difference in attitude has everything to do with the absence of John Bolton, who is, not surprisingly, spitting on the deal as a commentator for Fox News. With his hawkish, don't-give-an-inch approach, Bolton essentially torpedoed any productive talks with North Korea, the very talks that have now created Bush's only significant foreign policy achievement.

Scratch that. There was a previous achievement: getting Libya to dismantle its WMD programs. Now, that had a lot to do with years of work by the international diplomatic community and little to do with the White House. But nevertheless, if you read Hirsh's article, you'll find that Bolton almost found a way to ruin that, too.

Hirsh goes on to explain that we need a willingness to go tit-for-tat with Iran.

Today there are back channels (like the one led by former U.N. ambassador Tom Pickering) and side channels (like the one being conducted by U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker). What we don't have is a senior U.S. envoy who can put all the issues on the table with Tehran at the same time.

Hopefully, this success with North Korea will show the remaining hawks in the administration that war needn't be the answer with Iran.

Citing concerns about his health, New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici has announced he will not seek reelection in 2008. The six-term Republican (second most senior, to Alaska's Ted Stevens) was one of Capitol Hill's most powerful players when it came to matters of the budget.

This is just the last in a series of Republican retirements in the Senate and the House. Other retirements include Republican Sens. John Warner of Virginia, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Wayne Allard of Colorado. Larry Craig, of course, has his own problems.

Possible Democrats to succeed Domenici, according to the AP, are Representative Tom Udall, Albuquerque Mayor Martin J. Chavez, and state Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.

If Udall gets the nod, it could be a big year for his family. The son of former congressman and presidential candidate Mo Udall, Tom is the cousin of current Colorado Rep. Mark Udall, who will likely vie for the Senate seat being emptied by Allard.

Update: Karen Tumulty in Time points out that the filing deadline for this race is February 8. That means if NM Gov. Bill Richardson does poorly in the Feb. 5 national primary, he can drop out of the presidential race and try for Domenici's seat. Richardson will be term-limited out of the New Mexico governorship in 2010.

Update: Udall says he's out.

Our current issue's cover story, on a facility in Massachusetts that uses electric shock to discipline special needs and other kids, "School of Shock," has garnered a huge onslaught of responses, prompting legislation in two states and getting literally hundreds of comments on our site. One reader, Brandeis University student Nathan Robinson, was especially outraged by the painful electric shocks administered to autistic and retarded students at the school, and decided to take action himself.

Robinson, who will graduate in 2011, convened an impromptu, late-night meeting of Brandeis students to make fliers and talk about the issue. In the process, the students formed a Facebook group (Massachusetts Students United Against the Judge Rotenberg Center), which now has more than 300 members. Robinson holds regular meetings where concerned citizens coordinate an old-fashioned letter-writing campaign. The group, Robinson says, is trying "to spread the word among students as best we can."

Read more about Robinson's efforts here, and our story on the school and related articles here.

In a rare appearance before Congress yesterday, Blackwater founder and CEO Erik Prince answered questions about his company's operations in Iraq; by mutual agreement, details of the September 16 shootings in Baghdad, which reportedly left 17 Iraqis dead and another 24 wounded, were not discussed. The following statistics were culled from Prince's testimony, as well as from various internal Blackwater documents obtained by Congressional investigators.


  • Total number of Blackwater "movements" (i.e. protected convoys) In Iraq since 2005: 16,000
  • Number of movements in 2006: 6,058
  • Number of times Blackwater operators fired their weapons in anger: 38
  • Number of reported movements so far in 2007: 1,873
  • Number of times Blackwater operators fired their weapons in anger: 56
  • Percentage increase: 400
  • Number of Blackwater operators killed in Iraq: 27
  • Number of Blackwater-escorted dignitaries killed in Iraq: 0
  • Number of warnings given before Blackwater operators shoot to kill oncoming drivers: 7 (lights, sirens, air horns, hand signals, pen flares, shots to oncoming car's radiator, "spider web" shot to windshield)
  • Average compensation paid by U.S. military to families of Iraqis killed by mistake: $3,000
  • Compensation paid by Blackwater for "random death" of an "innocent Iraqi citizen" in 2005: $5,000
  • Extra compensation: $2,000, "given the nature of the incident," followed by the fact that the Blackwater operator "failed to report the incident, causing the family additional pain."
  • Compensation paid to family of an Iraqi vice presidential guard killed by a drunken Blackwater operator in the Green Zone last Christmas Eve: $20,000
  • Penalty exacted on Blackwater operator: Termination of employment, cost of plane ticket back to U.S. ($1,630), and forfeiture of outstanding pay ($7,067), of Fourth of July bonus ($3,000), and of Christmas bonus ($3,000)
  • Total financial penalty for killing Iraqi vice presidential guard: $14,697
  • Compensation originally suggested by a State Department official in response to Blackwater's accidental killing of an Iraqi bystander in December 2006: $250,000
  • Compensation actually paid: $15,000
  • Blackwater's reasoning: "A sum this high will set a terrible precedent. This could cause incidents with people trying to get killed by our guys to financially guarantee their family's future."
  • Number of security companies now operating in Iraq: 170
  • Value of Blackwater's federal contracts in 2001: $736,906
  • Value in 2002: $3.4 million
  • Value in 2003: $25 million
  • Value in 2004: $48 million
  • Value in 2005: $352 million
  • Value in 2006: $593 million
  • Total value of all Blackwater contracts at the end of 2006: $1 billion
  • Percentage growth since 2001: 80,453
  • Current number of Blackwater's federal contracts, according to Erik Prince: "More than 50."
  • Percentage of Blackwater holding company Prince Group's revenue derived from federal contracts: 90
  • Number of Blackwater helicopters downed in Iraq in 2006: 3
  • Average daily pay for a Blackwater operator, according to Erik Prince: $500
  • Daily pay, according to government invoices: $1,221.62
  • Number of State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security agents in Iraq: 36
  • Number of Blackwater operators in Iraq, primarily engaged in guarding U.S. diplomats: 1,000
  • Number of Blackwater administrative support staff for company's Iraq operations: 50
  • Blackwater tooth-to-tail ratio (i.e. number of trigger pullers to support and administrative staff): 20:1
  • U.S. military tooth-to-tail ratio, according to Erik Prince: Anywhere from 1:8 to 1:12
  • Blackwater's profit margin: 10.5 percent
  • Erik Prince's income in 2006: "More than a million dollars."
  • Amount Erik Prince has contributed to the GOP and Republican candidates: $225,000
  • Number of Erik Prince's sons, heirs to the Blackwater fortune: 5
  • Slogan chanted by Code Pink protesters as Erik Prince departed hearing: "War criminal"
  • In April, I reported on the most current ACLU scores of some senators, and Sen. Hillary Clinton had a score of 83%. The new scores have been pubished, and Clinton's latest score is 67%, 16 points down from last time. Clinton voted for the Baucus/Tester Amendment, which defeated a motion to table the Immigration Reform Act of 2007, which expands Real ID legislation. She also voted against the Bennett Amendment (which passed), which removed from the Lobbying Transparency and Accountability Act a provision which would have made grassroots lobbying very difficult and mired in paperwork.

    Clinton voted against expanded government spying powers, for cloture that would have permitted consideration of a vote to restore Habeas Corpus rights, for cloture to allow a vote on the Kennedy-Smith amendment (expansion of hate crimes legislation to include sexual orientation, gender identification, gender, and disability), and against the use of government-issued photo ID cards by voters.

    Sen. Barack Obama has a score of 80%, and Sen. John McCain has a score of 50%, which appears to be an improvement over his last score of 33%, but there's a catch: McCain was absent for 2/3 of the votes.

    Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid has maintained his 67% score. In the past, the leader of the Senate Democrats had scored as low as 40%.

    As you probably know, President Bush today vetoed an expansion of health insurance for the children of the working poor. He's been attacked, rightfully, across the blogosphere and across the country. But I haven't seen an attack as powerful or as seemingly manipulative as this one.

    (H/T Think Progress)

    A new Washington Post poll today has a few interesting nuggets that help answer that nagging question of the current presidential campaign: "What happened to Obama?"

    Buried deep in the data is a question about which presidential candidate has the best chance of winning the White House next year. Hillary Clinton stomps on all the closest rivals, with 57 percent of the poll respondents favoring her. What's interesting, though, is that the runner up, with 20 percent, is John Edwards. Perhaps this is to be expected. After all, he's run before. But given his fundraising prowess and media prominence, it's surprising to see that Obama comes in a distant third in this category, at 16 percent. By comparison, 37 percent of those polled thought Obama was the most inspirational candidate, compared with 41 percent for Clinton and only 14 percent for Edwards.

    Obama's poor showing in the polls on the electability question is probably fatal. People obviously love Obama, but don't think he can win in '08. The Post doesn't ask why people believe that, but it's hard to imagine that race isn't a big factor. It's not that Democrats won't vote for an African-American, but that they don't believe Republicans will.

    One question the poll can't answer: If Obama can't win, why are so many people giving him money?