After an amazingly encouraging week or two, we head into the July 4th weekend with a whole bunch of stuff we've been trying to clear off our desk. Plus: Lots of breaking news and an encouraging ending for the weekend...
Eric Holder just told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the behavior of president Bush has been illegal, and that he, Eric Holder, will uphold the rule of law. It will be very hard to maintain those positions and not prosecute or appoint a Special Counsel to prosecute Bush's crimes.
Here's roughly what was said:
10:29 a.m. Leahy: is "waterboarding" torture and illegal?
Holder: yes, it is torture.
Leahy: Can other nations legally torture Americans?
Leahy: Can President of the United States immunize acts of torture?
Holder: Nobody is above the law. President has Constitutional obligation to enforce the laws. We have laws and treaties. The president acts most forcefully and has the greatest power when consistent with Congressional intent and directives. The president does NOT have the power that you have indicated.
Leahy: Washington Post yesterday reported that the top Bush Admin. official on military commissions says we tortured a detainee.
If he's confirmed, Attorney General nominee Eric Holder told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee during confirmation hearings today, he'll review the Bush U.S. Attorney's decision to not prosecute former DoJ Civil Rights attorney Bradley Schlozman for his grotesque bastardization and politicization of the department as we detailed earlier this week. Schlozman, the DoJ's Inspector General found, broke federal law and custom vis a vis his hiring practices of only fellow whack-a-doodle wingnuts, and further went on to lie to Congress about during hearings (which is also a federal crime).
Said Holder during questioning by Sen. Dianne Feinstein...
I've had this picture in my mind lately, an editorial cartoon-like drawing, of a dam about to break and someone (Obama?) leaning hard up against it in futile hopes of keeping it from bursting forth. The dam and its contents, in my mind's eye, are labeled "Bush Administration Crimes and Failures." I've been pondering, over the last several days, how we're soon likely to learn that everything we think we already know about the historically-unparalleled failures, crimes and cover-ups of the Bush administration, will likely prove to be barely the tip of the iceberg as the Bushies lose their power, and "the files" are finally opened for all to see.
It's likely to take years, after President Obama is sworn in next week, to unearth the entire breadth of the degradation, filth, corruption and dismantling of federal law and U.S. Constitution under the current administration, and to piece together all of the unshredded and likely-shredded evidence both, and to take in the information likely to pour forth from officials and former officials who finally find the courage to tell the world just how bad it all really was and is (even if many of them would now be doing so only to salvage their own hide.)
One hint of what will be found beyond the tip of that iceberg, or inside that near-to-bursting dam (take your metaphorical pick) comes in today's remarkable report [PDF] from the DoJ Inspector General on the illegal politicization of the hiring practices at the DoJ's Civil Rights Division and "other improper personnel actions" in the division.
It's remarkable on several fronts. Not only because it describes the politicization of the department under the Bushies, their strictly illegal hiring practices; their determined dismantling of a core of career attorneys devoted to years of legal-processes in the fight for civil rights; as well as perjury and out-and-out lying to Congress, but also because the report itself --- in one last classic stroke of corrupt Bush Administration gaming of the system --- was completed last July, prior to the election, but held for release until today, just 7 days before the criminals (or at least those who won't be still-embedded like cancer cells within the federal buearocracy for years to come) take their leave.
And, as if all of that isn't bad enough, with the out-and-out finding of criminal wrongdoing in the report (such as illegal hiring practices and lying about them to Congress), the Bush Administration's own DoJ has decided that no prosecutions should be brought against the Bush Administration's own DoJ for the Bush Administration's own DoJ's now-well-documented actions in breaking federal law.
The bastardization of the DoJ Civil Rights division is a topic which we've covered closely over the years here at The BRAD BLOG, and even played a part in helping to expose, for example, when the head of the Voting Section in that division, John Tanner, was forced to resign from his post, not long after we'd video-taped and published controversial (and inaccurate) comments he made at a 2007 conference in Los Angeles declaring that disenfranchising Photo ID restrictions at the polling place were more of a concern for the elderly than for African-Americans because "minorities don't become elderly the way white people do. They die first."
(See our now-infamous video, shot by our own Alan Breslauer, at right.)
As today's (actually July's) report reveals, that wouldn't be the only unfortunate --- and one might say, "ironic", given his position --- derogatory remark made about African-Americans by Tanner. But the bulk of the report, it seems, is devoted to one Bradley Schlozman, who insidiously twisted the mission of the Civil Rights division, brought political prosecutions in order to try and affect the outcome of elections, in violation of written DoJ policy, and attempted (and arguably succeeded) in helping to engineer an outright illegal, and ideological purge --- an ethical cleansing, if you will --- at the department, in an attempt to stack it with far rightwing brethren from the Federalist Society, or "right thinking Americans" (RTAs), as he referred to them among friends...
The Republican IT guru, recently described as a "high tech Forrest Gump" for his proclivity to be "at the scene" of so many troubling elections since 2000, and even at the heart of the "lost" White House email scandal, has been ordered by a federal judge to appear for an under-oath deposition next Monday in Ohio.
The BRAD BLOG has learned that Mike Connell, the Republican IT guru whose company, GovTech Solutions, created Ohio's 2004 election results computer network, appeared in federal court today, as compelled, and has been ordered to appear for his deposition on Monday, November 3, just 24 hours before Election Day 2008.
Though Connell's attorneys have fought to quash the subpoena, recently issued after the judge lifted a stay on the case several weeks ago, it looks like his options to avoid testimony, or at least jail for avoiding it, may have come to an end. The attorneys in the case have said that Connell's testimony may well lead to the subpoenaing and under-oath questioning of Karl Rove, who, they say, would be unable to use Executive Privilege as an excuse to avoid such a subpoena in a civil RICO case...
The film above quickly notes the GOP's nearly identical efforts to swiftboat ACORN in 2000 and 2004, we should point out that today, those same folks are not only doing it again in 2008, they are now sending out private investigators to intimidate voters in NM. And more incredibly, taking the White House politicization of the U.S. DoJ to an unprecedented new level, George W. Bush himself has now asked the DoJ to "investigate" the OH GOP's allegations of some 200,000 voters after the case was recently rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Further, while the piece above is not bad, it looks like they forgot to include John McCain's own statement to ACORN, when he was their keynote speaker at a 2006 rally, and told the assembled volunteers they were "what makes America special." That short video follows below as a reminder...
This week, Broward County, Florida, Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes said, with a straight face, "No one could have anticipated that this election would be so historic and draw as much attention as it has," and defended her choice to oppose expanding early voting hours next week due to "logistical problems."
In addition to the problems in Florida, there are now reports that longtime GOP "voter fraud" hoaxster Pat Rogers (also known for his involvement in the U.S., Attorney Purge Scandal for the bogus "voter fraud" allegations he filed in 2004, and as a board member of the now-defunct and fully-debunked GOP astro-turf group, "American Center for Voting Rights," or ACVR), is apparently using private investigators to intimidate voters in New Mexico.
Details on those stories and many more --- pre-election litigation over polling place photo I.D. restrictions in Georgia and Ohio, absentee military ballots in Virginia, GOP efforts to close early voting polling places in Indiana, GOP calls for the Dept. of Justice to investigate ACORN just days before a federal election --- from across the country, all follow in the detailed round-up below...
I've written both here and at the UK's Guardian to point out that not a single case of ACORN "voter fraud" has been shown anywhere despite the Republican's phony outrageous and MSM's knee-jerk reporting of it.
That changed on Friday (for about a minute) when the GOP and their always-reliable and incurious media echo chamber began trumpeting "undeniable proof that a significant number of fraudulent votes were cast in Democrat primary races for the New Mexico legislature as a result of ACORN’s voter registration fraud."
Knock us over with a feather, but those charges have now fallen apart as well...
The Hill reports today that defense attorneys for Congressman Rick Renzi (R-AZ) have filed a motion to dismiss 35 charges of corruption stemming from a sweetheart real estate deal, claiming the federal government secretly and illegally wiretapped Renzi's cell phone.
Ironically, Renzi appears to have been caught up in the very same warrantless wiretapping that he supported as a Congressman...
Late last week I had the "pleasure" of appearing on Tavis Smiley's public radio show, along with GOP "voter fraud" zealot and propagandist Hans von Spakovsky, about whom we've written quite a bit here over the years. The show was pre-taped last Thursday, ran over the weekend, and will continue to be available at Smiley's website throughout the week.
The audio discussion, which became rather heated at times, is posted at the end of this article.
In his introduction, Smiley credits von Spakovsky as being "from the Heritage Foundation." But in addition to being funded by those unapologetic Republicanists, it goes unnoted that vS, a former chair of the FEC, recess-appointed by Bush, then blocked by the Democrats in the Senate when his appointment came up again, was formerly embedded in the Bush DoJ's wholly-politicized Civil Rights Division voting section.
At the DoJ, he helped to deconstruct the beloved Voting Rights Act of 1965 by, among other things, pushing through polling place Photo ID restrictions in places such as Georgia, against the advice of just about every career employee in the division. (The law was later found to be an "unconstitutional day poll tax" by the courts, but ultimately allowed by a higher court, and still under challenge by Democrats in the state.) He was also instrumental in bringing phony "voter fraud" charges, such as those against ACORN workers in Missouri, filed just days before the razor-thin 2006 Senate election, in violation of the DoJ's own written rules against bringing such indictments just prior to elections where they are likely to affect the race.
Perhaps even more noteworthy, but unmentioned by Smiley, is that even with all of that, the disgraced von Spakovsky has been secretly hired, at tax-payer expense, as a consultant for Bush's similarly compromised, and now ironically-named, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, to help monitor the job that the DoJ will (or won't) be doing to monitor the 2008 general election.
In any case, vS remains an unapologetic democracy hater, hell-bent on keeping Democratic-leaning voters away from the polls and, as you'll note during the interview, a liar.
Normally, however, he's not faced with anybody who can actually call him on his bullshit. That wasn't the case this time, as I was there, and was able to do exactly that...
We had the chance to interview former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman inside the Pepsi Center on Wednesday, during the Democratic National Convention.
Our concise conversation ranges from the Congressional Democrats' failure to call for a full House vote on Contempt of Congress by Karl Rove, Siegelman's 2002 election which he believes was "stolen electronically," the corporate media's inability to investigate or report on it, and the concern about whether or not Democrats will be in a forgive and forget mode after this session of Congress if Obama is successful in his quest for the White House.
Here's our complete interview (appx. 6 mins)...
Some pull-quotes from the interview...
On Rove: "If we do not vote the contempt citation, Karl Rove is simply going to get in his getaway car and thumb his nose at the Constitution, Congress, and the American people. It creates almost two systems of justice: one for the powerful, those connected to the White House, and then another system for you and me and the rest of the people."
On Democrats: "Democrats are so magnanimous in victory, as they were after Watergate, they did nothing. After the Iran-Contra scandal, they did nothing. But what Democrats are going to want to do is get on with positive programs, to fix the damage that has been done by the Bush administration...But I view this as part of that positive change. Finding out who hijacked the Department of Justice and who used it as a political weapon."
On his 'stolen' 2002 election: "I went to bed the winner. The media had been sent home. The pollworkers had been sent home. The party chairmen had been given their copies of the election results. And then after midnight a light went on in the basement of the capitol, the basement of the courthouse, in the sheriff's office, and 5,200 votes that were mine were shifted to my opponent."
The complete text transcript of the interview follows in full below (thanks to Emily Levy of VelvetRevolution.us)...
Just as I went off the grid late last week, this news came in, so some of you may be ahead of me on this one. In either case, it's still worth noting that GOP/DoJ vote suppressor, Hans von Spakovsky was secretly hired by Bush's bad joke of a "Commission on Civil Rights" to oversee the '08 elections, as reported by TPMMuckraker's Kate Klonick late last week.
While the story is mindblowing, it's not all together surprising given the CCR's embarrassing track record under Bush. See the amazing flashback video of the CCR's Peter Kirsanow testifying to Congress in 2007, as posted below after Klonick's lede, and everything will likely make "sense"...
Now, as the coverage fades and the story once again threatens to head for obscurity (despite doubts about Ivins's role in the attacks), I thought it might be worth mentioning a few questions that came to my mind as I read through recent coverage --- not on Ivins's guilt or innocence, but on matters that are so much a part of our American landscape that normally no one even thinks to ask about them.
His overall thesis is encapsulated in the first question:
Why wasn't the Bush administration's War on Terror modus operandi applied to the anthrax case?
Engelhardt first cites the hardships that suspects endured during the course of the investigation:
On August 10th, William J. Broad and Scott Shane reported on some of the human costs of the FBI anthrax investigation in a front-page New York Times piece headlined, "For Suspects, Anthrax Case Had Big Costs, Scores of the Innocent in a Wide F.B.I. Net." They did a fine job of establishing that those who serially came under suspicion had a tough time of it: "lost jobs, canceled visas, broken marriages, frayed friendships." According to the Times (and others), under the pressure of FBI surveillance, several had their careers wrecked; most were interviewed and re-interviewed numerous times in a "heavy-handed" manner, as well as polygraphed; some were tailed and trailed, their homes searched, and their workplaces ransacked.
Under the pressure of FBI "interest," anthrax specialist and "biodefense insider" Perry Mikesell evidently turned into an alcoholic and drank himself to death. Steven Hatfill, while his life was being turned inside out, had an agent trailing him in a car run over his foot, for which, Broad and Shane add, he, not the agent, was issued a ticket. And finally, of course, Dr. Ivins, growing ever more distressed and evidently ever less balanced, committed suicide on the day his lawyer was meeting with the FBI about a possible plea bargain that could have left him in jail for life, but would have taken the death penalty off the table.
But he then offers a chilling reminder of how Bush's War on Terror affected those accused of far less than masterminding the deadliest bio-terror attack on U.S. soil in our nation's history...
In one of the smartest pieces we've ever seen on his show, tying so many of the Bush Administration's unprecedented crimes together in a single bound, Stephen Colbert offers an out for all them, in one fell swoop. His comments come on the heels of the remarkable statement, made by U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey to the American Bar Association in a speech this week, that "not...every violation of the law, is a crime."
Yes, that's what he actually said. Here's what Colbert said in reply last night...
UPDATE: If you have any problem viewing the above video, RAW STORY now has it up in a different video format, along with a few additional details, as well.
Having made all too precious-little headway in overcoming the failures of the U.S. corporate mainstream media --- see these comments from over the weekend on that point --- I guess I need to "go overseas" to see if we can make any headway from over there instead.
I'm now honored to be contributing to the UK's Guardian from time to time. My first column, posted today, picks up on the anthrax case, and the dismal, one-sided case made for the guilt of the now-deceased Bruce Ivins, by both the FBI and the mainstream corporate media outlets in this country, which were all too happy to pass on misleading report after misleading report from those prolific "unnamed government sources."
As with Iraq WMD, Valerie Plame, Torture, Secret Prisons, Spying on Citizens, the U.S. Attorney Purge, Election Integrity, and so many other almost-all-but-lost landmark issues from over the past seven years or so, it has been the remarkable efforts of the citizen media that managed, at least a bit, to mitigate the corporate media-propelled "conventional wisdom" in this entire sorry matter.
Please feel free to put in a good word over there for me.