Iraq war and occupationA report by Refugees International predicts another 1 million to be displaced during 2007. The report says that both the Bush administration and the UN have all but ignored the problem: "Washington and the UN do not acknowledge the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis." RI spokesman Ken Bacon says, "These people desperately need help, and they frankly aren't getting it from their own government in Iraq or from the US or from the UN at this stage." Add these 2.9 million to the over 2 million Iraqis who have fled the country entirely, and Iraq is reeling from a diaspora of historic proportions.
US veteransBrady Van Engelen, a wounded Iraq war veteran and associate director of Veterans for America, says veterans and their families suffer because the VA simply isn't fast enough in processing claims. "We may end up with an entire generation of veterans who have no faith in our VA because those running it -- as well as those overseeing it -- were unable to hold up their end of the bargain," Van Engelen testifies before a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee. "We did not prepare for this, and it is painfully evident. My generation is going to have to pay for this for years and years."
US Attorney firingsThe Senate is expected to follow suit, though Senate Republicans managed to delay a vote on its own subpoenas last week, and can be expected to continue to obstruct the process. So far Bush and his officials have said they will not comply with any such subpoenas, and are continuing to offer the "conversations" of current and former officials such as Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and their two deputies on an informal basis, with no oaths, no transcripts, and no public access. John Conyers, head of the House Judiciary Commitee, says the offer is ridiculous. "We could meet at the local pub to have that kind of conversation," he says. "But in my judgment it would not advance us toward uncovering the simple truth in this matter." Even that offer of "barroom-style chit-chat" would be yanked if the House issues subpoenas, says White House spokesman Tony Snow. Snow says that it is unreasonable for anyone to expect that oaths or transcripts would be necessary: "The president expects everybody who talks to Congress to tell the truth, and so does the law. And they know that it would be illegal not to tell them the truth," he says. Democrats say that transcripts are necessary so any inconsistencies in testimony can be challenged. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is dismissive of the "deal:" "Anyone who would take that deal isn't playing with a full deck," he says.
US Attorney firingsCharlton never received a written response. His December e-mail was among more than 3,000 pages of records the Bush administration turned over to Congress late Monday as part of an ongoing congressional investigation into the ousters. Charlton is now the third of eight fired US attorneys whose ouster seems connected to his prosecution of political targets. Carol Lam of San Diego was ousted just after she filed new indictments in her office's investigation of the huge, sprawling corruption scandal centering around convicted GOP congressman Randy Cunningham, and New Mexico's David Iglesias was fired after refusing to bow to pressure from Republican lawmakers to file indictments against local Democrats in time for those indictments to influence the November 2006 midterm elections. "Obviously, there needs to be an investigation," says Democratic House member Harry Mitchell, of Charlton's home state of Arizona. "You need to find out the facts. It shouldn't be partisan at all."
US Attorney firingsThe list of reasons includes insubordination, leadership failures and, in essence, whatever they can find to convince angry Congressional Democrats that the terminations were justified. The memos, organized as charts with entries for each of the federal prosecutors and labeled "for internal DOJ use only," offer new details about disputes over policy, priorities and management styles between the department and several of its US attorneys. The prosecutors' shortcomings are also listed in a talking-points memo, indicating the willingness of the Justice Department to make public what are normally confidential personnel matters in order to counter its critics.
US Attorney firingsA new e-mail confirms these threats, and provides information about the strategies to be used in handling the firings in public discussions. The threats came from Mike Elston, a top aide to deputy attorney general Paul McNulty, who wrote to fired attorney H.E. Cummins that, in Cummins's words, if DOJ officials "feel like any of us intend to continue to offer quotes to the press, or organize behind the scenes Congressional pressure, then they would feel forced to somehow pull their gloves off and offer public criticisms to defend their actions more fully. ...[I]t seemed clear that [the Justice Department] would see [testifying in public] as a major escalation of the conflict meriting some kind of unspecified form of retaliation."
US Attorney firingsWaxman informs the two that there is plenty of precedent for White House officials to testify before their committees, regardless of Bush's assertions that the White House is offering "unprecedented" access to his administration's firing of eight US attorneys. Waxman politely calls Bush "misinformed," and writes, "The president said yesterday that he would not allow White House aides including Senior Advisor to the President Karl Rove, former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, deputy counsel William Kelley, and political aide J. Scott Jennings testify under oath and on the record about the dismissal of the US attorneys. Contrary to the President's contention, there is extensive precedent for officials in these positions to appear before Congress."
US Attorney firingsThe documents fail to include any correspondence about the firings of eight US attorneys from the critical time period between November 15, 2006, and December 2, 2006, just before the attorneys were asked to resign. Instead of explaining the gap, Bush says that his administration has released all the documents it intends to, and says that he is invoking the right of executive privilege to prevent political guru Karl Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers from testifying before Congress.
US Attorney firingsIglesias writes, "With this week's release of more than 3,000 Justice Department e-mail messages about the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors, it seems clear that politics played a role in the ousters. Of course, as one of the eight, I've felt this way for some time. But now that the record is out there in black and white for the rest of the country to see, the argument that we were fired for 'performance related' reasons (in the words of Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty) is starting to look more than a little wobbly."
US Attorney firingsFive ranked in the top third for convictions, achieving 98,939. Three were among the top five in the number of immigration prosecutions, including Carol Lam, whose firing was attributed to immigration by Karl Rove. The editors of Buzzflash wonder, "If these US attorneys were deemed expendable after leading the nation in prosecutorial output, what have the underperformers been doing to keep their jobs? If prosecutions and convictions don't matter, what does? Apparently less is more when it comes to following the law for this anti-Constitution administration. Especially when the investigations are hitting a little too close to home." (Buzzflash [multiple sources])
US Attorney firingsOn March 13, White House advisor Dan Bartlett said, "Over the course of several years, we have received complaints about US attorneys, particularly when it comes to election fraud cases." On March 20, Bush added, "We did hear complaints and concerns about US attorneys. Some complained about the lack of vigorous prosecution of election fraud cases." The argument was once nebulous "performance issues," now it seems that, for at least some of the fired attorneys, they failed to pursue charges of voter fraud -- vote buying, double voting, and voting by felons, illegal aliens and the deceased. Undeniably, there are individual, isolated instances of voter fraud that could be pursued against voters and get-out-the-vote organizers of both parties. But it is a myth, however much of a useful myth, that Democrats have systematically used voter fraud to win elections over the last decade. Salon reporters Mark Follman, Alex Koppelman and Jonathan Vanian write, "A belief in rampant voter fraud in Democratic strongholds -- big cities, minority neighborhoods -- is widespread among Republicans, and claims of vote buying and the like have long been a mainstay of GOP rhetoric. The party has used these claims of voter fraud to help build public support for what it considers electoral reforms, like requiring voters to show photo ID -- reforms that also tend to suppress Democratic turnout on Election Day."
Global warming and the environmentInhofe, a Republican, has called Gore "full of crap" and compared people who believe in global warming to "the Third Reich." Today, Inhofe tries to attack Gore's testimony, saying, "It is my perspective that your global warming alarmist pronouncements are now and have always been filled with inaccuracies and misleading statements." But Gore refuses to be rattled: "This is not a normal time. We are facing a planetary emergency," he responds. "I'm fully aware that that phrase sounds shrill to many people's ears. But it is accurate." Gore notes that a recent international scientific group concluded that global warming is a certainty and human activity is a primary cause. "This is going on right now and it's continuing to increase," he says, calling it a "moral issue" and not just a political or economic matter. Gore testified earlier to a joint meeting of two House committees that the level of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States should be held at current levels to lessen the impact of global warming, and those levels should be cut by 90% by the year 2050. Gore is the prime creator of the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth, which won an Academy Award in early 2007.
Election fraudThe scheme devised by state and national Republicans jammed local Democratic ride-to-the-polls and a nonpartisan get-out-the-vote phone bank for about 90 minutes on Election Day 2002, the year of a hotly contested US Senate race between then-Governor Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and then-US Representative John Sununu, a Republican, who won by a narrow margin. The case resulted in four criminal convictions, including that of strategist James Tobin, of Bangor, Maine, who was New England chairman of Bush's re-election campaign two years later. (Tobin wins his appeal in the following day -- see the March 22 item below.) Allegations of Tobin's involvement led him to resign that post the month before the election and he was indicted the month after it -- timing that has prompted Democratic suspicions before. But members of Congress seeking answers to questions about the prosecutor firings should seek some about phone-jamming at the same time, says Sullivan. "Why did it take so long for the indictment against Mr. Tobin to be brought?" she asks. "His name was apparently out there and known to the Department of Justice for several months and yet nothing was done with him until after the 2004 election."
Tom DeLay and DeLay corruption scandalmakes a spectacle of himself on MSNBC's Hardball, pontificating on his own rather Soviet-style views on executive privilege and denying knowledge of material quoted by host Chris Matthews of his own new book.
Tony Snow: "Do you want Karl Rove on TV, or do you want the truth?"
Diane Sawyer: "Why can't you have both?" -- quoted by Dan Froomkin