Sunday, November 23, 2008

More from US DOJ's 'Investigation into the Removal of Nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006'

DOJ Report pp. 192-194 re: David Iglesias

"In sum, we believe the evidence shows that the complaints about Iglesias from New Mexico Republican politicians and party activists, both to the Department and to the White House, caused Sampson to place Iglesias on the removal list. Once Iglesias was on the list, none of the senior Department leaders questioned his inclusion or asked that he be taken off the list.

We believe that Senator Domenici’s complaints were the primary factor for Iglesias’s placement on the list. Although Gonzales and McNulty stated that Domenici never directly asked the Department to replace Iglesias, the nature of Domenici’s criticisms left little doubt that he wanted a new U.S. Attorney in New Mexico. Gonzales said that Domenici “complained about . . . whether or not Mr. Iglesias was capable of continuing in that position.” According to McNulty, Domenici criticized Iglesias’s handling of public corruption cases and said that Iglesias was “in over his head.” McNulty said that Domenici’s assertiveness and tone during the conversation were “striking.”

Yet, we found no evidence that anyone in the Department examined any of the complaints about Iglesias through any careful or objective analysis. Although Gonzales said he asked Sampson to look into Rove’s concerns about voter fraud enforcement in New Mexico, Gonzales never followed up with Sampson about his findings or to ensure that the complaints were objectively examined. McNulty said he did not take any steps to find out what had triggered Domenici’s telephone call or take any steps “of an investigative nature” in response. Gonzales told us that in retrospect he would have expected that someone would have looked into the complaints. Gonzales said “you can’t have, you know, a member of Congress calling and making an allegation and not checking it out and seeing whether or not there’s anything there to it.”

However, no one reached out to anyone in the U.S. Attorney’s Office or the FBI to ask about the voter fraud or public corruption cases, or whether Iglesias was inappropriately delaying an indictment in a prominent public corruption investigation. More importantly, no one in the Department ever asked Iglesias about these complaints, or why he had handled the cases the way he did. Rather, Gonzales, McNulty, Sampson, and those involved in the decision to remove Iglesias accepted at face value that the complaints raised about Iglesias by New Mexico Republican officials were a sufficient reason to remove him. Because of complaints by political officials who had a political interest in the outcome of these voter fraud and public corruption cases, the Department removed Iglesias, an individual who had previously been viewed as a strong U.S. attorney.

We believe that these actions by Department officials were a troubling dereliction of their responsibility to protect the integrity and independence of prosecutorial decisions by the Department. These officials had an obligation to determine that the complaints about Iglesias and the suggestions that he be removed were not made to influence the investigation and prosecution of the courthouse case or the voter fraud cases. Yet, they took no action to look into the matter.

In our view, the primary responsibility for this dramatic failure rests with Attorney General Gonzales, Deputy Attorney General McNulty, and Chief of Staff Sampson. While Sampson placed Iglesias’s name on the removal list, neither Gonzales nor McNulty ensured that the complaints about Iglesias were appropriately and objectively assessed. Gonzales said he asked Sampson to look into the complaints, but never inquired about the outcome of any review or ensured that the complaints were fairly assessed. McNulty abdicated any responsibility for Iglesias’s removal, stating that he did not add Iglesias to the list, that he did not have any reason to recommend his removal at the time, and that he assumed whoever placed him on the list had an independent reason for doing so. But neither Gonzales nor McNulty inquired whether a Department prosecutor was being unfairly criticized for appropriately doing his job – weighing the evidence on particular cases in accord with the law and Department policy, and determining whether and when a prosecution was warranted.

We recognize that Senators and other political officials can recommend to the White House candidates for U.S. Attorney in their states, and they can use political factors in determining who to recommend. But once U.S. Attorneys assume office, they are obligated to put political considerations aside when making prosecutive judgments on individual cases. Inevitably, their decisions may displease the political officials who initially supported them.

If a U.S. Attorney must maintain the confidence of home-state political officials to avoid removal, regardless of the merits of the U.S. Attorney’s prosecutorial decisions, respect for the Department of Justice’s independence and integrity will be severely damaged and every U.S. Attorneys’ prosecutorial decisions will be suspect. The longstanding tradition of integrity and independent judgments by Department prosecutors will be undermined, and confidence that the Department of Justice decides who to prosecute based solely on the evidence and the law, without regard to political factors, will disappear.

(emphasis mine)

In sum, we believe that Department’s actions in this case to remove Iglesias – based on complaints from New Mexico political officials and party activists about his handling of particular criminal cases and without any action to determine whether the complaints were legitimate or whether they were made in an effort to influence the initiation or the timing of an investigation or prosecution for political gain – were an abdication of senior Department leaders’ responsibilities, independence, and integrity."

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Zen Short

 Zen Shorts (Caldecott Honor Book): Jon J Muth: Books

There was once an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years.

One day, his horse ran away.

Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.

"Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.

"Maybe," the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it two other wild horses.

"Such good luck!" the neighbors exclaimed.

"Maybe," replied the farmer.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the wild horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg.

Again, the neighbors came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

"Such bad luck," they said.

"Maybe," answered the farmer.

The day after that, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army to fight in a war. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by.

"Such good luck," cried the neighbors.

"Maybe," said the farmer.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

P. 29-30 of US DOJ: An Investigation into the Removal of Nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006

3. The First Removal: Todd Graves

After sending his January 9, 2006, e-mail to Miers, Sampson did not receive an immediate response to his proposal, and no action was taken on his overall proposal for several months. Nevertheless, shortly after Sampson’s January 9 proposal, action was taken to seek the resignation of Todd Graves, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

On January 19, 2006, Sampson sent an e-mail to EOUSA Director Battle asking him to call when he had a few minutes to discuss Graves. Several days later (apparently before Battle spoke to Sampson), Goodling called Battle and told him to call Graves to request his resignation. Goodling instructed Battle to tell Graves only that the Administration had decided to make a change, that his service was appreciated, and that the request was not based on any misconduct by Graves but simply to give someone else a chance to serve.

Shortly thereafter, on January 24, 2006, Battle called Graves and communicated the message as instructed by Goodling. Graves said he was “stunned” and “shocked” by the call, and said Battle would not explain why his resignation was sought. Graves subsequently complied with the instruction and on March 10, 2006, announced his resignation, effective March 24.

Although Graves was not originally identified in the 2007 congressional hearings as one of the U.S. Attorneys who was asked to resign in 2006 as a result of the “process” initiated by Sampson, we considered him part of that group. He was targeted for removal on Sampson’s January 9, 2006, list, and the script Battle followed in seeking Graves’s resignation was identical to the one he followed in conversations with the other eight U.S. Attorneys who were later told to resign.

However, as we discuss in greater detail in Chapter Four of this report, no Department employee involved in the process could explain why Graves was told to resign. Battle, who placed the call at Goodling’s direction, said he was not given the reasons. Goodling, who directed Battle to call Graves, stated in her congressional testimony that she would have done so only on instruction from Sampson. Sampson told congressional investigators that he had no recollection of the matter, believed that Goodling had handled it, and assumed that it was based on a finding of misconduct by Margolis. Margolis told us that there was no misconduct finding against Graves and expressly denied playing any role in Graves’s removal. Gonzales told us that he had no recollection about being consulted about Graves’s removal.

We also found no documentation within the Department describing the reasons that Graves was told to resign. However, we found that the White House Counsel’s Office played a role in his resignation. Although Sampson told congressional investigators that he had no recollection as to why he placed Graves’s name on the January 9 removal list and disclaimed any involvement in the January 24 resignation request to Graves, Sampson acknowledged to us that he discussed with the White House Counsel’s Office that the staff of Missouri’s Republican Senator Christopher Bond was urging the White House Counsel’s Office to remove Graves. [emphasis mine] We describe this issue, and the White House’s role in the removal of Graves, in more detail in Chapter Four.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Wired: Analog Meets Its Match in Red Digital Cinema's Ultrahigh-Res Camera

Analog Meets Its Match in Red Digital Cinema's Ultrahigh-Res Camera

His team of engineers and scientists have created the first digital movie camera that matches the detail and richness of analog film. The Red One records motion in a whopping 4,096 lines of horizontal resolution—"4K" in filmmaker lingo—and 2,304 of vertical. For comparison, hi-def digital movies like Sin City and the Star Wars prequels top out at 1,920 by 1,080, just like your HDTV. (There's also a slightly higher-resolution option called 2K that reaches 2,048 lines by 1,080.) Film doesn't have pixels, but the industry-standard 35-millimeter stock has a visual resolution roughly equivalent to 4K. And that's what makes the Red so exciting: It delivers all the dazzle of analog, but it's easier to use and cheaper—by orders of magnitude—than a film camera. In other words, Jannard's creation threatens to make 35-mm movie film obsolete.

Two years ago, Jannard brought a spec sheet and a mock-up of a camera—not much more than an aluminum box about the size of a loaf of bread—to NAB 2006. Even though it wasn't a working product, more than 500 people plunked down a $1,000 deposit to get their names on a waiting list. For months, industry watchers wondered if the company was for real. Today, there's no question. The Red One is being used on at least 40 features. Steven Soderbergh, the Oscar-winning director, borrowed two prototypes to shoot his Che Guevara biopics, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and later purchased three for his film The Informant. Peter Jackson, the Lord of the Rings himself, bought four. Director Doug Liman used a Red on Jumper. Peter Hyams used one on his upcoming Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. Digital cinema that's all but indistinguishable from film is finally coming to a theater near you.


Then there's the economics: The Red One sells for $17,500—almost 90 percent less than its nearest HD competitor. The savings are even greater relative to a conventional film camera. Not that anyone buys those; filmmakers rent them, usually from Panavision, an industry stalwart in Woodland Hills, California. Panavision doesn't publicize its rates, but a Panavision New Zealand rental catalog quotes $25,296 for a four-week shoot—more than the cost of purchasing a Red. "It's clearly the future of cinematography," Peter Hyams says. "You can buy this camera. You can own it. That's why people are excited."

see the whole article at

Friday, November 14, 2008

Consumer Revolt?

Daily Kos

It isn't often that you read the former Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School dressing down the American corporate community for "failure to understand and respect your own consumers, customers, employees, and end users."

Even rarer is to read such a condemnation--and a lengthy, nuanced, back-to-Jesus one at that--in Business Week. But Shoshana Zuboff, author of The Support Economy [see also], provided a truly stunning analysis in that publication just a few days ago.

Titled Obama's Victory: A Consumer-Citizen Revolt (and subtitled--ominously for the business community--"The election confirms it's time for sober reappraisal and reinvention within the business community. If you don't do it, someone else will," Zuboff opens with a withering salvo:
This column is dedicated to the top managers of American business whose policies and practices helped ensure Barack Obama's victory. The mandate for change that sounded across this country is not limited to our new President and Congress. That bell also tolls for you. Obama's triumph was ignited in part by your failure to understand and respect your own consumers, customers, employees, and end users. The despair that fueled America's yearning for change and hope grew to maturity in your garden.

Millions of Americans heard President-elect Obama painfully recall his sense of frustration, powerlessness, and outrage when his mother's health insurer refused to cover her cancer treatments. Worse still, every one of them knew exactly how he felt. That long-simmering indignation is by now the defining experience of every consumer of health care, mortgages, insurance, travel, and financial services—the list goes on.

Obama was elected not only because many Americans feel betrayed and abandoned by their government but because those feelings finally converged with their sense of betrayal at the hands of Corporate America. Their experiences as consumers and as citizens joined to create a wave of revolt against the status quo—as occurred in the American Revolution. Be wary of those who counsel business as usual. This post-election period is a turning point for the business community. It demands an attitude of sober reappraisal and a disposition toward fundamental reinvention. If you don't do it, someone else will.
And that's only the opening. As she proceeds through the in-depth indictment, she explores decades of consumer and worker despair, ruthless bottom-line management, the erosion of citizen trust in big business, and, finally, citizens discovering the ability to educate and inform themselves in a new digital age. Even entrepreneurs in the new, cutting-edge technology sectors are not spared, as the Facebook and Google CEO's are held up as warning signs of slippage, still focusing on monetizing "eyeballs" and devising "two classes of stock intended to insulate top management from investor pressures."

Solutions to the economic crisis, it's clear, are going to have to be long-term and systemic. It remains to be seen whether Zuboff's advice to Wall Street corporations to take responsibility for the financial crisis will be followed in the wake of a change election ... or whether that change is read by the CEO's to apply to government only.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Learn History's Lessons

Andrew Sullivan

Some readers think my continuing attempt to expose all the lies and flim-flam and bizarre behavior of Sarah Palin is now moot. She's history - they argue. Move on. I think she probably is history. Even Bill Kristol and his minions in the McCain-Palin campaign may not be able to resuscitate her political viability now. But even if she is history, she is history that matters.

Let's be real in a way the national media seems incapable of:
This person should never have been placed on a national ticket in a mature democracy.
She was incapable of running a town in Alaska competently. The impulsive, unvetted selection of a total unknown, with no knowledge of or interest in the wider world, as a replacement president remains one of the most disturbing events in modern American history. That the press felt required to maintain a facade of normalcy for two months - and not to declare the whole thing a farce from start to finish - is a sign of their total loss of nerve. That the Palin absurdity should follow the two-term presidency of another individual utterly out of his depth in national government is particularly troubling. 46 percent of Americans voted for the possibility of this blank slate as president because she somehow echoed their own sense of religious or cultural "identity". Until we figure out how this happened, we will not be able to prevent it from happening again. And we have to find a way to prevent this from recurring.

more ...

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& Checks & Balances 11.29.2006

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Obama Didn't Budge


Looking back over the campaign, everyone now seems to see that there were a few key moments when John McCain did things that surrendered whatever chance he had to beat Barack Obama. At the top of the list has to be the choice of Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential nominee -- a choice that seemed fatal from the first for those who had eyes to see it, and soon revealed itself as such over the concluding weeks of the campaign. And McCain staffer and alter-ego Mark Salter is now conceding that the campaign suspension is probably another.

But what is easy to miss in these key moments is that most of them weren't simply what McCain did but how Obama reacted -- and the critical synergy between the two.

The campaign suspension was the key example.

It wasn't just that McCain suspended his campaign (and tried to postpone the debate). That wasn't the point at all. He unilaterally suspended his campaign and dared Obama not to suspend his. That was the key. Either Obama had to follow McCain's lead and suspend his campaign or reveal himself as the self-serving, all-about-himself, unpatriotic freak McCain's campaign had spent so many millions of dollars to portray him as. It was a classic play at the Republicans' 'bitch-slap' theory of electoral politics, with all the gendered weight and macho-hierarchy-setting the unlovely phrase implies.

But Obama didn't budge. I think there were a lot of Democrats who were really worried that McCain had put Obama in some kind of box or that Obama would see it as such and react accordingly. But he didn't.

And it went from McCain bigfooting Obama (with all that would have entailed), to Obama turning the stunt around on McCain. It undermined one of McCain's key selling points against Obama -- that [McCain] was tougher, more seasoned under pressure -- and further cemented the image of [McCain as] a man who was erratic and showed questionable judgments under pressure.

. . .. oOo .. . .

3.21.2010 rolling on

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pollwatching in Colorado

The Geebus reader KS writes:

Hello all -- I'd like to share my yesterday [election day] with you:

5am: wake up

5:30: stuff my cooler with snacks

5:45: drive toward a beautiful sunrise to overland high school

6:00: introduce myself as a credentialed pollwatcher to election judges for 3 seperate precincts at this high school. they can't tell if i'll be a nuisance or a help today. make sure machines all have zeros and that election judges have adequate supplies.

6:30: about 30 people lining up outside

7:00: polls open -- everybody in good mood -- no problems

7:30: i am asked to leave by the vice-principal of the high school as an unauthorized person in the polling location. this is our school ma'am and we are allowing only judges and voters to be here. 3 other government pollwatchers are also asked to leave. his orders are coming from the school superintendent. i argue with him outside in the cold that when a school agrees to be a polling location then it has to comply with election law; we all are authorized by state law to be there as credentialed poll watchers; he is breaking the law; he has no authority to kick me out; here are my credentials; what's his supervisor's name and number; yada yada yada.

7:35: call this into obama legal team and tell them to get on the phone to school district that this polling location is violating state law. worried that this is happening districtwide.

7:35 to 8:30: stand outside in the freezing cold waiting for resolution and decide to kill time by assisting numerous voters who don't know their proper polling location.

8:35: approach vice principal again nicely and suggest we ask the election judges if pollwatchers can be there. we do that, they say yes, and we're all allowed back in. (never hear back from legal team)

8:40: back in again and discover that numerous provisional ballots were cast improperly while i was outside b/c election judges did not follow proper process. i direct them all to their own training manuals for correct process on provisional ballots. they mean well.... they just were overwhelmed and didn't know the rules. this is why i am here. this happened 4 years ago too.

the rest is a blur until....

1 or 2pm: i step outside to receive the lunch jenny has brought for me; glance up to see former senator gary hart and the leader of colorado's obama campaign and a camera person pull up (hart is driving them). they say they hear there's a problem at this location and was their help might needed? (looks like the boiler room made some calls after-all). i tell them they are about 6 hours too late, it's been resolved onsite, please don't go inside to bother anybody, but what a pleasure to meet them all. photo op! hart says thank goodness for our excellent legal counsel here and they are off to visit more troubled polling sites.

more blur until 5pm, when an election judge (about 65 years old) tells me she thinks i'm too bossy and offputting and that it causes her stress to know i'm watching her. i tell her that none of the other 11 election judges there has this problem, nor has any election judge i have worked with in the last 3 times i have done this; give her the same speech i gave the guy who kicked me out in the morning about how the law allows me to be there, to ask questions, and to tell her when she is doing it wrong. sorry if you think that's off-putting, but that's my job -- you are in fact doing it wrong -- and i'll watch from across the room and try to be more pleasant when i address you ma'am. would you like a brownie?

more blur until 7pm when the polls close and results are posted.

7:45: home to be with my family

8:30: to the parties downtown with steve to watch the returns, hear and watch speeches, buy stuff, and take in the scene.

11:30: instant sleep.

whew.... what a day. no long lines, but lots of registration problems nonetheless and it's hard work trying to nudge the election judges to follow the proper procedures. our system of conducting elections is so poor. there's go to be a better way that isn't so complicated.......... maybe next time.