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September 07, 2002


Happiness . . . Is a Warm Broom?!
New in the toy stores: the Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 broom, Muggle Edition. It can fly you up, up and away -- um, in a manner of speaking.

Where did they make 'em -- the Forbidden Forest? =,

Greg G. @ 1:17 AM | # |


One Way the Nation's Changed
A year on from Sept. 11, the government may still have a problem or two with airport security, but it's learned a great magic trick: making rights disappear.
Some of the fundamental changes to Americans' legal rights by the Bush administration and the USA Patriot Act following the terror attacks:
  • FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION: Government may monitor religious and political institutions without suspecting criminal activity to assist terror investigation.
  • FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: Government has closed once-public immigration hearings, has secretly detained hundreds of people without charges, and has encouraged bureaucrats to resist public records requests.
  • FREEDOM OF SPEECH: Government may prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they tell anyone that the government subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation.
  • RIGHT TO LEGAL REPRESENTATION: Government may monitor federal prison jailhouse conversations between attorneys and clients, and deny lawyers to Americans accused of crimes.
  • FREEDOM FROM UNREASONABLE SEARCHES: Government may search and seize Americans' papers and effects without probable cause to assist terror investigation.
  • RIGHT TO A SPEEDY AND PUBLIC TRIAL: Government may jail Americans indefinitely without a trial.
  • RIGHT TO LIBERTY: Americans may be jailed without being charged or being able to confront witnesses against them.
[Link courtesy of Wil Wheaton.]

Greg G. @ 12:37 AM | # |

September 06, 2002


A Good Old-Fashioned Court Packing
Ahhhh, life tenure -- what a fringe benefit. It's one of the perks of being a federal judge, and the bane of a few of America's hypertensive talk show hosts. Which, of course, makes it a great thing.

Seriously, though, have you ever wanted to fire a judge? The one who nailed you for that 90-in-a-65-zone ticket you were sure you could bluster out of? The one who sent a sex offender home to live with the stepdaughter he abused?

Sorry, you can't. But yesterday in this great, great land, a lucky gent with that fantasy got his wish.

His name? John Ashcroft.

Now, he didn't fire an honest-to-God Article III judge. Only Congress can do that. In the sprawling organizational chart known as the Department of Justice, though, there exists a little-known court called the Board of Immigration Appeals. Its job: deciding which immigrants get to stay in the country, and which get seen off.

An awesome duty, that. The court can upend lives with a stroke. But because its judges work for the Department of Justice . . .
The [Washington] Legal Times | In the Line of Fire ::
According to new regulations recently announced by Attorney General John Ashcroft, the jobs of eight of the 19 members of the Board of Immigration Appeals will be slashed, and the board must eliminate its entire backlog of cases by next March. Speculation is already swirling about who will be ousted. The board also has to immediately institute a new case management method that will result in far fewer judges reviewing each case. . . .

"The Board of Immigration Appeals needed a complete overhaul," Ashcroft said in an Aug. 23 announcement. "The board had become a bottleneck in the system, undermining the enforcement of our country's immigration laws."
[Editor's Note: Ashcroft wants to talk about bottlenecks? Let him explain this.]
But the immigration rights community is outraged and says the new regulations will mean less due process for those hoping to make a new home in the United States.

"This is an exercise that is not just streamlining," says Elisa Massimino, director of the Washington, D.C., office of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. "Ultimately, the Justice Department wants to ensure that the [board] doesn't present an obstacle to any of its objectives, which include swift and scanty reviews of the deportation of immigrants." . . .

Ashcroft's regulations are substantially the same as those he proposed in February. Although he received significant opposition, the DOJ altered little in the regulations.

In addition to cutting the board's size, Ashcroft's new rules expand the streamlining efforts and require that almost every appeal be reviewed by a single judge, rather than a panel. Only cases that present "difficult or novel" issues will get a three-judge review. . . .

The looming ouster of the judges is generating the largest outcry.

"This is an effort to get rid of certain board members," says University of Southern California law professor Niels Frenzen, who has worked on several high-profile immigration cases. "By going to the single-board-member review, one board member would have much more power. The only way [Ashcroft] can neutralize the liberals on the board while going to a one-board-member system is to get rid of them."

Several board members are seen as likely targets because of their dissents and opinions. At the top of the list is Lory Rosenberg, who served on the American Immigration Lawyers Association's board of governors and frequently dissents. Others seen as vulnerable include Cecelia Espenoza, Juan Osuna and Paul Schmidt. All were appointed by Clinton Attorney General Reno. . . .

"[The board's] legitimacy in the eyes of the public and among the immigrant community is based on its ability to act in an independent and fair-minded way," says T. Alexander Aleinikoff, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and former INS general counsel. "If the attorney general uses his authority to pack and stack the board with members who tend to agree with the immigration service, that is not impartial justice."
[Link courtesy of Talk Left.]

Greg G. @ 11:47 PM | # |


Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
In the latest campaign missive from Saxby Chambliss -- the Republican congressman running against first-term Senator Max Cleland -- the campaign staff went on at length describing Cleland's perfidy against elderly Georgians. "In a press conference after his primary victory," the bulletin reports, "Saxby said: 'Max Cleland pretends to be a friend of senior citizens, but he is anything but that.  He has consistently voted to raise taxes on the Social Security benefits that senior citizens receive.'"

Need convincing? Just wait, there's more: "[t]he Chambliss campaign notes that Cleland voted in 1996 to raise taxes on seniors’ Social Security benefits by over 30%!”

Sounds like a humdinger, eh? But here's a pop quiz: when was Cleland sworn into the Senate?

On January 2, 1997.

Which raises a question: if Cleland really knows the secret of time travel, why in blazes does he waste so much time in the United States Senate?

Note: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Political Insider chimes in: "He wasn't at the grassy knoll, either."

Greg G. @ 12:58 AM | # |


Ashcroft's Little Black List
For Steven J. Hatfill, the Justice Department's perennial 'person of interest' in the anthrax case, life keeps getting worse. Agents searched his girlfriend's apartment over the weekend, and on Thursday the New York Times reported that the Justice Department told his employer to have him fired.

Louisiana State University, its federal grants in jeopardy, dutifully complied -- leaving the uncharged non-suspect out of a job. Whether he committed the crimes, I can't tell you; considering the glacial pace of the investigation, I doubt the FBI could either. But just as with supposed wannabe dirty bomber Jose Padilla and 'unlawful combatant' Yasser Hamdi, Justice would rather bypass the courts of law in favor of a trial in the court of public opinion. If, that is, Justice deigns to go public at all.

We can't consider this a surprise. Given the high standing of indefinite jailhouse vacations in Ashcroft's vision of justice, he probably sees measures like public shaming and blacklisting as the picture of restraint. Bringing a life to casual ruin, though, is just wrong, flat-out wrong, whether it's done in the quiet of a brig or the hothouse of a media fury.

If Justice has evidence, it should show it. If it doesn't, it should get it. If it can't, it should investigate somebody else. This is a murder investigation. The government has more pressing business at hand than having a non-suspect fired out of spite.

Greg G. @ 12:30 AM | # |

September 05, 2002


In California, They Hate the Guv'nah . . .
My old friend Tim Fox, in his role as the WyethWire's California correspondent, served up some great notes today on the state of Left Coast politics. Bon appétit!
Davis, Simon heartily disliked
The candidates of both major parties in the California governor's race are growing ever-more unpopular with voters as the campaign progresses. Both candidates' "disfavorable" ratings are at or above 50%, with incumbent Davis (D) slightly more despised than comically beleaguered challenger Simon (R). Nevertheless, Davis leads strongly in head-to-head polling. Davis will be reelected by a landslide and will continue to face his constituents' contempt. Look for the majority of the 22% of undecided voters to hold their noses and pull the Davis lever, then deny it in exit polling. LINK

Current joke making the rounds: How do you persuade Gray Davis? Tell him the other guy's check bounced.

Meanwhile, Davis's political advisors have him poised to sign nearly a dozen bills to appease the left, including seven bills placing
limitations on private dispute resolution so stringent that the nation's largest arbitration firm threatens to pull out of the nation's largest
state, and one bill giving illegal aliens drivers' licenses (!). And Simon (R) is backpedaling on gay rights; says he didn't read Log Cabin
Republicans' questionnaire on his gay-rights position before he signed it. The sound you're hearing is millions of right-wing sphincter
muscles relaxing -- slightly. LINK

And in one of the most important (in my humble opinion) statehouse train wrecks, the legislature narrowly defeats a popular landmark consumer privacy bill - partly because of a grudge over a daughter's lost race for her term-limited father's legislative seat. Expect this issue to reappear as an overwhelmingly victorious ballot initiative, and to spread to several of the other blue states before Congress steps in and pre-empts with federal regulation. LINK :: LINK

Sometimes disappointing, but never dull.

Greg G. @ 6:54 PM | # |


The Illinois Republican Meltdown Continues
Up in the Land of Lincoln, where you can motor down the Dan Ryan Expressway, voters have a chance to replace a disgraced governor named George Ryan with an attorney general named . . . um, Jim Ryan. To Jim’s chagrin, the voters still get him and George mixed up, leaving Jim fighting a 17-point poll deficit with just two months left to campaign.

Showing voters how to tell the Ryans apart boosts Jim’s showing by seven points – not bad, but hardly a quantum leap for a candidate behind by double digits. Hearing Jim go from town to town saying “I’m not George!” tried the governor’s patience, though, and in mid-conversation with reporters yesterday, George flew off the handle.
. . . George Ryan said it was "an insult to the voters" for Jim Ryan to blame his underdog status on his last name.

"[Jim Ryan] ought to quit hiding behind me and start talking about what he's going to do for the kids of Illinois; what are you going to do for the seniors; what is he going to do for education and health and public health; and what's he going to do to make sure the state works right," George Ryan told WBGZ-AM in Alton. . . .

"Jim Ryan's been a lousy candidate," George Ryan said. "Jim Ryan has been attorney general for eight years. If he hasn't distinguished himself now, he probably never will."
That last comment sounds to me like a fair point. Still, let’s look at the other Ryan’s response:
Earlier this summer, Jim Ryan called for George Ryan to either resign or tell what he knew about a [commercial driver’s] licenses-for-bribes scandal in the secretary of state's office when he ran it.

"Gov. Ryan presided over probably the worst scandal in Illinois history. So I don't need any suggestions from Gov. Ryan about how to run my campaign," Jim Ryan said.

"George Ryan sounds like a bitter man to me. Doesn't he sound that way to you?" the attorney general asked reporters. "Gov. Ryan ought to worry about himself and what's happening around him and let me worry about my campaign."
Let’s do a running tally here. By taking their grudge match public, Jim and George treated voters to news cycle dominated by Republican corruption, Republican infighting, and edifying stories on how to tell the Ryans apart. How much do voters care about the latter? If those poll numbers were any indication, not much. As for the first two stories . . . well, those don’t help the GOP at all.

All this while the party’s top candidate is running behind by 17 points. Somewhere out there, Democratic nominee Rod Blagojevich must be smiling.

Greg G. @ 1:29 PM | # |

September 04, 2002


The Club for Growth . . . of a Democratic Majority
Republican poll numbers have gone wobbly around the country, and from Florida to Illinois and California, sure opportunities for the party have started to slip away. So what are core GOP groups doing to meet the challenge?

Well, the Club for Growth just made its battle plan clear: it wants to spend money on beating other Republicans. Suh-weet!

Apparently a little Star Wars-addled, the supply-siders at the Club for Growth have made a mission of electing an army of ideological clones, no matter who pays the price. "If there is any single role that Club for Growth plays, it is to hold Republicans accountable for votes that betray the Republican agenda," its president told the Associated Press. "We think we play an important role in disciplining the party."

The latest target for club "discipline": Wayne Gilchrest, a twelve-year Maryland congressman under fire for working with environmentalists and supporting the occasional tax. Although Republicans in Maryland already risk losing a House seat to Democrat Mark Shriver, Club for Growth members have doled more than $300,000 out to Gilchrest's opponent -- forcing a moderate Republican fund to spend $100,000 on shoring the Gilchrest campaign up.

Whoever takes the Republican primary should win that seat in November, but look at the bright side: the money burnt here amounts to $400,000 that won't get spent on beating Democrats. Which means that we ought to send the Club for Growth a thank-you note.

Note: Looks like I echoed The Daily Kos on this. Great minds think alike.

Greg G. @ 10:43 PM | # |


McKinney: The Tantrum Continues
The Georgia filing deadline for write-in candidates came and went yesterday without incident, sparing state Democrats the nightmare of a kamikaze campaign against Sen. Max Cleland by Rep. Cynthia McKinney. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, however, some McKinney supporters can't quit thinking about revenge.
[T]his year, as Cleland seeks re-election, many south DeKalb voters are grumbling. They're upset that U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney lost to Denise Majette in the Democratic primary partly because of Republican crossover votes. And some say they're upset that Democratic leaders failed to support the controversial congresswoman. . . .

"Some people are saying they're not going to vote," said [Imogene] Archer, a computer programmer who voted for McKinney and is mad at the Democratic leadership. "They didn't help her and they knew she was in trouble."

In trouble? Sure she was -- with other Democrats. Without their votes, the Republican crossover on Aug. 20 would have been a flash in the pan. As for the lack of intervention by Democratic higher-ups: contrary to Congressional Black [Incumbent Protection] Caucus expectations, candidates in a party primary have to sink or swim on their own. McKinney may have thought herself the people's choice, but we have primaries because we believe people should make that choice themselves. They went for another Democrat over McKinney, as it turned out -- but that's hardly Zell Miller's fault.

Blogger Reid Stott posted this analysis:
What [one McKinney supporter] fails to realize is that it was McKinney who was not able to mobilize black support. If she'd managed to get just one third of black voters to the polls, she might have won. 117,000 people voted in the primary. And there's 197,000 registered blacks. McKinney only got 49,000 votes, which represents a number that is less than 25% of those registered blacks.

So, exactly who is it that can't get out the black vote? In the vaunted McKinney south DeKalb stronghold of the Stoneview Elementary precinct, 169 people voted in the primary. In the 2000 election, 1,767 people voted in that same precinct, ten times as many.
For the moment, the talk in the AJC more like sour grapes than a boycott. I doubt the Cleland camp considers it much of a threat. Still, you have to shake your head in wonderment at the McKinney backers' proposal: protesting crossover votes by Republicans by refusing to vote . . . against Republicans. Sheer brilliance, eh?

Greg G. @ 10:10 PM | # |

September 03, 2002


. . . Excedrin™ Written All Over It
I wish the blogging weren't so light today, but my sinuses went haywire over the weekend. Right now I have a headache this big and a tonsil the size of a grape -- which, as you can imagine, gets a little tough on the intellect.

When I finally organize some coherent thoughts, you'll be first to know. In the meantime: does anbody know how to get Martha Stewart to bring me some of this?

Greg G. @ 7:20 PM | # |

September 02, 2002


Greatest Hits: What I Want
[Note: For me, mid-year 1998 was the summer of the bar exam, and after spending months in law libaries with my nose in a book and spending my birthday writing essays on property, I fled the States for a five-week drive through western Europe.

Ken Starr stayed busy in the meantime, taping a deposition of President Clinton that the independent counsel's merry pranksters later handed over to the networks for public airing. After spending more than a month eating at cafes, staring at monuments, and talking with Aussies who couldn't give the slightest whit about the scandal, I got back to the United States and jotted down a few thoughts.]
To: [ . . . ]
From: Greg Greene
Subject: What I want--
Date: 9/21/1998; 9:51 PM

What I want is to see a few [say, 487 or so] prime-time replays of the Iranian delegation -- along with the Cuban delegation and virtually every other misbegotten delegation at the U.N. -- standing up today to give the President a standing O.

What I want is to give props to the House Republican crew for keeping the whole country huddled around their TV sets -- to watch the President's calm, well-reasoned outrage over the Paula Jones team's dumpster-diving legal tactics.

What I want is to thank the White House spin center for convincing everyone that the deposition was going to be the worst thing to happen to a sitting president since John Wilkes Booth.

What I want is to see more of Lucianne Goldberg, John Ashcroft, Joseph DiGenova and Bob Barr freezing their crow-eating grins across their mugs while they mouth platitudes about the need to "keep the process moving."

What I want is for Henry Hyde to spend time hunting down some more tape.

What I want is for Laura Ingraham to watch the tape, and then say "this is not about sex" fifty times with a straight face.

What I want is for George Will, Charles Krauthammer, or any editor of the Weekly Standard or the National Review to explain how any party that calls itself the party of limited government and the rule of law could shove out a neck-high pile of piping hot grand jury material without so much as a pause for thought.

What I want is to fly back to London, stop in at Ladbrokes, and place odds that Ken Starr ever makes it to the Supreme Court without a visitor's pass.

What I want is to point out that Congress managed to blow a fair amount of money on itself this session without doing much more than renaming an airport.

What I want is for someone to tell me how not telling the truth can get you impeached, when telling the truth [about Henry Hyde, Dan Burton or Helen Chenoweth] can get you a house call from the FBI.

What I want is to look at a cigar without having post-traumatic flashbacks.

What I want is to know whether it was worth $50 million, an ill-timed disruption to the world economy, and more months than it took to win World War II just to find out that the President enjoys the occasional hummer.

What I want is to get back to my regularly scheduled program.

Greg Greene

Greg G. @ 8:19 PM | # |


China: Fixing a Hole, Missing a Different One
In a crackdown apparently timed to the approach of a Communist Party conference in November, the Chinese government has blocked access to Google. "China's media censors tend to be particularly edgy during politically sensitive times," Reuters reports. "[A] Google block may be an attempt to sweep up ahead of the Party congress, which is expected to see sweeping leadership changes."

Only one thing: the wizards behind the Chinese firewall apparently forgot about this. Oops.

Greg G. @ 1:51 PM | # |

September 01, 2002


11th District Update: The 'God Squad' Blowback Begins
Cecil Staton, last seen giving himself a born-again Christian conservative makeover, woke up today with some enemies: old church friends with long memories.

One minister of Virginia Highland Baptist Church, which has many gay deacons and members . . . endorse[d] [Staton's Republican runoff opponent Phil] Gingrey. In 1997, Gingrey opponent Cecil Staton founded a church within the Alliance of Baptists, an association of churches to which Virginia Highland also belongs.

"I'm a liberal Democrat willing to endorse Phil Gingrey now to keep anyone with that profound lack of integrity out of office," said Joshua Villines, associate pastor of Virginia Highland Baptist.

It's not really Staton's current beliefs that have upset Villines, he said. It's the denial of his past.

"The progressive Baptist community in Georgia is very, very small and Cecil Staton was once considered a leader in that community," Villines said.

On Friday, Staton was quoted in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution saying he was unfamiliar with some of the beliefs of the Alliance of Baptists, notably the church's stance on affirming gay members and ordaining gay ministers. He had accused Gingrey of being supportive of gays.

Staton, an ordained Baptist minister who has a doctoral degree from Oxford, said his beliefs and opinions have remained constant. He considers himself to be "a traditional mainstream Baptist." The attacks on his integrity, he said, are unfounded and have been made because he chose to run as a Republican.

"There may be some very liberal pastors who would like to make everything about politics. Not everything in the Baptist church has to do with Democrat or Republican," Staton said.

He maintains that he was unfamiliar with the Alliances's stance on gays at the time he joined. "When our little congregation involved themselves in the Alliance," he said, "there was no understanding on my part that the Alliance was a pro-homosexual organization."

. . . The Rev. Tim Shirley, pastor of Virginia Highland, said, "everyone has the right to change their mind and evolve" on issues. "But pleading ignorance," he said, "I strongly question that. He's a household name among moderate Baptists."
Staton remains undaunted through it all, telling a reporter that the campaign ought to focus on discussion of serious issues. "I am not interested in running a campaign of dividing people of faith," Staton told the paper yesterday. "I'm not running for president of the Southern Baptist Conference."

Now he tells us. =,

Sad to say, Staton's tactics might lead him to victory. When I spoke last night with someone familiar with 11th District Democratic nominee Roger Kahn, she pointed out that a Republican rally in a rural part of the district last week met Staton's red-meat stump speech with whoops and rousing applause. Gingrey, by contrast, got a tepid reception at best.

That should give Democrats reason for some whoops of their own. Even the state GOP admits that Democratic voting performance in the district easily surpasses 50 percent. The more conservative the Republican nominee, the greater the chance Kahn wins. And remember: to win the House, Democrats only need to pick up six seats.

Greg G. @ 4:47 PM | # |