Paul Krugman On The Department of Injustice

Paul Krugman looks at the politicization of the Justice Department, showing concern for both the federal prosectors who were fired and those who may have agreed to play along to keep their jobs:

In fact, it’s becoming clear that the politicization of the Justice Department was a key component of the Bush administration’s attempt to create a permanent Republican lock on power. Bear in mind that if Mr. Menendez had lost, the G.O.P. would still control the Senate.

For now, the nation’s focus is on the eight federal prosecutors fired by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. In January, Mr. Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee, under oath, that he “would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney for political reasons.” But it’s already clear that he did indeed dismiss all eight prosecutors for political reasons — some because they wouldn’t use their offices to provide electoral help to the G.O.P., and the others probably because they refused to soft-pedal investigations of corrupt Republicans.

In the last few days we’ve also learned that Republican members of Congress called prosecutors to pressure them on politically charged cases, even though doing so seems unethical and possibly illegal.

The bigger scandal, however, almost surely involves prosecutors still in office. The Gonzales Eight were fired because they wouldn’t go along with the Bush administration’s politicization of justice. But statistical evidence suggests that many other prosecutors decided to protect their jobs or further their careers by doing what the administration wanted them to do: harass Democrats while turning a blind eye to Republican malfeasance.

Donald Shields and John Cragan, two professors of communication, have compiled a database of investigations and/or indictments of candidates and elected officials by U.S. attorneys since the Bush administration came to power. Of the 375 cases they identified, 10 involved independents, 67 involved Republicans, and 298 involved Democrats. The main source of this partisan tilt was a huge disparity in investigations of local politicians, in which Democrats were seven times as likely as Republicans to face Justice Department scrutiny.

How can this have been happening without a national uproar? The authors explain: “We believe that this tremendous disparity is politically motivated and it occurs because the local (non-statewide and non-Congressional) investigations occur under the radar of a diligent national press. Each instance is treated by a local beat reporter as an isolated case that is only of local interest.”

And let’s not forget that Karl Rove’s candidates have a history of benefiting from conveniently timed federal investigations. Last year Molly Ivins reminded her readers of a curious pattern during Mr. Rove’s time in Texas: “In election years, there always seemed to be an F.B.I. investigation of some sitting Democrat either announced or leaked to the press. After the election was over, the allegations often vanished.”

Bush Administration Limits Discussion of Climate Change

The New York Times reports on efforts by the Bush administration to restrict discussion of climate change by government biologists and other employees while travelling:

Internal memorandums circulated in the Alaskan division of the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service appear to require government biologists or other employees traveling in countries around the Arctic not to discuss climate change, polar bears or sea ice if they are not designated to do so.In December, the Bush administration, facing a deadline under a suit by environmental groups, proposed listing polar bears throughout their range as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because the warming climate is causing a summertime retreat of sea ice that the bears use for seal hunting.

Just like in the Soviet Union, scientists who want to travel must follow the party line:

The sample memorandums, described as to be used in writing travel requests, indicate that the employee seeking permission to travel “understands the administration’s position on climate change, polar bears, and sea ice and will not be speaking on or responding to these issues.”

Electronic copies of the memorandums and cover note were forwarded to The New York Times by Deborah Williams, an environmental campaigner in Alaska and a former Interior Department official in the Clinton administration.

“This sure sounds like a Soviet-style directive to me,” Ms. Williams said.

This is not the first time there have been reports of this nature:

Limits on government scientists’ freedom to speak freely about climate change became a heated issue last year after news reports showed that political appointees at NASA had canceled journalists’ interview requests with climate scientists and discouraged news releases on global warming.

Groups Attacking Republican Front Runners

It looks like each of the GOP front runners has a group going after them:

John McCain has Vietnam Veterans Against McCain. The group opposes McCain for his efforts to normalize relations with Vietnam and had also formed Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry. Kerry and McCain had worked together on the normalization of relations.

The New York Daily News reports on a feud between Rudy Giuliani and New York fire fighters:

His withdrawal from the International Association of Fire Fighters forum exposed simmering tensions between the former mayor and city fire unions over his decision in November 2001 to limit FDNY personnel at Ground Zero.

Before Giuliani’s decision, hundreds of firefighters were allowed to stay at Ground Zero to dig for remains of their 343 missing comrades, an intensely emotional quest.

But citing safety concerns, Giuliani decided on Nov. 2, 2001, to limit the number of FDNY searchers to 25 – touching off brief but furious scuffles between the NYPD and the FDNY and earning Giuliani the lasting animosity of many city fire officers.

Mass Republicans for Truth plans a web site to expose Mitt Romney’s flip flops on social issues.

Democrats Drop Fox Debate Following Ailes Jokes

In his acceptance speech for the 2007 First Amendment Leadership Award, Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes told numerous jokes which Democratic bloggers found offensive:

A man in France was arrested today for using his car to run down a pedestrian. He said he thought it was Osama bin Laden. Ok, it was a mistake, but it still ranks as France’s biggest military victory ever….

It is true that just in the last two weeks Hillary Clinton has had over 200 phone calls telling her in order to win the presidency she must stay on the road for the next two years. It is not true they were all from Bill.

And it is true that Barack Obama is on the move. I don’t know if it’s true that President Bush called Musharraf and said, ‘Why can’t we catch this guy?’

I’m not sure if Bush or Obama supporters should be more offended like the last one, which is in the format of numerous Bush jokes where Bush confuses names and words. Regardless of how the Obama joke was taken, this highlighted the fact that, to Roger Ailes and Fox News, Democrats (as well as France) are the enemies. Ailes also included an apparent threat to John Edwards, who announced earlier in the week that he would not take part in the debate:

Any candidate for high office of either party who believes he can blacklist any news organization is making a terrible mistake about journalists.

Bloggers and other activists have been protesting involvement in the debate hosted by Fox. MoveOn reports that  over 265,000 signed a petition sent to the Nevada Democratic Party. These statements from Ailes may have been the final straw as Democrats cancelled plans to participate in a debate hosted by Fox News

SciFi Friday: Starbuck, Capt. America, and Lamb all Dead?

Even though there have been reports for weeks that it was coming, the abrupt apparent death of Starbuck on this week’s Battlestar Galactica followed simply by the credits remained a shock to fans. I previously quoted from an interview with Ron Moore which discussed this turn of events:

As you know, there’s a ton of speculation that a character dies in the second half of the season. [Moore also alluded to an upcoming character death in a December interview.] And right now a lot of the speculation centers on Kara Thrace. Can you address that?

Ron Moore: “Kara is one of the characters some fairly profound events happen to in the second half of the season. There are also other characters that are pretty fundamentally… have fairly earthshaking events happen toward the end [of the season]. But certainly [what happens to] Kara will be one of the most surprising things that’s happened in the history of the show so far. Kara’s one of the key players and I think it’ll really take people by surprise.”

People are speculating that her character dies. Do you not want to characterize it that way?

RM: “I don’t know that I want to say that directly. I think people will have to watch that episode and judge for themselves what happens. I can say that Galactica will suffer a shocking loss in that episode and Kara is a key member of the crew. Certainly if she were not there suddenly, that would shift the parameters of what the show is and what the show is about and who the key players are.”

More on Battlestar Galactica at Garfield Ridge with a blogger’s account of a visit to the BSG set.

With all the talk about her destiny leading up to her death, it is hard to believe that Kara’s destiny was simply to be blown out of space like this. Will Kara be shocked to awaken in a Cylon resurrection chamber? There’s also speculation that she’s one of the final five. It is expected that she will return in one form or another.

Captain America has been shot by a sniper, but in the comics world there have been many characters who come back from the dead. Calling superheroes “weapons of mass destruction” who must submit to a Superhero Registration Act is a modern twist:

The character’s death comes as he leaves a courthouse where, as a fugitive resistance leader, he has come to surrender under a Superhero Registration Act, which requires superheroes to register their services and outlaws vigilantism. The shield-carrying hero is shot three times by a sniper on the steps of the building.

The assassin is allegedly Sharon Carter – an intelligence agent romantically involved with Captain America – who is acting under the control of the super- villian Dr Faustus.

The Superhero Registration Act was brought in after supervillains and superheroes fought during a reality show, accidentally killing hundreds of civilians. The public likened the heroes to weapons of mass destruction that must be controlled.

There’s been a high death toll at Hearst College, which Veronica Mars attends. The last several episodes have Veronica solving the death of Dean O’Dell. Along the way we saw the death of the basketball coach, and more recently Sheriff Lamb was killed with a bat. The arc ended with two great lines: “I’m just trying to figure out which Gilmore Girl you are” was great in conversation. The best line came after she exposed the TA for framing his professor for O’Dell’s murder as revenge for a poor recommendation when Veronica said, “Bet he’ll change his mind about you being not that smart.” Or perhaps this verifies his assessment that Tim isn’t the best candidate out there after he gave away details of the crime which only the murderer would know while discussing the crime in class.

While Cyrus O’Dell’s murder was the basis of the last arc, the killing of Lamb might have the most long term impact on the show (should it survive for another season). In one sense Lamb is no longer necessary. The series began with Veronica losing her status in high school by not being wealthy, no longer dating the rich kid, and no longer being daughter of the sheriff. Now that she’s off at college where the old social order no longer exists, not to mention having dated two of the richest kids, her father’s position as sheriff no longer affects her social status in the community. I do fear that this is part of the simplification of the show we’ve been seeing this season, including the move to end the season with stand-alone shows rather than a prolonged mystery. There may be one complicating matter as Keith is forced to play it straighter as Sheriff rather than as a private investigator who can bend the rules.

Several characters have died during the course of Heroes. Peter Petrelli (played by Milo Vetimiglia, who dated one of the Gilmore Girls), is one of many characters in danger as the show goes on hiatus until April. We know from his visit from future-Hiro that Peter will get a scar, and most likely this comes from Sylar’s attempt to open his skull in this cliff hanger. I think its safe to predict that Peter survives the encounter, especially considering his ability to take on the powers of others, potentially making him even more powerful than Sylar.

While I expect Peter to survive the encounter with Sylar, it remains a question as to how any of the main characters survive. Kristin at ET has a spoiler that an upcoming scene shows all the characters getting killed. Don’t get too alarmed–the scene takes place five years in the future (and ratings are good for the show). I wonder if this is also a warning of something preventable, such as the scenes showing the destruction of New York which presumably will be prevented this season.

Lost had another excellent episode this week. In the spirit of characters with names such as Locke and Rousseau, a new character is met named after Russian anarchist Mikhali Bakunin. While generally a good episode, there was one element which ranks with the stupidity I recently commented on when Jack threw a tantrum rather than pumping Cindy for information. Is there anyone who doubted 1) that entering 77 on the computer key board would lead to a self-destruct sequence and 2) that Locke would enter 77? It’s bad enough he destroyed the hatch. Why destroy another source of supplies when they are trapped on this island? Not even Gilligan caused this much needless destruction which negatively impacts his fellow castaways.

And finally, there was a post of interest to science fiction fans earlier this week with yet another look at robot rights.

Newt’s Hypocrisy

Newt Gingrich’s confession that he had an affair while Clinton was under investigation for his affair with Monica Lewinsky hardly came as a surprise. This is just one more entry on a long list of hypocritical Republicans who claim to be the defender of family values against godless liberals. This includes Henry Hyde and Bob Barr, leaders in the impeachment battle against Clinton.  This isn’t even the first time Gingrich’s personal ethics have been questioned. As Tapped summarizes, Gingrich “served his first wife with divorce papers while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery, had an affair with a young aide (now his third wife) while married to the second wife.”

Republican apologists would argue that there is no hypocrisy since Clinton was impeached for perjury, not for his affair. From a technical legal point of view this is correct, but anyone who recalls the Clinton years recalls that the main focus of the attacks on Clinton from the right were over his morals, starting long before the perjury issue. If the litmus test is one of values, Clinton fails, but so do many prominent Republicans. Conservatives care far less about real values than they do about backing those on their side of the culture wars and attacking liberals regardless of the merits of the case.