May 31, 2007

The Internet

The Internet has the potential to revitalize the role played by the people in our constitutional framework. It has extremely low entry barriers for individuals. It is the most interactive medium in history and the one with the greatest potential for connecting individuals to one another and to a universe of knowledge. It's a platform for pursuing the truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas, in the same way that markets are a decentralized mechanism for the creation and distribution of goods and services. It's a platform, in other words, for reason. But the Internet must be developed and protected, in the same way we develop and protect markets—through the establishment of fair rules of engagement and the exercise of the rule of law. The same ferocity that our Founders devoted to protect the freedom and independence of the press is now appropriate for our defense of the freedom of the Internet. The stakes are the same: the survival of our Republic. We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it, because of the threat of corporate consolidation and control over the Internet marketplace of ideas.

The danger arises because there is, in most markets, a very small number of broadband network operators. These operators have the structural capacity to determine the way in which information is transmitted over the Internet and the speed with which it is delivered. And the present Internet network operators—principally large telephone and cable companies—have an economic incentive to extend their control over the physical infrastructure of the network to leverage control of Internet content. If they went about it in the wrong way, these companies could institute changes that have the effect of limiting the free flow of information over the Internet in a number of troubling ways.

The democratization of knowledge by the print medium brought the Enlightenment. Now, broadband interconnection is supporting decentralized processes that reinvigorate democracy. We can see it happening before our eyes: As a society, we are getting smarter. Networked democracy is taking hold. You can feel it. We the people—as Lincoln put it, "even we here"—are collectively still the key to the survival of America's democracy.

~ Al Gore: The Assault on Reason

Edited by WestTexasBliss

Al Gore - The Assault on Reason (Full Speech)

Hispanic Groups Reconsider Their Support for Gonzales

Two years ago, major Hispanic groups broke with other civil rights organizations and supported Alberto R. Gonzales's nomination for attorney general, primarily because he would become the highest-ranking Latino ever in a presidential Cabinet.
"I have to say we were in error when we supported him to begin with," said Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens. Gonzales, Wilkes said, has not aggressively pursued hate crimes and cases of police profiling of Hispanics. "We hoped for better. Instead it looks like he's done the bidding of the White House."
Janet Murguia, president and chief executive of the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Hispanic rights group, called Gonzales "a follower, not a leader." In the Hispanic community, she said, "people are conflicted. They are excited that a Latino had a chance to serve as the attorney general." But, she added, "I think we've been disappointed with his record so far."

May 21, 2007

Poster Boys for Bad Politics

Alberto Gonzales and Paul Wolfowitz could be poster boys for what's wrong with politics today cronyism, incompetence and a brazen lack of accountability that has voters craving change.

Gonzales is the Texas pal of President Bush who led the Justice Department into political and legal trouble, then blamed subordinates and a bad memory. Wolfowitz is the unyielding conservative who underestimated the difficulty of bringing Iraq to heel, and was rewarded with a job at the World Bank that he quickly jeopardized with an ethical lapse.

Their heads may finally roll, but the public wants more than the dismissal of two failed leaders. People want an entirely new brand of leadership in Washington -- and they currently don't see it in either major party.

"Does anybody run anything any more? Does anybody hold anybody accountable for anything?" asked Republican consultant Joe Gaylord. He is one of a growing number of Democratic and Republican officials in Washington worried about the health of their parties because of a bipartisan failure of leadership. "It's a mystery to me as to why someone hasn't come down with a two-by-four and said,
'Get this crap fixed.'"

May 16, 2007

Gonzales Pressured Ashcroft on Program, Comey Says

Gonzales holds the rule of law ``in minimum low regard,''

Alberto Gonzales pressured then- Attorney General John Ashcroft while he was hospitalized in 2004 to recertify a classified program whose legality was questioned by the Justice Department, the agency's former No. 2 official told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified that he and other Justice Department officials planned to resign after the visit to Ashcroft's hospital bed by Gonzales, then White House counsel, and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. Comey was acting attorney general because of Ashcroft's illness. He wouldn't specify the program at issue, though panel members said it apparently was secret wiretapping of suspected terrorists.
``I was concerned that this was an effort to do an end-run around the acting attorney general and to get a very sick man to approve something'' that the Justice Department had concluded ``was unable to be certified as to its legality,'' Comey told the Senate panel in Washington. Comey said Vice President Dick Cheney also had told him he disagreed with the department's stance.
Comey was called before the committee today to testify about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys that have led to calls for Gonzales's resignation by Democrats and some Republicans. President George W. Bush has continued to support his attorney general.

May 07, 2007

Vietnam Vets Share Iraq War Views

For many, the fight between Congress and the president over whether to withdraw troops from Iraq is theoretical.

But the veterans of the nation's last unpopular war follow the debate closely with a strong sense of déjà vu. Vietnam veterans have always been controversial for their willingness to speak out candidly about their own military service, and the state's veterans are no different.

The Republic asked seven Arizona Vietnam vets for their reactions to the legislation that President Bush vetoed last week. They stressed their support for the men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan and they questioned the intent of the war - just as they had questioned the war they fought more than 30 years ago

But they differed on whether to pull out the troops, harking back to memories of their own arguably unwinnable mission of the 1960s and '70s.

May 06, 2007

Former lawmakers plead not guilty

Two former Republican lawmakers pleaded NOT guilty Friday to charges of bribery, extortion and wire or mail fraud. Pete Kott of Eagle River -- a former House Speaker -- and former Representative Bruce Weyhrauch (WHY'-rock) of Juneau were arrested and arraigned Friday.
They are accused of accepting bribes and the promise of future work to benefit an oil services company, which was NOT named. They are accused of assisting the unnamed company during discussions last year of the petroleum profits tax. The combined trial was set for July 9th in Anchorage. They face up to 55 years in prison and a million-dollar fine if convicted of all charges.
Both were to be released on 20,000-dollars bail.
Kott is accused of accepting nearly nine-thousand dollars in payments, more than 2,700 dollars in campaign polling expenses and a future contract as a lobbyist in exchange for his support of a new tax structure and of helping to get a contract signed for a natural gas pipeline.
The production tax passed but the contract for the pipeline negotiated by former Governor Frank Murkowski and BP PLC, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil was never approved. Weyhrauch is charged with helping advance the oil service company's cause in exchange for the promise of future legal work for the company.
FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez says the arrests stemmed from an investigation that led federal agents last summer to raid the offices of at least six lawmakers, including Kott and Weyhrauch. Kott served in the state House for seven terms, starting in 1992. He lost his bid for re-election to Anna Fairclough in the August primary. Weyhrauch -- a Juneau attorney -- was first elected in 2002. He served two terms and did not run for re-election in November.

May 04, 2007

Former Supervisor Extols Fired Prosecutors

Praise Undermines Case for Dismissals

A former deputy attorney general lavished praise yesterday on most of the eight U.S. attorneys who were fired after he left the job, testifying that only one of them had serious performance problems.

James B. Comey, the Justice Department's second in command from 2003 until August 2005, also told a House Judiciary subcommittee that although he was the "direct supervisor" of all U.S attorneys, he was never informed about an effort by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and his aides to remove a large group of prosecutors that began in early 2005.

"My experience with the U.S. attorneys just listed was very positive," Comey said, referring to six of the former prosecutors who testified in Congress in March. He added that the reasons given for their firings "have not been consistent with my experience" and that "I had very positive encounters with these folks."

The testimony from Comey, a highly regarded former prosecutor who is now general counsel for Lockheed Martin, further undermines assertions by Gonzales and his aides that dissatisfaction with the prosecutors' work led to their dismissals. It also underscores the extent to which the firings, which originated in the White House, were handled outside the normal chain of command at Justice.

Document is publicly viewable

May 03, 2007

Justice Department looking into prosecutor hirings

Accusations that an aide considered party politics raise more concerns of partisan practices at the agency.
The Justice Department said Wednesday that it had launched an internal probe into whether a chief figure in the U.S. attorneys affair had violated policy — and possibly federal law — by injecting party politics into the selection of career prosecutors.
The investigation of Monica M. Goodling, once the Justice Department's White House liaison, widens the probe into allegations of partisan hiring and firing at the agency and complicates the Bush administration's efforts to weather the scandal.
Goodling has become a focus of congressional investigators because she played a central role in identifying eight U.S. attorneys who were fired last year. The latest disclosure that she also was involved in the hiring of assistant U.S. attorneys shed new light on her clout at the Justice Department and raised more questions about how the agency has operated under Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales.
"This is a troubling assertion that, if true, suggests politics infected the most basic operations at the Justice Department," said Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "This only underscores our commitment to hear directly from Ms. Goodling about her role in this process, and at the Justice Department, to establish who should be held accountable."

Senator subpoenas Rove's e-mails in attorney firings case

The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman issued a subpoena Wednesday to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in an attempt to get e-mails that President Bush's top political adviser sent regarding last year's firings of eight U.S. attorneys.
Gonzales will have to appear before the committee if the Department of Justice does not respond to the subpoena for Karl Rove's e-mails by May 15.
Justice Department Spokesman Dean Boyd said the department had received the subpoena and was reviewing it. (Read the subpoena, PDF:
"The Justice Department has already turned over more than 6,000 pages of documents and e-mails to House and Senate committees and voluntarily provided Congress with hours of interviews of several senior Justice Department officials," Boyd said. "Furthermore, the attorney general last month provided six hours of testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee."
In a letter to Gonzales, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said he had asked Gonzales twice for the e-mails -- once at an April 19 hearing where the attorney general testified about the dismissals and again in an April 25 letter to the Cabinet member.
Rove's attorney said publicly that the e-mails -- many of which were reported to be "lost" -- had been turned over to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, according to Leahy.
Fitzgerald was using them in his investigation into the leak of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, Rove's lawyer said. That probe led to the conviction of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney.

May 02, 2007

One Prosecutor Gets an Exemption, Another Gets Fired

Residency Clause Adds Fuel To Dispute Over U.S. Attorneys

One Prosecutor Gets an Exemption, Another Gets Fired
On Nov. 10, 2005, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales sent a letter to a federal judge in Montana, assuring him that the U.S. attorney there, William W. Mercer, was not violating federal law by spending most of his time in Washington as a senior Justice Department official.
That same day, Mercer had a GOP Senate staffer insert into a bill a provision that would change the rules so that federal prosecutors could live outside their districts to serve in other jobs, according to documents and interviews
Congress passed the provision several months later as part of the USA Patriot Act reauthorization bill, retroactively benefiting Mercer and a handful of other senior Justice officials who pull double duty as U.S. attorneys and headquarters officials. Justice officials say the measure was a necessary clarification to ensure that prosecutors could fill temporary postings in Washington, Iraq and elsewhere, and that it also applies to assistant U.S. attorneys.
But the episode, which received little notice at the time, provides another example in which Gonzales's statements appear to conflict with simultaneous actions by his aides in connection with U.S. attorney policies. Lawmakers investigating the department's handling of the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys have repeatedly accused Gonzales of being less than truthful about the roles played by himself and the White House.