Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Facing the music

A paragraph in David Brooks' most recent New York Times column stands out as emblematic of everything wrong with his thesis:
The fundamental argument in the presidency wars is not that the president is wrong, or is driven by a misguided ideology. That's so 1980's. The fundamental argument now is that he is illegitimate. He is so ruthless, dishonest and corrupt, he undermines the very rules of civilized society. Many conservatives believed this about Clinton. Teddy Kennedy obviously believes it about Bush. Howard Dean declares, "What's at stake in this election is democracy itself."

Parsing this let's first examine the initial assertion:
The fundamental argument in the presidency wars is not that the president is wrong, or is driven by a misguided ideology.

This in truth depends on who's doing the arguing. For most people opposed to Bush, these considerations are at least of nearly equal if not paramount importance. Indeed, their concerns about his legitimacy are rather deeply confirmed by both the wrongheadedness of his actions and the grotesque failures of the neoconservative ideology now driving foreign policy, not to mention his breathtaking incompetence, mendacity and corruption.
The fundamental argument now is that he is illegitimate. He is so ruthless, dishonest and corrupt, he undermines the very rules of civilized society.

And Bush's opponents have every reason to believe this. The evidence that he stole the election only mounted after the dust had settled. To this day, no adequate defense of Bush v. Gore has ever been mounted. The episode, as I have remarked previously, is the kind to anger not just liberals but centrists for whom the principles of fair play and respecting the rules are paramount.

Brooks dismisses this worldview without ever explaining why it may be wrong. Instead, he simply equates it with the rabid conservatives who rejected Bill Clinton's legitimacy:
Many conservatives believed this about Clinton. Teddy Kennedy obviously believes it about Bush. Howard Dean declares, "What's at stake in this election is democracy itself."

This is a false equivalency. The conservatives who rejected Bill Clinton's presidency as illegitimate did so because he only won by a plurality of votes. And yet, after the 2000 election, they couldn't exactly make that argument any longer, could they? Their grotesque hypocrisy was never more apparent.

So Howard Dean is right that democracy itself is at stake in this next election. The Bush team, in tandem with the Supreme Court and their sycophants in the Mighty Wurlitzer right-wing media, severely damaged key democratic institutions -- the sacredness of the right to vote; the respect for established law; states' rights; respect for the Supreme Court and its inherent fairness -- in the 2000 election. And Democrats, to their credit, have not responded in kind by trying to undermine Bush's presidency by raising phantom scandals and prying into his private life. They have in fact made a great show of rallying behind him during the national crisis of Sept. 11. Instead of trying to negate the results of the election forced upon them by the Scalia five, they have waited.

2004 is about reclaiming our democracy from the people who have stolen it from us -- not just in Florida in 2000, but in Texas and California too. And, yes, about punishing them politically for the deed. This isn't hate, Mr. Brooks. This is justice.

Conservatives may not relish facing the music. But they better prepare for it.

Onward Christian Soldiers

Via Atrios, I see that Tom McClintock's senior advisor has been outed as a writer for Chalcedon.

The LA Times story is quite vivid in describing John Stoos' belief system, particularly:
"I dream of the day when a strong Christian majority is elected to a city council somewhere in America. This council could then pass a resolution declaring that abortion is now illegal in their city."


"If these sinners who desperately need the great gift of salvation in Jesus Christ can do so much in the power of the flesh to defend practices that the general public finds repulsive, then what should we as Christians be doing to advance the kingdom of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit?

"The critical question is whether we as Christians are prepared to show the same resolve and discipline and do the kind of hard work that the homosexuals have done over the past fifteen years promoting their ungodly agenda. Lord willing, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can!"


"Christians are the only people who can restore the proper biblical understanding of government to our modern system."

What's missing about this piece, however, is the larger context: Chalcedon is the leading publishing arm and fundraising foundation of the Christian Reconstructionist movement. Indeed, everything that Stoos is quoted as having said is perfectly in line with their beliefs.

Many of you may already be familiar with what Christian Reconstructionism is about, but here's the short version: They believe the vote should only belong to Christians, and that the American government and laws should be explicitly governed by their fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture.

Chalcedon's publisher for most of its existence was the late R.J. Rushdoony, one of the leading lights of Christian Reconstructionism.

Here's the longer version:

Christian Reconstructionism: Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence, by Frederick Clarkson
The original and defining text of Reconstructionism is Institutes of Biblical Law, published in 1973 by Rousas John Rushdoony--an 800-page explanation of the Ten Commandments, the Biblical "case law" that derives from them, and their application today. "The only true order," writes Rushdoony, "is founded on Biblical Law.

All law is religious in nature, and every non-Biblical law-order represents an anti-Christian religion." In brief, he continues, "Every law-order is a state of war against the enemies of that order, and all law is a form of warfare."

Gary North, Rushdoony's son-in-law, wrote an appendix to Institutes on the subject of "Christian economics." It is a polemic which serves as a model for the application of "Biblical Principles."

Of course, also worth remembering:

One of the other leading lights at Chalcedon is none other than Howard Ahamanson ... who also has been appearing in the news recently connected with the brouhaha over computerized voting technology. Seems Ahmanson is one of the chief owners of American Information Systems -- which is co-owned by Diebold's president and vice-president.

Oh what a tangled web we weave. But regardless of how Tom McClintock chooses to spin things now, his political identity should be understood now as unmistakably interwoven with the Christian Reconstructionist agenda -- and his campaign an attempt to mainstream it.

The Conserva-Traitors' Hall of Shame

The ongoing Valerie Plame affair is more than sufficient to remind us all of a certain fact: Conservatives have a long history in America of resorting to traitorous acts to further their own private agendas, which typically revolve around matters of power and greed.

Thus, in addition to "Manifestly Unfit," another ongoing Orcinus series this fall will be sporadic entries detailing the ways conservatives have, over the years, engaged in various acts that are either identifiably treasonous or have involved dealing with the nation's enemies in ways that enabled them to later commit violence that cost Americans their lives.

I briefly considered giving the series the highly original title Treason: Conservative Treachery From World War II to the War on Terrorism, but my ace legal team (who just got done advising Fox News on a major lawsuit) tells me it might unfairly violate the rights and tender feelings of lying, sociopathic blond Republican bimbettes everywhere. So I'll refrain.

Instead, I'll be posting entries periodically detailing the careers of a variety of right-wing traitors, focusing on the years since about 1920 (when the foundations for the Second World War were being laid) to the present.

And unlike certain other extremist and deranged attempts to cast, Newspeak-like, liberals as historically prone to treason (which will here go unnamed), these accounts will be entirely factual, based solely upon published and substantiated fact.

As regular readers will recall, I've already examined in detail the activities of two such noted conservatives who contributed substantially to the rise of the Nazi regime in the 1930s: Prescott Bush and Henry Ford. You may, if you wish, consider these posts the first installments in the series.

Episode 57: The America First Committee

[Brochure cover, Friends of Democracy]

Regular readers of Orcinus know that I've written at length previously about the "Transmission Belt" by which extremist ideas and agendas make their way into mainstream political discourse and policy. A few readers have asked if the concept is my own; as you can see by the cartoon above, it actually has been with us for quite awhile and was in fact a generally recognized, if not often acknowledged, phenomenon in the early 1940s, when the presence of incipient fascism was a very real threat. (I did base my idea of "transmitters" on this concept.)

In the early 1940s, there were numerous transmitters of fascist ideas -- William Dudley Pelley's Silver Shirts and the German-American Bund being the most notable examples. But these were themselves nearly fringe figures; though Pelley did run for president in 1936, he only managed to garner some 1,598 votes nationwide, or 0.23 percent of the vote. However, his campaign was noteworthy for the way it tried to mainstream its message, namely, by overt identification with Christianity. He called his party the Christian Party, and his campaign featured the slogans "Christ or Chaos!" and "For Christ and Constitution." He also managed to make headlines when called FDR the "lowest form of human worm -- according to Gentile standards." (Pelley, it must be remembered, was obsessed with the grand Jewish conspiracy to control mankind.)

Even though it only existed for a little over a year and a half, unquestionably the transmitter with the greatest impact in this period was the America First Committee -- precisely because of its image as an essentially mainstream organization. Indeed, this image persists, as evidenced by its current-day apologists, particularly the libertarian set.

The AFC had its origins in 1940, when a Yale law student named R. Douglas Stuart Jr. organized a petition on campus to build opposition to intervention in the European wars then reaching a high pitch. He found a sponsor in Robert E. Wood, chairman of the board at Sears, Roebuck -- then and now the quintessentially middle-American company. Wood and a group of fellow Chicago businessmen (including former diplomat William R. Castle, who had been a high-ranking Hoover Administration official, and whose work appeared in Japanese and German propaganda publications; and William Regnery, founder of Regnery Publishing … yes, that Regnery Publishing …) helped Stuart form plans for a large-scale organization, which led to the naming and formation of the America First Committee in August of that year.

The chief point of agitation for the America Firsters was FDR's loosening of the arms embargo to Europe -- particularly for Britain and France -- shortly after Hitler's invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the subsequent outbreak of war. In retrospect, of course, this not only helped pull the United States inexorably to war, it was the morally courageous -- and right -- thing to do. To have utterly abandoned Britain especially to the tender mercies of the Nazis would have been cowardice, and almost certainly would have wrought an unimaginable nightmare: complete and uncontested Nazi hegemony in Europe, a reign that may well have continued even to the present day. The idea that America First was in hindsight somehow "right" is both laughable and truly contemptible. Defenders of America First (including Patrick Buchanan) like to argue that Hitler's regime eventually would have collapsed under its own weight -- but the evidence they present for this is thin and quite unconvincing.

Nonetheless, in its origins at least, America First was in truth largely a mainstream response that was mostly isolationist, and not fascist, in nature. It charter even specifically announced that Nazis, fascists and communists were not welcome.

But even in the beginning, there were warning signs: Among the first members of the committee's were Henry Ford, who, as the publisher of the Protocols hoax-promoting text, The International Jew, was not only one of the foremost progenitors of anti-Semitism in America, but had an open and celebrated business and ideological connection with Hitler's war machine.

Also on that original national committee:

-- Avery Brundage, former Chairman of the American Olympic Games Committee when in Berlin 1936. Brundage's behavior in that episode had already earned its place in history as one of the low watermarks of cowardice and complicity in the Nazis' consolidation of their power.

-- Charles A. Lindbergh, the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic and a household name even still, was to become the leading spokesman for the America First Committee -- as well as a notable anti-Semite.

The arc of Lindbergh's career in this period mirrored that of the America First Committee itself -- beginning, to all appearances, as mainstream isolationists and pacifists, but then rapidly devolving into something more sinister. The first real warning sign came at a May 29, 1941 rally in Philadelphia with 16,000 in attendance, when many audience members gave a Nazi salute. Lindbergh, while demanding the overthrow of the FDR regime, asked the audience: "Are we going to let Jews run this country?"

However, that remark received relatively little play, especially compared to the national firestorm that erupted after Lindbergh, on Sept. 11, 1941, gave a speech in Des Moines that blamed Jews for dragging the nation toward war:
It is not difficult to understand why Jewish people desire the overthrow of Nazi Germany. The persecution they suffered in Germany would be sufficient to make bitter enemies of any race.

No person with a sense of the dignity of mankind can condone the persecution of the Jewish race in Germany. But no person of honesty and vision can look on their pro-war policy here today without seeing the dangers involved in such a policy both for us and for them. Instead of agitating for war, the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way for they will be among the first to feel its consequences.

Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon peace and strength. History shows that it cannot survive war and devastations. A few far-sighted Jewish people realize this and stand opposed to intervention. But the majority still do not.

Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.

I am not attacking either the Jewish or the British people. Both races, I admire. But I am saying that the leaders of both the British and the Jewish races, for reasons which are as understandable from their viewpoint as they are inadvisable from ours, for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war.

We cannot blame them for looking out for what they believe to be their own interests, but we also must look out for ours. We cannot allow the natural passions and prejudices of other peoples to lead our country to destruction.

Of course, in retrospect, it is clear that on the basis of Hitler's plans for the Jews alone, America would have been justified in entering in a war against Germany on purely moral grounds. Not that this actually happened; if anything, American officials were in reality congenitally slow on the uptake about what was happening to the Jews in Europe.

In any event, Lindbergh's Des Moines speech created a national uproar, because its rather naked anti-Semitism -- especially the suggestion that American Jews were unpatriotic -- made plain for the first time what the underpinnings of America First were in reality about. Lindbergh had already raised eyebrows by accepting in October 1938 the Service Cross of the German Eagle from Herman Goering for his service in advancing the cause of aviation; Lindbergh had in fact helped advise the Germans on organizing the Luftwaffe. After the Des Moines speech, however, Lindbergh's reputation was so tarnished that even his hometown of Little Falls, Minnesota, removed his name from its water tower.

The connection to the Nazi agenda had indeed been gradually revealing itself for some time. On Jan. 22, 1941, Dr. Joseph Paul Goebbels, Propaganda Minister for the Third Reich, made a short-wave radio broadcast that promoted the group, proclaiming: "The America First Committee is truly American and truly patriotic!"

Other America First spokesmen were likewise nakedly anti-Semitic. The most notorious of these was Father Charles Coughlin, the Protocols-promoting radio ranter with a weekly audience of millions, who continued to insist that Jews were trying to pull Americans into a war against "their own kind." In his magazine Social Justice, he wrote: "Stalin's idea to create world revolution and Hitler's so-called threat to seek world domination are not half as dangerous combined as is the proposal of the current British and American administrations to seize all raw materials in the world. Many people are beginning to wonder who they should fear most -- the Roosevelt-Churchill combination or the Hitler-Mussolini combination."

Another famous aviator -- Laura Ingalls, the first woman to fly solo across the American continent -- was also a noted America First figure. She was also a raving anti-Semite who, it turned out later, was fully in the pay of the Germans. Ingalls received funds from Baron Ulrich von Gienanth, head of the Gestapo in the U.S. (his title was Second Secretary of the German Embassy in Washington). She also worked with Hans Thomson, German Charge' d'Affaires and Fritz Weidemann, the German Consul in San Francisco. In 1942, Ingalls was arrested by the FBI for failing to register as an agent of the Nazis and was sentenced to two years in prison.

While all this was going on at the top, the troops of the America First movement were also becoming increasingly Nazified. Members of the German-American Bund -- which received large amounts of funding from the Nazi regime -- moved quietly into the chapters of the America First Committee. Other proto-fascists likewise swelled the ranks of America First: William Pelley’s Silver Shirts, Coughlin's Christian Front, the KKK, White Russian Fascists. All this infiltration by mid-1941 led the American Legion in California to declare that the entire fifth column in the U.S. had joined the America First movement.

Smaller opposition groups tried to counter their propaganda by drawing public attention to the underlying agenda. The most notable of these was "Friends of Democracy," which produced the "Nazi Transmission Belt" cartoon was well as a pamphlet examining Lindbergh's Nazi ties. It also produced a flier that pointed out:
1) A large part of the audiences of many America First meetings are members of pro-Nazi organizations.

2) Nazi propaganda is distributed at many of these meetings.

3) Nazi organizations not only distribute the literature of the America First Committee but recruit members and raise money for the committee.

4) The Nazi press in the United States has stamped the program of America First with its approval.

5) The propaganda ministries of the democracy-hating Nazi and Fascist governments endorse the policies of the committee.

Another group, calling itself the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (CDAAA), published an article in May 1941 that observed:
The point is that un-American organizations have made appeals for contributions of money to America First. Un-American element crowd America First rallies. They applaud America First speakers. They boo the President of the United States. They do not boo Hitler or Mussolini or Stalin. . . Some of them belong to the Nazi Bund which is pro-Hitler. . . What Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin and their friends in this country Applaud cannot be good for America.

All this came to a screeching halt on Dec. 7, 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and America's entry into the war was cemented. America First's officials met on Dec. 8 and announced the organization was disbanding. At least publicly.

In secret, however, the leaders -- who were convinced America would lose the war -- kept the organization going, planning for the day when the Nazis took over. As Russ Bellant reported in Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party: Domestic Fascist Networks and Their Effect on U.S. Cold War Politics:
After Pearl Harbor and Germany's declaration of war on the United States, the America First Committee didn't go out of business as it officially declared on December 12, 1941. Five days later, a secret meeting of certain key leaders of America First took place in New York to plan for what they assumed (and hoped) would be the Axis victory in Europe and the Far East. "[T]he Committee has in reality gone underground," FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover reported to the White House. It began planning for the day when they would be the Americans with whom the victorious Nazis would negotiate a surrender. Finally, when the defeat of the Nazis by Allied powers was a foregone conclusion, the America First Committee secretly dissolved itself in 1944.

(Bellant's primary source, for those interested, was a Feb. 13, 1942 memo from J. Edgar Hoover to Major General Edwin M. Watson, Secretary to the President, which declared that America First had "gone underground.")

The meeting was held in the home of Edwin Sibley Webster, a wealthy Wall Street broker with Kidder, Peabody, and it featured a number of key American First members, including Lindbergh. The group reformed under a new name, Americans for Peace. One of the attendees, Horace Haase, left no doubt about the future activities of the gathering:
"It is obviously necessary for the leaders of the America First like Wood and Webster to keep quiet. But the organization should not be destroyed. I have never been in the limelight and have nothing to lose. I can remain active in a quiet way. I should like to offer to keep the files. We must get ready for the next attack which must be made upon this communistic administration."

The America Firsters' fantasies of serving as a future Vichy government in America gradually crumbled, of course, as the tide of the war turned. Americans for Peace quietly disbanded in late 1944.

Monday, September 29, 2003

The Fresno case

Seems the Free Republic's complaint about being labeled a "hate group" has created a big dustup at Fresno City Hall, with Republicans coming out of the woodwork to demand the removal of the Human Relations Commission chair who issued the press release.

You'll notice, of course, that the conservatives who are so solicitous of the feelings of the Free Republic are the same folks who excused the Fresno city councilman who said he wanted to kill every liberal in Fresno with a "dirty bomb" (notably including the object of their wrath in this case).

It's hard to work up a lot of sympathy for the Free Republic. They are, as I have reported previously, one of the nation's foremost transmitters of extremist memes into mainstream conservative discourse.

Their record on this is fairly extensive, but one notable recent instance of this was its heavy promotion of the extremist meme that "MEChA is racist."

Anyone notice how easily the Freepers' feelings get hurt when someone flings the "racist" accusation their way? And might there be any signs of self-awareness on this point when using it themselves?


Well, as I have noted previously, the accusation of being a "hate" group or "racist" is indeed an extremely serious one, and any serious person or organization that uses it must do so with due criteria. I prefer the SPLC's criteria:
All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.

I also prefer to add that these attacks are characterized by exclusionism, eliminationism and bigoted discrimination, as well as a propensity for violence.

Does the Free Republic fit? Well, the site does transmit all kinds of extremist memes, and the site's posers frequently trade in eliminationist rhetoric aimed at liberals, as well as various kinds of bigotry, particularly anti-immigrant and anti-gay rhetoric. None of these accumulatively, and certainly not individually, amount to what could reasonably be called a "hate group", however. They're on the borderline, however, and an outbreak of violent rhetoric followed up by real-world action (which has been a phenomenon associated with Freeper activism for some years now anyway) could well tip them over.

So I was awaiting the evidence provided by the Fresno Human Relations Commission with some interest. Had the Freepers indeed threatened violence against counterprotesters? And had the HRC found evidence that the Free Republic was engaging in hate rhetoric?

Today's update in the Bee reports:
Free Republic founder Jim Robinson said Reyes has no proof that his members wrote the offending posts. And whether members did, Robinson said: "They were just joking. There were no threats made."

The posts displayed Monday by Reyes were apparent responses to a Web forum discussion of disrupting the Free Republic events. One post said members of Free Republic are anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-peace and justice, and anti-environment. "You forgot pro-gun. FR members are PRO-Gun. You guys need to remember that," the post said.

Another posting regarding the group's picnic at Woodward Park last Saturday said: "Lets see ... I got the sodas, the watermelon, fresh batteries for the stun guns, softball bats, pepper spray, my steel toed boots, arm bars, knee bars, chokes, neck cranks, wrist locks, shoulder locks ... this should be a fun picnic ... I almost hope that these uninvited guests show up."

Reyes, DeGraff and Rhodes admitted that their proof isn't solid: The postings, found on the San Francisco Indymedia Web site, are attributed to people who use monikers. In some cases, these people have written offensive words and pretended to be DeGraff, Rhodes and other community activists.

In other words, the core of Peace Fresno's claim that Free Republic was a "hate" group was that (a) it engaged in anti-immigrant and anti-gay rhetoric and (b) some frequent participants in Free Republic forums -- and likely attendees of the Freeper picnic -- made comments suggestive of violence should counterprotesters appear.

Well, as I noted already (a) is inoperative because neither of these traits, while accurate in describing Free Republic, is sufficient evidence of racism beyond the obvious exclusionism inherent in them. In other words, they contain warning signs, but not proof of racism. And (b) simply is not evidence of racism -- rather, it clearly suggests the basic thuggery that lurks behind so much of Freeper politics, and one of the reasons they are a problem. But there is nothing in this to qualify Free Republic as a "hate group."

I think the Fresno HRC was wrong to designate the Free Republic a "hate group" on these criteria. I think they owe the Free Republic an apology.

And I think they ought to deliver it the same day Jim Robinson apologizes to MEChA for the same thing.

Conservative media bias

That damned conservative media.

Everyone else (especially Atrios) is tracking the Valerie Plame matter better than I could, so I'll say little about it here.

But has anyone else noticed how slow the so-called "liberal" media have been to pick up on the story? You only have a major criminal referral against the White House itself -- the story broke on Friday night -- and it takes three days for everyone to notice?

As of Sunday night, the New York Times had no reportage about the case on its Web site. (It's making up for it today, leading the front page.)

In my local papers -- the Seattle Times and the Post-Intelligencer -- the story has been buried. The Times has carried it on its interior pages Sunday and today (in the latter case, on A6).

The P-I -- reputedly the more liberal of the two -- not only failed to give it front-page play, it has had no reportage on the story at all. (If you go to their Web site even now, you can only find a wire story by digging through the national-news section.)

I've tried calling the National Desk at the P-I to inquire how such a decision could be made. So far I haven't been able to get through, nor have I received a callback. I'll keep trying.

Of course, the letters in the Sunday P-I responding to an Al Franken op-ed were sneering retorts all reassuring us that media indeed has a liberal bias.

One could only imagine how this would have been handled were any Democratic White House -- particularly Bill Clinton's or Al Gore's -- accused of such behavior.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

More handkerchiefs, please

The Free Republic is about to sue the city of Fresno and its Human Relations Commission for designating the Freepers as a "hate group." Here is the "Notice of Claim" (the first step in a lawsuit) it filed:
On or about September 12, 2003, the City of Fresno disseminated a News Release entitled, "Human Relations Commission News Release," a true and correct copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit "A" and made a part hereof (hereinafter, the "Release"). The Release refers to claimant as "a hate group." In addition, the Release states: "This group has also planned a ‘Free Republic Hate Rally Picnic’ in District 6," and accuses claimant of making "threats of violence toward any minority groups that interfere with their rally or picnic." The Release constitutes a false and unprivileged fixed representation to the eye which exposes claimant to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, causes it to be shunned or avoided, and has a tendency to injure claimant in its occupation, trade or business. In addition, the Release charges claimant with a crime in that it accuses claimant of making "threats of violence" towards minority groups.

I'm not sure what criteria the Fresno HRC employs in determining what constitutes a "hate" group, but the Southern Poverty Law Center's is that such a group "attacks or maligns an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics." The SPLC does not list Free Republic as a hate group, but at various and multiple times, Freepers have engaged in such behavior, especially in the site's comments. Of particular note is the relentless attacks on homosexuals.

However, the site's owners have been fairly adept at quickly removing not only any liberal who dares post there, but also egregious and open cases of racism and anti-Semitism from its Web pages. What has resulted instead is a lot of rhetoric that treads up to those boundaries but only occasionally wanders over into overt racism.

Nonetheless, knowing the proclivities of the Freepers, the claims made by the Fresno HRC sound perfectly credible. Moreover, considering the massive amount of dis- and misinformation that is regularly peddled at the site, anything claimed to contrary by the Free Republic must be viewed skeptically.

Let's get out the popcorn and watch this case. I'd like some butter on it.

The Jean Lewis connection

It turns out that there is indeed a connection between the dismissal of the "Arlington Three" from the Department of Defense's Office of the Inspector General and the arrival there of L. Jean Lewis.

Indeed, at the time of their forcible removal, Lewis in fact was employed by the IG as a private "consultant" -- and she specifically was assigned to help handle the case.

See this story from Insight, a publication of the ultra-conservative Washington Times, which reported approvingly on the removal:
According to a source close to the investigation the three were "given memos signed by Mr. Schmitz, which said they would be assigned special projects through Ms. Jean Lewis," who according to the source "is a special consultant to Mr. Schmitz working under a contract with the OIG DoD." The source stated that the memos told the three "not to engage in any contact with the Office of Inspector General, DoD (including all of its components) or its members in their official capacity. ... Any contact with this organization will be through Ms. Lewis."

In other words, Lewis -- who was herself a federal Resolution Trust Corporation investigator who engaged in numerous violations of federal laws, and then claimed the resulting charges against her were "reprisals" for her "whistleblowing" activity -- was in charge of handling a case in which another "whistleblower" also broke federal laws and claimed he was being harassed.

The smell emanating from the IG's office is becoming especially pungent.

Still more to come, as details emerge.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Eliminationism Watch

Well, we've always suspected just what the mouth-foamers on the right have in mind for the rest of us ...

But it's always worth taking notice when they demonstrate again that they're getting their inspiration from The Turner Diaries.

[Link via Not Geniuses.]

Whistleblowers and the DoD

It appears that the hiring of L. Jean Lewis is not the only time the Department of Defense's Office of the Inspector General has engaged in behavior that raises questions about its ethics.

As I noted previously, Lewis' hiring -- elevating a low-level investigator to a high-level staff-oversight position -- raises serious doubts about the judgment of the IG, Joseph H. Schmitz, and casts some of his bureaucratic moves in a more ominous light, considering that his office is responsible for auditing the billions of dollars' worth of private contracts that the DoD is relying upon in rebuilding Iraq. This is especially cause for concern, since Halliburton -- a corporation with extensive ties to the Bush administration -- is at the forefront of these contractors.

Worthy of particular attention, it appears, is Schmitz's "reorganization" of his department. Shortly after taking office in April 2002, Schmitz hired a team of outside "consultants" to conduct a review of the Inspector General's Office. This "assessment team" was provided by Military Professional Resources Inc. of Alexandria, Va., a "private military" organization that provides training and other services to militaries around the world. According to CitizenWorks:
MPRI reported annual sales of $95 million from numerous contracts with the U.S. and foreign governments to provide military training and consulting, according to the Center for Public Integrity. MPRI, which boasts of having "more generals per square foot than in the Pentagon," has trained local forces in Croatia that went on to conduct one of the worst episodes of "ethnic cleansing" in an event that left more than 150,000 ethnic Serbs homeless and hundreds dead, according the Center for Public Integrity.

(You can read the core data compiled by CPI on Military Professional Resources' activities here.)

In any event, the report provided by the MPRI team was, according Defense Week, "highly critical of IG leaders, though it was short on specific examples of their alleged failures." Indeed, employees at the IG's office reportedly widely felt that the "assessment team" had arrived with the conclusions it wanted to reach ahead of time, and set about finding "facts" to support them.

Into this mix fell the Alan White matter.

White was director of Investigative Operations at the Defense Criminal Investigative Service Headquarters, the DCIS being one of the DoD IG's office main bureaus, until July 2002.

White was also closely associated with Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who chairs the Senate Finance Committee. Grassley has been one of the sharpest critics of the DoD IG's office in recent years, and White appeared several times as a witness in support of Grassley's positions in committee hearings, and he reportedly has been a major source for Grassley.

Was the IG's office performing as terribly as Grassley often proclaimed? It's difficult to say for certain. In at least one instance, he uncovered a case in which a dozen or so of the auditors in the IG's office were reportedly involved in doctoring working papers in order to bolster their scores in a performance review.

In other regards, it is clear the office was doing excellent work in uncovering fraudulent military contracts. In March of 2001, it had released a report that found the following examples of gross overcharges in the Pentagon's accounting system:
-- The Pentagon paid $2.10 for a body screw that cost the vendor 48 cents, a 335 percent mark-up.

-- The Pentagon paid 25 cents for a dust protection plug that cost the vendor 3 cents, a 699 percent mark-up

-- The Department paid $409.15 for a washroom sink that cost the vendor $39.17, a 945 percent mark-up.

At the time, Grassley denounced the waste:
"The Pentagon does not know how much it spends. It does not know if it gets what it orders in goods and services. And the Pentagon, additionally, does not have a handle on its inventory. If the Pentagon does not know what it owns and spends, then how does the Pentagon know if it needs more money? . . . Ramping up the Pentagon budget when the books are a mess is highly questionable at best. To some it might seem crazy."

But a few months later, he was busy blaming the Inspector General's office for the problem. Indeed, Grassley devoted a great deal of time during Schmitz's nomination hearings demanding that the next IG address "serious leadership and morale problems in that office" and otherwise "clean house."

In the spring of 2002, while still working for the IG's office, Alan White decided to run for the school board in Fairfax, Va., where he lived. He told his bosses he was running for a non-partisan position, but in fact White ran as a Republican, obtaining in the process both financial contributions and services while running, both of which are in direct violation of the Hatch Act, which bars senior federal employees from such activities.

In July of 2002 -- just as White was leaving the DoD for a new assignment at the United Nations -- the Office of Special Counsel announced it was filing a petition for disciplinary action against White for his Hatch Act violations. The OSC, apparently, had been tipped off to White's illegal actions by an anonymous hotline caller.

The DoD Inspector General's Office had also received such a tip. Three top IG investigators -- Carol Levy, assistant IG for investigations and director of the DCIS; Tom Bonnar, Levy’s deputy; and Joel Leson, the IG’s director of administration and information management -- began looking into the matter in early July of 2002.

They did not, apparently, inform Schmitz about the information they had received. Instead, Schmitz apparently received a call from Grassley inquiring about whether retaliation against White was in the works. Within days, two other investigators -- both from Schmitz's Departmental Inquiries office -- descended on the DCIS investigators and began interrogating them about what they knew about the case. They were reportedly asked: "Were you the anonymous source of the initial allegations to the OSC and the DOD Hotline about Alan White's school board candidacy?" and whether any of them had exacted reprisal against White for disclosures he "allegedly previously made to Sen. Charles Grassley." They were also asked about whether they had made any contact with the OSC.

Not only had the interrogators attempted to determine if their own colleagues were the anonymous hotline informants, but, according to a complaint the three later filed, the two investigators had attempted to determine the identity of an anonymous hotline tipster in a separate case. Violating that anonymity, of course, would constitute a gross breach of the federal rules intended to protect federal whistleblowers, and if Schmitz indeed attempted to obtain such information, it raises grave questions about the standards of ethics being applied under his tenure.

If any of this sounds familiar, it should. It brings immediately to mind another notable case in which a supposed Republican "whistleblower" used her "investigations" as an excuse for a panoply of illegal activity and then claimed she was facing "retaliation" when those activities came to light.

In August, the three veteran investigators were given a rude greeting at their longtime workplace: They were removed from their offices, forced to relinquish their guns, badges, credentials, pagers, and cell phones, and their computers were seized. Schmitz distributed their photos to security guards with orders to keep them from the premises.

A month later, their lawyers filed a complaint with the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency, which is the watchdog of the federal IG community, and another with the Office of Special Counsel. The complaints alleged that the IG's office had retaliated against them for their investigation of White. According to William Bransford, their lawyer, Schmitz may have been "improperly politicized" in handling the matter. "There's an appearance of reprisal, of improper legislative political influence, and of arbitrary and capricious treatment of a senior executive, which is illegal," Bransford said.

The matter finally hit the press when John M. Donnelly of Defense Week began reporting on the complaint. His September 23 report, "IG Under fire for Treatment of Execs" (available here from the Google cache), covered most of the essentials of the case. He followed up with another report in the Oct. 7, 2002, edition, titled "IG, Senior Execs Battle Over Alleged 'Purge' ". (I must point out here that the bulk of this report originates from Donnelly's reportage, which is first-rate; I managed, moreover, to corroborate nearly everything in his pieces through secondary sources, some of which are linked here. Defense Week is only available online to subscribers, and its material is copyrighted.)

Significantly, Donnelly interviewed some 12 veteran employees in the IG's office who told him the purge had created "confusion and fear" and extremely low morale. Donnelly also quoted Robert Lieberman, Schmitz's immediate predecessor:
"The way in which those three senior executives have been treated is simply uncalled for. The kinds of changes he [Schmitz] is making and the methods he's using, in my mind, go far beyond anything that is constructive or appropriate. I fear for the future of the organization."

As it happened, the removal of the "Arlington Three" (as they came to be known) coincided with Schmitz's announcement of the results of his reorganization plan. And as it also happened, one of the departments most significantly affected by the reorg was the DCIS. Carol Levy's dual positions were broken into two offices, with the DCIS chief now reporting to the Assistant IG for Investigations.

Also noteworthy were the changes that Schmitz introduced to the auditing system. Under the old system, possible crimes that were uncovered by auditors were reported to various agencies under a variety of means. As Donnelly reported in his Sept. 23 sidebar, "Inspector General Reorganizes Watchdog Organization":
The IG act requires that the IG promptly notify the Attorney General when he has reason to believe violation of federal criminal law.

Up to now, Schmitz said, the criminal investigators within the IG were doing that "apparently pretty well on a case-by-case basis with the local U.S. attorneys." But the IG's auditors and internal, non-criminal investigators had their own ways of reporting possible crimes, he said. Under the IG statute, the IG is supposed to notify the Attorney General. Schmitz said he doesn't intend to micromanage the process, just to think through more clearly how it's done via a "single implementing regulation."

Actually, what it sounds like Schmitz is proposing is that all crimes uncovered by auditors be channeled through a single controlling function within the IG's office, rather than under the fairly open system that existed previously. It may have the advantage of organizing the audits' reporting; but it may also close the audit system down and squelch the uncovering of abuses. This becomes significant when one considers that auditors are those most likely to uncover irregularities in such dealings as those now being underwritten in Iraq.

In the mid-October followup report, Donnelly also reported that Schmitz explained the "detailing" of the three senior investigators, claiming that the action was not "punitive or adverse," even though it plainly was. He claimed they had been removed because they has withheld "important information involving an ... ongoing criminal investigation" -- even though, as the trio's lawyer pointed out, such delays in relaying information are regular occurrences.

Leson, it turned out, had been singled out for removal because he reportedly had made disparaging remarks about both Schmitz and his "assessment team." As Donnelly reported:
The lawyers denied several aspects of the IG's memo to Leson, but they confirmed that Leson had expressed concerns that the assessment team seemed to be seeking only negative information about the IG office and had "determined its conclusions" prior to investigating. Many officials in the IG's office hold that view.

That same assessment team, it turned out, had made a pre-emptive strike in the direction of the Office of Special Counsel. As Donnelly reported in another Oct. 15 piece, "Special Counsel, Hit In IG-Sponsored Report, Hits Back," the report had gone out of its way to belittle the OSC's work, charging that the office's work in protecting whistleblowers had become "increasingly discredited." As Elaine Kaplan wrote in a letter to Schmitz:
"I am unaware of the basis for the report's negative comments about OSC. … We were not consulted by the team that prepared the report, and there is no source provided for the opinion. More to the point, the view of OSC's effectiveness expressed in the report is an outdated one that is not shared by knowledgeable observers and practitioners. It would be unfortunate indeed if the very whistleblowers the report suggests should be protected and encouraged gave any credence to this erroneous assertion that OSC will not effectively protect them."

One can only imagine, of course, what would have happened had a top official of a Clinton or Gore administration participated in such hamhanded antics (remember Travelgate?). The story, however, never gained any attention in the mainstream press. And Schmitz's apparent misbehavior has in the intervening months fallen into the memory hole.

Donnelly did file a brief followup piece in the June 23, 2003 Defense Week which reported that Levy, Bonnar and Leson had all managed to settle into other work. Levy chose to work on projects from her home, Bonnar found a criminology teaching post at the University of Maryland, and Leson went to work for the International Association of Police Chiefs.

Their complaint to the OSC, Donnelly reported, had been dropped.

Thus it has never been officially resolved, one way or another, whether or not Schmitz attempted to obtain the identity of anonymous whistleblowers, or whether the removal of the "Arlington Three" was in retaliation for their investigation of Alan White.

But it must also be noted that if anyone was likely to view a "whistleblower" caught using their political connections to advance their careers, it certainly would be the IG's new chief of staff.

Still unanswered, of course, is whether or not the dismissal of the "Arlington Three" just happened to coincide with the arrival of L. Jean Lewis in the IG's office. (According to the Newsweek report, she was hired sometime "last year.")

As for Al White? Well, according to Stephen Barr of the Washington Post, Republican Rep. Thomas Davis of Virginia snuck into the fiscal 2004 defense-appropriations bill a rider that would stop the prosecution of White:
[OSC chief Elaine] Kaplan, in a letter to lawmakers before her term in office ended, called the provision "ill-advised" and said "the use of the legislative process to interfere with a specific matter in litigation sets a poor example that may undermine our ability to effectively enforce the Hatch Act."

Asked about Kaplan's criticism, David Marin, a spokesman for Davis, said: "There are larger issues here. Congress never intended the Hatch Act to be enforced against people who are not current members of the federal service. . . . Apparently the Office of Special Counsel thinks it has the authority to pursue people after they have left office."

As a reader suggested a week later in an online chat with Barr:
This seems to be an abuse of legislative power to circumvent the checks and balances that make our government as ethical as possible. It also appears that Tom Davis must owe Mr. White a favor and that he is championing this bill. Through bartering, it appears that what was originally a proposed change to the Hatch Act, it applies to just Al White.

I'll be digging further and letting you all know the results.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Pissed-off centrists

One of my favorite reads this week is Jonathan Chait's piece in The New Republic, "Mad About You: The Case for Bush Hatred:
Conservatives believe liberals resent Bush in part because he is a rough-hewn Texan. In fact, they hate him because they believe he is not a rough-hewn Texan but rather a pampered frat boy masquerading as one, with his pickup truck and blue jeans serving as the perfect props to disguise his plutocratic nature. The liberal view of Bush was captured by Washington Post (and former tnr) cartoonist Tom Toles, who once depicted Bush being informed by an adviser that he "didn't hit a triple. You were born on third base." A puzzled Bush replies, "I thought I was born at my beloved hardscrabble Crawford ranch," at which point his subordinate reminds him, "You bought that place a couple years ago for your presidential campaign."

Chait elaborates on his thesis in his online debate over the topic with Ramesh Ponnuru, "Bush Hatred" in his Sept. 22 post:
You, like most conservatives, claim that liberals see Bush as a hapless rube from the sticks. My experience is that liberals see Bush as a phony--a rich kid who had everything handed to him by his parents' cronies, and who compensates for it by posing as a plan old ranch hand. It's not just that he benefited from nepotism. Jeb Bush and George H.W. Bush both benefited from nepotism, but liberals don't loathe either of them. The reason is that H.W. and Jeb, while benefiting from a big leg up, are reasonably intelligent men who earned something on their own. Neither is manifestly ignorant or pointedly anti-intellectual, and both managed to win office the old-fashioned way, by garnering more votes than their opponent.

[The last paragraph of this rejoinder, by the way, is especially good for those needing a chortle.]

Chait -- who by most definitions is a moderate liberal himself -- touches on something that is starting to become apparent regarding the vehement opposition to George W. Bush: It is emanating not so much from the "far left," as Bush's multitude of apologists would have you think, but from centrist liberals.

E.J. Dionne devoted a column to this topic the other day at the Washington Post titled "Anti-Bush Moderates":
Nor can former Vermont governor Howard Dean be seen as some kind of leftist. Yes, he won many left-wing hearts by opposing Bush on Iraq. But Dean has been a moderate, even conservative, Democrat on many issues, including Medicare and Social Security. Rep. Dick Gephardt is going at Dean hard on these questions.

If the rebellion in the Democratic Party were primarily ideological, closet centrist Dean would be going nowhere. What Dean understood earlier than his rivals is that Democrats wanted someone who did not seem intimidated by Bush. Iraq became both a substantive issue and a symbol. If Dean was willing to fight Bush on Iraq, many Democrats reasoned that he'd be tough enough to take him on across the board.

Tom Tomorrow mentioned this as well, regarding the blogosphere, in his recent interview in Salon:
The blogs, I have to say, are very helpful because you have a whole army of unpaid researchers digging up all these wonderful nuggets of information.

Any of them that you really like?

Atrios' site, Daily Kos, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo -- they all have silly names. Then again, I'm Tom Tomorrow so I can't exactly say anything about that. A lot of the sites are the radical center expressing its voice. They seem pretty much to be centrist Democrats but with an anger that you haven't seen from centrist Democrats in years. That's a wonderful and healthy development. A lot of my problem with the Democratic Party over the last few years has been the fact that there doesn't seem to be one.

I was glad someone finally noticed.

I understand that in, say, the context of Idaho politics, I would be considered something of a flaming radical. (I think "commie" was the description of choice when I lived there.) But I am a former Republican and I do come out of that rather centrist, Western Democrat style of politics practiced by people like Cecil Andrus. In the context of Seattle politics, I'm very middle of the road if not conservative. (In Eugene I'd be hopeless.)

I have to say that before the 2000 election, I always voted a mixed ticket. I tried especially to reward moderate Republicans where they could be found. That has become nigh impossible in recent years (though I did briefly consider supporting John McCain). After the Bush v. Gore ruling, however, I will no longer do so.

I believe the Republicans, in the Florida debacle, proved themselves so hellbent for power that they were willing to severely compromise major democratic institutions, from the credibility of the Supreme Court to the sanctity of the vote to the very real (and not imagined) principles of states' rights. Moreover, I don't think I'm being wild-eyed about this. I think anyone knowledgeable about the voting process and the events that took place in Florida could come reasonably to just that conclusion. Vincent Bugliosi, no radical himself after all, reached the same conclusion.

What does a genuinely patriotic centrist do when confronted with a plainly illegitimate presidency wrought through cronyism of the worst sort, which has in turn thrust upon us an incompetent, self-deluded and ideologically rigid phony, and given him the world's most powerful position at a time of great international historical moment? "Getting over it" isn't an option, not morally speaking. "Getting rid of him" is the only option.

For many centrists, it means becoming politically active for the first times in their lives. The chief beneficiary of that so far is Howard Dean.

In my case, I do what I can: Disseminate information.

And no, I'm not getting over it. Not anytime soon.

Electronic voting: The Empire Strikes Back

Two major fronts have opened up in the battle over the use of potentially vulnerable voting technologies in just the past couple of days. Both of them warrant significant media attention, but seem at present to be going ignored. So we'll document them here in the hopes it will finally surface.

Diebold threatens to sue over links

On Monday, Diebold sent a letter to the hosting company where Bev Harris' Black Box Voting had posted a link to the documents that Harris cites in her Salon interview. Diebold isn't claiming any falsity here -- only copyright infringement. And compared to other cases currently in the courts, Diebold's grounds are even shakier. It's a clear case of attempting to silence their critics even if everything they say is perfectly accurate.

As Harris herself noted in the Democratic Underground forum linked above:
1) These are memos which document numerous violations of the law

2) This is clearly an issue with public interest law

3) The discussion is under a public interest exclusion, fair use

Moreover, Harris is exactly right about the most disturbing aspect of this:
Everyone on the Internet will raise holy hell on this, if they get away with this -- the Internet will come to a screeching halt if this was allowed to stand.

If merely posting a link to another site violates its copyrights, the Internet -- and the blogosphere particularly -- will indeed be rendered moot.

Of course, it appears that this is simply a typical harassment suit, because its legal grounding seems somewhat dubious, but it does force the people dealing with the threats to hire lawyers and face both the bills and the little knots in their stomachs.

Fox News recently got a hard lesson in the rewards of legal thuggery. One can hope Diebold will as well. Because once Diebold actually sues Harris or anyone else, they in turn can proceed with discovery -- which means getting a look at Diebold's internal files.

In the meantime, Daily Kos has posted instructions on how to get to BBV despite the shutdown by Diebold. (Here's a handy link.)

Also worth noting: The tech-heads at Slashdot's discussion forums are all over this too.

Maryland proceeds with Diebold system

Diebold announced in a press release today that the state of Maryland was proceeding apace with its installation of the Diebold system in its voting machines. Note the subhed: Independent Analyst Submits Positive Review of Diebold Machine -- as well as the glowing words from (Republican) Governor Ehrlich, and the text of the release:
Governor Ehrlich in August ordered Science Application International Corp., (SAIC), under an existing contract for security services with the State, to conduct the independent analysis of the Diebold machine and its source code. The SAIC review responded in part to a report published by Aviel Rubin of Johns Hopkins University that questioned the use of the Diebold source code.

SAIC’s independent review states, "While many of the statements made by Mr. Rubin were technically correct, it is clear that Mr. Rubin did not have a complete understanding of the State of Maryland’s implementation of the AccuVote-TS voting system…The State of Maryland’s procedural controls and general voting environment reduce or eliminate many of the vulnerabilities identified in the Rubin report."

Note that the sentence immediately following this in the report is omitted from Diebold's press release:
However, these controls, while sufficient to help mitigate the weaknesses identified in the July 23 report, do not, in many cases meet the standard of best practice or the State of Maryland Security Policy.

It also piles further on regarding Rubin:
SAIC’s report continues, "Rubin states repeatedly that he does not know how the [Diebold] system operates in an election and he further identifies the assumptions that he used to reach his conclusions. In those cases where these assumptions concerning operational or management controls were incorrect, the resultant conclusions were, unsurprisingly, also incorrect."

Here's what the rest of this passage actually says in the report:
In general, most of Mr. Rubin’s findings are not relevant to the State of Maryland’s implementation of the AccuVote-TS system because the voting terminals are not connected to a network. In addition, LBE procedures and the openness of the DRE voting booth mitigate a large portion of his remaining findings.

We do concur with Mr. Rubin’s assessment that if the AccuVote-TS voting system were connected to a network that several high-risk vulnerabilities would be introduced. We also concur with Mr. Rubin’s assessment that transmissions of data are not encrypted in transit, and we have recommended that this be rectified.

The State of Maryland procedural controls and general voting environment reduce or eliminate many of the vulnerabilities identified in the Rubin report. However, these controls, while sufficient to help mitigate the weaknesses identified in the July 23 report, do not, in many cases meet the standard of best practice or the State of Maryland Security Policy.

The report later stresses that point in its recommendations:
Remove the SBE GEMS server immediately from any network connections. Rebuild the server from trusted media to assure and validate that the system has not been compromised. Remove all extraneous software not required for AccuVote-TS operation. Move the server to a secure location.

And yet, remarkably, ensuring that the server is not connected to a network is notably missing from the recommended steps listed by Diebold in its press release.

Diebold's release is, frankly, a bizarre and remarkably incomplete characterization of the SAIC report. If you go back through the report (available here as a PDF), here's what you find:
This Risk Assessment has identified several high-risk vulnerabilities in the implementation of the managerial, operational, and technical controls for AccuVote-TS voting system. If these vulnerabilities are exploited, significant impact could occur on the accuracy, integrity, and availability of election results. In addition, successful exploitation of these vulnerabilities could also damage the reputation and interests of the SBE and the LBEs. This Risk Assessment also identified numerous vulnerabilities with a risk rating of medium and low that may have an impact upon AccuVote-TS voting if exploited.


2.1.1 AccuVote-TS voting system is not compliant with State of Maryland Information Security Policy & Standards

Failure to meet the minimum security requirements set forth in the State of Maryland Information Security Policy and Standards indicates that the system is vulnerable to exploitation. The results of a successful attack could result in voting results being released too soon, altered, or destroyed. The impact of exploitation could lead to a failure of the elections process by failing to elect to office, or decide in a ballot measure, according to the will of the people. The impact could be a loss of voter confidence, embarrassment to the State, or release of incomplete or inaccurate election results to the media.

2.5. Overall Risk Rating

The system, as implemented in policy, procedure, and technology, is at high risk of compromise. Application of the listed mitigations will reduce the risk to the system. Any computerized voting system implemented using the present set of policies and procedures would require these same mitigations.

If I were a Maryland voter, I'd be demanding answers to the disparities in the SAIC report and what government and Diebold officials say it reports.

One would think that Maryland journalists, or perhaps those from, say, adjacent metropolitan areas, might be interested as well. We'll see. But I shan't waste my lungs holding my breath.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Get out your handkerchiefs

David Horowitz has taken exception to Chip Berlet's inclusion of him and his nonprofit Center for the Study of Popular Culture in the incisive Southern Poverty Law Center report, Into the Mainstream: An array of right-wing foundations and think tanks support efforts to make bigoted and discredited ideas respectable:
David Horowitz, a former leftist born again as a right-wing conservative, founded the Center for the Study of Popular Culture in 1989, and is also the editor of the Net publication FrontPageMagazine.com. Although he makes much of his past working for civil rights for blacks and others, he more recently has blamed slavery on "black Africans … abetted by dark-skinned Arabs" - a selective rewriting of history. He also claims that "there never was an anti-slavery movement until white Christians -- Englishmen and Americans -- created one." That, of course, is false. Critics note that Horowitz is ignoring everything from the slave revolt led by Spartacus against the Romans and Moses' rebellion against the Pharaoh to the role of American blacks in the abolition movement. He has attacked minority "demands for special treatment" as "only necessary because some blacks can't seem to locate the ladder of opportunity within reach of others," rejecting the idea that they could be the victims of lingering racism.

Horowitz first responded by writing "An Open Letter to Morris Dees" in which he decried Berlet's characterization of him as a "smear" and "filth."

Berlet, however, responded with a detailed rebuttal of Horowitz's claims, drawing at length from Horowitz's own words, both spoken and written. It was frankly devastating, particularly since the quantity of citations made clear exactly how bankrupt Horowitz's thinking is.

Horowitz has since retorted that Berlet's response comprised "tendentious mis-readings and misrepresentations of the original report and adds 19 pages of additional quotes wrenched out of context, misrepresented and accompanied by further tendentious claims and further smears."

Of course, it is nothing like this. Berlet's citations are detailed and clearly contextual. It is wondrous, really, how right-wingers hate having their own words thrown back at them.

I expect Chip will at some point respond in detail, but in the meantime, one example from Horowitz's counter is illustrative of his huffing and puffing:
The sentence Berlet mangles is not a historical statement about slavery but a polemical response to the proponents of reparations who are demanding that only whites pay blacks for an institution – slavery – that has been eradicated in the western world (but not Arab and black Africa) for more than 100 years. It is intended to remind people that the slaves transported to America were bought from African and Arab slavers – not to blame Africans and Arabs for sole responsibility for slavery.

Well, this is accurate only if one defines "polemical" as "nakedly false" or "distorted beyond recognizability".

Just for the record, here's exactly what Horowitz said, in the citation by Berlet:
"Slavery itself is the most obvious example. It was not whites but black Africans who first enslaved their brothers and sisters. They were abetted by dark-skinned Arabs (since Robinson and his allies force us into this unpleasant mode of racial discourse) who organized the slave trade."

Is it possible to read this any other way than as clearly arguing that blacks and Arabs organized the slave trade? Or that they had, if not sole responsibility for the slave trade, at least primary responsibility?

One hopes the GOP keeps getting advice on minorities from guys like Horowitz, though. It only compounds their cluelessness.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Manipulating the vote

I've been tracking the issue of the potential abuse of electronic voting techniques as a way of altering the outcome of elections, but haven't blogged about it till now because I wasn't sure if there was any there there.

It's starting to appear that there is indeed.

Salon has a piece up tonight that nicely brings together a lot of the pieces of the puzzle:
An open invitation to election fraud

The bulk of the piece is an interview with a fellow Seattleite named Bev Harris who has enough expertise in the systems to uncover serious questions about the systems that may be in place in many voting booths come November 2004. Here's what Harris says:
Well I work with about 22 computer programmers who have been looking at this stuff -- I'm not that brilliant. Immediately when they began looking at the GEMS program they began commenting on the fact that it has no -- it's something called referential integrity. And what that means is that there are many different ways that it can become vulnerable to hacking. It has to do with how one part of the database is hooked into the next part.

I got a call from one of our more brilliant computer programmers -- he's got quite a few advanced degrees -- and he called me on a weekend and he said, "I want you to go to your computer." And he walked me through it just like a support tech does -- open this panel, click this, do this, do that. And as I'm doing this it was appalling how easy it was. Once you know the steps, a 10-year-old can rig an election. In fact it's so easy that one of our activists, Jim March in California, put together a "rig-a-vote" CD. He's been going around showing it to elections officials, and now this CD has been making its way to Congress members.

It's shocking. All you do is double-click the icon. You go backwards through the Internet to that county computer, and if you have Microsoft Access on your machine you can walk right into that election database while it's open. It's configured for multiple access at the same time. You can be in there changing things and you can change anything you want.

Coupled with this are the recent posts from Mark Crispin Miller, who points us to an incredibly disturbing memo apparently authored by the fine folks at Diebold:
On January 17, 2001, Lana Hines, a county elections official sends out an inquiry as to how Al Gore ended up with a vote-count of -16,022. That's NEGATIVE 16,022—which just happens also to have been the total number of votes cast for various independent and third-party candidates who also ran. (It was the largest number of such votes cast in Volusia County's history.)

Is it really possible that a candidate could be recorded as having negative votes in any precinct? How is this possible? And did this in fact affect the vote totals in Florida? I'll be watching for answers.

I would be remiss if I didn't note that my friend Maia Cowan has been bugging me to get on this story, and have to admit I've only shied away because I've been too damned busy. Maia has been compiling data about these and related stories at her site, Failure is Impossible. As you can see, it's also a very complex story, and separating fact from speculation from fiction isn't going to be easy.

Also worth reading is the material that's being posted in Salon's Table Talk, in particular Maia's posts and those by Fergus, in the Touch Screen "Voting" thread.

But this is, I think, a potentially important story, with really deep implications for the integrity of democratic institutions. It also speaks, again, to the conservative movement's growing antipathy to democacy and the voting process.

Of course, I thought L. Jean Lewis' hiring should be an important story too, so take that assessment for all it's worth.

"Manifestly Unfit: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush"

I thought I'd announce today that I'm beginning a new meta-project that, like "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism" before it, will produce a mini-book-sized "Web pamphlet" designed to be a central informational resource for anyone needing facts at their fingertips.

As the title suggests, this project is an attempt to catalog the many disasters that have befallen the United States since George Bush's inauguration in January 2001, as well as to give a thorough assessment of his culpability in them. It will also catalog Bush's biography before the 2000 election and assess it in the light of the "character issue" raised throughout Clinton's presidency by Republicans; and it will compile the facts about Bush's behavior during the 2000 campaign, with an emphasis on the Florida debacle.

Unlike the right-wing counterparts devoted to destroying Bill Clinton, this mini-book will be entirely factual, and will eschew any kind of conspiratorial theorizing or vicious attacks on Bush's character -- in no small part because those are precisely the behavior of the right in the 1990s that opened the door for its alliances with extremist elements. To the extent that Bush's critics indulge in same, they run the same risks, and severely damage their credibility.

On the other hand, it will try to thoroughly examine and weigh the evidence regarding Bush's failures, his known actions and actual statements, as well as those of his surrounding team, led by Karl Rove.

Like "Rush," it will be a reader-participation piece in which Orcinus acts as a sort of central information clearing-house. Some of you may recall that I did a similar reader-participation Web-based data-gathering process at Salon's Table Talk which resulted in a pretty good research-based piece about Ted Olson.

This project will be in that same spirit. I'll be posting requests for information from time to time, and then will intermittently publish chapters of the mini-book here at the blog as they are compiled. I hope anyone who spots a data request that they may know something about feels free to write me at dneiwert@hotmail.com .

Along those lines, let me make a first request:

Just on the eve of the 2000 election, Saturday Night Live ran a skit projecting what the respective presidencies of George W. Bush and Al Gore would bring. Gore, of course, was shown reading boring sermons from a self-help book or something like that on national television; Bush, on the other hand, was shown cowering behind his desk as the Capitol behind him was in flames.

I thought the sketch -- at least its core point -- proved eerily prescient, and I'd like to cite it to open the book. If anyone knows where I could obtain a copy of the script to that skit, please contact me at my e-mail.


[Update: I've already received a terrific link to the transcript, thanks to JP the Great. Kudos, JP. We're off to a great start.]

Blogging along

Sometime over the weekend, Orcinus garnered its 200,000th visit. (I wasn't paying attention and missed noting whoever hit the magic number.) I have to admit that I'm somewhat astonished to have gotten that kind of readership in the nine months or so I've been blogging.

I'm also extremely grateful, of course, to the folks who have driven the lion's share of traffic my way: Atrios at Eschaton, Media Whores Online, Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft, Cursor, Eric Alterman and, most recently, Joe Conason.

I also want to say thanks to the army of fellow bloggers who've blogrolled me and continue to link to me throughout. I'm also extremely grateful for the many online friendships that have sprung up as a result. I'm afraid I'm not very good at reciprocating, but hope to amend that over the next few months.

Now that I've finished Death on the Fourth of July: Hate Crimes and the American Landscape -- it's now in the editing stages -- I'm going to have a lot more time to blog. And it looks like I'll continue to have plenty to blog about.

I have to admit that over the years, editors and others I've dealt with have tended to treat the kind of things I write about -- especially right-wing extremism and its various permutations, as well as the machinations of the American right in general, and especially the way these two interconnect -- with a great deal of wariness. They've often expressed the sense that there isn't really much interest in these matters from the general public, and that writing about them provides them with publicity more than it exposes them. And finally, they often doubt the real importance of these issues.

One of the great experiences with Orcinus is that it has confirmed for me, at least, the belief that there is more interest in these matters than most mainstream editors like to believe -- for the primary reason that they are in fact much more significant than the establishment-media view will admit. I think Tucker Carlson summed up neatly exactly what that view is the other day in his Salon interview with Kerry Lauerman:
The classic flipside, which I've seen much more, is that you get some 62-year-old, semi-retarded cracker whose like the lone member of his chapter of the KKK, and he represents white supremacists. How many white supremacists are there in America? There are about nine, and they're all mentally retarded.

As regular readers of Orcinus know, this view is simply counter to the known facts. Of course, this kind of argument is not merely self-serving, it is precisely the kind of camouflage that enables the flow of extremist ideas and agendas from the far right into the mainstream. And that, of course, has been one of the chief topics at this little blog these many months now. As long as it keeps happening, I intend to keep writing about it.

I'm glad you've been reading, and I hope to reward your readership further in the coming months.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Saddam's pals

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay the other day, all aflutter over some Ted Kennedy remarks calling the war in Iraq a "fraud" that had been "made up in Texas":
"It's disturbing that Democrats have spewed more hateful rhetoric at President Bush then they ever did at Saddam Hussein."

Well, not really, considering that Republicans spewed more hateful rhetoric at President Clinton than they ever did at Saddam Hussein.

I seem to recall that before 1989, Republicans were downright friendly with the man.

[Thanks to Digby for the link.]

The propaganda corps

Gene Lyons chimes in on the L. Jean Lewis matter:
Both Banks’ letter and Lewis’ nationally televised comic opera swoon, it will be recalled, went unreported in The New York Times and Washington Post, the two newspapers most deeply committed to the scandal she helped them conjure out of thin air. It says a lot about today’s Republicans that Banks’ principled action in the face of the first Bush White House’s covert efforts to convene an "October surprise" probe of the Democratic nominee probably doomed his chances for a federal judgeship.

Documents showed that Lewis and like-minded RTC colleagues spent thousands of man-hours probing Madison Guaranty, ignoring Arkansas S&L collapses 10 and 20 times larger in their futile quest. But if getting Whitewater upside-down disqualified a person from employment, half of official Washington and most of the city’s name-brand journalists would be out of work.

Judging by the utter lack of press interest in her hiring, Lyons is clearly right.

Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler makes a similar point:
Just how far in the bag is your "press corps?" At last, we get a small-bore chance to find out. Newsweek reports that L. Jean Lewis has been named chief of staff of the Defense Department's inspector-general office; this is one of the most amazing news reports of the year. Gene Lyons' column gives you the background, although we recommend Lyons' Fools for Scandal for the early account of Lewis' clowning. In a rational world, one would expect a "press corps" to jump when a circus clown is named to such a high position. But as Lyons explains, the press corps managed to look away when Lewis engaged in her first round of clowning (and when she baldly lied to the Congress). The question is obvious: Will the press discuss Lewis' bizarre history with her ascension to this position? Or is the corps so far in the bag that even this remarkable event will be ignored? Lewis is a crackpot and clown. But then, many in the press may say, "Hail to thee, kindred spirit."

Speaking of propagandists, also worth adding to the L. Jean Lewis files is this rather hilarious version of events from a 2000 Carl Limbacher piece in NewsMax:
Democrats on the Senate Whitewater Committee subpoenaed all Lewis' relevant written correspondence, some of which she had stored on computer disks. Also on those same disks: private letters that had nothing to do with her investigation.

Lewis had simply deleted the personal mail and handed the disk over to Democrat staffers. Just like Vice President Gore, she presumed that her deleted mail was "lost forever."

But thanks to White House ingenuity, it turned out she presumed wrong.

When it came time to cross-examine Lewis in televised hearings, chief Democratic Whitewater counsel Richard BenVeniste hit the RTC prober with embarrassing revelations gleaned from private letters that had nothing whatsoever to do with Whitewater.

Some of the information was about her teen-age stepson, who was humiliated before the world in an attempt to discredit Lewis. Other tidbits revealed that Lewis had a political dislike for Bill Clinton even before she began looking into Whitewater - and had once even considered marketing a line of anti-Clinton T-shirts.

Suddenly the investigator with a spotless record and a personnel file folder full of commendations was being smeared as a "Clinton-hater" and a "gold digger" whose testimony was so hopelessly tainted by bias that it could not be taken seriously.

Confronted with the embarrassing information, a stunned and shaken Lewis asked BenVeniste how he managed to get his hands on her deleted personal correspondence. His reply: "I don't know how they do these things, but I'm told they can do it."

Whitewater Committee Democrats later explained that they had hired several computer experts to examine Lewis' files. The technicians were able to "reverse delete" the disks and voila: The RTC investigator's private correspondence had magically appeared.

Lewis, who suffered from high blood pressure, was so rattled by the invasion of privacy that she collapsed right there at the witness table and had to be taken to a doctor.

What's missing from this account, of course, is the content of those e-mails, which in fact proved beyond a doubt that Lewis had perjured herself regarding her testimony about her attempts to push the criminal referral against the Clintons for their Whitewater dealings with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office. It also established that she had fantasies about "changing history" and was driven by extreme partisanship, contrary to her assertions in testimony.

Limbacher, ever the chorus swell, thus adds this palpably false characterization of things:
Though nothing Clinton's allies had unearthed about Lewis compromised her testimony or the evidence she presented in any way ...

The Limbacher piece is rotten to the core, of course, but the information about the e-mail revelations is a suggestive detail. If the heat starts coming down on the Office of Inspector General's staff at DoD, someone might want to keep an eye out for smashed disk drives in the dumpster out back (figuratively speaking).

Not that it appears such a thing will ever come to pass.

Monday, September 15, 2003

The wolf in the henhouse

I realize it may seem like an overstatement to say, as I have, that L. Jean Lewis' appointment has the potential to be a "devastating" scandal for the Bush administration.

My reasons for saying that go well beyond the outrage inspired by the news of Lewis' appointment as chief of staff of the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense. It has everything to do with the serious questions raised by her elevation to that position, the chief of which I already noted:
Why was someone with Lewis' scant qualifications -- indeed, whose record of ethical behavior is, to put it kindly, extraordinarily questionable -- given a position calling not only for the highest level of competence, but also a spotless record of integrity?

First: It's important to remember just what Lewis' position is. As Newsweek reported:
Lewis has been given a $118,000-a-year job as chief of staff in the traditionally nonpartisan Defense Department’s inspector general office. With 1,240 employees and a budget of $160 million, this office is the largest of its kind in the government. It investigates fraud and audits Pentagon contracts, including the billions of dollars being awarded in Iraq to companies like Halliburton and Bechtel.

The Office of the Inspector General is not merely supposed to be nonpartisan: It is supposed to be a model of integrity and probity. Its own mission statement -- a document titled "Mission/Vision/Values" [PDF file], states the following:
Core Values:

-- Accountability
-- Integrity & Efficiency

Considering L. Jean Lewis' record in the Resolution Trust Corporation -- where she ran a T-shirt marketing scheme out of her office; secretly (and illegally) tape-recorded a fellow RTC employee; improperly disclosed confidential documents; and kept confidential documents in her home, all of which are likely violations of federal and state laws -- as well as her clearly perjurous testimony before Congress, there should be no question about whether Lewis should even be allowed near this staff.

Some of the more colorful instances of her lying before Congress were her claims that the tape recorder "turned itself on" and that her use of the word "BITCH" on the T-shirts she sold (with the subscript, "Bubba, I'm Taking Charge, Hillary") were "in no way intended to denigrate the First Lady". But the most serious instances of unmistakable perjury were her assertions that she had not made any pre-election attempts to pressure the FBI and U.S. Attorney about her shabby criminal referrals for the Clintons in the Whitewater matter, which were directly contradicted by testimony from the FBI (who had documented the contacts, of course) and several other law-enforcement officials.

It should be clear that any normative candidates for top staffing positions at any Inspector General's office should be persons with spotless records and unquestionable reputations for professionalism, ethical behavior and personal integrity. That someone like L. Jean Lewis even made it past the door raises serious questions about just what standards were used. This goes well beyond mere cronyism.

Second: At no point in her career as a low-level RTC investigator did Lewis exhibit any level of managerial capability. Nowhere in her resume is there even an inkling that she possesses any personnel-management skills. What in God's name could have qualified her to, out of the blue, rise through the ranks to suddenly oversee a staff of 1,240 people?

The only real quality that L. Jean Lewis exhibited at the RTC was her naked, almost psychotic eagerness to participate in partisan skulduggery. In this sense she was a classic Nixon-style dirty trickster -- not surprising, since many of the other figures in the Whitewater and impeachment scandals, such as Lucianne Goldberg, had bona fide ties to the old Nixon CREEP team. It was part and parcel of the anti-Clinton milieu.

Why would someone like Lewis be placed in such a sensitive position -- overseeing the audits of defense contractors in Iraq and elsewhere, particularly when some of these contractors, notably Halliburton, have significant ties to the Bush administration?

Some writers (including Greg Greene, who runs a generally smart blog), have suggested that perhaps Lewis was put in place to dig up dirt on Wesley Clark. Count me among the skeptics of this theory. Lewis in fact has been in place in the position since late last year, well before a Clark candidacy could have been anticipated. And the fact was that she didn't really dig up anything on the Clintons; what she proved skilled at was leaking trumped-up claims to the press and ginning up the juices for Clinton-hating conspiracy theorists. In other words, she is more skilled at manipulating the bureaucracy for political ends than she is at any kind of serious investigation or dirt-digging.

The more serious question raised by Lewis' appointment is this: Exactly what is going on in the DoD Inspector General's office? Are auditors being allowed to perform their duties free of partisan taint or political pressure? Is their work or effectiveness at uncovering fraud being suppressed or manipulated? Lewis' past standards of professionalism and partisanship would suggest that these kinds of problems are more than likely to recur in her new role.

That, in turn, puts the spotlight on the man who hired her.

Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz

A quick glance at Schmitz's bio reveals nothing immediately amiss. Unlike Lewis, he is obviously eminently and fully qualified to hold the job. His resume shows a mostly admirable record of achievement.

However, there are two, closely related items in his bio that raise red flags: His close association with Edwin Meese, and his leadership role in the Federalist Society.

Meese too is a key Federalist figure. And this far-right organization, many of you may recall, played a significant role in both the impeachment of Bill Clinton and Whitewater matters, and continues to hold significant sway within the administration -- after all, the Bush White House officially discarded the longtime role of the American Bar Association in providing advice in selecting federal judges and replaced it with the Federalist Society. And Bush's solicitor general, of course, is the noted Federalist Society figure, Ted Olson.

Moreover, the Federalist Society continues to hold considerable influence on the course of the nation's war against Iraq, as Salon's Michelle Goldberg explained in her article "Above the Law":
Many of George Bush's legal advisors, including Attorney General John Ashcroft and Solicitor General Ted Olson, are members of the Federalist Society, which argued in a white paper that the War Powers Act is "unnecessary, unconstitutional, and shameful." Another member is White House counsel Tim Flanigan, who is largely responsible for articulating the legal arguments buttressing Bush's Iraq policy. According to the Village Voice, the Federalist Society gave Flanigan $700,000 to write a biography of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger.

The group didn't return calls asking for comment, but its past pronouncements offer a telling clue to understanding the legal thinking underlying Bush's Iraq plans. A Federalist Society white paper about the War Powers Act calls the congressional power to declare war "a constitutional anachronism," and makes the rather stunning argument that Congress only has a role to play if the country is at peace and wishes to wage "an offensive (or what we would today call an aggressive) war."

Since that kind of war is outlawed by the world community, the white paper argues, the issue is moot. That same paper argues that the Act's premise of rectifying the mistakes of Vietnam is fallacious, since "by the end of 1972 the United States and South Vietnam essentially had the war won," and had America not fought in Vietnam, "we might well have lost the Cold War."

"This group of White House Federalist Society lawyers that is telling Bush he already has the authority to attack Iraq is the same group of White House Federalist Society lawyers that told him he could go right ahead and set up his [military tribunal] kangaroo court system," says Francis Boyle, an international law specialist at the University of Illinois College of Law at Champaign. "This is kangaroo constitutional law that we're seeing in operation here. What we're seeing here is a gang of ideologically driven lawyers who are getting the president and the country into serious legal trouble."

Schmitz's ideological past also raises other red flags. Before being appointed to the post by Bush, he was practicing law as a partner with Patton Briggs. One of his more noteworthy cases involved representing the racist anti-immigrant group U.S. English in its efforts to pass an English-only law in Utah (it passed handily).

There has been nothing in Schmitz's actions (or inactions) in office so far that necessarily raises red flags. However, some of them at least raise questions:

-- Whatever became of the IG's investigation into former Army Secretary Thomas White's travel? If it went nowhere, why?

-- What role did Schmitz have in the facilitating the DoD geniuses who came up with the ill-fated (even conservatives called it "Orwellian") Information Awareness Office?

-- Finally, did the Inspector General ever seriously pursue the seemingly legitimate claims of the (rabidly anti-Turkish) American Hellenic Institute in September 2002 -- that the participation of Richard Perle and Douglas Feith in any kind of DoD dealings with the government of Turkey represented a gross conflict of interest? (This question is particularly germane right now, since we are currently negotiating with Turkey over the use of its troops in Iraq.)

Even seemingly normal bureaucratic reshuffling such as Schmitz's recently completed reorganization of his offices should come under scrutiny. Is this another case of camouflaged "deregulation" in which audit procedures and standards are altered in a way that makes abuse and fraud by DoD contractors more likely to be overlooked?

These questions might never have arisen had Schmitz not hired L. Jean Lewis. But that stunning decision raises serious questions about his judgment and the standards of professionalism and nonpartisanship practiced by his office.

Nothing short of a congressional investigation, frankly, will settle the issue in a way that reassures the public that this office is being run as it should. As Joe Conason suggests, Democrats in Congress should be raising holy hell about it.

(On the other hand, Joe's partner in crime, Gene Lyons, doubts that any investigation would ever emerge from Congress: "Fat chance," he tells me via e-mail. "The GOP Congress wouldn't investigate the Bush admin if they caught Rove in one of those sting ops trying to lure a seventh grader to hot pillow motel." Gene's probably right, but there's always the off-chance that Democrats at least are growing spines, and can raise a stink about it.)

With that in mind, let me urge everyone reading these posts to take the time today to contact the Democratic members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who have oversight on these issues. Please write to them and urge them to demand an investigation into Lewis' grossly improper hiring. (I always urge people to write their own original letters, because spam letters suck; but please feel free to use any of the information contained in any of my posts.) Be especially certain to write them if you are from their home states.

Carl Levin, Michigan

Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts

Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia

Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut

Jack Reed, Rhode Island

Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii

Bill Nelson, Florida

E. Benjamin Nelson, Nebraska

Mark Dayton, Minnesota

Evan Bayh, Indiana

Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York (wonder if she's interested?)

Mark Pryor, Arkansas

Though I don't believe in urging my readers to waste their time, there are also two senators on the Republican side of the aisle who may well respond if they hear from you:

John McCain, Arizona

Susan M. Collins, Maine

In the final analysis, I'd have to say I did overstate things by suggesting that the Lewis hiring in fact will become a scandal. But by God, it should.