The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

McGovern PWNS Cheney

Former Presidential Nominee George McGovern:

VICE PRESIDENT Dick Cheney recently attacked my 1972 presidential platform and contended that today's Democratic Party has reverted to the views I advocated in 1972. In a sense, this is a compliment, both to me and the Democratic Party. Cheney intended no such compliment. Instead, he twisted my views and those of my party beyond recognition. The city where the vice president spoke, Chicago, is sometimes dubbed "the Windy City." Cheney converted the chilly wind of Chicago into hot air.

Cheney said that today's Democrats have adopted my platform from the 1972 presidential race and that, in doing so, they will raise taxes. But my platform offered a balanced budget. I proposed nothing new without a carefully defined way of paying for it. By contrast, Cheney and his team have run the national debt to an all-time high.

He also said that the McGovern way is to surrender in Iraq and leave the U.S. exposed to new dangers. The truth is that I oppose the Iraq war, just as I opposed the Vietnam War, because these two conflicts have weakened the U.S. and diminished our standing in the world and our national security.

In the war of my youth, World War II, I volunteered for military service at the age of 19 and flew 35 combat missions, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross as the pilot of a B-24 bomber. By contrast, in the war of his youth, the Vietnam War, Cheney got five deferments and has never seen a day of combat — a record matched by President Bush.

Cheney charged that today's Democrats don't appreciate the terrorist danger when they move to end U.S. involvement in the Iraq war. The fact is that Bush and Cheney misled the public when they implied that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks. That was the work of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda team. Cheney and Bush blew the effort to trap Bin Laden in Afghanistan by their sluggish and inept response after the 9/11 attacks.

They then foolishly sent U.S. forces into Iraq against the advice and experience of such knowledgeable men as former President George H.W. Bush, his secretary of State, James A. Baker III, and his national security advisor, Brent Scowcroft.

Just as the Bush administration mistakenly asserted Iraq's involvement in the 9/11 attacks, it also falsely contended that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. When former Ambassador Joseph Wilson exploded the myth that Iraq attempted to obtain nuclear materials from Niger, Cheney's top aide and other Bush officials leaked to the media that Wilson's wife was a CIA agent (knowingly revealing the identity of a covert agent is illegal).

In attacking my positions in 1972 as representative of "that old party of the early 1970s," Cheney seems oblivious to the realities of that time. Does he remember that the Democratic Party, with me in the lead, reformed the presidential nomination process to ensure that women, young people and minorities would be represented fairly? The so-called McGovern reform rules are still in effect and, indeed, have been largely copied by the Republicans.

The Democrats' 1972 platform was also in the forefront in pushing for affordable healthcare, full employment with better wages, a stronger environmental and energy effort, support for education at every level and a foreign policy with less confrontation and belligerence and more cooperation and conciliation.

Cheney also still has his eyes closed to the folly of the Vietnam War, in which 58,000 young Americans and more than 2 million Vietnamese died. Vietnam was no threat to the United States.

On one point I do agree with Cheney: Today's Democrats are taking positions on the Iraq war similar to the views I held toward the Vietnam War. But that is all to the good.

The war in Iraq has greatly increased the terrorist danger. There was little or no terrorism, insurgency or civil war in Iraq before Bush and Cheney took us into war there five years ago. Now Iraq has become a breeding ground of terrorism, a bloody insurgency against our troops and a civil war.

Beyond the deaths of more than 3,100 young Americans and an estimated 600,000 Iraqis, we have spent nearly $500 billion on the war, which has dragged on longer than World War II.

The Democrats are right. Let's bring our troops home from this hopeless war.

There is one more point about 1972 for Cheney's consideration. After winning 11 state primaries in a field of 16 contenders, I won the Democratic presidential nomination. I then lost the general election to President Nixon. Indeed, the entrenched incumbent president, with a campaign budget 10 times the size of mine, the power of the White House behind him and a highly negative and unethical campaign, defeated me overwhelmingly. But lest Cheney has forgotten, a few months after the election, investigations by the Senate and an impeachment proceeding in the House forced Nixon to become the only president in American history to resign the presidency in disgrace.

Who was the real loser of '72?

THE VICE PRESIDENT spoke with contempt of my '72 campaign, but he might do well to recall that I began that effort with these words: "I make one pledge above all others — to seek and speak the truth." We made some costly tactical errors after winning the nomination, but I never broke my pledge to speak the truth. That is why I have never felt like a loser since 1972. In contrast, Cheney and Bush have repeatedly lied to the American people.

It is my firm belief that the Cheney-Bush team has committed offenses that are worse than those that drove Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew and Atty. Gen. John Mitchell from office after 1972. Indeed, as their repeated violations of the Constitution and federal statutes, as well as their repudiation of international law, come under increased consideration, I expect to see Cheney and Bush forced to resign their offices before 2008 is over.

Aside from a growing list of impeachable offenses, the vice president has demonstrated his ignorance of foreign policy by attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for visiting Syria. Apparently he thinks it is wrong to visit important Middle East states that sometimes disagree with us. Isn't it generally agreed that Nixon's greatest achievement was talking to the Chinese Communist leaders, which opened the door to that nation? And wasn't President Reagan's greatest achievement talking with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev until the two men worked out an end to the Cold War? Does Cheney believe that it's better to go to war rather than talk with countries with which we have differences?

We, of course, already know that when Cheney endorses a war, he exempts himself from participation. On second thought, maybe it's wise to keep Cheney off the battlefield — he might end up shooting his comrades rather than the enemy.

On a more serious note, instead of listening to the foolishness of the neoconservative ideologues, the Cheney-Bush team might better heed the words of a real conservative, Edmund Burke: "A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood."

Friday, April 20, 2007

Commuting and Mass Transit

Paumgarten, N. "Annals of Transport: There and Back Again". The New Yorker, 2007-04-16.

This article appeared in this week's issue of the New Yorker, and I found it to be quite telling about our modern day state of living.

It details the commuting practices of people across the country and describes the effects that increasing average commute times are having on society. Among the subjects are riders of the incessantly congested Atlanta beltway driving from edge city to edge city and avoiding the downtown city itself at all costs; seemingly efficient yet rare carpoolers who share a van daily from Georgia to Tennessee on a countryside route the congestion along which seems entirely out of place; and a woman who commutes three and a half hours each way between Pennsylvania and her New York City law firm simply so that she may enjoy her own 'countryside' suburban paradise. In the most extreme category were commuters such as the Cisco Systems engineer who travels three hundred and seventy two miles each day from the Sierra foothills to San Jose and back, while among the notably happier and more comfortable end of the spectrum were those who made use of mass transit.

Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam was "Shocked to find how robust a predictor of social isolation commuting is. There’s a simple rule of thumb: Every ten minutes of commuting results in ten per cent fewer social connections. Commuting is connected to social isolation, which causes unhappiness.”

One might question what, then, might compel a person to drive over two hours, for example, to reach work in a bustling city and then to drive over two hours back to arrive home within a suburban enclave nearly a hundred miles away. The primary cause is the provision of space and lifestyle. Generally, in commuting these great distances, one trades "time for space, miles for square feet." Anyone who has lived a significant time in a New York City apartment has no doubt experienced at least a small pang of envy after hearing about an old friend or acquaintance's recent purchase of a 4-bed 3-bath house in the suburbs when, just a few years back, he or she lived in the same 400SqFt closet-like studio that you did. Little does one realize that what happiness has been gained in square footage or impressive architectural grandeur is often lost in hours of solitary commute time with only a cup of coffee and the incessant vociferations of Rush Limbaugh for company.

"Three years ago, two economists at the University of Zurich, Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer, released a study called “Stress That Doesn’t Pay: The Commuting Paradox.” They found that, if your trip is an hour each way, you’d have to make forty per cent more in salary to be as “satisfied” with life as a noncommuter is. (Their data come from Germany, where you’d think speedy Autobahns and punctual trains would bring a little Freude to the proceedings, and their methodology is elaborate and thorough, if impenetrable to the layman, relying on equations like U=α+ß1D+ß2D²+γX+δ1w+δ2w²+δ3log y.) The commuting paradox reflects the notion that many people, who are supposedly rational (according to classical economic theory, at least), commute even though it makes them miserable. They are not, in the final accounting, adequately compensated."

Interestingly, the article notes that "commuter-wise, New York City is an anomaly. New Yorkers have the highest average journey-to-work times (thirty-nine minutes) of any city in the country, but are apparently much happier with their commutes than people are elsewhere." This can be explained quite easily by noting the one apparatus that differantiates the New York city commute from nearly all other commutes in this country - the train.

Public transit is, overwhelmingly, the principal means of travel for New Yorkers. About one in every three users of mass transit in the United States and two-thirds of the nation's rail riders live in New York and its suburbs. Over 65% of those who commute to the city from surrounding areas do so via mass transit. Contrast this with the rest of the nation, in which 90% of all commuters drive automobiles to their workplace. New York is the only city in the United States where more than half of all households do not own a car (in Manhattan, the number rises to 75%; nationally, the percentage is 8%).

Psychologically and sociologically, travel by mass transit differs from private automobile in a number of ways. First, there is the shared experience of the train commute. Human beings are social animals, and thus generally crave human contact. It gives us comfort, even pleasure, to encounter others and to observe them in their daily lives. Even though travelling with others does not necessarily evoke in-depth conversation or even a high degree of personal interaction, the shared experience does much to civilize us. One does not often hear commuters on a train shouting expletives at one another in the fashion that may often be heard in the privacy of an automobile on the freeway. Face to face interactions and both verbal and non-verbal communication generally prevents the mass-transit equivalent of road-rage from occurring.

Second, travel by mass transit allows one various opportunities for relaxation that are simply not available to car drivers. Whether one wishes to take the time to read a chapter from a book, glance at the Wall Street Journal, watch an episode of the Simpsons on an iPod, or take a twenty-minute nap, the abdication of responsibility for the control and guidance of the vehicle grants one the opportunity to enjoy the commute by any number of recreational means. While some may cite the freedom granted by car travel - to go wherever one pleases whenever one pleases - careful consideration will lead most to the realization that the vast majority of their time is spent following a precise route, on a precise schedule, to and from the same locations. In addition, most of those who espouse the superiority of automotive travel have likely never encountered the New York City transit system, which is far more extensive than any other in the country and meets the needs of the vast majority of the city's residents and commuters.

Finally, mass transit travel is simply healthier than automotive travel. This is largely due to the fact that those who mass-commute are likely to to a great deal more walking than those who drive. Upon reaching the parking lot, drivers likely have no more than a few hundred feet to walk from their car to their place of business (the exception being locales such as the Pentagon where the parking lot alone is the size of a small town). Conversely, unless one's workplace is directly above the train or subway station, users of mass transit are likely forced to walk a few blocks to reach their workplace. Such physical activity leads to a much healthier lifestyle, greater overall wellbeing, and may indicate why New York City is one of the thinnest cities in the nation.

Mass transit is also healthier for the environment. Transporting hundreds of individuals on a single electrically-powered train is far more efficient than moving over two tons of steel per person, by internal combustion, to transport individuals to their final destinations. As a result of this increased efficiency, the average New Yorker consumes just half of the energy consumed by the average American per year, and just a fraction of the petroleum.

All of this offers a great deal of supporting evidence to the common conviction of residents that life in New York City is simply healthier and more pleasant than that of much of suburbia. What the average New Yorker gives up in space and private property, he or she gains in health and sanity.

Paumgarten, N. "Annals of Transport: There and Back Again". The New Yorker, 2007-04-16. Retrieved on 2007-04-16

U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics. "NHTS 2001 Highlights Report, BTS03-05", 2001. Retrieved on 2007-04-15.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "The MTA Network". Retrieved on 2007-04-15.

Pisarski, A. "Commuting in America III: Commuting Facts", Transportation Research Board, 2006-10-16. Retrieved on 2007-04-15.

Stutzer, A., Bruno, F., "Stress that doesn't pay: the commuting paradox", IZA Discussion Papers, Institute for the Study of Labor, 2004-09-01. Retrieved on 2007-04-15

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Man with tuberculosis jailed for not wearing mask

The report below elucidates a very serious bioethical problem, the answers to which are not at all completely clear. A 27-year-old man with tuberculosis has been jailed indefinately as a result of harboring, through no fault of his own, a dangerous drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis known as XDR-TB. Deemed a danger to the public, he was arrested and jailed after violating a court order to wear a mask in public.

Ethically, his situation is a very problematic one. He has lost all rights and privileges due, not to criminal activities or extreme violence, but simply as a result of what he is, or more specifically, what resides within him. While this may seem unjust, the man remains a danger to society.

Such actions have long been standard practice for untreatable cases of infectious disease. Around the turn of the century Mary Mallon, also known as Typhoid Mary, was quarantined on North Brother Island in New York City's East River. She was released on the condition that she would never work with food, but after violating this ruling and causing the deaths of two patients at Sloan Hospital while working as a cook, she was imprisoned and quarantined for life.

For many centuries, indeed millenia, before Typhoid Mary, lepers were banished to isolated colonies to live out the rest of their days in agony. Similar methods were used against those who showed outward signs of the plague in the 1300s.

In the modern era, however, in which self determinance and individual human rights hold primacy, does such treatment remain acceptable? I would suggest that, on its face, it does not.

Of course, in the interest of public health and safety the quarantine of infectious individuals is absolutely necessary, and it is the government's responsibility to ensure that actions are taken such that the public remains protected. However, it is also responsible for ensuring that the quarantined retain as much of their personal freedoms as can reasonably allowed. Upon quarantine, these individuals are charges of the state. Thus imprisonment and solitary confinement in cinder-block-framed facilities normally reserved for violent criminals is not an acceptable solution.

These patients should be provided with opportunities for employment, for education, and for freedom of movement. Thanks to modern telecommunication and computing technologies I can think of a great multitude of such opportunities. With telecommuting and online university options abound, what is to stop these people of living a productive and near-normal lifestyle? Only obtuse and short-sighted judicial decisions.

Man with tuberculosis jailed for not wearing mask

CNN: 11:09 a.m. EDT, April 3, 2007

PHOENIX, Arizona (AP) -- Behind the county hospital's tall cinderblock walls, a 27-year-old tuberculosis patient who spent years living in Russia sits in a jail cell equipped with a ventilation system that keeps germs from escaping.

Robert Daniels has been locked up indefinitely, perhaps for the rest of his life, since last July. But he has not been charged with a crime. Instead, he suffers from an extensively drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis, or XDR-TB. It is considered virtually untreatable.

County health authorities obtained a court order to lock him up as a danger to the public because he failed to take precautions to avoid infecting others. Specifically, he said he did not heed doctors' instructions to wear a mask in public.

"I'm being treated worse than an inmate," Daniels said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press last month. "I'm all alone. Four walls. Even the door to my room has been locked. I haven't seen my reflection in months."

Though Daniels' confinement is extremely rare, health experts say it is a situation that U.S. public health officials may have to confront more and more because of the spread of drug-resistant TB and the emergence of diseases such as SARS and avian flu in this increasingly interconnected world.

"Even though the rate of TB in the U.S. is at the lowest ever this last year, we live in a globalized world where, if anything emerges anywhere, it could come to our country right away," said Mark Harrington, executive director of the Treatment Action Group, an American advocacy group.

The World Health Organization warned last year of the emergence of extensively drug-resistant TB. The new strain, which has been found throughout the world, including pockets of the former Soviet Union and Asia, is resistant not only to the first line of TB drugs but to some second-line antibiotics as well.

HIV patients with weakened immune systems are especially susceptible. In South Africa, WHO reported that 52 of 53 HIV patients died within an average of 25 days after it was discovered they also had XDR-TB.

How to deal with people infected with the new strain is a matter of debate.

Dr. Ross Upshur, director of the Joint Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto, said authorities should detain people with drug-resistant tuberculosis if they are uncooperative.

"We're on the verge of taking what was a curable disease, one of the best known diseases in human endeavors, and making it incurable," Upshur said.

But a paper Upshur co-wrote on the issue in a medical journal earlier this year has been strongly criticized.

"Involuntary detention should really be your last resort," Harrington said. "There's a danger that we'll end up blaming the victim."

In the United States, which had a total of 13,767 reported cases of tuberculosis in 2006, public health authorities only rarely have put TB patients under lock and key.

Texas has placed 17 tuberculosis patients into an involuntary quarantine facility this year in San Antonio. Public health authorities in California said they have no TB patients in custody this year, though four were detained there last year.

Upshur's paper noted that New York City forced TB patients into detention following an outbreak in the 1990s, and saw a significant dip in cases.

In the Phoenix area, only one other person has been detained in the past year, said Dr. Robert England, Maricopa County's tuberculosis control officer.

Daniels has been living alone in a four-bed cell in Ward 41, a section of the hospital reserved for sick criminals. He said sheriff's deputies will not let him take a shower -- he cleans himself with wet wipes -- and have taken away his television, radio, personal phone and computer. His only visitors are masked medical staff members who come in to give him his medication.

The ventilation system draws out the air and filters it to capture the bacteria-laden droplets he expels when he coughs. The filters are periodically burned.

Daniels said he is taking medication and feeling a lot better. His lawyer would not discuss his prognosis. Daniels plans to ask for his release at a court hearing late this month.

Daniels lived in Russia for 15 years and returned to the United States last year after he was diagnosed. He said he thought he would get better treatment here, and hoped eventually to bring his wife and children from Russia. He said he briefly worked in an office in Arizona for a chemical company before he was put away.

He said that he lost 50 pounds (22.7 kilograms) and was constantly coughing and that authorities locked him up after they discovered he had walked into a convenience store without a mask.

"Where I come from, the doctors don't wear masks," he said. "Plus, I was 26 years old, you know. Nobody told me how TB works and stuff."

County health officials and Daniels' lawyer, Robert Blecher, would not discuss details of the case. But in general, England said the county would not force someone into quarantine unless the patient could not or would not follow doctor's orders.

"It's very uncommon that someone would both not want to take treatment and will willingly put others at risk," England said. "It's only those very uncommon incidents where we have to use legal authority through the courts to isolate somebody."

University of Pennsylvania medical ethicist Art Caplan said Maricopa County health officials were confronted with the same ethical dilemma that communities wrestled with generations ago when dealing with leprosy and smallpox.

"Drug-resistant TB, or drug-resistant staph infections, or pandemic flu will raise these questions again," Caplan said. "We may find ourselves dipping into our history to answer them."

Daniels said he realizes now that he endangered the public. But "I thought I'd come to a country where I'd finally be treated like a person, and bam, here I am."

Sunday, April 08, 2007

I'm alive!

My hearty apologies to Sean and Wang for leaving them to talk to each other for this long; working in Congress can often sap the enthusiasm for independent blogging after a day of writing to constituents about Medicare Part D and the U.S.'s clear hatred of the Middle East.

I'm working on a short article, more thematic than event-based, about America's global image. I've got the rhetorical basis set; now I just need to add some meat to its bones. But while I'm working on it, here's my draft for the consumption of the lucky few who have been basking in the joint genius of Sean and Wang.

Brand America

Corporate entities are highly attuned to the need to project their brand in a manner that is well received by their target audiences. When signs occur that their brand image is becoming inaffective, they go into full scale reform mode in order to save their bottom line. It is an overused cliche that government could benefit from business lessons, but branding is one area where the U.S. government could learn from corporate America.

After years of breathtaking global dominance, the U.S.'s global identity--what I'll refer to as Brand America--is mired in a relative slump, as outside criticism and poor performance sully its image and raise questions about the nation's ability to sustain its hegemonic status.

Brand America, first of all, is the representation of America as seen by the world, both in style and substance. What you or I see as Brand America is not nearly as important--companies don't worry about what their employees think nearly as much as they do their customers--as what the rest of the world sees. In the Clinton years, Brand America symbolized benevolent and sometimes somnolent prosperity. But at the same time, Al-Qaeda plotted 9/11, Iran and North Korea worked on their bombs, developing nations watched their liberalized economies founder, and China's juggernaut economy continued to open to the world. Clearly, Brand America of the 1990s is not what we need now.

But there is no question that Brand America must change. Whereas the power of Brand America in the 1990s was based largely on the passive power of its military and its economy, Brand America today has gambled on the awe-inspiring power of its unparalleled active military to reestablish American dominance in the face of shifts in international relations. We were on the way to success in Afghanistan when we bet the house on Iraq. Winning the war in Iraq and failing to plan for a prolonged occupation became a drain on the U.S.'s ability to project its power and influence elsewhere. The challenges we now face are increased by the inability of Brand America to adapt in the face of failure.

The U.S. faces two chief challenges today in restoring Brand America's reputation globally. First, it must continue to adapt to a global environment where terrorism, an age-old tactic of the weak, has become the methodology of small groups with a disproportionate ability to wreak havoc through access to more powerful weapons and an increasingly global reach. The U.S., despite the focus on Iraq, has advanced light years in this decade in its capabilities to counter terrorism. With a reallocation of resources in the next two years from Iraq to the fight against terrorist organizations, Brand America can restore a degree of international acceptance to its military and diplomatic operations. Terrorists scare governments because they are for the large part unmanageable. When the U.S. became mired in Iraq, the pressure on governments like Pakistan to crack down on terrorist operations was lessened. Brand America's message became muddled through its lack of a broad and consistent justification for the invasion of Iraq, and the current tension with Iran only further threatens the coherence of Brand America in foreign policy.

Second, Brand America must return to one of its basic historical purposes; to sell liberalism as a governing theory that is not only morally strong, but that can be construed as having concrete benefits to nations that pursue political liberalization. Brand America's message must take into account the newfound acceptance many developing nations have found for illiberal capitalism, the method of amoral profit-making that China pursues in spreading its economic gains to countries like Sudan that have felt like nothing if not whipping boys for the U.S. Brand America was successfully sold as being superior to the USSR's ideology during the Cold War, but since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has forgotten that while our policies may make sense to our leadership, our Brand is diluted globally when we don't focus on explaining why our policies represent (or should) both the correct and profitable path for other nations to follow.

China's leadership has in recent years pushed the idea of no-strings-attached economic dealings with countries that have been enjoying the disfavor of the U.S. Policy-makers largely assumed that that form of illiberal capitalism was unworkable in economically developed nations, so a common strain of thinking ran in past decades that China would liberalize as its economy grew. We now realize that our hopes are no so easily achieved; and we must restructure our foreign policy to respond to the economic and political challenge China poses to us. Brand America's program of sticks and carrots has for decades followed a path of evangelical rigidity that has lost its luster as nations have realized that U.S. policies don't always lead to future gains--the U.S. needs to expend less time rattling sabers at the Middle East and more time engaging allies, rainy day companions, and even global opponents in negotiations to restore the argument for following the U.S's lead on a host of issues, from trade policy to anti-terrorism activities.

Ultimately, the viability of Brand America comes down to the U.S.'s ability to once again enlist like-minded nations to the cause of liberalism, the delegitimization of all methods and entities relating to terrorism through the isolation of terrorist organizations from the support of host nations, and the revitalization of Brand America as a symbol of achievable prosperity and commonality.

It is not enough for us to believe that we are right or even to change our current course and begin pursuing policies that history will judge as having been appropriate. We must also be able to sell ourselves--image and content--to the rest of the world. Brand America has lost much of its selling power right now, but with the resources we have at our disposal, it is not an impossible task to set about modifying the product we sell.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

At the Pleasure of the President

United States attorneys are appointed by the President of the United States, not coincidentally, attorneys are often of the same political persuasion as the President. US attorneys are expected to enforce United States law, they are not political tools used to investigate and undermine opposition political parties. When President George W. Bush took the oath of office in 2000, he pledged to Americans that he would make national unity a top priority, perhaps the only growth of unity is in the growing discontent with the Bush administration. The forced resignations of 8 U.S. attorneys, has shaped it to be yet another example of political suppression of actions that are contrary to the interests of the administration.

Karl Rove has made the case that the resignations were not political actions but house keeping measures based on job performance. It is interesting to know what the criteria of job performance encompasses, perhaps they were sleeping on the job or maybe criminals were not prosecuted in an efficient manner. It has come out in recent weeks that the attorneys were removed because they were investigating Republicans in corruption cases and there are indications that they refused to be swayed by Republican Congressmen and women, pressuring them for information that they should not have had access to. It is quite obvious that it is not in the interest of the administration, for its members and supporters to be investigated and possibly be indicted on charges of misdoings. By removing attorneys that are in the midst of prosecuting such cases, the executive branch is circumventing the execution of the law.

  • *Bud Cummins was removed, according to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, to groom former Karl Rove aide, Timothy Griffin, for the position.
  • *Kevin Ryan, a Bush loyalist, was actually the victim of the poor job performance, but the DOJ had tried to retain him amidst the chatter of large scale firings. He was removed after a judge sought to go to Congress to make public his poor management problems.
  • *Carol Lam was removed because she was said to not be aggressively pursuing illegal immigration cases. The Department of Justice had defended Lam's performance in mid-2006, which asserted that she was pursuing larger scale immigration crimes, as opposed to small border crossing crimes. Emails between the DOJ and the White House, show that concern was growing about her expanding investigation of disgraced Republican Representative Duke Cunningham, which was beginning to investigate Republican Representative, Jerry Lewis (he was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee at the time of her firing).
  • *David Iglesias was removed when New Mexico Republican Party chairman, Allen Weh, complained to Karl Rove that he was unhappy about Iglesias' performance on voter-fraud issues, despite his active role of training federal prosecutors and giving symposiums on that topic. There had also been complaints that Iglesias did not prosecute Democrats quickly enough to make an impact on the 2006 elections.
  • *Paul Charlton was removed when his investigation of Republican Representative, Rick Renzi, began to ramp up. He had also created opposition with the Bush administration on his refusal to pursue death penalties in a few cases. Only a few months earlier, he had been honored with the Federal Service Award.
  • *John McKay was fired because he had not convened a federal grand jury case of voter fraud in the 2004 Washington State election for governor, following two recounts giving the victory to Democrat Christine Gregoire. McKay has responded, stating that following an investigation from his office as well as the FBI, they were unable to find credible evidence of federal crimes.
  • *Margaret Chiara was fired, according to the NYTimes, to make room for an attorney the Bush administration wanted to groom for the position.

These firings were not the first instances of politically motivated removals. Attorney Frederick A. Black, was demoted in 2002 while he was prosecuting the Jack Abramoff case through the Guam Superior Court.

Kyle Sampson, top aide to Alberto Gonzales and former UN ambassador, John Bolton (who did so on the Daily Show with John Stewart) have argued that there is no distinction between removing an attorney for politics and job performance. According to them, poor performance can be equated with acting contrary to the political interests of the ruling party.

As far as I know, Department of Justice attorneys do not have a requirement to be impartial. Unlike the Office of Independent Counsel, the advantage of politically moderate attorneys is in facilitating their confirmation by the Senate. As confirmation hearings during the Bush years have shown us, anyone heavily skewed to one ideological direction will get skewered.

In 2005, White House Counsel Harriet Miers approached Alberto Gonzales telling him that President Bush wanted to purge all 93 district attorneys, a move reminiscent of Stalin and Lenin era Soviet Russia. Pursuant with the Patriot Act, the White House would be able to replace removed district attorneys for an indefinite amount of time, circumventing Senate oversight. Checks and balances are effectively eliminated and opposition opinions are never voiced. The removal of those not considered Bush loyalists is yet another example in the Bush legacy of political insulation and suppression of political opponents.

What are they afraid of? Public opinion?

First you terrorize your opponents into silence so that your movement appears to have no opposition. This gives you tremendous power, not only because moderates quietly feel they are alone in their disagreement with you, but also because the ignorant media – especially the foreign media – casts you as the choice of the people. Having succeeded in silencing moderates, the next step is terrorizing them into cooperating with you. Soon passive cooperation is not enough. You want more than their body – you want their soul, so you terrorize the moderates into being "passionate" in your cause.

In the end, your movement appears to have only loyal and active supporters. Now you are in total control, for who would dare speak out against you? As Hitler said, 10 years before he finally rose to power, "The National Socialist Movement will in the future ruthlessly prevent – if necessary by force – all meetings or lectures that are likely to distract the minds of our fellow countrymen." In other words, all opposition is evil and we will protect you from it. Conservative Columnist for WorldNet Daily, Bob Just

Sound familiar?