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March 16th, 2004:

Ye shall know us by our photo ops

Ezra is hopping up and down about the following passage in this Time article:

Administration sources tell TIME that employees at the Department of Homeland Security have been asked to keep their eyes open for opportunities to pose the President in settings that might highlight the Administration’s efforts to make the nation safer. The goal, they are being told, is to provide Bush with one homeland-security photo-op a month.

Say it with me, brothers and sisters: “Because the appearance of doing something is way more important than actually doing something.” It’s like he’s a summer hire in August whose supervisor has run out of things for him to do. Not that I ever had that experience, mind you.

I’m actually more amused by this bit from earlier in that same paragraph:

Many Bush allies are trying to push up the return of the President’s longtime aide Karen Hughes from her semi-retirement in Austin, Texas, to restore the balance in Bush’s world between Rove’s political instincts, which lean toward tending the party’s base, and her more “Mom-in-the-kitchen sense of the country,” as an adviser described it. “There is a necessary push-pull between the two of them that can’t happen on the phone,” says a Bush official. Another puts it more darkly: “The longer they wait for her to get back, the less it will matter.” On the other hand, Hughes has already been intimately involved in many of Bush’s most controversial moves. She helped craft the poorly received State of the Union address, then closely advised on the much criticized campaign ads that used images of 9/11.

Keep it up, Karen! You’re doing great.

“Clams got agendas!”

I skip over the “BC” comic strip in the Chron, as it ceased being funny to me awhile back. (It really was pretty damn funny before it became so didactic. Find an old collection from the 60s or early 70s and see for yourself.) I therefore missed last Sunday’s strip (seen on the BC homepage for now; it’s from March 14 if you need to check the archives) in which Johnny Hart took a slap at evolution. Thankfully, Greg Morrow was paying attention, and he explains in words simple enough for Hart to understand (though of course he’ll never believe) what’s wrong with those pictures. Check it out.

(The title, stolen from Michael‘s comment, is a reference to a recurring joke Hart used back in the day.)

More TRMPAC noise

In response to some Republican whinging, Travis County DA Ronnie Earle released a bunch of documents on Friday related to his grand jury investigation of TAB and TRM.

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle on Friday denied accusations that he is running a partisan investigation into possible illegal campaign spending by two Republican organizations.

“This investigation is not about Democrats and Republicans. It’s about cops and robbers,” said Earle, a Democrat. “This is an investigation of a crime.”

[…]

Earle on Friday released hundreds of pages of documents sought by Texas Republican Chairwoman Tina Benkiser in an open records request. Benkiser had said the records would show how much money Earle “is wasting on a frivolous investigation and whether he is unfairly leaking information to the media.”

Benkiser spokesman Ted Royer said Earle’s records release was “inadequate” because it did not give a full explanation for how much the investigation is costing taxpayers.

“We are disappointed that Mr. Earle has refused to provide all the information we requested, and his lack of candor raises questions about what he may be attempting to cover up,” Royer said. “Taxpayers deserve to know how much of their money Mr. Earle is wasting on this frivolous and partisan investigation.”

The majority of the records were telephone call slips requesting interviews with Earle or responses from him on news conferences held by the Texas Association of Business or by DeLay. There also were copies of news releases Earle has put out at key junctures in the investigation.

The records gave no evidence that Earle gave the news media any grand jury documents that were not public court papers available in the district clerk’s office.

In one instance, an Austin print journalist gave Earle a rough draft of a story and asked him to check it for errors. In another, an Austin television journalist provided Earle with public documents that might be helpful to his investigation.

“We don’t leak grand jury information. We never have, and I don’t know of any reputable reporter who would expect us to,” Earle said.

But Royer said the journalists’ records indicated Earle is working with the media to run a public relations campaign.

“The revelation that Mr. Earle is so closely coordinating the publication of negative newspaper articles about Republicans only reinforces the belief that the primary purpose of his investigation is to unfairly hang Republicans in the media,” Royer said.

Cry me a river, Ted. I’ll wait to see what the grand jury says, thankyouverymuch.

Missed this on Saturday, but it’s recapped in the Congress Daily from NationalJournal.com:

Meanwhile, the Austin American-Statesman reported on Saturday that [Terry Scarborough, an attorney for TRMPAC] had threatened that Washington-based Jim Ellis — who has been executive director since late 1998 of DeLay’s Americans for a Republican Majority PAC and helped to organize TRMPAC -would fight efforts to force him to testify in the civil lawsuit.

Given the prior non-success of Andy Taylor and his efforts to prevent TAB members from testifying, I expect we’ll be hearing from Mr. Ellis sooner or later. Speaking of Taylor, he did a little public whining in response to an earlier op-ed by Fred Lewis.

There have been a lot of strange twists in this saga, but this one is the strangest I’ve seen yet.

TAB and TRMPAC have questioned the motives of defeated Democrats filing suit — and one attorney’s tactics.

An attorney for TAB states in a court filing that an attorney for defeated Democrats tried to recruit two defeated Libertarians to his lawsuit. A footnote states, “It appears the crime of barratry may have been committed,” referring to the questionable practice of lawyers soliciting business without cause.

Candidates Rob LeGrand and Michael Badnarik said in affidavits the unsolicited lawyer called them and then sent the lawsuit.

Professor Geary Reamey of St. Mary’s University School of Law said suggesting barratry in court is inappropriate unless an attorney has filed a grievance with the State Bar of Texas or complained to a district attorney.

Cris Feldman, the lawyer under fire, said he faces no grievance.

Feldman, denying wrongdoing, said foes “are doing everything possible to divert attention from their clandestine laundering of corporate cash.”

Jeez. Maybe if procedure had been followed, there’d be a case against Mr. Feldman. In its absence, I’ll accept his explanation that this is just more intimidation.

Finally, the Chron reports on Ben Streusand’s connection to the TRMPAC case, something which was noted here a little while ago. What, like I’m surprised that everyone is in everyone else’s pockets?

Hoops contest

Retrogrouch over at Barefoot and Naked is running an NCAA Tournament contest, which he’s opening up to bloggers and blog readers. I’ve filled out my bracket, which was ridiculously easy to do within the Yahoo! group. (I used to run a tournament contest among some friends and did everything via an Excel spreadsheet. It was an extraordinary pain in the butt to keep updated, and I gave up after a couple of years because of that. Had I known it’d be this easy, I’d have kept it going.)

Anyway, c’mon in and see if you can do better than me. It’s not March without a little tournament action going.

Light sentence for Lea Fastow

The Enron federal prosecutors have asked the judge to give Lea Fastow a five-month sentence as they had promised in return for hubby Andy’s testimony.

Enron Task Force prosecutors Linda Lacewell and Andrew Weissmann filed objections to the pre-sentence investigation of Lea Fastow showing how much prosecutors want U.S. District Judge David Hittner to follow the agreed plea bargain.

They list several reasons, including how many millions of dollars the couple forfeited and that her ex-CFO husband has helped them indict two top officials and can help further.

The government says the argument for Lea Fastow’s agreed sentence is “strengthened by the fact that … (she) played an integral role in her husband’s decision to plead guilty and cooperate with the government in this ongoing investigation.”

Hittner has indicated he may be reluctant to follow the plea bargain.

If he offers Lea Fastow a sentence stiffer than the five months in prison, she may decline, withdraw her guilty plea and ask to go to trial. Her husband cannot get out of his corresponding agreement to cooperate, but the reality of a trial for his wife could obviously dampen his zeal to cooperate.

Apparently, the pre-sentence report is recommending a 10- to 16-month sentence for Lea, not exactly hard time but not what she and the prosecutors agreed to, either.

The prosecutors state that since mid-January when the couple entered guilty pleas to several charges, Andrew Fastow’s cooperation has helped lead to the indictment of ex-Enron CEO Jeff Skilling and ex-top accounting officer Rick Causey.

“These are significant advances in the investigation to identify and bring to justice those responsible for perhaps the largest fraud in United States history. Moreover, Andrew Fastow’s cooperation is ongoing and is likely to bear additional fruit,” the prosecutors say.

Prosecutors have recently stepped up their investigation of ex-Enron Chairman Ken Lay, and it is likely Fastow’s testimony may shed light on that possible case as well. Lay has not been charged with any crimes and has maintained that he did nothing wrong. Skilling and Causey have also maintained their innocence.

If that doesn’t get your blood pumping, nothing will. I hope Judge Hittner doesn’t queer the deal.

Three cheers for Tony Knowles

Kos shows us how a principled progressive can do the right thing on divisive issues. Let’s hear it for Tony Knowles, the future junior Senator from Alaska. Atrios says it best:

There’s one thing I think many Democrats have forgotten — that leaders can lead.

Amen. Three cheers for Tony Knowles!