Christy Hardin Smith

Judge in Stevens Case Starts Criminal Contempt Proceedings Against DOJ Officials

UPDATE: Judge Sullivan announced today that he will commence criminal proceedings against DOJ attorneys on the Stevens' case:

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Econopocalypse Goes From Bad to Worse

Anyone else getting that "bottom's gonna fall out of the tilt-a-whirl" feeling about the economy, too? It's an ugly day of news on the economic front:

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Michelle Obama Cooks Up Quite a Political Dish on the Food Network

Michelle Obama scored a huge coup, with an appearance on Paula's Party on Food Network, taking her "home cooking mama" appeal straight to the most sought-after demographic this year: women.  Get this from People Magazine:

"She was everything I thought she would be: Smart, great sense of humor and loves to talk about family," Deen told PEOPLE of meeting Mrs. Obama.

The pair prepared fried shrimp for Deen's show and Deen said, "I can tell she spends time in the kitchen – she was very relaxed when we cooked. And that lady is a good eater."

Not that it shows. "Did I tell you she is in the best shape ever? Everyone was staring at her amazing arms!" said Deen.

Food Network doesn't allow political ads, so this was huge in terms of reach-out.  Both campaigns have been running ads designed to hit female viewers -- during talk shows, soap operas, you name it.  Demographic strategery.

The GOP Thinks Organizing in Your Community is Worthless

Well, I suppose we should all just throw up our hands and let local children starve, let civil rights problems fester, and shut up and accept every problem for what it is:  our lot in life.  

Screw the poor.  To hell with women being allowed to vote.  Rollback the end of slavery.  And get yer hazmat suits, because your environment is about to be sold off piecemeal to the highest bidder -- hunters, fishermen, and wildlife enthusiasts be damned.

Welcome to Republican world, where trying to make things better in your hometown makes you something they laugh at proudly.  How's that feel America?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but without community organizers like Martin Luther King, Jr., we'd all still be dealing with separate water fountains for coloreds and Jim Crow Laws.  And I mean the old ones, not the new poll tax crap that Hans Von Spakovsky keeps trying to sneak in through the sewers.

Oh, and ladies?   No community organizers means that your voice doesn't count for shit.  No vote for you!

McCain Campaign in Bed with Abramoff Buddy Ralph Reed

John McCain is like a moth who just can't stay away from the corruption flame, given the sheer number of lobbyists and other questionable cronies, big money bundlers buying corporate inroads by funding his Presidential run, and other issues that have cropped up ... including serious questions about what all that money has bought from the sinking maverocity sham.

But this is a new low for the McCain Corruption Express, even for a campaign that has sunk pretty far into the ditch as it is. To wit:

FISA Vote Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the vote on the FISA bill. What say we welcome back Senators and their staffs from the 4th of July holiday with a rousing bit of patriotic support for the rule of law?

Last week, Blue America launched a call tool to help you get in touch with Senators regarding the FISA bill. We'd like you to put it to some serious use today.

We are asking Senators to vote IN FAVOR of the Dodd-Feingold-Leahy Amendment (S.A. 5064 to H.R. 6304). We're asking for a NO vote on cloture, and a NO vote on the final bill as well.

We also launched a tool last week to help you track activity and elected official public appearances in your area.

VA Ignores PTSD in Women

As a female soldier or Marine, you prepare for service with a lot of training with your squad, a lot of extra time in the gym, a lot of mental and physical preparation. But nothing could prepare you for an assault ... a sexual assault ... from one of your fellow soldiers.

What do you do, as a female soldier, when the VA folks in charge of your treatment don't think you merit psych care in the wake of this trauma? Via AnchorageDailyNews:

I asked the briefer, a VA psychiatrist, whether the VA also considered Military Sexual Trauma an experience that can lead to PTSD. He replied "no."

I looked at the physician with amazement. Many peer-reviewed journal articles assert that Military Sexual Trauma, or MST, is especially associated with PTSD. That the Veterans Administration continues to disassociate MST with PTSD is remarkable.

But it may be understandable, considering the military is a culture that ostracizes and ridicules women who "rock the boat" by reporting incidents of sexual assault and violence.

This is not an isolated opinion, unfortunately. Sen. Patty Murray, who has personal experience working with Vietnam vets in the VA system and understands the long-term ramifications of not doing this work properly, has been trying to give this issue a much louder voice on the Hill. Kudos to her. But it's going to be a long road to change.

McCain Needs to Be Held Accountable for Breaking Campaign Finance Laws

Yesterday, on behalf of a large number of progressive bloggers and activists, Jane went to the FEC and filed an official complaint against John McCain's alleged campaign finance violations. We've been asking a lot of questions about this, and the answers have been less than forthcoming. So, instead of just sitting here and stewing about yet another GOP ethical problem, we decided to put our action where our concerns were.

As you'll see from the video, Jane handed over the official complaint to the FEC yesterday to get the process going:
"John McCain is a campaign finance criminal who is flouting the very regulations he championed," Jane Hamsher commented while delivering the complaint. "He believes the law is for someone else, not him. It's the height of hypocrisy."

As Markos of DailyKos pointed out in joining the complaint, "John McCain has officially blown past campaign spending limits mandated by his original acceptance of public campaign funding. While he has signaled his intent to withdraw from such financing, that has been hindered by the fact that he used the promise of public funding to secure a campaign loan." Guess the campaign finance laws only apply when they aren't inconvenient for McCain's ambitions.

As you likely know, the FEC is stymied at the moment due to the Bush Administration trying to shove Hans Von Spakovsky and all of his "caging" and other alleged nefarious campaign activities onto the election commission as a GOP dirty tricks ringer. Because the Democratic-led Congress said "no way" to Hans being voted through in a bloc vote, the Administration and their pal, Mitch McConnell, have balked at any FEC commissioner vote in the Senate. Which means that in this very important 2008 election cycle, the FEC is unable to act promptly to enforce the campaign finance laws.

Horton Hears an Abortion Protest

Funniest story I saw all week was this blip from TMZ about anti-choice protesters infiltrating the Hollywood premiere of Horton Hears a Who to chant anti-abortions slogans at stars and their children as the credits rolled. (H/T Feministe) Never mind, of course, that the real Dr. Seuss told them to knock it off the last time the anti-choice folks tried to twist his words to their own agenda -- or that the book was written as:
...a quiet statement against political isolationism and, in the McCarthy era in which it was written, it seemed to be a plea for political tolerance. (Geisel cried foul, however, when the anti-abortion movement appropriated and politicized the central phrase from "Horton" -- "A person's a person no matter how small.")

Guess the wishes of the author and his tiny fans don't matter. Or, in the alternative, that making a public spectacle of yourself in front of a crowd of non-comprehending children and the author's widow can apparently become an addictive yet weird pastime. (Although I do wonder if the anti-choice folks dragged their own children along to the premiere as "kid props" to gain entry, don't you?)

In any case, we are hoping to take The Peanut to see the film later on today. She loves to see movies in theaters, and the Horton books are some of her favorite Seuss of all time -- she loves the Whos and the elephant who works so hard to protect them -- so it should be a fun time for the Smiths today.

Poking Holes in the Superdelegate Superfrenzy

Yesterday, Jane lined out blogtopia* theories on superdelegates. The frenzy is fueled by a misunderstanding of how fickle pledged superdelegate support can be. Read between the lines of public campaign statements as strategic posturing, and this becomes clear.

This needn't have been stirred up. It is counterproductive for much needed work at the Congressional and local races level -- taking our eyes off the electoral ball, aided by media ginning up a pie fight because that sells papers and ratings.

The Boston Globe printed quotes from Wolfson's Clinton media call which intimated that the superdelegates were an important part of their convention strategy, and that he expected pledged delegates to vote for Hillary Clinton. Hmmm...Clinton campaign maneuvers in a media posturing call. The news here is? Let's read between the lines:

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Death by Profit Margin

Let's start with a fundamental truth: Insurance companies are in the business of not paying claims.

By not paying your claim, they get to keep all those premiums you pay. Maximizing their benefit by minimizing their risk, by finding loopholes and other reason to deny claims unless and until they are either cornered into paying them or a claim is so clear-cut they can't avoid it under risk of bad faith. Welcome to the wonderful world of profit and to hell with the consequences.

From AP via the Insurance Times:

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Paul Krugman Has Housing Bubble News That Will Scare the Crap Out of You

Paul Krugman recently talked to Google regarding the housing bubble, bad loans, and where this all may go. The video runs 71 minutes -- and it will scare the crap out of you.

Have been trying to educate myself on economic issues by reading Calculated Risk, the WSJ, and other publications. It makes my eyes glaze over, but Krugman pulls this together into a more coherent construct.

Suddenly, things that looked bad individually look even worse in the aggregate. Reps. Brad Miller and Linda Sanchez are discussing this on DKos today -- worth dropping in to chat.

-- Via Krugman's blog:

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Is The Religious Right On Its Last Legs?

This post, written by Christy Hardin Smith, originally appeared on FireDogLake

The NYTimes Magazine has an intriguing article about the schisms that may be occurring within the evangelical community. It seems that the "marketing potential" of supporting the Bush Administration is way down in terms of synergistic least based on where the Dobson Focus on the Family folks are...erm...focusing themselves these days. The switch from hate-filled invective directed at "libruls" to the actual message of acting on the humanism and peace contained in Christ's teachings would certainly be an improvement, but I'm filing this in the "believe it when I've seen it for more than a couple of months" category.

In any case, I thought this was a fascinating bit of insight from a reporter who has been covering the Christian right for quite a while:
...Meanwhile, a younger generation of evangelical pastors -- including the widely emulated preachers Rick Warren and Bill Hybels -- are pushing the movement and its theology in new directions. There are many related ways to characterize the split: a push to better this world as well as save eternal souls; a focus on the spiritual growth that follows conversion rather than the yes-or-no moment of salvation; a renewed attention to Jesus' teachings about social justice as well as about personal or sexual morality. However conceived, though, the result is a new interest in public policies that address problems of peace, health and poverty -- problems, unlike abortion and same-sex marriage, where left and right compete to present the best answers.
The backlash on the right against Bush and the war has emboldened some previously circumspect evangelical leaders to criticize the leadership of the Christian conservative political movement. "The quickness to arms, the quickness to invade, I think that caused a kind of desertion of what has been known as the Christian right," Hybels, whose Willow Creek Association now includes 12,000 churches, told me over the summer. "People who might be called progressive evangelicals or centrist evangelicals are one stirring away from a real awakening."
The generational and theological shifts in the evangelical world are turning the next election into a credibility test for the conservative Christian establishment. The current Republican front-runner in national polls, Rudolph W. Giuliani, could hardly be less like their kind of guy: twice divorced, thrice married, estranged from his children and church and a supporter of legalized abortion and gay rights. Alarmed at the continued strength of his candidacy, Dobson and a group of about 50 evangelical Christians leaders agreed last month to back a third party if Giuliani becomes the Republican nominee. But polls show that Giuliani is the most popular candidate among white evangelical voters. He has the support, so far, of a plurality if not a majority of conservative Christians. If Giuliani captures the nomination despite the threat of an evangelical revolt, it will be a long time before Republican strategists pay attention to the demands of conservative Christian leaders again. And if the Democrats capitalize on the current demoralization to capture a larger share of evangelical votes, the credibility damage could be just as severe.

Verizon Admits to Illegally Spying On Over 700 Phone Calls

This post, written by Christy Hardin Smith, originally appeared on FireDogLake

In case you were wondering about the need for individual, particularized warrants for American citizens under FISA, wonder no more:
...Verizon also disclosed that the FBI, using administrative subpoenas, sought information identifying not just a person making a call, but all the people that customer called, as well as the people those people called. Verizon does not keep data on this "two-generation community of interest" for customers, but the request highlights the broad reach of the government's quest for data.
The disclosures, in a letter from Verizon to three Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee investigating the carriers' participation in government surveillance programs, demonstrated the willingness of telecom companies to comply with government requests for data, even, at times, without traditional legal supporting documents. The committee members also got letters from AT&T and Qwest Communications International, but those letters did not provide details on customer data given to the government. None of the three carriers gave details on any classified government surveillance program.
From January 2005 to September 2007, Verizon provided data to federal authorities on an emergency basis 720 times, it said in the letter. The records included Internet protocol addresses as well as phone data. In that period, Verizon turned over information a total of 94,000 times to federal authorities armed with a subpoena or court order, the letter said. The information was used for a range of criminal investigations, including kidnapping and child-predator cases and counter-terrorism investigations.
Verizon and AT&T said it was not their role to second-guess the legitimacy of emergency government requests.... (emphasis mine)
Beyond the blatant attempt at fobbing this onto the government by playing the "we're just being patriotic and who are we to ask questions" game, playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with people's phone records without any third-party court review of the requests is an open door for abuse.

Multiply that across every telecommunications company in the United States and the number of years that the Bush Administration has been end-running the FISA court altogether using Patriot Act provisions that were meant as emergency situation stop-gaps (and not as everyday occurrances). Add in the fact that, as ex-Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio says, the Bush Administration was already pushing for these legal end-runs a full six months prior to 9/11/01...and you have a recipe for an Administration who could give a rat's ass about the rule of law, and which still didn't keep America safe from attack even with their end-run of FISA.

Is Mitch McConnell Secretly Financing Right Wing Attacks On a 12-Year-Old?

This post, written by Christy Hardin Smith, originally appeared on FireDogLake

What's with the non-denial from Sen. Mitch McConnell's office? Is one of his aides indeed coordinating with wingnuttia for the attacks on a 12-year-old boy and his sister and their family? From ABC News, via Digby:
"This is a perverse distraction from the issue at hand," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid, D-Nev. "Instead of debating the merits of providing health care to children, some in GOP leadership and their right-wing friends would rather attack a 12-year-old boy and his sister who were in a horrific car accident."
Manley cited an e-mail sent to reporters by a Senate Republican leadership aide, summing up recent blog traffic about the boy's family. A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to comment on Manley's charge that GOP aides were complicit in spreading disparaging information about Frosts. (emphasis mine)
In my experience, if you are not participating in something, you deny it outright to kill the story.

Mitch McConnell is the Republican Minority Leader in the Senate and sponsor of the Orwellian-named "Families First" legislation which would actually decrease the number of kids covered for benefits. Classy. Is someone in his office coordinating a dirty tricks PR advance against a 12 year old child? Have they been helping the story along, doing oppo on this child and his family and feeding it out through the wurlitzer to their corporate media buddies so their hands appear publicly clean while the wingnuts launder their slime tactics for them? As Digby asks, has the Senate Republican Minority leaders office frequently been used as a laundering point of contact for wayward freepers and random wingnuttery at large? Yes or no.

The NYTimes parses the disgusting all-out spitefest against this family, and coughs up another quote from a "an aide to Sen. Mitch McConnell" -- gee, they sure do get around, don't they?
Ms. Pelosi on Tuesday said, "I think it's really a sad statement about how bankrupt some of these people are in their arguments against S-chip that they would attack a 12-year-old boy."...

Pedophiles in Our Midst

Take a good long look at Brian Doyle, deputy press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. Alleged pedophile.

He could be your neighbor, your babysitter, your youth minister, your grocery check-out guy, your best friend's husband. He could be anyone you know. Not exactly a big, flashing sign that says "alleged pedophile" around this guy's neck, is there?

The fact that a Bush administration Department of Homeland Security official was arrested yesterday for attempting to solicit sex from a 14-year-old girl over the internet is a shock for some people. But it shouldn't be.

The fact that this arrest also happened on the day that Justin Berry was testifying about his abuse at the hands of internet sexual predators before Congress makes this all the more horrid, in my mind -- the juxtaposition between Brian Doyle and Justin Berry is just painful when you read the news articles side by side. Taylor Marsh has a fantastic article about this -- it's a tough read but a necessary one to understand the mindset behind this sort of behavior.

Warning: I'm going into a bit of detail below, and I didn't want it to come as a shock for anyone. Know what you face and face it head on.

I've prosecuted a number of pedophiles in my time, as well as participated in ongoing probation supervision for already convicted sexual predators, and there is one thing about which I am absolutely certain: You can never cure a pedophile. You can work with them, you can do aggressive therapy to help them control urges, you can do any number of things that require them to limit contact with children and porn, but there is no cure.

Most pedophiles that I've had to deal with in my legal career were molested themselves as children. A lot of them grew up in families where they were routinely molested by a parent or step-parent, and they grew up thinking this sort of behavior is normal. Not every person who is sexually molested becomes a pedophile, and I wish I knew where that switch gets flipped for some people and not others.

But ultimately it is all about power or the thrill of the hunt, or both, depending on the pedophile. Controlling your victim becomes everything. And almost every pedophile that I've ever had the misfortune of supervising or prosecuting had a long, long history of being a sexual predator. Most pedophiles don't just molest one child (as if that weren't bad enough). I attended a prosecutor's seminar on sexual predators when I was a practicing attorney and was told that the average pedophile has hundreds (yes, hundreds) of victims over a lifetime.

Brian Doyle was sloppy, which means on some level he wanted to get caught. He allegedly informed the undercover cop posing as a 14-year-old that he worked for the Department of Homeland Security. He gave her his cell phone number, a phone issued by the DHS. He was chatting online with the undercover officer at his home in Maryland when officers arrived to arrest him.

Here's what's in store for Mr. Doyle: His computer will have been seized by those police officers. They will comb through the hard drive of that computer for every single chat he has had with a child. They will track down as many of those children as possible to determine whether or not they have had sexual relations with him. They will comb through the hard drive for any child pornography that may exist thereon, and he faces federal criminal charges if there is any (and there likely is, considering that's a fairly usual find in this type of case). There is a criminal count for each picture. There are definitely Florida state charges, since it was a Florida state investigation that caught Mr. Doyle.

The Washington Post reports:

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