The Days are Long but the Years Are Short

Someone said this -- I forget who -- about parenthood, but it's true of life as well.  It's hard to believe it but this year is drawing to a close.  I will be spending most of the closing days -- the Chanukah and Christmas season -- on the other side of the globe with my family on a long anticipated photographic safari.  We will be busy and the internet connections uncertain so I want to take this opportunity to wish you all wonderful holidays full of happy moments.

Being able to enjoy the company of my family, especially our granddaughter, is one of the few joys of old age, and I am so grateful  to have a son and daughter in law who do their very best to share her with us though we live on opposite ends of  the continent and the travel is often arduous.

One of the other such joys is seeing people you consider corrupt get theirs.

Along with the destructive perfidy of the Congressional Democrats respecting the Bush administration's response to 9/11 and the Iraq war, that of our purported ally, France, was breathtaking.   We learned only later that it was motivated by the petroleum concessions Hussein had promised them during the dishonest UN administration of the Oil for Food program.   So Thursday's news that former French President Jacques Chirac was found guilty of embezzling public funds was heartening, even if long overdue and a rather superficial swipe at a man guilty of far darker deeds than those he was found guilty of. The BBC:

Jacques Chirac, mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, is the first former French head of state to be convicted since Marshal Philippe Petain, the leader of the wartime Vichy regime, was found guilty in 1945 of collaborating with the Nazis.

Our correspondent in Paris said the verdict would come as a surprise to the French public because the prosecution said it had not been proven that Mr Chirac had known of individual cases of fake jobs. It will be seen as a stain on his character, our correspondent adds.

The guilty verdict came as a surprise.

There had been a lot of effort on the part of the defence and the ruling party to try to make this case go away.

They pointed to Mr Chirac's health - he's been suffering from memory lapses since a stroke some years ago.

The ruling UMP had paid the city of Paris almost 2m euros to reimburse the money that was said to have been stolen.

In the end the judges weren't swayed. They could have given Mr Chirac anything up to 10 years in prison. [snip]

The case was divided into two parts: the first count involved embezzlement and breach of trust in relation to 21 bogus jobs; the second related to a charge of illegal conflict of interest concerning seven jobs.

He was found guilty of both.

Closer to home, Congress seems to be finally paying attention to the  prosecution team which railroaded Senator Stevens out of office . Jordy Yager of The Hill reports:  

[quote] [A] bipartisan group of senators is calling on the Justice Department to apologize to the family of the late Sen. Ted Stevens and fire the attorneys accused of the withholding of evidence that contributed to his criminal conviction. 

The former colleagues of the long-serving Alaskan Republican told The Hill that the DOJ's prosecution of Stevens was a disgrace.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a close friend of Stevens's, said DOJ handled the case against the former senator "vindictively" and recommended the disbarment of the attorneys responsible for the botched trial. Hatch said the failure of the prosecutors to turn over key evidence was "the lowest" level of law and indicative of a hunger to convict powerful politicians even in the face of conflicting testimony. [snip]

"It was really tragic, because this was somebody at the end of his career who spent a lifetime trying to carry out his mission and then he was killed and never really knew," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

"I think the Department of Justice should apologize to his widow."

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) also called on the DOJ to apologize to the Stevens family, saying that anyone involved in the withholding of evidence from the former senator's lawyers should be fired from the agency. 

"As a prosecutor, you have to have a nonbiased approach, and they failed utterly," Hutchison said in an interview with The Hill. 

"The people who were doing the prosecution should not be allowed in the Justice Department ever again."

Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also told The Hill that the DOJ should fire the attorneys involved in the mishandling of the case.

Too many prosecutors are partisan, self-serving and corrupt to the core. Just as we should have learned in the hounding of Lewis Libby that no politician should ever again trust the integrity of a prosecution and order full cooperation with it, so we should have learned something from the treatment of Senator Stevens.

This should persuade the clean toga Republicans on the Hill that their rules requiring one of their party to resign as soon as he is indicted needs revision in the face of what we've learned of the perversion of the Department of Justice's role. (Clean toga Republicans is a term I coined to describe those Republicans who flee from the forum when jackals descend on their colleagues because they fear some mud and blood might bespatter their own garb. Cowardice and moral preening is another way to describe this destructive behavior.)

Attorney General Eric Holder's efforts to shove his role in Fast and Furious  under the  impressively thick rug of his office are becoming increasingly obvious even to the establishment press. If he doesn't resign, I expect the move to impeach him will grow in strength  in the coming year.

In the meantime his incompetent steering of the Department is revealed day by day. Here's this week's special , a missed deadline in a voting rights case.

I'd seek informants from inside the Department to give me a heads up to  what's going on there under the radar, but, unfortunately, unless a recent ruling is upset,  as a blogger I cannot promise the  whistleblowers any sort of protection. John Dvorak of PC Magazine:

The judge, recent Obama appointee Marco Hernandez, asserted that as a blogger with no other credentials, she was not a journalist and was entitled to no protection.

He said, "Although the defendant is a self-proclaimed 'investigative blogger' and defines herself as 'media,' the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law in the first instance."

Apparently, there are now new qualifications for journalists. So who decides these qualifications? Hernandez? Where did he get this from? I've never seen a laundry list in the U.S. that precludes bloggers. There is nothing in the Bill of Rights, to wit: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In this instance, the concept of the "press" means any dissemination of information through a communications medium. In the past, this would be a flyer, pamphlet, or newspaper. Now, it includes TV, radio, magazines, PDF files, and blogs. Just because the media have modernized, it does not suddenly mean that the rules have changed.

More importantly, when we look at journalists' rights, there are no admissions whatsoever. You do not need a license-like you do in most South American countries, for example-to be a journalist. I'm not sure where Hernandez got his ideas from, but it seems someone failed to emphasize the Constitution.

By his definition, all Cox has to do is publish a pamphlet or write a book to be a journalist. The defining difference between a pamphleteer and a blogger is, frankly, beyond my grasp. . . . Hopefully this un-American precedent will be reversed shortly. Meanwhile, the public should be outraged. Furthermore, for years, many writers have advocated for the idea that the Bill of Rights is outdated in the modern era and that journalists per se should be regulated. These people should be strongly rebuked. If we do not protect our rights, we lose them.

So, until Hernandez is overruled, tell your story to real journalists like Mika Brzezinski Meghan McCain, Chelsea Clinton, George Stephanopoulos, Diane Sawyer, or Steve Kroft, a twenty-three year veteran at CBS news, whose interview of the President was so superficial and fawning and devoid of meat it inspired this critical review from Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic:

KROFT: I'm sure your poll numbers will probably automatically go up as soon as there is a Republican candidate in the race. I mean, that's normal. I mean, you're being judged now on your performance.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, no, no. I'm being judged against the ideal. And, you know, [Vice President] Joe Biden has a good expression. He says, "Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative."

Other gems:

  • "Have you given up on the Republicans? Have you stopped reaching out to them? Are you just out there now trying to get your message across?"
  • "What do you make of this surge by former Speaker Gingrich?"
  • "Tell me, what do you consider your major accomplishments?"

What this interview represents -- like so many broadcast news interviews with sitting politicians and high level bureaucrats -- is the charade of asking tough questions to hold the president accountable. And the utter failure to ask any actually tough questions, to unearth any new facts of significance, to force any sort of reckoning before the television cameras on a matter of importance. If I were advising Obama, I'd make sure that Kroft got the next exclusive interview too.


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