What Do Hamid Karzai, Lindsey Graham, and the Stock Market Have in Common? (And Some Great WV Elections!)

I haven't put out a diary in awhile, and therefore it makes me sad.  So in celebration of the end of my hiatus amongst the blogosphere, I have a diary of quality substance with several different stories chocked into one...hopefully.

Anyway, to answer the question posed by the title of this diary now.  What Do Hamid Karzai, Lindsey Graham, and the Stock Market all have in common?  If you answered that they were all mentioned by the media as potential SCOTUS nominees, you may partially be correct... but not for the context of this diary.  Though this title doesn't really pertain to the actual substance of the diary, I just wanted to point out that all three are incredibly moody.  I wish to see the day where Karzai and Graham both have Facebook and update their statuses with how great their day went, then 10 minutes later put up an emo status about how much their lives suck and how they really don't think its time to push that climate bill or "I'll just haul myself over to Taliban HQ and see what America thinks of THAT!"

Okay....  so now for real substance, sorry I just figured some lame comic-relief was needed.

Election day is today in West Virginia and I personally can't wait.  I will cast my vote, and not reveal who it is I am voting for.  The first Congressional district is up for grabs and it should indeed be an exciting race!  State Senator Michael Oliverio is up for the Democratic Party's nomination, against incumbent virtuoso Alan Mollohan (D-WV). I haven't found any recent reliable polls so the race is pretty up in the air.  The winner of this primary challenge will face the winner of a slew of Republican candidates.

In West Virginia's 1st Congressional District, incumbent U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., faces state Sen. Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia, for the Democratic nomination to the seat. The nominee will face the winner of the Republican primary in the Nov. 2 general election. The six GOP hopefuls include Cindy Hall, Patricia VanGilder Levenson and David B. McKinley of Wheeling, Sarah Minear and Mac Warner of Morgantown and Thomas Stark of Parkersburg.

Source:  Wheeling Intelligencer

In my opinion, I think the district will stay blue regardless however it will be a battle.  

Not in the national spotlight but still an awesome story, is a race in the West Virginia House of Delegates.  David Eplin, a Democrat from Logan County, set out in a unique way to file his candidacy for House of Delegates.

When David Eplin traveled from Logan County to Charleston to file paperwork at the secretary of state's office this week, he took the typical route: U.S. 119.  But the 23-year-old says he trekked the 40-some miles by foot.

Eplin, a Chapmanville resident, is running for a seat in the House of Delegates 19th District. The Democrat works as a warehouseman at the Pepsi Bottling Group in Logan.

He wanted to prove his dedication to potential constituents, he said. So he walked -- and sometimes ran -- to the Capitol.

Source:  Charleston Gazette

A unique, and dedicated, way to file your candidacy and show the voters of your district that you care about them and want to serve them well.  This should come as now surprise, the citizens of West Virginia are among the most caring and thoughtful individuals this state has to offer.  Election day is going to be an exciting day, and I look forward to bringing a full report once results come in.

 

The Real Reason Khadr's Case Is In A Military Commission

As the government continues to pursue the case of Omar Khadr, it's becoming clear why the administration chose to try this case in a military commission rather than a regular civilian federal court: a civilian federal court judge would likely throw the case out.

The reason isn't only that Khadr was, at worst, a child soldier - he was 15 when he was captured in a compound of al Qaeda associates who were friends of his father's. It's that his statements recounting what he did before his capture would almost certainly be ruled inadmissible.

Khadr is accused of throwing a grenade in a firefight with U.S. forces in Afghanistan that killed an American soldier. He's also accused of assisting al Qaeda operatives - all friends of his father's - in making and laying explosives.

Although almost killed in the firefight, Khadr eventually regained consciousness at the US air base in Bagram, where he was immediately interrogated. Among other things, he provided valuable information about al Qaeda operatives.

Four of his interrogators took the stand last week in a pretrial hearing in Khadr's war crimes case now pending in the military commission at Guantanamo Bay.

So far, two military interrogators and two FBI agents have described how they ingratiated themselves to the young teenager by bringing him M&M's, McDonald's sandwiches and video games. One, an attractive young woman identified only as "Number 11," says she was chosen to question him in the hopes that he would open up to her as "a mother figure." Whether he saw the lithe twenty-something brunette as motherly or something else is questionable. (Journalists at Gitmo last week took to calling this witness "the honeypot.")

Setting aside the ethics of using an attractive young woman to lure an adolescent boy, there's a striking problem raised by all of the interrogators' testimony so far: not one read Khadr his rights. That was U.S. policy at the time, because the government's goal was to obtain military intelligence, not to prosecute crimes.

These days, critics mock the idea that terror suspects should be read Miranda rights - a Supreme Court rule created to ensure the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. But what's become clear in the military commission proceedings last week is the critical role that rule plays: to ensure that confessions are voluntary, and that the suspect knows that his statements could be used against him later.

The aim isn't to make the suspect clam up, as Senators Lindsey Graham or Mitch McConnell might claim. The idea is, at least in part, that if a suspect doesn't know how his statements will be used, he may be more likely to make stuff up. How else to explain the many different versions of his story that Khadr told different interrogators?

In one version, for example, Khadr said he remembers throwing the grenade - although he was shot twice in the chest and knocked unconscious moments later. It was the first time he'd ever thrown a grenade, he claimed, so he threw it just like he'd seen it done in the movies. In another version, he told a different interrogator that he'd had lots of training in small arms fire. He never mentioned the movies.

Then there's the story Khadr told another interrogator, that both of his parents had been killed in a car accident. He told a different questioner that his father had died in Egypt, and his mother had died of cancer.

Khadr also reported enjoying his celebrity among the detainees at Bagram, who recognized his father as a high-level Al Qaeda operative. Khadr boasted to them that he'd killed a U.S. soldier.

Are these statements incriminating evidence that support the government's case, or boastful talk by a teenager bored out of his mind in prison and eager to please his attractive and generous visitors? It's worth noting that between interrogation sessions, Khadr had fits of uncontrollable sobbing, crying for his grandmother and acting "suicidal and depressed," as one FBI agent described it in his notes. On the witness stand, the agent attempted to retract that statement: " 'crying and inconsolable' would have been more accurate."

Khadr believed, as one interrogator testified, that cooperating and telling them what they wanted to hear would lead to his prompt return to Canada - not to his detention in a U.S. military prison without trial for the next eight years.

As he heads to trial this summer, Khadr is no longer boasting that he threw a grenade or willingly manufactured explosive devices. Now, represented by lawyers, he's claiming he was abused at the Bagram and Guantanamo prisons, that his statements were involuntary, and that all of them should be suppressed.

The defense team has not yet had an opportunity to call witnesses to support that claim, and it may be impossible get at the truth of what happened in the military commissions. That's because only the government has the power to compel interrogators to testify. Not surprisingly, those that have testified so far say they were exceedingly nice to Omar Khadr.

But Khadr was questioned by more than 30 different interrogators. His defense lawyers want to interview them all about Khadr's treatment - including one who the defense says already told the government that Khadr was threatened with rape, confirming one of Khadr's claims. But the government has refused to make any of the interrogators available to the defense for questioning.

The judge may be able to order some interrogators to appear in court, although he hasn't done it so far - and the commission rules don't require it. Issued just last week, the rules say a defendant is not entitled to the same access to evidence that the government has, as he would be in a military court martial. In the military commissions, the defense is entitled only to "reasonable access" to evidence.

If an interrogator is overseas, or is a CIA agent whose identity is secret, is it "reasonable" to require him to appear? The rules don't say, giving the judge great latitude to say no. It's not even clear if the judge has authority to compel testimony from a witness in a government agency outside the military. All of this could make it impossible for the defense to even present evidence supporting Khadr's claims.

After the first week of this hearing, whether or not Omar was abused in prison seems almost beside the point. The government's own witnesses are portraying him as a child who was victimized by the adults who raised him, then used by U.S. authorities to extract information, which he willingly provided - only to have it used against him years later, after he'd finally become, at least technically, an adult.

The rules governing federal courts - that suspects must be read their rights for their statements to be admissible, that law enforcement must seek the consent of a child's parent or guardian before questioning him, and that the defense can issues subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify - are not trivial technicalities. They all exist for a reason: to ensure that trials are fair and justice is done.

The Bush administration started the United States down a very rocky path by abandoning those rules in the "war on terror." The Obama administration does not have to continue in that direction.

Omar Khadr, who this past week was apparently so distraught that he refused to attend his own trial, may have given up hope that justice is anywhere in the cards for him. The government still has the opportunity to prove him wrong.

Weekly Diaspora: Boycotting Arizona

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

Anti-immigrant fervor could be more costly than Arizona lawmakers expected. Thanks to SB 1070, a new law that requires immigrants to carry papers at all times to prove their legal status, the state has become the focal point of the national immigration debate. The bill and the buzz surrounding it illustrates a desperate need for a federal fix to the broken immigration system.

President Barack Obama publicly condemned the measure shortly before Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill on April 23, while human rights groups and immigration reform supporters are threatening national boycotts and lawsuits.

SB 1070 makes it possible for local police to racially profile Latinos by allowing them to check a person’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they might be undocumented. It elicits memories of South Africa under apartheid, when blacks were forced to carry passbooks or otherwise risk incarceration. For a good historical perspective of immigration in Arizona, check out Jessica Pieklo’s blog for Care2.

Hidden costs

Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine, joins many bloggers and immigrant rights supporters in calling for a boycott. “Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva is urging a boycott of his own state. San Francisco has already announced its intentions to boycott Arizona,” Rothschild writes. “The response from the Latino community has been instant and outraged. And the upcoming May Day rallies are sure to be huge.”

If threats to boycott simmer down, lawsuits could overturn the bill. At RaceWire, Julianne Hing writes that “Legal challenges to Arizona’s [new immigration law] are coming from all sides. Both the [American Civil Liberties Union] and [the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund] are planning legal action.”

Hing adds that “Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon announced on Friday that his city would bring a lawsuit against [the law]” and that he is joined by “Sara Presler, the mayor of Flagstaff, whose city is exploring its legal options as well.”

Arizona will need to amp up its law enforcement arm to put the bill in action. That won’t be cheap—the state budget is facing a $2 billion shortfall. As William Fisher reports at the Inter Press Service, “In one Arizona county alone, Yuma County, the sheriff estimates that law enforcement agencies would spend between $775,880 and $1,163,820 dollars in processing expenses. Jail costs would run between $21,195,600 and $96,086,720 dollars, and attorney and staff fees between $810,067 and $1,620,134 dollars.”

The ripple effect

Ironically, Arizona lawmakers’ attempts to crackdown on immigrants have galvanized Latinos and immigration reform supporters on a national level. As Suzy Khimm reports in Mother Jones, “In light of the passage of Arizona’s draconian immigration law, advocates have been ramping up the pressure on the Democratic leadership to demonstrate some concrete sign of progress by May 1, when nationwide immigration reform rallies are scheduled.”

At the Washington Monthly, Steve Benen notes how SB 1070 has also created a political quandary for Republican lawmakers in Congress. “So far, only two GOP members — Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — have been willing to criticize the state law,” writes Benen. “If the issue is a test of Republicans’ political and moral seriousness, it appears most of the party caucus on the Hill is content with an ‘incomplete.’”

The anti-immigrant backlash

Immigration reform supporters also know that punitive laws won’t go away until Congress moves to pass reform.  Already, as Jason Hancock at the Iowa Independent reports, “a Republican candidate for congress in Iowa’s 3rd District calling for microchips to be installed in immigrants.”

Pat Bertroche, the candidate, is quoted by Hancock comparing undocumented immigrants to “dogs,” saying “I think we should catch ’em, we should document ’em, make sure we know where they are and where they are going. I actually support microchipping them. I can microchip my dog so I can find it. Why can’t I microchip an illegal?”

Meanwhile, the National Radio Project reports on the lives of gay and lesbian immigrants who live in the United States without papers. Un Jung Lim, a U.S. citizen whose partner was deported after living in the United States for 18 years on a worker visa, tearfully said “We’ve been separated for five months and we hope to be reunited soon, but we don’t know when that’s going to be.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Reid Reverses Course, Will Address Energy Before Immigration

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has reversed course again and will bring up the energy and climate bill before immigration reform after all.

One of the energy/climate bill’s main authors, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), had threatened to pull his support from the bill if immigration came first, given that there’s really only time for one more major bill in before campaigns begin in August. Although many commenters here criticized Graham for the stunt, it appears to have worked. Reid’s stated reason has nothing to do with Graham’s protest, and while that reason makes sense, it's one that was true before Graham walked: “The energy bill is ready. We will move to that more quickly than a bill we don't have. I don't have an immigration bill." It was likely a combination of Graham threats and pressure from the environmental community that brought the energy bill back.

And indeed, this is a victory for environmental groups. The Sierra Club asked members to put pressure on their Senators to bring the bill up despite Reid’s move. Here at MyDD, the NRDC’s Heather Taylor-Miesle reacted to Graham’s withdrawal with a diary called “CLIMATE CHANGE CANNOT WAIT.” Other groups had similar messages.

My own reaction to the bill’s delay was more mixed. I have long thought that climate change’s scientific tipping point of no return is the most important part of the issue, meaning that getting a bill soon is probably more important than getting the bill right. Immigration, health insurance, etc. won't be harder to fix if we wait; climate change may be impossible to fix if we wait. I can tolerate fossil fuel giveaways, EPA restrictions, etc. if it's the only way to get fast action. Once KGL had sunk so far as to ban the states from getting more aggressive than the feds, however, I wasn’t so sure anymore. As I wrote after Graham and Reid initially scuttled the bill, perhaps the bill had finally sunk so much that it would be worth it to wait for January’s filibuster reform and a better bill, tipping point bedamned.

Now that we’re back on track for fast action, I stand by that statement. We must pass a bill as soon as possible, meaning this year if at all possible, but it must not weaken the states’ authority to pass their own stricter measures. California and New England have shown strong leadership on energy solutions, and blocking their innovation would make this bill a last step, not a first one. If that provision can’t be scuttled, this bill must be defeated and improved post-filibuster reform. If, however, we can convince the Senate to drop that provision, or if the House can defeat it in conference, than this truly is our best chance to price carbon for the first time in history and begin moving forward with a clean energy economy. Kill the anti-federalist measures and pass this bill.

There's more...

Climate Bill's Delay May Be A Good Thing

As Charles mentioned, the the long-awaited Kerry-Graham-Lieberman (KGL) energy and climate bill will NOT be unveiled on Monday as expected. Now that Harry Reid plans to move immigration legislation first, Graham is threatening to walk and Kerry has put the bill on hold. With the midterms looming, putting immigration first already virtually assured that climate legislation wouldn’t move this year; Graham’s stunt all but guarantees it.

I’m shocked to hear myself saying this, but: good.

I’ve spent the past year pushing hard for this bill both on MyDD and in my professional life, but over the past few days I have come to believe that a delay might actually be a good thing. That belief may run counter to conventional wisdom – Kerry said this year is the “last and best shot” for passing a bill and Politico’s tone echoes that sentiment – but KGL has deteriorated so much that waiting for a better bill after next January’s filibuster reform might actually be worth it. Once the rules for the next Congress are written, we may be able to get not just a stronger bill but an infinitely stronger bill than what could pass now.

Generally in politics I’m a fan of an incremental, something-is-better-than-nothing approach, and I started out that way on KGL. I hate to say it, but tipping point or not, the goal isn’t to write perfect legislation but to write passable legislation. To this end I was willing to swallow the KGL oil give-aways in exchange for the first carbon price in history and new subsidies for clean energy.

On Friday, however, it was reported that the bill would remove “the states' authority to set tougher emissions standards than the federal government.” And that’s beyond even the most pragmatic pale. So much of current federal energy and environmental laws originated with the states, particularly California. Banning the states from taking tougher action than the federal government would by itself turn this bill from a first step to a last step. It would stymie innovation and destroy our best tool for continuing to move the ball forward. I can swallow imperfection if it allows room for further improvement, but it appears that KGL was going to block such improvement for ever and always.

It now looks like this might be a non-issue. I feel sorry for the three negotiators who have been stabbed in the back, but maybe it’s best this way. The bill contained its many poison pills because of the 60-vote threshold the Repubs have for the first time in history imposed on nearly all Senate business. Come January, however, I am confident that Democrats will still control at least 53 seats and that some sort of filibuster reform will be reality. 

We can get a better bill with fewer votes then than we can with 60 votes now. KGL has sunk so much that the difference between those two bills might actually be enough to make flirting with the tipping point worth it.

There's more...

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