Arizona Has A New Democratic Senate Candidate!

Dr. Richard Carmona
Dr. Richard Carmona

Well, okay, Richard Carmona has been formally announced for the race since early November of 2011, but with yesterday’s dropout by the only other major Democratic contender, former state Democratic Party Chair Don Bivens, the field is effectively cleared for Carmona.
Bivens was gracious and indicated clearly he is getting out for party unity:

“The continuing head-to-head competition of our Democratic primary is draining resources that we will need as a Party to win the U.S. Senate race in November,” he wrote in a statement. “While I am confident we would win this primary, the cost and impact on the Party I’ve spent my life fighting for could diminish our chance to achieve the ultimate goal: winning in November.”

Bivens had a stellar third quarter in fundraising, but momentum quickly shifted to former Surgeon General Richard Carmona when he entered the race in November. Carmona had the backing of much of the national Democratic establishment.

In a joint statement with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wrote that he was “heartened that Don has decided to focus his time and energy” on President Barack Obama’s re-election and on Carmona’s campaign.

This is actually fairly exciting news here in the the desert, as the party, both in state and nationally, can coalesce around Carmona and focus on the necessary effort to insure very conservative Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, the certain nominee for the GOP, does not win. The race is for the seat of the retiring Jon Kyl and, for the first time since Dennis DeConcini left, the Dems have a serious chance of gaining a Senator in Arizona. A goal not onlycritical to us in Arizona, but in the national efforts to retain the all important Majority status in the Senate.

Why is Carmona, the man and candidate, so exciting? Well, because he has a legitimate shot at winning, that’s why. And who is Richard Carmona? Here is his campaign biography:

Born to a poor Hispanic family in New York City, Dr. Richard Carmona experienced homelessness, hunger and bleak prospects for a future education and economic opportunity. The child of parents who emigrated to the United States and struggled with alcoholism and substance abuse, Rich learned tough early lessons about economic disparities and social injustice – an experience he has never forgotten, and one that has given him an understanding of how culture, health, education and economic status shape our country.

Like his siblings and many of his friends, Rich dropped out of high school. With few skills and little education, he enlisted in the Army and went to Vietnam. Military service gave him discipline and a drive to succeed that he still carries today. In order to apply for Special Forces and become a combat medic, he earned his high school equivalency degree. Rich left the Army a combat-decorated veteran, with two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, a combat medical badge and numerous other decorations to mark his service. (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Tom Zoellner, A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America

Welcome Tom Zoellner (TomZoellner.com) and Host bmaz (EmptyWheel.net )

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America

It has been a year and a month since the day the shots pierced the heart of Arizona on January 8, 2011. In all, 19 victims were shot. Six lives were taken and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords gravely wounded. Friends, families, a state and a nation were torn at their emotional seams.

The news crews came for their live shots, talking heads talked, pundits opined, quick clues to a deeper cause and meaning sought and catharsis stated to have been reached in a stirring memorial led by an eloquent President. Over time, the initial raw wounds seemed to merge into the amazing evolving story of strength, resilience and recovery of Gabby Giffords. And, to be sure, there are few parallels in public life to the resilience and recovery of Gabby, it has been stunning, heartwarming and inspirational..

But there is more, much more, to the shooting that day at Congress On Your Corner, and that is the subject of A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America, by today’s guest, author and journalist Tom Zoellner. Tom is not just a chronicler of the events and surroundings, he is a native of Arizona, and Tucson, and speaks not only with factual accuracy and thoroughness, but passion and deep understanding of his subject.

Arizona depends on reinvention. The narrative of a fresh start in a warm place is the root of the economy, and the unsustainable nature of that dream over the long run is the largest part of what ails the state today.

Zoellner opens with the the setup and events at the shooting scene, but then takes the reader on a sprawling ride through Arizona’s history and structure, both as a state and Tucson as his own home. Interwoven into the picture of Arizona and Tucson is also the tale of how and why it is the home of his dear friend Gabby Giffords, and the other souls who came to be part of the story at the Safeway at the intersection of fabled Ina and Oracle roads in Tucson. Much like all the people – from Gabby, to the Chief Judge of Arizona’s Federal Courts, John Roll, to nine year year old Christina Taylor Green, and the others – Ina and Oracle roads do not seem like they ought to intersect where they do. Yet intersect they do, and did in a tragedy that says at once everything about Arizona problems, and nothing to the real ethos of its substantial good and beauty.

At the Safeway In Tucson, all the factors and people intersected with Jared Lee Loughner. Zoellner plumbs the depth of a disturbed and alienated young man who, in hindsight, seems so clearly headed to the result he created. But the story of Loughner, and the environment which molded him, is also the story of the city of Tucson, state of Arizona and, yes, the nation. The story of opportunity wasted and lost, of a social fabric too easily frayed, and human beings too easily lost as the teeming masses swirl around them. It is a tale of us, not just them. [cont’d.] (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Tom Zoellner, A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America

Welcome Tom Zoellner (TomZoellner.com) and Host bmaz (EmptyWheel.net )

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America

It has been a year and a month since the day the shots pierced the heart of Arizona on January 8, 2011. In all, 19 victims were shot. Six lives were taken and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords gravely wounded. Friends, families, a state and a nation were torn at their emotional seams.

The news crews came for their live shots, talking heads talked, pundits opined, quick clues to a deeper cause and meaning sought and catharsis stated to have been reached in a stirring memorial led by an eloquent President. Over time, the initial raw wounds seemed to merge into the amazing evolving story of strength, resilience and recovery of Gabby Giffords. And, to be sure, there are few parallels in public life to the resilience and recovery of Gabby, it has been stunning, heartwarming and inspirational. (more…)

In Memorium: Mary Beth Perdue

Mary Beth Perdue

The internet is a strange and wonderful thing. Just about everyone and everything in the world is on it, even though it is nothing but data in the form of binary computer code traversing by random electrons. Yet thought is crystalized, and friendships born and nurtured, through commonality of interest and purpose. And so it is here at Emptywheel, where many of us have been together since the days at The Next Hurrah, through years at Firedoglake, and now at our new home. Just because it germinates via the net does nothing to detract from the sense of community, friendship and admiration for each other gained over time.

With profound sadness, I report we have lost a true friend, and one of our longest tenured contributors, Mary. Mary Beth Perdue left us on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2011.

Mary Beth Perdue, 52, of Robards, KY, formally of Newburgh, passed away at her home.

She graduated Order of Coif from University of Kentucky Law School and from University of Evansville with an accounting degree. She was a member of the Indiana Bar Association. She was in house counsel at Mid-Central Land Services, Inc. and served as an attorney for firms in Indiana and Kentucky. She owned and operated the Horse and Hound (a pet supply store) in Newburgh. Mary was a lover of all animals with a special place in her heart for horses, dogs and cats. She was involved in numerous equestrian sports and organizations.

Here at Emptywheel, she was just Mary; and she was so much more than a simple obituary can convey. She was funny, kind, and, most of all, razor sharp in analysis of extremely complex issues surrounding torture, indefinite detention, international human rights, illegal wiretapping and executive branch overreach. Mary had a steel trap index in her mind for even obscure torture and rendition cases and facts. To the day she died, Mary was one of the very few people commenting in America that remembered, and would never miss a chance to point out, how the children and extended families of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Aafia Siddiqui were used and/or disappeared by the US as pawns in our immoral torture in the name of the so called “war on terror”. Mary’s dissection of Jack Goldsmith terrorist detention policy, complete with with a comparison to the Ox Bow Incident, was a thing of passion and beauty.

(more…)

Happy Trails: Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

As one and all know by now, the Emptywheel blog is leaving Firedoglake. But, before we leave, I have a few things to say in parting.

First, thanks to Jane Hamsher, a remarkable woman who has built a first class enterprise at FDL that melds together disparate and critical elements necessary for an informed mind in a troubled world. I have been honored to learn from, and work with, Jane over the last several years. The same goes for each and every one of the colleagues, both present and past, I have had the fortune to be associated with while at FDL. They are all, quite simply, some of the most remarkable and wonderful people I have ever met.

I would also like to wish Kevin Gosztola and Jeff Kaye, the former who I look forward to getting to know, and the latter who I know quite well, the best of luck in their new section at FDL, The Dissenter. May the wind be at their backs; and I hope you will all give them the attention and participation their work does, and will, deserve. They are both very good.

As for all our loyal readers and commenters, the warmth and love you have shown us over the years and in the post announcing the move is nothing short of stunning and humbling. A great many of you came with us here from The Next Hurrah and, well, I both hope and expect to see you nearly uninterrupted at the new digs; and I think you will be quite comfortable with them. So, while parting with FDL is tremendously hard, there is going to be an exciting new day for both us and them.

Again, to both colleagues and readers, it has been an extreme honor and pleasure to have spent the last many years with you at Firedoglake. I cannot thank one and all enough for everything.

Happy trails pardners. Second star to the right and straight on till morning!

Reggie Walton Unleashes the Rocket’s Red Glare

graphic by mopupduty.com

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Well well well. who couldda knowd?? Acute prosecutorial foul play has ended the big Roger Clemens perjury trial at it’s gestation. From ESPN:

The judge presiding over Roger Clemens’ perjury trial declared a mistrial over inadmissible evidence shown to jurors.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said Clemens could not be assured a fair trial after prosecutors showed jurors evidence against his orders in the second day of testimony.

He will hear a motion on whether a new trial would be considered double jeopardy.

Whooo boy, Judge Walton must have been a little upset. Why yes, yes, he was:

.

“I don’t see how I un-ring the bell,” he said

Walton interrupted the prosecution’s playing of a video from Clemens’ 2008 testimony before Congress and had the jury removed from the courtroom. Clemens is accused of lying during that testimony when he said he never used performance-enhancing drugs during his 24-season career in the major leagues.

One of the chief pieces of evidence against Clemens is testimony from his former teammate and close friend, Andy Pettitte, who says Clemens told him in 1999 or 2000 that he used human growth hormone. Clemens has said that Pettitte misheard him. Pettitte also says he told his wife, Laura, about the conversation the same day it happened.

Prosecutors had wanted to call Laura Pettitte as a witness to back up her husband’s account, but Walton had said he wasn’t inclined to have her testify since she didn’t speak directly to Clemens.

Walton was angered that in the video prosecutors showed the jury, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., referred to Pettitte’s conversation with his wife.

“I think that a first-year law student would know that you can’t bolster the credibility of one witness with clearly inadmissible evidence,” Walton said.

Well, yes, Reggie Walton is exactly right. It was not only an inappropriate attempt at backdoor admission of what was, at the time, hearsay but, much, much, more importantly flew directly in the face of a direct and specific previous order of the court on this EXACT issue. You just do not that, and if you do you cannot whine when the court spanks your ass. You got said ass whuppin the old fashioned way, you earned it.

So, now the germane question is where do we go from here; i.e. what about a new trial. Well, that depends on a fair amount of pretty complicated things that are not going to be self evident to those not more than intimately experienced in the nuances of technical trial law are going to understand. I will get into that in detail, and discuss the legal implications and situation, when the pleadings are filed. Judge Walton has scheduled a Sept. 2 hearing on whether to hold a new trial, or dismiss the case permanently due to double jeopardy. clemens’ defense team will have until July 29 to file the motion to dismiss with prejudice and the prosecution has until Aug. 2 to respond.

A lot of judges would have tried to paper over this bogosity by the prosecution. Reggie Walton is PISSED. He may well say they are done based on double jeopardy. Those are gonna be fun briefs, and a very interesting oral argument.

One further thing, despite the incredibly short tenure of this jury trial – literally really in the first day of evidentiary presentation – today’s antics were NOT the first instance of prosecutorial misconduct. Oh no, the government was acting maliciously and unethically from the get go in the opening statements.

[Judge Walton] said it was the second time that prosecutors had gone against his orders — the other being an incident that happened during opening arguments Wednesday when assistant U.S. attorney Steven Durham said that Pettite and two other of Clemens’ New York teammates, Chuck Knoblauch and Mike Stanton, had used human growth hormone.

Walton said in pre-trial hearings that such testimony could lead jurors to consider Clemens guilty by association. Clemens’ defense attorney objected when Durham made the statement and Walton told jurors to disregard Durham’s comments about other players.

Yes, boy howdy, that is precisely right.

I think that the Laura Pettite bit, coupled with the improper attempt at prohibited guilt by association in the openings makes a fast pattern to malicious prosecution. If Reggie wants, he can dismiss and ground it upon both mistrial and sanction for malicious.

I’ve been telling people for years that it was NOT just former IRS goon come FDA stoolie agent Jeff Novitsky (although it all starts with him) that was malfeasant in the BALCO cases, including the Mitchell report kerfuffle, it was the AUSAs too.

This mendaciousness is just bogus and deplorable. Congratulations to Judge Reggie Walton for fingering it for what it is. Now dismiss this bunk forever please.

Trash: F1 British Grand Prix, Sweater Vest Forfeitures & Foxsuckers

There are a lot of sports deserving of some Trash Talk this weekend, including the one and only British GP from Silverstone, Derek Jeter…Jetah…, getting his 3,000th hit and the gleeful schadenfreude over The. Ohio. State. University. having to self forfeit all its wins from 2010. All are glorious sports stories, but we will start where we always do this time of year, with the F1 Circus.

This weekend is the British Grand Prix from historic Silverstone in Northamptonshire (and Buckinghamshire) England. Silverstone has evolved over the years and, in its current configuration is a fast track with several straightaways, coupled with two near hairpins and a smattering of other turns that make it a great track for racing and overtaking. Combined with the potential for the wet stuff, Silverstone holds promise for great races.

Aussie Mark Webber of Red Bull was fastest in practice, which was hampered in the second session by the rain. the Red Bull dominance continued into qualifying this morning with Webber taking P1, followed by teammate Sebastian Vettel in P2 and the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in P3 and P4 respectively. Di Resta in the Force India, Maldonado in the Williams and Koayashi in the Sauber were pleasant surprises in P6-P8. Of the three upstarts, I think Kobayashi has the best chance to break through for a podium, but it will be really tough. Lewis Hamilton continues his downward slide from (more…)

Is Anwar al-Awlaki The Unnamed “National of the United States” In Warsame Indictment?

As Marcy noted Tuesday afternoon, and has been large in the news the last two days, there is a new terrorism prosecution announced by Eric Holder and the Obama DOJ. The case concerns Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, and is interesting in that Warsame is alleged to be a member/leader of al-Shabaab, and none of the allegations involve acts of plots against the US or its citizens directly.

In fact, the only significant nexus to the United States contained within the indictment unsealed against Warsame is that he:

…conspires with a national of the United States…

This is unusual as to the complete lack of description and details about the “national of the United States” and the complete absence of any information indicating the nature of conspiracy and/or contact with the “national of the United States. To be fair, a charging document is not legally required to be a “speaking indictment” that fully lays out every minute detail of the jurisdiction, venue and facts; although this one is one of the more silent ones I have seen in a long time from the DOJ.

But, what is really fascinating is this today from Charlie Savage at the New York Times:

Meanwhile, new details emerged about Mr. Warsame’s detention on a Navy ship after his capture in April aboard a fishing skiff between Yemen and Somalia, and about internal administration deliberations on legal policy questions that could have implications for the evolving conflict against Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

A senior counterterrorism official said Wednesday that Mr. Warsame had recently met with Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born radical cleric now hiding in Yemen. After his capture, he was taken to the Boxer, an amphibious assault ship that was steaming in the region and has a brig, a senior military official said.

While Mr. Warsame is accused of being a member of the Shabab, which is focused on a parochial insurgency in Somalia, the administration decided he could be lawfully detained as a wartime prisoner under Congress’s authorization to use military force against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to several officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss security matters. (emphasis added)

So, we have Warsame allegedly “conspiring” with a “national of the United States” in the indictment with the identity and circumstances being unusually and ridiculously guarded and vague; and now we have Warsame having had contact with Awlaki.

Gee, I wonder what the odds are they are one in the same person???

Because, as you may remember, Awlaki is so secret that the US government saw fit to declare state secrets rather than explain to Awlaki’s parents why they feel justified to violently assassinate their son, a US citizen, without so much as a speck of due process. Now, I guess a guy that secret is someone the government might just be really vague about in an indictment of some tangential corollary person, say Warsame, for instance.

So, is it truly the case that Awlaki is indeed the unnamed “national of the United States” here in the Warsame indictment? I don’t know for certain, but it sure as heck fits the facts as we know them and the depraved refusal of the American government to talk about or let the public know its basis for impunity in marking an American citizen for extrajudicial termination with prejudice.

Now, back to the Warsame indictment for one last thought. While I agree with Marcy, Ben Wizner of ACLU and Adam Serwer that the Obama Administration decision to bring Warsame in front of an Article III court for trial was a brave one in relation to establishing credibility of traditional terrorism prosecutions, I wonder if Warsame is really the right case to do that with?

In Warsame, all the overt acts, heck all the acts period, took place outside of the US, and none of them, none, were particularly directed at all, much less with malice, at the US or US citizens. al Shabaab is a nasty group of terrorists to be sure, but is this really the use we want to make of US Article III courts? Shouldn’t the prosecutions the Administration uses to establish credibility have some, even minimal, overt act nexus to the United States and the Southern District of New York?

Bin Laden Found By Trolling The Weeds, Not By Torture

Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo have a nice and fascinating article out today telling the story of a single CIA career analyst who was the critical cog in collating the information that led to Osama bin Laden’s capture and death:

He examined and re-examined every aspect of bin Laden’s life. How did he live while hiding in Sudan? With whom did he surround himself while living in Kandahar, Afghanistan? What would a bin Laden hideout look like today?

The CIA had a list of potential leads, associates and family members who might have access to bin Laden.

“Just keep working that list bit by bit,” one senior intelligence official recalls John telling his team. “He’s there somewhere. We’ll get there.”

Goldman and Apuzzo have done good work here; it is a great story, please read it in its entirety. But I want to play off their work to take it the step further that they did not. This is not just a feel good story about what worked and went right to capture bin Laden, it is an instructive primer on what didn’t work, to wit: torture.

So, while we congratulate CIA analyst “John”, let us also remember that years of effort, centuries of founding principles and an eternity of American morality was lost to the Bush/Cheney torture brigade. Ever since Osama bin Laden’s take down, the torture apologists have come out of their caves bleating at full voice in a vain attempt to justify their war crimes and save their face. Even yesterday, as the nation celebrated its founding, one of the most craven torture toadies of all, Marc Theissen, was back at it, saying the country owed the torture freaks an apology.

But torture is not what caught Osama bin Laden, good solid human intelligence and analysis were what did the trick.

That ability to spot the importance of seemingly insignificant details, to weave disparate strands of information into a meaningful story, gave him a particular knack for hunting terrorists.

Yes. Around here, we call that digging and trolling in the weeds. It is what works; not torture.

Obama’s “Evolution” Accelerates: DOJ Formally Declares DOMA Unconstitutional

(photo: Zolk)

Well the Obama Administration slid some pretty big news into the holiday weekend trash dump, and for once it is very good news. In a late filing in the Northern District of California (NDCA) case of Golinski v. US Department of Personnel Management, the Department of Justice has formally stated that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional:

Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, 1 U.S.C. 7 (“DOMA”), unconstitutionally discriminates. It treats same-sex couples who are legally married under their states’ laws differently than similarly situated opposite-sex couples, denying them the status, recognition, and significant federal benefits otherwise available to married persons. Under well-established factors set forth by the Supreme Court, discrimination based on sexual orientation is subject to heightened scrutiny. Under that standard of review, Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the appropriate level of scrutiny for classifications based on sexual orientation, but it has established and repeatedly confirmed a set of factors that guides the determination whether heightened scrutiny applies: (1) whether the group in question has suffered a history of discrimination; (2) whether members of the group “exhibit obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristics that define them as a group”, (3) whether the group is a minority or is politically powerless; and (4) whether the characteristics distinguishing the group have little in relation to legitimate policy objectives or to an individual’s “ability to perform or contribute to society.” Bowen v. Gilliard, 483 U.S. 587, 602-03 (1987); City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985). Careful consideration of those factors demonstrates that sexual orientation classifications should be subject to heightened scrutiny.

Here is the complete brief filed by the DOJ in Golinski

As much grief as Barack Obama has received for his “state of evolution” posture on granting full constitutional equality, in all respects, on LGBT issues, including more than a little from me, this is a very significant shift and should be applauded. The position staked out in Golinski is a follow on of the “new policy” announced by the Administration when it refused to continue defending the 2nd Circuit DOMA cases, but it is a quantum shift further.  [cont’d.] (more…)