Archive for January 18th, 2007

DOJ Civil Rights Division Lawyers Leaving in Droves

The Washington Post reported yesterday that DOJ Civil Rights Division career attorneys are leaving at a rate nearly double that of prior administrations because disagreements over the conservative agenda of DOJ under the current Administration.

Such is the distain for the current Administration for civil rights enforcement, the division’s lawyers have found their energies diverted away from enforcement of the civil rights laws into other areas.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which has enforced the nation’s anti-discrimination laws for nearly half a century, is in the midst of an upheaval that has driven away dozens of veteran lawyers and has damaged morale for many of those who remain, according to former and current career employees.

Nearly 20 percent of the division’s lawyers left in fiscal 2005, in part because of a buyout program that some lawyers believe was aimed at pushing out those who did not share the administration’s conservative views on civil rights laws.

Longtime litigators complain that political appointees have cut them out of hiring and major policy decisions, including approvals of controversial GOP redistricting plans in Mississippi and Texas.

At the same time, prosecutions for the kinds of racial and gender discrimination crimes traditionally handled by the division have declined 40 percent over the past five years, according to department statistics. Dozens of lawyers find themselves handling appeals of deportation orders and other immigration matters instead of civil rights cases.

The division has also come under criticism from the courts and some Democrats for its decision in August to approve a Georgia program requiring voters to present government-issued identification cards at the polls. The program was halted by an appellate court panel and a district court judge, who likened it to a poll tax from the Jim Crow era.

I’d be embarrassed to work there, too. A Civil Rights Division working against civil rights follows the Administration’s plan. If War=Peace and Clean Air Initiative=No Clean Air, then Civil Rights=Less Civil Rights. It must keep minorities from voting because they likely will vote Democratic. It all follows.


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McCain no longer rocks in Granite State

As Mitt, Hillary, Barack and a dozen others jump into the presidential stampede, something interesting is happening in New Hampshire.

For seven years, conventional wisdom has said that the state’s pivotal independent voters would line up behind maverick Sen. John McCain, as they did so famously in the 2000 GOP primary. But new polling data, to be released later this week, will suggest that might no longer be the case.

Manchester, N.H.-based American Research Group finds that McCain’s popularity among New Hampshire’s independent voters has collapsed.

“John McCain is tanking,” says ARG president Dick Bennett. “That’s the big thing [we’re finding]. In New Hampshire a year ago he got 49 percent among independent voters. That number’s way down, to 29 percent now.”

American Research Group, which is New Hampshire’s leading polling company and has been operating in the state since 1976, polled 1,200 likely Granite State voters in the survey.

Bennett says ARG is finding a similar trend in other states polled, including early primary battlegrounds like Iowa and Nevada. “We’re finding this everywhere,” he says.

The main reason isn’t hard to find: His hawkish stance on the Iraq war, which is tying him ever more closely to an unpopular president. “Independent support for McCain is evaporating because they view him as tied to Bush,” says Bennett.

The McCain camp yesterday said the senator, who is pushing for a bigger troop surge in Iraq than the president, will stick by his guns. “He has been and will remain committed to achieving victory in Iraq,” a spokesman said.

New Hampshire is among the states that allow independents to vote in either party’s primary. It was their support that gave McCain his huge primary victory there over then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 2000.

If the senator is losing that base, it opens the GOP race to other challengers. And it weakens his strongest pitch to Republican die-hards – namely that his appeal to independents makes him the most electable candidate in the general election.

“It’s significant that McCain is going down rather than up at this critical juncture in the early maneuvering,” comments Larry Sabato, who chairs the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “It suggests that, contrary to conventional wisdom, John McCain may not be secure as the GOP front-runner. But a lot can change.”

The big question for 2008: Where will all those independents end up?

Mitt Romney could have made a strong pitch to them if he weren’t instead running to the right. ARG’s poll finds some like Rudy Giuliani. Others, switching sides, are warming to Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

But most are now up for grabs.


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Iran Warns It’s Ready for Nuke Standoff

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that Iran was prepared for any possibility in the standoff with the West over its controversial nuclear activities.

“Today, with the grace of God, we have gone through the arduous passes and we are ready for anything in this path,” state-run television quoted Ahmadinejad as saying Thursday.

Ahmadinejad also denounced critics of his nuclear diplomacy at home, saying that they will not affect his government’s handling of the nuclear issue with the West.

Conservatives and reformists have in recent weeks openly challenged Ahmadinejad’s hard-line nuclear diplomacy tactics, with many saying his provocative remarks are doing more harm than good.

The U.S. and its allies accuse Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, an allegation Tehran denies.


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Maliki Stresses Urgency In Arming Iraqi Forces

Need for U.S. Troops Could Drop ‘Dramatically’

BAGHDAD, Jan. 17 — The Iraqi government’s need for American troops would “dramatically go down” in three to six months if the United States accelerated the process of equipping and arming Iraq’s security forces, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Wednesday.

The head of Iraq’s Shiite Muslim-led government defended his country’s independence and sovereignty and called on U.S. leaders to show faith in his ability to lead.

Maliki disputed President Bush’s remarks broadcast Tuesday that the execution of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein “looked like it was kind of a revenge killing” and took exception to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s Senate testimony last week that Maliki’s administration was on “borrowed time.”

The prime minister said statements such as Rice’s “give morale boosts for the terrorists and push them toward making an extra effort and making them believe they have defeated the American administration,” Maliki said. “But I can tell you that they have not defeated the Iraqi government.”

Speaking through an interpreter to a group of reporters for an hour in his offices in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, Maliki found several ways to say that Iraq is beholden to no country. He defended Iraq’s constitutional right to the death penalty, its commitment to dialogue with Iran and Syria despite U.S. opposition to those governments, and its determination to use Iraqi troops to lead the latest effort to pacify Baghdad.

At a time when Bush has committed an additional 21,500 troops to the fight in Iraq, Maliki went further than he has before in establishing a time frame for drawing down the U.S. presence.

“If we succeed in implementing the agreement between us to speed up the equipping and providing weapons to our military forces, I think that within three to six months our need for the American troops will dramatically go down. That’s on the condition that there are real strong efforts to support our military forces and equipping them and arming them,” Maliki said.

In a statement issued by Maliki’s office Tuesday, he said Iraq would continue to build up its armed forces “so it will be possible to withdraw the Multinational forces from cities, or withdraw 50,000 soldiers from Iraq.”

Maliki faces deep skepticism in Iraq and abroad about whether he has the political will or ability to steer his country away from civil war, or even to keep his position as prime minister. His comments amounted to a defense of the viability of his government, which he pledged to lead “until I achieve the peace and prosperity that Iraq deserves.”

In an interview Dec. 24, Maliki sounded less committed to his office. “I wish I could be done with it before the end” of his four-year term, he told the Wall Street Journal. “I would like to serve my people from outside the circle of senior officials, maybe through parliament.”

In the interview Wednesday, Maliki said many American and Iraqi lives would have been spared if the Iraqi forces had been better equipped. But he did not elaborate on what he wanted in terms of weapons or materiel, or whether his needs exceeded what is proposed in the $1.5 billion military sales agreement Iraq reached with the United States last month. Under that deal, the Iraqi government will receive an additional 300 armored personnel carriers, 600 more “up-armored” Humvees, helicopters and other equipment this year, according to Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman in Iraq.

Iraq’s proposed 2007 budget devotes $7 billion to building up the armed forces.

“President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki agreed in November to accelerate not only the training of the Iraqi security forces but also accelerate the transfer of equipment,” National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Wednesday.

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