“The brother of embattled State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard quit as an adviser to Blackwater Worldwide on Friday, two days after the relationship with the security contractor was sharply criticized by a congressional oversight committee. Erik Prince, Blackwater’s top executive, said the conflict-of-interest questions raised by the connection prompted Alvin ‘Buzzy’ Krongard to submit his resignation.”
Earlier this month, USA Today reported that “the Justice Department is prosecuting the fewest hate crimes in 10 years” with 22 people charged with hate crimes by the department last year, which is “down 71% from 76 in 1997.” The decline in hate crimes prosecutions accompanies a series of high-profile “racially charged incidents over the past year and a half” — such as the Jena 6 controversy — that have ignited the passions of the civil rights community.
That passion was on display today in Washington D.C., where thousands of protesters encircled the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building, demanding, in the words of Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL), either “stronger laws” or “a more aggressive commitment from the Department of Justice.”
During the march, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) told CNN’s Don Lemon that the “bottom line” was that “vulnerable Americans need to have confidence in the Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division”:
Bottom line is, we want the lights turned on. We want a restored Civil Rights Division. We want it replenished in terms of staffing and funding, which the Bush administration has cut. And we want the new attorney general to wake up and understand that vulnerable Americans need to have confidence in the Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division.
Watch CNN’s coverage of the march:
As Lemon noted in his report, “the Justice Department did not want to appear on camera” discussing the march, but Attorney General Michael Mukasey did release a statement in which he both defended the department and commended the demonstrators:
The mission of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is as vital today as when it was created 50 years ago. Those who march today should be commended for highlighting the issues of tolerance and civil liberties. We hope that all can agree that it is the criminals who commit violent acts of hate who deserve the loudest protest. And as long as hatred and racism exist, the Justice Department will continue its hard and effective work on behalf of all victims of hate crimes.
Here’s the latest from Gallup, where they observe that “The public’s ratings of the Republican Party have improved slightly in recent months, edging up from 36% in July to 40% in early November” but don’t seem to notice that the same is true of the Democrats.
“Soldiers strained by six years at war are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80 percent increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.” Approximately 4,698 soldiers deserted this year.
This Saturday, the Center for American Progress Action Fund has helped organize a presidential candidate forum on climate and energy to take place at Wadsworth Theatre in Los Angeles. Details can be found here, and Grist will be running a live webcast.
While all candidates have been invited, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Dennis Kucinich have been the only to accept. Tune-in to hear their climate and energy plans!
Here’s a question. We know that some Democrats are opposed to closing the “carried interest” tax loophole because hedge fund managers give a lot of money to Democrats. But so why don’t Republicans try to embarrass the Chuck Schumers of the world by coming out against this loophole? Normally Republicans never miss a chance to do a favor to rich people, but most hedge fund money goes to Democrats so why not pull some jujitsu?
Yesterday, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales spoke at the Corpus Christi Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, giving his views on “immigration, education and public service.” The event drew approximately 1,000 attendees, as well as a few protestors who greeted Gonzales outside the venue.
He dodged questions about waterboarding by local station KIII-TV, but did give some words of advice for his successor, Michael Mukasey:
To do the right thing. And I have every confidence that Mike Mukasey will do the right thing. Always do the right thing. Follow the law. That was always my lodestar, my guiding principle, and I’m sure that will guide General Mukasey.
Gonzales must have forgotten this lodestar somewhere during his time in the Bush administration. He recently launched a defense fund to pay for his legal expenses, “which are mounting in the face of an ongoing Justice Department investigation into whether Gonzales committed perjury or improperly tampered with a congressional witness.” A look at how he has always tried to “follow the law”:
– Approved administration torture program. In 2002, Gonzales chaired a series of meetings that “set the course” for the administration’s torture policies. He “raised no objections and, without consulting military and State Department experts in the laws of torture and war, approved an August 2002 memo that gave CIA interrogators the legal blessings they sought.”
– Inappropriately coached a congressional witness’s testimony. In May, Monica Goodling testified before Congress that, prior to resigning from the Justice Department, she had an “uncomfortable” conversation with Gonzales, in which he “laid out” his version of the attorney firings. Inspector General Glenn Fine is examining whether this attempt to “coach” Goodling was illegal.
– Misled Congress on warrantless spying. In Feb. 2006, Gonzales testified to Congress that “there has not been any serious disagreement” about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) warrantless spying program. Yet testimony by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey proved there were indeed serious disagreements when the administration tried to seek legal approval for the spying program in 2004.
ThinkProgress spoke to the Corpus Christi Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, who said that Gonzales received a “modest honorarium” for his speech, but refused to disclose the full amount.
Marc Ambinder flags this video David Sirota put together calling into question Hillary Clinton’s bona fides as a Sirota-style populist trade skeptic:
But has Clinton really become a fair trader? Or is she modulating her language to adapt to the populist vapors of the Democratic base? A case can be made for the latter — and in this case, it’s instructive to compare the Republican elite’s view of immigration to the Democratic elite’s view of trade. [...]
In the same vein, Clinton (and Barack Obama) face a reality that the Democratic base lives elsewhere. The rhetoric changes and carrots are offered: Periodically reviewing trade agreements, as Clinton wants to do, isn’t the same thing as cancelling them; a temporary pause is not the same thing as a permanent moratorium until labor standards can be brought up to snuff; adding oversight to enforce current law is…adding oversight. Proponents of this view note that she supports expanding NAFTA to include Peru…as did Obama. At the core of this critique is the idea that Clinton remains a captive of the corporate interests who pushed NAFTA and who have funded the Clinton political machine for decades.
I listened to Nancy Pelosi make the fair trader case for the Peru deal earlier this morning, and I have to say that it sounded pretty convincing to me. Then again, I’m not much of a fair trader so I’m probably not the best person to judge whether or not fair traders should find the fair trade case for the Peru deal convincing. I can say that fair traders almost certainly shouldn’t take Hillary Clinton’s conversion to NAFTA-skepticism seriously. Saying bad things about a trade deal you supported at the time and don’t propose rescinding is the ultimate in cheap talk.
More to the point, the way you can tell you shouldn’t take the idea of Clinton changing her stripes on this is that you’re not hearing any of the plugged-in free-trade Dems complaining about her apostasy. If Bob Rubin’s not worried, then I doubt there’s no reason for Rubin’s detractors to be excited.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) will hold a hearing after Thanksgiving recess to examine whether State Department Inspector General Howard “Cookie” Krongard provided truthful testimony at a hearing last week, in light of new revelations that his brother serves on the advisory board of Blackwater USA. Waxman recently spoke to Krongard’s brother, Buzzy:
Buzzy Krongard stated that Howard Krongard called him specifically to ask about any relationship he had with Blackwater “in preparation for his testimony” to the Committee. Buzzy Krongard stated: “He asked me whether I had any financial interest or any ties to Blackwater, and so I told him ‘I’m going on their Board.”‘
According to Buzzy Krongard, “He responded by saying, ‘Why would you do that?’ and ‘Are you sure that’s a good idea?”‘ Buzzy Krongard then said, “I told him that was my decision, not his, and that we just differed on that.”
White House spokesman Tony Fratto announced today that “on Monday, November 26th, the President will host the 2007 U.S. recipients of Nobel Prizes, the Nobel Laureates.” As the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Al Gore will be in attendance. AJC’s Ken Herman writes, “Should be an interesting reunion of a couple of buddies from the 2000 presidential campaign and its historic aftermath.”