Saturday, March 31, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

As we now know, David Hicks has confessed to supporting terrorism and will serve 9 months (in addition to the five years already served at Guantanamo) in prisoner in Australia.

There is much to be said about this case and process, but let me focus on one specific issue that came to my attention yesterday: the fact that two of Hicks’ lawyers were barred from the case at the last minute.

Via WaPo: Guantanamo Plea Leaves Questions

The judge, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, ordered two lawyers to leave the defense table after ruling they were not authorized to represent Hicks. One of the attorneys, Joshua Dratel, refused to sign an agreement to abide by tribunal rules, even those not yet established.

“These are the same problems that plagued the earlier commissions, that the process is ad hoc,” Dratel told the black-robed judge before leaving the defense table.

NPR’s account is as follows:

The first serious cracks in the newly minted Military Commissions Act started to appear just two hours after Hicks entered the courtroom on Monday, when the judge disqualified two of Hicks’ civilian defense attorneys.

One of the disqualified lawyers was Joshua Dratel, a well-known Manhattan criminal defense attorney. Dratel has been on Hicks case since Hicks was first charged, about three years ago.

Under the new regulations, civilian lawyers are required to sign an agreement to abide by the new tribunal rules. But the military hasn’t finished writing the rules. Dratel said he could not sign a blank check, documents that might commit him to regulations that have yet to be written.

So he withdrew from defending his client.

“It has never happened to me before,” Dratel said. “It was unprecedented, in my experience, and unfortunate. It was not lightly done.”

Human Rights Watch

Hicks’ two civilian defense counsel were prevented from representing him as his hearing got underway on March 26. The presiding judge provisionally dismissed the assistant defense counsel, stating that the government was precluded from assigning civilian government employees to represent defendants, even though military commission rules allow the Department of Justice to assign its civilian lawyers to the prosecution. The judge then removed Joshua Dratel, Hicks’ longtime civilian counsel, because he agreed to abide by all “existent” rules, but refused to agree to “all” rules for the tribunal without first knowing what those rules stated. According to the judge, this ran afoul of civilian counsel’s obligations to agree to military regulations governing representation – regulations which have not yet been issued.

Specifically, for a civilian to participate in the process, they had to sign off on the rules of the tribunal. As a general principle I can accept such a proviso, as the tribunal does not operate under the same rules as a normal court.

However, one cannot expect that counsel will sign off on rules that haven’t been written yet. This situation illustrates the ongoing incompetence in regards to the question of how to handle these detainees. This was supposed to be an exemplar of how the process would work, and yet they didn’t have all the rules figured out yet?

Again, I note, as this entire situation constantly makes me want to do: if the United States wants to be an example of democracy and justice, then we have to behave as such. We can’t simply assert the superiority of our ways of governance and then engage in rampant ad hocery in vital processes. If we wish to a) be an example, and b) convince others of the righteousness of our behavior, then we have to do far better than we have to date.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via WaPo: Ex-Partner Of Giuliani May Face Charges

Federal prosecutors have told Bernard B. Kerik, whose nomination as homeland security secretary in 2024 ended in scandal, that he is likely to be charged with several felonies, including tax evasion and conspiracy to commit wiretapping.

Kerik’s indictment could set the stage for a courtroom battle that would draw attention to Kerik’s extensive business and political dealings with former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who personally recommended him to President Bush for the Cabinet. Giuliani, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination according to most polls, later called the recommendation a mistake.

This will almost certainly be a major event that will shape the GOP nomination process. At the moment the predominant image that is propelling the Giuliani campaign has been the general perception of Rudy as the hero of 9/11–indeed, polling data released this week confirms this fact. The former mayor already has certain personal issues that I do not think have fully entered the general public consciousness, not to mention his liberal-leaning views on a number of key social issues, which I think will have a serious effect on his nomination potential. A trial like this that associated Rudy not with heroism, but with felonies and bad judgment, could kill his nomination.

It is possible that given the right confluence of circumstances that he can overcome those issues (although I think the odds are longer than current polling would suggest). However, a very public trial of Bernard Kerik on criminal charges will, at a minimum, raise serious questions about Giuliani’s judgment and also has the possibility to make public dirt on the mayor, given that he was a partner with Kerik in business and in government.

Indeed, this sums up the major threat to Giuliani:

Kerik’s legal troubles could damage the law-and-order image that is the bedrock of Giuliani’s campaign, said Republican political consultant Nelson Warfield, who is not aligned with any 2024 candidate. “Kerik has potential to undermine his image as a competent leader and someone best fit to fight terrorism,” Warfield said. “Either he had fundamentally bad information about Kerik, or he was reckless in not knowing enough about a man who was that close to him.”

There is also just the generic judgment question, given the number of appointees that a given president must make. Throw in the fact that the Bush administration’s second term has had a number of accusations concerning cronyism (e.g., Harriet Miers) and of incompetent management (e.g., FEMA, the DoJ) and there is a ready-made narrative here to question whether we want more of the same in 2024.

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Friday, March 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via CNN Money: Hooters growing in China, sources say.

Those sources must be mighty clever, as they discovered the following factoid in their, um, research:

Hooters, which targets mostly male customers and calls its female waitresses ‘Hooters Girls,’ …

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via WaPo: Taking One for the Team, When He Could Remember

The witness [Kyle Sampson, former Chief of Staff to AG Gonzales] fessed up to an expanding list of sins. He admitted that the Justice Department was trying to circumvent the Senate confirmation process. He confessed that he proposed firing Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor in the Valerie Plame leak case. “I regretted it,” he explained. “I knew that it was the wrong thing to do.”

But the self-sacrificing witness still managed — inadvertently, perhaps — to implicate Gonzales and Bush’s chief political strategist, Karl Rove. Sampson, who resigned from the Justice Department earlier this month, admitted that Gonzales “had received a complaint from Karl Rove about U.S. attorneys in three jurisdictions.” Asked about the accuracy of Gonzales’s claim of non-involvement, Sampson confessed: “I don’t think it’s entirely accurate what he said.”


“I can’t pretend to know or remember every fact that may be of relevance,” he warned at the start — and he wasn’t kidding. He used the phrase “I don’t remember” a memorable 122 times.

I wonder what the record is for “I don’t remembers” per hour in a Senate hearing?

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By Steven L. Taylor

Testimony by Giuliani Indicates He Was Briefed on Kerik in ’00 – New York Times

Rudolph W. Giuliani told a grand jury that his former chief investigator remembered having briefed him on some aspects of Bernard B. Kerik’s relationship with a company suspected of ties to organized crime before Mr. Kerik’s appointment as New York City police commissioner, according to court records.

Mr. Giuliani, testifying last year under oath before a Bronx grand jury investigating Mr. Kerik, said he had no memory of the briefing, but he did not dispute that it had taken place, according to a transcript of his testimony.

Mr. Giuliani’s testimony amounts to a significantly new version of what information was probably before him in the summer of 2024 as he was debating Mr. Kerik’s appointment as the city’s top law enforcement officer. Mr. Giuliani had previously said that he had never been told of Mr. Kerik’s entanglement with the company before promoting him to the police job or later supporting his failed bid to be the nation’s homeland security secretary.

In his testimony, given in April 2024, Mr. Giuliani indicated that he must have simply forgotten that he had been briefed on one or more occasions as part of the background investigation of Mr. Kerik before his appointment to the police post.

I have noted before that Giuliani has a Kerik problem–enough so that I thought it would be a significant part of an overall set of reason why he wouldn’t run for the presidency. I was wrong about the not running part, but still think that his relationship with Kerik could end up biting him, and biting him hard. If Kerik’s background was enough to derail his nomination for the head of Homeland Security, then there is a high likelihood that, given the strong relationship between Kerik and Giuliani, that some of Kerik’s shenanigans will become a campaign issue.

Just the information contained in this NYT piece is problematic: Giuliani was briefed on possible Kerik ties to a company linked to organized crime and he forgot about them before appointing Kerik to be police commissioner. There is no good way to slice that story: either Giuliani did know, and appointed him anyway or he was given a vital piece of information and it slipped his mind before he appointed Kerik. It is true that Kerik was cleared by the panel for the promotion, but it still doesn’t look good.

Further, given the current spate of “sorry, I don’t recall-itis” taking place in the executive branch these days, it isn’t an especially good PR situation for Rudy’s defense in this case to be forgetfulness.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Iran airs second sailor ‘apology’:

A second member of the Royal Navy crew captured in the Gulf has apologised for trespassing in Iranian waters, in a broadcast on Iranian television.

He was quoted as saying: “We entered Iranian waters without permission and were arrested by Iranian coastguards.

“I would like to apologise to the Iranian people for that.”

The Foreign Office described the latest “confession” video as “disgraceful exploitation”. The UK denies the crew had trespassed.

This is a disgraceful exploitation of these prisoners which underscores the authoritarian nature of the Iranian regime. Further, it casts them in the role as the rogue and the tactic of using faked, coerced statements of this nature by kidnap victims is the stuff of terrorist groups.

One has to think that this move is being played out primarily for domestic consumption, as while it may impress a few regional actors, it is difficult to see how this maneuver helps Iran’s international standing.

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Thursday, March 29, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the NYT: Ex-Aide Says Gonzales Was Involved in Firings

— The former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales testified today that contrary to Mr. Gonzales’s earlier assertions, the attorney general was involved in discussions to fire United States attorneys.

“I don’t think the attorney general’s statement that he was not involved in any discussions about U.S. attorney removals is accurate,” the former Gonzales aide, D. Kyle Sampson, said under questioning at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

That comports with previously released information. One wonders, of course, why Gonzales was not forthcoming on these issues.

Of course, what the inconsistent statements mean remains an open question.

In terms of anything especially revelatory, the story doesn’t have much. Sampson admits to mistakes in handling the situation, but:

“The mistakes I made here were made honestly and in good faith,” he said. “I never sought to conceal or withhold any material fact about this matter from anyone.”

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: ABC News: Senate OKs Iraq Troop Withdrawal Bill

The Democratic-controlled Senate ignored a veto threat and voted Thursday for a bill requiring President Bush to start withdrawing combat troops from Iraq within four months, dealing a sharp rebuke to a wartime commander in chief.

In a mostly party line 51-47 vote, the Senate signed off on a bill providing $122 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also orders Bush to begin withdrawing troops within 120 days of passage while setting a nonbinding goal of ending combat operations by March 31, 2024.

I must confess: I am surprised that the bill passed the Senate with such ease–I expected more of a fight from Senate Republicans. Of course, politically it makes sense for them to let the President be the one to bear the responsibility for stopping the bill via a veto.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via US News: Dobson Offers Insight on 2024 Republican Hopefuls

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson appeared to throw cold water on a possible presidential bid by former Sen. Fred Thompson while praising former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is also weighing a presidential run, in a phone interview Tuesday.

“Everyone knows he’s conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for,” Dobson said of Thompson. “[But] I don’t think he’s a Christian; at least that’s my impression,” Dobson added, saying that such an impression would make it difficult for Thompson to connect with the Republican Party’s conservative Christian base and win the GOP nomination.


In a follow-up phone conversation, Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger stood by Dobson’s claim. He said that, while Dobson didn’t believe Thompson to be a member of a non-Christian faith, Dobson nevertheless “has never known Thompson to be a committed Christian—someone who talks openly about his faith.”

“We use that word—Christian—to refer to people who are evangelical Christians,” Schneeberger added. “Dr. Dobson wasn’t expressing a personal opinion about his reaction to a Thompson candidacy; he was trying to ‘read the tea leaves’ about such a possibility.”


While making it clear he was not endorsing any Republican presidential candidate, Dobson, who is considered the most politically powerful evangelical figure in the country, also said that Gingrich was the “brightest guy out there” and “the most articulate politician on the scene today.”

In regards to the US News headline, may I say: Dobson offered insight into Dobson far more than he offered insight into the candidates. Indeed, I would note for someone who is considered a religious leader to casually state one’s “impression” about another’s faith is rather irresponsible and presumptive.

I would further say that while Dobson has the right to support whichever candidate he likes, this is a really good example of the problems some (many?) religious leaders get into when they start trying to be political brokers. By stating who and who isn’t a Christian (by Dobson’s definition, I might add) and linking that to a candidate’s desirability while simultaneously giving support to another candidate who has had questionable moral behavior creates a rather odd synergy.

Dobson clearly fancies himself a key player in Republican politics (if not national politics in general). That he has had influence over time is undeniable, but I think his overall significance is not as great as he (and some of his critics, for that matter) think it is. Now, I think that Dobson’s basic motivation is legitimate: he has particular policy goals and seeks to influence who holds office for the purpose of pursuing those goals. The problem, of course, is that when one pursues such a course in the name of a religious perspective, then one runs a risk of the political choices redounding negatively to one’s religion, as politics never quite lives up to religious moral standards. As such, one can bring attacks upon one’s faith by the political stances one takes. Not only can that make one look like an opportunists, a sycophant and/or a hypocrite, it can bring, by extension, shame (or, at least, serious public questions) about one’s religion.

For example, in this case Dobson comes across as intolerant and overly judgmental of Thompson (which is a general criticism of Christianity in the first place). Further, non-Christians (and Christians) can rightfully ask how Dobson, whose ministry is called Focus on the Family, and whose life work has been to extol the traditional nuclear family, can be as cozy as he has been with Gingrich, who hasn’t exactly done the best job of focusing on his own familial responsibilities.

Note: I am not saying that that disqualifies Gingrich, but rather that it is odd, to put it kindly, that Dobson can publicly criticize Thompson for not being evangelical enough, while giving Newt two “get out of marriage free”/”get out of adultery free” cards (at least in terms of public perception).

For on the one hand, while Dobson has, as I noted, legitimate policy interests, he should place the reputation of his faith above short-term political gains and for some time, Dobson hasn’t (in my opinion) done a very good job on that front (another recent example would be his dismissive attitude in the Mark Foley scandal).

For Dobson to be so smitten with Gingrich is probably as much about the other candidates as it is about Gingrich, who has never struck me as an especially evangelical fellow (and I have paid close attention to his career for some time). However, Romney is a Mormon, Rudy is, well, Rudy, and the rest haven’t got much of a shot. Since Gingrich was willing to do the mea culpa routine on the radio with Dobson a few weeks back coupled with the lack of an alternative, I guess gave Newt the Dobson slot by default.

And really, I am not sure why Dobson, per se, is making such a big deal about how “evangelical” a candidate is. I would argue that we have only had two overtly evangelical Presidents in recent memory: Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush. If we are using that variable our (admittedly small) sample doesn’t tell us much about the presence of evangelicalism in the White House in terms of governance and public policy. And by “evangelical” I mean overt, and repeated, references to ideas like “being born again” and to Jesus Christ specifically, and as part of their public and political philosophy (something Carter and Bush both did as a candidate and as president). Plenty (indeed, all) Presidents have used a great deal of religious language, which was often overtly Christian or could be construed as evangelical.

h/t: OTB

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Economy Grows at 2.5 Percent Pace in 4Q

The economy grew at a 2.5 percent pace in the final quarter of last year, healthier than previously thought but still largely caught up in a spell of sluggishness.

The new reading on gross domestic product, released by the Commerce Department on Thursday, was an improvement from the prior estimate of a 2.2 percent growth rate for the October-to-December period. However, it marked the third quarter in a row where the economy’s growth clocked in at a lethargic 2 percent or better, reflecting the drag of the crumbling housing market on overall business growth.

Many economists expect the GDP will remain mediocre, hovering at around the 2 percent pace in the current January-to-March quarter.

A little increase is better than no increase.

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