No Comment — July 2, 2007, 7:30 am

U.S. Attorneys Scandal–Albuquerque

The current scandal over politicized prosecution had its epicenter in the Land of Enchantment, where a highly regarded young Republican prosecutor, David Iglesias, was ousted for refusing to politically manipulate a prosecution of a Democratic elected official. The investigation over the matter has now ensnared the state’s two senior-most Republicans, Senator Pete Domenici and his heir-apparent Congresswoman Heather Wilson. Both attempted to pressure Iglesias to bring suit, and both now face internal Congressional ethics probes – and potentially worse.

But, as the Chicago Tribune has reported, all of this means nothing to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He is indifferent to the fact that a bipartisan substantial majority of the Senate and a still larger majority of the public have no confidence in him and failing confidence in the institution he leads generally. His view is that until his critics can muster the 67 votes in the Senate needed to remove him from office, they can shove it. Which explains why he has stonewalled committees, ignored subpoenas, and counseled other agencies of the government to do the same. You may wonder how it is that the Justice Department has come to behave like a group of white-collar criminals. But then, there’s never been a Justice Department like the one that Fredo heads.

This weekend, the McClatchy newspapers brought a good deal more info from New Mexico, including some important disclosure about the man widely rumored to be Fredo’s choice to replace Iglesias as U.S. attorney in Albuquerque. The man in question is the Republican Party’s general counsel. And back on March 14, The New York Times put him smack in the middle of the plot to oust Iglesias, ostensibly because of his failure to go after voting fraud cases. His name is Patrick Rogers, and it turns out that he is a central player in the GOP vote-fraud scheme, close to Karl Rove, “Thor” Hearne, Hans von Spakovsky and the rest of the crew. He worked full-tilt to attempt to disenfranchise Native American and Hispanic voters in New Mexico, because they don’t tend to vote Republican. McClatchy reports that Rogers’s “voting fraud” fraud was engaged on three different fronts:

• Tax-exempt groups such as the American Center and the Lawyers Association were deployed in battleground states to press for restrictive ID laws and oversee balloting.

• The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division turned traditional voting rights enforcement upside down with legal policies that narrowed rather than protected the rights of minorities.

• The White House and the Justice Department encouraged selected U.S. attorneys to bring voter fraud prosecutions, despite studies showing that election fraud isn’t a widespread problem.

And, of course, you’ll recall that the American Center for Voting Rights, which appeared so prominently at Congressional hearings to tout statistics and data about voter fraud all over the country, turned out to be a fraudulent organization and the data it spread on the record likewise turned out to be phony. There is no American Center for Voting Rights, we now learn.
Or more precisely, there was an American Center for Voting Rights, and it was the twin separated at birth from the Academy of Tobacco Studies that plays such a big role in the black comedy, “Thank You for Smoking.”

So once more, we learn what Gonzales and Rove think of the Office of the U.S. Attorney. It exists to further their cheap political tricks. This is after all the scandal and newspaper headlines. Doesn’t it make you wonder what they were up to over the last five years before the alarms started going off?

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Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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