Posted on 06-04-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

People don’t always appreciate how much power prosecutors hold in America and how much harm an irresponsible one could cause.  A recent case in Wisconsin demonstrates just how.  After much debate the Wisconsin legislature passed a law requiring schools that have sex education programs to tell students how to use condoms and other contraceptives See link.  One can debate the merits of the law or whether it was good policy to pass the law.  However, the power of the Wisconsin legislature to pass this law is not in dispute.  But such trivialities do not concern Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth.  His primary concern is his sense of outraged morality and in his zeal the legislative mandate is no bar.  So he has fired off a letter to local school districts that any attempt to comply with legislative mandate could result in charges for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

How exactly he will obtain such a conviction for teachers complying with an express legislative mandate is not clear.  This is sheer prosecutorial intimidation.  Yet this is not the worst such case.

Maricopa County Arizona has not received the attention it should.  Over the last couple of years it has been the scene of abuse of the legal process that belongs in a tinpot dictatorship.  The perpetrators are controversial sheriff Joe Arpaio and his man Friday the county attorney Andrew Young.  Having no patience with the legal niceties they appear to have responded to criticism by bringing the force of their offices against critics in government by bringing flimsy indictments (since dismissed) against a local judge and a couple of county board supervisors.  See link.  The abuse of power included arresting attendees of a county board meeting for having the temerity to applaud criticism of the sheriff and intimidating county employees by sending deputies to their homes to find dirt on their bosses.  For a detailed read on the antics of the duo see here.  In the last few years the duo have branded themselves as front-line soldiers against illegal immigration, giving them a partisan shield from their excesses of power.  However, a backlash has set in and the duo are being investigated by a federal grand jury but the taxpayers will be footing the bill for the wrongful arrests and malicious prosecutions on their  watch.  See link.

These cases serve as a reminder for the need of constant vigilance when those in power infringe on liberty or abuse their authority, particularly in local government where seedy corruption often flies under the radar due to the public’s benign neglect.  A vigilant media and public can terminate the career of such officials, as was the case with now disbarred Durham County district attorney Mike Nifong who infamously pursued the Duke lacrosse team on flimsy rape charges to secure his re-election.

We take many liberties for granted in this country.  Stories like these show how real they can be without delving into the paranoid conspiracy theories that have been a fixture on cable news the past year.

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Posted on 06-04-2010
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Hamid Karzai is the gift that gives on giving.  The latest by Afghanistan’s venal leader was a burst of peevishness at members of his parliament for having the temerity to block his takeover of the Afghan electoral commission.  See link.  Karzai declared that any more pressure on him would make him join the Taliban.  I encourage him to make the jump, though expect that he will receive the Najibullah treatment in short order if he makes such a move.  Now it is understandable that Karzai is looking for room to maneuver as the United States prepares to leave.  See link.  But by repeatedly criticizing the United States and NATO troops attempting to secure Afghanistan as occupiers he makes the task of pacification that much harder.

Others have noted that Karzai seems to be banking on the fact of his supposed indispensability and perhaps Washington has long memories of the South Vietnam quagmire after it acquiesed in the removal of President Ngo Dinh Diem.  See link.  If so, I think it is a mistake.  It is a mystery of why this venal incompetent with no political base to speak of became indispensable.  Part of the Karzai appeal stems from his being one of the few Pashtun leaders acceptable to other Afghan ethnicities.  But the election fraud last year has dimmed that appeal in the non-Pashtun regions.  His government’s corruption has similarly sapped reservoirs of goodwill in the Pashtun heartland (not helped by the nefarious dealings of his brother Ahmad Wali Karzai).  The supposed indispensability largely stems from a fear of the unknown, something previous Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf exploited to the hilt.

Yet after Musharraf’s departure Pakistan has finally moved against its Taliban proxies and its feeble civil institutions are showing signs of life.  And yet for years Washington and its allies and neighboring India put up with Musharraf’s double dealing because of the fear of what would happen if the urbane English speaking dictator left.  Pakistan may yet fall apart but fears of its imminent cataclysmic collapse appear overstated.  The same appears true in Afghanistan.  The west needs a competent reliable ally in Kabul and it is increasingly clear that the urbane English speaking Karzai is simply not that man.  His presence in power is likely to result in the waste of American blood spilled during the ongoing surge.

Karzai’s departure obviously will not be a panacea to Afghanistan’s ills.  Yet at this point it is increasingly hard to see how it will be worse.  I will close with a couple of clips from yesterday night’s Jon Stewart.

The first is a tongue in cheek look at Karzai’s latest blathering and the consequence of Karzai’s departure.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Turncloak
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Health Care Reform

The second is a more serious discussion with Reza Aslan on why and whether America should remain in Afghanistan.  While I understand Aslan’s point about the moral commitment made by the United States and the squandered opportunity, the reality is that the presence of foreign troops is increasingly unpopular and it is not clear that America will ever be able to put Humpty Dumpty together again.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Reza Aslan
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Health Care Reform

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