Fired Bush-Era U.S. Attorneys Have Interesting New Assignments

Paul Charlton, the former U.S. Attorney for Arizona, fired by the Bush administration,  according to the Arizona Daily Star, has an interesting new gig:

The family of slain Border Patrol agent Brian Terry has retained former Arizona U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton to determine if there is any legal action to take in connection with his slaying.

Charlton, Arizona U.S. Attorney from 2001 to 2007, said the Terry family asked him to review the facts surrounding the events that led to Brian Terry being killed on Dec. 14 in a shootout with suspected border bandits near Rio Rico.

Two Romanian-made assault rifles were recovered at the scene that are believed to have been sold to straw buyers in Phoenix and tracked into Mexico under a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Mexican gun-smuggling investigation, according to U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., have led an inquiry into the ATF operation, called “Fast and Furious,” leading to a June 15 hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

At that hearing, ATF special agent John Dodson told members of Congress on Wednesday that ATF agents in Arizona regularly allowed guns to be bought that they knew would be delivered to Mexican cartel members.

Charlton said he will be reviewing all the facts surrounding the events of Terry’s death, including which weapons were used in the shootout and where they came from.

“How those weapons got there are obviously going to be very important to us,” said Charlton, who is now a lawyer with the Gallagher & Kennedy law firm in Phoenix.

Meanwhile, Todd Graves, the fired U.S. Attorney from Kansas City, Missouri,  and who I profiled shortly after his firing became known, also has a new assignment, according to the Kansas City Star:

After enduring three weeks of criticism over its response to sex crimes allegations, the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese on Thursday appointed a former U.S. attorney to investigate how it handled such cases.

Bishop Robert W. Finn said the appointment was one of five points in a sweeping plan to deal with recent alleged sexual misconduct in the diocese.

Todd Graves, who was U.S. attorney for western Missouri, has been named to conduct an independent investigation of issues related to a priest charged with possessing child pornography.

In addition, Graves will lead a review of the diocesan ethical code of conduct and sexual misconduct policies.

As I have reported at length at this blog, and for the Atlantic, as best that I know,  none of the careers of the nine has suffered because of the firings.  In fact, most of the fired have had their reputations enhanced– with the exception perhaps of Kevin Ryan, of San Francisco, who was actually fried for good reason.
One of the fired nine, Dan Bogden, actually got reappointed to his old job by the Obama administration, as I first wrote for the Atlantic.
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The Phillies need to trade for Ryan Ludwick NOW

I am not sure why the management of the Philadelphia Phillies have not been taking my advice on this.  True, they have one of the best foursome of starting pitchers ever in the history of baseball– albeit, Roy Oswalt might be seriously hurt.  But Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Holladay, are a trio for the history books.  They will win a lot of games without much offense and  the team right now has the best record in baseball.

But their offense this season is pitiful.  You can’t have a great team where your corner outfielders are not producing.  Raul Ibanez is way past his prime, Bren Francisco is not cutting it, and Dominic Brown might light fire, but that is far from clear.  Had the team been smart in the preseason, they might have been able to have gotten Hunter Pence, Carlos Quentin, or Lance Berkman, and be ten games ahead of any other team in the majors.  Those players are not available, but Ryan Ludwick still is… and he is the perfect fit for the Phillies.

Let’s start with his spectacular defense.  Shane Victorino in center field is one of the great defensive outfielders in the game.  And Werth, before he defected, was far above average.  But Raul Ibanez, in left, is only getting older each day and is currently ranked one of the worst fielding left fielders in the game:  He doesn’t make a lot of errors, but his range is now poor.  And even if were hitting— which is he not– he should be relegated to part time or platoon work for his defensive work alone.

The Phillies are one of the best defensive teams in baseball:  Short stop Jimmy Rollins is a former gold glover and still one of the premier defensive short stops in the game, Polanco at third is great, Utley is way above average, and Ruiz is one of the great defensive catchers in the game.  Add Ludwick to Victorino in outfield and you have one of the best fielding teams in baseball, if not the best.

Opposing batters put the ball in play less than players facing any other teams— Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Madson, Bastardo, and Stutes strike out about one batter, or even more, for every inning they pitch..  Therefore, when defensive wizzards like Victorino and Ruiz and Rollins do their thing they have fewer runners on base to contend with. That is, I believe at the core, of the Phillies’ success. Erase Ibabez in left field, and add Ludwick, and you are helping the team exponentially with their defense.

Offensivley, Ludwick is at a minimum going to hit .260 or .270 with 15 to 20 homeruns. That is such an upgrad over Raul Ibanez or Ben Francisco that it seems insane that the Phillies already don’t have Ludwick.  Bite the bullet– give up a prospect or two.  And the Phillies won’t have to give up a top flight prospect because Ludwick’s contract is over this year and without being able to keep him beyond this season, no team is going to give the Paders that much.  Supposedly, the Seattle Mariners and the Cincinnati Reds are in the hunt too, but it is hard to believe they would give up all that much for Ludwick.

But consider this: In 2008, not that long ago, Ludwick hit .299, 37 HR, and 113 RBI, along with 40 doubles to go to boot.  That might have been an outlier season.  But is it similar to Jayson Werth’s best season. The difference is that the Phillies lost Werth to the Nationals who now pay the former Philie $22 million a year, while Ludwick would cost the Phillies the equivalent of about half of the five million to six million is still owed over the course of the rest of this season.  (Ludwick’s contract is over at the end of this season.)  And if Ludwick were to simply have an average season, belting 15-18 home runs, while playing his stellar defense, the Phillies investment in him is well deserved.  If the Phillies like how Ludwick plays, they could try and sign him to a long term contract during the season or sign him as a free agent in the off season. On thing is not in doubt:  In the meantime, he will helped the Phillies win a pennant– and maybe even a World Series.

But even if Ludwick has even a mediocre season, he is going to win a lot of ballgames for the Phillies.

And one last thing to consider:   Ryan Howard is faltering with anyone substantial hitting behind him. Ibanez and Francisco do nothing to intimidate opposing pitchers to throw strikes to Howard  Ludwick would.

Finally, there is some talk about the Phillies get Josh Willingham or Mike Cuddeyer.   Willingham is a bad idea… more on that later. Cuddyer might fit, but in terms of value, he has far less for the Phillies than Ludwick.

For more information, see here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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Was a DOJ probe of an allegedly corrupt Congressman compromised? New story in the Hill.

Just out. Long piece I wrote, in this morning’s Hill Continue reading

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Short takes

The Phillies really to have to get a right handed corner outfielder, but it should not be Josh Willingham.  Their wisest choice would be Ryan Ludwick.

Rick Hertzberg in the New Yorker today on Rick Perry.

You have to have a reference point sometimes to get the joke: The Dalai Lama doesn’t get a Dalai Lama joke, as Emily Lodish explains.

Did Goldman Sachs help create the food crisis?

My hometown ranks second.

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to be weakened?

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This is going to be a Disney movie. Trust me.

This is going to be Disney movie.  Trust me. From the Philadelphia Inquirer just moments ago:

ALLENTOWN – Next stop in Brian Gordon’s dream season is Yankee Stadium.Gordon celebrated his release from the Phillies organization Tuesday night after learning he would be pitching for the New York Yankees…

Gordon, 32, was understandably emotional as he left Coca-Cola Park with his wife Amanda and three children. He started his career in 1997 as an outfielder with the Arizona Diamondbacks and hit 118 minor-league home runs over 10 seasons before asking Jackie Moore, his manager with Houston’s triple-A Round Rock team, if he could switch to being a pitcher in 2007. Moore and the Astros approved the switch, and he prepared for it by working with Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, who owned the Round Rock team…

Moore is now the Rangers bench coach and Ryan is their owner, so they will both see Gordon’s first career start Thursday…

Gordon, who had made only 13 career starts in his first four seasons as a pitcher, made the most of his opportunity. In nine starts with Lehigh Valley, he was 5-0 with a 1.23 ERA. He struck out 53 and walked five in 51 1/3 innings. His overall ERA of 1.14 was the best in the International League.

Read more:

My comments:  So this guy was a washed up utility outfielder who never quite made it.  About the time most other guys would have given up, he goes to his manager and organization and asks to pitch.  He throw a few games in the minors… but throws like Cy Young.  And all of a sudden, he is going to start a game for the Yankees.

Imagine if he pitches well, and stays in the Yankee rotations, and he helps get them into the World Series against– the Phillies…. seems far-fetched, but no more far-fetched than the story thus far.

The team he is coming from is the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs? C’mon– this really wasn’t made up by a Disney screenwriter?

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Alec Wilkinson on Gil Scott-Heron

A really great appreciation by Alec Wilkinson of Gil Scott-Heron in the New Yorker:

Gil Scott-Heron, who died late Friday at the age of sixty-two, was among the very first musicians to understand the power of declamatory singing, of holding forth above a line of percussion and blending words into the rhythmic peaks and recessive contours of beats. He did not discover this, he heard the Last Poets do it, but he used their form to his own purposes and produced singular and scornfully brilliant observations such as “Whitey on the Moon,” and “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” which sound as vital and scornfully brilliant now as they did when he recorded them nearly forty years ago. The more cerebral rap and hip-hop artists knew his work the way British blues aspirants such as Eric Clapton and Keith Richards and Mick Jagger knew the work of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.

The challenge for anyone in show business is keeping a career afloat after the public’s attention has moved elsewhere. Scott-Heron just missed being embraced by the mainstream. It may be true that no pop artist is embraced—from Frank Sinatra through Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Sean Combs, and Lady Gaga—who isn’t desperate to be embraced, and Scott-Heron was indifferent to what people thought of him. (I learned that writing a Profile of Scott-HeronThe New Yorker last year.) He believed that courting attention was lowering. He was a reader and a thinker and a social observer, and his mind produced ideas, not opportunities for commerce. He loved being onstage and being the center of attention, but he wanted to be left alone otherwise. He was too thorny a character to fit entirely into a persona calculated for success. for

He had been a prodigy of a kind; before he left college, he had published two novels and a book of poems and made two records. Instead of promoting them, he became a college English teacher. He took a leave of absence to go on his first tour, assuming he would return once the interest in his work played out. Something went wrong for him, however, during the eighties—his mother said it was the result of his making too much money—and he began taking drugs. Crack is what he preferred, and he went to prison for it twice and another two times for parole violations. Prison he treated as a kind of retreat. “I’m happy in jail,” he told me. “First thing I had was a subscription to Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News, and I would go to the library every couple of days and get enough books to keep me busy. I just kept up with my life.” He made friends with a man serving a manslaughter conviction, and when the man got out, Scott-Heron loaned him money to start a leather business.

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RIP: Gil Scott-Heron

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Exclusive post: DOJ to Edwards: You MUST plead to a felony.

After WRAL-TV in North Carolina, and others following up, have reported that plea discussions have been ongoing for some time between DOJ and Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.),  I have something to add:  DOJ is requiring that Edwards plea to at least one felony for there to be deal, according to at least one person familiar with the government’s negotiating side.

The demand by DOJ that Edwards plea to a felony is perhaps the reason that Edwards’ attorneys have been, on the one hand, attacking the government and its case, while also suggesting they are open to a deal.

Whatever one thinks of Edwards, in regards to his politics or the scandal that has ended his career, there is no dispute that that he is an accomplished trial attorney– and has to be at least considering fighting in court.

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Is there a plea bargain in the works between former Sen. John Edwards and the Department of Justice?  WRAL in North Carolina, is reporting that is the case.  There is video of the story they broadcast attached to their online story.

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Sen. Coburn breaks long silence about Ensign

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oak.)  today broke his long silence regarding his alleged role in attempting to negotiate a seven-figure payment on behalf of recently retired Sen. John Ensign to his former campaign treasurer who Ensign  had an extramarital affair with.

Coburn made his most substantial comments on the matter to date were made public later in the day after  I wrote a story for Reuters this morning about the likelihood that the Department of Justice will reopen an investigation of Ensign.  The Senate Ethics Committee recently recommended that DOJ reopen its probe after the Department informed Ensign late last year that it was no long pursuing criminal charges against him.

My Reuters story this morning disclosed that the Senate had obtained more than 1,000 emails between Ensign and his attorneys and his senior staff that had not been seen by DOJ at the time they cleared Ensign.

More than a few of the 1,000 emails were about Coburn– one of which was quoted in my Reuters story.

The Senate Ethics committee report portrayed Coburn as intermediary in negotiating a potential seven figure payment from Ensign to his former campaign treasurer, Cynthia Hampton, who Ensign had the affair with, and her husband, Doug Hampton, who was Ensign’s closest  friend  and administrative assistant.  The Senate Ethics committee quoted several people who gave sworn testimony detailing Coburn’s alleged role– among them Doug Hampton, the Hamptons’ attorney, and a spiritual adviser to both Ensign and Coburn.  Coburn  said today that they were lying.

Regarding the Senate Ethics Committee report’s conclusions, Coburn said:  “That’s a totally inaccurate characterization of what happened.  What the story you hear is not an accurate reflection of what happened.”  Ensign made the comments during an interview for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers,” which will air Sunday.

Coburn told C-SPAN that he never negotiated on Ensign’s behalf, but instead simply passed information along from the Hamptons and their attorney and Ensign.

He also said that he proud of what he had done and would do “exactly” the same thing all over again:

“We put two families back together with multiple children — both marriages are stable right now,” Coburn said. “I’m proud of what I did and the way I did it. There’s nothing unethical about what I did.”

In fact, the Hamptons have said they are divorcing, and Cyndy Hampton recently also filed for bankruptcy.

It is unclear why Coburn broke his long silence at this point time and provided C-SPAN with his most extensive remarks to date on the subject since disclosure of the affair and his role.  One possible explanation is that instead of the story fading, Coburn’s role might face renewed further press scrutiny if and when the Justice Department reopens its probe of Ensign.

Coburn has previously said that he was a witness about his role before the Senate Ethics Committee, but has never commented as to whether he was ever asked for information by the Justice Department.

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