Friday, August 05, 2005

Vilsack Restores Voting Rights for Felons

It's been a month since Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) issued an executive order giving tens of thousands of Hawkeye State felons the right to vote. Experts expect the change to benefit Democrats, at least at the margin, but say it is too early to know how it will echo in the perennial battleground state.

Vilsack issued the order July 4, restoring the vote to about 50,000 felons and ending what had been one of the nation's toughest disenfranchisement laws. The U.S. Constitution gives states the power to decide what, if any, restrictions to place on felons' balloting. Two states, Maine and Vermont, don't have any, allowing felons to cast votes from prison. Most states have restrictions based on a number of factors, such as whether someone is incarcerated and what crimes they've committed. Iowa was one of a handful of states that have lifetime bans, where felons could not vote unless their individual applications were approved by the state government.

Vilsack's new policy automatically restores the vote to those who have completed their sentences, paroles and probations -- a population that is disproportionately black and poor. Those demographic groups tend to vote Democratic, potentially affecting the state's political balance. Bush won Iowa last year by 10,000 votes.

But the governor's order is being challenged in court, and the state's Republican House leader has said the chamber will take up the issue when it reconvenes in January.

Also uncertain is whether felons would use their new right in significant numbers. "It's a hard question to answer," said Ryan King, research associate at the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group that supports the order. He said many felons, along with many local election officials, are unaware or misinformed about the particulars of disenfranchisement laws.

The Iowa Republican Party, which opposed the governor's order, said the real winners are Vilsack, who has been eyeing a bid for the White House, and other Democrats trying to defend the state's presidential caucuses from complaints that the mostly white state is unrepresentative of the party or nation.

Vilsack is still in the doghouse with this blog due to his DLC post and his recent speech pandering to From (see previous post). But I'll take whatever liberalism he wants to throw around.

BTW, the Republican Party response just kinda touches your heart, doesn't it?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Just Around the Corner

I've been reading Daniel Ellsberg's memoir on Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (and I have the DVD, starring James Spader, as you can probably guess from the picture above, as well).

Ellsberg was an international security expert at the Defense Department during the 1960's and a defense strategy specialist and researcher at the Rand Institute before that. In the Pentagon he served as a top aide to John McNaughton, the chief assistant to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. As a result, Ellsberg became intimately familiar with the thoughts and decision-making processes of the U.S. government at the highest levels during the conflict's escalation.

Ellsberg made an initial trip to Vietnam in 1961 as part of a presidential advisory group, followed later by a more extended stay from 1965-1967 after the U.S. began official military operations there. Upon his return to the U.S. Ellsberg went back to Rand but began work on a McNamara-ordered study on the history of the Vietnam War.

Once a committed Cold Warrior, Ellsberg was discouraged by what he saw in Vietnam and the contradictions between the optimism stated by U.S. officials and the realities of the situation in Southeast Asia. In researching U.S. policymaking in Vietnam from 1950-1961 Ellsberg also came to realize that a string of U.S. presidents had both lied to the American public about the nature of the actions they were initiating in Vietnam, as well as knowingly directing actions that they themselves were advised by subordinates as being insufficient to prevent the fall of the South Vietmanese government to the northern communists. After several years of working (and ultimately failing) to get U.S. policymakers in the administration and congress to change course in Vietnam and to level with the American people, Ellsberg leaked the contents of the Vietnam history study, popularly known as the Pentagon Papers, to the New York Times in 1971.

The Nixon Administration took the NYT to court in an effort to cease the publishing of the top secret documents. The Supreme Court sided with the NYT, and the paper continued to publish the once secret Pentagon study. Ellsberg was arrested for his actions but eventually acquitted. However, in an effort to discredit or possibly blackmail Ellsberg (is this sounding familiar already?), a team of "plumbers" from the Nixon Administration broke into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist with the hopes of obtaining his medical files. The Nixon "plumbers" later went on to break into the Watergate office of the Democratic National Committeee, and the rest, as they say, is history. Partly due to the fallout generated by the release of the Pentagon Papers, the U.S. ended its military effort in Vietnam in 1973, and because of the plumbers, Nixon was forced to resign a year later. South Vietnam fell to the North Vietmanese in 1975.

In reading the history of Vietnam as observed by Ellsberg both from within the walls of the Pentagon as well as the fields of Vietnam, it is hard not to notice the budding similarities between U.S. actions in Vietnam then and those in Iraq today. I realize that this isn't a novel connection, but the book reveals several facets of Vietnam that resound with unique and eerie familiarity.

There is of course the false optimism displayed by U.S. officials in both situations. Ellsberg records event after event in which U.S. leaders were briefed as to the deteriorating conditions in Vietnam only to go before the public and announce their upbeatness about the level of progress. In Iraq, we had the illusionary reports of how the Iraqis would welcome us and the WMD we'd find. After our invasion we've been treated to numerous "turning the corner" events (the killing of Saddam Hussein's sons, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the handover of "sovereignty", the smashing of Fallujah, the purple-finger elections, and now the writing of the women-repressing Islamic Constitution set for release on or by August 15) as signaling how we were winning in Iraq and in the GWOT, all the while the violence and death continue and our troop deployment to Iraq maintains its already high level with no relief from shrinking enlistments in sight.

Then, as now, the U.S. military regarded their supposed indigenous partners with suspicion, believing them to be infiltrated by the enemy revolutionaries (Vietcong) or insurgents (Iraqis).

In both there are examples of falsifying data and producing phony records of military progress. In Vietnam, Ellsberg encountered it when he attempted to investigate the so-called "night patrols" being carried out by Vietmanese units. In Vietnam, the use of night patrols was viewed as having particular importance for confirming the military's control of provinces. While American forces performed night patrols, units comprised totally of Vietmanese personnel were not known to be doing so, creating questions about the Vietnam government's ability to govern and its military's ability to defeat the Vietcong (sound familiar?). But this one unit was supposed to be different. The U.S. leadership in Vietnam made much of the success of these "night patrols" and the bravery of the unit. Ellsberg, after witnessing a string of poorly coordinated efforts among the Vietmanese military was eager to see the improvements recorded by this unit. He was told this unit's success was the "real deal". But curiously, Ellsberg couldn't get clearance to travel with the unit. He was eventually told the reason why--the unit's record of night patrols was a lie, fabricated to impress or ward off demands of those higher up in the military and political chain of command. There were no night patrols. None. Zippo. Zero. But the military was producing "records" indicating that such patrols were occuring (and increasing) as an indication of the progress being made in Vietnam (is this sounding familiar?).

In Iraq, we have false reports about how much of Iraq is controlled (another point of dissension in the Vietnam conflict as discovered by Ellsberg) and how many Iraqi troops are ready for duty (there are either 175,000 or 2,000, whatever, but it's all very complicated).

In both countries, corruption led by the occupation authority and assisted by the country's elite robbed the country of its resources and failed to build up the country's infrastructure and provide the level of support that was promised. In Vietnam, Ellsberg examined school buildings constructed with one-third the required concrete, resulting in walls and floors that crumbled and sank on impact. In Iraq, valuable historical sites were left unprotected and later ransacked, oil revenues and other occupational authority revenue was "disappeared", and town after town left in ruins.

Both settings demonstrate the disdain between the U.S. "deliverers" and the occupied country's residents. Frustrated Vietnam vets fired into and set fire to the huts of villagers suspected of harboring or sympathizing with Vietcong. In Iraq, U.S. soldiers are found to have been torturing and in at least some cases, killing Iraqi citizens swept in off the streets charged (sometimes just based on the reports of others) with acting against the U.S. occupation. Meanwhile, residents applaud insurgent attacks on U.S. personnel and the largely ceremonial Iraqi legislature votes on resolutions to dispel the American forces from the country.

In both circumstances, opponents of the war were and have been labeled as traitors and the war ministers and their media minions have tried to smear and discredit those who have voiced opposition to either the war itself or the evidence used by the government to generate support for the war (Ellsberg then, Joseph Wilson today).

In both wars, U.S. leaders defiantly state their determination to "stay the course".

And naturally, both conflicts were initiated under false pretenses.

What does seem dissimilar between the two conflicts is the level of U.S. domestic opposition, both official and among the mass public. During Vietnam (which admittedly had resulted in much higher U.S. casualties) opposition among the political elite and citizenry was more widely known, if still not well received by the administration or the establishment-coddling press. Today, even after all the well documented failures and deceptions, opposition to the continued U.S. effort in Iraq seems muted. At last week's gathering of the Right Wing of the Democratic Party (the DLC) none of the event's Gubernatorial or Senatorial representatives questioned the rationale for the war in Iraq or called for any significant or detailed changes in policy there. Nor did any of the gathering's speakers express any apparent misgivings about the fact that, according to the most conservative estimates, upwards of 25,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed so far in the war. Viewers were instead lectured that Democrats needed to be ready and willing to use military force (to what extent and under what conditions wasn't made exactly clear) to ensure America's "security".

Even Paul Hackett, the Iraqi vet and recent Democratic candidate for Congress in Ohio's special election this week, and much heralded by the progressive blogosphere, did not call for any significant change in policy in Iraq but stressed the need to "stay the course" there until Iraqi forces are able to secure the country.

And unlike Vietnam, there are now no Walter Cronkites in the press to credibly question the U.S. effort in Iraq. Instead, the now cable-driven "news" media continues to cheerlead for the war and to emphasize only the plight of American servicemen and women (and their families on the homefront) serving there and the assumed righteousness of the U.S. cause in that country. That is, when it bothers to cover the war at all.

And unfortunately, it's unlikely that even a new Daniel Ellsberg or the release of top secret data about the Iraqi war would make much difference to what appears to be an increasingly deadened and dissipated populace, content to not confront their party's or country's leadership and its questionable actions abroad just as long as the gas for their SUV's continues to flow (albeit at much higher per gallon rates).

Meanwhile, leaders of the progressive movement and the Democratic Party continue to preach the gospel of incrementalism, centrism, non-confrontationalism, me-too-ism, and image-blurring, believing that, like victory in Iraq, the next era of Democratic Party dominance is just around the corner.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Litmus Tests


My candidate litmus test, with edits, from James Powell's excellent comment on Gilliard's blog:

Does candidate 'distance himself' from the party and/or its leaders, or is he proud to be a Democrat?

Does he talk like a bureaucrat or like a regular person?

Does she make it clear that she opposes Bush and the Republicans?

Does she back down when the corporate press/media or Republican pundits attack him, or does she stand by her words?

Does he sleepwalk through the campaign, or does he act like he wants to win?

Notice the complete lack of ideology. And if that bothers you, just remember who would control the committees if Democrats took charge.

I agree that some of the items on this list are important, especially the first point, and that virtually any Democratic member in Congress would make for a better committee chairperson. But Kos's apparent willingness to substitute a list like this, and the nominal and temporal satisfaction from gaining party control (if a litmus test like this could even conceivably result in Democrats regaining the House or Senate) for a comprehensive, coherent philosophy about government and the committment to carry that philosophy through the thick and thin of uncontrollable or unpredictable events is just very short-sighted.

I know Kos doesn't advertise himself as an ideologue and that he admits being more of a partisan Democrat rather than a progressive or liberal. And I know and salute Kos's ability to generate cash and attention for unsung candidates, a critical component of any Democratic Party rebuilding effort.

But the move away from ideology that commenced in 1973 and has continued thereafter has been associated with a steady decline in the Democratic Party's influence. To compete again, and more importantly, to change the direction of policymaking, Democrats will need to spell out in more detail and coherence the type of society they want to create and the reasons why voters should identify themselves with the Democratic Party.

Consider, for instance, this item from the litmus test:

Does she make it clear she opposes Bush and the Republicans?

What does this mean? This is an ideological statement but without any substance. Why should Democrats oppose Bush and the Republicans? If Democrats cannot supply a meaningful and consistent response to that question, than Democrats will continue to struggle to win voters' allegiances and recapture the control of government.

A Natural Fit

Stepping into the debate over the Supreme Court nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr., Representative Tom DeLay, the majority leader, has agreed to appear in a telecast called "Justice Sunday II" to rally conservative Christian support for remaking the court.

Mr. DeLay's planned appearance adds the imprimatur of a top Republican elected official to the event, which seeks to call attention to what its organizers say is the Supreme Court's hostility to Christianity and traditional families in its decisions about abortion, homosexuality and government support for religion. It will be broadcast to churches and Christian television stations and distributed as a video.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and the principal organizer, called Mr. DeLay, of Texas, "a natural fit" with the program.

A natural fit. Being investigated for his shady campaign dealings. A natural fit. Axed the Republican chairman of the House Ethics Committee and installed his own Texas homeboy to help him avoid being investigated or disciplined by the House. A natural fit. Browbeat fellow party members to reverse the House edict requiring members to step down from party leadership if indicted. A natural fit.

But there's more.

Apparently, a member of God's Own Circus helped convince Sandra Day O'Connor to retire. Let's listen:

In a televised prayer on Tuesday for Judge Roberts's confirmation, for example, the television evangelist Pat Robertson asked his viewers to pray: "Take control, Lord! We ask for additional vacancies on the court." (A "prayer point" on the Web site for Mr. Robertson's "Supreme Court Freedom Project" includes "additional vacancies" as well.)

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called the prayer "ghoulish," saying, "The only way people leave the court these days is through death or infirmity."

But a spokeswoman for Mr. Robertson said he was praying only for retirements, not deaths, noting that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor had retired after his prayer was first posted.

Consider this last statement very carefully. Let it loiter in your mind for a few minutes, allowing each word to settle down comfortable into the recesses of your imagination.

So, Pat Robertson prays, and what passes for a moderate, mainstream conservative justice decides to pack it in, opening her position for someone more favorable to the radical right's agenda.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

It IS about Ideology

I can't say that I really agree with Kos here that there isn't a significant ideological gap between what is coming out of the DLC and what is represented by those of us from the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

The DLC position is that ideology isn't important, or if it is, it's impact on policymaking and party building is harmful. This outlook had its origins in the post-McGovern-landslide-loss era of 1972 and in the 1976 Carter campaign that followed. It was reinforced 12 years later by the 1988 Dukakis campaign ("it's about competence, not ideology"). The most recent DLC incarnation as exemplified by Tom Vilsack's speech last week (see previous post) merely reiterates much of this past approach. According to the DLC, Democrats should just be about making good policy and reassuring middle class voters that we know their struggles, share their "values" and "feel their pain."

My own view is that this approach to party building and position taking is highly flawed

(1) it fails to recognize the pointed ideological aims of the conservative Republican Party and its supporters (and thus the need to vigorously oppose them); or
(2) it does recognize conservativism's strident ideology but believes it is either unimportant or can be held back by a party properly claiming the "center"; or worse
(3) it is in sympathy with much of the conservative movement and wishes only to co-opt it.

To some extent, the DLC operation may reflect a mix of all three perspectives on the radical right, but each view is detrimental to the Democratic Party's success and to the cause of good government. To the extent that the DLC's underlying reaction to the right is embodied by the third perspective, the greater the threat the DLC represents (however minimalized it has become of late).

But to start with, we should be clear about the distinction between conservatives and progressives.

For conservatives the aim of politics and society is Order. Embodied in Order are notions of conformity, uniformity, rank, hierarchy and unquestioning obedience to the establishment. Therefore, the threat to Order is individuals. This can be seen not just in the radical right's social conservatism (coerced school prayer, criminalizing abortion, anti-gay rights) but also in its economic policies. Consider for example the justifications for welfare "reform" and the most recent bankruptcy "reform" bills. Both bills were enacted as a response to the alleged "abuse" of the system by either welfare recipients or individuals/families filing for bankruptcy (yes, at least some Democrats followed this logic or recited it themselves--more about this in a minute). So the reason why welfare and bankrupty laws needed to be "reformed", we were told, was because of bad individuals "abusing the system".

For progressives the aim of politics is Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. The threat to Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness is Power. In Federalist #10, James Madison called this power-threat Faction. A faction is a group which has an agenda and which has power. Factions threaten the ability of individuals to live their lives as they see fit (see the agenda of Focus on the Family, Family Research Council for examples) and also undermines the individual's economic opportunities by creating rules and distribution systems that favor groups over individuals.* For example, Faction inhibits the individual's opportunity to collectively organize. Faction also produces a political-economic system that unfairly distributes benefits and rights to some (health insurance tax subsidies) but not to others (no health insurance at all or "poor" programs like Medicaid where health coverage is treated as "welfare" and its annual budget subject to reductions).

Now this discussion is not to say that the division between the parties perfectly reflects this distinction. The issue of gun ownership, for example, would seem to cut across this categorization (which is why although I don't love guns and do favor some restrictions, I think Democrats should not make anti-NRAism a primary focus of campaigns).

However, the bigger problem is the opposite, as we saw with Democratic Party support for welfare and bankruptcy "reform". That is, many Democrats have, sadly, capitulated to conservative rhetoric, if not to their outright philosophy and policy prescriptions, and allowed their campaigns to take the hallmark of conservative anti-individualism. Furthermore, when Democrats fail to make elections about how the rules are set and who gets what and how, than Democrats essentially forfeit their political role as well as the rights of individuals who aren't represented in such a system.

The duty of the New Left, as I'll call it, is to re-establish the distinction the interests of conservatives and progressives. to make the case that the goal of a democratic society is not Order (any and all types of government aspire to do this and some do it all too well), but Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and that the problem is not individuals, but Power. Like Madison of old, progressives need to re-acquaint the body politic with the reason we have government. The purpose of government is to help promote and ensure Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. It's purpose is NOT to usher in God's kingdom on earth or to promote and defend some religious creed.

Much of the blogs I frequent seem to recognize and advocate this, even if that isn't how every discussion is framed. But the DLC does not. Because it does not, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party must continue to be "ideological" and to promote the values and raise the issues of concern to it and on behalf of the public good.

*For a classical and thorough analysis of politics as conflict, and the efforts of political elites to enact rules designed to prevent certain issues from being considered by the political system, please see E. E. Schattschneider's "The Semi-Sovereign People."

Monday, August 01, 2005

Fishing for a Candidate

NYT Week in Review, July 31, 2005

In recent years, cultural conservatives, once the fiery insurgents of their party, have become the central pillar of the new G.O.P. establishment. They dominate presidential primaries and caucuses, even in a nominal blue state like New Jersey. Their advocates in Washington can bestow or deny credibility to legislation and presidential aspirants alike. And they have even begun to supplant Wall Street businessmen as the party's financial base.

Yet the early list of Republican White House contenders is dominated by politicians whose commitment to conservative orthodoxy is newfound, inconstant or diminishing.

They include Mr. Frist; George E. Pataki, who announced last week that he would not run for a fourth term as governor of New York; Senator John McCain of Arizona; Mitt Romney, the governor of Massachusetts — Massachusetts? — and, of course, Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, a job that before Mr. Giuliani held it might have ranked only slightly ahead of "former pornographer" in its unsuitability for G.O.P. candidates seeking higher office.

What's a fundamentalist party to do when it can't come up with an orthodox candidate? All that potential and no where to put it.

How about Santorum? Or Brownback?

The DLC: Killing the Democratic Party One Election At a Time

C-Span's Road to the Whitehouse carried speeches at the DLC gathering in Columbus, Ohio last week by new DLC chairman and Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack and HRC.

I was anxious to hear what Vilsack had to say, figuring he might be a candidate in 2008 and could make the race more interesting by essentially eliminating the influence of the Iowa caucuses.

So how was his speech and what did he have to say?

Well, he repeated the word "extraordinary" or some variation thereof about a dozen times.

And he laid out his four-point plan for blowing next year's congressional elections and the 2008 presidential one:

1. SECURITY Be really, really super duper tough on them terrorists, just like the Republicans, except we'll do more to protect ports and transportation networks; No doubts expressed about the Iraqi venture, which in 2008 I suspect will still be playing host to 100,000+ of our troops.

2. OPPORTUNITY Um, something about the economy, better education, health care "security", and this and that. Not much specifics here, but then, that's the DLC approach.

3. VALUES Let the families of American know "we're with them" and will help protect their kids from violence on TV.

4. REFORM Anti-gerrymandering legislation.

Beyond this, there were a number of insertions of RESPONSIBILITY, you know, just like the Republicans. We or you should all be more responsible. Nothing about LIBERTY or FREEDOM or RIGHT to PRIVACY. Nothing about the Patriot Act. Nothing about ensuring the separation of church and state, which is under assault by conservative Republicans. Maybe that doesn't poll well. Anyway, the DLC just wants us to be "positive." After all, we just can't be anti-everything.

And the DLC has this rather creepy way of talking about COMMUNITY. This is apparently one of their poll-tested, focus group honed buzzwords of choice. From the mouths of regular Democrats this term sounds OK, but from the mouths of the DLC it sounds like something from out of 1984.

The whole show was pretty disturbing; something about this organization just makes me want to be sure I've got a crucifix, stake and garlic in my bag.

Spookiest of all is when the camera turns on DLC front man Al From. He's a spitting image of Vlad the Impaler. I wonder if he proof-reads and censors these speeches. I had the feeling like the speakers were aiming for his approval.

Finally, wondering over to the DLC site this morning I happened upon a roll call of their distinguished past leadership list:

Gov. Tom Vilsack is the ninth DLC chair since the organization's founding in 1985. Earlier chairs included Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, Gov. Chuck Robb of Virginia, Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana, Rep. Dave McCurdy of Oklahoma and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

I'm sure you all, like me, remember the fond days when Chuck Robb helped the Democratic presidential candidate carry Virginia. And I'm sure you all, like me, remember fondly the days when Dave McCurdy helped Democrats make Oklahoma blue, don't you? And what more can be said about John Breaux, whose LA seat was taken by a Republican. And Sam Nunn who hasn't been seen or heard from since 1988.

With Dean at the DNC helm (after no DLC backed candidates could convince anyone they had anything to offer), and several presidential aspirants notably absent from the DLC promotional, we should anticipate a visible split between DLC and non-DLC candidates and campaigns in 2008.

Representing the DLC:


The DLC talk last night was so simultaneously vague and anti-Dean, mainstream Democratic Party, it makes me think that we aren't too many election cycles away from a third party campaign.

Alabama On My Mind

HARVEST, Ala. - If there was ever a prison that needed help, it was Limestone Correctional Facility.

Even within the troubled Alabama penal system, this state compound near Huntsville was notorious for cruel punishment and medical neglect. In one drafty, rat-infested warehouse once reserved for chain gangs, the state quarantined its male prisoners with H.I.V. and AIDS, until the extraordinary death toll - 36 inmates from 1999 to 2002 - moved inmates to sue and the government to promise change.


A low-key but tenacious woman who had a run-in with an earlier employer, Dr. Chijide says the care at Limestone was far from adequate, and there is evidence to support her. In February, the month she resigned, the court monitor described an H.I.V. unit riddled with rats, where broken windows had been replaced with plastic sheeting that was itself falling apart. Thousands of doses of prescribed medications had never been given, as far as the monitor could tell from the slapdash records. No one was being tested for tuberculosis or treated for hepatitis C, which prey on fragile immune systems.


An emaciated 39-year-old wasted away after begging a doctor for sandwiches. A 29-year-old with pneumonia was short of breath when he arrived at the unit, but waited two days to see a doctor and get a prescription; he never received the medication, and on the fourth day, he suffocated.

A 41-year-old, also struggling to breathe, was sent off to a hospital two hours away in a prison van with no medical help, even after a guard urged that he be rushed in an ambulance. "He'll be fine," a nurse said, but the man had a heart attack on the way and died.

Treatment was not much better for those who survived. Packed into bunks so close that infectious abscesses "spread like wildfire," Dr. Tabet wrote, they were rousted at 3 a.m. to stand in line outdoors, often in the cold or rain, to get their pills.


Dr. Chijide said the executives blamed her for the unit's troubles, accusing her of seeing too few patients, coming and going as she pleased, and documenting too many problems. If the monitor found Prison Health out of compliance with the settlement, she said they told her, it would not be good for the company - or her.

Undeterred, Dr. Chijide wrote to them again, saying she had been scapegoated. Prison Health suspended her, but prepared for the inspection by granting some of the things she had asked for, including a nurse. The prison staff set out fresh rat traps.

And with Dr. Chijide gone and the monitor about to arrive, a Prison Health doctor raced through more than 100 medical charts in two or three days, jotting notes to make it appear that prisoners had received proper physical examinations.

The monitor was not fooled. "Patients allege that this physician spent a few minutes with each of them, did not touch them, did not answer questions, and rarely looked up from his writing," he wrote. The company's last-minute efforts, he said, "do not meet any reasonable standard of H.I.V. care."


Prompted by his findings, the Southern Center for Human Rights, which filed the original inmate lawsuit, asked a federal judge to hold the company in contempt for violating the settlement; he has not ruled. Human Rights Watch asked Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama to take immediate action to ensure the state's compliance; a spokesman for the governor would not comment.

Well, I'm sure the real cause of the neglect of inmates in Alabama is the failure of the federal courts to allow Judge Roy Moore to keep his ten commandments monument on court grounds where the faithful could worship it.