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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Alice Martin: Liar, Liar

Folks who have been paying attention know that Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, is a liar.

In fact, it has been proven that Martin has no problems lying under oath. That's an act commonly known as perjury, and it's something most of us could get in big trouble for doing. But not Alice Martin.

So it should not come as a surprise when I tell you that Alice Martin lied her conservative behind off in her comments for the Raw Story article about my firing at UAB.

As a refresher, here is the primary segment about Martin from the Raw Story piece:

Martin says Shuler's allegations don't fall under her office's purview.

"Mr. Shuler has made, in writing and in person, numerous allegations against various individuals to my office which, if memory serves deals with civil litigation," she wrote in an email to RAW STORY Wednesday. "Many of his allegations are set forth on his blog."

"The US Attorney, when receiving complaints, refers them to an appropriate federal or investigative agency, as we do not investigate cases," she added. "His complaints were forwarded to the US Postal Inspection Service, as I advised him in my email, as he asserted the mails were involved. He was also advised to contact the Alabama Bar Association. He met with an Assistant US Attorney and presented no evidence of an offense, only has opinions, [and was referred to agencies] that could conduct an independent investigation. I have no knowledge of him contacting those agencies."

She also denied her office was in any way involved with Shuler's termination.

"There has been no contact by the office to Mr Shuler's employer," she wrote.

Let us ponder some of the pure excrement that is oozing from Martin's quotes:

* Martin says Shuler's allegations don't fall under her office's purview.

Holy Heath Ledger, Batman! You mean federal prosecutors are not involved with federal crimes? We'd better bring the Batmobile to a screeching halt and stop the presses! Don't know if the citizens of Gotham City can handle this one. And by the way, Batman: If federal prosecutors aren't involved with federal crimes, what, pray tell, do federal prosecutors do?

* "Mr. Shuler has made, in writing and IN PERSON, numerous allegations against various individuals to my office which, if memory serves, deals with CIVIL LITIGATION."

In person? I've never laid eyes on Alice Martin or anyone else in her office. I don't even know where her office is located. That's because I've never been there.

Civil Litigation? What point is Martin trying to make here? That federal crimes can't be committed in civil litigation? Perhaps she should try telling that to Mississippi attorney Paul Minor and former state judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield, who currently are in federal prison for alleged crimes that arose from civil litigation.

* "Many of his allegations are set forth ON HIS BLOG."

Well, what do you know? Alice can tell the truth sometimes. She admits to reading my blog. Of course, I know from checking my blog statistics that numerous folks from "usdoj.gov" servers have been reading Legal Schnauzer. Despite that, wouldn't it have been smarter for Martin to respond to Raw Story by saying something like, "I've never heard of this Shuler dude, and I have no idea what a Legal Schnauzer is. Is that anything like a labradoodle? I'm busy arresting teachers for failing to execute their lessons plans. I don't have time to dilly dally around with blogs." I'm still amazed that Martin didn't claim she had no idea who I was.

* "His complaints were forwarded to the U.S. POSTAL INSPECTION SERVICE . . . "

Which according to its own Web site, does not have jurisdiction to investigate possible violations of 18 U.S. Code 1346 (honest services mail fraud). Such violations must be investigated by this agency we call the FBI, an agency Martin made sure did not receive my allegations. In short, Martin sent my charges to the prosecutorial equivalent of Siberia, where they remain buried in cold storage--even in the midst of an Alabama summer.

* "He was also advised to contact the ALABAMA BAR ASSOCIATION . . . "

I published Alice Martin's "snail mail" response to me here, and a "child of three can plainly see" that she does not advise me to contact the Alabama State Bar. She also made no such suggestion in her e-mail communications with me. Even Alice Martin knows the Alabama State Bar is not in the business of investigating crimes, and it sure as heck is not in the business of investigating federal crimes.

* "He MET WITH an Assistant U.S. Attorney and presented NO EVIDENCE OF AN OFFENSE . . . "

Again, Alice appears to be living in Wonderland. I never met with an assistant U.S. attorney. As I stated earlier, I've never set foot in Martin's office or laid eyes on any members of her staff. I did, by some miracle, manage to reach Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Hart via telephone one day, and after a brief conversation, he informed me "I kick cases all the time, and I'm going to kick yours." Pretty good attitude for a public servant, don't you think?

And presented "no evidence of an offense?" I posted the six-page letter I sent to Martin, and it was filled with evidence. And had Martin shown the slightest interest in actually doing her job, I would have sent her the entire case file, which shows blatant corruption by Alabama Republican judges.

* "There has been no contact by the office to Mr. Shuler's employer."

How positively Rovian. And how appropriate, considering that Karl Rove almost certainly is responsible for Martin's appointment as U.S. attorney.

Let's pick this statement apart:

Notice that Martin says there has been "no contact by the office." That doesn't mean there hasn't been contact by some of her GOP political supporters.

Notice that Martin says "to Mr. Shuler's employer." Well, Mr. Shuler's employer was UAB. But who oversees UAB? The University of Alabama Board of Trustees, which includes Martin's compatriot, Governor Bob Riley, as ex officio president. So Martin and her GOP hatchemen have all sorts of ways to put pressure on "Mr. Shuler's employer" without doing it directly.

Sort of reminds you of Karl Rove's "answers" to written questions from Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) doesn't it?

And notice how Martin did not submit herself to questions from Raw Story reporter Lindsay Beyerstein. Another Rovian trick. Martin appears to be answering questions without actually answering questions at all.

In fact, that's the very same tactic UAB officials have used. President Carol Garrison issued a "statement" upon apparently receiving public heat over my termination. But did Garrison or anyone else at UAB submit themselves to questioning from Ms. Beyerstein? Did Garrison or anyone at UAB present any documents to support their claims that my termination was "solely related to work performance" and had nothing to do with "politics or conspiracies?"

Not on your life.

Heck, Beyerstein reports that most folks at UAB wouldn't even confirm their titles or the correct spellings of their names.

Got to love the transparency that emanates from UAB's campus on Birmingham's Southside--and from Alice Martin's office, which I understand is somewhere downtown. Isn't it interesting that the behavior of Martin and the behavior of UAB officials pretty much forms a mirror image these days?

Federal Judge Flushes Bushies Out of Their Holes

Bush White House claims of executive privilege took a major hit today when a federal judge ruled that presidential aides Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers must testify before Congress.

U.S. Judge John Bates found that Bolten and Miers must honor a Congressional subpoena. Bates ruled that the Bush aides could invoke executive privilege in regards to specific questions, but they could not simply ignore the subpoena and fail to appear before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

The judge also found that Bolten and Miers must supply all non-privileged documents requested in the subpoenas and they must supply specific descriptions of any documents withheld on the grounds of executive privilege.

Democratic leaders in Congress hailed the decision as a victory in their efforts to investigate the firings of nine U.S. attorneys and other issues related to politicalization of the Justice Department under Bush.

What does today's decision mean for former White House strategist Karl Rove and his efforts to avoid testifying about his role in the Don Siegelman case and other possible political prosecutions?

House speaker Nancy Pelosi said Bates' decision could pave the way for Congress to approve a contempt citation for Rove.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Has Karl Rove Sabotaged State Employees in Alabama?

As someone who was mysteriously fired from his job at an Alabama university a little more than two months ago, I was intrigued by a post today from Robby Scott Hill at Revolution Magazine.

Hill used to work at the State Lands Division, and confidential sources tell him that Rove was aware both of Hill's status as a state employee and as an applicant to the Alabama State Bar. It appears that once Rove's intelligence network sprung into action, Hill did not have a very bright future as either a state employee or an Alabama lawyer.

Hill says that former Governor Don Siegelman is far from alone in being targeted by Karl Rove:

Rove used his intelligence network to sabotage not only Siegelman, but any State Employee or politician whom he saw as adverse to the Bush Administration. Confidential sources tell me that Rove was aware of my employment at the State Lands Division and my status as a Bar Applicant. Was I seen as a barrier to Jack Abramoff’s casino gambling plans or possibly adverse to Interior Secretary Gale Norton’s offshore drilling plans complete with kickbacks to Colorado lawyers with ties to Rove? Or did a certain State Official simply have it in for me and call on Rove’s team to make life hard on me?

Hill does have some encouraging news:

My sources also tell me that Rove is about to be thrown under the bus by more than one of his assets.

What does this say about my employment situation at UAB? Well, I think it's safe to say that Dax Swatek, who used to work for Rove crony Bill Canary, is a card-carrying member of any Rove intelligence network. And I think it's safe to say that Alice Martin owes her plum spot as a U.S. attorney to Rove and his like-minded lieutenants.

Given that I have reported reams of posts about unlawful actions by William E. Swatek (Dax's pappy) and Alice Martin, that probably puts me right up there with Hill in the target category.

Siegelman Jury Questions Center on Auburn University

Auburn, Alabama, home to the largest university in the state, is known as the "Loveliest Village on the Plains."

But a report from David Fiderer at Huffington Post indicates something not lovely might have been going on at Auburn University during the trial of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman.

Fiderer reports that jurors Sam Hendrix and Katie Langer engaged in unlawful communication during the trial, using Langer's g-mail account and Hendrix' e-mail account at Auburn University, where he works as a fundraiser.

Evidence shows that Hendrix and Langer sent each other private messages both before and during jury deliberations.

Langer, who teaches gymnastics, is an Auburn graduate. Fiderer says copies of nine e-mails probably were sent via fax by someone in Auburn's development office:

But were the e-mails bona fide? As we learned last week, the saga of the e-mails has many sinister twists and turns. What emerged is a smoking gun that incriminated prosecutor Louis Franklin and Judge Fuller. They, like Hendrix and Langer, connived behind the backs of others.

Some of the nine messages had been sent anonymously by fax in July 2006. My guess is that the sender was someone on the development staff at Auburn. (It's a very small world in Alabama. Katie is an Auburn alumna. Auburn is run by its Trustees, all of whom are appointed by Governor Bob Riley. According to sworn testimony before the Judiciary Committee, the governor's son, Rob Riley, was on the call in which Republican operative Bill Canary said that Karl Rove had arranged with Justice to destroy Siegelman.)

For good measure, Alabama Republican Party chairman Mike Hubbard used to work in the Auburn Sports Information Office and then started Auburn Network Inc., a company that handles the university's multimedia rights. Hubbard's wife, Susan, serves on the faculty at Auburn.

Hendrix and Langer, the only jurors to speak to the press, painted a picture of a jury that got along splendidly. But other jurors, Fiderer reports, tell a different story. Seven jurors admitted in a post-trial hearing knowing that Hendrix and Langer had used information not available to the others.

Fiderer says a postal inspection that found the e-mails were forged "was a sham," and he points to questionable actions by Judge Mark Fuller and Prosecutor Louis Franklin:

Three things suggest that the Postal Service inquiry was a sham: (1) The stated purpose of the inquiry was to determine who sent the letters, not the authenticity of the emails. Yet the Postal Service looked into the matter anyway; (2) The emails sent to Hendrix's work address at Auburn could have been easily authenticated by the university's IT department. The most obvious, commonsensical approach -- at least to this non-techie - was not taken; (3) Then there's the obvious red herring: "information from a co-worker of Juror 7 [Hendrix] who monitored Juror 7's emails during trial and did not see any incoming emails from Juror 40 [Langer]." The emails were always sent late at night, after 10:00 p.m. Of course Hendrix's coworkers would never see the messages, if they were deleted.

What does Siegelman think of the revelations in the Huffington Post article? Tommy Stevenson, of the Tuscaloosa News, has reaction at his Politibits blog here.

Is a Day of Reckoning Coming for Rove?

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted today to hold former Bush White House strategist Karl Rove in contempt for failing to appear after receipt of a Congressional subpoena.

In a sign that the modern Republican Party has lost its moral compass, the 20-14 vote was along party lines, with not one Republican calling on Rove to honor a Congressional subpoena.

The vote is a recommendation, and it remains unclear whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will allow a vote of the full House.

The committee vote came as progressive groups delivered to Congress 127,000 signatures of people calling for Rove to be held in contempt.

Our friends from Writechic have an excellent account of the day's activities.

Alabama Republican whistleblower Jill Simpson, a key figure in exposing the apparent political prosecution of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman, called on Pelosi to help clean up the mess left by the Bush White House.

Glynn Wilson, of Locust Fork World News, reports on Simpson's statements:

“The time is now,” Ms. Simpson said. “Ms. Pelosi promised when she took over the House after the 2006 elections to clean up. It’s time for her to clean the White House for thumbing their noses at Congress.”

Ms. Simpson says she feels akin to the 127,000 people who signed a petition calling on Congress to send Karl Rove to jail, she said, and she thinks the House should use the Sergeant at Arms to arrest him. Inherent contempt and the Sergeant at Arms have been rarely used in American history, she said, “because most people don’t thumb their noses at the United States Congress.”

“Mr. Rove has repeatedly thumbed his nose at the U.S. Congress, and he should have respect for the Constitution and the Congress,” she said. “The time has come to stop this.”

Saying the current situation is a "Constitutional crisis," Simpson called on Congress to hold the White House accountable:

Ms. Simpson commended Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Commercial and Administrative Law subcommittee, along with committee chairman John Conyers and Birmingham Rep. Artur Davis, “for their valiant efforts to restore the integrity of the Constitution of the United States,” she said. “They need to do a thorough, to the bottom of the bucket investigation. Otherwise there is going to be a revolt.”

Government Tries to Block Minor's Release to Visit His Dying Wife

Folks who have been paying attention already know the Bush Justice Department is populated by mass quantities of corrupt lackeys.

But thanks to Larisa Alexandrovna at Raw Story, we learn today that the Bush DOJ also includes a number of heartless jackasses.

Alexandrovna reports that the government opposes a motion that would allow Minor to be released so that he can visit his wife who is dying of cancer.

And get this? The government claims Minor should not be released because he is a "danger to the community."

Right, and the fact that Minor became wealthy from successfully suing business interests (can we say big tobacco and big asbestos?), and shared large portions of his wealth with Democratic Party candidates, has nothing to do with it.

Of course, the government's motion wants to ignore the corrupt handling of the Minor case by U.S. Judge Henry Wingate, who made unlawful rulings that insured that Minor and codefendants Wes Teel and John Whitfield would be convicted.

The government response in full is here.

Oliver Diaz, a Mississippi Supreme Court Justice who was prosecuted twice by the Bush DOJ (and acquitted both times), has an interesting take on the Minor story. Diaz, by the way, is a Republican. But he committed the sin of not being sufficiently pro business, and of being friendly with plaintiff's attorneys such as Minor, and wound up being pursued by the Bush Brigade:

"Government prosecutors have chosen to continue the political prosecution of Paul Minor," Justice Diaz wrote RAW STORY by email Tuesday. "In a case where even the [Justice Department] has raised the question of improprieties, these prosecutors have refused to show compassion for a man whose wife is dying with cancer Instead, the politicization of the criminal justice system is continued by these protégée of Monica Goodling."

Alexandrovna provides an update on the condition of Minor's wife:

As previously reported by Raw Story, Minor’s wife Sylvia developed breast cancer during the trial, which metastasized to her brain and lungs. Last month doctors stopped all medications other than those for pain management, indicating that Mrs. Minor is in the final stages of her illness. Minor has been attempting to get an appeal bond to be with his wife before she passes.

According to Minor’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, it will be up to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on Minor's appeal bond request. Lowell also indicates that Minor could apply for a furlough instead, writing in an email on Monday that Minor "can seek a compassionate furlough from the Bureau of Prisons based solely on his wife's condition."

Premises Liability: The Land for Opportunists

Premises liability is a concept that has a lot to do with my legal tale of woe. And it is the subject of an article in today's Birmingham News that shows just how easily the law can be abused.

Premises liability is the body of law that makes the person in possession of real property responsible for certain injuries suffered by persons who are on the property.

If you were to explain this concept to 1,000 random people and then ask them if they thought the law was fair, my guess is that a sizable majority would say the law is unfair.

How unfair can it be? Consider my situation.

My troublesome neighbor, Mike McGarity, decided not long after he moved in that my property was essentially his property--never mind that, in a variety of ways, McGarity acted like a jackass toward my wife and me almost from the moment he moved in.

First, McGarity built a fence on our yard, taking about 400 square feet of our property. The fence would still be there if we hadn't had our yard resurveyed to determine it was wrongfully erected and forced him to move it. But did McGarity compensate us for the expenses we had incurred because of his screwup? Nope.

Once McGarity had built good will by cheating us on the fence situation, he decided it should be fine if he, his family members, and their guests came and went at will on our front yard (an area that, under covenants and restrictions in our neighborhood, we could not fence in order to keep them out).

When I told McGarity on multiple occasions to keep himself and others from trespassing from his yard onto ours, he threatened to sue me for "harassment." This is the problem that led to us swearing out a complaint against McGarity for criminal trespass third degree, to him being unlawfully acquitted (even though he unwittingly confessed to the crime), and to him filing a bogus lawsuit against me for malicious prosecution.

Fighting that case, and starting this blog to write about the corruption I had witnessed, is what led to my recent termination from UAB.

My wife and I have told this story to a number of people, and two of the most common questions we get are: (1) Why didn't you move? and (2) Why were you so concerned about trespassers?

The answer to the first question is this: We had lived there almost nine years, peacefully, before we had the misfortune of having a jackass move in next door. Don't know about you, but experience has taught me that running away from something is not the best way to deal with a problem--particularly when the law is on our side, and we had every right to use it in order to protect our property rights.

The second question has multiple answers. For one, it's bothersome and irritating to have people running around all over your property all the time. Second, I particularly don't like this kind of behavior when the people involved didn't have the decency to ask permission. Third, McGarity had already proven to be a knucklehead and a cheat, so we didn't want any part of him or anyone connected to him.

But fourth is the issue of premises liability. If any of the people trespassing from McGarity's property had been hurt on our property, we would have been held liable. Even though they were trespassing, because we were aware of them as trespassers, we would have been financially responsible. (Does that sound fair?)

Some folks might say, "Aw, any injury would be minor, and your insurance would cover it. Why worry?"

Well, consider this. The trespassers were constantly running over our concrete driveway and onto our grass. What if one of them had fallen and hit his head on our driveway, suffering head trauma? Yes, our insurance might cover it, but it also might raise our rates sky high or drop us as an insured altogether.

As you can see, for a whole bunch of reasons, it is not a good idea to allow trespassers on your property.

Which brings us to Birmingham City Councilman Joel Montgomery. In April 2007, Montgomery was injured when he fell in a parking lot in the city's Five Points South area. At the time of the incident, Montgomery was charged with public intoxication.

The misdemeanor criminal charge was dismissed by a special prosecutor who said Montgomery had completed alcohol counseling. Montgomery later denied receiving counseling, and the prosecutor tried to reinstate the charge. But a special judge denied the request, saying the deadline had elapsed for prosecuting the case.

Now Montgomery claims in a lawsuit that J.H. Berry and Co., owner of the parking lot where Montgomery fell, is responsible for his injuries--a bruise on his forehead, a broken nose, and a fractured vertebra.

Get this from Montgomery's attorney, Jon Vickers: "My client said he was not drunk, but he had a few drinks while he was out for dinner. He was walking along, looking at his truck when he walked right off the end of the wall and fell face first."

And the "few drinks" had nothing to do with it. Yeah, right.

Do some people have no shame? Not when premises liability and insurance money are involved.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Schnauzer Take on the Raw Story

Lindsay Beyerstein of Raw Story did such a splendid job on her piece about my termination from UAB that there is not a lot to add.

But we schnauzers never have been known as quiet, retiring types. So I can't resist adding my two cents. (Ms. Beyerstein interviewed me at length for her story, so I've probably already had more than my two cents. Let's consider the following my 20 cents.)

My hope is to add some insight to an already insightful article. Let's give it a shot:

Raw Story: "Shuler's problem arose not because he blogged nor because he did so from his workplace, because it's clear he didn't," says (Scott) Horton, who has been following both the Siegelman and Shuler cases closely. "His problem came from the fact that he wrote critical, well received insights targeting a number of very powerful figures in Alabama, starting with U.S. Attorney Alice Martin and prominent Republicans with which she is aligned, and including a number of major figures in the Alabama media."

Legal Schnauzer: I love this quote from Scott Horton, of Harper's magazine, because in just two sentences, he provides a true "nut graph" of what has occurred in my case. And he touches on an issue I would like to flesh out. When people hear the term "blogger," they think of someone who is presenting his opinions on various topics. Certainly I present my opinions and analysis, my take if you will, on a number of issues here at Legal Schnauzer. But in many instances, I've been more of a "citizen journalist" than a "blogger." And it's my role as a citizen journalist, I believe, that led to my dismissal at UAB. For example, I don't know that anyone in Alabama's GOP power structure would care all that much if I simply were offering critical opinions on this blog. But on at least some stories, I am doing more than that--I am acting as a journalist, reporting on stories that the local and regional mainstream press has largely ignored.

While I have presented evidence that UAB officials were concerned about my posts regarding the Don Siegelman case, I have been more of a follower than a leader on that story. The true groundbreakers on that story have been folks like Scott Horton at Harper's, Glynn Wilson at Locust Fork World News, and Larisa Alexandrovna at Raw Story.

I have, however, broken ground on three other stories. They are:

1. The Paul Minor case in Mississippi--Horton and Alexandrovna have written a number of excellent overview pieces about the Minor case. My role has been to write a series of posts, showing in detail how the case was corruptly handled by U.S. Judge Henry Wingate, a Reagan appointee.

2. The Malice of Alice--No one has done more than Scott Horton to expose U.S. Attorney Alice Martin for the corrupt political hack that she is. But I have added an important component to the reporting on Martin, showing how she took my complaints of criminal wrongdoing by Alabama judges and lawyers and intentionally sent them to the wrong investigative agency, ensuring my charges never would see the light of day. Also, I showed how she violated prosecutorial ethics by failing to disclose her clear conflict of interest in my case. This conflict arose because my complaint included multiple charges against Pelham, Alabama, attorney William E. Swatek, who just happens to be the father of Dax Swatek, Alice Martin's former campaign manager. Did Alice Martin inform me of this slight conflict? Nope. I provided a first-person account of Alice Martin's corrupt ways, and I'm guessing she wasn't real happy about it.

3. My Own Journey Through Legal Hell--This is the whole reason I started Legal Schnauzer, to show my fellow Alabamians that our state courts, in the Age of Rove, are a corrupt sewer. And I don't use that term "Age of Rove" lightly. It's a fact that Karl Rove, along with GOP operative Bill Canary, helped turn Alabama state courts from Democratic control to Republican control in the 1990s. It's a fact that Dax Swatek used to work for Bill Canary and remains a close confidante. It's a fact that Dax Swatek has served as campaign manager for Alice Martin (2000) and Governor Bob Riley (2006). Perhaps you've played that "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game involving all sorts of Hollywood actors and their ties to Kevin Bacon. In our Legal Schnauzer tale, the Kevin Bacon role is played by Dax Swatek. Because Dax Swatek's father (Bill Swatek) filed a bogus lawsuit against me, and because I had the temerity to write about the judicial corruption I had witnessed in the handling of that lawsuit, my story evolved from a minor local imbroglio to something that riled up important players in the GOP power structure.

The bottom line? I feel certain I was not fired because of the progressive opinions expressed on this blog. I was fired because of my reporting about Paul Minor, Alice Martin, and Bill/Dax Swatek.

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Raw Story: Shuler's initial goal as a blogger--at his personal blog, Legal Schnauzer--was to expose the corruption of a local lawyer and his allies in the local judiciary, he says.

Legal Schnauzer: An important point. The local lawyer was William E. Swatek. His primary ally in the local judiciary was Shelby County Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner. And Swatek's client, my troublesome "neighbor from hell," was Mike McGarity. These are the three people who started this whole process. What do we know about these folks? Public records show that Bill Swatek has been disciplined three times by the Alabama State Bar, including a suspension of his license for acts of "fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, and dishonesty," and he has been tried in criminal court of perjury. Class act. Public records show that Mike McGarity has at least eight criminal convictions in his background. All are misdemeanors, but they include at least one violence-related offense and one sex-related offense. Another class act. And Joiner's handling of my case indicates that he should be serving "5 to 10" in a federal penitentiary. He has committed heinous acts of honest services mail fraud and probably conspiracy and God knows what else. A final class act.

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Raw Story: Shuler has accused Martin of deliberately dragging her feet on the investigation to protect political allies. Shuler asserted that Martin was guilty of the same types of abuses of her official position that she and Canary had so vigilantly policed when they attempted to convict Siegelman and other Democratic elected officials in Alabama, including senior members of the state senate.

Legal Schnauzer: Another critical point. I have shown, in reporting on a detailed e-mail exchange I had with Martin, that she has committed honest-services mail fraud--the very offense that made up the majority of the charges against Don Siegelman. I'm not a federal prosecutor, but Martin's actions in my case also reflect possible obstruction of justice. Do you think Alice Martin was happy to see her crimes--in her very own words--presented on this blog? I don't think so either.

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Raw Story: Martin says Shuler's allegations don't fall under her office's purview.

"Mr. Shuler has made, in writing and in person, numerous allegations against various individuals to my office which, if memory serves deals with civil litigation," she wrote in an email to RAW STORY Wednesday. "Many of his allegations are set forth on his blog."

"The US Attorney, when receiving complaints, refers them to an appropriate federal or investigative agency, as we do not investigate cases," she added. "His complaints were forwarded to the US Postal Inspection Service, as I advised him in my email, as he asserted the mails were involved. He was also advised to contact the Alabama Bar Association. He met with an Assistant US Attorney and presented no evidence of an offense, only has opinions, [and was referred to agencies] that could conduct an independent investigation. I have no knowledge of him contacting those agencies."

She also denied her office was in any way involved with Shuler's termination.

"There has been no contact by the office to Mr Shuler's employer," she wrote.

Legal Schnauzer: There are too many barnyard droppings in Martin's statements to do them justice here. I will address this in a separate post.

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Raw Story: Shuler, a journalist by training, has published numerous original investigative reports on Martin, Gov. Bob Riley, and both Leura and Bill Canary.

Riley also has close ties to Alice Martin. In 2007, whistleblower Dana Jill Simpson testified before the House Judiciary Committee that she heard Canary promise Gov. Riley that "his girls" would take care of Siegelman. Canary's "girls" were his wife, Leura Canary, and Alice Martin.

He's also president ex officio of the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama, and a frequent target of Shuler's barbs.

Legal Schnauzer: This is important, not only because Bob Riley is president ex offcio of the Board of Trustees, but the board itself serves as the boss of UAB president Carol Garrison. I've worked at UAB for 19 years, and I know that neither Carol Garrison, nor any other UAB president, would so blatantly violate federal law and university policy as she has done in my case without receiving the consent of, or pressure from, the Board of Trustees. That board hired Carol Garrison, and it can fire Carol Garrison. Do I think that board is a factor in my termination? You're darn tootin' I do. And that is not just based on my opinion. I am gathering facts that strongly point in the board's direction.

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Raw Story: Shuler's blog-based reporting on the Siegelman prosecution and other high-profile cases has won him recognition in Alabama and beyond. Last month, Shuler was cited as an authority in an appeal filed by attorneys for prominent Mississippi Democrat Paul Minor, whom Shuler has defended as a victim of politically-motivated prosecution.

Shuler's reporting has also attracted interest from national media, including Scott Horton of Harper's Magazine, Raw Story, author Mark Crispin Miller and Jay Allbritton of AOL News. Prior to his dismissal, Shuler appeared on a local TV news segment about bloggers and the Siegelman case.

Legal Schnauzer: The importance of these paragraphs, in my mind, cannot be overstated. I started the blog in June 2007, and for about four months, the blog was relatively unknown (although I was pleased to see that readership grew steadily). But on October 23, 2007, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on selective prosecution by the Bush Justice Department, and my blog was cited numerous times in documents entered regarding the Paul Minor case in Mississippi. At about that same time, Scott Horton referenced my blog once or twice at his influential and widely read No Comment blog at Harper's.org. Suddenly, Legal Schnauzer wasn't unknown anymore. Important people were taking my work seriously. And in a little more than a month, strange things would start happening at work, events that would eventually lead to my firing at UAB.

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Raw Story: Alice Martin pursued a major whistleblower lawsuit on behalf of two UAB employees who reported that the University had misused federal grant money, and in 2005 the University agreed to pay $3.39 million to settle allegations that researchers double-billed on federal research grants. Under the terms of the settlement, Martin retained the power to reopen a civil or criminal investigation against UAB officials. This power, coupled with Martin's demonstrated enthusiasm for investigating corruption at universities, may have given UAB officials pause.

Legal Schnauzer: Again, it's hard to overstate the importance of these sentences. We will be writing in great detail about this whistleblower lawsuit, providing information that never has been written about in any news forum. I have conducted extensive research on this case, and I will show that Alice Martin essentially has a cocked pistol pointed at UAB's collective head, ready to fire it at any time. I will show that Alice Martin did UAB a colossal favor in the handling of this lawsuit, and the university has lots of reasons (millions of them, in fact) to want to return the favor.

And how might the university do that? By unlawfully terminating an employee who was proving to be a thorn in Alice Martin's deeply conservative side.

The Grievance Project: The Power of Shame

I've been intrigued for some time by a blog called Grievance Project.

It is written by a lawyer who goes by the initials "E.M." (Ethics Matter?), and you can learn more about the author here.

The main idea behind Grievance Project seems to be this: Bar associations and judicial oversight groups don't seem to be up to the task of policing their own, so someone needs to step in and help shame wayward lawyers and judges back onto the right track.

Not sure I'm stating E.M's goals accurately here. But if that is the general idea, I'm all for it. And it's refreshing to see an attorney acknowledge that the self-regulating profession of law does not do a very good job of policing itself.

Grievance Project has a particularly interesting post today about Kyle Sampson, who was at the heart of unlawful hiring practices in the Bush Justice Department.

E.M.'s efforts hit close to home for us here at Legal Schnauzer. As someone who has been repeatedly cheated by multiple attorneys--both my own and the dirtbag on the other side--and seen unlawful rulings issued by some 20 judges, I have enough material to keep Grievance Project going for months.

It would be nice to see other lawyers join E.M. in an effort to shine light on a profession that badly needs to be sanitized.

Unfortunately, most lawyers I'm aware of are making a pretty good living with the system the way it is. They don't want to upset an ugly applecart that is compensating them far better than some other profession (journalism?) would.

I don' t look for a rush of lawyers to join Grievance Project. But it would be nice for the public to help E.M. along in what seems to be a noble effort.

Draining the Bush DOJ Swamp

Is it possible that some of the muck finally is being removed from the cesspool created at the Bush Department of Justice?

Are the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and Office of the Inspector General (OIG)--both units of the Justice Department--capable of cleaning up the mess from within?

I put a lot of faith in what Scott Horton writes at Harper's.org, and he has indicated that he has little faith in OPR. Horton seems to hold OIG, particularly director Glenn Fine, in pretty high regard.

So what to make of news reports that OPR and OIG are combining to unearth evidence of criminal activity in the political machinations by loyal Bushies at main Justice?

Like Horton, I'm not convinced these DOJ units are "man enough" to truly drain the Bush sewer. But at least they are exposing political hacks like Monica Goodling and Kyle Sampson. And perhaps that's a belated, if worthwhile, start.

The New York Times gets appropriately riled up in an editorial today, calling the OPR/OIG findings "appalling" and saying Attorney General Michael Mukasey's response was "disgracefully lukewarm."

Richard B. Schmitt, of the Los Angeles Times, adds to the story today with a major piece about employees or job candidates being rejected based on rumors about homosexuality.

The bottom line? The Bush Justice Department was willing to break the law in its efforts to appoint only conservative Republicans to what are supposed to be apolitical positions.

Was this mindset present when U.S. attorneys were being appointed? I suspect that it was.

And what did the public wind up with as a result? In Alabama, we have political hacks like Leura Canary in Montgomery and Alice Martin in Birmingham.

Canary led the effort to get former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman, and that case has become the "poster child" for political prosecution by loyal Bushies.

But don't forget Alice Martin. We certainly haven't here at Legal Schnauzer. She was the first prosecutor to go after Siegelman, with a case that was so weak it was promptly booted out of court. She has a lengthy record of going after Democrats, particularly those with dark skin, while ignoring wrongdoing by Republicans. And in the shameful case of Alex Latifi, she appears to have intentionally ruined a man's business, all because he happens to be of Iranian descent.

I have my own Alice Martin stories, and they point very strongly toward her involvement in my termination at UAB. Martin reportedly is under investigation by OPR and OIG, and I will make sure folks in those offices know about my experiences with our local prosecutor.

My research in recent days is yielding some interesting connections between Alice Martin and UAB, connections that might help explain why I no longer have a job. I've also uncovered connections between the Department of Justice and the University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

Many more details to come.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Final Questions for UAB's President--For Now

In two previous posts, which can be read here and here, we posed a number of questions about my termination for UAB President Carol Garrison.

These questions were prompted by the public statement Garrison and her trusty PR guy Gary Mans distributed to folks who had voiced concerns about my firing. As I've noted previously, I'm sure Garrison and Mans would be delighted to hear from you if you would like to pose my questions, or some of your own, regarding their actions in my case. They can be reached at:

Carol Garrison: cgarrison@uab.edu; 934-4636

Gary Mans: gmans@uab.edu; 934-3884

So let's ponder a few more questions for Dr. Garrison, who serves as chief executive of an institution that receives more than $400 million a year in federal taxpayer dollars:

* As part of its core curriculum, UAB has an Ethics and Civic Responsibility (ECR) requirement for its students. You, Dr. Garrison, have enthusiastically pushed this initiative. The goal of the ECR program is stated as follows:

Ethics and Civic Responsibility (ECR)
The role of a university is to prepare students to function effectively and engage responsibly in both the academic community and post-graduation life. Excellence and integrity should be academic, personal, and professional goals for everyone. Effective and responsible living depends upon the ability of individuals to strive for excellence, to make informed and ethical decisions, to accept responsibility for one’s choices, and to practice good citizenship as part of multiple larger social units.

Part of the ECR effort is a campuswide "discussion book" program, which you have encouraged UAB students, faculty, and staff to participate in. You have touted this as part of your Quality Enhancement Plan for UAB.

The discussion book for 2008 is Field Notes From a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert. Previous discussion books have been The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (2005), The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (2006), and All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg (2007).

I was a UAB employee at the time you announced your discussion-book initiative, and I thought it was a terrific idea. In fact, I've read two of the four books in the series and have the other two on my "Read This, Pronto" list.

Now that I've been cheated out of my job at UAB, I wonder about your plans to promote "ethics and civic responsibility" on the UAB campus. And the word hypocrisy creeps into my mind.

While you promote ethics and responsibility for UAB faculty, staff, and students, I wonder about the ethics of the president's office--and the Board of Trustees and the Chancellor's Office, which oversees the University of Alabama System. It appears that ethics is promoted for the "commoners" in the UAB community, but they do not seem to apply at the upper reaches of the university structure--where you reside?

How do you square your promotion of an ECR program with your own behavior in my case? Do you feel like a hypocrite--even just a little?

* Here's a question I really wrestle with. As a middle-class guy who struggles to make it from paycheck to paycheck (or, now, unemployment check to unemployment check), I can't imagine what it is like to have it pretty much made financially.

From where I sit, you appear to be financially set--whether you remain UAB president for the long term or not. I'm sure you enjoy the power and prestige that comes with your elevated position. I'm sure you value the core tasks, challenges, and relationships that come with working in an academic environment. (I, too, enjoyed the tasks, challenges, and relationships of my job--until I was cheated out of it.) And I'm sure the $487,620 that UAB pays you annually comes in handy.

But your financial picture goes well beyond your UAB salary. A couple of years ago, you married a gentleman named Julian Banton, who is retired as president of SouthTrust Corporation and CEO of SouthTrust Bank. Mr. Banton has been a generous supporter of UAB and other worthy causes, and I think its safe to say his net worth runs into the several millions. It's pretty clear that Mr. Banton runs in the kind of financial circles with which most regular folks are not familiar.

So here is what I don't get about you: Why would someone of your financial means let themselves be pressured into unlawfully firing a 19-year employee who had done nothing to merit discipline of any kind, much less termination? I don't know what it's like to walk in your shoes. But if I were in your shoes, and someone pressured me to unlawfully fire one of my employees, I think I would tell the person, "Go to hell."

If you have the kind of ethics that you espouse for other UAB employees, that's certainly what you should have said. But evidently you did not say that. And news reports indicate you have allowed yourself to be pressured before.

When UAB was in the market for a new football coach two years, it was widely reported that the university was set to hire LSU assistant coach Jimbo Fisher, considered by many to be a rising star in the coaching ranks. Instead, UAB wound up hiring Georgia assistant Neil Callaway, a University of Alabama alumnus and former player for UA coaching icon Paul "Bear" Bryant. News reports stated that UA Chancellor Malcolm Portera and the Board of Trustees, led by Bryant's son Paul W. Bryant Jr., pressured UAB into hiring Callaway rather than Fisher. You evidently caved in, and Neil Callaway is now UAB's head coach. Jimbo Fisher is at Florida State, where he is designated to follow legendary head coach Bobby Bowden upon Bowden's retirement.
(A personal note: I think UAB wound up with a good football coach in Neil Callaway. I got to know Coach Callaway in the mid to late 1980s when he was an assistant at Auburn University, and I was Auburn beat writer for the Birmingham Post-Herald. He impressed me as a solid, no-nonsense coach then, and I thought he did a good job last year of getting UAB's program turned back in the right direction, providing much needed discipline and stability to a team that had gone off the tracks in recent years.)

I think there is a good chance that UAB football will thrive under Neil Callaway. But that's not the point here. The point is that you apparently caved in to pressure from Paul Bryant Jr. and Malcolm Portera. As a result, UAB did not hire the coach it really wanted to hire.

And my question again is why didn't you tell them to "go to hell." What were they going to do, fire you? They already had a discrimination lawsuit hanging over their heads from the exit of their previous female president, Ann Reynolds. You think they wanted another lawsuit, from their second female president? And even if they did fire you, so what? You're married to a gazillionnaire.

If you can't have some spine when you are married to a wealthy dude, when can you have some spine? And speaking of Bryant Jr. and Portera, I'm wondering if they--or someone in their general clan--provided some pressure for you to fire me?

Hmmm.

* In your public statement, you said that I was not fired because of politics. But Anita Bonasera, your own director of employee relations, stated in an audiotaped conversation that the "investigation" of my computer use at UAB indeed was prompted by political considerations--that I write a personal blog having to do with the Don Siegelman case. If you haven't heard that audio, you can check it out here. How do you square your statement with a statement from your own employee relations director indicating that my termination was driven by politics?

* I noted in a earlier post that you seem to have adopted the management style of Republican strategist Karl Rove. Given that Mr. Rove almost certainly has committed federal crimes in promoting political prosecutions by the Bush Justice Department, you shouldn't take that as a compliment. Your public statement has a Rovian quality throughout. For example, you say you haven't been contacted by any public officials or representatives of such regarding my termination. But that doesn't answer this question: Were you pressured by Malcolm Portera, Paul Bryant Jr., or some other representative of the Board of Trustees or Chancellor's Office for which you serve? Your statement reminds me of Rove's not-so-clever written statement that doesn't address whether he consulted Alabama operatives such as Bill Canary and Rob Riley regarding the Siegelman prosecution.

On the one hand, you are promoting ethics and responsibility for the UAB community. But on the other hand, regarding my termination, you seem to be behaving like Karl Rove--a name not often associated with ethics and responsibility.

Do you see a disconnect there?

The Original Legal Schnauzer, Part II



Here is another in our series of posts about the Original Legal Schnauzer, our wonderful girl Murphy (1993-2004). She helped us survive the worst of our legal nightmare and serves as the inspiration for this blog.

As you can see, she was a ridiculously cute puppy. Little wonder we fell in love with her right off the bat.

This is one of the first pictures we took of Murphy, just a few days after we brought her home from her birthplace in Selma, Alabama (actually about 15 miles south of Selma, near a wide spot in the road called Sardis, Alabama).

My wife and I particularly love this picture because it shows that "schnauzer look" Murphy has in her eyes. The schnauzer has been called "the dog with a human brain." In a way, that's an insult to schnauzers because the human brain can be filled with all kinds of evil intent--as evidenced by the actions we've reported on this blog.

From having Murphy at the center of our lives for 11 years, we feel the schnauzer brain is filled with nothing but good stuff. Maybe the phrase should be revised to say "the dog with the good part of the human brain."

By "schnauzer look" I mean this riveting gaze where you feel like your dog is trying to read your mind. And she wouldn't just do it when she wanted something, like supper or a walk or a game of hide-and-seek. Certainly there were times when Murphy was trying to tell us something, something she needed or wanted. But to us, it seemed like she spent a lot of time trying to figure out what we needed.

Murphy would lock eyes with us, and you could almost hear the wheels spinning in her head: "What are they thinking?" "What do they need? "How can I help?"

Murphy's inquisitive nature, playful spirit, and desire to help only seemed to grow stronger as she got older. As cute and wonderful as she was in her puppy years, Murphy was even more cool as an adult dog.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What Really Ails UAB's Research Machine

UAB attracts more than $400 million a year in federal research money, and those dollars have become a driving force behind the Birmingham economy.

But The Birmingham News reports today that UAB is losing quite a few of its top researchers. Reporter Hannah Wolfson writes that UAB's "brain drain" is caused partly by strong incentive packages that states such as Georgia and Kentucky can offer top researchers.

Problems with UAB's research enterprise, however, go deeper than that. I know because I worked there for 19 years before recently being fired, apparently because I write a blog (on my own time, with my own resources) that caused discomfort for folks connected to the Bush Justice Department.

Wolfson mentions seven scientists who have left UAB in recent years, but that is only a small sampling of the researchers who have hit the exits on the Southside. And they all have not left because of attractive incentive packages from other states. Some of them, I feel certain, were aware of irregularities at UAB and wanted to get out while the gettin' was good.

People close to UAB know that the university has had, and probably still has, significant problems with the way it administers its research programs. Vast sums of research money have been mismanaged at UAB over the past 10 years or so--at least--and the local press and law-enforcement officials have done a wonderful job of looking the other way.

In fact, the willingness of local law-enforcement officials to look the other way probably has a lot to do with why the university was so willing to unlawfully terminate me. UAB owed somebody a favor, and somebody was calling in the chips.

Well, we schnauzers are not prone to looking the other way when we smell wrongdoing. And there has been serious wrongdoing in the research game at UAB. We will be spelling it out, in excruciating detail, here at Legal Schnauzer.

In a general sense, UAB has experienced a leadership vacuum since Dr. Charles A. McCallum resigned as president in 1993, apparently because he was sick of dealing with interference from the University of Alabama Board of Trustees. McCallum went on to become mayor of Vestavia Hills, Alabama, and now in his early 80s, he will step down from that post at the end of 2008.

UAB was built by a series of visionary leaders--Tinsley Harrison, James Pittman, Joseph Volker, S. Richardson Hill, to name a few. McCallum is the last in a line of outstanding leaders, and that kind of vision is becoming a distant memory on Birmingham's Southside.

My little tale of woe is a tiny slice of UAB history. But it is symptomatic of a much bigger problem at one of Alabama's most important institutions. The wrongful termination of a 19-year employee, all because certain politicos don't like the truths presented in the employee's personal blog, is the kind of stupidity that would not have taken place when people like Dick Hill and Scotty McCallum were in charge at UAB.

But it did take place with Carol Garrison in charge. And a lot of dumb stuff also took place under her predecessors--Ann Reynolds and Claude Bennett. The sad truth is that UAB has had weak presidents for 15 of the past 19 years. It's a wonder I was able to work there as long as I did.

At one time, I had high hopes for Carol Garrison. For one, she is a UAB alum, with a master's degree in nursing, and I thought it was a good thing to have one of our own serve as the university's president. Garrison's personality and management style seemed to be a major improvement over that of Reynolds--of course, a wolverine from the forests of northern Michigan would have been an improvement in temperament over Reynolds.

But it seems apparent that Garrison will allow herself to be pushed around by certain political forces. And while Garrison talks a good game about ethics, evidence is mounting that she's not always the best about putting those thoughts into practice.

As for today's story, I don't normally have kind things to say about The Birmingham News and its right-wing ways. But I will give the paper and Ms. Wolfson credit for tackling an important subject with its UAB research story.

The story is interesting and addresses a number of important issues. But it doesn't really get beneath the surface of the problems connected to research at UAB.

To understand that, you will need to read Legal Schnauzer.

Turd Blossom Keeps Stepping in It

To folks in the journalism business, few things in life are sweeter than a great "lede."

And what is a lede? It's the first few sentences of a story, the part that either grabs a reader (if the lede is good) or sends them scurrying to the next page (if the lede is not so good).

The lede is to journalism what the lead-off man is to baseball. If you have a good lede, you are likely to have a good story. If your lead-off man gets on base regularly, you are likely to have a winning baseball team.

So it was with delight that I read today's op-ed column by Editor Bob Davis in the Anniston Star. Davis, writing about former White House strategist Karl Rove and his role in the Bush Justice Department scandal, fashions one of the best ledes I've read in awhile:

Poor Karl, he can't help it. He was born with a silver knife in his hand. To stick into his opponents' backs.

Who could resist a lede like that? Why, even Republicans would want to read the rest of that story.

And Davis does not disappoint as his piece moves along:

Funny thing about old Turd Blossom, he keeps stepping in it.

Most prominently we saw this during the outing of a covert CIA agent. Rove denied taking part in a plan to exact revenge upon a White House critic by exposing his wife's cover as a spy on behalf of the United States. According to a book by a former Bush spokesman, Rove said his hands were clean. That was revealed as false during the investigation.

Then there are the many cases involving rivals of political candidates hired by Rove. Untrue smear campaigns seem to follow many of those foes. The seeming Rove specialty is sex — this candidate is a closeted lesbian, this one is a pedophile, this one had an adulterous affair.

Rove manages to stay above it all, allowing the trained surrogates three degrees removed to do the dirty work.

Same rule applies to the scandal over the several U.S. attorneys who say they lost their jobs because they wouldn't pursue Democratic politicians in close elections against Republicans. A Rove aide's fingerprints are all over the firings.

Turn now to the Republican political briefing led by another Rove staffer who encouraged federal government employees to "support our candidates." Political activity on government time, by the way, is illegal.

That last sentence certainly jumped out to us here at Legal Schnauzer. One of the "grounds" UAB cited for my recent termination was that I was using government resources for "political activity." That charge, however, doesn't hold water--not even a drop. UAB's own IT guy, who allegedly monitored my computer use for a month, said I did not write the first word on my blog while on university time.

UAB's "investigation" seemed driven by a desire to see whether I had ever read anything on my computer involving former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. (Never mind that part of my job description is to keep up with news and issues related to Alabama, such as the Siegelman case.) But here's the strange thing: UAB policy defines improper political activity as having to do with a "political candidate, organization, or campaign." Since I started my blog in June 2007, Don Siegelman has been involved in none of those things. Mostly, he's been a federal prisoner.

So by UAB's own definition, I wasn't engaged in improper political activity. But it is clear that Karl Rove and his minions have long been using government property for political activity. And that only strengthens my suspicions that someone connected to Rove is behind my termination.

It's a classic Rove ploy: Charge your opponent (wrongfully) with the very offenses that you commit yourself.

Is it little wonder that the Bush administration, almost certainly the most corrupt in our nation's history, has been obsessed with bringing public-corruption charges against its opponents?

Like me, Davis sees the rich irony in the actions of Rove, Bush and their kin:

For his part, Karl wants us to believe he's done nothing wrong. Too bad he won't tell it under oath. He claims executive privilege, the limited right to shield conversations between a president and his staff.

Seems like President Bush would chisel out a door to his stonewall just this once. Let old Turd Blossom stand before the committee and answer what he knows under oath and the threat of perjury.

Rove is no stranger to talking. He's on the payroll of Fox News — naturally — as a commentator. He frequently dispenses his views on air.

Maybe he could find a little time to tell what he knows to the House Judiciary Committee and a public that needs assurances that its highest law-enforcers aren't under the sway of political operatives.

Friday, July 25, 2008

More Questions for UAB's President

We noted in a previous post that UAB President Carol Garrison, apparently receiving heat from the public, had issued a statement that my termination was based solely on work performance.

Like many "official statements," the one from Garrison raised a number of questions but provided almost no answers. So we started a list of questions for UAB's chief executive, a list we will continue here.

If you would like to pose these or other questions to Dr. Garrison or her trusty PR guy Gary Mans, I'm sure they would be delighted to hear from you. They can be reached at:

Carol Garrison: cgarrison@uab.edu; (205) 934-4636

Gary Mans: gmans@uab.edu; (205) 934-3884

Let's continue with our questions for Dr. Garrison:

* You seemed anxious to issue a written statement regarding my termination once you started receiving questions from the public about it. But when Lindsay Beyerstein of Raw Story was working on her recent investigative piece about my firing, she gave you and other UAB officials numerous opportunities to answer questions for publications. But you and others chose not to respond. Some of your underlings would not even confirm the spellings of their names or their job titles. Why is that? Your approach seems similar to the way former White House strategist Karl Rove is handling his subpoena from Congress. Mr. Rove is happy to provide "answers" in writing, but he refuses to be questioned about his role in the apparent political prosecutions of a number of public officials, including former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Do you model your management style after that of Karl Rove? Is he a public figure you seek to emulate?

* Dale Turnbough, your associate vice president for public relations and marketing, did tell Raw Story that I was not terminated because of my personal blog, but she said she could not comment further on a personnel matter. And yet you, through Gary Mans, proceeded to comment further on a personnel matter. Are the "left hand" and the "right hand" at UAB acquainted?

* During your tenure at UAB, can you cite another case where a 19-year employee (or an employee of any tenure, for that matter) has been terminated without warning, without any form of progressive discipline, as called for in the You & UAB Handbook, particularly for alleged offenses that didn't even come close to calling for immediate discharge?

* During your tenure at UAB, can you cite another case where an employee has been fired roughly three weeks after having filed a grievance against his supervisor? UAB policy says that an employee is to use the grievance process without fear of reprisal or penalty. Does that apply in all cases or only in some cases? Who makes that call?

* You state that my termination had nothing to do with "politics" or a "conspiracy" and that you have not been contacted by any public officials or representatives of public officials regarding my termination. Would you be willing to make your personal and professional e-mail and phone records available as a way of supporting that statement? What about members of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees or representatives of the University of Alabama System Office? They certainly could act as a go-between for any public official who was unhappy about the coverage of public events on my blog. Have you discussed my termination with any board members or system office personnel?

* UAB receives more than $400 million a year in federal research, and my understanding is that part of every grant application is a commitment that the recipient will abide by federal law and act in a nondiscriminatory way. Has UAB lived up to that commitment with its handling of my case?

* For years, UAB has touted the caring, "high touch" nature of its health care. One ad campaign stated "At the center is you." On a personal level, you have training as a nurse, a profession known for sensitivity and compassion. How does UAB's ad campaigns and your personal background square with your actions in my case. Let me share with you the human side of wrongfully terminating a 19-year employee--one whom your own grievance committee said should never have been fired, one whom evidence at a grievance hearing showed should not have been disciplined at all. My wife and I have received all of our health care at UAB throughout the 19 years I've worked there. Dr. Edward Childs at The Kirklin Clinic has been our primary-care physician, and we consider him to be both a superb clinician and a friend. Both my wife and I have been poked and probed, cut on and comforted, cared for and listened to--all at UAB. But someone in a place of power chose to complain because I was writing uncomfortable truths on my blog (on my own time, with my own resources). As a result, I'm out of a job and my wife and I have joined the millions of Americans who are without health insurance. We are fortunate to enjoy pretty good health, but we still have health-care needs--and it has been delightful to know that UAB has both cheated me out of a job and cheated my family out of health-care coverage. When I was forced to leave UAB, your benefits representative told me my coverage through VIVA Health (a company UAB started) would extend through August 1. Last week, my wife went to the pharmacy to get some medicine and was told our coverage had elapsed. We had to pay more than $300 for just a handful of prescriptions. Are there any other ways that UAB can screw this situation up? If I had done something to merit termination, that would be one thing. Losing your health insurance when you've behaved in an incompetent or stupid way on the job, is just part of the deal. But your own grievance committee found my termination was not based in fact. Which raises this question: Does UAB really care about its patients or is that just a clever slogan?

Has Rove Created a Culture of Threats?

While conducting research at one of our local courthouses recently, I stumbled upon an intriguing lawsuit.

It was filed last year in Alabama state court, in Montgomery, and contained important information about several prominent GOP political figures. The lawsuit received scant attention in the Alabama press, and the stories that were written about it left out some of the key points in the case--points that did not make two Alabama Republicans look so good.

We soon will be reporting in detail about this case and an apparent effort by the Alabama press to protect folks in the GOP power structure. But for now, I just want to mention one aspect of the lawsuit.

It features an allegation of a prominent Republican political operative making a threat to another statewide political figure. What was the subject that prompted the threat? Gambling. And Mississippi.

Hmmm.

This all comes to mind today as we read Brad Friedman's report that Karl Rove threatened a GOP high-tech guru if he does not "take the fall" for voting fraud in Ohio that decided the 2004 presidential election.

Friedman has reported that the high-tech guru, Mike Connell, has been at the scene of all recent Republican crimes, including Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. Connell works for New Media Communications, a Republican firm, and now it looks like Rove wants Connell to be the fall guy when the you-know-what hits the fan. And it sounds like something might be hitting the fan soon.

Here at Legal Schnauzer we are intimately familiar with GOPers and their tendency to make threats. We've been on the receiving end of quite a few threats. Like most cowards, the GOPers tend to make their threats anonymously.

But I have some real good ideas about the sources of threats directed at me. And the fine folks at Democratic Underground are looking for clues.

Interesting to see that Karl Rove, when under fire, tends to resort to threats. We have a Karl Rove wannabe in our state, and it looks like he does the same thing.

More from a most interesting Alabama lawsuit coming soon.

Huntsville TV Station Shows How Journalism is Done

Huntsville television station WHNT shows that at least one mainstream Alabama news outfit can produce real journalism on the brewing Bush Justice Department scandal.

Reporter Greg Privett discusses former Governor Don Siegelman's efforts to see that Karl Rove is held accountable for his role in apparent political prosecutions by the Bush Justice Department.

Siegelman, Privett reports, has started ContemptForRove.com, an online archive of information about the use of the justice system for political purposes.

Drawing particular scorn from Siegelman was Rove's written answers this week to questions from Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), a former Rove client:

"Even his written non-answers were not under oath and clearly evasive," Siegelman told us. "Rove refused to deny that he had plotted with the U.S. Attorney's husband, Bill Canary."

WHNT then gets to the core of Siegelman's concerns about Rove's recent actions:

Siegelman accuses Rove of plotting with the Canary couple along with Alabama's Attorney General. Siegelman did not mention him by name; but, at the time, the A.G. was Bill Pryor. The Bush-appointee now sits as a judge on the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In his letter to the Judiciary Committee, Rove fails to detail other relationships. Specifically, Siegelman says Rove does not deny communicating with Rob Riley, Governor Riley's son.

"According to sworn testimony before the Judiciary Committee, both Bill Canary and Rob Riley were on the call in which Canary said that Karl had it worked out with Justice to destroy me," Siegelman explains. "A business associate of Rob Riley's in Florida told Time Magazine that Rob Riley always bragged about his relationship with Rove."

Siegelman tells NewsChannel 19 that Alabama is one of Rove's favorite political stomping grounds. "Karl Rove built his career in Alabama working with Bill Canary." Governor Siegelman explained how Attorney General Pryor's office started investigating him in 1999, "right after I endorsed Al Gore," Siegelman said. "Leura Canary, accelerated the case federally in 2001, she indicted me during the 2006 campaign, and she brought me to trial less than four weeks before the election."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Some Questions for UAB's President

After receiving heat about my termination, UAB president Carol Garrison issued a public statement through her public relations director Gary Mans.

The statement raises more questions than it answers. Actually, it doesn't answer any questions, other than perhaps these: (1) Does anyone at UAB have a clue? (Answer: Evidently not); (2) Is anyone at UAB capable of giving an honest answer to a simple question? (Answer: Evidently not)

I figured I might as well be the guy to raise some questions with Dr. Garrison. If you would like to pose the following questions, or some of your own, I'm sure Dr. Garrison and her pal Gary Mans would be delighted to hear from you. You can reach them at:

* Carol Garrison: cgarrison@uab.edu; (205) 934-4636

* Gary Mans: gmans@uab.edu; (205) 934-3884

For review purposes, here is the statement regarding my termination from Carol Garrison:

Contrary to Mr. Shuler's statements, his termination had nothing to do with politics or any conspiracy, and the university has not been contacted by any public official or representative of such about this matter. Mr. Shuler was dismissed based solely on his work performance. Because this is a personnel matter, we cannot comment further.

Let's ponder a few questions for Dr. Garrison:

* According to UAB policy, you make the final decision regarding any appeal through the university's Problem Resolution Procedure (PRP). An employee can appeal a decision of the grievance committee to the human resources director (Cheryl Locke). If Locke rules against the employee (as she has indicated she will do in my case, even though the grievance committee recommended that I be reinstated), you are the last line of appeal. Despite your important role in this process, you already have publicly stated that my termination was based solely on work performance and evidently, in your mind, was justified. Why should I expect an objective review from you, given that you already have stated your opinion on the matter?

* You have stated that my termination was based on work performance. But your own employee grievance committee has found that my termination was wrongful and I should be reinstated. How do you square your statement with what my peers at UAB already have found?

* Your own human resources director, Cheryl Locke, has confirmed in writing--as reported on this blog--that the grievance committee found I should be reinstated? Why does your statement differ so radically from that of your HR director?

* You state that my termination was based on work performance. But I sat through the entire grievance hearing and heard the committee repeatedly ask my supervisor (Pam Powell) for documentation to support her claims that my performance was subpar. When asked multiple times if she could present such documentation, Powell answered, "No." How do you square your statement with the total lack of evidence to support a claim that I was fired for poor work performance?

* I filed a grievance against my supervisor, Pam Powell, on April 22. UAB policy is clear: An employee is to use the grievance process without fear of reprisal or penalty. And yet, after filing a grievance, I was fired. And my termination was based on the word of the supervisor against whom I had filed a grievance. As UAB's chief executive, why would you allow the university's policies to be violated in this way?

* Even if the charges against me were true--and the grievance hearing clearly showed they were not--UAB policy states that supervisors are to use a "progressive discipline" process. This means the least severe form of discipline, oral warning, should be applied before more severe forms of discipline (written warning, suspension, probation, termination) come into play. I never received an oral warning about any of the issues upon which my termination was allegedly based. Again, as UAB's chief executive, why would you allow the university's policies to be violated in this way?

* In my case, a 19-year employee was immediately terminated, with no warning. The You & UAB Handbook gives examples of offenses that call for immediate termination. These include offenses such as fighting, stealing, being drunk on the job, being under the influence of illegal drugs on the job, etc. Even if true (and they are not), the allegations against me do not come close to this level of offense. Does the UAB handbook mean anything, or are managers allowed to terminate employees according to whim?

(To be continued)

Fix Was in on Siegelman Case

MSNBC's Dan Abrams has broken a new chapter in the story of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.

Julian Epstein, former counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, told Abrams that a number of Republicans have admitted to him off camera that the Siegelman case was fixed.

Glynn Wilson, of Locust Fork World News, has a complete report here.

Wilson also has a link to a scathing new post from Harper's Scott Horton. A law professor at Columbia University, Horton essentially says that Attorney General Michael Mukasey has been no more accountable than his disgraced predecessor Alberto Gonzalez.

Specifically, Horton raises these issues regarding Mukasey and the Justice Department:

* Why were prosecutors in the Siegelman case allowed to hold improper ex parte dealings with trial judge Mark Fuller?

* What evidence has the Justice Department uncovered to indicate that e-mails between jurors in the Siegelman case were "fakes?" Steps taken by postal inspectors do not warrant that conclusion, and steps that could have settled the matter were not taken. Why?

* Defense counsel during the Siegelman trial asked the court to issue subpoenas to Internet service providers to ascertain whether the e-mails were genuine and to learn who sent them. Prosecutors objected, and Judge Mark Fuller refused to issue subpoenas. Instead, he held off on sentencing for almost one year, a period which coincides with the retention period of many Internet service providers. Did Fuller delay sentencing so that the truth behind the juror e-mails would not be discovered?

Siegelman Judge Pulled a Fast One on Defense Team

A number of national journalists, especially Scott Horton of Harper's, have presented ample evidence that U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller was hardly an impartial arbiter in his handling of the Don Siegelman case.

New evidence, out today, should erase any doubts that Fuller acted corruptly in the trial that saw the former Alabama governor convicted along with former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.

A Justice Department letter dated July 8 shows that communications regarding possible juror misconduct were kept from defense attorneys.

Postal inspectors determined the e-mails between jurors were fakes, and that information was presented to Fuller and prosecutors. The information was withheld from defense attorneys. Inspectors were not able to determine where the e-mails originated.

Fuller twice ruled that jurors were not improperly influenced by outside information and denied defense motions for new trials.

"The obvious question is whether the judge's rulings were influenced by information he had that wasn't available to defense counsel," said U.S. Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL).

Folks who regularly read The Birmingham News probably will not be surprised by the difference in the paper's coverage compared to that of Associated Press reporter Ben Evans.

The AP report mentions right up front that the story involves possible improper behavior by prosecutors in judge. In the News' story by Mary Orndorff we do not learn that the story has anything to do with Fuller until the eighth paragraph.

Hmmm.

Bush Justice Department Produces Bipartisan Victims

Folks on the right side of the political spectrum have tended to portray the Bush Justice Department scandal as a partisan matter.

A recent example comes from Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), ranking minority member on the House Judiciary Committee. He offers up written questions to former White House strategist Karl Rove regarding the Don Siegelman prosecution in Alabama. Smith is a former client of Rove's, and the Congressman evidently is unaware of how absurd his actions appear.

Larisa Alexandrovna, of at-Largely, is acutely aware of the absurdity here, and she does a bang-up job of illustrating the inanity of Smith's questions, particularly his insistence upon leaving Alabama political operative Bill Canary out of the equation.

Glynn Wilson, of Locust Fork World News, has an excellent overview of the Rove/Smith tango, including comments from exclusive interviews with Scott Horton and Jill Simpson.

While folks like Smith attempt to treat this in a partisan fashion, people who are paying attention know that the Bush Justice Department has created victims on all sides of the political spectrum. In fact, the first known victims, nine fired U.S. attorneys, were all Republicans and Bush appointees. Perhaps the most heroic figure in the whole story, Alabama whistleblower Jill Simpson, is a longtime Republican who has seen her professional life damaged and her personal life threatened.

Scott Horton, of Harper's, reminds us of the bipartisan nature of the Bush DOJ story by presenting a splendid interview with David Iglesias, former U.S. attorney in New Mexico and one of the nine USAs targeted for dismissal by the loyal Bushies at main Justice. Iglesias' crime? Failure to prosecute voter fraud cases when an investigation produced no solid evidence of voter fraud.

Horton notes that rather than honor a subpoena to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, Rove attended a gathering of post-Soviet oligarchs in Ukraine. Why would Rove do such a thing? Horton asks Iglesias if it has something to do with 18 U.S. Code 1503(a), which prohibits "corruptly influencing" a criminal prosecution:

Rove should have appeared before Congress and claimed privilege. Rather, he thumbed his nose at a co-equal branch of government and showed his utter disregard for their powers. His actions are contemptuous per se and he should be held in contempt by the House. The language of 18 USC § 1503(a) is broad since it speaks of “influencing” an “officer…of the United States” in the “discharge of his duties” including the “due administration of justice.”

Applying this test to the allegations concerning the Siegelman matter, for instance, the evidence suggests that Rove influenced a U.S. Attorney in the discharge of her duties. This is a very serious matter and needs to be fully investigated since a non-attorney policy adviser has no business influencing the indictment of an elected official.

What about the future? Horton asks Iglesias about the challenges facing the next U.S. attorney general:

The Justice Department’s reservoir of trust is empty and dry. It will take completely new leadership at main Justice and in the field to re-build the faith the public once had in the fairness of the federal criminal system. This is the real tragedy of the scandal—certainly it is not about a few highly performing U.S. Attorneys being fired for improper political reasons; rather, it is the unintended consequence of serious damage to the reputation to the nation’s premier crime fighting organization. It doesn’t help when the press officers are engaging in a pattern of obfuscation, half truths and untruths as former U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins so forcefully described in his Washington Monthly article. . . .

The next attorney general needs to understand the historic independence and integrity of the U.S. attorney. We are not merely politically appointees—we are the only members of the administration who can take away your life, liberty and property. Ultimately we need leaders at main Justice who understand that the administration of justice is a matter of right and wrong, not a matter of right or left.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What On Earth Was Obama's Legal Advisor Thinking?

Cass Sunstein obviously is a bright guy. He used to be at the University of Chicago Law School, and earlier this year, he joined the faculty at Harvard Law School. Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama thinks enough of Sunstein to make him an informal legal advisor.

So how could Sunstein utter the dumbfoundingly stupid comment he made to Ari Melber at last week's Netroots Nation event in Austin, Texas.

Melber, reporting at The Nation and Huffington Post, said Sunstein cautioned against prosecuting criminal conduct by the Bush administration. Holding the Bushies accountable would risk a "cycle" of criminalizing public service, Sunstein said.

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, one of the primary attractions at Netroots Nation and the most famous victim of the Bush Justice Department, treated Sunstein's comments with more dignity than they deserved. "Give me a break," Siegelman said when told about the statements from Obama's legal advisor.

I will be less diplomatic than Siegelman was. Sunstein's comments are unfettered horsefeathers. To the many people who have suffered at the hands of the Bush Justice Department--like Siegelman and yours truly--Sunstein's words are insulting, condescending, and enraging.

Here's something Sunstein should try. He should present his ideas to the families of Paul Minor, Wes Teel, and John Whitfield, three Mississippians who remain in federal prison for the crime of behaving as Democrats in a blood-red Deep South state.

I don't think Sunstein would want to be locked in a room with my wife at the moment. Her "Serbian temper" went off like a rocket when she saw a report about Sunstein's comments on Countdown With Keith Olbermann last night.

Does my wife know what it's like to suffer in Karl Rove's Alabama? You're darn tootin'. She has seen our life savings wiped out because we had to fight a bogus lawsuit filed by a corrupt lawyer with direct family ties to Karl Rove. She has seen her house--or at least a portion of it--unlawfully auctioned off because of actions by this corrupt lawyer and the corrupt sheriff in Shelby County, Alabama, where we live. She has lost out on any number of job possibilities under peculiar circumstances that strongly suggest someone was checking our home phone and calling around to prospective employers to cost her jobs. (How's that for the Bush surveillance state?) And most recently, she saw her husband (me) lose his job at UAB in a career assassination that clearly was driven by loyal Bushies who are uncomfortable with the truths being reported on this blog.

Listen up, Mr. Sunstein. Don Siegelman, Paul Minor, my wife, me, and many others do not view the Bush Justice Department in a theoretical sense. We don't see it as a political issue, the way you evidently do. We see it as a matter of life and death, of justice, of right and wrong. We have been assaulted by loyal Bushies, and to quote the Big Guy in the Good Book, "Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord!"

Are you with us or not?

Thankfully, not all legal scholars think as you do. Jonathan Turley, of Georgetown University, took you to serious task, both on his personal blog and the Olbermann show. After noting that you had been so kind as to say that "egregious crimes should not be ignored," Turley had this splendid question: Since when have we had non-egregious crimes? Why should we ignore any crimes?

The Bushies have made mincemeat of our constitution. Can crime get more egregious than that?

Those of us who had planned to vote for Obama did so partly because we considered him a man of good judgment. But if he is surrounding himself with advisors like Sunstein, how good of judgment does Obama have? And those of us whose lives have been damaged or ruined by loyal Bushies were counting on Obama to have a spine. If we want a spineless leader with poor judgment, we might as well keep the president we've got.

Some unsolicited advice for Obama: Cut ties with Cass Sunstein immediately and repudiate his remarks in clear and concise language. Make it clear that your administration will stand for the rule of law--no ifs, ands, or buts. And state unequivocally that you support full investigation and prosecution of any crimes committed by the Bush administration.

If you do not take these steps, and do it in a big hurry, this is one (former?) Democrat who will be voting for Ralph Nader.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Was I Fired Because of Politics? You Make the Call

We have UAB's two spinmeisters making public statements that my termination had nothing to do with blogging or politics.

Do Dale Turnbough and Gary Mans know what they are talking about?

Well, let's just say we have some evidence that begs to differ with the UAB spin machine.

This evidence comes from Anita Bonasera, director of employee relations at UAB. Bonasera conducted the May 7 meeting at which I was placed on administrative leave (before being fired on May 19).

At the close of the May 7 meeting, Bonasera asked for my employee badge and office key, told me I was not to report to work until further notice, and that I would not be allowed to return to my desk to gather my personal belongings. You might say I now know what it is like to be treated like a criminal. (By the way, more than two months later, UAB still has a number of my personal belongings--even though I have repeatedly asked for their return.)

Since that May 7 meeting, a UAB employee grievance committee has found that I never should have been terminated. I sat through the entire grievance hearing, and saw that not one shred of documentation was presented to support my termination, the administrative leave, or any other form of discipline.

In short, UAB's own committee found that the university screwed up royally. But I'm still waiting for an apology from Bonasera for seeing to it that I was treated like a criminal. I'm also still waiting to be reinstated to the job I never should have had stolen from me--and to have my personnel file cleared of bogus written warnings that never should have been there.

So far, UAB Human Resources Director Cheryl Locke has insisted that I can only return to UAB with two written warnings in my file and if I accept a position other than the one I used to hold. I've refused those conditions for reasons I cited here, so I expect to receive written notice in the mail any day that Locke is going to uphold a termination that her own committee found was wrongful.

But let's return to the subject of Bonasera. Before making sure I was treated like a criminal, she told me that I could file a written response to the administrative leave letter from my supervisor, Pam Powell. (The same Pam Powell against whom I had a pending grievance at the time I was placed on leave. UAB policy says an employee cannot be penalized for filing a grievance. But I was fired after filing a grievance. Policy, schmolicy.)

Powell's letter was so vague, and the issues raised verbally in the meeting had been so off-the-wall, that I needed to call Bonasera to ask her several questions regarding my response.

For one thing, I wanted to ask Bonasera for an extension of time to prepare the response. One of the most baffling charges in the meeting had been that I had engaged in excessive "non-work related activity" (NWR) on my work computer. I had never heard of the term NWR while at UAB and had never seen it defined in UAB policy. Also, I had no idea who made the determination that something was or was not NWR. (Bonasera informed me that Pam Powell made that determination, the same Pam Powell against whom I had a pending grievance. How's that for objectivity?)

For some reason, I thought it might be helpful to explain the nature of my job to Bonasera, to show that what Powell was suddenly calling NWR actually was activity that was part of my job requirements (as outlined numerous times over the years by Powell herself).

I thought it might be helpful to tape record my conversation with Bonasera. After sitting through the administrative-leave meeting, with its Alice in Wonderland qualities, I wanted to make sure I had a record of the charges being leveled against me. Seeing as how UAB had not given me a written description of these charges, I thought I had better get a tape recorded version of them myself. (By the way, it is legal in Alabama to tape record a phone conversation, as long as one party knows about it.)

Following is a roughly three-minute segment of my conversation with Anita Bonasera. It leaves little doubt about what was actually behind the process that led to my termination at UAB. The key statements from Bonasera--regarding the role blogging and Don Siegelman played in the investigation of my computer usage--start at about the 1:50 mark.

You can listen to the audio here:

Audio: UAB and the Cost of Blogging About the Siegelman Case

Do UAB's high-paid PR flacks have a clue about what really happened in my case? Or are they just "expert" liars? Did my termination really have anything to do with work performance? Or was it a political "career assassination," driven by right-wingers who were uncomfortable with the truths presented on this blog?

You make the call.