HATCHET JOBS

9 02 2008

Like a nasty divorce, the end of the Cheney-Bush regime just keeps getting weirder, as the junta strives to leave the next administration with every possible roadblock and as few options as possible. Ain’t democracy wonderful? They can create total havoc and just walk away from it! New administration! Home free!

An example of that here in Nashville is Bush’s nomination of Gus Puryear, the 38-year old general counsel of Corrections Corporation of America, as Federal District Judge. Just in case you didn’t know, the purpose of CCA is “ to fill the available beds currently in our system, as well as to reduce costs,” according to company president John Ferguson. Reduce recidivism? Are you kidding? We got beds to fill! Corrections Corporation of America wants YOU!...but, I digress….

While working for CCA, Mr. Puryear was paid over $800,000 a year in salary and “long term compensation,” and also granted millions of dollars in stock options. Before taking on the CCA job in 2001, he was legislative director for Bill “The Vampire” Frist and served on then-Senator Fred Thompson’s committee investigating campaign financing in the late nineties. That might actually be to his credit; some commentators attribute the Repuglican establishment’s coolness towards Thompson to his relative even-handedness at that time.

Puryear, a champion debator in college, also served a debate coach for Dick Cheney prior to the Cheney-Lieberman debate in 2000. Of that experience, he said,

“It was an honor to help him. Like Senator Frist, Cheney is a brilliant man. In fact, there wasn’t a lot of work that had to be done to prepare Cheney because he has had such a rich life experience and knows so much about the issues.”

I think that statement speaks for itself…although there are some remarks about helping Cheney master debate that come to mind….

Prior to his work with Thompson, Puryear was a junior partner in a Nashville law firm for three years, and prior to that he worked as a clerk for a federal judge in Mississippi. Prior to that, he was wet behind the ears, as they say.

In fact, compared to most people who call themselves lawyers, Puryear is still wet behind the ears. Since graduating from law school in 1993, he has handled one case that went to trial. One. And this guy is getting a lifetime appointment to the Federal trial bench? What does he know? Or is it who?

It’s who he knows. It’s about Corrections Corporation of America, which just happens to be a major Republican party supporter. Other corporate ghouls split their bets, but not CCA. And CCA is headquartered here in Nashville, which means that this is the Federal Courtroom in which CCA most often gets called to trial, and believe me, it happens. It has happened about 400 times in the company’s history, just here in Nashville. let alone elsewhere. It is likely to happen again, and again, and again. And if Puryear is the judge, he will have to either recuse himself, which will be a costly and time-consuming bump in the road for the litigants, or he will, like other recent Repuglican bench appointees, declare that he has no conflict of interest (just millions of dollars in stock options), and hear the case. If he finds for CCA, the plaintiffs will likely appeal, if he can afford to. If.

Puryear has publicly shown his bias, saying

“Litigation is an outlet for inmates . It’s something they can do in their spare time. Most of these folks have had extensive contact with the legal system and are in facilities where they have access to legal materials. Many have turned themselves into jail-house lawyers.”

To support his view, he will cite

cases such as a prisoner suing CCA to have her silicone breast implants replaced with saline implants, a prisoner suing to have an onion served with every meal, and a prisoner filing a lawsuit claiming he had seizures after using an expired tube of denture adhesive sold in the prison commissary.

according to the group Tennesseans Against Gus Puryear, which, on its website, goes on to point out that, while the examples Puryear cites were, justifiably, dismissed, plaintiffs have won many awards against CCA for serious abuses, such as

$3 million South Carolina jury award for the abuse of juveniles at a CCA facility (2000), a $1.6 million settlement for a suit involving abuse at CCA’s Youngstown, Ohio facility (1999); a 2002 $5 million settlement to a female prisoner who was raped by Transcor guards (Transcor is a CCA subsidiary); an undisclosed settlement to the family of Estelle Richardson, who died at CCA’s Metro jail in Nashville (2007); and a $235,000 jury award for medical neglect involving a TN prisoner (2002). In fact, from Jan. 1, 2001 through Dec. 31, 2003, CCA settled over 190 suits for a combined total of $7.39 million (these cases involved both prisoner and employee litigation).

So, I think we can see the favor being done here, don’t you?

This is a bit of a “sleeper” issue. Puryear’s appointment was announced back in June, but I didn’t hear about it until last week, when I happened to notice a paid advertisment in the local paper. Puryear’s hearing is coming right up on Tuesday, February 12, so there’s no time to lose–please call Senator Diane Feinstein at (202) 224-7703 and let your objections be known. She will be chairing the hearing. Senator Patrick Leahy would also be a good person to call, as he is less likely to roll over for the administration than Senator Feinstein. Sen. Leahy’s office number is (202) 224-4242. Call them Monday. It’s the last chance to stop Bush from doing some local, lasting damage.

But it’s part of a pattern, isn’t it?

It now appears that the Bush junta slipped their man into the 9-11 Commission to make sure that some questions didn’t get asked. The man, Phillip Zelikow, denies everything, of course, and claims that he was seen at the time as antagonistic to the administration, but when you go check out the record, you can see that people had doubts even then. Meanwhile, you can bet the Democrats won’t investigate this one, because it was a “bipartisan” commission and they’re not going to risk getting their own people in trouble.

Same shape, different components… like the EPA commissioner denying California’s request for higher standards, like delaying the decision on Polar Bear status until after the Chukchi Sea oil lease sale, like withholding a CDC report on environmental pollution and health around the Great Lakes, like trying to conclude a “memorandum of understanding” with Iraq that will keep US troops there indefinitely and have the same legal force as a treaty, but without need for Congressional approval.

It’s the same shape as increasing the military budget while cutting money for Medicare and Medicaid and limiting medical support for veterans and then taking that one step further and no longer providing assistance filling out forms for what medical benefits are still available. In another lawsuit, the so-called Department of Justice argued as follows:

“veterans’ (are eligiable) for health care, but (are not entitled) to any particular medical service…”

They said the law entitles veterans only to “medical care which the secretary (of Veterans Affairs) determines is needed, and only to the extent funds … are available.”

Now, I am not in favor of armies or killing people, but I am in favor of compassion, and in my opinion military veterans are very much in need of our compassion, expressed in part by giving them good medical treatment for the rest of their lives. All of us ought to be getting that, but you gotta start somewhere, and veterans had good health coverage, until the government decided to cut back their former promise of lifetime health coverage for veterans to a five-year, limited promise.

Hey, at least Bush is being fair and cutting back Medicare and Medicaid, too. All us poor folks gonna share the hurt equally. Gotta fuel them fuel wars, y’know?

And the Democrats fuss and fume about all these symptoms, these symptoms of the pathology that has taken over our government, but they are too invested and compromised to go to the root of the problem and impeach Cheney and Bush. Hey, they told Nancy Pelosi about torture when it happened, and she agreed to keep her mouth shut.

And so, obsessed with and distracted by the million trivialities of the mainstream media, America drifts with increasing speed towards an unimaginable cataclysm. The Repugs know it; all that denial is just for show. Their take is that there ain’t enough to go around, so they’re gonna use their wealth and power to make sure they get theirs, and to hell with the rest of us. The Dumbocrats don’t have a clue, except for the ones who are in on the fix.

Two years before the fall of Communism, nobody saw it coming, and the same will undoubtedly prove true of what is about to happen to us. I mean, I see it coming, but very few people are listening to me and my fellow fringe-crazies.

Get ready for what?

music: Bob Dylan, “Masters of War”

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