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March 13, 2006

Bizarre Follies
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:33 PM * 57 comments

Let’s start with this: remember Zacarias Moussaoui? The “20th hijacker,” the only person brought to trial in the US for involvement in the 9/11 attacks?

The Sierra Hotel lawyers for the government are doing their best to blow that case. Most recently, most spectacularly, by witness tampering.

“This is the second significant error by the government affecting the constitutional rights of the defendant and the criminal justice system in this country in the context of a death case,” Brinkema told lawyers in the case outside the presence of the jury.

Defense attorney Edward MacMahon moved to have the judge dismiss the death penalty as a possible outcome, saying “this is not going to be a fair trial.” In the alternative, he said, at least she should excuse the government’s FAA witnesses from the case.

Prosecutor David Novak replied that removing the FAA witnesses would “exclude half the government’s case.” Novak suggested instead that the problem could be fixed by a vigorous cross-examination by the defense.

But Brinkema said she would need time to study what to do.

“In all the years I’ve been on the bench, I have never seen such an egregious violation of a rule on witnesses,” she said.

This action by the Bush justice department makes us safer how? What were they thinking?

I imagine that a conversation somewhere at a very high level went like this:

“We haven’t got anything to show for our War on Terror. We need some convictions and some serious sentences.”

“But judges and juries —”

“I want that guy Moussaoui to get the death penalty. I don’t care what you do, just do it.”

“Yessir. We can —”

“I don’t want to know the details. Either come back with the right verdict or don’t come back.”

Next bizarre bit of business: do you recall Claude A. Allen? Job title was Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy. He was in charge of abstinence education, school prayer policy, and, recently, coordinating the White House’s reaction to Katrina. (“What should we do about Katrina? We don’t have a prayer — wait! Maybe if we just abstained from doing anything…?”) Bush had proposed a federal judgeship for him.

A month ago he abruptly resigned “to spend more time with his family.”

Then last Friday he was arrested in Maryland for a weird retail fraud scheme. Seems he’s alleged to have gone into various big-box retail stores, bought a bunch of items (a Bose home theater, clothing, printers, etc.), then gone out to his car, left the items there, taken the empty bag and the receipt back into the store, picked up identical items off the shelves, put ‘em in the bag, and taken the bag and the receipt over to Customer Service for a refund.

He claims it was all a misunderstanding. A misunderstanding that he apparently had somewhere around 25 different times in various stores in the last year alone.

A cry for help? Or a long-time fraudmeister finally busted? Leave it to the jury to figure out — provided the prosecution can refrain from tampering with the witnesses.

Comments on Bizarre Follies:
#1 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 01:53 PM:

> Then last Friday he was arrested in Maryland
> for a weird retail fraud scheme

part of me is wondering: is this the same guy?
Maybe two people with the same name?
A quick look at the photos show they're the same,
though, and it just boggles the mind.

(boggling)

(boggling)

(boggling)

I'm still boggled...
I'll leave it at that.

#2 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 02:06 PM:

Just because you're an idiot on a large scale doesn't mean you can't also be an idiot on a small one.

#3 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 02:46 PM:

Defense attorney Edward MacMahon moved to have the judge dismiss the death penalty as a possible outcome

Every now and then, I run across these sorts of sentences, and I think "I'm so sorry about the name, dude..." He's got to have heard every bad "Tonight Show" joke ever created, and probably a good many of them from the bench...

#4 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 03:55 PM:

According to the Washington Post the White House (if not the President) was aware of the investigation as early as Jan. 2. Allen resigned in early February to "spend more time with his family." It's all an unfortunate misunderstanding, of course.

#5 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 03:55 PM:

I wouldn't have thought to link these two items but I am not as attuned to the Bizarro-world of the US government as Mr. Macdonald. I've been following the Moussaiou case with interest, and am doing a fair amount of boggling at the behavior of the Justice Department -- I can't imagine what they thought they were doing. Re: Claude Allen, WTF? I have no clue. Call it a cry for help. I do not know. Weirdness abounds.

#6 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 04:08 PM:

Part of me feels sorry for Mr. Allen.

The rest of me is really, really, really looking forward to The Daily Show tonight.

#7 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 04:32 PM:

Ok, this just gets weirder. He apparently has an identical twin brother. According to NPR, some people which NPR didn't name are suggesting that perhaps the identical twin might be able to shed some light on the fraud scheme. (There was nothing concrete to that reporting though.)


#8 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 04:42 PM:

He resigned to spend more time with his money.

#9 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 04:50 PM:

Every now and then, I run across these sorts of sentences, and I think "I'm so sorry about the name, dude..." He's got to have heard every bad "Tonight Show" joke ever created, and probably a good many of them from the bench...

I worked with a guy named Rich Clark, and I swear it took me YEARS to notice.

Sometimes I'm glacial.

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 05:04 PM:

The script for the Shrub administration is written by a team including Franz Kafka, Karel Capek, Groucho Marx, and William McGonnagal. That's the only sane explanation of which I can think.

#11 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 05:50 PM:

Fragano Ledgister: ...That's the only sane explanation of which I can think

You're trying to think of a sane explanation? Well, there's your mistake right there.

I think it was Sam Clemens who pointed out that the reason why truth is stranger than fiction is that fiction is required to make sense.

#12 ::: Dave Levin ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 06:14 PM:

In regard to the trampling of rights, here's a link to a This American Life radio segment about Guantanamo Bay, that aired a few days ago.


http://www.thislife.org/pages/descriptions/06/310.html

If there should be a problem with this URL, one can get to the broadcast via the more normal way, via www.thislife.org.

#13 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 06:18 PM:

Claude Allen was one of the few guys in the Bush administration surviving on just a meagre salary of $150,000 p/a. He must've had a serious case of keeping up with the jones in that environment of self-enriching crooks.

#14 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 06:39 PM:

I will second (third?) the recommendation for that episode of This American Life.

An alternate title might be "Evidence for the war crime trial."

#15 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 07:44 PM:

George Bush's top advisor for domestic policy is a thief. That explains a lot, actually.

The astounding part of this is that many Americans never noticed, not until the man was actually arrested.

More seriously, the White House knew in early January that they had a high-level thief working there, with full access to all sorts of high-level secrets. As far as the American public knows, not a single step was taken to yank his security clearance in the month before the thief was pressured to resign.

The Bush Junta really has no regard at all for the simplest precautions to protect our national security.

#16 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 07:54 PM:

Allen wasn't a "high-level thief." What he was doing was just a step above shoplifting or check kiting. The kind of scam a meth addict or compulsive gambler gets into.

If he was a high-level thief -- say, by finding a way to funnel public funds going to "faith based" aid agencies into a contracting firm owned by his wife -- they probably would have given him a pass.

You know, as long as they got a campaign contribution.

#17 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 08:18 PM:

Stefan: uh, yeah: I meant "high-level" in the sense of "someone whose job is at the top of the federal bureaucracy, with direct access to the President."

And I was pointing out that much of the advice that Allen gave on domestic policy amounted to various schemes for stealing.

Studying the news, we read of George Bush's response:

"If the allegations are true, something went wrong in Claude Allen's life and that is really sad," Bush said in a statement.

"When I heard the story, I was shocked and my first reaction was one of disappointment, deep disappointment. Shortly thereafter I felt really sad
for the Allen family."

Curiously, Mr Bush's reaction to the news did not allude to his own arrest for theft.

#18 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 09:31 PM:

The script for the Shrub administration is written by a team including Franz Kafka, Karel Capek, Groucho Marx, and William McGonnagal.

I would pay heavy money to see Donald Rumsfeld square off behind the podium and launch into The Tay Bridge Disaster.

#19 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 10:16 PM:

Ross Smith: Fiction doesn't always make sense. Think of late Heinlein. Or of the young man I just flunked for plagiarism who told me "I turned in the wrong paper" and seemed deeply hurt when my reply was "I don't believe you."

#20 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 10:17 PM:

Bob Oldendorf: That should read 'Bush's top domestic advisor is a petty thief.

#21 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 10:19 PM:

Bruce Durocher: It would make more sense than some of Rummy's recent pronouncements ('FDR was unpopular'...Gee, he was so unpopular he got elected for a fourth term after campaiging for a third term on a 'he kept us out of war' platform).

#22 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 10:46 PM:

I think it was Sam Clemens who pointed out that the reason why truth is stranger than fiction is that fiction is required to make sense.

Which is why Fletcher Knebel (author of Seven Days in May, Vanished, et al) stopped writing political fiction after Watergate -- he said the truth was so strange that he couldn't write anything that was still fiction but believable.

#23 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 12:51 AM:

When Henry Kissinger won the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, Tom Lehrer is reported to have said "It was the moment satire died ... What could I come up with that could beat that?" (Or words to that effect: SMH interview)

#24 ::: y ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 12:52 AM:

Which is why Fletcher Knebel (author of Seven Days in May, Vanished, et al) stopped writing political fiction after Watergate -- he said the truth was so strange that he couldn't write anything that was still fiction but believable.

It was something of the sort, or so he said, that made Tom Lehrer give up satire, alas.

#25 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 01:37 AM:

Haven't you heard? It was Claude Allen's evil twin Floyd.

Yeah, that would explain why he resigned: this gang is full of guys who step aside rather than sully the team's reputation.

Where's Puddinhead Wilson when you need him?

#26 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 01:42 AM:

oooh! Snap.

    Epacris, meet y; y, Epacris here.
I'm trying to post my lasting memory from the Sydney Olympics, looking across the floor at the Graeco-Roman Wrestling finals, but it keeps stopping me for "questionable content".

#27 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 01:45 AM:

The finals were a great spectacle in themselves, and became a 'must-see' for me decades ago after watching the wrestling scene in Topkapi. It gave me a very strange sensation, though, to see Henry Kissinger and Juan Antonio Samaranch sitting cosily together ready to hand out the medals. (Others managed to hook up with eligible Danish princes ... mutter, mutter, grumble ) <waves shyly across an anchronistically bleak Sydney afternoon to Epacris>

#28 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 01:51 AM:

So, it looks like the link it didn't like was the stuff about the historical origins of the sport at www[dot]kirkpinar[dot]50megs[dot]com [slash] oil05[dot]htm

#29 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 02:33 AM:

The problem was that 50megs.com had, at some point, been used by a comment-spammer. I've removed that restriction (and it'll stay open until the next time a comment-spammer uses a 50megs.com address).

#30 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 05:42 AM:

Next bizarre bit of business: do you recall Claude A. Allen?

The Whitehouse seemingly doesn't - I'm getting a 404 on that link.

#31 ::: Richard Parker ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 06:34 AM:

The Whitehouse seemingly doesn't - I'm getting a 404 on that link.

Whoever scrubbed the link from the whitehouse.gov site wasn't terribly thorough, the text version of the page is still available. The original graphic version of Claude Allen's bio is still available in Google's cache, although presumably it'll disappear as soon as Google gets around to recrawling the page.

#32 ::: Captain Slack ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 09:42 AM:

But Fragano, FDR was popular in the Rumsfeld household when Donald (Princeton '55, for my sins and my dad's), and that's all Rummy needs to know.

Actually, Mez, y owes Epacris a Coke. (Jinx!)

#33 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 10:01 AM:

Captain Slack: I'm confused. When Donald what?

#34 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 10:56 AM:

Here's the text of that page the White House removed:

THE PRESIDENT & HIS LEADERSHIP TEAM

Claude A. Allen -- White House Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy

Most recently, Claude A. Allen was the Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services. He also served as the Secretary of Health and Human Resources for the State of Virginia and served in the Virginia Attorney General's Office from 1995 to 1998. He was an Associate at Baker & Botts in Washington, D.C. from 1991 to 1995 and served as a professional staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1985 to 1987. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and Duke University Law School.

202-456-5594


They got rid of him a lot faster than they dumped Heckuvajob Brownie.

The National Organization for Women didn't think much of him.

#35 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 10:59 AM:

Jim Macdonald: Is it just me, or is the fall of Allen a general stimulus of schadenfreude?

#36 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 11:12 AM:

Thanks JDM, for clearing up the "questionable content" query. It is just a touch disappointing that it wasn't the references to oiling up, wrestling & black leather trousers that triggered the spring.

Orf to beddy-byes now at the fag-end of the Ides of March, all tired out from the excitement of our Royal Visit (ER2, not PNH), fishery protests, et al.

#37 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 11:16 AM:

What with that Evil(?) Twin business, this is starting to remind me of "Arrested Development". Next episode: driving around in a banana truck?

#38 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 11:50 AM:

Unfortunately for the "evil twin theory" he was caught redhanded in a Target parking lot--supposedly anyway.
And the evil twin theory rests on poor Floyd having his brother's drivers license and credit cards in his pockets for MONTHS...

#39 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 12:12 PM:

Josh Marshall is now reporting* that Claude and Floyd were actually born as conjoined twins and separated shortly after birth. However, in an ironic twist, it turns that it was Claude, not Floyd, who was raised chained to the wall in the attic and fed scraps of human flesh from those Nosey Parkers who got too close to the truth. Also, Claude is apparently in the house right now!

/ sound of something in the furnace ducts /

*NB: Josh Marshall is reporting no such thing.

#40 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 12:24 PM:

Jim Macdonald: Is it just me, or is the fall of Allen a general stimulus of schadenfreude?

No more than the reaction to arrests of various members of the Gambino crime family is an example of schadenfreude.

#41 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 03:23 PM:

"y owes Epacris a Coke"

On one board, we named simultaneous posting like that "dysfractionation." I like the word, but I don't know if it's a "you had to be there" injoke or not.

#42 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 04:21 PM:

Update on Moussaoui: the judge has ruled that the government may continue to seek the death penalty against him, but they can't use key witnesses.

Smooth move, Republicans. Where were you when they covered "rule of law" and "fair trial" in civics class?

#43 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 04:31 PM:

In not quite the words of Montgomery Scott: 'Rule of law? How quaint!'

#44 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 06:47 PM:

Thing that worries me is this: if they were pulling these stunts in the sentencing phase, what were they doing in the trial phase?

Can you say "reversible error"? I knew you could!

#45 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 10:53 PM:

Jim -- IIRC they didn't get to a trial phase per se, because M (after a great deal of flamage) pled guilty to everything (including, according to a legal analyst NPR called, some things he couldn't possibly have done).

#46 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2006, 11:48 AM:

Is there a reason why W wants the idiot Moussaoui dead? He's (Moussaoui, c'est dire) clearly a nutcase, and while he has unsavoury connections I can't see that he's actually done anything that deserves death (or quite a few lesser punishments). What am I missing, if anything?

#47 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2006, 12:02 PM:

Fragano, I think it's to prove that Our Fearless Leader[/sarcasm] is Fighting Terror and not just making speeches about it. Their evidence for his involvement in some of these acts is probably flimsy. (The feds are also trying a couple of Muslims in Lodi, based on the testimony of another Muslim who claims Al-Zawahiri was a frequent visitor to the Lodi mosque at a time when all the experts on Al Qaeda are saying he was in Afghanistan.)

#48 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2006, 02:49 PM:
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- Federal prosecutors are considering abandoning their crippled death penalty case against al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, a transcript of a closed-door meeting with the judge reveals.

"Without some relief, frankly, I think that there's no point for us to go forward," prosecutor Robert Spencer told U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema after a ruling Tuesday that gutted half his case.

Because of misconduct by a government attorney, Carla Martin, Brinkema decided to bar "any and all witnesses and evidence dealing whatsoever" with aviation security.

She lambasted prosecutors, saying, "In the annals of criminal law, I don't know if there has ever been a case with this many significant problems."

#49 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2006, 04:40 PM:

PJ: If trying to have a loon like Moussaoui executed is trying to fight the 'War on Terror', then the strategy is clearly being devised by Boris and Natasha.

#50 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2006, 04:43 PM:

You noticed!! (LOL!)

#51 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2006, 04:44 PM:

Jim McDonald: Some 19th century bearded German chappie noted 'Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.'

One wonders: which are we in?

#52 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2006, 04:44 PM:

PJ: Do I get arrested for revealing state secrets?

#53 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2006, 04:59 PM:

Only if this is farce, I think.

#54 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2006, 05:22 PM:

As near as I can tell, the government is prosecuting Moussaoui because by his inaction, he failed to set the federal government in motion to take steps that might have prevented 9/11.

It seems that George Bush - of all people - should be very careful about having that established as a precedent for earning a death sentence.

#55 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2006, 08:25 PM:

PJ: I hope this is farce; I'm worried that it might be tragedy.

Bob: He should be.

#56 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2006, 05:59 PM:

Well, at least it's a reason....

A motive has been suggested for that TSA attorney for sabotaging their own case:

WASHINGTON (AP) Lawyers for two airlines being sued by 9/11 victims prompted a federal attorney to coach witnesses in the Zacarias Moussaoui death penalty trial so the government's case against the al-Qaeda conspirator would not undercut their defense, victims' lawyers allege.

A United Airlines lawyer received a transcript of the first day of the Moussaoui trial from an American Airlines lawyer and forwarded it to Carla J. Martin, a Transportation Security Administration lawyer, the victims' lawyers, Robert Clifford and Gregory Joseph, claim.

Martin forwarded that day's transcript to seven federal aviation officials scheduled to testify later in the sentencing trial of the 37-year-old Frenchman, in violation of an order by Moussaoui trial judge Leonie Brinkema.

Not a very good reason, perhaps, but it beats "Federal prosecutors are secretly in the pay of al Qaeda." Though "We have total contempt for the laws of this nation and utter disregard for granting a fair trial" still isn't off the table.

#57 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 12:04 PM:

The Bush mob lies just for the sake of lying, to keep their hands in.

Here we see Bush's advance men pretending to be Secret Service agents pretending to be reporters:

Advance Workers for Bush Impersonated Reporters

A Mississippi couple whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina said two men who later identified themselves as Secret Service agents pretended to be Fox News journalists when surveying their neighborhood in advance of a March 8 visit from President Bush.

The men arrived on March 3 at the site of the beachfront home that Jerry and Elaine Akins are rebuilding in Gautier, Miss., Elaine Akins said in a telephone interview yesterday.

"They didn't show any cards or anything," Akins said. "They just came up and said they were with the media, and then they said they were with Fox. They just talked to us and asked us about rebuilding our house. Then, after everything was over with, they approached us and they were laughing, and they said: 'You know, we really weren't with Fox. We're government, Secret Service men.' "

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