July 31, 2013

Top GOP donors tell party to legalize illegal immigrants

Nearly a hundred top Republican donors and Bush administration officials sent a letter to the House GOP on Tuesday urging lawmakers to pass a bill that legalizes illegal immigrants, arguing that the current system is already allowing them to stay and so it makes sense to register them and bring them into the system.

The donors, led by former Bush administration Cabinet officials Carlos Gutierrez and Spencer Abraham, also said that immigrants are potential Republican voters who can be won over — if the party can be seen as welcoming to immigrants.
“Doing nothing is de facto amnesty. We need to take control of whom we let in our country and we need to make sure everybody plays by the same rules,” the donors said in their letter.

They aimed their pitch at House Republicans, who are trying to figure out a way forward and find themselves trapped between angry rank-and-file voters who say legalizing illegal immigrants amounts to amnesty, and party elites and donors who say the GOP cannot survive nationally without embracing legalization as part of a strategy to win over Hispanic voters.

The donor letter came the same day that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 400 other businesses and umbrella groups fired off a letter to House leaders of both parties, urging them to pass something — though the business leaders did not specifically call for legalizing illegal immigrants.

Both the business leaders and donors appeared to be sensing the momentum for immigration legislation slipping away, little more than a month after the Senate passed its version on a bipartisan 68-32 vote.

That Senate vote highlighted the divisions within the GOP. While all 54 members of the Democratic caucus voted for the Senate bill, Republicans split, with 14 voting for it and 32 voting against it — including all of the GOP’s top leadership in the chamber.

Among national party operatives, there is strong support for legalization, stretching back to President George W. Bush, who repeatedly tried to get his party to embrace his plans to legalize illegal immigrants.

Mr. Gutierrez, a former secretary of commerce who led Tuesday’s donor letter, was point man on the 2007 effort, which failed in a stunning bipartisan filibuster on the Senate floor.

Also signing Tuesday’s donor letter were Karl Rove, who was Mr. Bush’s political adviser; a number of ambassadors who served Mr. Bush; former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge; former Vice President Dan Quayle; and several former governors.


July 30, 2013

U.S. accuses JPMorgan of manipulating electricity market

The U.S. power regulator outlined its case of market manipulation against JPMorgan Chase & Co on Monday as industry sources said a final settlement on the issue should come on Tuesday.

Traders used improper bidding tactics in California and the Midwest to boost profits, officials said in a statement that brought to light some details of an extensive investigation.

Reports of that probe have circulated for months and a deal with the regulator could put an end to a distraction for JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon.

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff has found “eight manipulative bidding strategies” used by a JPM affiliate in 2010 and 2011, the regulator said.

JPMorgan declined to comment.

Two industry sources said a settlement over the trades could come as early as mid-morning on Tuesday. The bank is expected to pay around $400 million to end the investigation and the settlement could include other payments, according to reports and an industry source.

Monday’s regulatory move did not contain any mention of specific traders or commodities chief Blythe Masters, who had been mentioned in media reports as having been singled out by investigators.

The FERC action is a reminder of the tougher regulatory environment commodity traders are facing, particularly banks, which have been under intensifying public and political pressure over their ownership of things such as metals warehouses and power plants.

JPMorgan announced abruptly on Friday that it was quitting the physical commodity markets, seeking a buyer or partner to take over an operation that includes ownership of three power plants, as well as a handful of large tolling agreements.

The alleged violations in Monday’s letter offered little new insight into the bank’s trading, as most of the details had already been laid out in previous FERC filings.

If there is a settlement, JPMorgan would close the book on a probe that dates back more than two years when California’s power grid operator noticed the bank was using an “abusive” trading strategy that effectively forced the grid to pay for plants to sit idle, ultimately adding to costs.

The FERC has been particularly active this month. The regulator approved a $470 million penalty against British bank Barclays Plc and four of its traders for manipulating California power markets. Barclays said it would fight the fine in court.

For JPMorgan, a deal would also allow CEO Jamie Dimon to make good on his promise to resolve multiple government investigations and regulatory run-ins over the past year. The bank, which is the biggest in the United States by assets, is under pressure in Washington for its size and for its $6.2 billion “London Whale” loss on derivatives trades last year.


July 29, 2013

IRS employees union: Please don’t make us enroll in Obamacare

The union that represents IRS employees is urging its members to write to their congressmen to help get the union out of Obamacare.

“I am a federal employee and one of your constituents. I am very concerned about legislation that has been introduced by Congressman Dave Camp to push federal employees out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and into the insurance exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” according to a form letter drafted by leaders of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which represents IRS employees.

NTEU members currently get health coverage through FEHBP, which represents federal employees, but Republican House Ways and Means chairman and Michigan Republican Rep. Dave Camp seeks to obliterate that program and push legislation that would put federal employees into Obamacare exchanges.
“If the ObamaCare exchanges are good enough for the hardworking Americans and small businesses the law claims to help, then they should be good enough for the president, vice president, Congress, and federal employees,” Camp’s spokesperson said, making clear that Camp’s move has political motives.

“Camp has long believed every American ought to be exempt from the [Obamacare] law, which is why he supports full repeal,” Camp’s spokesperson also said.
NTEU is not happy.

“H.R. 1780 would put federal employees in a special class where they would be prohibited from receiving health insurance through their employer. It would treat federal employees differently from state and local government employees and most employees of large private sector companies who receive health insurance benefits through their employer. The primary purpose of the Affordable Care Act was to provide a marketplace for the sale and purchase of health insurance for those who do not have such coverage – not to take coverage away from employees who already receive it through their employers,” the letter reads.

“I work hard and am proud of the services that I provide to your constituents every day.  One of the main benefits I receive as a federal employee is the ability to purchase health insurance coverage through the FEHBP with an employer contribution towards those benefits. Please let me know your views on this legislation. I look forward to hearing back from you,” the letter concludes.

NTEU recently made news by preventing acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel from fully canceling taxpayer-funded employee bonuses this year as he promised, citing the union’s labor contract with the IRS.


July 26, 2013

Sex, money and lies: ‘Culture of Corruption’ boomerangs on Democrats as scandals blossom nationwide

The Democratic Party is battling scandals from New York to San Diego and from city hall to Capitol Hill, as the party finds itself on the defensive over embarrassing lapses ranging from sexual misconduct to multiple scandals ensnaring the Obama administration.

President Obama on Wednesday denounced what he called “phony scandals” and “an endless parade of distractions” blocking progress on the economy and other issues, but critics say the controversies underscore the missed opportunities for the president and his party to live up to pledges to clean up politics and break traditional patterns of money, influence and privilege in government.
The scandals have spanned the spectrum from a Democratic mayor in San Diego accused of being unable to keep his hands off his female aides to charges that the administration put the Internal Revenue Service on the trail of its political enemies.

One of Congress‘ most famous Democratic names, the scion of Jesse Jackson in Mr. Obama’s home city of Chicago, was just sent to prison for converting campaign funds to personal use. In Detroit, the ex-mayor and the wife of longtime House Judiciary Committee member John Conyers Jr. have fallen to corruption scandals, while the son of former Democratic Party Chairman Ron Brown admitted last month to bribery charges as a city councilman in the nation’s capital.

Longtime political analyst John Pitney Jr. said the Democrats’ woes can be viewed as examples of history repeating itself and how the enticements of Washington’s political culture can trip up the party in power.

“This culture of corruption has more to do with the culture of Washington,” said Mr. Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. “It’s a matter of people being in power, and power plus money equals temptation.”

It was eight years ago that Nancy Pelosi, then the leader of the House Democratic minority, made headlines with her attack on what she called the Republican Party’s “culture of corruption,” but now that moniker is coming back to haunt Democrats.

It’s reminiscent of the outcry over the influence-peddling scandal that dogged the Republican Party in 2005, helping put the GOP on the defensive heading into the November 2006 midterm elections.

In 2005, the poster boy for power run amok was Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist and influence-broker who pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and tax evasion. Mrs. Pelosi coined the term “Republican culture of corruption” and wielded it to attack the GOP on issues such as the Medicare prescription drug bill and the Iraq War.

The result: Democrats recaptured the House and Senate in the 2006 midterm elections, and two years later, Mr. Obama was elected president.

Summer scandals

With the 2014 midterm elections looming, however, it’s now Democrats who are fighting off charges of corruption and misconduct as the party endures its own summer of scandal. Grabbing the headlines just this month are the sexual escapades of former Rep. Anthony D. Weiner of New York and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner.

Mr. Weiner, who resigned in 2011 after admitting to sending explicit photos of himself to several women, is under pressure to drop out of the race for the Democratic nomination for New York mayor after reports surfaced Tuesday of raunchy exchanges under the pseudonym “Carlos Danger.”

Mr. Filner, who was a 10-term congressman, became mired in accusations of sexual harassment by former employees. On Tuesday, a former campaign consultant said he patted her on the bottom, and his former communications director recently filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him.

Mrs. Pelosi has refused to comment on the Filner matter. She and Mr. Filner were co-founders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, but last week she snapped at reporters who mentioned that, saying, “Don’t identify him as my former colleague.

“What goes on in San Diego is up to the people of San Diego,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “I’m not here to make any judgments — or even be fully versed on what happened.”

Rep. Charles B. Rangel, the veteran New York Democrat who was censured by the full House for a series of tax and ethics violations in 2010, brushed aside Mr. Weiner’s latest sexual scandal and its impact on the New York mayoral race.

“Knowing New York as I do — and I do know New York — this is not going to be a story by the time we get to September the 10th,” Mr. Rangel told MSNBC in an interview Wednesday.
Mrs. Pelosi also has refused to demand that Mr. Weiner exit the mayor’s race, saying that the decision should be left to the voters, according to a report by The Associated Press.

In 2006, however, Mrs. Pelosi called for a criminal investigation into former Rep. Mark Foley, Florida Republican, after he admitted to sending sexually explicit messages to an underage male congressional page.

In a statement, she said the investigation was warranted because members of Congress operate under a “special trust” with the pages. Even so, critics have accused Mrs. Pelosi of employing a double standard for Democratic sexual misbehavior.

Mixed record

While gleefully pointing up Republican sexual and influence-peddling failings before Mr. Obama came to power, Democrats have proved to be vulnerable to the same temptations under Mr. Obama. Good-government groups have tracked the rising number of former Obama aides who have found lucrative lobbying posts, and the number of top Democratic fundraisers rewarded with plum diplomatic posts.

Mr. Rangel’s ethical problems effectively cost him the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee in 2010, just months before Democrats lost their majority in the chamber. Jesse Jackson Jr., an Illinois Democrat once considered — like Mr. Weiner — a rising force in his party’s House caucus — pleaded guilty in February to wire and mail fraud after he resigned his seat in November.

Democratic one-party rule in city halls across the country also has led to overreach and scandal. Detroit’s recent bankruptcy filing has trained another spotlight the corruption that plagued the administration of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a Democrat who went to jail after being convicted of charges ranging from mail fraud to racketeering over his six-year term that ended in 2008.

In the District of Columbia, former D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown last month pleaded guilty to a public corruption charge for accepting tens of thousands of dollars in cash stuffed in duffel bags and coffee cups while in office. He pleaded guilty after the chairman of the D.C. Council, Kwame R. Brown, resigned and pleaded guilty to bank fraud in June 2012. Former council member Harry Thomas Jr. resigned from the D.C. Council and pleaded guilty in January 2012 to stealing $350,000 in public funds intended for youth sports programs.

Critics say the Democrats’ sharp rhetoric when out of power has made it more difficult for figures such as Mrs. Pelosi to distance themselves from party members like Mr. Filner when they find themselves in trouble.

“Whether she’s carrying a gavel or just carrying water, Pelosi has served as a loyal apologist and abettor of the Democratic Bad Boys Club,” conservative columnist Michelle Malkin said in a Wednesday article. “What exactly will it take before voters finally turn this perv protector into a ‘former colleague’?”

Although the sexual scandals may be embarrassing for Democrats, Republicans have endured cringe-worthy moments from their own former lawmakers, notably former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who was elected to Congress in May despite revelations about an extramarital affair.

“You’re always going to have unscrupulous individuals elected to Congress who do unethical things. Republicans had Mark Sanford — Democrats have Anthony Weiner,” said Republican political consultant Dick Wadhams.

What sets the Democrats’ woes apart from those of the Republicans in 2006 is the gap between the party’s rhetoric and the “summer of scandal” that has marred the start of Mr. Obama’s second term. “Phony or not, the administration in recent months has had to deal with the IRS-tea party scandal; the questions surrounding the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi; clashes with the press over aggressive leak investigations and the seizing of press phone records; and the fallout from the leaking of widespread government surveillance and intelligence-gathering programs.

“What we’re seeing from the Obama administration is this raw abuse of power that we haven’t seen since Watergate,” Mr. Wadhams said. “I think that’s what sets this apart.”

That is not how Mrs. Pelosi views the uproar. During a May news conference on Capitol Hill, she rejected suggestions that Democrats, led by President Obama, are caught in their own culture of corruption.

“They make so much of these issues because this president is such a great president,” said Mrs. Pelosi, adding that “some of them are legitimate issues, but they should not dominate everything.”


July 25, 2013

Military gradually moving toward women in combat

Plans to phase women into combat roles are progressing gradually, military representatives told a House panel Tuesday, but Democrats and Republicans remain cautious about the transition.
Officers from the Navy, Air Forces, Army and Marines presented plans to integrate women into front line positions by 2016 to the Armed Services Military Personnel subcommittee. Representatives indicated confidence that the new policy, stemming from a January decision to lift a ban on women serving in combat roles, would not threaten the country’s military readiness.
“Women have been attached to our combat unit for several years,” said Major General Bennet Sacolick, the director of force management and development for the U.S. Special Operations Command. “And they have performed magnificently.”
But committee members presented a variety of issues that the Armed Services must overcome, chief among them winning over public support.
A critical task for the Army and Marines especially is reassessing the physical and mental standards required of a front line soldier. While military officials insisted that their efforts are science-based and long overdue, Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., said a vocal minority will equate any changes in the baseline to lowering standards for females.
“I don’t envy you,” said Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev. “There is not universal acceptance of this concept, though more so today than there was five, 10, 15 years ago.”
Another Republican, Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana, wondered if sexual assaults would increase as more women are moved into combat roles and questioned whether the military had adequately addressed the issue.
“The [sexual assault] debate sitting here is raging,” Walorski said.

But Juliet Beyler, the director of officer and enlisted personnel management for the Department of Defense countered that “the more we treat servicewomen equally, the more they will treat women with respect.”
Democrats were more worried that an institution dominated by males for centuries was too slow in taking on this issue and was ill-equipped to adequately address the concerns of female infantry.
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., for example, said that “uniforms have not really been wonderful for women” and added that women put on the front lines should not be without other female soldiers.
“Make sure when you move these women into these combat [jobs], we’re not isolating them,” she said.
Lt. General Robert E. Milstead Jr. of the Marines said that was already being addressed.
“We don’t plan on dropping a single [female] marine here and a single marine here,” Milstead said. “We have a minimum of two or three per unit.”
To help women entering combat roles, Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif, said the military should be mindful to put women in senior positions to serve as role models.
“If they’re not doing the No. 1 job of the military, which is combat, then they probably won’t be wearing stars on their uniforms,” Sanchez noted.

July 24, 2013

Is the CIA trying to manipulate global warming?

First the NSA was spying on us, now the Central Intelligence Agency is trying to control the Earth’s climate.

The CIA is funding research to see whether it is possible to use geoengineering to alter the Earth’s atmosphere and stop global warming, reports Mother Jones.

The CIA and other government entities are spending $630,000 on a 21-month project to see how humans “influence weather patterns, assess the potential dangers of messing with the climate, and investigate possible national security implications of geoengineering attempts,” according to Mother Jones.
CIA spokesman Edward Price would not confirm to Mother Jones the agency’s role in the study, saying “It’s natural that on a subject like climate change the Agency would work with scientists to better understand the phenomenon and its implications on national security.”

However, this is not the intelligence agency’s first foray into researching global warming. Last year, the CIA closed its controversial global warming research center after being criticized by congressional Republicans.

The goal of this new CIA-backed study is to conduct a “technical evaluation of a limited number of proposed geoengineering techniques,” according to the National Academy of Sciences, which is running the project.

Controlling the climate, or weather modification, is not something new. The Air Force engaged in cloud seeding during the Vietnam War to try and create rainfall to turn the Ho Chi Minh trail to mud.

Mother Jones also reports: “Between 1962 and 1983, other would-be weather engineers tried to change the behavior of hurricanes using silver iodide. That effort, dubbed Project Stormfury, was spearheaded by the Navy and the Commerce Department.”

Former Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall once tried to pass legislation to create national boards to oversee weather modification research.

“While we may not be able to stop Mother Nature entirely, we can sometimes alter her course, changing the weather in small, yet significant ways,” Hutchison said on the Senate floor in 2004.
China has a “Weather Modification Office” which seeded clouds to cause rainfall before the 2008 Beijing Olympics — trying to make sure rain would hit the suburbs and not the Olympic stadiums.

“This whole issue of lone actors: Do we need to be concerned about China acting unilaterally? Is that just idle chatter, or is that something the US government should prepare for?” asks geoengineer Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology and the National Academy of Sciences panel.

Mother Jones reports that at least one person — Ross George — has already tried modifying the weather. George was head of Planktos, a company that develops technology to fight global warming and seeded the Pacific Ocean off the Canadian coast with iron to create a plankton bloom to suck carbon dioxide from the air.


July 23, 2013

Legal experts: DOJ’s Zimmerman tip line merely gives impression that agency is acting

A range of legal experts think that the Department of Justice’s attempts to collect information from the public on George Zimmerman is a way to pass responsibility for investigating the man onto the public, as well as to give the impression that the agency is acting.

After a jury found Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a speech last Monday that the DOJ would conduct an investigation into whether or not the shooting was racially-motivated. Zimmerman is half-Hispanic and half-white. Martin was black.

“The Justice Department shares your concern — I share your concern — and, as we first acknowledged last spring, we have opened an investigation into the matter,” Holder told the Delta Sigma Theta sorority during their national convention last week.
Zimmerman’s defense team addressed that investigation in a Friday statement.
“We are confident [the Department of Justice] will find a young man with a diverse ethnic and racial background who is not a racist,” Zimmerman’s lawyers wrote, “a man who is, in fact, sensitive to the complex racial history of our country.”

Benjamin Todd Jealous, the head of the NAACP, launched a petition shortly after the verdict which read that “George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin.” The petition has since received over one million signatures.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez held a conference call with federal officials and civil rights leaders saying that the DOJ would be setting up an email account — sanford.florida@usdoj.gov — to help gather information for the investigation.

Barbara Arnwine, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law who sat in on the call, told the Orlando Sentinel that the DOJ officials were “calling on us to actively refer anyone who had any information,” in order to possibly build a hate crimes case against Zimmerman. “They said they would very aggressively investigate this case,” she said.

The FBI and DOJ investigated Zimmerman last year, canvassing dozens of neighbors, friends, and acquaintances to determine if he was racist. Chris Serino, the lead investigator on the Martin shooting, said that he believed that Zimmerman had profiled Martin based upon his attire and “not his skin color”.

Federal investigators closed the investigation without finding any evidence to support the claim that Zimmerman was racist. During the trial, Judge Debra Nelson refused to allow state prosecutors to argue that Zimmerman racially profiled Martin leading up to the shooting. Zimmerman’s defense also flipped racism claims around on Martin, suggesting that by allegedly calling Zimmerman a “creepy ass cracker,” his assault on Zimmerman may have been racially-motivated.

“I haven’t heard of this before with an acquitted defendant,” said University of Pennsylvania law professor Kermit Roosevelt of the use of an email tip line, “but it doesn’t surprise me that much.”
He says that evidence to build a federal case against Zimmerman will have to come from somewhere, and “this is a reasonable method of trying to get it, if any exists.”

Roosevelt also agrees that the DOJ’s strategy makes sense from a public relations perspective. “This effectively puts the ball back in the public’s court,” he said, adding, “it costs them less money than creating a big task force.”

Bringing such federal charges does not conflict with the Constitutional right preventing double jeopardy. The federal government can pursue charges in certain circumstances if new information comes to light after an acquittal in state court — though it is rare.

“It is unusual in my experience, but I don’t think it sets a bad precedent,” said Lauren Resnick, one of the US attorneys who secured a conviction of Lemrick Nelson in the fatal stabbing of Yankel Rosenbaum during the 1991 Crown Heights race riot, which took place in Brooklyn.

As in the Zimmerman trial, Nelson was acquitted in criminal court in Rosenbaum’s death. But Nelson was later convicted in federal court of a civil rights violation for the killing. Rosenbaum was Jewish and was beaten by a group of black men. Nelson later admitted to stabbing Rosenbaum.

Resnick says that the Zimmerman investigation “shows that DOJ is committed to a full review of the facts.”

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told TheDC that he believes the DOJ’s recent move is “highly questionable”. He asked, rhetorically, “Are they also investigating Martin’s background to see whether he attacked anyone previously?”

Ilya Shapiro, a legal scholar at the Cato Institute, called the investigation “a waste of resources.” “It seems to me that this is just the DOJ trying to be seen as doing something,” he told The DC.

The Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice has used the email tip method in the past. For example, in November 2012 it set up an email address to investigate the Albuquerque, New Mexico police department which was alleged to have high incidents of excessive use of force.

In October 2012, the DOJ set up a tip line to investigate complaints that officials in Meridian, Mississippi were discriminating against juveniles and creating a “school-to-prison pipeline” which targeted African-American students.

And in September 2012, the department began investigating the Alamance County, North Carolina sheriff’s department for allegedly profiling Latinos.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice would not provide details of the special email account other than to acknowledge its existence. TheDC was unable to determine if the DOJ had ever used such an account to pursue an investigation against a private citizen who’d been acquitted of a crime.

“It’s bizarre,” said Robert Zimmerman Jr., George Zimmerman’s brother. The email address itself seems to be “encouraging Sanford to do something about George.” Zimmerman Jr. said that he’d understand an email tip line if his brother were a fugitive, but said, “I can’t remember any time [the DOJ has] done this.”


July 22, 2013

Southern Avenger no more: Rand Paul aide Jack Hunter leaves staff, returns to punditry

The man who for years called himself the “Southern Avenger” says he now seeks to avenge his own honor.

Jack Hunter, the aide to Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul who has been under fire for comments critical of Abraham Lincoln and sympathetic to the Confederacy, has left the senator’s office to resume his career as a political pundit.

Hunter told The Daily Caller News Foundation that he wanted to avoid being a distraction for Paul and to clear his own name, which he argues is now unfairly associated with racism.

A senior Paul aide confirmed Hunter’s departure.

“I’ve long been a conservative, and years ago, a much more politically incorrect (and campy) one,” Hunter said in an email. “But there’s a significant difference between being politically incorrect and racist. I’ve also become far more libertarian over the years, a philosophy that encourages a more tolerant worldview, through the lens of which I now look back on some of my older comments with embarrassment.”

Hunter, who has contributed opinion pieces to The Daily Caller, is a personal friend of the author.

The Washington Free Beacon originally reported that Hunter toasted the birthday of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, lamented the United States’ shrinking white majority and compared honoring the Founding Fathers while admiring Lincoln to “praising Jesus and worshiping Satan simultaneously.”

The story set off a firestorm of controversy across the political spectrum. Hunter was most recently criticized by his former editor at the Charleston City Paper for asking him to remove posts and for being the “most common kind of racist, the one that doesn’t realize that he is one.”

Chris Haire, the Charleston alt-weekly’s managing editor, also described Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Pat Buchanan as racists. Asked why he published Hunter — a paid columnist — if he believed him to be a racist, Haire tweeted in response, “To reveal the mindset of the SCGOP and the Neoconfederate fringe.”

Paul described Hunter’s comments as “absolutely stupid” but defended his “incredibly talented” social media director in an interview with The Huffington Post.

“People are calling him a white supremacist,” Paul said. “If I thought he was a white supremacist, he would be fired immediately.”

Others have defended Hunter as well, saying that while he may have been attracted to peculiarly Southern forms of conservatism and occasionally naive about racial issues, he is not the figure some critics have portrayed.

“In all my dealings with Jack Hunter, I have found him to be most impressive, most professional and a committed conservative,” South Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Sanford told TheDCNF. “I think a lot of this has less to do with Jack Hunter than Rand Paul and 2016.”

Former Charleston City Paper music editor Ballard Leseman knew Hunter back when he was still wearing a pro-wrestling-style mask emblazoned with the Confederate flag. He told TheDCNF that Hunter was already assuming a less kitschy and provocative persona back then.

“By the time Jack started working with local AM news/talk station 1250 WTMA, he’d already ditched the mask and the schtick side of the Southern Avenger character, and he began to develop a more serious, thoughtful, in-depth approach and delivery,” Leseman said.

While the two of them “bonded more over conversations about Iron Maiden, Rush, and the Who than about political candidates and partisan politics,” Leseman was familiar with Hunter’s political work.

“As a left-leaning independent who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, 2004 and 2008, you can imagine how my own political views could clash with those of Jack Hunter’s,” he said. “But in all of our conversations, interviews, and late-night tavern chats, we never fought or argued.”

Marcus Amaker edited Hunter’s entertainment writings for the Charleston Post and Courier. He described Hunter as “a good guy” and “professional freelancer.”

“I never had any issues with Jack,” Amaker told TheDCNF. “Honestly, I haven’t paid much attention to the controversy. Anything that seeks to divide people isn’t on my radar and doesn’t get my energy.”

Prior to working for Rand Paul, Hunter was the official campaign blogger for Ron Paul during the 2012 GOP primaries. In that capacity, he frequently worked to marginalize extremists within the movement, ridiculing conspiracy theorists and defending the idea of working within the mainstream Republican Party.

Now the controversy over Hunter’s past writings and radio broadcasts is widely seen as a drag on libertarian-leaning Republicans’ mainstream political ambitions and a reminder of the elder Paul’s newsletters.

While the former Texas congressman denied writing or even reading the racist content in the newsletters that appeared under his name, questions persisted about their authorship.

Hunter isn’t denying writing the columns in question, but he does say the coverage doesn’t represent the full body of his writing.

“The stories made me angry, as well as many who’ve followed my work, because the cherry-picked distortions weren’t even remotely the real me,” he said. “It was enraging to watch neoconservatives, liberals and even some actual racists speculate about what I believe, based on what they were eager to portray me as believing. Not surprisingly, their speculations almost always suited their own political purposes.”

“Still, the moment I became a distraction for Sen. Paul, I knew it was time to leave. My purpose has always been to help, not hinder,” Hunter added. Now as he once ditched the mask, he will also discard the Southern Avenger name.

“I also wanted the ability to defend myself in my own voice, not as a member of anyone’s staff or even as the ‘Southern Avenger’ character, which has now been so mischaracterized that I will permanently retire that moniker,” Hunter said.

In addition to any fallout for Rand Paul’s political future, the controversy raises philosophical questions for conservatives and libertarians.
“Nothing in American history has done more harm to the limited government cause than the association of state sovereignty arguments with defenses of slavery,” wrote Philip Klein in the Washington Examiner. “Confederates who employed limited government arguments to argue for preserving a brutal and inhumane practice shouldn’t be deemed friends of limited government.”

Hunter maintains he is now freer to join these debates.

“I look forward to returning to just being a pundit and fighting these battles on my own,” he said. “The neoconservatives, who first ran and promoted this story, would much rather argue about the Civil War than the Iraq War.”

“From their standpoint, and given current trends within the Republican Party,” Hunter concluded, “I can’t say I blame them.”


July 19, 2013

Detroit bankruptcy filing puts Obama in awkward spot

When Detroit on Thursday became the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy, it punctured a major narrative that was key to President Obama’s re-election: that his auto bailout would help resuscitate the Motor City’s battered economy and inject life into an area unable to shake hard times.

Facing $18.5 billion in long-term debt, Detroit is now turning to the federal courts for help, hardly matching the rosy portrait painted by the president in recent months.

On the campaign trail, particularly in the Midwestern states dependent on the auto sector, Obama trumpeted his cash infusion to major American car companies as part of his populist pitch to blue-collar voters.

“I wasn’t going to let Detroit go bankrupt. Or Toledo go bankrupt. Or Lordstown go bankrupt. I bet on American workers,” Obama said in the final sprint to November’s election.

And Obama and his campaign demonized Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for a New York Times op-ed headlined, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

Although a variety of factors led to Detroit’s current situation, the White House will face questions about what went wrong in a city that is just a shell of its former self.

Thursday evening, the White House said it was closely monitoring the situation but gave no clear indication about the path ahead.

“While leaders on the ground in Michigan and the city’s creditors understand that they must find a solution to Detroit’s serious financial challenge, we remain committed to continuing our strong partnership with Detroit as it works to recover and revitalize and maintain its status as one of America’s great cities,” White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said.

Before the Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing, administration officials had thrown cold water on the idea that it would bail out Detroit as it did with General Motors and Chrysler.

“I know that the president is aware of the situation in Detroit and that administration officials have been in contact with leaders in Detroit, but I am not aware of any plans or proposals that the president has, but we’re certainly aware of the circumstances,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said last week when asked about providing aid to the city.

The recent developments in Detroit punch a hole in the feel-good story that Obama — and especially Vice President Joe Biden — spun in touting the administration’s economic accomplishments. It’s a political problem even acknowledged by some Democratic operatives Thursday.

“What can you say? It’s just a sad, sad story,” said one veteran Democratic strategist. “Hard to craft a winning political message around bankruptcy.”


July 18, 2013

Egyptian Politician: U.S. Ambassador Member of Muslim Brotherhood 'Sleeper Cells'

Mustafa Bakari, an Egyptian politician, issued a brutal assessment of U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson. Bakari stated, “In my opinion, she [Patterson] is a member of the sleeper cells of the Brotherhood, likely recruited by Essam al-Erian or Muhammad al-Baltagi.” 

In a June 18 speech, Patterson made the following statement in a speech about the turmoil in Egypt:
“Some say that street action will produce better results than elections,” Patterson said. “To be honest, my government and I are deeply skeptical.”

John Hudson at Foreign Policy wrote of her reluctance to criticize Morsi:
Patterson in particular resisted opportunities to criticize the Morsy government as it implemented increasingly authoritarian policies. In a memorable May interview with the Egyptian English-language news site Ahram Online, she repeatedly dodged pointed questions about Morsy's leadership. "The fact is they ran in a legitimate election and won," she said. "Of course it is challenging to be dealing with any new government. However, at the state institutional level, we are for instance still liaising with the same military and civil service personnel, and thus have retained the same long-established relations."
In response to Patterson’s statements, and President Obama’s policy decisions on Egypt, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) also wrote in Foreign Policy that the U.S. had become a "partner" to the Muslim Brotherhood government:
Tragically, America has been relegated to the sidelines. The number of U.S. Embassy personnel has been reduced, and a travel warning has been issued for Americans in Egypt -- and for good reason. The people protesting in the streets were not only carrying anti-Morsy signs. They were also carrying signs with slogans like "Obama Supports Terrorism" and "Obama Supports Morsy," as well as pictures of the American ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, with a large red "X" through her face. Some of these were set on fire. On Friday, Andrew Driscoll Pochter, an American college student who was in Egypt to teach English to schoolchildren, was stabbed to death as he took pictures of the protesters.  
In what has to be one of the most stunning diplomatic failures in recent memory, the United States is -- in both perception and reality -- entrenched as the partner of a repressive, Islamist regime and the enemy of the secular, pro-democracy opposition.
As a result, Patterson, who is reportedly in line for a promotion as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, has been increasingly viewed, according to Hudson, as the “key implementer for a policy that at least offers tacit support to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The State Department has embraced Patterson’s statements and approach. Spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in early July, “The ambassador has very much stated U.S. policies.”

Indeed, Patterson, who met with senior Muslim Brotherhood officials—an act perceived by Morsi opponents as sleeping with the enemy—has had the total support of the State Department all along. She was awarded the Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award twice, in 2010 and 2008, and the Ryan Crocker award for expeditionary diplomacy in 2010.

As Raymond Ibrahim at Gatestone Institute observed, the reasons Egyptians dislike Patterson run deeper.

Ibrahim pointed out that last week El Fagr reported that Patterson demanded the release of all Muslim Brotherhood members currently being held for questioning from Supreme Commander of the Egyptian Armed Forces, General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi:
And when Sisi rejected this order, the American ambassador began threatening him that Egypt will turn into another Syria and live through a civil war, to which Sisi responded violently: “Neither you nor your country can overcome Egypt and its people.”
Previously, Ibrahim wrote that Patterson was reported as “meddling” in the affairs of the Egyptian people when she attempted to “communicate with General Sisi, demanding dialogue with the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, and concessions to them,” to which Sisi reportedly responded: “Stop meddling in our affairs… the Egyptian people are capable of looking after their own welfare.”

In addition, Al Nahar reported that Patterson had incited the Salafi Nour Party, a fundamentalist group that withdrew from negotiations with Egypt’s interim government, to “tamper with the political scene and the road map and to threaten to withdraw from political participation if Dr. Muhammad Baradei becomes elected as Prime Minister…”

Ibrahim wrote that “Patterson’s ‘meddling’ in Egypt’s affairs is not limited to General Sisi and the Egyptian media.” He noted that several of Egypt’s revolutionary forces, including Tamarod, which played a major role in the recent revolt, are planning a protest in front of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, and will be “calling for the ejection of ambassador Anne Patterson.”

Earlier in July, Ibrahim reported that even Muhammad Heikal, a respected political commentator of the Arab world, said that during an interview, Patterson had assured the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hisham Qandil, Egypt’s Prime Minister under Morsi, that “there are many forms of pressure, and America holds the keys to the Gulf.”


July 17, 2013

Bradley Manning defense lawyers say conviction would set ‘extremely bad precedent’

The defence team representing Bradley Manning, the US soldier who leaked reams of state secrets to WikiLeaks, has made one last attempt to persuade the judge presiding over his court martial to dismiss the most serious charge against him: that he “aided the enemy”.

Manning’s civilian lawyer David Coombs said that to convict the army private of such a severe offence would set an “extremely bad precedent”. It would place US society on a “very slippery slope, of basically punishing people for getting information out to the press.”

Addressing the judge in a military court in Fort Meade, Coombs said that “no case has ever been prosecuted under this type of theory: that an individual, by the nature of giving information to a journalistic organisation, would then be subject to” a charge of “aiding the enemy”. Conviction of such an office would bring “a hammer down on any whistleblower or anybody who wants to put information out”.

The lawyer’s comments were recorded by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which is employing court stenographers during the Manning trial as a way of overcoming the high level of official secrecy that surrounds the case.

The “aiding the enemy” charge has become the seminal battle in Manning’s prosecution, with the US government, in its determination to come down hard on official leakers, ranged against advocates of freedom of information. Under the terms of the charge, Manning is accused of having given valuable intelligence to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and its affiliate groups simply by dint of having leaked documents that were then posted by WikiLeaks on the internet.

In a further charge under the 1917 Espionage Act, the soldier is accused of “wrongfully and wantonly” causing intelligence to be published on the internet when he knew that would make it “accessible to the enemy”.

Human rights groups are now focusing in on the “aiding the enemy” charge as a threat to free speech in America. Earlier this week Amnesty International derided as “ludicrous” the claim that by leaking to a news organisation an individual could be guilty of helping al-Qaida.

In spirited legal argument, Coombs told the court that the prosecution had entirely failed to show that Manning had any “actual knowledge” that transmitting documents to WikiLeaks would be beneficial to al-Qaida. He said that the webchats that the soldier conducted with the former hacker Adrian Lamo prior to his arrest indicated the opposite: “that his intent was to get this information out to spark reform, spark debate”.

Coombs reminded the court that “aiding the enemy” carries the death penalty, and although the prosecution is not pursuing a capital case against Manning, the soldier does face the possibility of life without parole. To find him guilty of such a severe offence, Coombs said, the government would have to meet a high evidential standard by proving that Manning had “actual knowledge” he was giving intelligence to al-Qaida.

But, Coombs said, the government has no such evidence. “The government has nothing, but perhaps an argument that PFC Manning might have been negligent in giving information to WikiLeaks, and that the enemy might have been able to access it. But there has been no evidence offered by the government to show actual knowledge.”

Speaking for the government, Captain Angel Overgaard said sardonically that “it would be nice if we had a videotaped confession” from Manning admitting that he knew he was making the leaked documents available to al-Qaida. “We don’t have that in this case.”

But the prosecutor said that the government had presented the court with “a mountain of circumstantial evidence … that shows that the accused did, in fact, know that by publishing information, leaking information to WikiLeaks, and having it published on the internet, that it was, in fact, going to al-Qaida.”

Colonel Denise Lind, the judge presiding over the case alone in the absence of a jury, repeated a question that has come up in earlier pre-trial hearings. “Does it make any difference if it’s WikiLeaks or any other news organisation – the New York Times, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal?”
Overgaard huddled for a moment with her fellow prosecutors, and then replied: “No, it would not. It would not potentially make a difference.”

Overgaard said in this case Manning was a trained intelligence analyst, and as such “knew exactly what he was doing”. She added: “PFC Manning is distinct from an infantryman or a truck driver, because he had all the training. And this was his job. He knew exactly the consequences of his actions.”

The judge has indicated that she will rule later this week on the defence’s motion to have the “aiding the enemy” charge dismissed.


July 16, 2013

Senate fails to strike deal on filibuster, showdown looms

The Senate met privately Monday evening at the Capitol, but emerged without a deal to avert the so-called nuclear option that would curtail the minority's ability to filibuster presidential nominees.

The Senate will now continue as planned with votes on seven stalled executive branch nominees, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's threat to change the body's rules hanging over the proceedings. Members of both parties said that negotiations toward a bipartisan solution would continue.

"We had a pretty good conversation; the conversation will continue tonight. Votes are scheduled for 10 o'clock in the morning," Reid, D-Nev., told reporters after the meeting.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is acting as the ringleader of an informal group of senators who are looking for a way to avoid the nuclear option, said that they were "still working, still working away, still discussing options. ... We're going to continue to negotiate and continue to talk."

But other senators described the three-hour meeting as long-winded, repetitive and ultimately unsuccessful.

"Both sides had plenty of speakers. All the points were made - sometimes repeatedly," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the chairman of the Senate Republican conference. "I don't think anyone's votes were changed. ... Right now it's kind of where we were going into the meeting."

"Nobody's willing to make any hard types of commitment at this point," Thune added.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who has worked with Democrats in the past to defuse tensions over the GOP's use of the filibuster, said he does not believe enough Democrats are interested in avoiding Reid's proposed rules change.

"I don't feel very good about [it], to tell you the truth," Alexander said. "I'm glad we had the meeting; I appreciate it. But there are too many senators who don't understand the danger of the precedent of a Senate that can change the majority any time it wants to."

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, a longtime proponent of weakening the filibuster, said, "My hope is that we get rid of the filibuster for executive branch nominees. Let's get this over and done with."

The unusual, closed-door, joint caucus of Democrats and Republicans was viewed as an attempt to negotiate a bipartisan agreement to resolve differences over the use of the filibuster.

Democrats charge that Republicans have been abusing the parliamentary procedure to unfairly block President Obama's cabinet and executive branch agency nominees. The GOP counters that the majority has trampled on their rights in contradiction of Senate traditions.

Reid is threatening to change Senate rules so that only a simple majority -- rather than the 60 votes now required -- are needed to advance nominees. That would allow Democrats, who control 54 Senate seats, to act without consideration to Republicans.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., held out hope that "this could be worked out, even yet," telling reporters the two parties had been "very close" over the weekend before talks had broken down.

"There was a consensus that the leadership would continue to work, and I believe they will," he said.
In brief interviews with senators as they exited the meeting, it still appeared as though the chamber was on a collision course over a rules change that could have broad implications for how the chamber functions in the future.

Reid will call this week for series of votes on Obama nominees that Republicans have been delaying for months, including one to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by the Dodd-Frank legislation, and a several to the National Labor Relations Board.

If completed, the rules change would not apply to judicial nominations.


July 15, 2013

Reid prepares to light fuse of ‘nuclear option’ in Senate

"The changes we’re making are very, very minimal. What we’re doing is saying, ‘Look, American people, shouldn’t President Obama have somebody working for him that he wants?’" Mr. Reid said on NBC’s "Meet the Press" program as he defended the "nuclear option" to change the rules.

Under that scenario, Mr. Reid would use the Democrats’ majority in the chamber to overturn decades of precedent — which amounts to a rules change when it comes to parliamentary procedure — and establish that nonjudicial nominees are not debatable to the same degree as bills.

Mr. Reid’s Republican counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said Democrats are itching for a fight when there isn’t one to be had.

He said Senate Republicans have confirmed Mr. Obama’s picks at a faster rate than President George W. Bush was getting at the same point during his time in office, and that Republicans haven’t defeated any of the president’s major executive nominees.

"When it comes to nominations, as I’ve indicated, the president hasn’t lost anybody — he hasn’t lost anybody," said Mr. McConnell, also appearing on NBC. "Are they saying they don’t want us to even debate these nominations?"

In a sign of how tense the fight has become, the two leaders did not appear on the same panel with each other, but spoke sequentially to moderator David Gregory.

Mr. Reid has set up seven potential filibuster votes for Tuesday morning: the nominations for Labor Department secretary, Environmental Protection Agency administrator, three members of the National Labor Relations Board, president of the Export-Import Bank, and director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The question is whether Mr. Reid would force a rules change if Republicans filibuster only some of these nominees.

He has scheduled the three most controversial votes — the CFPB and two of the NLRB picks — to be first, which means he appears to be trying to make Republicans cave.

Mr. McConnell said Republicans would allow most of the nominees, including those to whom they strongly object, such as Thomas E. Perez, the Labor secretary pick.

But the three main fights over the NLRB and CFPB nominees are trickier. When those three were facing potential Republican blockades early last year, Mr. Obama used his recess appointment powers to name them to their jobs — but he acted at a time when the Senate didn’t consider itself in recess.

A federal appeals court has ruled that Mr. Obama exceeded his bounds with the NLRB appointment and invalidated one of the board’s rulings, calling the rest into question. The Supreme Court last month said it would take the case.

Republicans argue that Mr. Reid is risking major damage to the institution of the Senate in order to rescue the NLRB from its precarious position.

At an all-senators meeting Monday morning, Republicans hope they can talk the majority out of pressing ahead.

Ahead of the showdown, each side deployed numbers to argue its case.

Republicans said they have confirmed an exceptional number of Mr. Obama’s nominees, including every executive branch appointment that has come to the Senate floor. They say they have obstructed only a few judges who were outside of mainstream legal thought.

Democrats say Republicans have pushed obstruction behind closed doors by slow-walking nominees in committees, demanding answers to hundreds of questions about their histories and policy positions.

Mr. Reid said Republicans usually don’t even object to the nominees, but rather are using them to attack the president’s policies or the role of government itself.

"They have nothing against the qualifications. They don’t like the jobs these people have," Mr. Reid said.

The filibuster is not part of Senate rules. It’s a term that is applied when a single senator or group of senators wants to hold an indefinite debate on an issue.

Some issues and motions, such as bringing a budget to the Senate floor, are considered nondebatable and cannot be filibustered, but most of the regular motions are debatable. It takes 60 votes to cut off debate. When that vote fails, it is considered a filibuster.


July 12, 2013

EPA regulations force utility to shutter coal plant rather than revamp it

The cost of complying with federal environmental regulations has forced American Electric Power to shut down an Ohio coal plant rather than convert it to a natural gas-burning power plant, says a Buckeye State congressman.

In February, AEP reached an agreement with environmental groups, eight U.S. states and the Environmental Protection Agency to modify a 2007 lawsuit to stop burning coal at three power plants in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio by 2015.

As part of the agreement, AEP was given the option to modify the Ohio plant to burn natural gas, but high regulatory costs and market conditions made the company decide to retire the plant instead.
Environmental regulations, lawsuits brought by activist groups and low-priced natural have contributed to the shutdown or slated retirement of more than 15,000 megawatts of coal-fired power plants. Power companies expect to shut down more than 37,000 megawatts of coal-fired electrical generation in the next decade.

“Across the country, the coal industry faces unprecedented setbacks as its share of electricity generation plummets and the cost of coal continues to skyrocket,” said Jodi Perras, Indiana Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “This agreement is only the latest sign of progress as our country continues to transition away from dirty, dangerous, and expensive coal-fired power plants.”

The coal industry has been hit hard in recent years from stricter environmental regulations. Earlier this week it was reported that EPA regulations contributed to the closure of two Pennsylvania coal plants.

The plant operators would have had to spend $275 million upgrading the facilities to meet the EPA’s costly Mercury Air Toxics Standards, or MATS rule.

“The front line in the administration’s war on coal is right here in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and the casualties are the factories and homeowners who will pay higher electric bills, as well as the hundreds of utility workers, boilermakers, and miners who will be out of work,” said Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Tim Murphy, who represents the district the coal plants are in.
“With the shutdown of the Mitchell plant and Hatfield’s Ferry, which just four short years ago underwent $1 billion in upgrades, the president is making good on his promise to ‘bankrupt’ anyone who operates a coal plant,” he added.

Reuters reports that AEP Ohio’s total plant retirements are now at 3,123 megawatts, and that the remaining 10,725 megawatts of AEP Ohio power generation will consist of coal plants, natural gas plants and a small hydro power plant.

The company said it will work with the Ohio plant’s 95 employees to find them other jobs at other AEP facilities.


July 11, 2013


Two data points and a question.

Point one: Daniel Ellsberg yesterday in the Washington Post, in a piece on the Snowden case, referred to what might, surprisingly, be called the more easygoing legal climate of 1971, when he gave the Pentagon papers to the New York Times, the Washington Post and 17 other newspapers. For 13 days, while he distributed copies, he was in hiding, the last few as “a fugitive from justice.” He surrendered himself in Boston and was released the same day on personal-recognizance bond. Later, as charges against him mounted, his bond was increased to $50,000. But for the next two years, under indictment and awaiting trial, he was able to go wherever he liked. “I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures.” That isn’t the kind of treatment Edward Snowden would receive, he said, or Bradley Manning has received.

Ellsberg misses that “different America”: “There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal.”

Ellsberg didn’t go into the criminal actions taken against him. The domestic side of Richard Nixon’s White House, from policy to politics, had the aspects of a kind of malevolent screwball comedy. In August 1971, aides to Nixon discussed a covert operation to get damaging information on Ellsberg from his psychiatrist. The following month they burgled the office of Lewis Fielding. They didn’t find anything.

Ellsberg went on trial in early 1973, charged with theft of classified documents, conspiracy, and other charges related to espionage. During the trial the break-in of Dr. Fielding’s office was revealed. So was evidence that Ellsberg had been wiretapped without a court order. His defense team, learning all this for the first time, was incensed, and the judge himself either felt or imitated umbrage. The government’s actions, he said, “offend a sense of justice.” The events surrounding the case were “bizarre” and had “incurably infected the prosecution of this case.”

He then dismissed all charges against Daniel Ellsberg, whistleblower.

* * *

Point two, the other whistleblower case that came to light Sunday. It came from Foreign Policy magazine’s online news site, The Cable, which noted that the office of a law firm that represents State Department whistleblower Aurelia Fedenisn had been broken into. Citing the reporting of a local Fox TV affiliate in Dallas, The Cable said the burglars took three computers and broke into a locked metal filing cabinet. Other items of value—silver bars, electronic and video equipment—were left untouched. KDFW aired video footage from a security camera showing two people, a man and a woman, entering the office building in which the law firm, Schulman & Mathias, is located.

Cary Schulman, Fedenisn’s lawyer, told The Cable: “It’s a crazy, strange and suspicious situation.” He said he thinks whoever broke in was “somebody looking for information and not money.” His most “high-profile case” is Fedenisn’s, and he couldn’t think of “any other case where someone would go to these threat lengths to get our information.”

So what did whitleblower Aurelia Fedenisn blow the whistle on?

She is a former investigator in the Inspector General’s office in the State Department. Agents for the department had been working on investigations that uncovered serious and criminal wrongdoing. Their work, they said, was subject to influence and manipulation by higher-ups at the department. Agents told the IG’s office they were told to stop investigating a U.S. ambassador in a sensitive post who solicited prostitutes in a public park. Fedenisn, a 26 year veteran at State, went public. John Miller of CBS News broke the story on June 11.

Schulman says that since Fedenisn blew the whistle, she has been subject to attempts at intimidation. “They had law-enforcement officers camp out in front of her house, harass her children, and attempt to incriminate herself,” he said.

After the Miller story, State Department spokesman Jen Psaki denied the department was doing anything wrong.

Tuesday, in a telephone interview, Schulman told me the break-in was “odd—curious.” Adding to the strangeness, the burglars seem to have come not once but three separate times over the weekend of June 28-30. That’s “high risk behavior for a burglar,” he said. “I have never seen a commercial burglary where they come back multiple times.”

The burglars took three Apple computers, forced open a locked metal file cabinet, and took one credit card, leaving others behind.

The burglary has been reported to local police and the FBI.

Maybe it was just a third-rate if highly original burglary. Maybe it was related somehow to another case, though Schulman says he can’t think what that case might be.

* * *

Still, the Nixon-era whistleblower whose psychiatrist’s office was broken into has some tough words, in an op-ed piece, for the current administration—just as word comes that an Obama-era whistleblower’s lawyer’s office was broken into by . . . someone.


We have a lot of scandals now—the IRS, NSA, Justice, Fast and Furious, the never-ending story of Benghazi. And a funny thing about the current moment: Every story about every executive agency now seems to include the words “inspector general.” It’s funny that lately they seem to be working overtime. Why would that be? We’re hearing the word “whistleblower” a lot, too.

Meanwhile the mainstream press is doing its job, furiously digging into . . . Mark Leibovich’s book on Washington, which breaks news: Official Washington is dominated by scheming, self-serving weasels who are out for themselves, including the press. This is old news outside the Beltway, where they’ve already built political movements around it, but it has electrified the capital. Media preoccupation with the book is called navel gazing. But it isn’t navel gazing. It’s more like an old man running through the halls of a mental institution shouting “Me! Me! Me!” Actually it’s like an old man running through the halls screaming “Me! Me! Me!” while the hospital burns to the ground all around him. Did I put that in too low-key a way?

And so, I guess, the question:

Where is the media? How is it that nobody really seems to care about State Department whistleblower Aurelia Fedenisn and her quixotic quest to see that the U.S. government, or at least her little corner of it, is clean, upright and worthy of its citizens? After she went public, as her lawyer said, some investigators—too polite a word!—came to her house and tried to get her to admit she stole papers. (Just like Ellsberg!) What’s going on at the State Department? Exactly who tried to stop investigators, how high up did it go? The burglary may or may not be a scandal—but if it is, it’s a big one.

In her few interviews, Fedenisn sounded to me like the tea-party woman in Texas who had the FBI snooping around and OSHA on the line and got audited multiple times because she had the temerity to apply for a tax exemption for a group devoted to preventing voter fraud. These two women—they must have thought they’d tell the truth and the media would come to the rescue!

But a lot of people are afraid to be on the wrong side. The wrong side is against the assumptions of the Democratic Party. The right side is for those assumptions. Dig around in the executive agencies and their actions, and you’re helping the wrong side.

* * *

I’ve changed my mind and will end not with a question but an irony. It can be argued—Egil Krough argues it, and he was there—that Watergate started with the break-in at Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office.

But the funny thing is that the Pentagon Papers didn’t make Richard Nixon and his White House look bad. The papers were a classified history of the planning and assumptions of the early years of the Vietnam War. If anything, they made Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats look bad. But Nixon’s White House felt it must defend the law—Ellsberg had walked off with U.S. government secrets and distributed them on his own authority to the press. The government couldn’t say, “No problem, steal our confidential documents!” even though if you read them you knew the documents didn’t have to be secret, and in any case the American people, who paid for the war, had the right to see a history of it. And, of course, the Nixon White House was culturally inclined to prosecute in any case: They didn’t like those antiwar hippies with their long hair, or shrink-going think-tank lefties who thought they knew better than a general.

But by taking on Ellsberg in the courts, and breaking laws to harass and intimidate him, the Nixon White House made it look as if they were fighting to protect their own reputation, not an important legal principle and not, surely, the reputations of others. And forever, people would remember the Pentagon Papers as containing Nixon’s secrets, and his secret plan to start the war. When, in fact, he didn’t start it but ended it.

History abounds in irony.

The funny thing about the domestic side of the Nixon White House is you could never really rely on them to be cynical, only crazy.

I wonder what history will say you could rely on the Obama White House to be.