Saturday, January 08, 2011
With nineteen people shot, six fatally, in the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik isn't afraid to point the finger at who is culpable:
Man linked to Giffords shooting rampage called 'very disturbed'
The man linked to the shooting today of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others is 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, the Associated Press reported.
Saturday afternoon, police surrounded a house at 7700 N. Soledad Ave., which is the address listed by a man with the same name on a variety of online accounts and in the volunteer registry for the 2010 Tucson Festival of Books. The home is near West Magee Road and North Thornydale Road on the northwest side, about five miles from the shooting scene.
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik would not confirm Loughner is the suspected shooter. He said the person arrested for the shooting is uninjured and uncooperative.
The suspected shooter has made death threats before and been contacted by law-enforcement officers, but the threats weren't against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Dupnik said. The suspect is unstable, Dupnik said, but the sheriff would not say he is "insane."
A former classmate of Loughner at Pima Community College said he was "obviously very disturbed."
"He disrupted class frequently with nonsensical outbursts," said Lynda Sorenson, who took a math class with Loughner last summer at Pima Community College's Northwest campus.
Sorenson doesn't recall if he ever made any threats or uttered political statements but he was very disruptive, she said. He was asked to leave the pre-algebra class several times and eventually was barred from class, said Sorenson, a Tucson resident.
Another Pima classmate, Lydian Ali, said Loughner would frequently laugh aloud to himself during the advanced-poetry class they attended. Only about 16 people were in the class, so Loughner's behavior stood out, Ali said.
"It almost seemed like he was on his own planet, because his comments would have nothing to do with what we were talking about," Ali said.
MySpace, YouTube and Facebook accounts maintained by Loughner suggest he has spent most of his life on the northwest side: His profile says he attended Thornydale Elementary, Tortolita Middle School, Mountain View High School
The online accounts also contain bizarre discussions of a new currency and literacy, as well as threatening and despairing messages.
"WOW! I'm glad i didn't kill myself. I'll see you on National T.v.! This is foreshadow .... why doesn't anyone talk to me?.." he posted on MySpace Dec. 14.
On Dec. 13, he wrote: "I don't feel good: I'm ready to kill a police officer! I can say it."
In a posting on YouTube, Loughner wrote repeatedly about a new currency.
"I'm thinking of creating a new currency," he wrote. "Therefore, I'm thinking of a design for my new coins size, shape, color, material, and image to start a new money system."
He also wrote repeatedly about literacy. In a written message on YouTube, Loughner said: "The majority of people, who reside in District-8 are illiterate - hilarious. I don't control your English grammar structure, but you control your English grammar structure."
In a message posted on his MySpace account, titled "Goodbye friends," Loughner said: "Dear friends...please don't be mad at me. The literacy rate is below 5%. I haven't talked to one person who is literate." It was unclear when it was posted.
In a MySpace profile, Loughner said "My favorite interest was reading, and I studied grammar. Conscience dreams were a great study in college."
He lists among his favorite books "Mein Kampf" and "The Communist Manifesto". But he also includes a broad variety of other titles, including: "Animal Farm," "Brave New World," "To Kill a Mockingbird," and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".
In another YouTube message, Loughner said: "I know who's listening: Government Officials, and the People. Nearly all the people, who don't know this accurate information of a new currency, aren't aware of mind control and brainwash methods. If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn't have happen."
"In conclusion, my ambition - is for informing literate dreamers about a new currency; in a few days, you know I'm conscience dreaming! Thank you!"
In a YouTube video dated Dec. 15, titled "Introduction: Jared Loughner" the accused gunman describes himself as a U.S. military recruit who had applied to join the Army. The Army, however, said it rejected Lougher as a recruit in 2008.
In the video, Loughner makes a rambling mention of "MEPS in Phoenix" a reference to the Military Entrance Processing Station in the state capital that all Arizona recruits from every branch of service pass through before leaving for basic training.
"Every United States military recruit at MEPS in Phoenix is receiving one mini bible before the tests," it said. "Jared Loughner is a United States military recruit at MEPS in Phoenix. Therefore, Jared Loughner is receiving one mini bible before the tests.
"I didn't write a belief on my Army application and the recruiter wrote on the application: None."
First Sgt. Brian Homme, who oversees Army recruiting in Tucson, said Loughner applied to enlist in December 2008 and was sent to Phoenix to take a test and physical. But "he was found to be unqualified so he never joined the Army," Homme said.
He declined to say why Loughner was rejected, citing confidentiality laws.
Loughner has had at least two minor run-ins with police, according to on-line court records.
In October 2007, Loughner was cited by the Pima County Sheriff's Department for possession of drug paraphernalia, a charge that was dismissed in November 2007 when he completed a diversion program.
One year later, in October 2008, Loughner was charged with a "local charge" in Marana Municipal Court, that charge was also dismissed following the completion of a diversion program in March 2009.
Court records indicate the Marana case file is due to be purged in December 2013. It's unclear what the exact charge was.
Grant Wiens, 22, attended Mountain View High School with Loughner, although they were not in the same grade.
Wiens also took a class at Pima Community College with Loughner, where they occasionally talked, he said.
"He was a guy in high school who definitely had his opinions on stuff and didn't seem to care what people thought of him," Wiens said. "He did his own thing."
Ryan Miller, 19, was a sophomore at Mountain View when Loughner was a senior.
He said Loughner was seemed like a normal kid.
"I was in shock," he said, describing his reaction to the shooting. "I didn't know what possessed someone our age to do something like this."
- Associated Press identifies Giffords' shooter - Arizona Daily Star (news.google.com)
- Website believed linked to suspect emerges (politico.com)
- Jared Lee Loughner Identified As Gabrielle Giffords Shooter (INFO) (huffingtonpost.com)
Judge John Roll Dead: Killed In Arizona Shooting - In one afternoon, Roll logged more than 200 phone calls. Callers threatened the judge and family
Judge John Roll Dead: Killed In Arizona Shooting
Federal Judge John Roll was killed during a shooting in Arizona that also involved an attack on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
U.S. Marshal for Arizona David Gonzales confirmed to the Associated Press that the U.S. District Judge had died. He offered no other details on the shooting.
Arizona Central talked to Gonzales in 2009 after Roll allowed a $32 million civil-rights lawsuit to proceed against a local rancher. The case was filed by illegal immigrants and drew the ire of local talk radio hosts, who "spurred audiences into making threats."
In one afternoon, Roll logged more than 200 phone calls. Callers threatened the judge and his family. They posted personal information about Roll online.
"They said, 'We should kill him. He should be dead,' " Gonzales said.
Both Roll and his wife were given a U.S. Marshals Service protection detail at the time. Roll called the month-long protection experience "unnerving and invasive." According to Arizona Central, authorities identified four men believed to be responsible for the threats, but Roll declined to press charges at the recommendation of the Marshals Service.
Nevada Republican "Tea Party" Senate candidate Sharon Angle talked about "Second Amendment remedies" if she lost. She lost. Violent rhetoric has consequences.
John H. Armwood
Nevada Republican "Tea Party" Senate candidate Sharon Angle talked about "Second Amendment remedies" if she lost. She lost. Violent rhetoric has consequences.
John H. Armwood
- Federal Judge Who Had Received Death Threats Confirmed Dead IIn Arizona Shooting (businessinsider.com)
This is apparently the YouTube channel of the alleged shooter of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona, Jared Lee Loughner. It appears that it might be a political shooting.
Nevada Republican "Tea Party" Senate candidate Sharon Angle talked about "Second Amendment remedies" if she lost. She lost. Violent rhetoric has consequences.
John H. Armwood
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Shot in Tucson - NYTimes.com
Gabrielle Giffords, a congresswoman from Arizona, was shot in the head on Saturday at a public event held at a grocery store in Tucson, her spokesman, C. J. Karamargin, said. Others at the event, including members of her staff, were among the injured.
Her condition was unknown. She was taken to University Medical Center in Tucson, the trauma center for the area, about 10 miles away. Even though NPR and CNN reported that she had been killed, Darci Slater, a hospital spokeswoman, said that Ms. Giffords was in surgery.
CNN quoted a public information officer for the sheriff’s office as saying that 12 people had been injured in all and that the shooting had occurred around 10 a.m. local time.
Dr. Steven Rayle, a former emergency room doctor who now works in a hospice, said that he had witnessed the shootings. He said the congresswoman was standing behind a table outside the Safeway greeting passersby when the gunman approached her from behind, held a gun about a foot from her head and began firing.
. “He must have got off 20 rounds,” he said. Ms. Giffords slumped to the ground and staff members immediately rushed to her aid, Dr. Rayle said.
Dr. Rayle said he performed CPR on some of the victims. He said one of the victims was a young child and appeared to be in critical condition with a gunshot wound.
He said that one of the staffers tackled the gunman and that he and others helped detain the suspect. The doctor described the gunman as a white male in his mid-20s with short hair and “dressed in a shabby manner.”
An employee at a nearby store told CNN that he heard a steady stream of gun fire that appeared sustained and “random.” Shortly after, emergency vehicles filled the parking lot around the grocery story and cordoned off the area.
The shooting occurred at a Safeway supermarket in northwest Tucson as Ms. Giffords hosted an event, called “Congress on Your Corner, to allow members of the 8th Congressional District to meet her individually. She has held several events since first taking office in January 2007. At one such event in 2009, a protester was removed by police when his pistol fell on the supermarket floor.
Last March, her Tucson office was vandalized a few hours after the House vote overhauling the nation’s health care system, the authorities said. Earlier events in Tucson, Oro Valley, Green Valley, Sierra Vista, and Douglas had attracted between 75 and 150 people, according to a statement announcing the event. This was her first event since her re-election to a third term in November.
Ms. Giffords, 40, was interviewed on Fox news on Friday to talk about a bill to cut to congressional salaries by 5 percent.
She married Cmdr. Mark E. Kelly, 46, a NASA astronaut and Navy pilot from New Jersey, in December 2007 at a wedding attended by Robert B. Reich, the former Labor secretary.
Marc Lacey contributed reporting from Tucson.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: January 8, 2011
An earlier version of this article misstated Gabrielle Giffords's condition. While several news reports had said she had died on the scene, a hospital spokeswoman said that the congresswoman was undergoing surgery.
- US congresswoman shot in Arizona (bbc.co.uk)
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Bishop Eddie Long Update: Fighting in Court over Depositions - BV Black Spin
Both sides involved in the sexual misconduct suit against Bishop Eddie Long have been fighting over the schedule of depositions. Judge Johnny Panos has stepped in to require that both sides agree to a mediator by January 31 or have one appointed by the court. Mediation would begin on February 14.
One concern for both parties is whether their side is going to be required to give their depositions first. Bishop Long's attorneys have requested that the men who filed suit against him be required to be deposed first. But the plaintiff's lead counsel, B.J. Bernstein, would like for Long's side to go first.
"We just want a fair and balanced deposition schedule," Bernstein told the Associated Press. "Not just one side."
The order of deposition is important in legal proceedings because the side that moves last has more time to ascertain the strength of the other party's case. They can better develop questions for cross-examination and may even change their willingness to settle.
The sexual misconduct suit against Bishop Eddie Long involves four men who've accused the megapastor of using his power and influence to lure them into sexual relationships. The men claim that Long used gifts, expensive trips and his influence to get what he wanted. Long has denied the allegations in legal filings, only admitting that he has shared a room with members of his congregation on a few trips. He claims that there was no sexual misconduct.
Most interesting about the case against Bishop Long is that both sides appear interested in resolving the case very quickly. Resolving the case quickly does not mean that it has to be resolved privately, but I suspect that's what will happen. If the facts are not revealed and Bishop Long returns to the helm of The New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, his position as a spiritual leader will always be under question. It is important that he get the public hearing he seemed to demand in the beginning.
- Motions fly in Bishop Eddie Long case (ajc.com)
- Bishop Eddie Longs Church Doesn't Back Him in His Lawsuits - BV Black Spin (armwoodnews.com)
- Bishop Eddie Long Update: Trial Date Now Set for Next Summer - BV Black Spin (armwoodnews.com)
- Eddie Long | Status hearing on lawsuits against bishop, New Birth | ajc.com (armwoodnews.com)
Review Of Juan Williams' Firing Done; NPR News Exec Resigns : The Two-Way : NPR
by MARK MEMMOTT
NPR just released two statements — one on the completion of an independent review of the dismissal of news analyst Juan Williams and another on the resignation of Senior Vice President for News Ellen Weiss:
"Washington, DC January 6, 2011 — The NPR Board of Directors announced today that it has completed its review into the facts and circumstances leading to the termination of NPR's contract with senior news analyst Juan Williams. The review also included an examination of how other NPR analysts and correspondents have been treated under the NPR Ethics Code with respect to on-air comments. The independent members of NPR's Board (the “Board”) worked with outside legal counsel, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP (“Weil”), to gather information related to the contract termination.
"In light of the review and feedback provided to them, the Board has adopted recommendations and remedial measures designed to address issues that surfaced with the review. The recommendations and remedial measures range from new internal procedures concerning personnel and on air-talent decisions to taking appropriate disciplinary action with respect to certain management employees involved in the termination. Some of these changes have already been made and others are in process. Specifically, the Board adopted recommendations that NPR:
"— Establish a committee comprised of NPR personnel, respected journalists, and others from outside NPR to review and update NPR’s current Ethics Code (the “Code”).
"— Develop policies and procedures to ensure consistent application of and training on the Code to all employees and contractors.
"— Review and update policies/training with respect to the role of NPR journalists appearing on other media outlets to ensure that they understand the applicability of the Ethics Code to their work and to facilitate equitable and consistent application of the Code.
"— Review and define the roles of NPR journalists (including news analysts) to address a changing news environment in which such individuals have a myriad of outlets and new platforms for their talent, balancing the opportunities presented by such outlets and platforms with the potential for conflicts of interest that may compromise NPR’s mission.
"— Ensure that its practices encourage a broad range of viewpoints to assist its decision-making, support its mission, and reflect the diversity of its national audiences. The Human Resources Committee of the Board is working in conjunction with key members of NPR management on this issue.
"— Williams' contract was terminated in accordance with its terms. The contract gave both parties the right to terminate on 30 days’ notice for any reason. The facts gathered during the review revealed that the termination was not the result of special interest group or donor pressure. However, because of concerns regarding the speed and handling of the termination process, the Board additionally recommended that certain actions be taken with regard to management involved in Williams’ contract termination.
"The Board has expressed confidence in Vivian Schiller's leadership going forward. She accepted responsibility as CEO and cooperated fully with the review process. The Board, however, expressed concern over her role in the termination process and has voted that she will not receive a 2010 bonus.
"NPR also announced that Ellen Weiss, Senior Vice-President for News, has resigned.
" 'We have taken this situation very seriously and the Board believes these recommendations and remedial steps address the concerns raised in connection with the termination of Williams’ contract,' said Dave Edwards, Chair. 'The Board regrets this incident’s impact on NPR and will work with NPR’s CEO, Vivian Schiller, to ensure that these actions will be expeditiously completed, examined, and monitored on an ongoing basis.'
"In conducting the review, Weil gathered thousands of documents from various sources and interviewed many current and former NPR employees and contractors. Weil requested Williams’ participation in the review through both his agent and a former NPR colleague. Unfortunately, these efforts were unsuccessful and Williams was not interviewed.
"The Ad Hoc Committee and the non-management members of the Board met on multiple occasions and deliberated on the information provided to them. Weil reported to an Ad Hoc Committee of the NPR Board consisting of Dave Edwards (Chair of the Board), Howard Stevenson (Immediate Past Chair), and Carol Cartwright (Vice-Chair)."
In addition, this message just went to NPR staff from NPR CEO Vivian Schiller:
"NPR SVP for News Ellen Weiss has notified me that she will be leaving her position. Over her decades at NPR, Ellen has made meaningful and lasting contributions to the evolution of NPR and our newsroom. She is a strong journalist who has brought her considerable talents to how NPR covers the world and meets the ever-increasing expectations of today’s audiences. Ellen exemplifies journalistic professionalism and integrity. I’m grateful to her for what she has accomplished at NPR, and I encourage you to reach out to her in the days ahead with your own thanks.
"I’ve asked Vice President for Programming Margaret Low Smith to step in as acting senior vice president for news until we’ve found Ellen’s replacement. Margaret is an accomplished newswoman. She spent nearly 14 years in the news division, ultimately as a senior producer for All Things Considered, before she joined NPR’s senior management team. She knows our programming, staff, and stations well, and she is a talented executive and leader. Eric Nuzum will oversee the programming division during this interim period. Margaret and I will be meeting with different departments in News over the next few days. I will distribute a proposed schedule for those meetings shortly.
"In the coming weeks we will begin a search for Ellen’s replacement. The position will be posted on NPR.org, and we expect a strong slate of both internal and external candidates. Margaret has indicated that she will not be a candidate for the position.
"The NPR Board of Directors has also completed the review of the events leading to the termination of Juan Williams’ contract as a part-time news analyst. This independent review was undertaken at the request of the NPR Board and performed by the Weil firm. Attached is the Board’s statement. There is no written 'report' aside from this statement, which summarizes the overall outcome of the Weil review. This is typical for this kind of outside review.
"As you will see, the review surfaces important issues that I have committed to address in terms of how we operate internally. Most of the actions to be taken are already in process. The review of NPR’s News Code of Ethics and Social Media Policy is underway to assure that the guidelines are clear, consistent, and relevant to today’s media environment. That will be followed by information sessions for all News staff and some outside the newsroom. We’ve also strengthened our termination procedures and our communications protocols.
"This has been a difficult period for all of us. Now is the time to focus on what we can do to make NPR an even stronger organization and a more meaningful part of daily life for the millions who depend on us each week. I am committed to making NPR one of the best places to work and a rewarding experience for all employees."
We'll have more as this story develops.
For background on the Juan Williams dismissal, you might start here. Alicia Shepard, NPR's ombudsman, previously said that the firing "was poorly handled." Williams previously said he thinks he was fired because "I appear on Fox." Weiss was the NPR executive who informed Williams of his dismissal, which came after he said on Fox News Channel that he gets nervous when he sees people in "Muslim garb" on airplanes. NPR said the remark was the latest in a pattern of problem comments made by Williams over recent years.
As NPR's David Folkenflik reports for our newscast, after Williams' dismissal "conservatives blasted NPR, and Fox News' most prominent opinion hosts made a cause of it. Republican lawmakers threatened to cut federal funding for public broadcasters."
Jacques Coughlin/For NPR
As for the review done by Weil, Gotshal & Manges, David summarizes the findings this way: "It found that the termination of Williams' contract was entirely legal. But the board said the report called for a full review of the company's policies on ethics and outside appearances and for them to be applied consistently to all personnel."
He adds that Weiss "joined NPR in 1982 and rose through the ranks, holding a variety of key positions, such as executive producer of All Things Considered and national editor. She helped lead coverage of some of the biggest stories and highest-impact investigations in recent years. And she is credited with leading the network through an era of wrenching changes in journalism. But her dismissal of Williams — by phone — became a flashpoint in the debate."
- Bill Lichtenstein: NPR Conducting Investigation Into Juan Williams Firing (huffingtonpost.com)
Daley to Become Next White House Chief of Staff - NYTimes.com
William M. Daley will become the next White House chief of staff, Obama administration officials said Thursday. Currently a senior executive with JPMorgan Chase, and formerly a commerce secretary with the Clinton administration, Mr. Daley is expected to bring an outsider’s voice and decades of business experience to the West Wing.
Tim Boyle/Bloomberg William M. Daley in April.
President Obama is expected to make the personnel announcement at 2:30 Thursday afternoon. Pete Rouse, the interim chief of staff and a longtime friend of the president’s, will become a counselor to Mr. Obama, officials said.
The decision to hire Mr. Daley was made just one day after he visited with the president in the Oval Office at the White House. After the meeting on Wednesday, aides suggested that Mr. Obama was close to a decision, but had not said when it would be made.
At JP Morgan Chase, Mr. Daley, the brother of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, is responsible for its Midwestern operations. He has been a player in national politics, both publicly and behind the scenes, since the early 1990s, when then-President Bill Clinton enlisted him to use his connections with both business and labor leaders to shepherd through Congress the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. It was enacted over the strong opposition of labor unions and many Democratic lawmakers.
Mr. Clinton made Mr. Daley, 62, his commerce secretary in the second term. Mr. Daley left in mid-2000 to become chairman of Vice President Al Gore’s presidential campaign, and he was given credit for stabilizing what had been a troubled election team.
During the Bush administration, Mr. Daley worked for a time in Texas as president of SBC Communications Inc., but in 2004 he returned to Chicago to help manage the merger of Chicago-based Bank One Corp. with JP Morgan Chase, working closely with the new chief of the merged institution, Jamie Dimon.
Before the 1990s, Mr. Daley was a lawyer and banker in Chicago, where his father and now his older brother have been mayor for most of the past half-century. Despite his Chicago roots, he does not have a prior close relationship with Mr. Obama, but he has for years been a political ally of Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s first chief of staff and a former Chicago congressman who is now the lead candidate for mayor.
It was Mr. Emanuel and Obama strategist David Axelrod, another longtime Chicago Democratic operative, who raised the idea of tapping Mr. Daley as chief of staff, associates say. Mr. Daley, who has been critical of the administration at times, particularly for pursuing the health care overhaul once it became so unpopular, is seen as bringing a sort of “wise man” personage and fresh blood to the White House, with an ability to reach out to the alienated business community.
But his political centrism and background with business and Wall Street are certain to exacerbate the administration’s tense relations with liberal activists in the Democratic base.
One liberal group was quick to comment.
“This was a real mistake by the White House,” said Adam Green with BoldProgressives.org. “Bill Daley consistently urges the Democratic Party to pursue a corporate agenda that alienates both Independent and Democratic voters.”
Another challenge facing Mr. Daley will be integrating himself into the often insular world of close Obama confidants, who have largely run the presidency so far.
He also has big shoes to fill. Mr. Rouse, who will remain at the White House, is a favorite among staffers, who are particularly loyal to him. And Mr. Emanuel was known for his fierce work schedule and his detailed knowledge of the legislative process.
The arrival of Mr. Daley is the latest acceleration of what White House officials have described as an overhaul of the president’s senior staff. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, also on Wednesday announced that he will leave next month to become an outside political adviser to the president.
Next week, David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager in 2008, is expected to begin at the White House to take over the role that Mr. Axelrod has played for the past two years. He is leaving the White House to return to Chicago, where he will help to prepare the president’s 2012 re-election campaign.
- Bill Daley Reportedly To Be Named White House Chief Of Staff (huffingtonpost.com)
- Daley visits White House, renewing chief of staff speculation (thehill.com)
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
GOP Takes Power In House Under Tea Party Scrutiny : NPR
As Republicans assumed control of the U.S. House Wednesday, they face a raft of challenges, as newly minted House Speaker John Boehner noted in his opening remarks to Congress.
"Nearly one in 10 of our neighbors are looking for work," Boehner said. "Health care costs are still rising for families and small businesses. Our spending has caught up with us, and our debt will soon eclipse the size of our entire economy.
"Hard work and tough decisions will be required of the 112th Congress," he said, adding, "The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin carrying out their instructions."
Republicans have gotten plenty of instructions from the Tea Party activists who helped them drive Democrats from power in the House last November. And party leaders have been scrambling to salute Tea Party goals.
They've ordered a reading of the Constitution on opening day and required that all new legislation cite a constitutional provision permitting the proposed action. They've pledged to cut 2.6 percent of the House operations budget and teed up a largely symbolic vote on repealing the 2010 health care law next week.
While that's all fine and good, say Tea Party adherents across the county, window dressing does not equal what they almost uniformly refer to as "walking the walk": taking radical steps to stem government spending and cut the nation's historically high debt.
And that means starting with a "just say no" stance on increasing the debt limit — the maximum amount the government can borrow to keep running. It's a position that the Obama administration has characterized as potentially catastrophic, and it could lead to a government shutdown.
No matter, says Amy Kremer of the Tea Party Express.
"No one ever said it was going to be easy, but they have to figure out how to do it," says Kremer, who issued this warning: "It's not too early to start making our 2012 target list."
Reckoning With The Force
Before last year's party primaries, a Tea Party threat may have been sloughed off as so much bombast. But with more than 40 Tea Party-backed House members and five senators taking the oath of office Wednesday, ignoring the movement is not an option for Republicans — even though the movement's durability may be challenged by a strengthening economy and an off-election year.
A recent Bloomberg poll found that 57 percent of Americans expect Tea Party activists to "start compromising to get things done," while 32 percent expect them to remain "true to their principles," says the organization's pollster, J. Ann Selzer.
"I expect questions like raising the debt ceiling to offer the most insight into how the famous Republican discipline among its ranks holds or breaks," Selzer says.
Indeed, the debt ceiling debate is shaping up to be the first real test of how new Republican leaders in the House, including Boehner, and a larger GOP minority in the Senate work with, or deal with, Tea Party imperatives.
"The debt ceiling is a pivotal issue, a linchpin issue," says Peter Bordow, a Tea Party organizer in Arizona.
"There needs to be a broad understanding of the effect of this decision, but I think we are inevitably going to need to swallow a difficult pill someday," he says. "Not raising the debt ceiling may be that difficult pill."
That position has been echoed by newly elected Tea Party-backed House Republicans, including Mike Kelly, a Pennsylvania car dealer.
"Raising the debt ceiling is absolutely irresponsible," he said during an appearance on CBS News.
David Schweikert of Arizona told NPR's Don Gonyea: "Not to scare people, if there aren't substantive changes in both the process and what we're budgeting to, from almost a moral standpoint, I need to go out there and vote no."
And GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, said recently that she is "not looking to shut the government down," but is gathering signatures on a petition to prevent a debt ceiling increase.
Will Republicans seeking to appease the Tea Party risk a government shutdown, like the politically disastrous one orchestrated by Newt Gingrich, who served as speaker after the party's historic takeover of the House in 1994?
Conservative commentators and economists across the spectrum have been weighing in, and they say they hope not.
Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, urged Republicans to avoid a confrontation over raising the debt ceiling or shutting down government "lest Republicans repeat the Newt Gingrich shutdown debacle of the mid-1990s."
"The Republican political goal must be to make a government-cutting agenda seem reasonable and practicable," Lowry says, "rather than the obverse of Obama's spending recklessness."
At the business-oriented American Enterprise Institute, experts like Kevin Hassett have warned that failing to raise the debt limit would put the nation in a default situation, and could turn government IOUs into toxic assets — shaking the investment world's faith in the United States.
There are some new Tea Party-backed members of Congress who appear to be taking that into consideration. Allen West of Florida told Fox News that he would oppose raising the debt limit — unless Congress indicates it will take on the financial problems of Social Security and Medicare. Even Bachmann couched her comments by saying she opposes raising the debt limit "at this point."
As Selzer says, the debt ceiling debate will provide a valuable window into intra-party negotiations — and into how Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will accommodate and engage their new Tea Party-backed brethren.
Health Care Rollback
When it comes to health care repeal efforts, Bordow, the Arizona activist, says he views GOP congressional action as symbolic.
"It's not a high-probability endeavor," says Bordow. "The only real shot they have is defunding certain portions of it — the better path will be through the judicial system."
Boehner, however, has put repeal at the center of his agenda. Democrats have warmed to the battle, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warning Boehner that repeal would affect "popular consumer protections that help middle-class Americans."
And Democrats have begun to highlight family-friendly aspects of the legislation, including allowing parents to carry adult children on family health insurance policies.
Tea Party activists have said that nothing should be off the table when it comes to cutting government spending — including entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
But like many Tea Party activists, including those coming to Congress, Kremer is less than specific when asked her suggestions for cuts: "I'm not an economist; I'm not an accountant; I'm not an expert on the economy," she says. "But to rein in spending, you have to make cuts and everything needs to be on the table."
Bordow says he would like to see the retirement age raised to 68 to help shore up Social Security and wants Americans to pay for visits to doctors' offices, with insurance covering only catastrophic health issues.
"Patients need to have their own skin in the game," he says, employing a phrase commonly used by Tea Party activists.
But Tea Party-backed newcomers in Congress now also have skin in the game, and some, like Republican Adam Kinzinger, who Kremer points to as a Tea Party star, will have to answer to the folks back home.
Kinzinger, from an Illinois swing district, handily beat Democratic Rep. Debbie Halvorson last fall.
"Congresswoman Halvorson did everything that she said she would during her campaign two years ago, and yet the district still tossed her," says Steve Stout of The Times newspaper in Ottawa, Ill.
"Mr. Kinzinger is a product of a growing frustration in the Midwest with the direction of the country," Stout says. But, he adds, "the Tea Party adopted Adam Kinzinger more than he adopted them. And the Tea Party here in LaSalle County is far removed from some other parts of the movement — they're conservative here, not radical."
"Adam has a big job ahead of him," Stout says.
It's a situation that Boehner no doubt can appreciate.
Image by Getty Images via @daylifeChristine O'Donnell will refile finance docs - John Bresnahan - POLITICO.com
An attorney for failed GOP Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell said the campaign will submit all new finance reports for the entire 2009-10 election cycle soon, likely by mid-January.
In a Dec. 22 letter to the Federal Election Commission, O’Donnell’s attorney, Cleta Mitchell, admitted the campaign “did not have the funds prior to the 2010 primary in September, 2010 [,] to retain professional compliance vendors and counsel.”
Justice Department officials have begun a criminal investigation into allegations that O’Donnell, a favorite of the tea party movement, improperly used campaign funds to cover personal expenses, including rent and meals. Campaign funds can be used only for election-related purposes.
Mitchell added in the letter that the O’Donnell campaign now “has undertaken the task of going back to the beginning of the election cycle to reconcile all entries in the bank account to the FEC reports and in the process of preparing amendments(s) to the previously filed reports as necessary.”
Mitchell said the O’Donnell campaign “hopes to have all the amendments prepared and filed” as part of its year-end submission to the FEC, which are due at the end of January.
Some of the amended finance reports will cover periods when O’Donnell herself was serving as the treasurer for her Senate campaign.
The FEC has sent five requests for additional information to the O’Donnell campaign, including for periods in 2009. Mitchell noted in her Dec. 22 letter that several of those FEC requests “seem quite late in being sent, as most questions about particular reports are sent … much sooner after the specific reports at issue.”
O’Donnell, who defeated former Rep. Mike Castle to win the GOP Senate nomination, insists that she has done nothing wrong, and she blames political rivals on both sides of the aisle — including Vice President Joe Biden, a former Delaware senator — for the controversy. O’Donnell was soundly defeated by Democrat Chris Coons on Election Day.
“There’s been no impermissible use of campaign funds whatsoever,” O’Donnell told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in a recent interview.
“You have to look at this whole ‘thug–politic’ tactic for what it is,” O’Donnell added.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a congressional watchdog group, filed complaints last year with the FEC and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Delaware, alleging that a former O’Donnell aide publicly admitted that O’Donnell had misused campaign funds. DOJ has begun looking into those allegations, although no charges have been filed at this time.
- Christine O'Donnell's Campaign Spending Probed : NPR (armwoodnews.com)
- Christine O'Donnell the target in probe of campaign spending? (dailykos.com)
- O'Donnell's new message: 'I'm you' (politico.com)
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
WikiLeaks: US targets EU over GM crops | World news | The Guardian
US embassy cable recommends drawing up list of countries for 'retaliation' over opposition to genetic modification
John Vidal, environment editor
guardian.co.uk, Monday 3 January 2011 13.44 GMT
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The US embassy in Paris wanted to penalise the EU after France moved to ban a Monsanto GM corn variety. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features
The US embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country which opposed genetically modified (GM) crops, newly released WikiLeaks cables show.
In response to moves by France to ban a Monsanto GM corn variety in late 2007, the ambassador, Craig Stapleton, a friend and business partner of former US president George Bush, asked Washington to penalise the EU and particularly countries which did not support the use of GM crops.
"Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits.
"The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices," said Stapleton, who with Bush co-owned the St Louis-based Texas Rangers baseball team in the 1990s.
In other newly released cables, US diplomats around the world are found to have pushed GM crops as a strategic government and commercial imperative.
Because many Catholic bishops in developing countries have been vehemently opposed to the controversial crops, the US applied particular pressure to the pope's advisers.
Cables from the US embassy in the Vatican show that the US believes the pope is broadly supportive of the crops after sustained lobbying of senior Holy See advisers, but regrets that he has not yet stated his support. The US state department special adviser on biotechnology as well as government biotech advisers based in Kenya lobbied Vatican insiders to persuade the pope to declare his backing. "… met with [US monsignor] Fr Michael Osborn of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, offering a chance to push the Vatican on biotech issues, and an opportunity for post to analyse the current state of play on biotech in the Vatican generally," says one cable in 2008.
"Opportunities exist to press the issue with the Vatican, and in turn to influence a wide segment of the population in Europe and the developing world," says another.
But in a setback, the US embassy found that its closest ally on GM, Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the powerful Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the man who mostly represents the pope at the United Nations, had withdrawn his support for the US.
"A Martino deputy told us recently that the cardinal had co-operated with embassy Vatican on biotech over the past two years in part to compensate for his vocal disapproval of the Iraq war and its aftermath – to keep relations with the USG [US government] smooth. According to our source, Martino no longer feels the need to take this approach," says the cable.
In addition, the cables show US diplomats working directly for GM companies such as Monsanto. "In response to recent urgent requests by [Spanish rural affairs ministry] state secretary Josep Puxeu and Monsanto, post requests renewed US government support of Spain's science-based agricultural biotechnology position through high-level US government intervention."
It also emerges that Spain and the US have worked closely together to persuade the EU not to strengthen biotechnology laws. In one cable, the embassy in Madrid writes: "If Spain falls, the rest of Europe will follow."
The cables show that not only did the Spanish government ask the US to keep pressure on Brussels but that the US knew in advance how Spain would vote, even before the Spanish biotech commission had reported.
- EU looks to tighten GM crop assessment rules (reuters.com)
Monday, January 03, 2011
Capt. Owen Honors, the commander of the aircraft carrier Enterprise discovered to have produced weird homophobic PSA-esque videos for the ship’s “movie night” has been temporarily relieved of his duties as captain.
Facing WikiLeaks Threat, Bank of America Plays Defense - NYTimes.com
By the time the conference call ended, it was nearly midnight at Bank of America’s headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., but the bank’s counterespionage work was only just beginning.
A day earlier, on Nov. 29, the director of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, said in an interview that he intended to “take down” a major American bank and reveal an “ecosystem of corruption” with a cache of data from an executive’s hard drive. With Bank of America’s share price falling on the widely held suspicion that the hard drive was theirs, the executives on the call concluded it was time to take action.
Since then, a team of 15 to 20 top Bank of America officials, led by the chief risk officer, Bruce R. Thompson, has been overseeing a broad internal investigation — scouring thousands of documents in the event that they become public, reviewing every case where a computer has gone missing and hunting for any sign that its systems might have been compromised.
In addition to the internal team drawn from departments like finance, technology, legal and communications, the bank has brought in Booz Allen Hamilton, the consulting firm, to help manage the review. It has also sought advice from several top law firms about legal problems that could arise from a disclosure, including the bank’s potential liability if private information was disclosed about clients.
The company’s chief executive, Brian T. Moynihan, receives regular updates on the team’s progress, according to one Bank of America executive familiar with the team’s work, who, like other bank officials, was granted anonymity to discuss the confidential inquiry.
Whether Mr. Assange is bluffing, or indeed has Bank of America in its sights at all, the bank’s defense strategy represents the latest twist in the controversy over WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange.
The United States government has been examining whether Mr. Assange, an Australian, could be charged criminally for the release by WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of classified Pentagon and State Department diplomatic cables that became the subject of articles in The New York Times and other publications last month.
The Swedish government is also seeking to question Mr. Assange about rape accusations against him. As he fights extradition from Britain in that case, he remains under house arrest in an English mansion. Mr. Assange has said the timing of the rape accusations was not coincidental, and that he was the victim of a smear campaign led by the United States government.
Despite his legal troubles, Mr. Assange’s threats have grown more credible with every release of secret documents, including those concerning the dumping of toxic waste in Africa, the treatment of prisoners held by the United States at Guantánamo Bay, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, most recently, the trove of diplomatic cables.
That Mr. Assange might shift his attention to a private company — especially one as politically unpopular as Bank of America or any of its rivals, which have been stained by taxpayer-financed bailouts and the revelation of improper foreclosure practices — raises a new kind of corporate threat, combining elements of law, technology, public policy, politics and public relations.
“This is a significant moment, and Bank of America has to get out in front of it,” said Richard S. Levick, a veteran crisis communications expert. “Corporate America needs to look at what happens here, and how Bank of America handles it.”
Last month, the bank bought up Web addresses that could prove embarrassing to the company or its top executives in the event of a large-scale public assault, but a spokesman for the bank said the move was unrelated to any possible leak.
Then, on Dec. 18, Bank of America may have antagonized Mr. Assange further when it said it would join other companies like MasterCard and PayPal in halting the processing of payments intended for WikiLeaks, citing the possibility the organization’s activities might be illegal.
Mr. Assange has never said explicitly that the data he possesses comes from Bank of America, which is the nation’s largest bank, though he did say that the disclosure would take place sometime early this year.
The bank has emerged as the most likely target because a year before the latest threat, Mr. Assange said in an interview that his group had the hard drive of a Bank of America executive containing five gigabytes of data — enough to hold more than 200,000 pages of text — and was evaluating how to present it. It was this connection that set the wheels in motion on Nov. 30.
The financial markets took the threat seriously. Bank of America shares fell 3 percent in trading the day after Mr. Assange made his threat against a nameless bank, and while the stock has since recovered, the prospect of a Bank of America data dump from WikiLeaks remains a concern, said Moshe Orenbuch, an analyst with Credit Suisse.
“The fears have calmed down somewhat, but if there is something out there that is revealed, the market reaction will be negative,” he said.
Bank of America’s internal review has turned up no evidence that would substantiate Mr. Assange’s claim that he has a hard drive, according to interviews with executives there. The company declined to otherwise comment on the case. A WikiLeaks representative also declined to comment.
With the data trail cold, one working theory both inside and outside the bank is that internal documents in Mr. Assange’s possession, if any, probably came from the mountains of material turned over to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Congressional investigators and the New York attorney general’s office during separate investigations in 2009 and 2010 into the bank’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch.
As it happens, Mr. Assange’s first mention of the Bank of America hard drive, in October 2009, coincided with hearings by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform into the Merrill merger, and with wide-ranging requests for information by the committee.
The bank’s investigative team is trying to reconstruct the handover of materials to public agencies for a variety of inquiries, in pursuit of previously undisclosed documents that could embarrass the company, bank officials said.
In addition to the Merrill documents, the team is reviewing material on Bank of America’s disastrous acquisition in 2008 of Countrywide Financial, the subprime mortgage specialist, the officials said. The criticism of Bank of America’s foreclosure procedures centers mostly on loans it acquired in the Countrywide deal, and one possibility is that the documents could show unscrupulous or fraudulent lending practices by Countrywide.
If that is the case, it would not only reignite political pressure on Bank of America and other top mortgage servicers, but it could also strengthen the case of investors pressuring the big banks to buy back tens of billions in soured mortgages.
“If something happens, we want to be ready,” one bank official said. “You want to know what your options are before it comes out, rather than have to decide on the spot.” Bank of America’s efforts are complicated by the fact that it has made several huge acquisitions in recent years, and those once-independent companies had different computer systems and security procedures.
WikiLeaks has taken on private companies in the past, including leaking documents from Barclays of Britain and Bank Julius Baer of Switzerland, but neither disclosure drew nearly as much attention.
Officials at the S.E.C., the House oversight committee and the New York attorney general’s office insist the information they received had been turned over in the form of papers and discs, never a hard drive, and deny they are the source of the WikiLeaks cache.
At the same time, Mr. Assange’s own statements would seem to undermine the government-as-source theory, hinting instead that resignations might follow as evidence emerges of corruption among top executives, something the public investigations never found.
“It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume,” he said in the November 2010 interview with Forbes. “For this, there’s only one similar example. It’s like the Enron e-mails.”
Eric Dash and Louise Story contributed reporting.
- Why I Love WikiLeaks: Bank of America Threat Revealed (alan.com)
- WikiLeaks Founder: We Have Enough Information To Make An Exec At A Major Bank Resign (armwoodnews.com)
- Bank of America cuts off WikiLeaks (news.cnet.com)