Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gasp! White House’s Patrick Gaspard forgot I.O.U. from S.E.I.U.

This is quite embarrassing. From Politico:

President Barack Obama’s political director failed to disclose that he was slated to receive a nearly $40,000 payout from a large labor union while he was working in the White House.

Patrick Gaspard, who served as the political director for the Service Employees International Union local 1199, received $37,071.46 in “carried over leave and vacation” from the union in 2009, but he did not disclose the agreement to receive the payment on his financial disclosure forms filed with the White House.

In a section on his financial disclosure where agreements or arrangements for payment by a former employer must be disclosed, Gaspard checked a box indicating that he had nothing to report.

As a reminder, Gaspard is one among an honored handful of former union employees who, after the election, found a safe place to land in the White House.

Obama pushes senators for energy bill

WASHINGTON (AP) – The authors of sweeping energy legislation stalled in the Senate said Tuesday they were prepared to scale back their bill to get Republican support.


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Find Trades Today Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman made the comments after meeting at the White House with fellow senators and President Barack Obama, who is pushing for action in the wake of the Gulf oil spill.

"We are prepared to scale back the reach of our legislation in order to try to find that place of compromise," Kerry, D-Mass., said after the meeting.

But the road to compromise looked anything but clear. Kerry, D-Mass., and Lieberman, I-Conn., said that during the meeting with Obama the president insisted the bill must include a price on the carbon emissions blamed for global warming – something that’s anathema to many Republicans.

And when Republicans left the meeting they lambasted the approach, calling it a "national energy tax" they could never accept.

"If we want a clean energy bill, take a national energy tax off the table in the middle of a recession while we focus on the oil spill and focus on what we agree on," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

The climate bill by Kerry and Lieberman would tax carbon dioxide emissions produced by coal-fired power plants and other large polluters, as a way to reduce pollution blamed for global warming. The measure aims to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases by 17 percent by 2020 and by more than 80 percent by 2050.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is aiming to bring the bill to the Senate floor in July.

The bill’s sole Republican backer, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, withdrew his support last month, saying it is impossible to pass the legislation in the current political climate.

Nonetheless Lieberman and Kerry said that some Republicans in Tuesday’s meeting indicated openness to compromise. They declined to say who.

"As you know Sen. Graham helped us shape this bill. He still believes we have to price carbon. There are a group of Republicans who believe we have to price carbon. The question is how, and that’s what we need to continue to work on," said Kerry.

The House passed its own measure last year.

Associated Press Writer Matthew Daly contributed to this report.

Petraeus Holds Obama Hostage

by Patrick J. Buchanan

President Obama is being hailed for toughness in his firing of Gen. McChrystal and brilliance in his replacing him as Afghan field commander with Gen. David Petraeus, who managed the George W. Bush “surge” in Iraq that saved this nation from an ignominious defeat.

Herewith, a dissent.

By firing a fighting general, beloved of his troops, Obama just took upon himself full responsibility for the McChrystal Plan. The general is off the hook.

As of now, the plan is not succeeding. And given the inability of Kabul to deliver the “government in a box” to Marja, after Marines supposedly de-Talibanized the town, the McChrystal Plan is failing. The Battle of Kandahar has not yet begun, though the June D-Day has come and gone.

Should we be in this same bloody stalemate in December, Obama will be blamed for having fired his field commander who devised his battle plan, and was carrying it out, over some stupid insults from staff officers to some counterculture magazine.

More critically, Obama just made himself hostage to a savvy general who is said to dream of one day holding Obama’s office.

Consider the box Obama just put himself in.

In 2009, he sacked Gen. David McKiernan and replaced him with his own man, Gen. McChrystal. Now, he has sacked McChrystal and replaced him with Petraeus.

The former community organizer and acolyte of Saul Alinsky cannot now possibly fire the most popular and successful general in the U.S. Army, who accepted a demotion to take command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, without a firestorm that would consume his presidency.

If Obama has not noticed, the neocons, who want a “long war” in the Islamic world and a new war with Iran, are celebrating the Petraeus appointment with far greater unanimity than Obama’s own staff.

Why is the War Party celebrating? Petraeus is one of them.

And the untouchable general’s demands have begun to come in.

Clearly, Obama has been told he must back away from his declared deadline of July 31, 2011, for beginning withdrawals of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. And Obama is already moving to do so.

Vice President Joe Biden’s statement in Jonathan Alter’s “The Promise” that, “in July of 2011, you’re going to see a whole lot of people moving out, bet on it,” has already been challenged by Defense’s Robert Gates.

No such decision has yet been made, said Gates.

Look to Obama, soon, to walk back that July 2011 date and declare that any withdrawal of U.S. troops will be “conditions-based” — another way of saying that if we are not winning the war in July 2011, we are not coming home.

Here is the likely scenario.

At the December review of the Afghan war, Petraeus will argue that, while progress is being made, we cannot meet our goals by July 2011. Years more of combat will be required to win the war.

Petraeus will ask the president for more time, perhaps years more, and perhaps ask for more troops, 20,000 or 30,000, to complete the mission and ensure Afghanistan is not again a sanctuary for al-Qaida.

Thus, in December 2010, Obama becomes LBJ in December 1967, when Gen. William Westmoreland, with 500,000 troops in

Vietnam, came to the White House to ask for 200,000 more. LBJ said no.

And as the Republican right hammered him for not bombing Hanoi and blockading Haiphong, Sens. Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy entered the primaries against him from the left.

Richard Nixon, saying five years of unsuccessful prosecution of a war called out for new leadership, was marching to the nomination of a party he had helped reunite after the Barry Goldwater disaster.

The outlook bleak, his party splintering, LBJ declared on March 31, 1968, that he would not run again.

If Obama repudiates his July 2011 date for first withdrawals of U.S. troops, if he agrees to any new Petraeus troop request, his party will split and he will face a primary challenge from the antiwar left.

But if he stands with Biden and says the July 2011 date holds, and the troops start home in July, Petraeus would likely put out word that his hands are being tied and he will not fight a no-win war.

Should Petraeus resign his command under such circumstances, he would become a Douglas MacArthur-like hero to the GOP, and could wind up as No. 2 on the ticket. And that could send Barack Obama home to Chicago.

Obama should have left McChrystal to succeed or fail with the McChrystal Plan. Had he succeeded, Obama also would have succeeded. Had he failed, Obama would have been free to relieve him and tell the nation: “We gave it our best shot, with our best general, with all the resources he requested. Regrettably, we did not succeed. Now we are coming home.”

That option was closed when he fired McChrystal and made himself the political prisoner of Gen. David Petraeus.


Patrick J. Buchanan is founding editor of The American Conservative and author, most recently, of Churchill, Hitler, and the “Unnecessary War”

Child trafficking discovered at S.African border: report

MAPUTO — Police discovered 20 children hidden in cardboard boxes and covered in blankets inside a truck at the border between Mozambique and South Africa, a media report said Monday.

The children, Mozambicans and Thais aged nine to 16 years, were discovered by South African border police during an inspection at the Komatipoort crossing, said Mozambican online news site Canalmoz.

"The children were discovered a week or two ago but the information has been kept secret by the authorities. No one talks because people are afraid," the website's director, Fernando Veloso, told AFP.

"Our source is an official from a South African institution whose identity we can't disclose."

The children, six of whom are from Mozambique and some of whom are from Thailand, are being cared for by social service workers at a secure location in South Africa, Canalmoz said.

Veloso said he had been contacted by the Mozambican interior ministry and asked to reveal his journalist's source.

"The ministry didn't even ask what had become of the children," he said.

A Mozambican official said he had no information about the incident.

NABJ blasts cable news nets for lack of black anchors

Citing the hiring of former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer as a missed opportunity by CNN to put a non-white anchor on in primetime, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) has fired off a public letter aimed not just at CNN, but all of the cable news networks for “moving backward” on diversity. Read the letter:

Open Letter: National Association of Black Journalists Questions Diversity on Cable News Networks

Dear Cable News Executives:

It is 2010, but the National Association of Black Journalists sees our cable news networks moving backward when it comes to who they believe is worthy of anchoring prime time news shows.

NABJ was founded in 1975 to encourage news media companies to hire and to promote more Black journalists. At that time, black journalists originally hired to cover riots during the turbulent 1960s found they were not being assigned to meaningful beats or were only allowed to cover "Black" stories.

NABJ's advocacy for fair hiring practices paid off. Many of our founders, including columnists Les Payne in New York and DeWayne Wickham in Washington, D.C., and anchor Maureen Bunyan in Washington, D.C. remain prominent figures in the media.

NABJ continues this advocacy today. To be candid, we have been focusing our talks with media executives on ways they can increase the diversity of their news management teams. It is our belief that a diverse management team improves coverage decisions and hiring practices. It seems, though, that the companies have taken that to mean that we don't care about who is on the air. We're watching, and we do.

Over the past several years, NABJ Executive Board members have met with leaders of the top media companies. Our message: "Let us help if you are looking for diverse talent."

Some of the companies have reached out, but the names we have submitted never seem to be called in for interviews.

Three years ago, Ebony magazine's Kevin Chappell noted, "While CNN has the most Black news anchors with eight, the other cable networks don't fair as well... and none of the national cable stations has any Blacks in prime-time slots." Find this article here.

Nothing has changed. NABJ questions CNN's decision to hire former New York governor/attorney general Eliot Spitzer to co-host a new show in Campbell Brown's old time slot. The company missed another opportunity to place a person of color in prime time. It just seems that cable news can never find diverse candidates who are good enough to meet their standards. We want to know your standards.

Are you telling us that CNN could find no one better than an ex-politician who quit being New York governor after consorting with prostitutes to grace America's living rooms each night?

CNN does have Tony Harris anchoring in the morning, and Fredericka Whitfield, T.J. Holmes, and Don Lemon on the weekends. But that's not prime time. The same can be said about MSNBC which last week named veteran Lawrence O'Donnell as the anchor of its new 10 p.m. show.

"In his story, Chappell talked with NABJ Member and CBS News anchor Russ Mitchell who summed up what many of us have witnessed over the years. Mitchell told Ebony "I've been to journalism conferences over and over again, and heard some executive say 'I'd like to hire more African-Americans, but I just can't find any qualified ones out there.' That was b.s. then, and that's b.s. now."

NABJ couldn't agree more.


The National Association of Black Journalists

'Nuclear scientist' tells Iran TV he fled US agents

TEHRAN — A man claiming to be an Iranian nuclear scientist whom Tehran alleges the United States kidnapped said he has escaped from US agents, in a video screened on Tuesday on Iranian television.

"I am Shahram Amiri, a citizen of the Islamic republic. A few minutes ago I managed to escape from the hands of US intelligence agents in Virginia," said the man in the footage shown on state television.

"I could be re-arrested at any time by US agents... I am not free and I'm not allowed to contact my family. If something happens and I do not return home alive, the US government will be responsible," he said.

"I ask Iranian officials and organisations that defend human rights to raise pressure on the US government for my release and return to my country," the man said, adding he has not "betrayed" Iran.

Amiri, the nuclear scientist, disappeared in June 2009 after arriving in Saudi Arabia for a pilgrimage. Iran says the United States abducted him with the help of Saudi intelligence services.

ABC news in the United States reported in March that Amiri had defected and was working with the US Central Intelligence Agency.

In June, Iranian state television aired a video in which a man identifying himself as Amiri said he was abducted by US agents and was being held near Tucson, Arizona.

Iran said it would use legal channels to secure his release.

In response, Washington denied the Iranian accusations, with State Department spokesman Philip Crowley refusing to say whether or not Amiri was in the United States.

Method Man Pleads Guilty To Tax Evasion

Wu-Tang emcee Method Man pleaded guilty to a tax-evasion charge on Monday and wrote a check for the final $40-thousand restitution payment after owing about $106,000.

As previously reported, Meth was arrested on October 9th on charges he failed to pay state and personal income taxes. He pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted failure to pay tax.

He was sentenced to a conditional discharge, which means the arrest will be purged from his record if he stays out of trouble.

"When he found out about the tax issue he hired someone and immediately corrected it," defense attorney Peter Frankel told The Associated Press. "He took care of it quickly like the good member of our community he is."

The Wu-Tang MC, whose real name is Clifford Smith, failed to file tax returns for 2004 through 2007, prosecutors said. The most he owed for one year was $32,799.

MMA Fighter Dies in South Carolina

by Zak Woods

Horrible news:

Michael Kirkham died early Monday following his professional MMA debut this past Saturday on a pro and amateur card in Aiken, S.C.

Kirkham, a lightweight nicknamed "Tree" for towering at 6-feet-9, was 30.

Kirkham competed on a Dash Entertainment and King MMA co-promoted "Confrontation at the Convocation Center" event at the USC Aiken Convocation Center, a card regulated by the South Carolina Athletic Commission.

"Obviously our thoughts and prayers are with his family, other than that I have no comment," Sam King, a promoter of Saturday's card, told MMAFighting.com.

WRDW in Augusta first reported that Kirkham was transported to Aiken Regional Medical Center from the venue following the fight and was pronounced dead of a brain hemorrhage Monday morning.

An autopsy is scheduled for today.

This is the second time a fighter has died in the U.S. following a state sanctioned MMA bout.

For those looking at cold hearted politics, the death came at an inopportune moment as it will provide rhetorical ammunition for opponents of MMA regulation in New York and give pause to less dedicated proponents.

Mike Russell points out that this shouldn't be used as an excuse to deregulate:

So then, how can this terrible tragedy help bolster the case for sanctioning?

There are two ways:

1. Both UFC president Dana White and vice president of regulatory affairs, Marc Ratner have stated on several occasions, that besides having a universal set of rules used worldwide to govern the sport of MMA, their goal has always been to help implement across-the-board pre-fight medical testing requirements like the ones enforced by governing bodies like the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) and the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. Better requisite testing procedures would greatly lessen the chances of a fighter with a pre-existing condition slipping through the cracks.

2. By not sanctioning the sport, the respective jurisdictions that are against regulation would effectively wash its hands of responsibility, pushing the sport in those states and provinces to the underground or native reservations where an incident like Kirkham's will undoubtedly rear its ugly head again.

South Carolina doesn't require pre-fight CAT scans or MRI's for professional fighters like most commissions.

Obviously, we here at WKR agree with Russel but it's necessary to point out that societies often don't regulate activities when they see no benefit and only harm. Prohibition's on drugs is a classic example.

Michael Vick Interviewed over Shooting Incident

When a shooting took place outside the very nightclub where American footballer Michael Vick was celebrating his birthday, reports started surfacing suggesting he may have been involved. And the Virginia Beach police have confirmed that Vick has been interviewed.

However, according to a recent report at nytimes.com, the police spokesman, Adam Bernstein, has stated that although Michael Vick – a quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles – answered their questions on Monday, he is not a suspect and no arrest has been made.

Authorities have not identified the man who was wounded in the shooting, which occurred just after 2am on Friday. But several news outlets have identified him as Quanis Phillips, one of the co-defendants in the dogfighting case that resulted in 18 months in prison for Vick.

By: Tina Chubb

Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh Meet in Miami to Discuss Signing with the Heat (UPDATE)

The initial plans for a free agency “summit” proposed by Dwyane Wade were quickly squelched by the agent for Wade and Chris Bosh within days of Wade’s quotes on the possible meeting. The summit was both discussed and mocked ad nauseum. But, according to a joint report from both ESPN’s Chris Broussard and Marc Stein, a meeting, if not a summit, between Wade, Bosh, and LeBron James did take place this past weekend in Miami. The focus of the meeting was discussing the potential plan of all 3 free agents signing with Wade’s Heat. The report characterized James as “clearly intrigued” and Stein characterized LeBron as “clearly excited” by the proposition. The report quoted sources which labeled Miami as “the new frontrunner” in addition to sources close to Wade stating that he believed the Heat were close to pulling off a “free agency coup.”

Many NBA reporters have had sources this month with conflicting information on the free agency movement – an indication of the complexity and difficulty of the story. Stephen A. Smith reported yesterday morning that he had sources telling him that both Bosh and James had already decided to sign with Wade in Miami and that Pat Riley was going to coach them. This came on the heels of a report by Smith, one week prior, stating that his sources were telling him that James was likely headed to the New York Knicks. The Stein/Broussard report adds momentum to the Miami coup and cites evidence of an actual meeting between the 3 superstars supporting the very real possibility that all 3 wind up in Miami. As it stands now under the projected salary cap, the Heat would likely have to shed the salary of Michael Beasley or one of the three would have to take less than max money. The report states that all 3 were comfortable the contracts could be worked out in Miami:

But sources told ESPN.com that James, Wade and Bosh all expressed confidence at the meeting that contractual complexities to make this ambitious triple signing work can be worked out, although it was not immediately clear if all three players would receive an equal amount or if one or two would receive the max.

The sources for the ESPN report, however, made it clear that while a meeting took place, LeBron, in the end, remained non-committal to the Miami proposition:

Sources insisted, meanwhile, that other scenarios were discussed at the weekend meeting apart from the Miami plan. One source said James’ admiration for Bulls legend Michael Jordan is such that he is determined to hear Chicago’s pitch later this week, keeping alive the possibility that both James and Bosh could still wind up together with the Bulls…

Sources said James, furthermore, has not ruled out staying with the Cavaliers. Although Cleveland does not have the financial flexibility or the trade assets to import Bosh or Wade and enhance its chances of retaining this summer’s face of free agency, James is a proud Ohioan who is said to be still wrestling with the notion of leaving his home state, no matter how enticing the possibilities are in Miami and Chicago.

Everyone was aware that things would pick up this week and this report will certainly add fuel to the fire. The fact that all 3 superstars met is a huge story but it’s unclear if it really adds anything new to the equation and status of each individual. Broussard and Stein’s sources add that the Toronto front office is becoming more and more resigned to the fact that Bosh is leaving and their GM, Bryan Colangelo, is likely going to field sign and trade offers, which Bosh is open to. Colangelo articulated yesterday on Toronto radio that the possibility of Bosh re-signing is “not going to happen.”

As for James, despite the meeting and his excitement over the Miami plan, he remains open to the possibility of staying in Cleveland. The meeting and potential status of the Heat as a “frontrunner” has to be unnerving for Cavalier fans and owner Dan Gilbert. We now have a report with hard evidence of a meeting with the big 3 to discuss the Miami plan. Cavs fans have to hope that this is not the start of a move to Miami but only the beginning to a wild week of ups and downs in the LeBron free agency drama – a drama where he ends up staying home. LeBron has said all along that he was going to explore all his options and while the “summit” is a juicy story, it’s part of the exploratory process – one that includes a pitch from his hometown Cavs.

Written By: Brendan

Breaking: US Charges 11 Russian Spies [UPDATE: Names]

Probably a spy

The Justice Department has filed charges against 11 people who are part of a Russian spy ring. The details are still a little fuzzy. It's not clear if these are Americans who were recruited by the Russians, or if these were Russians living in America, or a mixture of both.

The story seems to indicate that at least some of them were Russian. This may explain why all those hot Russian chicks willing to marry dumpy, balding, middle-aged American men. They're all Russian spies!

As some of you know, I spent a year studying in Russia under the theory that the Cold War would be back, and when it does -- job security, baby! Is it time for Rusty to break out the old resume?


The Federal Bureau of Investigation alleged the Russian intelligence service known as the SVR provided extensive training, including in foreign languages and the use of codes and ciphers, to the alleged agents before dispatching them to the U.S. over the past decade.

Once inside the U.S., the alleged agents took on aliases and "deep cover" assignments to become Americanized in order to gather information about the U.S., and possibly recruit sources inside American "policy-making circles," an FBI affidavit filed in New York federal court alleged.

Interesting enough, the stories say that only 10 have been arrested in recent days. Does this mean that one of them is still on the loose?

Thanks to Terresa.

UPDATE: The Blotter has the names:

Charged are Richard and Cynthia Murphy of New Jersey, Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley of Boston, Massachusetts, Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills of Arlington, Virginia, and Juan Lazaro and Vicky Pelaez of Yonkers, New York.

Also charged is Christopher Metsos, who remains at large and is alleged to be one of the main facilitators for the group and a trained agent living outside the U.S. According to the complaint, Metsos purports to be a Canadian citizen and regularly traveled to U.S. locations to meet with the other defendants, including numerous meetings in New York City in places such as coffee shops and book stores.

Two additional defendants, Anna Chapman and Mikhail Semenko, were also arrested Sunday for allegedly aiding in the same suspected Russian spy ring.

No news yet on how hot the women spies were, but:The court documents read like a 1960's cold war spy novel: The accused spies allegedly used steganography, hiding secretive data in an image, and radiograms, bursts of data sent by a radio transmitter that resemble the sound of Morse code, as part of their secret communications with the Russian government....

And there are allegations of fabricated birth certificates, Irish and Latino surnames, and fake college diplomas.

Most of the names seem pretty white bread. If originally from Russia, then the falsifying of birth certificates could explain that.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D.

A villain emerges in early Kagan hearings: Justice Marshall

Republicans sought to use Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s words against her in their first round of statements in her confirmation hearings, voicing concerns that Kagan would be an activist judge based on her statement that the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall - for whom Kagan clerked - was her hero.

That, several GOP Senate Judiciary Committee members said, is cause for alarm.

“It’s clear he considered himself a judicial activist,” said John Cornyn, R-Texas, referring to Marshall’s statement that the best way to judge is to “do what you think is right and let the law catch up.”

While Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., praised Marshall as a trailblazer in some areas of civil rights law, “Justice Marshall’s judicial philosophy is not, however, hat I would consider to be mainstream,” Kyl said.

Speaking later to MSNBC, Sen. Orrin Hatch echoed the other GOP members’ sentiments.
“There are many other case that he decided where he was deciding on the basis of results instead of the law,” Hatch, R-Utah, said.

Illinois Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin disagreed, telling Kagan that he felt “disappointment in my Republican colleagues warning us that you just might follow in the traditions of Thurgood Marshall.”

By Kimberly Atkins