Saturday, December 28, 2013

Merits & Midterms: Appointing Political Friends to Be Ambassadors

Appointing Political Friends to Be Ambassadors

By BRIAN KNOWLTON  Published: December 26, 2013  New York Times excerpt:
WASHINGTON — Charles H. Rivkin has had quite a ride, going in four years from an Obama fund-raiser and Hollywood media honcho to ambassador to Paris and now a nominee as an assistant secretary of state. 
In almost no other democracy could this happen. Diplomats are nearly always career professionals, products of intense competition and intensive training, with successive foreign rotations for posts deemed to require in-depth knowledge of a region, culture and language — not just political connections.
And so the question arises: Can a political appointee’s real-world experience, management savvy, influential contacts and even sheer star power compensate for a dearth of hard-earned familiarity with a host country’s realities?
There are success stories and embarrassments on both sides.
Consider Mr. Rivkin: While he was a leading fund-raiser for Mr. Obama as well as John Kerry, who has been his boss at the State Department, he is hardly without qualifications. He studied international relations at Yale and business at Harvard, ran a major company and speaks fluent French. In Paris, he drew high marks for a creative use of social media, vigorous minority outreach and promotion of American green technology. A State Department inspector general called him a “visionary non-career ambassador.” 

Plenty of Mr. Obama’s political picks have done well. 

But others have been harshly criticized as ill-prepared or temperamentally unsuited for the work. Inspector general reports described one such ambassadorial selection, an Obama fund-raiser, as “aggressive, bullying, hostile and intimidating”; another, a former Obama confidant, was ranked last for interpersonal relations among 80 mission chiefs surveyed recently, no great distinction for a diplomat. Both have resigned. 

The White House insists that its recruitment practices comport with those of past administrations, and that it seeks a diverse selection of highly qualified people. “Being a donor does not get you a job in this administration, nor does it preclude you from getting one,” said Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman.
Barack Obama's new ambassador to China - Merits or Midterms?
Yet, ever since President Jimmy Carter, who limited political ambassadorships to about 25 percent of the total, their number has grown. It now stands at 36 percent, according to the American Foreign Service Association. And the number of senior State Department jobs going to non-career diplomats has risen sharply. (Mr. Rivkin would be the first non-career country ambassador to lead the Economic and Business Bureau.)

Barack Obama has never acted in the best interest of the country as a whole. Cronyism combined with the  'collectivism' of the new left are just current incarnations of history's failed ideologies and only repackage repression.

Friday, December 20, 2013

WhiteWASH: IG Report - No Widespread Problems at Secret Service

No widespread problems at Secret Service?

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Homeland Security Department's inspector general's report says there is no evidence of widespread misconduct within the Secret Service.
The 145-page report was issued Friday. That's more than 18 months after the agency in charge of protecting the president was embroiled in a high-profile South American prostitution scandal.
The inspector general's office made its conclusions based on a survey answered by about 41 percent of the agency's staff and interviews with 200 managers and supervisors.
In April 2012, 13 agents and officers were accused of carousing with female foreign nationals at a Cartagena, Colombia, hotel where they were staying in advance of President Barack Obama's arrival.
Some of the women were prostitutes and the incident became public after one prostitute and an agent fought over payment.
On December 17, 2013, this news item gets little attention:
 Under fire, DHS IG Asks to be Reassigned Before Senate Hearing 

Coverups, lies and corruption are a hallmark of the criminal Obama administration.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Passengers Take Down Armed Robber on Seattle Bus

SEATTLE (AP) — Surveillance video from a Metro bus in Seattle shows the dramatic takedown of an armed man who was robbing passengers of their phones.
The video from Nov. 25 is evidence in the case against 19-year-old Trevonnte Brown of Seattle. He pleaded not guilty on Monday to robbery charges and is jailed with bail set at $350,000.
The video shows the robber taking phones before pointing his gun in the face of one man who pushes it away and fights back. Other passengers jump in and subdue the man.
One of the passengers who was robbed, Chris Briggs, told KOMO ( ) he initially said no but handed over his phone when he was jabbed with the gun.
After another passenger scuffled with the robber, Briggs jumped in to help hold him.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Under fire, DHS IG Asks to be Reassigned Before Senate Hearing

Under fire, DHS IG asks to be reassigned

(CNN) - Under fire from Congress for allegedly unethical practices, the acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, Charles Edwards, has been reassigned, sources tell CNN.

Last Thursday, a senior DHS official tells CNN, Edwards "formally requested a voluntary reassignment ... to another career position, in another office within the Department. In line with existing protocols and procedures, that request for a voluntary reassignment was processed, and based on the employee's experience and technical background he has been reassigned to a career position at Science and Technology."
In June, as CNN reported at the time, the chair and ranking Republican on the Senate subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight described a number of potentially damaging allegations against Edwards, one of which was the allegation that he was susceptible to political pressure to the point that an investigation into Secret Service misconduct in Cartagena, Colombia, was scrubbed of damaging information. In the public report about the misconduct, whistleblowers told the senators, damaging information was “intentionally changed and withheld."
Other allegations by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, and Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, included that Edwards “violated anti-nepotism laws and policies” to employ his wife, Madhuri Edwards, as a supervisory auditor in his office. Beyond that, Edwards is alleged to have misused staff to help his wife pursue a Ph.D. at a local community college, and intervened improperly to allow her to telecommute from India for seven months with an office-issued international BlackBerry phone. The allegations against Edwards also suggest that he retaliated against staff who “brought or attempted to call attention to (his) misconduct," the senators said. 

Edwards could not be reached for comment.
“Inspectors general are supposed to serve as the eyes and ears of taxpayers within our agencies, guarding against waste, fraud, and abuse of power, and we expect them to abide by the same high standards of behavior they apply to agency officials," Sens. McCaskill and Johnson said in a joint satement.
"We hope that Mr. Edwards’ departure will pave the way for a new level of accountability and transparency within the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, and we plan to continue rigorous oversight to achieve that goal,” they said.

 Homeland Security's acting deputy IG resigns before Senate hearing 

Acting Deputy Inspector General Charles K. Edwards has resigned, according to officials with the Department of Homeland Security.
Edwards has been the subject of a Senate probe of numerous allegations ranging from misusing agency money for personal travel to favoring his spouse for government positions.
Carlton Mann, the current assistant IG, will now be the acting deputy IG, DHS said.
Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson called on Edwards to resign in an Oct. 30 letter.

 McCaskill is chairman and Johnson is ranking minority member of the Senate's subcommittee on financial and contracting oversight. Edwards was to appear before the committee Dec. 19.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

‘10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty’ is Latest in Bigfoot Craze

Updated 15 minutes ago
LOS ANGELES — OK, enough with the grainy footage, the first-person accounts and questionable evidence. Spike TV is looking to get to the bottom of this whole Bigfoot mystery once and for all with its next reality competition series, “10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty.”

Not surprisingly, the series, which premieres Jan. 10, hasn’t attracted a whole lot of what you would call studious, academic types. Instead, you get a whole lot of angry, sexist rednecks yelling at each other in the woods. What better way to attract a notoriously camera-shy, quite probably mythical creature, than to have a bunch of people arguing in the woods?
But it makes for watchable TV.

Dean Cain hosts the show, which claims to offer the biggest cash prize in TV history. Though prize underwriters Lloyd’s of London probably aren’t losing much sleep over this one. The conditions for winning are definitive visual and DNA proof of Bigfoot’s existence.
Two scientific experts will be on hand for the series: Todd Disotell, a biological anthropologist who runs New York University’s molecular primatology lab and Natalia Reagan, a primatology expert.
According to Spike, DNA evidence will be processed using a mobile DNA lab. If no definitive proof is found, the group that presented the “most compelling evidence and theory” will be awarded a $100,000 research grant to keep searching.
The series is just the latest in Hollywood’s recent preoccupation with Bigfoot. As the Los Angeles Times wrote last year, Bigfoot has been the subject of Animal Planet’s series “Finding Biggoot,” the ”iCarly” episode “iBelieve in Bigfoot,” a horror film called “Exists” from “Blair Witch Project” director Eduardo Sanchez and the documentary film “Sasquatch: The Quest.”
Any chance that $10 million prize will actually get awarded? Keep dreaming, Bigfoot lovers.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Judge Rules Detroit Bankrupt - Unions React

Detroit Retirees Put on Notice in Bankruptcy Ruling

 By Steven Church & Steven Raphael - Dec 3, 2013 1:29 PM CT

Detroit can remain under bankruptcy court protection to shed debt and has the power to impose pension cuts on its employees, a judge said in a ruling that may have implications for distressed cities across the U.S.  
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, in a decision announced today in Detroit, dismissed an argument by unions and pension systems that the bankruptcy, the largest ever for a municipality, should be thrown out because it violated state constitutional contract protections for retiree benefits. 

“The pension people around the country have positioned themselves around that argument,” said attorney Ken Klee, who represented Jefferson County, Alabama, in its bankruptcy. "They really put themselves in a box.”
Rhodes also found that the city was insolvent and had sought bankruptcy protection in good faith, two requirements of the law. Municipal unions had claimed the city always intended to file for bankruptcy and had refused to negotiate with creditors before filing. 

The decision means the city can keep enjoying the protections of Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy code, which limits what creditors of municipalities, including bondholders and labor groups, can do to impede restructuring efforts.
Klee helped rewrite Chapter 9 in the 1970s while working as a lawyer for Congress. His client, Jefferson County, officially ended its bankruptcy today with the closing of a bond issue to raise money to pay creditors. Its $4.2 billion bankruptcy was the biggest ever by a U.S. municipality until Detroit filed on July 18, listing about $18 billion in debt.

Street Lights

Detroit has said it doesn’t have the money to pay bondholders, retirees and employees everything it owes them while still providing basic city services, such as ambulances and streetlights.
“This once proud and prosperous city cannot pay its debts,” Rhodes said. Detroit “has the opportunity for a fresh start.”

With Rhodes’s ruling, the city can now focus on writing a plan to cut the debt. That will mean contending with creditors in court and in confidential mediation, said Dale Ginter, a bankruptcy lawyer who is not involved in the case.
“None of the constituents will regard such a plan as fair or equitable, but that’s not the standard,” said Ginter, who represented retired city workers in the bankruptcy of Vallejo, California. He made the comments in an interview before Rhodes issued his ruling.
Read More  at Bloomberg News

Hope and Changed Detroit....

Monday, December 2, 2013

Obama to sign up on health exchange?

By Ian Swanson 
White House press secretary Jay Carney sidestepped questions Monday about whether the president has signed up for health insurance under ObamaCare.
“I know that he will and has said that he will, the White House has said that he will, but I don't have an update,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Monday.

 Asked what the president was waiting for — and whether his attempt to enroll in the exchange would be open to members of the press — Carney laughed.
“I'll get back to you,” he said.
In 2010, White House spokesman Reid Cherlin pledged the president would sign up o the exchanges in response to an amendment offered by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that would have required the president to purchase coverage.
“The president will participate in the exchange,” Cherlin told USA Today. “But let's be clear: The amendments being offered by Senate Republicans, including this one, are just a ploy to delay the bill.”  
Republican lawmakers have continued to press the administration to enroll in the exchanges following implementation of the law. 
In a heated exchange on Capitol Hill, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) repeatedly asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius why she had not purchased insurance on the exchanges.
Sebelius incorrectly said that it would be illegal for her to do so, because her healthcare was included in her compensation as a federal employee. Those with employer-provided insurance can purchase separate coverage through the exchanges, but are not eligible for tax credits to reduce the price of premiums. Sebelius, however, is prohibited from buying insurance because she is a Medicare enrollee.
Obama, who is younger, has no such restriction — although presidents and their immediate families are eligible for free treatment in military hospitals during and after their presidencies.
The administration separately touted increased visitors to and said technical fixes are making the site speedier and more accessible to visitors.