Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

8:40 – Santorum walks up to the podium. He’s wearing suit and tie, his sons wearing his trademark sweater vests.

“Three states, three winners. What a great country!”

Santorum to Gingrich: “Good job, buddy. Good job.”

Santorum makes reference to Obama’s infamous 2008 comment about people clinging to guns and religion, says his father and grandfather came from that.

“They [the left] don’t believe in you. They believe in their ability to care for you. That’s not America.”

Wants to be the candidate that provides “the good sharp contrast”

8:50 – Santorum’s closing words: “I ask you – it’s a wide open race. Join the fight!”

Signing Off Until 2012

Posted: December 27, 2011 in Uncategorized
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I’m flying out of the country with plans to spend the remainder of the year at the beach. Best wishes to all of you for the new year. Blogging and tweeting will resume after the first.

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Nice Day for a White Wedding

Posted: April 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

I’ll be live-blogging and live-tweeting the Royal Wedding throughout the morning.  For those of you without access to a TV, you can watch it streamed live on the Royal Family’s YouTube channel.

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The Huffington Post published my story on the Khmer Rouge trial getting underway in Cambodia right now.

Looks like scams in Nigeria aren’t limited to Internet hoaxes.

The government’s top contractor in Iraq, KBR, Inc., has pleaded guilty to bribing high-level officials in the Nigerian government during a decade-long scheme to win more than $6 billion in overseas construction contracts, federal authorities announced on Wednesday.

KBR and its former parent company, Halliburton, agreed to pay the government a combined $579 million in fines to settle the criminal and civil charges, the most ever paid by a U.S. firm in a foreign corruption case.

“Today’s guilty plea by KBR ends one chapter in the department’s long-running investigation of corruption in the award of $6 billion in construction contracts in Nigeria,” said Rita Glavin, acting assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s criminal division. “This bribery scheme involved both senior foreign government officials and KBR corporate executives who took actions to insulate themselves from the reach of U.S. law enforcement.”

KBR was part of a joint venture of four companies — the other three firms involved were not identified — that was awarded four contracts between 1995 and 2004 to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria, on Africa’s West Coast.

During that time, federal officials said the joint venture paid top officials in the Nigerian government, including members of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, more than $182 million in bribes.

If this story had come out during 2000 or 2004, the Democrats would have hammered Dick Cheney relentlessly for it, since this happened during his tenure as CEO from 1995 to 2000. The Government Executive story does not mention Cheney, nor does the 51-page plea agreement filed in a Houston federal court, and make no accusations of wrongdoing on his part. Bart Gellman in his exhaustively researched and well written Cheney biography Angler found no evidence that he ever used his position as vice president to benefit Halliburton, which for years was practically the left’s equivalent of the Saddam Hussein-Al Qaeda connection.

Still, both KBR and Halliburton have taken a PR beating in recent years, between this and allegations of overbilling and lousy services in Iraq. Having to pay a $679 million settlement to the Justice Department during these tough economic times cannot be fun for the board or the shareholders.

Need to hire some security in a war zone? Call Blackwater Xe.

The scandal-ridden security firm Blackwater USA is officially changing its name effective immediately as the company moves to rebrand itself after being fired last month by the State Department from its job protecting diplomats in Iraq.

The company will now be known as Xe and hopes to be a “one-stop shopping source for world class services in the fields of security, stability, aviation, training and logistics”, according to a memo sent by company president Gary Jackson to employees today.

The division that handles the diplomatic protection services will now be known as U.S. Training Center, Inc., but now its primary focus will be operating training facilities, including the flagship campus in North Carolina, according to Jackson. It was that very division that handled Blackwater’s overseas operations, which also faced the most criticism.

Blackwater has been the target of at least four grand jury investigations and accusations of tax fraud, improper use of force, arms trafficking and overbilling. The firm has denied any wrongdoing.

The firm is best known for its automatic weapon-brandishing diplomatic protection force in Iraq. Officials there recently refused to license Blackwater to operate in Iraq citing lingering outrage over the September 2007 shooting deaths of 17 civilians by Blackwater guards.

Five former Blackwater guards have pleaded not guilty to federal charges that include 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter. No charges were brought against the corporation.

As if the name itself were the problem. If they don’t sort through their domestic and international legal messes and take proactive steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again, the name change will mean nothing. At the very minimum, heads need to roll and people need to be held accountable if the company wants to save face and start fresh.

A classic example of this that I found during the two years that I went to school there was South Central Los Angeles, the area where USC is located. After the 1992 riots, the area was renamed South Los Angeles, because they felt that there was too much of a stigma associated with South Central. The same underlying problems caused by gangs, poverty, drugs and crime are still there. It’s not a war zone by any stretch of the imagination, but the area didn’t turn into Bel Air just because of the name change.

The Hill’s Aaron Blake looks at the short and long-term political implications of the stimulus bill, with an eye on 2010.

The stimulus package has emerged as the first major campaign issue of the 2010 election cycle, and a Republican Party eyeing a return to the majority is going all-in.

The near-universal GOP opposition to the stimulus means that, for 2010 at least, Democrats own the result. Republicans, meanwhile, are in the awkward position of banking on it, at least electorally, to fail.

In the end, only three Republicans voted for the stimulus package — all in the Senate — while 11 Democrats voted against it — all in the House.

The only senator who is up in 2010 to break party ranks was Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who is in the unenviable position of dealing with both a blue-trending state and a conservative backlash over the vote.

Potential primary opponents like former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and businessman Glen Meakem bristled at Specter’s vote and now have new motivation to challenge him next year.

“I really thought he was trying to avoid a primary challenge, and it’s very clear to me from this vote that he is really not anymore,” Meakem said, adding: “I think leading conservatives are going to coalesce around a candidate here in the next month or two.”

Another candidate with plenty riding on the vote is potential Senate candidate Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), who has taken to criticizing Democratic leaders over their conduct.

Shuler drew a sharp rebuke from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) after he said Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “failed” to make the package bipartisan.

Shuler is considered a top potential challenger to Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) in 2010. And even if Shuler stays in the House, he could face a tough race in a very conservative district.

Unlike Shuler, many of those breaking ranks on the stimulus vote are safe, including several Blue Dog Democrats and Republican Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

Blue Dog member Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) is facing a primary challenge from state Sen. Al Lawson, meaning his vote could be a liability. In announcing his intentions Wednesday, Lawson signaled that the vote would be front-and-center in the race.

The Republicans’ strategy is clear: they want the Democrats to own this bill if it fails. But if the economy is in recovery by Election Day, the whole thing will blow up in their face, and the Democrats can label them as obstructionists who voted against the economic recovery. We’ll see who gets the last laugh in about 19 months from now.

Hanna Ingber Win noticed an interesting development and wrote it up for Huffington Post:

The official press of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), requested an interview with President Obama, reports AHN.

The Islamic News Agency’s U.N. representative, Khosro Shayesteh told CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk that they have requested the interview and are waiting for a response from Obama to begin a dialogue. “The Iranian request for an interview with Obama comes at an opportune time for U.S.-Iran relations since both President Obama and Iran’s President have offered to begin negotiations, which were stalled during the eight years of the Bush Administration, and because Obama gave his first official interview as President to Al Arabiya,” said Falk.

You can’t argue with the logic behind Shayesteh’s comment given Obama and Ahmadinejad’s recent public statements. And in all fairness, Ahmadinejad has given interviews to foreign media, including CNN. This could be a very interesting first step in American-Iranian talks during Obama’s presidency.

If you needed any more evidence that the heyday of unregulated excess in American capitalism is over, check out this report in the Wall Street Journal.

Public anger over taxpayer-funded financial bailouts is prompting Congress to look for ways to better police the billions of dollars being injected into the same Wall Street firms that many critics believe caused the current economic crisis.

Sens. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Richard Shelby (R., Ala.) are sponsoring a bill to hire hundreds of new Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and Securities and Exchange Commission investigators to investigate financial fraud. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday to highlight the issue.

The proposal would provide $80 million to hire 500 new FBI agents and $10 million to add new federal prosecutors and $20 million for 100 new SEC employees. All are going to be focused on investigating white-collar crime, including mortage and financial fraud that many believe helped cause the current global crisis.

The increase in resources is intended to remedy cuts that were made after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack, which prompted federal law enforcement to focus more on terrorism.

Schumer says the FBI’s mortgage and financial fraud unit has 348 agents, down from 1,000 following the Savings and Loan crisis in the 1980s and 1990s.

If this happens, there will be some very nervous business executives on Wall Street and throughout America, and white collar defense attorneys in the private sector will make an obscene amount of money defending their clients. I would also expect big business to lobby heavily against this proposal and will promise to do a better job at policing itself, but the political reality is that the uproar over the economy and the multiple taxpayer-funded bailouts have Congress and the American people in a very foul mood. They won’t be very sympathetic.