Tag: Secret Service

Not So Secret Service

I’m shocked, shocked that this sort of petty vindictiveness is going on in the Obama Administration:

An assistant director of the Secret Service urged that unflattering information the agency had in its files about a congressman ­critical of the service should be made public, according to a government watchdog report released Wednesday.

“Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out,” Assistant Director Edward Lowery wrote in an e-mail to a fellow director on March 31, commenting on an internal file that was being widely circulated inside the service. “Just to be fair.”

Two days later, a news Web site reported that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had applied to be a Secret Service agent in 2003 and been rejected.

That information was part of a Chaffetz personnel file stored in a restricted Secret Service database and required by law to be kept private.

Lowery, you may remember, was put in place to clean up the various scandals. Chaffetz had very publicly grilled the Secret Service on their security lapses, hooker scandals and drinking scandals. But Lowery’s response was basically “how dare you!”

Again … I’ll just stand here looking surprised.

Turkeys and Drumsticks 2014

For seven years running, I have taken advantage of the Thanksgiving Holiday to give out my awards for Turkey of the Year and Golden Drumsticks. The latter are for those who exemplify the best traits in our public sphere. The former are for those who exemplify silliness and stupidity. I rarely give them out to someone who is evil; they are reserved for those who regularly make me shake my head and wonder what they’re thinking. It’s a sort of “thank you” for making blogging easier.

We’ll start with the Turkeys of the Year. For reference, the past winners are:

2007: Alberto Gonzalez, Nancy Pelosi, Hugo Chavez

2008: Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin’s critics, Hillary Clinton, Congress, Joe Biden

2009: Mike Steele, Glen Beck, the State Department, Sarah Palin, Andrew Sullivan.

2010: Janet Napolitano and TSA, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, MSNBC, Lower Merion Schools, California Voters.

2011: Nancy Pelosi, Republican Presidential Field, Occupy Wall Street, Anthony Weiner, the Eurozone.

2012: The Culture Warriors, Unions, The Poll Unskewers, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, MSNBC

2013: Healthcare.gov, the Platinum Coin, the Shutdown Caucus, the National park Service, Fiscal Cliff Panic Mongers.

For this year, I picked:

Jonathan Gruber: #3 was in the lead most of the year. Then #2 took over earlier this month. But the millionaire consultant from MIT has to take the top prize now. The thing about Gruber is not that he made comments that support Halbig. It’s not that he helped create Obamacare. It’s not even that he called the voters stupid. It’s that he revealed the ugly reality that undergirds of much of the progressive movement in this country: the belief that Americans are stupid, that leaders are wise and that the latter must lead the former to good choices through deception, obfuscation and coercion. The most common thing I read on liberal message boards after Grubergate was “Hey, he’s right!” There is a large section of the Left Wing that thinks we need to be ruled by a technocratic elite. Gruber pulled back the veil. And that he looked like a horse’s ass into the bargain was just gravy.

Lamenting Democrats: In the wake of yet another electoral shellacking, the professional whining class went into overdrive, trying to find something, anything to blame for their loss. Random articles about science topics would start with lamenting that evil Republicans were taking over the Senate. Robert Reich screamed that Republicans might use reconciliation to do stuff (reconciliation being a legitimate tactic up until November 3). A thousand articles sprang up about “how to talk to your crazy right-wing uncle/parents/cousin/neighbor/imaginary friend at Thanksgiving about Issue X” (hint: don’t).

I’ve been disappointed by elections. But I hope I never get to the point where the results of an election make me gnash my teeth and rend my garments in such hilarious fashion.

Barack Obama: The only reason his approval ratings aren’t at record lows is because of mindless Democrat loyalty. The economy continues to improve despite the Republicans rejecting every “jobs bill” he proposes. His party got crushed in the election. And his response to this was to … implement immigration reform through executive action (polls show Americans support the policy, but oppose the means). His White House is also becoming famous for what are called “bad optics” and would be called scandalous if Bush were doing it: fund-raising while the Ukraine is in turmoil, having a huge dinner while Ferguson is burning, golfing right after a press conference on an ISIS beheading. He has earned the low poll numbers. And earned a place on this list.

Jim Ardis: Earlier this year, Ardis persuaded a judge to launch a raid on a house because one of the inhabitants was … mocking him on Twitter. He apparently still thinks this was a fine idea. Jim Ardis … meet the Streisand Effect.

(One infuriating note: a judge has upheld the drug charges that resulted from the raid finding drugs in the house. Because warrants to arrest parody account holders are apparently just fine.)

Paul Krugman: Another year for Krugman, another set of factually-challenged opinion pieces apparently written by unpaid interns. My favorite was his assertion that Halbig represented “corruption” in the courts, a claim the indispensable Walter Olson demolishes here. As several bloggers noted, Krugman was a big supporter of the Platinum Coin Caper, where he said, essentially, that we should concentrate on the letter of the law, not the spirit, the opposite of what he’s saying now.

Note, also. This year is coming a cropper for things Krugmans believes in. The Picketty analysis of inequality appears to be badly flawed. And Keynesian ideas are failing all over the globe.

Dishonorable Mention: Wendy Davis, whoever is doing PR for the Ferguson Police, the Ferguson rioters, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the Secret Service, Mary Landrieu, Everytown USA.

Now the Golden Drumsticks, awarded to those who best exemplified what is right with the world. Here are the past awards, the first round from West Virginia Rebel.

2007: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ron Paul, Barack Obama, David Petraeus, Juan Carlos, Burma’s monks

2008: US Military, Jeff Flake, Ron Paul, Republican Governors, Barack Obama

2009: The American Fighting Man, Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd, George W. Bush

2010: The Tea Party, Chris Christie, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the Next Wave of Republicans, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, The American Soldiers

2011: Seal Team Six, Mark Kelly, The Arab Spring (ugh), the Technicians at Fukushima

2012: Down Ballots, The Sandy Responders, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, Mathew Inman

2013: Francis I, Edward Snowden, Rand Paul, The American Military, The Institute for Justice

For this year, I picked:

Ebola Responders: In the face of a colossal healthcare crisis and one of the most terrifying diseases out there, Africa has been flooded with volunteers risking their lives to help. Hundreds of healthcare workers in Africa, including Humarr Khan, have been killed trying to comfort or save the dying. Even in this country, we’ve seen nurses and doctors work hard to care for Ebola victims, including two nurses who were infected in Dallas and mercifully saved by modern medicine.

Here’s a little thing about me: I tend to dislike movies about dystopias. Not because I think a dystopia won’t happen or because I’m ignorant about the dark side of human nature. I dislike them because they usually ignore the flip side of human nature: our capacity to be generous, brave and compassionate.

Francis I: He continues to shake up the religious world while adhering closely to Catholic doctrine. My initial impression of him remains unchanged. He is just a good man.

Rand Paul: Paul gave a speech earlier this year that was a rebuke to the neocons: defining a foreign policy that defends our interests while avoiding senseless overseas debacles. He is pushing the Republicans toward reforms of our criminal justice system, our surveillance state and our War on Drugs. I’m a bit worried whether he’ll hold up to the pressure of special interests, especially if he has Presidential aspirations. But right now, he’s doing good.

David Brat and the Republican Candidates: “A monarch’s neck should always have a noose around it—it keeps him upright.” – Robert A. Heinlein. I’m not sure what to make of Brat at this point, but I think his defeat of Cantor is an important reminder to the Republicans of what will happen if the get stupid again. Among the other Republicans running for office this year, there was barely a gaffe to be heard. In fact, the biggest War on Women complaint was about Mark Udall, criticized by his own supporters for talking too much about the War on Women. In general, they stuck to the bread and butter themes of the economy, Obamacare and big government. Let’s hope they deliver.

The Supreme Court: It’s always a mixed year from the Court, but this year they gave us good decisions in Riley, Hobby Lobby, Harris v. Quinn, McCullen v. Coakley, NLRB v. Noel Canning, Town of Greece v. Galloway, Schuette v. BAMN and McCutcheon. They continued their streak of unanimously rejecting Obama’s power grabs. You can check on this year’s key decisions here. There are a few I had issues with but most were solid.

Honorable Mentions: marijuana decriminalization efforts, Scott Walker, Charlie Baker (anyone who defeat Martha Coakley gets a mention), the American military

Put your nominees in the comments. And I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving.

The Latest White House Oops

You may remember the scandal, a few years ago, when Secret Service agents and military personnel in the President’s advance security detail in Colombia hired a few prostitutes. While prostitution is legal in Colombia, it was felt that the agents endangered security by their behavior. They were seeing these women and drinking heavily when they should have been preparing for the President’s arrival; they invited them up to their rooms in a security violation; they tried to cover it up, exposing themselves to potential blackmail*. Worst of all, they refused to pay the women what had been agreed upon. I don’t mind people hiring courtesans; but not when they are supposed to be protecting the President.

(*Using sexual infidelities or behavior as blackmail fodder is not unique to prostitutes and is probably actually less common among professionals. A woman who just wants a few hundred dollars for her time is a lot less likely to blackmail someone than a random stranger they pick up who may not be so random. The infamous 1986 sex-for-secrets scandal involved a Russian civilian, not a prostitute. The big infidelity blackmail scandals — such as Rick Pitino or David Letterman — involved women they’d picked up not women they’d hired. Indeed, this is why a lot of famous people hire women instead of picking them up. The potential danger of US military personnel being blackmailed for hiring a prostitute would be severely lessened if we abandoned the idiotic policy of discharging military personnel who avail themselves of legal sex workers.)

Punishment came down on the men involved but there were rumors that a White House staffer also hired a prostitute and it was covered up or at least punted past the 2012 election.

Boom:

As nearly two dozen Secret Service agents and members of the military were punished or fired following a 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia, Obama administration officials repeatedly denied that anyone from the White House was involved.

But new details drawn from government documents and interviews show that senior White House aides were given information at the time suggesting that a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room of a presidential advance-team member — yet that information was never thoroughly investigated or publicly acknowledged.

The information that the Secret Service shared with the White House included hotel records and firsthand accounts — the same types of evidence the agency and military relied on to determine who in their ranks was involved.

Once again: one rule for the masses; one rule for the elites. It’s Elliot Spitzer all over again. You plebs can’t hire a girl to spend the night with you. But we, the rulers, can do whatever the fuck we like and fuck whoever we like.

It gets better:

Whether the White House volunteer, Jonathan Dach, was involved in wrongdoing in Cartagena, Colombia, remains unclear. Dach, then a 25-year-old Yale University law student, declined to be interviewed, but through his attorney he denied hiring a prostitute or bringing anyone to his hotel room. Dach has long made the same denials to White House officials.

Dach this year started working full time in the Obama administration on a federal contract as a policy adviser in the Office on Global Women’s Issues at the State Department.

Dach, incidentally, is the son of Leslie Dach, a huge Obama campaign contributor. But more importantly, he advises the State Department on women’s issues. This is the same State Department that opposes legal sex work, has issued all kinds of idiotic and factually-challenged statements about sex trafficking and has pressured foreign government into adopting Victorian mores on sex and sex work. Again, this guy has a job telling everyone else not to use hookers while he — allegedly — employs them.

I don’t have a problem with clients working in high places. Depending on which study you believe, something like a third of men have used a hooker at least once. What I have problem with is the absolutely putrid hypocrisy on display here. Secret service agents and military personnel are drummed out of the service; our government pressures other governments to outlaw sex work; it runs nationwide “stings” for underage sex workers which nab thousands of consenting adults; it brands anyone who so much as gives a ride to a hooker as a “pimp”; it shuts down websites that help hookers screen out dangerous clients; it promotes garbage stats like the myth that there are 200,000 underage sex slaves in this country. But when one of their own is alleged to have seen a sex worker, they immediately cover it up.

Apparently no one should be able to pay for sex except the rich, the powerful and the connected.

Secret Service Swings and Misses

Wow:

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson will face questions about how an armed intruder jumped the White House fence and made it as far as the East Room when she testifies before a House committee on Tuesday.

Sources confirmed to Fox News on Monday that 42-year-old Omar Gonzalez overpowered a Secret Service officer in the Sept. 19 incident — this led to a struggle and “wrestling” inside the executive mansion as he darted through. Gonzalez was eventually tackled by a counter-assault agent in the East Room after he reached the doorway to the Green Room, a parlor overlooking the South Lawn.

The revelation that the intruder made it much farther than originally known came on the eve of a scheduled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing that will address the breach, as well as lawmakers’ “concerns” about the Secret Service’s security protocols.

There’s no word yet on whether Gonzalez had blue skin and the ability to teleport.

To be fair to the Secret Service, they usually tackle these guys on the White House lawn. This is first time in a long time someone has actually gotten inside the building. Nevertheless, they clearly need to make some changes, including abandoning the idea of a “diverse” Secret Service:

Whatever I think of the President, the Secret Service’s job is to protect him from the numerous nuts who want to write themselves into a history book. This was a pretty big failure on their part.

Columbian Hookers

By now, you’ve heard all the salacious details of our Secret Service agents partying with some legal Columbian hookers. As expected, Maggie McNeill has a good round-up of both the pearl-clutching hysteria in the media and the more reasoned response from libertarian quarters.

Suffice it to say, the idea that this was something unusual or particularly dangerous is a bit far-fetched. I really can’t see our Secret Service compromising the President’s safety rather than have their legal whoring revealed. This crosses me as the latest, “Hey look, sex!” distraction from the economy.

In fact, I would argue that seeing whores is a safer way for the Secret Service to get their jollies than picking up girls in bars. The thing about a hooker is that you know what she wants in exchange for sex: money. Women who don’t want money; who want, say access or secrets, are the danger. Do you remember the sex for secrets scandal of the 1980’s? That didn’t involve a hooker. It involved an amateur that a marine slept with and fell for and then exchanged classified information for access to.

All that having been said, the Secret Service has rules. They specifically have rules about contacts with foreign nationals. And if these agents violated those rules, it doesn’t matter whether the rules were reasonable or not: they agreed to abide by them. If they broke them, they should be fired.

But we can do that without our President and everyone else pulling grim faces about this “disgrace”. Amped-up men in dangerous jobs like to see working girls. That’s been true forever. Let’s not pretend it’s something new or unusual. And let’s not cater to the delusions of grandeur of the reporter who broke the story and now sees himself as the next Woodward and Bernstein.

Tacoma Terrorist?

Think you got what it takes to be a Secret Service agent? It takes more than just looking good in a suit and sunglasses (oh, and talking into your hand, gotta do that). They have a unique mission:

The mission of the United States Secret Service is to safeguard the nation’s financial infrastructure and payment systems to preserve the integrity of the economy, and to protect national leaders, visiting heads of state and government, designated sites and National Special Security Events.

Gee, nowhere in that description does it mention anything about roughing up and scaring the bejesus out of 13 year old kids:

Who wants to get a call like this?

When Timi Robertson found out her middle-schooler son was being questioned by the Secret Service and the police at his Tacoma, Wa. school, she says she “just about lost it,” — especially after they told her it was over a Facebook post the boy had written warning President Barack Obama of suicide attacks in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death.

It’s a short article so you can read the whole thing.

I doubt the Facebook comment is still up, but according to the boy ,”I was saying how Osama is dead and for Obama to be careful because there might be suicide bombers”, hey, give him props for getting the names right, most people interchange the two regularly.

So we have federal agents scouring the net for threats against the president, sounds reasonable, that is after all their job, to protect him. But does that statement resemble anything that could be construed as a threat? Now I don’t do Facebook (they are going to have to drag me into the 21st century kicking and screaming) but I assume that the kids profile is right there, 13 years old. Maybe some cursory checking up on the kid might be in order, you think they did a background check on him first before yanking him out of class?

As usual when you have two sides of a story (the schools and the mothers) the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but I’m thinking its real close to the mother’s side, and miles from that of the schools.

In California when the police have any contact with a minor, the parents have to be contacted immediately and a Miranda admonishment must be given. With adults Miranda is only invoked when you are considered a suspect but for children, it is for anything, no exceptions. I’m wondering if Vito was Mirandized. It also sounds like the school was negligent in contacting a parent and having them present before any questioning commenced, very bad. If I was the mom, I would be going to the school board for some answers.

I know, it’s all Obama’s fault. Now that that is out of the way, I gotta say, this really looks bad. I know I was making the point in the other thread that mistakes happen, but this is one big honkin’ Mt. Everest size mistake. Further clarification, explanation, and some contrition is in order, and begs the question ,”What are those guys doing over there?”