Thursday, November 15, 2012

November 15, 2012

FBI Agent in Petraeus Hero Who Stopped Terrorist Plot in 2000
by the Associated Press
November 15, 2012

FBI Special Agent Frederick Humphries II played a key role in stopping a terrorist attack aimed at blowing up Los Angeles International Airport just as the year 2000 dawned.

Today, the agent, who also fatally shot a knife-wielding man during a 2010 altercation, finds himself in the middle of the widening scandal that has resulted in CIA Director David Petraeus' resignation.

Humphries, 47, was the agent who initially saw the emails the FBI said Petraeus' biographer and mistress, Paula Broadwell, sent to Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, a woman she apparently saw as a rival for Petraeus' affections. She also allegedly sent emails to Gen. John Allen, Kelley's friend and the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

Concerned about the emails, Kelley contacted Humphries in June. The two had met at a 2011 FBI Citizens Academy, a program aimed at teaching the public and journalists about what the agency does and how it operates. Kelley was in the class, which Humphries lectured one night about terrorism, according to Natalie Shepherd, a Tampa TV reporter who was there.

Humphries, a former Army captain who worked in military intelligence, thought the emails raised serious concerns because the anonymous author knew the comings and goings of Allen and Petraeus, a former general who had preceded Allen in Afghanistan. His report back to the FBI started the investigation that led to Broadwell and uncovered her affair with Petraeus.

The FBI is reviewing Humphries' later conduct in this case, a federal law enforcement official said Wednesday. Specifically, the bureau is reviewing a telephone call he made in late October to Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., to voice concern that the bureau was not aggressively pursuing a possible national security breach. Reichert arranged to convey the information to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, who checked with the FBI at that time. Cantor was assured the bureau was on top of any possible vulnerability.

Lawrence Berger, the general counsel for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said in an interview Wednesday that his client, Humphries, did nothing wrong and should not be disciplined. "He's committed no misconduct," Berger said and predicted he would be cleared of any misconduct.

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Decline and Fall - California votes for more: taxes, spending, debt, government
by Charlotte Allen
November 15, 2012

On November 6 voters in California did something nearly unheard of during the past 30 years: They approved, by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent, a ballot measure raising state income taxes on the most prosperous Californians and sales taxes on everyone, even though the state’s sales tax is already the highest in the nation.

The successful tax-hike initiative isn’t just a hoped-for generator of revenue: a projected $34 billion over the next seven years, which California desperately needs because it is running a $16 billion budget deficit and its cumulative total debt is at least $618 billion, the highest in the nation. That latter amount includes up to $500 billion in unfunded pension liabilities for 220,000 state employees plus billions in unpaid bills, delayed payments to schools, and amounts raided from dedicated funds to cover general expenses.

The new tax is also intensely symbolic. It represents the culmination of a two-decade-long process in which the nation’s most populous state, once a prosperous industrial and high-tech powerhouse and magnet for immigrants from elsewhere in the country, has transformed itself into something else: a high-tax, high-spending, highly regulated, and chronically broke welfare state that is fast losing to out-migration both its middle class and the businesses and industries that create jobs. California factories once housed such industries as steel, automobile manufacturing, tire production, and aerospace. Those are now mostly or entirely gone. Silicon Valley employs only tiny numbers of tech geniuses; the actual manufacturing is done elsewhere. California’s unemployment rate tops 10 percent, in contrast to less than 8 percent for the nation as a whole. A full third of Americans on public assistance reside in California, even though it houses only one-eighth of the nation’s population. It is safe to say that only the very rich and the very poor​—​along with the 1.8 million who collect state and local government paychecks (some of the highest in the nation, according to the Census Bureau) and belong to powerful public-employee unions​—​can afford to make their homes in the Golden State these days. In short, California is the new Massachusetts. Or, given that it now has the worst state credit rating in America, thanks to chronic overspending, massive state debt, and the clout of the pension reform-resisting unions, California is the American Greece.

Until the passage of Proposition 30 last week, California voters had for more than two decades consistently rejected every general taxation measure put before them​—​and going directly to the voters on tax measures is fairly common in California, because the state constitution requires a hard-to-attain supermajority of two-thirds for a tax bill to pass the state legislature. The last time a tax measure on the general ballot had passed was in 1988, when California voters approved a cigarette levy​—​essentially a “vice” tax​—​aimed at funding antismoking and environmental programs. This November, however, voters agreed to raise the state sales tax to 7.5 percent from 7.25 percent, which means that consumers in, say, Los Angeles County, which has its own local sales tax, will be paying close to 10 percent in taxes on every item they purchase, save for groceries. Proposition 30 also includes a soak-the-rich so-called millionaires’ tax with an Occupy Wall Street flavor that hits people with household incomes of more than $250,000 a year, the same group that is President Obama’s target for raising federal income taxes. State rates for that 3 percent of Californians, many of whom own small businesses but are taxed as individuals, will rise to anywhere from 10.3 percent to 13.3 percent for those earning more than $1 million a year. Living in California has suddenly become even more expensive than it already was, especially for lower-income people on tight budgets, for whom every dollar paid out in sales taxes is a dollar that can’t be spent on something else. The tax increases are billed as “temporary”​—​if seven years for the income-tax hike and four years for the sales-tax hike can be called temporary.

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Don't cry now
by Noemie Emery
November 13, 2012

Yes, it's all sad -- and grim, and depressing -- but is Election 2012 truly the end of the GOP universe? Perhaps. But before giving way to unseemly hysterics, here are some thoughts to peruse:

* Timing is everything: This year, the Republicans needed new and appealing young talents to take on Obama, and that, as it happened, was just what they had. The upside was that in 2009 and 2010 they had a crop of new stars, all born to run on a national ticket. The downside was that they would be ready to start running in 2014 at the earliest. And so the most crucial of all nominations would go to one of a number of has-beens or retreads, whose experience was either old or irrelevant, and whose talent at best underwhelmed.

Mitt Romney, the best, left office six years ago, and had a liberal past, a financial career that had netted him millions, and, as the son of another ex-governor, seemed the image of white and upper-class privilege, minus the military heroics, medical problems, or personal tragedies that humanized the Roosevelt cousins, the Kennedy brothers and the elder George Bush.

Near the end, Romney became a good candidate, but he was always less than a good politician; a speaker in tongues that were not his first language, and a technocrat in a profession in which visionaries tend to win the big prize. His loss deprives the country of an effective executive, but it allows the next generation of the GOP, which would have been pushed aside for eight years or more if he had triumphed, to step forward now and make over the party -- a moment that can't come soon enough.

* The country has changed, but the next Republican ticket will have at least one, and possibly two, brownish-skinned children of immigrants, with inspiring stories of rising from nowhere to live the American dream. He and/or she (and "she" must be seen as a real possibility) will never have fired hundreds of people, will not be rich, will not be dogged by multiple changes on issues, will understand modern conservatism from having run and won on it, and also will be a career politician, unlikely to make the unforced verbal errors that haunted this campaign just ended. There are few such "diverse" stars in the Democrats' stable. Hillary Clinton, if she runs in 2016, will be 69, and unlikely to get the nation's young in a tizzy. In the next cycle, the dynamic that worked this year in the Democrats' favor -- race, youth and gender -- may be turned on its head.

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