Category Archives: Politics: US

Curiouser and Curiouser (the Petraeus Affair) – Updated

I wasn’t going to write about the Petraeus Affair, but wow this is getting weird.

  • “Wealthy socialite”1 Jill Kelly asks the FBI to investigate anonymous threatening emails she’s getting.
  • The FBI agent she first contacts had sent her shirtless photos of himself; news articles use this to suggest he has a crush on her or something.
  • The FBI starts a full-blown investigation, which isn’t the usual reaction to emailed threats. Maybe slightly weird, maybe not given that the emails made reference to the DCIA.
  • The emails turn out to come from Petraeus’s angry mistress, Paula Broadwell, who is also his “biographer” (via the medium of a ghostwriter), and who believed Ms. Kelly of being, or trying to be, an alternate mistress. [Torts, anyone?]
  • The FBI figures out during this investigation that Paula Broadwell was corresponding with Petraeus using gmail drafts and a shared file repository that they could both log into, a tactic people use when they are afraid of leaving an email trail. But the FBI foils that strategy by using geolocation and/or email metadata.
  • Although the FBI says it found four classified documents on Ms. Broadwell’s computer, no one is being charged with leaking them — an extraordinary thing given this Administration’s near-hysterical war on leakers?
  • Meanwhile, the FBI non-boyfriend, who isn’t part of the cybercrimes division decides he’s being shut out of the investigation because there’s some great coverup in progress to protect Obama:

    But the agent, who was not identified, continued to “nose around” about the case, and eventually his superiors “told him to stay the hell away from it, and he was not invited to briefings,” the official said. The Wall Street Journal first reported on Monday night that the agent had been barred from the case.

    Later, the agent became convinced — incorrectly, the official said — that the case had stalled. Because of his “worldview,” as the official put it, he suspected a politically motivated cover-up to protect President Obama. The agent alerted Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, who called the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, on Oct. 31 to tell him of the agent’s concerns.

  • Justice/FBI first informs Petraeus’s boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, about their findings — on Election Day. Congress is not informed
  • President Obama was informed for the fist time, at least officially, the next day.
  • Petraeus resigned two days after the election. Congress first hears about it in the public media.
  • Media are in shock. Partly due to a sense of having bought into the “cult of David Petraeus”, partly due to the sense that there’s something funny going on we don’t know yet.
  • Senators and Congresspersons are upset because the FBI kept them in the dark. FBI spins back.
  • Ms. Kelly — seemingly the victim here — lawyers up bigtime.
  • The FBI follows up its earlier search of Broadwell’s computer by carting documents away from her home after a four-hour search — a search seemingly long-delayed.
  • Top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Is Linked to Petraeus Scandal:

    Mr. Panetta turned the matter over to the Pentagon’s inspector general to conduct an investigation into what a defense official said were 20,000 to 30,000 pages2 of documents, many of them e-mails between General Allen and Ms. Kelley, who is married and has children.

Who knew that government workers had such active exciting lives? And it’s only Tuesday.

Update (still Tuesday!): And there’s a Florida angle:

Twin Florida socialites who are at the centre of the David Petraeus affair gained intimate access to America’s military and political elite through their high-rolling lifestyles even as they quietly racked up millions of dollars in debts and credit card bills.

Jill Kelley, whose complaint over threatening emails prompted the FBI inquiry that has ensnared two top generals, is mired in lawsuits from a string of banks totalling $4 million (£2.5 million), court filings obtained by The Daily Telegraph in Florida show.

Meanwhile Mrs Kelley’s identical twin Natalie Khawam – who obtained testimonies to her good character from both Gen Petraeus and Gen John Allen during her own separate legal battle – declared herself bankrupt earlier this year with liabilities of $3.6 million, filings show.

And, then, this:

The Daily Telegraph has learned. Miss Khawam once dated Charlie Crist, the state’s former governor, a Republican source said, while Pam Bondi, its Attorney General and a close ally of Mitt Romney, attended a function at Mrs Kelley’s home.3

And, allegedly, via Huffpost, Jill Kelley, Woman Who Sparked Petraeus Scandal, Ran Questionable Charity:

By the end of 2007, the charity had gone bankrupt, having conveniently spent exactly the same amount of money, $157,284, as it started with — not a dollar more, according to its 990 financial form. Of that, $43,317 was billed as “Meals and Entertainment,” $38,610 was assigned to “Travel,” another $25,013 was spent on legal fees, and $8,822 went to “Automotive Expenses.”

The Kelleys also listed smaller expenses that appear excessive for a charity operating from a private home, including $12,807 for office expenses and supplies, and $7,854 on utilities and telephones.


  1. Update3: and Honorary Consul…to the Republic of South Korea…but somewhat unclear on the concept, it seems. []
  2. Update2: It’s plausible that this number comes from printing out photos or other encoded attachments, which can run to large numbers of pages for a single .gif or .jpg. Thus there may be many fewer emails than this big number suggests. Of course we can all hope for a movie… []
  3. Update 4 (Wed): Crist’s reaction: “Didn’t happen,” he said. “I may have met her.” []
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First They Mock You

NYT’s David Firestone calls it a Second Term, Democratic Senate Political Fantasy.

The Democratic-controlled Senate is likely to be considerably more liberal than the one it replaces. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Angus King of Maine (nominally an independent) replace Republicans. Tim Kaine of Virginia is more liberal than Jim Webb, the Democrat who retired, just as Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Chris Murphy of Connecticut are more liberal than Herb Kohl and Joe Lieberman. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts will be one of the strongest voices in support of Mr. Obama’s policies, and may even push the president leftward. Democrats could also win a few other races too close to call.

So what will the reshaped chamber mean? Possibly a stronger backbone, and one of the first places to show it will be filibuster reform. A more vibrant Democratic caucus could push Majority Leader Harry Reid to do what he should have done two years ago, and use a simple majority to curb the routine abuse of the filibuster as practiced by the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell.

That, in turn, could free up the president to appoint the kinds of judges and Supreme Court justices he wants, without worrying about constant Republican obstruction. And it could give the Senate fortitude in dealing with issues of taxes and budgets, putting the House, which will still be controlled by Republicans, in a corner.

I say it’s real.

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My Brother on Hardball

Dan is talking about Karl Rove’s “non-profit” that runs attack ads on Democrats but which claims they’re just tax-exempt public education.

Great content, but I still say that a couple of hours media training wouldn’t hurt.

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Who Thinks Selling Condoms is a Sin?

I didn’t think much of it when Daily Kos asked, Is Walgreens committing a sin by selling condoms?

Thomas McKenna: “So a Catholic employer, really getting down to it, he does not, or she does not provide this because that way they would be, in a sense, cooperating with the sin…the sin of contraception or the sin of providing a contraceptive that would abort a child, is this correct?”

Cardinal Burke: “This is correct. It is not only a matter of what we call “material cooperation” in the sense that the employer by giving this insurance benefit is materially providing for the contraception but it is also “formal cooperation” because he is knowingly and deliberately doing this, making this available to people. There is no way to justify it. It is simply wrong.”

Nice bit of agitprop, I thought, the Catholic Church may treat selling condoms as morally equivalent to employer-financed abortions, but this won’t take off.

But wait. Smart Jim DeFede asked GOP starlet Marco Rubio the question on TV:

“Is contraception wrong?” CBS4′s Jim DeFede asked Senator Marco Rubio in a recent exclusive one-on-one interview.

“In terms of?” he responds.

“Birth control,” I said.

“Of course not,” he replied. “Who says it is? You’re going to get into this whole argument about contraception. No one has ever said that contraception should be illegal, that contraception should be discouraged, that people should be looked down upon for using it.

Could this be a wedge issue?

DeFede spotted via SFDB, which appears to be studiously ignoring We Robot.

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Charles Simic is Shrill

Here’s how The Age of Ignorance begins:

Widespread ignorance bordering on idiocy is our new national goal. It’s no use pretending otherwise and telling us, as Thomas Friedman did in the Times a few days ago, that educated people are the nation’s most valuable resources. Sure, they are, but do we still want them? It doesn’t look to me as if we do. The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit.

An educated, well-informed population, the kind that a functioning democracy requires, would be difficult to lie to, and could not be led by the nose by the various vested interests running amok in this country. Most of our politicians and their political advisers and lobbyists would find themselves unemployed, and so would the gasbags who pass themselves off as our opinion makers. Luckily for them, nothing so catastrophic, even though perfectly well-deserved and widely-welcome, has a remote chance of occurring any time soon.

And believe me, that’s only the beginning.

(Title is a reference to the Shrillblog (The Offical Blog of the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill), now in need of updating.)

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That’s Some Number

ANALYSIS: When a Congressman Becomes a Lobbyist, He Gets a 1,452% Raise (on Average) — Lee Fang at the “Republic Report”.

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Public Libraries as Ombudsmen and Democratic Incubators

Kevin Drum sends us to this compelling posting about why we need public libraries more than ever in the digital age, and how libraries need to revise themselves to become civic centers:

We need to do something which I’ll admit is ill defined and perhaps impossible: we need to become the center of civic engagement in our communities. We’re one of the few places left in our society where a great cross-section of people regularly interact, and also one of the few places that is free and non-commercial. … We have amazing potential power, but without concerted effort I’m afraid it will be wasted. It will look better to save 10 dollars a year per person in taxes instead of funding community computer workshops, and childhood literacy programs, and community gardens. All the while we play desperate catch-up, trying to get a hold on ebooks, and liscensing out endless sub-quality software for meeting room reservations and computer sign-ups and all this other rentier software capitalism instead of developing free and open source solutions and providing small systems with the expertise to use them. Our amazing power is squandered as we cut our staff, fail to attract skilled and diverse talent, and act as a band aid to the mounting social ills caused by slash and burn governance in the name of low taxes and some nebulous idea of freedom that seems to equate with living in a good society but not paying your share for it.

Every day at my job I helped people just barely survive. Forget trying to form grass roots political activism by creating a society of computer users, forget trying to be the ‘people’s university’ and create a body of well informed citizens. Instead I helped people navigate through the degrading hoops of modern online society, fighting for scraps from the plate, and then kicking back afterwards by pretending to have a farm on Facebook (well, that is if they had any of their 2 hours left when they were done). What were we doing during the nineties? What were we doing during the boom that we’ve been left so ill served during the bust? No one seems to know. They come in to our classes and ask us if we have any ideas, and I do, but those ideas take money, and political will, and guts, and the closer I get to graduation the less and less I suspect that any of those things exist.

All this resonates with me: Strong pubic libraries can be a foundation stone of a stronger civil society and an improved public sphere. They could be a big part of what I was looking for when I wrote Building the Bottom Up From the Top Down.

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