"You may decide, for instance, what many people on the left and the right think—that I'm a sociopath and blah blah blah," says Charles C. Johnson. Peter Duke
Hours before I was due to hop in a rental car to drive to his home last week, Charles C. Johnson laid down a new ground rule: He would talk only if I promised not to mention he lived in Fresno. The internet was full of crazy people, after all.
We'd originally arranged to meet weeks before he launched a one-man crusade to out "Jackie," the woman at the heart of Rolling Stone's flawed investigation into campus rape at the University of Virginia. There were already many other examples of his antagonistic brand of online dirt-flinging to discuss. Johnson, a tireless self-promoter, seemed eager to speak—or spar—face-to-face; he even offered to let me stay at his place in California. Now he was asking for privacy.
It was an odd request, considering that the Washington Post had just reported where Johnson lived and his location was posted on his Twitter page at the time. Not to mention that he had recently published the home addresses of two New York Times reporters and he'd just spent two days gleefully airing personal information about a woman he'd never met. ("I'm giving Jackie until later tonight to tell the truth and then I'm going to start revealing everything about her past," he'd taunted her on Twitter.) Johnson was asking for a degree of respect that he relishes in denying others.
I didn't agree to Johnson's ground rule, but he agreed to see me anyway. After five hours in the car, I arrived at my motel to find a fresh set of emails. We could talk, but only if we didn't go anywhere near his house. On second thought, we couldn't meet in person at all—he'd traipsed off to LA for some meetings and was planning on staying for another day to do a TV interview. I'd already rearranged my flights after he had forgotten I was coming. Now I'd been snubbed for Larry King.
Here's the most sobering statistic you'll see today: American-Indian and Alaskan Native children experience PTSD at the same rate at veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to a new report from a Department of Justice advisory committee, 22 percent of American-Indian and Alaskan Native juveniles have PTSD—three times higher than the national rate. Among other proposals, the committee recommends Congress grant tribes the ability to prosecute non-Indians who abuse children. Under the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Congress empowered tribes to prosecute non-Indians who commit domestic violence, but left other crimes, like sexual abuse, untouched.
President Barack Obama, who has issued fewer executive orders than any president since Grover Cleveland, issued a set of directives this week to protect 5 million undocumented residents from deportation. The new executive actions will allow undocumented parents of US citizens to stay in the country, and allow children who were brought to the United States by their parents to apply for employment visas. It also, according to various Republican critics, cements Obama's status as a dictator, a king, an emperor, and maybe even a maniac bent on ethnic cleansing:
Obama is a king. "The president acts like he's a king," Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said. "He ignores the Constitution. He arrogantly says, 'If Congress will not act, then I must.' These are not the words of a great leader. These are the words that sound more like the exclamations of an autocrat."
This will lead to anarchy. "The country's going to go nuts, because they're going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it's going to be a very serious situation," retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told USA Today. "You're going to see—hopefully not—but you could see instances of anarchy. ... You could see violence."
He could go to jail. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) told Slate that the president might be committing a felony: "At some point, you have to evaluate whether the president's conduct aids or abets, encourages, or entices foreigners to unlawfully cross into the United States of America. That has a five-year in-jail penalty associated with it."
Is ethnic cleansing next? When asked by a talk-radio called on Thursday if the new executive actions would lead to "ethnic cleansing," Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach said it just might:
What protects us in America from any kind of ethnic cleansing is the rule of law, of course. And the rule of law used to be unassailable, used to be taken for granted in America. And now, of course, we have a President who disregards the law when it suits his interests. And, so, you know, while I normally would answer that by saying, 'Steve, of course we have the rule of law, that could never happen in America,' I wonder what could happen. I still don't think it’s going to happen in America, but I have to admit, that things are, things are strange and they're happening.
Kobach is hardly a fringe figure. He was the architect of the self-deportation strategy at the core some of the nation's harshest immigration laws.
The Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va., the morning after an explosion killed 29 workers.
Last week, a federal grand jury indicted former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship for allegedly conspiring to violate mine safety standards in the run-up to the 2010 explosion that killed 29 workers at the Upper Big Branch Mine. The four-count indictment describes a culture of negligence under Blankenship's watch, in which essential safety measures were ignored as the company sought to squeeze every last cent out of the ground. Blankenship, who left Massey in 2010, pleaded not guilty Thursday.
But the indictment also came as a sobering reminder: In the four years since the disaster, little has been done to make the mining industry safer. Legislation designed to rein in the worst offenders and give regulators teeth was beaten back by big business. Meanwhile, tens of millions of dollars in safety fines have gone uncollected.
"We've taken some actions after the various accidents that have taken place, but unfortunately, Congress can apparently only legislate in this area after someone dies," said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who sponsored mine-safety legislation in the wake of the Upper Big Branch explosion.
"I've been there after the accidents, I've been standing with many of these politicians—they all pledge they're gonna do something for the families, that they care about the miners. And then everybody goes back to business as usual."
Jim Webb is running for president. The former secretary of the Navy and Virginia senator launched a presidential exploratory committee on Thursday, becoming the first Democrat to formally dip his toe in the 2016 waters. Webb explained his candidacy in a video that looks like it was filmed by the people who make commercials for personal-injury attorneys:
A Republican for most of his life, Webb endeared himself to Democrats when he switched parties and beat incumbent GOP Sen. George Allen in 2006 by just a few thousand votes. Webb ran that campaign on an anti-Iraq War message, touting his own experience in Vietnam, but may have been pushed across the finish line by Allen, who called a Democratic volunteer "Macaca" (an obscure North African racial slur) at a campaign event.
As a senator he was a bit of an iconoclast, defined mostly by his disdain for Washington (something most senators espouse but rarely act on). His first meeting with President George W. Bush ended with the senator walking away furiously, reportedly on the verge of throwing a punch, after Dubya asked Webb about his son serving in Iraq. He sought to carve out a niche for himself by working for criminal justice reform, but left office before any political momentum developed on the issue. And then he left, after one term, leaving Democrats to defend a purple seat against Allen. His most impressive resume item may be his Navy Cross citation:
On 10 July 1969, while participating in a company-sized search and destroy operation deep in hostile territory, First Lieutenant Webb's platoon discovered a well-camouflaged bunker complex which appeared to be unoccupied. Deploying his men into defensive positions, First Lieutenant Webb was advancing to the first bunker when three enemy soldiers armed with hand grenades jumped out. Reacting instantly, he grabbed the closest man and, brandishing his .45 caliber pistol at the others, apprehended all three of the soldiers. Accompanied by one of his men, he then approached the second bunker and called for the enemy to surrender. When the hostile soldiers failed to answer him and threw a grenade which detonated dangerously close to him, First Lieutenant Webb detonated a claymore mine in the bunker aperture, accounting for two enemy casualties and disclosing the entrance to a tunnel. Despite the smoke and debris from the explosion and the possibility of enemy soldiers hiding in the tunnel, he then conducted a thorough search which yielded several items of equipment and numerous documents containing valuable intelligence data. Continuing the assault, he approached a third bunker and was preparing to fire into it when the enemy threw another grenade. Observing the grenade land dangerously close to his companion, First Lieutenant Webb simultaneously fired his weapon at the enemy, pushed the Marine away from the grenade, and shielded him from the explosion with his own body. Although sustaining painful fragmentation wounds from the explosion, he managed to throw a grenade into the aperture and completely destroy the remaining bunker.
Webb has at least a few bumps to smooth over, though. He defended the Confederate flag and "the venerable Robert E. Lee" in his book Born Fighting, about the Scots-Irish, and in 1979, he wrote an essay for Washingtonian titled "Why Women Can't Fight"—a spirited case against admitting women into service academies. As a senator from a major coal-producing state, he opposed proposals to combat climate change. And only last month expressed his support for same-sex marriage. Beating an entrenched Republican in Virginia as a centrist in 2006 is one thing—but winning a Democratic presidential nomination requires winning Democratic primary voters.