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Will Spitzer Go To John School?

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 5:25 PM EDT

The details about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's prostitution scandal are still just trickling out—Fox News naturally jumped the gun and had him all but heading off to prison—but if the feds are really going to prosecute Spitzer for ordering up a $4,300 hooker, in all likelihood he would be subject to D.C. and not federal law. (Spitzer was in D.C. when he called the escort service, and unless he was doing something really stupid like using public money to pay the bill, his crime hardly reaches the level of a federal offense and would likely go to local prosecutors.) D.C.s' criminal penalties for prostitution are pretty mild for first-time offenders, as Spitzer would presumably be. He's unlikely to be facing jail time. What he might have to endure, though, is a day-trip to John School.

In D.C., men who get caught trying to pay for sex are frequently required to attend an 8-hour class known as John School, run through the U.S. Attorney's office, where they are schooled about the evils of prostitution, introduced to "survivors" of prostitution, and counseled by a psychologist about sexual addiction. Helpfully, they're also offered free STD testing from the Department of Health. Spitzer wouldn't be the first high-profile person to land in John School. Lots of local professional athletes have been through, including, most recently, Washington Wizards forward Andray Blatche. It wouldn't be fun, but it definitely beats the alternative, which could be a stint in the D.C. jail.

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Samantha Power and the Poison Pen

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 5:06 PM EDT

(Samantha Power is a friend, so factor that in as your read.)

How weird is it that Peggy Noonan, of all people, argued for Samantha Power not to lose her job with the Obama campaign after she let the truth slip out? Ok, after she bellowed to the skies her anger and frustration at Senator Clinton. I'm all paranoid now, what with the Limbaugh-ites giggling about voting for Hillary so they won't have to face Barack in November, but the piece rings true. I think she actually means it.

Noonan's argument is:

Waxman Committee Urges Scrutiny of Blackwater's Employment Practices

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 4:44 PM EDT

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Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform are after Blackwater again, this time in relation to the private security firm's compliance with federal tax, small business, and labor laws. Blackwater's controversial practice of treating its employees as "independent contractors" first surfaced last October, shortly after company founder and CEO Erik Prince testified before Waxman's committee to account for a Blackwater team's involvement in an unauthorized shooting in a Baghdad traffic circle that killed 17 and wounded 24 others. Since then, Waxman's staff has been looking into the applicable federal laws and has apparently concluded that Blackwater may be in violation.

Today, Waxman sent letters to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao (.pdf), IRS Acting Commissioner Linda Stiff (.pdf), and Small Business Administration Administrator Steven Preston (.pdf), urging the officials to probe Blackwater's compliance with their respective agencies' rules and regulations.

More after the jump . . .

Eliot Spitzer: Screwed

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 4:41 PM EDT

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Having sex with prostitutes is always a risky proposition for any public official. But when you've pissed off some of the richest and most powerful people in the world, paying for sex may be one of the more stupid things you could do. Jezus, Eliot, what the hell were you thinking?

In case you haven't heard yet, The New York Times reported this afternoon that New York's Governor Eliot Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet a high-priced prostitute at a Washington hotel last month. In a press conference that lasted nanoseconds—there were no questions taken—Spitzer admitted that he had violated "his obligation to his family," but he said nothing else about the news report and gave no hints on whether he intends to remain (that is, try to remain) in office.

Spitzer is so loathed on Wall Street and in the business community that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has devoted entire conferences to figuring out how to bring him down. Tom Donohue, the president of the Chamber, once accused Spitzer of using the "most egregious and unacceptable form of intimidation that we have seen in this country in modern time" in his investigation of Wall Street firms back in 2005, when Spitzer was the state's attorney general.

Business leaders despise Spitzer for his holier-than-thou press conferences in which he denounced them as slimeballs. Among his enemies: former chief of the New York Stock Exchange, Dick Grasso; the entire mutual fund industry; dirty power-plant owners; trillion-dollar banks. Spitzer went after all of them, with an aggressive use of state and some federal law that was derisively known as "Spitzerism." His election as New York's governor showed that he had the ability to win over upstate Republicans, a sign that he might have a future in national politics. And imagine the business world's horror at the possibility of a Spitzer-led U.S. Department of Justice, or worse, the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Meet David Paterson, the Next Governor of New York

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 4:03 PM EDT

patterson-nygov.jpg When David Paterson was elected Lieutenant Governor of New York in November 2006, he was overshadowed by his media darling of a boss, but he was a unique success story in his own right. Paterson is currently New York's first African-American Lieutenant Governor and is the nation's highest ranking visually-impaired elected official (Paterson is legally blind). On election night in '06, he reflected on the promise of the new administration. "Eliot and I have a vision for New York," he said. "I can't see it in my eyes, but I can feel it in my heart."

Now it will be up to him to institute that vision by himself. Not much has been made of Paterson's gubernatorial prospects in the past; reporting on television this afternoon suggested that Paterson, who is supporting Hillary Clinton for president, was weighing a run for Senate in the event of a vacancy coming open in New York on January 20, 2009. Paterson has one of the biggest challenges of his life ahead of him.

But Paterson has already been tested. In fact, he has made a lifetime of "firsts." He was elected to represent Harlem in the New York State Senate in 1985 and was elected minority leader in 2002, making him the first non-white legislative leader in New York's history. When he spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, he was the first legally blind person to ever do so. The son of the first non-white Secretary of State of New York, Paterson will become the first black Governor in New York history and the third black Governor in United States history if/when Eliot Spitzer resigns.

Note: An African-American named P.B.S. Pinchback served as acting governor of Louisiana for just over a month during the 1870s while the sitting governor of LA was being impeached. If you count Pinchback, Paterson will be the fourth Governor in U.S. history.

The NSA Is Monitoring... Everything

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 2:55 PM EDT

Excellent reporting from the WSJ on the NSA's scary domestic reach.

According to current and former intelligence officials, the spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records. The NSA receives this so-called "transactional" data from other agencies or private companies, and its sophisticated software programs analyze the various transactions for suspicious patterns. Then they spit out leads to be explored by counterterrorism programs across the U.S. government, such as the NSA's own Terrorist Surveillance Program, formed to intercept phone calls and emails between the U.S. and overseas without a judge's approval when a link to al Qaeda is suspected.

Read the whole thing. And you thought Total Information Awareness was dead.

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Clinton Press Team Tries Again

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 1:49 PM EDT

clinton-clark250x200.jpg The Clinton press office trotted out a bunch of foreign policy types last week to criticize Samantha Power's statement on Barack Obama's Iraq plan, raising David's hackles. They tried again today, with General Wesley Clark, Lt. Gen. Joe Ballard, and Admiral/Congressman Joe Sestak.

All three men said that they trust Hillary Clinton's foreign policy judgment. Ballard repeatedly referred to the "courage of her convictions." They criticized Obama for campaigning on a plan for withdrawing from Iraq that, according to Power, is just a "best-case scenario" that will be revised when Obama takes office and speaks with advisers. Those advisers won't have a "magic plan," said Clark. "It really comes down to the resolve and conviction of the president." Ballard added that "[Clinton] has been unwavering in her commitment to withdrawal... When people vote [for her] they know what they're going to get."

I asked the military men on the call if they were criticizing Obama fairly. Wouldn't they want the president to speak to advisers, including military advisers like themselves, before executing a military maneuver such as a withdrawal?

An Ugly Moment for the Clinton Campaign

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 10:45 AM EDT

On Friday afternoon, the Clinton campaign took the unusual step of convening a second conference call of the day for reporters. And it was a sorry spectacle.

The call was prompted by the report that Samantha Power, who that morning had resigned as a foreign policy aide to Barack Obama after a news story noted she had called Hillary Clinton a "monster," had told the BBC, during an interview, that Obama's withdrawal plan for Iraq was a "best-case scenario." In that interview, she said, Obama "will, of course, not rely on some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator."

On the conference call, the Clintonites pounced on these comments. Retired General Wesley Clark said he found Power's remarks about Obama's Iraq policy "quite disturbing." Jamie Rubin, a Clinton foreign policy aide, derided Power as Obama's foreign policy "Svenagli or guru" and claimed her remarks about Iraq were proof that Obama cannot create an efficient and effective foreign policy team, calling the episode "amateur hour" for the Obama campaign. He claimed Power's comments showed that Obama's private position was different than his public posture on Iraq. Howard Wolfson, the campaign's communications direction, insisted that Power's statements meant that Obama's vow to withdraw troops from Iraq was nothing but a political promise. Also on the call for the Clinton campaign was Lee Feinstein, another foreign policy adviser to Clinton, and Representative Jim McGovern, a Massachussetts liberal and leading member of of the Out of Iraq caucus in the House.

This was overkill. During the BBC interview, Power had said that Obama, in removing troops from Iraq, "will rely upon a plan—an operational plan—that he pulls together in consultation with people who are on the ground to whom he doesn't have daily access now, as a result of not being the president. So to think—it would be the height of ideology to sort of say, 'Well, I said it, therefore I'm going to impose it on whatever reality greets me.'" In other words, a campaign proposal is just that: a proposal. And only a fool would think that a military plan would be applied to reality unchanged a year after it was first devised.

Blackwater Abandons Plan For California Training Facility

| Sun Mar. 9, 2008 11:21 AM EDT

Almost a year after Blackwater scrapped plans for a training facility to be located in the Philippines, a company representative said Friday that the private security firm is no longer seeking to build "Blackwater West" in Potrero, California.

The prospect of Blackwater expanding its training operations to the area had sparked political controversy in the small town of Potrero, about 45 miles east of San Diego, where locals organized protests to prevent the move. Blackwater responded with a PR campaign that included an appearance by the firm's Parachute Demonstration Team (seriously, how many companies have one of those?) during the half-time show of a San Diego State football game. If that wasn't enough, Blackwater upped the ante when it provided a tent city for families displaced by last fall's California wildfires. But alas, even that was not enough to win the hearts and minds of southern Californians. (Watch the YouTube depiction of the mythical "Blackwater Surfer" for a comic representation of some residents' fears.)

From Bill Sizemore at the Virginian-Pilot:

The Moyock, N.C.-based private military company has learned that the project would not comply with the county noise ordinance, spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said Friday.
"Although the site would have brought a great benefit to San Diego County - providing local, state, and federal law enforcement with access to low-cost superior training facilities while bringing much-needed jobs to the area - the proposed site plan simply does not meet the county's parameters or our business objectives at this time," Tyrrell said in an e-mail statement. The proposal had stirred a storm of opposition from a coalition of rural residents, environmentalists and anti-war activists.
In December, five members of a local planning board who had voted to approve the project were recalled by voters in Potrero, the tiny community 45 miles east of San Diego where Blackwater wanted to build its facility on an 824-acre chicken and cattle ranch.
Raymond Lutz, one of the leaders of the opposition, said Friday he believes the company simply yielded to the popular will.
Lutz had just announced his candidacy Thursday for the local state Assembly seat, pledging to run largely on an anti-Blackwater platform.
"They just said, in my view, 'We're out of here,' " Lutz said. "'We have to get out of this and cut our losses right now.' "

Obama Takes Wyoming

| Sun Mar. 9, 2008 11:11 AM EDT

As you may know, Barack Obama won the Wyoming caucus yesterday. Obama took 61 percent to Clinton's 38 percent, and will net seven of Wyoming's 12 delegates.

The Clinton team has done a masterful job of making states in which Obama is the heavy favorite, like Wyoming, count for virtually nothing in the grand media narrative about momentum. It helps that Obama can win and has won tons and tons of small states, but is having trouble nailing down big ones. In the presidential campaign math that we all operate under, one California or New Jersey or Ohio counts for four or five Wyomings. Whether or not you think that's a good thing probably depends on what size your home state is.

After a week or two of awful news, Obama desperately needs today's win and Tuesday's expected win in Mississippi.