Last week’s punishment/settlement between the Department of Justice and Duke Energy over bird deaths caused by its wind turbines gives evidence that the Obama administration needed a scapegoat, to defuse accusations that it applies a double-standard in enforcement of wildlife laws.
The Friday before Thanksgiving both parties announced that Duke would pay $1 million for the deaths of more than 160 birds that are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The incidents occurred over the last four years at two Wyoming sites operated by the utility’s Duke Energy Renewables subsidiary.
The acquittal by a six-member Florida jury on July 13 in the trial of George Zimmerman for second-degree murder, with an option to convict for manslaughter, at least among rational people, produced relief and apprehension - relief because Zimmerman wouldn't be headed to state prison; apprehension because the verdict likely would be a prelude to a federal probe. The latter is now underway. Attorney General Eric Holder, with the tacit approval of President Obama, has launched a campaign to delegitimize and overturn the verdict on the belief that Zimmerman, a mixed-race Hispanic and a Neighborhood Watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla., wantonly shot a black teenager, Trayvon Martin, to death, and with racial intent.
Thomas Perez embodies ethnic identity radicalism. Whether the U.S. Senate has the courage to challenge him is yet unknown. President Obama today nominated Perez for Secretary of Labor. As the Department of Justice's assistant attorney general for civil rights since October 2009, Perez has promoted a hard-charging egalitarianism that goes even beyond that of first-term Obama Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who resigned in January. His "Third World First, America Last" worldview comes with hefty baggage. He's persuaded the Justice Department to dismiss its case against Black Panther members accused of menacing white voters and poll watchers in Philadelphia on Election Day 2008.
The transformation of the American economy and polity into a racial spoils system has been a defining goal of President Obama's first term in office. It is set to become more defining in his second term, especially in light of a federal appeals court ruling two weeks ago. Obama, by various accounts, wants to be more aggressive about suing banks, employers, schools and other institutions whose practices, however unintentionally, adversely affect "disadvantaged" (read: nonwhite) populations. This is the doctrine of "disparate impact."
Guyanese-American businessman Edul Ahmad pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one count of bank and wire fraud as part of a deal with federal prosecutors in New York's Eastern District. Ahmad was indicted on ten counts related to a massive mortgage fraud scheme in August 2011. He will be sentenced in the near future. Sentencing guidelines call for 10 to 13 years in prison.
Today's headlines that Jon Corzine gave "direct instructions" for MF Global customer money to be moved to another account to cover a $175 million overdraft raises big questions about how this case is being handled. Congressional Committee's are imperfect investigative vehicles, but this time the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation has really scored. By digging out and making public an email from MF Global assistant treasurer Edith O'Brien, the Committee has done a huge public service.
It took about 500 days of negotiation. But on Thursday, February 9, attorneys general representing nearly all 50 states made the announcement: Five banks will pay a combined $25 billion over three years in civil penalties and loan write-downs for having serviced mortgage foreclosure paperwork over the previous four years without proper review. The settlement, say supporters, will compensate homeowners for prior predatory lending practices, reform the banking industry and give the economy a boost. But the context of the case suggests an ulterior motive: socializing the housing market. This by no means is the first such attempt during the Obama years. And the true cost of this shakedown, the largest of its kind since the 1998 tobacco industry settlement, may be far higher than $25 billion.
Beginning in 2009, the Department of Education -- mightily aided by Senator Tom Harkin's HELP Committee and a coterie of Wall Street short sellers -- laid siege to the for-profit college sector in a knock-down, drag-out battle to the finish. Their strategic objective was to seriously hobble the profitability of career schools that had devised a competitive, career pathway for predominantly at-risk, low-income, non-traditional and minority students. On June 2, in the infamous Battle of the Beltway, the Department issued its (you should excuse the expression) 'Gainful Employment' rule, which was heralded as a major blow to career schools, whose recruitment rates have since dropped precipitously.
Today's imminent censure of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) is the result of Ethics Committee investigations that went much further than we expected, even after we exposed Rangel's failure to pay taxes on income from his Dominican Republic beach house and his acceptance of corporate-funded Caribbean junkets.
Rangel filed the ethics complaint against himself in late 2008. He no doubt expected the Committee to cover up for him, fulfilling the same role it has played during Rangel's 40 years in Congress. Rangel seems amazed that the accusations against him could result in his censure. Perhaps he feels betrayed by the Democratic leadership and the institution of Congress that traditionally has taken care of its own.
National Legal and Policy Center more than once has called it a shakedown. Now three members of Congress are suggesting as much. Yesterday Reps. Steve King, R-Iowa, Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., held a press conference to call for a Justice Department probe of an out-of-court class-action settlement against the U.S. Department of Agriculture initiated by black farmers during the late Nineties.