Shown here is NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. (YouTube)
A former Justice official who claims the administration backed off a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party for racial reasons is set to testify Tuesday before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
The testimony from J. Christian Adams, who resigned from the Justice Department last month in protest of the administration's handling of the case, comes after he made a series of explosive allegations during an interview with Fox News last week. He said the administration abandoned an open-and-shut case of voter intimidation and that Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez gave false testimony before the commission in May.
Adams claims the administration has failed to prosecute non-whites when it comes to voting intimidation cases and that the New Black Panther incident demonstrates that.
"I don't think the department or the fine people who work there are corrupt, but in this particular instance, to abandon law-abiding citizens and abet wrongdoers constitutes corruption," Adams told Fox News.
The case stems from an incident on Election Day in 2008 in Philadelphia, where members of the New Black Panther Party were videotaped in front of a polling place, dressed in military-style uniforms and allegedly hurling racial slurs while one brandished a night stick.
The Bush Justice Department brought the first case against three members of the group, accusing them in a civil complaint of violating the Voter Rights Act. The Obama administration initially pursued the case, winning a default judgment in federal court in April 2009 when the Black Panther members did not appear in court. But then the administration moved to dismiss the charges the following month after getting one of the New Black Panther members to agree to not carry a "deadly weapon" near a polling place until 2012. The department boasted that justice had been served.
But Adams, the former administration lawyer, accused the Justice Department of not continuing the case for political and racial reasons.
Adams called the case "a slam dunk," telling Fox News that "nobody thought there was any doubt that this was the clearest case of voter intimidation that I've seen since I've been practicing law."
The Justice Department disagrees, saying it enforces voting rights laws equally. In a written statement, the department questioned the motives of Adams, now an attorney in Virginia and a blogger for Pajamas Media.
"It is not uncommon for attorneys with the department to have good faith disagreements about the appropriate course of action in a particular case, although it is regrettable when a former department attorney distorts the facts and makes baseless allegations to promote his or her agenda," the statement said.
But Bartle Bull, who was a poll watcher in Philadelphia in 2008, doesn't buy the Justice Department denials.
"I find it deeply offensive," Bull said. "I know people who died over these issues, like Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. If we can't defend their legacy, it's shameful to us and this administration."
Bull is a prominent New York Democrat and longtime political adviser. He was Robert F. Kennedy's New York campaign manager, went to the south in the 1960s to protect the voting rights of black voters and just came back from Afghanistan where he traveled with the troops.
He says the administration's actions amount to protecting the New Black Panthers.
"If Americans can't vote honestly, and the government doesn't protect their right to vote, we don't live in a democracy. Last year Obama complained when the government in Afghanistan did not run the election properly. What about Pennsylvania?" he said, claiming the president "violated his oath of office."
Bull has already testified before the Civil Rights Commission, and the commissioners also want to hear from Christopher Coates, the former chief of the Justice Department's voting section who has since been transferred to the U.S. attorney's office in South Carolina. But the commission claims the Justice Department is blocking Coates from testifying about why the case was dropped.
Bull said that in 2008, one of the Black Panthers turned to him and said "now you will know what it means to be ruled by the black man, cracker."
The result of the Justice Department action, or lack of it, he said, is that "these guys now think it's safe for them to bully voters and citizens. And that's why the Department of Justice must stand up."
To become the nation's first black president, Barack Obama not only won heavy percentages of the black and Hispanic vote but also managed to trim the Democratic Party's traditional deficit among white voters.
Four years after Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) lost the white vote by 17 percentage points, Obama lost it by 12, according to exit polls. While the 2008 gains were generally attributed to Obama's strength with young voters -- he won by 10 points among whites 18 to 29 years old -- he managed to improve on Kerry's showing with white voters across every age demographic.
Fast-forward to today. With the November midterm elections less than four months away, Obama's standing among white voters has sunk -- leading some party strategists to fret that the president's erosion -- and the party's -- could adversely affect Democrats' chances of holding on to their House and Senate majorities.
"Since in the past House elections white voters tended to represent the independent vote, [the midterms] will surely be devastating for Democrats running in an election that will be a referendum on the Obama agenda," predicted one senior Democratic operative who closely tracks House races.
In Washington Post-ABC polling, Obama's approval rating among white voters has dropped from better than 60 percent to just above 40 percent. In a June poll, 46 percent of white voters under age 40 approved of how Obama was doing, compared with just 39 percent of whites 65 and older.
The latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll reveals that Obama's standing among white voters is remarkably similar to that of President George W. Bush at this same time two years ago.
In the June 2008 NBC-WSJ survey, 37 percent of white men and 26 percent of white women approved of the job Bush was doing. In the June 2010 poll, an identical 37 percent of white men approved of Obama's handling of his job, as did 35 percent of white women.
Those numbers are all the more striking when viewed against overall perceptions of the two presidents. In June 2008, just 28 percent approved of the job Bush was doing while a whopping 66 percent disapproved. Obama, by contrast, is running far stronger with the nation as a whole, with ratings of 45 percent approval and 48 percent disapproval in last month's NBC-WSJ survey. Context, as always in politics, matters here. First, as noted above, Republican presidents tend to far outperform Democratic ones among white voters. Second, Obama's sweeping win -- his 365 electoral votes represented victories even in Republican-friendly states such as Indiana -- meant that his numbers were bound to fall among whites (and nearly everyone else) once he began the task of governing. Third, Bush's numbers were bolstered by whites in the South (42 percent approval in the 2008 NBC-WSJ survey) while Obama's is hurt by them (29 percent approval).
Still, Obama's numbers among white voters have some Democratic strategists with an eye on the fall elections decidedly nervous.
One senior strategist, speaking candidly about his concerns on the condition of anonymity, noted that white voters made up 79 percent of the 2006 midterm electorate, while they made up 74 percent of the 2008 vote. If the white percentage returns to its 2006 level, that means there will be 3 million more white voters than if it stayed at its 2008 levels. That scenario, said the source, "would generate massive losses" for House and Senate Democrats in November because of Obama's standing with that demographic.
To avoid such losses, the Democratic National Committee has committed to spending tens of millions of dollars to re-create (or come somewhere near re-creating) the 2008 election model, in which Democrats relied heavily on higher-than-normal turnout from young people and strong support from African American and Hispanic voters.
The DNC's plan is ambitious, to say the least: In the space of a few months, the strategists hope to change the composition of a midterm electorate that, if history is any guide, tends to be older and whiter than in a presidential-election year. Put that way, it sounds crazy -- and it has drawn considerable skepticism from independent observers.
But given the reality that white voters -- again -- almost certainly hold the key to Obama's and the Democrats' chances in the fall, they would be even crazier not to try.
Postal officials scheduled a briefing Tuesday to discuss the amount of the increase, which will go to the independent Postal Regulatory Commission for review.
The boost comes as no surprise. Postmaster General John Potter said March 2 that a rate increase would be necessary for the agency, which does not receive tax funds for its operations.
The current 44-cent first-class rate took effect May 11, 2009.
While that change will be the most visible, rates for other types of mail will also go up, raising concern among business groups and nonprofit organizations.
Under the law, the post office is generally limited to increases no more than the rate of inflation — 0.9 percent for the year ended in May.
However, the agency is allowed to seek a larger increase in unusual circumstances. Potter said in March he planned to take that step.
"The projections going forward are not bright," Potter said then. But, he added: "All is not lost. ... We can right this ship."
The agency lost $3.8 billion last fiscal year despite cutting 40,000 full-time positions and making other reductions. It has continued to face significant losses this year.
The weak economy has sharply reduced mail volume as companies cut their advertising. At the same time there has been a significant drop in lucrative first-class mail, with more and more people turning to the Internet to communicate with each other as well as to receive and pay bills.
The proposal drew a prompt complaint from the mailing industry.
"This proposed rate increase amounts to another tax imposed on Americans at a time when the economy can least afford it," said Tony Conway, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, a group representing charities and other organizations.
"Consumers everywhere will pay more for the letters and packages they need to send; businesses — large and small — will suffer and even more jobs will be lost," complained Conway, who was designated spokesman for the Affordable Mail Alliance, a coalition of businesses, charities and other mailers formed to oppose the increase.
Postal officials also have proposed eliminating Saturday mail delivery as a means of cutting costs, a change that would require congressional approval.
Post office finances are also complicated by the requirement that the agency make annual payments to pre-fund future health benefits for retirees, something not required of other government agencies.
And the postal inspector general contends that the Postal Service has been overcharged billions of dollars for retirement benefits for employees who worked for the old Post Office Department before it was converted to the Postal Service in 1970.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a recent interview that his "foremost" mission as the head of America's space exploration agency is to improve relations with the Muslim world.
Though international diplomacy would seem well outside NASA's orbit, Bolden said in an interview with Al Jazeera that strengthening those ties was among the top tasks President Obama assigned him. He said better interaction with the Muslim world would ultimately advance space travel.
"When I became the NASA administrator -- or before I became the NASA administrator -- he charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering," Bolden said in the interview.
The NASA administrator was in the Middle East last month marking the one-year anniversary since Obama delivered an address to Muslim nations in Cairo. Bolden spoke in June at the American University in Cairo -- in his interview with Al Jazeera, he described space travel as an international collaboration of which Muslim nations must be a part.
"It is a matter of trying to reach out and get the best of all worlds, if you will, and there is much to be gained by drawing in the contributions that are possible from the Muslim (nations)," he said. He held up the International Space Station as a model, praising the contributions there from the Russians and the Chinese.
"Not at all. It's not a diplomatic anything," he said.
He said the United States is not going to travel beyond low-Earth orbit on its own and that no country is going to make it to Mars without international help.
Bolden has faced criticism this year for overseeing the cancellation of the agency's Constellation program, which was building new rockets and spaceships capable of returning astronauts to the moon. Stressing the importance of international cooperation in future missions, Bolden told Al Jazeera that the moon, Mars and asteroids are still planned
By Barry Secrest
While the economic picture for America continues to drift from "kind of terrible" to "sort of horrible," we can begin to now see a President who has managed to push through much of his obviously latent agenda at all odds. It's both a President and his Legislature that now stand amongst the wreckage of their project and wonder why they can't seem to get anything to go their way despite a wealth of counter-intuitive evidence available. At some point one begins to wonder if, indeed, a consistent spate of good news is even achievable for the Citizenry of the US--or--have the Socialist Democrats, with coils loosely affixed to the tiller of this great country, elected to steer the entire nation into a slow, feckless oval of meaningless perpetuity.