March 21st, 2012
By Steve Harrison & Gary L. Wright
The city of Charlotte has released dozens of pages of emails related to the Democratic National Convention in response to an Observer public records request – but most were heavily redacted, giving little or no insight into how the city is preparing for the convention.
The city said the messages were blacked out to prevent the release of sensitive security information, as required by North Carolina’s public records law.
But Mecklenburg Chief District Judge Lisa Bell, who exchanged emails with Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Rodney Monroe, said she doesn’t understand why a portion of her email about how the convention would affect the state courthouse had to be redacted.
Charlotte has been cautious about releasing information related to the convention, though the September event will likely transform much of uptown by restricting traffic and access to businesses and other venues.
In an Aug. 25, 2011 email to the police chief and Mecklenburg sheriff, Bell noted that she continues to get questions about what courts will be running during the convention.
The judge’s comment was redacted.
The Observer obtained Bell’s original email. The blacked-out sentence read: “I have heard from various persons within each of your organizations that the federal authorities you are working with expect that courts will be shut down completely.”
About five minutes after Bell sent her email, the police chief wrote the judge back. His entire three-sentence response was blacked out.
The Observer also obtained a copy of Monroe’s response to Bell. The blacked-out response said: “We need to discuss internally. It is not our intent to request a shut down of the Courts. Give me a couple of days to discuss with staff, thanks.”
Four minutes after responding to Bell, Monroe forwarded the exchange to Deputy Chief Harold Medlock, who is heading up CMPD’s convention security.
Monroe typed a short response – the length of about one or two words – to Medlock, which was also blacked out.
Judge questions redaction
Bell wonders what was so top-secret about her email that a portion of it had to be removed.
“I don’t see anything in my email that needs to be kept secret or would be detrimental to law enforcement’s planning for security at the DNC,” the judge said. “All I’m trying to find out is if the courthouse is going to be open or closed during the DNC.”
In response to the Observer’s questions about the redacted messages, Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann said the city would review emails previously released to see if more information could be released to the public. He declined to comment further.
Amanda Martin, an attorney with the N.C. Press Association, said she doesn’t believe a discussion about closing the courthouse should be redacted.
She said that at some point before the convention the public will be told whether the courthouse is open.
“Almost by definition, something that is publicly known can’t be a security issue,” Martin said. “They are being far more generous in redacting than I think is warranted.”
Christopher Bellavita, a homeland security expert who teaches at the Naval Postgraduate School in California, said emails discussing police tactics or deployments would likely be security exempt.
But he said a discussion about closing a courthouse wouldn’t likely jeopardize the event.
Public costs of convention
The DNC is largely funded by $36 million raised by the local host committee. The city also received a $50 million federal security grant.
But local taxpayers are also contributing.
The DNC will use the city-owned Convention Center and Time Warner Cable Arena.
In addition, city staff members are spending large amounts of time working on the convention. City Manager Curt Walton said in a memo last year that the DNC was taking up so much time that it was unlikely the city would have time to study one of Mayor Anthony Foxx’s main issues – the consolidation of city and county governments.
In the run-up to the convention, the city has been slow to release information.
Last year, the City Council authorized Walton to make all DNC-related purchases, without a public vote.
In January, the Observer requested information about what the city was buying with the federal security money. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police initially only provided general categories such as “equipment” and “technology.”
CMPD refused to give more detail, saying information about what it is buying would compromise security.
After further requests from the Observer and other media, the city in February released a more detailed summary of its purchasing.
Charlotte’s policy is different than that of Tampa, which is hosting the Republican National Convention. Tampa’s police expenditures are approved in a public vote by City Council. Council members there have criticized Charlotte’s lack of transparency about the DNC.
City slow to release data
Last year, the Observer requested DNC-related emails from a number of city officials, including Walton, Monroe and other managers.
The city’s initial position was that any email containing any security-related information was exempt. The city released a handful of emails, with most only involving DNC-related events, such as a television show about Charlotte on CSPAN.
The Observer’s position was that all emails are public, and any security information could be redacted.
The city then began redacting DNC-related emails.
A release of emails from Jeb Blackwell, who heads engineering and property management , were almost entirely redacted.
In other requests, the city redacted cellphone numbers of DNC officials. In other instances, subject lines were redacted.
On Sept. 21, U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins emailed Chief Monroe about security training.
“Each year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is required by the Department to conduct an office-wide security training event to ensure that we are prepared to deal with significant events that may occur within our district,” the top federal prosecutor for Charlotte and the Western District of North Carolina wrote.
“Given the rapidly approaching DNC Convention, it is even more important this year that we prepare ourselves as well as possible to deal with a variety of contingencies.”
Much of what else Tompkins wrote is unknown. More than half of her email has been blacked out.
Tompkins, contacted by an Observer reporter, didn’t want to talk about the email. “It would be inappropriate for me to comment,” she said.
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March 20th, 2012
By Barry Secrest
I was at one of those corporate meetings where a significant amount of back-slapping camaraderie goes on. The executive, a man from further north who commands a very large fortune five hundred company, stood peering at me, eyes almost squinting, probably not sure of what exactly to make, either of me or of some of the things that he had heard about me within the political realm and outside of professional circles.
I get that sometimes, no doubt, the "he's very Conservative" whisper, despite an often bawdy sense of humor, very outspoken, too, perhaps a little over the edge on the boldness scale regarding the southern political pedigree, a radical possibly, being the likely concern of what the high-level officer was thoughtfully musing over: Ergo, one of those fiery Southern guys that fired the first cannonade at Ft. Sumter. This, despite my actual feelings on race, being in sharp contrast to what he might have been thinking. Right about that time, another executive, a better known associate to me, walked up and a political conversation ensued, as if on cue.
After a brief round of light political regaling, another employee in the loose circle asked if I were one of "those" Republicans, smiling ingratiatingly while verifying that I actually wrote a legible book, despite the intonations of a legitimate southern drawl (he obviously had not read Conroy or Frasier). The second executive grinned in return and responded entertainingly that I, indeed, had. He then stepped into a ram-rod straight position on the floor and, looking down, loafers proudly gleaming, stated," let me tell you something about Barry, if this is the center," and then he briefly glanced at me, eyes questioning. Understanding what brand of mirth he was after, I laughed, my brows, with a shrug, letting him know that it was fine. He then, after marking the center, set to walking across the room about 15 feet away.
Upon stopping, he raised his voice, cupped hands over mouth, and yelled, "then Barry is way, way over here on the Right." I laughed sheepishly, not at all hurt or wounded as the executives burst into nervous laughter, angularly glancing at me to verify my reaction. It was, in fact, a compliment; well, at least to me it was, although to some of those present it may have not been. Good thing I wasn't wearing my overalls.
March 20th, 2012
Though Media Matters and other pro-Obama outlets such as the Democratic Underground are reacting in full mock-and-ridicule mode, WND’s report today – featuring video of a retired Illinois postman who claims former terrorist Bill Ayers’ parents told him they were financially supporting “foreign student” Barack Obama through Harvard – is one of the hottest, most-read news stories in the world.
At one point today, the Web information company Alexa ranked the story as the fifth hottest page on the Internet.
The establishment media, meanwhile, have completely ignored the story, and when news-agenda-setter Matt Drudge posted it on his Drudge Report, liberal watchdogs Media Matters and the Democratic Underground quickly unleashed scorn on Drudge.
The Democratic Underground urged Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney to condemn Drudge for posting the Obama-Ayers story.
Media Matters dismissed the story as unserious.
“As always, this is all farcical and amusing, but allegations like these are still treated seriously by people like Matt Drudge, who is currently featuring the Corsi story on his site,” Media Matters said.
A blog called Newscorpse.com, an apparent play on Rupert Murdoch’s News Corps, the parent of the Fox News Channel, ran this headline: “New Obama Conspiracy Theory Tests The Limits Of Idiocy.”
WND Editor and CEO Joseph Farah wrote in his daily column that the “most well-read news story anywhere” was “deliberately spiked” by establishment media, despite advanced notice.
Major talk-radio, he noted, also was tipped off on the story ahead of time and didn’t touch it.
Nevertheless, bolstered by placement on the Drudge Report, “millions got the first-person, eyewitness evidence that Barack Obama was helped through Harvard by the family of domestic terrorist Bill Ayers back in the late 1980s.”
“The good news,” Farah writes, “is that a story like this can still be read and seen by millions despite the control.”
As WND reported, retired U.S. Postal Service carrier Allen Hulton has claimed in a sworn affidavit that Mary Ayers, and Barack Obama himself, told him the Ayers family helped finance Obama’s education. Hulton testified further that Mary Ayers believed Obama was a foreign student. Hulton said that in an encounter with Obama in front of the Ayers home, Obama declared that he would someday be president.
Hulton gave the sworn affidavit to investigators Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio commissioned to determine whether Obama is eligible for Arizona’s 2012 election ballot. Citing Arpaio’s investigation, a Florida congressman today said he’s not convinced Obama is eligible for the White House.
NOTE: In case you missed the news conference of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “Cold Case Posse,” you can view it here.
Emmy-winning filmmaker and author Jack Cashill addressed the Hulton story in a column for the American Thinker.
Cashill said he had come across Hulton’s story when “liberal blogger” Steven Diamond, a law professor in Chicago, interviewed the retired mail carrier in 2009 but paid little attention to it, because the information “seemed too limited to pursue.”
When Cashill saw WND reporter Jerome Corsi’s interview with Hulton, however, he immediately sat up and paid attention.
“The mailman is a real person. His name is Alan Hulton. He seems entirely credible, and he has a story to tell,” Cashill writes.
Cashill noted that in the interview, Corsi warned Hulton that by quoting Mary Ayers as saying that Obama was a “foreign student,” he was putting himself at some risk.
“I am only telling you what I distinctly remember her saying – that he was a foreign student,” Hulton said.
While Bill Ayers and Obama have acknowledged meeting in 1995, WND’s Aaron Klein has reported that the relationship goes back to at least 1988, when Thomas Ayers included Obama in an education advocacy association called the Alliance for Better Chicago Schools, or the ABCs Coalition.
The contact for the ABCs Coalition was Bill Ayers, who at the time was a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Obama began his studies at Harvard Law School in the fall of 1988.
March 20th, 2012
BLS Note: Remember Ladies and Gentlemen, when the Liberals dip Christ in Urine, or show a crucifix with excrement smeared all over it, or perform various despicable works of art that we all consider offending, they say" Well, anything that evokes an emotional response is art."
In that same vein, this particular artist has proved himself adept at evoking an emotional response regardless of political affiliation.
Therefore, to all you Liberal media types out there "This is simply art," as you have told us many times before, "so get over it"
By Peter V. Milo
Provo, Utah (CBSDC) – Jon McNaughton, a controversial artist who often mixes religion and politics in his work, has released a new painting.
In “One Nation Under Socialism,” President Obama holds the U.S. Constitution as it burns.
While McNaughton previously depicted Obama stepping on the nation’s founding document, “One Nation Under Socialism” glowers directly as if challenging the viewer. His right hand is holding the Constitution and his left hand is pointing to the flames.
McNaughton tells CBSDC that the hands “represents his recognition of what is happening (to the Constitution) as it goes up.”
“There are numerous symbols and subtleties in this painting, and I’m not ready to reveal all of them,” McNaughton said.
CBSDC contacted Jerry Saltz, an art critic for New York Magazine, about the painting.
When asked for an opinion, Saltz said that the painting contained “bad academic derivative realism,” calling it “typical propaganda art, drop-dead obvious in message” and “visually dead as a doornail.”
“It panders and preaches to the converted and tells them what they already believe,” Saltz told CBSDC.
Saltz said the painting could not be compared to WWII art.
“It has no graphic power of its own. It simply attempts to crawl into the body of that sort of illustration.”
When asked if removed a few years from Obama’s presidency could the work be then viewed as art, Saltz said the work is “inverted, with an American as an enemy — Hitler, Tojo, Stalin, whoever.”
“It’s much closer to the hate images produced in Germany pre-1939, in 1950s USA Red scare, in the USA around Jim Crow, etc.”
Whether stale or arresting, the painting turned McNaughton’s Facebook page into a battleground, where comments are flying from both political adversaries.
McNaughton acknowledges that his latest piece “has brought out more feelings among those on both the right and left than my other previous political paintings.”
Although President Obama is the focal point of the painting and he is the one holding the Constitution, McNaughton insists that he does not “presume to suggest that he was the lone culprit responsible.”
But despite the bickering, McNaughton hopes that he will get the “public talking about what the painting represents. Is Obama pushing a Socialist agenda on the American people?”
He hopes his art will get people to answer such questions.
“People need to start talking, and the conversation is about to get heated,” he said.
As with his other works, McNaughton released a video on YouTube detailing “One Nation Under Socialism.”
In the voice over, McNaughton says, “This is my pledge. I pledge allegiance to the United States of America and not to an ideology that could never stand: one nation — under socialism — divisive with no liberty or justice for anyone.”
March 20th, 2012
By NBC's Alex Moe
SHREVEPORT, La. -- Newt Gingrich slammed Robert De Niro’s comments last night at a fundraiser for President Obama, demanding that the president apologize for the actor's joke that America isn't yet again ready for a white first lady.
“I do want to say one thing on behalf of both my wife, and on behalf of Karen Santorum and on behalf of Ann Romney, and that is I think Robert De Niro is wrong,” Gingrich said as he began his speech at Strawn's Eat Shop Too. “I think the country is ready for a new first lady, and he doesn’t have to describe it in racial terms.”
At an Obama for America fundraiser in New York City Monday night, attended by Michelle Obama, De Niro joked about a possible GOP first lady.
"Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?" De Niro asked at the top of his remarks at Locanda Verde restaurant as the crowd yelled “no.” “Too soon, right?," he said.
A spokeswoman for the first lady issued a statement shortly after Gingrich concluded his remarks, calling De Niro’s comments “inappropriate.”
"We believe the joke was inappropriate," Olivia Alair, campaign press secretary to the first lady, said in a statement.
Gingrich criticized the remarks as “inexcusable” and called on President Obama to personally apologize.
“It is exactly wrong, it divides the country,” the former House speaker said. “If people on the left want to talk about radio talk show hosts, then everybody in the country ought to hold the president accountable when somebody at his event says something as utterly, totally unacceptable as Robert De Niro said last night, and I call on the president to apologize for him.”
While Gingrich stood up for all three women involved in the actor’s joke, he of course has his favorite.
“I have a personal preference, obviously, for Callista to be the first lady,” the speaker said to cheers in the room. “But, I tell you, I would be very proud and very honored to have Ann Romney as the first lady or Karen Santorum as the first lady. I think that just what De Niro said is just beyond the pale and he should be ashamed of himself.”
NBC's Carrie Dann contributed to this report.
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