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Saturday, December 20, 2008

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Belgium's king met behind closed doors with elected officials Saturday in an attempt to resolve a political crisis that has frozen action on dire economic problems including the sale of the country's largest bank.
The government has been trying to sell much of the bank, Fortis, to France's BNP Paribas. Fortis was forced to seek government help during tight credit conditions and was eventually carved up. Thousands of jobs could be lost if the sale to Paribas goes awry.
But Belgian shareholders who have seen their stakes become nearly worthless challenged the sale and won a decision by a Belgian appeals court, which ruled Dec. 12 that they should have been consulted on any major deals.
The country's highest court said Friday that it had indications that Prime Minister Yves Leterme's government had tried to influence the appeals court decision.
“We can put light where there’s darkness, and hope where there’s despondency in this country. And part of it is working together as a nation to encourage folks to own their own home.”
President Bush, Oct. 15, 2002

WASHINGTON — The global financial system was teetering on the edge of collapse when President Bush and his economics team huddled in the Roosevelt Room of the White House for a briefing that, in the words of one participant, “scared the hell out of everybody.”
It was Sept. 18. Lehman Brothers had just gone belly-up, overwhelmed by toxic mortgages. Bank of America had swallowed Merrill Lynch in a hastily arranged sale. Two days earlier, Mr. Bush had agreed to pump $85 billion into the failing insurance giant American International Group.
The president listened as Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of theFederal Reserve, laid out the latest terrifying news: The credit markets, gripped by panic, had frozen overnight, and banks were refusing to lend money.
Then his Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., told him that to stave off disaster, he would have to sign off on the biggest government bailout in history.
Mr. Bush, according to several people in the room, paused for a single, stunned moment to take it all in.
“How,” he wondered aloud, “did we get here?”
Eight years after arriving in Washington vowing to spread the dream of homeownership, Mr. Bush is leaving office, as he himself said recently, “faced with the prospect of a global meltdown” with roots in the housing sector he so ardently championed


President-elect Barack Obama's selection Saturday of a Harvard physicist and a marine biologist for science posts is a sign he plans a more aggressive response to global warming than did the Bush administration.
John Holdren and Jane Lubchenco are leading experts on climate change who have advocated forceful government action. Holdren will become Obama's science adviser as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Lubchenco will lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees ocean and atmospheric studies and does much of the government's research on global warming.
12/20/08 President-elect Obama's Weekly Address

David Hicks free from control order

FORMER Guantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks is free to tell his story after a strict control order expired at midnight last night.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Paulson Urges Release of Next $350 Billion From TARP

Shouldn't Congress find out how the first $350 billion was "spent?" Source: Bloomberg
Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urged Congress to release the second half of the $700 billion financial rescue fund after the government exhausted the first $350 billion in less than three months.

Congress, which passed the Troubled Asset Relief Program on Oct. 3, “will need to release the remainder of the TARP to support financial market stability,” Paulson said today in a statement released in Washington.

The Treasury today agreed to lend $13.4 billion to General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, after spending $335 billion mostly to increase bank capital. Lawmakers, who can vote against giving Paulson the remaining funds, have criticized the Bush administration for not using the rescue package to help stem foreclosures.

Paulson’s call for the other $350 billion may set off a debate in Congress, where some members have criticized the Treasury chief’s management of TARP and demanded more help for struggling homeowners. The chairmen of the House and Senate banking panels have said they are reluctant to give the outgoing Bush administration access to the rest of the money.
Low-interest loans to help Big 3 survive into next year come with strings.

I am the law.

It’s the Nixon White House all over again."
Cheney claims power to decide his own case
I am the law.That's the message Vice President Dick Cheney appeared to send in a little-noticed court filing last week, in which his lawyers asserted that the vice president alone has the authority to determine which records are turned over to the National Archives after he leaves office. But the law exempts "personal and partisan" records, which Cheney's lawyers said he will be the sole decider upon.
"The vice president alone may determine what constitutes vice presidential records or personal records, how his records will be created, maintained, managed and disposed, and are all actions that are committed to his discretion by law," according to a filing by Cheney's office with the court hearing the case Dec. 8, noted by the AP's Pamela Hess.
"National Archives officials have said records of Cheney's dealings with the Republican National Committee would not require preservation under the law," Hess notes. "As of November, it had not made a final determination on the status of Cheney's records produced when he acts as president of the Senate, which he says are exempt."
Steven Aftergood, government secrecy expert and editor of the blog, Secrecy News, told Hess the law is unclear as to who is supposed to determine what records can be kept as private property.
"Decisions that are made in the next couple of weeks may prove irrevocable," he said. "If records are held from the archivist now they may never be recovered."
Cheney was ordered to preserve all records in September while the case progressed.
Citizens for Ethics has tangled with the White House for years. Last year, they took issue with the White House's announcement that they'd lost more than five million emails generated between March 2003 and October 2005.
"It’s clear that the White House has been willfully violating the law, the only question now is to what extent?" CREW executive director Melanie Sloan wrote. "The ever changing excuses offered by the administration – that they didn’t want to violate the Hatch Act, that staff wasn’t clear on the law – are patently ridiculous. Very convenient that embarrassing – and potentially incriminating – emails have gone missing. It’s the Nixon White House all over again."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fox Business Network Sues Treasury Department

Fox Business Network has filed a lawsuit against the Treasury Department over "failure to provide information on the bailout funds or respond to FBN's expedited requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)."
In a press release, Fox Business said there were two requests — one filed on November 25 sought information on the use of the bailout funds for AIG and Bank of New York Mellon, while another filed on December 1 sought information on Citigroup.
Fox News Executive Vice President Kevin Magee said, "The Treasury has repeatedly ignored our requests for information on how the government is allocating money to these troubled institutions. In a critical time like this amidst mounting corruptions and an economic crisis, we as a news organization feel it's more important than ever to hold the government accountable."
Full release below:

"The View" Debates Rick Warren: Hasselbeck Commends "Great Choice" (VIDEO)

Some 11,000 US Troops to Work During Inauguration

US commander says more than 11,000 troops to work on security, ceremonies for inauguration
More than 11,000 U.S. troops will provide air defenses and medical and other support in case of a terrorist attack during the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration, the U.S. commander in charge of domestic defense said Wednesday.
That's "not because we see a specific threat, but because (for) an event this visible and this important and this historic, we ought to be prepared to respond if something does happen," said Gen. Gene Renuart, head of the U.S. Northern Command.
In a session with defense writers, Renuart said about 7,500 active duty military and roughly 4,000 National Guard troops will participate in the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.
They will include a contingent on alert to respond to a chemical attack. Others will perform ceremonial roles in parades, reviews, honor guards and so on, Renuart said.
He did not give figures but said a "big chunk" of both active and guard units will do ceremonial work.

Without Fanfare or Much Thanks, Britain Departs From Iraq

Five years and 10 months after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Gordon Brown yesterday announced a date for Britain's final disengagement from the most bitter, controversial military involvement of recent history. He made the momentous announcement during a brief visit to the country during which the details of the withdrawal of the last remaining 4,100-strong force were settled with the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
The British military mission will officially cease at the end of May with the troops completing their departure in the next two months. A team of just a few hundred will stay behind to train the Iraqi armed services, without taking any further part in combat duties.

Report: US Should Be Ready if Iraq Bars Blackwater

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. government report raises the possibility that private security firm Blackwater could lose its license to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq and advises making contingency plans, two sources familiar with the matter said Wednesday.
Five Blackwater guards were charged on Dec. 8 with killing 14 unarmed civilians and wounding 20 others in a 2007 Baghdad shooting that outraged Iraqis and raised questions about the firm's ability to keep working in Iraq.
The State Department relies heavily on North Carolina-based Blackwater and other private security companies, many of which are staffed by former U.S. soldiers, to protect its diplomats in Iraq, the West Bank and other dangerous places.
The two sources described the draft report prepared by the State Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) on condition that they not be named because it has yet to be made public.
"The department faces the real possibility that one of its primary worldwide personal protective services contractors in Iraq -- Blackwater USA -- will not receive a license to continue operating in Iraq," said the report, referring to a license issued by the Iraqi authorities, the sources said.
The OIG is a quasi-independent office whose mission includes preventing fraud, abuse and mismanagement as well identifying vulnerabilities and recommending solutions

Afghan Women Fear

Negotiating with the Taliban might be the only hope for peace, but women are nervous.
Kabul, Afghanistan - Afghanistan's Minister of Women's Affairs, Hasan Bano Ghazanfa, closed a recent speech to one of the country's largest-ever women's conferences with an unexpected warning: Afghan President Hamid Karzai should avoid rushing into "political deals" with those opposing women's rights and human rights.
The pointed reference to a possible peace deal with the Taliban was a reminder of the precarious situation of Afghan women.
Seven years after the Taliban regime was ousted, Afghan women have seen gains in areas from political rights to education. But many now see this progress as both meager and tenuous.
The possibility of a political settlement with the Taliban – which might return some of their members to government – has sparked nervous questions among women, who fear their concerns will be ignored and their rights overrun once more: Would Taliban officials agree to the new Constitution's guarantee of equal rights for women? Could women's lives improve if the men who banned them from schools and offices joined the government? Would women be safer?
Though a lack of security remains the largest threat to their progress, women still face challenges accessing healthcare, the legal system, and schools. Girls account for only one-third of school pupils. Few females hold political positions of real power. And in the economic arena, women still struggle to move beyond low-margin handicrafts businesses.
Development officials plead for patience; improving women's lives in this poor and traditional country destroyed by decades of war will take generations, they say.

Regime Change, and Occupation

US Troops Open Fire on Students at 'Shoe Rally'

Separate Incident Reported at Baghdad Bridge as Public Increasingly Shows Unrest
Besides making an international celebrity out of Iraqi reporter Muntadar al-Zeidi, the now infamous shoe-throwing incident is cropping up in surprising ways across Iraq, where a population beaten and exhausted from years of war is once again finding its voice against the US military presence and the Iraqi government seen as its enablers.
The city of Fallujah was one of the hardest hit in all of Iraq, nearly destroyed earlier in the war. When students at the city’s university held an impromptu rally in support of the jailed Zeidi, US soldiers were quick on the scene. The students raised shoes and some of them threw rocks, prompting the troops to open fire in an attempt to disperse the crowd. One student was wounded, shot in the foot according to his doctor.
Reporter Mohammed al-Dulaimy tells another story at the July 14 Bridge in Baghdad. The bridge is closed to the public several times a day while official convoys pass through… just another reality in the war-torn city. But today when Iraqi soldiers arrived and attempted to close the bridge, angry drivers refused. They continued on their way, honking angrily when the soldiers got in their way. Predictably, the soldiers drew their rifles and began firing. Surprisingly, traffic continued through the square and across the bridge.

Goldman Sachs cuts taxes to one percent by moving profits offshore

Goldman Sachs paying 1% tax rate
Bank takes $10 billion bailout, then cuts tax rate 33 percentSay you got a ten billion dollar loan to shore up your finances, and you paid your employees $10.9 billion, and you raked in $2.3 billion for the year.What would you say you owed in taxes? One percent?That's what you'd pay if you were Goldman Sachs, Inc. The high-flying brokerage -- and former home of Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson -- has announced it's paying just $14 million in taxes this year.Last year, their tax bill was $6 billion, or 34.1 percent. That represents a year-over-year drop of 33.1 percent.Goldman attributed its lower tax rate to "more tax credits as a percentage of earnings" and "changes in geographic earnings mix."Tax accounting advisor Robert Willens told Bloomberg News the rate drop seems "a little extreme.""I was definitely taken aback," Willens told the business wire. "Clearly they have taken steps to ensure that a lot of their income is earned in lower-tax jurisdictions."Texas Democrat Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, said Goldman, like other banks, shifted income to countries with lower taxes to reduce its tax burden. "This problem is larger than Goldman Sachs," Doggett told Bloomberg. "With the right hand out begging for bailout money, the left is hiding it offshore."Paulson was CEO of Goldman Sachs until mid-2006, and earned $35 million at the firm in 2005. He drew a $16.4 million salary in 2006 -- even though he served as chief executive for just half the year.

"...Be assured, this is only the beginning"

Source: ¡Amor Y Resistencia!
"We have just occupied New School University. We liberate this space for ourselves, and all those who want to join us, for our general autonomous use. We take the university in explicit solidarity with those occupying the universities and streets in Greece, Italy, France and Spain."
A portion of The New School in New York City was occupied around 8pm tonight. Students at the school have a long list of grievances with their school's administration. In a communique released shortly after the occupation took place the students inside expressed solidarity with the revolt in Greece as well as the student struggles in Italy, France, and Spain.
They go on to state:
"...what begins tonight at the New School cannot, and should not, be contained here.
Thus: with this occupation, we inaugurate a wave of occupations in New York City and the United States, a coming wave of occupations, blockades, and strikes in this time of crisis.
Be assured, this is only the beginning, "

'Morally Criminal'

Environmental groups and members of the Senate and House of Representatives are working desperately to head off Interior Department plans to auction wilderness land in Utah for exploration by oil and gas companies.
Actor Robert Redford spoke from Utah via satellite during a Wednesday press conference held by opponents of the auction. Introduced as "a tireless advocate for the environment," he began by saying, "I have spent much of my adult life in these lands. ... For me, it's an emotional point."
"What you keep getting shocked about is how devious and secretive -- and basically, in my mind, morally criminal -- their behavior has been," Redford said of the Bush administration. "These lands are not Cheney's and Bush's. The lands are ours. ... They're part of our legacy."
"Bush may be a lame duck, but he could still quack," Redford insisted. "We just can't let it happen."
Redford, however, described himself as "pretty encouraged" by President-elect Obama's nomination of Ken Salazar for Interior Secretary. "I think very highly of him," Redford concluded.
According to a press release from the Natural Resources Defense Council, several environmental advocacy groups will challenge the Bush's administration in court in an attempt to head off Friday's auction.

Gay man backed for Navy secretary

Openly Gay Man Backed For Obama Navy Secretary
Foes cite 'Don't ask, don't tell'
Some top retired military leaders and some Democrats in Congress are backing William White, chief operating officer of the Intrepid Museum Foundation, to be the next secretary of the Navy - a move that would put the first openly gay person at the top of one of the services.
The secretary's job is a civilian position, so it would not run afoul of the ban on gays serving in the military, but it would renew focus on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy as President-elect Barack Obama prepares to take office.
"He would be phenomenal," said retired Gen. Hugh Shelton, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001, pointing to Mr. White's extensive background as a fundraiser for veterans' and military causes.
Retired members of the Joint Chiefs have contacted Mr. Obama's transition team to urge them to pick Mr. White, and members of Congress said he would be a good choice for a service secretary.
"He's very capable," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, whose district includes the Intrepid Museum, a retired aircraft carrier berthed on the Hudson River in New York City.
Mr. Nadler said Mr. White has become a friend of the military, and particularly the service members and their families, both through the Intrepid and through Fisher Houses, which offer a place to stay so families can be close to military members who are receiving medical care.
A spokeswoman for the Obama campaign said they won't comment on personnel decisions.

The Legacy Tour

Career Army officer sues Rumsfeld, Cheney, saying no evacuation order given on 9/11

Source: Raw Story
Career Army officer sues Rumsfeld, Cheney, saying no evacuation order given on 9/11
Stephen C. Webster
Published: Wednesday December 17, 2008

A career Army officer who survived the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, claims that no evacuation was ordered inside the Pentagon, despite flight controllers calling in warnings of approaching hijacked aircraft nearly 20 minutes before the building was struck.

According to a timeline of the attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration notified NORAD that American Airlines Flight 77 had been hijacked at 9:24 a.m. The Pentagon was not struck until 9:43 a.m.

On behalf of retired Army officer April Gallop, California attorney William Veale has filed a civil suit against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and former US Air Force General Richard Myers, who was acting chairman of the joint chiefs on 9/11. It alleges they engaged in conspiracy to facilitate the terrorist attacks by not warning those inside the Pentagon, contributing to injuries she and her two-month-old son incurred.

"The ex-G.I. plaintiff alleges she has been denied government support since then, because she raised 'painful questions' about the inexplicable failure of military defenses at the Pentagon that day, and especially the failure of officials to warn and evacuate the occupants of the building when they knew the attack was imminent" said Veale in a media advisory.

Christmas under Occupation

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh – Bethlehem
When I look out the balcony of the faculty lounge at Bethlehem University I hear the constant hammering of the construction in the settlement that separates us from Jerusalem and I see Israeli settlements built on Palestinian lands surrounding Bethlehem on three sides. Every two weeks, Jewish settlers "visit" the hill on the fourth side (called Ush Ghrab) that they have set their eyes on. Yet, I hear the US media is focused on other things including the weighty matter of dodging shoes... continua / continued

Assessing the Bush Legacy: The Measure of the Man and His Administration

Stephen Lendman
George W. Bush. US president: January 20, 2001 - January 19, 2009. Born of privilege. Unimpressive by every measure. A history of underachievement. Chosen by big money. Arranged through electoral fraud. Installed by the Supreme Court. Empowered by a dubious "terrorist" act, and ending with a record unmatched by the worst of his predecessors. Assessing the Bush legacy - from its illegitimate birth; through its lawless, belligerent years; to the world potentially on the brink at its end... continua / continued

Abandoned by the World: UN Declares Open Season on Somalia

Chris Floyd
We reported here last week about American plans to turn Somalia into a global free-fire zone, with powerful militaries from around the world given carte blanche to launch armed incursions into Somali territory and fill the nation's skies with bombers, fighters and missiles. This nightmare scenario --- an unlimited escalation of bloodshed and destruction in one of the most ravaged, shattered lands on earth – has now become a reality, as the Washington Post reports... continua / continued

Prominent neoconservative: 4,000 Americans 'had to die'

Four thousand American troops "had to die" in Iraq, even if the United States knew Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction, a prominent neoconservative said in a shocking interview on MSNBC Tuesday evening.

Vice President Dick Cheney told ABC News earlier this week that the U.S. would have invaded Iraq regardless of whether or not they had weapons of mass destruction.

Adding fire to Cheney's surprising comments Tuesday was prominent neoconservative and former Assistant Secretary of Defense Frank Gaffney, who told MSNBC's Chris Matthews during Tuesday's 'Hardball' that the United States had to invade Iraq whether or not its intelligence was sound.

Asked about why the United States should have invaded Iraq even if they knew there were no WMDs, Gaffney said, "The real reason was we thought he constituted a mortal threat."

"You believe a mortal threat to the United States," Matthews responded, incredulous. "Where do you get this from? What kind of -- where do you get these words from?"

"My position is that it's regrettable that any Americans died. And it is regrettable that they had to die, but I believe they did have to die," said Gaffney. "The threat we did know about is the chemical capability Saddam Hussein used against his own people.... The danger was that inaction could have resulted in the death of many more Americans than 4,000."

Matthews revisited the decision to invade Iraq on "Hardball," with guests neocon Frank Gaffney, and Mother Jones' David Corn during a discussion of weapons of mass destruction and Cheney's admission that the United States would have invaded Iraq regardless of the presence of WMD. LinkHere

Relatives and colleagues said acted because he "detested" Bush and America

Shoe-thrower 'too injured' to be in court
BAGHDAD — The Iraqi journalist who became an instant media star for hurling his shoes at US President George W. Bush appeared on Wednesday before a judge investigating the incident.
Muntazer al-Zaidi, 29, a television reporter who relatives and colleagues said acted because he "detested" Bush and America, was brought before the judge in the high-security Green Zone in the heart of Baghdad, his brother, Dhargham, said.
Al-Zaidi appeared before the judge in his jail cell "because he is too injured to appear in a courtroom," Australia's Herald Sun quotes the brother as saying."
The al-Zaidi family went to Baghdad's Central Criminal Court expecting to attend a hearing," reports the paper. The brother said "the family was told that the investigative judge went to see [Muntazer] al-Zaidi in jail, and to return in eight days," which Dhargham took to mean that his brother "was severely beaten and they fear that his appearance could trigger anger at the court."
But Iraqi officials and another brother deny that the journalist suffered severe injuries after being wrestled to the floor after the incident, the Herald Sun says.

Olbermann: 'The president is just full of crap'

Among the myriad falsehoods and attacks that Hannity promoted throughout 2008, several found their way into regular rotation:

Obama will "invade" Pakistan
As Media Matters for America has demonstrated time and again, Fox News' Sean Hannity has been a prolific and influential purveyor of conservative misinformation. But never has he so enthusiastically applied his talents for spreading misinformation as he did to the 2008 presidential race, focusing his energies primarily on President-elect Barack Obama. Day after day, Hannity devoted his two Fox News shows and his three-hour ABC Radio Networks program to "demonizing" the Democratic presidential candidates, starkly explaining in August: "That's my job. ... I led the 'Stop Hillary Express.' By the way, now it's the 'Stop Obama Express.' " Hannity's "Stop Obama Express" promoted and embellished a vast array of misleading attacks and false claims about Obama. Along the way, he uncritically adopted and promoted countless Republican talking points and played host to numerous credibility-challenged smear artists who painted Obama as a dangerous radical. When he was not going after Obama, Hannity attacked members of Obama's family, as well as Sen. Hillary Clinton and other progressives, and denied all the while that he had unfairly attacked anyone.
Hannity's attacks may have also influenced mainstream media coverage. ABC News' George Stephanopoulos appeared on Hannity's radio program on April 15, during which Hannity suggested to Stephanopoulos that he ask Obama at the Democratic presidential debate the following evening about his "association with Bill Ayers, the unrepentant terrorist from the Weather Underground." Stephanopoulos assured Hannity that he was "taking notes right now." Stephanopoulos then did ask Obama at the debate to "explain that relationship for the voters, and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem," though he later denied that Hannity had exerted any influence on his questioning.
Because of the unending stream of falsehoods and character attacks that fueled the "Stop Obama Express," and the countless other distortions he promoted throughout 2008, Sean Hannity is Media Matters for America's Misinformer of the Year.

Marilyn Walker, asked the president to show mercy during the Christmas season by commuting her son's sentence.

John Walker Lindh, "American Taliban," Wants Bush Pardon
SAN FRANCISCO — The parents of American-born Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh are asking President George W. Bush to set their son free before Bush leaves office next month.
Lindh was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty in 2002 to serving in the Taliban army, which violated U.S. economic sanctions against Afghanistan at that time.
At a news conference in San Francisco Wednesday, Lindh's mother, Marilyn Walker, asked the president to show mercy during the Christmas season by commuting her son's sentence.
Lindh initially asked for a commutation in 2004 and his lawyers have renewed the request each year.
The U.S. Department of Justice has never acted on the petition and a spokeswoman didn't immediately return a telephone call.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


BAGHDAD — Up to 35 officials in the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior ranking as high as general have been arrested over the past three days with some of them accused of quietly working to reconstitute Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, according to senior security officials in Baghdad.
The arrests, confirmed by officials from the Ministries of the Interior and National Security as well as the prime minister’s office, included four generals, one of whom, Gen. Ahmed Abu Raqeef, is the ministry’s director of internal affairs. The officials also said that the arrests had come at the hand of an elite counterterrorism force that reports directly to the office of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
The involvement of the counterterrorism unit speaks to the seriousness of the accusations, and several officials from the Ministries of the Interior and National Security said that some of those arrested were in the early stages of planning a coup.
None of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the subject, provided details about that allegation.
But the arrests reflect a new set of political challenges for Iraq. Mr. Maliki, who has gained popularity as a strong leader but has few reliable political allies, has scrambled to protect himself from domestic rivals as the domineering influence of the United States, his leading backer, begins to fade.

Rachel Maddow Pushes Back On Bush's Taliban Claim

Yesterday, I talked about how President George W. Bush had made the extraordinary utterance that he had never before said that "the Taliban was eliminated," when in fact, he had done so personally a BUNCH of times. So much so, that the notion of an eliminated Taliban was an enduring myth for the myth-besotted throughout the aughts. Well, last night, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow put a nice little button on this attempt at revising the historical record. "Why is that ringing the big 'YOU'RE TELLING A LIE' bell in my head?" Maddow wondered, before pulling out a pair of statements straight from Bush's mouth:
2003: "In the battle of Afghanistan, we destroyed the Taliban."
2004: "As a result of the United States military, the Taliban is no longer in existence."
As figures in the mainstream media go, Maddow does a pretty fine job in batting back Bush's contentions. Additionally, as figures in the mainstream media go, Maddow is one of the few doing that job at all. LinkHere

2008 Voter Turnout Report: Lots And Lots More Democrats

Curtis Gans of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate has issued his final report on turnout in the 2008 election. Among his findings:
In all, 131,257,542 Americans voted for president in 2008, nine million more than cast their ballots in 2004* (against only a 6.5 million increase in eligible population).
The turnout level was 63 percent of eligibles, a 2.4 percentage point increase over 2004 and the highest percentage to turn out since 64.8 percent voted for president in 1960. It was the third highest turnout since women were given the right to vote in 1920.
Overall turnout increased in 37 states and the District of Columbia. The greatest turnout increases occurred in the District of Columbia (13 percentage points), followed by North Carolina (10.3), Georgia (7.6), South Carolina (7.4), Virginia (7.1), Colorado (6.3), Mississippi (5.9), Alabama (5.5) and Indiana (5.2).
Overall turnout records were set in Alabama, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
Democratic turnout, as measured by their share of the aggregate vote for U.S. House of Representatives (see note 4), increased by 5.4 percentage points to 31.6 percent of the eligible vote, their highest share of the vote since 33.4 percent voted Democratic in 1964 and the largest year-to-year increase in Democratic turnout since women were enfranchised in1920. Democratic turnout increased in 46 states and the District of Columbia and declined in only four.

State Department: Drop Blackwater In Iraq

WASHINGTON — An internal State Department report says Blackwater Worldwide may lose its license to work in Iraq and recommends that the agency prepare alternative means to protect its diplomats there.
The 42-page draft report by the State Department's Inspector General says the department faces "numerous challenges" in dealing with the security situation in Iraq, including the prospect that Blackwater may be barred from the country. The department would have turn to other security arrangements to replace Blackwater, officials said.
The State Department had no immediate comment on the report itself, but deputy spokesman Robert Wood said that after the probe is done, officials would look at "whether the continued use of Blackwater in Iraq is consistent with the U.S. government's goals and objectives."
It is not clear how the State Department would replace Blackwater. It relies heavily on private contractors to protect its diplomats in Iraq, as its own security service does not have the manpower or equipment to do so. The report suggests that one way to fill the void would be for the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service to beef up its presence in Iraq.
"The department faces the real possibility that one of its primary Worldwide Personal Protective Services contractors in Iraq _ Blackwater (Worldwide) _ will not receive a license to continue operating in Iraq," says the recently completely report.
The report is labeled "sensitive but unclassified."

Peter King: "No Evidence" Kennedy Qualified For Senate, I Could Beat Her In Election (VIDEO)

Republican Rep. Peter King of New York said Wednesday that there is "no evidence" that Caroline Kennedy is qualified to fill Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate seat.
"The fact is, she has a well-known name. Her face has been in a lot of magazines. But, she has very limited involvement in the public sphere," King said during an interview on CNN's "Situation Room." "She has led, I believe, a life which is separate from what most New Yorkers do..."
..."I believe if I can get together enough money and commitments over the next several months, I will certainly run and I wouldn't run if I didn't think I could win," he said. "I think people will identify with me as being much more similar to them than someone who has, again, lived her life either on Park Avenue or Hyannis Port." LinkHere

Matthews, Hitchens Lead Stirring Fight Against Pro-Torture Views Of Michael Smerconish

Cheers to MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Vanity Fair's Christopher Hitchens, for their resolute opposition to Michael Smerconish's cockamamie embrace of institutionalized torture. Smerconish, gripped by the fear of "ticking timebomb scenarios," mounted a defense of the practice that bordered on the pornographic, and decisively crossed over into the territory of the nonsensical.
I've never been impressed with the reasoning behind the "ticking time bomb" scenario, a facile little bit of quasi-ethical wonkery that serves the plots of television shows like Alias or 24 far better than it does reality. This idea is, if one has someone in custody who has what one believes to be "actionable intelligence" on an imminent terrorist threat, then one should be prepared to brutally torture that information out of the detainee.
The problem is, the application of logic destroys this premise. Either the person in your custody has information, or he doesn't. That person is either willing to share that information, or he isn't. If the person does not have the information, then torture is both a waste of precious time and a terrible moral wrong. But, if, hypothetically, that detainee does have the information at hand, it stands to reason that they also have a pretty firm idea as to how much time is left on that ticking clock. With that information in hand, the detainee is free to use this radical technique commonly referred to as "deception" to waylay his captors and ensure the success of the plot. It's fairly clear then, that even in the event of a "ticking time bomb" scenario, torture inevitably and logically leads to a waste of precious time and the commission of a moral wrong.

Bob Cesca:
The vice president essentially confessed to war crimes the other day, and a guy hurled two shoes at the president's smirky dome on Sunday, thus underscoring the staggering failures of the administration's foreign policy, and yet cable news is still talking about Blagojevich's hair brush and his stupid Lycra jogging tights. Put another way, a physical assault on President Bush failed to knock the Obama taint meme out of the cable news roundelay of hackery. They're visibly reacting -- knee-jerking and overcompensating, really, to eight years of chronic narcolepsy.
Read Post


WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush knows he's unpopular. But here's what matters, he says: "I didn't compromise my soul to be a popular guy." In a wide-ranging interview with Fox News Channel, Bush also praised the national security team assembled by President-elect Barack Obama, offered hope to U.S. automakers seeking government assistance and said the people of Illinois will have to sort out allegations that Gov. Rod Blagojevich sought kickbacks in choosing a successor for Obama's Senate seat.
Bush said presidents fail when they make decisions based on opinion polls.
"Look, everybody likes to be popular," said Bush.
"What do you expect? We've got a major economic problem and I'm the president during the major economic problem. I mean, do people approve of the economy? No. I don't approve of the economy. ... I've been a wartime president. I've dealt with two economic recessions now. I've had, hell, a lot of serious challenges. What matters to me is I didn't compromise my soul to be a popular guy."
An Associated Press-GFK poll last week showed just 28 percent of the public approving of the job Bush is doing, about where he has been all fall. Among Republicans, 54 percent approve, a low figure from members of a president's own political party.
Bush said he didn't think he would be viewed as the 21st century's Herbert Hoover, who was president during the Great Depression. He said he worked to keep the economy from collapsing.

"How big of a deal can Republicans even make of the Rich pardon if we don't know what Bush is going to do until January?"

Obama Team Dragged Down By Press And Blagojevich

Eight days after Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested on charges of attempting to sell Illinois' vacant Senate seat, much of the media is still consumed by the affair.

While President-elect Barack Obama seems innocent of any wrongdoing, his reticence in discussing such matters -- at the request of the Justice Department -- is spurring resentment among the fourth estate.

On Wednesday morning, Obama communications guru David Axelrod appeared on MSNBC to, presumably, temper the press' displeasure. Instead, things just seemed to get more contentious as host Joe Scarborough demanded answers on Obama's staff.


Lieberman Faces Lowest Approval Numbers Ever

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) may be facing his lowest approval ratings ever, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday.
54 percent of Connecticut voters said they disapproved of the way Lieberman is handling his job, while 38 percent said they approved. The numbers are the lowest approval ratings Lieberman has faced since the poll started tracking his popularity.
"This is the highest disapproval rating in any Quinnipiac University poll in any state for a sitting U.S. senator–except for New Jersey's Robert Torricelli, just before he resigned in 2002," said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jackson, Jr. may have been working with feds (for the past few years) to investigate gov. (Blago)

Source: ABC7 Local - Chicago
Jackson has been fighting for his reputation since the federal complaint revealed his supporters were willing to raise money for the governor, if Jackson was appointed to the Senate.

The new information appears to support Jackson's claim that he was not involved in a scheme to buy a U.S. Senate seat.

ABC7 has learned that since late last summer, the congressman has worked with federal prosecutors, informing on an alleged Blagojevich administration scheme two and half years earlier.
And sources tell ABC7 that Jackson has been in regular contact with the feds and has told the government that in 2003 Blagojevich denied the congressman's wife Sandi an appointment as Illinois lottery director because Jackson would not donate $25,000 to the governor's campaign fund.

Hours before Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested, Jackson says prosecutors gave him a 'courtesy call' to let him know he was mentioned in the criminal complaint.
Jackson, Jr. may have been working with feds to investigate gov.

US is on pace to have spent nearly $2 trillion on military operations including Iraq and Afghanistan over the next decade.

Even if Barack Obama draws down troops in Iraq like he's promised, a new report finds the US is on pace to have spent nearly $2 trillion on military operations including Iraq and Afghanistan over the next decade.The nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments found that the $687 billion spent so far on Iraq has cost the US more than every conflict aside from World War II. With the $184 billion in Afghanistan, the two main conflicts of the war on terror have proved to be 50 percent more expensive than Vietnam. An author of the report said President Bush's decision to circumvent the traditional budget process is to blame for the exceedingly high costs.
The reliance on supplemental funding creates a misleading picture of overall requirements, said Steven Kosiak, vice president of budget studies at CSBA and author of the report, during a briefing on Monday. "A sound budgeting process forces policymakers to recognize the true costs of their policy choices," he said.The CSBA's assessment comes in below some of the highest estimates for the wars' costs. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard economist Laura Bilmes estimated Iraq alone would cost $3 trillion when factoring costs beyond the battlefield, such as veterans health benefits and disability pay. Reuters detailed the CSBA report on Tuesday.
The latest report blamed President Bush for keeping the costs so high through his practice of funding the wars via "emergency" supplemental budget requests, which fall outside the bounds of the normal budgetary process. Such requests, CSBA found, virtually eliminate Congressional oversight and hurt the Pentagon's ability to plan for the long term. That Bush insisted on delivering massive tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans during wartime also drove up the long-term price tag, according to the report. Wartime costs are expected to balloon by an additional $416 billion to $817 billion by 2018, according to the report, even if troop deployments fall below 75,000. Currently, 143,000 US troops are deployed to Iraq and another 31,000 are in Afghanistan.
Media Yawns
By Glenn Greenwald
The culpability which the Report assigns for these war crimes is vast in scope and unambiguous: Continue

JUSTICE? Judge to rule whether 9/11 liability suit will go to trial.

A federal district court judge in Manhattan said Monday that he will decide whether or not a suit brought against US airlines by families of several victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, may proceed.
“I would like some truth and accountability, and I want the public to hear it,” said Mike Low, whose daughter Sara was a flight attendant on American Airlines flight 11. Low spoke with the Boston Globe for a Monday report.
The families of Barbara Keating, 72, Mark Bavis, 31, and Sara Low, 28, asked Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein to allow their full liability suit against airlines and security companies in Boston to progress to trial.
The suit alleges that security at Dulles International Airport, Newark International Airport and Logan International Airport was negligent in allowing the alleged terrorists to board the flights.
To date, no family members of Sept. 11 victims have had a day in court. Over 3,000 families have instead accepted lucrative settlements from the federal victims compensation fund, with the average figure hovering in the range of $2 million.
For these families, it isn't just about seeing justice. They seek to tell their fallen relatives' stories, and establish a public archive to further explore the attacks of Sept. 11.
In a related post, the Globe said that the families are unshaken by news that the men the Bush administration alleges to be the plotters of the attack plan to plead guilty. "It’s good for the country," said the families' attorney, Donald A. Migliori, of the guilty pleas. "But it’s irrelevant to our claims

Bush Administration created executive pay loophole

Bush aides created exec. pay loophole
The Bush Administration inserted an eleventh-hour provision into the $750 billion bailout bill to protect executive bonuses, a single sentence that will torpedo efforts to reduce bonuses even as companies slash tens of thousands of jobs and use taxpayer money to gobble up other companies at fire-sale prices.Pressured by constituents who worried that companies would take government aid and continue to pay their executives eye-popping bonuses, Congress inserted a provision that would penalize companies who took taxpayer money and shelled out outsized bonuses.But at the last minute, Bush officials insisted on a one-sentence provision that stopped the measure in its tracks, according to congressional aides who spoke to the Washington Post.The change stipulated that the sanction would only apply to firms that sold mortgage backed securities to the government at auction, which the Bush Treasury Department said would be the method they'd use to infuse troubled companies with bailout cash."Now, however, the small change looks more like a giant loophole, according to lawmakers and legal experts" who spoke to Post reporter Amit Paley. "In a reversal, the Bush administration has not used auctions for any of the $335 billion committed so far from the rescue package, nor does it plan to use them in the future. Lawmakers and legal experts say the change has effectively repealed the only enforcement mechanism in the law dealing with lavish pay for top executives.""The flimsy executive-compensation restrictions in the original bill are now all but gone," Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, told Paley.According to Paley, "The final legislation contained unprecedented restrictions on executive compensation for firms accepting money from the bailout fund. The rules limited incentives that encourage top executives to take excessive risks, provided for the recovery of bonuses based on earnings that never materialize and prohibited 'golden parachute' severance pay. But several analysts said that perhaps the most effective provision was the ban on companies deducting more than $500,000 a year from their taxable income for compensation paid to their top five executives."This amendment to the Internal Revenue Code was the only part of the bailout measure that had an explicit enforcement mechanism.

Gates Has Canceled On Bush To Meet With Obama Team

Diplomatic Memo
A Defense Secretary at Work for 2 Commanders in Chief
WASHINGTON — At a brief news conference in Kandahar, Afghanistan, an Afghan reporter asked Robert M. Gates, President Bush’s defense secretary, the first, pertinent question: Just what was President-elect Barack Obama’s policy for his war-weary country?
Mr. Gates’s response was swift, as if he had been working for Mr. Obama for months.
“The president-elect has been very explicit throughout the campaign and since the election that he believes that waging this fight in Afghanistan is a high priority and he would like to see more resources devoted to this fight, including more troops,” Mr. Gates said at the news conference, held Thursday at a military base in Kandahar, the ideological center of gravity for the Taliban. “So I think that you will see a continuing American commitment to defeating the enemies of the Afghan people during the administration of the president-elect.”
Mr. Gates, who will be staying on as Mr. Obama’s defense secretary, is making his own transition from one commander in chief to the next.
The metamorphosis was particularly startling last week on his unannounced trip to Afghanistan and Iraq, where he traveled as an emissary and reconnaissance agent for his next boss.

60 Minutes: Second Mortgage Disaster Looming On The Horizon

When it comes to bailouts of American business, Barney Frank and the Congress may be just getting started. Nearly two trillion tax dollars have been shoveled into the hole that Wall Street dug and people wonder where the bottom is.
As correspondent Scott Pelley reports, it turns out the abyss is deeper than most people think because there is a second mortgage shock heading for the economy. In the executive suites of Wall Street and Washington, you're beginning to hear alarm about a new wave of mortgages with strange names that are about to become all too familiar. If you thought sub-primes were insanely reckless wait until you hear what's coming.
One of the best guides to the danger ahead is Whitney Tilson. He's an investment fund manager who has made such a name for himself recently that investors, who manage about $10 billion, gathered to hear him last week. Tilson saw, a year ago, that sub-prime mortgages were just the start.
"We had the greatest asset bubble in history and now that bubble is bursting. The single biggest piece of the bubble is the U.S. mortgage market and we're probably about halfway through the unwinding and bursting of the bubble," Tilson explains. "It may seem like all the carnage out there, we must be almost finished. But there's still a lot of pain to come in terms of write-downs and losses that have yet to be recognized."
Keep reading here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Thom Hartmann On Olbermann Talking About GOP Effort to Kill Unions

Thom Hartmann demonstrates his brilliant ability to weave together history and current events.
GOP to UAW: "Drop Dead" - Thom Hartmann on Countdown

Send an old shoe (or this picture!) to the White House, Wash. DC 20500!

By Dave Lindorff
When Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi heaved his two shoes at thehead of President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad,he did something that the White House press corps should have doneyears ago.
Al-Zaidi listened to Bush blather that the half-decade of war hehad initiated with the illegal invasion of Iraq had been “necessary forUS security, Iraqi stability (sic) and world peace” and something justsnapped. The television correspondent, who had been kidnapped and heldfor a while last year by Shiite militants, pulled off a shoe and threwit at Bush—a serious insult in Iraqi culture—and shouted “This is afarewell kiss, you dog!” When the first shoe missed its target, hegrabbed a second shoe and heaved it too, causing the president to ducka second time as al-Zaidi shouted, “This is from the widows, theorphans, and those who were killed in Iraq!”
I’ll admit, listening to Bush lie his way through eight years ofpress conferences, while pre-selected reporters played along andpretended to get his attention so they could ask questions which hadbeen submitted and vetted in advance, I have felt like throwing myshoes at the television set.

The resolution to create an impeachment committee passed the House unanimously, 113-0

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan took the first steps toward impeaching disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich Monday.
At a press conference in Springfield, Madigan announced the creation of a special committee to establish the standards of impeachment, review Blagojevich's case and decide whether the governor's actions merit dismissal.
"It is my intention to appoint a special committee to begin immediately an investigation into the governor's conduct in office and to undertake the preparatory work that is a prerequisite to an impeachment proceeding in the Illinois House," Madigan said.

BREAKING: IRAQI TV claims shoe-throwing reporter being tortured at US-run prison.

The TV Channel announced that Al-Zaidi is in a difficult condition, with broken ribs and signs of tortures on his thighs. Also he can not move his right arm.
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan to serve as education secretary, people with knowledge of the decision said Monday.
Obama planned to announce his choice Tuesday morning, according to two people with knowledge of his decision.
Duncan has run the country's third-biggest school district for the past seven years. He has focused on improving struggling schools, closing those that fail. Obama highlighted this work by choosing a turnaround story for Duncan _ Dodge Renaissance Academy, a school Duncan closed and then reopened _ for the announcement.
President-elect Barack Obama is announcing his energy and environmental chiefs and vow a new dawn for US leadership against climate change after eight years of Republican "denial."
Obama's transition team said the press conference in Chicago would "discuss the nation's energy and environmental future."
Obama was reportedly to nominate Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu as his energy secretary, placing the expert in renewable energy on the frontlines of climate change policy. Joining Chu in Obama's new team was expected to be Lisa Jackson, chief of staff to the New Jersey governor, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Obama was further to announce that Carol Browner, who served as EPA administrator under president Bill Clinton, would become the White House "climate czar" overseeing the battle against global warming. And Nancy Sutley, a senior adviser to Obama's transition team, was expected to be named chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Media Keeps Implying Guilt

The people making the accusations kept acknowledging that they had no evidence.
Blogger Matt Yglesias has been in Finland lately, studying up on their education policy, but all it took was a single viewing of Morning Joe to bring him up to speed with the new way the political press corps has been abusing their platform:
[T]his morning on MSNBC there was a lengthy discussion of Obama's involvement in Blagojevich's corruption. Of course, there was no evidence of any involvement on Obama's part. Nor, despite this being a news channel, was there any original reporting of any kind whatsoever. There was, however, a ton of time spent criticizing the Obama campaign's PR strategy with regard to this issue -- the suggestion being that had Obama adopted a better PR strategy, then people wouldn't be on television making evidence-free guilt-by-association accusations against him.
This strong me as odd. The people making the accusations kept acknowledging that they had no evidence. One might think that communicating to television personalities the fact that there was no evidence of wrongdoing on Obama's part would constitute a good PR strategy. Given that they knew there was no evidence of wrongdoing, they should have ceased implying that there was wrongdoing. But they didn't do that at all. Not, I would submit, because of any failings on Obama's part, but because Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, John Heileman, Mark Halperin, and Pat Buchanan don't care at all about the accuracy of the impression their coverage gives.
Much of the focus of the just completed Obama press conference is going to center on his answer to the obligatory Rod Blagojevich question -- the president-elect repeated that his staff had no inappropriate contacts with the embattled governor and that they would be releasing their internal findings on the matter next week.
But tucked in the proceedings was some serious discussion on energy and economic matters. Obama declined to speculate when he thought the struggling economy would turn around, saying, simply: "I don't have a crystal ball." But he did offer something in the way of a measure for performance judgment.
"The yardstick should be," he said, "am I creating these jobs and are we strengthening the economy."
Of specific note, the president-elect repeated something that his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said on Sunday: that the economic stimulus that will leave his desk early upon taking office will focus largely on "shovel-ready projects," as in, programs that are ready to create jobs immediately. Moreover, it appears Obama will use state governments as a conduit for the cash:
"Governors and mayors are pleading to fund [these programs]," he said. "And the minute we can get those investments to the state level, jobs are going to be created."

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military says a detainee has died of an apparent heart attack while in custody at a U.S. detention facility in Baghdad.

Today, the Electoral College delegates in all 50 states will convene to cast their votes and formally elect Barack Obama President.
In so many ways, Obama's "movement for change" transformed politics in a way I've never experienced. His inspirational and steady leadership touched the lives of millions and millions across the country and the world.
An unprecedented number of people came together as volunteers, activists, neighborhood organizers and small contributors. This commitment from people of all walks of life was an inspiration I won't forget.

Barack Obama - Peace Train

Obama Inauguration: President-Elect Will Arrive In Washington By Train

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama will kick off his inaugural celebration on Jan. 17 _ the weekend before his swearing in as the country's 44th president _ by traveling on a train to the nation's capital.
He and his family will start their daylong journey with an event in Philadelphia before boarding the train and picking up Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his family in Wilmington, Del. The president-elect and his group then will make a stop in Baltimore before making their way to Washington.
Obama will take office Jan. 20.
"We hope to include as many Americans as possible who wish to participate, but can't be in Washington," Emmett Beliveau, the executive director of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said in a statement. "These events will allow us to do that while honoring the rich history and tradition of previous inaugural journeys."
Aides said Philadelphia and Baltimore were chosen because of the roles they played at pivotal moments in U.S. history and because they fit in with the inauguration's theme, "Renewing America's Promise."
The committee has said the theme was chosen to underscore Obama's "commitment to restoring opportunity and possibility for all and re-establishing America's standing as a beacon of hope around the world."

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military says a detainee has died of an apparent heart attack while in custody at a U.S. detention facility in Baghdad.
Monday's statement says the 25-year-old man was pronounced dead by doctors at a combat hospital after losing consciousness at Camp Cropper.
The military did not release the name or nationality of the detainee, nor did it say why he was being held.
The statement said an autopsy will be conducted before the body is released to family for burial.
The U.S. military is holding thousands of prisoners at Camp Cropper near the Baghdad airport and Camp Bucca in the southern desert.
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