Saturday, February 28, 2009

Postponing the Inevitable

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says Democrat Al Franken will be seated in the Senate despite whether Republican Norm Coleman files legal appeals.

Franken and Coleman are in the midst of a legal battle over the Minnesota Senate race, which officials say Franken narrowly won in a recount.

"We're feeling pretty confident," Reid, D-Nev., was quoted by Politico as saying in regards to Franken's prospects in the ongoing legal battles over the election.

The Washington publication noted that Republicans have threatened to filibuster if Democrats attempt to seat Franken.


They know Franken is going to eventually be seated, but they really want to postpone it as long as possible so that he can’t add a Democratic vote to anything that comes through the Senate.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

President Obama Above the Law

From Bad King George to Good King Barack - I still don't want a king.

Obama lawyers have been running around for weeks attempting one desperate, extreme measure after the next to prevent [the Al-Haramain case -- the only remaining case against the Government with any real chance of resulting in a judicial ruling on the legality of Bush's NSA warrantless eavesdropping program] from proceeding -- emergency appeals, requests for stays, and every time they lose, threats of still further appeals, this time to the U.S. Supreme Court.


[T] he Obama DOJ has now lost -- twice -- in their attempts to invoke secrecy to stop this case from proceeding, but they just keep searching for a court to accept their claims.


One of the worst abuses of the Bush administration was its endless reliance on vast claims of secrecy to ensure that no court could ever rule on the legality of the President's actions. They would insist that "secrecy" prevented a judicial ruling even when the President's actions were (a) already publicly disclosed in detail and (b) were blatantly criminal -- as is the case with the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program, which The New York Times described on its front page more than three years ago and which a federal statute explicitly criminalized. Secrecy claims of that sort -- to block judicial review of the President's conduct, i.e., to immunize the President from the rule of law -- provoked endless howls of outrage from Bush critics.

Yet now, the Obama administration is doing exactly the same thing. Hence, it is accurately deemed "a blow to the Obama administration" that a court might rule on whether George Bush broke the law when eavesdropping on Americans without warrants. Why is the Obama administration so vested in preventing that from happening, and -- worse still -- in ensuring that Presidents continue to have the power to invoke extremely broad secrecy claims in order to block courts from ruling on allegations that a President has violated the law?


Manifestly, the Obama DOJ has one goal and one goal only here: to prevent any judicial ruling as to whether the Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program was illegal. And they're engaging in extraordinary efforts to ensure that occurs.


Obama DOJ has undertaken exactly the same mission as the Bush DOJ for years so successfully carried out: namely, ensuring that Presidents remain above the law by invoking patently absurd claims of secrecy to argue that our National Security cannot withstand judicial rulings on whether the President's actions were, in fact, illegal.


Our nation's most transparent administration in history won't bother to explain why they're doing any of this: "A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment."

  Glenn Greenwald

I seem to recall that Obama told us even before his election that virtually unlimited Presidential power was okay as long the President is a good and wise man, which presumably he was offering himself to be.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

That's Politics, Baby

Louisiana's transportation department plans to request federal dollars for a New Orleans to Baton Rouge passenger rail service from the same pot of railroad money in the president's economic stimulus package that Gov. Bobby Jindal criticized as unnecessary pork on national television Tuesday night.


....but hey, do what you will anyway.

There'll Be Lots of Fun With This One

Seen at Rising Hegemon.

Not That I Really Expected Anything Else

Obama, a supposed opponent of the Iraq War, is as big an exponent of the myth of America’s innocence in the world as George Bush.

Read why WIIIAI comes to this conclusion.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Riling the Right

Brad isn’t bothered too much by Beck and Limbaugh vomiting bile on the airways.

This sort of thing doesn’t really offend me because I think most of Beck’s viewers would back down from starting a new civil war once they learned that it would likely lead to Cheeto rationing. But I am amazed at the sheer cognitive dissonance involved in simultaneously believing that it’s treasonous to peacefully oppose an unjustified war but that it’s patriotic to lead an armed insurrection against the government because they want to pay you unemployment benefits. If there’s a weirder political movement than American conservatism, I’ve yet to see it.

  Sadly No


How Very Polite

President Barack Obama called former President Bush on this morning to tell him about his plan to withdraw troops from Iraq, the White House said Friday. Obama called the former president “as a courtesy” right before his speech at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.


I wonder why and what other “courtesies” Obama is offering to Bush.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Our Liberal Media

It’s a truism among conservatives that the media has a liberal bias, but a study of campaign coverage released by Indiana University has found that ABC, CBS, and NBC favored Republicans in each of the presidential elections from 1992 through 2004.

  Think Progress

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Several Steps in the Wrong Direction

Public interest organizations have been suing the Executive Office of the President over large amounts of White House e-mail that were mysteriously lost or destroyed by the Bush Administration. Now, the Holder Justice Department is trying to snuff out the case — a move that runs against Obama’s promise of a more open government.


The Obama Administration has also come up in favor of the position of the Bush Administration in seeking to block an avenue for prisoners to get DNA evidence to prove their innocence. In an Alaskan case, the Obama Administration will argue in support of the state’s opposition of allowing prisoners to sue for such access, even when they are willing to pay for the tests.


This follows the Obama Administration’s recent embrace of Bush Administration views on the “war of terror” and officials backing down from criticism of the rendition programs, here. The Administration has also decided to continue to deny trial to detainees held by the United States.

  Jonathan Turley

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Save This Link for 2012

Bobby Jindal.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

The Voice of Reason?

Ron Paul essentially disagreed with all four facets of the Federal Reserve's program for the struggling economy. […He] started by branding the financial system a failure, and then laid out the reasons why he didn't think Bernanke's plan was going to save the economy. “It is fundamental for us to understand...if we think we can patch up a system that has failed, it's not going to work,” he told the Reserve's chairman. “We have a total misunderstanding of what credit is, versus capital. Capital can't come from the thin-air creation by a Federal Reserve system, capital has to come from savings. We work hard, produce, live within our means, and what is leftover is called capital. This whole idea that we can 're-capitalize' markets by merely turning on the printing presses and increasing credit is a total fallacy,” he said in his address. “Give up on the dollar standard. We have to be very much aware that the system will [not be] viable. We have to have a system that encourages people to work, and to save.”

  Raw Story

We won’t give up on the dollar standard until oil is selling in euros. Or yen. Or until we've sold all our debt to China and they want real goods in payment. Until then, print away! Credit! More credit!

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Not Surprising

President Barack Obama consigned the Iraq war to history Friday, declaring he will end combat operations within 18 months and open a new era of diplomacy in the Middle East. "Let me say this as plainly as I can: By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end," Obama told Marines who are about to deploy by the thousands to the other war front, Afghanistan.


Dude, I thought that happened a long time ago. Mission Accomplished, remember?

On the other hand, let me say this as plainly as I can: you could be eating these words, my son. August 31, 2010, is a long way off. (Which reminds me: that campaign winning talk about getting us out of Iraq was a little disingenuous, was it not? I mean, you did expect people to believe you meant immediately, didn’t you? And just shifting them to Afghanistan wasn't exactly what we were looking for, either.)

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

One Step Forward, One Step Back

In a little-noticed remark Wednesday, Obama Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana dispensaries established under state laws but technically prohibited by the federal government.

  Raw Story

Although President Barack Obama has not yet officially laid out his plans for withdrawing US troops from Iraq, an unauthorized leak earlier this week suggested that he intends to maintain a "residual force" of up to 50,000 US troops in the country, even after withdrawing the majority of American forces -- a figure that has raised the hackles of liberal Democrats.

  Raw Story

I should hope so.

Another Step in the Right Direction - Part 5

Defense and congressional officials say news organizations will be allowed to photograph the homecomings of America's war dead under a new Pentagon policy.

The officials say Defense Secretary Robert Gates has decided to allow photos of flag-draped caskets at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, if the families of casualties agree.

  AP via TPM

You think Gates is the one who decided that? No, I don't either. The UK Guardian has more info.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.


In an interview today with Rachel Maddow -- to be broadcast on Maddow's MSNBC show tonight (and transcripts of which I've obtained) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeatedly advocated the need for criminal prosecutions, not merely fact-finding. She even directly criticized the proposal by Sen. Pat Leahy for a "Truth Commission," on the ground that such a Commission would improperly immunize lawbreakers and thus foreclose prosecutions:

  Glenn Greenwald

Can this possibly be true? If so, Nancy Pelosi is indeed an enigma.

Maddow then repeatedly, and rather relentlessly, asked Pelosi about how much she was told about the Bush's use of torture and about the warrantless eavesdropping program and whether her having known about those programs was an obstacle to investigations and prosecutions. Pelosi's answers were largely evasive, but she was very emphatic -- I believe for the first time -- in claiming that while she was told by the CIA about potential "enhanced interrogation techniques" in "the abstract," she was never told that these techniques were actually being used. She also claimed that she put up "very strong resistance" to the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program (I've never seen any evidence of such resistance at all; the only letter from Pelosi that was disclosed was one from October, 2001, which merely raised a concern over whether the NSA had presidential authorization for the program, not whether the program itself was illegal). But what matters here is that Pelosi insists that nothing she nor any other Democrat knew or did poses an obstacle in any way to full-scale criminal investigations.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Because I Am Not Witty Enough....

...I offer you Driftglass...

When David Fucking Brooks calls the Republican response to President Obama's speech "insane" and "a disaster for the party" you know that somewhere out there the pickup truck driving Jesus to the Second Coming has just crossed a critical meridian.


But this is who we are now; a nation divided between the largely sane people on the Left who would very much like for the various conflagrations left burning out of control thanks to 30 years of Republican policies to be put out even if that means a big, short blast of Big Gummint...and the millions of absolutely unhinged berserkers on the Right who believe what the fire really needs is More Fucking Gasoline.


....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Step in the Right Direction

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy announced today he will hold a hearing next week to examine options for forming a nonpartisan commission to look into past national security polices and abuses of the Bush administration.

  Raw Story

To Hell with Substance

Let's get right to the most important point. As I watched Obama's speech last night, when he claimed that "the nation that invented the automobile can not walk out on it," I said, "Uh, you mean Germany?" And in fact, that little faux pas did not go unnoticed (although practically the whole Congress stood up and cheered). At least with this morning's attention to the "gaffe", maybe our fine citizens will be forced to take notice of how the U.S. likes to claim credit for being the first and the best at everything, when it's not always true.

On second thought...we'll manage to gloss over and go on.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

And another thing: Facebook is scary.

And one more thing...can we please, please, please call a moratorium on belly fat advertisements on the internet? I think I'd rather see pictures of George Bush!

And P.S. Was Nancy Pelosi on uppers or is she really a jack-in-the-box with a hair trigger?

Update: 2/28/09: "Although Obama was greeted warmly, the night's speech was no small task. Obama's challenge would be to convey to the American public the sobering realities of our current situation, while maintaining an optimistic tone for the future, all while desperately, desperately, desperately trying not to turn around for a quick game of wack-a-mole. Interesting fact about Nancy Pelosi: she is one-eighth gopher, on her father's side." --Jon Stewart

Monday, February 23, 2009

Crime Pays

Attaturk reveals the titles of Condi Rice’s three books about her time in the Bushwhack administration to be written and sold for $2.5 million.

Volume 1: Pout and Prejudice.

Volume 2: Nobody anticipated the price of a Ghost Writer.

Volume 3: I'd tell you to walk a mile in my shoes, but you couldn't afford them.

No word on who will pay Bush himself to color-in his memoirs.

  Rising Hegemon

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Support Our Troops

As soldiers stream home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the biggest charity inside the U.S. military has been stockpiling tens of millions of dollars meant to help put returning fighters back on their feet, an Associated Press investigation shows.

Between 2003 and 2007 — as many military families dealt with long war deployments and increased numbers of home foreclosures — Army Emergency Relief grew into a $345 million behemoth. During those years, the charity packed away $117 million into its own reserves while spending just $64 million on direct aid, according to an AP analysis of its tax records.

Tax-exempt and legally separate from the military, AER projects a facade of independence but really operates under close Army control. The massive nonprofit — funded predominantly by troops — allows superiors to squeeze soldiers for contributions; forces struggling soldiers to repay loans — sometimes delaying transfers and promotions; and too often violates its own rules by rewarding donors, such as giving free passes from physical training, the AP found.


Socks Obit

I am sure you know that the Clinton cat, Socks, passed away. And you no doubt know that socks had been living with a White House staff member, and not the Clinton's. For a funny and fact-filled account of how that all came down, please turn to Tintin at Sadly, No!

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Arnie Humbled?

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a very simple message for any GOP governor who doesn't want federal stimulus package money earmarked for his or her state: "I'll take it."


"I'm more than happy to take [Sanford's] money or any other governor in this country that doesn't want to take this money,...because we in California [..] need it.


"You know, I don't think that the Republican Party is any different than the Democratic Party. I think that politics -- the horrible thing about politics is that, the more they attack each other, the more that they try to derail each other, the worse it is for the people."

  Raw Story

Those governors are all talk. I'm sure Arnold knows it. They'll spout big, but they'll take the money.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Hillary Asks China to Keep Us Afloat

Hillary Clinton urged China on Sunday to continue buying US Treasuries, saying it would help get the American economy moving again and stimulate imports of Chinese goods.

  Raw Story

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Sell more of our debt to China. They can eventually own us outright. A sort of “green revolution” if you will.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Can I Get an 'Amen'?

Congressman Ron Paul is the most conservative, grandfatherly man to ever be admired by America's marijuana enthusiasts. On Friday night's episode of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, he reminded those who may have been suffering an impaired short-term memory at that late hour why, exactly, they should like him.


"I don't like pot," said the congressman. "But I hate the drug war, so I would repeal all of prohibition. But, I wouldn't even bother taxing it. People have the right in a free country to make important decisions on their own lives. If they want to make mistakes, they can. They just can't come crawling to the government to get bailed out or taken care of if they get sick.

"I believe in freedom of choice in all that we do, as long as the individual never hurts anybody else. So that means I would get rid of all the federal laws. I would dispose with the drug war. We're spending tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars on this, then we march into places like California, override state laws, arrest sick people and put them in prison."

"It makes no sense whatsoever," he insisted.

  Raw Story

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Obama's Citizenship

As this is still being thrown out, and now by more public figures such as Alan Keyes and Senator Richard Shelby, you will want to read this article if you haven't already, in order to counter your GOP family and friends.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Another Sunday

While Pat Buchanan, Fox News and Glenn Beck are shamelessly trying to finally whip up that great race war that we have been hearing about for several decades now (video at Raw Story), and Dubya is preparing to be left behind, we still have time to contemplate just where we are going.

Who besides me missed this when it happened? The wise Pope said that Heaven and Hell don't really exist as places. Not Pope Ratzy, of course. He may actually be presiding over Hell even as we speak.

Heaven as the fullness of communion with God was the theme of the Holy Father's catechesis at the General Audience of 21 July 1999. Heaven "is neither an abstraction not a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity. It is our meeting with the Father which takes place in the risen Christ through the communion of the Holy Spirit," the Pope said.


At the General Audience of Wednesday, 28 July 1999, the Holy Father reflected on hell as the definitive rejection of God. In his catechesis, the Pope said that care should be taken to interpret correctly the images of hell in Sacred Scripture, and explained that "hell is the ultimate consequence of sin itself... Rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy".


At the General Audience of Wednesday, 4 August 1999, following his catecheses on heaven and hell, the Holy Father reflected on Purgatory. He explained that physical integrity is necessary to enter into perfect communion with God therefore "the term purgatory does not indicate a place, but a condition of existence", where Christ "removes ... the remnants of imperfection".

  Pope John Paul II

....but hey, fellow handbasket passengers, do what you will anyway.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stay the Course

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) last week told an audience at Georgetown University that Congress should convene a “Truth Commission” to investigate allegations of Bush administration wrongdoing.


Leahy’s statements were quickly embraced by many Democratic lawmakers, however, including Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), and supported by legal advocacy groups such as Human Rights First and NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, which had both earlier proposed similar ideas. Most recently, on Thursday, the bipartisan Constitution Project chimed in with a statement, signed by 18 different organizations and a range of former government officials including Thomas Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; William Sessions, former federal judge and FBI Director; and retired Major General Antonio Taguba, all calling for President Obama to appoint a non-partisan commission to examine the legality of Bush policies related to detention, treatment and transfer of detainees.

  Washington Independent

What do you think?

President Obama’s Justice Department today, in a two-sentence filing, backed the Bush administration’s position on the 600 or more detainees being held at the U.S. military’s detention facility at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The department reaffirmed that the prisoners are not entitled to any constitutional rights and, most importantly, may not challenge their detention in a U.S. court.

  Washington Independent

There Will Be Shovels in the Ground

No comment.

Of course, he's not really our president.


Michelle Obama hosted some students at the White House and invited Sweet Honey in the Rock to perform.

My personal favorite.

Would You Like a Little Bit of Good News?

President Barack Obama ordered the U.S. Treasury on Saturday to implement tax cuts for 95 percent of Americans, fulfilling a campaign pledge he hopes will help jolt the economy out of recession.

"I'm pleased to announce that this morning the Treasury Department began directing employers to reduce the amount of taxes withheld from paychecks, meaning that by April 1st, a typical family will begin taking home at least $65 more every month," Obama said in his weekly radio address.

"Never before in our history has a tax cut taken effect faster or gone to so many hard-working Americans," he said.

  News Daily

Why announce this on a Saturday? I suppose it will be the talk of the Sunday shows, but I’m used to big announcements coming during the week and unpopular ones coming on weekends.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it. --Mark Twain


So when I read something like this:

“Why should we reward Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with $200 billion in taxpayer dollars without first reforming these housing entities that were at the heart of the economic meltdown?” House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement.

and people ask what on earth Boehner might mean when he talks about taxpayers “rewarding” institutions that are owned by taxpayers, I go for Occam’s Razor: Boehner doesn’t have some complicated notion in mind, he either doesn’t know that the government took over F&F months ago, or he just doesn’t get this “government-owned” concept.

  Paul Krugman

No, I don’t think he has something complicated in mind, either. And I don’t like to give Congressional people credit for being too smart. But I do think it’s possible that Boehner, knowing full well that a great swath of the American public is even more ignorant and foolish than Congressional people, is saying these things to get the public to go along with what would actually amount to undermining the government/themselves by not bailing government-owned institutions. That’d be my guess.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Missing Fraudster Found

Allen Stanford has been located. He's been served. I wonder how long before he skips.

Heeeeeee's Watching You

Invoking his own name-and-shame policy, President Barack Obama warned the nation's mayors on Friday that he will "call them out" if they waste the money from his massive economic stimulus plan.

"The American people are watching," Obama told a gathering of mayors at the White House. "They need this plan to work. They expect to see the money that they've earned — they've worked so hard to earn — spent in its intended purposes without waste, without inefficiency, without fraud."


But they’ve been fooled disappointed before. hey, do what you will anyway.

Sweet Jesus! Tarkio!

I won't steal anything from Attaturk here. You just have to check this out. I should wait for Sunday, but it's too good. Hints: Just makes you want to light up. Brewer & Shipley meet Lawrence Welk.

Hallelujah, I see the light!

Lawrence Welk. Who knew? Hahahahaha...

Oh, Mommy.

Go to the Hegemon and check it out.

P.S. Where are they now?

From Wiki: "At present, Michael Brewer lives outside of Branson, Missouri. Tom Shipley lives in Rolla, Missouri, where he is on the staff of Missouri University of Science & Technology (formerly the University of Missouri - Rolla). He is manager of distance learning, video, audio, and other special video productions for the university."

They were here in 2007:

You go guys.

Fun fact: Spiro Agnew named B&S subversives. They were on Nixon's hit list.

I missed that Lawrence Welk bit when it happened. But you know what they say about the 60s (early 70s)- if you remember them, you weren't there.

It Takes One to Know One

A California Republican congressman has called on President Obama to put in place a system that ensures all White House emails be preserved even if official business was done through private e- mail accounts.

Rep. Darrell Issa, the senior Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, made the request in a February 18 letter to White House Counsel Greg Craig.

Issa specifically mentioned the new administration’s brief use of Gmail accounts after Obama was sworn in last month, as they waited for the official White House e-mail accounts to become active.


We need a new word in the dictionary for these guys. Irony just doesn’t capture it.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The RNC: Where Reality Outruns Mockery

It would be too easy. And why bother, when they hand it to you on a platter?

Their Magic Negro:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says his party is going to launch an "off the hook" public relations campaign that will update the GOP’s image by translating it to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings."

The new GOP leader told the Washington Times that the party’s defeat in states such as North Carolina and Virginia made it clear they needed a new approach.


“We missed the mark in the past, which is why we are in the crapper now,” he said.


Steele dismissed the assessments of some Republicans that he needs a deputy to handle areas like logistics, fundraising and candidate recruitment. “I can run this organization just fine,” he said. “There will be no deputy chairman, period. …People who said I can't make the trains run on time never gave a reason. I say to them, 'Stuff it.'


“The idea I am somehow going to handicap myself before I begin is nuts. I am not going to buy into this mind-set among a few people who probably have never run anything but their mouths.”


“We need messengers to really capture that region — young, Hispanic, black, a cross section…” he said in an interview published Thursday. “We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings.”


” Asked whether that meant cutting-edge tactics, Steele demurred. “I don't do 'cutting-edge,’” he said. “That's what Democrats are doing. We're going beyond cutting-edge.”


He added, jokingly, that “we need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets.”

  Political Ticker

I know. Amazing that this is reality and not a TV comedy.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

And Speaking of Allen Stanford in Mexico's Drug Deals

Mexico, a country with a nearly 2,000-mile border with the United States, is undergoing a horrifying wave of violence that some are likening to a civil war. Drug traffickers battle fiercely with each other and Mexican authorities. The homicide rate reached a record level in 2008 and indications are that the carnage could be exceeded this year.


"The drug gangs are better equipped than the army," Hakim said.


Larry Birns, director of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs, calls it "a sickening vertigo into chaos and plunder."

By most accounts, that's not hyperbole.


The violence along the border is particularly worrisome, analysts say.

"The spillover into the United States is bound to expand and bound to affect U.S. institutions," Birns said.

Pastor and Hakim note that the United States helps fuel the violence, not only by providing a ready market for illegal drugs, but also by supplying the vast majority of weapons used by drug gangs.


Pervasive corruption among public officials is central to the drug cartels' success.

"There is so much money involved in the drug trade, there is so much fear involved in the drug trade, that no institution can survive unaffected," Birns said.

"This has really revealed just how corrupt Mexican officeholders are," Hakim said.


Larry, let me introduce you to the United States Congress and Business Community.

"People are beginning to discuss decriminalization and legalization. ... There's only one thing that can be done: Take the profit out of it."

Pastor calls the problem in Mexico "even worse than Chicago during the Prohibition era" and said a solution similar to what ended that violence is needed now.

"What worked in the U.S. was not Eliot Ness," he said, referring to the federal agent famous for fighting gangsters in 1920s and '30s. "It was the repeal of Prohibition."

That viewpoint has picked up some high-level support in Latin America.

Last week, the former presidents of Mexico, Colombia and Brazil called for the decriminalization of marijuana for personal use and a change in strategy on the war on drugs at a meeting in Brazil of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy

So, it is possible to learn from the past after all? But I guess actually ending the drug wars is only desired by the people who aren't making any money off it.

Ecuador has expelled a second American diplomat in just over a week, accusing both officials of interfering in its internal affairs.

Foreign Minister Fander Falconi said Mark Sullivan, the first secretary at the US embassy in Quito, had 48 hours to leave the country.

Both US officials were accused of meddling with police appointments in a US-funded anti-narcotics programme.

Washington has rejected the charges and called the expulsions unjustified.


....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Clues to Stanford's Whereabouts?

Federal authorities tell ABC News that the FBI and others have been investigating whether [Allen] Stanford was involved in laundering drug money for Mexico's notorious Gulf Cartel.

Authorities tell ABC News that as part of the investigation, which has been ongoing since last year, Mexican authorities detained one of Stanford's private planes. According to officials, checks found inside the plane were believed to be connected to the Gulf cartel, reputed to be Mexico's most violent gang. Authorities say Stanford could potentially face criminal charges of money laundering and bribery of foreign officials.

  ABC News

When you're involved in fraudulent enterprises involving billions of dollars, with lots of unaccounted for and untracked streams of money, organized criminal syndicates -- whether it's the mob or drug gangs or whatever -- just tend not to be too far behind. I suspect we'll eventually find that with Madoff securities fraud was not the only crime.


And, under the circumstances, it might be interesting to see what the CIA knows about Mr. Stanford.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Update: Found by the FBI in Virginia and served, but not told to stay in the country.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Update on Missing Fraudster Allen Stanford

[B]ack in the beginning of this decade he was pouring tons of money into Washington to help block a series of bills that would have created problems for his Antigua-based off-shore banking empire, which now appears to have been a massive fraud


Stanford poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Democratic coffers to help (successfully) deep six legislation he wanted killed.


The head of Stanford Financial Group charged with orchestrating an $8 billion fraud tried Tuesday to get a one-way flight out of the country, a source told CNBC.

R. Allen Stanford tried to arrange the direct flight to Antigua, where his offshore banking operations are based.

He contacted a private jet owner at 3 pm and attempted to pay for the flight with a credit card, but was refused because the company would only accept a wire transfer, a source in the private jet industry said. Stanford had asked to leave by 6 pm.


He doesn’t have his own private jet? Didn’t think to have lots of cash?

I guess we still don’t know where he is, though.

Beyond Outrageous

A U.S. appeals court reversed a ruling Wednesday that would have transferred 17 Guantanamo Bay detainees, none of whom are labeled enemy combatants, to the United States.

The ruling casts further uncertainty on the fate of the Turkic-speaking Muslims from western China. Because there is no evidence they plotted or fought against the United States, the government has no authority to hold them at Guantanamo Bay, but deciding what to do with the men has been a diplomatic problem for years.


Yeah, well, what’s the hurry? They’ve already spent several years in prison for no reason. They’re getting the hang of it now.

In statesmanship get the formalities right, never mind about the moralities. --Mark Twain

Poor California

Can't pay its bills. Again. It may be worse than ever this time, but I remember when I was at UC Davis, we got our pay in IOUs for a while. Banks were cooperative in cashing them and collecting from the government later. With the banking problems now, I don't know how that arrangement is faring. So good luck to all you Californians. This seems like an appropriate time to rerun this Roy Zimmerman video.

Gray Davis, drummed out of office due to California's financial situation then, must be at least feeling some sense of schadenfreude.

Schwarzenegger appeared before a raucous crowd to deliver his victory address, promising, "I will not fail you. I will not disappoint you and I will not let you down."

Since the fall, when lawmakers began trying to attack the gaps in the $143 billion budget that their earlier plan had not addressed, the state has fallen into deeper financial straits, with more bad news coming daily from Sacramento. The state, nearly out of cash, has laid off scores of workers and put hundreds more on unpaid furloughs. It has stopped paying counties and issuing income tax refunds and halted thousands of infrastructure projects.

Twenty-thousand layoff notices will go out on Tuesday morning…


California has also lost access to much of the credit markets, nearly unheard of among state municipal bond issuers. Recently, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the state’s bond rating to the lowest in the nation.



Is Foreclosure Relief on the Way?

His massive stimulus plan now signed into law, President Barack Obama is turning to attack the home foreclosure crisis at the heart of the nation's deepening economic woes.

His goal is to prevent millions of American families from losing their houses because they can't make mortgage payments.


The ambitious plan he was announcing at a Phoenix high school Wednesday was expected to offer government cash to mortgage companies that reduce interest rates - and therefore monthly payments - for homeowners in danger of default, according to several people briefed on the plan. What remained unclear was how the government will decide who qualifies for relief.


The biggest players in the mortgage industry already had halted foreclosures pending Obama's announcement.

  Huffington Post

They Said There Would Be More

Update: R. Allen Stanford is missing. No house arrest for him.

After Madoff…

Three senior executives with Stanford Group Co. have been charged with defrauding investors of billions through a high-yield certificates of deposit program and using false historical data to push a special Stanford mutual fund program.

  Memphis Business Journal

Over the last ten years, R. Allen Stanford -- the Texas billionaire charged by the SEC today with "massive fraud" -- and his companies have spent at least $5 million on lobbying expenditures and campaign contributions to a bipartisan group of congressional leaders.

The heavy political spending comes despite Stanford's history of run-ins with federal regulators dating back at least to 1999, when he caught the attention of the State Department for his role in tightening the already-secretive banking laws of the Caribbean island nation of Antigua.

  Huffington Post

Since this particular Stanford investigation has been ongoing since summer, it may be that Tom Daschle’s withdrawal from appointment may have at least in part been because he knew the feds were coming down on Stanford. Stanford had pumped tens of thousands of dollars into Daschle’s coffers.

Update: Arthur Nadel turned himself in for his $300 million fraud scheme.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

For the Love of Pete

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris now acknowledges attempting to raise money for ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich — an explosive twist in his ever-changing story on how he landed a coveted Senate appointment from the man accused of trying to sell the seat.

Burris made the admission to reporters on Monday, after releasing an affidavit over the weekend saying he had more contact with Blagojevich aides about the Senate seat than he had described under oath to the state House panel that recommended Blagojevich's impeachment.


What was the whole purpose of this? Why did he relish in the scrutiny and spend hours in front of cameras calling the rest of the world lame for questioning him? What a dickhead.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

And While We're on the Subject

In a Monday report, the Associated Press notes that President Obama's Department of Justice has already sided with "half a dozen" Bush administration claims of secrecy over spying and interrogations.

"In only one case has the Justice Department agreed to suspend a FOIA lawsuit until the disputed documents can be re-evaluated under the yet-to-be-written guidelines," the wire service reported. "That case involves negotiations on an anti-counterfeiting treaty, not the more controversial, secret anti-terrorism tactics that spawned the other lawsuits as well as Obama's promises of greater openness."

  Raw Story

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Give Rove Presidents a Break

In 2007, while in the Senate, Obama rebuked Bush's White House as "the most secretive in modern history," which aimed "to hide its abuse of our justice system."

Responding to a Bush claim of executive privilege, he said, "By continuing to act as the most secretive White House in modern history, the Bush Administration has once again placed itself above the law in order to hide its abuse of our justice system from the American people. On the first day of an Obama Administration, we will launch the most sweeping ethics reform in history to shed sunlight on the decisions made by government and put the interests of the American people at the center of every decision that's made."


In a court brief quietly filed Monday, Michael Hertz, Obama's acting assistant attorney general, said it was necessary to delay an effort to force Rove to be deposed in a congressional investigation into the firing of nine US Attorneys and the alleged political prosecution of a former Alabama governor.

Hertz said an effort was underway to find a "compromise" for Rove, and requested two weeks to broker a deal before proceeding in court.

"The inauguration of a new president has altered the dynamics of this case and created new opportunities for compromise rather than litigation," Hertz wrote in the brief released late Monday by McClatchy's Washington, D.C. bureau. "At the same time, there is now an additional interested party — the former president — whose views should be considered."

The House Judiciary Committee sued the Bush Administration to force Rove to testify last year, saying that Rove shouldn't be covered by executive privilege. They won. But their case has been held up by an appeal, and Hertz's filing was the Obama administration's first legal weighing-in on the matter. Obama's Justice Department has supplanted the role of Bush's Justice Department in the case, and their position will likely inform the terms under which Rove is questioned by Congress.


"The president is very sympathetic to those who want to find out what happened," Craig told The Washington Post. "But he is also mindful as president of the United States not to do anything that would undermine or weaken the institution of the presidency. So, for that reason, he is urging both sides of this to settle."

  Raw Story

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

And She Should Know

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's 18-year-old daughter, Bristol, [...] told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren Monday night that the abstinence her mom preaches is "not realistic at all."

  NY Daily News

However, to be fair, Sarah Palin never claimed to be a member of a reality-based party.

Monday, February 16, 2009

No Exit

A little over a year ago, a routine audit at Wal-Mart reported a few missing exit signs at the company's stores and warehouses. As the audit continued, more and more signs turned up missing, and a month ago, Wal-Mart revealed that as many as 20% of the 70,000 signs at its 4500 facilities cannot be accounted for, a stunning total of 15,800 signs in all.

This would be of no particular concern -- except that the signs are radioactive.

  Raw Story

Another reason not to shop at Wal-Mart.

There are more than 2 million such signs in North America, and their use and disposal is supposed to be monitored by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Despite this, broken signs are often simply thrown away and wind up leaching their tritium into landfills.

But, where are all those missing Wal-Mart signs?

War Crimes

While we're waiting for Eric Holder to sanction the Bush Administration's war crimes by refusing to release or in some way covering the recent report that the Bush DOJ was out of order approving torture...

The U.S. really has bound itself to a treaty called the Convention Against Torture, signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988 and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1994. When there are credible allegations that government officials have participated or been complicit in torture, that Convention really does compel all signatories -- in language as clear as can be devised -- to "submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution" (Art. 7(1)). And the treaty explicitly bars the standard excuses that America's political class is currently offering for refusing to investigate and prosecute: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture" and "an order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture" (Art. 2 (2-3)). By definition, then, the far less compelling excuses […] (a criminal probe would undermine bipartisanship and distract us from more important matters) are plainly barred as grounds for evading the Convention's obligations.

There is reasonable dispute about the scope of prosecutorial discretion permitted by the Convention, and there is also some lack of clarity about how many of these provisions were incorporated into domestic law when the Senate ratified the Convention with reservations. But what is absolutely clear beyond any doubt is that -- just as is true for any advance promises by the Obama DOJ not to investigate or prosecute -- issuing preemptive pardons to government torturers would be an unambiguous and blatant violation of our obligations under the Convention.


Do we now just explicitly consider ourselves immune from the treaties we signed? Does our political class now officially (rather than through its actions) consider treaties to be mere suggestions that we can violate at will without even pretending to have any justifications for doing so?

  Glenn Greenwald

Is that a rhetorical question?

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Guantanamo Testimonials

Army Private Brandon Neely served as a prison guard at Guantánamo in the first years the facility was in operation. With the Bush Administration, and thus the threat of retaliation against him, now gone, Neely decided to step forward and tell his story.


Neely describes the arrival of detainees in full sensory-deprivation garb, he details their sexual abuse by medical personnel, torture by other medical personnel, brutal beatings out of frustration, fear, and retribution, the first hunger strike and its causes, torturous shackling, positional torture, interference with religious practices and beliefs, verbal abuse, restriction of recreation, the behavior of mentally ill detainees, an isolation regime that was put in place for child-detainees, and his conversations with prisoners David Hicks and Rhuhel Ahmed. It makes for fascinating reading.


It makes for fascinating reading? But it does actually clearly paint exactly the picture you’ve imagined about the prisoners and the guards themselves according to the information that was leaked out of Guantanamo and the prison camps in Iraq.

Neely’s account demonstrates once more how much the Bush team kept secret and how little we still know about their comprehensive program of official cruelty and torture.

The Guantanamo Testimonials Project is a research effort by the UC Davis Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas “to assess the effects of the U.S. war on terror on human rights in the Americas.”

Sunday, February 15, 2009

He Always Said He'd Be There After Dubya Was Gone

President Hugo Chavez won a referendum to eliminate term limits Sunday, paving the way for him to run again in 2012 and beyond to push through his vision of a socialist Venezuela.


Well, he’ll be jefe till he dies then.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

The Gap

A hot topic lately seems to be the total disconnect between DC and the American public. Glenn Greenwald has a clear view in this post in which he sees Beltway journalists as a cog on the wheel of the political machine.

It's Sunday. You have time.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Now You Know...

...why the Coleman camp didn't screech about Al Franken being a dirty rotten hippie freak when he was young. Norm Coleman's high school yearbook picture, courtesy Veto Corleone via WTF:

See? Progress!

Tourism in Falluja.

And they have George Bush to thank for it, don't they?

No, really, you must click and read.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Because It's Sunday...

A bill moving through the Arkansas state legislature would allow worshippers to bring concealed weapons into churches if the church has approved that as its policy.

  Raw Story

Maybe that doesn’t need comment. And if it does, I’m sure you can provide your own.

You still won’t be able to take your guns into bars, schools, government facilities or athletic events, however.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Going Backward

The new Survey of Consumer Finances shows an increase in family net worth between 2004 and 2007 — but estimates, based on stock and housing prices, that all of that gain and more has been wiped out since then. Adjusted for inflation, families are poorer now than they were in 2001.

  Conscience of a Liberal

2001? Try 1973.

While workers across America were losing jobs, homes and health insurance, Merrill Lynch paid nearly 700 employees more than $1 million each in bonuses last year, amounting to a $3.6 billion bonus bonanza while Merrill lost $27 billion.

Workers have been sacrificing for years. Average worker paychecks are worth less now than in 1973, but CEOs and other rich Americans not only make much more, they pay less in taxes.

Average full-time workers made $41,198 in 1973 and $37,606 in 2008, adjusted for inflation.

CEOs made 45 times as much as workers in 1973 and more than 300 times as much as workers now. The top tax rate was 70 percent in 1973 and just 35 percent now

Judd Gregg

Was his surprise backing out of the commerce position due to involvement with Jack Abramoff?

Still Not Feeling Optimistic

Dawn Johnsen, expected to head the Office of Legal Counsel; David Barron, principle deputy assistant attorney general and Marty Lederman, deputy assistant attorney general all blogged at one point for the legal website, Balkinization and Slate’s now-defunct legal blog, Convictions, after leaving their previous stints in Clinton’s Justice Department. This group is more than just a reunion of Bloggingheads — their online legal musings signal a significant step forward for transparency and openness in the new Justice Department. What is more different from a secret torture memo than an open-thread blog post?

All three didn’t just write posts railing against Bush, they attacked the broader legal issue — the expansion of executive power. All three have written about the necessity of an independent Office of Legal Counsel, which means Johnsen, Lederman and Barron aren’t expected to be Obama’s political yes-men (or women). If their musings over the last eight years are any indication, they have firm convictions about the rule of law and the Justice Department’s role in following it — a marked change for the agency.

  Washington Independent

However, they are not calling the shots. Eric Holder is the Attorney General. And we’ve seen what direction he’s going.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Not Feeling Optimistic

Among the many sorry gifts George W. Bush passed on to President Barack Obama, the next prime minister of Israel is among the most dubious. This particular present will be gift-wrapped by Israeli voters on Tuesday when they vote for a successor to the indicted and discredited Ehum Olmert whose tenure as chief of the Zionist state has seen two wars but no clear cut victories. The winner will either be Bibi Netanyahu, the former prime minister who is ahead in the polls, or Olmert’s underwhelming foreign minister Tzipi Livni.


As the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl notes, Netanyahu is known for treating U.S. officials as if they were junior partners in an alliance with the Israeli superpower.

  Washington Independent

That’s not the way it is?

As the European judges debate whether Israeli actions constitute war crimes, Netanyahu promises more.

Livni is reliably vague. [...] She occasionally mouths the rhetoric of the “peace process” even as the Israeli daily Haaretz reports that her government persists in brazen plans to build 3,5000 housing units set aside for Jews (No Arabs need apply) on the soil of the so-far imaginary Palestinian state.


Livni offers trickery; Netanyahu is more straightfoward.


As the Obama administration ponders how to restart serious peace negotiations, Israel pursues plans to make those negotiations impossible.

Not that Obama will be interested in making peace if Israel doesn’t want it.

This week, the Obama administration will face its second significant courtroom test of the president’s pledges to end unwarranted secrecy about the workings of the federal government. At stake is a set of documents that could expose intentional lawbreaking by senior Bush officials. While concealing them would seem to contradict Obama’s much-heralded promise of a new era of open government, revealing them could make it virtually impossible for the new administration to refuse to investigate potential criminal conduct by the Bush administration, something the new administration has sought to avoid.


On Friday, the Obama Justice Department must file its response to the ACLU’s request for three critical memos written by the Bush administration’s Office of Legal Counsel, or OLC. Those lawyers developed the legal justification for the treatment of the thousands of men and boys that the United States has detained over the last seven years as suspected terrorists.

  Washington Independent

The Obama DOJ will continue to conceal those documents, open government promises be damned. I cannot find what happened on Friday. Checking the ACLU site information regarding the case.

I don't suggest you hold your breath waiting for Israeli-Palestinian justice or "open government" outcomes.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

And Now for a Bit of Good News...

Congress has defied the efforts of drug companies and medical-device producers to strip comparative effectiveness research from the stimulus bill. One small victory for sanity and justice.

  Conscience of a Liberal

Okay, where’s the real Congress?

Gotta Love That Barney Frank

"I don't think he should have set the expectation he was going to get Republican votes," the Financial Services chairman told Politico right before the vote on Friday.

"He set himself a high bar -- and an irrelevant bar.. and he didn't achieve it," the Massachusetts Democrat added. "He should not have legitimized [the notion of bipartisanship], that prompted their partisan reaction... I don't think he's going to make that mistake again."

Frank, who is close to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, added that the sharp partisan division in the House -- exemplified by the lack of a single GOP "yes" on either stimulus vote -- wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

"I want lines drawn!" he said. "There are real ideological differences here."


Well, there should be.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Democrats: Babes in the Woods

And let that be a lesson to you.

“Senator Gregg reached out to the President and offered his name for Secretary of Commerce. He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the President’s agenda. Once it became clear after his nomination that Senator Gregg was not going to be supporting some of President Obama’s key economic priorities, it became necessary for Senator Gregg and the Obama administration to part ways. We regret that he has had a change of heart.” – WH Press Secretary Robert Gibbs

  The Plum Line

[Obama] confirmed that Gregg had been the one to initiate talks with the administration about becoming commerce secretary.

“Mr. Gregg approached us with interest and seemed enthusiastic,” Obama said, adding that it was “something of a surprise” that Gregg had withdrawn.

  The Plum Line

When are these people going to stop being surprised at Republican tactics? Perhaps Mr. Gregg thought this would be a fun way to screw with the Obama administration very publicly and very importantly, and make a very public and very important statement about the “liberal” administration’s policies being bad ones. You think maybe?

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

"On the topic of Gregg, quick note to self: Don’t hire someone for a job who voted to abolish that job." -- Greg Sargent


Thursday, February 12, 2009

That Was Quick

In recent years, Dubai has been hailed as the nuveaux land of the riche. Good times only. Unfortunately, the economy is now in "free-fall". And foreigners who can't pay their bills face debtors prison. So, they're taking a powder in droves.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

More of the Same

Congress at its best.

Few people had more power in the Stimulus Bill negotiations than Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). And she apparently used a lot of that juice on Wednesday to get a key whistleblower protection provision stripped from the bill. That's a key provision to help prevent waste and fraud. And, remember, Collins is the ranking member of the main senate investigations and oversight committee.


....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Bipartisan Objection

Yesterday -- as an obvious response to the Obama DOJ's support for the Bush view of the privilege -- Leahy and Specter, along with Russ Feingold, Claire McCaskill, Sheldon Whitehouse and Ted Kennedy, re-introduced that bill in the Senate. When doing so, Leahy made clear that the bill was more needed than ever in light of the actions of the Obama administration.


Sen. Feingold explicitly criticized the Obama administration earlier this week for its endorsement of exactly these abusive theories. Several hours before the Senate bill was introduced, several key House Democrats introduced a similar bill in the House. The ACLU promptly endorsed the bill.

A President who seeks to aggrandize his own power through wildly expansive claims of executive authority ought to be vigorously criticized. But the ultimate responsibility to put a stop to that lies with the Congress (and the courts). More than anything else, it was the failure of the Congress to rein in the abuses of the Bush presidency (when they weren't actively endorsing those abuses) that was the ultimate enabling force of the extremism and destruction of the last eight years.

  Glenn Greenwald

So maybe now that there’s a Democrat in the office, Congress will step on executive power. Thanks for waiting.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Deal Gone Sour

Judd Gregg decides he doesn't want the job after all.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On His Way Out the Door - Part 2

"On January 16, the last business day of the Bush administration , the administration proposed a new five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing," [US Interior Secretary Ken] Salazar told a news conference.

In his second reversal in a week of a last-minute proposal pushed through by the Bush administration , Salazar announced that he was extending until September the period for public comment on the plan to develop the outer continental shelf, and taking other steps to block what he called "a midnight action."

  Raw Story

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What Gives?

Is Obama trying to rival Bush for inappropriate assignments?

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Good on Senator Feingold

Senator Russ Feingold is sharply criticizing the Obama administration over its controversial decision to maintain the Bush administration’s position in a closely watched lawsuit involving alleged victims of extraordinary rendition, a decision that generated a storm of criticism yesterday.


“I have asked for a classified briefing so that I can understand the reasons for this decision,” Feingold’s statement said.

  The Plum Line

And I hope he lets us know what he finds out.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.


Paul Krugman renames the "bailout" plan to something more appropriate:

TANF 2 — temporary assistance to needy financial institutions, without, you know, any of the means-testing or work requirements involved when poor people get help

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

There They Are

Monday, a group of 350 to 400 at-risk homeowners, organized by the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, staged a series of protests outside the mansions of wealthy bankers in a moneyed Connecticut neighborhood.


"During the protest, organizers shouted through bullhorns and carried signs in the middle of the road for more than an hour, prompting the police to shut down a portion of Glenville Road.


"Sporting bright yellow shirts that read, 'Stop Loan Sharks,' protesters demanded more accountability from the CEOs of the financial institutions responsible for the millions of unaffordable mortgages in the state and across America," reported NBC New York in an article titled, "Grab Your Torch and Pitchfork."

  Raw Story

That’s more like it, folks.

Now, let's get some of you up to the Capitol.

It sounds like there's a good chance the restrictions on CEO pay contained in the Stimulus Bill is going to get pulled out in the final bill. Why? Because it might increase the total cost of the bill.

So we need these folks to make millions to help us balance the budget.


....but hey, do what you will anyway.

On His Way Out the Door

Fred Fielding, Emmet Flood and William Burck have something in common.

They all work with President George W. Bush and were appointed to lucrative, obscure jobs by him in the closing days of his administration -- jobs that can pay as much as $3,000 an hour.


According to the Washington Post's Dan Eggen, Bush made more than 100 such appointments, tapping associates to non-confirmable, obscure posts such as the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Commissions.

Roughly half of the jobs that Bush filled after Obama's election were given to donors who gave $1.9 million to Republicans since 2003. Twenty were filled by former Bush aides (Fielding was the White House Counsel, who sent the note to Rove about executive immunity in the fired US Attorneys case). Additional seats went to "old hands" at previous Republican presidencies, such as that of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

  Raw Story

He didn’t waste time handing out pardons – that wouldn’t have been like him, he enjoys having people punished; he did what he’s good at, getting money and power to cronies and donors.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

But What's the Plan?

Obama deflected some questions at his press conference yesterday by saying he didn’t want to steal Geithner’s thunder. He also suggested the plan Geithner was announcing would put all our minds at rest. In fact, here are the direct quotes:

And so tomorrow my treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, will be announcing some very clear and specific plans for how we are going to start loosening up credit once again.


I don't want to pre-empt my secretary of the treasury. He's going to be laying out these principles in great detail tomorrow.

Apparently, he was overstating the case.

Former chief IMF economist Simon Johnson tells TPMmuckraker the bank bailout plan laid out by Tim Geithner today had some strong points, but that the announcement was very vague, and Geithner had strayed at times into "Paulson-land."


The Treasury rolled out a reworked financial rescue plan on Tuesday worth possibly more than $2 trillion to mop up bad bank assets and revive consumer lending in a bid to stave off a deep recession.

But investors said they were disappointed that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner did not provide vital details of how his plan will work.


The comprehensive overhaul of the government’s financial bailout plan announced Tuesday is designed to succeed where other plans have failed by unifying a sometimes piecemeal set of policies. But as outlined by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the plan was disappointing in its dearth of detail.


Changing the way Washington does business, eh?

But at least some people thought there were enough details.

Treasuries rose on speculation Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s plan to bail out the banking system will prove inadequate, boosting demand for the safety of government debt.


Oh we of little faith.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

So Discouraging

Obama’s Justice Department - or as Paul Craig Roberts writes it, Justice (sic) Department -has said it will “keep the same position as the Bush Administration in the lawsuit Mohamed et al v Jeppesen Dataplan,” a lawsuit alleging extraordinary rendition and torture.

A source inside of the Ninth U.S. District Court tells ABC News that a representative of the Justice Department stood up to say that its position hasn't changed, that new administration stands behind arguments that previous administration made, with no ambiguity at all. The DOJ lawyer said the entire subject matter remains a state secret.

  ABC News

What makes this particularly appalling and inexcusable is that Senate Democrats had long vehemently opposed the use of the "state secrets" privilege in exactly the way that the Bush administration used it in this case, even sponsoring legislation to limits its use and scope. Yet here is Obama, the very first chance he gets, invoking exactly this doctrine in its most expansive and abusive form to prevent torture victims even from having their day in court, on the ground that national security will be jeopardized if courts examine the Bush administration's rendition and torture programs -- even though (a) the rendition and torture programs have been written about extensively in the public record; (b) numerous other countries have investigated exactly these allegations; and (c) other countries have provided judicial forums in which these same victims could obtain relief.

  Glenn Greenwald

As ACLU attorney Ben Wizner said: “Really the only place in the world where Khalid El-Masri's case could not be discussed was in a federal courtroom.”

WIZNER: In fact, just a couple of months ago, the Swedish government agreed to pay Ahmed Agiza $450,000 for its secondary role in the CIA's rendition of Agiza to Egypt. So there's no real secret involved here. Nothing would be revealed by allowing Agiza to go forward in a case against the CIA, because Jeppesen's role is public, because Sweden's role is public, and because Egypt's role is public--he's in an Egyptian prison right now.

Despite that, the new President -- who repeatedly condemned the extreme secrecy of the Bush administration and vowed greater transparency -- has now acted to protect, purely on secrecy grounds, the government and company that did this.


That's what Barack Obama is now shielding from judicial scrutiny. Those are the torture victims he is preventing from obtaining judicial relief in our courts. And he's using one of the most radical and destructive tools in the Bush arsenal -- its wildly expanded version of the "state secrets" privilege -- to accomplish all of that dirty work. I've been as vigorous a proponent as anyone for waiting to see what Obama does before reaching conclusions about his presidency, but this is a very real and substantial act, and it's hard to disagree with what ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said today:

Eric Holder’s Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government. This is not change. This is definitely more of the same.
That the Obama DOJ -- when faced with its first real test to determine what it intends to do in these areas (as opposed to engaging in symbolic rituals and issuing pretty words) -- explicitly adopts exactly the Bush position is about as inauspicious a start in these areas as one can imagine.

  Glenn Greenwald

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Obama Timetable

I'm not thinking of the troops here. What I'm wondering is how long until (or even if) Obama realizes that his placating of the right wing not only doesn't get him their support, but it also loses him the progressives he might have carried in the election.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Monday, February 09, 2009

He Just Blew It

Update: transcript. Be sure to check out the question from Ed Henry at CNN.

Update update, Tuesday: WIIIAI offers a pretty darned good executive summary.

Obama, in his first prime-time press conference, called upon Helen Thomas, God love her, saying, "This is my inaugural moment." But when Helen asked him a two-part question about Pakistan having safe havens for terrorists, and "Do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?" he talked about Pakistan and then, on the second part of the question, said, "I don't want to speculate." And then he went on to say that he was determined no arms race should get going in the Middle East and he is talking with Russia about mutually decreasing arms so we'd be a good example. Then when Helen, who was sitting in the front row, tried to follow up and get him to actually answer the second part of the question, he brushed her off and called on the next reporter. Very disappointing. Up until then, I was feeling okay about his answers, with a notable exception of his squirming around about the question regarding the ban on showing coffins of returning dead soldiers and timetable to pull out of Afghanistan.

The truth cannot be spoken.

Reagan's assistant treasurer, Paul Craig Roberts, has an article titled "In America, Speaking the Truth Is a Career-ending Event" in which he suggests Obama can't investigate Bush for war crimes because he himself is now also a war criminal.

The Bush regime was a lawless regime. This makes it difficult for the Obama regime to be a lawful one. A torture inquiry would lead naturally into a war crimes inquiry. General Taguba said that the Bush regime committed war crimes. President Obama was a war criminal by his third day in office when he ordered illegal cross-border drone attacks on Pakistan that murdered 20 people, including 3 children. The bombing and strafing of homes and villages in Afghanistan by US forces and America’s NATO puppets are also war crimes. Obama cannot enforce the law, because he himself has already violated it.


Obama would have to take risks that opportunistic politicians never take in order for the US to become a nation of law instead of a nation in which the agendas of special interests override the law.

Truth cannot be spoken in America.


Truth is never spoken by government. As Jonathan Turley said recently, Washington "is where principles go to die."

  Paul Craig Roberts