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Sunday, November 30, 2008

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New White House and Congress Hope to Have Bills Ready by Inauguration

By Carl Hulse & David M. Herszenhorn
The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Democratic Congressional leaders and the nascent Obama administration are moving quickly to assert control over federal policy, aiming to have economic, health and spending legislation waiting on the new president’s desk almost the minute he gets back down Pennsylvania Avenue from the inauguration.

Given the severity of the problems facing the nation, officials on Capitol Hill and in the Obama team say Democrats have put their schedule on fast-forward rather than allowing the usual lull between the start of the new Congress, this time on Jan. 6, and President-electBarack Obama’s swearing-in two weeks later.

Lawmakers and staff members are already laying the groundwork for a running start, and Congress is scheduled to remain in session once its expanded Democratic majorities are sworn in.

“There is the sense that there is no time to have a sort of laid-back transition,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader. “It is being driven by crisis. Clearly, when you are confronted with the challenges we are confronted with, the public, the banking community needs to see that action is being taken.”

The ambitious Democratic plan and the growing rapport between the new administration and Congress could both be bolstered by the high-level Congressional expertise being absorbed into the executive branch....(Click for remainder).

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Murdoch hates Bill "Falafal" O'Reilly

By Michael Calderone
Politico.com

In Michael Wolff’s forthcoming biography of Rupert Murdoch, “The Man Who Owns The News,” the author writes that the media mogul has seemed to turn away lately from his cable news network, and isn’t fond its top-rated personality, Bill O’Reilly.

“It is not just Murdoch (and everybody else at News Corp.’s highest levels) who absolutely despises Bill O’Reilly, the bullying, mean-spirited, and hugely successful evening commentator,” Wolff wrote, “but [Fox News chief executive] Roger Ailes himself who loathes him. Success, however, has cemented everyone to each other."

“The embarrassment can no longer be missed,” Wolff wrote, in another section of the book. “He mumbles even more than usual when called on to justify it. He barely pretends to hide the way he feels about Bill O’Reilly. And while it is not that he would give Fox up—because the money is the money; success trumps all—in the larger sense of who he is, he seems to want to hedge his bets.”

Wolff describes Murdoch as not wanting News Corp. to be defined by Fox News. And so last year’s purchase of the Wall Street Journal, he wrote, “was in no small way about wanting to trade the illiberal—the belligerent, the vulgar, the loud, the menacing the unsubtle—for the better-heeled, the more magnanimous, the further nuanced.”

Politico obtained a copy of Wolff’s book, to be released Tuesday, under an agreement not to publish its contents before today. Two excerpts ran in Vanity Fair, and Murdoch already raised objections to the characterization of his relationship with Fox News, according to the NY Times. (Murdoch's son-in-law, the London PR executive Matthew Freud, obtained a copy and passed it along to him)....(Click for remainder).

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Mormons Losing Members Over Anti-Gay Campaigns

By Lisa Derrick
The Campaign Silo

While the Mormon Church hierarchy  was responsible for organizing millions of dollars and thousands of hours of manpower to pass California's Proposition 8 and Arizona's Prop 102, the church's tactics haven't sat so well with some of its members--including families, members with Mormon heritage going back 150 years, and gay members---who began speaking out in July on the website signingforsomething.org. 

Many have public resigned from the church, citing reasons like these:
  1. I think the church has no right to assume the inner thinkings of its members and take such an open stand of any political issue.

  2. The Church's involvement in the effort to rescind a basic Constitutional right from California citizens is shameful and misguided.

  3. The position the church took on this particular issue went against everything I learned from the church. Not only was the church's position discriminatory, but it was also hateful.
     
  4. The leadership fights for bigotry and hate. The God I grew up with was perfect in His Love and Justice. Shame on the men who act so disgracefully in His name.

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Dobbs Minimizes Impact of Hate Crimes, Bashes Immigrant Rights Groups

By Heidi Beirich

Last night [November 24, 2008], CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” aired a segment criticizing the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) for holding a news conference earlier in the day calling attention to the link between anti-immigrant rhetoric and hate crimes against Latinos. The groups were reacting to the recent murder of Marcello Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant, who was fatally attacked in early November by seven high school students in Suffolk County, New York.

“Suffolk County is a particularly good example of elected officials stoking the fires of anti-immigrant sentiment,” NCLR head Janet Murguia said during the press conference. She spotlighted the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, saying he had been “notably hard line against immigrants in his county.” Earlier, Levy stated that the Lucero murder would have been a “one-day story” if the media hadn’t chosen to hype it. Levy later apologized for the remark.

Dobbs denounced NCLR’s use of the Lucero murder to call attention to hate crimes. Dismissing concerns about anti-immigrant rhetoric leading to hate violence, Dobbs called the groups “advocates of open borders” and mocked them for being “long on rhetoric and absolutely, absolutely devoid of facts or respect for them.”

Dobbs, who has a long track record of defaming immigrants by linking them to crime, disease and other horrors, would probably like to pretend that immigrant bashing doesn’t lead to hate crimes. But the facts of the Lucero case show otherwise. The teens implicated in Lucero’s murder specifically declared that they were going to “go jump a Mexican” and went out hunting in the ethnically diverse village of Patchogue. Latinos in Suffolk County have long reported being threatened and physically harassed and there have been other highly publicized attacks there, including the near-beating death of two Mexican day laborers in 2001 and the burning of a Mexican family’s house in 2003....(Click for remainder).

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Your Weekly Address from the President-Elect

Friday, November 28, 2008

In a preview of his weekly address, President-elect Barack Obama addressed the nation on the occasion of Thanksgiving, nearly one hundred and fifty years after President Lincoln called for the last Thursday in November to be set aside to acknowledge our blessings. For more information, visit http://change.gov.

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Iraqi Parliament Approves Status of Forces Agreement

Iraq lawmakers approved the U.S. security pact Thursday, ending months of wrangling between Baghdad and Washington.

By Middle East Online

The Iraqi parliament on Thursday approved by a vast majority a landmark military pact that will have all U.S. troops withdraw from the country by 2011, during a televised session.

The wide-ranging pact was approved by 144 members of the 198 who attended the session of the 275-member assembly, Parliamentary Speaker Mahmud Mashhadani said before adjourning the parliament for a holiday recess.

"It is good to see that representatives have reached a national consensus ... Everyone should understand that if there are gains, they are for all Iraqis, and if there are losses, they will also be for all Iraqis," said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh.

The approval by lawmakers of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) ends months of wrangling between Baghdad and Washington.

The two sides had been racing to secure a bilateral agreement governing the more than 150,000 U.S.-led troops stationed in the country before December 31.

Most Iraqis are opposed to any kind of deal with Washington that would keep American forces in the country, and that would give U.S. forces immunity from being punished when they commit war crimes against Iraqis.

Here are the main developments since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003....(Click for remainder).

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FDR knew that high wages are good… and we should too.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

By Stirling Newberry
Firedoglake

You might be hearing from the right wing about how breaking the unions and letting wages fall is the solution to our problems. We've heard this before. Let me tell you where.

In the late 1920's and early 1930's the global economy as it then was constituted, suffered a series of moments of crisis. In truth it had never gotten back to balance since the "Great War." The responses to these crisis points made the situation. Orthodoxy of the age brought disaster, and that orthodoxy was returning to an international gold standard that was really only a recent innovation. As Bordo and Eichengreen put it: "a system which relied on inelastically supplied precious metal and elastically supplied foreign exchange to meet the the world economy's demand for reserves was intrinsically fragile, prone to confidence problems, and a transmission belt for policy mistakes."

It's a nice way of saying that the Gold Standard was unsafe at any speed.

When the crisis arrived, there were three responses. One was to try and stick it out with the old system. This lead to falling wages and high unemployment under persistent deflation. The other two responses involved "casting off the fetters of gold." However, once this was done there was still a choice: keep wages high and the industrial system functioning, or let wages fall all the way to the floor, and employ people by the state.

In the US, under the New Deal, dealing with deflation was deemed to be important, and keeping wages high enough so that people could buy the products of industry was part of FDR's policy. It meant higher unemployment, but a growing sphere of a new economy, one that would eventually cover the nation with the excuse of World War II to bring everyone into the new world of internal combustion, telephones, electricity and broadcast. The argument was that it was easier to provide a safety net for people who had fallen out of the old economy, and to give them work and relief, than to raise wages that had fallen.

There was another choice, as Peter Temin, MIT economist, pointed out that the Nazi's "socialized human beings," and they "destroyed the unions within a few months of taking power," and "also introduced compulsory labor service," as well as using tax incentives and propaganda to convince women to leave the labor force." The result was a recovery to full employment "At the cost of their personal liberty and higher wages," You can read all this on page 115 of his book on lessons from the Great Depression. On page 9 you can see him rip Lionel Robbins for prescribing wage deflation as a "fundamental misconception."...(Click for remainder)

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Iraq Withdrawal Agreement is Typical Bushit

By Bob Fertik

Democrats.com

Juan Cole:

McClatchy reports that the Bush administration had deliberately not released the official English version of the security agreement it is negotiating with Iraq, fearing that extensive public debate on it in the US press might throw up criticisms that would be taken up by Iraqi parliamentarians, causing it to be rejected.

It is quite remarkable that this agreement, on which the fate of tens of thousands of American troops depends, has not been officially available to the American public or to Congress!

Actually Congress may have seen the agreement - they're just not saying. 

The McClatchy story makes it clear that the exact wording of some articles appears to have continued to be negotiated right up until the moment, though even agreement on wording has not produced agreement on the meaning of the words. (Iraqis should have been warned about Bush's 'signing statements,' in which he attempts to reverse the intent of the laws that Congress passes and he signs, just by appending a commentary in Bushspeak.)

Exactly right.

McClatchy adds:

'The Bush administration has adopted a much looser interpretation than the Iraqi government of several key provisions of the pending U.S.-Iraq security agreement, U.S. officials said Tuesday — just hours before the Iraqi parliament was to hold its historic vote. These include a provision that bans the launch of attacks on other countries from Iraq, a requirement to notify the Iraqis in advance of U.S. military operations and the question of Iraqi legal jurisdiction over American troops and military contractors.'

In other words, the Pentagon will studiedly ignore the more important provisions of the agreement, if Bush has his way.

In other words, much of the "agreement" is complete bullshit as far as Bush is concerned. Happily Bush won't be in office to break it....(Click for remainder).

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Milk -- We Need Him Now More Than Ever

By Matt Budd
Huffington Post

"I am Harvey Milk and I'm here to recruit you," screams Sean Penn into a bullhorn while playing the slain San Francisco City Supervisor. Those words still resonate today. If Harvey Milk were alive today, Proposition 8 would never have seen the light of day. Harvey Milk inspired hundreds of thousands of gay people in his lifetime and now with Gus Van Sant's new film Milk, he has the opportunity to reach millions more in death.

Milk begins with a collage of black and white news footage of mostly men being rounded up, handcuffed and piled into paddy wagons. Shot after shot show people burying their faces in their hands dodging the harsh lights of the news crew. One customer even throws his drink at the camera. This was the closeted life of a gay man in the late 60s/early 70s. This was a life of fear and a life without power. It's in response to that life without power that Harvey Milk finds his voice.

We first see Sean Penn as Harvey Milk as he records his thoughts to tape in the event that he is ever assassinated while in office. He begins to look back at his life and we meet him again earlier in his life. He's a closeted gay man living in New York City turning 40 and after picking up James Franco in the subway he tells him that he hasn't accomplished anything in his life. "I need to make a change," he says. He and Franco move to San Francisco to drop out and there he does begin to change. He first becomes a business owner by opening up Castro Camera and then becomes inspired to run for City Supervisor several times until he finally wins.

Sean Penn plays his part with subtle brilliance. He's completely inspiring in moments and he captures the spirit of a masterful politician. James Franco, Josh Brolin and Emile Hirsch are also terrific, as is Allison Pill as his lesbian campaign manager. Gus Van Sant does an amazing job with this film. There are a few over-the-top sentimental moments, but overall Milk packs a wallop. I think what really struck me the most is how what happened in 1978 still resonates today. We've come a long way baby, or maybe not....(Click for remainder).

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President-Elect Obama names his economic team

Monday, November 24, 2008

Timothy F. Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury
Timothy Geithner currently serves as president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where he has played a key role in formulating the nation’s monetary policy. He joined the Department of the Treasury in 1988 and has served three presidents. From 1999 to 2001, he served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs. Following that post he served as director of the Policy Development and Review Department at the International Monetary Fund until 2003. Geithner is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Lawrence H. Summers, Director of the National Economic Council
Lawrence Summers is currently the Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University. Summers served as 71st Secretary of the Treasury from 1999 to 2001 and as president of Harvard from 2001 to 2006. Before being appointed Secretary, Summers served as Deputy and Under Secretary of the Treasury and as the World Bank’s top economist. Summers has taught economics at Harvard and MIT, and is a recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded to the American economist under 40 judged to have made the most significant contribution to economics. Summers played a key advisory role during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Christina D. Romer, Director of the Council of Economic Advisors
Christina Romer is the Class of 1957 Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, where she has taught and researched since 1988. Prior to joining the faculty at Berkeley, Romer was an assistant professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Romer is co-director of the Program in Monetary Economics at the National Bureau of Economic Research and has been a visiting scholar at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Melody C. Barnes, Director of the Domestic Policy Council
Melody Barnes is co-director of the Agency Review Working Group for the Obama-Biden Transition Team, and served as the Senior Domestic Policy Advisor to Obama for America. Barnes previously served as Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress and as chief counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee from December 1995 until March 2003.

Heather A. Higginbottom, Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council
Heather Higginbottom served as Policy Director for Obama for America, overseeing all aspects of policy development. From 1999 to 2007, Higginbottom served as Senator John Kerry’s Legislative Director. She also served as the Deputy National Policy Director for the Kerry-Edwards Presidential Campaign for the primary and general elections. After the 2004 election, Higginbottom founded and served as Executive Director of the American Security Project, a national security think tank. She started her career as an advocate at the national non-profit organization Communities in Schools. 

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Maron v Seder: They're Coming To Your Town!

The Homosexuals are coming in - Sorry - to your town, are you ready?

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What to do With War Criminals

By Matthew Yglesias
Think Progress

One issue that the incoming administration has on its plate is what to do with the various war criminals now kicking around as a result of the Bush-Cheney torture and detention policies. On the merits, I’d like to see forgiveness for implementers who were following what they were (falsely) assured were lawful orders and harsh measures for people on the policy level. In practice, it’s pretty clear that Don Rumsfeld isn’t going to wind up in jail. Michael Isikoff reports on the Obama campaign’s thinking:
Despite the hopes of many human-rights advocates, the new Obama Justice Department is not likely to launch major new criminal probes of harsh interrogations and other alleged abuses by the Bush administration. But one idea that has currency among some top Obama advisers is setting up a 9/11-style commission that would investigate counterterrorism policies and make public as many details as possible.

….”If there was any effort to have war-crimes prosecutions of the Bush administration, you’d instantly destroy whatever hopes you have of bipartisanship,” said Robert Litt, a former Justice criminal division chief during the Clinton administration. A new commission, on the other hand, could emulate the bipartisan tone set by Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton in investigating the 9/11 attacks.
I think the model being reached for here is something like the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But as Kevin Drum says, on this plan “we’ll get the truth, but not the reconciliation, since I doubt that any of the perpetrators of this stuff are inclined to show the slightest remorse for what they did. I suppose that here in the real world this might be the most we can expect, but I don’t have to like it. And I don’t.”...(Click for remainder).

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New Deal Denialism--Conservative Liars On The Rampage

By Paul Rosenberg
Open Left

As conservative economics collapses disastrously under the weight of its many, many lies, it is only natural that the liars fall-back position is to take aim at the hope of actually cleaning up their mess.  And hence the sudden rise of New Deal denialism.  It's not as if this comes out of nowhere.  It comes out of the same sorts of folks who denied the New Deal as it was succeeding right before their very eyes.  And it comes out of the right-wing think tank complex.  And it gets spouted by George Will on ABC This Week.  And it's a load of bull.  Video of Will on the flip. Pride of place to this simple diagram (click to enlarge), which shows the truth: the New Deal was working just fine, until FDR, with a premature sense of relief, and a lingering belief in the old economics, decided it was time to go back to balanced budgets, thus precipitating the recession of 1937/38.  It was, in effect, a text-book science experiment: turn the New Deal stimulus policies on, economic goes up, turn them off, economy goes down.  But Will--and many others--are trying to pretend the exact opposite, that FDR's policies remained constant, and proved disasterous in 1938:

(Click for remainder)

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Gavin Newsom on Anderson Cooper explains Prop 8 court challenge

San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newsom, appeared on CNN with Anderson Cooper to explain the city's court challenge to Prop 8.

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A Letter to My Brother Newt Gingrich

Sunday, November 23, 2008

By Candace Gingrich
Huffington Post

Dear Newt,

I recently had the displeasure of watching you bash the protestors of the Prop 8 marriage ban to Bill O'Reilly on FOX News. I must say, after years of watching you build your career by stirring up the fears and prejudices of the far right, I feel compelled to use the words of your idol, Ronald Reagan, "There you go, again."

However, I realize that you may have been a little preoccupied lately with planning your resurrection as the savior of your party, so I thought I would fill you in on a few important developments you might have overlooked.

The truth is that you're living in a world that no longer exists. I, along with millions of Americans, clearly see the world the way it as -- and we embrace what it can be. You, on the other hand, seem incapable of looking for new ideas or moving beyond what worked in the past.

Welcome to the 21st century, big bro. I can understand why you're so afraid of the energy that has been unleashed after gay and lesbian couples had their rights stripped away from them by a hateful campaign. I can see why you're sounding the alarm against the activists who use all the latest tech tools to build these rallies from the ground up in cities across the country.

This unstoppable progress has at its core a group we at HRC call Generation Equality. They are the most supportive of full LGBT equality than any American generation ever -- and when it comes to the politics of division, well, they don't roll that way. 18-24 year olds voted overwhelmingly against Prop 8 and overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. And the numbers of young progressive voters will only continue to grow. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning, about 23 million 18-29 year olds voted on Nov. 4, 2008 -- the most young voters ever to cast a ballot in a presidential election. That's an increase of 3 million more voters compared to 2004....(Click for remainder).

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Time for Him to Go

By Gail Collins
NY Times Op-Ed

Thanksgiving is next week, and President Bush could make it a really special holiday by resigning.

Seriously. We have an economy that’s crashing and a vacuum at the top. Bush — who is currently on a trip to Peru to meet with Asian leaders who no longer care what he thinks — hasn’t got the clout, or possibly even the energy, to do anything useful. His most recent contribution to resolving the fiscal crisis was lecturing representatives of the world’s most important economies on the glories of free-market capitalism.

Putting Barack Obama in charge immediately isn’t impossible. Dick Cheney, obviously, would have to quit as well as Bush. In fact, just to be on the safe side, the vice president ought to turn in his resignation first. (We’re desperate, but not crazy.) Then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would become president until Jan. 20. Obviously, she’d defer to her party’s incoming chief executive, and Barack Obama could begin governing.

As a bonus, the Pelosi presidency would put a woman in the White House this year after all. On the downside, a few right-wing talk-show hosts might succumb to apoplexy. That would, of course, be terrible, but I’m afraid we might have to take the risk in the name of a greater good....(Click for remainder).

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The Religious Right's War on Christmas Began Centuries Ago

By Bruce Wilson
Huffington Post

As journalist Frederick Clarkson observes, proclamations from Bill O'Reilly, claiming the existence of a leftist assault on Christmas, are "part of a transcendent politics of the Religious Right, and a variant of that old time McCarthism -- baiting everyone with whom they disagree as advocating a 'godless' agenda." Indeed, Billy James Hargis' Christian Crusade was making the same charges back in 1960 and much earlier in the year - in July in fact.

But how did the "War on Christmas", as a concept, originate ? As it happens, once upon a time there was a real "War on Christmas" and it was initiated by the theocratic Christian right of its day, Swiss Calvinists and Scottish Presbyterians. Here's a short overview:

The "war on Christmas" traces back, historically, to Calvinist bans on the celebration of Christmas which began in Geneva and then migrated, with the spread of Calvinist theological views, to Scotland, where Christmas was banned in 1583. As Amy McNeese writes, in an article first published in the Church of Scotland magazine, Life & Work that may be one of the best treatments of the War on Christmas, in an historical account of the Scottish ban on Christmas that only was lifted in the 1950's,
"For almost 400 years, Christmas was banned in Scotland. At the height of the Reformation, in 1583, when anything smacking of Catholicism and idolatrous excess was thrown out with contempt, Christmas and all its trappings was wiped off the official calendar...

...Reinforced by the hard arm of the law, this was a ban that had bite...

This was an age when religious belief could mean the difference between life and a very nasty death....

Scottish Presbyterians, when called on for support by the Puritans of the English Parliament in 1644, did so on the understanding that their allies would in exchange impose the ban on Christmas. For over a decade traditional English Christmas festivities were prohibited.

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Policy Talks@Google: Gavin Newsom

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco, visits Google's Mountain View, CA headquarters to discuss his views on marriage equality and California Proposition 8. This event took place on October 29, 2008, as part of the Policy Talks@Google series.

The youngest San Francisco mayor in over a hundred years, Newsom was elected in 2003. In 2004, the Mayor captured nationwide interest when he granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Related links:
http://www.noonprop8.com/

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Carter, Annan, Others Refused Entry to Zimbabwe

For the first time, former President Jimmy Carter has been denied entry into a country. Zimbabwe is refusing to give visas to Carter, former U.N. Secretary-general Kofi Annan and rights advocate Graca Machel.

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Your Weekly Address from the President-elect

President-elect Barack Obama announces he has directed his economic team to assemble an Economic Recovery Plan that will save or create 2.5 million more jobs by January of 2011. For more information, visit http://change.gov.

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Don't Give African-Americans a Pass for Homophobia

My great-great-grandmother was born a slave in Virginia. Should I not have the right to marry, just like my grandmother, simply because I am gay?

By Clay Cane
The Advocate

The injection of race into the analysis of Proposition 8's passage is extremely disappointing. A battle for equal rights has now turned into an issue of whites versus blacks. It's sad to see the smoke screen of racism when rights are being denied from Americans who pay taxes and have served their country.

In the beginning, I wanted to stay out of this racialized debate on Proposition 8. However, after I read Jasmyne Cannick's opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, "No-on-8's White Bias," I felt compelled to speak up. Cannick is someone I deeply admire and highly respect, and she is black and gay like me; however, there is another side of this debate from the black gay community.

In her piece she states, "I don't see why the right to marry should be a priority for me or other black people. Gay marriage? Please." Cannick adds, "Some people seem to think that homophobia trumps racism." She explains, "There are still too many inequalities that exist as it relates to my race." Cannick lists important issues in the black community such as dropout rates, poverty, and incarceration.

As a black gay man, incarceration rates are as important to me as gay marriage. Dropout rates are as important to me as the fact that, according to the CDC, 46% of black men who have sex with men are HIV-positive. Poverty is as important to me as the fact that there are 30 states where gays and lesbians can be fired from their job with no protection from their government. As a black gay man who has endured the words "n****r" and "f****t", who lives in this duality of gayness and blackness, I have a vested interest in both inequalities....(Click for remainder).

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Dingell Loses to Waxman, and Auto Stocks Dive -- Call it What It Is: Corruption

When the Big Three's best Rep. lost a key committee spot, their share prices dropped. That's not just business as usual, it's a sign of corruption.

By Joshua Holland
AlterNet

In a functional democracy -- one where lawmakers pursue the public interest -- the stock prices of politically connected companies or industries shouldn't be impacted by the changing fortunes of politicans with whom they're cozy.

But yesterday, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., wrested control of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee from fellow Democrat John Dingell (MI), and auto stocks tanked on the news. It's an aspect of the story that will likely get little attention -- taken, with some justification, as just so much business as usual in Washington.

Dingell, who is quite progressive in some areas, is also firmly in Big Auto's pockets, and has clashed with Waxman on a number of issues over the years -- issues like beefing up regulation of vehicle emission standards. Over the course of his career, three of Dingell's top four contributors were GM, Ford and Daimler-Chrysler; his wife, Debbie, was an industry lobbyist until their marriage in the early 1980s and continues to work for GM today. According to disclosure forms, the couple owned more than a million bucks' worth of Big Auto stocks and options as of 2006. After the last election, Dingell hired a Daimler-Chrysler lobbyist whose previous job had been keeping Congress from increasing vehicle efficiency standards to serve as the committee's chief of staff.

Waxman is one of the most liberal lawmakers on the Hill and has fought tenaciously against the Corporate Right on issues ranging from oversight of the "security contractors" that have run amok in Iraq to stronger environmental standards....(Click for remainder).

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New Ad from IAVA and the Ad Council: Alone

Watch the new PSA from IAVA and the Ad Council, announcing CommunityofVeterans.org - the first online social network exclusively for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Martin puts Georgians’ needs first

Friday, November 21, 2008

Chambliss fights for corporations

By Jay Bookman
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Jim Martin and Sen. Saxby Chambliss may be former fraternity brothers at the University of Georgia, but they look, act, think and speak in very different ways. The two candidates in the Dec. 2 Senate runoff offer Georgia voters a stark choice.

Martin, the Democrat, has been a fighter for the little guy throughout his life, and he’s proved effective in that role. He served his country in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and as a state legislator, lawyer and head of the state Department of Human Resources. Throughout his public life he has been known as a workhorse not a showhorse, someone whose first concern was getting the job done well rather than trying to get the credit.

In fact, Martin was so well-respected for his competence and ability to work across party lines that when Gov. Sonny Perdue became the state’s first Republican governor in a century, he asked Martin to remain as head of the state Department of Human Services.

In his six years in the U.S. Senate, Chambliss has set a very different course. He fought against stricter immigration policies not out of a sense of compassion, but because easy immigration and lax enforcement served the interests of industry. When he fought against reform of farm subsidies that cost taxpayers billions, it wasn’t out of concern for the small family farmer. The reforms championed by President Bush but opposed by Chambliss would have cut payments only to huge corporate farms.

Time and again, on issue after issue, Chambliss has taken the side of the powerful and influential over those of the taxpayer and general citizen. His performance this year at a Senate hearing, in which he took the side of corporate management by browbeating a safety whistle-blower at a Savannah sugar mill, has become the stuff of legend. (A few months earlier, an explosion at the plant had killed 14 workers.)

General elections are of course won by the candidate who gets the most votes, and the same is true of runoff elections. But in a runoff, the intensity of a candidate’s support also matters. The winner is generally the person who gets supporters excited enough, or angry enough, to go out and vote a second time. And this year, there’s a little added motivation. Conceivably, a victory by Martin could give Democrats 60 seats in the Senate, enough to give the party outright control of that body....(Click for remainder).

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Across the Spectrum, Praise for Napolitano

By Spencer S. Hsu
The Washington Post

President-elect Barack Obama's pending selection of Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) as secretary of homeland security was greeted yesterday as a sign that the new Democratic administration will fundamentally change the tone of the nation's post-Sept. 11 approach to domestic security.

Immigrant advocates, business groups and civil libertarians said that the choice of a two-term governor from a Republican-friendly border state could lead to a reversal of policies that they contend unduly punish illegal immigrants, commerce and Americans' privacy. Agency observers on the right and the left say that her selection appears to reflect a calculation that she could do so without appearing weak on terrorism.

In fact, immigration opponents and counterterrorism analysts praised Napolitano. They said, however, that they think the former federal prosecutor would continue much of the Bush administration's enforcement-first policies, including border security enhancements and promoting national standards for identification cards.

In both promising to restore "balance" to what Democrats say has been a one-sided security debate and seeming to straddle wide political divisions, Napolitano is much like Obama, both Republican and Democratic observers said....(Click for remainder).

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Happy Holidays

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

By Ed Stein

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Vice president, former AG, state senator indicted

By Christopher Sherman
Associated Press

McALLEN, Texas — A South Texas grand jury has indicted Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on state charges related to the alleged abuse of prisoners in Willacy County's federal detention centers.

The indictment, which had not yet been signed by the presiding judge, was one of seven released Tuesday in a county that has been a source of bizarre legal and political battles in recent years. Another of the indictments named a state senator on charges of profiting from his position.

Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra himself had been under indictment for more than a year and half before a judge dismissed the indictments last month. This flurry of charges came in the twilight of Guerra's tenure, which ends this year after nearly two decades in office. He lost convincingly in a Democratic primary in March.

Cheney's indictment on a charge of engaging in an organized criminal activity criticizes the vice president's investment in the Vanguard Group, which holds interests in the private prison companies running the federal detention centers. It accuses Cheney of a conflict of interest and "at least misdemeanor assaults" on detainees because of his link to the prison companies.

Megan Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Cheney, declined to comment on Tuesday, saying that the vice president had not yet received a copy of the indictment.

The indictment accuses Gonzales of using his position while in office to stop an investigation in 2006 into abuses at one of the privately-run prisons.

Gonzales' attorney, George Terwilliger III, said in a written statement, "This is obviously a bogus charge on its face, as any good prosecutor can recognize. Hopefully, competent Texas authorities will take steps to reign in this abuse of the criminal justice system."...(Click for remainder).

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Siegelman: New Revelations "More Frightening Than Anything That Came Before."

By Zachary Roth
TPM Muckraker

Former Alabama governor Don Siegelman says that new revelations about his prosecution amount to "outrageous criminal conduct in the US Attorney's office and the Department of Justice," and are "more frightening than anything that has come before." And he believes that his case is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of politicized prosecutions by DOJ.

Siegelman was reacting in an interview with TPMmuckraker to the news, first reported this morning by Time, that the US Attorney on his case, who had recused herself because her husband was a top GOP operative who had worked closely with Karl Rove -- and even run the 2002 campaign of Siegelman's gubernatorial opponent -- continued to advise prosecutors on the case.

At times while speaking to TPMmuckraker, Siegelman appeared to have trouble maintaining his composure. He called the news -- which came from a whistleblower in the US Attorney's office who passed on emails and other information to the House Judiciary Commitee -- "another shocking revelation in the misconduct of the US attorneys offices and the DOJ."

The news appears to contradict previous statements from DOJ on the matter. When Congress investigated the affair earlier this year, DOJ had said that the US Attorney, Leura Canary, had recused herself "before any significant decisions ... were made."...(Click for remainder).

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Admirals, generals: Repeal 'don't ask, don't tell'

By Brian Witte
Associate Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — More than 100 retired generals and admirals called Monday for repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays so they can serve openly, according to a statement obtained by The Associated Press.

The move by the military veterans confronts the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama with a thorny political and cultural issue that dogged former President Bill Clinton early in his administration.

"As is the case with Great Britain, Israel, and other nations that allow gays and lesbians to serve openly, our service members are professionals who are able to work together effectively despite differences in race, gender, religion, and sexuality," the officers wrote.

While Obama has expressed support for repeal, he said during the presidential campaign that he would not do so on his own — an indication that he would tread carefully to prevent the issue from becoming a drag on his agenda. Obama said he would instead work with military leaders to build consensus on removing the ban on openly gay service members.

"Although I have consistently said I would repeal 'don't ask, don't tell,' I believe that the way to do it is make sure that we are working through a process, getting the Joint Chiefs of Staff clear in terms of what our priorities are going to be," Obama said in a September interview with the Philadelphia Gay News.

Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama's transition team, declined comment.

The issue of gays in the military became a flash point early in the Clinton administration as Clinton tried to fulfill a campaign promise to end the military's ban on gays. His efforts created the current compromise policy — ending the ban but prohibiting active-duty service members from openly acknowledging they are gay.

But it came at a political cost. The resulting debate divided service members and veterans, put Democrats on the defensive and provided cannon fodder for social conservatives and Republican critics who questioned Clinton's patriotism and standing with the military....(Click for remainder).

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Team of Rivals

By Mike Luckovich

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Holder is Obama's top choice for attorney general

By Matt Apuzzo & Lara Jakes Jordan
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington attorney Eric Holder is President-elect Barack Obama's top choice to be the next attorney general and aides have gone so far as to ask senators whether he would be confirmed, an Obama official and people close to the matter said Tuesday.

Holder, a former U.S. attorney who served as the No. 2 official in the Justice Department under President Bill Clinton, would be the nation's first black attorney general.

An Obama official and two Democrats in touch with the transition team confirmed that Holder is Obama's top choice but the Obama official said the decision has not been finalized.

Holder did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday. Asked Monday by The Associated Press whether he expected to be nominated, he responded in an e-mail: "Who knows?"

In the past week, Obama aides have asked Senate Republicans whether they would support Holder. In particular, the aides questioned whether Holder's confirmation would be delayed because of his involvement in the 2001 pardon of fugitive Marc Rich by Clinton at the end of his presidency.

One person involved in the talks said the Obama team has received some assurances that, while the Rich pardon would certainly come up during hearings, the nomination likely wouldn't be held up. All spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the pardon "would be a factor to consider."
"I wouldn't want to articulate it among the top items but it's worthwhile to look at," he told reporters.

Asked if Holder would be a good choice for attorney general, Specter said it was too soon to say.

"I know something of Holder's work in the Clinton administration and that's about it," he said. "I'd have to take a much closer look at his record and talk to him and think about it."...(Click for remainder).

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