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Tuesday, December 02, 2008


What's A Posse Comitatus?

Can anyone say "mission creep"? The military always can, which is why a new initiative to give the Pentagon an ability to surge a combat-ready force for domestic security is so worrying.

The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist
attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.

The long-planned shift in the Defense Department's role in homeland security was recently backed with funding and troop commitments after years of prodding by Congress and outside experts, defense analysts said.

There are critics of the change, in the military and among civil liberties groups and libertarians who express concern that the new homeland emphasis threatens to strain the military and possibly undermine the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military's role in domestic law enforcement.

But the Bush administration and some in Congress have pushed for a heightened homeland military role since the middle of this decade, saying the greatest domestic threat is terrorists exploiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

They can say it all they want, but that doesn't make it so. And more to the point, the Bush administration knows it. Their analysts have already given them a half dozen scenarios involving WMD level casualties without actually using WMDs, exploiting LNG tankers, blowing up a big enough bomb next to an existing reactor or using other everday aspects of the nation's industry and commerce. All are easier to pull off than smuggling a bomb, or radioactives, into the country or than gathering a sizeable store of such material from domestic sources without discovery....(Click for remainder).


President-elect Obama commemorates 20th Annual World AIDS Day

Official statement from the Obama-Biden Transition Team
to mark the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day
December 1st, 2008

World AIDS Day is a day of both commemoration and promise for the many millions of people around the world who are affected by HIV/AIDS. This year’s theme, Leadership, is a particular reminder to me that World AIDS Day cannot be confined to a single day of the year. For that reason, I have committed my administration to developing and implementing a comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy to reduce HIV infections, increase access to treatment and care and reduce HIV/AIDS-related health disparities.

Today, the United States faces an alarming rate of HIV/AIDS infections. Through the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, we will set a series of goals to prevent and reduce HIV/AIDS infections and improve treatment throughout the United States, particularly among communities of color which have been disproportionately affected. I will ensure that the federal government is accountable for achieving these goals.

Too many people are unaware that while HIV/AIDS is incurable, it is 100 percent preventable. And far too many people have become infected because they lack basic information about how this disease is spread. I intend to confront the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS – a stigma which is too often tied to racism, sexism and homophobia. That is what Michelle and I tried to do by taking a public HIV test in Kenya a few years ago.

We must engage in honest, open dialogue and reach out to those most at risk. My administration will educate people about HIV/AIDS, ensure people living with HIV/AIDS have access to treatment, and work with Congress to enact an extensive program of prevention, including access to comprehensive age-appropriate sex education for all school age children.

We will also keep faith with the millions of people living with HIV/AIDS around the world by continuing to support the work of the Global AIDS Fund and maintaining our strong leadership through the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief.

And after a year of important work to end HIV/AIDS, World AIDS Day 2009 will offer an opportunity for us to take measure of the progress we have made.

Finally, to all those living with HIV/AIDS in the United States and throughout the world, their families and partners and caregivers, know that I will be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers today and throughout the coming year.


The Last Recount

In Al Franken's race in Minnesota, blue and red tangle for the final time in the Bush era

By Matt Taibbi
Rolling Stone

On a Saturday in mid-November, Al Franken stands in front of a roomful of volunteers at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. The former comedian and talk-show host knows that his campaign troops are fired up over the recount of his race to unseat the state's Republican senator, Norm Coleman. The official tally ended in a virtual tie, with Coleman leading by only 215 votes out of 2.9 million ballots cast — a margin of seven-thousandth of one percent. To Franken's campaign volunteers, it seems like Florida 2000 all over again.

The ballot recount, which is mandated by state law, is expected to last well into December — keeping painfully alive the already insanely protracted season of electoral combat between Democrats and Republicans. But rather than throwing red meat to the assembled volunteers, Franken is actually trying to calm them down. Walking back and forth, he leads them in a mock war chant that tweaks the old red-blue outrage:

"What do we want?" Franken shouts.
"PATIENCE!" the volunteers respond.
"When do we want it?" Franken asks.
"NOW!" the crowd demands.

Franken turns to former Clinton adviser Paul Begala, whom he has invited to the meeting to talk about the recount. "You like that?" he says, beaming. "It's the only dada version of that meme."...(Click for remainder).

Illustration by Victor Juhasz


Robert Gates: Wrong Man for the Job

By Katrina Vanden Heuvel
The Nation

Barack Obama not only had the good judgment to oppose the war in Iraq but , as he told us earlier this year, "I want to end the mindset that got us into war." So it is troubling that a man of such good judgment has asked Robert Gates to stay on as Secretary of Defense--and assembled a national security team of such narrow bandwidth. It is true that President Obama will set the policy. But this team makes it more difficult to seize the extraordinary opportunity Obama's election has offered to reengage the world and reset America's priorities. Maybe being right about the greatest foreign policy disaster in US history doesn't mean much inside the Beltway? How else to explain that not a single top member of Obama's foreign policy/national security team opposed the war--or the dubious claims leading up to it?

The appointment of Hillary Clinton, who failed to oppose the war, has worried many. But I am more concerned about Gates. I spent the holiday weekend reading many of the speeches Hillary Clinton gave in her trips abroad as First Lady, especially those delivered at the UN Beijing Women's Conference and the Vital Voices Conferences, and I believe she will carve out an important role as Secretary of State through elevating women's (and girl's) rights as human rights. As she said in Belfast in 1998, "Human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights." That is not to diminish her hawkish record on several issues, but as head of State she is in a position to put diplomacy back at the center of US foreign policy role--and reduce the Pentagon's....(Click for remainder).


Right-Wingers and Neocons Love Obama's Cabinet Appointments

A collection of praise for Obama's White House team from Karl Rove, David Brooks, Henry Kissinger and more.

By Jeremy Scahill

As Barack Obama's opus, Team of Rivals, continues its rolling debut, the early reviews are in and the "critics" are full of praise for the cast:

"[T]he new administration is off to a good start."
-- Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell.

"[S]uperb ... the best of the Washington insiders ... this will be a valedictocracy -- rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes."
-- David Brooks, conservative New York Times columnist

"[V]irtually perfect ... "
-- Senator Joe Lieberman, former Democrat and John McCain's top surrogate in the 2008 campaign.

-- Karl Rove, "Bush's brain."

"I am gobsmacked by these appointments, most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain ... this all but puts an end to the 16-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, the unconditional summits with dictators, and other foolishness that once emanated from the Obama campaign ... [Hillary] Clinton and [James] Steinberg at State should be powerful voices for 'neo-liberalism' which is not so different in many respects from 'neo-conservativism.'"
-- Max Boot, neoconservative activist, former McCain staffer.

(Click for remainder)



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