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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights II

Monday, December 08, 2008 presents the 30 articles of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights read aloud by artists, advocates and children in support of the 60th Anniversary of this UN document.


How the Democrats Protected the Independent Agencies

Independent agencies are a supposedly apolitical "fourth branch" of government, but the Bush administration tried to politicize them by appointing ideologues to run them. Here's how Democrats fought back.

By Paul Edenfield
The American Prospect

Ask the Democratic senators how they spent their summer vacations, and some of them will mention returning to the Capitol and banging the gavel in an empty Senate chamber. For example, during the Memorial Day recess, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio presided over a brief (lasting mere seconds) and lonely (almost no one else was present) "pro forma" session of the United States Senate, while most of his colleagues were back in their home state.

These pro forma sessions, used by the current Senate since the Thanksgiving recess of 2007, have prevented the president from exercising his constitutional authority to make appointments during congressional recess that would otherwise require Senate confirmation. Although derided as a childish stunt by some editorial pages, the use of pro forma sessions to block the recess appointment of nominees whom Senate leaders were unwilling to confirm was more than empty symbolism. Preventing the seating of certain nominees, particularly to independent agencies, was a clever strategy that may have prevented the current administration, now in its waning days, from having had an even greater impact on federal policy than it actually did.

Recess appointments can be made when the Senate is out of session continuously for more than three days -- pro forma sessions prevent a Senate recess from officially lasting that long. Recess appointees remain in office for roughly one to two years or until the nominee is confirmed or withdrawn. President Bush drew the ire of Senate leaders -- helping to precipitate the Senate's use of pro forma sessions -- when he appointed Swift-boat campaign donor Sam Fox to an ambassadorship during the spring recess of 2007.

Majority Leader Harry Reid has used pro forma sessions to block recess appointments to a variety of offices, including high-ranking offices within Cabinet departments like the head of the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel. Preventing the seating of new Cabinet officials in the Department of Justice and other departments can send an important message. But, practically speaking, the administration will continue to have full control over Cabinet offices that go unfilled, because acting officials, answerable to the president, will still perform their departments' duties....(Click for remainder).


The Hayden Record: Condoning Torture, Destroying Evidence, Misleading Congress

Besides being one of the biggest assholes on Earth, has anyone else wondered why this retard still wears his Air Force uniform? Does he not realize that he is no longer in the military, but in a civilian job? I'm pretty sure that he's one of those people who feels like he has to put up a front in order to force people to respect him. You know the kind. "See my uniform, all my medals, and my stars? You need to respect me!" Well Michael can kiss my ass! Jesus f-in' Christ! I can't even believe that this is being talked about.

By Faiz Shakir

Think Progress

U.S. News is speculating that President-elect Barack Obama “might ask CIA Director Mike Hayden to stay on for a while.” CIA officials are advocating on his behalf:
It’s unfair to blame Hayden for things that occurred long before he took the job. But he deserves credit for standing up for the folks over there at CIA, even though a lot of the stuff he has dealt with didn’t happen on his watch,” said an intelligence official.
Former CIA analyst John Brennan was compelled to withdraw his name from consideration, after a number of bloggers, led by Glenn Greenwald, raised concerns that he had supported Bush’s interrogation policies. Hayden did one better than Brennan – he carried them out, defended them, and in some cases, lied about them.

On waterboarding, Hayden acknowledged to Congress that “it is not certain that that technique would be considered to be lawful under current statute.” And yet, he has refused to label the technique “torture,” dismissing it as an uninteresting “legal term”:
Well, first of all, we’re not talking about torture, all right? I mean, torture is a legal term. Now, there are some things that are illegal that are not, that are not torture. And so we cloud the debate when, when we throw the word torture out there, I think, in a far too casual way.
In 2004, CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson issued a report warning “that some C.I.A.-approved interrogation procedures appeared to constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as defined by the international Convention Against Torture.” In October 2007, Hayden “ordered an unusual internal inquiry” into Helgerson’s office, focusing on complaints that Helgerson was on “a crusade against those who have participated in controversial detention programs.”...(Click for remainder).


Gay marriage goes before Iowa Supreme Court

By 365gay News

(Des Moines, Iowa) The Iowa Supreme Court this week will hear arguments in a case challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Both sides on the marriage issue will be given 30 minutes on Tuesday to make their arguments. It is the first state Supreme Court to hear a same-sex marriage case since California voters last month overturned a high court ruling that struck down that state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

The Iowa case centers around a state appeal of a ruling by a Polk County judge that struck down a state law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Six same-sex Iowa couples went to court in 2005 after the Polk County recorder denied them marriage licenses.

Last year County Judge Robert Hanson ruled that the law violated the constitutional rights of due process and equal protection.

Less than two hours after the the ruling, two Des Moines men applied for a marriage license, found a judge to waive the waiting period, and were married.

Hanson then stayed his ruling until the state could appeal it to the Iowa Supreme Court. The marriage of Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan remains the only legal same-sex marriage in the state....(Click for remainder).


Protest denounces Vatican policy on gays

By 365gay News

(Rome) Hundreds of protesters came out against the Vatican over the weekend, after the Holy See came out against a proposed United Nations declaration calling for LGBT civil rights.

The demonstrators, including some Italian politicians, gathered just outside Vatican City’s borders.

The proposed UN declaration condemns “discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity” and will be presented at the General Assembly on Wednesday by France.

Dec. 10th was chosen to present it to the General Assembly because the date marks the 60th anniversary of the UN declaration of human rights.

The declaration already has been signed by the member states of the European Union. It was drafted by France, which currently holds the rotating EU Presidency.

The Vatican in a statement said the declaration would force countries to legalize same-sex marriage.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s permanent observer at the UN, said in the statement last week that the declaration would discriminate against states which support traditional marriage.

“If adopted, they would create new and implacable discriminations … For example, states which do not recognize same-sex unions as ‘matrimony’ will be pilloried and made an object of pressure,” Migliore said....(Click for remainder).


Dan Quayle and Cerberus Holding American Economy Hostage

By emptywheel
emptywheel @ Firedoglake
(Image by twolf)

Chris Dodd has signaled that he will let Dan Quayle's Cerberus hold GM--and the American economy-- hostage to get out of its crappy gambling bets.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd said General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Richard Wagoner should be replaced as a condition of federal aid and Chrysler LLC may have to merge to survive.


“Chrysler, is, I think, basically gone, probably ought to be merged,” Dodd said. Ford Motor Co. is the healthiest domestic automaker, he said.
Chris Dodd is right: Chrysler undoubtedly has to merge to survive. That's partly because it does not have the global reach of GM and Ford. Because GM and Ford have significant sales in China and India and other quickly growing markets (which have been netting much higher profits), they can offset lower profits or even losses here in the States. But Chrysler doesn't have that, so it can't become profitable--across all its operations--as quickly as GM or Ford can. 

Chrysler also doesn't have the product development pipeline its domestic competitors do. Ford has had increasing success of late offering either new US models on Mazda or Volvo chassis (like the Fusion, which competes well in quality and safety with the Accord and Camry), or bringing successful European models to the US (Focus in the past, and Fiesta and Mondeo in the near future). GM has the new Malibu (which is also gaining market share in the sedan segment), with the Cruze and Volt in the works (as well as any Opel models it decides to bring to the US, though the threats to shut down Saturn don't bode well on that front). Chrysler's got nothing equivalent. 

But understand: GM acquiring Chrysler--which is the most discussed option--offers little benefit to GM. Sure, the merged company would get to sell either the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit or Chrysler's fairly new digs up north; you could find efficiencies in headquarter structure (if you were a healthy company to begin with). But everyone agrees that two of GM's most urgent problems are that it has too many brands and too many dealerships. And you want to fix that by making it take on 3,300 more dealers and three more brands? This is Congress' idea of a really smart restructuring?...(Click for remainder).


The Bush Legacy

By Jo Fish

I visited a Big Eastern City several times over the last week, which is and of itself not a big deal. As I walked down the street I saw something that brought home the real meaning of George Bush's America to me. Homeless Americans by the score. Sleeping on sidewalks and subway grates for warmth on cold late-November/early-December nights. The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that approximately 3.5 million homeless Americans, 1.35 million of them children (kids, for fucks sake... what did they do to deserve it?). As the economy craters, those statistics are likely to not just increase, but increase exponentially with foreclosures and bailouts of financiers but not the financed. Indeed, new numbers are not available yet and hopefully by the time we know what the numbers for 2008 and 2009 are, perhaps a coherent public policy will be in place to provide a social safety net for the least fortunate among us... but I'm not holding my breath...

The homeless, and most vulnerable members of our country are left to fend for themselves as cuts in already-thin social-services programs get thinner. The military-industrial welfare state of the last eight years has literally taken the food from the mouths of Americans and roofs from over their heads as the Republicans gutted social programs (welfare queens, anyone?). Organizations are springing up behaving as 21st Century "Robin Hoods" placing homeless Americans in homes abandoned by families fleeing foreclosure as mortgages have exploded and the economy fails. Some fleeing homeowners are even paying homeless Americans to live in their abandoned properties as a security measure.

Additionally, buried somewhere in that already too-large number of homeless Americans is another number: an estimated 200,000 Americans who also happen to be veterans. Men and women literally left behind after serving our country, also victims of the military-industrial complex in a more acute way... used and now abused by everyone whose path they cross....(Click for remainder).


Will Obama Prosecute Bush?

By Bob Fertik

Blog goddess Digby has convinced herself that Obama has taken "prosecutions off the menu." But where is her evidence?

The article that seems to have convinced Digby and other progressive bloggers was written by Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and begins:

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.

Isikoff is allegedly a reporter, and reporters are supposed to rely on sources. Who is Isikoff's source inside Team Obama? There isn't one.

Obama aides are wary of taking any steps that would smack of political retribution. That's one reason they are reluctant to see high-profile investigations by the Democratic-controlled Congress or to greenlight a broad Justice inquiry (absent specific new evidence of wrongdoing). "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.

Litt is a former Clinton appointee, not a current Obama advisor. Litt's name does not appear on Obama's agency review teams or policy working groups. In fact, as Glenn Greenwald first notedLitt's bio at Arnold & Porter says he

represented several employees of intelligence agencies in connection with criminal investigations. None has been charged.

Obviously Litt has a material interest in persuading Obama not to charge his clients. Why on earth should Digby or anyone else believe his self-serving spin to Michael Isikofff?...(Click for remainder).


Obama defends Republic Windows and Doors workers

By Abdon Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times

President-elect Barack Obama put himself on the side of the workers at the Republic Windows and Doors factory Sunday:

“When it comes to the situation here in Chicago with the workers who are asking for their benefits and payments they have earned, I think they are absolutely right,” Obama said Sunday at a news conference announcing his new Veterans Affairs director. “What’s happening to them is reflective of what’s happening across this economy.

“When you have a financial system that is shaky, credit contracts. Businesses large and small start cutting back on their plants and equipment and their workforces. That’s why it’s so important for us to maintain a strong financial system. But it’s also important for us to make sure that the plans and programs that we design aren’t just targeted at maintaining the solvency of banks, but they are designed to get money out the doors and to help people on Main Street. So, number one, I think that these workers, if they have earned their benefits and their pay, then these companies need to follow through on those commitments.

“Number two, I think it is important for us to make sure that, moving forward, any economic plan we put in place helps businesses to meet payroll so we are not seeing these kinds of circumstances again,’’ he said. “Have we done everything that we can to make sure credit is flowing to businesses and to families, and to students who are trying to get loans? And to homeowners who have been making payments on their homes but are still finding their property values so depressed that it becomes very difficult for them to make the mortgage payments?

“That’s where the rubber hits the road and that’s going to be the central focus of my administration.”...(Click for original post).


Progressivism and the Rule of Law

By Senator Russ Feingold

Yesterday, I had the chance to sit down with Bill Moyers and discuss some of the challenges we face at this pivotal moment for our country, after one of the most remarkable elections in American history. Barack Obama’s election is a chance for renewal after eight years of the Bush Administration; now that we’re no longer circling the wagons against attacks on our core progressive principles, we can work to advance those principles in this new era. I invite you to take a look at our conversation, which touched on how progressives are defined by their history of fighting for the middle class, a clean and open government and a government that looks out for all members of society without getting in the way. At the beginning of this new era, we discussed the kind of change that progressives should be fighting for right now.

One area we spoke about at length, restoring the rule of law, has to be a top priority. Our founding fathers laid down a basic principle -- that we are a nation of laws and that no one, including the president, is above the law. From Guantanamo Bay and warrantless wiretapping to torture and excessive secrecy, the Bush administration has turned this principle on its head. The Constitution states that it and the laws of the United States are "the supreme Law of the Land." Yet, the current administration has claimed unprecedented powers as it has ignored or willfully misinterpreted the laws on the books.

While Americans’ decisive call for change this election was a clear repudiation of the Bush administration’s conduct, failing to act swiftly to reverse the damage could essentially legitimize that conduct and the extreme legal theories on which it was based. That is why it is critically important for President-elect Obama to unequivocally renounce President Bush’s extreme claims of executive authority. As I mentioned in the interview yesterday, stating this position clearly in the inaugural address would affirm to the nation, and the world, that respect for the rule of law has returned to the Oval Office.  

This declaration should be followed with quick action, to ensure that history sees the outgoing administration’s actions as an aberration and not a redefinition of executive power. I plan to try to help our new President by presenting him with a range of recommendations for restoring the rule of law from constitutional, legal and historical experts. In September, I held a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee on what should be done to restore the rule of law. An impressive array of experts set forth detailed recommendations and proposals. I hope the record of this hearing will provide President-elect Obama with a useful blueprint for his efforts, just as it will help inform my work in the Senate....(Click for remainder).


Gen. Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs



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