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Barack Obama: "Moving Forward" (Weekly Radio Address)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

In his weekly address, President Barack Obama announced that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is preparing a new strategy for reviving our financial system, and urged the swift passage of an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.

January 31, 2009

This morning I'd like to talk about some good news and some bad news as we confront our economic crisis.

The bad news is well known to Americans across our country as we continue to struggle through unprecedented economic turmoil. Yesterday we learned that our economy shrank by nearly 4 percent from October through December. That decline was the largest in over a quarter century, and it underscores the seriousness of the economic crisis that my administration found when we took office.

Already the slowdown has cost us tens of thousands of jobs in January alone. And the picture is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Make no mistake, these are not just numbers. Behind every statistic there's a story. Many Americans have seen their lives turned upside down. Families have been forced to make painful choices. Parents are struggling to pay the bills. Patients can't afford care. Students can't keep pace with tuition. And workers don't know whether their retirement will be dignified and secure.

The good news is that we are moving forward with a sense of urgency equal to the challenge. This week the House passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, which will save or create more than 3 million jobs over the next few years. It puts a tax cut into the pockets of working families, and places a down payment on America's future by investing in energy independence and education, affordable health care, and American infrastructure.

Now this recovery plan moves to the Senate. I will continue working with both parties so that the strongest possible bill gets to my desk. With the stakes so high we simply cannot afford the same old gridlock and partisan posturing in Washington. It's time to move in a new direction.

Americans know that our economic recovery will take years -- not months. But they will have little patience if we allow politics to get in the way of action, and our economy continues to slide. That's why I am calling on the Senate to pass this plan, so that we can put people back to work and begin the long, hard work of lifting our economy out of this crisis. No one bill, no matter how comprehensive, can cure what ails our economy. So just as we jumpstart job creation, we must also ensure that markets are stable, credit is flowing, and families can stay in their homes.

Last year Congress passed a plan to rescue the financial system. While the package helped avoid a financial collapse, many are frustrated by the results -- and rightfully so. Too often taxpayer dollars have been spent without transparency or accountability. Banks have been extended a hand, but homeowners, students, and small businesses that need loans have been left to fend on their own.

And adding to this outrage, we learned this week that even as they petitioned for taxpayer assistance, Wall Street firms shamefully paid out nearly $20 billion in bonuses for 2008. While I'm committed to doing what it takes to maintain the flow of credit, the American people will not excuse or tolerate such arrogance and greed. The road to recovery demands that we all act responsibly, from Main Street to Washington to Wall Street.

Soon my Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, will announce a new strategy for reviving our financial system that gets credit flowing to businesses and families. We'll help lower mortgage costs and extend loans to small businesses so they can create jobs. We'll ensure that CEOs are not draining funds that should be advancing our recovery. And we will insist on unprecedented transparency, rigorous oversight, and clear accountability -- so taxpayers know how their money is being spent and whether it is achieving results.

Rarely in history has our country faced economic problems as devastating as this crisis. But the strength of the American people compels us to come together. The road ahead will be long, but I promise you that every day that I go to work in the Oval Office I carry with me your stories, and my administration is dedicated to alleviating your struggles and advancing your dreams. You are calling for action. Now is the time for those of us in Washington to live up to our responsibilities.


Americans United for Change: Dittoheads

Rush Limbaugh wants President Obama's plan to create jobs to fail. House Republicans are evidently loyal Rush "Dittoheads" based on their unanimous vote against the plan. But what will the Senate Republicans do now?


The Colbert Report Word: The Audacity of Nope


Stimulus arithmetic (wonkish but important)

Friday, January 30, 2009

By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Bit by bit we’re getting information on the Obama stimulus plan, enough to start making back-of-the-envelope estimates of impact. The bottom line is this: we’re probably looking at a plan that will shave less than 2 percentage points off the average unemployment rate for the next two years, and possibly quite a lot less. This raises real concerns about whether the incoming administration is lowballing its plans in an attempt to get bipartisan consensus.

In the extended entry, a look at my calculations.

The starting point for this discussion is Okun’s Law, the relationship between changes in real GDP and changes in the unemployment rate. Estimates of the Okun’s Law coefficient range from 2 to 3. I’ll use 2, which is an optimistic estimate for current purposes: it says that you have to raise real GDP by 2 percent from what it would otherwise have been to reduce the unemployment rate 1 percentage point from what it would otherwise have been. Since GDP is roughly $15 trillion, this means that you have to raise GDP by $300 billion per year to reduce unemployment by 1 percentage point.

Now, what we’re hearing about the Obama plan is that it calls for $775 billion over two years, with $300 billion in tax cuts and the rest in spending. Call that $150 billion per year in tax cuts, $240 billion each year in spending.

How much do tax cuts and spending raise GDP? The widely cited estimates of Mark Zandi of indicate a multiplier of around 1.5 for spending, with widely varying estimates for tax cuts. Payroll tax cuts, which make up about half the Obama proposal, are pretty good, with a multiplier of 1.29; business tax cuts, which make up the rest, are much less effective....(Click for remainder).


Republican claims stimulus would aid illegal immigrants

It's also going to help green space aliens, and, probably, robot pigeons from the plant Xenu. Why does anyone listen to these people? They're completely bereft of ideas; they're morally bankrupt; and only care about themselves. Would you really expect them to say anything else?

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON: Illegal immigrants who lack Social Security numbers could not get tax credits under the $800 billion-plus economic stimulus package making its way through Congress.

Two senior GOP congressional officials expressed concern Thursday that the bill could steer government checks to undocumented workers, but in fact the measure indicates that Social Security numbers are needed to claim tax credits of $500 per worker and $1,000 per couple. It also expressly disqualifies nonresident aliens.

The Republicans spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. But Democrats were quick to reject the notion.

"This legislation is directed toward people who are legal in our country. It is about time the Republicans got a different piece of reading material and get off this illegal immigrant stuff," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "This bill has nothing to do with anything illegal as far as immigration. It creates jobs for people who are lawfully in this country."

A revolt among GOP conservatives to provisions of last year's economic stimulus bill, which sent rebate checks to most wage earners, forced Democratic congressional leaders to add stricter eligibility requirements. That legislation, enacted in February 2008, required that people have valid Social Security numbers in order to get checks....(Click for remainder).


John Yoo blasts Obama over Torture Ban - Incriminates Bush in War Crimes

By Vyan
Daily Kos

In an WSJ Op-ed former OLC Attorney John Yoo blasts President Barack Obama for removing the One and Only Effective Tool for protecting America from the horrors of Terrorism which is - well - using Terrorism.
While these actions will certainly please his base -- gone are the cries of an "imperial presidency" -- they will also seriously handicap our intelligence agencies from preventing future terrorist attacks. In issuing these executive orders, Mr. Obama is returning America to the failed law enforcement approach to fighting terrorism that prevailed before Sept. 11, 2001.
You mean the policy that captured, tried and successfully imprisoned Terry Nichols, Ramzi Yousef, the "Blind Sheikh" and executed Timothy McVeigh under Clinton or the "Ok, Now you've covered you ass" policy of Bush?
He's also drying up the most valuable sources of intelligence on al Qaeda, which, according to CIA Director Michael Hayden, has come largely out of the tough interrogation of high-level operatives during the early years of the war.
Michael Hayden would be the former head of the NSA who illegally spied on Everyone? Yeah, we should take his advice....(Click for remainder).


Senator Russ Feingold on Bush Prosecutions


Dennis Kucinich States His Intention To Put The Federal Reserve Under Government Control


US jobless claims hit record high

By Al Jazeera English

The number of people in the US claiming unemployment benefits has reached a record high, officials have said.

On Thursday the US labour department said 4.78 million US citizens were now claiming
unemployment funds up to the week ending January 17, the highest level since records began in 1967.

The number marks a jump of 159,000 from the previous week and was worse than analysts' expectations of 4.65 million.

Meanwhile, in other economic news, sales of new US homes fell 14.7 per cent in December to 331,000, the lowest monthly level on record, the US government also said on Thursday.

And US car giant Ford reported a $5.9bn loss in the fourth financial quarter and announced it was to cut 1,200 jobs, although it insisted that unlike many other US car firms it would not seek government loans.

The housing meltdown, sparked by the subprime mortgage crisis in which millions of Americans were given mortgage loans they were unable to repay, has led to massive financial losses worldwide.

US stocks fell sharply following the gloomy data, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 226.44 points or 2.7 per cent to close at 8,149.01....(Click for remainder).


Blackwater banned from Iraq

By Al Jazeera English

Blackwater, a US private security firm, has been barred from providing security for US diplomats in Iraq for its alleged involvement in the deaths of at least 17 civilians in 2007.

The Iraqi interior ministry on Thursday said the measure followed the firm's "improper conduct and excessive use of force".

"It is because of the shooting incident in 2007 ... [Blackwater] came to us and applied and we refused them. They tried by all means to stay here and we said 'no'," General Abdel Karim Khalaf, an interior ministry spokesman, told AFP.

Five former Blackwater guards are awaiting trial in the US for the incident that took place in September 2007.

One Blackwater guard has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter over that incident.

A US embassy official in Baghdad and Khalaf gave no exact exit date for Blackwater employees.

They also did not clarify whether the Blackwater guards would be allowed to continue guarding US diplomats until a date is decided.

"We don't have specifics about dates. We are working with the government of Iraq and our contractors to address the implications of this decision," the US embassy official said....(Click for remainder).


Impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been removed from office

By Ray Long and Rick Pearson
Chicago Tribune

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Sweeping aside six years of scandal and crippling political infighting with a historic impeachment vote, the state Senate on Thursday ousted one governor for abusing his power and anointed another who built his political career around having no power at all.

Senators voted 59-0 to remove Rod Blagojevich, who walked out of the silent chamber after delivering an impassioned plea for mercy. Within hours they applauded his former running mate and lieutenant governor, Patrick Quinn, who was sworn in as the state's 41st governor vowing a new course for Illinois.

"The ordeal is over," said Quinn, long viewed as an unwelcomed outsider by the state's political establishment. "In this moment, our hearts are hurt. And it's very important to know that we have a duty, a mission to restore the faith of the people of Illinois in the integrity of their government."

He replaced a defiant Blagojevich, 52, the first Democratic governor in a quarter century and the first governor in Illinois history to be impeached. After racing back to his Chicago home before the vote could deprive him of a ride home on the state plane, Blagojevich once again said he was the victim of a rush to judgment....(Click for remainder).


FBI saw mortgage fraud early

So what this boils down to, is that the Bush Crime Family could have confronted this crisis before it was actually a crisis. Does it surprise anyone that Too Stupid to Eat a Pretzel was either asleep at the switch, or just wanted what was best for his business cronies.

Bank repossession, foreclosure and for sale signs sit outside a foreclosed home in Houston. Two retired FBI officials asserted that the Bush administration was thoroughly briefed on the mortgage fraud crisis and its potential to cascade out of control, but made the decision not to give back to the FBI the agents it needed to address the problem.

By Paul Shukovsky
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The FBI was aware for years of "pervasive and growing" fraud in the mortgage industry that eventually contributed to America's financial meltdown, but did not take definitive action to stop it.

"It is clear that we had good intelligence on the mortgage-fraud schemes, the corrupt attorneys, the corrupt appraisers, the insider schemes," said a recently retired, high FBI official. Another retired top FBI official confirmed that such intelligence went back to 2002.

The problem, according to the two FBI retirees and several other current and former bureau colleagues, is that the bureau was stretched so thin that no one noticed when those lenders began packaging bad mortgages into bad securities.

"We knew that the mortgage-brokerage industry was corrupt," the first of the retired FBI officials told the Seattle P-I. "Where we would have gotten a sense of what was really going on was the point where the mortgage was sold knowing that it was a piece of dung and it would be turned into a security. But the agents with the expertise had been diverted to counterterrorism."

The FBI not only lacked the resources, but also never got the tips it needed from the banking regulatory agencies. The Securities and Exchange Commission, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency also failed to detect the securities issue, said the first retired FBI official.

"These are very resource-intense cases that take a lot of work by very skilled people," said John Falvey Jr., a former federal prosecutor who currently does white-collar criminal defense work in Boston.

And Falvey said that financial executives who deliberately chose not to learn the facts about dicey mortgage-lending practices in their companies -- who chose to be "willfully blind" to such practices and the subsequent securitization of those mortgages -- could be vulnerable to prosecution for securities fraud....(Click for remainder).


House Repubs Bet the (Foreclosed) Farm on Opposing Stimulus Bill

By David Corn
CQ Politics

The stimulus bill that the House passed on Wednesday night is not perfect. No doubt, it includes spending projects and tax cuts that are not all that stimulus-y. But it's the only train at the station these days. So even though the Republicans had threatened to withhold their votes from the bill, it was sort of surprising that not a single GOPer voted for the bill. In essence, the House GOPers are betting the farm on further economic collapse. They are truly selling short.

The House Republicans are now on record as wannabe obstructionists. They say they will continue to play a role in the bill when the House and Senate negotiate the final legislation after the Senate approves its version of the measure. But the House Republicans have lost any claim of authorship. If the stimulus package has any positive results, the GOPers will be out in the cold. President Obama and Democrats will not be shy about reminding voters that the Republicans were the Party of No when it came time to save the economy. The Rs can only hope--politically--that no good comes from this stimulus.

Most, if not all, of the House Republicans will probably not face much electoral trouble for their thumb's down. The Republicans who remain in the House generally hail from conservative districts. Call it Limbaugh Land. There are not many swing-district Republicans remaining. For the House Republicans still in their seats, voting against a spending bill will not cause them much direct political risk back home. But this collective, lockstep action does define the entire Republican Party. And GOPers running for office in non-Limbaugh areas--and that will include presidential candidates in the future--will have this albatross around their neck. (For his part, Obama ought to reconsider his approach to bipartisan politics.)...(Click for remainder).


Torturers are Terrified of Eric Holder

By Bob Fertik

If you want to know how Bush's torturers are planning to defend themselves against war crimes charges, the best source is the Newsweek team of Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball. As a paean to Watergate's famous Woodward & Bernstein, who were nicknamed "WoodStein" by their editor Ben Bradley, I shall henceforth call them IsiBall.

IsiBall are valuable because they are the opposite of WoodStein - instead of leading the charge to expose the truth, they are leading the charge for a coverup. (In fact all of Newsweek and its parent company, the Pentagon Post, are devoting their full efforts to the torture coverup, but that's a topic for another time.)

Today, IsiBall look into the mess created yesterday by Sen. Kit Bond when he lied to the Moonie Times that Holder promised him he would not prosecute torturers. Holder promised no such thing, but his Big Lie caused a furor among human rights groups and a quick clarification from Holder.

Apparently some of the torturers have "lawyered up," and they are leaking their thoughts to IsiBall. And their thoughts are turning to nightmares:
"Once Holder said that [waterboarding is torture] I got nervous," said one lawyer who represents a CIA official involved in the interrogation program, who asked not to be identified talking about a legally sensitive matter. "If he says it was torture, he has to do something.
Here's what the lawyers are worried about:
In a response carefully vetted by Obama's White House lawyers, Holder responded that "no one is above the law. But where it is clear that a government agent has acted in 'reasonable and good-faith reliance on Justice Department legal opinions' authoritatively permitting his conduct, I would find it difficult to justify commencing a full-blown criminal investigation, let alone a prosecution.
Each of the bolded words has extremely important meanings.
  • "Agent" means guys who take orders, not give them. That means the guys who gave the orders (or wrote the legal memos) are not safe from Holder.
  • "Reasonable and good-faith reliance" excludes "unreasonable" and "bad-faith reliance." So torturers who committed outrageous acts are not safe from Holder.
  • "Authoritatively" requires a formal order from a direct superior. Torturers who acted on their own or without orders from their superiors are not safe from Holder.


Why Reagan still matters: A sneak peek at "Tear Down This Myth"

By Will Bunch
Philadelphia Daily News

Jan. 20, 2009, was such a transformative day in American politics that it was easy to forget it also marked a 20th anniversary as well. The inauguration of President Barack Obama also meant it was two decades to the exact day since Ronald Reagan last sat in the Oval Office. When he and his wife Nancy boarded the Air Force One jetliner – the one that was later decommissioned, de-assembled and reassembled at the Ronald Reagan Library (and mostly paid for by oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens) – for the long trip back to California, it wasn’t clear how the world would remember Reagan’s presidency.

For the majority of his second term, Americans told pollsters that the nation was on a wrong track, and in 1987 a 55-percent majority said we needed a new direction away from Reagan’s often divisive policies. But in little more than five years after leaving Washington, the Great Communicator would be silenced by Alzheimer’s -- and a new generation of neoconservatives would construct a mythologized, iconic version of the 40th president that increasingly bore little resemblance to the flesh-and-blood Ronald Reagan. It is that modern version – and warped policies that could be collectively called Reaganism – that has given us an unfathomable national debt, a wide gulf between the nation’s rich and poor, the denial of basic science on energy and the environment, and which was even used to justify an unjustifiable war in Iraq that the real Gipper himself would never undertaken.

Twenty years gone – but Reagan still matters. About this time one year ago, unceasing Reagan idolatry hijacked the race for the White House. Sometimes it was voiced in the name of policies on immigration or toward Iran that were the exact opposite of what really happened a generation ago. The power of this political fantasy – expressed mainly, of course, on the GOP side but occasionally even spilling over to the Democrats – caused me to begin work on a book about the Ronald Reagan myth. The result – “Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future” – is coming out now from Simon & Schuster’s Free Press....(Click for remainder).


President Obama Signs Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

Thursday, January 29, 2009

East Room
January 29, 2009
10:20 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: All right. Everybody please have a seat. Well, this is a wonderful day. (Applause.) First of all, it is fitting that the very first bill that I sign -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act -- (applause) -- that it is upholding one of this nation's founding principles: that we are all created equal, and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness.

It's also fitting that we're joined today by the woman after whom this bill is named -- someone who Michelle and I have had the privilege to get to know ourselves. And it is fitting that we are joined this morning by the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. (Applause.) It's appropriate that this is the first bill we do together. We could not have done it without her. Madam Speaker, thank you for your extraordinary work. And to all the sponsors and members of Congress and leadership who helped to make this day possible.

Lilly Ledbetter did not set out to be a trailblazer or a household name. She was just a good hard worker who did her job -- and she did it well -- for nearly two decades before discovering that for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for doing the very same work. Over the course of her career, she lost more than $200,000 in salary, and even more in pension and Social Security benefits -- losses that she still feels today.

Now, Lilly could have accepted her lot and moved on. She could have decided that it wasn't worth the hassle and the harassment that would inevitably come with speaking up for what she deserved. But instead, she decided that there was a principle at stake, something worth fighting for. So she set out on a journey that would take more than ten years, take her all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, and lead to this day and this bill which will help others get the justice that she was denied.

Because while this bill bears her name, Lilly knows that this story isn't just about her. It's the story of women across this country still earning just 78 cents for every dollar men earn -- women of color even less -- which means that today, in the year 2009, countless women are still losing thousands of dollars in salary, income and retirement savings over the course of a lifetime.

Equal pay is by no means just a women's issue -- it's a family issue. It's about parents who find themselves with less money for tuition and child care; couples who wind up with less to retire on; households where one breadwinner is paid less than she deserves; that's the difference between affording the mortgage -- or not; between keeping the heat on, or paying the doctor bills -- or not. And in this economy, when so many folks are already working harder for less and struggling to get by, the last thing they can afford is losing part of each month's paycheck to simple and plain discrimination.

So signing this bill today is to send a clear message: that making our economy work means making sure it works for everybody; that there are no second-class citizens in our workplaces; and that it's not just unfair and illegal, it's bad for business to pay somebody less because of their gender or their age or their race or their ethnicity, religion or disability; and that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory, or footnote in a casebook. It's about how our laws affect the daily lives and the daily realities of people: their ability to make a living and care for their families and achieve their goals.

Ultimately, equal pay isn't just an economic issue for millions of Americans and their families, it's a question of who we are -- and whether we're truly living up to our fundamental ideals; whether we'll do our part, as generations before us, to ensure those words put on paper some 200 years ago really mean something -- to breathe new life into them with a more enlightened understanding that is appropriate for our time.

That is what Lilly Ledbetter challenged us to do. And today, I sign this bill not just in her honor, but in the honor of those who came before -- women like my grandmother, who worked in a bank all her life, and even after she hit that glass ceiling, kept getting up and giving her best every day, without complaint, because she wanted something better for me and my sister.

And I sign this bill for my daughters, and all those who will come after us, because I want them to grow up in a nation that values their contributions, where there are no limits to their dreams and they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers never could have imagined.

In the end, that's why Lilly stayed the course. She knew it was too late for her -- that this bill wouldn't undo the years of injustice she faced or restore the earnings she was denied. But this grandmother from Alabama kept on fighting, because she was thinking about the next generation. It's what we've always done in America -- set our sights high for ourselves, but even higher for our children and our grandchildren.

And now it's up to us to continue this work. This bill is an important step -- a simple fix to ensure fundamental fairness for American workers -- and I want to thank this remarkable and bipartisan group of legislators who worked so hard to get it passed. And I want to thank all the advocates who are in the audience who worked so hard to get it passed. This is only the beginning. I know that if we stay focused, as Lilly did -- and keep standing for what's right, as Lilly did -- we will close that pay gap and we will make sure that our daughters have the same rights, the same chances, and the same freedoms to pursue their dreams as our sons.

So thank you, Lilly Ledbetter. (Applause.)

(The bill is signed.) (Applause.)


Welcome Senator Bennet

Matt McClain © The Rocky

By M.E. Sprengelmeyer
Rocky Mountain News

WASHINGTON — Michael Bennet was sworn in today as Colorado’s junior senator, pledging to get right to work addressing some of the big economic challenges to the country.

The former Denver schools chief, appointed to the Senate by Gov. Bill Ritter, takes over for new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar just two days after Barack Obama was sworn in as president, promising massive changes in foreign and domestic policies.

“I feel extremely fortunate to have the chance to represent Colorado at this moment in history and to be part of a conversation in Washington on some of the most serious problems we’ve seen in generations,” Bennet said while taking a walking tour of the U.S. Capitol shortly before his swearing in.

Earlier, Bennet said Salazar gave him some to-the-point advice: "Do the right thing for the people of Colorado."

Right now, that means joining the push for an economic stimulus package to turn around the country's sagging economy. And Bennet told reporters he wants to make sure federal dollars help struggling municipalities and bring jobs to farm country, too.

"The stimulus package is going to occupy most of our time in coming months. It's critical that people in Colorado have their voices heard," Bennet said.

Although Bennet's eclectic resume includes experience in law, business, education and city government, he is hoping to get a seat on the Agriculture Committee because of its importance to the state....(Click for remainder).


Bailout Recipients Hosted Call To Defeat Key Labor Bill

By Sam Stein
Huffington Post
(Audio from Wikileaks)

Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community's top legislative priority.

Participants on the October 17 call -- including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG -- were urged to persuade their clients to send "large contributions" to groups working against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill.

Bernie Marcus, the charismatic co-founder of Home Depot, led the call along with Rick Berman, an aggressive EFCA opponent and founder of the Center for Union Facts. Over the course of an hour, the two framed the legislation as an existential threat to American capitalism, or worse.

"This is the demise of a civilization," said Marcus. "This is how a civilization disappears. I am sitting here as an elder statesman and I'm watching this happen and I don't believe it."

Donations of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars were needed, it was argued, to prevent America from turning "into France."

"If a retailer has not gotten involved in this, if he has not spent money on this election, if he has not sent money to [former Sen.] Norm Coleman and all these other guys, they should be shot. They should be thrown out their goddamn jobs," Marcus declared....(Click for remainder).


Matt Damon: Bill Kristol is an Idiot

By Glenn Garvin
Miami Herald

Matt Damon enters the Coconut Grove recording studio with a smile of obvious relief, notwithstanding the fact that in moments he will have to pronounce words like Kangerdlugssuaq. (You know, the glacier in Greenland.) Narrating a PBS show about the environment, no matter how tongue-torturous, is an easier gig than the one he just left, debating the moral implications of Santa Claus mythology with his 10-year-old daughter.

''We don't allow lying under any circumstances,'' Damon explains ruefully, 'and we've always taught her that. But now she's found out the real story on Santa Claus. `So you were lying!' she says. 'But it's like a great cultural lie,' we tell her. No. 'It's everyone,' we tell her. No. 'It's a fun lie.' No. . . . The argument is just not going well.''

Public policy and Santa Claus are not necessarily intertwined in most American households. But for Damon, a fiercely liberal activist who was one of Barack Obama's first and loudest Hollywood supporters (he compared Sarah Palin's vice presidential candidacy to ''a really bad Disney movie'' and suggested President Bush's twin daughters be packed off to Iraq), politics colors nearly everything.

''What we liked about Matt is that he's Harvard educated, so he's a very smart guy,'' says Hal Weiner, who with his wife Marilyn produces Journey to the Planet Earth, the PBS series Damon has narrated for the past eight years and was working on last week. ``But he's also a little political.''

The Weiners discovered just how political when Damon started arguing with them about some lines he was supposed to read in one episode, which said rising Chinese soybean consumption was leading to slash-and-burn farming in the Brazilian Amazon....(Click for remainder).


US House passes stimulus package

By Zachary Coile
San Francisco Chronicle

President Obama won his first legislative victory as the House passed a $819 billion economic stimulus package Wednesday night, but his bid to woo Republicans failed to convince even a single GOP member to join Democrats to back the bill.

If he was upset with the outcome, Obama didn't show it. After the vote, he invited top House and Senate leaders of both parties to the White House for cocktails, hoping a little wine and schmoozing could grease the path for his signature economic initiative in the Senate.

Eleven Democrats joined the entire 177-member House GOP caucus in voting "no" - mostly conservative Democrats from swing districts that often tilt toward Republicans, where a vote for the costly package could prove a liability with voters already upset with the government's bailout of Wall Street firms.

The 244-188 vote was the first key test for the measure, which Democrats said would help jumpstart the economy and create millions of new jobs with huge investments in education, health care, clean energy and aid to the states, including at least $32 billion for California.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said the bill would start to accomplish the agenda Obama detailed in his inaugural speech....(Click for remainder).


Eric Holder and the LGBT Community

With the backing of the civil rights community -- and a stellar record on gay rights -- Eric Holder is immensely qualified for the critical position of Attorney General.

By Joe Solmonese
Human Rights Campaign via Advocate

Although several of President Obama's cabinet nominees have been confirmed by voice vote or nearly unanimously, some senators are delaying and politicizing Eric Holder’s nomination as the next Attorney General. Politicizing the confirmation of one of the most qualified individuals ever to be nominated in this post, should remind the LGBT and broader civil rights communities that our opponents remain eager to block any move toward restoring the federal government’s role in protecting civil rights.

While the LGBT community has a stake in seeing fair-minded leaders in every cabinet agency, the Attorney General (AG), is among the most critical positions. The AG is America’s lawyer, appointed to serve all people, not just the president or his administration. As the chief enforcer of civil rights, the AG must have a comprehensive vision of the government’s authority to preserve equality for everyone.

As the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) leader, the AG determines the department’s litigation priorities. Under the Bush Administration, the DOJ reduced the department’s focus on prosecuting cases of racial, ethnic and sex discrimination. This dramatic change in civil rights priorities led to the Justice Department litigating fewer cases involving hate crimes, voting rights and employment discrimination.

Logically, one would expect Eric Holder, as President Obama's nominee, to sail through the confirmation process. Immensely qualified, Holder has the support of an impressive array of constituencies. The civil rights community, led by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, has sent a letter of support with signatories from across the civil rights community such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Council of La Raza and the National Partnership for Women & Families. Law enforcement, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, has urged the Senate to confirm Holder. And the broader legal community, from both Democratic and Republican circles, has spoken of his intellectual rigor, professional judgment, high ethical standards and outstanding qualifications....(Click for remainder).


Colombia Rules Gay Couples Must Be Granted Same Rights as Straight

By Neal Broverman

In a historic decision handed down Wednesday, Colombia's Constitutional Court ruled same-sex couples must be granted the same rights as heterosexuals in common-law marriages.

The court's decision means Colombia's gay couples will be awarded dozens of rights that straight, unmarried couples have enjoyed for years and follows other recent rulings that have won the nation's same-sex couples inheritance, pension, health, and social security rights.

The Colombian LGBT rights group Colombia Diversa, human rights group Dejusticia, and the Group for Public Interest Rights from the University of the Andes were responsible for the successful suit, filed last April.

Uruguay is the only other Latin American country to recognize same-sex unions....(Click for original).


It's Not About Marriage With Rick Warren

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Saying gay people opposed Rick Warren's participation in Obama's inauguration because he's against marriage equality is like saying the Jews opposed Hitler because he was anti-Semitic.

By Lane Hudson
The Advocate

Upon the selection of the Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at Pres. Barack Obama's inauguration, an angry backlash dominated the media cycle for nothing short of four full days. Fiercely eloquent spokespeople such as Hilary Rosen and Mike Rogers properly characterized Warren as someone entirely out of touch with LGBT people. Journalists including Ann Curry of NBC met comments by Warren comparing homosexuality to pedophilia and incest with gasps and looks of shock. He also did himself no favor in proclaiming that, were it not for the bonds of marriage, he would not be able to control his attraction to every good-looking woman he saw.

Fresh off the stinging defeat of Proposition 8 in California, it was easy to connect Warren and his megachurch's support of the ballot measure to discontent with his selection for the highly visible and honored role in the inaugural ceremony. But proper reporting isn't supposed to be easy.

That is where recent media reports in The New York Times and USA Today are examples of shoddy journalism that lack proper context and are devoid of sensitivity and understanding of the LGBT community. Each publication completely mischaracterized the opposition to Warren's selection as being based on his opposition to marriage equality. That's kind of like saying that Jews were opposed to Hitler because he was anti-Semitic. It doesn't come close to explaining the whole story.

I didn't write anything about Rick Warren throughout the entire controversy. I tried. But fellow writers, activists, and media pundits had done such a collectively superb job of providing meaningful commentary and properly framing the opposition to Warren that I was content to allow the public record to stand.

However, when tone-deaf reporters with lazy editors try to rewrite history and characterize "the gays" as simple, uncomplicated, single-issue people, I am no longer content to sit by and say nothing. Simply put, their characterization of several media cycles of opposition to Warren was as lame as it gets....(Click for remainder).


President Obama's First Arab TV Interview (Al-Arabiya TV exclusive)

Al-Arabiya TV Exclusive
Part 1

Part 2

Full Transcript

Q: Mr. President, thank you for this opportunity, we really appreciate it.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much.

Q: Sir, you just met with your personal envoy to the Middle East, Senator Mitchell. Obviously, his first task is to consolidate the cease-fire. But beyond that you've been saying that you want to pursue actively and aggressively peacemaking between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Tell us a little bit about how do you see your personal role, because, you know, if the President of the United States is not involved, nothing happens – as the history of peace making shows. Will you be proposing ideas, pitching proposals, parameters, as one of your predecessors did? Or just urging the parties to come up with their own resolutions, as your immediate predecessor did?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the most important thing is for the United States to get engaged right away. And George Mitchell is somebody of enormous stature. He is one of the few people who have international experience brokering peace deals.

And so what I told him is start by listening, because all too often the
United States starts by dictating -- in the past on some of these issues --and we don't always know all the factors that are involved. So let's listen. He's going to be speaking to all the major parties involved. And he will then report back to me. From there we will formulate a specific response.

Ultimately, we cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what's best for them. They're going to have to make some decisions. But I do believe that the moment is ripe for both sides to realize that the path that they are on is one that is not going to result in prosperity and security for their people. And that instead, it's time to return to the negotiating table.

And it's going to be difficult, it's going to take time. I don't want to prejudge many of these issues, and I want to make sure that expectations are not raised so that we think that this is going to be resolved in a few months. But if we start the steady progress on these issues, I'm absolutely confident that the United States -- working in tandem with the European Union, with Russia, with all the Arab states in the region -- I'm absolutely certain that we can make significant progress.

Q: You've been saying essentially that we should not look at these issues -- like the Palestinian-Israeli track and separation from the border region -- you've been talking about a kind of holistic approach to the region. Are we expecting a different paradigm in the sense that in the past one of the critiques -- at least from the Arab side, the Muslim side -- is that everything the Americans always tested with the Israelis, if it works. Now there is an Arab peace plan, there is a regional aspect to it. And you've indicated that. Would there be any shift, a paradigm shift?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, here's what I think is important. Look at the proposal that was put forth by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia --

Q: Right.

THE PRESIDENT: I might not agree with every aspect of the proposal, but it took great courage --

Q: Absolutely.

THE PRESIDENT: -- to put forward something that is as significant as that.
I think that there are ideas across the region of how we might pursue peace.

I do think that it is impossible for us to think only in terms of the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what's happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan.

These things are interrelated. And what I've said, and I think Hillary Clinton has expressed this in her confirmation, is that if we are looking at the region as a whole and communicating a message to the Arab world and the Muslim world, that we are ready to initiate a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest, then I think that we can make significant progress.

Now, Israel is a strong ally of the United States. They will not stop being a strong ally of the United States. And I will continue to believe that Israel's security is paramount. But I also believe that there are Israelis who recognize that it is important to achieve peace. They will be willing to make sacrifices if the time is appropriate and if there is serious partnership on the other side.

And so what we want to do is to listen, set aside some of the preconceptions that have existed and have built up over the last several years. And I think if we do that, then there's a possibility at least of achieving some breakthroughs.

Q: I want to ask you about the broader Muslim world, but let me – one final thing about the Palestinian-Israeli theater. There are many
Palestinians and Israelis who are very frustrated now with the current conditions and they are losing hope, they are disillusioned, and they believe that time is running out on the two-state solution because – mainly because of the settlement activities in Palestinian-occupied territories.

Will it still be possible to see a Palestinian state -- and you know the contours of it -- within the first Obama administration?

THE PRESIDENT: I think it is possible for us to see a Palestinian state -- I'm not going to put a time frame on it -- that is contiguous, that allows freedom of movement for its people, that allows for trade with other countries, that allows the creation of businesses and commerce so that people have a better life.

And, look, I think anybody who has studied the region recognizes that the situation for the ordinary Palestinian in many cases has not improved. And the bottom line in all these talks and all these conversations is, is a child in the Palestinian Territories going to be better off? Do they have a future for themselves? And is the child in Israel going to feel confident about his or her safety and security? And if we can keep our focus on making their lives better and look forward, and not simply think about all the conflicts and tragedies of the past, then I think that we have an opportunity to make real progress.

But it is not going to be easy, and that's why we've got George Mitchell going there. This is somebody with extraordinary patience as well as extraordinary skill, and that's what's going to be necessary.

Q: Absolutely. Let me take a broader look at the whole region. You are planning to address the Muslim world in your first 100 days from a Muslim capital. And everybody is speculating about the capital. (Laughter) If you have anything further, that would be great.
How concerned are you -- because, let me tell you, honestly, when I see certain things about America -- in some parts, I don't want to exaggerate -- there is a demonization of America.

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely.

Q: It's become like a new religion, and like a new religion it has new converts -- like a new religion has its own high priests.


Q: It's only a religious text.


Q: And in the last -- since 9/11 and because of Iraq, that alienation is wider between the Americans and -- and in generations past, the United States was held high. It was the only Western power with no colonial legacy.


Q: How concerned are you and -- because people sense that you have a different political discourse. And I think, judging by (inaudible) and
Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden and all these, you know -- a chorus --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I noticed this. They seem nervous.

Q: They seem very nervous, exactly. Now, tell me why they should be more nervous?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that when you look at the rhetoric that they've been using against me before I even took office --

Q: I know, I know.

THE PRESIDENT: -- what that tells me is that their ideas are bankrupt. There's no actions that they've taken that say a child in the Muslim world is getting a better education because of them, or has better health care because of them.

In my inauguration speech, I spoke about: You will be judged on what you've built, not what you've destroyed. And what they've been doing is destroying things. And over time, I think the Muslim world has recognized that that path is leading no place, except more death and destruction.

Now, my job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world that the language we use has to be a language of respect. I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries.

Q: The largest one.

THE PRESIDENT: The largest one, Indonesia. And so what I want to
communicate is the fact that in all my travels throughout the Muslim world, what I've come to understand is that regardless of your faith -- and America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-believers -- regardless of your faith, people all have certain common hopes and common dreams.

And my job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives. My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect. But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there's no reason why we can't restore that. Andthat I think is going to be an important task.

But ultimately, people are going to judge me not by my words but by my actions and my administration's actions. And I think that what you will see over the next several years is that I'm not going to agree with everything that some Muslim leader may say, or what's on a television station in the Arab world -- but I think that what you'll see is somebody who is listening, who is respectful, and who is trying to promote the interests not just of the United States, but also ordinary people who right now are suffering from poverty and a lack of opportunity. I want to make sure that I'm speaking to them, as well.

Q: Tell me, time is running out, any decision on from where you will be visiting the Muslim world?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm not going to break the news right here.

Q: Afghanistan?

THE PRESIDENT: But maybe next time. But it is something that is going to be important. I want people to recognize, though, that we are going to be making a series of initiatives. Sending George Mitchell to the Middle East is fulfilling my campaign promise that we're not going to wait until the end of my administration to deal with Palestinian and Israeli peace, we're going to start now. It may take a long time to do, but we're going to do it now.

We're going to follow through on our commitment for me to address the Muslim world from a Muslim capital. We are going to follow through on many of my commitments to do a more effective job of reaching out, listening, as well as speaking to the Muslim world.

And you're going to see me following through with dealing with a drawdown of troops in Iraq, so that Iraqis can start taking more responsibility. And finally, I think you've already seen a commitment, in terms of closing Guantanamo, and making clear that even as we are decisive in going after terrorist organizations that would kill innocent civilians, that we're going to do so on our terms, and we're going to do so respecting the rule of law that I think makes America great.

Q: President Bush framed the war on terror conceptually in a way that was very broad, "war on terror," and used sometimes certain terminology that the many people -- Islamic fascism. You've always framed it in a different way, specifically against one group called al Qaeda and their collaborators. And is this one way of --

THE PRESIDENT: I think that you're making a very important point. And that is that the language we use matters. And what we need to understand is, is that there are extremist organizations -- whether Muslim or any other faith in the past -- that will use faith as a justification for violence. We cannot paint with a broad brush a faith as a consequence of the violence that is done in that faith's name.

And so you will I think see our administration be very clear in
distinguishing between organizations like al Qaeda -- that espouse violence, espouse terror and act on it -- and people who may disagree with my administration and certain actions, or may have a particular viewpoint in terms of how their countries should develop. We can have legitimate disagreements but still be respectful. I cannot respect terrorist organizations that would kill innocent civilians and we will hunt them down.

But to the broader Muslim world what we are going to be offering is a hand of friendship.

Q: Can I end with a question on Iran and Iraq then quickly?

THE PRESIDENT: It's up to the team --

MR. GIBBS: You have 30 seconds. (Laughter)

Q: Will the United States ever live with a nuclear Iran? And if not, how far are you going in the direction of preventing it?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, I said during the campaign that it is very important for us to make sure that we are using all the tools of U.S. power, including diplomacy, in our relationship with Iran.

Now, the Iranian people are a great people, and Persian civilization is a great civilization. Iran has acted in ways that's not conducive to peace and prosperity in the region: their threats against Israel; their pursuit of a nuclear weapon which could potentially set off an arms race in the region that would make everybody less safe; their support of terrorist organizations in the past -- none of these things have been helpful.

But I do think that it is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran, to express very clearly where our differences are, but where there are potential avenues for progress. And we will over the next several months be laying out our general framework and approach. And as I said during my inauguration speech, if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.

Q: Shall we leave Iraq next interview, or just --

MR. GIBBS: Yes, let's -- we're past, and I got to get him back to dinner with his wife.

Q: Sir, I really appreciate it.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much.

Q: Thanks a lot.

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate it.

Q: Thank you.



Limbaugh's a clown. Here's wishing him the worst

By Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Miami Herald

''I hope he fails.'' -- Limbaugh

It is, of course, a calculated outrage.

Meaning, it was spewed by a clown in the media circus to kick a familiar sequence into motion: angry denunciation by bloggers, pundits and supporters of President Barack Obama (the ''he'' whose failure is hoped), followed by Rush Limbaugh refusing to retract a word, a courageous truth teller who will not be moved. And, trailing behind, like the folks with brooms trail the elephants in the circus parade, Limbaugh's devotees, complaining that their hero has been misquoted, misunderstood or otherwise mistreated. "What Rush meant was . . . yadda yadda yadda.''

A calculated outrage.

And knowing this, knowing how frequently and adroitly media are manipulated by self-promoting media clowns who defame conservatism by calling themselves conservative, one is tempted to let the statement pass, to make its way unimpeded to the dustbin like so many other manufactured controversies. But occasionally, it's necessary to intercept one of them and hold it up to the light.

This is one of those times. Not because what Limbaugh said on his radio program a few days before the inauguration was an outrage -- outrage is the point, remember? -- but rather, because of what the thing he said says about him and his fellow clowns.

"I hope he fails.''

Do you ever say that about your president if you are an American who loves your country? Would you say it about George W. Bush, who was disastrous; about Bill Clinton, who was slimy; about Jimmy Carter, who was inept; about Richard Nixon, who was crooked? You may think he's going to fail, yes. You may warn he's going to fail, yes....(Click for remainder).


Bad Faith Economics

By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

As the debate over President Obama’s economic stimulus plan gets under way, one thing is certain: many of the plan’s opponents aren’t arguing in good faith. Conservatives really, really don’t want to see a second New Deal, and they certainly don’t want to see government activism vindicated. So they are reaching for any stick they can find with which to beat proposals for increased government spending.

Some of these arguments are obvious cheap shots. John Boehner, the House minority leader, has already made headlines with one such shot: looking at an $825 billion plan to rebuild infrastructure, sustain essential services and more, he derided a minor provision that would expand Medicaid family-planning services — and called it a plan to “spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives.”

But the obvious cheap shots don’t pose as much danger to the Obama administration’s efforts to get a plan through as arguments and assertions that are equally fraudulent but can seem superficially plausible to those who don’t know their way around economic concepts and numbers. So as a public service, let me try to debunk some of the major antistimulus arguments that have already surfaced. Any time you hear someone reciting one of these arguments, write him or her off as a dishonest flack.

First, there’s the bogus talking point that the Obama plan will cost $275,000 per job created. Why is it bogus? Because it involves taking the cost of a plan that will extend over several years, creating millions of jobs each year, and dividing it by the jobs created in just one of those years....(Click for remainder).


Israel's Leaders Are Frantically Trying to Prevent War Crimes Proceedings for Their Gaza Atrocities

Israeli officials are in a frenzy of activity to forestall legal actions abroad over their involvement in the recent Gaza offensive.

By Jonathan Cook

Mounting fear in Israel that the country's leaders face war crimes charges over their involvement in the recent Gaza offensive pushed officials into a frenzy of activity at the weekend to forestall legal actions abroad.

The urgency was underlined after rumors last week that Belgian authorities might arrest Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, if she attended a summit of European counterparts in Brussels on Wednesday. In an indication of how seriously the matter is judged, Ms Livni's advisers were on the verge of cancelling her trip when the story was revealed to be a hoax.

Nonetheless, officials are braced for real attempts to arrest senior political and military figures following a warning from the country's chief law officer, Menachem Mazuz, that Israel will soon face "a wave of international lawsuits".

In response, the government is setting up a special task force to work on legal defenses, has barred the media from naming or photographing army officers involved in the Gaza attack, and has placed restrictions on overseas visits. Today, ministers were expected to approve an aid package to help soldiers fight warrants abroad for their arrest....(Click for remainder).


Republican Senators Resort to Extortion on Holder Nomination

Is anyone really surprised at the levels to which the GOP will descend? Rather than do what's best for the nation, all this morally bankrupt group of fascists care about is themselves.

By Ken Camp
The Northwest Progressive Institute via Truthout

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have asked Eric Holder to make a commitment, before he is even confirmed, that he will not prosecute any Bush Administration officials for their involvement in acts of torture during the last administration.

In an effort to derail the nomination of Attorney General-designate Eric Holder, it seems Senate Republicans are now resorting to extortion. They'll confirm Holder if he promises not to prosecute any Bush Administration officials for any involvement in acts of torture, according to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse(D-RI).

Anyone familiar with the criminal justice system - especially those with experience as prosecutors or judges - should know that a prosecutor should make no determination about who to prosecute before he or she has all the facts, and particularly not in response to legislative pressure.

Senator Whitehouse makes a good point about the separation of powers. It isn't for the legislative branch to hold up executive branch appointments, in order to extract promises from those appointees, especially with regard to potential future prosecutions. But it's much more than that.

I understand that President Obama wants to get beyond the partisan divisions and rancor and look to America's future. That's all good and well, but the United States was founded on the rule of law. You often hear that "we are a nation of laws, not men." If the rule of law were not important, what would separate our nation from countries like Myanmar (Burma) or North Korea?...(Click for remainder).


Barack Obama asks Gordon Brown for more soldiers

Ok, when are people going to learn from history. Seneca was not just blowing smoke. Alexander the Great, the British Empire, the Soviet Union: NONE have been able to tame Afghanistan. What makes Obama et. al. think they can?

By David Leppard
The Times UK

PRESIDENT Barack Obama has asked Britain to supply up to 4,000 extra frontline troops to help a planned American surge of forces in Afghanistan, defence sources say.

The request poses a dilemma for Gordon Brown because the Ministry of Defence (MoD) believes it can only spare 1,700 extra troops.

Obama has identified the Afghan conflict as an American priority and wants Britain to be a key partner. The new US strategy is likely to test the “special relationship” between the two allies, putting Brown under pressure to show commitment to the Afghan conflict by announcing an increase in troop numbers.

Patrick Mercer, the Tory MP for Newark and chairman of the Commons counter-terrorism subcommittee, said he understood defence planners had concluded that the army was too overstretched to provide a full brigade.

Mercer said he was told the MoD had been informally approached by Obama’s transition team before Christmas, and again this month, with a request to prepare to send a brigade of frontline troops later this year.

“The MoD has decided it can send no more than a battlegroup. It doesn’t have the manpower,” said Mercer. A battlegroup comprises a battalion of 600 infantry plus reconnaissance, artillery and engineers....(Click for remainder).


Corporate Lobbyists Move to Crush "Buy American" Provisions In the Stimulus Bill

I cannot even being to express how much this angers me. Of course these corporate raiders only care about making money. ASSHOLES!

By David Sirota

Open Left

A few weeks ago, I noted Businessweek's cover story which asked a simple question: "How much of Obama's mammoth fiscal stimulus will leak' abroad, creating jobs in China, Germany, or Mexico rather than the U.S?" In the age of corporate written trade policies that incentivize outsourcing, this is a key question, as U.S. tax dollars could end up simply heading offshore unless Congress takes action.

The good news is that Congress is taking action, attaching legislation by Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN) mandating that stimulus money spent on iron and steel be spent in the United States. The bad news is that Bloomberg News now notes that a corporate lobbying campaign is ramping up to strip those provisions out:
General Electric Co. and Caterpillar Inc. are among U.S. exporters that oppose "Buy American" provisions in the $825 billion stimulus legislation...

The fight presents a dilemma for President Barack Obama, who must balance demands from unions and Democrats to protect American jobs against the threat that the Buy American measure would spark protectionist measures by other countries that might deepen a global recession.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Emergency Committee for American Trade in Washington and other business groups warned of that possibility in a letter today to congressional leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The story notes that both GE and Caterpillar generates roughly half of its sales from outside the United States, so their opposition to "Buy American" provisions isn't surprising. And though the names of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Emergency Committee for American Trade In Washington include references to the U.S./America, their membership is comprised of corporations whose profit margins have greatly benefited from free trade and procurement policies that encourage them to troll the world for the worst labor, environmental and human rights conditions....(Click for remainder).


Bush Sent Rove a Letter Blocking Him From Appearing Before Congress

By Jason Leopold
The Public Record

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers has followed through on a promise last year to continue an investigation into the role the Bush administration played in the decision to fire nine federal prosecutors and the alleged political prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman by issuing a subpoena to a key figure believed to have played a role in both scandals: former White House political adviser Karl Rove.

“I have said many times that I will carry this investigation forward to its conclusion, whether in Congress or in court, and today’s action is an important step along the way,” Conyers said in a prepared statement. “Change has come to Washington, and I hope Karl Rove is ready for it. After two years of stonewalling, it’s time for him to talk.”

The subpoena demands that Rove appear before Congress for a deposition on Feb. 2, at 10 a.m.

But it appears unlikely Rove will show up to give testimony to the committee.

Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, told the Washington Post Monday that George W. Bush recently sent a letter to Rove and reasserted executive privilege claims. It’s unknown when Bush sent Rove the letter or whether it was specifically intended to respond to Congress’s anticipated subpoena for the former political adviser’s testimony about the U.S. Attorney firings.

Moreover, Luskin said a judge will determine if Rove testifies before Congress.

"It's generally agreed that former presidents retain executive privilege as to matters occurring during their term," Luskin said. "We'll solicit the views of the new White House counsel and, if there is a disagreement, assume that the matter will be resolved among the courts, the president and the former president."

Last week, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that directed the National Archives and Records Administration to consult with the Department of Justice and White House counsel "concerning the Archivist's determination as to whether to honor the former President's claim of privilege or instead to disclose the Presidential records notwithstanding the claim of privilege."...(Click for remainder).


Paul Krugman take the Right-Wingers to School

Monday, January 26, 2009

On ABC's This Week with George George Stephanopolous, Paul Krugman takes Sam Donaldson and George Will to school when discussing the economic stimulus package. Probably not a good idea to argue with a Nobel Laureate.


China fears riots will spread as boom goes sour

Clearly not good. China doesn't have the best record of dealing with dissent.

Today millions will leave the cities to return to their rural family homes for the new year celebrations. But this year Beijing hopes the newly jobless revellers will stay there - to prevent a fresh wave of unrest in the cities

By Tania Branigan
The Observer UK

They surged into the grimy streets around the factory: first scores, then hundreds, then more than a thousand, as word spread and tension loaded the stale, grey air. The boldest overturned a police van and smashed up motorcycles, then tore through the building destroying computers and equipment. The mood was exhilarated, angry and frightened.

"It happened so quickly ... There were maybe 500 involved and another 1,000 watching them. People were yelling: 'It's good to smash'," said a witness.

But the riot late last year at the Kai Da factory in Dongguan, amid the grim industrial sprawl of the Pearl River Delta, was not an isolated incident. It was one of tens of thousands of protests, many erupting from the same mixture of economic grievances, resentment of police and swirling rumour.

The numbers have been climbing steadily for years. But as the Chinese New Year dawns and the global economic crisis deepens, the government fears that mass unrest could challenge its control of the country, threatening a communist regime that has embraced capitalism with spectacular results.

Today should be the highlight of the year for migrant workers in the country's southern manufacturing hub, but the hundreds of millions who have travelled home for their annual family reunion have little to celebrate. This is the year of the ox in the Chinese zodiac; a symbol of hard work and tenacity. But no one feels bullish as exports plummet and factories shut their doors.

Officials announced this week that growth fell to 6.8% in the last quarter of 2008. Enviable as that sounds to countries in recession, it follows five years of double-digit growth and rising expectations. Just as crucially, experts believe that China needs 8% growth to provide enough jobs for new entrants to the labour force. But economists predict that the rate could fall as low as 5% this year....(Click for remainder).


Twenty-five people at the heart of the meltdown...

The worst economic turmoil since the Great Depression is not a natural phenomenon but a man-made disaster in which we all played a part. In the second part of a week-long series looking behind the slump, Guardian City editor Julia Finch picks out the individuals who have led us into the current crisis

By Julia Finch
The Guardian UK

Alan Greenspan, chairman of US Federal Reserve 1987- 2006
Only a couple of years ago the long-serving chairman of the Fed, a committed free marketeer who had steered the US economy through crises ranging from the 1987 stockmarket collapse through to the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, was lauded with star status, named the "oracle" and "the maestro". Now he is viewed as one of those most culpable for the crisis. He is blamed for allowing the housing bubble to develop as a result of his low interest rates and lack of regulation in mortgage lending. He backed sub-prime lending and urged homebuyers to swap fixed-rate mortgages for variable rate deals, which left borrowers unable to pay when interest rates rose.

For many years, Greenspan also defended the booming derivatives business, which barely existed when he took over the Fed, but which mushroomed from $100tn in 2002 to more than $500tn five years later.

Billionaires George Soros and Warren Buffett might have been extremely worried about these complex products - Soros avoided them because he didn't "really understand how they work" and Buffett famously described them as "financial weapons of mass destruction" - but Greenspan did all he could to protect the market from what he believed was unnecessary regulation. In 2003 he told the Senate banking committee: "Derivatives have been an extraordinarily useful vehicle to transfer risk from those who shouldn't be taking it to those who are willing to and are capable of doing so".

In recent months, however, he has admitted at least some of his long-held beliefs have turned out to be incorrect - not least that free markets would handle the risks involved, that too much regulation would damage Wall Street and that, ultimately, banks would always put the protection of their shareholders first.

He has described the current financial crisis as "the type ... that comes along only once in a century" and last autumn said the fact that the banks had played fast and loose with shareholders' equity had left him "in a state of shocked disbelief".

Bill Clinton, former US president
Clinton shares at least some of the blame for the current financial chaos. He beefed up the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act to force mortgage lenders to relax their rules to allow more socially disadvantaged borrowers to qualify for home loans....(Click for remainder).


Ed Stein: Cleanup


President Obama Weekly Address

Remarks of President Barack Obama

Weekly Address

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

We begin this year and this Administration in the midst of an unprecedented crisis that calls for unprecedented action. Just this week, we saw more people file for unemployment than at any time in the last twenty-six years, and experts agree that if nothing is done, the unemployment rate could reach double digits. Our economy could fall $1 trillion short of its full capacity, which translates into more than $12,000 in lost income for a family of four. And we could lose a generation of potential, as more young Americans are forced to forgo college dreams or the chance to train for the jobs of the future.

In short, if we do not act boldly and swiftly, a bad situation could become dramatically worse.

That is why I have proposed an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan to immediately jumpstart job creation as well as long-term economic growth. I am pleased to say that both parties in Congress are already hard at work on this plan, and I hope to sign it into law in less than a month.

It’s a plan that will save or create three to four million jobs over the next few years, and one that recognizes both the paradox and the promise of this moment - the fact that there are millions of Americans trying to find work even as, all around the country, there’s so much work to be done. That’s why this is not just a short-term program to boost employment. It’s one that will invest in our most important priorities like energy and education; health care and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century.

Today I’d like to talk specifically about the progress we expect to make in each of these areas.

To accelerate the creation of a clean energy economy, we will double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy like wind, solar, and biofuels over the next three years. We’ll begin to build a new electricity grid that lay down more than 3,000 miles of transmission lines to convey this new energy from coast to coast. We’ll save taxpayers $2 billion a year by making 75% of federal buildings more energy efficient, and save the average working family $350 on their energy bills by weatherizing 2.5 million homes.

To lower health care cost, cut medical errors, and improve care, we’ll computerize the nation’s health record in five years, saving billions of dollars in health care costs and countless lives. And we’ll protect health insurance for more than 8 million Americans who are in danger of losing their coverage during this economic downturn.

To ensure our children can compete and succeed in this new economy, we’ll renovate and modernize 10,000 schools, building state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries, and labs to improve learning for over five million students. We’ll invest more in Pell Grants to make college affordable for seven million more students, provide a $2,500 college tax credit to four million students, and triple the number of fellowships in science to help spur the next generation of innovation.

Finally, we will rebuild and retrofit America to meet the demands of the 21st century. That means repairing and modernizing thousands of miles of America’s roadways and providing new mass transit options for millions of Americans. It means protecting America by securing 90 major ports and creating a better communications network for local law enforcement and public safety officials in the event of an emergency. And it means expanding broadband access to millions of Americans, so business can compete on a level-playing field, wherever they’re located.

I know that some are skeptical about the size and scale of this recovery plan. I understand that skepticism, which is why this recovery plan must and will include unprecedented measures that will allow the American people to hold my Administration accountable for these results. We won’t just throw money at our problems - we’ll invest in what works. Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made public, and informed by independent experts whenever possible. We’ll launch an unprecedented effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government, and every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new website called

No one policy or program will solve the challenges we face right now, nor will this crisis recede in a short period of time. But if we act now and act boldly; if we start rewarding hard work and responsibility once more; if we act as citizens and not partisans and begin again the work of remaking America, then I have faith that we will emerge from this trying time even stronger and more prosperous than we were before. Thanks for listening.



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