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Senate Democrats Now See a Path to Seat for Burris

Wednesday, January 07, 2009



By Carl Hulse

WASHINGTON — Reversing themselves, Senate Democratic leaders on Wednesday morning opened the door to allowing Roland W. Burris to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate.

After a private 45-minute meeting with the former Illinois state attorney general, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, and Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said that they were open to recognizing Mr. Burris’s appointment as long as he met several conditions.

They said that Mr. Burris, whose appointment was challenged because of the federal corruption inquiry surrounding Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, has to win the signature of the Illinois secretary of state and persuade a state legislative committee considering Mr. Blagojevich’s impeachment that there was nothing untoward about his selection.

“If that comes to a positive conclusion, as we believe it will, the next step is for the Rules Committee to review what has come together here on a bipartisan basis and recommend to the United States Senate, both Democrats and Republicans, the next step,” Mr. Durbin said.

A short time later Mr. Burris said in a news conference that he expected to be reresenting Illinois in the Senate "very shortly."...(Click for remainder).

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An Unrepentant New Dealer Runs for Congress

By Thomas Frank
The Tilting Yard @ The Wall Street Journal


Thanks to the media circus swirling around the governor of Illinois and his schemes to fill President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat, little attention is being paid to the race to succeed Rahm Emanuel as he moves from the House of Representatives to White House chief of staff.

That's a shame, because voters in Mr. Emanuel's district, largely composed of Chicago's North Side, will have the chance to redeem their state's reputation. They will likely have the chance to elect, out of a crowded race, a true reformer in Thomas Geoghegan.

Mr. Geoghegan is something of an oddity in Chicago. He is a respected lawyer, but he has spent his career in the unlucrative fields of labor law and advocacy for the poor. His connections are probably better with the Jesuits than with City Hall.

He is also a writer, and a brilliant one at that, possessed of an elegant, conversational prose style and an eye for the haunting detail. I should also mention that he is a good friend of mine, and that he has contributed to and worked on a magazine I edit.

I first encountered Mr. Geoghegan in the early 1990s, when he was a frequent guest on a Chicago TV show. And I still remember how shocking it was to hear someone defend organized labor in those days when everyone else was coming to accept the post-industrial order....(Click for remainder).

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No defending the Defense of Marriage Act

Ok where was this opinion in 1996? What the hell you ass-monkey? I hate people like this guy.



The author of the federal Defense of Marriage Act now thinks it's time for his law to get the boot -- but for political reasons, not in support of gays.

By Bob Barr

In 1996, as a freshman member of the House of Representatives, I wrote the Defense of Marriage Act, better known by its shorthand acronym, DOMA, than its legal title. The law has been a flash-point for those arguing for or against same-sex marriage ever since President Clinton signed it into law. Even President-elect Barack Obama has grappled with its language, meaning and impact.

I can sympathize with the incoming commander in chief. And, after long and careful consideration, I have come to agree with him that the law should be repealed.

The left now decries DOMA as the barrier to federal recognition and benefits for married gay couples. At the other end of the political spectrum, however, DOMA has been lambasted for subverting the political momentum for a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In truth, the language of the legislation -- like that of most federal laws -- was a compromise.

DOMA was indeed designed to thwart the then-nascent move in a few state courts and legislatures to afford partial or full recognition to same-sex couples. The Hawaii court case Baehr vs. Lewin, still active while DOMA was being considered by Congress in mid-1996, provided the immediate impetus.

The Hawaii court was clearly leaning toward legalizing same-sex marriages. So the first part of DOMA was crafted to prevent the U.S. Constitution's "full faith and credit" clause -- which normally would require State B to recognize any lawful marriage performed in State A -- from being used to extend one state's recognition of same-sex marriage to other states whose citizens chose not to recognize such a union.

Contrary to the wishes of a number of my Republican colleagues, I crafted the legislation so it wasn't a hammer the federal government could use to force states to recognize only unions between a man and a woman. Congress deliberately chose not to establish a single, nationwide definition of marriage....(Click for remainder).

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Urban Tool in Recruiting by the Army: An Arcade

Does anyone else see anything wrong with this?


By John Leland

PHILADELPHIA — Amid the last-minute shopping bustle, the voice in the Black Hawk helicopter simulator shouted with an urgency that exceeded even the holiday mall frenzy.

“Enemy right! Enemy right!”

Triggers squeezed. Pixels exploded. Shopping waited.



At the Franklin Mills mall here, past the Gap Outlet and the China Buddha Express, is a $13 million video arcade that the Army hopes will become a model for recruitment in urban areas, where the armed services typically have a hard time attracting recruits.

The Army Experience Center is a fitting counterpart to the retail experience: 14,500 square feet of mostly shoot-’em-up video games and three full-scale simulators, including an AH-64 Apache Longbow helicopter, an armed Humvee and a Black Hawk copter with M4 carbine assault rifles. For those who want to take the experience deeper, the center has 22 recruiters. Or for more immediate full-contact mayhem, there are the outlet stores....(Click for remainder).

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Congress hears call to 'get something done'

By John Fritze and Fredreka Schouten
USA Today


WASHINGTON — House and Senate leaders marked the first day of the 111th Congress by preaching bipartisanship Tuesday and promising to start work quickly on President-elect Barack Obama's economic proposals and issues ranging from climate change to health care.

Oaths of office were administered, anti-war protesters staged demonstrations and lobbyists cruised through a series of receptions to celebrate the day. More than a few new members said they were eager to get started.

"The overwhelming feeling is, let's get something done," said Colorado Democrat Sen. Mark Udall, who was sworn in on a Bible he said belonged to his father Morris, who was a congressman for 30 years.

Though Congress often delays substantive action until after the presidential inauguration — which takes place Jan. 20 this year — the economic crisis has prompted urgency. Obama met with leaders of both parties Monday to discuss a $775 billion recovery plan.

"This is the lesson and legacy of the last election: the American people demanded a new era of change and accountability," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who was elected to a second term as speaker. "We need action and we need action now."

The economy is not the only item up for discussion. Congress may also move quickly on an expansion of a children's health insurance program and a bill that requires employers to pay equal compensation for women and men who perform similar work.

Senate committees, meanwhile, have started to schedule confirmation hearings on Obama's Cabinet nominees. That process will begin Thursday with Tom Daschle, Obama's choice for Health and Human Services secretary....(Click for remainder).

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Pressure grows for Gaza ceasefire

By BBC News

Pressure is building on Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas to accept a ceasefire deal backed by the UN and the US to end fighting in Gaza.

The plan, proposed by Egypt and France, calls for an immediate ceasefire to allow more aid into the Gaza Strip, and talks with Israel on border security.

It follows one of the deadliest days since the offensive began, with more than 130 people killed on Tuesday.

Overnight, Israeli forces launched 40 fresh air strikes in Gaza.

The Israeli army has reported no missile launches from Gaza into Israel on Wednesday.

The Israeli government says it has agreed to open a humanitarian corridor into the Gaza Strip, to allow vital supplies into specified areas.

John Ging, of the UN relief agency, Unwra, said the Israeli offer was an improvement, but the priority was a cessation of the current violence....(Click for remainder).

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Unwelcome Gift by Ed Stein

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Gaza: The death and life of my father

For Fares Akram, The Independent's reporter in Gaza, the Israeli invasion became a personal tragedy when he discovered his father was one of the first casualties of the ground war

By Fares Akram in Gaza
The Independent (UK)


The phone call came at around 4.20pm on Saturday. A bomb had been dropped on the house at our small farm in northern Gaza. My father was walking from the gate to the farmhouse at the time. It was our beloved place, that farm and its two-storey white house with a red roof. Nestled in a flat fertile agricultural plain north-west of Beit Lahiya, it had lemon groves, orange and apricot trees and we had recently acquired 60 dairy cows.

It was the closest farm to the northern border with Israel. Ironically, we always thought the biggest danger there was not from Israeli troops, who usually went straight past if they were mounting an incursion, but from stray Hamas rockets aimed at the Israeli towns north of us.

But shortly before sunset on Saturday, as Israeli ground troops and tanks invaded Gaza in the name of shutting down Hamas rocket sites, the peace of that place was shattered and my father's life extinguished at the age of 48. Warplanes and helicopters had swept in, bombing and firing to open up the space for the tanks and ground forces that would follow in the darkness. It was one of those F16 airstrikes that killed my father.

The house was reduced to little more than powder, and of Dad there was nothing much left either. "Just a pile of flesh," my uncle, who found him in the rubble, said later with brutal honesty.

Like most Gazans, my mother, my sisters and my wife – who is nine months' pregnant – and I have spent the past week of the Israeli onslaught trapped inside our flat in the city. But my father had decided to stay up at the farm; he knew it would be impossible to get back to tend the livestock if the expected troop invasion began. But he called us every day....(Click for remainder).

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Obama's new intelligence czar

Agence France-Presse via The Australian

PRESIDENT-ELECT Barack Obama's chosen intelligence czar will have to juggle a number of ticking timebombs while riding herd over 16 often fractious intelligence agencies, experts say.

As Obama's director of national intelligence, retired Admiral Dennis Blair, will inherit an intelligence community still in the throes of reform following monumental intelligence fiascos in President George W. Bush's first term.

No shortage of situations will demand his attention, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to Iran's nuclear program to questions about who is in charge in North Korea.

And then there will be the clean-up from the Bush era's warrantless wiretapping, secret prisons and harsh interrogration programs.

"He's got a plate full of problems it seems to me,'' said John Pike, who heads GlobalSecurity.Org, a non-partisan research group, who says Blair is also likely to be confronted with surprises like the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"Hopefully he will keep his desk clean of most of that because it seems to me his main job is to make sure the trains run on time,'' he added.

A former commander of US forces in the Pacific from 1999 to 2002, Blair will be only the third director of national intelligence (DNI).

The position was created by Congress in 2004 after investigations revealed that turf-sensitive intelligence agencies failed to share information that might have averted the September 11 attacks. That failure was followed by US intelligence's fateful error on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The DNI's main mission was to break down the barriers between the agencies, and make them operate more collaboratively.

Steven Aftergood, an expert at the Federation of American Scientists, said the current DNI, retired admiral Mike McConnell, has made real progress in integrating the intelligence community....(Click for remainder).

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Nadler Renews Bill for Investigation and Prosecution

By Bob Fertik
Democrats.com


On November 20, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced H.Res. 1531 to hold George Bush and his administration accountable for their crimes through a Congressional investigation and a Special Prosecutor. We sent over 57,000 petition signatures to Congress and persuaded 9 House Democrats to co-sponsor. With the start of the new Congress, Rep. Nadler has re-introduced his resolution with a new number (to be posted).
"We cannot allow President Bush to shield his senior officials from the law," said Rep. Nadler. "The President must not pardon his own officials for acts which may well lead to criminal investigations and prosecutions in the future. As President Bush and his top advisors have likely been involved in the same possibly criminal actions, it is entirely inappropriate for the President to excuse his own subordinates."
So we are renewing our own efforts to convince more Democrats to become co-sponsors so the resolution is passed. Our effort is newly energized by Dick Cheney's televised admission in December that he personally approved torture, including waterboarding. After the news broke, Jonathan Turley went on Keith Olbermann's show to issue this challenge:
"The most successful democracy in history is just about to see war crimes, do nothing about it -- and that's an indictment not just of George Bush and his administration. It's an indictment of all of us if we walk away from a clear war crime and say it's time for another commission."
Will we "walk away from a clear war crime?" Absolutely not! Nor can we let our Representatives in Congress walk away. Please sign our petition and call your Representative at 202-224-3121 with a simple message: co-sponsor Rep. Nadler's H.Res.?

(Click for remainder).

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CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta Nominated for Surgeon General


By Ceci Connolly and Howard Kurtz

America's most famous television surgeon, Sanjay Gupta, is poised to take his black bag and microphone to the White House as President-elect Barack Obama's choice for U.S. surgeon general.

A neurosurgeon who is also a correspondent for CNN and CBS, Gupta was chosen as much for his broadcasting skills as for his medical résumé, suggesting that the incoming administration values visible advisers who can drive a public message. He has also been offered a top post in the new White House Office of Health Reform, twin duties that could make him the most influential surgeon general in history.

A practicing physician and one of People magazine's "Sexiest Men Alive," Gupta met for more than two hours with Obama in Chicago on Nov. 25, according to two sources with knowledge of the talks. Gupta, 39, later spoke with several Obama advisers, including Thomas A. Daschle, who will run the new White House policy office and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The globetrotting doctor has told Obama aides he wants the job, which involves overseeing the 6,000-member Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. When reached yesterday, Gupta did not deny that he plans to accept the offer but declined to comment....(Click for remainder).

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Welcome Senator Udall


Udalls Claim Seniority Among Senate Frosh

By Kathleen Hunter
CQ Politics


In the Senate, seniority can lead to power, so the starting position for a new member can be a matter of some intense interest.

Nine new senators — seven Democrats and two Republicans — greeted one another, took pictures with family members and found their way to the Senate chamber Tuesday to be sworn in as members of the 111th Congress.

The Democrats are Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mark Udall of Colorado, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Mark Warner of Virginia. The two Republicans are Nebraska’s Mike Johanns and Idaho’s Jim Risch .

Democrats will not immediately seat anyone to fill open seats from Minnesota or Illinois because of legal disputes about who is entitled to occupy those seats.

Even though the freshmen will be at the bottom of the Senate’s seniority ladder, a pecking order among them has already been established through a complicated system that takes into consideration more than a dozen factors.

Because first cousins Mark and Tom Udall both had served in the House since 1999, they will be the most senior of the freshman senators under the formula, which also takes into account previous service as president or vice president, a Cabinet member or a governor, and the population the senator’s home state, in that order.

Mark Udall said he was pleased to learn he was the most senior of the freshmen, adding that he had been told he would be granted the committee assignments he had asked for — Armed Services and Energy and Natural Resources.

“I’m astounded,” Udall said. “Being at the end of the alphabet and having a big family, I never expect to be at the top of the list. So this is exciting.”

Udall said he was making do for now with a temporary office in the basement of the Dirksen Senate Office Building but was eager to get a permanent office.

“These don’t equal the digs I had in the House,” he said, adding that — unlike his cousin Tom — he never got stuck in a House office on the fifth floor of the Cannon House Office Building, where working conditions are notoriously cramped....(Click for remainder).

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Liberals Relish New Clout as Session Starts

By Alan K. Ota
CQ Politics


The Democratic Party’s liberal wing will begin a hard push this week to consolidate power in the House and advance its agenda with a quiet assist from a longtime champion, Speaker Nancy Pelosi .

Leaders of the Democrats’ liberal faction, such as House Appropriations Chairman David R. Obey of Wisconsin, scored an early victory when Pelosi agreed to a change in House rules that will solidify their clout.

Obey and several other liberal chairmen of powerful committees are among the biggest beneficiaries from the Democratic Caucus’ decision to omit the three-term limit on committee chairmen that dates to the Republican takeover of Congress after the 1994 election.

The caucus reviewed Monday night this and other changes that are part of the rules package the full chamber will adopt Tuesday to govern its internal operations in the 111th Congress.

The rule change comes on the heels of the caucus’ highly unusual decision to oust a sitting “old bull” chairman in favor of a younger — and much more liberal — upstart. John D. Dingell of Michigan was removed as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and replaced by Henry A. Waxman of California.

Dingell is a moderate who has looked out for the interests of his home state auto industry, which has led him to oppose strong measures to combat global warming favored by many other Democrats.

Liberal Democrats begin the new session at a high-water mark in the House. Democratic aides say liberals account for more than half of the party’s 257 seats and will wield gavels on nearly two-thirds of the 21 full committees....(Click for remainder).

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GOP Rides a Tall Stack of $20s

By Meteor Blades
Daily Kos


I just threw up in my mouth.

Right wingers often trigger my gag reflex. But I was hoping to get a longer reprieve than usual at the start of this last of the double-zero years. Alas. This time, my stomach's been churned from listening to Republicans warn about the dire dangers of deficit-spending if President Barack Obama obtains approval for his economic stimulus package.

Where were those clarion warning voices during the eight years Mister Bush and his cronies were adding $5 trillion to the national debt, $1 trillion of it a direct consequence of tax cuts for the rich?

I won't make you Google for the answer. They were in the same place they and their predecessors were when Ronald Reagan more than doubled the national debt during his eight years in office. Reagan talked a good game. His performance was something else. Just like today's nauseating Republicans. A large stimulus bill is "a horrible mistake," South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford said Sunday on CNN’s "Late Edition," with "dire consequences" for the dollar, inflation and the national debt. Now that we're in the midst of what could very well the worst economic downward spiral in 75 years, deficit spending is suddenly horrible.

Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981 with three major agenda items on his platter. Two of these were just like Mister Bush's 20 years later: greatly increase defense spending and slash taxes on the wealthy. He did both. But his greatest effort was devoted to cutting the top tax rate from 70% to 50% to 38% to 28%, giving already wealthy Americans gigantic new piles to play with. Thus did he start us down the road toward a Third World ratio between rich and poor....(Click for remainder).

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Burris, Blocked From Taking Seat, Gains New Support



By Carl Hulse and David Stout

WASHINGTON — Roland W. Burris, the would-be junior senator from Illinois, picked up the support of a key Democrat late Tuesday afternoon in his bid to occupy the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Mr. Burris, who was rebuffed by the Senate clerk earlier in the day, gained the support of Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the chairman of the Rules Committee, who broke with many of her Democratic colleagues and said that Mr. Burris should be seated despite having been appointed by Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, who is facing corruption charges.

Regardless of the charges against him, the governor still has the right to fill the Senate vacancy, Ms. Feinstein said, and keeping Mr. Burris from taking his seat could have implications for appointments by other governors.

Ms. Feinstein’s support is important because her committee has a say in whether Mr. Burris is qualified to serve. The California senator’s endorsement was surely heartening for Mr. Burris, who arrived at the Capitol on Tuesday morning for the start of the 111th Congress to meet a mob of reporters and photographers. Mr. Burris, who shortly before his arrival had insisted he was “certainly not looking for drama,” found himself caught up in a comedy of sorts. Looking unsettled and with rain glistening on his topcoat, he entered the building to encounter a mob of reporters and photographers in a spectacle that briefly overshadowed the convening of the new House and Senate that will soon take up the ambitious program of Mr. Obama....(Click for remainder).

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