On the March 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report, during a report on former General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner's resignation, White House correspondent Wendell Goler aired a clip of Carly Fiorina -- whom he identified only as a "[f]ormer Hewlett-Packard CEO" -- criticizing President Obama. Goler did not note that Fiorina was also a senior economic adviser for Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. According to her website, Fiorina "was named as John McCain's Victory '08 Chairman for the Republican National Committee. The focus of this role was to be the primary advocate for Senator John McCain's Presidential candidacy and for the Republican Party in its many facets." Fiorina is also reportedly considering running against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA) in 2010.
During the segment, Goler stated that Fiorina "says Wagoner and the GM board should have quit after accepting the government bailout," then aired a clip of her asserting: "They were acknowledging their failure in their primary accountability, which was to make the tough choices necessary to keep their company viable. They failed to do that. On the other hand, I very much worry about a president firing a chief executive." Goler later reported, "Publicly, they [the Obama administration] say his sacking was not unprecedented." In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, Obama did not "fir[e]" or "sack" Wagoner, but made his resignation a condition of the federal government's extension of further aid to GM. Indeed, as Fiorina herself noted during the segment, she has advocated resignations by executives in companies receiving federal aid. In a December 12, 2008, Wall Street Journal op-ed, Fiorina wrote: "[W]hen CEOs go to Washington and ask for taxpayer money, they should also be prepared to submit their resignations and those of their boards. To earn a bailout, a CEO and board should be held accountable for the decisions they've made -- or perhaps the actions they've failed to take."...(Click for remainder).
The Washington Independent
Is this really the talking point Republicans want to use in their fight against climate change legislation? At a congressional hearing last week, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) argued that we could afford to keep increasing the levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, since dinosaurs got by just fine in a carbon-rich environment.
“Today we have about 388 parts per million [of carbon dioxide] in the atmosphere,” Shimkus said. “I think in the age of the dinosaurs, when we had most flora and fauna, we were probably at 4,000 parts per million. There is a theological debate that this is a carbon-starved planet, not too much carbon.”
Never mind that I have trouble imagining a theological debate about the chemical makeup of the atmosphere. Why do Republicans keep using this line of reasoning? (This isn’t the first time.) Do they really want our planet to return to an era of enormous lizards and 40-foot snakes?
Ah, but Shimkus does us the favor of explaining his logic. In a word, God:
The earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over. A man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood. I appreciate having panelists here who are men of faith and we can get into the theological discourse of that position, but I do believe that God’s word is infallible. Unchanging. Perfect.Great, let’s destroy our planet and our separation of church and state in one fell swoop....(Click for remainder).
Despite the scientific consensus that human-caused global warming is real and is negatively affecting our planet, those who disagree continue to receive a significant amount of attention from the media. A recent example was the March 29 New York Times Magazine cover story about physicist Freeman Dyson, who argues that global warming is not a significant problem. More broadly, throughout the past year, the media have repeatedly provided a platform for critics who argue that the globe is in a period of "cooling," while often failing to challenge their suggestion that this shows that global warming is a myth. These critics often misleadingly cite the fact that the average global temperature in 2007 and 2008 was cooler than it was in 1998, echoing an April 4, 2008, BBC article, which reported that "temperatures have not risen globally since 1998 when El Nino warmed the world." Other times, the claim is made by media figures themselves; for instance, syndicated columnist George Will wrote in his widely criticized February 15 Washington Post column that "according to the U.N. World Meteorological Organization [WMO], there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade" -- despite repeated statements by the WMO and its representatives the Earth remains in a warming trend.
In fact, climate experts reject the idea that the relatively cooler global average temperatures in several of the last 10 years are any indication that global warming is slowing or does not exist. Scientists have identified a long-term warming trend spanning several decades that is independent from the normal climate variability -- which includes relatively short-term changes in climate due to events like El Niño and La Niña -- to which they attribute the recent cooler temperatures.
In a February 11 Guardian op-ed, Vicky Pope, the head of climate change advice at the U.K. Met Office Hadley Centre, explained that claims about the pace of global warming require more than 10 years of data, "since natural variations always occur on this timescale." She continued, "1998 was a record-breaking warm year as long-term man-made warming combined with a naturally occurring strong El Niño. In contrast, 2008 was slightly cooler than previous years partly because of a La Niña. Despite this, it was still the 10th warmest on record."...(Click for remainder).
By Tim Dickinson
National Affairs @ Rolling Stone
from the name of fundamentalist Rep. John Shimkus (R. Ill.)
1 : unconvincing biblical refutation of scientific fact
2 : religious hokum
Right Wing Watch @ People for the American Way
A gaggle of Religious Right groups have come out in opposition of Kathleen Sebelius’s nomination as the Secretary of Health and Human Services, releasing a letter [PDF] to Senators asking them to vote against her nomination when it comes up for a vote.
The list of signatories is a who’s who of top-level and lesser known right-wing leaders, including Tom McClusky of Family Research Council Action, Don Wildmon of the American Family Association, Jim Backlin of the Christian Coalition, Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values, Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, Brian Burch of Fidelis, Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, and Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition.
Among the reasons cited in opposing her nomination is this:
Governor Sebelius has long close and personal ties to notorious abortionist George Tiller, known for performing late-term abortions in Kansas, include donations from Mr. Tiller of hundreds of thousands of dollars to PACs and organizations controlled by the Kansas Governor. She has also repeatedly interfered in cases brought against Mr. Tiller, including recruiting a candidate to replace the state attorney general who was originally prosecuting the abortion doctor.Of course, the “state attorney general who was originally prosecuting the abortion doctor” was Phill Kline, who was bounced out of office because of his anti-abortion zealotry and eventually landed a gig teaching at Liberty University. On top of that, Klein was a Republican and Sebelius was a Democrat, so the idea that she would seek a candidate to challenge him is what is traditionally known as “politics.”...(Click for remainder).
The Huffington Post
The Republican National Committee entity in charge of coordinating this past summer's convention in Minnesota is being accused by one of its vendors of failing to pay nearly $800,000 in expenses.
In a complaint filed in January 2009 [PDF, 3 Dog Consulting, Ltd., alleges that it was not paid roughly $760,000 for fundraising services it did for the Minneapolis/St. Paul 2008 Host Committee, the non-profit group tasked with overseeing the convention.
The suit remains unsettled to this date, with the host committee saying it has met all of its contractual obligations and 3 Dog insisting that the organization is trying to weasel out of its financial commitments.
On the surface, the dispute appears to be more a business matter than political. The committee has more than $5.4 million cash on hand, with slightly more than $1 million in debts owed, according to FEC reports. It could, if it wanted, pay off the money for which it is being sued.
"This is a run of the mill business dispute in terms of what is required under the contract," said John Knapp, the committee's lawyer. "We paid these fundraisers over $680,000 and don't believe they are owed the money they are claimed."
But there are some potentially far-reaching implications to the complaint. For starters, its executive director, Jeff Larson, is one of the GOP's key behind-the-scenes players. Beyond being tasked with raising money for the convention, he is a conservative campaign guru, and, most infamously, provided a cheap-rental apartment for former Sen. Norm Coleman and bought the pricey clothes used by Sarah Palin during the '08 campaign....(Click for remainder).
By Chris Weigant
The Huffington Post
In the era of Michael Steele, Sarah Palin, and Bobby Jindal, it's pretty hard to stand out in the world of conservative lunatic ravings. But Andrew Breitbart's recent opinion piece in the Washington Times truly raises (lowers?) the bar for the rest of the field in right-wing Crazytown. His thesis is that liberal blog commenters are ruining things for the conservatives' attempts to have a nice online chat.
That sounds like I'm exaggerating, but sadly, I'm actually toning his comments down. Read his whole piece if you don't believe me. It's worth reading, because YOU -- quite possibly a Huffington Post commenter -- are apparently what is ruining everything on "the Internets" for conservatives.
Because this article was written in Crazytalk (a dialect spoken only in increasingly-smaller regions of our country), allow me to translate selected excerpts for you.
A digital war has broken out, and the conservative movement is losing. Read the comment sections of right-leaning blogs, news sites and social forums, and the evidence is there in ugly abundance. Internet hooligans are spewing their talking points to thwart the dissent of the newly-out-of-power.Some might initially be confused at the "war" terminology, but this is normal, as conservatives like to see everything as a "war" of us-against-them. So, while in a normal conversation this would be considered somewhat odd, rest assured that this is actually considered "normal" for his intended audience....(Click for remainder).
We must not let that go unanswered.
The Jewish Week
What is about J Street, the pro-peace process lobby and political action committee, that has the leaders of major Jewish groups in such a snit?
I’ve had calls from three of them in the past two weeks, complaining about the new kid on the pro-Israel block; even some liberal Jewish leaders are joining the anti-J Street chorus.
The recent J Street public opinion survey - a mix of straight survey research with a few loaded questions thrown in for good measure, pretty typical for advocacy groups – produced an outpouring of criticism suggesting the entire survey was tainted by political bias.
Underlying it all is the implication the group is somehow disloyal to Israel and undermining Jewish unity at a critical moment for the Jewish state.
But the reaction is far out of proportion to the Jewish “establishment’s” response to other dovish groups. I remember when Americans for Peace Now (APN) appeared on the scene (yes, I’ve been doing this job that long), and the reaction from the big guys was barely detectable. The Israel Policy Forum (IPF) and a predecessor group, Project Nishma, started out with some big name, mainstream Jewish leaders, so you’d think the pro-Israel establishment would have had fits, but I heard almost no reaction. Brit Tzedek v’Shalom was started by a former Knesset member, but its arrival caused barely a ripple.
So why J Street? Why all this fury? More to the point, why do so many find this group so threatening?...(Click for remainder).
I often bemoan how the media's policy of sanitizing combat images and its failure to report what the true face of war looks like have caused the public to be detached from the carnage wrought by the occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.
For nearly a decade, both wars have largely been reported by the media and explained to the public by lawmakers in statistical terms: thousands of U.S. soldiers killed in combat, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis dead, and three-quarters of a million veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.
Perhaps the media is not entirely at fault for failing to provide deeper insight into the psychological impact the wars have had on more than one million U.S. veterans and their families.
Until recently, the press has been prohibited from photographing veterans returning from combat in flag-draped coffins, and funerals for the fallen were likewise off-limits.
But by relying heavily on numbers and press releases as a way of covering both conflicts, the public has been rendered incapable of experiencing or feeling any dramatic element associated with the devastation. It's a sad truth that the average person is unable to accurately say how many U.S. soldiers have been killed and wounded since the wars began (4,257 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, more than 31,000 wounded, 320,000 diagnosed with brain injuries)....(Click for remainder).
By Anna Schecter, Brian Ross, and Justin Rood
The FBI and federal prosecutors are reportedly closing in on the AIG executive whose suspect investments cost the insurance giant hundreds of billions of dollars. The government is investigating whether or not 54-year old Brooklyn-native Joseph Cassano committed criminal fraud in virtually bankrupting the company.
"He almost single-handedly is responsible for bringing AIG down and by reference the economy of this country," said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Ca.)
Cassano, who lives in London, made more than $300 million running the infamous Financial Products Division of AIG where he, with about a dozen others, committed AIG to insure what turned out to be more than a trillion dollars worth of junk quality loans held by banks.
"He is the golden boy of the casino," said Rep. Speier. "They basically took peoples' hard earned money and threw it away, gambled it and lost everything. And he must be held accountable for the fraud, for the dereliction of his duty, and for the havoc that he's wrought on America."
When approached by ABC News outside of his London home Cassano said he did not want to talk about the allegations against him....(Click for remainder).
By Bob Cesca
Crooks and Liars
The Raw Story
After a former Bush official responded to a lawyer who's suing him for alleged torture at Guantanamo Bay, the lawyer has fired back in kind.
Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense under President George W. Bush, is accused by Spanish human rights lawyers of providing legal cover to Bush policies under which detainees were tortured. The lawyers want to try a number of Bush officials -- among them former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales -- in Spanish court.
Feith fired back in an interview Sunday, saying, "the charges as related to me make no sense."
"They criticize me for promoting a controversial position that I never advocated," Feith added.
In response, Gonzalo Boye, one of the lawyers filing the complaint, advised Feith to get a "very good lawyer."
“I would recommend that Mr. Feith first of all read the complaint, and secondly that he get a very good lawyer,” Boye said. “If he is so sure of what he is saying — then the address of the national court is #22 Genova Street, second floor.”...(Click for remainder).
The new consensus among the experts who missed the housing bubble (EMHB) is that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's plan to subsidize the purchase of junk mortgages and their derivatives will help alleviate the stress on the banking system. That's good news.
These geniuses have devised a plan that for $1 trillion (approximately equal to 300 million kid-years of SCHIP, the State Child Health Insurance Program) can alleviate the stress on the banking system. Note that no one claims that $1 trillion spent on the Geithner plan will actually clean up the banking system - that would be asking too much. The EMHB only assure us that this $1 trillion (more than enough to have energy conserving retrofits for every building in the country) will make things better. Isn't that enough?
Oh, by the way, some people will get very rich off the Geithner plan. Some hedge and equity fund managers could make hundreds of millions or even billions off the Geithner plan. And, under current law, they will pay a lower tax rate on this money than a schoolteacher or firefighter. Are you sold yet?
One other outcome of the Geithner plan is that the folks who bankrupted their banks and wrecked the economy will be able to continue to earn multi-million dollar salaries. Of course this is necessary, because who else has the skills to run these banks, other than the people who drove them into bankruptcy?...(Click for remainder).
Some additional Treasury Department nominations came down over the weekend, including CAPster Michael Barr (who I never met since he was also busy being a law professor in Michigan). The press release:
Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals for posts at the Department of Treasury: Helen Elizabeth Garrett, Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy; Michael S. Barr, Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions; and George W. Madison, General Counsel.You can see Barr’s CAP work here. Full biographical details below the fold:
Helen Elizabeth Garrett, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy
As vice president for academic planning and budget at USC, Professor Garrett oversees resource allocation and manages the university’s academic programs and priorities. She also is co-director of the USC-Caltech Center for the Study of Law and Politics and serves on the board of the Initiative and Referendum Institute at USC. In January 2005, she was appointed to President George W. Bush’s nine-member bipartisan Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform, which issued its report in November 2005. She also serves as chair of the finance committee of the national governing board of Common Cause.
Professor Garrett graduated from the University of Oklahoma and University of Virginia Law School. She clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court and Judge Williams on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and served as legal counsel and legislative assistant for tax, budget and welfare reform issues for U.S. Senator David L. Boren. Before joining USC Law in 2003, she was a professor at University of Chicago Law School, where she also served as deputy dean for academic affairs. She has been a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, the University of Virginia Law School, Central European University in Budapest and the Interdisciplinary Center Law School in Israel. Professor Garrett is the co-author of the fourth edition of the leading casebook on legislation and statutory interpretation, Cases and Materials on Legislation: Statutes and the Creation of Public Policy (West Publishing, 2007). Her recent articles have analyzed courts and political parties, campaign finance reform laws, various congressional procedures, judicial review of regulatory statutes, and the initiative process....(Click for remainder).
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 30, 2009
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE AMERICAN AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY
11:07 A.M. EDT
One of the challenges we've confronted from the beginning of this administration is what to do with the state of the struggling auto industry. In recent months, my Auto Task Force has been reviewing requests by General Motors and Chrysler for additional government assistance, as well as plans developed by each of these companies to restructure, to modernize, and to make themselves more competitive. Our evaluation is now complete. But before I lay out what needs to be done going forward, I want to say a few words about where we are and what led us to this point.
It will come as no surprise that some Americans who have suffered most during this recession have been those in the auto industry and those working for companies that support it. Over the past year, our auto industry has shed over 400,000 jobs, not only at plants that produce cars, but at the businesses that produce the parts that go into them and the dealers that sell and repair them. More than one in 10 Michigan residents is out of work -- the most of any state. And towns and cities across the great Midwest have watched unemployment climb higher than it’s been in decades.
The pain being felt in places that rely on our auto industry is not the fault of our workers; they labor tirelessly and desperately want to see their companies succeed. It's not the fault of all the families and communities that supported manufacturing plants throughout the generations. Rather, it's a failure of leadership -- from Washington to Detroit -- that led our auto companies to this point.
Year after year, decade after decade, we've seen problems papered over and tough choices kicked down the road, even as foreign competitors outpaced us. Well, we've reached the end of that road. And we, as a nation, cannot afford to shirk responsibility any longer. Now is the time to confront our problems head-on and do what’s necessary to solve them.
We cannot, and must not, and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish. This industry is like no other -- it's an emblem of the American spirit; a once and future symbol of America’s success. It's what helped build the middle class and sustained it throughout the 20th century. It's a source of deep pride for the generations of American workers whose hard work and imagination led to some of the finest cars the world has ever known. It's a pillar of our economy that has held up the dreams of millions of our people. And we cannot continue to excuse poor decisions. We cannot make the survival of our auto industry dependent on an unending flow of taxpayer dollars. These companies -- and this industry -- must ultimately stand on their own, not as wards of the state.
And that's why the federal government provided General Motors and Chrysler with emergency loans to prevent their sudden collapse at the end of last year -- only on the condition that they would develop plans to restructure. In keeping with that agreement, each company has submitted a plan to restructure. But after careful analysis, we've determined that neither goes far enough to warrant the substantial new investments that these companies are requesting.
And so today I'm announcing that my administration will offer GM and Chrysler a limited additional period of time to work with creditors, unions, and other stakeholders to fundamentally restructure in a way that would justify an investment of additional taxpayer dollars. During this period they must produce plans that would give the American people confidence in their long-term prospects for success.
Now, what we're asking for is difficult. It will require hard choices by companies. It will require unions and workers who have already made extraordinarily painful concessions to do more. It'll require creditors to recognize that they can't hold out for the prospect of endless government bailouts. It'll have to -- it will require efforts from a whole host of other stakeholders, including dealers and suppliers. Only then can we ask American taxpayers who have already put up so much of their hard-earned money to once more invest in a revitalized auto industry.
But I'm confident that if each are willing to do their part, if all of us are doing our part, then this restructuring, as painful as it will be in the short term, will mark not an end, but a new beginning for a great American industry -- an auto industry that is once more out-competing the world; a 21st century auto industry that is creating new jobs, unleashing new prosperity, and manufacturing the fuel-efficient cars and trucks that will carry us towards an energy-independent future. I am absolutely committed to working with Congress and the auto companies to meet one goal: The United States of America will lead the world in building the next generation of clean cars.
And no one can deny that our auto industry has made meaningful progress in recent years -- and this doesn't get talked about often enough. Some of the cars made by American workers right now are outperforming the best cars made abroad. In 2008, the North American Car of the Year was a GM. This year, Buick tied for first place as the most reliable car in the world. Our companies are investing in breakthrough technologies that hold the promise of new vehicles that will help America end its addiction to foreign oil.
But our auto industry is not moving in the right direction fast enough to succeed in a very tough environment. So let me discuss what measures need to be taken by each of the auto companies requesting taxpayer assistance, and I'll start with General Motors.
GM has made a good faith effort to restructure over the past several months -- but the plan that they've put forward is, in its current form, not strong enough. However, after broad consultation with a range of industry experts and financial advisors, I'm absolutely confident that GM can rise again, providing that it undergoes a fundamental restructuring. As an initial step, GM is announcing today that Rick Wagoner is stepping aside as Chairman and CEO. This is not meant as a condemnation of Mr. Wagoner, who's devoted his life to this company and has had a distinguished career; rather, it's a recognition that will take new vision and new direction to create the GM of the future.
In this context, my administration will offer General Motors adequate working capital over the next 60 days. And during this time, my team will be working closely with GM to produce a better business plan. They must ask themselves: Have they consolidated enough unprofitable brands? Have they cleaned up their balance sheets, or are they still saddled with so much debt that they can’t make future investments? Above all, have they created a credible model for how not only to survive, but to succeed in this competitive global market?
Let me be clear: The United States government has no interest in running GM. We have no intention of running GM. What we are interested in is giving GM an opportunity to finally make those much-needed changes that will let them emerge from this crisis a stronger and more competitive company.
The situation at Chrysler is more challenging. It's with deep reluctance but also a clear-eyed recognition of the facts that we've determined, after careful review, that Chrysler needs a partner to remain viable. Recently, Chrysler reached out and found what could be a potential partner -- the international car company Fiat, where the current management team has executed an impressive turnaround. Fiat is prepared to transfer its cutting-edge technology to Chrysler and, after working closely with my team, has committed to build -- building new fuel-efficient cars and engines right here in the United States. We've also secured an agreement that will ensure that Chrysler repays taxpayers for any new investments that are made before Fiat is allowed to take a majority ownership stake in Chrysler.
Still, such a deal would require an additional investment of taxpayer dollars, and there are a number of hurdles that must be overcome to make it work. I'm committed to doing all I can to see if a deal can be struck in a way that upholds the interests of American taxpayers. And that's why we'll give Chrysler and Fiat 30 days to overcome these hurdles and reach a final agreement -- and we will provide Chrysler with adequate capital to continue operating during that time. If they are able to come to a sound agreement that protects American taxpayers, we will consider lending up to $6 billion to help their plan succeed. But if they and their stakeholders are unable to reach such an agreement, and in the absence of any other viable partnership, we will not be able to justify investing additional tax dollars to keep Chrysler in business.
Now, while Chrysler and GM are very different companies with very different paths forward, both need a fresh start to implement the restructuring plan they develop. That may mean using our bankruptcy code as a mechanism to help them restructure quickly and emerge stronger. Now, I want everybody to be clear about this. I know that when people hear the word "bankruptcy" it can be unsettling, so let me explain exactly what I mean. What I'm talking about is using our existing legal structure as a tool that, with the backing of the U.S. government, can make it easier for General Motors and Chrysler to quickly clear away old debts that are weighing them down so that they can get back on their feet and onto a path to success; a tool that we can use, even as workers staying on the job building cars that are being sold.
What I'm not talking about is a process where a company is simply broken up, sold off, and no longer exists. We're not talking about that. And what I'm not talking about is a company that's stuck in court for years, unable to get out.
So it's my hope that the steps I'm announcing today will have a salutary effect -- will go a long way forward towards answering many of the questions that people have about the future of GM and Chrysler.
But just in case there's still nagging doubts, let me say it as plainly as I can: If you buy a car from Chrysler or General Motors, you will be able to get your car serviced and repaired, just like always. Your warranty will be safe. In fact, it will be safer than it's ever been, because starting today, the United States government will stand behind your warranty.
But we must also recognize that the difficulties facing this industry are due in no small part to the weaknesses in our economy as a whole. And therefore, to support demand for auto sales during this period, I'm directing my team to take several steps.
First, we will ensure that Recovery Act funds to purchase government cars get out as quickly as possible and work through the budget process to accelerate other federal fleet purchases, as well.
Second, we'll accelerate our efforts through the Treasury Department's Consumer and Business Lending Initiative. And we are working intensively with the auto finance companies to increase the flow of credit to both consumers and dealers.
Third, the IRS is launching a campaign to alert consumers of a new tax benefit for auto purchases made between February 16th and the end of this year -- if you buy a car anytime this year, you may be able to deduct the cost of any sales and excise taxes. And this provision could save families hundreds of dollars and lead to as many as 100,000 new car sales.
Finally, several members of Congress have proposed an even more ambitious incentive program to increase car sales while modernizing our auto fleet. And such fleet modernization programs, which provide a generous credit to consumers who turn in old, less fuel-efficient cars and purchase cleaner cars, have been successful in boosting auto sales in a number of European countries. I want to work with Congress to identify parts of the Recovery Act that could be trimmed to fund such a program, and make it retroactive starting today.
Now, let there be no doubt, it will take an unprecedented effort on all our parts -- from the halls of Congress to the boardroom, from the union hall to the factory floor -- to see the auto industry through these difficult times. And I want every American to know that the path I'm laying out today is our best chance to make sure that the cars of the future are built where they've always been built -- in Detroit and across the Midwest -- to make America's auto industry in the 21st century what it was in the 20th century -- unsurpassed around the world. The path has been chosen after consulting with other governments that are facing this crisis. We've worked closely with the government of Canada on GM and Chrysler, as both those companies have extensive operations there. The Canadian government has indicated its support for our approach and will be announcing their specific commitments later today.
While the steps I'm taking will have an impact on all Americans, some of our fellow citizens will be affected more than others. So I'd like to speak directly to all those men and women who work in the auto industry or live in countless communities that depend on it. Many of you have been going through tough times for longer than you care to remember. And I won't pretend that the tough times are over. I can't promise you there isn't more difficulty to come.
But what I can promise you is this: I will fight for you. You're the reason I'm here today. I got my start fighting for working families in the shadows of a shuttered steel plant. I wake up every single day asking myself what can I do to give you and working people all across this country a fair shot at the American Dream.
When a community is struck by a natural disaster, the nation responds to put it back on its feet. While the storm that has hit our auto towns is not a tornado or a hurricane, the damage is clear, and we must likewise respond. And that's why today I'm designating a new Director of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers to cut through the red tape and ensure that the full resources of our federal government are leveraged to assist the workers, communities, and regions that rely on our auto industry. Edward Montgomery, a former Deputy Labor Secretary, has agreed to serve in this role.
And together with Labor Secretary Solis and my Auto Task Force, Ed will help provide support to auto workers and their families, and open up opportunity to manufacturing communities in Michigan and Ohio and Indiana and every other state that relies on the auto industry.
They will have a strong advocate in Ed. He will direct a comprehensive effort that will help lift up the hardest-hit areas by using the unprecedented levels of funding available in our Recovery Act and throughout our government to create new manufacturing jobs and new businesses where they're needed most -- in your communities. And he will also lead an effort to identify new initiatives we may need to help support your communities going forward.
These efforts, as essential as they are, are not going to make everything better overnight. There are jobs that won't be saved. There are plants that may not reopen. There's little I can say that can subdue the anger or ease the frustration of all whose livelihoods hang in the balance because of failures that weren't theirs.
But there's something I want everybody to remember. Remember that it is precisely in times like these -- in moments of trial and moments of hardship -- that Americans rediscover the ingenuity and resilience that makes us who we are; that made the auto industry what it once was and what it will be again; that sent those first mass-produced cars rolling off the assembly lines; that built an arsenal of democracy that propelled America to victory in the Second World War; and that powered our economic prowess in the first American century.
Because I know that if we can tap into that same ingenuity and resilience right now, if we can carry one another through this difficult time and do what must be done, then we will look back and say that this was the moment when the American auto industry shed its old ways, marched into the future, remade itself, and once more became an engine of opportunity and prosperity not only in Detroit, not only in our Midwest, but all across America.
I'm confident we can make that happen, but we've got a lot of work to do. Thank you. Thank you, everybody.
END 11:25 A.M
The Huffington Post
When the ground shifts, politicians still standing often are left to explain positions that made plenty of sense on the old terrain but are now more controversial.
Take the case of Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
His stance on earmarks has evolved since he came to Congress. With a paper trail of earmarks to his name, Democrats can now beat him up for his current, more reticent stance toward the funding requests.
"A person can't learn as they go?" McCarthy begged of his local paper when the Democrats came after him.
"They like to hit me," McCarthy told the Huffington Post. "I understand. It's all fair in love and war."
It's the kind of shot that comes with the earmark debate. No one likes pork, but who's against money for a children's hospital downtown?
"Kevin McCarthy says the system's broken and that's why he won't make project funding requests for his constituents. But he didn't have any problem making funding requests last year under the very same system," says Andrew Stone of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
McCarthy found himself in Democrats' sights when he told his local paper that he wouldn't be taking any earmarks, explaining, "If everyone else is robbing a bank, should I rob a bank?"...(Click for remainder).
Richard B. Cheney is the consummate con man of modern American politics. He was taken as the ultimate Washington power figure, cool and always several calculations ahead of his rivals, a brilliant businessman, a cerebral strategist. But Cheney’s reputation was put together with smoke and mirrors—or more to the point—with a combination of silence and bulldozing based on what most people in the room always assumed to be superior knowledge. In the meantime it has become clear that Cheney was a disastrously bad businessman. As the head of Halliburton he dragged the company from one catastrophe to the next, concluding a calamitous deal struck on the golf course for Dresser Industries. He then bogged the company down in a massive corrupt liquefied natural gas project in Nigeria that just cost its shareholders $579 million in civil penalties. (The Bush Justice Department rushed the deal to a conclusion before Cheney left office, concluding to the smirks of observers that Cheney had no personal exposure in a matter run by an officer he handpicked and oversaw.) But Cheney’s corporate stewardship was stellar compared with his record at the helm of the nation’s national security apparatus. Every harebrained scheme the country was dragged into over the last eight years seems to have had its start in Dick Cheney’s office. And now, the more Cheney talks, the more manifest his delusions and poor judgment become. Why, in particular, has Cheney been on a campaign to persuade Americans that torture is good for them? Andrew Sullivan gives us a diagnosis in the Sunday Times:
So what was Cheney thinking? My guess is that he fears he is in trouble. This fear has been created by Obama, but indirectly. Obama has declined to launch a prosecution of Cheney for war crimes, as many in his party (and outside it) would like. He has set up a review of detention, rendition and interrogation policies. And he has simply declassified many of the infamous torture memos kept under wraps by Bush. He has the power to do this, and much of the time it is in response to outside requests. But as the memos have emerged, the awful truth of what Cheney actually authorised becomes harder and harder to deny. And Cheney is desperately trying to maintain a grip on the narrative before it grips him by the throat.(Click for remainder).
Associated Press via The Huffington Post
The prime minister of the Czech Republic says it could have been his taste for the rock group AC/DC -- not his study of economics -- that inspired him to describe President Barack Obama's nearly $2 trillion economic plan as "the road to hell."
"Last week, AC/DC played the Czech Republic," Mirek Topolanek told the Lidove Noviny daily newspaper Friday. "And their cult song 'Highway to Hell' may have influenced me to use, in my very improvised speech, 'the road to hell.'"
A week after seeing the Australian band, Topolanek departed from his prepared text in a speech Wednesday before the European Parliament, which included the phrase "the road to destruction" -- substituting instead the controversial phrase.
Trying to explain the remarks, his spokesman, Jiri Frantisek Potuznik, said Friday that Topolanek merely meant to warn U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner against taking "permanent action" that would damage the free market.
Topolanek may get a chance to elaborate on what he meant. Obama visits Prague April 4 and 5.
But the outburst highlighted differences between the U.S. and Europe over the recovery with the 27-nation bloc bristling over from U.S. criticism that it is not spending enough to stimulate demand.
Still, European politicians went into damage control mode, with some reproaching the Czech leader for his language and others reaffirming their good diplomatic ties with the United States....(Click for remainder).
283 Bases, 170,000 Pieces of Equipment, 140,000 Troops, and an Army of Mercenaries: The Logistical Nightmare in Iraq
AlterNet via After Downing Street
With last week's announced escalation of the war in Afghanistan, including an Iraq-like "surge" replete with 4,000 more U.S. troops and a sizable increase in private contractors, President Barack Obama blew the lid off of any lingering perceptions that he somehow represents a significant change in how the U.S. conducts its foreign policy.
In the meantime, more reports have emerged that bolster suspicions that Obama's Iraq policy is but a downsized version of Bush's and that a total withdrawal of U.S. forces is not on the horizon.
In the latest episode of Occupation Rebranded, it was revealed that the administration intends to reclassify some combat forces as "advisory and assistance brigades." While Obama's administration is officially shunning the use of the term "global war on terror," the labels du jour, unfortunately, seem to be the biggest changes we will see for some time.
Underscoring this point is an annual report just released by the War Resisters League, which for decades has closely monitored the military budget, revealing how many tax dollars are actually going to the war machine. The WRL puts out its famous pie chart annually just before tax time as a reminder of what we are doing exactly when we file our returns. Noting that 51 percent of the federal budget goes to military spending, the WRL said it does "not expect the military percentage to change much" under Obama.
While Obama -- and public attention -- shifted foreign policy focus last week to Afghanistan, lost in the media blitz was another important report that examines how taxpayers will continue to pay for the Iraq occupation for years to come, withdrawal or not. This report, released in March by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, provides a sobering look at Obama's "massive and expensive" Iraq plan, identifying several crucial questions that have yet to be addressed.
Whether or not the Obama administration actually intends to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq in numbers large enough to claim to be "ending the war" as many believe, this kind of official review of the U.S. reality in Iraq -- and the congressional oversight to which Obama will (or will not) be subjected in the coming months -- bears intense scrutiny.
First, there's the money. "Although reducing troops would appear to lower costs, GAO has seen from previous operations … that costs could rise in the near term," according to the 56-page report, which is titled "Iraq: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight."
In addition to the massive funds required to move tens of thousands of troops, the GAO points out that the Army estimates "it would cost $12 billion to $13 billion a year for at least two years after the operation ends to repair, replace and rebuild the equipment used in Iraq."...(Click for remainder).
By Riazat Butt
The Guardian UK
Reiki, an alternative Japanese therapy with a growing band of followers in the west, is "unscientific" and "inappropriate" for use in Catholic institutions, according to America's bishops.
Guidelines issued by the committee on doctrine at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops warn healthcare workers and chaplains that the therapy "lacks scientific credibility" and could expose people to "malevolent forces".
The document also claims that for a Catholic to believe in reiki presents "insurmountable problems".
Reiki means "universal life energy" and was developed by the theology professor Dr Mikao Usui at the turn of the 20th century, from Buddhist beliefs and Sanskrit teachings. The client lies on a couch, clothed and relaxing, while the therapist's hands rest lightly on the body in a special sequence. Clients often report heat and tingling sensations.
The church's guidelines state: "A Catholic who puts his or her trust in reiki would be operating in the realm of superstition, the no man's land that is neither faith nor science. Superstition corrupts one's worship of God by turning one's religious feeling and practice in a false direction."
The document goes on to state that since reiki therapy is incompatible with Christian teaching and scientific evidence, "it would be inappropriate" for Catholic institutions, such as healthcare facilities and retreat centres, or people representing the church, such as chaplains, to promote or provide support for it....(Click for remainder).
By Paul Bond
The Hollywood Reporter
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - You can't deny Bill O'Reilly's success. On Tuesday, the fiery host of Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" will mark his 100th consecutive month as the No. 1-rated cable news show.
A former schoolteacher who first gained national prominence as the host of "Inside Edition," O'Reilly boasts three Emmys and several best-selling books.
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: WHAT'S THE MOST FUN YOU'VE HAD ON THE AIR?
Bill O'Reilly: That's a tough one. I think it's the three interviews I did with President Bush. That's the hardest interview for any journalist, to interview a president, because you can't cross a certain line, and presidents all come in with what they want to say. To get them out of that rehearsed deal is very hard. The three interviews I did with Bush were instructive because I went up to that line. And then my interviews with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during the campaign were fun because it was a chess match.
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: WHY DID CANDIDATE OBAMA TAKE SO LONG TO AGREE TO AN INTERVIEW WITH YOU?
O'Reilly: I could be wrong, but I think Obama is not a confrontational guy. So why would he get in a confrontational interview situation where he knows he'll be challenged? Look at his interview history. Very rarely has he done that. He did it with me because he wanted to disrupt the Republican convention and get a lot of attention. He succeeded in doing the latter....(Click for remainder).
The Public Record
One of the nation’s leading legal rights groups is calling on the U.S. Congress to make major changes in the USA Patriot Act to reverse parts of the hurriedly passed law that have been found unconstitutional or have been abused to collect information on innocent people.
On December 31, 2009, three provisions of the Patriot Act will expire unless reenacted. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says this proves lawmakers with “the perfect opportunity for Congress to examine all of our surveillance laws.”
The Patriot Act was rushed through a stunned congress, with virtually no debate, shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Act substantially expanded the powers of law enforcement agencies. The ACLU says many of these expanded powers have been abused, and that “the public has yet to receive real information about how these powerful tools are being used to collect information on Americans and how that information is being used.”
The ACLU's recent report, Reclaiming Patriotism, says, “Congress should begin vigorous and comprehensive oversight hearings to examine all post-9/11 national security programs to evaluate their effectiveness and their impact on Americans’ privacy and civil liberties. This oversight is essential to the proper functioning of our constitutional system of government and becomes even more necessary during times of crisis.”
Mike German, Policy Counsel on National Security, Immigration and Privacy, for the ACLU -- and a former FBI agent who resigned from the agency in protest of what he saw as continuing failures in the FBI counter terrorism program -- told us, "The Patriot Act, the FISA Amendments and the Mukasey Attorney General Guidelines have vastly expanded the government's authority to pry into Americans' private lives, even without suspecting wrongdoing. The American people have the right to know how these powers are being used, and Congress has the duty to find out.”...(Click for remainder).
The Public Record
Despite now overwhelming evidence that ex-President George W. Bush and many top aides engaged in a systematic policy of illegal torture, national Democrats appear to be shying away from their recommendation last year for a special prosecutor to investigate these apparent war crimes.
Last June, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and 55 other congressional Democrats signed a letter to then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey demanding a special prosecutor to investigate the growing body of evidence that Bush administration officials had sanctioned torture, which had been documented by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Not unexpectedly, Mukasey – a staunch defender of Bush’s theories about expansive presidential powers – ignored the letter. Now, however, despite even more evidence of torture and a Democratic administration in place, the calls for a special prosecutor have grown muted.
Aides to several Democratic lawmakers who signed the June 2008 letter told me that the focus has shifted to the economy and that pressure for a special prosecutor to bring criminal charges over the Bush administration’s past actions could become a distraction to that focus.
They added that the most that now can be expected is either a “blue ribbon” investigative panel such as Conyers proposed earlier this year or a similar “truth and reconciliation commission” as advocated by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy. Not a single signer of last year’s letter has stepped forward to renew the demand for a special prosecutor to the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder.
The loss of Democratic interest in a special prosecutor suggests that the signers made the recommendation last year knowing that Mukasey would ignore it but thinking that the letter would appease the Democratic “base,” which was calling for accountability on Bush’s war crimes....(Click for remainder).
The New York Times
Roman Catholic and Orthodox Jewish officials in New York are mounting an intense lobbying effort to block a bill before the State Legislature that would temporarily lift the statute of limitations for lawsuits alleging the sexual abuse of children.
A perennial proposal that has been quashed in past years by Republicans who controlled the State Senate, the bill is now widely supported by the new Democratic majority in that chamber, and for the first time is given a good chance of passing.
If signed by Gov. David A. Paterson, a longtime supporter, the bill would at minimum revive hundreds of claims filed in recent years against Catholic priests and dioceses in New York, but dismissed because they were made after the current time limit, which is five years after the accuser turns 18. Similar legislation has passed in Delaware and in California, where a 2003 law led to claims that have cost the church an estimated $800 million to $1 billion in damages and settlements.
The rekindled prospects of the New York bill, known as the Child Victims Act, come at a delicate juncture for the Archdiocese of New York, the nation’s flagship see, where Cardinal Edward M. Egan is scheduled to hand over the reins in April. His successor, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of Milwaukee, was so hard hit by settlements for past abuse by priests in that archdiocese that he was forced to put its headquarters up for sale.
“We believe this bill is designed to bankrupt the Catholic Church,” said Dennis Poust, spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference, a group representing the bishops of the state’s eight dioceses. He said that Cardinal Egan and Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn visited Albany this week to voice their opposition, and that a statewide network of Catholic parishioners had bombarded lawmakers via e-mail....(Click for remainder).
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama should consider new steps to stop "China's ongoing manipulation of its currency," including a possible case at the World Trade Organization, U.S. congressional Democrats said on Monday.
"We urge the new administration to consider a new approach," top Democrats on the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee said in a letter to Obama one day before the U.S. Trade Representative's office was scheduled to release its annual report on foreign trade barriers.
Many U.S. lawmakers have complained for years that China's currency is undervalued and gives Chinese companies an unfair price advantage. The concern is fueled by the huge U.S. trade gap with China, which hit a record $266.3 billion in 2008.
Obama will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao later this week in London, where both are attending a summit meeting of the Group of 20 developed and developing countries.
Last year, House Ways and Means Democrats used the March 31 trade barriers report to excoriate the administration of former President George W. Bush for failing to aggressively enforce U.S. trade agreements and act on currency concerns.
They demanded Bush immediately begin formal WTO consultations with China and to "file a WTO action if China does not agree swiftly to begin to revalue the yuan."
This year's letter to Obama was softer in tone, but said the Bush administration policy of "quiet diplomacy" to pressure China to raise the value of its currency had failed....(Click for remainder).
President Barack Obama threw some tough love at GM and Chrysler on Monday morning. In a much-anticipated speech, he said that neither of the ailing automakers deserve additional billions from the federal government--yet. Obama noted that his administration had reviewed the respective restructuring plans of the two firms and that "we have determined that neither goes far enough to warrant the substantial new investments that these companies are requesting." But this is not his final answer. The president offered each "a limited period of time" to work out better plans. In Chrysler's case, that means sealing its merger with Fiat within 30 or so days.
Obama's speech was good politics and probably good policy. After the AIG bonuses controversy and with bailout fatigue setting in, Obama was able to show he can come down hard on corporate screw-ups. He essentially forced out GM CEO Rick Wagoner and now is pressuring GM and Chrysler to go further in remaking themselves. This has led to the obvious question, which was indeed asked of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs at Monday's briefing: why is Obama being more of a hard-ass with Detroit than with Wall Street? Gibbs did not take that question by the horns--though he did point out that the feds were not particularly kind to Wachovia and Merrill Lynch. But this asymmetry aside, Obama is seizing the opportunity to signal he won't throw billions at just any collapsing corporate behemoth.
The president does appear to want to reach the point when he can bolster GM with more federal money--and use federal leverage to push the company to manufacture cleaner and greener cars. He said that in the next 60 days,
my team will be working closely with GM to produce a better business plan. They must ask themselves: have they consolidated enough unprofitable brands? Have they cleaned up their balance sheets or are they still saddled with so much debt that they can't make future investments? And above all, have they created a credible model for how to not only survive, but succeed in this competitive global market? Let me be clear: the United States government has no interest or intention of running GM. What we are interested in is giving GM an opportunity to finally make those much-needed changes that will let them emerge from this crisis a stronger and more competitive company.
(Click for remainder).