Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
But will it have pictures...
Alberto "Torquemada" Gonzales is writing a book:
Alberto Gonzales, who has kept a low profile since resigning as attorney general nearly 16 months ago, said he is writing a book to set the record straight about his controversial tenure as a senior official in the Bush administration.

Mr. Gonzales has been portrayed by critics both as unqualified for his position and instrumental in laying the groundwork for the administration's "war on terror." He was pilloried by Congress in a manner not usually directed toward cabinet officials.

"What is it that I did that is so fundamentally wrong, that deserves this kind of response to my service?" he said during an interview Tuesday, offering his most extensive comments since leaving government.

Um... well ... where to begin...

During a lunch meeting two blocks from the White House, where he served under his longtime friend, President George W. Bush, Mr. Gonzales said that "for some reason, I am portrayed as the one who is evil in formulating policies that people disagree with. I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror."

You mean like this guy?

The Huffpo reports that Gonzales may have reasons other than clearing his name, for writing the book:

Another reason he might be writing the book: he can't find a job. Gonzales has had trouble getting employment since resigning from the Justice Department. In July, he suddenly began appearing in D.C. again after months of absence -- leading the Washington Post to speculate that he had landed a gig.

Yeah, you and millions of other Americans, pal, thanks to your former boss...



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posted by JReid @ 12:31 PM  
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Blago bites back, makes his Senate appointment
Rod Blagojevich may be a nut-bag, or a sociopath, or a crook, or maybe all three. But he's no shrinking violet, and he's one heck of a chess player. By appointing a well qualified, respected black man, who just happens to be Illinois only statewide elected black official, to replace the nation's only black Senator, Blago just dared the Senate to tell a brotha 'no':

Brushing aside charges that he tried to sell Illinois' vacant U.S. Senate seat, Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to the post today in defiance of Senate leaders who said they would not admit anyone he selected.

It was an abrupt about-face for Blagojevich, who had said after his Dec. 9 corruption arrest that he favored a special election to find a successor to President-elect Barack Obama. But Blagojevich said he acted after the Democratic-controlled General Assembly declined to approve legislation for a special election.

"Please don't allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man," Blagojevich said while introducing Burris at a downtown news conference.

So what will Team Obama do? Issue a statement:

"Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it. I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place. While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy."

But Blago knew what he was doing:

Blagojevich's move seemed designed to trump fellow Democrats who control the U.S. Senate and have unanimously warned him against making the appointment because of the criminal charges. His choice of Burris, Illinois' first African-American elected statewide, presents senators with the dilemma of saying no to a replacement for Obama, who was the nation's only black senator.

That point was driven home at the news conference by Democratic U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush of Chicago, who said it's a matter of national importance that an African-American replace Obama in the Senate.

"Let me just remind you that there presently is no African-American in the Senate...this is just not a state of Illinois matter," Rush said.

"I would ask you to not hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer," Rush also said. "Roland Burris is worthy."

The governor's announcement came less than an hour after U.S. Senate Democratic leadership issued a statement saying the Senate will not seat anyone Blagojevich chooses to fill Illinois' vacant Senate post. The statement also is signed by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who has repeatedly urged Blagojevich not to name a replacement for the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

So now Blago has put the Senate, including senior Senator from Illinois Dick Durbin, in an unenviable position: they can refuse to seat Burris, and deny a qualified black man the seat, or they can seat him, and watch Blago laugh all the way to the big house. However, things may not look so good for Mr. Burris:

Burris has given more than $20,000 to Blagojevich's campaign fund on his own and through his consulting and law firms, state campaign finance records show. Burris' consulting company received about $290,000 in state contracts with the Illinois Department of Transportation a few years ago, according to state comptroller records.

Burris became the first African-American to win statewide office in 1978, when he won the first of his three terms as comptroller. But Burris repeatedly stalled in his quest for bigger political office. He failed in three consecutive runs for governor--1994, 1998 and 2002, when he ran against Blagojevich--in the Democratic primaries.

Uh oh... well, it was a good game of chicken while it lasted.



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posted by JReid @ 7:28 PM  
Morning doh! Scarborough gets home schooled on Israeli-Palestinian history
I love watching egomaniacal windbag Joe Scarborough get checked. Today's contestant: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Mika's dad, on the subject of Israel and the Palestinians, and who is to blame for the ongoing violence. The money quote:
You know, you have such a stunningly superficial knowledge of what went on that it's almost embarrassing to listen to you.
Ouch! Watch:



Hat tip to Steve Clemons, who adds:

What is significant is that Brzezinski essentially issued a challenge to Obama and his team to re-engage seriously -- to go back to what was achieved at the Taba negotiations just before the Bush administration aborted the entire project.

The most important thing that Brzezinski said to Scarborough was (paraphrased from memory...but watch the video above):

Taba. It's spelled T. . .A. . .B. . .A. Go look it up. You might learn something.

And Zbigniew Brzezinski is right.

Yep.

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posted by JReid @ 6:53 PM  
Jena 6 member pulls a Plaxico
From CNN:
A teenager whose arrest in a racially charged assault case drew thousands of protesters to his rural Louisiana hometown was in a hospital early Tuesday after a shooting that his lawyer said was accidental.

Mychal Bell was cleaning a gun when it accidentally discharged, shooting him in the shoulder, his attorney, Carol Powell-Lexing, told CNN. He had surgery Monday night at a hospital in Monroe, Louisiana, and has not yet been able to talk, she said.

Monroe police Sgt. Cassandra Wooten said the wound was not life-threatening.

Bell was one of the Jena high school students charged as adults with attempted murder in a case where he ultimately pleaded to assault in juvenile court, following the hanging of a noose in a tree in the school courtyard. It was a pretty ugly case, and Bell was the one who went to jail, while two of his Jena 6 mates went to the BET Awards.

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posted by JReid @ 9:52 AM  
Did Israeli warships ram the aid ship Dignity?
As word of the mounting death toll (375 Palestinians, 4 Israelis) and Gaza humanitarian crisis spread worldwide, news that a ship carrying medical supplies for Palestinians in Gaza, called the Dignity, was set to arrive spread around the Web. I remember hearing about the ship for the first time yesterday. Well this morning, CNN's Carl Penhaul, who was aboard the ship (as was former U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia, Cynthia McKinney...) confirmed accounts by the ship's captain that they were, in his estimation, deliberately rammed by an Israeli military vessel that observed the ship for nearly an hour, and which Penhaul said must have seen it because the Dignity had "full lights on."

Penhall reported that the Dignity's captain was not contacted by the Israeli ship until after the boat was rammed, and began taking on water. The ship re-routed to Lebanon, after the Captain was told in no uncertain terms that the Israeli ship would open fire if the Dignity continued. Penhall reported that the Israeli military on board the warship accused the Dignity of "being involved in terror operations." Scary stuff, and possibly a violation of maritime law. From the Guardian:

Activists trying to bring aid to Gaza today claimed their boat had been rammed by Israeli gunboats in a "criminal attack" in international waters.

The Free Gaza Movement said its vessel, the Dignity, was intercepted by several Israeli vessels as it was heading to the Gaza Strip, which has been under Israeli aerial bombardment since Saturday.

One gunboat rammed the Dignity on the port bow side, causing heavy damage, although no one was hurt, the group said.

"[The Dignity] is taking on water and appears to have engine problems," the movement said on its website. "When attacked, the Dignity was clearly in international waters, 90 miles off the coast of Gaza.

"The gunboats also fired their machine guns into the water in an attempt to stop the mercy ship from getting to Gaza.

The Guardian also reports that Israeli officials are characterizing the ramming accidental:

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, told Reuters there had been no shooting, although two ships made "physical contact".

Palmor said the boat had failed to respond to Israeli naval radio contact and an Israeli vessel "clashed with the ship". He said nobody was hurt and the Israeli ship escorted the aid boat back to Cypriot territorial waters.

Israel declared the coastal territory a closed military zone after it launched air attacks on Hamas targets in Gaza on Saturday in response to Hamas firing rockets into Israel. Israel said the Free Gaza movement boat would not be permitted to dock in the Gaza Strip.

And this from UPI:

In a radio message, the Israelis accused the Gibraltar-registered Dignity of being involved in terrorist activity, the ship's captain said. The Dignity was carrying 16 passengers, including physicians from Britain, Germany and Cyprus and several human rights activists, including former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney.

The patrol boat rammed the Dignity after pursuing the vessel for about 30 minutes before the collision. Crew members said they believe the Dignity was intentionally struck, which Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called "absurd."

Meanwhile, from Xinhua (a Chinese daily,) comes an account of the ship's arrival in Tyre, and a very different explanation of the ramming, which officially is being called "accidental"...
BEIRUT, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- The "Free Gaza" ship, "Dignity", rammed by an Israeli patrol vessel on waters near Gaza early Tuesday, arrived at Tyre port in south Lebanon in the afternoon, al-Jazeera TV reported.

The ship reaching the Lebanese water was escorted with a Lebanese navy boat and boats of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

... Lebanese President Michel Suleiman gave orders to the Lebanese navy to escort the boat loaded with supplies to Gaza Strip, after it was rammed by Israeli gunboats.

... Sixteen people including rights activists, doctors and Journalists, along with a crew from al-Jazeera TV boarded the ship at Larnaca port in Cyprus late afternoon Monday, from where they made "Symbolic" attempt to cross the border into Gaza.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman appeared on al-Jazeera saying that its navy prevented the ship because it is full of Journalists and it is "an act of provocation and propaganda."

"This is a propaganda message which we refuse," the spokesman said.

So who was on board the ship (besides Penhall?) From a site called "Ten Percent," dateline yesterday:

The Dignity has left Cyprus & should arrive in Gaza tomorrow around 10am (local). Check the website for updates, www.freegaza.org Israel has declared Gaza a ‘closed military zone’, making sure no one can witness the atrocities. Our boat is going to challenge that closure.

The passenger list is below and includes Cynthia McKinney, a journalist from CNN and three physicians who will stay in Gaza to assist the overworked doctors there. We will also be sending out the list of medicines on board.

(UK) Denis Healey, Captain
Captain of the Dignity, Denis has been involved with boats for 45 years, beginning with small fishing boats in Portsmouth. He learned to sail while atschool and has been part of the sea ever since. He’s a certified yachtmaster and has also worked on heavy marine equipment from yachts to large dredgers. This is his fourth trip to Gaza.

(Greece) Giorgios Klontzas, Relief Captain
Cpt. Klontzas is an experienced sailor and human rights activist. This will be his fourth trip to Gaza.

(Greece) Nikolas Bolos, First Mate
Nikolas is a chemical engineer and human rights activist. He has served as a crewmember on several Free Gaza voyages, including the first one in August.

(Jordan) Othman Abu Falah
Othman is a senior producer with Al-Jazeera Television. He will remain in Gaza to report on the ongoing military onslaught.

(USA) Cynthia McKinney
Cynthia is a former U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia, and the 2008 Green Party presidential candidate. She is traveling to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict.

(Australia) Renee Bowyer
Renee is a schoolteacher and human rights activist. She will remain in Gaza to do human rights monitoring and reporting.

(Ireland) Caoimhe Butterly
Caoimhe is a reknowned human rights activist and Gaza Coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement. She will be remaining in Gaza to do human rights monitoring, assist with relief efforts, and work on project development with Free Gaza.

(Cyprus) Ekaterini Christodulou
Ekaterini is a well-known and respected freelance journalist in Cyprus. She is traveling to Gaza to report on the conflict.

(Sudan) Sami El-Haj
Sami is a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay, and head of the human rights section at Al-Jazeera Television. He will remain in Gaza to report on the ongoing military onslaught.

(UK) Dr. David Halpin
Dr. Halpin is an experienced orthopaedic surgeon, medical professor, and ship’s captain. He has organized humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza on several occasions with the Dove and Dolphin. He is traveling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals and clinics.

(Germany) Dr. Mohamed Issa
Dr. Issa is a pediatric surgeon from Germany. He is traveling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals and clinics.

(Cyprus) Dr. Elena Theoharous, MP
Dr. Theoharous is a surgeon and a Member of the Cypriot Parliament. She is traveling to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict, assist with humanitarian relief efforts, and volunteer in hospitals.

(UK/Tunisia) Fathi Jaouadi
Fathi is a television producer and human rights activist. He will remain in Gaza to do human rights monitoring and reporting.

(Cyprus) Martha Paisi
Martha is a senior research fellow and experienced human rights activist. She is traveling to Gaza to do human rights work and to assist with humanitarian relief efforts.

(UK) Karl Penhaul
Karl Penhaul is a video correspondent for CNN, based out of Bogotá, Colombia. Appointed to this position in February 2004, he covers breaking news around the world utilizing CNN’s new laptop-based ‘Digital Newsgathering’ system. He is traveling to Gaza to report on the ongoing conflict.

(Iraq) Thaer Shaker
Thaer is a cameraman with Al-Jazeera television. He will remain in Gaza to report on the ongoing military onslaught.

One wonders whether the Israeli government and security forces would have had access to the same information about what appears to be a very public, very high profile operation, and why, if they did, they would invite the public relations nightmare of possibly sinking a ship full of journalists, schoolteachers and human rights activists.

Previous:

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posted by JReid @ 9:10 AM  
Monday, December 29, 2008
Bristol pops
No, they're not married yet. And yeah, she really did name the poor kid Tripp. What's Alaskan for ghetto?
"We think it's wonderful," said Colleen Jones, the sister of Bristol's grandmother Sally Heath, who confirmed the news. "The baby is fine and Bristol is doing well. Everyone is excited."

The baby's name is Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston, according to Jones.

Baby Tripp takes his surname from his dad, Levi Johnston, an apprentice electrician and former Wasilla High School hockey player who has been dating Bristol for three years.

Bristol Palin is currently residing in Wasilla and completing her high-school diploma through correspondence courses.

Johnston is studying to become an electrician. He told the Associated Press in October that he and fiancée Bristol plan to wed in 2009 and raise the child together.



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posted by JReid @ 8:56 PM  
News reports from Gaza
From AlJazeera English:



The Associated Press:


Meanwhile, President Bush is on vacation.


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posted by JReid @ 8:48 PM  
Israel waging 'all out war' in Gaza
More than 350 are dead in Gaza (civilians included,) in three days of Israeli bombardment and a humanitarian crisis is brewing. According to the Independent (UK):

Israel's defence Minister, Ehud Barak, warned yesterday that his country was engaged in "a war to the bitter end" with Hamas as a third day of fierce bombing brought the estimated Gaza death toll to 320. Two Israelis were killed in retaliatory rocket barrages last night as Hamas struck deep inside Israeli territory.

Mr Barak's declaration to the Knesset – the Israeli parliament – came as Israel continued its comprehensive bombardment of Hamas targets after overnight aerial attacks that devastated large parts of the Interior Ministry and the Islamic University.

Meanwhile, the usual international tiff is on over who is at fault, with the Bush administration blaming Hamas, and European leaders criticizing Israel:

Amid signs of increased international restiveness about the Palestinian death toll, Mr Barak insisted that "we have nothing against Gaza residents" but added: "We are engaged in an all-out war against Hamas and its proxies. This operation will expand and deepen as much as needed."

As Israel launched a further 20 air attacks and declared Israeli communities to the border area a "closed military zone" for the first time, Gaza militants continued to fire more than 70 rockets and mortars at southern Israel. One killed an Israeli in Ashdod – 18 miles away from Gaza – for the first time. Another Israeli was killed in the border kibbutz of Nahal Oz. After the earlier death of an Israeli Arab construction worker in a rocket attack in Ashkelon, the total of Israeli deaths since the Israeli bombardment began on Saturday is now four.

As the international outcry mounted over the scale of the Israeli crackdown, the Prime Minister's spokesman issued a robust statement, saying Gordon Brown had been "appalled" by the continuing violence in Gaza. The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, spoke of the "unacceptable" loss of human life. European foreign ministers scheduled an emergency meeting in Paris today.

But as President George Bush continued to blame Hamas for the worst violence in Gaza in living memory, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, criticised Israel's "excessive" force and urged the international community to do more. "I think regional and international partners have not done enough. They should do more," Mr Ban said, in a rare departure from the diplomatic norm. "They should use all possible means to end the violence and encourage political dialogue, emphasising peaceful ways of resolving differences."

... Moussa Abu Marzouk, the Damascus-based deputy head of Hamas's political bureau, ruled out a truce in current conditions. He said: "We are going to defend ourselves, defend our people and defend our land." He laid down as conditions for a ceasefire: "Stop all kinds of aggression, open all (crossings), stop all the violence against the people in the West Bank."

In Israel, there's a bit of sneering at what many assume will be condemnation of their side, and a free ride for the Palestinians:

Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular are by nature experts at displays of suffering; the only thing they do all their lives is demonstrate their distress. This time, in the past week, they outdid themselves. The production was truly perfect and succeeded in deceiving the entire world: the way they turned out the lights at one precise moment and sent the children to cry bitterly in front of the cameras, the way they organized long lines for bread and water - miraculous timing and orchestration.

... Gaza's unemployment rate is unknown. Perhaps 60 percent and perhaps 80 percent, what difference does it make, 20 percent more or less. When there is no demand and no money to purchase things, it's better that there is no supply and nothing to buy. There is no envy at least. If the welfare agencies are supporting 900,000 needy people, let them support another 100,000 or 200,000 - the difference means nothing to them.

The Gaza Strip is therefore the perfect place for punishment measures - these steps don't make things better or worse, they only make you tougher, like everything that kills gradually rather than immediately. Gaza is a dream laboratory for experiments on human beings, to discover the precise point when a dependent person transfers from one situation to another - when does he keep up the struggle and when does he stop and become acclimated? Or when is the horse's breaking point - when does it only continue to lose weight and when does it flop and breathe its last?

In this spirit we also have to understand the prime minister's words at a meeting of the Kadima Knesset faction two days ago. He doesn't care, he said, if the kerosene runs out in Gaza, and as far as he is concerned, let them walk. Ehud Olmert did not intend to sound cruel, he only wanted to sound determined.

Meanwhile The Washington Note has a bit of badly needed context from Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative:

Palestine's Guernica and the Myths of Israeli Victimhood

The Israeli campaign of 'death from above' began around 11 am, on Saturday morning, the 27th of December, and stretched straight through the night into this morning. The massacre continues Sunday as I write these words.

The bloodiest single day in Palestine since the War of 1967 is far from over following on Israel's promised that this is 'only the beginning' of their campaign of state terror. At least 290 people have been murdered thus far, but the body count continues to rise at a dramatic pace as more mutilated bodies are pulled from the rubble, previous victims succumb to their wounds and new casualties are created by the minute.

What has and is occurring is nothing short of a war crime, yet the Israeli public relations machine is in full-swing, churning out lies by the minute.

Once and for all it is time to expose the myths that they have created.

1. Israelis have claimed to have ended the occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005.

While Israel has indeed removed the settlements from the tiny coastal Strip, they have in no way ended the occupation. They remained in control of the borders, the airspace and the waterways of Gaza, and have carried out frequent raids and targeted assassinations since the disengagement.

Furthermore, since 2006 Israel has imposed a comprehensive siege on the Strip. For over two years, Gazans have lived on the edge of starvation and without the most basic necessities of human life, such as cooking or heating oil and basic medications. This siege has already caused a humanitarian catastrophe which has only been exacerbated by the dramatic increase in Israeli military aggression. ...

And the Guardian's Simon Tisdale has harsh words for the western powers:

The clamour for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza is growing in intensity even as Israel's determination to press home its attack on Hamas grows more dogged. The unfolding result of this fatal divergence is both an escalating humanitarian disaster and a diplomatic debacle for the "international community" that tasked itself with bringing peace to Israel-Palestine.

The formidable capacity of Israel's leaders for ignoring international opinion is nothing new. But if they calculated, before launching the Gaza operation, that they would face only limited external opposition, they have been proven largely correct. The past few days have exposed just how little leverage foreign governments and organisations are able, or are willing, to bring to bear.

As always, the US wields the most clout. But as with Israel's ill-fated 2006 invasion of Lebanon, the Bush administration is sitting on its hands. US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, whose endless shuttle diplomacy this year is now confirmed in its utter futility, did not even mention Israel's military assault in her first official statement on the situation.

Rice's exact words were: "The US strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza. The ceasefire should be restored immediately. The US calls on all concerned to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the innocent people of Gaza."

Barack Obama's aides, in explaining the US president-elect's silence, are meanwhile sticking to their mantra that the US only has one president at a time. But as the carnage and the outrage mount, this hands-off stance begins to look less like tact and more like a sign of a man who, confronted by a raw conflict that has defeated many more experienced statesmen before him, lacks new ideas.

Ouch.


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posted by JReid @ 8:16 PM  
Chip, the magic chairman

Consider this my official endorsement of Chip Saltsman to be the new RNC Chairman. Why? Because in my opinion, despite all the furor he's creating over his song choices, Saltsman best exemplifies the values of today's GOP. Why?

For starters, he's doesn't seem to be a serious person. And for decades now, the Republican Party has become more and more anti-intellectual, retrograde and unserious. Example: during the recent presidential campaign, rather than taking on Barack Obama on issues of substance (economic policy, foreign policy, etc.) Steve Schmidt and company accused Obama of being ... golly! ... a celebrity ... (well duh...) and of "palling around with terrorists," something no serious person believed. And the lack of seriousness from the opposition party could be further summed up in two words: Sarah Palin.

So Saltsman, with his silly CD full of screwball comedy bits like "Barack the Magic Negro," fits the bill. In fact, the Barack song is a great example of conservatism today. The Los Angeles Times column that it's based on, titled "Obama the 'Magic Negro,'" was written in March 2007 by a black guy (actually, a mixed race guy like Obama,) and media critic named David Ehrenstein, who was making serious and interesting points about Obama's candidacy and race in America. A clip:
The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. "He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist," reads the description on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_Negro .

He's there to assuage white "guilt" (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.

As might be expected, this figure is chiefly cinematic — embodied by such noted performers as Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Scatman Crothers, Michael Clarke Duncan, Will Smith and, most recently, Don Cheadle. And that's not to mention a certain basketball player whose very nickname is "Magic."

Poitier really poured on the "magic" in "Lilies of the Field" (for which he won a best actor Oscar) and "To Sir, With Love" (which, along with "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," made him a No. 1 box-office attraction). In these films, Poitier triumphs through yeoman service to his white benefactors. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" is particularly striking in this regard, as it posits miscegenation without evoking sex. (Talk about magic!)

... And what does the white man get out of the bargain? That's a question asked by John Guare in "Six Degrees of Separation," his brilliant retelling of the true saga of David Hampton — a young, personable gay con man who in the 1980s passed himself off as the son of none other than the real Sidney Poitier. Though he started small, using the ruse to get into Studio 54, Hampton discovered that countless gullible, well-heeled New Yorkers, vulnerable to the Magic Negro myth, were only too eager to believe in his baroque fantasy. (One of the few who wasn't fooled was Andy Warhol, who was astonished his underlings believed Hampton's whoppers. Clearly Warhol had no need for the accouterment of interracial "goodwill.")

But the same can't be said of most white Americans, whose desire for a noble, healing Negro hasn't faded. That's where Obama comes in: as Poitier's "real" fake son.
The parody, on the other hand, was written and performed by a white guy and conservative comedian named Paul Shanklin. It tackles the deep, existential question of whether Al Sharpton thought Obama is really black. let's compare Shanklin's lyrics:
Yeah, the guy from the L.A. paper
Said he makes guilty whites feel good
They’ll vote for him, and not for me
‘Cause he’s not from the hood.

See, real black men, like Snoop Dog,
Or me, or Farrakhan
Have talked the talk, and walked the walk.
Not come in late and won!
And Ehrenstein's:
The only mud that momentarily stuck was criticism (white and black alike) concerning Obama's alleged "inauthenticty," as compared to such sterling examples of "genuine" blackness as Al Sharpton and Snoop Dogg. Speaking as an African American whose last name has led to his racial "credentials" being challenged — often several times a day — I know how pesky this sort of thing can be.
Sorry, but aren't good parodies supposed to be at least half as interesting as the things they mock? There are other reasons think our friend Chip should become RNC chair. Here are a few:

1. He's not black. The GOP can only have one black spokesmodel at a time. Michael Steele and Ken Blackwell cancel each other out. Besides, the Republican Party has become so racially polarizing, and so tinged with scary, racist rallies, generic race-baiters, Alaskan secessionists and creepy bald guys, I doubt that either Steele or Blackwell would have much credibility with the rank and file. Even if they were accepted as party leader, either man would appear to all the world like a token, and the GOP needs genuine outreach to people of color, and much better ideas, not tokens.

2. He's from the South. At this point, the Republican Party is essentially a southern party, down to their decided preference for foreign automakers who locate south of the Maxon Dixon with an eye toward tanking American wages. A regional party should have a regional chairman, from a representative state (sorry, Jim Greer. Florida is a bit too cosmopolitan at the lower geographic end. And a state with so many prominent Latinos just won't fit in with the Dixiefide party you belong to.)

3. He ran Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign. Ergo, he's both evangelical-friendly and prone to losing national elections. At this point, everyone in the GOP is one or the other (or both.)

4. He's clueless. This was his response to the hubbub over his holiday CD:
"Liberal Democrats and their allies in the media didn't utter a word about David Ehrenstein's irresponsible column in the Los Angeles Times last March. But now, of course, they're shocked and appalled by its parody on the 'Rush Limbaugh Show.'
Um ... if you thought that the column was "irresponsible," what makes you think the parody isn't?

and last but not least:

5. He's an equal opportunity offender (just like his pal Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the GOP.) After all, the Grand Old Party has not just turned off black folk. They've also spurned Hispanics, young voters, the middle class, smart people, scientists, non-xenophobes and anyone who opposes the Iraq War or doesn't worship George W. Bush. In short: everybody except the Palinites. So is it any wonder that while "Barack the Magic Negro" is getting all the attention, the rest of the CD is no great shakes either:
The CD, called "We Hate the U.S.A," blasts liberals with such musical greats as “Barack the Magic Negro,” first played on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, "John Edwards' Poverty Tour," "Wright Place, Wrong Pastor," "The Star Spanglish Banner" and "Love Client #9."
Great work, Chip. You've done your party a great service. You'll make a mighty fine chair.

UPDATE: Read this editorial. I wish I'd written it. It concludes:

The 1992 redistricting piled up non-white voters into congressional districts dubbed "minority-majority," to increase non-white representation in Congress. Republicans eagerly embraced the new take on voting rights, as they felt it would make dozens of white-majority districts less competitive for Democrats. There was also much hand-wringing among Democrats for the same reason, and some even argued that there was no point in increasing non-white representation in Congress if it meant that the party would never again regain power. Obviously, things have turned out quite differently for the Democrats, whose Congressional majority is now as strong as it has been in decades, thanks in part to its robust diversity, and to a growing indifference to race and ethnicity.

It is no coincidence that at the same time, the GOP has shriveled into a more uniform party than at most times since the 1960s. Like a restricted country club that would rather die than change, the Republican Party is marginalizing itself for the sake of the white men who run it. "Barack The Magic Negro" and Palm Beach aryanists are just the more bizarre manifestations of a party that has wallowed for so long in the privileges of its white male supremacy that it does not even realize that everyone has left the plantation, and they are not coming back.

But the whole thing is worth your time. Check it out.

UPDATE 2: Huck Thin defends the Chipster:

Chip should have been more careful in his selection of Christmas gifts, but no one who knows him would ever suggest that he in any way would purposely disparage other people. Chip knows how sensitive such issues are. It shouldn’t be the main factor in the RNC race.

I mean some of his best friends are Magic Negroes...

UPDATE 3: The GOP plans a January retreat, to search for its soul on racial issues ... no really, they're going to do that.








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posted by JReid @ 2:30 PM  
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Coultergeist declares war on Kwanzaa ... with an old, used gun in her hand
Should someone call Bill O'Reilly??? On second thought, never mind. Ann Coulter's latest upchuck is a salvo against the African-American holiday Kwanzaa, over which he/she claims to have finally triumphed this year. Having declared victory, because the holiday hasn't been mentioned as much as in past years, and wasn't "happied" by President Bush, Coultergeist launches into a valuable "history lesson" (he/she, after all, knows more about black history than you do, having lived all her life as an African-American man-girl...man...) Commence!
My Triumph Over Kwanzaa!

by Ann Coulter

... It is a fact that Kwanzaa was invented in 1966 by a black radical FBI stooge, Ron Karenga, aka Dr. Maulana Karenga. Karenga was a founder of United Slaves, a violent nationalist rival to the Black Panthers and a dupe of the FBI.

In what was probably ultimately a foolish gamble, during the madness of the '60s the FBI encouraged the most extreme black nationalist organizations in order to discredit and split the left. The more preposterous the organization, the better. Using that criterion, Karenga's United Slaves was perfect. In the annals of the American '60s, Karenga was the Father Gapon, stooge of the czarist police.

Despite modern perceptions that blend all the black activists of the '60s, the Black Panthers did not hate whites. They did not seek armed revolution. Those were the precepts of Karenga's United Slaves. United Slaves were proto-fascists, walking around in dashikis, gunning down Black Panthers and adopting invented "African" names. (That was a big help to the black community: How many boys named "Jamal" currently sit on death row?)
She then goes on to say some stuff about O.J. ... Oh, and there's also a song:
(Sing to "Jingle Bells")

Kwanzaa bells, dashikis sell

Whitey has to pay;

Burning, shooting, oh what fun

On this made-up holiday!
Clever girl...boy... whatever. Followed by more "history":
Kwanzaa itself is a nutty blend of schmaltzy '60s rhetoric, black racism and Marxism. Indeed, the seven "principles" of Kwanzaa praise collectivism in every possible arena of life -- economics, work, personality, even litter removal. ("Kuumba: Everyone should strive to improve the community and make it more beautiful.") It takes a village to raise a police snitch.

When Karenga was asked to distinguish Kawaida, the philosophy underlying Kwanzaa, from "classical Marxism," he essentially explained that under Kawaida, we also hate whites. While taking the "best of early Chinese and Cuban socialism" -- which one assumes would exclude the forced abortions, imprisonment of homosexuals and forced labor -- Kawaida practitioners believe one's racial identity "determines life conditions, life chances and self-understanding." There's an inclusive philosophy for you.

Coincidentally, the seven principles of Kwanzaa are the very same seven principles of the Symbionese Liberation Army, another charming invention of the Worst Generation. In 1974, Patricia Hearst, kidnap victim-cum-SLA revolutionary, posed next to the banner of her alleged captors, a seven-headed cobra. Each snake head stood for one of the SLA's revolutionary principles: Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba and Imani -- the exact same seven "principles" of Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa was the result of a '60s psychosis grafted onto the black community. Liberals have become so mesmerized by multicultural nonsense that they have forgotten the real history of Kwanzaa and Karenga's United Slaves -- the violence, the Marxism, the insanity. Most absurdly, for leftists anyway, is that they have forgotten the FBI's tacit encouragement of this murderous black nationalist cult founded by the father of Kwanzaa.

This is a holiday for white liberals -- the kind of holiday Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn probably celebrate. Meanwhile, most blacks celebrate Christmas.
Blah blah blah blah blah. You get the idea. Well, it is true that most African-Americans celebrate Christmas. And Coulter's racist sideswipes aside (I don't know, dear, how many Jamals are there on death row? And while we're counting, how many "Ann's" are there with huge Adam's apples swinging purses and stumbling around in size 12 heels in the Castro?) he/she isn't the first curiously gendered winger to take a swipe at the holiday or to go all cookoo over the fact that it exists at all. But typical of Coulter, he/she goes on to use his/her increasingly irrelevant column to take shots not only at Black Americans, intimating that Kwanzaa adherents are a bunch of violent Marxists, but also at the right's favorite nemeses from the failed presidential campaign: Bernadine Dohrn and William Ayers, and at Barack Obama, whom he/she dares to shun Kwanzaa as proof that the "Halfrican" president-in-waiting -- yes, he/she's still calling him that -- is more "American" than "African." Nice touch.

Why I'm bothering to comment on this fellow's latest attention-starved gambit may seem beyond you. I personally don't celebrate Kwanzaa and am on record as being a bit ambivalent about it. (That said, I also disagree with those who say Jesus is the reason for the season. I'm pretty confident that Santa Claus and Macy's share that honor...) But I think it's clear to most thinking people that whatever it's origins, Kwanzaa is not a black nationalist holiday designed to foment the overthrow of the white, Christian establishment. Rather, it's a holiday that attempts to reconnect black folk to the African continent, however tenuously, by encouraging African descendants to be proud of their origins, something many who grew up prior to the "I'm black and I'm proud" era of the late 1960s and 1970s struggled to be, and to work together to build better communities. Not a bad idea, I'd say.

However, I couldn't resist, especially when I discovered that Coulter's "new" column, was cribbed, almost word for word, from a column he/she wrote back in 2001 for the Jewish World Review. I'm thinking her syndicator might want to clip her paycheck. For instance, this is from the "new" column:
In what was probably ultimately a foolish gamble, during the madness of the '60s the FBI encouraged the most extreme black nationalist organizations in order to discredit and split the left. The more preposterous the organization, the better. Using that criterion, Karenga's United Slaves was perfect. In the annals of the American '60s, Karenga was the Father Gapon, stooge of the czarist police.
And from the 2001 piece:
In what was probably ultimately a foolish gamble, during the violent '60s, the FBI encouraged the most offensive black nationalist organizations in order both to discredit and split the left. The more preposterous the organization, the better. Karenga's United Slaves was perfect. Despite public perception blending the black activists of the '60s, the Black Panthers did not hate whites and did not seek armed revolution. That was the trope of Karenga's United Slaves. In the annals of the American '60s, Karenga was the Father Gapon, stooge of the czarist police.
"New":
Whether Karenga was a willing dupe, or just a dupe, remains unclear. Curiously, in a 1995 interview with Ethnic NewsWatch, Karenga matter-of-factly explained that the forces out to get O.J. Simpson for the "framed" murder of two whites included: "the FBI, the CIA, the State Department, Interpol, the Chicago Police Department" and so on. Karenga should know about FBI infiltration. (He further noted that the evidence against O.J. "was not strong enough to prohibit or eliminate unreasonable doubt" -- an interesting standard of proof.)
Old:
hether Karenga was a willing dupe, or just a dupe, remains unclear. Interestingly though, in an 1995 interview with Ethnic NewsWatch, Karenga matter-of-factly explained that the forces out to get O.J. Simpson for the "framed" murder of two whites included: "the FBI, the CIA, the State Department, Interpol, the Chicago Police Department" and so on. (He further noted that "the evidence was not strong enough to prohibit or eliminate unreasonable doubt" -- an interesting standard of proof.) Karenga should know about FBI infiltration.
"New":
In the category of the-gentleman-doth-protest-too-much, back in the '70s, Karenga was quick to criticize rumors that black radicals were government-supported. When Nigerian newspapers claimed that some American black radicals were CIA operatives, Karenga publicly denounced the idea, saying, "Africans must stop generalizing about the loyalties and motives of Afro-Americans, including the widespread suspicion of black Americans being CIA agents."
Old:
Also, in the category of the-gentleman-doth-protest-too-much, back in the '70s, Nigerian newspapers were claiming that many American black radicals were CIA operatives. Karenga leapt in to denounce the idea publicly, saying, "Africans must stop generalizing about the loyalties and motives of Afro-Americans, including the widespread suspicion of black Americans being CIA agents."
"New":
Now we know that the FBI fueled the bloody rivalry between the Panthers and United Slaves. In one barbarous outburst, Karenga's United Slaves shot to death Black Panthers Al "Bunchy" Carter and Deputy Minister John Huggins on the UCLA campus. Karenga himself served time, a useful stepping-stone for his current position as a black studies professor at California State University at Long Beach.
Old:
There is no question now that the FBI fueled the bloody rivalry between the Panthers and United Slaves, leading in one outburst to the shooting of Panther Al "Bunchy" Carter on the UCLA campus by Karenga's United Slaves. Karenga himself served time, a useful stepping-stone for his current position as a black studies professor at California State University at Long Beach.
You get my drift. It's the same bloody article, rearranged slightly, and repackaged as new (though Mr. Coulter was kind enough to update the "new" article with a poem.) In essence, the Coulterbeast has "regifted." Perhaps someone should tell her syndicator. Or maybe, that's just the way the right operates. Meanwhile, Coulter's obsession with the Dartmouth Review seems to have been unearthed, along with the old, used article. Coulter, after all, founded a "review" while attending Cornell that was obsessively patterned after the Dartmouth Review. And it seems that back in 2001, the Review returned the favor, publishing a Kwanaattack on January 15th of that year that was suspiciously similar to Annie Boy's January 2 screed. The plot thickens...




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posted by JReid @ 10:19 AM  
Great news for my peeps
Looks like the sale of WTVJ is off:
The Washington Post Company (NYSE:WPO) and NBC Local Media today announced that the intended sale of WTVJ to The Washington Post Company will not move forward. Given the current economic environment, and the delay in receiving the necessary regulatory approval, the deal has been terminated. The purchase of WTVJ was scheduled to close by end of 2008.
Congratulations, and a truly happy holiday to Trina, Hank, "Saint" Nick, Carpio, Julia and the entire gang at NBC 6 -- the finest news operation in town. You deserved a break, and thank God, there it is!

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posted by JReid @ 9:41 AM  
Friday, December 26, 2008
Jen beats Brad ... at the box office
Jennifer Anniston's "Marley and Me" is tops at the box office, followed by her ex, Brad Pitt's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Both films set records for Christmas Day openers, but really, it's not that close, says Nikki Finke:
Christmas Day was "enormous" for the movie industry with the top two pics setting all-time records for the holiday, studios are telling me. Even the weather cooperated. Good thing too because, for weeks now, Hollywood has been hotly anticipating today's opening of five high-profile movies with potential to be blockbusters (because Christmas releases on average have a 6.9 multiple). Latest estimates for Thursday box office nationally are: No. 1 Fox's Marley And Me $14.6M in 3,480 theaters, No. 2 Paramount's The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button $11.8M from 2,988 venues, No. 3 Disney's Bedtime Stories $10.5M for 3,681 runs, and No. 4 MGM/UA's Valkyrie $8.3M from 2,711 plays, No. 5 Warner Bros' Yes Man $5.8M for 3,434 theaters, No. 6 Sony's Seven Pounds $4.8M in 2,758 dates, and No. 7 Lionsgate's The Spirit $3.8M from 2,509 venues.

When it comes to North American moviegoing habits, this rule is primo -- don't ever bet against a pooch. So my info is that 20th Century Fox's Marley And Me based on the bestselling book is beating the competition "by a mile". Driven by women moviegoers, the Owen Wilson tearjerker about a man and his dog did twice what was expected -- as did No. 2, Paramount's Oscar buzzed The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button starring Brad Pitt. "It's a classic dovetail: Marley's strength is smack in the middle of the country and the south, while Button is strong on both coasts," one studio insider tells me. I also hear Benjamin Button is rapidly selling out today because of demand and a long running time.
I finally read the short story "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" last night, which is by the great F. Scott Fitzgerald (you can too, here.) Apparently, the film departs markedly from the simple story, and though it has been nominated for multiple Golden Globes and has tremendous Oscar buzz, not everyone is in love with the Pitt film. I want to see it, though I'm no particular fan of Mr. Pitt. And my kids want to see "Marley and Me." The way things work around here, my kids, and "Marley," will win the day.

By the way, Jen, be careful: now that you and Owen Wilson have a hit, Angelina will probably try to steal him for her next movie. (hehe)


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posted by JReid @ 5:09 PM  
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Report card: under Bush, U.S. influence has nosedived ... but Iraq's got Christmas!

Photo credit: Caricatures by Lisa

A damning retrospective on the Bush years in today's Los Angeles Times:
In the 1990s, America exerted leadership in all the remote corners of the globe, from the southern cone of South America to Central Asia. Now, the United States has largely left the field in many regions, leaving others to step forward.

Bush has been blamed widely for the erosion of American prestige. And the decline in U.S. influence is partly the result of the reaction to his invasion of Iraq, his campaign against Islamic militants and his early disdain for treaties and international bodies.

But the shift is also a result of independent forces, though hastened by an aversion to Bush. These include the steady ascent of China, India and other developing countries that throughout the last decade have seen their economies grow, amassing wealth and quietly extending their reach.

As smaller countries have built economic and political ties to these rising powers, they have worked to free themselves from exclusive dependence on the United States.

"There is no return to the time when the United States was the 'indispensable power,' " said Stewart M. Patrick, a former State Department official at the Council on Foreign Relations. "The world has moved on."
According to the author, part of the problem is Bush unilateralism in Iraq, on climate change, and on Russia. Another factor in the decline is Bush's benign neglect of whole regions, including both Asia and South America:
The U.S. National Intelligence Council issued a report this year, "Global Trends 2025," that notes a shift of economic power from the West to the East that is "without precedent." In 2025, the United States will "remain the single most powerful country, but will be less dominant," it predicts.

Since World War II, the United States has led by its power of persuasion, as well as its economic might. But other countries' unhappiness with the Iraq war and the conduct of the Bush administration's "global war on terror," means that the "American brand is less legitimate and its persuasive powers are compromised," said Charles Kupchan of Georgetown University and the Council on Foreign Relations.

There also has been a dwindling of U.S. influence as the administration has focused most of its energy and resources on the Middle East and Southwest Asia, leaving much less for Central and Southeast Asia, Latin America and other regions. Many are going their own way, developing new ties among neighbors.

Latin American countries, for example, are building an organization called the Union of South American Nations and a NATO-like defense alliance called the South American Defense Council. The United States, long dominant in the hemisphere, is pointedly excluded from both.

An 8-year-old group called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with Russia, China, and four Central Asian states, has been slowly developing, in part because some members want a bulwark against U.S. involvement in the region.

So is there any good news for the Bushies? Well ... Iraq does have Christmas now ...
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's Christians, a scant minority in this overwhelmingly Muslim country, quietly celebrated Christmas on Thursday with a present from the government, which declared it an official holiday for the first time.

But security worries overshadowed the day for many, particularly in the north where thousands of Christians have fled to escape religious attacks.

Overall security in Iraq has improved markedly in the past year, but a fatal car bombing in Baghdad on Christmas morning was a gruesome reminder that serious problems remain.

The bombing outside a restaurant frequented by police killed four people and wounded 25 others in the Shiite neighborhood of Shula, said a police officer on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give information to news media. The U.S. military later announced that one person was killed and 21 wounded. There was no way to immediately reconcile the differing numbers.

An American soldier was killed in a rocket or mortar attack near the northern city of Mosul, the military announced.
Well ... I didn't say it was a merry Christmas...

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posted by JReid @ 9:51 PM  
R.I.P. Eartha Kitt
You know how you just happen to key in on something or someone for no apparent reason? This morning, I keyed in on Eartha Kitt. Just felt like looking up her bio, as I had included her song "Santa Baby" in my "Christmas master mix" of songs to play in the house for today. Well, she died today, at age 81, of colon cancer. Just found out.

Kitt came from troubled beginnings, to become one of the first bonafide black sex symbols who crossed over to white America, including via her role as Cat Woman in the Batman television series in the 1960s (starring Adam West and Burt Ward.) Unlike Dorothy Dandridge and Lena Horne, whose sex appeal to white America was considered threatening in a slightly earlier era (which is why Max Factor was hired to create a makeup that would darken Ms. Horne's skin,) Kitt boldly asserted her sexuality. Orson Wells, with whom she apparently had a brief relationship, famously called her "the most exciting woman alive." Kitt was one of a kind, and an international sensation. Though the majority of her career took place before I was born, my mother, who was in her generation, loved her (though Lena Horne was her all-time favorite actress,) and we watched the "Batman" re-runs when I was a kid. Plus she was hilarious in "Boomerang," doing a clever "cougar" send-up of her sex kitten past. She even crossed over to my kids' generation, via her role as the voice of Empress Yzma in "The Emperoror's New Groove," as well as the "Emperor's New School" cartoon series. Kitt was also a risk taker, openly opposing the Vietnam war, and being blacklisted for it, and advocating for children. From the New York Times Obit:
Yet for all the camp appeal and sexually charged hauteur of Ms. Kitt’s cabaret act, she also played serious roles, appearing in the films “The Mark of the Hawk” with Sidney Poitier (1957) and “Anna Lucasta” (1959) with Sammy Davis Jr. She made numerous television appearances, including a guest spot on “I Spy” in 1965, which brought her her first Emmy nomination.

For these performances Ms. Kitt very likely drew on the hardship of her early life. She was born Eartha Mae Keith in North, S.C., on Jan. 17, 1927, a date she did not know until about 10 years ago, when she challenged students at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., to find her birth certificate, and they did. She was the illegitimate child of a black Cherokee sharecropper mother and a white man about whom Ms. Kitt knew little. She worked in cotton fields and lived with a black family who, she said, abused her because she looked too white. “They called me yella gal,” Ms. Kitt said.

At 8 she was sent to live in Harlem with an aunt, Marnie Kitt, who Ms. Kitt came to believe was really her biological mother. Though she was given piano and dance lessons, a pattern of abuse developed there as well: Ms. Kitt would be beaten, run away and return. By her early teenage years she was working in a factory and sleeping in subways and on the roofs of unlocked buildings. (She would later become an advocate, through Unicef, on behalf of homeless children.)


Here's Eartha singing "I want to be evil" in 1962:



Here's "Santa Baby", circa sometime in the 60s:



Here's Eartha, who performed in 10 languages, singing "C'est si bon" in 1962:



Here's "Extra special guest Eartha Kitt" in an episode of Batman, also from the 1960s:



Watch more episodes here. And someone has put together a terrific compilation of Kitt photos here.

Rest in peace, Eartha. You were a rare talent!

Kitt wasn't the only Christmastime passing. Among what I'm sure are many others, playwright Harold Pinter also died, on Christmas Eve. Godspeed to the families.

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posted by JReid @ 8:38 PM  
Merkel makes a funny
Okay, I know it's Christmas, but this one was too good to pass up. A joke from the German Chancellor:
With capitalist Washington forced to buy shares of major banks to stop them going bust after years of loose regulation, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in Communist East Germany, was quoted in Focus magazine telling her Cabinet the following joke: "What's the difference between Communism and Capitalism? Answer: The Communists nationalised all the companies first -- and then ruined them."
Any of you folks from out of town...?

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posted by JReid @ 3:28 PM  
MERRY CHRISTMAS! HAPPY HANNUKAH! HAPPY KWANZAA! ETC ETC ETC
Whatever you're celebrating, even if it's just the fact that you woke up this morning, have your family around you, and are healthy, and hopefully happy, enjoy the day, and here's wishing you PEACE, LOVE AND JOY!



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posted by JReid @ 11:14 AM  
Obama's Christmas message
The president-elect delivers a holiday message to the troops, those who are hurting economically this holiday season, and to the rest of country he will soon lead. Watch:



Meanwhile, Obama sports an 82% approval rating for his transition.

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posted by JReid @ 10:48 AM  
And so this is Christmas
I've always had a little bit of trouble with Christmas. Having lost my mother, who made Christmas so much fun for us as kids, when I was 17, I learned to hate the holiday, until I had kids of my own. Every year, I work hard to make it as special for them as it was for me growing up, and to hide the fact that the holiday still makes me tremendously sad (and stressed.)

Even without personal tragedy (and I have several friends who are celebrating their first Christmas without a loved one who died this year, not to mention all of the families of U.S. troops who are in the same situation, and Iraqis too...) Christmas is bundled with contradictions. It's purportedly a religious holiday, but the date it's celebrated was cribbed by the early Christian church, directly from the pagan calendar (not to mention the fact that Jesus was mostly probably born in June.) In a way, Christmas is probably best celebrated the way Macy's intended, as a secular holiday that's about Santa, happy children, and the last magical thing most of us will ever believe in.

That said, there are three Christmas songs I really love: "This Christmas" by Donny Hathaway, which is just a quality R&B song, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and "I'll be Home for Christmas" (Michael Buble has a great version) even though that particular song always makes me cry. If I had to add a fourth, it would be John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War is Over)" which was written a few days before Halloween in 1971 by John Lennon snd Yoko Ono in their New York hotel room, as a protest against the Vietnam War. Some trivia about the song from SongFacts:
John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote this in their New York City hotel room and recorded it during the evening of October 28 and into the morning of the 29th, 1971 at the Record Plant in New York. It was released in the US for Christmas, but didn't chart. The next year, it was released in the UK, where it did much better.

John and Yoko spent a lot of time in the late '60s and early '70s working to promote peace. In 1969, they put up billboard advertisements in major cities around the world that said, "War is over! (If you want it)." Two years later this slogan became the basis for this song when Lennon decided to make a Christmas record with an anti-war message.

The children's voices are the Harlem Community Choir, who were brought in to sing on this track. They are credited on the single along with Yoko and The Plastic Ono Band.

Lennon and Ono produced this with the help of Phil Spector. Spector had worked on some of the later Beatles songs and also produced Lennon's "Instant Karma." It was not Spector's first foray into Christmas music: he spent the summer of 1963 putting together A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, featuring artists like The Ronettes and Darlene Love. Unfortunately, the album was released on November 22, 1963, which was the same day US president John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and the album was pulled from the market.

... Lennon was shot and killed less than 3 weeks before Christmas in 1980. This was re-released in the UK on December 20th of that year.
And here are the lyrics:
So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
War is over over
If you want it
War is over
Now...
And here's the original song:



To all of those who are missing loved ones this Christmas, I wish you comfort, peace, and the joy of a season full of intended, and unintended, blessings.

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posted by JReid @ 10:35 AM  
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Redrum? GOP IT guru's crash death 'timely'
From RawStory, and slowly leaking into the "regular media," could it be a classic case of "die before you testify...?"

The death of Republican "IT guru" Mike Connell last Friday in a fiery plane crash has been the subject of intense speculation online about whether it might have been murder -- but very little of that speculation has made it into the national media. Now one local TV station in Connell's home state of Ohio is acknowledging that there are questions about his death.

"Well, this sounds like a made up story," Scott Taylor of 19 Action News in Cleveland began. "One man rigging state elections to help his boss, President George Bush. After it's done, power players in Washington say 'Get rid of the guy.' Do I believe it? No -- for now."Taylor noted that "bad weather could have played a part in the crash" but "some in Washington have a different opinion."

"Some say Connell was about to reveal embarrassing details involving senior members of the Bush Administration," Taylor explained, "including their involvement in destroying incriminating emails and rigging elections. Connell died on impact, and was only 3 miles from the Akron-Canton Airport. He was an experienced pilot. Was it an accident, or murder?"

Connell had played a central role in two separate Bush administration scandals. He had created the website for the Ohio secretary of state's office which some have linked to suspected election fraud during the 2004 presidential race. He also set up the domains which White House staff used for their off-the-books emails concerning the firing of US Attorneys, emails which are now said to have been destroyed. In a press release cited by 19 Action News, the website Velvet Revolution revealed that "a person close to Mr. Connell has recently been discussing with a VR investigator how Mr. Connell can tell all about his work for George Bush. Mr. Connell told a close associate that he was afraid that the George Bush and Dick Cheney would 'throw [[him] under the bus.' A tipster close to the McCain campaign disclosed to VR in July that Mr. Connell’s life was in jeopardy and that Karl Rove had threatened him and his wife."

19 Action News also reported on Sunday that Connell had previously been warned by a friend that his plane might be sabotaged and had canceled two flights because of suspicious problems.


Watch the 19 Action News piece here (or here:)



Connell had been called to testify in a federal civil rights lawsuit involving allegations of the rigging of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio. He had been warned off flying his plane (he was an expert pilot.) Meanwhile, Bradblog reports that the lead attorney in the vote rigging case says he is pressing on with the case.

This case is full of weirness, and now some in the blogosphere are warning Al Franken to stay on the ground, and filling in more blanks about Connell:

Connell told various sources that he was being threatened by Rove. He canceled at least two previous flights due to mechanical failure. A father of four, his decision to fly from a highly restricted airport in Maryland remains a mystery. Connell reportedly did contract work for security-industrial agencies, like the CIA. Connell also openly acknowledged that he was the first IT contractor to move his servers behind the firewall of the US House of Representatves where he oversaw the websites of the House Judiciary Committee, Intelligence Committee, Ways and Means Committee, and Administrative Committee, arguably the four most powerful committees in the House.

Strange days indeed, but if the KGB can (allegedly) do it ...

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posted by JReid @ 12:26 AM  
Much ado about nothing
The Obama team releases the Blago report, and predictably, there's not much news in it (sorry, Fox News...)

The report was put together by attorney Greg Craig following Blagojevich's arrest for allegedly engaging in a scheme to sell the vacant U.S. Senate seat, as well as other state appointments and services. ...

... Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and his adviser, Valerie Jarrett, all submitted to interviews with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald last week. Craig said neither Jarrett nor David Axelrod, another senior adviser, had any contact with Blagojevich or his office. The report did say that Dr. Eric Whitaker, a close friend of Obama's and a former Blagojevich cabinet member, was approached "by a member of the Governor's circle," deputy Gov. Louanner Peters, for information.

Obama has portrayed himself as taking a hands-off approach to the governor's decision about who to appoint to his Senate seat. In fact, the report noted that he was very much interested in who would succeed him in the Senate.

Once Jarrett said she was not interested in becoming a senator, Obama asked Emanuel to tell the governor that he would support Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., Ill. Comptroller Dan Hynes and Illinois Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth. Later, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cheryl Jackson, a former Blagojevich spokeswoman who heads the Chicago Urban League, were added to the list.
No one in the Obama camp besides Rahm Emanuel talked to Blago or his chief of staff, and Obama and Emanuel have already talked to Pat Fitzgerald about Blagogate. Apparently, Fitz didn't hear anything alarming.

Probably the only new piece of news to come out of the report is that despite the assertions of the Chicago papers, and all the brouhaha those assertions created for "Senate Candidate #5,", Jesse Jackson Jr. WAS on Obama's short list. Oh, and Valerie Jarrett considered the idea of Blago heading HHS to be "ridiculous," which it was, given the games he played with Children's Hospital. I'm sure this won't stop the Roger Simons and Fox News' of the world from continuing to go after Obama on this, but there you go. If you're still exercised after that, read the report online at TPM here.



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posted by JReid @ 12:03 AM  
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
On second thought ... Joe Lowry's not for gay marriage either
Don't call it a flip-flop, apparently the MSM got this one wrong. I also erred, reporting in this post, that unlike Pastor Rick Warren, the Rev. Joe Lowry, who will give the benediction at Barack Obama's swearing in, is a supporter of gay marriage. Well color me corrected. On MSNBC's "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue," Rev. Lowry went to great pains to disabuse David Shuster of the notion that he supports gay marriage. "I'm for civil unions," said Lowry, but he said his religious convictions would cause him to eschew the "marriage" thing. Watch:




So, was Lowry's supposed support for gay marriage a case of wishful thinking (or editorial bookmarking) on the part of liberals and members of the media, an urban legend that got out of hand, or did Lowry commit a "flip flop," as some gay marriage supporters claim? Or does it even matter at this point? (An interesting sidebar: Lowry's selection hasn't gotten nearly enough ink, particularly since he's also the guy who condemned the Iraq war at Coretta Scott King's funeral, with George W. Bush sitting on the dais...)

Lowry's supposed support for gay marriage apparently rests on a speech he gave to fellow Methodists some years ago, and the following statement he made in 2004 to ABC News:
When you talk about the law discriminating, the law granting a privilege here, and a right here and denying it there, that's a civil rights issue. And I can't take that away from anybody.

That statement is interesting, in that nowhere in it, does Lowry state that he favors gay marriage. I think perhaps the media, in this case USA Today's Faith and Reason blog, and ABC, were looking for ideological bookends where none existed. I fault myself for not being more skeptical. As someone who grew up Methodist myself, and knowing the religion to posess the mildest of manners, and a long tradition of tolerance, I can tell you that despite that, Methodists read Leviticus in exactly the same manner as other Christians...

By the way, did Rachel Maddow jump the shark tonight with her big build-up to a supposed "gotcha" on Rick Warren over this 20-minute self-defense video on the Saddleback Church website? Maddow portrayed the extemporaneous video as damning, in the Jeremiah Wright at the National Press Club sense, but the clips she played were, charitably, run of the mill. No bombshells. Nothing incendiary. And if the clips she played represented the "worst" of Warren's "screed," as Maddow called it, then it's a sleepy screed indeed. I'm starting to remember why I didn't enjoy Rachel's radio show when it was on down here. Sometimes, activist journalism can be interesting. Other times, not so much.

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posted by JReid @ 11:31 PM  
An American quilt
In keeping with his deterimination to bring Americans together, Barack Obama continues to confound Fox News and right wing talk radio by positing a bi-partisan and distinctly American, inauguration. The inauguration committee has announced its honorary co-chairs (Republicans hilighted):
President Jimmy Carter
President George H. W. Bush
President William J. Clinton
(D.C.) Mayor Adrian Fenty
Senator Dick Durbin
Senator Dick Lugar
Senator Claire McCaskill
Representative Tammy Baldwin
Representative Artur Davis
Representative Ray Lahood
Representative Linda Sánchez
General Colin Powell
Hunter and Kathleen Biden
Craig Robinson (Michelle Obama's brother)
Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng (Barack Obama's half-sister)
And Obama will take the oath of office on President Abraham Lincoln's bible, used at the fallen leader's first inauguration in 1861, and not since. As the Independent UK explains:
It is a highly symbolic gesture from the the man who will become America's first black president to the man who proclaimed the end of slavery.

But the links go deeper than that: Mr Obama has often cited Lincoln - the first Illinois congressman to end up in the White House - as his role model and has looked to him taken inspiration from him as he prepares for inauguration day on January 20.

The Bible in question is one of two Lincoln Bibles held in the Library of Congress. The other is the Lincoln family Bible, which was unavailable because it was packed away with the First Family's luggage, which was still making its way from Springfield, Illinois when Lincoln's inauguration came around on March 4, 1861.

Instead, another Bible was bought by William Thomas Carroll, the Supreme Court Clerk, who later wrote at the back of the book certifying that it was indeed the Bible on which the 16th president had been sworn in. It has not been used since.

The 1,280-page Bible, published in 1853 by the Oxford University Press, is bound in burgundy velvet with a gold-washed metal rim, its edges heavily gilded.

"President-elect Obama is deeply honored that the Library of Congress has made the Lincoln Bible available for use during his swearing-in," Emmett Beliveau, who heads Mr Obama's inaugural commmittee, told Time magazine.

"The President-elect is committed to holding an inauguration that celebrates America's unity, and the use of this historic Bible will provide a powerful connection to our common past and common heritage."

Well played, Mr. President-Elect.

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posted by JReid @ 10:50 AM  
Crisis in Guinea
The dictator of Guinea dies, touching off a coup and struggle for power involving the prime minister and the Army. From AP:
CONAKRY, Guinea – A military-led group seized control of the airwaves in Guinea and declared a coup Tuesday after the death of the mineral-rich West African country's longtime dictator, but the prime minister insisted he remained in charge.

An Associated Press reporter saw three tanks and dozens of armed soldiers heading toward the office of the prime minister inside the country's presidential compound.

The troops' allegiance was not immediately apparent. But they appeared less than an hour after Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare announced in a state broadcast that he was inside his office and that his government had not been dissolved.

Earlier Tuesday, a group calling itself the National Council for Democracy began announcing its takeover on state-run radio and TV, just hours after longtime dictator Lansana Conte's death was made public.

"The government is dissolved. The institutions of the republic are dissolved. ... From this moment on, the council is taking charge of the destiny of the Guinean people," said the coup leader, who identified himself as Capt. Moussa Camara.

The coup came just hours after the death of Conte, who was one of the last members of a dwindling group of so-called "African Big Men" who came to power by the gun and resisted the democratic tide sweeping the continent.

And from the BBC:
Earlier, the leader of the Union for the Progress of Guinea and the secretary of the opposition alliance, Frad, Jean-Marie Dore, called for a peaceful transition of power.

Veteran opposition leader Alpha Konde returned to Guinea on Sunday after 15 months of self-imposed exile in France. He left Guinea after being released from jail.

According to the constitution the National Assembly speaker should be in charge until a presidential election is held within 60 days.

The BBC's Will Ross says many analysts had predicted the army would try to take over following Mr Conte's death because he had been increasingly relying on it to shore up his oppressive rule.

General Conte came to power in 1984 at the head of a military coup to fill the vacuum left by the sudden death of his predecessor, Sekou Toure, who had been president since independence from France in 1958.

He eventually oversaw a return to civilian rule and was elected three times, although critics said the votes were never free or fair.

As his health declined over the last five years, it was often unclear who was in charge and the government barely functioned, our correspondent says.

Although Guinea's mineral wealth makes it potentially one of Africa's richest countries, its population of about 10 million is among the poorest in the region.

Which unfortunately, makes it just one of several African countries to be in that state.

By the way Guinea, a former French colony, is not to be confused with Equatorial Guiniea, the former Spanish colony located a bit further down the West coast of the continent. It too has a nasty dictator, and mineral wealth that is not being exploited for the benefit of its people (in Equatorial Guinea's case, the curse is not bauxite, but oil.)

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posted by JReid @ 9:57 AM  
Monday, December 22, 2008
The president-elect is ... hot???
Photos allegedly taken in Hawaii by paparazzo Bauer Griffin or one of his minions appear to confirm it.
Meanwhile, the cynic in me wonders: how did the photog get that close? (Where was the Secret Service?) Could these pec pics be fakes?? And is it totally inappropriate to think the in-coming president of the United States is a hottie??? Enquiring minds want to know. (BTW, Michelle in the pics is sporting a very cute wrap, and some seriously worked out arms. Message: lust after her man, but only when she's not around to whup your behind...)

The lady commenters at the Huffpo are fired up and ready to go. More Obama hottie pics here, and the Globe and Mail posts its own political hot file.

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posted by JReid @ 11:14 PM  
Rick Warren and the Elianization of Everything
As the niche controversy over President-Elect Barack Obama's choice of megachurch pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his swearing in continues to fester, it strikes me that we may have another Elian Gonzales-style saga in the making.

Elian, you may recall, was the adorable 6-year-old boy who washed ashore in Miami during the Thanksgiving of 1999, after losing his mother in a deadly attempt to "float to freedom" from Cuba. Elian quickly became the center of an international custody battle between his father, who wanted to return him to the island nation, and his Miami relatives -- people he had never met before finding himself in their care -- who wanted him to remain in the United States, with them. In the course of several months, Miami's Cuban-American community erupted, surrounding the Miami relatives' house with protests and "human chains," their leaders daring the Clinton Justice Department to come and get him, making a spectacle of the bewildered little boy as he played with new toys and politician-issued puppies in full view of the crowds and cameras, causing a weary nation to scratch its collective head and ask, who are these people, and why won't they just let the boy go home?

Of course, at the heart of the Elian drama were real and deeply felt issues of communism versus freedom, the wrenching pain many Cuban-Americans continue to feel regarding their homeland, and international politics that most Americans find either too compliated, or too tedious, to contemplate. But those issues were subsumed by the high drama, and a seeming obsessiveness among a single, niche constituent group that most other Americans simply could not relate to.

Eventually, Elian went home. But the Cuban-American community had lost more than the boy. In fighting so loudly and so lavishly for him to remain, they lost credibility with the wider public.

The gay and lesbian community is facing its Elian moment. By screaming so loudly about Warren's inclusion in the inauguration, and making gay marriage a kind of litmus test for true progressiveness and humanity, they have embraced a fight that only a small sliver of the population can relate to, and put their credibility on the line by painting Barack Obama as an enemy, at a time when most Americans consider him their only hope.

The "Elianization" of the gay marriage issue is made worse by the fact that some of the arguments being made against Warren simply don't hold up. Examples:

Rick Warren is a fringe preacher not fit to occupy a place of such high honor on January 20th. Really? Warren's breakthough book, "The Purpose Driven Life," which TIME Magazine in 2005 called the best-selling paperback in history, has sold something like 56 million copies since its release in 2002. That's just 10 million fewer readers than Barack Obama had voters, and roughly 2 million fewer people than voted for John McCain. Far from a fringe player, Warren might be the most widely known and best-liked religious figure in the U.S. since Billy Graham. His 22,000 member church boasts a global network of 40,000 other churches, united in advancing an agenda focused not on opposing gay rights, but rather on fighting global poverty, AIDS and climate change. Warren may be a lot of things, but "fringe" is not one of them.

Warren's views on gays are out of the mainstream. Perhaps Rachel Maddow, the inimitable Barney Frank and those at the left-most end of the poitical spectrum wish it were so, but it is not (actually, Frank recognized as much when he criticized San Franciso Mayor Gavin Newsome for pushing the envelope on gay marriage in 2004.) Warren does not support the idea of gay marriage. Neither do a majority of Americans. Neither, by the way, does Barack Obama. Or Hillary Clinton. Or Joe Biden. Or any Democrat who ran for president this year with the exception of Dennis Kucinich. But most Americans do support equal access to such things as healthcare benefits through civil unions or domestic partnerships, a view with which Warren, despite the hype over his "incest" comments, concurs, as he stated during his recent, but rarely fully quoted, interivew with Beliefnet:

Q: Which do you think is a greater threat to the American family - divorce or gay marriage?
A: [laughs] That's a no brainer. Divorce. There's no doubt about it.
Q: So why do we hear so much more - especially from religious conservatives - about gay marriage than about divorce?
A: Oh we always love to talk about other sins more than ours. Why do we hear more about drug use than about being overweight? [Note: Warren is quite overweight.]
Q: Just to clarify, do you support civil unions or domestic partnerships?
A: I don't know if I'd use the term there but I support full equal rights for everybody in America. I don't believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles so I fully support equal rights.
Q: What about partnership benefits in terms of insurance or hospital visitation?
A: You know, not a
problem with me.

(Hat tip to Bob Ostertag.) By painting Warren's views as out of touch with those of most, or worse, of the "good" Americans, the gay movement risks marginalizing itself, not Warren, since most people agree with him. In fact, it would be difficult to find a mainline preacher in this country who didn't concur with his reading of the Bible's stance toward homosexuality or marriage, but Warren is unique among evangelical leaders in being openly supportive of equality via civil unions. Moreover, had Obama reached for a "fringier" minister, one who openly supported gay marriage, to give his invocation, he would have touched off yet another round of the tiresome culture war, and given himself needless hurdles to getting crucial things done. In fact, there are only two reasons Obama has NOT been attacked for having a preacher who supports gay marriage on the dais on January 20. One is that Rev. Joe Lowry is no ordinary preacher -- he is a dean of the Civil Rights Movement, and is expected to speak from the perspective of Dr. Martin Luther King. The other is that the hew and cry over Rich Warren has sucked up all the oxygen.

And then there is the final meme, which might be the most marginalizing of all:

Barack Obama has betrayed his base. Barack Obama was elected by 66,882,230 Americans, a figure that includes a majority of the roughly 6 million Americans who are either gay, lesbian, transgendered or bisexual. But it also includes strong majorities of the much larger cohorts of African-Amerians, Latinos, Catholics, women, and young voters, some of whom support gay marriage, most of whom do not. Obama's "base" this year included 9 percent of registered Republicans, and 20 percent of self-described conservatives. Anyone want to place a bet on whether they feel betrayed by Warren's inclusion? As Obama has said repeatedly, his base is the American people. Attempting to pigeon hole him into a base that consists entirely of those on the left, is suspiciously like the right's expectation (which unfortunately was met) that George W. Bush would govern only on behalf of evangelical Christians, wealthy individuals and multinational corporations.

It seems to me that many on the left actually bought, lock, stock and barrel, into the cartoon caricature of Barack Obama peddled by the likes of Fox News and right wing talk radio throughout the campaign, when he was painted as some wild-eyed leftie. Well surprise! He is not, nor has he ever been. The left will be very happy with the Obama agenda, which, since its aim is to save this country from the three-fold blight of economic ruin, needless war and a loss of global credibility, should make the center and the right happy, too.

The reality is that Barack Obama is coming into office with a tremendous weight on his shoulders, and gay marriage simply cannot be at the top of his agenda (the aforementioned economy and wars come first.) And he has decided to govern as he ran: as a man determined to bring Americans together, exclude no one from the conversation, and to declare no group to be "untouchable" -- not even evangelical Christians, of whom he, you wil recall, is one.

Obama is being true to that promise by inviting Warren, and the millions of people he reaches, to be a part of the inaugural. By bringing them into the tent, he is not saying that he subscribes to all of the Christian right's beliefs. But he is signaling that there is room for believers in the tent. Does the LGBT community really want to be the ones standing at the door saying they may not come in? If they do, they will find that it's a lot more crowded outside.

Originally posted at TPM Cafe.

UPDATE: Melissa Etheridge appeals for calm (and defends Rick Warren.)


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posted by JReid @ 9:57 PM  
Cheney and the football

Dick Cheney works on his own legacy tour, with an exit interview with Chris Wallace that features an interesting discussion of the president's powers, and a certain "football":
Cheney defended the administration's aggressive prosecution of the War on Terror, which he said was a major reason the nation hasn't been attacked in seven years. He said the 1973 War Powers Act is a violation of the Constitution because Congress does not have the right by statute to alter presidential constitutional power.

"That it is an infringement on the president's authority as the commander-in-chief," Cheney said. "It has never been resolved, but I think it's a very good example of a way in which Congress has tried to limit the president's authority and, frankly, can't.

"The president of the United States now for 50 years is followed at all times, 24 hours a day, by a military aide carrying a football that contains the nuclear codes that he would use and be authorized to use in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States," Cheney said. "He could launch the kind of devastating attack the world has never seen.

"He doesn't have to check with anybody. He doesn't have to call the Congress. He doesn't have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in."
Cheney also told Wallace he tried to talk Bush out of firing Donald Rumsfeld in 2006:
"I did disagree with the decision," Cheney said. "The president doesn't always take my advice."

Cheney said he supports Rumsfeld's successor, Robert Gates, "but I was a Rumsfeld man. I'd helped recruit him and I thought he did a good job for us."
And he defended cursing at Pat Leahy. But that's not the news, I think, in the interview. It's that football bit. Cheney just declared that the president can start a global, thermonuclear war at his own discretion, without even checking in with Congress! Could that possibly be true? Let's go back in time, to 2002, when the folks at FindLaw were trying to talk sense to the Congress of the United States:

The decision to go to war is exclusively that of Congress

Sadly, it seems we've reached the point where the Constitution is no longer relevant on matters of a president's war-making powers. Presidents, the Congress and the courts have made going to war, once a serious constitutional issue, and a purely political question.

As a result, in the last half century, the war powers clause of the Constitution has become a nullity, if not a quaint relic. While conservatives often insist on following the letter of the Constitution on most issues, on matters of war they ignore it.

That's a disgrace, because the Framers of the Constitution carefully laid out the decision-making process for war. Pursuant to the document, war is a decision to be made exclusively by the representatives of the people -- the Congress. Only Congress is authorized to declare war, raise and support armies, provide and maintain a navy, and make the rules for these armed forces. There is nothing vague or unclear about the language in Article I, ¤ 8, clauses 11-16.

And Dick, (who ironically, also spent part of his latest interview mocking Joe Biden's understanding of the Constitution) I think that includes the football... Congress could have stepped in at any time to stop the Bush administration from waging war in Iraq, and had it come to that, they could also stop the president from launching a nuclear strike against, say, Iran. It's within their power to do, Dick. They simply have failed, in recent history, to exercise it.

But the fact that Cheney believes that a president is free to do almost anything ... and yes, he said that too ... in a "time of war," including launch a nuclear war, is truly frightening.





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posted by JReid @ 1:17 AM  
Is it just me...
... or does "Meet the Press" with David Gregory suck? That softball interview with Condi Rice today was a low point for the show. Meanwhile, on the other side of the low-end of the dial, George Stephanopoulos, the onetime political flack, is proving to be twice the journalist that Gregory, the supposed pro, is. He did a much more in-depth, interesting interview with Joe Biden than Gregory's bland Condi love and weak roundtable, and George actually broke some news:

Sources tell me that the Obama team's review of contacts with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will show that Rahm Emanuel had only one phone conversation with Blagojevich.

The contact, described as a "pro-forma" courtesy call, came as Emanuel was named Chief of Staff for Obama. Most of the discussion concerned Emanuel's Congressional seat (which had previously been held by Blagojevich), with only a "passing reference" to the Senate vacancy, according to these sources. No deal for the Senate vacancy was discussed.

Speculation in Washington and Chicago has been swirling for a week now over what the Obama team’s report would find. Until now, the contents of that report have been kept sealed, at the request of the U.S. Attorney’s office. Last Wednesday, Obama said he found it “a little bit frustrating” that the report had not yet been released.

The sources add that the report will show Emanuel also had four phone calls with Blagojevich Chief of Staff John Harris. During those conversations, the Senate seat was discussed. The pros and cons of various candidates were reviewed, and the sources say that Emanuel repeatedly reminded Harris that Blagojevich should focus on the message the pick would send about the governor and his administration.

Sources also confirm that Emanuel made the case for picking Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett during at least one of the conversations. In the course of that conversation, Harris asked if in return for picking Jarrett, "all we get is appreciation, right?" "Right," Emanuel responded.

To which Frank James of the Chicago Tribune's "Swamp" replies:

It struck me from the beginning of this that there probably was no 'there' there since USA Fitzgerald signaled very strongly that he wasn't going after anyone on Obama's team. It seemed like an attempt by us media types to raise questions to keep the pot stirring more than anything else.

Clearly. And shock of all shocks, all that blather will turn out to be for nothing. Poor dears. Back to end of the year countdowns for all of you!


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posted by JReid @ 12:53 AM  
At last, some sanity on the Rick Warren issue


I've been struggling with writing an op-ed on the whole dust-up over Barack Obama inviting Pastor Rick Warren (the proverbial "chicken soup" for the soul-filled) to do the invocation at his swearing in. The trick: how to write that the gay (sorry, "GLBT") community has completely lost the plot, without incurring a torrent of emails calling me a fake progressive bigot (apparently, Obama is one of those bigots now.)

You see, what the Rachel Maddow/Keith Olbermann crowd has conveniently forgotten -- apparently having bought into the cartoon character version of Barack Obama sold to them by Fox News Channel, is that Barack Obama is now, and has been for a very long time, an evangelical Christian -- just like Rick Warren. As such, he, like Warren, opposes extending the term "marriage" to apply to gay or lesbian couples. Like many religious progressives, Obama supports equal rights -- namely, civil unions or domestic partnerships (which, by the way, also help straight, unmarried couples deal with such issues as health insurance and inheritance.) But he is not now, nor has he ever been, a proponent of gay marriage. By the way, neither is Hillary Clinton. Or Joe Biden. Or any Democrat who ran for president this year with the exception of Dennic Kucinich.

Apparently, the gay community missed the memo. And now they are shocked. SHOCKED! to discover that they can no longer support Obama because he does not support gay marriage. Well, okay. And apparently, the gay community has also discovered that black people are the enemy, because they, being a largely religious sort of people, also agree with the "purpose driven" preacher. Hm. Well count Latinos, Catholics, Methodists, Presbytarians, Asians and ... well... most everybody. The majority of Americans of all races, creeds and religions feel exactly the way Warren does about gay marriage. In fact, being pro gay marriage is a distinctly minority view. If you were to ban everyone who opposes gay marriage from the Inaugural, there would be nobody but Barney Frank and the aforementioned Mr. Kucinich on the National Mall. Even Obama wouldn't be able to show up.

Which brings me to a terrific post at the HuffPo by a guy named Bob Ostertag, a pretty out there gay man it seems, who makes a few really good points in this terrific post, which I could not have made better, since I lack his cultural perspective. And here are a few of them...

Brilliant point 1: is this any way to build a political coalition that's anything but marginal?

How is it that queers became the odd ones out at such a momentous turning point in history? By pushing an agenda of stupid issues like gay marriage.

"Gay marriage" turns the real issues of equal rights for sexual minorities upside down and paints us into a reactionary little corner of our own making. Yes, married people get special privileges denied to others. Denied not to just gays and lesbians, but to all others. Millions of straight people remain unmarried, and for a huge variety of reasons, from mothers whose support networks do not include their children's fathers, to hipsters who can't relate to religious institutions. We could be making common cause with them. We could be fighting for equal rights for everyone, not just gays and lesbians, but for all unmarried people. In the process we would leave religious institutions to define marriage however their members see fit.

That's how you win at politics, isn't it? You build principled coalitions that add up to a majority, and try not to hand potent mobilizing issues to your opposition in the process.

Brilliant point #2: is gay marriage really the most important issue on the table for gay people? Really?

Through years of queer demonstrations, meetings, readings and dinner table conversations, about gay bashing, police violence, job discrimination, housing discrimination, health care discrimination, immigration discrimination, family ostracism, teen suicide, AIDS profiteering, sodomy laws, and much more, I never once heard anyone identify the fact that they couldn't get married as being a major concern. And then, out of the blue, gay marriage suddenly became the litmus test by which we measure our allies. We have now come to the point that many unthinkingly equate opposition to gay marriage with homophobia.

Rick Warren is now the flash point, the one all our political allies, even Barack Obama, are supposed to denounce because he doesn't pass gay marriage the litmus test.

Brilliant point #3: Is Rick Warren really a smart enemy to choose?

Steve Waldman, founder of Belief.net (where you find the most thoughtful exchanges on present day religion), did an extended interview with Warren which has been hyped all over the blogosphere as an example of why we should all be screaming for Obama to disinvite Warren from the inaugural. The quote that got all the attention was when Warren said gay marriage would be on a par with marriage for incest, pedophilia and polygamy. And yes, I think that's off-base. Not up there are the scale of the whole God-sent-his-only-Son-to-die-on-a-cross bit, but weird nonetheless. But let's look the rest of the interview, the parts that didn't get as much attention as that one line:

Q: Which do you think is a greater threat to the American family - divorce or gay marriage? A: [laughs] That's a no brainer. Divorce. There's no doubt about it.

Q: So why do we hear so much more - especially from religious conservatives - about gay marriage than about divorce?

A: Oh we always love to talk about other sins more than ours. Why do we hear more about drug use than about being overweight? [Note: Warren is quite overweight.]

Q: Just to clarify, do you support civil unions or domestic partnerships?

A: I don't know if I'd use the term there but I support full equal rights for everybody in America. I don't believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles so I fully support equal rights.

Q: What about partnership benefits in terms of insurance or hospital visitation?

A: You know, not a problem with me.

I have an idea: let's accept equal rights for all. Equal rights are the issue when it comes to national politics. That's Obama's position, and I think he has it right.

By the way, that's the exact same position Barack Obama has ... and the same one that, well, I have. Does that make me a bigot?

Ostertag's closing is perfect:

Just a reminder to all those gays and lesbians who never look beyond their cultural ghetto: we've got some serious problems going on in the world today that need to be addressed now. Global warming in particular can't wait. For thirty years Evangelical Christians have been the anchor that has pulled this country to the right, giving us first Reaganism and then Bushism. Wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. And a decade of world-threatening climate change denialism.

At a minimum, 80 million Americans identify as evangelicals, and up to double that depending on how you define evangelical. They are the largest single religious group in the country, and the fastest growing. They are not going away. Somehow, some way, queers are going to have to share this country with all these people.

I am delighted that there is a new generation of evangelicals that thinks the biggest issue isn't homosexuality but global climate change, AIDS, and poverty. And who "don't believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles." I am so ready to make common cause with them. I couldn't care less about what they think of gay marriage.

I wish more people in the gay community would listen. Barack Obama has seized the opportunity to speak to those 80 million or so evangelicals, 72 percent of whom did not vote for him. By inviting Warren to the party, he has at least gotten their attention, and signaled to the country that he intends to do the opposite of what our current president did after being appointed in 2000. Then, George W. Bush decided to govern only his half of the country, and to screw the rest. Obama wants to be the president of an entire nation, not the "queer nation." And trying to force him to cotton to a narrow political agenda ... or else ... isn't exactly buying into the notion of a "new politics," which is more than just a cobbling together of the interest groups on your side. Obama isn't going to waste his time "paying back" constituency groups who got him elected. He's going to fix the country, starting with, as Joe Biden said today on "This Week," the most pressing issue of all: the economy. After that, he's got two wars, global warming, and major foreign policy challenges like Pakistan, India and the like, to tackle. Sorry, but gay marriage is not top of the list.

Sideber: And by the way, at the close of his quite downtrodden TIME Magazine article, John Cloud suggests that Barack Obama will now have to "do something very nice" for the gay community, like overturning "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by fiat, or nominating an openly gay Secretary of the Navy. He says he's not holding his breath. He shouldn't. Obama is clearly a student of history, and will remember what happened when one William Jefferson Clinton made such an attempt at constituent payoff. The result, the aforementioned "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," wound up angering both the gay community, and the military, which remained alienated from Clinton until the end of his presidency. If Obama were to try to push the envelope, he too will lose a military whose rank and file remain majority Republican and often suspicious of "liberal" politicians, and in one fell swoop, he would undo the good will and currency he has carefully built up with his moderate appointments, and harm his ability to push his economic agenda through. Obama would do well to pass on this one.

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posted by JReid @ 12:11 AM  
Saturday, December 20, 2008
The bonership society
The Bush administration 1.0

The New York Times digs into the housing mess, and finds a Bush in there. A clip:

The president’s first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission promised a “kinder, gentler” agency. The second was pushed out amid industry complaints that he was too aggressive. Under its current leader, the agency failed to police the catastrophic decisions that toppled the investment bank Bear Stearns and contributed to the current crisis, according to a recent inspector general’s report.

As for Mr. Bush’s banking regulators, they once brandished a chain saw over a 9,000-page pile of regulations as they promised to ease burdens on the industry. When states tried to use consumer protection laws to crack down on predatory lending, the comptroller of the currency blocked the effort, asserting that states had no authority over national banks.

The administration won that fight at the Supreme Court. But Roy Cooper, North Carolina’s attorney general, said, “They took 50 sheriffs off the beat at a time when lending was becoming the Wild West.”

The president did push rules aimed at forcing lenders to more clearly explain loan terms. But the White House shelved them in 2004, after industry-friendly members of Congress threatened to block confirmation of his new housing secretary.

In the 2004 election cycle, mortgage bankers and brokers poured nearly $847,000 into Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign, more than triple their contributions in 2000, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The administration did not finalize the new rules until last month.

Among the Republican Party’s top 10 donors in 2004 was Roland Arnall. He founded Ameriquest, then the nation’s largest lender in the subprime market, which focuses on less creditworthy borrowers. In July 2005, the company agreed to set aside $325 million to settle allegations in 30 states that it had preyed on borrowers with hidden fees and ballooning payments. It was an early signal that deceptive lending practices, which would later set off a wave of foreclosures, were widespread.

Andrew H. Card Jr., Mr. Bush’s former chief of staff, said White House aides discussed Ameriquest’s troubles, though not what they might portend for the economy. Mr. Bush had just nominated Mr. Arnall as his ambassador to the Netherlands, and the White House was primarily concerned with making sure he would be confirmed.

“Maybe I was asleep at the switch,” Mr. Card said in an interview.
Ya think??? Sheesh ... It's a long article. Read it from the top, here. I do think the Times puts too much focus on lower income borrowers in this piece, rather than also focusing on all of the middle class buyers who "traded up" to homes they couldn't afford, and those who saw the easy money loans as an opportunity to "flip and grow rich." But the article does lay out the main culprit: a shredding of federal regulations; something the GOP continues to see as the Holy Grail of "governing."

Flashback: Who's to blame for the housing crisis?



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posted by JReid @ 11:17 PM  
Hang on ... Rush Limbaugh is Levi Johnston's mama???
Well ... she doesn't look much like Limbaugh ... maybe with different lighting?

In this episode of "The Wasila Hillbillies" ... The f***in redneck's mama goes down on account of: "Hillbilly heroine..."

WASILLA, Alaska — Wasilla resident Sherry L. Johnston, mother of Bristol Palin's boyfriend, faces a Jan. 6 court date for an oxycontin-related arrest at her home by Alaska State Troopers.

Little additional information was available Friday on the case as authorities remained unusually tight-lipped about details. But Palmer court records listed Johnston's scheduled court date and a troopers spokeswoman said in a release late Friday afternoon that the charges "are in relation to the drug oxycontin."

Holy Rush Limbaugh, Batman! Meanwhile... something looks fishy down at Ye Olde Courthouse...

Normally, troopers file charging documents in court to back up arrests. Clerks at the Palmer courthouse said they hadn't seen any filings, and none has to be filed until the hearing.

The Palmer District Attorney's office prosecutes drug cases. Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said he was aware of the arrest, but also had not seen any reports or charging documents.

Kalytiak said the standard protocol for drug arrests is that law enforcement officials observe one drug buy, then get a warrant that permits them to record conversations and document more buys.

"I'd imagine standard protocol was followed," the district attorney said.

Well, I'd imagine... time to call in Roy Black!

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posted by JReid @ 11:15 AM  
Friday, December 19, 2008
And I am telling you...
He's not going!



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posted by JReid @ 9:06 PM  
In the end
Dana Milbank turns off the snark for a change, and paints a rather sad portrait of our out-going president:
Slowly, painfully, self-awareness has come to George W. Bush.

"Turns out this isn't one of these presidencies where you ride off into the sunset, you know, waving goodbye," the president told the conservative American Enterprise Institute yesterday. He gave a little wave to illustrate his point; the sympathetic audience obliged him with a laugh.

It was the latest stop on what amounts to a legacy-salvaging tour for Bush. At the same time, a Bush Legacy Project, under the auspices of Karl Rove, is said to be at work on reinventing the president's image. But whatever they come up with, it will be difficult to displace in the public imagination the more obvious symbols of Bush's reign: The "Mission Accomplished" banner. The flight suit. Yellowcake. Curveball. Katrina. Brownie. The Pretzel. The Segway. The Shoe. An incipient depression. My Pet Goat.

A poll released yesterday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that just 11 percent of people think Bush will be remembered as an outstanding or above-average president.
It gets sadder:
Yesterday he took his regrets to a gathering at the Mayflower Hotel of AEI, a think tank that has provided Bush with both ideas and manpower. It was bound to be a supportive audience, and in the first row sat Paul Wolfowitz and Michael Barone. The press was kept at a safe distance of 35 feet -- the outer limit of shoe-throwing range -- and behind two barriers. Five Secret Service agents stood around the stage. The White House even tried to confine retired Washington Post editor Len Downie to the press section rather than the audience; possibly he was considered to be a shoe-flight risk.

AEI President Christopher DeMuth did his best to polish the presidential résumé during his introduction. "It'll be many years before it is possible to take a full account of the Bush presidency," he cautioned. "His contemporaries -- he, himself -- will not have the last word on the matter." Still, DeMuth praised Bush's "major reforms" of taxes, his "firm" free-trade position, his "superlative" judicial appointments and even his "most important disappointment," Social Security.

Bush, slouched in a chair, his legs crossed and his jacket open wide, was considerably harder on himself. He spoke so softly that some in the rear stood, leaned in and cupped their ears to hear. "We lost 533,000 jobs last month," he volunteered. And: "Wall Street got drunk, and we got a hangover." And: "I came with the idea of changing the tone in Washington and frankly didn't do a very good job of it."

The 62-year-old president looked tired, and his rapidly graying hair showed the aging effects of the job. He presented a glass-half-full view of his polices. "Obviously, we weren't successful about getting comprehensive immigration reform; nevertheless, I feel good about having tried," he offered. On Social Security, likewise, "it didn't succeed, but nevertheless I used the presidency, the executive branch, the concept of the presidency, to lay out in -- a way forward."
Read the rest here.

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posted by JReid @ 9:00 PM  
Goodbye, Mark Felt
The man who brought down Nixon died today at age 95.


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posted by JReid @ 8:55 PM  
Baby daddy's mama drama
Levi and Bristol are expecting their baby tomorrow. But will his
mama make bail in time for the delivery?


So ... how's that wedding planning coming along, Bristol? You weren't ... planning to have the f***in' rednecks' mama in the ceremony ... were ya?
WASILLA -- A 42-year-old Wasilla woman was arrested Thursday at her home by Alaska State Troopers with a search warrant in an undercover drug investigation. Sherry L. Johnston was charged with six felony counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance.

Johnston is the mother of Levi Johnston, the Wasilla 18-year-old who received international attention in September when Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, announced their teenage daughter was pregnant and he was the father. Bristol Palin, 18, is due on Saturday, according to a recent interview with the governor's father, Chuck Heath.

The arrest of Sherri Johnston

Troopers served the warrant at Johnston's home at the "conclusion of an undercover narcotics investigation," said a statement issued Thursday by the troopers as part of the normal daily summary of activity around the state.

Troopers charged Johnston with second-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance -- generally manufacturing or delivering drugs -- as well as fourth-degree misconduct involving controlled substances, or possession.

Troopers released no other information, including the kind or amount of drugs, because details could jeopardize an ongoing investigation, spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

Asked how long the investigation had proceeded before Johnston's arrest, Peters would only say "a while."

A while? A while??? How much of a while? Like, a couple of months, maybe? Like, I don't know, during the PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN???

BTW Miss Sarah isn't commenting, and the baby? He's due TOMORROW. And interestingly enough, his parents (otherwise known as America's Next Reality Show Superstars... on the CMT channel...) still aren't married! Ah, Republican family values.


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posted by JReid @ 8:38 PM  
How to (almost) bust a union
The White House plan to use $17 billion in TARP funds to provide short-term loans to automakers was greeting with cheers on Capitol Hill, and in the boardrooms of General Motors and Chrysler, the two companies who will split the cash. But the UAW isn't cheering, and neither should American workers, including in the South, because at the end of the Republican rainbow is plan to not just bust the United Auto Worker union, and paralyze it politically, but also, and more important to conservatives, a plan to break the middle class wage itself, for workers north ... and south. You see, the Bush plan calls on the union to accept wages comparable to those paid by foreign automakers, located down South. But what is it that those automakers really want? They want to pay workers what's called a "prevailing wage," and they want the UAW to be forced to do the same. Why? I'll explain in a moment. First, let's look at the specific terms of the White House rescue plan, which I'll add, needed to be passed, only I wish it hadn't been passed in this form. The details, courtesy of the White House website:
Terms And Conditions

The binding terms and conditions established by the Treasury will mirror those that were supported by a majority of both houses of Congress, including:

    • Firms must provide warrants for non-voting stock.
    • Firms must accept limits on executive compensation and eliminate perks such as corporate jets.
    • Debt owed to the government would be senior to other debts, to the extent permitted by law.
    • Firms must allow the government to examine their books and records.
    • Firms must report and the government has the power to block any large transactions (more than $100 million).
    • Firms must comply with applicable Federal fuel efficiency and emissions requirements.
    • Firms must not issue new dividends while they owe government debt.

The terms and conditions established by Treasury will include additional targets that were the subject of Congressional negotiations but did not come to a vote, including:

    • Reduce unsecured debt by two-thirds via a debt for equity exchange.
    • Make one-half of Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) payments in the form of stock.
    • Eliminate the jobs bank.
    • Work rules that are competitive with transplant auto manufacturers by December 31, 2009.
    • Wages that are competitive with those of transplant auto manufacturers by December 31, 2009.
Sounds good, right? Limits on executive pay, scaling back on the corporate jets, and the federal government gets stock. Great. But look at the last two provisions again:
  • Work rules that are competitive with transplant auto manufacturers by December 31, 2009.
  • Wages that are competitive with those of transplant auto manufacturers by December 31, 2009. [Emphasis added]
What does that mean? Let's go to the Los Angeles Times, and an op-ed by Unite Here food service union president Bruce Raynor, which takes us back to last week's failed Senate vote on an auto bailout that looks suspiciously similar to what Bush announced today:
The foreign nonunion auto companies located in the South have a plan to reduce wages and benefits at their factories in the United States. And to do it, they need to destroy the United Auto Workers.

Last week, Senate Republicans from some Southern states went to work trying to do just that, on the foreign car companies' behalf. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Bob Corker ( R-Tenn.) and Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) -- representatives from states that subsidize companies such as Honda, Volkswagen, Toyota and Nissan -- first tried to force the UAW to take reductions in wages and benefits as a condition for supporting the auto industry bailout bill. When the UAW refused, those senators torpedoed the bill.
Again, these are American Senators, colluding with foreign auto companies, many of whom are so heavily subsidized by their home governments, they practically are part of those governments, to LOWER THE WAGES OF WORKERS IN THEIR OWN STATES, not just the workers in Detroit. The L.A. Times piece continues:
When one compares how the auto industry and the financial sector are being treated by Congress, the double standard is staggering. In the financial sector, employee compensation makes up a huge percentage of costs. According to the New York state comptroller, it accounted for more than 60% of 2007 revenues for the seven largest financial firms in New York.

At Goldman Sachs, for example, employee compensation made up 71% of total operating expenses in 2007. In the auto industry, by contrast, autoworker compensation makes up less than 10% of the cost of manufacturing a car. Hundreds of billions were given to the financial-services industry with barely a question about compensation; the auto bailout, however, was sunk on this issue alone.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger realized that the existence of the union was under attack, which is why he refused to give in to the Senate Republicans' demands that the UAW make further concessions. I say "further" because the union has already conceded a lot. Its 2007 contract introduced a two-tier contract to pay new hires $15 an hour (instead of $28) with no defined pension plan and dramatic cuts to their health insurance. In addition, the UAW agreed that healthcare benefits for existing retirees would be transferred from the auto companies to an independent trust. With the transferring of the healthcare costs, the labor cost gap between the Big Three and the foreign transplants will be almost eliminated by the end of the current contracts.

These concessions go some distance toward leveling the playing field (retiree costs are still a factor for the Big Three). But what the foreign car companies want is to level -- which is to say, wipe out -- the union. They currently discourage their workforce from organizing by paying wages comparable to the Big Three's UAW contracts. In fact, Toyota's per-hour wages are actually above UAW wages.

However, an internal Toyota report, leaked to the Detroit Free Press last year, reveals that the company wants to slash $300 million out of its rising labor costs by 2011. The report indicated that Toyota no longer wants to "tie [itself] so closely to the U.S. auto industry." Instead, the company intends to benchmark the prevailing manufacturing wage in the state in which a plant is located. The Free Press reported that in Kentucky, where the company is headquartered, this wage is $12.64 an hour, according to federal labor statistics, less than half Toyota's $30-an-hour wage.

If the companies, with the support of their senators, can wipe out or greatly weaken the UAW, they will be free to implement their plan.
So you see, southerners, you've been had ... again. Your Senators want to crack your wages IN HALF, and make you take the pay cuts with a smile (you beat those dirty old unions, hooray! The South shall rise again...!)

But of course, a provision in the Bush plan makes that plan unlikely to succeed, at least not unless Hank Paulsen has a Jeb Bush style "devious plan" to crush the UAW by January 20th. The provision is married, paragraphically speaking, to an afterthought of the deal: making the other major stakeholders, besides labor, share the load:
These terms and conditions would be non-binding in the sense that negotiations can deviate from the quantitative targets above, providing that the firm reports the reasons for these deviations and makes the business case that it will achieve long-term viability in spite of the deviations. In addition, the firm will be required to conclude new agreements with its other major stakeholders, including dealers and suppliers, by March 31, 2009. [Emphasis added by the White House, not me]
The union can, and will, appeal the work rules and pay "targets" in an appeal to the Obama administration. And Barack Obama has done us the considerable favor of nominating a true friend of the labor movement, California Rep. Hilda Solis, to be his next labor secretary (witness the frothy-mouthed reaction of anti-unionites here), not to mention Bill Richardson, who will be heading the Commerce Department, and his in-coming financial team. Un-American mission (by the Dixie Axis of Corker, McConnell and Shelby, et.al.) not accomplished.

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posted by JReid @ 8:07 PM  
Bush signs on to the Corker plan
After one of the most disgraceful periods in American history, as Senate Republicans dithered around with the futures of 3 million American workers and countless more when you add the ripple effect of losing a key part of our manufacturing sector, the Bush administration steps in and puts Detroit on life support until the Obama administration gets in place. But I'm wondering what was the hold-up, since Bush's plan looks suspiciously familiar... in fact, what the administration put in place today was the Corker plan, only with taxpayer money being handed to GM and Chrysler by Ben Bernanke instead of by Harry Reid. To whit, this is the Bush plan:
Some $13.4 billion of the rescue money will be available this month and next — $9.4 billion of it for General Motors Corp. and $4 billion for Chrysler LLC, the two auto giants that have said they could be facing bankruptcy soon without government help. GM is slated to receive the remaining $4 billion in loans after more money is released from the financial rescue account. Ford Motor Co. says it doesn't need federal cash now but would be badly damaged if one or both of the other two went under.

Under terms of the loans, the government will have the option of becoming a stockholder in the companies, much as it has with major banks, in effect partially nationalizing the industry. Bush said the companies' workers should agree to wage and work rules that are competitive with foreign automakers by the end of next year.

And he called for elimination of a "jobs bank" program — negotiated by the United Auto Workers and the companies — under which laid-off workers can receive about 95 percent of their pay and benefits for years. Early this month, the UAW agreed to suspend the program.

And this was the Corker plan from a week ago, which the UAW rightly rejected:
• One, give existing bondholders 30 cents on the dollar to help reduce their overall debt load.

• Two, bring wages immediately in line with companies like Nissan and Volkswagen.

• Three, GM owes $23 billion to the United Auto Workers' VEBA (voluntary employees' beneficiary association) account. The union must agree to take half of that payment in GM stock.

• Four, the union must agree to do away with payments to workers who are still receiving almost full compensation up to four years after their jobs ended.
That last bit there? That's the job's bank. And the Southern Senators' scheme of forcing UAW wages to ... and this is still stunning to me ... match the wages offered by foreign companies, stands.

The union can appeal to the next administration under the terms of the agreement, which to my mind, is a naked attempt to emasculate the union and make it impossible for it to move into the southern states. And according to the UAW's president, they will.

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posted by JReid @ 5:27 PM  
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Calendar girl
What's the perfect gift for horny/creepy conservatives everywhere? The Sarah Palin calendar! Only $15.95, just in time for Hanukkah Kwanzaa winter soltice Ramadan Christmas!!! (Heavy on the "Christ" please...) Yup. Got it right from the fine folks at Human Events in an email sent out this morning:

The Sarah Palin 2009 Wall Calendar

A personal look at Alaska's Governor

Sarah Palin went from virtual obscurity to huge popularity as Presidential Candidate John McCain's running mate. Since then she has re-energized the Conservative base of the Republican Party. As a front runner in the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination, she is showing America that she is willing to reform her own party and politics as usual.

Now you can have your very own 2009 calendar featuring never before seen photos of Sarah, with Todd, Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig Palin.

Filled with exclusive photographs by professional photographer Judy Patrick, long time friend, who also served as Palin's Deputy Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.

Sarah Palin 2009 Photo Wall Calendar just $15.95

This high quality 13 month wall calendar features:

  • Over 50 photographs of Governor Sarah Palin and her family
  • Many never before seen photos
  • 13 pages of high quality gloss paper
  • Closed dimensions: 9"x12"
  • Produced and printed in the USA

With this special offer receive 15% off:

just enter: EAGLE in the "Instructions, Comments" on the final step of checkout, and your discount will be calculated before your credit card is charged.

Or order by phone 1.800.247.6553 and specify EAGLE sale code

Seriously. Really? Well, I guess as long as there are no pictures of a really, really pregnant Bristol or of that little horror Piper slathering baby Track's head with her spittle, we'll be fine. ... You betcha. (Sorry, couldn't help it.)

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posted by JReid @ 2:06 PM  
Whistling Dixie
Politico last week noticed something that my husband and I kicked around the other night. So far, Barack Obama has named lots of people: black people, white people (Hillary people...) lots of Senate people, governors, Westerners, lots of Chicagoans, New Yorkers and other northern folk, and even two Republicans (well, one Republican and one registered Independent who's staying on.) But he has yet to name a single person from the former Confederate states to his administration. Of course, it could be a lack of prospects. Per that Politco piece from December 14th:
"Who comes to mind immediately?" asked Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia. "No one, really."

"The leading politicians in the South at least for the last generation have been active as Republicans," Bullock added. "You just don't have Democrats that come to mind as the go-to person or the expert. It highlights the thinness of the Democratic bench in the South… The skill set is so depleted."
And worse...
"Southerners are pretty sensitive to the stereotype that they are slow in mind as well as voice," the former aide said. "The risk to the president-elect is that if he doesn't appoint anyone from the South to top level policy positions, he is going to look like he is buying into the stereotype that there isn't anyone from the South smart enough to work for him."
For about a hot minute, I and many others thought that Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, who was a fixture at the Obama campaign office on Miami Beach, was in the running for HUD secretary. Apparently not. And there's also Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, who was rumored to be undergoing a vetting for some position or other in the cabinet (is there anything left?) But the cold, hard truth is that the South has been lost to the Democratic party since LBJ. Sure, Bill Clinton was able to win a few states in Dixie, but he was from there (as was Jimmy Carter.) And yes, Obama won his own Southern victories, in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and damned near Georgia (though internally, the Obama people really didn't think they'd win there, but it was smart to draw McCain south, and make him spend money.)

In fact, why should the president-elect reward a region that has not only rejected Democratic politicians and politics, but which has, of late, rejected the rest of the country, in no small part, by aligning with foreign and multinational corporations against the interests of American workers (in Detroit, but also in the rest of the industrial northeast.) The South is the bulwark of anti-unionism, "right to work" laws that strip workers of basic protections, and raw, nasty, racist politics (yes, still.) And because Virginia really is no longer a truly southern state (and in many respects, neither is Florida,) Obama can likely hold them, along with the growing research bedrock of North Carolina, without appeasing the southerners outright.

So I say, hear-hear, Barack. We've been forced to endure eight years of Texas hegemony (and blatant theft on behalf of the multinationals,) along with un-American behavior (domestic spying, torture, unnecessary war...) that might even make old Jefferson Davis blush. Let's let the Yankees rule for awhile.

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posted by JReid @ 10:16 AM  
Detroit's solution: get ... bigger?
The WSJ reports, but GM denies ... that the country's largest automaker will merge with one of its most troubled. Per ABC News:
The White House described the condition of the country's carmakers today as "fragile," as negotiators struggled to hammer out a possible financial bailout package before the auto giants collapse.

Pressure grew for a deal as Chrysler announced Wednesday it will close all 30 of its manufacturing facilities in North America until Jan. 19. Chrysler's move to conserve cash will suspend production of its cars and trucks for the greater part of the month, affecting about 46,000 members of the United Auto Workers.

The Chrysler shutdown comes on the heels of a warning to dealers that the automaker may halt financing for stocking showrooms. Many dealers say that buyers are out there but that loans are unavailable, resulting in a 20 percent to 25 percent loss in sales. Meanwhile, Chrysler is burning through more than $1 billion a month.

And General Motors, which also faces the possibility of collapse without a federal rescue, said Wednesday it will delay construction of a factory in Flint, Mich., set to produce the plug-in electric Chevy Volt, in order to conserve cash.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Cerberus Capital Management LP, which owns Chrysler, had resumed merger talks with General Motors in an effort to shed some of the expense and to convince Washington it is ready for drastic changes.

But GM promptly issued a statement denying that merger talks had restarted.

GM and Chrysler had been in talks earlier this year to combine in order to survive the recession and slowing U.S. sales, but financing emerged as one of the biggest obstacles

But isn't part of the problem that GM is already too big, and too stuffed with too many brands? And isnt' that one of the reasons the bohemoth has failed to innovate? Just asking...


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posted by JReid @ 9:45 AM  
The other Madoffs
While Bernie Madoff is chilling in his $7 million Manhattan penthouse under "arrest," and his wife is being looked as for possible crimes of her own, Madoff's two sons, Mark and Andrew, are emerging as heroes, of sorts, in this sorted drama. After all, it was they who turned their dad in to the feds after he allegedly admitted to them in a closed-door meeting that his investment genius rested on a giant feather bed of fraud.

So why is the Murdochian Times of London trying to tar Barack Obama's choie for SEC chief with the Madoff taint? First, their story, which makes my point in the first three paragraphs:

Mary Schapiro, Barack Obama's choice to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), previously appointed one of Bernard Madoff's sons to a regulatory body that oversees American securities firms.

It has emerged that in 2001, Ms Schapiro, currently chief executive of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra), employed Mark Madoff to serve on the board of the National Adjudicatory Council — the division that reviews disciplinary decisions made by Finra.

Last week, Mark Madoff, with his brother, Andrew, were understood to have approached the authorities after their father apparently confessed to orchestrating a $50 billion securities fraud.

So ... if Mark is one of two people who turned dear old dad in, where's the problem for Obama? The Times doesn't explain, and yet, they imply that there could be trouble (sound famliar, Blagophiles?)

Both sons have emphatically denied any involvement in what could be the biggest fraud perpetrated by an individual.

However, the link with Mark Madoff may prove controversial for Ms Schapiro and the President-elect, who has moved fast to replace Christopher Cox, the current head of the SEC. The watchdog has came under fire for failing to detect Mr Madoff's activities.

How so? It appears that the only link is an affirmative one: Ms. Schapiro hired one of the guys who took down Bernard Madoff. Problem. Solved. TPM talks up the fact that Mark and Andrew didn't let dad manage their foundations' money, which makes you wonder whether they at least thought he wasn't as good an investor as he claimed to be, but that by no means proves that either of them knew he was committing crimes. I could wind up being hugely wrong here, but hey, the United States is a gambling nation now, so why not. And by the way, it was the Bush SEC, headed by the apparently incompetent Christopher Cox (McCain was right about firing him, it turns out) that was, to paraphrase Sarah Palin, palling around with Madoffs:

Bernie Madoff’s niece, Shana Madoff (the daughter of Bernie’s brother, Peter) went to University of Michigan and then to Fordham law school in the early 90’s. After law school, she joined her father, Peter — also a Fordham law grad as well as the senior managing director of the Madoff firm — and her uncle. Shana became the in-house counsel of the firm her uncle founded. And shortly thereafter, in 1997, Shana, then 26, married Scott Ira Skoller (not a lawyer, far as we know) who at the time was the sales manager at Tyrone, a men’s clothing store in Roslyn, N.Y.

But Shana (pictured) and Scott didn’t last, it seems. And in 2006, she met Eric Swanson (U. of Minnesota, Hamline law), who worked at the SEC for 10 years, including as a senior inspections and examination official, before leaving in 2006. Among Swanson’s duties, reports the WSJ, was supervising the SEC’s inspection program in charge of trading oversight at stock exchanges and electronic-trading platforms. (The WSJ cites a press release from Bats Trading Inc., an electronic stock exchange that hired Swanson as general counsel earlier this year.)

SEC Chairman Cox said the commission will investigate “all staff contact and relationships with the Madoff family and firm, and their impact, if any, on decisions by staff regarding the firm.” Neither Shana nor Eric is named in the SEC statement as a target of the probe. Yet, David Kotz, the SEC’s inspector general who’s leading the probe, told the Journal that he intends to examine the relationship between Shana and Eric.

So did Eric Swanson’s relationship with Shana Madoff affect the SEC’s investigation of the Madoff firm? Who knows? But a spokesman for Swanson told the New York Times that Swanson’s “romantic relationship with his wife began years after the compliance team he helped supervise made an inquiry about Bernard Madoff’s securities operations.” And Randy Williams, a spokesman for Swanson’s current employer, BATS Exchange, said that Swanson had not participated in any inquiry into the Madoff firm or its affiliates while he was involved in a relationship with Shana.

So many Madoffs, so little time.






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posted by JReid @ 9:23 AM  
That's the good news?
Okay, I'm getting sick of "Morning Joe." Between Joe's water carrying for the RNC, Mika's unintelligible babble and kissing up to the right, and that annoying Coutney Hazlett (why anyone would take her opinion that Clint Eastwood isn't a good actor more seriously than, say, Clint Eastwood... is beyond me.) But perhaps the most annoying aspect of "Joe" is Erin Burnett, the serially upbeat Wall Street analyst. Today, she even managed to do the unemployment numbers headline WITHOUT TELLING US WHAT THE UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBERS ARE. Which of course, forced me to turn to the serially upbeat Reuters, who proferred the following headline:

Jobless claims fell by 21,000 last week

Now, before you run out and buy stock in Bernie Madoff's company to celebrate. Here's the actual story:

Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits fell 21,000, to a seasonally adjusted 554,000 in the week ended December 13 from an upwardly revised 575,000 the previous week. State offices were closed for at least one day near the end of November because of the Thanksgiving holiday, distorting the holiday week and the following week's numbers.

A Labor Department official said there were no special factors influencing the report. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast 558,000 new claims versus a previously reported figure of 573,000 the week before.

In other words, unemployment claims "fell" this week because a) last week's number was TOO LOW when first reported, and b) this week's number wasn't quite as bad as expected. Your headline should have read:

"Holy, shit! Another 554,000 people filed for unemployment last week!!!"

And by the way, Reuters had more sunny "good news":

Continuing claims fell to 4.38 million in the week ended December 6 after scaling a 26-year of 4.43 million the previous week.

God, is everyone writing for "Morning Joe"??? The Labor Department lays reality out with a lot more seriousness, and you'll never guess where the biggest job losses Toyota Central:

States reported 933,652 persons claiming EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits for the week ending Nov. 29, an increase of 258,601 from the prior week.

... The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending Dec. 6 were in North Carolina (+26,596), California (+22,963), Georgia (+20,237), Pennsylvania (+20,090), and Tennessee (+12,170), while the largest decreases were in Wisconsin (-8,593), Iowa (-3,424), North Dakota (-895), Arkansas (-514), and Idaho (-320).



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posted by JReid @ 8:53 AM  
Now that Dick Cheney has admitted to war crimes...
Can we prosecute the bastard at long last? I mean, he admitted to approving torture on television, without even being ... waterboarded... Meanwhile, is terrorism training from the Bush administration a good thing, or a bad thing, for the incoming Obama team to have? I'm going with "bad." Meanwile, the Atlantic's Russ Douthat ponders the ramifications of America becoming a nation of torture, even as Barack Obama promises to turn that around. BTW if you caught "Hardball" today, you saw a perfect example of the GOP's ability to condone the unthinkable, in the person of the normally reasonable Michael Smerconish. Watch:

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posted by JReid @ 12:59 AM  
The Ball game
If you plan to be in D.C. (and yes, I do...) the mega-events will be ... well... mega, at the inauguration. There are also a bunch of unofficial events and parties, which you can find here. And of course, the WaPo has the scoop on the biggest of the big goings-on, and here you go. And bring a heavy coat. I'm assuming it's going to be hellafide cold.

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posted by JReid @ 12:51 AM  
PFAW not pleased with Warren
People for the American Way issues a statement of displeasure regarding Rick Warren's participation in the inaugural. It reads in part:

Pastor Warren, while enjoying a reputation as a moderate based on his affable personality and his church's engagement on issues like AIDS in Africa, has said that the real difference between James Dobson and himself is one of tone rather than substance. He has recently compared marriage by loving and committed same-sex couples to incest and pedophilia. He has repeated the Religious Right's big lie that supporters of equality for gay Americans are out to silence pastors. He has called Christians who advance a social gospel Marxists. He is adamantly opposed to women having a legal right to choose an abortion.

I'm sure that Warren's supporters will portray his selection as an appeal to unity by a president who is committed to reaching across traditional divides. Others may explain it as a response to Warren inviting then-Senator Obama to speak on AIDS and candidate Obama to appear at a forum, both at his church. But the sad truth is that this decision further elevates someone who has in recent weeks actively promoted legalized discrimination and denigrated the lives and relationships of millions of Americans.

But as US News and World Report writer Dan Gilgoff points out, the Warren selection is just the latest move in the Obama charm offensive to the religious among us -- partially because, he IS one of the religious among us. I know the "he's a Muslim" crowd don't want to believe it, and neither do my friends on the left, but um ... Obama is himself, a Rick Warren-style Christian (conservative values, friendly demeanor, keen on moving beyond abortion.) Or pretty close to it. And as The Swamp puts it:

... for Obama, making a statement about his inclusiveness and willingness to reach across ideological lines is more important than satisfying liberals on every issue as he has shown with his cabinet choices.

In fact, PFAW's reaction may help Obama with some centrist and more conservative voters.

Also, many African American church goers tend to share Warren's views on social issues. So the issue is more complicated than simply right and left.

It's called politics. Welcome to it.

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posted by JReid @ 12:40 AM  
Harold Meyerson explains it all
The WaPo columnist offers the most comprehensive, succinct explanation of why Republicans hate unions (and by inference, the middle class) this side of Thom Hartmann. To whit:

... by the early 1950s, the UAW had secured a number of contractual innovations -- annual cost-of-living adjustments, for instance -- that set a pattern for the rest of American industry and created the broadly shared prosperity enjoyed by the nation in the 30 years after World War II.

The architects did not stop there. During the [Walter] Reuther years, the UAW also used its resources to incubate every up-and-coming liberal movement in America. It was the UAW that funded the great 1963 March on Washington and provided the first serious financial backing for César Chávez's fledgling farm workers union. The union took a lively interest in the birth of a student movement in the early '60s, providing its conference center in Port Huron, Mich., to a group called Students for a Democratic Society when the group wanted to draft and debate its manifesto. Later that decade, the union provided resources to help the National Organization for Women get off the ground and helped fund the first Earth Day. And for decades after Reuther's death in a 1970 plane crash, the UAW was among the foremost advocates of national health care -- a policy that, had it been enacted, would have saved the Big Three tens of billions of dollars in health insurance expenses, but which the Big Three themselves were until recently too ideologically hidebound to support.

Narrow? Parochial? The UAW not only built the American middle class but helped engender every movement at the center of American liberalism today -- which is one reason that conservatives have always held the union in particular disdain.

Over the past several weeks, it has become clear that the Republican right hates the UAW so much that it would prefer to plunge the nation into a depression rather than craft a bridge loan that doesn't single out the auto industry's unionized workers for punishment. (As manufacturing consultant Michael Wessel pointed out, no Republican demanded that Big Three executives have their pay permanently reduced to the relatively spartan levels of Japanese auto executives' pay.) Today, setting the terms of that loan has become the final task of the Bush presidency, which puts the auto workers in the unenviable position of depending, if not on the kindness of strangers, then on the impartiality of the most partisan president of modern times.

Meyerson explains that while Republicans cry that labor costs are killing Detroit, labor contributes just 10 percent of the cost of a new car, while on Wall Street, salaries and bonuses represent 60 percent of expenses, though those "legacy costs" weren't an issue in the $700 billion Paulsen bonus-fest. And so:
In a narrow sense, what the Republicans are proposing would gut the benefits of roughly a million retirees. In a broad sense, they want to destroy the institution that did more than any other to raise American living standards, and they want to do it by using the power of government to lower American living standards -- in the middle of the most severe recession since the 1930s. The auto workers deserve better, and so does the nation they did so much to build.
Indeed. The Bush years have represented the largest transfer of wealth from the middle class to the upper class in American history. The heart and soul of this runaway theft ring, which actually dates back to Reagan, but which was partially interrupted by Bill Clinton's unexpected presidency (which the GOP tried its best to overturn, using sex as a weapon) is the breaking of unions, from PATCO under Reagan to the UAW today. Unions impact on the supply and cost of labor reaches beyond their own members, and the upward pressure they place on wages is felt throughout the economy, even at Wal-Mart. Hence, the GOP, the party of low wages, sees killing the UAW as an imperative to letting their clients, the very rich, steal more money. It's just that simple.

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posted by JReid @ 12:25 AM  
A 'better class of people'
A top aide to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushes hard for Caroline to be the next junior Senator from New York, and that's ruffling feathers among the non-upper crust (rather than just among Clintonistas, like before...) leading one assemblyman to state:
Rory I. Lancman, a state assemblyman, said that there was “a growing concern that high public office is being reserved for a better class of people — people who can buy into it like Michael Bloomberg or people who can come into it through their celebrity like Caroline Kennedy.”
Egads. And of course, up to now, in the 240 or so years of formal American existence, politics has been strictly reserved for the common man...

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posted by JReid @ 12:12 AM  
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The Jackson Five
Here's a fact the media glossed over: remember when Jesse Jackson Jr. was finally fingered as "Senate Candidate #5" in the Blago scandal? Well, what did Jr. do? No, besides call a press conference and start doing sit-down interviews, stat!...? He lawyered up. Well guess who else hired counsel:

In news that is very ominous for Candidate 5 and his family, Jesse Jackson Jr is not the only one who has lawyered up since Blago's arrest on Tuesday. Jesse Jackson Sr has done so too (h/t nextstopchicago and choochmac).

Also, the congressman's father, Jesse Jackson Sr., has retained legal council following the Blagojevich arrest.

That's from way back on December 11. And it's just one of five reasons the Blago scandal really, really sucks for Jesse Jr:

#5. His family's rep is already tainted, by his dad's past ... um ... deal making. And now, he's hired a lawyer? Not good.

#4. It's now clear that Jr. wasn't on the list that Rahm Emanuel submitted to Blago of preferred Senate candidates, which means that either Team Obama didn't feel that Jackson could win the seat statewide, or that there is some other, unknown problem between the Jackson and Obama camps. Either way, not good news.

#3. Jackson might actually be innocent. In fact, the latest news is that he's been informing on Blago for a decade. But if that's the case, one has to wonder how his reputation within his own community might suffer from finding out that he's a federal rat.

#2. Jackson might not be so innocent. If he has known what Blago wanted in exchange for appointments for ten years, why did he allow his emissaries to create even the impression that he was willing to pay the piper? The chain of events certainly makes the Congressman look naive. And naivete does not a Senator make.

#1. No matter how you slice it, Jackson's possibilities of becoming a Senator, already slim, have sunk to none. And with his prospects, probably go his influence with the incoming adminstration -- something he worked tirelessly during the campaign to cultivate.

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posted by JReid @ 4:32 PM  
Blago the bookie?
As if he doesn't have enough problems, (though he did have some better luck with the Illinois Supreme Court today,) Rod "Blago" Blagojevich is now being accused of being a mob-paying bookie back in the day:

A former Chicago lawyer who went undercover for the FBI said that Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.) was once a bookmaker with ties to the mafia.

Robert Cooley, who testified for the FBI in corruption cases, told ABC 7 in Chicago that Blagojevich paid the mob to let him operate as a bookie.

"When I was working with government wearing wire, I reported, I observed Rod, the present governor, who was running a gambling operation out in the western suburbs," Cooley said. "He was paying street tax to the mob out there."

Cooley also worked as a police officer, and his undercover work and testimony led to the convictions of 24 politicians, cops, judges and lawyers on corruption charges.

Cooley said he wasn't surprised to see Blagojevich in legal trouble.

"I predicted five years ago when he ran the first time that he was a hands on person who would be selling every position in the state of Illinois and that it exactly what happened," he said.

Read and watch the full story here. Of course, Blago's real crime might be that he's still wearing his high school hair. Get a load of this:


Wow...

The pic was listed on Ebay, and is from Blago's 1975 Foremanual Foreman high school vol. 36 yearbook, Chicago, Illinois. The item is no longer for sale.

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posted by JReid @ 4:22 PM  
Liebermush
The Connecticut turncoat faces the lowest approval ratings of any member of the United States Senate:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) may be facing his lowest approval ratings ever, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday.

54 percent of Connecticut voters said they disapproved of the way Lieberman is handling his job, while 38 percent said they approved. The numbers are the lowest approval ratings Lieberman has faced since the poll started tracking his popularity.

"This is the highest disapproval rating in any Quinnipiac University poll in any state for a sitting U.S. senator–except for New Jersey's Robert Torricelli, just before he resigned in 2002," said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz.

Forty-two percent of those surveyed said Lieberman's support for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during the presidential election made them think less favorably of him; 43 percent of voters said it made no difference. 30 percent of those who supported Lieberman in his 2006 general election said they would now vote for someone other than Lieberman if the election were held again today.

Chris Dodd's rating aren't great either, but at 47 positive, 41 negative, at least they aren't upside-down...


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posted by JReid @ 4:15 PM  
The inaugural
The Joint Congressional Committee in charge of the inauguration just released the order of events for January 20. Spoiler alert: there will be Aretha! ... and apparently, Obama has forgiven Rick Warren for hooking John McCain up with that phony "cone of silence..." during his non-debate debate this summer. Talk about a purpose driven life! Okay, actually, Warren took a risk back in 2006 by inviting Obama to Saddleback Church over the objections of the really scary fundies, so why not forgive ... Here's the press release:

WASHINGTON, DC - Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, today announced the program for the 56th Presidential Inauguration, which will take place on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2009.

"I am delighted to announce this superb line-up of participants in the 2009 inaugural ceremonies," said Senator Feinstein. "The inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama will be an event of historic proportion. It is appropriate that the program will include some of the world's most gifted artists from a wide range of backgrounds and genres."

The program participants were invited by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and chosen by the Chairman, the Presidential-elect and the Vice President-elect. In addition to Senator Feinstein, the members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies include: Senator Bob Bennett, Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer; and House Republican Leader John Boehner.

The order of the program will be as follows:

Musical Selections
The United States Marine Band

Musical Selections
The San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus

Call to Order and Welcoming Remarks
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein

Invocation
Dr. Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA

Musical Selection
Aretha Franklin

Oath of Office Administered to Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
By Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
The Honorable John Paul Stevens

Musical Selection, John Williams, composer/arranger
Itzhak Perlman, Violin
Yo-Yo Ma, Cello
Gabriela Montero, Piano
Anthony McGill, Clarinet

Oath of Office Administered to President-elect Barack H. Obama
By the Chief Justice of the United States
The Honorable John G. Roberts, Jr.

Inaugural Address
The President of the United States, The Honorable Barack H. Obama

Poem
Elizabeth Alexander

Benediction
The Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery

The National Anthem
The United States Navy Band "Sea Chanters"

Sidebar: Rev. Lowry was a very early Obama supporter, and one of the few, unfortunately, from the original Civil Rights Movement. He was in Miami at the re-dedication of the former "colored beach," Virginia Key, earlier this year, and gave a hell of a speech on Obama. He's exactly the guy to do the benediction. And look for it to be a barn burner.

And a little bit about the poet:

Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright, and teacher. She is the author of four books and was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. She has received many grants and honors, most recently the Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship for work that "contributes to improving race relations in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954," and the 2007 Jackson Prize for Poetry. She is a professor at Yale University and was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University this year.



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posted by JReid @ 3:52 PM  
Joe, Rahm, and the right wing rainbow
The right is going overboard to try and tar Barack Obama with the Blago brush. So desperate and tacky are they, that even Newt Gingrich has noticed. As you might expect, the winger cudgel has been taken up by the dutiful GOPer "Morning Joe" Scarborough, who has never let a little journalism job get in the way of his politics.

This morning, Joe harangued Obama chief strategist David Axelrod (a former journalist, just to add to the irony...) on the supposed "fact" that Rahm Emanuel (Obama's chief of staff and former Congressman from the Chicago area) "told (reporter) Ryan Lizza that he and Obama ran Rod Blagojevich's gubernatorial campaign in 2002." Really? Is that what Lizza wrote, Joe? Let's review:

In the now infamous New Yorker magazine whose controversial cover featured a cartoon parody of the Obamas fist bumping in their black power and Muslim gear, reporter Ryan Lizza did indeed write in detail about Obama's rise in Chicago politics, and did indeed quote Rahm Emanuel, as Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet summarizes:
*Lizza reports that Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) told him that Obama was a “top strategist” for Gov. Blagojevich’s first gubernatorial campaign.

“He and Obama “participated in a small group that met weekly when Rod was running for governor,” Emanuel said. “We basically laid out the general election, Barack and I and these two.” A spokesman for Blagojevich confirmed Emanuel’s account, although David Wilhelm, who now works for Obama, said that Emanuel had overstated Obama’s role.”

*The 2000 remap of state senate districts is a critical benchmark in the Obama history. With Democrats in control of the legislature—winning the ability to dictate the maps—Obama in 2001 was able to create a district that stretched from Hyde Park to the Gold Coast. That let him connect with a network of wealthy donors whose support was crucial to his future success

“In the end, Obama’s North Side fund-raising base and his South Side political base were united in one district. He now represented Hyde Park operators like Lois Friedberg-Dobry as well as Gold Coast doyennes like Bettylu Saltzman, and his old South Side street operative Al Kindle as well as his future consultant David Axelrod.”

Rahm "running Blago's campaign?" No, Joe. And as a former politician, Joe knows exactly what those passages mean. Politicians develop a base of operations, which includes donors, and precinct maps that helped them get elected. Often, they use their base to help other politicians from their party to get elected, too. I'm sure the staffers, and the campaign manager, who actually did run Blagojevich's campaign, would differ with Joe's characterization of Obama's role.

Meanwhile, the media continues to ride the Blago gravy train, with more news coming out of Chicago:

From the Sun-Times, word that Rahm Emanuel sought to get Obama pal Valerie Jarrett appointed to his Senate seat (presumably the subject of many of those "21 hits" on the wiretaps, as reported by the paper's Michael Sneed.

Eric Holder will now get dragged into the mix, as the Sun-Times reports that he omitted information about his Blago connections on his A.G. questionnaire.

Meanwhile, the Blago impeachment stalls, amid witness jitters by our friendly neighborhood Fitzprosecutor.

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posted by JReid @ 8:54 AM  
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Iraqi shoe thrower given the 'Cheney treatment'



Muntader al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who has become a hero to the Arab world for hurling his shoes at President Bush, was apparently beaten while in Iraqi custody. As compiled by ThinkProgress:
Muntader al-Zaidi, the now-infamous shoe-hurling Iraqi journalist, has reportedly been “beaten in custody,” according to the BBC. Al-Zaidi’s brother reports that the
journalist is suffering from a broken hand, broken ribs, and internal bleeding. Yesterday, TV al-Sharqiya in Iraq reported that the al-Zaidi had “signs of tortures on his thighs.”
Protests demanding his release continue today. And then there's the question of just where al-Zaidi is:
The head of Iraq's journalists' union told the BBC that officials told him Mr Zaidi was being treated well.

The union head, Mouyyad al-Lami, said he hoped to visit his colleague later.

An Iraqi official said Mr Zaidi had been handed over to the judicial authorities, according to the AFP news agency.

Earlier, Dargham al-Zaidi told the BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Baghdad he believed his brother had been taken to a US military hospital in the Iraqi capital.

A second day of rallies in support of Mr Zaidi have been held across Iraq, calling for his release.

Meanwhile, offers to buy the shoes are being made around the Arab world, reports say.
And by the way, remember how Dubya supposedly cowed Libya's dictator, and took away his nukes? Well ...
A daughter of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, reportedly awarded the shoe thrower, Muntader al-Zaidi, a 29-year-old journalist, a medal of courage.
They like us. They really, really like us!

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posted by JReid @ 11:23 AM  
Cheney to world: 'love me' ... or 'go f&%@ yourself. Either way's good
Cheney tells ABC News he's "changed," and that Obama should keep the torture and spying going:
Cheney said the new administration must carefully assess the tools put in place to fight terror. "How they deal with these issues are going to be very important, because it's going to have a direct impact on whether or not they retain the tools that
have been so essential and defending the nation for the last seven-and-a-half years, or whether they give them up," he said.

Obama's team needs to look at the specific threats, understand how the programs were put together, and how they operate, the vice president said.

"They shouldn't just fall back on campaign rhetoric to make these very fundamental decisions about the safety of the nation," he warned.

Thankfully, Cheney did not add: "or somebody's gonna get hurt, and I mean by ME." BTW in the interview, Cheney also admits he knew that torture was going on at Gitmo. Surprise!

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posted by JReid @ 11:18 AM  
Americans to Detroit: go to hell
A majority of Americans continue to oppose help for the U.S. auto industry. But inside the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, is the number that a Democratic majority Congress, if it has any brains (or courage, which is doubtful on any given day) whatsoever, will pay attention to:
Democrats are among the most wary of the economic impact of failure, with 42
percent saying it would hurt the economy. They are more apt to advocate federal
aid — 52 percent support it, up from 42 percent support for previous versions of
the rescue bill. But they, too, are deeply critical of company managers — 72
percent fault Detroit's strategies, not the overall economy.

And the poll shows strong regional differences in support for bridge loans, with southerners and those out West opposing helping Detroit. Big surprise. Bottom line: Democrats, for once, should listen to THEIR base. Most Americans have no clue what the economic impact of the simultaneous unemployment of 3 million people, and the bankrupting of multiple industry suppliers would mean. That's what we elected you guys for.

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posted by JReid @ 11:10 AM  
Gotham City guttersnipes
New York Denizens of Hillaryland are pitching a bitch about Caroline Kennedy angling for Hillary Clinton's soon-to-be vacated Senate seat, which also happens to be her uncle, the late Robert F. Kennedy's Senate seat too. Natch.

So what's their beef, as our current, class-cutting commander in chief might ask? They Hillaryites are angry that Caroline and her uncle Ted supported Hillary's new boss, Barack Obama, during the primary (but please, don't call it a jihad...) Make sense? No? Me neither.

After all, I think it was Barack Obama who just gave Hillary the second biggest prize of the election season (sorry Joe Biden)... namely, a nomination to be Secretary of State. Not exactly the boobie prize. And Hillary has shown her full (cough) and unwavering support for Obama since giving up the ghost on becoming president herself. So what gives, guttersnipes?


Could it be that if Caroline is named to the Senate, she is sure to win the seat outright by a landslide in two years, and then two more? Could it be the fear that the magic of Camelot, housed in both the Legislative and Executive branches (following the knighting of Obama by much of the Kennedy clan, let alone JFK's speechwriter...) could yet eclipse the magic of Clintalot, even with Bubba ensconced in his Harlem digs, or puttering around upstate, or back-slapping foreign friends at the U.N.? It could very well be so.
But is she qualified? That's today's debate in the New York Times (where one particularly snippy Dem compares Caroline to J.Lo. How rude...) Well, let's see ... Arkansas first lady ... U.S. first lady ... standing by your cheating hubby ... famous name, univesally known to voters ... Senator. Yep! She's as qualified as the last person to hold the job! Hell, what qualifications have their ever been to be a political leader, besides age? We have members of Congress who used to be on "The Love Boat," for god sakes, and the governor of California is The Terminator! (And trust me, if they changed that little Constitutional rule, "Come with me if you want to live" could very well become the oath of office on a distant January 20th.) This is America, Hillbots. Anybody famous can be elected to any office! ... Unless, of course, they're running against Barack Obama.

So suck it up, folks. Caroline should get the job, if only to reinvigorate not just New York politics, but American politics, which she would do, as a Senate ally of the main guy charged with the job, our incoming president. Senator Kennedy from New York. Get used to it, all over again.

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posted by JReid @ 10:45 AM  
Monday, December 15, 2008
Bush served 'shoe-fly pie' ... hurler hailed in Arab world
Iraqis savoring the shoe-toss in Baghdad. Reuters

Throw a shoe at Dubya, get a parade. Well maybe not exactly a parade, but lots of support for sure, even from our supposed friends in the Middle East...

Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to demand the release of a reporter who threw his shoes at President George Bush during a press conference.

Protesters hailed the journalist as a hero and praised his insult as a proper send-off to the US president.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who was kidnapped by Shiite militants last year, was being held by Iraqi security and interrogated about whether anybody paid him to throw his shoes at Bush during Sunday's press conference in Baghdad, said an Iraqi official. He was also being tested for alcohol and drugs, and his shoes were being held as evidence, said the official.

Showing the sole of your shoe to someone in the Arab world is a sign of extreme disrespect, and throwing your shoes is even worse.

Newspapers across the Arab world printed front-page photos of Bush ducking the flying shoes, and satellite TV stations repeatedly aired the incident, which provided fodder for jokes and was hailed by the president's many critics in the region.

"Iraq considers Sunday as the international day for shoes," said a joking text message circulating around the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Palestinian journalists in the West Bank town of Ramallah joked about who would be brave enough to toss their shoes at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, another US official widely disliked in the region.

Many users of the popular internet networking site Facebook posted the video of the incident to their profile pages, showing al-Zeidi leap from his chair as Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were about to shake hands and hurl his shoes at the president, who was about 20 feet away. Bush ducked the airborne footwear and was not injured in the incident.

"This is a farewell kiss, you dog," al-Zeidi yelled in Arabic as he threw his shoes. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."

Sorry, but that "airborne footwear" bit is priceless. And I thought the Saudis were our pals! (eyes rolling...)

Meanwhile, best shoe-shot headlines:

Honorable mention: Bush 'shoed' during Iraq visit (Arab News)
#3: Two-shoe salute for Bush at farewell visit (Reuters UK)
#2: Bush on flying shoes: 'I don't know what his beef is' (NECN/ABC)

God, this guy is clueless. (Sigh) Okay, here you go, Dubya. Here is his beef, and the beefs of his countrymen ... Anyway, the number one headline in the shoe-tossing incident?

#1: Lame DUCK! Shoes thrown at W.

... from the New York Daily News. Not to be outdone by their bonus online headline: "Shoe-icide attack." How droll.

And now, seven of the top ten reasons the shoe in the face incident was "totally awesome"
1. Because before the shoe was even thrown by Iraqi reporter Muntadar al-Zaidi, George Bush went in for a straight-on fraternity-style handshake with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
2. Because shoe-throwing (along with calling someone a dog, which al-Zaidi also did) is one of the most offensive insults an Iraqi Arab can hurl. After the fall of Baghdad, the United States government made much ado about those seemingly trumped-up videos of children throwing shoes at the fallen statue of Saddam Hussein. It's not awesome to see our president attacked, but it does neatly complete the circle, doesn't it?
3. Because al-Maliki totally tried to deflect the second shoe.
4. But he didn't try that hard.
5. Because George Bush was kind of laughing throughout the whole thing.
6. Because the other Iraqi reporters immediately jumped in to stop the shoe attacks.
7. But the Secret Service took their sweet, sweet time to take the guy down.
Read the other three reasons for yourself, right here on the New Yorker website.

Meanwhile, if Mr. Al-Zeidi, who is now a bonafide celebrity in the Muslim world, is harshly punished ... say, tortured... by Iraqi security forces, does that mean we really didn't change much in Iraq?



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posted by JReid @ 10:24 AM  
Sunday, December 14, 2008
How much does it suck being George W. Bush right now?
You make a surprise trip to Baghdad to burnish your "legacy" and some Iraqi guy throws a shoe (or two) at you:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A man identified as an Iraqi journalist threw shoes at -- but missed -- President Bush during a news conference Sunday evening in Baghdad, where Bush was making a farewell visit.

Bush ducked, and the shoes, flung one at a time, sailed past his head during the news conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in his palace in the heavily fortified Green Zone.

The shoe-thrower -- identified as Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist with Egypt-based al-Baghdadia television network -- could be heard yelling in Arabic: "This is a farewell ... you dog!"

While pinned on the ground by security personnel, he screamed: "You killed the Iraqis!"

Al-Zaidi was dragged away. While al-Zaidi was still screaming in another room, Bush said: "That was a size 10 shoe he threw at me, you may want to know."

Hurling shoes at someone, or sitting so that the bottom of a shoe faces another person, is considered an insult among Muslims.

Yeah, I think it's pretty much an insult in any religious tradition... Now of course, it wouldn't be a proper CNN scoop without 4 minutes of commentary by our favorite Aussie, Michael Ware (he broke the story on CNN). And catch George W. Bush's explanation of the incident (spoiler alert! He says "so what if somebody threw a shoe at me???" Hilarious!) Watch:



You really can't make this stuff up!

Oh, and I wonder why an Arab journalist would have a problem with Dubya ... hm... could it be ... Abu Ghraib? up to 1 million Iraqis killed in the war? The illegality of the war itself? The suffering the Iraqi people continue to endure in the advent of war? 2 million Iraqi refugees? Torture at Guantanamo? Need I go on?

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posted by JReid @ 10:11 PM  
Cruel, Britania
Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, the top cadre in GWB's "coalition of the willing," Great Britain, is left to exit the country in a lump. Or as the Times of London puts it:

Britain faces humiliating Iraq withdrawal

Harumph:

British Forces will leave Iraq by the end of next July under a humiliating proposal that lumps the once-valued deployment with five smaller contingents, including those of Romania, El Salvador and Estonia.

Even as President Bush paid a surprise farewell visit to Baghdad yesterday to celebrate the passage of a bilateral accord with Iraq, Britain faced being only a part of a shared military pact after negotiators ran out of time to seal country-specific deals.

Under the US-Iraq status of forces agreement, drawn up after nine months of heated negotiation, US forces will leave within three years. The deal for Britain and the others was described by Muwafaq al-Rubaie, Iraq’s National Security Adviser, as a “mini-agreement for the six entities”.

The proposed legislation states that all duties performed by the contingents, which include 42 Australian officers and 200 troops from 15 Nato countries, as well as the larger British presence, must stop by the end of May. “There will be two months’ grace for the forces to leave Iraq by July 31,” Fawzi Hariri, the Iraqi Industry Minister, said. “There was no way we could have done a security agreement to the same level of detail that we had with the Americans in such a short period.”

... Grouping Britain with contingents such as Estonia, which has only 36 soldiers in Iraq, and El Salvador, with a mere 200, is a far cry from the start of the invasion when British Forces were second in importance only to those of the US.

Meanwhile, British forces suffered a loss as a 13-year-old Iraqi child blew himself up, killing four British troops in Afghanistan.



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posted by JReid @ 10:04 PM  
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Madoff scam-o-la rocks Palm Beach ... could Rush be a victim?
Many of Bernie "Mr. Ponzi" Madoff's biggest clients apparently were members of the Palm Beach elite (including some unnamed charities.) Many were members of the ultra-exclusive Palm Beach Country Club ... Hey, doesn't Rush Limbaugh live in Palm Beach? Yeah, apparently, he and Madoff were neighbors. Wonder if they ever shared "the cabbage..."

So why did the rich get taken? Good old fashioned greed:

There had been some warnings: Financial consultants had been suspicious for years about his astounding run of success.

They couldn't figure out how he managed to produce steady returns, month after month, even when everyone else was losing money — and leave almost no footprint while moving billions of dollars in and out of the markets.

"People would come to me with their statements and I couldn't make heads or tails of them," said Charles Gradante, co-founder of the Hennessee Group and advisor to hedge fund investors.

"He only had five down months since 1996," Gradante said. "There's no strategy in the world that can generate that kind of performance. But when people would come to him and say, 'How did I make money this month?' he didn't like it. He would get upset with people who probed too much."

Those investors were scrambling Friday to learn whether they had been wiped out by what prosecutors described as a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. The assets of Madoff's investment company were frozen Friday in a deal with federal regulators and a receiver was appointed to manage the firm's financial affairs.

And sometimes, Madoff's investors actually assumed that he was cheating, and invested with him anyway (or even because of it):

For years and years I've heard people say that [Bernie's] investment performance was too good to be true. The returns were too steady -- like GE earnings under Welch -- and too high given the supposed strategy.

One Madoff investor, himself a legend, told me that Madoff's performance "just doesn't make sense. The numbers can't be straight." Another sophisticated Madoff investor actually went through trade confirms in order to reverse-engineer the strategy and said, "it doesn't add up."

So why did these smart and skeptical investors keep investing? They, like many Madoff investors, assumed Madoff was somehow illegally trading on information from his market-making business for their benefit. They didn't consider the possibility that he was clean on that score but running a good old-fashioned Ponzi scheme.

Oops...


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posted by JReid @ 5:08 PM  
The R Kelly - Blago connection
They've got something in common...

Same town, same lawyer...

On Friday, in his first public comments since his arrest, the governor did not rule out the possibility he might resign. As he left the federal courthouse after a visit to the pretrial services office, a reporter asked the governor, "Do you have anything to say to the people of Illinois?"

He replied, "I will at the appropriate time. Absolutely."

Also Friday, Blagojevich retained the lawyer who defended R&B singer R. Kelly and disgraced media mogul Conrad Black to represent him in his criminal case.

Ed Genson, one of Chicago's top criminal-defense attorneys, said he was assembling a team of lawyers to assist with the case. Genson typically doesn't represent clients who plan to plead guilty.

At least Blago didn't pee on anyone ... that we know of ...

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posted by JReid @ 5:04 PM  
Friday, December 12, 2008
Meanwhile: Miss Charlie gets married ... to a woman!
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and his new beard ...er ... bride, Carole Rome

The Florida governor didn't get tapped by John McCain (get your mind out of the gutter! I meant "tapped" to be his veep...) and he married the rich lady anyway!

I happened to be taping a TV interview today with someone "in the know" (and in the Florida GOP,) and this person, whom I won't name, told me that it's well known that Crist and his new bride will not even live together. Sure, there's the governor's mansion in Tallahassee, but he's hardly there. He's got a condo of his own, and she lives on swanky Fisher Island (her kids live mostly with their father in New York.) So the marriage might be, shall we say, of the John and Cindy McCain variety -- heavy on the potential political bankroll, light on the nookie. I can just see poor Charlie on the honeymoon, ogling the male waiters and thinking to himself, "god, do I actually have to see her naked...?" Okay, I know you want details, so here you go:

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Gov. Charlie Crist became the first sitting Florida governor to wed in nearly 42 years, exchanging vows Friday at a ceremony attended by some 200 relatives, friends and celebrities.

The 52-year-old governor wed his 39-year-old bride, New York socialite Carole Rome, at First United Methodist Church, a short walk from Crist's rented condo in St. Petersburg. They met at a dinner in New York City in September 2007 and Crist proposed less than 10 months later with a sapphire engagement ring.

Crist kissed Rome briefly at the end of the ceremony — perhaps too briefly. She put her hands on his face and kissed him again. Afterward, the couple walked out of the church and addressed waiting reporters.

"She's a beautiful first lady. I couldn't be more excited," Crist said after the ceremony, in which Rome wore a floor-length classic silk gown by a Spanish designer purchased at upscale Wedding Atelier in Manhattan. "It's a great night for Florida and it's a great night for us."

Attending the 20-minute ceremony were former Florida Gov. Bob Martinez, former Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller, Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, former U.S. Senator Connie Mack, Geraldo Rivera, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks and Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler of Fla.

Rome is president of Franco American Novelty Co., her family's New York-area Halloween costume company. She stopped managing its daily business when she moved to ritzy Fisher Island near Miami in 2006.

Hm. Costumes. How fitting. And there were protesters, too! Gay ones, even! Plus a press conference after... And it wouldn't be a kind of gay wedding without a guy with a big handlebar mustache in attendance. Thanks, Geraldo! But what's most interesting of all, is the way the supposed Fourth Estate, the national and statewide media pretend that they don't all know what they know they know about Crist's sexual orientation. Such hard-hitting reporting burnishes your faith in democracy, doesn't it?

Okay ... wedding video time!



Seriously, happy wedding, guv. And too bad you spent all that money on that trade junket to Europe. Kind of takes the wind out of your sales for a honeymoon...

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posted by JReid @ 11:27 PM  
GOP Exposed: the 'first shot' against organized labor
Courtesy of Countdown, proof that the Dixie Axis engaged in a plot to kneecap organized labor, even if it meant killing off the American automotive industry, and even if it cost 3 million Americans their livelihoods.

Countdown has obtained a memo entitled "Action Alert - Auto Bailout," and sent Wednesday at 9:12am, to Senate Republicans. The names of the sender(s) and recipient(s) have been redacted in the copy Countdown obtained. The Los Angeles Times reported that it was circulated among Senate Republicans.
The memo, with the subject line: "Action Alert -- Auto Bailout" reads in part (emphasis added):

Today at noon, Senators Ensign, Shelby, Coburn and DeMint will hold a press conference in the Senate Radio/TV Gallery. They would appreciate our support through messaging and attending the press conference, if possible. The message they want us to deliver is:

1. This is the democrats first opportunity to payoff organized labor after the election. This is a precursor to card check and other items. Republicans should stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor, instead of taking their first blow from it.

2. This rush to judgment is the same thing that happened with the TARP. Members did not have an opportunity to read or digest the legislation and therefore could not understand the consequences of it. We should not rush to pass this because Detroit says the sky is falling.
It goes on to call on the recipients to circulate their own press releases and hold press conferences asap, and concludes: "the hardest thing for the democrats to do is get 60 votes. If we can hold the Republicans, we can beat this."

Ron Gettelfinger, who heads the UAW, got a look at the memo, too, and took his own shots during a press conference today:



And, just to add to your cynicism about the actions of the Dixie Axis, the Los Angeles Times adds this:

By standing in the way of an auto industry bailout, GOP senators appear to have bitten the hand that fed them.

Over the last decade, General Motors has given $1.50 to Republican candidates for every $1 it has given to Democrats. That same pattern has been followed by Chrysler and Ford, which year after year have favored the right side of the aisle, sometimes by more than a 3-to-1 ratio in dollar terms.

Since 1990, the auto industry as a whole -- including suppliers, dealers and manufacturers -- has cut $100 million in checks to Republicans, compared with just $34 million to Democrats.

On Thursday night, the carmakers discovered just how little loyalty that investment strategy had bought them.
So why attack their patrons?

In doing so, analysts said, Republicans were planting the seeds for a fundraising appeal to big business -- other than the Big Three, of course -- as they gear up for a major political fight next year over expected legislation that would make it easier for unions to organize.

"They may lose money from the auto industry, but a union fight will get them a lot of money from the rest of the business community," Sabato said.
And it may also be a sign that the GOP is digging in in Dixie, and giving up the Great Lakes region for good. Either that or the desperation to break the back of organized labor is the only "principle" the GOP has left.

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posted by JReid @ 9:38 PM  
The torture report
A little light holiday reading for in-coming Attorney General Eric Holder:
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the Bush administration "conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees," claims a Senate Armed Services Committee report issued Thursday.

According to the committee, prisoners were tortured in the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib, the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other US military installations. Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) were responsible for the content of the Senate's findings.

The report determined that placing the blame on "a few bad apples," as Bush administration officials attempted to do in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib scandal, is inappropriate.

The policies were adopted after government assessments determined waterboarding and other torture techniques were "100 percent effective" at breaking the wills of US officers who underwent the military's Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape program.

What's more:
General Richard Myers, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is also singled out for approving inhumane interrogation techniques, which the former general counsel of the navy, Alberto Mora, said had led to attacks on US troops in Iraq.

"There are serving US flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of US combat deaths in Iraq — as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat — are, respectively, the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo," Mr Mora said.

The report, which took 18 months to compile, was issued jointly by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the Democratic chairman of the panel, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican.

It said the techniques used were "based, in part, on Chinese communist techniques used during the Korean War to elicit false confessions" from captured US prisoners.

Instructors from the Pentagon agency that trains soldiers in resisting such treatment were sent to Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq to assist in adapting the methods, it said. The report said senior Defence Department officials approached that agency about techniques as early as December 2001. The head of the agency responded that his officials "stand ready to assist" Pentagon efforts at prisoner "exploitation".

See, we do get too much stuff from China. So when do the trials start?

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posted by JReid @ 9:27 PM  
Paging Doug Eakin
John McCain may have invented the Blackberry, but it was his campaign that distributed it... complete with really juicy names! Holy Paris Hilton's bedazzled phone!



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posted by JReid @ 6:35 PM  
Could Norm Coleman win the recount and then get indicted?
It's possible ... that he could get indicted, anyway... from the Huffpo:

Did Norm Coleman's financial problems compel him to turn to friends and GOP donors for help with his living situation?

That's what a new story out of Minnesota alleges. Friday morning, a local Fox News affiliate reported that at the time that Coleman allegedly received $75,000 in unreported payments from a prominent Republican businessman, he was also struggling to make payments for the restructuring of his home.

Good government officials wondered whether there was something more than coincidental to the financial exchange. And, indeed, there is other compelling -- and up to this point, unnoted -- evidence to suggest that Coleman was soliciting monetary favors from his GOP backers.

Around the same time that Coleman and/or his wife were allegedly receiving three $25,000 payments from businessman Nasser Kazeminy, the Senator was also getting cheaply discounted rent from a major Republican figure who served as his landlord in Washington D.C.

In July 2007 -- months after lawsuits assert that $75,000 was secretly funneled to the Colemans -- the Senator began paying $600 a month rent on his one-bedroom apartment on Capitol Hill, way below market value. His landlord, Republican operative and communications guru Jeff Larson, also was covering Coleman's utilities (under an apparent agreement that the Senator would be billed with an estimate once the year was over).

At the time, the D.C. arrangement raised a variety of eyebrows, mainly because Coleman had helped Larson secure millions in business related to the Republican Convention in St. Paul. The new revelations, however, suggest that the rent may have been more a favor that Larson was offering to Coleman than any sort of bribery.

Ah, bribery. Apparently, the FBI is looking into it. And the upshot is, if Coleman did take bribes, his corruption is a step beyond even Blago's colorful stuff, since in the latter case, there's no evidence (yet) that actual money or favors changed hands. So if Coleman does squeak through in the recount, which at this point is by no means certain, could we see our first indictment of a sitting U.S. Senator for the new year ... before the first quarter closes?


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posted by JReid @ 6:28 PM  
Granholm says it all
The governor of Michigan makes it plain:

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) said it was "un-American" for senators to have voted against approving a bailout of troubled automakers last night, saying their vote may cause a recession to become a depression.

"It is unacceptable for this un-American, frankly, behavior of these U.S. senators to cause this country to go from a recession into a depression," Granholm said during a radio interview Friday morning.

Negotiations over an agreement to assist Michigan's Big Three stalled last night in a 52-35 vote on a procedural motion to bring up the package for a vote. Republicans largely opposed the bill after it failed to win concessions from the United Automotive Workers union on wages and benefits.

“It is such an unbelievable stab at workers across the country,” Granholm added. “You give this big bailout to these financial institutions–don’t ask a single question, they can do what they want–and then you lay the blame for the auto industry, which is a victim of this financial meltdown, on the backs of the people who are working on the line.”

Bottom line: there is a party of working men, and a party of capitalists, and the latter's mantra is "low prices, low wages, maximum profits."

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posted by JReid @ 5:41 PM  
When Katrina hit, the Big Three didn't ask the south for a 'detailed recovery plan'
Great points made in this piece by the Detroit Free Press' Tom Walsh.

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posted by JReid @ 5:03 PM  
Gettelfinger names names
The UAW president calls out the Dixie Axis:

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said today that U.S. automobile companies are being put at a disadvantage by government in competing against Volkswagen’s new auto assembly plant in Chattanooga.

The union leader questioned why government leaders in Tennessee are willing to provide assistance to the German-based Volkswagen while the state’s U.S. senators declined to back a federal loan to help the Big Three U.S. car makers.

Mr. Gettelfinger said that trying to equalize UAW pay with what foreign car makers pay in the United States, as urged by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is like comparing apples to oranges. In its home country, Germany provides government-paid health care for Volkswagen workers, and VW is receiving $577.4 million in tax breaks and direct assistance from Tennessee governments to build an automobile plant in Chattanooga.

They use taxpayer dollars to subsidize our competition,” Mr. Gettelfinger said during a news conference. “It doesn’t help our industry.”

The GOP has, officially I think, lost the Great Lakes region for at least a generation. Ohio included. Good luck being the party of the former Confederacy, boys.

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posted by JReid @ 4:50 PM  
Yes to banks, no to working stiffs
ThinkProgress has the list of Senators who said "oh yeah!" to bailing out Wall Street bankers to the tune of $700 billion, but who couldn't find it in their little coal colored hearts to help the American auto industry. Here they are:
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN)
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Sen. Kay Hutchison (R-TX)
Sen. John Isakson (R-GA)
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL)
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
There were another 10 Senators who voted for the TARP but were absent for last night's vote on the automakers:
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR)
Sen.Ted Stevens (R-AK)
Sen. John Sununu (R-NH)
Some had better excuses than others for not being around:
iden was tending to transition duties, while Kerry was in Poznan, Poland, participating in U.N. climate change talks. Alexander was home recovering from surgery. Why did these other Senators feel auto workers weren’t as deserving as Wall Street? We’d like to know.
Yeah, me too...

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posted by JReid @ 4:39 PM  
To the rescue: Henry Paulsen and George Bush???
The White House appears ready to step in to prevent General Motors and Chrysler from collapsing on George W. Bush's watch. From the WaPo:
The Bush administration said today it is willing to consider using funds from other sources to provide emergency aid to the nation's Big Three car companies following the Senate's rejection Thursday night of a congressional bailout plan.

The statement from White House spokeswoman Dana Perino marks a shift in tone for the administration, which has so far rejected the idea of using money from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program or other sources under its control to help the auto industry survive. After the collapse of negotiations in Congress, however, the White House said all options are on the table to help keep the automakers in business. GM and Chrysler have said they are in critical need of help, while Ford's position is less dire.

"Under normal economic conditions we would prefer that markets determine the ultimate fate of private firms," the White House statement said. "However, given the current weakened state of the U.S. economy, we will consider other options if necessary -- including use of the TARP program -- to prevent a collapse of

"A precipitous collapse of this industry would have a severe impact on our economy, and it would be irresponsible to further weaken and destabilize our economy at this time," the statement said.

An official at the Treasury Department, which administers the TARP, said separately that the agency was "ready to prevent an imminent failure" of the auto companies, the Reuters wire service reported.

The reason for the urgency: suppliers to GM can't extend credit to the company so it can keep producing cars, so GM will have to ... stop producing cars. And the reason for that? The banks who received hundreds of billions of your tax dollars, refuses to lend the money out, including to the suppliers.

DETROIT -- Cash-starved General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC within weeks will be hit by $9 billion in bills for already-delivered auto parts, a tab they likely can't afford to pay without emergency government assistance.

Parts suppliers, hammered in recent months by a severe downturn in U.S. auto sales, face shortfalls of their own if the auto makers fail to pay.

The impending payments to suppliers, which in GM's case account for nearly half the cash the company had available at the end of the third quarter, present the most immediate threat to the auto makers as they plead for a lifeline from the Bush administration following the defeat of a $14 billion auto loan package late Thursday by the Senate.

Concerns are rising that parts manufacturers now could take steps to tighten payment terms, which would accelerate the cash burn that threatens the viability of the auto makers.

"We need to satisfy suppliers that there is going to be a tomorrow," United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger said Friday at a news conference.

"If suppliers believe they can't operate, what are they going to do? They aren't going to deliver the goods. If they don't deliver the goods, the plants go down," the UAW chief added.

The reality is that many of the suppliers are just as challenged as GM and Chrysler, which have said they need more than $10 billion in government assistance by year's end to avoid collapse. Just as the auto makers rely on their suppliers and the trade credit they provide, parts manufacturers have suppliers of their own.

Meanwhile, in one of those patented "strange bedfellows situations," the UAW is now putting its faith in President Bush, having been failed by a weak Senate majority leader, and a wicked bunch of Dixiecans whose goal, after all, was to crush the UAW.

UPDATE: Dubya has apparently been warned by George Voinovich that if he doesn't act, he'll be known as "George Herbert Hoover Bush," and apparently, the Dark Lord sent the same message to his party ...

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posted by JReid @ 4:28 PM  
Bush's final 'F you': nukes for everybody!
You really have to read this one to believe it. Apparently, George W. Bush and his administration believe that the best way to stop Iran from developing nuclear technology, is to spread nuclear technology all over the Middle East...

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration plans to sign its first nuclear-cooperation agreement with a Middle Eastern nation within the next few weeks, according to a senior U.S. official, raising concerns among congressional critics who say the deal could fuel nuclear proliferation in the region.

The proposed deal with the United Arab Emirates has attracted attention because the U.A.E.'s largest trading partner is Iran. The U.A.E. has served in the past as a transshipment point for technology with military applications headed to Iran.

The move could place President-elect Barack Obama in a political tight spot with a Middle East ally by forcing him to decide whether to push Congress to ratify the agreement. He hasn't taken an official position on the deal. An Obama spokesman declined to comment. The Bush administration has championed the nuclear agreement with the U.A.E. as a model for promoting peaceful nuclear energy while guarding against weapons proliferation.

But wait, there's more!

In recent months, the U.A.E. signed agreements with two American engineering companies -- Thorium Power Ltd. of Virginia and CH2M Hill of Colorado -- to oversee the development of its nuclear-power program. The U.A.E. has also hired a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, William Travers, to help run the U.A.E.'s nuclear regulatory body.

"This is a real counterexample to what Iran is doing," said the senior U.S. official Thursday. "We're seeking commitments from nations within the Middle East that they're going to rely on the markets for nuclear fuel."

The Bush administration also is working on nuclear-cooperation agreements with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Bahrain. The pacts require Washington to share nuclear fuels, technologies and know-how on the condition that the countries commit to abiding by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and IAEA safeguards.

So let me get this straight... Iran is not allowed to develop nuclear reactors for its energy needs, but the U.A.E., whom most Americans didn't trust to run our ports, can? And not only that ... they're going to do so with American help and technology? And this helps reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation, and the possibility that the very wealthy Emirates will also develop weapons on the side, to counter Iran, how? Or maybe ... just maybe ... the Bushies WANT the Sunni Arabs to develop a bomb, the better to win an arms race in the Persian Gulf...


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posted by JReid @ 8:26 AM  
Big Three rescue falure meets Asia
Asian markets are down sharply this morning after southern Republicans tank the auto bailout. From CNN Money, proof that Shelby, Corker and McConnell's scheme to tank Detroit in order to
help Japan and Germany didn't quite work that way:

A week of solid gains ended on a sour note for Asian markets Friday as stocks across sectors got hammered after a $14 billion government bailout of the Big Three automakers collapsed in the U.S. Senate.

Regional car makers such as Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co., who depend heavily on the U.S. market, plunged in afternoon trading.

Major global currencies also plunged against the yen as risk-averse investors reversed their short sales of the Japanese currency after Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said the Democratic and Republican Senators failed to reach a compromise on the bailout package, which cleared the House of Representatives Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, GM is seeking advice from bankruptcy counsel.

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posted by JReid @ 8:21 AM  
Mad(off) money
What if you had an investment firm that really was a giant Ponzi scheme? Well... the Wall Street Journal reports:

Bernard L. Madoff, a former chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market and a force in Wall Street trading for nearly 50 years, was arrested by federal agents Thursday, a day after his sons turned him in for running what they said their father called "a giant Ponzi scheme."

The Securities and Exchange Commission, in a civil complaint, said it was an ongoing $50 billion swindle, and asked a judge to seize the firm and its assets. "Our complaint alleges a stunning fraud that appears to be of epic proportions," said Andrew M. Calamari, associate director of enforcement in the SEC's Enforcement Bureau. ...

And CBS MarketWatch adds:

Madoff's firm is known as securities broker dealer, but he also runs a separate investment advisory business which had more than $17 billion in assets under management, federal authorities said, citing two unidentified employees and a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Madoff counted several large hedge fund investment firms as clients, along with some European banks, so if his firm has lost more than $50 billion, the impact could be widespread.

On Wednesday, Madoff told two senior employees that he was "finished," that he had "absolutely nothing," that "it's all just one big lie," and that it was "basically, a giant Ponzi scheme," federal prosecutors said in their statement.

According to a criminal complaint filed on Thursday and cited by the Journal, Madoff "deceived investors by operating a securities business in which he traded and lost investor money, and then paid certain investors purported returns on investment with the principal received from other, different investors, which resulted in losses of approximately billions of dollars."

Madoff also said his business was insolvent, and that it had been for years, estimating losses to be at least $50 billion, prosecutors alleged, again citing the two unidentified employees.

According to the complaint, Madoff told one of his senior employees that clients were seeking about $7 billion in redemptions and that "he was struggling to obtain the liquidity necessary to meet those obligations." The employees believed the firm had about $17 billion under management.

Earlier this week, Madoff also allegedly told an employee that he wanted to pay bonuses to employees this month-- earlier than usual. Later, two employees who met with Madoff at his apartment were told that the business was a giant Ponzi scheme, which they took to mean that Madoff "for years been paying returns to investors out of principal received from other, different investors." Madoff allegedly told those employees that the firm was insolvent, according to the complaint.
And in case you missed it in the first link, those "senior employees" ... who also turned him in to the feds ... were his SONS. And the voluble Mr. Cramer adds:
Just what this market needed: the highest profile hedge-fund scandal I may have ever seen -- Bernie Madoff's arrest today. This guy ran $17 billion for the wealthiest of the wealthy and the most clued-in of customers. $17 billion! As my friend Doug Kass says, this one is bigger than Bayou -- heck, bigger than Boesky.

When Boesky got busted, there was an instant backlash by the public against the securities markets -- people figured they were rigged and then they got confirmation.

With the nonsense we see daily with the Exxons and the Chevrons and the JP Morgans and the Goldmans and the last hour of trading with the Pro Ultra ETFs, it is easy to believe that things can be rigged and I believe they are in a bizarrely legal way blessed by the SEC.

Yikes.



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posted by JReid @ 8:09 AM  
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Three-time un-American
Left to right: Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and
Richard Shelby (R-Bama.) Are they acting as agents of foreign governments?


The pared down, $14 billion Big Three bailout loan deal, passed the House today, but appears dead in the Senate after talks broke down late tonight, mostly because of the objections of a trio of southern Senators, who had vowed to kill the bill there with a good old fashioned, Old Dixie filibuster, unless the auto workers' union agrees to "bring their members' wages and benefits in line with those of Japanese automakers.' And while you digest the fact of American Senators calling for U.S. workers to bow and scrape for whatever foreign companies have on offer, ask yourself these questions:

Why would three southern Senators want to kill the American automotive industry? Would United States Senators really attempt to crush a crucial part of our homegrown industrial base on behalf of foreign automakers? And if so, shouldn't Richard Shelby of Alabama, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have to register with the attorney general as agents of foreign governments? After all, Japan and Germany heavily subsidize their auto industries, and both countries provide universal healthcare, which is one big reason Toyota, Honda, Volkswagon, et.al have much lower legacy costs than the Big Three. And when these companies earn profits, what they don't pay in federal and payroll taxes, goes right back to their home governments, hence our three Senators are in essence, lobbying on behalf of Tokyo and Berlin.

To backtrack, these three gentlemen, and I use the term very loosely, all-but promised to kill a deal to bail out the Big Three in Washington, even though one of them, McConnell, was key to passing the much bigger bank bailout. The problem? Again, not bailouts, per se. They're for them when it comes to the banks (except Corker, who voted against the Wall Street handout.) The trouble here, is that all three of these guys have major foreign automakers implanted in their states, those automakers having been drawn to places like Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee by billions of dollars in ... you guessed it ... (state) government handouts. Crippling Detroit, even at the cost of millions of American jobs, could only help the Senators' foreign clients out, in no small part by breaking the United Auto Workers union, and preventing it from attempting to unionize southern auto workers, thereby reserving the preferred status conferred on the Toyotas, Hondas and Volkswagons of the world. From the Detroit Free Press:

Alabama is home to plants for Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota. Tennessee is getting a new Volkswagen plant and is home to Nissan’s North American headquarters and other manufacturing facilities.

Georgetown, Ky., in McConnell’s home state, is the site of Toyota’s biggest plant outside Japan.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, a supporter of the auto industry rescue plan, said he’s still waiting for specifics on what the legislation’s critics are demanding.

“I think it’s antiunion. I think that’s the motivation behind it,” said Mike Kennedy, 44, of Warren, a member of UAW Local 961 who works at Chrysler’s Detroit Axle plant on Lynch Road. “They want us to file for bankruptcy so they can walk away from their obligations.”

Kennedy said he’s hearing a lot of anger toward Southern senators among rank-and-file members, likening it to a civil war ready to break out again, North against South.
And then there's the small matter of politics: the UAW is a big booster of Democratic Senate candidates, and who needs that, right boys?

What this crisis has created is the unbelievable spectacle of supposedly loyal Americans, starting with Mssrs. Shelby and Corker, demanding that American auto workers accept whatever wages foreign automakers pay their employees, essentially reducing these United States Senators to bag men for the former Axis powers. In fact, freshman Senator Corker's plan read like a World War II appeasement letter:
Corker's four-point plan requires existing bondholders to accept 30 cents on the dollar to help reduce automakers' debt, and force the car companies and United Auto Workers to bring wages immediately in line with foreign automakers. It also would drop supplemental unemployment payments to workers. He also wants the UAW to agree to take half of the payments they are owed from Detroit's automakers to fund a trust the union would manage beginning in 2010 to pay for retiree health care. In exchange, General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC would get up to $14 billion in emergency loans immediately to help them fund their operations. If they didn't get concessions by March 15, they would have to file for bankruptcy.
So what else is Bobby Corker famous for, besides making oodles of money in real estate and beating Harold Ford Jr. in 2006 with the help of that "call me" ad? Luring foreign automakers to his home state, of course, and hating on Detroit:
He grew up in Chattanooga, a city that was repeatedly rejected by U.S. auto makers as a site for new plants. But Volkswagen turned around Chattanooga’s fortunes in July by agreeing to build a $1 billion assembly plant near the city–the German auto maker’s first assembly plant in the U.S. Volkswagen plans to build hundreds of thousands of vehicles there in the next few years, providing 2,000 manufacturing jobs as well as countless more jobs in supply and logistics. So, where the Big Three had let the city down, Volkswagen capped the city’s long-desired industrial revival. As Corker told the Associated Press at the time, the city “will never be the same again.” Volkswagen is building the plant to compete with Toyota Motor, which puts Chattanooga inside the most competitive dynamics in the global auto industry.
McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has made no secret of his eagerness to see the American auto industry say "sayonara" so that the Japanese can keep greasing up non-union Kentucky:

GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell’s not so concerned about the death of the US auto industry because Japanese companies make cars in his state:

“We also have other auto manufacturers who are doing quite well,” McConnell said, naming Toyota’s Georgetown, Ky., operation. “It happens not to be American companies and that is sad. But it’s not like we don’t have success in the auto industry. We do.”

And Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Senate banking committee, has been equally skeptical of the absolute need to have a strictly "American" automobile industry:

WASHINGTON (Nov. 19) - Sen. Richard Shelby, who represents a state with 134,000 people who help build cars for Asian and European companies, was unpersuaded Tuesday when American auto executives asked Congress for emergency financial aid to stay afloat.

"Are we here in the Senate being asked to facilitate a stronger, more competitive auto manufacturing sector, or to perpetuate a market failure?" Shelby asked at the opening of a standing-room-only hearing on Capitol Hill.

After the hearing, he concluded that it was the latter.

And about those state subsidies, you know, the government money being thrown at an auto industry, only the governments are former Confederate states and the automakers are NOT American? Well ... it's a LOT of money:

Shelby's position is not merely that of a fiscal conservative. His home state has provided millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to lure Honda, Hyundai, and Mercedes-Benz to build huge plants there. Indeed, some critics believe that without the incentives from Alabama - and similar tax breaks given by a number of other states to a dozen foreign automakers - the Detroit companies would not need a federal bailout.

The foreign-based automakers have received relatively little attention during the debate over the auto bailout bill because they have not asked for money from Con gress. Yet their role is immense: In 2007, for the first time, foreign firms produced a majority of cars sold in the United States. While Detroit's auto industry is shutting plants and slashing union jobs, the foreign-based auto companies have been booming, particularly in the South, with new nonunion plants slated to open in Tennessee and Georgia.

House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who is playing a key role in hammering out a loan deal, said in an interview that some opponents are "completely hypocritical" because they back local tax incentives to lure foreign companies that now pose some of Detroit's stiffest competition. Frank also denounced those members of Congress who oppose the assistance for the Detroit automakers as a matter of fiscal prudence at the same time they fight for agricultural subsidies for their states.

So how much money are we talking?

It is difficult to ascertain the exact amount of tax subsidies provided to the foreign automakers because they are provided by so many localities and in different ways, including property tax breaks and corporate tax abatements. One study found that the total subsidies to foreign automakers exceeded $2 billion.

Alabama paid more up front per job in tax subsidies to the foreign automakers than Detroit is asking per job with the loans, said Cole of the automotive center.

I've heard figures of upwards of $250,000 per job gained. Meanwhile, the GOP is about to preside over the flushing of 3 million jobs and the pensions of 850,000 retirees ... many in swing states. For Shelby, Corker and McConnell, who live in ruby red states, that may not matter. But it will matter to their party, which will be blamed ... make no mistake about it ... if the Big Three, or even just General Motors, vanish under Bush's watch. Believe it.

I say all of this, by the way, as one who is no fan of the "built in obsolescence" crowd that's been running the U.S. auto industry for a generation (and the moron politicians who heaped SUV tax break largesse on them), and as somebody who specifically detests the Ford Motor Company (my three-year-old Expedition having literally exploded in my driveway a couple of years ago, and the company having sniveled out of responsibility for it, and sent me a nice letter about the ignition switch recall the NEXT DAY.) My mother had a Chevy Cavalier when I was growing up that was a piece of shit, too. In fact, all our cars when I was growing up were made by General Motors, and the only one that was worth a plug nickel was my gigantic 1974 Buick Apollo that my mom's best friend gave me for $300 my senior year in high school (in 1986. Hey, you can fit a lot of friends in a Buick Apollo...) I have, on occasion, vowed out loud to never buy another mother-bleeping American car. And yet, at my house, we have one foreign and one domestic -- an Acura and a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. I drive the Jeep. And I must admit, I love the bloody thing. But what's most important is that for all their faults, and I think all of the management should be fired, I believe that whatever Shelby, Corker and McConnell might think, America simply cannot remain an industrial power without a homegrown manufacturing industry, and right now, the auto industry is the biggest manufacuring sector left. If we let it go, even 10 million Honda jobs in Dixie at Wal-Mart wages won't buy us back our economic clout.

I end with a few prophetic words from Patrick J. Buchanan:

In the 1950s, we made all our own toys, clothes, shoes, bikes, furniture, motorcycles, cars, cameras, telephones, TVs, etc. You name it. We made it.

Are we better off now that these things are made by foreigners? Are we better off now that we have ceased to be self-sufficient? Are we better off now that the real wages of our workers and median income of our families no longer grow as they once did? Are we better off now that manufacturing, for the first time in U.S. history, employs fewer workers than government?

We no longer build commercial ships. We have but one airplane company, and it outsources. China produces our computers. And if GM goes Chapter 11, America will soon be out of the auto business.

Our politicians and pundits may not understand what is going on. Historians will have no problem explaining the decline and fall of the Americans.


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posted by JReid @ 10:20 PM  
Dixie GOPer: 'riots in the streets' if Big Three bailed out
South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint takes union-bashing to a new level:
We’re going to have riots. There are already people rioting because they’re losing their jobs when everybody else is being bailed out. The fairness of it becomes more and more evident as we go along. The auto companies may be hurting,” he said, but “there are very few companies that aren’t hurting and they’re going to hurt. We don’t have enough money to bail everyone out.”

DeMint blamed the unions for pushing this issue as far as it has gotten. The senator said the notion that reorganization under bankruptcy would not work was generated by the unions for fear of losing their power. “The primary driver behind this is the unions, because bankruptcy allows the auto companies to basically restructure all their contracts in a way that a bankruptcy judge says will make them sustainable,” DeMint said. “And if they do that, then essentially the unions lose all their leverage. It’s the unions that have brought them to the brink. So definitely, I think the reason they want a political solution and a car czar is because a car czar can protect the unions through this whole process at the expense of the taxpayer.”
So ... who's making cars in South Carolina, Jim?
BMW (www.bmw.com) picked an apropos way to celebrate its 10th anniversary in South Carolina (www.callsouthcarolina.com): It announced that it's adding 400 workers in a US$400-million expansion of its sprawling 2.4-million-sq.-ft. (222,960-sq.-m.) plant in Greer, S.C. The expansion continues the German automaker's life-in-the-fast-lane modus operandi since it first announced that it was coming to the Palmetto State in 1992. With the 400 added employees, the total work force at the huge production operation in the Greenville-Spartanburg metro (www.greenvillechamber.org) will swell to some 4,900 workers. And the $400 million in new capital expenditures will push BMW's total outlay for the plant past US$2 billion. The company's expansion in South Carolina has been on such a fast track, in fact, that one in every six BMWs sold worldwide is now made in the state.
"Our decision to place our U.S. plant in South Carolina has proven to be a successful one as we strive to keep up with customer demand for our X5 sports activity vehicle and begin to build the new Z4 roadster," BMW President Helmut Leube said in announcing the project.

Current demand is straining the plant's resources, BMW officials explained. Employees at the Greer facility are working 110 hours a week on two shifts; that's 65 percent of a week's 168 total hours, and it's almost the equivalent of a three-shift setup.
And how did they get there?
BMW, however, wasn't the only party in this deal focused on meeting demand. State lawmakers worked to meet the needs of South Carolina's corporate clientele, in the process giving the automaker's expansion a forceful nudge.

That nudge came from the General Obligation Economic Development Bond Act, which took effect on May 15th. The South Carolina legislature recently passed the bill, which provides infrastructure to boost economic development.

BMW was no idle sideline observer in the legislative change. The automaker earlier this year lobbied for a state law to reward companies that undertake major expansions. And the new law is a virtual blueprint for BMW's expansion. The bond act specifies that qualifying programs must involve a $400-million investment and 400 new jobs - precisely the numbers that BMW nailed with its expansion.
Oh yeah, government cash.

More on the south's foreign auto boom here.

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posted by JReid @ 10:00 PM  
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The Nixon treason tapes
Then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson (L) w. Sen. Everett Dirksen listening
intently during Johnson's Senate hearings, November 27, 1957


More proof that Thom Hartmann is running the most valuable show in talk radio. Today he played portions of White House tapes in which then-president Lyndon Johnson accused Richard Nixon, who would become the next president of the United States, of treason regarding the Vietnam war, and an incident eerily similar to an operation George W. Bush's father pulled off on behalf of Republican candidate Ronald Reagan 32 years later...

Just days before the pivotal 1968 presidential election featuring Vice President Hubert Humphrey's bid to succeed him, President Lyndon Baines Johnson suspected Humphrey's Republican opponent, Richard Nixon, of political sabotage that he called treason, according to the final recordings of Johnson's presidency to be publicly released.

As Johnson tried to arrange peace talks between North and South Vietnam on the eve of the election, he and his closest advisers received information indicating that Nixon allies had asked that South Vietnam avoid peace talks until after the election, the tapes show.

Johnson and his advisers, Humphrey included, kept their concerns secret at the time. But given that Nixon defeated Humphrey by just 500,000 votes out of 73 million cast and that Nixon's suspected perfidy involved the unpopular war in Vietnam, there is ample cause to wonder how history might have been changed had the concerns Johnson voiced 40 years ago been made public.

The LBJ Library made those conversations public Thursday with the release of 42 hours of recordings made from May 1968 until the Johnson family left the White House in January 1969. ...

Some context:

With an election hanging in the balance, however, there is added drama in the flurry of calls in late October and early November concerning Johnson's attempt to bring the North and South Vietnamese governments together for the first time to discuss peace.

On March 31, under heavy pressure from the anti-war wing of his Democratic Party, Johnson shocked the American people by saying he would not run for re-election or accept his party's nomination. Instead, Johnson endorsed Humphrey, who inherited the warmonger label critics had hung on Johnson.

And the crescendo:

To test the good faith of the North Vietnamese, Johnson ordered that all bombing in the north cease on Oct. 31 , six days before voters were to go the polls. The cease-fire gave the Humphrey campaign an immediate jolt — polls showed Nixon's 8-percentage-point lead had shrunk to 2 points.

The precise nature of any communication between Nixon's allies and the South Vietnamese government isn't revealed in the tapes — nor is the way Johnson and his advisers learned of them.

In the tapes, Johnson tells Secretary of State Dean Rusk: "It's pretty obvious to me it's had its effect."

In a segment aired at the news conference, Johnson tells Sen. Everett Dirksen , the Republican minority leader, that it will be Nixon's responsibility if the South Vietnamese don't participate in the peace talks.

"This is treason," LBJ says to Dirksen.

"I know," Dirksen replies, very softly.

Confronting Nixon by telephone on Nov. 3, Johnson outlines what had been alleged and how important it was to the conduct of the war for Nixon's people not to meddle.

"My God," Nixon says to Johnson, "I would never do anything to encourage the South Vietnamese not to come to that conference table." Instead, Nixon pledged to help in any way Johnson or Rusk suggested, "To hell with the political credit, believe me."

For Johnson and his top advisers, it wasn't a matter of whether Nixon was telling the truth but whether accusing Nixon of meddling would give the appearance that Johnson — rather than Nixon — was using the war to influence the election.

In the end, the South Vietnamese stayed away from the proposed peace talks. And Johnson listened to his advisers and suggested to Humphrey that he not use what he had learned.

"For God's sake, you want everybody to know you don't play politics with human lives, that we did what's right," Johnson tells Rusk on one of the recordings.

In several of the recordings, Johnson wonders what will become of a Democratic Party so riven by the war that it would not unite behind Humphrey.

"I'm sorry I let you down a little," Humphrey tells Johnson.

"No, you didn't; no you didn't," Johnson replies. "A lot of other folks (did), not you. You fought well and hard."

The original audio can be found in several parts, dating from October 31, 1968 through the election, here (10/31/68), here (11/2), here, here (11/3)and here. The full lot of LBJ tapes is here. The conversations are mainly with Everett Dirksen, interestingly enough a Republican Senator from Illinois, for whom the Senate's main office building is named (and the man likely responsible for getting John McCain's father his possibly undeserved fourth star...) But there are also conversations with Nixon himself (in which he denies meddling in the peace talks) and one conference call with a reporter from the Christian Science Monitor, who got wind of the story and wondered why LBJ and Humphrey weren't going public with their suspicions.

Fast forward to the 1980 election, and guess what strategy the Republicans are reviving? U.S. hostage were released on the day Reagan took the oath of office, and his CIA director, Mr. Casey, wound up with a piece of his brain missing 48 hours before he was to testify about Iran Contra.

A more concise version of the LBJ Nixon "treason" audio:

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posted by JReid @ 7:05 PM  
Jesse Jackson makes his case (for the Senate)
Jesse Jackson Jr. just completed a press conference in which he emphatically defended himself against the taint of Blago's corruption, saying he believed, and still believes, that he would be the most qualified and best candidate for the U.S. Senate based on his record, including 13 years in the House of Representatives, and he said that at no time did he engage in "pay to play" politics with Blago. A couple of key lines:

JJ said he:
Met with Gov. Blagojevich for the first time in four years on Tuesday, and presented my qualifications and my record. ... The media saw me enter Gov. Blagojevich's office. ... The media saw me exit the governor's office.
He added that he did not send an emissary with the explicit or implicit message to Blago that he would fundraise for the governor in exchange for an appointment. Said Jax:
I had no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing. I did not initate or authorize anyone to promise Gov. Blagojevich anything on my behalf
It was clear from the presentation that Jr. is still very much stalking that Senate seat, and that he hopes to cleanse himself enough to get Obama to not stand in his way. He still wants it, baby.


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posted by JReid @ 4:29 PM  
Don't get too full of yourself, Illinois...
Old Dixie still rules when it comes to corruption. As of 2006, according to Corporate Crime Reporter:
Louisiana is the most corrupt state in the nation.

That’s according to an analysis of government data released today by Corporate Crime Reporter.

Louisiana (1), Mississippi (2), Kentucky (3), Alabama (4) and Ohio (5) are the top five most corrupt states in the country, according to the analysis.

Rounding out the top ten are Illinois (6), Pennsylvania (7), Florida (8), New Jersey (9), and New York (10).

“If you type the word ‘corruption’ into Google News, the vast majority of news stories that come up are from overseas,” said Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter, a print weekly legal newsletter based in Washington, D.C. “But public corruption is booming right here in the USA.”

“There have been more than 20,000 public officials and private citizens convicted of public corruption over the past two decades,” Mokhiber said. “That’s an average of 1,000 a year for the last twenty years.”
Interestingly enough, the site relies on statistics from the Bush Justice Department's Public Integrity Sector, which strangely, hasn't completed a report since. And many of the states in the corruption "top five" are also tops in federal spending per capita vs. tax dollars paid in: particularly the southern states of Mississippi (#2), Alabama (#7) and Kentucky (#9).

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posted by JReid @ 4:14 PM  
Next shoe: Did the Trib try to trade an editor for a tax break?
From ABC News:
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich believed the billionaire owner of the troubled Tribune Co. news empire agreed to fire a top editor at his Chicago paper in exchange for a tax break worth over $100 million, federal prosecutors alleged Tuesday.

Executives at the Chicago Tribune did not fire the editor, John P. McCormick, whom prosecutors believe Blagojevich had targeted. In fact, during the alleged machinations between the governor and the paper's owner, the paper's editorial staff was actually cooperating with the federal probe into the governor which resulted in his arrest Tuesday, by holding from print an exclusive story that FBI agents had secretly recorded the governor's conversations.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the Tribune Co. said "the actions of the company, its executives and advisors working on the disposition of Wrigley Field have been appropriate at all times," and that "no one working for the company or on its behalf has ever attempted to influence staffing decisions at the Chicago Tribune or any aspect of the newspaper's editorial coverage as a result of conversations with officials in the governor's administration." ...

It just never stops...

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posted by JReid @ 3:47 PM  
All in the family
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., Illinois State Senate President Emil Jones
and the Rev. Jesse Jackson celebrate together following Barack Obama's
Democratic presidential nomination acceptance speech Thursday,
Aug. 28, 2008 in Denver. Abdon Pallasch photo. Courtesy of Flickr


The media is going to have a pre-Christmas feast on the carcasses of Rod Blagojevich and the newly named "Senate Candidate #5," Jesse Jackson Jr., the latter in no small part because only he, of the two, can be tied closely to Barack Obama.

I spoke with a source close to JJJr, who also has known Barack since the days of Jr.'s run for Congress. The source told me that the relationship really goes through Michelle, who was close enough to Jr.'s sister, Santita, that Jr. used to say Michelle and Santita, as teens, would "babysit" him and his younger siblings. The source said that while the women are, or were, close, Jr. and Obama were more "political friends" than actual ones. The quote was, "they weren't going to each other's houses, or anything like that..."

So why, I asked, might Obama NOT want Jr. to have his Senate seat, as the related passages in the Blago indictment implies? My source, who is not as close to Jr. as in recent years, but who still knows all the players, says the only obvious reason would be Jesse Jackson Sr.'s antics during the campaign, and the potential for continued embarassment should Jr. ascend to the Senate. Or maybe he just doesn't think he's qualified. Otherwise, Jr.'s stumping for Obama, as his national co-chair, was pretty thorough (he was in Miami a few days before E-day, and did a great job I have to say...) And Jr. has been very openly lobbying for the seat, in what could be called tacky fashion. If you go by the indictment, he wanted it really, really bad. From the FBI affidavit:
Later on November 10, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Advisor A discussed the open Senate seat. Among other things, ROD BLAGOJEVICH raised the issue of whether the President-elect could help get ROD BLAGOJEVICH's wife on "paid corporate boards right now." Advisor A responded that he "think[s] they could" and that a "President elect . . . can do almost anything he sets his mind to." ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will appoint "[Senate Candidate 1] . . . but if they feel like they can do this and not fucking give me anything . . . then I'll fucking go [Senate Candidate 5]." (Senate Candidate 5 is publicly reported to be interested in the open Senate seat). ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that if his wife could get on some corporate boards and "picks up another 150 grand a year or whatever" it would help ROD BLAGOJEVICH get through the next several years as Governor.
Meanwhile, among the questions that remain: where was Jesse going to get the up-front money, and who was going to deliver on the back end? What is clear is that Jr. comes across in the indcitment as both shady AND untrustworthy, even to an alleged crook like Blago:

"ROD BLAGOJEVICH told Fundraiser A to tell Individual D that ROD BLAGOJEVICH had a problem with Senate Candidate 5 just promising to help ROD BLAGOJEVICH because ROD BLAGOJEVICH had a prior bad experience with Senate Candidate 5 not keeping his word."

And yet, the indictment claims that Blago felt fairly confident that Jr. could come up with the dough:

"On December 4, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH spoke to Advisor B and informed Advisor B that he was giving Senate Candidate 5 greater consideration for the Senate seat because, among other reasons, if ROD BLAGOJEVICH ran for re-election Senate Candidate 5 would "raise[] money" for ROD BLAGOJEVICH, although ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he might "get some (money) up front, maybe" from Senate Candidate 5 to insure Senate Candidate 5 kept his promise about raising money for ROD BLAGOJEVICH. (In a recorded conversation on October 31, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH described an earlier approach by an associate of Senate Candidate Five as follows: "We were approached 'pay to play.' That, you know, he'd raise me 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator.")"

Could the "other guy" be Dear Old Dad? Or could the "other guy" be Illinois State Sen. President Emil Jones, the political ally whom Obama called during the presidential campaign to push him to switch his vote in favor of an ethics bill Blago opposed? He had been the chief suspect in blogland before today's JJJ bombshell. Either way, this whole mess doesn't say much that's good about either Illinois politics, or Illinois Black politics...

Anyhoo, watch JJ's interview with ABC News here. So far, he denies that he was involved in pay to play:

"It is impossible for someone on my behalf to have a conversation that would suggest any type of quid pro quo or any payments or offers," Jackson told ABC News. "An impossibility to an absolute certainty."
Jr. will be holding a press conference shortly.

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posted by JReid @ 2:44 PM  
Oh my damn... Jesse Jackson Jr. IS Senate Candidate #5
The Chicago Sun Times outs Junior:

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is “Senate Candidate 5,” who — through an emissary — allegedly offered to raise money for Gov. Blagojevich in return for being appointed as Barack Obama’s replacement in the U.S. Senate, sources tell the Chicago Sun-Times.

The alleged offering was caught on a wiretap secretly planted by the feds.

“In a recorded conversation on October 31, 2008, Rod Blagojevich described an earlier approach by an associate of Senate Candidate Five as follows: “We were approached ‘pay to play.’ That, you know, he’d raise me 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator,” the affadavit accompanying Blagojevich's criminal complaint states.

Speculation has centered that Jackson is Senate Candidate 5 since the complaint was released Tuesday. Jackson, who has aggressively campaigned for the Senate seat, told ABC news that he has not “been informed” by federal prosecutors that he is Senate Candidate 5.

Jackson said he is “not a target” of any probe, but the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago has sought to interview him.

“I would like to do that as quickly as possible,” Jackson said.

In a statement last night, Jackson said, “I reject and denounce pay-to-play politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing.”

JJJ's name has been batted around the blogosphere, but it had been kind of knocked down yesterday. Now, it's back. Sounds like Dear Old Dad was handing down the family business. The inevitable conclusion here is that Jesse Sr. may have been the third party who would raise $1 million for Blago after Jr. came up with the first $500k. Nasty stuff. Looks like Marc Ambinder had it right, while TNR and TSG (and myself) got it wrong.

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posted by JReid @ 2:07 PM  
The rest of the story: Sheriff Scott used work email to threaten a teacher
Speaking of Mike Scott, last month, the Lee County Sheriff may have also used his sheriff's department email to make veiled threats:
Sheriff Mike Scott was criticized near and far for mentioning Barack Obama's middle name, Hussein, during an Oct. 6 Republican rally at Germain Arena.

hree days later, while guest lecturing at Florida Gulf Coast University, outspoken Unitarian minister Wayne Robinson chastised Scott for inciting bigotry and hatred.

Among the 35 students in Donna Roberts' Environmental Humanities class was sophomore Lindsay Scott - the sheriff's daughter.

"I was absolutely stunned," said Robinson, who didn't learn until after the class ended that Lindsay Scott was present. "I would have never said that if I knew she was there. It's an unfair platform to speak about someone's father."

A visibly shaken Lindsay Scott, 20, left the room in tears.

Robinson and Roberts, adjunct instructors at FGCU, e-mailed letters of apology within 24 hours.

Sheriff Scott said he doesn't have a problem with Robinson, who simply was exercising his First Amendment right to free speech.

But, Scott objects to an e-mail Roberts sent Robinson just seven minutes after apologizing to his daughter on Oct. 9:

• Donna Roberts to Lindsay Scott (8:09 p.m.): "I want to express how terrible I feel about what happened today in our class. You must have felt awful. I am so very sorry."

• Donna Roberts to Wayne Robinson (8:16 p.m.): "I was glad you said what you did. ... Guess we can't hide who we are ... nor should we."
So how did Scott get the second note? Because Robinson accidentally included the text in the email thread to Scott's daughter. Oops! So what's a right wing, rather scary looking sheriff to do? Threaten the teacher, of course!
He reported the incident to FGCU administration, albeit after having to contact "15 different people in 15 different departments" to file a complaint, he said.

"Nobody is going to lie to me or my kids," Scott said.

... Robinson has taught part time at FGCU since 2006, also serving as a guest speaker in some courses. The topic in Roberts' class was the impact of religious views on the world, and Robinson was discussing feelings of men and women from the opening chapters of Genesis. He then moved to religious perceptions, and because Scott's controversial speech was still in the news, Robinson issued his opinion.

"I said that incites racism and bigotry," Robinson said. "It was a very obvious attempt to relate Barack Obama to Saddam Hussein, and also the 9/11 attacks. All of those involved were Muslim, so he was connecting Barack Obama to that."

Robinson and Scott have spoken and e-mailed each other, and all is good. Robinson said he voted for Scott in the general election.

But Roberts later sent a message to her supervisor saying it was "extremely awkward and unethical" that Scott contacted her, used his work e-mail account to do so and closed by saying "you and your superiors at FGCU have not heard the last from me." Roberts took that as a threat.

"To be honest, I have been feeling vulnerable since seeing his name appear in my FGCU inbox last Sunday," Roberts wrote Oct. 17 to Glenn Whitehouse, chairman of the department of communication and philosophy. "I had a friend escort me to class yesterday."

Scott signed all of his e-mails "Mike Scott," not "Sheriff Mike Scott."
Can the feds add that to the Hatch Act thing?

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posted by JReid @ 11:08 AM  
Should Obama use his middle name during the swearing in? Yes he should
Five reasons Barack Obama should go right ahead and do his swearing in using his middle name:

1. It will drive right wing talk radio nuts. And who doesn't love that?

2. It will drive the right wing blogosphere nuts. And again, what's not to love?

3. It will drive racist, right wing nut-jobs like Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott nuts. Hello??? How much would I love to see this guy go down on the misuse of his office, and then for Obama to use the name HIMSELF at his swearing in? A whoooole lot.

4. It will strike a blow against the stupidity of considering an Arabized name to be some sort of curse, as if just having Eastern lineage is criminal. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Barack Obama's name. And it's time Americans got over their absurd, paranoid fear of all things "foreign."

5. It will be a fitting invitation for Obama into the interconnected world. Face it. There are millions of people with the name Hussein. And some of them -- a very small number -- have equally paranoid fears of America. What better way to announce to the Muslim world that the war against them is over, than for Barack Hussein Obama to take his oath of office on the Bible, using his full, given name?

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posted by JReid @ 10:55 AM  
Obama's role in Blago's fall
Sorry, Joe Scarborough. The only ties between Barack Obama and Blago are firmly in the negative. From this morning's New York Times:
In a sequence of events that neatly captures the contradictions of Barack Obama’s rise through Illinois politics, a phone call he made three months ago to urge passage of a state ethics bill indirectly contributed to the downfall of a fellow Democrat he twice supported, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.

Mr. Obama placed the call to his political mentor, Emil Jones Jr., president of the Illinois Senate. Mr. Jones was a critic of the legislation, which sought to curb the influence of money in politics, as was Mr. Blagojevich, who had vetoed it. But after the call from Mr. Obama, the Senate overrode the veto, prompting the governor to press state contractors for campaign contributions before the law’s restrictions could take effect on Jan. 1, prosecutors say.

Tipped off to Mr. Blagojevich’s efforts, federal agents obtained wiretaps for his phones and eventually overheard what they say was scheming by the governor to profit from his appointment of a successor to the United States Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Obama. One official whose name has long been mentioned in Chicago political circles as a potential successor is Mr. Jones, a machine politician who was viewed as a roadblock to ethics reform but is friendly with Mr. Obama.

Beyond the irony of its outcome, Mr. Obama’s unusual decision to inject himself into a statewide issue during the height of his presidential campaign was a reminder that despite his historic ascendancy to the White House, he has never quite escaped the murky and insular world of Illinois politics. It is a world he has long navigated, to the consternation of his critics, by engaging in a kind of realpolitik, Chicago-style, which allowed him to draw strength from his relationships with important players without becoming compromised by their many weaknesses.

By the time Mr. Obama intervened on the ethics measure, his relationship with Mr. Blagojevich, always defined more by political proximity than by personal chemistry, had cooled as the governor became increasingly engulfed in legal troubles. There is nothing in the criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday to indicate that Mr. Obama knew anything about plans to seek money and favors in exchange for his Senate seat; he has never been implicated in any other “pay to play” cases that have emerged from the long-running investigation of the Blagojevich administration.
The article reveals Obama's penchant for some relationships of political convenience, some common ties between himself, Blago and Tony Rezko, and Blagojevich's presidential ambitions (to run in 2008, no less) but mostly, it illustrates how distant, and cool, the relationship between Obama and the fallen Illinois governor has long been. Not exactly the stuff of Whitewater. Again, sorry, Joe Scarborough. I know you were hoping for a major takedown of "the chosen one."

Moreover, it may have been Rahm Emanuel, Obama's newly minted chief of staff, who tipped off the feds about Blago's dirty dealings.

UPDATE: A source close to Rahm E is knocking down the fed tip story (via TPM).

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posted by JReid @ 10:20 AM  
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Burning questions: who is 'Senate Candidate #5"?
The parlor game begins. And whoever this guy is, he's in big trouble, because apparently he was willing to play ball with Blago on some monetary love in exchange for Obama's Senate Seat.


Later on November 10, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Advisor A discussed the open Senate seat. Among other things, ROD BLAGOJEVICH raised the issue of whether the President-elect could help get ROD BLAGOJEVICH's wife on "paid corporate boards right now." Advisor A responded that he "think[s] they could" and that a President elect . . . can do almost anything he sets his mind to." ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will appoint "[Senate Candidate 1] . . . but if they feel like they can do this and not fucking give me anything . . . then I'll fucking go [Senate Candidate 5]." (Senate Candidate 5 is publicly reported to be interested in the open Senate seat). ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that if his wife could get on some corporate boards and "picks up another 150 grand a year or whatever" it would help ROD BLAGOJEVICH get through the next several years as Governor.
In other words -- if Blago doesn't get what he wanted, then he'd stiff the PEOTUS by appointing someone he didn't like -- Senate Candidate 5.
And what's more...

Just last week, on December 4, Blagojevich allegedly told an advisor that he might "get some (money) up front, maybe" from Senate Candidate 5, if he named Senate Candidate 5 to the Senate seat, to insure that Senate Candidate 5 kept a promise about raising money for Blagojevich if he ran for re-election. In a recorded conversation on October 31, Blagojevich claimed he was approached by an associate of Senate Candidate 5 as follows: "We were approached 'pay to play.' That, you know, he'd raise 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator."

On November 7, while talking on the phone about the Senate seat with Harris and an advisor, Blagojevich said he needed to consider his family and that he is "financially"
hurting, the affidavit states. Harris allegedly said that they were considering what would help the "financial security" of the Blagojevich family and what will keep Blagojevich "politically viable." Blagojevich stated, "I want to make money," adding later that he is interested in making $250,000 to $300,000 a year, the complaint alleges.


So who are the anonymous candidates? ABC News IDs "Senate Candidate #1" as Obama pal Valerie Jarret:

The Senate candidate whom Blago at one point thought that President-elect Obama seemed most likely to be supporting -- friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett, who later took herself out of the running and will be a White House Senior Adviser -- is discussed, as "Senate Candidate 1."

Jarrett referred ABC News to the Obama Transition Team for comment; they did not have one.

Ultimately, it appears that neither PEBO nor Jarrett were willing to discuss any of Blago's various notions of how he could sell them the seat. Talking to his chief of staff on November 11, Blago said he knew PEBO wanted Jarrett to get the Senate seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. F--- them."

Which leaves the burning question of who is "Senate Candidate #5"?

Could it be ... Jesse Jackson Jr.? It could, but where would he get his hands on that kind of dough? Dad, perhaps? TNR's Jason Zengerie slaps down that theory, while providing another:


Marc Ambinder speculates that it's Jesse Jackson Junior, given the timing of a meeting he had with Blago. But that doesn't seem right to me, since it's also clear from the complaint that Blago believed Obama was opposed to Candidate 5. I can't think of any reason why Obama would oppose Jesse Junior moving over to the Senate. As I reported for the print mag early this year, Obama's relationship with Jesse Senior may be fraught, but he's actually fairly close to Jesse Junior. And, presumably, their relationship grew stronger over the course of the campaign, during which Jesse Junior did yeoman's work for Obama, the least of which was slapping down his dad when he did something against Obama's interests.

The Smoking Gun, meanwhile, says that Candidate 5 is Emil Jones. Obama's relationship with Jones (who, btw, is a sworn enemy of Jesse Junior's) is much, much more complex. Yes, Obama famously cultivated Jones as his political godfather in the State Senate, but that's always seemed like one of those relationships that Obama was happy to leave behind in Springfield. Given some of the baggage that comes with Jones's old-school, machine ways--a number of his family members are on the public payroll, and he's worked hard to make sure his son inherits his legislative seat--I could see how Obama might not want Jones in Washington. What's more, Brad Plumer calls my attention to this post from the Capitol Fax blog, which points out that Jones was mentioned by Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed a few days after Blago discussed leaking Candidate 5's name, and that Jones has a huge war chest, so it wouldn't be hard for him to come up with $500k.
Interesting theory, and ont that, like the whole Rev. Wright mess, would be awkward for Obama, though no threat to him legally or in the end, politically, since Obama has done the man no favors and clearly, from the Blago tapes, doesnt' want this person in the Senate. Ben Smith of Politico adds more clues:
Here's what we know. Candidate 5 is:

-"publicly reported to be interested in the open Senate seat"
- not who Blagojevich thought Obama wanted
- not someone with whom, by November 10, Blagojevich had a "long, productive discussion"
- someone with fundraising wherewithal who could produce something "tangible up front"
- someone Blago was "getting a lot of pressure" not to appoint
- someone with whom Blago had "a prior bad experience...not keeping his word"


And concludes:

The complaint also says that on November 10, Blagojevich told an advisor to leak to the Sun-Times's Michael Sneed that Blagojevich "is seriously considering Senate Candidate 5 for the open Senate seat" and that the advisor agreed to call the Sun-Times to leak the story, apparently false, that Blagojevich end of the conversation Advisor A agreed to call the Sun Times columnist to leak the story had a “long, productive discussion” with Candidate 5.

Sneed's November 14 column included this:

Sneed hears Gov. Blago, who will choose Obama's replacement in the U.S. Senate, privately feels there may be only one choice that makes sense: His buddy, outgoing Senate President Emil Jones.
Here we go... More of the parlor game here.

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posted by JReid @ 8:15 PM  
How stupid (and weak) are the Democrats, exactly?
Just a thought: why would Congressional Democrats consent to the creation of a "car czar" who serves at the pleasure of, and reports to, President Bush? Are they not setting Bush up perfectly to appoint an uber union-buster who will, from the moment he or she takes office until they leave in 40 odd days, be a lame duck on a pop up timer, with the game being, "break the UAW before you go?" Sayeth the WaPo:

Under the plan, unveiled by Democratic leaders, the Treasury Department would cut checks for the car companies as soon as next week. The proposal also calls for President Bush to name a "car czar" to manage a vast restructuring of the firms and restore them to profitability.

Democrats bent to the will of the president on several key demands, most notably in agreeing that the emergency funding would be drawn from an existing loan program aimed at promoting fuel-efficient technologies.

Still, the White House objected yesterday to several elements of the Democratic proposal, congressional aides said, including requirements that the car companies notify Washington of any transaction of more than $25 million and that they pull out of lawsuits against states seeking to enforce tougher tailpipe-emissions standards.

Under the proposal, the car companies would be required to submit detailed plans for restructuring by March 31, when they would be eligible for additional government assistance. The Bush administration was pressing to strengthen those provisions to make clear that only companies that were either financially viable or taking steps to achieve viability could receive more federal cash.
Wow. Giving in to Bush demands. That's a new one for Congressional Dems ... (yeesh)...

Aside from the distastefullness of Pelosi and Company's hapbit of ALWAYS giving in to a weakened president, it seems to me that the proposed $15 billion "mini-bailout" does three things:

1) Ties President-Elect Obama's hands, by making all deals binding through March, thus giving a Bush appointee, who if history is any guide, will be a union-busting Kleptocrat, authority that reaches into the next administration.

2) Jeopardizes the UAW, by creating conditions that can likely only be met by eviscerating the current, slimmed down union contract, and/or by laying off thousands more workers, to meet Wall Street's standards of "profitability."

3) Puts suppliers in jeopardy, but potentialy forcing the Big Three to break contracts with these, typically smaller, companies in order to meet the bailout requirements.

Instead of such a deal, can't Congress simply appropriate money for the automakers, within their constitutional authority, and dare the lame duck president to veto? The bottom line is that the auto companies are practically worthless, particularly GM and Chrysler, and as Michael Moore says, they could be bought outright for a fraction of the cost of bailing them out. The Congress holds the whip hand, but as usual, they are too timid to use it. Nancy Pelosi can talk about "haircuts" all she wants, but the fact remains that this is a big give to the outgoing president.

It's a shame when ordinary Americans, like the workers at Republic Windows and Doors, are ballsier than the people who supposedly represent us in Congress.

UPDATE: Even Ben Bernanke has the Dems' number, saying today that:
“The Federal Reserve would be extremely reluctant to extend credit where Congress has actively considered providing assistance, but after due consideration, has decided not to act,” Bernanke wrote Dodd. The letter was dated Dec. 5 and released Tuesday.
And...
... lending directly to an auto company would represent a “marked departure” in the use of the Fed’s emergency program, which is aimed at promoting financial stability, a crucial underpinning for the broader U.S. economy, the Fed chief wrote.

“It would raise the question as to whether the Federal Reserve should be involved in industrial policy, which has traditionally been outside the range of our responsibilities,” Bernanke wrote. “Our view is that questions of industrial policy are best resolved by Congress.”
Duh.

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posted by JReid @ 7:47 PM  
Victory for Republic Windows workers
One piece of good news out of Chi-town:
Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Republic Windows & Doors workers who staged a protest at the company’s Chicago factory won a victory today when Bank of America Corp. offered loans to the firm to resolve a pay dispute.

Bank of America said in a statement today that it was “prepared to provide a limited amount of additional” loans to Republic and “expressed concern” over “Republic’s failure to pay their employees the employee Claims to which they are legally entitled.” Workers were upset that they did not receive vacation pay when the plant shut down.

Workers blamed Bank of America, the biggest U.S. retail bank, for the factory’s Dec. 5 closure after it canceled a line of credit to the manufacturer, whose sales have been gutted by the housing slump. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank has received $15 billion from the U.S. Treasury as part of its effort to boost capital, while Merrill Lynch & Co., the securities brokerage it is buying, has gotten $10 billion.

The workers’ union has been planning a rally at noon tomorrow at the Bank of America building in downtown Chicago. The factory sit-in has become the center of the debate over how more than $700 billion in federal funds are used to help the world’s largest economy weather the worst economic decline since the 1930s. Government bailout money should be used to help businesses such as Republic rather than Wall Street firms and global banks, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, which represents the Republic workers, said on its Web site.

Good for them.

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posted by JReid @ 7:43 PM  
The Chicago Five
Feeling lonely, Rod Blagojevich? Not to worry, you've got company in the history of corrupt illinois governors:
Should Mr. Blagojevich end up in prison, he will join predecessors including the following:

Republican George Ryan, who is currently serving a 6 1/2-year stretch in federal prison for racketeering and fraud. Blagojevich, along with Sen. Richard Durbin, has publicly supported an appeal to the White House for the commutation of Mr. Ryan's sentence.

Otto Kerner, a Democrat who was convicted in 1973 on 17 counts of bribery, conspiracy, perjury and other charges before being sentenced to three years in the pen. The federal prosecutor in that case, James Thompson, later ascended to the governor's chair and wound up getting his law firm to defend Ryan for free.

Dan Walker was convicted in 1987 -- years after leaving office -- of bank fraud. Serving from 1973 to 1977, with a reputation as a reformer, he was the last Democratic governor of the state before Mr. Blagojevich took office in 2003.

Lennington Small, a Republican, served from 1921 to 1929. He was indicted while in office for embezzlement related to actions taken when he was state treasurer. He was later acquitted; several of the jurors in the case ended up with state jobs.

Also, in one infamous case further down the chain, a former speaker of the state's House of Representatives and secretary of state, Paul Powell, was found after his death in 1970 to have had several million dollars in embezzled cash stashed in shoe boxes.

Mr. Powell, according to a Time magazine article at the time, had his own definition of success, believing that "there's only one thing worse than a defeated politician, and that's a broke one."
And let's not leave out Illinois Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, who went from the House to the Big House in 1994 on 17 counts of corruption. Rosty...
... was indicted in 1994 on 17 felony charges, including the embezzlement of $695,000 in taxpayer and campaign funds. The longtime House Ways and Means chairman plea-bargained his way down to two counts of mail fraud and served 17 months in a Wisconsin minimum-security prison.
Still, don't fool yourself. Illinois may do it flashier, but pay to play corruption is far form limited to politicians in that state. It takes place all over the country. I'd bet you could even turn some up right here in Florida, if you were keen to look for it ...



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posted by JReid @ 7:33 PM  
Nothng but sunshine
Is Rod Blagojevich the most arrogant politician in America, or just the dumbest? This was the Felonious Mr. Blag yesterday at the Republic Windows and Doors protest, daring the media, and purportedly, prosecutors, to wiretap him:

Meanwhile, Blag says that despite the evidence on tape, and his jailbird status, he will not resign:
"He didn't do anything wrong," attorney Sheldon Sorosky told reporters after Blagojevich was arraigned. "A lot of this is just politics."

Blagojevich should be in the office Wednesday, Sorosky added.

So, reporters asked, he does not intend to resign?

"Not that I know of, no," said Sorosky, who added that the governor was "surprised" by the day's events.

Yeah, that's one hell of a surprise.

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posted by JReid @ 6:35 PM  
The Blagojevich file
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (left) and prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald (right)

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich gets Fitzed:

U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald said today that federal authorities arrested Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich this morning because the governor went on "a political corruption crime spree" that needed to be stopped.

Fitzgerald said secret tape recordings showed Blagojevich was attempting "to sell the U.S. Senate seat" that President-elect Barack Obama recently vacated. Fitzgerald said, "We make no allegations" that Obama was aware of any alleged scheming by Blagojevich.

The governor has the sole power to pick Obama's replacement under the state constitution.

"The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave," Fitzgerald said, quoting Blagojevich as saying the Senate seat is "a bleeping valuable thing. You just don't give it away. ... I've got this thing and it's bleeping golden."

Fitzgerald called the corruption charges against Blagojevich "a truly new low."

Blagojevich wasn't against the corrupt deal for the Senate seat, he was against "being stiffed in the corrupt deal," Fitzgerald said.

The remarks came at a news conference to discuss charges against Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris. Blagojevich and Harris are scheduled to appear in court at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan.

Robert Grant, FBI special agent in charge of the Chicago office, characterized Illinois' place in the pantheon of political corruption.

"If it isn't the most corrupt state in the United States, it's certainly one hell of a competitor," Grant said. "Even the most cynical agents in our office were shocked."

Grant said he called Blagojevich about 6 a.m. and told the governor two FBI agents were outside his door and that they had a warrant for his arrest.

After initially asking, "Is this a joke?" Grant said, Blagojevich was "very cooperative."

Grant said the arrest of Blagojevich should serve as notice that "business as usual will no longer be tolerated. That selling your office for personal gain is a thing of the past."

So what was on those wiretaps? For that, we go to The Smoking Gun:

DECEMBER 9--The criminal complaint filed today against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich contains a remarkable section detailing the Democratic politician's alleged attempt to cash in on his ability to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Attached to the U.S. District Court complaint is an FBI affidavit, excerpted below, alleging that Blagojevich was caught on wiretaps noting that the Senate seat "is a fucking valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing." He was also recorded saying that unless "I get something real good," he would appoint himself to the vacancy. "I'm going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain. You hear what I'm saying. And if I don't get what I want and I'm not satisfied with it, then I'll just take the Senate seat myself."

According to surreptitiously recorded conversations, Blagojevich spoke with associates about the possibility of trading the Senate post for either an ambassadorship or a Cabinet post. The politician, according to the affidavit sworn by FBI Agent Daniel Cain, "analogized his situation to that of a sports agent shopping a potential free agent to various teams."

During a wiretapped November 10 call, a frustrated and financially strapped Blagojevich referred to Obama as a "motherfucker" and said that he would not appoint an ally of the President-elect to the Senate vacancy if "I don't get anything." Referring to Obama, Blagojevich exclaimed, "Fuck him. For nothing? Fuck him." In a November 11 conversation, Blagojevich remarked that he knew Obama wanted Valerie Jarrett, a longtime confidante, to succeed him, "but they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them." Blagojevich, 51, and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested this morning on political corruption charges. While the affidavit does not specifically name the six prospective Senate candidates discussed by Blagojevic, Harris, and the governor's aides, it appears that several are easily identified. "Senate Candidate 1" is Jarrett. "Senate Candidate 2" is Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Emil Jones, an Illinois state legislator, is "Senate Candidate 5." And "Senate Candidate 6" appears to be J.P. Pritzker, a wealthy Chicago businessman. Additionally, Rahm Emanuel, the incoming White House chief of staff, is referred to in the affidavit as "President-elect Advisor."

TSG has the docs, too. And Fitz isn't done. He's now soliciting any new information that would-be informants would want to provide. How stupid was Blagojevich, by the way? He committed the new alleged crimes tied to the Obama Senate seat AFTER knowing he was already under investigation. Wow. Special election, anyone?



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posted by JReid @ 2:01 PM  
Down goes Blagojevich
The Illinois governor was taken into custody this morning in a widening "pay to play" scandal that now includes the appointment of Barack Obama's successor in the Senate. From the Tribune (which we hope survives the bankruptcy, along with the Cubs...):
The stunning, early morning visit by authorities to the governor's North Side home came amid revelations that federal investigators had recorded the governor with the cooperation of a longtime confidant and had begun to focus on the possibility that the process of choosing a Senate successor to President-elect Barack Obama could be tainted by pay-to-play politics.

Blagojevich was taken into custody hours after the Tribune reported that the investigation into allegations of pay-to-play politics within his administration had been expanded to include his pending choice of a Senate replacement for Obama. The Democratic governor has said he expects to make a decision on the state's next senator in weeks.

Sources told the Tribune that investigators intensified their investigation into Blagojevich amid concerns that the process of choosing a new senator could be tainted. The actions by federal authorities came a day before Blagojevich's 52nd birthday.

The Tribune previously disclosed that federal investigators had recordings of Blagojevich. Those recordings were aided by the cooperation of longtime Blagojevich confidant and former congressional chief of staff John Wyma.

On Monday, Blagojevich said he has done nothing wrong in his stewardship of the state and challenged critics to record him because his discussions were "always lawful."
The governor's chief of staff, John Harris, was also arrested. More:
Updated at 9:17 a.m.: Blagojevich also was alleged to be using a favors list, made up largely of individuals and firms that have state contracts or received taxpayer benefits, from which to conduct a $2.5 million fundraising drive before year's end.

Even Blagojevich's recently announced $1.8 billion plan for new interchanges and "green lanes" on the Illinois Tollway was subject to corruption, prosecutors alleged.

The complaint repeatedly references conversations secretly recorded by federal authorities.

The criminal complaint alleges Blagojevich expected an unnamed highway concrete contractor to raise a half-million dollars for his campaign fund in exchange for state money for the tollway project. "If they don't perform, (expletive) 'em," Blagojevich said, according to the complaint.

Questions, including about the secret taping of the governor, will be many... And what does this mean for Jesse Jackson Jr. and the other contenders for Obama's seat? Tick tock...

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posted by JReid @ 10:22 AM  
Support the Republic workers
The worker sit-in at Chicago's Republic Windows and Doors enters its fifth day, as those facing layoffs demand severance and vacation pay. The problem: the company is out of cash, and its banker Bank of America, won't extend a line of credit, even after BofA received billions in bailout money from taxpayers. From today's Chicago Tribune:
A standoff between workers at Republic Windows & Doors and its owners and bank over the plant's closing stretched into a fifth day after talks produced no agreement despite considerable political pressure and threats of investigations.

The 240 union workers staging a sit-in at the plant on Goose Island in Chicago decided to stay put at least until negotiations between their representatives and company owners and Bank of America continue Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, workers were visited by a parade of politicians, including Gov. Rod Blagojevich and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who voiced their support for the workers while threatening Republic and Bank of America with lost business, legal action and federal inquiry. At City Hall, Chicago aldermen called for hearings on Republic, which had received about $10.4 million in city redevelopment funds as of the end of 2007, according to city documents.

Workers have been occupying the building since its abrupt closing Friday. They are protesting the loss of what they said is vacation and severance pay they've earned and the lack of notice about the closing. The federal WARN Act requires 60-day notice of a plant's closing.

Many said Monday that they appreciated the encouragement and national attention, recognizing that their effort had tapped into concerns about job security in a declining economy.

"I'm not scared because I'm not alone on this," said Raul Flores, 25, who had worked at Republic for eight years. "We're strong and we're going to stay. This gives us the strength to keep going. This is going to be for everyone."

Durbin said he would raise questions in Washington about whether billions of dollars of federal bailout money given to struggling banks is being properly used. Gutierrez urged a federal investigation into the company's failure to make required severance payments.

"The taxpayer dollars going into these big banks are not for dividends, they're not for executive salaries, they're for loans and credit to businesses just like Republic so they can stay in business and so these workers won't be out on the street unemployed," Durbin said.

Bank of America cut its line of credit to Republic, which the company said forced the plant's closing last week. Blagojevich threatened that the state would suspend all business with the bank until the Republic matter was resolved. Aldermen and Cook County officials also proposed suspending business with the bank and withdrawing hundreds of millions of dollars. ...
Of course, the governor has got his own problems, but that's a whole 'nother post...

Republic says its business tanked because of a sharp decline in home building. BofA says Republic needs to "manage its own affairs." Dueling statements were issued yesterday, by the bank, a "don't look at us":
"We agree with the statements of public officials that Republic Windows and Doors should do all it can to honor its obligations to its employees and minimize the impact of failure on those employees.

We are reaching out to the management and ownership of the company to see what they can do to help resolve this issue.

As a creditor of the company, we continue to honor all of our agreements with the company and have provided the maximum amount of funding we can under the terms of our agreement.

By any objective measure, Republic Windows and Doors is unable to operate profitably given the challenges of the current economic climate and its industry. Public statements by management of the company have made this clear.

When a company faces such a dire situation, its lender is not empowered to direct the company's management how to manage its affairs and what obligations should be paid. Such decisions belong to the management and owners of the company.

Bank of America has worked with the company and shared our concerns about the company's situation and its operations for the past several months. It is unfortunate that the company has been unable to reverse its declining circumstances."
And from the company, a timeline:
10/16/08 a- Republic presents plan for "orderly" wind down including ceasing
manufacturing in January 2009. INFORMS BANK OF AMERICA OF POSSIBLE
WARN ACT NOTICE ISSUES AND VACATION PAY.
10/15/08 a- Informed Bank of America that Republic had a 10/24/08R buyer for
the existing Note for ±$3.0M, discount of $1.5M.
10/15/08 a- Offer rejected by Bank of America stating they believed they were
"over" collateralized.
10/15/08 a- Bank of America demands plans for "orderly" wind down Republic.
10/18/08 a- Bank of America rejects plan and demands a shorter wind down
period.
10/27/08 a- Republic responds with a new plan to cease operations January 2009.
10/29/08 a- Bank of America rejects plan.
11/25/08 a- Republic requests permission from Bank of America to issue
vacation pay to all employees.
11/26/08 a- Bank rejects Company request to make vacation pay.
And comments from the workers themselves:
“They want the poor person to stay down,” said Silvia Mazon, 47, a mother of two who worked as an assembler here for 13 years and said she had never before been the sort to march in protests or make a fuss. “We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere until we get what’s fair and what’s ours. They thought they would get rid of us easily, but if we have to be here for Christmas, it doesn’t matter.”

The workers, members of Local 1110 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, said they were owed vacation and severance pay and were not given the 60 days of notice generally required by federal law when companies make layoffs. Lisa Madigan, the attorney general of Illinois, said her office was investigating, and representatives from her office interviewed workers at the plant on Sunday.
And of course, from the president-elect:
At a news conference Sunday, President-elect Barack Obama said the company should follow through on its commitments to its workers.

“The workers who are asking for the benefits and payments that they have earned,” Mr. Obama said, “I think they’re absolutely right and understand that what’s happening to them is reflective of what’s happening across this economy.”
Question: why not designate Bank of America bailout funds to save this business?

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posted by JReid @ 9:26 AM  
Monday, December 08, 2008
Things you don't see every day: Detroit chucrh prays for a bailout
A Detroit church backs the SUVs up to the altar to pray for help for the ailing auto industry. From Reuters:
DETROIT, Dec 7 (Reuters) - With sport-utility vehicles at the altar and auto workers in the pews, one of Detroit's largest churches on Sunday offered up prayers for Congress to bail out the struggling auto industry.

"We have never seen as midnight an hour as we face this week," the Rev. Charles Ellis told several thousand congregants at a rousing service at Detroit's Greater Grace Temple. "This week, lives are hanging above an abyss of uncertainty as both houses of Congress decide whether to extend a helping hand."

Local car dealerships donated three hybrid SUVs to be displayed during the service, one from each of the Big Three. A Ford Escape, Chevy Tahoe from GM and a Chrysler Aspen were parked just in front of the choir and behind the pulpit.

Ellis said he and other Detroit ministers would pray and fast until Congress voted on a bailout for Detroit's embattled automakers. He urged his congregation to do the same.

Other Detroit-area religious leaders -- including Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders convened by Cardinal Adam Maida -- have urged Congress to approve an auto aid package.

But the service dedicated to saving Motown's signature industry at Greater Grace Temple was the highest profile effort to mobilize support yet.

"Everybody can't live on Wall Street. Everybody can't live on Main Street. But all of us have lived on the side street, the working class," Ellis said. "I call it the working class because everything tells me there is no more middle class." ...
Hm. Wonder if that has ever happened before? As a matter of fact, here's another example of SUVs on the altar, that might explain part of the problem: SUV bling has seen the church before...



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posted by JReid @ 9:36 AM  
Another media job lost
Say "so long" to the unnamed MSNBC producer heard in the background of this clip, as the worst of the daytime dizzies, Contessa Brewer, does a very serious report:



Priceless. This guy might have a future, working for Bill O'Reilly...?

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posted by JReid @ 8:08 AM  
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Mika and Joe on the radio
Starting Monday, "Morning Joe" goes to radio, and no more Bill-O. Reports TV Newser:
First on TVNewser: Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski begin hosting a radio show on WABC in New York Monday morning. The show will air from 10am-Noon, following Imus in the Morning. Scarborough and Brzezinski will continue with MSNBC's Morning Joe from 6am-9amET, before heading to the WABC studios for the late morning radio show.
And...

> Scarborough to go head to head with Glenn Beck.

The Scarborough/Brzezinski news gets more intriguing. It was announced yesterday that Glenn Beck's radio show is moving to WOR-AM on January 5 and will air from 9am-11am. Beck begins on Fox News Channel two weeks later.

As one insider notes, "The new york radio wars have begun anew!"

After the jump, the WOR press release, which includes this news: "Bill O'Reilly, Dennis Miller and the station's longtime daily Food Talk program will cease to broadcast on the station." O'Reilly announced in October he'd stop doing his radio show. It became official yesterday.

More winger radio than you can shake a mike at.


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posted by JReid @ 9:28 PM  
For Sale By Owner: The Miami Herald?
McClatchy may be looking to unload Miami's paper of record.

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posted by JReid @ 9:22 PM  
Guess who's running a surplus?
The Obama camapign. Now all that's left to do is figure out what to do with all the leftover campaign cash. (And yes, I know what the Clintonistas would like him to do with at least $7.5 million of it ...)

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posted by JReid @ 9:11 PM  
Bush: 'welcome to my hanging'
God, you know in so many ways, I'm gonna miss this guy:

President George W. Bush got a look Saturday at how history will remember him _ at least in one artist's view _ as he presided over the unveiling of his portrait at a private club.

"Welcome to my hanging," Bush said, drawing laughs from the well-dressed audience in The Union League's ornate hall.

What a maroon. Link to the portrait artist, Mark Carder, here.


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posted by JReid @ 9:06 PM  
The Black(well) card
More over Michael Steele: there's an even douchier black guy in the running for RNC chair:
Kenneth Blackwell -- who gained infamy as Ohio Secretary of State in 2004, when the state threw the presidential race to George W. Bush -- has officially jumped into the race for Republican National Committee chair, according to a letter he's circulating among committee members.

"After prayerful consideration, I have decided to become a candidate for Chairman of the Republican National Committee," Blackwell writes in the letter, which was forwarded to us by a Republican operative. "I write today to ask for your vote and endorsement."
And to make his case, Blackwell, who's more closely associated with the religious wing-nut faction of the party than Mr. "Drill Baby, Drill" is, lists his qualifications for all the right to peruse:
"I've survived interviews with Keith Olbermann, testified before Congress, prevented voter fraud from overturning the results of a U.S. presidential election and fought the left in federal court more times than you can imagine," Blackwell writes in the letter. "I have been tried and tested, though I'll admit that I've never been called `mavericky' by Tina Faye."
Well, let's see: he's obsessed with "voter fraud," stole Ohio in 2004 mainly by disenfranchising black people, and he's "tested," especially in matters of failure at running for office, just like Rudy Giuliani. And he can't spell "Tina Fey." Sold!

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posted by JReid @ 7:49 PM  
William Ayers, in his own words
Bill Ayers today: not a terrorist so much as a college professor.

Now that one of the ugliest political campaigns in memory is over, Bill Ayers, the man demonized as an "unrepentant terrorist" by John McCain and the Palinites, and turned into a sinister "association" in order to try and bring down Barack Obama (clearly without success) finally speaks for himself in a NYT op-ed. On his actions during the Vietnam war:
... I never killed or injured anyone. I did join the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, and later resisted the draft and was arrested in nonviolent demonstrations. I became a full-time antiwar organizer for Students for a Democratic Society. In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village. The Weather Underground went on to take responsibility for placing several small bombs in empty offices — the ones at the Pentagon and the United States Capitol were the most notorious — as an illegal and unpopular war consumed the nation.

The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.

Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism; we were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends.



I cannot imagine engaging in actions of that kind today. And for the past 40 years, I’ve been teaching and writing about the unique value and potential of every human life, and the need to realize that potential through education.
And on whether or not he "palled around" with Obama:
... The dishonesty of the narrative about Mr. Obama during the campaign went a step further with its assumption that if you can place two people in the same room at the same time, or if you can show that they held a conversation, shared a cup of coffee, took the bus downtown together or had any of a thousand other associations, then you have demonstrated that they share ideas, policies, outlook, influences and, especially, responsibility for each other’s behavior. There is a long and sad history of guilt by association in our political culture, and at crucial times we’ve been unable to rise above it.

President-elect Obama and I sat on a board together; we lived in the same diverse and yet close-knit community; we sometimes passed in the bookstore. We didn’t pal around, and I had nothing to do with his positions. I knew him as well as thousands of others did, and like millions of others, I wish I knew him better.

That enough for you, Palinites? How about you, Hannity? Likely not, but then, the country has demonstrated what use they have for your opinions.

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posted by JReid @ 7:32 PM  
A thumb in Dubya's eye
Retired General Eric Shinseki, who was famously sacked for telling the truth about the number of troops it would take to occupy Iraq, will be Barack Obama's head of Veterans Affairs.

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posted by JReid @ 7:18 PM  
The new New Deal
Barack Obama lays out an ambitious agenda for his presidency that can be summarized as "roads and schools and bridges and broadband" ... oh, my. The summary:
—ROADS AND BRIDGES: “[W]e will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s. We’ll invest your precious tax dollars in new and smarter ways, and we’ll set a simple rule – use it or lose it. If a state doesn’t act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they’ll lose the money.”

—SCHOOLS: “[M]y economic recovery plan will launch the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen. We will repair broken schools, make them energy-efficient, and put new computers in our classrooms. Because to help our children compete in a 21st century economy, we need to send them to 21st century schools.”

—BROADBAND: “As we renew our schools and highways, we’ll also renew our information superhighway. It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. Here, in the country that invented the Internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and they’ll get that chance when I’m president – because that’s how we’ll strengthen America’s competitiveness in the world.”

(Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had talked about expanding broadband access, but this is the first time the transition has formally proposed it.)

—ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS: “In addition to connecting our libraries and schools to the Internet, we must also ensure that our hospitals are connected to each other through the Internet. That is why the economic recovery plan I’m proposing will help modernize our health care system – and that won’t just save jobs, it will save lives. We will make sure that every doctor’s office and hospital in this country is using cutting edge technology and electronic medical records so that we can cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes, and help save billions of dollars each year.”

and the video:



Hopefully, Obama will also push right away for a universal healthcare system, since, as his incoming HHS Secretary, Tom Daschle has pointed out, health costs may be the single biggest killer of American competitiveness with companies from around the world.

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posted by JReid @ 7:05 PM  
All I want for Christmas is...
Wordpress.
posted by JReid @ 6:59 PM  
Friday, December 05, 2008
Deal (or no deal?)
Word broke on the Rachel Maddow Show tonight that House leaders appear to have reached a compromise on the auto bailout. And of course, in the finest tradition of the Democratic Party, the deal was made by caving in to George W. Bush:
WASHINGTON - Jolted by the loss of thousands of jobs, congressional Democrats and the White House reached for agreement Friday on about $15 billion in bailout loans for the beleaguered auto industry. President George W. Bush warned that at least one of the Big Three carmakers might not survive the current economic crisis.

Several officials in both parties said a breakthrough on a long-stalled bailout came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bowed to Bush's demand that the aid come from a fund set aside for the production of environmentally friendlier cars. The California Democrat spoke to White House chief of staff Josh Bolten during the day to signal her change in position, they added.

The developments came as desperate auto executives pleaded for a second straight day with lawmakers for loans to help them survive, and the government reported the worst single month’s job loss in 34 years.
I liked Barney Frank's take. Saying we only have one president at a time greatly overstates the number of presidents we have. Why Nancy and company continue to do the lame duck's bidding is beyond me. The funds have to be given, but I can't for the life of me understand why the money couldn't have come from Henry Paulsen's $700 billion kitty. By the way, should it trouble us that the incoming Treasury Secretary reportely would like to get rid of the FDIC chairwoman, Sheila Blair, who has been the sole voice crying out for direct help to homeowners? (BTW Team Obama denies...)

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posted by JReid @ 11:38 PM  
Your bailout dollars at work
While you were busy bitching about the UAW's contracts and saying "hell no" to a Big Three, blue collar bailout, AIG is using your money to double the salaries of some of its white collar workers.
Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) -- American International Group Inc., whose bonuses and perks drew fire from lawmakers after the insurer accepted a federal bailout, will make special retention payments that more than double the salaries of some senior managers, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Some executives among 130 recipients will get more than $500,000, about 200 percent of their salaries, to stay through 2009, said the person, who declined to be named because the information hasn’t been publicly disclosed. An undetermined number of lower-paid employees will also get cash awards to dissuade them from quitting, the person said.

“It seems like more than what you’d need to pay to get people to stick around,” said David Schmidt, a senior consultant at executive pay firm James F. Reda & Associates. “Nobody’s hiring, so where are you going to go?”
Wow. You can screw up a company and then get paid to stay in your job when nobody else is hiring anyway? Maybe these guys should get government jobs. Oh, wait, they already have them.

Meanwhile, while the boss is over in China begging for table scraps, Treasury is turning to Team Obama for help getting Congress to fork over the second half of the $700 billion top hat and tails, bonuses for CEOs free cash giveaway.

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posted by JReid @ 5:57 PM  
Gone
Just like that. 533,000 American jobs. Gone in one month.
WASHINGTON – An alarming half-million American jobs vanished virtually in a flash last month, the worst mass layoffs in over a third of a century, as economic carnage spread ever faster and the nation hurtled toward what could be the hardest hard times since the Great Depression.

Underscoring Friday's dismaying signs of a rapidly deteriorating economy, General Motors announced yet more job cuts, and a record number of homeowners were reported behind on mortgage payments or in foreclosure.

Somehow Wall Street found a silver lining, betting that so much bad news would force fresh government action to revive the foundering economy. The Dow Jones industrial rose 259 points.

Yeah. Leave it to Wall Street to find job losses attractive. It means productivity, or something like that... The bad news keeps on coming:
Staring at 533,000 lost jobs, economists were anything but hopeful. Since the start of the recession last December, the economy has shed 1.9 million jobs, and the number of unemployed people has increased by 2.7 million — to 10.3 million now out of work.

Some analysts predict 3 million more jobs will be lost between now and the spring of 2010 — and that the once-humming U.S. economy could stagger backward at a shocking 6 percent rate for the current three-month quarter.

"The economy is in a free fall," said Richard Yamarone of Argus Research. "It is as if someone flicked off the switch on hiring."

"It's a mess," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com. "Businesses, battening down the hatches, are concerned about their survival and are cutting workers."
The pain was spread all across the economy:
The Labor Department report showed monthly jobs losses of 533,000 spread across the economy, hitting construction firms, computer makers, auto dealers, clothing stores and banks and insurance companies alike.

The new data translate the steady stream of pink slip notices coming from companies as diverse as financial titans like the Carlyle Group to discount retailers like Linen 'n Things into evidence of broad economic weakness. The headline number alone -- the worst monthly job loss since Dec., 1974, amid a steep downturn and in the wake of an oil embargo by Arab states -- is likely to raise fresh concerns about the depth and length of an ongoing recession.
The number literally took my breath away this morning. And add to it the 422,000 Americans who stopped bothering to job hunt and the 600,000 manufacturing jobs we've lost this year, and you start to get a sense of the depth of the problem. Oh, and guess who noticed that we're in a recession? The bystander:
WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush publicly acknowledged for the first time Friday that the U.S. economy is in a recession and worried aloud that Detroit's Big Three automakers may not all survive their mounting troubles.

Four days after the long-suspected existence of a recession was made official, Bush used the word himself.

"Our economy is in a recession," Bush said flatly, speaking to reporters on the South Lawn only hours after the release of a government report showing the biggest month of job losses in 34 years. "This is in large part because of severe problems in our housing, credit and financial markets, which have resulted in significant job losses."

While repeatedly listing the serious problems in the economy, the White House has refused to embrace the actual term until Monday, when a panel for the National Bureau of Economic Research said the recession began last December and is ongoing.

Thanks, Dubya. Real helpful.

This will put a new complexion on the proposed auto bailout. It now, clearly, has to happen. The economy, and the states, simply cannot handle another 3 million unemployed, heaped on top of the millions already out here on a limb. And TPM points out, via the New York Times, that the news is even worse than it looks.

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posted by JReid @ 5:40 PM  
When is 15 more like 33? The O.J. Simpson sentence confuses


O.J. Simpson is plenty stupid, but I don't buy that he's an actual armed robber. Still, after nearly 15 years, the American public finally get their man. But what's with the seemingly divergent, and much more dramatic, AP take:
LAS VEGAS – A broken O.J. Simpson was sentenced Friday to as many as 33 years in prison for a hotel armed robbery after a judge rejected his apology and said, "It was much more than stupidity." The 61-year-old football Hall of Famer stood shackled and stone-faced as Judge Jackie Glass rattled off the punishment. Moments before, Simpson made a rambling, five-minute plea for leniency, simultaneously apologizing for the holdup as a foolish mistake and trying to justify his actions.

He choked back tears as he told her: "I didn't want to steal anything from anyone. ... I'm sorry, sorry."

Simpson said he was simply trying to retrieve sports memorabilia and other mementos, including his first wife's wedding ring, from two dealers when he stormed a Las Vegas hotel room on Sept. 13, 2007.

But the judge emphasized that it was a violent confrontation in which at least one gun was drawn, and she said someone could have been shot. She said the evidence was overwhelming, with the planning, the confrontation itself and the aftermath all recorded on audio or videotape.

Glass, a no-nonsense judge known for her tough sentences, imposed such a complex series of consecutive and concurrent sentences that even many attorneys watching the case were confused as to how much time Simpson got.

Simpson could serve up to 33 years but could be eligible for parole after nine years, according to Elana Roberto, the judge's clerk.

Whoa ... 33 years? Are you sure AP? Let's try it again from another news organization, the UK's Telegraph:
Judge Jackie Glass ordered the shackled Simpson be returned to jail immediately, rejecting an application for bail pending an appeal.

She told him he would not be eligible for parole for at least five years.

The 15-year sentence, handed down for kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon, could be followed by a consecutive sentence of up to 72 months, she added.

Oh, that's how it works. And as for that ... well ... murder acquital thingy? The judge denied there was a connection:
Simpson was convicted of 12 counts in relation to the botched raid in October, 13 years to the day he was dramatically acquitted of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman, in Los Angeles.

The judge stressed that despite the fact many disagreed with the 1995 verdict, she accepted it and was not sentencing Simpson for what had happened "in his life previously in the criminal justice system" but solely for the events that took place in Las Vegas.
Uh-huh ... riiiight... And while right and left-leaning talk radio are on fire over the story, O.J. is at this stage, more a pathetic figure than a menacing one. And given the lack of credibility of some of the witnesses against him, and the all-white jury that convicted him, I wouldn't be surprised if his sentence was reduced on appeal. Still, for a day at least, non-Black America is cheering (and black America mostly doesn't care anymore.) Video:



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posted by JReid @ 4:46 PM  
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Michael Moore explains it all
The filmmaker breaks down the yes to the banks, no to Detroit bailout drama on "Countdown":



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posted by JReid @ 11:13 AM  
Operation: Break the Workers
From Jack Welch on the overly solicitous "Morning Joe" this morning, to Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah a few minutes ago during the automakers hearing, the consensus on the right is that to save the American auto manufacturing industry, step one is to break the United Auto Workers Union. Step two: break American workers and force them to accept the model set up by Japanese automakers who operate in "right to work" (read: "right to pay you crappy wages") states in the American South. That model involves highly automated plants staffed by fewer, low skill, modestly educated workers, who make nearly half what GM, Chrysler and Ford workers, who are more skilled, and operate more technical machinery, earn per year. And no, it's not $70 an hour. That's a read herring. It's more like $28 on average, $14-15/hour to start.

Welch's latest Business Week column is out, in which he proposes that the U.S. automakers be shuttled into bankruptcy, with the federal government assuming stewardship of the various warranties offered on their cars. That way, Welch told his drooling, sycophantic audience on the set of "Morning Joe," the Big Three can finally rid themselves of the UAW, break their union contracts, and void the contracts they currently hold with suppliers. The beauty of Welch's idea is that it crushes middle class wages, and kills off the suppliers, too, forcing U.S. manufacturers to seek parts overseas, where workers make the preferred wage: subsistence. And of course, Welch also proposes the favored strategy of the "free marketeers": consolidation:

Talk about a fresh start. For more than a decade, U.S. carmakers have chipped away incrementally at massive legacy costs. But reorganization would open the doors to meaningful structural change through the renegotiation of contracts with creditors, dealers, and unions. And it would offer better odds of paying back taxpayers.

Once in Chapter 11, a merger would further galvanize real change. Three companies are too cumbersome to unite, and Ford has a two-tiered, family-owned structure, so we'll leave them out of this for now and propose GM and Chrysler join forces. Such a merger could create $15 billion in synergies from reduced capacity and overhead, money that could lower production costs and boost R&D spending. Granted, GM and Chrysler could lose share during the transition, but a merged entity would still end up with more than a quarter of the U.S. market.

Bennett, who pushed hard (video) for the passage of the Wall Street bailout and who brags about it on his website,, just sent my jaw dropping by proposing during the hearing, by proposing that instead of giving loans to the Big Three, the government give still more money to the banks, since after all, they are the ones to whom most of the automakers' debt is owed, and in his words, they "won't bee too happy" with the notion of switching out their debt holdings for equity in the companies. Wow. So the answer is: give more money to the very banks who brought us to the brink of economic collapse, since they, unlike the grunts in Detroit, are white collar, highly paid money changers.

Stunning.


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posted by JReid @ 10:57 AM  
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
To do list: prank call Ileana, stat


This is what happens when you try too hard not to be Sarah Palin:
On Wednesday, the Republican congresswoman got a call from President-elect Barack Obama, didn't believe it was him, and hung up on him. Twice.

According to Ros-Lehtinen's flack Alex Cruz, the congresswoman received the call on her cell phone from a Chicago-based number and an aide informed her that Obama wanted to speak to her. When Obama introduced himself, Ros-Lehtinen cut him off and said, "I'm sorry but I think this is a joke from one of the South Florida radio stations known for these pranks." Then she hung up.

Moments later, Obama tried again, this time through his soon-to-be chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

"Ileana, I cannot believe you hung up on the President-Elect," Emanuel said. And then--yes, you know what's coming--she hung up on Emanuel saying she "didn't believe the call was legitimate."

A short time later, Ros-Lehtinen received an urgent call from Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who informed her that she indeed hung up on Obama.

So, Obama tried again and this time he was successful. (Phew!)

"It is very funny that you have twice hung up on me," Obama said. Ros Lehtinen responded by telling Obama that radio stations in South Florida always make these sorts of jokes. Obama said similar pranksters reside in Chi-town.

"You are either very gracious to reach out in such a bipartisan manner or had run out of folks to call if you are truly calling me and Saturday Night Live could use a good Obama impersonator like you," Ros-Lehtinen joked with the president-elect.

Doh!

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posted by JReid @ 7:37 PM  
Richardson claims the boobie prize
... or did he really make out like a bandit? New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who endorsed Barack Obama at great political and personal risk (those Clintons are pretty scary, man) during a crucial moment in the campaign, went before the press to accept Obama's offer to become his commerce secretary. Only everybody -- and I mean everybody -- knows he really wanted State, the prize that went to his former boss' wife, and the woman whom he had jilted during the campaign.

So if you're Richardson, are you thinking to yourself, "man, did I shave off my cool beard and get called a Judas by James Carville for THIS crappy job?" Or ... you're asking yourself, what is going to be THE focus of the new administration's attention at the start ... foreign policy? Yeah, that'll be there. But the real answer is: it's the economy, stupid. So maybe being commerce secretary won't be so bad ... but I'll still bet he's thinking "damn, the bruja still got the better of me!"

To the New York Times:

President-elect Barack Obama named Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico as his choice for secretary of commerce on Wednesday, pointedly denying that the job was a “consolation prize” for the two-time cabinet officer who had been considered a candidate for secretary of state.

“Commerce secretary is a pretty good job,” Mr. Obama said, after being asked by a Hispanic reporter about the appointment of Mr. Richardson to a post not considered among the cabinet’s more prestigious or influential.

The president-elect said that his nominee would be dealing with the economy, the most significant issue facing the new administration, and added that “his mixture of diplomatic experience, hands-on experience as governor, experience in the cabinet, experience in Congress, means that he is going to be a key strategist on all the issues that we work on.”

“I think the notion that somehow commerce secretary is not going to be central to everything we do is fundamentally mistaken.”

In addition, Mr. Obama — who has filled about half of his cabinet and White House staff jobs — said that by the time he was done his administration would be seen as among the most diverse ever put together.

Mr. Richardson was the first cabinet nominee to be presented on his own by Mr. Obama rather than as part of a group, which some saw as a gesture of consolation.

And there was another nugget during the presser that hints at why Obama may have thought Richardson, who has been energy secretary, among many other things, right for the particular job he got:
With Mr. Richardson at his side, Mr. Obama underscored his nominee’s capabilities, saying that the governor had the background to help create “green” jobs, support U.S. exports and “start laying the groundwork for long-term prosperity.”

“Bill has seen from just about every angle what makes our economy work and what keeps it from working better,” Mr. Obama said as the two stood on the stage of a Chicago hotel ballroom where the president-elect has spent the last two weeks introducing members of his new team.

And there's the very real fact that the commerce department is going to have to work hand in hand with extranational governments and multinationals, including in the now long-neglected region to our south: Latin America. Richardson is uniquely positioned to get that done.

So maybe it's not such a boobie prize after all, but rather a strategic move on Obama's part, that makes more sense than just giving Richardson the ego boost of heading the State Department.

Next up: Obama will likely soothe the National Latino Congress by tapping Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, either for HUD or for an as-yet unformed "urban czar" position. Diaz spent a lot of time stumping for the campaign, and likely charmed his way into a decent job. Put money on it.



Meanwhile, watch the announcement:




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posted by JReid @ 7:14 PM  
In case you missed it: George W. Bush checks out on reality
Summary: George W. Bush wasn't even here when all that "economic collapse" stuff happened, don't look at him if you want to blame somebody for Iraq, he's never sad (sorry poor people, families of dead people and the rest of you suckers,) and boy, Air Force One is cool! Here's part one:



... and part two:

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posted by JReid @ 3:44 PM  
Capital vs. Labor
Thom Hartmann, who's probably the smartest guy in radio, had a great segment on his show today about the natural state of capitalistic socieites, which is to have a very small, but exceedingly powerful, wealthy class, a tiny middle class (shopkeepers, farmers, the "butcher, baker and candlestick maker" who have just a handful, or even one, employee) and a massive class of working poor. He pointed out that during the 19th Century, as during the Middle Ages in Europe and even in ancient societies, some 95 percent of people fell into that last class. Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" was a tale of the tension between a member of the working poor and Ebeneezer Scrooge -- a middle-class, merchant with just one employee: Cratchet.

The point Hartmann was making is that capital will always seek to get labor for the cheapest possible price, and that when the supply of labor is abundant, the cost of labor is just that: cheap. There are only three ways to raise the cost of labor (meaning, wages) and to force a large middle class into being:

1) Dramatically reduce the supply of labor (see the "Black Plague" that killed off 1/3 of the European workforce, and the subsequent Rennaissance);

2) Dramatically increase the supply of wealth (often by expansionism, like when Europe swept across the Americas grabbing land, or when Americans swept across the plains and West in the 18th and 19th centuries); or

3) Tax capital and "spread the wealth around" (the good old progressive tax code.)

The New Deal's most important outcome was to implant and grow a substantial American middle class: something that is not a natural state, since capital's goal is to fatten itself off of the cheapest labor possible. As America's middle class grew, especially during the 1950s, the high wages and great benefits paid by companies like General Motors, and the "jobs for life" offered by American manufacturers like IBM, were a thing of pride for most Americans, and the envy of the world.

But the expansion of the American middle class, including building the kind of buying power that fueled the "kitchen rush" of the '50s, when families bought Frigidaires and televisions and gadgets galore, back when we still made the stuff here at home, is an also why the GOP, the party of capital, hates labor unions so much. Unions do two things that capital hates: they create scarcity of labor, by restricting the time availability of workers, and they raise the cost of labor by negotiating the highest possible wages and best possible benefits for workers. So-called "conservatives" hate that, and usujally to kill it, they call such outrages upon the dignity of rich folks, "socialism."

Hartmann pointed out correctly that from "Reaganomics" onward, the GOP has been engaged in a war against the middle class, on behalf of the "capital class." There was, in fact, nothing new about Reaganomics. It's simply the reassertion of the age-old imperitive of capital,, which seeks to accumulate wealth for a few people, and expand, vastly, the pool of the working poor. And since Americans have recoiled against the idea of importing cheap labor from South and Central America (why do you think Reagan signed on to Amnesty back in the 80s, and don't think for a second that Dubya wanted to revive the idea because he cares about the Latino vote...) the clearest way to expand the cheap labor pool is to bleed the middle class, and suck as many people out of it as possible.

That's the plan. The question is, can Democrats beat it back.

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posted by JReid @ 3:06 PM  
The baby bandit
Signs of the decline of Western civilization: A seven year old at Pines Lakes Elementary school here in Pembroke Pines robbed another kid of $1 at knifepoint this morning. And you thought $1 wasn't worth anything anymore.

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posted by JReid @ 10:42 AM  
Last stand of the Bushes?
The fat hobbit ... er ... Jeb Bush ... is seriously considering a run for the U.S. Senate, now that Sideshow Mel has bowed out. Sure, his big brother torched the country (and can't even take responsibility for it) and probably ruined any chance of Jeb fulfilling his lifelong dream of being president (a dream George did not share, by most accounts) but Jeb must figure he can still have a national future, despite the family name. Could he win? Sure. Jeb was a not incompetent governor, if a really evil one. And he probably retains enough popularity in northern Florida, and even in his stomping ground, Miami-Dade, to pull it off. Says Politico:



Martinez announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection in 2010. Asked whether he was interested in running for the seat then, Bush told Politico by email Tuesday night: “I am considering it.”

A source close to Bush said he'll be thoughtful and methodical about the decision-making process. He will consider the impact a race would have on his family and his business and whether or not the U.S. Senate is the best forum from which to continue his advocacy for the issues on which he’s focused, such as education, immigration, and GOP solutions to health care reform.

Translation: private school vouchers, privatization and doing whatever it takes to buy the Hispanic vote (a bit of trivia: Jeb's wife, Columba, is Mexican.)

Unlike his brother, Jeb, who formed a think tank after losing his first gubernatorial race to Lawton Chiles in 1994, and then signed on to the Project for a New American Century, is a policy wonk, and unlike his brothers, is not a dummy. His smarts, and frankly, his deviousness, are pretty well known in and out of GOP circles. He even has some allies in the black community, including Urban League of Greater Miami president T. Willard Fair, although his allies don't have broad Af-Am support themselves. Still, Jeb is not without ideas:

In an interview with Politico immediately after November’s election, the former governor said the Republican Party should take four primary steps to regain favor with voters: show no tolerance for corruption, practice what it preaches about limiting the scope of government (“There should not be such a thing as a big-government Republican”), stand for working families and small business, and embrace reform.

Bush said conservatives should “do the math of the new demographics of the United States,” explaining that the Republican Party “can’t be anti-Hispanic, anti-young person, anti many things and be surprised when we don’t win elections.”
And more importantly, the Florida GOP probably really wants him to run. The only other "star" they've got down here is Marco Rubio, the young, handsome, Cuban-American out-going House speaker, who is also considering a run. But if Jebbie gets in, he and most of the other wannabes, perhaps even Florida's own Don Quixote, Bill McCollum, would likely step aside.

UPDATE: If Jeb isn't running, why is he talking to so many reporters? Translation: he's running.

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posted by JReid @ 8:46 AM  
You can't go home again... Well, actually, you CAN go home again, but she doesn't want to.
Arnold Schwarzenegger thought bubble: "I wonder if anyone notices
me looking at her butt..." Sarah Palin thought bubble: "I wonder if that
foreign actor guy Arnold wants my autograph..."


Will somebody please get the big hook out for Sarah Palin? She is clearly so enamored of the spotlight, she can't help herself. At the recent gathering of 48 governors and President-Elect Obama, Palin shoved the others aside and basked in the limelight one more 'gain (only this time, no turkeys were slaughtered in the process. Just the English language...)

“I appreciated that President-elect Obama recognizes, first that he recognizes how valuable it is to have governors in his cabinet and we assume that all will go well and some of these governors will be in his cabinet,” she continued, adding that governors “know best” about the economic issues raised Tuesday.

“In fact, remember on the campaign trail I tried to convince the majority of voters that governors knew best. Obviously that didn't work, I'm here and VP-elect Biden is there,” she said, calling the meeting “overall great.”

Overall great. Great. As for Obama being a Socialist who "pals around with terrorists," Sarah of Wasila appears to have forgiven the president-to-be, and warmed up to the idea of "spreading the wealth," too -- or at least to those darned governors:

PHILADELPHIA – It's been only a few weeks since the last time Gov. Sarah Palin called President-elect Barack Obama a socialist.

All seemed forgiven at a meeting with the nation's governors, where Mr. Obama made a beeline for the GOP vice presidential nominee, shaking her hand before those of 47 others, sharing a friendly chat and, apparently, saying nothing further about her claim that proximity to Russia yielded foreign policy insight.

"The campaign is over," Ms. Palin told reporters afterward, passing up a chance to accuse him of using a huge new stimulus plan to "spread the wealth." After all, most of the governors support the plan, too.

But for all the love and hugs, some folks back home aren't so happy with Sarah's newfound "life in the fab lane"... Here's an inauspicious headline:

Governor Palin Neglects Alaska Duties for Partisan Stumping on Campaign Trail in Georgia

Uh-oh:

While Gov. Sarah Palin is out of state again, this time in Georgia campaigning for incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss on the eve of the runoff election, Alaska faces challenges including a lack of leadership from the Governor.

Palin will stump for Chambliss, the draft-evading incumbent Republican who waged a notoriously misleading campaign against a decorated war hero, at rallies Monday in Atlanta, Augusta, Savannah and Perry, Georgia. Palin has been back in Alaska at work for only a few days since running for vice president.

"Alaskans need our Governor here earning her salary and working on key problems facing Alaska families," said Alaska Democratic Party Chair Patti Higgins.

Alaska is facing significant challenges, Higgins said, including:

Oil prices have dropped dramatically to about $45/bbl from the peak of $144/bbl in July, which threatens the state budget.

Alaskans are paying some of the highest prices for gas in the nation, averaging $2.87 per gallon, while the national average is $1.91.

The state’s oil production continues to decline, due to falling prices and mature fields.

The global credit crunch and falling natural gas prices threaten the Alaska gas line.

The State is failing to meet its constitutional obligation to take care of public education as shown by the high drop out rates and the low graduation rates.

Many Medicare patients cannot find doctors.

There is continued flight from rural villages.

Alaska faces the prospect of reduced federal dollars from Washington, D.C.

"Alaska's challenges are significant, and there is much that needs to be done right now. Our Governor should remember that her primary job is to work on behalf of the citizens of Alaska, not engage in partisan politics in other states," Higgins said. "Governing is more than creating photo ops. We'd like a commitment that the Governor is working, not just scheduling media appearances."

From an Alaska Democratic Party press release

But it doesn't end with Dems. Linda Murkowski has had a few choice words for Sarah, too, and her quite transparent ambitions:



Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has some Republican-to-Republican advice for Gov. Sarah Palin: If you want to make a run at the White House, keep your hands off my Senate seat.

Murkowski, up for reelection in 2010, is nervously awaiting word on whether John McCain’s former running mate will run against her in the GOP primary. But she says Palin is the one who should be nervous.

“I can guarantee it would be a very tough election,” Murkowski said in an interview.

Palin is also up for reelection in 2010. She could run for a second term as governor, but the Senate holds some obvious attractions: a national platform, and with it the chance to beef up a thin résumé and rebuild damaged credibility on foreign policy and other issues.

But Murkowski says a run against her would be fraught with risk. If Palin lost, her stock would drop just ahead of a potential 2012 presidential run. And if she won, she’d be a backbencher in a chamber that is dominated by seniority — and would have to begin her presidential campaign as soon as she took office.

“If she wants to be president, I don’t think the way to the presidency is a short stop in the United States Senate,” Murkowski said.

Read the whole Politico post. The beef between these women is very much personal. Cat fight!

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posted by JReid @ 8:17 AM  
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Martinez says 'no mas'
It's official. The race for Florida's second Senate seat in 2010 is ON. From WaPo's Chris Cillizza:

Florida Sen. Mel Martinez (R) has decided against seeking a second term, a decision he will formalize shortly in the Sunshine State, according to an informed party source.

Martinez's decision was based on a desire for more free time and a less scheduled life, said the source. The first term senator also was an almost certain Democratic target in two years time although those familiar with Martinez's political prospects insisted his strengths in South Florida, coupled with his political base along the I-4 corridor, made his path to reelection possible.

Martinez's retirement ensures a competitive and costly open seat race in Florida. State Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, widely seen as Democrats' strongest potential candidate, has apparently decided that she would not run but may well reconsider that decision given Martinez's expected announcement today. Democratic Reps. Ron Klein and Kendrick Meek as well as state Sen. Dan Gelber are likely to consider the open seat race.

On the Republican side, there may well be a push to recruit former Gov. Jeb Bush into the contest although that seems like a long shot. State Attorney General Bill McCollum will almost certainly be mentioned as will state Senate President Jeff Atwater and former state House speaker Marco Rubio. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Connie Mack also may consider a run.
Why do you think Rep. Meek suddenly discovered his long lost love for Barack Obama in the closing weeks of the campaign ... rather, his love for "just voting..."

The Florida Democratic Party chair, Karen Thurman, had this to say:
"With Sen. Mel Martinez's announcement today that he will not seek re-election, I would like to thank him for his service to Florida and the nation, as well as wish him all the best in retirement.

"Martinez's announcement ensures that Florida will be a central battleground in the 2010 election. Over the past three years, Democrats have made major gains in Florida winning three of the six statewide elections. We look forward to a strong Democrat winning this Senate seat to help implement President-elect Barack Obama vision of change and join Sen. Bill Nelson in representing Florida in the tradition of Bob Graham and Lawton Chiles."
It's on, boys and girls.

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posted by JReid @ 1:00 PM  
Monday, December 01, 2008
Obama to announce national security team this morning
With Republican commentators and pols crowing about his selections (and liberals holding their breath, but still mostly hoping for the best...) Barack Obama announces his national security team, including Secretary of State-to-be Hillary Clinton, this morning at 10:40. The team:

Secretary of State - Hillary Clinton
Attorney General - Eric Holder
Secretary of Defense - Robert Gates (staying on for at least a year)
U.N. Ambassador - Dr. Susan Rice
National Security Advisor - Gen. Jim Jones
Homeland Security Secretary - Janet Napolitano

Says the WaPo:
Obama and Clinton had each claimed to be the best candidate to restore the nation's reputation abroad, end the Iraq war and engage the new global economy as president. Now, they will try to do that together, though under Obama's direction.

Aiding in the effort will be Bush cabinet member Robert Gates, who will continue as Defense Secretary despite having overseen a war policy that was the subject of withering criticism from both Obama and Clinton during the campaign.

To be successful, Gates and Clinton will have to forge a working relationship that often eludes the secretaries of State and Defense even when they are members of the same party. Gates and Clinton will each have their own power base and have each sought assurances of access to Obama.

But Obama clearly believes the pair can work together, especially on the difficult task of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. To help in coordinating the competing views, Obama will turn to former Marine Gen. James Jones, who will serve as national security adviser.

Jones, who will operate inside the White House, will be charged with melding military and diplomatic policy and with helping Obama navigate the two bureaucracies.

The trio that Obama will introduce today represents a centrist team that has already angered some of the president-elect's most ardent liberal supporters, who had expected a foreign policy team with clear, left-leaning credentials.
BTW, Jones happens to be a very close friend of John McCain's, and as Chuck Todd is saying on MSNBC, much closer to McCain personally, than to Obama. Meanwhile, says Steve Clemons:


I think that the Clinton we saw during the campaign will give herself, her views and approach to complex national security challenges a "makeover." She's going to push womens' rights, democracy, human rights, poverty reduction, and the like -- but I think she is going to be party of a realist-tilting, crafty Obama-led, Bob Gates-designed, Clinton-out front process to get a strategic shift in US foreign policy. We applaud that.

James Glassman, her Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, has some ideas on how to move her agenda forward -- and she should consider using a lot of the tools that Glassman and his team are developing.
And Politico suggests Clinton and Gates may be more like-minded than people think, at least on what the relationship between a president and his commanding generals should be. Truth be told, if you parse the Iraq posisitons of Clinton and Obama during the campaign, they're really not that different, if at all.

I'll reiterate that I think the choice of Hillary is smart on Obama's part, even if it produced an initial WTF??? reaction. Clinton's star power will give Obama a leg up overseas. She is a known quantity that world leaders can and will instantly respect, because they already know her, and frankly, because they know her husband. Men of the "old world" may not have the highest respect for women, but they do respect the politically powerful wives of powerful men. And of course, picking Hillary was a master stroke for Obama, who solves Hillary's biggest problem (not wanting to go back to being one of 100 Senators with no committee chairmanship) while simultaneously containing both her presidential ambitions, for now, and her potential to freelance from the dais on the arms services committee.

Brilliant move. Great team.

Meanwhile, Powerline grumbles about "honeymoon time" among the military brass.

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posted by JReid @ 9:05 AM  
What they knew
Bush meets with his economic team on March 17, 2008. To Bush's
right are Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen (center) and National
Economic Council Director Keith Hennessey. Photo: Getty Images


An AP headline this morning shows that, surprise! ...okay, no surprise ... the Bush administration was forewarned about the mortgage meltdown, and backed off regulating non-bank and bank profligates anyway. The bottoom line:

WASHINGTON – The Bush administration backed off proposed crackdowns on no-money-down, interest-only mortgages years before the economy collapsed, buckling to pressure from some of the same banks that have now failed. It ignored remarkably prescient warnings that foretold the financial meltdown, according to an Associated Press review of regulatory documents.

"Expect fallout, expect foreclosures, expect horror stories," California mortgage lender Paris Welch wrote to U.S. regulators in January 2006, about one year before the housing implosion cost her a job.

Bowing to aggressive lobbying — along with assurances from banks that the troubled mortgages were OK — regulators delayed action for nearly one year. By the time new rules were released late in 2006, the toughest of the proposed provisions were gone and the meltdown was under way.

"These mortgages have been considered more safe and sound for portfolio lenders than many fixed rate mortgages," David Schneider, home loan president of Washington Mutual, told federal regulators in early 2006. Two years later, WaMu became the largest bank failure in U.S. history.

The warnings were contained in a 2005 set of proposals from banking industry regulators. The recommendations were promptly ignored. A bit more from the AP story:

Many of the banks that fought to undermine the proposals by some regulators are now either out of business or accepting billions in federal aid to recover from a mortgage crisis they insisted would never come. Many executives remain in high-paying jobs, even after their assurances were proved false.

In 2005, faced with ominous signs the housing market was in jeopardy, bank regulators proposed new guidelines for banks writing risky loans. Today, in the midst of the worst housing recession in a generation, the proposal reads like a list of what-ifs:

_Regulators told bankers exotic mortgages were often inappropriate for buyers with bad credit.

_Banks would have been required to increase efforts to verify that buyers actually had jobs and could afford houses.

_Regulators proposed a cap on risky mortgages so a string of defaults wouldn't be crippling.

_Banks that bundled and sold mortgages were told to be sure investors knew exactly what they were buying.

_Regulators urged banks to help buyers make responsible decisions and clearly advise them that interest rates might skyrocket and huge payments might be due sooner than expected.

Those proposals all were stripped from the final rules. None required congressional approval or the president's signature.

"In hindsight, it was spot on," said Jeffrey Brown, a former top official at the Office of Comptroller of the Currency, one of the first agencies to raise concerns about risky lending.
So, who will be held accountable for this disaster? Not the banks. They're being paid off for their malfeasance. And not anybody in the Bush administration, either. Democrats in Congress simply don't have the stomach for it, even after the big November win. And I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the incoming A.G. to start racking up the prosecutions, either. The Obama administration will come into office feeling that it has bigger fish to fry than the old fish stinking from the previous administration. And that's a shame.

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posted by JReid @ 8:50 AM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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