Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Mining the Huffpo: the Bush blotter
Two must-read articles on the HuffPo, both having to do with the legal twists and turns of the former president.

First up: Bush's last minute end run around accountability, in the form of letters issued to memebers of his now defunct administration, attempting to immunize them against probes by Congress:
Michael Isikoff reported for Newsweek that while many of us were fomenting about Bush preemptively pardoning at-risk members of his administration, he and his lawyer Fred Fielding (White House Counsel) were concocting one last expansion of executive privilege. Four days before he left office, Mr. Bush authorized Fielding to write letters to Harriet Miers and Karl Rove giving them "absolute immunity" from Congressional inquiry and prosecution. Preemptively. In perpetuity. Absolute and irrevocable.

The letters set the stage for what is likely to be a highly contentious legal and political battle over an unresolved issue: whether a former president can assert "executive privilege" -- and therefore prevent his aides from testifying before Congress -- even after his term has expired.

These letters were delivered before Congress or any prosecutor had initiated action against Miers and Rove. Clearly Bush sought to inoculate Rove and Miers from all attempts to prosecute them for their actions during his administration. Only when John Conyers (Chairman, House Judiciary Committee) subpoenaed Mr. Rove did the letters come to light. Waving his letter in the air, Karl Rove refused to appear before the committee.

Read the full Isikoff piece here. Meanwhile, Dick Cheney gave his own set of interviews, all but daring the new administration to charge him with a war crime for ordering torture, he says, at Bush's behest. Wonder if he has a letter, too...

Next up: Slate uncovers a college thesis by none other than Liz Cheney (the non-gay Cheney offspring, who apparently was an inspiration to her father in more ways that one. The thesis was called "The Evolution of Presidential War Powers 1988." ...
In 1988, while Dick Cheney was Wyoming's sole representative in the House of Representatives, his daughter's senior thesis was quietly published in Colorado Springs. The 125-page treatise argued that, constitutionally and historically, presidents have virtually unchecked powers in war. Thirteen years before her father became vice president, she had symbolically authored the first legal memorandum of the Bush administration, laying out the same arguments that would eventually justify Guantanamo and extraordinary rendition, wiretapping of American citizens, and, broadly, the unitary theory of the executive that shaped the Bush presidency.

Elizabeth's thesis contains such gems as the justifiable fabrication of enemy attacks to launch pre-emptive wars, and other nuggets of the founding father's hidden intent:
Elizabeth Cheney begins her survey at the Constitutional Convention. Contrary to today's middle-school mythology, she tells us, fear of enabling a tyrannical monarch was not foremost in the Founding Fathers' minds. Rather, they did not want to repeat the failure of the Continental Congress' attempts to manage the war for independence. Our constitutional architects, she argues, believed they could not "foresee every possible future use of American armed forces" and, as a result, wanted a commander in chief endowed with great latitude in wartime.

For Cheney, Thomas Jefferson established the path presidents would and should take when dealing with Congress. In engaging American warships against Barbary pirates, Jefferson "chose to inform Congress of his actions at his own convenience." When he did, he fabricated an attack on an American ship to secure their support.

Scary stuff. Read the full story here.

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posted by JReid @ 11:07 PM  
Oh, Claire! McCaskill declares: 'these people are idiots!'
Claire McCaskill, Obama's very bestest surrogate during the campaign, says it all: calling out the "idiots" on Wall Street:



... then she lays down the law on bonus hogging bank fat cats: if you take government cash, you can't pay your managers more than the president.

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posted by JReid @ 10:57 PM  
Give the turkey to the black guy!
Michael Steele beats poor Ken Blackwell out of the "blackface" ... er ... "black face... of the GOP" prize.



My most recent memory of Mr. "Drill baby, drill!" was a rather testy conference call he held on behalf of John McCain with two or three other Black Republicans, in which he rebuked me for asking about GOP attempts to keep foreclosure victims from voting in Detroit. Natch. Now, disenfranchising black voters will be HIS job. By the way did you catch the number of black and brown folk at the RNC confab, where it took what, half a dozen ballots to give Steele the win? The answer is two: Steele and Blackwell, although the guy from the Virgin Islands may or may not make it three, and he also nabs the best quote from the confab:
“The party has got to turn from vanilla to butterscotch,” said Holland Redfield, a committeeman from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Steele is also a break with tradition because he isn’t a member of the committee, which usually elevates chairmen from within its ranks.

Mmmm... butterscotch ...

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posted by JReid @ 10:45 PM  
The Bush 400
If a presidency's success or failure is judged on how the country as a whole changed during its time, how its people are doing by the end of his term or terms, or how America's standing in the world changed, relative to where it was when the president's reign began, then George W. Bush's presidency can rightly be judged an abject failure. The vast majority of Americans are worse off economically than when Bush came into office in the closing months of the heady days of boom and surplus during the Clinton years. The United States remains mired in an unnecessary war in Iraq, for which an astounding 650,000 Americans have already paid the price in physical and mental injuries serious enough to require medical treatment or disability. The war in Afghanistan rages on, and the world economy has been dragged into the tar pit of mortgage backed securities and derivatives invented on Wall Street.

But if a presidency is to be judged on whether it achieved its prime directive -- whether it lived up to the implicit promise made by its leadership on their way in, campaign rhetoric aside -- then George W. Bush's presidency has to be judged a resounding success. George W. Bush came into office calling the very wealthy his "base." He rode in on a promise to restore the full promise of trickle down "Reaganomics" in Washington, complete with neutering the federal government through deregulation, fattening the wealthy's pockets through corporate tax cuts and the virtual elimination of the concept of taxing wealth, and making war a permanent fixture of the American GDP. And Bush did just that, and more.

Per ThinkProgress:
Bloomberg reports that, according to recently released IRS data, “the average tax rate paid by the richest 400 Americans fell by a third to 17.2 percent through the first six years of the Bush administration and their average income doubled to $263.3 million.” Much of their income came from capital gains resulting from the Bush tax cuts.
The Bloomberg report states specifically, that:

The 17.2 percent tax rate in 2006 was the lowest since the IRS began tracking the 400 largest taxpayers in 1992, although the richest 400 Americans paid more tax on an inflation-adjusted basis than any year since 2000.

The drop from 2001’s tax rate of 22.9 percent was due largely to ex-President George W. Bush’s push to cut tax rates on most capital gains to 15 percent in 2003.

Capital gains made up 63 percent of the richest 400 Americans’ adjusted gross income in 2006, or a combined $66.1 billion, according to the data. In all, the 400 wealthiest Americans reported a combined $105.3 billion of adjusted gross income in 2006, the most recent year for which the IRS has data.

“The big explosion in income for this group is clearly on the capital gains side, although there are also sharp increases in dividend and interest income,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research in Washington.
In other words, Bush did precisely what he came to Washington to do: namely, to pull of the largest bank robbery in history -- a "reverse Robin Hood" scheme that consists of stealing from the United States treasury to give to the rich, and not just to individuals, but also to the energy industry, particularly oil and gas, which reaped huge profits from his presidency, and from the defense contractors from whence his chief henchmen, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, slunk.

Ah, success...

The only trouble is, Bush also succeeded in thoroughly discrediting the idea of "trickle down" a/k/a "supply side" economics or "Reaganomics," revealing, ironically, that his father was right when he called it "voodoo." Because, though dummies and ideologues like Rudy Giuliani (who is both) still believe that you have to feed the rich so they'll keep holding up the economy on their strong, broad shoulders, the rest of us are on to the fact that it is the middle class, not the wealthy, who carry the economy with our spending. That's why the suddenly robust personal savings rate of 2.9% last quarter helped tank economic expansion by 3.5 percent. No middle class buying TVs and computers and clothes, on credit, usually ... no economic growth, which leads to layoffs that even further restrict spending. The middle class -- wage earners -- not Wall Street fat cats and richie rich's who plough their extra duckets into really bad investments (and bubbles) drive the economy. If you want to help the economy, help THEM.



It's a painful lesson that an entire nation, and indeed the world, has now learned, the hard way.

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posted by JReid @ 10:09 PM  
The final word on the Bush years
The final quarter of the Bush era was as bad as you thought it was ... almost...
The economy shrank at a 3.8 percent pace at the end of 2008, the worst showing in a quarter-century, as the deepening recession forced consumers and businesses to throttle back spending.

Although the initial result was better than economists expected, the figure is likely to be revised even lower in the months ahead and some believe the economy is contracting in the current quarter at an even faster pace.

The new figure, released Friday by the Commerce Department, showed the economy sinking at a much faster clip in the October-December period than the 0.5 percent decline logged in prior quarter.

Although economists expected an even worse fourth-quarter performance — a staggering 5.4 percent rate of decline — the results were still grim.

Meanwhile, things weren't as bad for some people as for others. Those who did better than the rest of us include...

Bank executives, who handed out about $18 billion in bonuses to themselves, as a reward for screwing up the mortgage market... (President Obama scolded them roundly for it today.)

Exxon Mobile, which posted earth shattering, record profits of $45.2 billion, due to Bushian sky-high oil prices through most of last year. And get this: those profits were DOWN 33%...

And last, and actually, least ... Rudy Giuliani, who's still getting people to listen to him warble, on cable TV, talk radio and on and on, despite having gotten exactly ONE electoral vote during his presidential campaign, and becoming the laughing stock, not just of New York, but of the world, with his scandal-tainted, one state strategy bid for greatness.

Other than that, it's all bad news.


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posted by JReid @ 10:52 AM  
The prospect: 120 million Japanese people who sound like Barack Obama
CNN just ran a package about the newest education craze in Japan: learning to speak English by reciting the speeches of Barack Obama. Obama is a particular hit in Japan, and not just because there is a town there, called Obama...

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posted by JReid @ 8:44 AM  
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The economic stimulus plan passes with not a single Republican vote
Surprise! Bipartisanship doesn't exactly rule the day... but the package passes anyway:

With no Republican support, the House approved an $819 billion stimulus plan that will serve as the cornerstone of President Obama's efforts to resuscitate the economy, an early victory for the new president but still a disappointment because of the lack of Republican votes.

The measure passed 244 to 188, with 11 Democrats and 177 Republicans voting against it.

The two-year economic package includes $275 billion in tax cuts and more than $550 billion in domestic spending on roads and bridges, alternative-energy development, health-care technology, unemployment assistance, and aid to states and local governments. It would also provide up to $500 per year in tax relief for most workers and more than $300 billion in aid to states for funding to help rebuild schools, provide health-care to the poor and reconstruct highways and bridges.

Despite a last-minute lobbying campaign by Obama -- including coming to the Capitol yesterday for separate closed-door meetings with House and Senate Republicans -- Republicans opposed the measure and argued that it spent hundreds of billions of dollars on Democratic initiatives that would do little to stimulate the economy or create jobs.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) heralded the legislation as the first down payment on Obama's pledge, in his inaugural address, to provide "bold and swift" action to revive an economy that is losing more than 500,000 jobs a month, including 65,000 layoffs announced just this week.

"He said he wanted action, bold and swift, and that is exactly what we are doing," Pelosi told reporters before the vote.

A $475 billion Republican alternative, which focused heavily on reducing individual and business taxes, was rejected largely on party lines. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), a member of the GOP leadership team, ridiculed the Democratic plan as a "typical bill that is full of wasteful spending." ...

The GOP now has to hope that it doesn't work. Next up: the Senate debates their version (tomorrow) and then it's on to conference committee. What fun!


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posted by JReid @ 9:33 PM  
Putting the 'Dick' in Dick Armey
Dick Armey just made what might be the single most outrageous statement I've ever heard on 'Hardball,' MSNBC, or cable news, for that matter. In a heated discussion over economic policy with the wonderful Joan Walsh of Salon.com, whom I'm proud to say gave me my first editorial writing break and my first paid opinion writing job, back in 2000, he had the cheek to tell her he's ... wait for it ... glad she's not his WIFE. Watch:



Unfreaking believable. Bob Herbert of the New York Times came on in the next segment and said what's clearly true: that oaf owes Ms. Walsh, Chris Mathews, and the 'Hardball' viewers, an apology. If quizzling Phil Gingrey can go groveling to Rush Limbaugh over quite reasonable comments he made on Hardball and in Politico, surely Dick, who is very appropriately named, can manage to fashion a reasonable apology.

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posted by JReid @ 7:57 PM  
The incredible shrinking GOP
Wanna see something scary (if you're a Republican?) Check out this map (hat tip to Eric J at the Florida Dems.) It shows the 50 states in terms of party identification, including Independent "leaners," breaking the country down into "strong Democrat" -- Dem advantage of 10 points or more, "strong Republican" -- Republican advantage of 10 points or more, and all points in between. The findings are stark:

The small spot of red you see is the last remaining bastion of strong GOP party identification. It consists of just four states: Alaska (you betcha!) Wyoming (home of Dick Cheney's secret lair,) Utah and Idaho (where Larry Craig still "is not gay, never has been gay," and loves his wife.) Even Texas doesn't make the list, as it's becoming more Hispanic and therefore, more competitive. Now, look at the wide swaths of blue: it's clear that at least as of 2008, the country has gone solidly Dem. The Republicans are the kids nobody wants to eat lunch with. From Gallup, the outfit that released the findings:

What is immediately clear from the map is that residents of the United States were very Democratic in their political orientation last year. In fact, Gallup has earlier reported that a majority of Americans nationwide said they identified with or leaned to the Democratic Party in 2008.

All told, 29 states and the District of Columbia had Democratic party affiliation advantages of 10 points or greater last year. This includes all of the states in the Northeast, and all but Indiana in the Great Lakes region. There are even several Southern states in this grouping, including Arkansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky.

An additional six states had Democratic advantages ranging between 5 and 9 points.

In contrast, only five states had solid or leaning Republican orientations in 2008, with Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Alaska in the former group, and Nebraska in the latter.

The most balanced political states in 2008 were Texas (+2 Democratic), South Dakota (+1), Mississippi (+1), North Dakota (+1), South Carolina (even), Arizona (even), Alabama (+1 Republican), and Kansas (+2 Republican).

(Including Dem and Republican-leaning Indepdendents.) Note again: Texas -- not Reublican -- but rather balanced. Florida, meanwhile, shakes out as a blue state, with a 9% Democratic advantage -- identical to, get this: Virginia and Indiana. Wow. But the map has more to say: Democrats could and should, be winning even bigger:
Virginia, Florida, and Indiana (all with +9 Democratic partisanship advantages) are arguably the most impressive wins for Obama, since they were the least Democratic states he won. McCain managed to win West Virginia, which had a 19-point Democratic advantage, as well as three other solidly Democratic states -- Kentucky (+13), Arkansas (+12), and Missouri (+11). McCain also swept the states that had narrow Democratic advantages of less than five points.
The key factors in the Democratic McCain states, it's arguable, are race and turnout. If Democrats can get access to white Democratic voters in states like West Virginia and Arkansas, where the Democratic voters are probably really "Dixiecrats," they can own elections for a very long time.



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posted by JReid @ 5:21 PM  
CIA station chief in Algeria accused of rape
And there are tapes. ABC has the exclusive:
The CIA's station chief at its sensitive post in Algeria is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly raping at least two Muslim women who claim he laced their drinks with a knock-out drug, U.S. law enforcement sources tell ABC News.

Officials say the 41-year old CIA officer, a convert to Islam, was ordered home by the U.S. Ambassador, David Pearce, in October after the women came forward with their rape allegations in September.

The discovery of more than a dozen videotapes showing the CIA officer engaged in sex acts with other women has led the Justice Department to broaden its investigation to include at least one other Arab country, Egypt, where the CIA officer had been posted earlier in his career, according to law enforcement officials.
Great. Another Bush-era mess for Obama to clean up while trying to restore normal relations with the Muslim world.

Not that everything that happens everywhere is George W. Bush's fault, but the permissive atmosphere created by the Bush administration for both military and intelligence personnel, whether in interrogations that morphed into torture sessions, or the indiscriminate shelling and shooting of Iraqi civilians by CACI and other contractors, clearly the previous commander in chief failed to set the necessary conditions for conduct becoming of the United States. During the high points of the war, American troops were routinely accused of raping Iraqi women on various Arab and Muslim websites (often using faked photos,) and the very real, sexualized abuse and torture of Iraqi men, possibly by both military intelligence and CIA operatives, at Abu Ghraib (not to mention the alleged rape of child prisoners at the facility,) is now infamous in the annals of American history. This sorry situation can only add to the damage.

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posted by JReid @ 5:05 PM  
Will work for pardons
If you're among the 11.1 million Americans who are out of work today, don't feel bad. Members of the Bush administration are with you (and I'm not just talking about Dubya)...
The revolving door has been a lucrative business for many former Bush administration officials, who've landed plum jobs in the private sector. But there are a few notable ones who haven't yet: former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alfonso Jackson.

The problem? Both still face criminal investigations into conduct during their respective tenures as head of their government agencies.

Gonzales, who resigned in September 2007 amid increasing questions about his oversight during the U.S. Attorney scandal, remains under scrutiny in connection with that probe.

Likewise, Jackson resigned in March 2008 over allegations that he lied to Congress when he vowed he never intervened in contracting awards at his department.

On the plus side, they're extremely hard workers who aren't afraid to commit a crime or two on behalf of the boss! Meanwhile:

That contrasts a pattern documented in a recent report by Citizens for Ethics & Responsibility in Washington, which found that numerous Bush administration officials leveraged their government service for lucrative jobs in the private sector. Gonzales' predecessor, John Ashcroft, founded his own lobbying group, The Ashcroft Group. Former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card joined the public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard and the board of Union Pacific Railroad. Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson became a consultant with Deloitte & Touche and lobbyist for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld for numerous health companies.
Oh, and Gonzo's spokesman? It's Robert Bork Jr. Priceless.

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posted by JReid @ 4:57 PM  
Why not start with Rumsfeld?


Though Dick Cheney would seem to have been at the epicenter of America's totalitarian torture, detention and domestic spying regimes, one man stands front and center as probably the most easily prosecutable "first case" in what should be a series of U.S. war crimes trials: Donald Rumsfeld. RawStory reports:
Monday, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak told CNN's Rick Sanchez that the US has an "obligation" to investigate whether Bush administration officials ordered torture, adding that he believes that there is already enough evidence to prosecute former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

"We have clear evidence," he said. "In our report that we sent to the United Nations, we made it clear that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld clearly authorized torture methods and he was told at that time by Alberto Mora, the legal council of the Navy, 'Mr. Secretary, what you are actual ordering here amounts to torture.' So, there we have the clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but, nevertheless, he ordered torture."

Asked during an interview with Germany's ZDF television on Jan. 20, Nowak said: "I think the evidence is on the table."

At issue, however, is whether "American law will recognize these forms of torture."
Mr. Obama: the ball is in your court. As Jonathan Turley points out, the rest of the world holds no ambiguity about whether or not our former president, just like Agusto Pinochet, is a torturer. The ambiguity is all on this side of the pond, and the Obama administration would do well to be rid of it.

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posted by JReid @ 3:58 PM  
The other 'Gitmo'
With all the excitement on my side of the aisle over President Obama's order to close the Byzantine Guantanamo Bay prison camp, the American public, thanks to the media, has completely overlooked another American gulag operating at the behest of the former henchman of the Bush administration, which could be just as problematic.
ASHINGTON — For months, a national debate has raged over the fate of the 245 detainees at the United States military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

But what may be an equally difficult problem now confronts the Obama administration in the 600 prisoners packed into a cavernous, makeshift prison on the American air base at Bagram in Afghanistan.

Military personnel who know Bagram and Guantánamo describe the Afghan site as tougher and more spartan. The prisoners have fewer privileges and virtually no access to lawyers. The Bush administration never allowed journalists or human rights advocates inside.

Problems have also developed with efforts to rehabilitate former jihadists, some of whom had been imprisoned at Guantánamo. Nine graduates of a Saudi program have been arrested for rejoining terrorist groups, Saudi officials said Monday.

President Obama must now decide whether and how to continue holding the men at Bagram, most of them suspected of being Taliban fighters. Under the laws of war, they are being held indefinitely and without charge. He must also determine whether to go forward with the construction of a $60 million prison complex at Bagram that, while offering better conditions for the detainees, would also signal a longer-term commitment to the American detention mission.

Mr. Obama tried last week to buy some time in addressing the challenges Bagram poses even as he ordered Guantánamo closed. By a separate executive order, Mr. Obama directed a task force led by the attorney general and the defense secretary to study the government’s overall policy on detainees and to report to him in six months.

But human rights advocates and former government officials say that several factors — including expanding combat operations against the Taliban, the scheduled opening of the new prison at Bagram in the fall and a recent federal court order — will probably force the administration to deal with the vexing choices much sooner. ...
The truth of the matter is the Obama team are acting with as much "deliberate speed" as they probably can, but even the temptation to continue the most horrific policies of the Bush administration, given the difficult task of fighting an on-going 'war' with al-Qaida, which is based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, must be something else.

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posted by JReid @ 3:52 PM  
What Rush fears
The GOP is scrambling to find a clean way of opposing the coming economic stimulus plan, because they know that once implemented, it has the potential to cement Democrats in power for a very long time. To understand why, you have to look at what its priorities are. Per the White House:
  • Doubling the production of alternative energy in the next three years.
  • Modernizing more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills.
  • Making the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within five years, all of America’s medical records are computerized.
  • Equipping tens of thousands of schools, community colleges, and public universities with 21st century classrooms, labs, and libraries.
  • Expanding broadband across America, so that a small business in a rural town can connect and compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world.
  • Investing in the science, research, and technology that will lead to new medical breakthroughs, new discoveries, and entire new industries.
On education alone, we're talking about doubling the budget of the Bush-neglected Department of Education, and pumping $150 billion into the nation's schools and universities. That affects tens of millions of parents and potentially, nearly 100 million children and college students. That's not good news for the GOP. Nor is the significant shoring up in the stimulus plan for the jobless, and for troubled homeowners. Every dollar of individual aid to an American citizen is a potential vote lost for the GOP. That's what Rush and his fellow travelers fear most.

At the end of the day, most economists understand that with most people feeling too job insecure to spend money on non-necessities, and states in financial drought, the federal government is the only entity that can spend at the level needed to put a jolt into the economy. Spending is what we need now, and Republicans know it. But they also know that government spending is good politics, for Democrats.

Related: read the Congressional Budget Office's take on the stimulus package here. On interesting caveat is that the bill forbids spending stimulus dollars on such Miami-beloved things as horse and dog tracks. A good look, I'd say...

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posted by JReid @ 9:29 AM  
The creeping irrelevancy of the GOP
One of the things I used to hate about the right during the Bush years was their demand that everyone in the country give total fealty and obeisance to the president. Sites like the Free Republic and RedState routinely banned users who did not express complete, utter and rapturous affection for George W. Bush, or who dared to disagree with his policies, particularly when it came to the "war on terror." Democrats would do well to avoid that kind of totalitarian nonsense when it comes to Barack Obama, although the temptation to worship is there, given the historic nature of his candidacy, his command of the media and personal magnetism. That said, Democrats must also avoid trying so hard to appear indpendent that they wind up nit picking every little thing Obama does (as happened with his selection of Rick Warren to give what turned out to be a perfectly nice opening prayer at his inauguration.) [Photo at left: House Minority Leader John Boehner tees off.]

That said, I'm worried about my friends on the right.

It seems that with every passing day, they are fading more and more into irrelevancy. My Friday column in the South Florida Times will address this, but in a nutshell, the problem is this: Republicans haven't figured out how to oppose a popular president, any more than Democrats did during the years when Bush worship was the order of the day (from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina.) And Republicans have invested in what surely is a losing strategy: opposing the very thing Americans want most: an economic recovery package -- a big one.

Worse, Republicans are opposing the Obama plan without offering a credible alternative. All they've got is all they've ever had: an almost manic obsession with tax cuts -- for wealthy individuals and corporations. That's it. That's the entire Republican economic platform -- oh, that and more deregulation. In other words, the Republican Party is demanding that the new president pursue the exact same policies as the old president; you know, the ones that have failed miserably, sunk the U.S. and global economy, and caused the Republican Party to lose the last two national elections.

If that doesn't make sense to you, you must not be a Republican.

The inherent risk in this strategy for the GOP is that it could somehow work -- the Republicans despite their paltry numbers on the Hill could find a way to obstruct or water down the plan. And then what? If the economy continues to sink, as it inevitably would, they would get the blame. On the other hand, if and when the plan passes -- and let's face it, the plan can pass without them -- the GOP has stood so firmly against it, they can't hope to get any credit for any economic improvements that follow. How that strategy makes sense is beyond me. Meanwhile, Republicans look postively foolish, going around demanding more tax cuts, when Americans have long since rejected trickle down economics and all its related calamities. It's like stumping for Herbert Hoover in the age of FDR.

And then there are the chatterers, like Rush Limbaugh, who was dumb enough to admit this week that he really does want Obama to fail -- something we all knew, but which few thought anyone would be bone headed enough to say out loud. Even Glenn Beck, as dim as he is, isn't dumb enough to admit that he hopes for Obama's failure (and by extension, the failure of the U.S. economy.) Beck has resorted to utter foolishness of his own, however, this week moaning about Che Guevara T-shirts and Mao handbags, and something about a "Drunken Negro cookie" in Greenwich Village, New York. How the hell does he even know about that?

I suppose eventually, Republicans will find their way, and strike a balance between obstruction and intelligent opposition (and then, maybe they'll let John McCain in on it.) But for now, the party of Hoover is looking for all the world like irrelevant, sapped Tories, lost in a Laborite America.


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posted by JReid @ 8:40 AM  
Monday, January 26, 2009
Barack Obama's remarkable Al Arabiya interview
I just listened to part of Barack Obama's interview on Al Arabiya television tonight (on CNN). My one word reaction: wow. Never, at least not since Jimmy Carter, have I heard an American president speak of respecting the Arab world, and voice so thoughtfully, the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people. Obama made the point that members of his family are Muslim -- something he could never say during the campaign -- and he pledged to do all that he could to advance the interests of both Palestinian and Israeli children.

What a great start to his presidency. Watch:



Related:

Catch some great commentary here from my newest Facebook friend, Juan Cole. Special Envoy George Mitchell is headed to the Mideast. And direct talks with Iran could be imminent.

Last but not least, despite the BBC (and Sky News) banning the broadcast of a charity appeal for the civilian victims in Gaza, the appeal raises big bucks.

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posted by JReid @ 11:19 PM  
Conyers tries again
John Conyers discovers his gavel, now that the Bushies have left town.

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posted by JReid @ 11:10 PM  
Sunday, January 25, 2009
D.C. Diary (Updated)
Finally back from D.C., the "road trip from hell," where the family and I witnessed history. The inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama will be memorable for me for a million reasons, good and bad, but it will be remembered, first because WE WERE THERE. That's especially important for my children, who, whatever else happens in their lives, can say they stood on the National Mall, beside the reflecting pool, while the first Black president took the oath of office (however fumbled by the Chief Justice, who graciously donned his robe today to have a re-do.)

I'll post pictures later. But to summarize, the trip went as follows:

Friday, January 16 -

Picked up rental van. Packed up for the road trip.

Saturday, January 17 -

Loaded up the van (kids and GPS included) and headed for D.C. The trip is about 15 hours, give or take. We wound up stopping overnight in North Carolina, about four hours from Destination Maryland (and my cousin's house. She had an Obama party that night, even though she's a Republican, so God bless her for that. Her husband is from Great Britain, as were many of the guests and over nighters.)

Sunday, January 18 -

Arrive at cousin's house around 10:00 a.m., and joined the dozen or so people coming and going; an "Obama eclectic" crowd of Jamaicans, Guyanese, British, Puerto Rican and first generation African-American, who had traveled from far and wide (UK, Atlanta, New Jersey, Delaware, Texas, and of course, the five of us from Florida.) I'm disappointed that we missed the party, but excited to see my favorite cousins, who are the daughters of my mother's favorite sister. All but one will be in town for the festivities.

Monday, January 19 -

Plans all awry. Cold, miserable day, emphasis on MISERABLE. Drove around Bowie, Maryland looking for long johns. Target didn't have them, so a cousin takes us to a shopping mall Sears. Didn't make the NAACP reception or the Russell Simmons party. Maybe next inauguration. Failed to locate friends who had traveled in from the Virgin Islands, or Jason's uncle who had driven down from New York. Went into "The District" to wait in 1.5 hour line for coveted inaugural tickets (thank you, Congressman Hastings, who graciously granted them) and mill around Radio Row to check in. The kids took pictures on the Capitol steps, and we tried to figure out which historic buildings were which. Had to leave early, because our car had to be out of D.C. by 3 p.m. due to the "car curfew." So missed a planned book signing event and day two of the NAACP reception. Back to Bowie, for cook up rice, Guyanese version chow mein and curried goat, plus sorrell (a red, berry drink) and cake. Made myself two coconut-mango mojitos. Laughed late into the night with a house full of family and newfound friends.

Tuesday, January 20 -

The Big Day! Woke up late (at 6 a.m.) and started frantically putting layers of clothes on the kids. Temperature started at around 18 degrees and soon droppped to 5. Cousin #3 and my favorite auntie arrive! Took lots of pictures. Got to the train station after 8, dropped off by cousins. Saw rows of abandoned cars on I 50 getting towed away. The poor souls had decided to walk to the station, so as not to be late. I'm told by a cousin that the fine, including towing, would approach $200. Waited about an hour and a half at the New Carolton metro station, mostly outside, to get on the train. Phoned in to James T's show in Georgia, where the friendly, happy crowd provided background shouts. Picked a group who hailed from Georgia and surrounds. The crowd at the station was fabulously mixed -- black, white, Hispanic, Asian, you name it. And all were patient and happy, if nervous that we wouldn't get to the National Mall on time. On the train, a young white guy tells us that blue ticket holders (the VIP, seated section) were being turned away at the Mall due to a broken security screening magnetometer. Felt relieved because our tickets were silver, which would place us in the standing room area just outside the VIP section, near the reflecting pool.

We finally got to the Federal Center NW metro station at around 11 a.m., and began searching for the silver ticket entrance. Soon figured out that the silver tickets hadn't been as rare as the lovely packaging, complete with welcome letter from the Member of Congress, had implied. Tried to find the end of the line, which stretched and bent around about 11 long blocks. Never found the end of the line. Decided to b-line for the radio row location, the Liaison Hotel, which was cut off by rings of ridiculously ubiquitous fences and other barriers, erected by the Secret Service and Capitol Police.

Around 11:30, gave up trying to navigate the security maze and followed a bolting crowd to the Mall, as we heard a youth choir signaling that the ceremony had begun. Figured we had just 30 minutes to find our way, since Obama was to be sworn in at noon.

Just before noon, found ourselves on a sea of grass on the Mall, swarming with other rushing hoardes over mashed down fencing and broken through barriers to what turned out to be the silver ticket section, now totally unmanned by security. Found a good spot along the frozen reflecting pool, and stood on the high concrete so the kids could get a clear view of the jumbotron. Pastor Rick Warren is giving the opening prayer. From what I can make out, it is affirming and not at all controversial, which is what I expected.

The view facing the Capitol

The view facing the Washington Monument from the reflecting pool.

The reflecting pool, frozen in January.

Best seats in the house? CNN's "skybox."

People...

People...

... and more people.

12:04 - Obama is sworn in. I miss the oath flub fumbling with my cell phone camera, the real camera having run low on batteries and no longer in my hands. Struggle to understand what he was saying during his speech, as the echo reverberating from loudspeakers in front and behind, makes it sound as if Obama is speaking Pig Latin. Squinted to read the chyron on the jumbotron without my glasses. Walk youngest son closer so that he can get a good picture of Obama. Very nice, very tall, white guy in yellow union-emblazoned jacket hoists my 9-year-old onto his shoulders so that he can get his picture. Shook his hand, and told him that's why I love union people. He has tears in his eyes from the ceremony, and says, "we are the people. We are the people." Through the Pig Latin, I make out Obama's recounting of George Washington's admonition to the nation during a cold, wartime winter.

Joe Biden is sworn in.


Obama is sworn in. View of the Jumbotron from "Silver Ticketland"




View from the silver ticket section, next to the reflecting pool.

12:30 or so, we try to find a quick exit as the national poet, and then the benediction from Joe Lowry are going on, trying to get out of the Mall and somehow, to the Liaison hotel. No luck. The massive crush of humanity is moving, and not in the right direction.

Nearly 1:00, realize we're going the wrong way and that we have to double back. Security perimeters reveal a depressing reality: we're going to have to circle the Capitol building in order to get to a hotel that's just across the security fences. But now, the parade route has closed off the most direct route. So we start walking. As we finally near the Capitol, see Marine One lift off overhead. Hear over the loudspeakers that President Bush is inside, departing Washington for the last time. The crowd starts cheering, and breaks into a chorus of "nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, goodbye!"

Dubya goes bye-bye in Marine One.

Nearly 1:30, we pass Tom Hanks as he stands outside a row of "porta potties," waiting for his wife. He's obliging excited tourists by taking pictures with them, so we gather our group and take a picture, too. One son has gone off on his own, and we call him back. Hanks tells him, "don't worry, young man, everybody's yelling at you, but it's okay. Come on in."

The Reid family, cousin Janice, and Tom Hanks (the white guy in the hat is Tom.) 
Not sure who the woman at the end is...

1:50, finally arrive at the Liaison hotel, nearly two hours late. I can finally get a cell phone signal, which the Secret Service had been jamming all morning near the Capitol. By the time we get upstairs and I can finally get upstairs to my set-up, there is no set-up. By the time I reach the program director at Hot 105, it's too late to run a line, and the engineer has gone. I greet the host at sister station WEDR as he sets up, and phone in a call to James T. Not the way I'd planned it, but the best we can do at the moment.

2:30, back on the streets, we're trying to find the Metro. The streets are being quickly abandoned, newly repopulated with assorted refuse, paper, cups and bottles, but not a single newspaper. Those, people are hanging on to. The kids, cousin and husband are too tired and too cold to schlep to the Lincoln Memorial, Smithsonian, and the other sites I had hoped to see. So it's on to Union Station. We buy souveniers for the kids' friends back in Florida. We walk about a block, and stop by a group of vendors selling "official programs," and dressed like Abraham Lincoln, in paper top hats. We run into a cousin I haven't seen in like ten years. He's selling posters by the side of the road (he's really a travel agent, but explains that the posters are some sort of fundraiser for a youth organization he volunteers with.) We buy a coupld of posters, and at 2:45, I phone in my final, not-the-way-I-planned-it call to the radio station at 2:45. We buy more souveniers.

3:00, across the street from Union Station, a group of vendors are doing a brisk business. We sign a national unity tapestry and receive a certificate, on which we pledge to do our part to remake America, along with President Obama.

Street vendors do a brisk business across from Union Station after the inaugural.

Inside Union Station, we board the wrong train. When it reaches its last stop, we swap the incorrect blue line for orange, to New Carolton.

3:50, back at New Carolton, we get off the train, and phone a cousin to come and pick us up. My daughter Winsome forgets her souveniers on the train. I'm certain I must have, too. Downstairs, we surprisingly run into my friends from the Virgin Islands, whom I'd fretted that we'd missed, and take pictures with them. They're going to the Southern Ball.

My friends Ludlow and Colleen (on the phone) as we met up with them by
surprise at the New Carrolton Metro station after the inaugural.

4:00 or thereabouts, we're back at my cousin's house in Bowie. My hands and feet are numb. I open my wallet, and find the souveniers that I thought I'd lost. They consist of three pins: one depicts the new First Family, one, the new administration, and the third says: "I was there."

Miles, 9

Me and Miles

Jmar, 11 (left) and Winsome, 13 (right)

My cousin Janice.


Jason


For more inaugural photos, click here to go to my Facebook page.

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posted by JReid @ 3:51 PM  
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Newt gets something right
Newt Gingrich throws some kernels of truth into his latest Human Events column:
Taking President Obama At His Word
by Newt Gingrich

Presidential inaugurals are one of last aspects of our national politics that are genuinely welcoming of the American people. So much of presidential campaigning is so tightly controlled and choreographed that it works to exclude Americans. But inaugurations welcome us all in, and allow our part in the greatness of American democracy to extend beyond the voting booth.

Callista and I were fortunate enough to be present on the National Mall on Tuesday for what was a truly historic event. For as far as we could see, down the great length of the Mall from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, there were people. Americans. Possibly the largest crowd in history for a presidential inaugural.

He goes on to say this:

Regardless of who you supported in November, it was impossible not to be moved by this event, because it said extraordinary things about the United States of America.

Dictators Take Heed: In a Single Generation, the Son of an African Immigrant Rose in America to Be Leader of the Free World

The first thing the Obama inaugural said was how far American has come in a short time.

There are people alive today who were once not allowed to sit at a lunch counter, not allowed to stay at a hotel, and prevented from exercising their right to vote by virtue of the color of their skin. These Americans saw an African American man democratically assume the most powerful office in the world on Tuesday. What an extraordinary breakthrough.

And the second message about America sent by the Obama inauguration was aimed straight at the heart of all the dictators, theocrats, oligarchs and military strongmen who rationalize their tyranny with the excuse that their people aren’t “ready” for democracy: In the course of a single generation, the son of an immigrant from a poor country in Africa rose in America to be the leader of the free world.

After that he goes on with some drivel about Obama's rhetoric being "center right" and some malarky about the free market. Anyway, the first bit was good.

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posted by JReid @ 5:39 PM  
Bush panned on the right for leaving Libby hanging
Add the neocon defenders of outing CIA agents to the list of people who can't stand former President Bush:
Former Vice President Dick Cheney disagreed publicly with his boss just four times in the eight years they served together. Yesterday, however, on the first day after the official end of the Bush administration, Cheney disagreed with George W. Bush once more.

Cheney told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that his former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, whom he described as a "victim of a serious miscarriage of justice," deserved a presidential pardon.

Asked for his reaction to Bush's decision Cheney said: "Scooter Libby is one of the most capable and honorable men I've ever known. He's been an outstanding public servant throughout his career. He was the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice, and I strongly believe that he deserved a presidential pardon. Obviously, I disagree with President Bush's decision."

Bush's decision not to pardon Libby has angered many of the president's strongest defenders. One Libby sympathizer, a longtime defender of Bush, told friends she was "disgusted" by the president. Another described Bush as "dishonorable" and a third suggested that refusing to pardon Libby was akin to leaving a soldier on the battlefield. ...

Sure hate it.

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posted by JReid @ 3:44 PM  
Something I haven't heard before
... or at least not since Jimmy Carter: an American president expressing sympathy for the Palestinians, and sorrow for the loss of Palestinian civilian lives. President Obama just did exactly that during his address regarding the selection of George Mitchell as Middle East envoy. Obama has called for an end to rocket fire into Israel, but also for an end to the "suffocating poverty" inflicted on the residents of Gaza. That, in and of itself, is the kind of sea change that comes from having a president who has had real, meaningful contact with the Muslim world, plus an international perspective that includes more than road trips to Mexico to score some blow. (Ahem)

Regarding the conflicts in Asia, he has said that there can be no lasting peace until we "expand the sphere of opportunity" to the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Obama is speaking now.

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posted by JReid @ 3:22 PM  
Target: Media. Extent of Bush spying revealed
An NSA whistleblower reveals what some of us suspected all along: the Bush administration was eavesdropping on members of the media. And they were doing it 24-7, 365 days a year, sweeping up all of their converstions, emails, texts and faxes, both professional and personal. Watch this Countdown exclusive:


NBC has been quietly (if trepidatiously) following the story for years, starting in 2006 when the news organization apparently probed whether the Bush administration had used the NSA to spy on CNN foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour. From TV Newser in a post dated January 4, 2006:
Yesterday, MSNBC.com published a transcript of Andrea Mitchell's interview with author James Risen about the CIA's domestic spying program. In it, Mitchell asked Risen if he had uncovered evidence that CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour was eavesdropped upon. It was a specific and pointed question that led AMERICAblog to ask if the veteran journalist had been spied on by the Bush administration. This afternoon, MSNBC.com removed the portion of the transcript that referred to Amanpour. (Here's what it originally said.) In a statement to TVNewser tonight, NBC explained why:

"Unfortunately this transcript was released prematurely. It was a topic on which we had not completed our reporting, and it was not broadcast on 'NBC Nightly News' nor on any other NBC News program. We removed that section of the transcript so that we may further continue our inquiry."

And from the Americablog archives:
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
NBC confirms it's investigating whether Bush spied on CNN's Christiane Amanpour

That is the only way to read NBC's just-issued statement on why they deleted key portions of Andrea Mitchell's interview after we reported on it here earlier today.[Background: We reported earlier today that NBC's Andrea Mitchell, while interviewing New York Times' reporter James Risen (the man who broke the domestic spying scandal) asked Risen if there was any evidence to suggest Bush was spying on US journalists. When Risen said none that he knew of, Mitchell then pressed the issue again and asked if there was any evidence that Bush was spying on CNN's Christiane Amanpour. We reported on the fact that Mitchell seemed to know something, and shortly thereafter NBC deleted the section of the transcript dealing with Amanpour.]

Indeed the extent of the Bush spying regime, as it was slowly revealed by brave members of the print press, was covered on this blog, and many others. From Reidblog, also in 2006:
Now you may recall that Ms. Amanpour, probably CNN's best overseas journalist, had been critical of the news media's conduct during the Iraq war, including her own cable outfit. Amanpour claimed about a year ago that the press succumbed to a "climate of "fear and self-censorship" fostered by the Bush administration and its self-appointed mouthpiece, Fox News, in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.If she was wiretapped, which again, we can't know because the administration conducted its surveillance without even informing the FISA court, it would give more credence to the Wayne Madsen scenario described in this previous post, whereby several journalists including Risen and Sy Hersh (not to mention menbers of Congress and even employees at the NSA) were targeted by administration espionage programs. Tin foil hattery? Maybe. But remember that this crowd even felt the need to spy on Quakers, Catholic relief workers and vegans...

Before long, I assume we'll learn of other targets including the aforementioned members of Congress, anti-war activists, and maybe even prominent bloggers.

It certainly makes you wonder why so much of the Bush agenda passed through that body so easily, doesn't it, and why the media was so pliant throughout Bush's two terms. But you also have to question why NBC, if it had information this dramatic three years ago, didn't do what Risen and the New York Times did: report it.

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posted by JReid @ 12:51 PM  
Obama's Big First Day

President Obama gets to work early, and gets to work. Among the news today:

An executive order mandating the closure of the notorious Guantanamo Bay gulag within 12 months, along with George Bush's disgraceful network of secret CIA prisons and Bush's torutre policies, too.

A pay freeze for administration members earning over $100,000 a year and strict rules on lobbying, both before and after serving his White House.

Phone calls to top Middle Eastern leaders, and a nod to former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as Mideast envoy. Mitchell did great things during the Clinton administration for peace in Northern Ireland, but he has special qualifications for this job, too, as Mother Jones points out:
At first glance, Mitchell may not seem the most obvious choice for the Middle East envoy job. Others have far more experience in the region, and Mitchell's success in Northern Ireland does not necessarily translate to the intractable conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. But what you may not know is that Mitchell is himself of Lebanese ancestry; his father, John Kilroy, was an Irishman adopted by a Lebanese family, and his mother was a Lebanese Maronite Christian.

More than that, Mitchell had a brief, albeit unsuccessful, run as Middle East envoy during President Bill Clinton's last-minute attempt to broker peace there before he left office. The so-called "Mitchell Commission" studied the conflict in detail for several months before releasing a report in April 2001 to the newly inaugurated Bush administration.

As with his work in Northern Ireland, Mitchell suggested in the 2001 report (available here) that no peace could come to the Middle East until both sides stopped the violence and steeled themselves for difficult negotiations. Beyond that, though, he affected a more balanced approach to the peace process, calling not only for the Palestinians to renounce terrorism, but for the Israelis to cease using economic blockades against the Palestinians and to halt the construction of new settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Putting a Lebanese-American at the forefront of policy, along with the well known and widely trusted Secretary of State Clinton, is a great look, and Obama seems to be signaling that he will be as tough on settlement building as Bush was soft on it.

Meanwhile, on the newly de-tourested Capitol Hill:

Hillary is approved, and then greeted as a liberator by a weary Foggy Bottom, which made little attempt to show their relief that the new administration has arrived. BTW the two GOPers who voted against Hillary in the Senate were Jim DeMint (R, SC) and David Vitter (R, Whore House.)
Geithner is approved, tax issues and all.

Eric Holder is held up by Bush lackeys on the Senate Judiciary Committee who are apparently seeking assurances that there will be no torture prosecutions emanating from the Obama Justice Department. (Meanwhile, the U.N.'s top torture investigator says the body doesn't really need the United States to act on the matter. They can move against top Bushies themselves, and Manfred Nowak, the U.N. "Special Raporteur on Toture," has at least two defendants in mind ...) Said Mr. Nowak:

“Judicially speaking, the United States has a clear obligation” to bring proceedings against Bush and Rumsfeld. […] He noted Washington had ratified the UN convention on torture which required “all means, particularly penal law” to be used to bring proceedings against those violating it.

“We have all these documents that are now publicly available that prove that these methods of interrogation were intentionally ordered by Rumsfeld,” against detainees at the US prison facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Nowak said.


Cheney should of course be added to the list, along with Bush and Don Rumsfeld, particularly since he has openly admitted to authorizing the torture of U.S. detainees.


BTW, check out the new Whitehouse.gov. It mirrors the previous Obama campaign and transition sites. Nice.

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posted by JReid @ 12:15 PM  
Friday, January 16, 2009
Obama wins one before the swearing in, even
The Senate just says yes to giving Team Obama the second half of the TARP fund. The vote was 52-42, and it's counter-intuitive, but a "no" vote meant yes, give him the dough. (Lieberman Watch Update: Traitor Joe voted, as he should, with the Dems.) Meanwhile, the price tag for the economic stimulus bill tops $825 billion.

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posted by JReid @ 2:02 AM  
Yes Virginia, waterboarding IS torture
Eric Holder offers a breath of fresh, non-war crime-filled air during his confirmation hearing:



Meanwhile, the Palinites have given up on reality altogether, clinging to a fictional American hero, Jack Bauer, for comfort in a scary, scary world, especially as their Hollywood crafted mentor takes on a pretend Congress on torture... Perhaps in 2009, someone can tell these poor rubes that "24" is just a television show. On second thought, maybe we shouldn't. The let down might make them crazy...er.

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posted by JReid @ 1:50 AM  
Thursday, January 15, 2009
George Bush's valedictory
George W. Bush gave his farewell address to the nation tonight. It was a sad, strange ending to a failed presidency, full of denial, self justification, self-soothing, and an apparent total lack of comprehension of just how bad the last eight years have been, and by extension, what an utter failure his presidency has been.

Bush during the speech was so delusional, he actually claimed that the air and water in the country are cleaner for his having been there. And he congratulates himself for siding with his conscience in his utter determination to keep the country safe from evil, as if his presidency did not begin until September 12, 2001. The evil terror attack that happened before that revised start date to the Bush presidency is apparently, not his problem.

I have long believed George Bush to be an ignorant, shallow man -- a man who came into office, as Chris Matthews brilliantly put it tonight during an appearance on "Countdown," as a "tabula rasa," devoid of his own ideology, disdainful of "intellectuals" and their book learnin'. But somehow, after 9/11, he adopted a very strong ideology, which happened to belong to the coterie of neoconservatives Dick Cheney brought in with him when he muscled his way into the vice presidency, clearly sensing the possibilities for himself with such an intellectually inferior "boss." Now that Dubya has absorbed the ideology, the poor thing actually believes it. Among the delusions:
Over the past seven years, a new Department of Homeland Security has been created. The military, the intelligence community, and the FBI have been transformed. Our nation is equipped with new tools to monitor the terrorists' movements, freeze their finances, and break up their plots. And with strong allies at our side, we have taken the fight to the terrorists and those who support them. Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored al Qaeda and stoned women in the streets to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school. Iraq has gone from a brutal dictatorship and a sworn enemy of America to an Arab democracy at the heart of the Middle East and a friend of the United States.
Really? Last time I checked, we stopped "taking the fight to the terrorists" so that we could kill 4,000 of our troops and help Iran out by invading Iraq. And pardon me, Dubya, but the Taliban are still stoning women in the streets of Afghanistan, and girls remain terrified to go to school. From RAWA, the main organization fighting for the women of that country (since 1977):

Disappointingly, there has been little progress for women under the Western-backed Government of Hamid Karzai. RAWA's struggle for women's rights is as vital - and dangerous - as ever. These brave Afghans put their lives at risk every day, but the alternative - submitting to degrading and brutal treatment - is not an option for them.

Forced marriage for girls, sometimes as young as 11, abuse, wife beating and other forms of maltreatment are commonplace in Afghanistan and often lead to women committing suicide. In one such case, during November 2006, in the north of Afghanistan, an 11-year-old girl, Sanubar, was kidnapped by warlords and exchanged for a dog.

Extreme poverty, high mortality rates related to malnutrition and childbirth; and a culture of misogamy are still bleak features of everyday life in Afghanistan.

Security for girls is extremely poor, kidnap, rape and murder are frequent. Thirty years of war have left two million widows in Afghanistan, 50,000 of them in Kabul. These women and their children often live in horrific conditions.

More delusions:

When people live in freedom, they do not willingly choose leaders who pursue campaigns of terror. When people have hope in the future, they will not cede their lives to violence and extremism. So around the world, America is promoting human liberty, human rights, and human dignity. We're standing with dissidents and young democracies, providing AIDS medicine to dying patients -- to bring dying patients back to life, and sparing mothers and babies from malaria. And this great republic born alone in liberty is leading the world toward a new age when freedom belongs to all nations.
Peace, hope and freedom? All from "elections?" Tell it to the Palestinians. And as for "promoting human liberty, human rights and human dignity," you might want to refer to this Washington Post article in which a member of your own administration admits that we're in the business of committing Saddam Hussein-style torture. And the piece de resistance:

For eight years, we've also strived to expand opportunity and hope here at home. Across our country, students are rising to meet higher standards in public schools. A new Medicare prescription drug benefit is bringing peace of mind to seniors and the disabled. Every taxpayer pays lower income taxes. The addicted and suffering are finding new hope through faith-based programs. Vulnerable human life is better protected. Funding for our veterans has nearly doubled. America's air and water and lands are measurably cleaner. And the federal bench includes wise new members like Justice Sam Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.
Let's see ... under Bush's watch, the United States ranks near the bottom of the Western world on rankings for child health, child poverty and education. According to the 2008 American Human Development Project report:

  • The U.S. ranks #24 among the 30 most affluent countries in life expectancy – yet spends more on health care than any other nation.
  • The U.S. infant mortality rate is on par with that of Croatia, Cuba, Estonia, and Poland; if the U.S. infant mortality rate were the same as that of top-ranked Sweden, 21,000 more American babies would live to celebrate their first birthdays every year.
  • A baby born in Washington, D.C. is almost two-and-a-half times more likely to die before age one than a baby born in Vermont. African American babies are more than twice as likely to die before age one than either white or Latino babies.

... and on education:

  • Fourteen percent of the population – some 30 million Americans – lacks the literacy skills to perform simple, everyday tasks like understanding newspaper articles and instruction manuals.
  • Twelve percent of Americans lack the literacy skills to fill in a job application or payroll form, read a map or bus schedule, or understand labels on food and drugs.
  • More than one in five Americans – 22 percent of the population – have “below basic” quantitative skills, making it impossible to balance a checkbook, calculate a tip, or figure out from an advertisement the amount of interest on a loan.
  • In 2006, 4.5 million young people ages eighteen to twenty-four were not in school, not working, and had not graduated high school.

Heck of a job, Bushie. ...

Meanwhile, the faith based initiatives were declared a failure by the very man Bush put in charge of them. And veteran's funding has been given such short shrift, the Bush presidency manage to heap utter disgrace on such a vaunted place as Walter Reade Hospital, redefined under Bush's policies as a Dickensian hell hole.

And we haven't even gotten to Katrina, the corruption of the Justice Department, war crimes, war profiteering, Guantanamo prison and the decimated economy. ...

Bush's address tonight solved nothing for his place in history, which will be terribly low. It did nothing to advance his "legacy project," except to seal his place as one of the worst, if not the worst, presidents we've ever been cursed with.

The Economist puts it most succinctly with their headline: "The frat boy ships out." And their subhead makes the point crystal clear:

Few people will mourn the departure of the 43rd president

Amen.


Here's Chris Matthews' take on Bush's speech. The best line, a quote from Shakespeare -- "where did we find this sudden scholar?"





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posted by JReid @ 10:59 PM  
Charlie!
Now that he's married to a girl, Charlie Crist is being sought out for all KINDS of good stuff! The latest: the GOP is so starved for talent in the wake of the Jeb Bush withdrawal, some in the party are wooing Miss Charlie to run for Sideshow Mel's soon-to-be vacated Senate seat. From The Hill:

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) on Wednesday said efforts are ongoing to persuade Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) to run for his state’s open Senate seat.

“We’re going to continue to visit. It’s very early in the game, but recruitment is important and the ability to be competitive on the financial front is very important too. We’re working on both of those fronts,” Cornyn told The Hill.

Few Florida politicians can match Crist’s popularity and fundraising potential. The governor, a centrist who was elected in 2006, has denied any interest in running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Mel Martinez (R), but Cornyn, who has spoken to the governor about the race, suggested Crist may be open to persuasion.

Cornyn said he's also talked to Marco Rubio, and Florida's Senatorial Don Quixote, Bill "Kookoo" McCollum. Still to be seen: whether Kendrick Meek's Washington friends, including his newly minted campaign guru, Steve Hildebrand, can talk Alex Sink out of making a run on the D side. Of course, if she doesn't run, and Meek rolls over smaller fries like Dan Gelber, that will make it 12 consecutive years of his political life without an actual opponent or difficult race. Not exactly a good thing if you're about to take on a desperate Republican Party for seat #60 in the Senate...

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posted by JReid @ 1:08 PM  
Journalists' compound hit in Gaza
Horrible incident, even worse P.R.:



Meanwhile, Israel's PM says gunmen fired from the United Nations compound that was also shelled by the IDF. Question: can you EVER fire on a U.N. compound?

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posted by JReid @ 10:31 AM  
Obama's letter to his daughters
Obama writes a touching letter to his daughters, and to America's kids. An excerpt:
I know that you've both had a lot of fun these last two years on the campaign trail, going to picnics and parades and state fairs, eating all sorts of junk food your mother and I probably shouldn't have let you have. But I also know that it hasn't always been easy for you and Mom, and that as excited as you both are about that new puppy, it doesn't make up for all the time we've been apart. I know how much I've missed these past two years, and today I want to tell you a little more about why I decided to take our family on this journey.

When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me-about how I'd make my way in the world, become successful, and get the things I want. But then the two of you came into my world with all your curiosity and mischief and those smiles that never fail to fill my heart and light up my day. And suddenly, all my big plans for myself didn't seem so important anymore. I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the joy I saw in yours. And I realized that my own life wouldn't count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours. In the end, girls, that's why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation.

I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential-schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college-even if their parents aren't rich. And I want them to get good jobs: jobs that pay well and give them benefits like health care, jobs that let them spend time with their own kids and retire with dignity.
Plus, the official portrait is released.

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posted by JReid @ 10:27 AM  
The right's self-immolation derby continues: they're bringing back Schiavo!
Okay, so I'm driving home the other night and happen to stop on the Michael Savage show. I know, I know, I really can't offer a coherent excuse. So anyway, he has on a guy who's promising that the right will not lie down while Barack Obama turns this county into a secular socialist hell hole. And how are the wingers going to demonstrate their resolve? By bringing back the Terri Schiavo case. No, seriously, they're bringing back the Schiavo case. From the Family Research Council, a manifesto on how to fight an upcoming Obama nominee. It's called, completely without irony, "Change Watch..."

Change Watch Backgrounder: Thomas J. Perrelli

POSTION: ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL

NOMINEE: Thomas J. Perrelli

Born: March 12, 1966

Occupation: Managing Partner of Jenner & Block's Washington, DC office.

Education: graduated from Harvard Law School, magna cum laude, in 1991

Clinton White House: In 1997, served as counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno. He subsequently rose to Deputy Assistant Attorney General, supervising the Federal Programs Branch of the Civil Division, which represents virtually every federal agency in complex civil litigation. Perrelli also supervised the Justice Department's Tobacco Litigation Team in its litigation against the major cigarette manufacturers.

End of Life issues

"An attorney who won an award for representing Terri Schiavo's husband Michael in his efforts to kill his disabled wife is now an advisor to the transition team of incoming president Barack Obama.

Thomas Perrelli, who raised over $500,000 for the pro-abortion presidential candidate and is the managing partner of a Washington law firm, Jenner & Block LLP, is helping advise Obama on putting together a Justice Department team.

However, Perrelli provided Michael Schiavo with legal advice during his response to the Congressional bill that President Bush signed allowing the Schindler family to take their lawsuit seeking to prevent Terri's euthanasia death from state to federal courts.

Perrelli led the Jenner & Block team that developed the legal briefs opposing appeals for Michael and he ultimately received the Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Pro Bono Award in October 2006 for representing Terri's former husband at no cost.

On Michael's legal team, Perrelli worked with infamous pro-euthanasia attorney George Felos as well as lawyers from the Florida chapter of the ACLU."

They also don't like the fact that he supports redistricting under the Voting Rights Act. So there you have it. The fight is on, and it's about black people, and Terri Schiavo. Good move, FRC... please, please, keep it up.



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posted by JReid @ 9:04 AM  
Would you sleep with this girl for $1 million?
Hey, you can't say she doesn't have a plan:

Natalie Dylan, 22, claims her offer of a one-night stand has persuaded 10,000 men to bid for sex with her.

Last September, when her auction came to light, she had received bids up to £162,000 ($243,000) but since then interest in her has rocketed.

The student who has a degree in Women's Studies insisted she was not demeaning herself.

Miss Dylan, from San Diego, California, USA, said she was persuaded to offer herself to the highest bidder after her sister Avia, 23, paid for her own degree after working as a prostitute for three weeks.

She said she had had a lot of attention from a wide range of men, including "weirdos", "those who get really graphically sexual about what they want to do to me" and "lots of polite requests from rich businessmen".

Note to Nat: the rich businessmen are probably weirdos, too...

UPDATE: The bidding's up to $2 million plus. And the Natalie pix get racier.


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posted by JReid @ 8:42 AM  
An Israeli plea for mercy
Gideon Levy sounds the voice of reason in Israel:
It is enough to look at the pictures coming from Shifa Hospital to see how many burned, bleeding and dying children now lie there. History has seen innumerable brutal wars take countless lives.

But the horrifying proportion of this war, a third of the dead being children, has not been seen in recent memory.

God does not show mercy on the children at Gaza's nursery schools, and neither does the Israel Defense Forces. That's how it goes when war is waged in such a densely populated area with a population so blessed with children. About half of Gaza's residents are under 15.

No pilot or soldier went to war to kill children. Not one among them intended to kill children, but it also seems neither did they intend not to kill them. They went to war after the IDF had already killed 952 Palestinian children and adolescents since May 2000.

The public's shocking indifference to these figures is incomprehensible. A thousand propagandists and apologists cannot excuse this criminal killing. One can blame Hamas for the death of children, but no reasonable person in the world will buy these ludicrous, flawed propagandistic goods in light of the pictures and statistics coming from Gaza.

One can say Hamas hides among the civilian population, as if the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv is not located in the heart of a civilian population, as if there are places in Gaza that are not in the heart of a civilian population. One can also claim that Hamas uses children as human shields, as if in the past our own organizations fighting to establish a country did not recruit children.

A significant majority of the children killed in Gaza did not die because they were used as human shields or because they worked for Hamas. They were killed because the IDF bombed, shelled or fired at them, their families or their apartment buildings. That is why the blood of Gaza's children is on our hands, not on Hamas' hands, and we will never be able to escape that responsibility.

He ends with the point that when these children grow up, what they will carry with them is rage, not conciliation. How can peace possibly come of that?

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posted by JReid @ 8:37 AM  
Memo to Israel: stop shelling the U.N.
This is what it's come to. The Israelis are now bombing the United Nations. From the Independent UK:

The UN refugee agency says its Gaza headquarters has been struck by Israeli artillery fire and the building is now ablaze.

Spokesman Chris Gunness says the building was hit by what was believed to be three white phosphorous shells. The weapons burn at extremely high temperatures and can set things on fire.

However, witnesses said a nearby building was struck, and the UN building remained intact. It was hard to verify the accounts because the entire area was covered in black smoke.

Gunness says the building had been used as a shelter for hundreds of people fleeing Israel's 20-day offensive in Gaza. It's not clear how many people were there at the time. He says three people were injured.

Meanwhile the Palestinian death toll has topped 1,000, including scores of civilians, which of course, leads to charges that war crimes are being committed (shelling schools was not a good start). And the accusations are coming from inside Israel:

Israel is under suspicion of committing war crimes and should halt the "clear and present danger to the lives and well-being of tens of thousands of civilians" in Gaza, nine of the country's main human rights organisations have declared.

The Israeli organisations have written to the government, armed forces chiefs and the attorney general, condemning the "unprecedented" harm to a civilian population now in "extreme humanitarian distress", the "wanton use of lethal force" and a series of what it says are "blatant violations of the laws of warfare".

These include the fact that, apart from the death toll, with border crossings closed residents are unable to escape the war zone and are living in "fear and terror". The organisations also cited the dire capacity problems of Gaza's hospital system and the failure to evacuate about 600 wounded and chronically ill patients; what they say is prevention by the army of rescue teams reaching isolated areas which have come under intensive attack; and the fact that, with sewage now flowing in many streets, more than half a million people are without clean water and 250,000 residents have been without electricity for 18 days. Another million residents are without power at any one time, the organisations said.

The agencies also said 12 medical personnel had been killed, and another 17 injured, and that there had been 15 separate attacks on medical facilities. Meanwhile, Israel was hitting civilian targets which it defined as military solely because they are defined as "symbols of power" in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Several human rights representatives went out of their way to make clear they were just as vigorous in their condemnation of the killing and injuring of Israeli civilians in militant rocket and mortar attacks. But their letter says the harm inflicted on Gaza's 1.5 million civilian population is "disproportionate" and calls on the government to open corridors to allow residents to escape the fighting and rescue teams to reach the injured.

Asked about the large majority of Israelis the polls show as supporting the warfare in Gaza, the Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard said: "We are witnessing a moral corrosion." Five years ago, when 15 bystanders were killed when a bomb was used to assassinate the Hamas militant leader Saleh Shehadeh, "there had been a very serious debate. Today we're doing it daily and and no one says a word. The [Israel Defence Forces] has stopped expressing regret".

Someone ought to ask the Israeli leadership, and the citizens of that country: what does it profit Israel to terrorize 1.5 million Palestinians and kill thousands? In the end, who will be left to even want to make peace? The Independent also offers these grim, and telling, statistics:

Gaza: The statistics so far

19 Number of days that the conflict has been going on.

2,360 Number of Israeli airstrikes so far.

1,013 Number of Palestinianskilled so far.

670 Number of casualties who are civilians.

225 Number of childcasualties.

69 Number ofwomen casualties.

4,700 Number of Palestinians wounded.

10 Number of Israelisoldiers killed.

4 Number of Israelis killed by friendly fire.

3 Number of Israeli civilians hit by rockets fired from Gaza.

670 civilians to 3. Hm. Meanwhile, from the BBC:

  • The UK Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch-Brown says the British government "utterly" condemns the attack on the UN headquarters in Gaza. Fierce criticism also came from the French foreign ministry

  • The Shurouq tower block in Gaza City, which houses the offices of the Reuters news agency and several other organisations, is hit by an explosion, injuring a journalist for the Abu Dhabi television channel

  • Leaders of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council are to meet in Saudi Arabia to discuss the crisis. The Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, said the meeting was convened because of what he called Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people

  • A boat carrying medical supplies to Gaza is surrounded by Israeli warships in international waters off Lebanon's southern coast and forced to return to Cyprus, according to charity Free Gaza

  • Palestinian deaths in the Gaza Strip reach 1,028 according to Gaza medical sources. Nearly a third of the dead are said to be children

And this very important point:

Egypt and other key Arab players can do some coaxing and arm-twisting with Hamas, says BBC Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi, but there is little pressure they can bring to bear upon Israel: only the US has that sort of influence.

Yet we refuse to use it.

Meanwhile, the NY Times asks, where is Fatah?

JERUSALEM — Israel hoped that the war in Gaza would not only cripple Hamas, but eventually strengthen its secular rival, the Palestinian Authority, and even allow it to claw its way back into Gaza.

But with each day, the authority, its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and its leading party, Fatah, seem increasingly beleaguered and marginalized, even in the Palestinian cities of the West Bank, which they control. Protesters accuse Mr. Abbas of not doing enough to stop the carnage in Gaza — indeed, his own police officers have used clubs and tear gas against those same protesters.

The more bombs in Gaza, the more Hamas’s support seems to be growing at the expense of the Palestinian Authority, already considered corrupt and distant from average Palestinians.

“The Palestinian Authority is one of the main losers in this war,” said Ghassan Khatib, an independent Palestinian analyst in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “How can it make gains in a war in which it is one of the casualties?”

Israel is proposing, with the tacit agreement of Egypt and the United States, to place the Palestinian Authority at the heart of an ambitious program to rebuild Gaza, administering reconstruction aid and securing Gaza’s borders. But that plan is already drawing skepticism. Mr. Khatib, for example, called the idea of any Palestinian Authority role in postwar Gaza “silly” and “naïve.”

Perhaps more dispiriting to the ever fewer who believe that any overall settlement is possible now — with peace negotiations suspended and Palestinians divided between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank — is that Israel itself does not really hold out high hopes for a larger postwar role for Fatah. Israel’s proposals seem dutiful, an acknowledgment of a stalemate that not even so ferocious an assault on Hamas can undo.


In other words, there is no good outcome.


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posted by JReid @ 8:18 AM  
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Inaugural headaches
No, I'm not caught up on blogging. But I am caught up on the nightmare that is preparing to go to the Obama inaugural. Not that I'm not happy for the brother, and insanely relieved that he's going to be president (Bush can't get out of town soon enough for me, no matter what great comedy relief he provides...) and not that I'm not completely enraptured by the fact that we're about to make history by rather matter of factly inaugurating our first black president ...

But here's the thing: the process of credentialing media for the multi-day, multi-part event has been, to put it in lay terms, PURE HELL.

First, we had to submit multiple pictures, each one more ghastly and mug shot-like than the last.

Then, we had to wait, and wait, and wait, to find out if we were even getting credentials.

Now, we find out that yeah, we have credentials, but only sort of. I'm going to be broadcasting from radio row on Tuesday, for Hot 105 Miami/FTL. Other than that? Bupkis. I have tickets to the swearing in, but beyong that? Who knows. It turns out that each individual event, and I do mean each ... requires its very own press credential. In short, media will have to walk around with like, a dozen different color credentials around our necks, or else.

I'm not sure whether to blame the capitol police, the Secret Service (whom I've always found to be lovely people, by the way, during my several dealings with Obamaworld) or the Presidential Inaugural Committee... you know? I'm going with them. This process is extremely frustrating and random.

And it's going to be freezing in D.C.

And my kids are going to be miserable...

Not that I'm not ecstatic to be going...

We hit the road on the 17th.

If you're going, here's the official schedule.

Here is the Big Ball & Party List... and here's where to party without an invite (myself included)

and check out the Washingtonian's guide to D.C. during the big week.

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posted by JReid @ 12:14 PM  
Monday, January 12, 2009
Meek expected to jump into the Senate race tomorrow
Just got a press release. Kendrick Meek is holding a press conference tomorrow morning to make an announcement regarding the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sideshow Mel Martinez. Does anybody know what's on Alex Sink's public schedule tomorrow...? I have calls out to a couple of sources to find out if I should burn the gas to be at the presser...

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posted by JReid @ 3:17 PM  
Friday, January 09, 2009
Blago impeached; Burris rebuffed


As expected, the Illinois Senate voted to impeach Rod Blagojevich today, with just one 'no' vote from a retiring State House member.

Rep. Milt Patterson (D-Chicago) was the lone vote against impeaching the governor. Patterson, from Chicago's Southwest Side, said after the roll call that he didn't feel it was his job to vote to impeach the governor. He declined comment on whether he approved of the job Blagojevich is doing.

A Blagojevich spokesman said the governor will not resign.

Meanwhile, in the battle of Roland Burris vs Jesse White, it's Jesse by a vote:

The Illinois Supreme Court today rejected Roland Burris' effort to get the signature he needs to complete his appointment to the U.S. Senate.

Burris was seeking to compel Secretary of State Jesse White to sign the certification of appointment naming Burris to the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Gov. Rod Blagojevich named Burris to the Senate seat last week, but White refused to sign the required paperwork because the governor has been charged with crimes including trying to sell the Senate seat.

Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate have cited the lack of White's signature as a reason not to allow Burris into the Senate.

White has maintained that his signature is purely symbolic, and the high court agreed in its refusal to grant the motion.

"Because the secretary of state had no duty ... to sign and affix the state seal to the document issued by the governor appointing Roland Burris to the United States Senate, petitioners are not entitled to an order from this court requiring the secretary to perform those acts," the high court wrote in its opinion. "Under the secretary of state act, the secretary's sole responsibility was to register the appointment, which he did."

Um... somebody had better call Harry... how does this guy manage to lose even when he's not even playing?

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posted by JReid @ 2:16 PM  
The Big News Post: Damn, this economy sucks!
The U.S. economy is shedding jobs like dog hair ... unemployment has hit a 16-year high of 7.2 percent ... with 524,000 jobs lost in December alone (projections put it at 9 percent or more by next year):

The economy lost an astonishing 1.9 million jobs in the past four months alone, an acceleration in layoffs toward the end of a year that brought the biggest drop in employment in more than a half century.

For all of 2008, the economy shed 2.6 million jobs, the largest decline since a 2.75 million drop in 1945.

The December data pointed to a bleak start for 2009 and increased chances the economic downturn could become the longest since the 1930s.

Great Depression? Maybe so. BTW re Obama's stimulus plan: Krugman is not amused.

Why isn’t Mr. Obama trying to do more?

Is the plan being limited by fear of debt? There are dangers associated with large-scale government borrowing — and this week’s C.B.O. report projected a $1.2 trillion deficit for this year. But it would be even more dangerous to fall short in rescuing the economy. The president-elect spoke eloquently and accurately on Thursday about the consequences of failing to act — there’s a real risk that we’ll slide into a prolonged, Japanese-style deflationary trap — but the consequences of failing to act adequately aren’t much better.

Is the plan being limited by a lack of spending opportunities? There are only a limited number of “shovel-ready” public investment projects — that is, projects that can be started quickly enough to help the economy in the near term. But there are other forms of public spending, especially on health care, that could do good while aiding the economy in its hour of need.

Or is the plan being limited by political caution? Press reports last month indicated that Obama aides were anxious to keep the final price tag on the plan below the politically sensitive trillion-dollar mark. There also have been suggestions that the plan’s inclusion of large business tax cuts, which add to its cost but will do little for the economy, is an attempt to win Republican votes in Congress.
Meanwhile, more proof that Bush's $700 billion TARP swindle was just that: a massive giveaway to the country's largest banks, in exchange for nothing. Nothing for mortgage holders, nothing for taxpayers, though they did give bonuses to their CEOs and dividends to their richest investors. Hopefully, Obama will scrap the plan and use the remaining $350 billion to beef up his stimulus plan.

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posted by JReid @ 2:03 PM  
U.N. ceasefire call ignored
From the BBC:

Israel is to keep up its offensive in the Gaza Strip despite a UN call for an immediate end to nearly two weeks of conflict involving Hamas militants.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the latest firing of rockets into Israel showed the resolution was "unworkable". Hamas has also dismissed the UN's call.

The Security Council resolution demanded a truce, access for aid workers and an end to arms smuggling.

Meanwhile, the UN said its main aid agency would resume operations in Gaza.
And there's this:
Earlier, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said an alleged failure of the Israeli military to help wounded civilians in Gaza - cited by the Red Cross - could constitute a war crime.

On Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said its staff had found four weak and scared children beside their mothers' bodies in houses hit by shelling in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City.

Ms Pillay told the BBC: "The incident the Red Cross describes is very troubling because it has all the elements of what constitutes a war crime.

Death ratio in the conflict so far? 770 Palestinians versus 14 Israelis.

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posted by JReid @ 1:58 PM  
The Friday funnies: Sarah Palin, also too...


It's all part of a media busting "documentary" being filmed by a guy named John Ziegler, who according to a caller on the Stephanie Miller Show today, was seriously picked on in high school, poor thing. He wants you to know that Sarah is not an idiot! It's the evil liberal media that's making you THINK she's an idiot... Also there too, she tells Ziegler that the media bias there, and also too Keith Olbermann, that guy's evil!

Anyhoo, gotta sign off now, cause it's time to practice my fancy pageant walkin'!

Update: Sarah says the mainstream media elite are taking her Ziegler interview out of context. No seriously, she's really saying that...

And U.S. News' Robert Schlessinger says that for her own good, Sarah needs to just go away.

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posted by JReid @ 1:41 PM  
Thursday, January 08, 2009
UPDATE: U.N. quits humanitarian mission in Gaza
From CNN:
The main humanitarian aid group for the United Nations in Gaza has suspended activities in the Palestinian territory, its chief spokesman said Thursday.

The move comes after a U.N. Relief and Works Agency truck driver was killed and two other people were wounded by an Israeli tank shell near the Erez Crossing, said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the U.N. agency in Gaza.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said it is not aware of the attack but said Hamas militants sometimes have targeted U.N. aid trucks to take food.

The U.N. relief agency will suspend activities until the Israeli military can guarantee the safety of its staff, said the agency's chief spokesman, Chris Gunness, in Jerusalem.

The U.N. agency provides food and relief supplies to about 80 percent of Gaza's 1.5 million people.

Meanwhile, Israeli envoys arrive in Egypt for "peace" talks.

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posted by JReid @ 12:32 PM  
Obama calls for bold action on the economy
Obama delivered his first major economic speech since becoming president this morning. First, he makes a couple of basic points:

This crisis did not happen solely by some accident of history or normal turn of the business cycle, and we won’t get out of it by simply waiting for a better day to come, or relying on the worn-out dogmas of the past. ...

... ow, the very fact that this crisis is largely of our own making means that it is not beyond our ability to solve. Our problems are rooted in past mistakes, not our capacity for future greatness.

And sets down a core Democratic principle worthy of FDR:

It is true that we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or long-term growth, but at this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe. Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy – where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less spending; where an inability to lend and borrow stops growth and leads to even less credit.



Here's video of the opening remarks:



Okay, now for the plan, which starts with the much mentioned "green jobs":

To finally spark the creation of a clean energy economy, we will double the production of alternative energy in the next three years. We will modernize more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills. In the process, we will put Americans to work in new jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced – jobs building solar panels and wind turbines; constructing fuel-efficient cars and buildings; and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to even more jobs, more savings, and a cleaner, safer planet in the bargain.

On health care, a plan that so far, is not exactly bold:

To improve the quality of our health care while lowering its cost, we will make the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within five years, all of America’s medical records are computerized. This will cut waste, eliminate red tape, and reduce the need to repeat expensive medical tests. But it just won’t save billions of dollars and thousands of jobs – it will save lives by reducing the deadly but preventable medical errors that pervade our health care system.

I didn't read the word "universal" in there, or see dramatic change that doesn't sound strangely like something Jeb Bush would come up with ... okay, giving him and Tom Daschle the benefit of the doubt on that one, we move on to education:

To give our children the chance to live out their dreams in a world that’s never been more competitive, we will equip tens of thousands of schools, community colleges, and public universities with 21st century classrooms, labs, and libraries. We’ll provide new computers, new technology, and new training for teachers so that students in Chicago and Boston can compete with kids in Beijing for the high-tech, high-wage jobs of the future.

And infrastructure:

To build an economy that can lead this future, we will begin to rebuild America. Yes, we’ll put people to work repairing crumbling roads, bridges, and schools by eliminating the backlog of well-planned, worthy and needed infrastructure projects. But we’ll also do more to retrofit America for a global economy. That means updating the way we get our electricity by starting to build a new smart grid that will save us money, protect our power sources from blackout or attack, and deliver clean, alternative forms of energy to every corner of our nation. It means expanding broadband lines across America, so that a small business in a rural town can connect and compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world. And it means investing in the science, research, and technology that will lead to new medical breakthroughs, new discoveries, and entire new industries.

And last but not least, cash to the starving states, and to taxpayers:

Finally, this recovery and reinvestment plan will provide immediate relief to states, workers, and families who are bearing the brunt of this recession. To get people spending again, 95% of working families will receive a $1,000 tax cut – the first stage of a middle-class tax cut that I promised during the campaign and will include in our next budget. To help Americans who have lost their jobs and can’t find new ones, we’ll continue the bipartisan extensions of unemployment insurance and health care coverage to help them through this crisis. Government at every level will have to tighten its belt, but we’ll help struggling states avoid harmful budget cuts, as long as they take responsibility and use the money to maintain essential services like police, fire, education, and health care.

It somehow doesn't sound as bold when you've been hearing essentially the same thing for a year, but hey, it's a step forward. Read the whole speech here.

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posted by JReid @ 12:17 PM  
If the world is powerless to stop this...
... then what is the point of having an "international community," or a United Nations, or an Arab League, for that matter. From the Washington Post (which also runs this photo essay):
JERUSALEM, Jan. 8 -- The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday that it had found at least 15 bodies and several children -- emaciated but alive -- in a row of shattered houses in the Gaza Strip and accused the Israeli military of preventing ambulances from reaching the site for four days.

Red Cross officials said rescue crews had received specific reports of casualties in the houses and had been trying since Saturday to send ambulances to the area, located in Zaytoun, a neighborhood south of Gaza City. They said the Israeli military did not grant permission until Wednesday afternoon.

In an unusual public statement issued by its Geneva headquarters, the Red Cross called the episode "unacceptable" and said the Israeli military had "failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded."

When rescue workers from the Red Cross and the Palestinian Red Crescent arrived at the site, they found 12 corpses lying on mattresses in one home, along with four young children lying next to their dead mothers, the Red Cross said. The children were too weak to stand and were rushed to a hospital, the agency said.

A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces declined to comment early Thursday on the specific allegations made by the Red Cross but said in a statement that the military "has demonstrated its willingness to abort operations to save civilian lives and to risk injury in order to assist innocent civilians."

"Any serious allegations made against the IDF's conduct will need to be investigated properly, once such a complaint is received formally," the statement added.

The Red Cross said its workers evacuated 18 wounded survivors from the houses in donkey carts. They said ambulances could not reach the site because of earthen barriers erected around the neighborhood by the Israeli military. Red Cross officials said that Israeli soldiers posted nearby tried to chase rescue workers away from the site but that the rescuers refused to leave.

"This is a shocking incident," Pierre Wettach, the Red Cross's head of delegation for Israel and the Palestinian territories, said in a statement. "The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded."

The Geneva Conventions provide that parties to a conflict "at all times" should "without delay" take "all possible measures to search for and collect the wounded and sick, to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment, to ensure their adequate care, and to search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled." The conventions also say that wounded "shall not willfully be left without medical assistance and care."

The Post and the BBC report that Israel is now also firing on Lebanon, after rockets were launched from there this morning, including one that hit a nursing home. No one was killed. Some 700 Palestinians and 11 Israelis have been killed in the 12-day-old war. Meanwhile, the American Jewish Committee has taken out radio ads defending Israel's action. And Jimmy Carter has written an op-ed condemning the conflict, and explaining its origins.

Israel has accepted the broad outlines of the French-Egyptian ceasefire proposal, but they want all of the smuggling tunnels into Gaza closed. Coincidentally, since they have instituted a total blockade of Gaza and it's 1.5 million residents since 2007, the tunnels have been the strip's only source of food, besides humanitarian aid, according to the Post. Go figure.


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posted by JReid @ 8:58 AM  
When Roland met Harry
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and his sidekick, Dick Durbin would like you to know that Roland Burris doesn't think they're racist. And seeing as how Burris presents himself so well, and really, really loves his family... Harry will do what he always does: capitulate, this time in a self-created mess, and having allowed an embarassing spectacle to take place at what should have been the triumphal opening of the even more Democratic Senate. Just like I told you he would.



By the way, the signature of the Illinois secretary of state is a ceremonial matter and not at all necessary for Burris to be seated. Durbin and Reid's claims to the contrary are a pathetic sideshow, which White, by the way, resents. Oh, and he's black, too, although I'm sure he's extremely proud of his family...

I think I'll score this one, Rod Blagojevich: 2, Harry Reid: 0.

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posted by JReid @ 8:40 AM  
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Now that's interesting... Surgeon General Gupta
Barack goes for the wow factor (and a fellow Harvard man) for Surgeon General.

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

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

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

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

Picking Gupta, who by the way, used to write speeches for Hillary Clinton, means Obama plans to use his public persona to push through what must be, or perhaps hopefully will be, a massive reorganization of the nation's healthcare system. The one, two punch of picking Gupta and Daschle signals that the Obama people are serious about getting the policy through Congress (Daschle), and explaining it credibly to the American people (Gupta).

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posted by JReid @ 9:13 AM  
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
What the... ??? No Jebbie for Senate in 2010
There's an old story that George H.W. Bush told the two sons who hadn't bankrupted a savings and loan, that whichever of them won their respective races for governor -- Jeb (dad's favorite) in Florida, and George (mom's favorite) in Texas, would be the one to run for president. Jeb lost (narrowly) and with the loss went his long held ambition to be president. Now that his big brother has screwed it up royally, you'd think the family ambition had died. Not so with "Poppy," who's still delusional, or loving, enough to believe his baby boy -- the smart one (or the chubby one, depending on your point of view...) -- can be president someday (and perhaps restore the family honor???) But apparently, for Jeb, the thrill of running for election, at least for now, is gone. [Illustration at left by Cox and Forkum]

Sad to say, for those of us who relished an exciting contest, Jebbie ain't running for Senate in 2010. (Sigh.)

"I can play a role in helping to reshape the Republican Party's message and focus on 21st century solutions to 21st century problems," Bush told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "Not running does not preclude me from being involved in these things and I will be."

Bush seriously considered a run after Martinez said last month he wouldn't seek a second term. Bush spoke with senators, supporters and family, including his brother, President George W. Bush, and his father, former President George Bush.

He said his decision wasn't based on politics, but on his "personal journey." He said his brother's low approval rating didn't factor into his decision, and that Floridians are familiar with his record as governor.

His personal journey also includes business interests he'd rather not air out during a Senate run. Not to spoil the moment or anything... from the LAT version:

... running would have subjected Bush to scrutiny of his business dealings, such as his service as an advisor to the now-failed Lehman Bros. investment bank. And despite approval ratings above 60%, Bush would have become a national target and would have had to devote time during the campaign to defending the record of his unpopular brother.

Jeb did have some parting advice for his party:

Bush said the GOP should cooperate with the Obama administration in dealing with climate change and reforming the immigration system. And Bush -- a fluent Spanish speaker whose wife is Mexican American -- singled out for criticism those in his party who have used harsh language in their opposition to illegal immigrants.

"The adjectives and adverbs used, the raising of the voice and the anger . . . I think is very harmful politically for the Republican Party," he said. "There's got to be a better way of expressing our views without turning people off."

See? Told ya he's the smart one. Devious... but smart. Now, of course, the Florida Senate race is a total jump ball. Poor Bill McCollum, the Don Quixote of Florida politics, will undoubtedly run, again... as will GOP semi-wunderkind Marco Rubio, the former Speaker of the House, who brings with him the "cute factor," even though he looks like a teenager and wants to drill up the Florida coast. On the Dem side, it's all about state CFO Alex Sink, who hopefully won't drag her hubby Bill McBride along on the campaign trail too often. After that it gets down to Dan Gelber. I know, you're thinking "who?" and possibly, maybe Kendrick Meek, who would have a much better shot at it now that Jeb's out of the way. We shall see...


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posted by JReid @ 11:46 PM  
Feinstein to Harry: let Burris in
The cracks in Harry Reid's leaky lifeboat begin to show:
WASHINGTON -- Democratic leaders seeking to bar Roland Burris from the Senate suffered an important crack in support as they prepared to meet with him on Wednesday to begin negotiations over whether he will be able to take the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the outgoing chairwoman of the committee that judges senators' credentials, urged that the Senate seat Burris, arguing that his appointment by Gov. Rod Blagojevich was lawful regardless of the corruption allegations swirling around the Illinois governor. "If you don't seat Mr. Burris, it has ramifications for gubernatorial appointments all over America," Feinstein told reporters in a Capitol hallway Tuesday. "Mr. Burris is a senior, experienced politician. He has been Attorney General, he has been (Comptroller), and he is very well-respected. I am hopeful that this will be settled."
Whoops! BTW that would be the rules committee that Feinstein is moving on from. And doesn't she want to be governor of California someday? (Her and Meg Whitman... wouldn't that be interesting. The layoff queen leading an economy in crisis...)

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posted by JReid @ 11:39 PM  
Obama remembers the first rule of living with women
He apologizes to Diane Feinstein for surprising her with his CIA pick.
"I have been contacted by both President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden, and they have explained to me the reasons why they believe Leon Panetta is the best candidate for CIA Director," she said.
He does live with three women, you know...

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posted by JReid @ 11:36 PM  
A smart take on the Gaza conflict: both sides are wrong
On the CNN website today, from international human rights lawyer, and "Islamic pacifist," Arsalan Iftikhar ...

Regardless of who's to blame for the origins of the conflict, shame on both Hamas and Israel for their recent violations of international law that have led to a humanitarian inferno in Gaza and southern Israel.

Hamas is to be blamed for its sophomoric provocation of its neighbor's military wrath by firing missiles into southern Israel. Israel also should be condemned for its disproportionately inhumane onslaught in Gaza, which has currently left 555 people dead and 2,750 injured, according to Palestinian medical sources cited by CNN. The United Nations estimates that at least 25 percent of Palestinians killed have been civilians.

Simply put, both sides have committed acts tantamount to "war crimes," and both continue to violate international law repeatedly in this nightmare.

Under international law, the Geneva Conventions prohibit armed reprisals that intentionally inflict "collective punishment" against civilian populations as well as the targeting of nonmilitary targets.

Both Israel (with its military onslaught in Gaza) and Hamas (with its primitive rocket-firing into southern Israel) violate Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, which states: "No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited."

... Further, the legal doctrine of "proportionality" originated in the 1907 Hague Conventions where, according to Lionel Beehner, writing for the Council of Foreign Relations, "a state is legally allowed to unilaterally defend itself and right a wrong provided the response is proportional to the injury suffered. The response must also be immediate and necessary, refrain from targeting civilians and require only enough force to reinstate the status quo ante."

Israeli columnist Gideon Levy bravely tackled the "proportionality" debate recently in Israel's Haaretz newspaper by writing: "Once again, Israel's violent responses, even if there is justification for them, exceed all proportion and cross every red line of humaneness, morality, international law and wisdom. ... What began in Gaza is a war crime and the foolishness of a country."

Levy later cogently added, "In its foolishness, Hamas brought this on itself and on its people, but this does not excuse Israel's overreaction."

Well said. You can find Iftikhar's blog here.

Meanwhile, Israel's moderate voices are beginning to speak up on the advancing humanitarian disaster unfolding in Gaza.

And the Independent's Robert Fisk, who has covered the Middle East for two decades, I think, offers a much more sobering, jarring take on things.


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posted by JReid @ 10:58 PM  
U.N. 'demands ceasefire' after school shelling
Which is to say they issued a sternly worded statement of oblique outrage over the shelling of a United Nations school in Gaza. Take that, Hamas and Israel ... From the BBC:

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for an immediate end to fighting in the Gaza Strip during a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York.

Mr Ban criticised both Israel for its bombardment of Gaza and Hamas for firing rockets into Israel.

Well I'll be... With Mr. Bush punting on the issue, it's left to the French and Egyptians to try and force a peace deal:

France and Egypt announced an initiative to stop the fighting in Gaza late Tuesday, hours after Israeli mortar shells exploded near a U.N. school sheltering hundreds of people displaced by the onslaught on Hamas militants. At least 30 Palestinians died, staining streets with blood.

The Egyptian and French presidents didn't release details of their proposal, saying only that it involved an immediate cease-fire to permit humanitarian aid into Gaza and talks to settle the differences between Israel and the Islamic militants of Hamas who rule the small coastal territory.

They said they were awaiting a response from Israel.

Care to guess how Condi Rice responded?
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice weclomed the initiative, but cautioned that no agreement would succeed unless it halted Hamas rocket attacks on Israel and arms smuggling into Gaza.
Meanwhile President-in-waiting Obama had a little bit more to say on the topic than he has:
Earlier in the day, President-elect Barack Obama broke his silence on the crisis, saying that "the loss of civilian life in Gaza and in Israel is a source of deep concern for me." He declined to go further, reiterating his stance that the U.S. has only one president at a time.
Neither here nor there, I'd say, but at least it's something.

And what is Israel's explanation for shelling a clearly marked United Nation's elementary school, whose GPS coordinates they were given ... by the U.N.?
Israel's military said its shelling at the school — the deadliest single episode since Israeli ground forces invaded Gaza on Saturday after a week of air bombardment — was a response to mortar fire from within the school and said Hamas militants were using civilians as cover.

Two residents of the area who spoke with The Associated Press by telephone said they saw a small group of militants firing mortar rounds from a street near the school, where 350 people had gathered to get away from the shelling. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Majed Hamdan, an AP photographer, rushed to the scene shortly after the attacks. At the hospital, he said, many children were among the dead.

"I saw women and men — parents — slapping their faces in grief, screaming, some of them collapsed to the floor. They knew their children were dead," he said. "In the morgue, most of the killed appeared to be children. In the hospital, there wasn't enough space for the wounded."

He said there appeared to be marks on the pavement of five separate explosions in area of the school.

An Israeli defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to make the information public, said it appeared the military used 120-mm shells, among the largest mortar rounds.

...U.N. officials demanded an investigation of the shelling. The carnage, which included 55 wounded, added to a surging civilian toll and drew mounting international pressure for Israel to end the offensive against Hamas.
So ... you shell an elementary school where you know civilians are hiding ... so you can kill two low level militants who are firing rockets near by? That strikes me as grossly immoral at worst, and at best, as a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions. Not that anyone will ever do anything about it... So far, Israel has shelled not one, but three United Nations schools, including a girls school where they claimed militants were hiding. There are other interpretations of who's hiding there:
Some 15,000 Palestinians have packed the U.N.'s 23 Gaza schools because their homes were destroyed or to flee the violence. The U.N. provided the Israeli military with GPS coordinates for all of them.

The three mortar shells that crashed down on the perimeter of the U.N. school struck at midafternoon, when many people in the densely populated camp were outside getting some fresh air, thinking an area around a school was safe.

Images recorded by a cameraman from AP Television News showed crowds fleeing the scene, pavements smeared with blood and battered bodies being carried off by medics and bystanders. A youth who limped away was helped along by several others. Sandals lay scattered on the pavement by a pock-marked wall.

"There's nowhere safe in Gaza. Everyone here is terrorized and traumatized," said John Ging, head of Gaza operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

An Israeli military statement said it received intelligence that the dead at the girls school included Hamas operatives, among them members of a rocket-launching squad. It identified two of them as Imad Abu Askar and Hassan Abu Askar.

Two residents who spoke to an AP reporter by phone said the two brothers were known to be low-level Hamas militants. They said a group of militants — one of them said four — were firing mortar shells from near the school.
An Israeli shell targeted the men, but missed and they fled, the witnesses said. Then another three shells landed nearby, exploding among civilians, they said, refusing to allow their names to be published because they feared for their safety.

A total of 71 Palestinians were killed Tuesday — with just two confirmed as militants, Gaza health officials said.
Palestinian health ministry officials put the death toll at 595, including 195 civilians, in the eleven days of constant bombardment. The Israeli death toll from rocket fire stands at 11, including three civilians. The Independent has a depressing take on the shelling, and lists the death toll in Gaza as topping 600 in what the paper has labeled a massacre.

Additions:

Here's a video report from the Beeb.

CNN has tough to view photos of the U.N. school aftermath.

No bull: Campbell Brown says: "let reporters into Gaza!"

No surprise: Venezuela's Hugo Chavez expels the Israeli ambassador.


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posted by JReid @ 10:31 PM  
Burris turned away
The pictures that Harry Reid has got to be dreading just shot across the satellites. Roland Burris, surrounded by aides, security and media, attempted to present his credentials to the secretary of the Senate, and was rejected. He was not allowed into the Senate Chamber after leaving the secretary's office. Afterward, he held a brief press conference in which he and his lawyers promised to pursue their legal options. Here we go.

Harry Reid is using the excuse that the Illinois Secretary of State has not certified Burris' nomination, so the Senate doesn't have to seat him. That may work for today, but guess what? Everyone knows that the real reason Reid, Durbin and company won't accept Burris is that they don't happen to like the guy who nominated him ... that, and Harry and Dick had their own nominees in mind...

News reports suggest Reid may be trying to strike a deal with Burris, in which Burris would promise not to run in 2010. That strikes me as incredible hubris, given that every citizen has a right to run for office. Harry Reid doesn't have the God-given right to determine who the next Senator, or even the candidate in 2010, will be. First off, he isn't smart enough, or tough enough. If this goes to the Supreme Court, my money says Burris wins.

The media hacks are declaring Burris an egomaniac ... as if ALL politicians aren't egomaniacs...

Waiting for the video...

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... the full Burris press conference:



And of course, a word from the new President Pro Tem of Black America, Bobby Rush, featuring his now infamous "standing in the schoolhouse door" comments:






UPDATE: The video, courtesy of AP...

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posted by JReid @ 11:05 AM  
Israeli tanks shell a U.N. school, 40 killed
The NBC correspondent in the region said the school was clearly marked with the U.N. logo. From the Independent UK:

Two tank shells exploded outside the school, residents said, spraying shrapnel on people inside and outside the building, where hundreds of Palestinians had sought refuge from fighting between Israeli soldiers and Hamas militants.

Reuters journalists filmed bodies scattered on the ground amid pools of blood and torn shoes and clothes. A donkey also lay on the ground in its own blood.

In addition to the dead, several dozen people were wounded, the hospital officials said.

The Israeli military said it was looking into the reports.

Shells landed near a second school in the region also. The U.N. has lodged a protest:

The United Nations said one Israeli air attack struck an elementary school in Gaza City where hundreds of Palestinians had taken shelter, killing three men.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency said Asma Elementary school was clearly marked as a U.N. installation. It said over 400 people had been given shelter at the school when it was hit Monday night.

"Well before the current fighting, UNRWA had given to the Israeli authorities the GPS (global positioning system) co-ordinates of all its installations in Gaza, including Asma Elementary School," the agency said in a news release.

"UNRWA is strongly protesting these killings to the Israeli authorities and is calling for an immediate and impartial investigation," it added.

The residents of Gaza, some 1.5 million people, are now almost completely encircled, by the Israeli military, and by the sea. And many in the small strip of land abutting Egypt are asking, where are the Arab leaders?



Meanwhile ITN reports from the Israeli side of the border, where people are mourning three soldiers killed by friendly fire:



Meanwhile, Tony Blair continues to be nearly irrelevant and utterly useless, mouthing Bush-like platitudes and keeping busy with his "Mideast envoy" duties, as the humanitarian crisis gets so serious, even the Israeli's have stopped denying it.

TWN has, as usual, something smart to say:
I agree with Zbigniew Brzezinski that the worsening tragedy in Gaza is part of the blur we have been seeing for some time. I put a lot of the blame on Labor Party Leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak who has been itching to manage a war.

But as Brzezinski said, the Israelis and Palestinians have proven unable to rise to a level of strategic, forward-looking maturity to solve this problem and others now need to stabilize the situation, engage in a credible peace negotiation process that involves the other major Arab stakeholders, the US and Europe.

Having the Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians, Americans, and Europeans impose a solution can't be worse than what we are seeing today.



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posted by JReid @ 10:39 AM  
Harry bar the door
Roland Burris is arriving at the United States Senate as we speak ... or type ... you get the picture. The expectation is that he will be prevented, perhaps bodily, from taking the oath of office as the appointed junior Senator from the state of Illinois. Harry Reid's Waterloo approaches...

CNN is doing it live!

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posted by JReid @ 10:33 AM  
Monday, January 05, 2009
Trying to make sense of the Panetta pick
The nation's next top spy? Leon Panetta


If indeed Barack Obama plans to nominate former Bill Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta to be CIA director, over the apparent objections of people like Diane Feinstein, it will be an ... um ... interesting go. I'm not one who cares much what Ms. Feinstein thinks, she being one of the Senate's leading hawks, and thus an apologist for a rheem of Bush policies, including the Iraq war, domestic spying, and "enhanced interrogation." The fact that people like her, and fellow "gang of eight" member Jay Rockefellar have a problem with the pick is actually good news for me. Panetta is clearly not tainted by their Bush-like views.

On the other hand, looking through his resume, Panetta doesn't seem uniquely qualified for the post, and risks being undermined in the post if he is seen by career spooks and analysts as a political hack who doesn't understand the "culture."And he is yet another in the increasingly tiresome parade of Clinton vets packing the Obama administration. Then again, his long history as a manager (the CIA has like a multi- billion dollar budget) and organization leader might make him just the guy for the job, and his political experience would be most helpful in what is, in the end, a political job.

I kind of expected Obama to pick someone from someplace like the Center for American Progress, which has become the think tank of record for political progressives (without the icky neoconish views of places like Brookings.) He would have had a lot of good choices there, including former Reagan undersecretary of defense for manpower Larry Korb, who I know and very much respect. Korb is a Republican, which would have made the pick all the more useful. And CAP has other scholars on the ready, like P.J. Crowley and Brian Katulis. Who knows, maybe Obama feared they would be perceived as too ideological. I disagree with the idea that he could have picked Jane Harman, who may well be Feinstein's favorite, because Harman, too, is associated with the big, giant rubber stamp that's been slapped all over Bush security policy over the last six-plus years.

To be fair to Panetta, politicians have held the post before, including Florida Rep. Porter Goss (though he was a former CIA employee) and of course, George Bush Sr., who received the post as kind of a political gift. And Panetta did sit on the Iraq Study Group. (Not that that's necessarily a good thing; so was James "the fixer" Baker...)

There have been 20 CIA Directors (there is no more "Director of Central Intelligence" and now the position reports to the National Intelligence Director) since Harry Truman created the position in 1946. Most have been military men, with a heavy tilt toward the Navy, including the first four: Rear Admirals Sidney William Souers and Roscoe H. Hillenkoette, Hoyt Sandberg Vandenberg who served between the two, and Walter Bedel Smith (1950-53), plus Navy men William Raborn (1965-66, whom the office building in D.C. is named for,) Carter's CIA Director Stansfield Turner and Reagan's, William Casey, plus the current Michael Hayden (George H.W. Bush was himself a Navy pilot.) A handful, like Clinton top spook (and he is spooky) James Woolsey, had backgrounds in the Army. Others were former OSS spooks like Allen Dulles (who served Eisenhower and Kennedy, up to the Bay of Pigs debacle,) Richard Helms (1966-72, the guy at CIA who refused to put a stop to the Watergate probe,) and William Colby (1973-76). And there have been occasional political or managerial types like John McCone (1961-65), who like Panetta had no intelligence background, but succeeded Dulles and is considered one of the best directors the agency has had. So it's a gamble. (McCone is the guy who warned LBJ not to expand the war in Vietnam. You might call LBJ's response a gamble, too.) When Bush I was named in 1976 by Gerald Ford, he had been chairman of the Republican National Committee and pretty much everyone knew he wanted to be president. In fact, in order to be confirmed, Bush promised not to run in the up-coming election. So it's not exactly a post reserved for actual spies.



So let's take a moment to get comfortable with Leon Panetta. As the folks at McClatchy report, it is if nothing else, a single that change is coming.

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posted by JReid @ 9:25 PM  
Another one of those 'what ifs'
So ... Bill Richardson has taken himself out of the running for commerce secretary. Well that's interesting. He says he wouldn't want to delay the important work of rebuilding the economy with his confirmation, which he now seems to believe would be "far from a sure thing" even with Democrats in firm control of Congress. Hm. What's the problem? It seems that, at least according to Mike Barnacle this morning on miserable Don Imus' show, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has few cards to play, and planned to play the two jacks in his hand: attacking Richardson, and trying to upend Eric Holder for A.G. The Richardson plot is as follows:

The New Mexico investigation, which began last summer, focuses on whether Richardson's office urged a state agency to hire a California firm as a result of generous contributions from the company and its president to political action committees established by the governor.

Richardson insisted that he and his staff "have acted properly in all matters" and predicted that the investigation would exonerate him. But he said the probe could take weeks or months, potentially holding up his Senate approval. Instead, Richardson said he will remain "in the job I love as governor of New Mexico."

Hm. You know what two words stood out for me from the above paragraphs? "last summer." If Bill Richardson was under investigation last summer, why was he still running for president, last summer? Just asking, you know, in a "what if he had somehow won the nomination," John Edwards did the same crap, and WHAT IF HE HAD GOTTEN THAT SECRETARY OF STATE NOD??? (which of course, he never was going to... thankfully it turns out...) sort of way. A bit more on the probe:

A grand jury in Albuquerque is looking into whether CDR Financial Products received a contract with the New Mexico Finance Authority because of pressure from Richardson or other state employees. CDR made $1.48 million advising the authority on interest-rate swaps and refinancing of funds related to $1.6 billion in transportation bonds, state officials confirmed.

The Beverly Hills-based firm and its president, David Rubin, together gave $100,000 to Sí Se Puede and Moving America Forward, both PACs started by Richardson, shortly before winning the lucrative state contract, records show.

The federal probe heated up considerably last month, just around the time Obama announced Richardson as his choice for commerce secretary, according to sources familiar with the investigation. New subpoenas were issued, and testimony was scheduled from officials at J.P. Morgan Chase who worked for the state with CDR and from the director of Richardson's political action committees.

CDR's selection drew FBI interest because the firm did not make an initial list of the most qualified bidders. The bidding was reopened for review, and a state committee headed by one of Richardson's former top aides later helped select CDR.

A legal source familiar with the investigation said yesterday that FBI agents, working on the Senate's behalf and conducting a background check of Richardson for the Commerce job, conveyed to Obama's transition team the seriousness and significance of the Albuquerque grand jury probe.

The agents are said to have communicated that the governor's top aides -- and even Richardson's actions -- were under scrutiny. At least two sources familiar with the investigation said some evidence raises concern about the propriety of the Richardson administration's interactions with a donor.

Obama aides declined to comment on any conversations the transition team may have had with the FBI about the investigation.

The inquiry springs from a long-running nationwide investigation by the Justice Department into "pay-to-play" practices in local government bond markets. Federal investigators are questioning whether financial firms have lavished politicians with money and gifts in exchange for high fees on work advising municipal and local governments on investments.

Hm. And double 'hm.' And one wonders where the vaunted mainstream media was during all this FBI probing. Oh yeah, that's right. They were debating whether Barack Obama is a celebrity and playing endless loops of Jeremiah Wright. Ah, journalism.

Other questions I'd like answered include which governors the FBI is focused on. Given that this is still the Bush Justice Department we're talking about, overarching the FBI, I'd be interested to see if there are any Republican governors on the list. Of course, Richardson has not been accused of a crime, or indicted, or anything, so far, so he retains the presumption of innocence. But it certainly is interesting that an ongoing FBI probe of a sitting governor and presidential contender never became an issue during the Democratic primary.


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posted by JReid @ 9:24 AM  
Sunday, January 04, 2009
U.S. media bias towards Israel continues
On "This Week," George Stephanopoulos talked to Israeli President Shimon Perez, and didn't even bother to have a Palestinian spokesman on. He then went straight to Dick Durbin, who voiced the now familiar, bi-partisan U.S. political line fully supporting whatever it is that Israel is doing.

On Meet the Press, David Gregory framed his questions to war correspondent Richard Engel in terms that sound surprisingly similiar to the charges made by Israeli officials (that Hamas would only use a ceasefire to fortify its defenses):
MR. GREGORY: The fear...(technical difficulties)...that since the point of disengagement from Gaza three years ago that Hamas has been able to fortify its defenses, bring in weaponry. All of that could be brought to bear against Israeli forces. How are they responding on their side?
On CNN, Howard Kurtz repeatedly asked, "doesn't Israel have the right to protect its population?" and quizzed CNN's foreign correspondent on whether the media should have given more coverage to the non-lethal rocket attacks against Israel over the last several years, as opposed to whingeing about the civilian casualties in Gaza.

The death toll in Gaza stands at about 470 to 5, Palestinians to Israelis. Go figure.

From Editor and Publisher:
NEW YORK (Commentary) Israel launched its much-anticipated invasion of Gaza on Saturday. For over a week, U.S. media had provided largely one-sided coverage of the conflict, with little editorializing or commentary arguing against broader Israeli actions.

Most notably, after more than eight days of Israeli bombing and Hamas rocket launching in Gaza, The New York Times had produced exactly one editorial, not a single commentary by any of its columnists, and only two op-eds (one already published elsewhere). The editorial, several days ago, did argue against the wisdom of a ground invasion - - but even though that invasion had become ever more likely all week the paper did not return to this subject.

Amazingly, the paper has kept that silence going in Sunday's paper, with no editorial or columnist comment on the Israeli invasion.

The invasion, to no one's surprise, did begin on Saturday -- so any further criticism will now come too late. As in the past, U.S. media coverage and commentary has overwhelmingly backed the Israeli actions (as it did in the Lebanon war in 2006, which turned into a fiasco).
Have I mentioned today that the U.N. is useless? The U.S. blocked the latest attempted resolution, and the remaining carping strikes me as a waste of breath.
UN General Assembly chief Miguel d'Escoto has criticized the Security Council for its inability to curb Israel's "monstrosity" in Gaza.

D'escoto criticized the UN Security Council for not showing enough tenacity in ending Gazans suffering in the wake of the weeklong Israeli offensive in the coastal strip.

"I think it's a monstrosity; there's no other way to name it," D'escoto said Saturday when asked about the Israeli incursion on Gaza.

The UN Security Council again failed to call for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip due to US intervention. The statement would have called on Israel to end its ground incursion into the region.

"Once again, the world is watching in dismay the dysfunctionality of the Security Council," D'escoto argued.

The two previous UN draft resolutions seeking an end to the violence in the region have been blocked by Washington. The United States has so far vetoed over 40 anti-Israel resolutions at the UN.

Tel Aviv has so far snubbed international calls for a cease-fire and began what it claims to be the "long-lasting" ground invasion of Gaza on Saturday night
I hate to admit it, but George W. Bush had this one right. The U.N. is a useless debating society. And where is the international outcry over the banning of international journalists from the war zone?

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posted by JReid @ 12:39 PM  
On appointments under 'a cloud'
On December 19, 1998, U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton was impeached by the United States House of Representatives for allegedly committing perjury, obstructing justice and abusing his presidential powers in the Paula Jones sex harassment case (and the icky, irrelevant Monica Lewinsky scandal.) After the prurient Ken Starr, the Republican House leadership (led by confessed wife thief Bob Livingston, who replaced the disgraced, wife dumping fellatophile Newt Gingrich, and then resigned himself,) and the fatuous press corps had put the country through a full year of bawdy, useless sturm und drang (and about $80 million in wasteful spending,) Clinton was acquitted in the Senate, by a vote of 55-45 on the obstruction charge, and a 50-50 deadlock on the perjury charge, on February 12, 1999. [Photo at left from coolstamps.com]

During the time of impeachment, Bill Clinton continued to exercise the full powers of his office, including operating a joint military campaign with Great Britain that was actively bombing Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The Senate did not move to curb his powers. And Clinton felt no burden to stop making appointments during that awful period in his presidency, including the following additions to his State Department:

On December 28, 1998, he appointed Eric James Boswell to a career diplomatic security post in the Office of Foreign Missions.

On December 29, he made a recess appointment of James F. Dobbins to a career post at the Office of European and Canadian Affairs.

And because the impeachment sideshow was just the end of a full year of fruitless investigation by Starr, and sensational media coverage, it's helpful to look at the entire year of 1998, when Clinton managed to make a number of appointments to the federal bench, all of which were acted on by Congress, even as Clinton was "under a cloud." Those included:

*Vote 190+: June 30, 1999
Keith Ellison Southern District of Texas
Gary Feess Central District of California
Stephen Underhill District of Connecticut
W. Allen Pepper Northern District of Mississippi
Karen Schreier District of South Dakota

Vote 262: September 8, 1999
Adalberto Jordan Southern District of Florida
Vote 263: September 8, 1999
Marsha J. Pechman Western District of Washington

Vote 307: October 5, 1999
Ronnie L. White Eastern District of Missouri

Vote 308: October 5, 1999
Brian T. Stewart District of Utah

Vote 309: October 5, 1999
Raymond C. Fisher 9th Circuit

And Congress didn't even hint at not seating them. In fact, 1998 marked the high water mark for roll call votes on Clinton judicial nominees - there were 13 such votes on lower court picks, more than any year in the Clinton presidency. And by the end of his second term, Clinton had put more judges on the bench than any president before him: fully 47% of those actively serving on the court.

What's the point? Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is in the midst of a pretty ugly scandal; and he is attracting the gaze of the excitable press corps. But he made his Senate appointment before he has been convicted of anything, and before he has even been impeached. By what grounds, legal or ethical, can Harry Reid (who didn't seem to mind seating Clinton appointees during the president's impeachment, and worse, who had no trouble seating the treacherous Joe Lieberman, gavel and all, deny Blago's appointment of Roland Burris?

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posted by JReid @ 11:11 AM  
Harry Reid's Waterloo
The Chicago Sun-Times delivered a swift kick in the giblets to our good friend Harry Reid this past week, reporting that he, like Rahm Emanuel, talked to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about a certain vacated Senate seat. However, while Rahm's wish-list was multi-cultural, the one proffered by our friendly neighborhood Mormon from Nevada, was most certainly not, at least according to Blago aides:

Days before Gov. Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, top Senate Democrat Harry Reid made it clear who he didn’t want in the post: Jesse Jackson, Jr., Danny Davis or Emil Jones.

Rather, Reid called Blagojevich to argue he appoint either state Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Sources say the Senate majority leader pushed against Jackson and Davis — both democratic congressmen from Illinois — and against Jones — the Illinois Senate president who is the political godfather of President-elect Barack Obama — because he did not believe the three men were electable. He feared losing the seat to a Republican in a future election.

[Links added by me.] If you click them, you'll discover what Jackson, Davis and Jones have in common, and what Duckworth and Madigan do. (Hint: the latter two are both women...) But wait! There's more:

Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero confirmed that Reid (D-Nev.) and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) — the new chief of the Senate Democratic political operation — each called Blagojevich’s campaign office separately Dec. 3. Sources believe that at least portions of the phone conversations are on tape.

Before their contacts, Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called Blagojevich to tell him to expect to hear from Senate leadership because they were pushing against Jackson and others, according to statements the governor made to others.

The Reid-Menendez calls came a day before a Dec. 4 conversation overheard on government wiretaps where Blagojevich says he “was getting ‘a lot of pressure’ not to appoint Candidate 5.” Candidate 5 is Jackson.

The calls reveal the varying forces directed at Blagojevich as he weighed the appointment.

So it seems that the Blago "Senate seat for sale" controversy is more complicated than first thought. Clearly, the governor was getting pressure from multiple sources, including Harry Reid, to appoint this person and not that one. So now, should we feel comfortable with Reid opposing Attorney General Roland Burris so strenuously, when we now know, or at least we can infer, that he was dead set against the appointment of three African-Americans, on the very Clinton primary-like basis that "they can't win?" Hm. And guess who Dick Durbin, who was on "This Week" this morning spouting off against the Burris appointment, was supporting for the Senate appointment? Duckworth. Go figure. These guys had, shall we say, a preference, which seemed to suggest doubt that a black candidate, or at least that these three black candidates, could win statewide in two years. But guess what? Burris has done just that -- multiple times.

In the end, Harry Reid will likely do what he always does: he will fold, and hinted as much this morning on "Meet the (pliant) Press" with David "Softball" Gregory. He will have to. It will be tough to physically block Burris from entering the vaunted Senate chamber with the likes of David "The John" Vitter swilling around in there, and with that body having brought home the treacherous Joe Lieberman, hoisted on Reid and Durbin's shoulders, and toasted the felonious Ted Stevens on his way out the door. Hell, Burris would probably be the cleanest guy there.

UPDATE: Reid on MTP this morning had the cheek to mention Danny Davis twice, among the list of "fine people," Burris included, who he'd be more than happy to welcome to the Senate, if only Blago would do the right thing and resign. So now, the Senate majority leader has given to himself, and to his partner in this affair, Lisa Madigan supporter Dick Durbin, the power to force a sitting governor to resign, before said governor has been either impeached or convicted of a crime. Really? You might find this clip from Reid's statement in 1998 on the Ken Starr investigation, and the House's impeachment of President Bill Clinton:

No prosecutor of integrity, of principle, of fairness would have tried to bootstrap a sexual affair into something criminal. A truly independent prosecutor would not make deals time after time with organizations established to embarrass the President, cavort with attorneys for Paula Jones, do business with Linda Tripp and others to entrap the President. A fairminded prosecutor would not have leaked salacious details to the press in an effort to force the target to resign from office. And, most fervently, a principled prosecutor would have the common sense and the common decency not to misuse their office to go all out, no holds barred, to `get' that targeted individual out of pride, anger and envy.
Now, it is not Pat Fitzgerald who is trying to force Blago to resign, it's Harry Reid, former trial lawyer. Meanwhile, Reid claimed that Blagojevich's camp is "making it up" and distorting his calls to Blagojevich and his alleged pooh-poohing the three black Illinoisians from the Senate. To defend himself against a Politico article that suggested he didn't want a black replacement for Obama, he pulled out the old "some of my best friends," argument, saying he'd served in the Senate with Carole Mosely Braun and worked hard to get Ron Kirk elected in Texas. Uh-huh...

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posted by JReid @ 10:47 AM  
Saturday, January 03, 2009
Dear RNC: Why not just pick Alan Keyes?



I mean ... he's black, right wing, and certifiably nuts! He's what you call "the package." The comedy circus that is the race for Republican National Committee chair rolls merrily along:
After Chip Saltsman, a candidate for chairman, sent party members a CD that included the song "Barack the Magic Negro," he received sharp criticism from former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and other Republicans who worry that the party is losing touch with the moderate, suburban voters who are key to winning national elections. But nearly all of the candidates are facing intense scrutiny from party factions, as GOP officials view the next chairman as a vital figure in the post-Bush era.

The hopefuls are campaigning as though they were running for president, bombarding RNC members with calls and e-mails, appearing on national cable shows, enlisting allies to rally support and, in Saltsman's case, piloting his Piper Arrow plane around the country to meet with committee members.
Sorry... "flies" along... so besides Chip the Magic Dumbass, who are the contenders?

A regional divide has emerged between North and South, with former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael S. Steele and Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis pitted against Saltsman of Tennessee and Katon Dawson, the South Carolina party chairman. While not criticizing the candidates or party members from the South, Steele and Anuzis have emphasized the importance of competing in states where the GOP has struggled in recent years.

"If we are a party that can speak to Utah, South Carolina and Kansas, but can't reach voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, we will be a losing party," Anuzis has said. "We must adopt a strategy that carries our message to every state." The Michigan leader has also tried to cast himself as a different kind of Republican, noting that he is a member of the Teamsters union and a rider of a Harley-Davidson Road King.

The two black candidates are perhaps the most ideologically divided. Former Ohio secretary of state J. Kenneth Blackwell has long been embraced by conservative groups such as the anti-tax Club for Growth, while Steele has faced criticism for being, until recently, a leader of the Republican Leadership Council, which urges party members to be more tolerant of candidates who support abortion rights.

Steele emphasizes the need for the GOP to appeal to African Americans and other minority groups, while Blackwell dismissed the Saltsman controversy as "hypersensitivity" and has stressed his experience as an elected official over concerns about diversity.

Dawson has spent weeks highlighting his efforts to get blacks involved in South Carolina politics, following revelations that until this fall he had belonged to an all-white country club.
I mean you really can't make this stuff up. Continuing:
And Kentucky's Mike Duncan, the current GOP chairman, is running for reelection despite sharp criticism from some party activists who wonder how he could be rewarded with another term after presiding over the November defeat. Gingrich has blasted what he believes are Duncan's overly aggressive efforts to link President-elect Barack Obama to the scandal surrounding Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), while DeLay, who is close to Blackwell, mocked Duncan's "horrible idea" of creating a think tank in party headquarters.

But Duncan has been emboldened by post-Election Day victories in congressional runoffs in Georgia and Louisiana, giving him a clear message: The party was defeated by an unusually strong Obama organization and appeal that cannot be replicated.

"Obama was a phenomenon," Duncan said in an interview. "We know how to win elections."

Several GOP officials said Duncan's strong relationships with GOP leaders, fundraising ability and competence running the party make him the favorite, despite the Election Day results.

I still like Alan Keyes, but if they pick Ken "Shady Elections" Blackwell, who is despised by black people in Clarence Thomas proportions, and who is best known for stealing Ohio by disenfranchising black voters in 2004, and who is a true religious nut, same difference.

Meanwhile, Politico reports La Blackwell is gaining support among the wingnuts.
Two dozen conservative luminaries will announce today their support for former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell for Republican Nation Committee chairman.

The group, which mixes leading economic conservatives, including Steve Forbes and Pat Toomey, and leading social conservatives, including James Dobson and Tony Perkins, had agreed to endorse and campaign together for a candidate based on a questionnaire assembled by veteran GOP activist Morton Blackwell (no relation).

"The conservative endorsers noted that there were other good candidates, but all agreed that Ken Blackwell is the best choice. They intend to contact grassroots conservatives across the country and ask them to urge the three RNC members from each state and U.S. territory to vote for Ken Blackwell for RNC chairman," they said in a press release going out shortly.

I can just see Steve Forbes, with that glassy-eyed look, telling fellow conservs that it's high time the party appeared in blackface, in order to appeal to the hip hoppers, and getting quite serious affirmation rather than gasps.

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posted by JReid @ 7:01 PM  
Worldwide protests as Israeli ground troops enter Gaza



Israeli troops entered Gaza today, as protests continued to erupt around the world, including in London, where the latest trend in public demonstration of outrage was on display:
In London, at least 10,000 people, many carrying Palestinian flags, marched past Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street residence to a rally in Trafalgar Square. Outside Downing Street, hundreds of protesters stopped and threw shoes at the gates that block entry to the narrow road.

Shoe-throwing has become a popular gesture of protest and contempt since an Iraqi journalist pelted U.S. President George W. Bush with a pair of brogues in Baghdad last month.

Police estimated the crowd in London at 10,000 to 12,000, but organizers said the number was much higher. The marchers included activist Bianca Jagger, ex-Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox and comedian Alexei Sayle

Other international developments:
Rallies also were held in other British cities - including Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow - and across Europe. Protests in Paris, Amsterdam, Rome and Berlin all drew thousands of people.

In Paris, police said 21,000 marched through the streets, shouting "We are all Palestinians" and "Israel assassin." Later, about 500 of the protesters turned violent, throwing objects at police, burning Israeli flags, overturning and torching cars, and vandalizing several shops, police said. Ten police officers were injured in the clashes and 20 protesters arrested, a Paris police spokeswoman said.

Angry protests continued for a second day in Turkey, where about 5,000 demonstrators shouted "killer Israel" in downtown Ankara.

In The Netherlands, thousands of people marched through Amsterdam, criticizing both the Israeli attacks and the Dutch government's failure to condemn them. One banner declared: "Anne Frank is turning in her grave. Oh Israel!"

More than 4,000 people demonstrated in Duesseldorf, Germany, and some 5,000 in Frankfurt. One group in Duesseldorf held up a doll representing a bleeding baby with the placard "Made in Israel."

In Berlin, more than 7,000 people braved freezing temperatures for a march along the capital's Unter den Linden boulevard.

Another 2,500 demonstrated in Salzburg, Austria, while scores protested peacefully in Madrid outside the Spanish Foreign Ministry.

Hundreds more marched in the Swedish cities of Malmo and Uppsala, while in Oslo, Norway demonstrators marched from the parliament to the Israeli Embassy, calling on Israel to "let Gaza live."

In Athens, Greece - the scene of violent demonstrations by anarchist youths over the past month - a few of the 5,000 protesters threw stones and petrol bombs at police outside the Israeli Embassy. Riot police retaliated with tear gas and stun grenades.

In Cyprus, demonstrators pelted riot police with rocks, sticks, shoes and oranges near the Israeli Embassy in Nicosia. A peaceful protest by about 2,000 people turned violent when some protesters tried to break through a line of police blocking the road leading to the embassy. The demonstrators eventually dispersed.

The British Prime Minister has called for an immediate cease fire. And so has the U.N. Secretary General:

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council convened a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing conflict in Gaza, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and representatives of various countries calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians.

"There must be an immediate ceasefire that is fully respected by all parties," Ban said at the meeting.

"This must create new conditions on the ground that ensure at last that crossings into Gaza will be reopened; that rocket attacks and weapons smuggling will end; and that we will pursue political dialogue, and only political dialogue, to reunite Gaza with the West Bank; and that the root cause of this suffering, the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace, is ended.

"Even as this crisis rages, let us never forget the underlying issue: there must be an end to occupation, an end to conflict, and the creation of a Palestinian State," he said. "Let us not lose sight of our goal -- two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region.

"The conflict must end, and it must end once and for all," Ban said.
Meanwhile, you've got to wonder where the Arab League has gone to. All we have so far is a statement from Gaza's immediate neighbor:
The Egyptian ambassador, in his letter to the Council president, said the Arab countries want the Security Council "to adopt an enforceable and binding resolution that would ensure an immediate ceasefire, cessation of the Israeli military aggression, lifting of the blockade, and the provision of international protection to the Palestinian people."
And as usual, our president stands alone:
George Bush today blamed the continuing violence in Gaza on Hamas terrorism and offered no criticism of Israel in his first comments since Israeli air strikes began a week ago.

The US president condemned Hamas's campaign of rocket attacks on Israel as an "act of terror" and said no peace deal would be acceptable unless the flow of smuggled weapons to terrorist groups was monitored and stopped.

"This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel's destruction," he said.

Bush said Hamas ended the latest ceasefire on 19 December and "soon unleashed a barrage of rockets and mortars that deliberately targeted innocent Israelis, an act of terror that is opposed by the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people, President [Mahmoud] Abbas".
I wouldn't expect much from the useless U.N., or the equally useless Quartet. The U.S. position is far too unilateral for anything to come of so-called "diplomacy." Meanwhile, the human tragedy mounts in Gaza, where the only way out for the civilian population is the sea. More than 460 Palestinians have died so far (plus 4 Israelis -- a kill ratio of 100 to 1,) including a dozen civilians, six chldren among them, who were killed leaving a bombed mosque.

Related: Gaza diary.

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posted by JReid @ 6:26 PM  
Friday, January 02, 2009
Shameless self promotion: Joy on 'Issues'
The initial broadcast of "Issues" on WPBT 2 is on now. I was on with Beth Reinhard, political writer for the Miami Herald, columnist Michael Mayo of the FTL Sun Sentinel, and Daniel Ricker of the Watchdog Report, and of course, the lovely Helen Ferre, the host. We were looking ahead to what will make news in 2009. If you missed it, you can check out the rebroadcast on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

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posted by JReid @ 7:53 PM  
Sympathy for the Palestinians
It's hard to come by in the media. Glenn Greenwald reads TNR's Marty Peretz and politicians on both sides of the aisle the riot act. The most egregious examples:

... any minimally decent human being -- even those who view the world through the most blindingly pro-Israeli lens possible, the ones who justify anything and everything Israel does, and who discuss these events with a bottomless emphasis on the primitive (though dangerous) rockets lobbed by Hamas into Southern Israel but without even mentioning the ongoing four-decades brutal occupation or the recent, grotesquely inhumane blockade of Gaza -- would find the slaughter of scores of innocent Palestinians to be a horrible and deeply lamentable event.

But not The New Republic's Marty Peretz. Here is his uniquely despicable view of the events of the last couple of days:

So at 11:30 on Saturday morning, according to both the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz, as well as the New York Times, 50 fighter jets and attack helicopters demolished some 40 to 50 sites in just about three minutes, maybe five. Message: do not fuck with the Jews.
"Do not fuck with the Jews." And what of the several hundred Palestinian dead -- including numerous children -- and many hundreds more seriously wounded?

Israeli intelligence reported 225 people dead, mostly Hamas military leaders with some functionaries, besides, and perhaps 400 wounded. The Palestinians announced 300 dead, probably as a reflex in order to begin their whining about disproportionate Israeli acts of war. And 600 wounded.
Objections to the Israeli attack are just "whining." Those are the words of a psychopath.

Indeed. I cancelled my "New Republic" subscription years ago, along with a letter stating my outrage at the magazine's cavalier treatment of the Palestinian people, whom the magazine generally describes in Likudnik terms, as "cockroaches." American policy toward Israel is shamefully one-sided. I'm not exactly optimistic that that will change much going forward, given the attacks Obama was subjected to during the campaign regarding his Israel bona fides. But there is always hope. The Democrats should listen to Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski once in a while. It's time for Ameican foreign policy to reflect a decent respect for the humanity of both sides, including the millions of Palestinian refugees who are, after all, under decades of occupation and the denial not just of their humanity, but currently, of food, water and medicine.

UPDATE: From the moderate Jewish American community, angst over Peretz's thugism, and anxiety over the Gaza war. And the pro-peace organization J Street sounds off.

Protests are touching off around the world against Israel's actions, including in Indonesia, the Philippines, New York, and tomorrow, in London. From the Guardian:
Thousands of demonstrators are expected to converge on central London tomorrow to demand a ceasefire in Gaza amid growing international anger over Israel's week-long bombardment.

The singer Annie Lennox, the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, comedian Alexei Sayle, Palestinian solidarity groups, Muslim organisations, the Stop the War Coalition and several MPs are among those backing the midday march from Embankment to Trafalgar Square.

Since Israeli air strikes started there have been daily protests outside the Israeli embassy in Kensington, west London, where large numbers have forced the closure of nearby streets. A rally was held outside the Egyptian embassy in Mayfair /today to call for the opening of the Gaza-Egypt border, allowing the delivery of more humanitarian supplies.

Other supporters of /tommorrow's mass protest include the former model Bianca Jagger, Tony Benn, the musician Brian Eno, Respect Party MP George Galloway, Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather, Labour MP Jermy Corbyn and the socialist activist Tariq Ali.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of the rally, Jagger appealed to the US president-elect, Barack Obama, to "ask for the immediate cessation of the bombardment of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip."

Ken Livingstone condemned the "Israeli kill ratio of 100 to one" as "obscene". The UK government's response so far had been completely inadequate, he said. "The only time a British government was even-handed [in the Middle East] was Edward Heath in 1973 ... when he refused to let arms shipments through to Israel." ...

With the exception of the Americans, who continue to pursue a lopsided, "whatever Israel wants" policy in the region, the world is speaking loudly. More than 400 Palestinians have died, thus far. It's time for Israel to stop.

UPDATE 2: A bit of sanity from Ha'aretz colunnist Yossi Sarid, who tries to see things from the Palestinian perspective.

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posted by JReid @ 2:14 PM  
Democrats poised to commit fundamental error on Burris
It's hard to believe that Rod Blagojevich could be considered a winner, well, ever, after his nasty travails with Patrick Fitzgerald and his handy wiretap, but it appears that Blago has found a way to win one against an admittedly easy target: Harry Reid and the wussified Senate Democrats.
Reports that the Dems plan to block Blago's choice to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat, one Roland Burris, by any means necessary, have taken on dramatic proportions:
The Democratic leadership's current contingency plan for next week is reportedly for Burris to be met at the chamber by a doorman telling him he's not allowed inside. If he still tries to go in, armed police officers could intervene to get him away. Burris told the Los Angeles Times that he wants to avoid a scene and have all of this negotiated before he arrives, but it's unlikely that he could negotiate his way towards actually being seated.

And even if Burris does manage to physically enter the chamber, there are still a whole lot of avenues to keep him from being sworn in. The Senate is expected to launch a Rules Committee investigation to determine the legitimacy of his appointment, thus delaying him from being seated. They'll look at everything from the facts of the Blagojevich scandal to Illinois Sec. of State Jesse White's refusal to sign the certificate of appointment. Every undotted "i" and every uncrossed "t" will be scrutinized.

At that point, Burris might just be able to go to court and force the Senate to admit him. Many legal scholars believe he has a genuine case here. But even this could take a while -- which would appear to be the whole point.
Really? Do they really plan to do all of tthat? For real for real??? Because if they do, we will have the intriguing mental picture of the party that used to be the party of segregation sending armed police-like figures to stand at the Senate chamber door, George Wallace-style, to keep a black man from taking up the seat being vacated by the first black president of the United States, who was also the lone black member of the United States Senate, who was nominated to the presidency by the former party of segregation. If the circular irony is killing you, join the club.

Read the whole post here.

UPDATE: Oh my damn, I agree with Pat Buchanan again... except that he completely misses the irony that while the Dems had just one black Senator, the GOP has had none. Nada. And they don't have a single African-American in the House of Representatives, either, and precious few Hispanics. Then again, the GOP isn't on record as being the party of inclusion...

UPDATE 2: A lawyer comments on the almost certain legality of the Burris nomination, as does a professor of election law. The verdict: seat the guy, already. BTW, Burris appeared on PBS' News Hour tonight, and made a very strong case for taking the job. Did I mention that he's the former Illinois attorney general, and ergo, an attorney...?

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posted by JReid @ 11:16 AM  
Thursday, January 01, 2009
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
And here's wishing you health, peace and prosperity in 2009!

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posted by JReid @ 3:09 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
Listen now:


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