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Archive for January 31st, 2009

Our Responsibility

Huffington Post- Rep. John Conyers

Posted January 31, 2009 | 02:23 PM (EST)

The Obama era began in earnest last week, with bold action such as closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and promising to end torture. In its very first days, the new administration has begun to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding executive branch operations, and has made great strides forward on fundamental challenges such as energy and the environment, and above all the national economic crisis left in the wake of the Bush Presidency. While great challenges and much hard work remain, the way forward is bright and clear.

As we proceed, however, the question remains how best to respond to the severe challenge posed to our constitutional structure, and to our national honor, by the Bush administration’s actions, and in particular its national security programs. Faced with a record of widespread warrantless surveillance inside the United States, brutal interrogation policies condemned by the administration’s own head of the Guantanamo Bay military commissions as torture, and flawed rendition practices that resulted in innocent men being abducted and handed to other countries to face barbaric abuse, what actions will we take to meet our commitment to the rule of law and reclaim our standing as a moral leader among nations?

I have previously explained my view that a full review of the record must be conducted by an experienced and independent prosecutor, and should focus on the senior policymakers and lawyers who ordered and approved these actions. Others, such as my fellow Michigander Senator Carl Levin, have suggested similar measures. This approach is compelled in my opinion by the basic notion that, if crimes were committed, those responsible should be held accountable – after all, is there any principle of American freedom more fundamental than the rule that no person is above the law? If this independent review concludes that the Bush Administration’s legal constructs make prosecution impossible for some, so be it, but the matter should be given a proper look before such judgments are made one way or the other.

Some commentators – including even those firmly opposed to criminal investigation – support the creation of an independent Commission with appropriate clearances and subpoena power to review the existing record, make policy recommendations, and publish an authoritative account of these events. I have introduced a bill in the House that would create such a commission, and I believe this sort of public accounting is critical as well.

There remain those, however, who would have us simply move on. Some fear the consequences of a true accounting, or worry that taking time to reckon with the sins of the past will hinder us in meeting the challenges of the future. Others argue that the facts are already known, and further review will accomplish little. Often, the call for further review of the Bush administration’s actions is dismissed as partisan payback, kicking an unpopular President when he’s down.

I could not disagree more with these views. As a practical matter, I do not believe that empowering a commission or an independent prosecutor would burden the Congress or the executive or would hinder our efforts to meet the challenges of the day. To the contrary, allowing outside review of these matters by qualified independent experts will free us and President Obama to focus our efforts where they are most needed – on solving the problems before us and improving the lives of the American people.

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Conyers-Rove showdown postponed

The John Conyers-Karl Rove showdown has been delayed.

Conyers, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, agreed on Friday to postpone the deadline on the Rove subpoena for three weeks, giving the Obama administration time to decide how it wants to handle the issue of executive privilege and congressional subpoenas.

The Michigan Democrat wanted to question Rove about “politicization” of the Justice Department under former President Bush, and wants to investigate what Rove knew about the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in late 2006.

But before he left office, Bush, acting through former White House Counsel Fred Fielding, decided not to respond to any congressional subpoenas. Bush, citing executive privilege, asserted an “absolute immunity” claim in responding to such subpoenas, meaning senior Bush aides were directed not to even appear when subpoenaed.

Obama and his legal advisors have rejected that view as an overbroad reading of the president’s authority, but they have yet to fully formulate their own response to the question.

Conyers had demanded that Rove comply with the subpoena by next Tuesday, Feb. 2, but the deadline has been extended to Feb. 23, according to sources close to the issue.

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Obama looks to unfreeze credit for businesses and families

RAW STORY
Published: Saturday January 31, 2009

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Barack Obama said Saturday his administration soon will announce measures to free up credit for businesses and homeowners as he seeks to jolt the world’s biggest economy back to life.

“Soon my Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, will announce a new strategy for reviving our financial system that gets credit flowing to businesses and families,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

The US president, focusing on the troubled economy as his highest priority after taking office on January 20, offered no details for the plan and did not indicate when it would be unveiled.

Obama also called on the Senate to quickly approve his stimulus plan, which aims to create jobs and tackle the “unprecedented economic turmoil,” after the House of Representatives this week approved an 819-billion-dollar (640-billion-euro) version of the measure.

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The following video was published by WhiteHouse.gov on Jan. 31.

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Sen McCaskill “A Bunch Of Idiots Up On Wall Street! Kicking Sand In The Faces Of Americans!

Raucous Applause!!

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A million on strike as France feels pinch

• Protesters say Sarkozy has done too little for workers
• Minister insists reform programme will continue

VIDEO AT LIVELEAK

More than one million French workers downed tools yesterday in the first general strike to hit a major industrialised nation since the start of the global financial crisis.

Unions said more than two million public and private sector workers took to the streets across France to protest against President Nicolas Sarkozy’s handling of the economic crisis, saying too much had been done to bail out fat cats and banks, and not enough to protect jobs and help workers make ends meet.

Air traffic controllers, train drivers, teachers, nurses, and tax inspectors were joined by private sector workers including bank clerks and staff from the firm that runs the Paris stock exchange. Some schools were shut, flights were cancelled, and the Palace of Versailles cwas losed in a rare show of unity between unions, although “Black Thursday” did not bring total transport paralysis.

(more…)

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15 Most Loathsome People of 2008

By Allan Uthman and Ian Murphy, Buffalo Beast. Posted January 31, 2009.

Limbaugh, Palin, Warren, and more. They’re the worst people in America, and unfortunately they dominated last year’s headlines.

The Buffalo Beast has released its 50 Most Loathsome People in America list for 2008. We here at AlterNet rounded up 15 people from their list that we thought most deserved the insulting honor. Read through our top picks from their list, go check out the Beast’s full list, and then drop some of the folks you think are the most loathsome people in America in the comments below. Happy hunting.

15. Michele Bachmann

Charges: Exemplifies the simmering, all-American fascism lurking behind the forced smiles of uptight church ladies throughout “real America.” Echoing Sarah Palin’s alarming hints about “helping” the media do its job, Bachmann’s casual call for a “penetrating” press investigation into “anti-Americanism” in congress was so fucking dumb it made Chris Matthews seem smart. Once it occurred to the Oral Roberts University graduate that calling for witchhunts against Democrats might be a tad extreme for election season, she decided to just pretend she didn’t say it, and then she blamed Chris Matthews. Then she just blamed words. Then she denied it again. Then she won. Way to go, Minnesota’s 6th.

Exhibit A: BACHMANN: Actually, that’s not what I said at all. COLMES: Well, I’m just — I’m reading your exact quote. BACHMANN: Actually that’s not I said. It’s an urban legend that was created. That isn’t what I said at all. COLMES: We have — it’s on tape.

Sentence: Assigned to conduct her own “expose” on anti-American views, in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

14. Bernie Madoff

Charges: Normally, the idea of a bunch of billionaires getting robbed blind for believing in a free lunch would amuse the hell out of us, but Bernie Madoff stole a lot of money from charity endowments, and is responsible for two suicides so far. Here’s a tip, Bernie: If you’re running the biggest scam since the Catholic church, handling billions of dollars, and all it takes to get busted is that some of your marks ask for their money back, you really should take some of that money and set up an escape plan. Still, he gets some credit for making Mort Zuckerman look like a jackass. The real villains here are Christopher Cox and the SEC, who investigated Madoff eight times, the last time specifically on suspicion of  running a Ponzi scheme, each time “finding” no wrongdoing, which begs the all-too-familiar question of the last eight years: Satanically corrupt or grossly incompetent? Either way, Madoff was finally brought to justice… by his kids.

Exhibit A: “In today’s regulatory environment, it’s virtually impossible to violate rules … but it’s impossible for a violation to go undetected, certainly not for a considerable period of time.”

Sentence: Sold into slavery.

13. Mark Penn

Charges: The most overpriced gravedigger in the world. As Clinton’s Chief Strategist, this too-creepy-for-TV pollster steered what was initially considered a cinch presidential campaign with all the talent of Joseph Hazelwood at the helm of the Exxon Valdez. His laziness was explained by his strategy: Inevitability. Penn’s cheap, backfiring smears of Obama as a coke-snorting Islamic radical teenager, coupled with pathetic whining about the mean old press, gave Clinton’s campaign an odor as repugnant as his own playground-flasher looks. Like most reptiles, Penn was slow to adjust to environmental changes, racking up millions in direct mail fees while Obama plundered the internet, which Penn predicted wouldn’t have any impact in 2008. His very employment signaled a total abdication on the corruption/lobbying issue. But it gets worse: Mark Penn didn’t understand basic electoral arithmetic, announcing to colleagues that Hillary would win easily by gaining California’s 370 delegates, assuming, wrongly, a winner-take all vote tally. Despite the revelation of his woeful lack of elementary knowledge, Penn did not adjust his big-state strategy, ignoring the caucus states that Obama rode to victory, and to the end, seemed utterly baffled that a candidate could win without “any of the significant states.”

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