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Archive for December 10th, 2008

We’ve seen this show before: specious attempts to connect Barack Obama with corrupt or controversial figures in Chicago, followed, then, by a Republican and establishment media outcry for the president-elect to denounce and reject them.

A friend wrote earlier today:

I’m pretty sure you can tie Obama to the first Daley administration and its attendant corruption. Also, wasn’t Obama somehow connected to Chicago crime boss Al Capone? And are you going to tell me that Chicago-based Obama was never involved in milking Mrs. O’Leary’s arsonist cow?

We just can’t be sure, can we? To be on the safe side, perhaps the president-elect ought to denounce and reject the cow anyway. Forcefully. Several times. While he’s at it, how about rejecting Principal Rooney from the Chicago-based movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Breaking and entering the Bueller household through the dog door? I mean, come on, Mr. President-elect! That’s not only a felony but also an egregious abuse of high school administrative power, sir, and you must denounce it.

It began yesterday with the RNC demanding to know the full extent of the president-elect’s relationship with Blagojevich even though Patrick Fitzgerald was perfectly clear about the relationship when he said on national television that the president-elect had nothing to do with any of it. But to suggest that the former junior senator from Illinois never communicated with the governor of Illinois is ridiculous on its face — of course there was the usual level of professional communication there, though it entirely fails to prove or even implicate any corruption on the part of Barack Obama. Then again, since when does reality matter?

(more…)

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By JOHN F. BURNS | nytimes.com | December 10, 2008

reenactment02

LONDON — Britain’s remaining troops in Iraq will begin withdrawing from the country in March on a timetable that will aim to leave only a small training force of 300 to 400 by June, according to Defense Ministry officials quoted by the BBC and several of Britain’s major newspapers on Wednesday.

The long-expected drawdown of the British force next year from its current level of 4,100 troops will bring an effective end to Britain’s role as the principal partner of the United States in the occupation of Iraq. In the invasion in March 2003, a British force of more than 46,000 troops participated in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

In July, Prime Minister Gordon Brown outlined a tentative plan for withdrawing most of Britain’s remaining troops early in 2009 but gave no fixed timetable and left open the number of troops who would be returning home. The Defense Ministry issued a statement after the flurry of news reports about the withdrawal that did not deny their accuracy. Although the ministry did not confirm that the drawdown would begin in March, it confirmed that the ministry was “expecting to see a fundamental change of mission in early 2009.”

As for the timetable involved in the withdrawal, the statement added, “Our position remains that we will judge it on military advice at the time.”

The leaking of the British withdrawal plan appeared to have been prompted, at least in part, by President-elect Barack Obama’s triumph in the election last month and his plans to draw up a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

Original article

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Keith Olbermann, in one of his traditional “Countdown” comma-laden diatribes, really lets loose on the idea of Bush’s legacy being anything but a dishonorable, terror-filled and disastrous eight years.

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Asian trade in ‘free fall’ as exports to West dry up

The economic downturn in Asia has taken a sharp turn for the worse as Japan slides into deep recession and exports contract in China, Korea, and Taiwan.

A blizzard of grim data this week points to a full-blown trade slump across Asia, confirming fears that the region’s strategy of export-led growth would backfire once the West buckled.

Flemming Nielsen, from Danske Bank, said exports from Korea and Taiwan both shrank by over 20pc last month. “The numbers are terrible. Intra-Asian trade is in free-fall. Taiwan’s exports to mainland China in November were down a whopping 42pc.”

The Baltic Dry Index measuring freight rates for bulk goods began to collapse in June, dropping 96pc over the five months in the most dramatic fall in shipping fees ever recorded. It was a leading indicator of what we are now seeing in Asian trade.

Fan Gang, a top adviser in Beijing, said China’s exports would also show a decline when data is released this week. “Things are not good: industrial growth will be around 5pc and export growth will be negative,” he said. Economic expansion of 5pc would be a major shock and entail recession in the Chinese context.

Japan’s economy shrank 0.5pc in the third quarter and risks sliding back into deflation and perma-slump. Exports fell 7.7pc in October on crumbling demand for cars and machinery.

Over 1,000 Japanese companies went bust last month as the high yen squeezed margins. Sony is laying off 16,000 staff. Japan’s industrial output is expected to fall by a post-War record of 8.6pc in the fourth quarter.

Tokyo is already planning “purchase vouchers” to kick-start spending in the world’s second largest economy. A fresh stimulus package worth 20,000bn yen (£146bn) is being prepared for early next year.

“We need policies to keep the economy from falling apart,” said economics minister Kaoru Yosano. “Japan will endure hardship next year.”

Zahra Ward-Murphy, from Dresdner Kleinwort, said Japan has slimmed down its bloated debt structure since its Lost Decade, but is still half-reformed and over-reliant on exports. “It has not rebalanced the economy towards internal growth: now exports are tanking,” she said.

Tokyo is once again running low on policy options. The Bank of Japan is wary of cutting rates below the current level of 0.3pc for fear of damaging the money markets, a key lubricant of the credit system. It may soon need to revert to emergency forms of monetary stimulus know as ‘quantitative easing’.

Earlier rescue plans have already pushed Japan’s national debt to 170pc of GDP, the world’s highest. Private savings have collapsed from 14pc of GDP in the early 1990s to 2pc today. Japan goes into this downturn without a cushion.

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Glengarry Rod Blagojevich

From: Salon

If David Mamet didn’t write the profane, wiretapped dialogue for the Illinois governor’s attempt to sell Obama’s Senate seat, he should have. A play in one act.

Editor’s note: Much of the dialogue below comes from the secretly recorded conversations of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, his wife, his chief of staff and other associates as revealed in federal court documents upon Blagojevich’s arrest Monday. The rest of it is made up.

By Choire Sicha

Dec. 10, 2008 | ROD BLAGOJEVICH, AKA BLAGO, the governor of Illinois, is at his tacky Ravenswood home, on the phone. His wife is sprawled on the couch behind him, petting a fur coat made entirely of hundreds of white kittens. Blago waves a copy of the Chicago Tribune as he speaks.

BLAGO (into phone)

So we gotta do something about the fucking Trib and its fucking editorials.

BLAGO’S WIFE

Hold up that fucking Cubs shit! Fuck them!

BLAGO

Honey, shut the fuck up. (Then, into phone) You hear what she said? Block them from selling Wrigley Field.

DEPUTY GOVERNOR (on phone)

Well you know, the Trib’s owner don’t control the editorials, now. But I would tell him, look, if you want to get your Cubs thing done get rid of this Tribune.

BLAGO’S WIFE

Gimme that there phone. (Grabs phone) Listen, fucker. That there guy who owns the Trib? He can just fire his writers anytime he wants. If the papers are hurting his business, he’ll do what it takes, ya see?

MORE HERE

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FBI Investigating Coleman, Paper Reports

The Huffington Post |  Rachel Weiner   |   December 10, 2008 08:22 AM

The Twin Cities Pioneer Press reports that a probe has been launched into Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman’s ties to businessman Nasser Kazeminy:

Federal investigators are looking into allegations that a longtime friend and benefactor tried to steer money to U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, the Pioneer Press has learned.
Agents with the FBI have talked to or made efforts to talk to people in Texas familiar with the allegations, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Houston is where the first of two lawsuits was filed alleging Nasser Kazeminy, a Bloomington financier, tried to steer $100,000 to Coleman via his wife’s Minneapolis employer. The second suit, filed in Delaware, alleges Kazeminy initially tried to get money directly to the senator.

MORE HERE

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Sudhan@ 16:30 CET

Nasir Khan, December 10, 2008

Almost the whole world has condemned the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. Such terrorism has also, once again, reminded us how important it is to combat the forces of communalist terror and political violence in the Indian subcontinent. But what is often ignored or suppressed is the fact that there are deep underlying causes of the malaise that erupts in the shape of such violent actions; the unresolved Kashmir issue happens to be the one prime cause that inflames the passions and anger of millions of people.

However, to repeat the mantra of “war on terror” as the Bush Administration has done over the last eight years while planning and starting major wars of aggression does not bring us one inch closer to solving the problem of violence and terror in our region. On the contrary, such short-sighted propaganda gimmicks are meant to camouflage the wars of aggression and lay the ground for further violence and bloodshed. The basic motive is to advance imperial interests and domination. The so-called “war on terror” is no war against terror; on the contrary, it has been the continuation of the American imperial policy for its definite goals in the Middle East and beyond. Obviously any serious effort to combat terror will necessarily take into account the causes of terror, and not merely be content with the visible symptoms.

The unresolved issue of Kashmir has kept India and Pakistan on a dangerous course of confrontation since 1947 when the British raj came to an end and as a last act of charity to their subjects the imperial rulers agreed to divide India along communal lines that was to prove a Pandora’s Box for the coming generations. We had witnessed their double-dealings in the process when they gave their blessings and patronage here and there and a lot of mischief wherever possible especially while they drew the boundaries between the two emerging countries. The recipients of favours reciprocated in kind: the last viceroy Lord Mountbatten was made the first Governor-General of Free India! This carefully crafted expedient arrangement served its purpose well for one country at the cost of the other.

At the time of partition, the princely State of Jammu and Kashmir was ruled by the Hindu Dogra ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh who was the great-grandson of Gulab Singh, to whom the British, under the terms of the Treaty of Amritsar (1846) had sold the entire valley of Kashmir. Because the overwhelming majority of Kashmir was Muslim, it was thought that Kashmir would join the new state of Pakistan. When the Kashmiris from what became known as Azad Kashmir and the tribal fighters from the North Western Frontier Province of Pakistan started guerilla offensive on the state to bring pressure on Hari Singh to join Pakistan, he asked Lord Mountbatten for help, who agreed to give military help if the ruler joined India. Thus started the first war between India and Pakistan that finally stopped in 1949 when the newly-formed United Nations Organization arranged a ceasefire. The Line of Control was established that has remained the de facto boundary between the Indian-controlled Kashmir and ‘Azad’ (Free) Jammu and Kashmir (but called Pakistan-occupied Kashmir by the Indians).

Continued >>

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