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Archive for January 14th, 2009

Sean Hannity christened the new Colmes-less show with a predictably ridiculous segment in which he claimed that President-elect Obama has been engaged in an on-going attempt to hijack Abraham Lincoln’s legacy from — seriously — the modern Republican Party.

HANNITY: And in Your America tonight, Barack Obama is doing everything he can to convince Americans that he is the rightful inheritor of Abraham Lincoln’s legacy. […] First, at the top, I just remember that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.

The red flag here? He “just remembers” the part about Lincoln’s party affiliation. This indicates that everything else about Lincoln is therefore processed through the doofwerks of Hannity’s America, inside which reality and universally accepted facts are mercilessly sculpted, oversimplified and kneejerked into bloody submission, and thus ejecting through the ass-end an easy-to-digest-but-insanely-wrong deductive equation: Lincoln = Republican = Just Like Me, Sean Hannity = Awesome!

Lincoln was indeed the first Republican president. Good job, Hannity! Erudite! More about the history of party affiliation presently, but to somehow suggest that President-elect Obama is trying to steal Lincoln all for himself, or for Hannity to imply that Bush Republicanism is the same as Lincoln Republicanism is about as realistic as suggesting that Lincoln survived the assassination as is currently alive and lurching around — top hat and all — through the forests of the upper Midwest like a lanky, undead sasquatch. Then again, Hannity once dedicated an entire segment of his show to the existence of demons walking among us. I’m not suggesting Hannity believes that Lincoln is still alive, but it wouldn’t be shocker given his belief in goblins and the like.

Regardless, he’s clearly unable to fathom why this particular moment in American history calls to mind the spirit and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. This is nothing short of miraculous given the ubiquity of all things Kearns-Goodwin-y. Incidentally, the “Mortal Kombat vs. The Team of Rivals” video game tie-in is pretty sweet. The Seward “Pantaloons of Chaos” move (X, X, Up, Down, B, B, Y) is totally indefensible — especially against that punk Liu Kang.

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Weekend At Bernie's Pic

Scribe says, Watch your back, Bernard Madoff

Alleged socialite swindler Bernie Madoff, who continues to live in the lap of luxury while his victims fume, might be better off in jail.

Because as long as the accused chiseler is out walking the street, he might get shot!

So says Laurence Leamer, author of “Madness Under the Royal Palms: Love and Death Behind the Gates of Palm Beach.”

Leamer, who has had an up-close look at the Madoff scandal and its effect on the uber-rich rubes, said Bernie’s victims reportedly include a laundry list of dangerous characters – any one of whom may want revenge on the alleged mastermind of the $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

“There’s a Russian oligarch who six months ago tried to get his money out and Bernie wouldn’t give it to him,” he said. “There’s also a report that he had $300 million in Colombian drug money. You don’t want to irritate these people.”

True dat.

Madoff is due in court in NYC today where the government will again try to lock him up while prosecutors investigate charges that he bilked scores of investors in a massive, decades-long scam.

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U.S. military report warns ‘sudden collapse’ of Mexico is possible

EL PASO – Mexico is one of two countries that “bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse,” according to a report by the U.S. Joint Forces Command on worldwide security threats.

The command’s “Joint Operating Environment (JOE 2008)” report, which contains projections of global threats and potential next wars, puts Pakistan on the same level as Mexico. “In terms of worse-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world, two large and important states bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse: Pakistan and Mexico.

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From McClatchy – Posted on Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Internal probe slams Bush Justice official for illegal hiring

By Greg Gordon | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — A former acting Justice Department civil rights chief illegally favored conservative job applicants as “real Americans,” kept liberal lawyers off key cases and lied in Senate testimony to conceal his misconduct, internal investigators say in a report made public Tuesday.

Bradley Schlozman privately dubbed liberal department lawyers “commies” and “pinkos” and told a subordinate that the Civil Rights Division shouldn’t be limited to hiring “politburo members” who belong to some “psychopathic left-wing organization designed to overthrow the government,” the department’s inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility found.

Last March, officials from the two offices asked the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate whether Schlozman had committed perjury in June 2007 Senate testimony and written follow-up responses. Federal prosecutors decided last week not to bring charges.

The 70-page report, the last to be publicly released on four joint internal investigations stemming from the 2007 scandal over politicization of the Justice Department, was completed in July but had been kept secret pending the outcome of the criminal inquiry.

It concludes that Schlozman kept tight control over hiring in five key sections of the Civil Rights Division and “improperly used political or ideological affiliations” in assessing applicants for experienced and entry-level career jobs, violating the federal Civil Service Reform Act and department policy.

Of 65 lawyers whom Schlozman hired from 2003 to 2006 and whose political affiliations were evident, 63, or 97 percent, were Republicans or conservatives and only two were Democrats or liberal, it said.

When Schlozman was approached by a lower-level manager or fellow department political employee about a job applicant, he sometimes blurted, “Conservative?” or “What’s his view of the world?” the report says.

Schlozman also directed several section chiefs not to assign important cases to attorneys he identified as liberal, investigators concluded.

Senior managers in the division, including former civil rights chiefs R. Alexander Acosta, who’s now the U.S. attorney in Miami, and Wan Kim, had enough information to be alerted to Schlozman’s misbehavior, but “failed to exercise sufficient oversight,” the report found.

Schlozman, who left the department in 2007 and now works for a law firm in Wichita, Kan., refused along with several other former division political employees to be interviewed by internal investigators.

His Atlanta attorney, William Jordan, said in a statement Tuesday that his client had been exonerated by the decision not to prosecute him. Jordan denounced the internal report as “inaccurate, incomplete, biased, unsupported by the law and contrary to the facts,” contending that hiring individuals with a conservative view of the law is not “the same as hiring individuals because they are Democrats and Republicans, which is illegal.”

Schlozman provided prosecutors with the results of a lie detector test — conducted by a polygrapher of his choosing — “that demonstrated his testimony before Congress was truthful and accurate,” Jordan said.

Tuesday’s report, based on 120 interviews and reviews of 200,000 e-mails and thousands of other documents, paints a different picture. It cites one instance after another in which Schlozman probed job applicants’ political or ideological views.

Shanetta Cutlar, the chief of the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section, told investigators that Schlozman and others culled resumes from the applicant pool that typically reflected membership in conservative organizations but had little relevant experience, then overrode her objections. Cutlar also said that Schlozman confided in March 2007 that he “probably made some mistakes . . . (and) considered politics when I shouldn’t have.”

Schlozman went to events sponsored by the conservative Federalist Society to recruit young applicants, but investigators found no similar forays to liberal-leaning groups.

In a 2003 e-mail exchange with a former colleague, Schlozman referred to lawyers in the department’s Voting Rights Section as “mold spores” and said: “My tentative plans are to gerrymander all of those crazy libs . . . out of the section.”

Schlozman’s conduct persisted even after Kim, at the time a fellow deputy, learned of his screening methods in 2004, met with him and reminded him that a civil service law barred partisanship in hiring, the report says.

While Schlozman was the acting division chief from June 2005 to December 2005, the report found, he considered political and ideological leanings in the transfers of three veteran Appellate Section attorneys to other jobs. The unit’s section chief, Diana Flynn, said Schlozman described many of the unit’s career attorneys as “against us,” “not on the team” and “treacherous” and that he wanted to replace them with “real Americans,” the report says.

On June 15, 2006, after leaving the division to serve as interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo., Schlozman said in an e-mail to a friend that he missed “bitch slapping” division attorneys and suggested that the department create “the Brad Schlozman Award for Most Effectively Breaking the Will of Liberal Partisan Bureaucrats.”

Schlozman’s name surfaced in 2007 as allegations flew over the firings of nine U.S. attorneys and the politicization of the Justice Department. A special prosecutor now is investigating possible criminal wrongdoing.

Department spokesman Peter Carr said Tuesday’s report described troubling conduct and that Schlozman had deviated from the department’s mission of “evenhanded application of the Constitution and the laws enacted under it.”

Pat Riley, a spokeswoman for the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney’s Office, declined to specify why Schlozman wasn’t prosecuted on perjury charges for denying to the Senate that politics had entered his personnel decisions. She said six prosecutors had conducted an “exhaustive review,” questioned witnesses not previously interviewed and used additional investigative techniques before deciding not to file perjury charges.

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the report “confirms some of our worst fears about the Bush administration’s political corruption of the Justice Department.”

“It should come as no surprise that the result, and of course the intent, of this political makeover of the Civil Rights Division has been a dismal civil rights enforcement record,” he said.

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Aren’t we Proud??

From Think Progress:

Torture Precludes Government From Prosecuting 9/11 Terrorist

Susan Crawford, the “top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial,” tells Bob Woodward in today’s Washington Post that the United States military tortured Mohammed al-Qahtani, one of the planners of the 9/11 attacks. As a result, Crawford decided the U.S. could not prosecute Qahtani:

“We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani,” said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution. […]

“I sympathize with the intelligence gatherers in those days after 9/11, not knowing what was coming next and trying to gain information to keep us safe,” said Crawford, a lifelong Republican. “But there still has to be a line that we should not cross. And unfortunately what this has done, I think, has tainted everything going forward.”

Crawford dismissed the charges against Qahtani last year. Though military prosecutors refiled charges by using evidence they claim was not coerced, Crawford said she would not allow it to go forward. And now that torture has precluded Qahtani’s prosecution, his status is in question. “He’s a very dangerous man,” Crawford said. “What do you do with him now if you don’t charge him and try him?”

Qahtani is hardly the only detainee whose charges have been dropped due to improper treatment. In October, the Pentagon dismissed cases against five terror suspects, including Binyam Mohamed, a former British resident accused in the “dirty bomb” case:

He has claimed he was tortured while in American custody or in countries to which he said the United States sent him. His lawyers argued Tuesday that the government was trying to avoid having to answer his accusations.

“They have been cornered into doing this to avoid admitting torture,” said Clare Algar, the executive director of Reprieve, a legal organization that represents Mr. Mohamed.

Similarly, detainee David Hicks was released from Guantanamo and sent back to his native Australia in a deal — apparently arranged by Vice President Cheney and then-Australian Prime Minister John Howard — requiring him to renounce his claims of torture and abuse at the hands of the U.S. military.

Far from making us safe, torture is creating a legal morass in which we cannot lawfully and thoroughly prosecute — and sentence — terrorist suspects.
UpdateThe tactics used against Qahtani — sexual humiliation, threatening him with military dogs, leading him by a leash and forcing him to perform dog tricks — further confirm that the methods used at Abu Ghraib were not merely the result of “a few bad apples” but rather part of a system of military tactics, approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, used against detainees.

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Conyers publishes massive report on ‘Imperial Presidency’

Raw Story- Stephen C. Webster
Published: Tuesday January 13, 2009

Report demands investigation of Bush administration’s abuses of power

Everyone wants to know: will Obama order investigations into the Bush administration’s abuses of power? But, perhaps a better question would be: if he doesn’t, who will?

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), it appears, will at least try.

Conyers published a 487-page report (PDF link) Tuesday titled, “Reining in the Imperial Presidency: Lessons and Recommendations Relating to the presidency of George W. Bush.”

Conyers’ report makes 47 recommendations “designed to restore the traditional checks and balances of our constitutional system,” reads the foreward. Recommendations include the establishment of a ‘blue ribbon’ commission to fully investigate the Bush administration, and the launch of criminal probes.

“Even after scores of hearings, investigations, and reports, we still do not have answers to some of the most fundamental questions left in the wake of Bush’s Imperial Presidency,” Conyers said in a release. “Investigations are not a matter of payback or political revenge – it is our responsibility to examine what has occurred and to set an appropriate baseline of conduct for future administrations.”

On Jan. 6, Conyers introduced a bill that, if passed, would create the “Commission on Presidential War Powers and Civil Liberties,” which would seek to root out President Bush’s abuses.

MORE HERE

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Osama Bin Laden Challenges Obama In Tape

LEE KEATH | January 14, 2009 10:18 AM EST | AP

CAIRO, Egypt — Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden urged Muslims to launch a jihad against Israel and condemned Arab governments as allies of the Jewish state in a new message aimed at harnessing anger in the Mideast over the Gaza offensive.

Bin Laden spoke in an audiotape posted Wednesday on Islamic militant Web sites where al-Qaida usually issues its messages. It was his first tape since May and came nearly three weeks after Israel started its campaign against Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers.

The al-Qaida leader also vowed that the terror network would open “new fronts” against the United States and its allies beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. He said President-elect Barack Obama has received a “heavy inheritance” from George W. Bush _ two wars and “the collapse of the economy,” which he said will render the United States unable to sustain a long fight against the mujahedeen, or holy warriors.

“There is only one strong way to bring the return of Al-Aqsa and Palestine, and that is jihad in the path of God,” bin Laden said in the 22-minute audiotape, referring to the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. “The duty is to urge people to jihad and to enlist the youth into jihad brigades.”

MORE HERE

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Economic PTSD: The Psychological Effects of the Recession

By Michael Bader, AlterNet. Posted January 14, 2009.

We feel responsible for things we didn’t do and helpless in the face of things we couldn’t do.

Having recently lost 40 percent of my own retirement savings, it’s not hard to empathize with others in the same boat, including their feelings of helplessness, rage, guilt and shame.

Empathy for oneself and others is necessary but not sufficient. The antidote to helplessness begins with compassion and acceptance, but it doesn’t end there. It involves grief but can’t rest there. We need psychological healing but not apart from healing the world.

Outrage is part of the healing that we need. But our public outrage at being betrayed by the greed, mismanagement and political shenanigans that created the current crisis is compromised by all the subtle and secret ways that we avoid confronting painful feelings of helplessness and, instead, irrationally hold ourselves accountable.

This creates a political problem: While the helplessness we feel is legitimate, our ability to rationally respond to it by trying to correct its real structural causes is compromised by the guilt and shame that we’ve internalized.

Our real responsibility to change the world — something we can do — is undermined by the false and self-blaming feelings of responsibility for things that we didn’t and can’t do. The paradox is that we have to face the ways that we’re really helpless in order to own the ways that we’re not.

What is the alternative? The alternative to irrational guilt is real innocence. The alternative to denial is grief. And the solution to helplessness is to get angry and fight back.

MORE HERE

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News Outlets Hope to Capitalize on Inauguration

Published: January 13, 2009

The communal experience of next week’s presidential inauguration will extend beyond the Mall in Washington to include movie theaters and even coffee shops across the country.

The inauguration coverage by the cable news channel MSNBC will be projected onto movie theater screens in 21 cities next Tuesday. The channel is also planning to announce a partnership with Starbucks to simulcast its coverage in 650 of the company’s stores.

MSNBC and other news outlets are looking to capitalize on the heightened interest in the inauguration of Barack Obama, as watch parties are being planned in cities across the nation.

MORE HERE

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World economy falls deeper into recession


THE world economy has taken a sharp turn for the worse, with early estimates showing global output fell more than 4 per cent in the last three months of last year, with further decline expected over the next six months.

The OECD warned yesterday of a “deep slowdown” in all major industrial economies and most of the emerging economies, including China.

The last official forecasts from the International Monetary Fund had predicted China would continue to record strong growth, while the world economy was tipped to grow 2.2 per cent this year. However, estimates are being revised sharply lower in the wake of huge falls in industrial production in all major world economies.

Although the severity of the global downturn will hit Australia’s prospects, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s yesterday said its AAA credit rating was not in jeopardy.

New Zealand, Spain, Greece and Ireland have all been warned over recent days that their credit ratings are at risk.

Wayne Swan said yesterday it was too soon to tell how Australia would be affected by the deteriorating world outlook.

“There’s no doubt if you look around the world at the moment, and indeed if you look at the Standard & Poor’s assessments of other economies, world growth is going to slow, and slow perhaps more rapidly than many had thought towards the end of last year. And that will have an impact on the Australian economy,” the Treasurer said.

The Australian mining industry yesterday announced plans to cut 570 jobs across three states with Rio Tinto shelving nearly $900 million of planned expansions.

Swiss-based mining giant Xstrata said it would cut another 89 contractors and 60 employees at its Mt Isa zinc operation in response to the world financial crisis.

Further job losses will come from Rio’s decision to cancel a copper mine expansion in NSW and the closure by OZ Minerals of zinc mines in Queensland and Western Australia.

The US bank JPMorgan estimates that economic growth in the industrialised world fell at anannual rate of 5.2 per cent in the December quarter while emerging countries contracted by 2.3 per cent.

Official figures will be released over the next six weeks, but JPMorgan estimates the global downturn at 4.6 per cent.

JPMorgan economist Helen Kevans said the bank had been expecting that Australia would enjoy a lift in its exports next year, but had downgraded its forecast and expected Australia to suffer a recession with negative growth in both the December and March quarters.

Monthly surveys of manufacturing production conducted in all major economies indicate that world industrial production slumped 19 per cent in the December quarter.

World steel output tumbled 17per cent between September and November.

“Chinese production was falling sharply, and although it stabilised a bit in November, there were massive falls in the United States and in other steel-producing countries,” ABN-Amro chief economist Kieran Davies said.

He noted that Japan’s industrial production fell by 8 per cent in November, its biggest fall in 55 years. There were smaller falls in industrial production in Germany, France, Britain and Spain.

“Everyone is forecasting big contractions for Japan, the Eurozone and the US, and the weakest growth for China in ages,” Mr Davies said.

The OECD warned yesterday that the seven biggest industrial economies and the major emerging economies were all facing a deep slowdown, based on its “leading index”.

The OECD compiles an index based on figures such as housing starts, share prices and manufacturing employment, which has a proven track record of predicting industrial production growth over the next six months.

The index has been pointing to a sharp downturn in China since the middle of last year, with the outlook deteriorating further in October and November. Brazil is the only major economy expected to record positive growth, and it is also slowing.

ANZ international economist Amy Auster said the figures on world manufacturing output were much worse than for service industries. She said it was possible that manufacturing was being damaged by the reduced availability of trade finance, which was choked by the global banking crisis in October and November.

This had contributed to some huge falls in trade. Taiwan, for example, reported a 42 per cent slump in its exports in November. Korea’s export shipments have also been hit, falling 17 per cent last month, with forecasts of a 30per cent fall this month.

Ms Auster said the OECD leading index showed the global economy was set for a more severe contraction than in 2000-01. “That was a very bad period for Asia in the wake of the tech-wreck, and it looks like we’re on a worse trend than that now,” she said.

The IMF will publish updated forecasts for the world economy before the end of the month. The fund’s managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, said on the weekend that there would be “some decrease” in its forecasts.

Responding to yesterday’s report in The Australian on pressure for planned tax cuts to be brought forward, Mr Swan said the Rudd Government stood ready to unveil further measures to spur growth. However, he said the Government wanted to assess the effect of its $10.4 billion package first.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said the need for a further stimulus package had to be assessed week by week as economic numbers came in.

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