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Archive for January 17th, 2009

Obama Express Whistle-Stop Tour Under Way

JENNIFER LOVEN and NANCY BENAC | January 17, 2009 06:30 PM EST | AP

WASHINGTON — Invoking hope and history, President-elect Barack Obama rolled into the capital city Saturday night pledging to help bring the nation “a new Declaration of Independence” and promising to rise to the stern challenges of the times. He kicked off a four-day inaugural celebration with a daylong rail trip, retracing the path Abraham Lincoln took in 1861.

Obama began his day in Philadelphia, where he said the young nation had faced its “first true test” as a fragile democracy. He ended it in Washington, where his own tests await after his inauguration on Tuesday.

The president-in-waiting drew on a grand heritage of American giants as he appealed “not to our easy instincts but to our better angels,” an echo of Lincoln’s first inaugural address. He took note of the enormous challenges that lie ahead and promised to act with “fierce urgency,” a phrase often used by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Riding a vintage railcar on his whistle-stop trip to Washington, Obama carried with him the hopes of a nation weary of war, frightened of economic chaos and searching for better days. Vice President-elect Joe Biden joined the journey en route, from his home in Delaware, and spoke for many when he said he was excited and ready for Tuesday.

Then, sobered by the challenges of governing, Biden added: “I think it’s Wednesday we need to be ready.”

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Bush-appointed U.S. attorneys refuse to leave Justice Dept.

01/16/2009 @ 10:37 pm

George W. Bush will leave the White House for good on Tuesday, but two controversial U.S. attorneys appointed by him have no intention of leaving the Justice Department.

U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan of Pittsburgh, a member of the conservative Federalist Society who is close to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, pledged last month to remain in her post.

And U.S. Attorney Alice Martin of Birmingham, whose conduct has been the subject of repeated investigations by Congress and the Justice Department’s ethics office, several of which are still pending, will stay on in her post, The Daily Beast reported Friday.

“With the new administration approaching, [Martin] made clear her desire to hold on to her post as U.S. attorney for another year of prosecutions,” the Daily Beast wrote. “Her Kafkaesque argument: she is targeting corrupt Democratic politicians and investigating others. Therefore, her removal under these circumstances and replacement by an Obama appointee would be ‘unseemly.'”

Political appointees to the Justice Department traditionally tender their resignation when a new president moves into the White House; Buchanan and Martin would apparently rather be fired. Their contrariness is particularly notable given a brand-new internal Justice Department report that includes unprecedented details regarding the department’s politicized atmosphere.
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The Top 43 Appointees Who Helped Make Bush The Worst President Ever»

By Think Progress at 12:00 pm

Next week, “change is coming to America,” as President George W. Bush wraps up his tenure as one of the worst American presidents ever. He wasn’t able to accomplish such an ignominious feat all by himself, however; he had a great deal of help along the way. ThinkProgress heralds the conclusion of the Bush 43 presidency by bringing you our list of the top 43 worst Bush appointees. Did we miss anyone? Who should have been ranked higher? Let us know what you think.

1. Dick Cheney — The worst Dick since Nixon. The man who shot his friend while in office. The “most powerful and controversial vice president.” Until he got the job, people used to actually think it was a bad thing that the vice presidency has historically been a do-nothing position. Asked by PBS’s Jim Lehrer about why people hate him, Cheney rejected the premise, saying, “I don’t buy that.” His top placement in our survey says otherwise.

2. Karl Rove — There wasn’t a scandal in the Bush administration that Rove didn’t have his fingerprints all over — see Plame, Iraq war deception, Gov. Don Siegelman, U.S. Attorney firings, missing e-mails, and more. As senior political adviser and later as deputy chief of staff, “The Architect” was responsible for politicizing nearly every agency of the federal government.

3. Alberto GonzalesFundamentally dishonest and woefully incompetent, Gonzales was involved in a series of scandals, first as White House counsel and then as Attorney General. Some of the most notable: pressuring a “feeble” and “barely articulate” Attorney General Ashcroft at his hospital bedside to sign off on Bush’s illegal wiretapping program; approving waterboarding and other torture techniques to be used against detainees; and leading the firing of U.S. Attorneys deemed not sufficiently loyal to Bush.

4. Donald Rumsfeld — After winning praise for leading the U.S. effort in ousting the Taliban from Afghanistan in 2001, the former Defense Secretary strongly advocated for the invasion of Iraq and then grossly misjudged and mishandled its aftermath. Rumsfeld is also responsible for authorizing the use of torture against terror detainees in U.S. custody; according to a bipartisan Senate report, Rumsfeld “conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees.”

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Coldplay- Viva la Vida (Live- MTV Movie Awards 2008 )

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California controller to suspend tax refunds, welfare checks, student grants

John Chiang announces that his office will suspend $3.7 billion in payments owed to Californians starting Feb. 1, because with no budget in place the state lacks sufficient cash to pay its bills.

By Evan Halper and Patrick McGreevy

January 17, 2009

Reporting from Sacramento — The state will suspend tax refunds, welfare checks, student grants and other payments owed to Californians starting Feb. 1, Controller John Chiang announced Friday.

Chiang said he had no choice but to stop making some $3.7 billion in payments in the absence of action by the governor and lawmakers to close the state’s nearly $42-billion budget deficit. More than half of those payments are tax refunds.

The controller said the suspended payments could be rolled into IOUs if California still lacks sufficient cash to pay its bills come March or April.

“It pains me to pull this trigger,” Chiang said at a news conference in his office. “But it is an action that is critically necessary.”

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Obama Has to Hold Bush Accountable for the Laws He Broke

By Elizabeth Holtzman, The Nation. Posted January 16, 2009.

Obama cannot let former Bush administration officials get away with breaking the law without violating his own oath of office.

President Obama, on his first day in office, can make a number of changes that will mark a clean break with the Bush presidency. He can, and should, issue an executive order revoking any prior order that permits detainee mistreatment by any government agency. He should begin the process of closing Guantánamo, and he should submit to Congress a bill to end the use of military commissions, at least as presently constituted. Over the coming months he can pursue other reforms to restore respect for the Constitution, such as revising the Patriot Act, abolishing secret prisons and “extraordinary rendition,” and ending practices, like signing statements, that seek to undo laws.

While these steps are all crucial, however, it is not enough merely to cease the abuses of power and apparent criminality that marked the highest levels of George W. Bush’s administration. We cannot simply shrug off the constitutional and criminal misbehavior of the administration, treat it as an aberration and hope it won’t happen again. The misbehavior was not an aberration — aspects of it, particularly the idea that the president is above the law, were present in Watergate and in the Iran/Contra scandal. To fully restore the rule of law and prevent any repetition of Bush’s misconduct, the abuses of his administration must be directly confronted. As Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen — recently tapped by Obama to head his Office of Legal Counsel–wrote in Slate last March, “We must avoid any temptation simply to move on. We must instead be honest with ourselves and the world as we condemn our nation’s past transgressions and reject Bush’s corruption of our American ideals.”

What we need to do is conceptually simple. We need to launch investigations to get at the central unanswered questions of Bush’s abuse of power, commence criminal proceedings and undertake institutional, statutory and constitutional reforms. Perhaps all these things don’t need to be done at once, but over time–not too much time–they must take place. Otherwise, we establish a doctrine of presidential impunity, which has no place in a country that cherishes the rule of law or considers itself a democracy. Bush’s claim that the president enjoys virtually unlimited power as commander in chief at a time of war–which Vice President Dick Cheney defiantly reasserted just last month–brought us perilously close to military dictatorship.

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