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Archive for January 26th, 2009

Karl Rove Subpoenaed By John Conyers: ‘Time To Talk’

On Monday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) issued a subpoena to Karl Rove, requiring him to testify regarding his role in the Bush Administration’s politicization of the Department of Justice, including the US Attorney firings and the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. The subpoena calls for Rove to appear at deposition on Monday, February 2, 2009.

Rove has previously refused to appear in response to a Judiciary Committee subpoena, claiming that even former presidential advisers cannot be compelled to testify before Congress. That “absolute immunity” position was supported by then-President Bush, but it has been rejected by U.S. District Judge John Bates. President Obama has previously dismissed the claim as “completely misguided.”

“I have said many times that I will carry this investigation forward to its conclusion, whether in Congress or in court, and today’s action is an important step along the way,” said Rep. Conyers. Noting that the change in administration may impact the legal arguments available to Mr. Rove in this long-running dispute, Mr. Conyers added, “Change has come to Washington, and I hope Karl Rove is ready for it. After two years of stonewalling, it’s time for him to talk.”

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Gonzales: I don’t think anyone is going to prosecute me.»

Think Progress- By Faiz Shakir at 1:32 pm

In his confirmation hearings, Attorney General nominee Eric Holder declared “waterboarding is torture,” worrying conservatives that he might pursue criminal prosecutions of officials involved in detainee interrogations. In an interview with NPR today, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he doesn’t believe he’ll be prosecuted:

On the question of prosecuting officers who employed any of the “extreme tactics” that the Bush administration has acknowledged, without admitting to any “torture” of detainees: “I don’t think that there’s going to be a prosecution, quite frankly.” Gonzales said. “Because again, these activities…. They were authorized, they were supported by legal opinions at the Department of Justice.”

When Holder is confirmed – with a vote expected Wednesday – he “will have to make a decision as to whether or not move forward with an investigation or a prosecution,” Gonzales said. “But under those circumstances, I find it hard to believe…

“Nonetheless, the very discussion about it is extremely discouraging,” the former attorney general said.

Gonzales recently wondered, “What is it that I did so fundamentally wrong?” As ThinkProgress noted, he politicized the Justice Department, approved torture, lied about warrantless wiretapping, and distorted pre-war intelligence.

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Conyers To Introduce Universal Healthcare Bill Today

Huffington Post- Ryan Grim

January 26, 2009 02:23 PM

John Conyers plans to introduce his universal healthcare legislation today, a Conyers aide tells the Huffington Post. The bill – known last session as H.R. 676 – is a favorite of healthcare reformers who back a single-payer system.

The bill, which will again be H.R. 676, is one of the more elegant to be introduced in the House, clocking in at just a few pages.

The plan is simple: everyone is eligible for a version of Medicare under a new U.S. National Health Insurance Program.

The program would effectively put private insurers out of business. What to do with all those employees? Hire them, says Conyers’ bill.

“The Program shall provide that clerical, administrative, and billing personnel in insurance companies, doctors offices, hospitals, nursing facilities, and other facilities whose jobs are eliminated due to reduced administration (1) should have first priority in retraining and job placement in the new system; and (2) shall be eligible to receive 2 years of unemployment benefits.”

Conyers, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, last introduced his bill, which garnered 93 cosponsors, in February 2007. It was referred to committee but never given a hearing.

If the 647-page House stimulus bill was too much to get through, try Conyers’ out.

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Holy Cow: Top Dems Are Serious About Investigating Bush’s Criminal Acts

By Jason Leopold, Consortium News. Posted January 26, 2009.

To the surprise of progressives and anger of the GOP, leading Dems support investigations.

As President Barack Obama reverses some of ex-President George W. Bush’s most controversial “war on terror” policies, a consensus seems to be building among Democratic congressional leaders that further investigations are needed into Bush’s use of torture and other potential crimes.

On Wednesday – the first working day of the Obama administration – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would support funding and staff for additional fact-finding by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which last month released a report tracing abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib to Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, decision to exclude terror suspects from Geneva Convention protections.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, who issued that report, echoed Reid’s comments, saying “there needs to be an accounting of torture in this country.” Levin, D-Michigan, also said he intends to encourage the Justice Department and incoming Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate torture practices that took place while Bush was in office.

Two other key Democrats joined in this growing chorus of lawmakers saying that serious investigations should be conducted.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, a former federal prosecutor and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a floor speech, “As the President looks forward and charts a new course, must someone not also look back, to take an accounting of where we are, what was done, and what must now be repaired.”

Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland told reporters: “Looking at what has been done is necessary.”

On Jan. 18, two days before Obama’s inauguration, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed support for House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers’s plan to create a blue-ribbon panel of outside experts to probe the “broad range” of policies pursued by the Bush administration “under claims of unreviewable war powers.”

In an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Pelosi specifically endorsed a probe into the politicization of the Justice Department, but didn’t spell out a position on Conyers’s plan to examine the Bush administration’s torture and rendition policies, which could prove embarrassing to Pelosi and other Democratic leaders who were briefed by the CIA about these tactics.

Still, when Wallace cited Obama’s apparent unwillingness to investigate the Bush administration, Pelosi responded: “I think that we have to learn from the past, and we cannot let the politicizing of the — for example, the Justice Department, to go unreviewed. Past is prologue. We learn from it. And my views on the subject — I don’t think that Mr. Obama and Mr. Conyers are that far apart.”

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The Rolling Stones-Sympathy For The Devil

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Iceland’s Government Collapses Over Economic Crisis

Just a few short years ago, Iceland had much to be proud of. The good times were rolling so fast that one expected the country’s almost round-the-clock summer daylight to last all year. Business was booming, society overfed, and the capital, Reykjavik, was in vogue as a travel destination for rich revellers, gastronomes and culture lovers.

Iceland is a country of dramatic natural beauty: lunar landscapes, spouting geysers, sheer glaciers and craggy volcanic rock formations; an impressive but inhospitable isle floating in mid-Atlantic isolation. When, in 2007, it topped the UN’s Human Development Index for its high standard of living, literacy and life expectancy, the tiny community of 310,000 felt they had proved their educated, hard-working and resilient character on an international scale.

The previous year, America had abandoned its long-standing naval air station at Keflavik. Symbolically, the move set Icelanders free from more than seven centuries of foreign domination, first as a Norwegian and then a Danish colony, and for the past 65 years, less formally, under the wing of the US.

“The Vikings” had risen again, and this is the admiring title the country bestowed upon the small group of aggressive businessmen whose high-risk investing bloated the island’s economy to 10 times its GDP, buying up chunks of the British and Continental European high streets in the process. French Connection, Debenhams, Karen Millen, Oasis, Warehouse, Mappin & Webb, Hamleys and many more fell into Icelandic ownership. So did West Ham United football club. When Icelanders visited Copenhagen, they would strut into its smartest department store to buy expensive fashions from “their” shop. Like many British chains, it too was owned by the “Viking” Jon Asgeir Johannesson’s Baugur group: one in the eye for the mother country.

Few stopped to consider, let alone fret over, whether their swift financial ascent would end in an equally steep plunge into oblivion. They were too busy flying to Barcelona for dinner, opening smart boutique hotels, investing in art, planning massive public buildings and buying Range Rovers and Audi Q7s – Iceland is one of the top car-owning countries in the world.

In October, Iceland’s three main banks were nationalised and declared bankrupt. Overnight, any Icelander – and there were many – who had bought these status vehicles or invested in luxury new properties with a foreign loan found the value of their purchases plummeting as repayments soared. The currency, the Krona, fell to one quarter its value before trading in it was suspended. Thousands of hard-working couples nearing retirement age had placed their life savings in stocks with the Landsbanki, Glitnir and Kaupthing banks which led the crash. For many, every penny disappeared into the turbulent waters which connect Iceland with its American and European neighbours.

Frugal Icelanders have been stung too. Food and petrol costs are rising all the time and with interest rates nearing 20 per cent, domestic mortgages, even modest ones, are becoming impossible to service.

“The feeling is we are unable to look after our own affairs” says Hallgrimur Helgason, one of the country’s leading novelists. “We were on our own for years and we went too far, too fast, in too little time. We behaved like children and the first thing we did when the stock market opened 10 years ago was go to London and buy toy stores and candy stores. Now we are bankrupt and there will be no money for years to come and we have more debts than we can ever repay.

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Are We Civilized Enough to Hold Our Leaders Accountable for War Crimes? The World Is Watching

By John W. Dean, FindLaw.com. Posted January 24, 2009.

Other countries are likely to take action against officials who condoned torture, even if the United States fails to do so.

Remarkably, the confirmation of President Obama’s Attorney General nominee, Eric Holder, is being held up by Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, who apparently is unhappy that Holder might actually investigate and prosecute Bush Administration officials who engaged in torture. Aside from this repugnant new Republican embrace of torture (which might be a winning issue for the lunatic fringe of the party and a nice way to further marginalize the GOP), any effort to protect Bush officials from legal responsibility for war crimes, in the long run, will not work.

It is difficult to believe that Eric Holder would agree not to enforce the law, like his recent Republican predecessors. Indeed, if he were to do so, President Obama should withdraw his nomination. But as MSNBC “Countdown” anchor Keith Olbermann stated earlier this week, even if the Obama Administration for whatever reason does not investigate and prosecute these crimes, this still does not mean that the Bush Administration officials who were involved in torture are going to get a pass.

With few exceptions, the discussion about what the Obama Administration will do regarding the torture of detainees during the Bush years has been framed as a domestic matter, and the fate of those involved in torturing has been largely viewed as a question of whether the Department of Justice will take action. In fact, not only is the world watching what the Obama Administration does regarding Bush’s torturers, but other countries are very likely to take action if the United States fails to do so.

Bush’s Torturers Have Serious Jeopardy

Philippe Sands, a Queen’s Counsel at Matrix Chambers and Professor of International law at University College London, has assembled a powerful indictment of the key Bush Administration people involved in torture in his book Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values. He explains the legal exposure of people like former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, Dick Cheney’s counsel and later chief of staff David Addington, former Office of Legal Counsel attorney John Yoo, the former Department of Defense general counsel Jim Haynes, and others for their involvement in the torture of detainees at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and CIA secret prisons.

After reading Sands’s book and, more recently, listening to his comments on Terry Gross’s NPR show “Fresh Air,” on January 7, 2009 I realized how closely the rest of the world is following the actions of these former officials, and was reminded that these actions appear to constitute not merely violations of American law, but also, and very literally, crimes against humanity — for which the world is ready to hold them responsible.

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