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Archive for January 29th, 2009

Senate Votes To Remove Blagojevich From Office, 59-0

CHRISTOPHER WILLS | January 29, 2009 08:14 PM EST | AP

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gov. Rod Blagojevich was thrown out of office Thursday without a single lawmaker rising in his defense, ending a nearly two-month crisis that erupted with his arrest on charges he tried to sell Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat.

Blagojevich becomes the first U.S. governor in more than 20 years to be removed by impeachment.

After a four-day trial, the Illinois Senate voted 59-0 to convict him of abuse of power, automatically ousting the second-term Democrat. In a second, identical vote, lawmakers further barred Blagojevich from ever holding public office in the state again.

“He failed the test of character. He is beneath the dignity of the state of Illinois. He is no longer worthy to be our governor,” said Sen. Matt Murphy, a Republican from suburban Chicago.

Blagojevich’s troubles are not over. Federal prosecutors are drawing up an indictment against him on corruption charges.

MORE HERE

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Rove announces he has no intention of obeying Conyers’ subpoena

That subpoena from John Conyers seems to be making Karl Rove a little more … clenched these days. Appearing with the ever-friendly Bill O’Reilly last night, he dismissed the possibility he would even consider appearing for the legal summons:

Rove: I have been directed, again on January 16, by the outgoing president’s legal counsel, not to respond to a subpoena, exerting privilege on behalf of the former president and his close aides.

O’Reilly: So you’re not even going to show?

Rove: No, and –

O’Reilly: What if they hold you in contempt of Congress?

Rove: Look, this issue is — let’s step back for a minute. This issue of whether or not I should show up — I’ve never exerted any personal privilege, I’ve never said I have a personal right not to show up.

O’Reilly: No, but you’re a counselor to the president, it’s executive — I got all that. But let’s go beyond the argument. I know your argument. Say Conyers says Mr. Rove is in contempt of Congress. What happens then?

Rove: Well, look, this issue is before the United States Circuit Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia. Rep. Conyers could have waited until they resolved the issue one way or the other, gave guidance to him and gave guidance to the former president and to the current president. But instead, he decided to go forward with this — I don’t know if I want to call it a witch hunt, I don’t think of myself as a witch, but I’m certain — this is a guy who went to the cloak room and said, ‘Somebody has to get his –’ and then filled in a crude way to describe my posterior. He’s sort of like Captain Ahab and I’m the whale.

Well, we know President Obama isn’t keen on Conyers proceeding, but this indeed isn’t just about petty revenge, as O’Reilly and Rove want to pretend. There are in fact much bigger issues at stake here:


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Obama Could Issue an Executive Order to End the Wars Tomorrow (Yes, It’s That Simple)

By Nora Eisenberg, AlterNet. Posted January 29, 2009.

In a wide-ranging interview, veteran Paul Sullivan discusses Bush, Obama and the legacies of the Gulf War.

Paul Sullivan is a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, serving in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq as a Cavalry Scout with the Army’s 1st Armored Division.

As executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center from 1997 to 2000, he advocated for the passage of the Persian Gulf Veterans Act of 1998, which expanded health care and disability benefits for Gulf War veterans. From 2000 to 2006, he was Veterans Affairs project manager, leading a team that produced reports related to the Gulf War, Iraq war and Afghanistan war.

Sullivan is a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled American Veterans and is presently the executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, a Washington nonprofit organization focusing on issues related to national security, veterans’ rights and benefits and civil liberties.

Two days after the inauguration, Paul spoke with me about a number of topics, including: the lies, drugs and poisons involved in the Gulf War and its current sequels; the suicide epidemic among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans; the rash of homicides around military bases; the need for a truth commission; skewed research on Gulf War illness at VA; signs of conspiracy and subterfuge; the legacies of Bush 41 and Bush 43; the first days of Barack Obama; and his hopes for Michelle Obama as a true friend of veterans and veterans’ families.

Nora Eisenberg: You’ve been involved with veterans’ issues and rights for close to two decades — as a veteran and advocate for veterans. Why have you devoted your life to this?

Paul Sullivan: The military taught us a valuable lesson during war: never leave a fallen comrade behind. We are now applying that essential lesson for use outside the war zone: We must never leave a fellow veteran behind.

Most people don’t know that under a little-noticed 1991 law, the Gulf War began on Aug. 2, 1990, and it continues through today. The devastation that began with the bombing of Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991, continues through today. … Out of 700,000 Gulf War veterans, 290,000 filed disability claims against VA. VA also reports that 250,000 Gulf War veterans sought medical care at VA hospitals.

Friends of mine completed suicide after the Gulf War because VA delayed or denied assistance. A few friends suffered without answers from Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS, for years before dying early, often after fighting VA.

The Gulf War continues as the new Iraq and Afghanistan wars. VA reports an additional 330,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have already filed disability claims against VA, and 400,000 have already been treated at VA hospitals. That’s a grand total of 620,000 disability claims and 650,000 veteran patients.

We continue fighting for veterans because they need it, and because we are successful. Our 2007 lawsuit forced VA to establish a toll-free suicide-prevention hot line. In the first 15 months, the hot line received 85,000 calls and performed more than 2,100 rescues of suicidal veterans.

We fought for and secured $1.8 billion in emergency funding in 2007 that VA used to hire thousands of new doctors and claims processors. VCS testified repeatedly about the need to reform VA’s broken claims system, and Congress acted by passing an overhaul bill in late 2008. Yet much more work needs to be done in 2009 and beyond.

The time has come to bring common sense to our U.S. government — we must end the wars, bring our troops home with a responsible plan, provide medical care and benefits to our veterans, begin repairing our Constitution and our international reputation, and create a truth commission that will present the facts about the causes, conduct and consequences of the war to the American public. Then we can learn from our mistakes and move forward.

Now that President Bush has been peaceably removed from office, President Obama need only sign an executive order to end the wars (see Title 38, United States Code, Section 101, Paragraph 33). Congress also has the authority under the Constitution to end the war. Yes, it is that simple.

MORE HERE

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Obama: $18B In Wall Street Bonuses “Shameful”

President Barack Obama responded Thursday to a front page story in the New York Times which reported that Wall Street handed out $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year, calling the payments “outrageous”

From the AP:

“Outrageous.”
That’s President Barack Obama’s one-word reaction to a report that Wall Street employees got more than $18 billion in bonuses last year.[...]

Said Obama: “That is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful.”

The president said he and new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will have direct conversations with corporate leaders to make the point.

Obama said there is a time for corporate leaders to make profits and get paid bonuses but now is “not that time.”

From the Times’ article on Wall Street bonuses:

Despite crippling losses, multibillion-dollar bailouts and the passing of some of the most prominent names in the business, employees at financial companies in New York, the now-diminished world capital of capital, collected an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year.
That was the sixth-largest haul on record, according to a report released Wednesday by the New York State comptroller.

While the payouts paled next to the riches of recent years, Wall Street workers still took home about as much as they did in 2004, when the Dow Jones industrial average was flying above 10,000, on its way to a record high.

Some bankers took home millions last year even as their employers lost billions.

Keep reading.

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Torture Lover John Yoo Excoriates Obama For Banning Torture»

Think Progress- By Ali Frick at 12:04 pm

John Yoo, infamous author of the Bush administration legal memos authorizing the use of torture on suspected terrorists, slams President Obama for banning torture in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today, gravely warning that Obama “may have opened the door to further terrorist acts on U.S. soil.”

Throughout the article, Yoo insists that torture is America’s most effective weapon against terrorists and warns that without it, the U.S. will be incapable of intelligence-gathering:

Eliminating the Bush system will mean that we will get no more information from captured al Qaeda terrorists. Every prisoner will have the right to a lawyer (which they will surely demand), the right to remain silent, and the right to a speedy trial. […]

Relying on the civilian justice system not only robs us of the most effective intelligence tool to avert future attacks, it provides an opportunity for our enemies to obtain intelligence on us.

Considering the Bush administration repeatedly insisted its use of coercive techniques was “limited,” it would be a far stretch even for loyal Bushies to suggest that torture is not the one and only method to obtaining information. And as ThinkProgress has made clear again and again, numerous intelligence experts and real interrogators agree that, far from being “the most effective intelligence tool,” torture simply doesn’t work.

Yoo continues his screed by making up facts about Obama’s ban:

The CIA must now conduct interrogations according to the rules of the Army Field Manual, which prohibits coercive techniques, threats and promises, and the good-cop bad-cop routines used in police stations throughout America. … His new order amounts to requiring — on penalty of prosecution — that CIA interrogators be polite.

Yoo has no idea what he’s talking about. Nothing requires anyone to “be polite” — although the rapport building method has often proved to be interrogators’ most effective technique. And the notion that good-cop/bad-cop would be banned is simply false, Media Matters pointed out earlier this week:

In fact, the Army Field Manual explicitly permits good cop-bad cop interrogations under the name of “Mutt and Jeff” interrogations, which involve two interrogators “display[ing] opposing personalities and attitudes toward the source.” The Field Manual says the “goal of this technique is to make the source identify with one of the interrogators and thereby establish[ing] rapport and cooperation.”

It’s no secret that Yoo is an ardent torture enthusiast: He famously said that only those techniques that inflict pain equivalent to “death, organ failure or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body functions” constitute torture, and last year refused to agree that the president could not order a detainee buried alive. With Obama signaling a clean break from the Bush administration’s terrorism policies, it’s no wonder Yoo is desperate to restore his crumbling torture regime.

Update- Yoo also makes it perfectly clear that Bush himself directly and explicitly ordered torture, including the waterboarding of at least three detainees:

What is needed are the tools to gain vital intelligence, which is why, under President George W. Bush, the CIA could hold and interrogate high-value al Qaeda leaders. On the advice of his intelligence advisers, the president could have authorized coercive interrogation methods like those used by Israel and Great Britain in their antiterrorism campaigns. (He could even authorize waterboarding, which he did three times in the years after 9/11.)

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KC & The Sunshine Band – That’s The Way I like It (1974)

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JPMorgan Exited Madoff-Linked Funds Last Fall

JPMorgan Chase says that its potential losses related to Bernard L. Madoff, the man accused of engineering an immense global Ponzi scheme, are “pretty close to zero.” But what some angry European investors want to know is when the bank cut its exposure to Mr. Madoff — and why.

As early as 2006, the bank had started offering investors a way to leverage their bets on the future performance of two hedge funds that invested with Mr. Madoff. To protect itself from the resulting risk, the bank put $250 million of its own money into those funds.

But the bank suddenly began pulling its millions out of those funds in early autumn, months before Mr. Madoff was arrested, according to accounts from Europe and New York that were subsequently confirmed by the bank. The bank did not notify investors of its move, and several of them are furious that it protected itself but left them holding notes that the bank itself now says are probably worthless.

(more…)

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UN official: Enough evidence to prosecute Rumsfeld for war crimes

Raw Story- David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster
Published: Monday January 26, 2009

Monday, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak told CNN’s Rick Sanchez that the US has an “obligation” to investigate whether Bush administration officials ordered torture, adding that he believes that there is already enough evidence to prosecute former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

“We have clear evidence,” he said. “In our report that we sent to the United Nations, we made it clear that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld clearly authorized torture methods and he was told at that time by Alberto Mora, the legal council of the Navy, ‘Mr. Secretary, what you are actual ordering here amounts to torture.’ So, there we have the clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but, nevertheless, he ordered torture.”

Asked during an interview with Germany’s ZDF television on Jan. 20, Nowak said: “I think the evidence is on the table.”

At issue, however, is whether “American law will recognize these forms of torture.”

A bipartisan Senate report released last month found Rumsfeld and other top administration officials responsible for abuse of Guantanamo detainees in US custody.

It said Rumsfeld authorized harsh interrogation techniques on December 2, 2002 at the Guantanamo prison, although he ruled them out a month later.

The coercive measures were based on a document signed by Bush in February, 2002.

This video is from CNN’s Newsroom, broadcast Jan. 26, 2009.

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