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Archive for January 28th, 2009

Blago Tapes Played at Impeachment Trial

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 28th, 2009 5:42 am by HL

Blago Tapes Played at Impeachment Trial

Previously unreleased audio recordings of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich talking gambling legislation and campaign contributions were played in all their ignominy during his impeachment trial Tuesday. There’s a lot more going on here than a vacant Senate seat.

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New York’s A.G. Subpoenas Bank Execs Over Bonuses

Andrew Cuomo

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo sent out subpoenas to Bank of America’s Chief Administrative Officer J. Steele Alphin and recently ousted Merrill Lynch Chief Executive John Thain on Tuesday to look into hefty bonuses paid to Merrill Lynch higher-ups late last year—even as the company was bleeding billions in losses.


AP via Google News:

Those bonuses were paid as Merrill was about to report a $15 billion fourth-quarter loss, and while Bank of America was seeking more federal funds to help it absorb the mounting losses at the New York-based investment bank.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s investigation will center on trying to determine why the timetable for paying the bonuses was moved up to December from its normal period in January; who knew about the bonuses; and how Merrill could justify spending billions of dollars on bonuses knowing its was on the brink of reporting a multibillion loss for the quarter, a person familiar with the probe told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

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Obama First 100 Days Index

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 28th, 2009 5:41 am by HL

Obama First 100 Days Index
Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office are being closely observed around the country–indeed around the world–as his administration takes shape and sets out to…

Emma Ruby-Sachs: Dropping Family Planning Funding Is the Right Move
Ready access to contraceptives for low-income citizens is an essential part of creating a stable, informed and healthy population. There should be a bill aimed at openly supporting this policy.

Obama Leads US Drive To Topple Zimbabwe’s Mugabe
President Obama wants a fresh approach to toppling Robert Mugabe and is discussing with aides an unprecedented, US-led diplomatic push to get tough new UN…


Obama’s Wounded Treasury Man

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 28th, 2009 5:40 am by HL

Obama’s Wounded Treasury Man
Over a third of the Senate voted against Tim Geithner’s confirmation as Treasury secretary, though he did pass the test by 60 to 34 early Monday evening. That is the closest post-WWII margin for a Treasury secretary. According to Bloomberg, seven of the last 23 Treasury-secretary nominees — under which actual Senate roll-call votes were taken — were confirmed by an average vote margin of 95 to one. (The others were confirmed without an official vote count.) Interestingly, three Democrats voted against: Tom Harkin of Iowa, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Independent Bernie Sanders also voted no. Noteworthy on the Republican side, Susan Collins of Maine voted against Geithner, accusing him of “inexcusable negligence” in his non-payment of taxes ($43,000) during his IMF days. Arlen Specter told reporters early on Monday that he would vote yes, but he changed his mind and voted no. Robert Byrd, by the way, captured the sentiments of John Kyl, Jim Bunning, and many others when he said: “Had [Geithner] not been nominated for Treasury secretary, it’s doubtful that he would have ever paid these taxes.”


Ball In Obama’s Court On Rove’s US Attorney Testimony

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 28th, 2009 5:39 am by HL

Ball In Obama’s Court On Rove’s US Attorney Testimony
On the question of whether we’ll get to the bottom of the Bush White House’s role in the US Attorney firings, it’s starting to look more and more like the ball is squarely in President Obama’s court. Yesterday, as we…





Specter Drops Opposition To Holder — Leahy Pleased
It looks like Arlen Specter, the ranking GOPer on the Senate Judiciary committee, has decided to support Eric Holder’s nomination to be Attorney General after all, as Elana reports over at TPMDC. Specter has put up roadblocks to Holder’s confirmation…

Conyers to Rove: Time to Talk About US Attorneys
Last week, we talked to a number of experts who said that President Obama’s executive order on presidential records might well affect the ongoing effort to get information about the Bush White House’s role in the US Attorney firings. And…


Republicans Target Reid

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 28th, 2009 5:35 am by HL

Republicans Target Reid
National Republicans are using their first television ad buy of the 2010 election cycle to criticize Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in his own backyard, a Republican source tells CNN.

The NRSC will begin running an ad today in the Reno television market and purchase ads on Nevada web sites criticizing Reid for voting for last year’s $700 billion bailout and now supporting President Obama’s stimulus plan.

Invisible Hands
Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan This looks like a good one: Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan by Kim Phillips-fein.

From the book jacket: “Starting in the mid-1930s, a handful of prominent American businessmen forged alliances with the aim of rescuing America — and their profit margins — from socialism and the ‘nanny state.’ Long before the ‘culture wars’ usually associated with the rise of conservative politics, these driven individuals funded think tanks, fought labor unions, and formed organizations to market their views. These nearly unknown, larger-than-life, and sometimes eccentric personalities… make for a fascinating, behind-the-scenes view of American history.”

Clinton Made Millions Speaking Abroad in 2008
Bill Clinton “pulled down $5.7 million in speaking fees last year — almost entirely from foreign sources, including nearly $2.1 million after news circulated that Hillary Clinton was in line for Secretary of State,” Politico reports.

“Neither White House aides nor Bill Clinton representatives responded to messages asking whether such similar speeches would be off-limits while Hillary Clinton is running the State Department.”


For Decades, Right-Wingers Have Pushed Paranoia and Xenophobic Politics and Called It ‘Moral Clarity’

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 28th, 2009 5:34 am by HL

For Decades, Right-Wingers Have Pushed Paranoia and Xenophobic Politics and Called It ‘Moral Clarity’
Conservatives live in a world of seething aggression that most progressives can’t even fathom.

The Economic Crisis Isn’t All Bad; It’s a Chance for Us and Obama to Reimagine How We Live Our Lives
Capitalism is on its knees and now we have a chance to create higher ideals beyond career climbing and mindless consumerism.

What Obama Left out of His Economic Recovery Plan: Higher Wages and Debt Relief
This is not a normal recession where the mismatch between supply and demand will work itself out over time.

The Financial Crisis Is Too Dire to Be Left to Politicians
Current leaders of the world’s nations have utterly failed to develop a solution. Now it’s up to ordinary citizens.


How America Embraced Lemon Socialism

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 28th, 2009 5:33 am by HL

How America Embraced Lemon Socialism
America has embraced Lemon Socialism. The federal government — that is, you and I and every other taxpayer — has taken ownership of giant home mortgagors Fannie and Freddie, which are by now basket cases. We’ve also put hundreds of…

Wait until after the revolution, honey
Today, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert asked, why listen to Republicans? Indeed. And yet this morning came the shocking and startling news that our new president has asked House Democrats to cut a provision that would expand contraceptive family…


O?Reilly: Karzai?s Concern For Civilian Causalities Is ?Insulting?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 28th, 2009 5:32 am by HL

O?Reilly: Karzai?s Concern For Civilian Causalities Is ?Insulting?
Last night on the O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly blasted Afghan President Hamid Karzai for appealing to U.S. forces to do more to limit civilian casualties in Afghanistan. O’Reilly chastised Karzai, calling his appeal “insulting” and suggesting that Afghans are ungrateful for the support they receive from U.S. and NATO forces: OREILLY: U.S. and NATO […]

Last night on the O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly blasted Afghan President Hamid Karzai for appealing to U.S. forces to do more to limit civilian casualties in Afghanistan. O’Reilly chastised Karzai, calling his appeal “insulting” and suggesting that Afghans are ungrateful for the support they receive from U.S. and NATO forces:

OREILLY: U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan are risking their lives to protect the Afghan people from the Taliban and al Qaeda. But President Karzai does not seem to get that. Once again, he has condemned American forces after a raid killed some civilians.

In that raid, a top Taliban commander and some of his cronies were also killed, but apparently, Karzai doesn’t understand that in war, collateral damage is constantly present. U.S. military is investigating the situation, but Check believes Karzai is making a political grandstand play, and it is insulting. Without us, his head is on a stick.

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O’Reilly was referring to a recent air strike that the U.S. military claims killed 15 Taliban fighters, but that Karzai claims killed 16 civilians. While the investigation is ongoing, O’Reilly’s blanket condemnation of Karzai’s concern for civilian deaths misses the broader point: American success in Afghanistan depends on reducing civilian casualties there.

U.S. and NATO forces are increasingly reliant on air strikes to prosecute its counterinsurgency objectives in Afghanistan. As Human Rights Watch explained, “There has been a massive and unprecedented surge in the use of air power in Afghanistan in 2008,” resulting in higher civilian death rates. According to the latest U.N. figures, foreign forces in Afghanistan were responsible for the deaths of 577 civilians in 2008 “including 395 deaths caused by airstrikes” — a 40 percent increase over the previous year.

This increase in civilian casualties has “dramatically decreased public support for the Afghan government and the presence of international forces.” As Defense Secretary Robert Gates put it to the congressional testimony today, “civilian casualties are doing [U.S. interests] enormous harm in Afghanistan“:

I will tell you that I believe the civilian casualties are doing us enormous harm in Afghanistan. And we have got to do better in terms of avoiding casualties. I say that knowing full well the Taliban mingle among the people, use them as barriers, but when we go ahead and attack, we play right into their hands. … My worry is that the Afghans come to see us as part of the problem rather than part of their solution and then we are lost.

Ignoring the increasing levels of “collateral damage” — as O’Reilly appears to recommend — is not only unethical, it would further empower the very forces that U.S. and NATO forces are attempting to defeat.

ThinkFast: January 27, 2009
Some of the nation’s largest and most sturdy employers “announced plans yesterday to slash more than 55,000 jobs.” The cuts “extended to companies that were once considered bright spots in the U.S. economy, such as construction equipment maker Caterpillar (20,000 jobs cut), pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (19,500), Sprint Nextel (8,000), Home Depot (7,000), Texas Instruments (3,400), […]

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Some of the nation’s largest and most sturdy employers “announced plans yesterday to slash more than 55,000 jobs.” The cuts “extended to companies that were once considered bright spots in the U.S. economy, such as construction equipment maker Caterpillar (20,000 jobs cut), pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (19,500), Sprint Nextel (8,000), Home Depot (7,000), Texas Instruments (3,400), and GM (2,000).

Roughly two-thirds of the spending and tax cuts in the House stimulus plan will “flow into the economy by the end of fiscal 2010, producing a ‘noticeable impact on economic growth and employment,’” the Congressional Budget Office said yesterday in its “first cost estimate” of the plan. Citing the CBO, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the plan will help create jobs while making responsible investments for the future.

In “his first formal television interview as president,” Barack Obama told the Arabic satellite TV network Al-Arabiya yesterday that his “job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy.” “And my job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives,” said Obama.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that employees “fired after cooperating in sexual harassment investigations may sue for retaliation.” The case involved three women who participated in a Tennessee school system’s internal investigation into the possible misconduct of an employee relations director. The three women were fired for speaking out; the perpetrator was not.

Yesterday, over 2,000 government employees involved in foreign policy issues “signed a letter delivered to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton…calling on the government to give equal benefits to same-sex partners.” While the Bush administration resisted such efforts, “Clinton, during her confirmation hearings, indicated a greater willingness to explore the issue.”

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Interior Dept. Ignored Science When It Limited Water Flows to Grand Canyon

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 28th, 2009 5:31 am by HL

Interior Dept. Ignored Science When It Limited Water Flows to Grand Canyon
Interior Department officials ignored key scientific findings when they limited water flows in the Grand Canyon to optimize generation of electric power there, risking damage to the ecology of the spectacular national landmark, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Bush Rejected Flurry of Requests for Clemency
In his last days in office, President George W. Bush formally rejected clemency requests from a host of prominent business and political figures, including junk bond king Michael Milken and former California lawmaker Randy “Duke” Cunningham, according to newly released Justice Department records.

Treasury Weighs Hard Choices To Save Banks
President Obama’s top advisers are in the final stages of debating several perilous options to right the financial system, all of which are likely to prove unpopular and in some cases carry a significant risk of failure, according to sources in contact with the officials.