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Archive for March 16th, 2009

Israel’s Right-Wing Government Takes Shape

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2009 4:42 am by HL

Israel’s Right-Wing Government Takes Shape

Benjamin Netanyahu has taken a step closer to the prime minister’s office by inking a deal with ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman, who will become Israel’s next foreign minister if Netanyahu is able to put the finishing touches on a governing coalition. The ascendancy of both men is a major body blow to the peace process.

BBC:

Under the agreement, Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman would become foreign minister, said officials from Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party.

He is a strong supporter of the Israeli settler movement and opposes exchanging land for peace with the Palestinians.

Likud still needs support from other parties to form majority in parliament.

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AIG to Dish Out $165 Million in Post-Bailout Bonuses

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The tug of war continues between corporate financial giants and the federal government, and certain members of the former seem to have some trouble adjusting to their post-bailout status. AIG, for example, is still planning to reward its top 400 executives with a whopping $165 million in bonuses this weekend, even after the company was given more than $170 billion from taxpayers to stay afloat.

Update: On Saturday, CNN reported that AIG was “scaling back bonuses” for “some” of its top employees, but whether this reduces the $165 million payout cited by The New York Times is unclear at this point.

The New York Times:

A.I.G., nearly 80 percent of which is now owned by the government, defended its bonuses to the financial products unit, arguing that they were promised last year before the crisis and cannot be legally canceled. In a letter to Mr. Geithner, Edward M. Liddy, the government-appointed chairman of A.I.G., said at least some bonuses were needed to keep the most skilled executives.

“We cannot attract and retain the best and the brightest talent to lead and staff the A.I.G. businesses — which are now being operated principally on behalf of American taxpayers — if employees believe their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury,” he wrote Mr. Geithner on Saturday.

Still, Mr. Liddy seemed stung by his talk with Mr. Geithner, calling their conversation last Wednesday “a difficult one for me” and noting that he receives no bonus himself. “Needless to say, in the current circumstances,” Mr. Liddy wrote, “I do not like these arrangements and find it distasteful and difficult to recommend to you that we must proceed with them.”

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Marc Cooper: Leftist Victory In El Salvador Closes An Historic Cycle

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2009 4:41 am by HL

Marc Cooper: Leftist Victory In El Salvador Closes An Historic Cycle
History comes full cycle with the election of a leftist president in El Salvador. Those we branded two decades ago as “international terrorists” now democratically govern Central America. Question: What will the Axis of Evil look like twenty years from now?

Robert Kuttner: Lifting the Tarp: Will President Obama’s Economic Team Lead Him Off a Cliff?
On Sunday morning, the talk shows were dominated by the revelation that AIG — on the hook to taxpayers for $175 billion — was paying out bonuses to the very unit in London that caused the catastrophe. The newspaper stories suggested that news of this latest outrage originated with a preemptive leak from the administration. But the outrage over the AIG bonuses is a sideshow. The larger problem, both financially and politically, is the entire strategy for rescuing the banks. Obama needs to get a second opinion.

Bill Clinton Leaves Yucaipa Business Partnerships
Former President Bill Clinton has ended his high-profile business connection to his friend Ronald Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos. by walking away from a final payment that…

Clayton M. Christensen and Michael B. Horn: Obama’s Education Stimulus Isn’t Enough
President Obama and his education team spent significant time leading up to the election crafting a comprehensive and carefully thought out education plan. From reforming…


CNN’s King asked Cheney several leading questions, inviting him to hammer Obama

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2009 4:40 am by HL

CNN’s King asked Cheney several leading questions, inviting him to hammer Obama

In an interview during the March 15 edition of CNN’s State of the Union, host and CNN chief national correspondent John King asked former Vice President Dick Cheney several leading questions, most premised on conservative or Republican talking points, that provided Cheney ample opportunities to attack President Obama. For instance, King asked Cheney whether he “believe[s] the president of the United States has made Americans less safe” by reversing several Bush administration’s national security policies — echoing repeated claims by Cheney and former President Bush during their legacy tour that their administration’s policies were responsible for “keep[ing] the nation safe.” King also echoed dubious talking points by asking Cheney whether Obama’s budget proposal is “consistent with what he promised in the campaign” and by claiming that “there is a debate in this town about whether the president is trying to do too much, too fast.” One of King’s leading questions to Cheney — “[i]s the president of the United States trying to brazenly deceive the American people?” — was even based on an article by “the conservative weekly Human Events.”

Among the questions King asked Cheney were the following:

  • Teasing the portion of the interview in which he would ask Cheney about Obama’s national security policies, King stated: “When we come back, President Obama has made some significant changes to the way the United States fights the war on terror. Will those changes put the country in more danger? We’ll ask former Vice President Dick Cheney when our exclusive interview continues in just a moment.” During the segment, King stated that Obama has “announced he will close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility” and “CIA black sites around the world,” and that Obama “will make CIA interrogators abide by the Army Field Manual, defined waterboarding as torture and ban it, suspend trials for terrorists by military commission, and now eliminate the label of ‘enemy combatants.’ ” King then asked Cheney: “I’d like to just simply ask you, yes or no: By taking those steps, do you believe the president of the United States has made Americans less safe?” On-screen text read during this portion of the interview read: “CHENEY ON TERROR THREAT: Obama’s programs making Americans less safe.”

As Media Matters for America has documented, Bush and Cheney have repeatedly asserted in recent months that, in Cheney’s words, “we’ve managed to keep the nation safe from further terrorist attacks for the last seven and a half years.” However, an April 2008 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that “[t]he United States has not met its national security goals to destroy terrorist threats and close the safe haven in Pakistan’s FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas].” And investigative journalist Ron Suskind has reported that many CIA analysts believe Al Qaeda leaders have declined to attack the United States again for strategic reasons, not due to the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policies. Further, the degree to which several terrorist attacks the Bush administration supposedly thwarted were credible threats has been disputed.

  • Earlier in the CNN interview, King said to Cheney: “You learn a lot about an administration, especially a new administration, when it puts forward its first budget. … When you look at that budget — $3.6 trillion, redirecting the government’s resources in health care, in energy, in the environment; also, a pretty large $1.75 billion [sic: trillion] deficit the first year out — do you think that is consistent with what he promised in the campaign, or do you think he’s overreaching his mandate?”

As Media Matters has noted, many media conservatives have recently embraced and promoted the accusation that President Obama has “lied” or broken promises. In many cases, these accusations are based on distortions of comments he has made or misrepresentations of campaign pledges. For instance, many media figures have advanced the false claim that Obama promised during his campaign to stop earmark spending and broke that promise by signing the omnibus appropriations bill, when, in fact, Obama promised to reform the earmark process and cut wasteful spending, not eliminate earmarks altogether.

  • King also said to Cheney: “As you know, there is a debate in this town about whether the president is trying to do too much, too fast.” King then asked Cheney: “I know you don’t like a lot what he is trying to do, but if young Richard Cheney was in the chief of staff’s office down the hall from President Obama, not Rahm Emanuel, would you be saying, Mr. President, you’re trying to do too much, too fast? Or given that he wants to do so many things and at the moment he is quite popular, would you say, you know what, it’s a little risky, but let’s go?”

King’s comments echoed other media that have highlighted claims Obama’s “plate” is too “full,” suggested he has “bit off more than he can chew,” or otherwise given credence to the accusation that the president has loaded his agenda with unrelated items when he should be focusing on the economy. Many media figures, like King, have reinforced the idea without challenge. However, Obama and his aides have asserted that Obama’s initiatives on health care, energy, and education reform are inextricably linked to the economy and have made the case that reforming health care, education, and energy will have economic benefits.

  • At one point, King even acknowledged he was basing a question on an article by a “conservative” newspaper. Holding up a copy of Human Events, King said to Cheney: “This is a newspaper many Americans might not recognize, but I read it and I know you read it.” Cheney quickly replied: “Human Events.” King then stated:

It’s the conservative weekly Human Events. And in the lead article this week, they call it “Obama’s brazen deception to sell agenda.” Essentially the point you just made — that they have, under the umbrella of an economic crisis, you must support us, there is urgency to act now, that they are putting, in this newspaper’s view, a lot of items like health care, like the environment, other priorities and saying, we have to do this all now. Is the president of the United States trying to brazenly deceive the American people?

As Media Matters noted, during the March 13 edition of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, King distorted a recent comment by Obama about the economy, and also misrepresented Obama’s September 2008 criticism of Sen. John McCain for saying that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”

From the March 15 edition of CNN’s State of the Union:

KING: You learn a lot about an administration, especially a new administration, when it puts forward its first budget: $3.6 trillion, that’s a lot of money. And as you know, it would redirect a lot of the government’s priorities — essentially, President Obama has said almost every day, what he has said is a repudiation of many of the priorities you have.

When you look at that budget — $3.6 trillion, redirecting the government’s resources in health care, in energy, in the environment; also, a pretty large $1.75 billion [sic] deficit the first year out — do you think that is consistent with what he promised in the campaign, or do you think he’s overreaching his mandate?

CHENEY: Well, I didn’t like what he promised in the campaign. I frankly disagreed with it. And obviously, they won the election. He’s the president of the United States. He gets to put forward the program he wants. But those of us who are of the other political faith, obviously, get to comment on it and try to improve on it and suggest alternatives.

And, frankly, I think the programs that he’s recommended and pursuing in health care, in energy, and so forth, constitute probably the biggest or one of the biggest expansions of federal authority over the private economy in the history of the republic.

[…]

KING: As you know, there’s a debate in this town about whether the president is trying to do too much, too fast. This is The Sunday Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Georgia, and a Knight Ridder story here about, “Is Obama trying to do too much too fast?”

You have a unique perspective. You have been the White House chief of staff. You served in the Congress in the minority party. You were in the cabinet in the first Bush administration and then vice president for eight years. I know you don’t like a lot what he is trying to do, but if young Richard Cheney was in the chief of staff’s office down the hall from President Obama, not Rahm Emanuel, would you be saying, Mr. President, you’re trying to do too much, too fast? Or, given that he wants to do so many things — and at the moment he is quite popular — would you say, you know what, it’s a little risky, but let’s go?

CHENEY: Well, that’s somewhat analogous to the situation we had. We came in after probably the closest election in history, a five-week recount of the Florida vote. And we got a lot of advice at the time that we should change our program because the election had been so close. The president, rightfully, I thought, rejected that and said, “Look, this is what I ran on. We’re going to improve our military capabilities, we’re going to cut taxes, we’re going to do No Child Left Behind,” and we did it. We did not allow the critics to diminish what we were trying to accomplish. So from the standpoint of what the Obama administration is trying to do, I can’t argue that they should pace it or anything like that. I think that’s — those are all tactical calls they’ve got to make. What’s much more important is the substance of what they recommend, and that’s what I disagree with.

KING: You disagree with it. I want to show you one more newspaper headline in this segment. This is a newspaper many Americans might not recognize, but I read it, and I know you read it.

CHENEY: Human Events.

KING: It’s the conservative weekly Human Events. And in the lead article this week, they call it “Obama’s brazen deception to sell agenda.” Essentially the point you just made — that they have, under the umbrella of an economic crisis — you must support us, there is urgency to act now — that they are putting, in this newspaper’s view, a lot of items like health care, like the environment, other priorities and saying, we have to do this all now. Is the president of the United States trying to brazenly deceive the American people?

CHENEY: Well, I think they’ve taken liberties, if you will, with the arguments. Given the importance to the country and to all of us of having a healthy economy and getting the economy back on track, it seems to me an administration does have an obligation to set priorities and go after that first. It also occurs to me that one of the tools that’s most important to doing that is tax policy and cutting taxes, especially for those who invest and create wealth and create jobs. That’s not what we’re seeing.

[…]

KING: Well, since taking office, President Obama has done these things to change the policies you helped put in place. He has announced he will close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. He has announced he will close CIA black sites around the world, where they interrogate terror suspects. Says he will make CIA interrogators abide by the Army Field Manual, defined waterboarding as torture and ban it, suspend trials for terrorists by military commission, and now eliminate the label of “enemy combatants.”

I’d like to just simply ask you, yes or no: By taking those steps, do you believe the president of the United States has made Americans less safe?

CHENEY: I do. I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9-11. I think that’s a great success story. It was done legally. It was done in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles. President Obama campaigned against it all across the country. And now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack.

KING: That’s a pretty serious thing to say about the president of the United States —

CHENEY: Well —

KING: — and commander in chief of the military. So I want to give you a chance, because many people will say, Vice President Cheney just said Barack Obama, President Obama is making us less safe, more at risk, which you just said. I want to give you a chance — and take as much time as you want — to prove it. Because you put that list up there, and I know you say there have been three cases, I believe, of waterboarding in the past, and you say that specific things have been prevented. I know some of this is classified intelligence, but now that you’re out of government, to the degree that you can, tell the American people, because of those tactics, because of those, yes, sometimes extreme tactics, we stopped this.

CHENEY: Well, I would say that the key to what we did was to collect intelligence against the enemy. That’s what the terrorist surveillance program was all about, that’s what the enhanced interrogation program was all about.

KING: But another 9-11, because of a tactic like waterboarding or a black site, can you say with certainty you stopped another attempt to do something on that level?

CHENEY: John, I’ve seen a report that was written based upon the intelligence that we collected then that itemizes the specific attacks that were stopped by virtue of what we learned through those programs. It’s still classified. I can’t give you the details of it without violating classification, but I can say there were a great many of them.


Center Stage for the 21st Century: Rivalry in the Indian Ocean

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2009 4:39 am by HL

Center Stage for the 21st Century: Rivalry in the Indian Ocean
Note: This essay appears in the March/April 2009 edition of Foreign Affairs. For better or worse, phrases such “the Cold War” and “the clash of civilizations” matter. In a similar way, so do maps. The right map can stimulate foresight by providing a spatial view of critical trends in world politics. Understanding the map of Europe was essential to understanding the twentieth century. Although recent technological advances and economic integration have encouraged global thinking, some places continue to count more than others. And in some of those, such as Iraq and Pakistan, two countries with inherently artificial contours, politics is still at the mercy of geography. So in what quarter of the earth today can one best glimpse the future? Because of their own geographic circumstances, Americans, in particular, continue to concentrate on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. World War II and the Cold War shaped this outlook: Nazi Germany, imperial Japan, the Soviet Union, and communist China were all oriented toward one of these two oceans. The bias is even embedded in mapping conventions: Mercator projections tend to place the Western Hemisphere in the middle of the map, splitting the Indian Ocean at its far edges. And yet, as the pirate activity off the coast of Somalia and the terrorist carnage in Mumbai last fall suggest, the Indian Ocean — the world’s third-largest body of water — already forms center stage for the challenges of the twenty-first century. The greater Indian Ocean region encompasses the entire arc of Islam, from the Sahara Desert to the Indonesian archipelago. Although the Arabs and the Persians are known to Westerners primarily as desert peoples, they have also been great seafarers. In the Middle Ages, they sailed from Arabia to China; proselytizing along the way, they spread their faith through sea-based commerce. Today, the western reaches of the Indian Ocean include the tinderboxes of Somalia, Yemen, Iran, and Pakistan — constituting a network of dynamic trade as well as a network of global terrorism, piracy, and drug smuggling. Hundreds of millions of Muslims — the legacy of those medieval conversions — live along the Indian Ocean’s eastern edges, in India and Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Political Risk, the Financial Crisis and Strategic Investing
(Editor’s Note: Q&A with Ian Bremmer on his new book The Fat Tail: The Power of Political Knowledge for Strategic Investing.) RCP: Exactly what is a fat tail risk and what is the book about? Bremmer:A fat tail is the storm of the century that now seems to appear once every six months. It’s the low-probability, high-impact risk that occurs more often than we think. These risks are not necessarily unpredictable or unknowable-though some are. But too many companies and investors think they don’t need to worry about “extreme” events or that, especially when it comes to politics, it isn’t worth analyzing risks that don’t neatly fit into standard statistical models. The central idea of the book is that fat tail political risks have become increasingly important for governments, companies, and investors-and that they’re both more predictable and more manageable than other sort of fat-tailed risks.


Presented By:

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2009 4:38 am by HL

Presented By:

Another Guilty Plea In Alaska Corruption Probe
Oe of our favorite wide-ranging probes, the one into corruption in Alaska state government, grinds relentlessly on. The Justice Department just announced that Beverly Masek, a former member of the state House of Representatives, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to…


True Value

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2009 4:35 am by HL

True Value


Americans Are Rearing for a Fight with Corporate Power

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2009 4:34 am by HL

Americans Are Rearing for a Fight with Corporate Power
3/4 of Americans want to see a huge worker protection bill pass through Congress, and the greedy corporations are running scared.

Is This Last Gasp for the Israel Lobby and the Neocons?
After sinking intel chief Chas Freeman, pro-Israel hardliners are celebrating. But they may have overplayed their hand on this round.

Americans Are Rearing for a Fight with Corporate Power
3/4 of Americans want to see a huge worker protection bill pass through Congress, and the greedy corporations are running scared.

Tax Time Dangers: Cyber Theives Are Licking Their Chops to Steal Your Info
When you finish up this year’s tax return do yourself a favor. Delete it from your computer.


Presented By:

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2009 4:33 am by HL

Presented By:

Cramer and Stewart
If you want to watch Jim Cramer self-destruct on live TV, watch here. Stewart is the truth squad this country needs. That the rest of the MSM ignores this story, that we have been trying to expose for a long…


After string of gaffes, Steele ?has called a halt to his television appearances.?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2009 4:32 am by HL

After string of gaffes, Steele ?has called a halt to his television appearances.?
The past few weeks have been tough for RNC chairman Michael Steele, who is facing conservative disappointment and outrage over comments criticizing Rush Limbaugh and saying that women have the right to choose abortion. (He has backed down from both statements.) According to the Washington Post, Steele is now taking some time off from […]

ap061108039936.jpg The past few weeks have been tough for RNC chairman Michael Steele, who is facing conservative disappointment and outrage over comments criticizing Rush Limbaugh and saying that women have the right to choose abortion. (He has backed down from both statements.) According to the Washington Post, Steele is now taking some time off from the national spotlight to focus on “nuts and bolts“:

After two weeks of public drubbing over comments that included criticism of radio host Rush Limbaugh and a reference to abortion as a matter of “individual choice,” Steele is taking steps to address some of the concerns about his early gaffes. He has called a halt to his television appearances and curtailed national media interviews. […]

Anderson said that while Steele “pulled himself back a little bit” from TV appearances after his gaffes, the chairman will remain accessible as a spokesman for the party.

“He’s going to be a communicator — that’s his nature,” Anderson said. “But you have to do it strategically.”


To Urge Passage of Budget, Obama E-Mails His Campaign Army

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on March 16th, 2009 4:31 am by HL

To Urge Passage of Budget, Obama E-Mails His Campaign Army
President Obama will kick off an all-out grass-roots effort today urging Congress to pass his $3.55 trillion budget, activating the extensive campaign apparatus he built during his successful 2008 candidacy for the first time since taking office.

Cheney, Bush Strongly Disagreed on Libby
Former vice president Richard B. Cheney said yesterday that he strongly disagreed with President Bush’s decision not to pardon I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, saying his former chief of staff had been left “hanging in the wind.”