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Two months ago we denied the presidency to a man who, for a few votes, forsook a long opposition to torture and pledged his America would continue the barbarity. This month we evict from the White House its resident torturer. These are victories worth celebrating, but they are tempered by having elevated to the White House, as we learn weekly that we have, another torturer.
The Apology: How to Turn Over a New Inaugural Leaf
By Tom Engelhardt | www.TomDispatch.com
We consider ours a singular age of individual psychology and self-awareness. Isn't it strange then that our recent presidents have had nothing either modest or insightful to say about themselves in their first inaugural addresses, while our earliest presidents in their earliest moments spoke openly of their failings, limitations, and deficiencies.
By Dave Lindorff
Congress should do now what it should have done back in the fall: kill the Wall Street bailout program.
After wasting $350 billion on a program that was misrepresented from the outset, and investing hundreds of billions of dollars in failing financial institutions that it could have bought outright for less than it was investing in them (AIG was worth only a few billion dollars in total at the time that the government bailed the company out with an initial investment of $85 billion and Citicorp today is worth less than the $45 billion the government has invested in that failing firm), the Treasury Department, now acting at the direction not of the Bush administration and outgoing Treasurer Hank Paulson, but the Obama administration, is asking for the other half of the Troubled Assets Relief Fund (TARP).
Atheists United of Los Angeles has become the first Southern California organization to join the lawsuit, Newdow v. Roberts, asking to prohibit prayers at President-elect Obama’s inauguration. “If ever there was a person who demonstrated the wisdom of our founders in keeping the divisiveness of religion out of our united government, it is the Reverend Rick Warren,” AU President Bobbie Kirkhart said. The suit also asks that Chief Justice John Roberts administer the oath as written in the Constitution, and not add “So help me God,” as recent Chief Justices have done.
By Rita Beamish and Anne Gearn, ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama appointed a Raytheon Co. lobbyist Thursday to become the No. 2 official at the Defense Department, acknowledging that his choice appeared to break with his self-imposed rules to keep lobbyists at arm's length.
William J. Lynn III, Obama's choice for deputy defense secretary, is a former Pentagon official who now is senior vice president for government operations at Raytheon Co. Lynn hasn't been a registered lobbyist since July, meaning he can't personally lobby Congress or the White House. In the first three months of 2008, his lobbying team reported spending $1.15 million to influence issues, including missiles, sensors and radar, advanced-technology programs and intelligence funding.
By: Ben Smith and Lisa Lerer, Politico
President-elect Barack Obama is expected to move swiftly to reverse executive orders regarding torture of terror suspects, the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and other controversial security policies, sources close to his transition said, in dramatic gestures aimed at reversing President Bush’s accumulation of executive power.
Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) said he’s been informed that President Obama will support his proposed legislation to make public some opinions from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which issued some of the Bush Administration's most sweeping claims of executive power. Obama also has promised to limit President Bush's practice of using "signing statements" to amend legislation.
The threat that the United States would launch a military attack on Iran has never been "taken off the table," but you'd be hard pressed to find many people who think that a U.S. attack on Iran in the near term is a realistic possibility.
Even the Bush Administration nixed an Israel attack on Iran, as the New York Times reported Sunday. (Haaretz reported this months ago.) President-elect Obama pledged as a candidate to abandon the "strategy" of isolation and engage Iran diplomatically. And the U.S. already has two wars going (three, if you count the war on Gaza, which is being waged with U.S. weapons and approval, and which is doing as much political damage to the U.S. in the Muslim world as any war waged by the U.S. directly.)
Barack Obama suggested he's not likely to actively pursue criminal charges against national security officials who were directly involved in unlawful interrogations or wire-tapping, and said it would be difficult to quickly close down Guantanamo Bay.
On Guantanamo — which he repeatedly promised to shutter during the campaign — Obama, in an interview on Sunday with George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week," reiterated his intent to do just that but also sounded a pragmatic note.
Obama said that he is not ruling out prosecution for crimes committed by the Bush administration and left open the possibility of appointing a special prosecutor or commission to independently investigate abuses of power and illegal activity.
Obama's comments came in response to the most popular question on his own website, www.change.gov, which has received 23,000 votes on the "Open for Questions" portion of the site. Bob Fertik of New York who runs the Democrats.com website asks Obama, "Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor -- ideally Patrick Fitzgerald -- to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?"
Obama Fails Citizen Power Test
US president-elect Barack Obama on Friday nominated two Washington heavyweights to key intelligence positions, vowing to break with controversial "war on terror" practices.
Obama picked retired admiral Dennis Blair as his director of national intelligence and former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta to head the Central Intelligence Agency.
"Good intelligence is not a luxury. It is a necessity," Obama said as he unveiled his choices for the key posts, vowing to abide by the Geneva Convention pledging the United States would not use torture.
Ari Melber has a great new blog on this at the Nation.
At long last. Change we can believe in.
By Ray McGovern, http://www.consortiumnews.com
In choosing Leon Panetta to take charge of the CIA, President-elect Barak Obama has shown he is determined to put an abrupt end to the lawlessness and deceit with which the administration of George W. Bush has corrupted intelligence operations and analysis.
First and foremost, the appointment gives hope that torture and “rendition” (a euphemism for kidnapping people for delivery to foreign torture chambers) is over — or will be in less than two weeks.
Character counts. And so does integrity.
With those qualities, and the backing of a new President, Panetta is equipped to lead the CIA out of the wilderness into which it was taken by sycophantic directors with very flexible attitudes toward truth, honesty and the law — directors who deemed it their duty to do the President’s bidding — legal or illegal; honest or dishonest.
By Dave Lindorff
The real cost of the Bush Administration’s trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street is becoming painfully apparent as the incoming Obama administration attempts desperately to make a case for its own $800-billion economic stimulus package, while warning about “trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see.”
On its own merits, all other considerations aside, with the economy slipping into a sinkhole, President-elect Barack Obama’s call for $800 million in stimulus spending should be a slam dunk for Congress. The problem is, Congress already caved in a hurry and approved nearly that same amount--$700 billion—in a matter of days when Bush’s Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and his Federal Reserve Board Chair Ben Bernanke said they needed the money to prevent a collapse of the financial industry, as the nation’s biggest banks, investment banks and insurance companies teetered on the brink of insolvency last fall.
By Steven Hill
The inauguration of the 44th president of the United States is starting to look like the most spectacularly dramatic debut since the Beatles arrived in New York. Before too long, though, the buildup and the hype will be over, and it will be time for Team Obama to produce. Particularly when it comes to three of the president-elect’s top priorities – energy and climate change, health care, and jumpstarting the economy -- President Obama would do well to look toward Europe for guidance.
Europe recently displayed its global leadership by enacting its 20-20-20 Plan: agreeing to cut human-produced carbon emissions that contribute to global warming by at least 20 percent by 2020. They will do this by ramping up renewable energy technologies to 20 percent of its energy usage, and by enacting the world’s most ambitious carbon trading program.
Obama picks Ross as Mideast envoy
By Daniel Dombey in Washington
Dennis Ross, a former top diplomat for the George H W Bush and Clinton administrations, will become the Obama administration’s top envoy on the Middle East, an internal email from Mr Ross’s current employer has revealed.
Mr Ross, who previously served as the US envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is set to take a wider role as Hillary Clinton’s top adviser for the Middle East as a whole. Ms Clinton herself is due to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for her confirmation hearing for Secretary of State next Tuesday.READ REST.
President-elect Barack Obama said Wednesday that reforming massive government entitlement programs — such as Social Security and Medicare — would be "a central part" of his effort to control federal spending.
Obama made the pledge but provided few details as he named Nancy Killefer as his administration's chief performance officer, creating a new White House position aimed at eliminating government waste and improving efficiency.
Noting that the Congressional Budget Office had just estimated he would inherit a $1.2 trillion federal deficit for fiscal 2009, Obama promised to cut unnecessary spending.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility News Release (www.peer.org)
Committee Urged to Scrutinize Jackson’s Actions and Decisions in New Jersey
Washington, DC — Scientists, engineers and inspectors who worked under Lisa Jackson in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection raise troubling questions about her tenure, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is slated to consider the confirmation of Jackson, tabbed by President-elect Obama to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, next week, reportedly on January 14th.
PEER is asking committee members to critically examine actions, decisions and statements that Jackson made at New Jersey DEP which if repeated at EPA would undercut the Obama “change” agenda. Among the issues PEER highlights are her treatment of DEP employees, including –
This is encouraging - I hope it's right: insiders fear torture prosecutions.
While I want the thing eliminated, at least the CIA may now be run by someone with an inclination to obey the law, at least on torture:
"A CIA director who has denounced torture, advocated intelligence cuts, and backed greater congressional control of covert operations--that would be....different." READ MORE.
And how about a head of the Office of Legal Counsel who says this:
"we must regain our ability to feel outrage whenever our government acts lawlessly and devises bogus constitutional arguments for outlandishly expansive presidential power."
"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." READ REST.
By Sasha Issenberg, Boston Globe
Elena Kagan, Harvard law school's dean, will be the new solicitor general, President-elect Barack Obama's transition office announced.
She will be Obama's voice at the US Supreme Court, and she has been considered a potential Democratic appointee to the Court itself.
"I have accepted this nomination because it offers me the opportunity, working under the leadership of the President-elect and his nominee for Attorney General, Eric Holder, to help advance this nation’s commitment to the rule of law at what I think is a critical time in our history," Kagan wrote in an email to the law school community.
By Mike Ferner
Chicago -- Standing outside for five days in the Windy City under skies of lead and the thermometer below freezing provides an opportunity to make certain observations. Standing three blocks from the home of the next president of the United States the day he leaves for a new home in Washington, D.C….well you can’t help but observe certain things.
Hyde Park, where the Obama family lives(d) on Chicago’s south side, is a study in contrasts. Victorian and turn-of-the-century estates, broad tree-lined boulevards and the University of Chicago occupy one end of the spectrum; vacant commercial lots and takeaway restaurants that don’t sell coffee to better discourage the homeless from hanging out, occupy the other. More women wore fur coats -- some pristine and some clearly threadbare -- than I’ve ever seen.
[Of course not, but will Congress? Will the media even ask it of Congress? -DS]
He has criticized Bush’s attempts to trump Congress, especially on war issues.
By Gail Russell Chaddock, Christian Science Monitor
As a US senator and presidential candidate, Barack Obama routinely criticized the accretion of presidential power during the Bush years.
But in the run-up to assuming the presidency himself, the president-elect has gone silent on whether he would roll back powers claimed during the Bush years – or support congressional efforts to do so.
The president does not have the constitutional right to trump laws of Congress when he deems it necessary, he said on the campaign trail.
by Linda Milazzo
I don't believe in god. I never have. I don't believe in religions. I study them, but I don't practice them. I try to understand them to be sensitive to the beliefs and traditions of others, and to attempt to appreciate the motivations behind religious thought and deed. But they are irrelevant to living my life.
Long ago as a freshman at CUNY's Queens College I was introduced to Taoism. Taoism began in ancient China as a religion, then morphed into a dogma free/deity free philosophy. Since my late teens I've tried hard to apply MY understanding of my Tao to my life. I have the freedom to choose my own path and not judge the paths of others. But since I have freedom of opinion, I fall prey to judge. I try not to. But I do.
Through the Tao, I'm both a peacemaker and a warrior since Taoism couples with the art of self-defense. I understand my right to protect myself when needed, and to protect the defenseless when they need me. Since I'm by nature protective, it suits my sensibilities to aid the weak, where I fancy myself absurdly as inordinately strong.
By Mike Ferner
A steady stream of reporters from corporate news media outlets warmed things up at a frigid Camp Hope in Chicago yesterday, when CNN and the local affiliates of ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS all called at Drexel Park on day two of the 18-day vigil urging President-elect Obama to make good on his campaign pledges.
Universal, publicly funded health care was the theme yesterday, highlighted by a presentation from one of the nation’s top authorities on the subject, Dr. Quentin Young, MD.
For decades, Dr. Young has promoted the benefits of a Canadian-type, “single-payer” system like most of the world’s industrialized nations. Young’s office is in Hyde Park, the same venerable neighborhood where Camp Hope is pitched, a few short blocks from Barack Obama’s home. His partner in the practice has been Barack Obama’s personal physician since the Senator moved into the historic district a few years ago.
The U.S. Attorney Question Partially Answered
By Legal Times
In a meeting last month with the Barack Obama's transition staff, representatives of the nation's top prosecutors caught a glimpse of the president-elect's thinking on the politically fraught issue of what to do with the the current 93 U.S. attorneys.
"[The president-elect] is going to be smart and be cautious. My gut feeling is it won't be like it was in 1993," said U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton of Texas' Western District, a member of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys. On Dec. 11, Sutton and 15 other members of the committee met with Obama's DOJ transition chief, David Ogden, and his staff at the Justice Department to advise them on law enforcement issues and to point out areas the committee believes require special attention.
By Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Former Prime Minister of Malaysia
Dear Mr. President,
I did not vote for you in the Presidential Election because I am Malaysian.
But I consider myself one of your constituents because what you do or say will affect me and my country as well.
I welcome your promise for change. Certainly your country, the United States of America needs a lot of changes.
That is because America and Americans have become the best hated people in the world. Even Europeans dislike your arrogance. Yet you were once admired and liked because you freed a lot of countries from conquest and subjugation.
It is the custom on New Year's day for people to make resolutions. You must have listed your good resolutions already. But may I politely suggest that you also resolve to do the following in pursuit of Change.
The following is a memo to Barack Obama from Deepak Chopra
You have been elected by the first anti-war constituency since 1952, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected after promising to end the Korean War. But ending a war isn't the same as bringing peace. America has been on a war footing since the day after Pearl Harbor, 67 years ago. We spend more on our military than the next 16 countries combined. If you have a vision of change that goes to the heart of this country's deep problems, ending our dependence on war is far more important than ending our dependency on foreign oil.
It may well be that in denouncing "Israel's" attack on Gaza one, in an important way, unwittingly does a disservice to the cause of holding the Bush Administration accountable for its crimes.
Is there any doubt that the Bush Administration approved this assault? Is there any doubt that it could not have taken place without the Bush Administration's approval?
Is there any doubt that it could not continue without the support of the Bush Administration and the protective umbrella of its veto at the UN Security Council? Is there any doubt that it will stop the very day that the Bush Administration says that it must?
If so, is it in the interest of humanity that we Americans engage in the charade that the Israeli government is an autonomous actor in this matter?
All these observations are true in general, but we have plenty of specific evidence in this case.