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Holder and Powell Ain’t Misbehavin’
By Ray McGovern
I used to take a certain pride by association with prominent Bronxites who have “made it.” Cancel that for Attorney General Eric Holder and former secretary of state Colin Powell.
Why would they want to whitewash torture, given what blacks have suffered at the hands of torturers in this country and abroad?
And why is it that they seem to value more their entrée into a privileged white-dominated ruling class than doing the right thing? How else to explain their stunning reluctance to hold torturers accountable and thus remove the stain of torture from our nation’s soul and reputation?
What’s Holding Holder?
The Obama administration is engineering its new bailout initiatives in a way that it believes will allow firms benefiting from the programs to avoid restrictions imposed by Congress, including limits on lavish executive pay, according to government officials.
Administration officials have concluded that this approach is vital for persuading firms to participate in programs funded by the $700 billion financial rescue package.
Bank bailout cost nearly doubles, agency says | MSNBC
Congressional Budget Office: Taxpayers will pay $1.67 billion more
Bailing out the financial sector will cost taxpayers $167 billion more than originally anticipated, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate.
The original figure in January was $189 billion, but it is now $356 billion — $152 billion more for 2009 and $15 billion more next year, the CBO says in its March report updating the budget and economic outlook.
The CBO raised its projection because yields have increased on securities issued by the bailed-out financial institutions under the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.
That means there will be an increase in the cost of the subsidy from the U.S. Treasury's purchase of preferred stock, asset guarantees and loans to automakers, the CBO said.
The Smooth Criminal Transition from Bush/Cheney to Obama
Corrupt new administration deepens and expands systemic criminalization and war agenda
by Larry Chin | Global Researcher.CA
To sober, clear-eyed observers of history and political deception, the ascension of Barack Obama held the promise for unprecedented new dangers: a revitalized New World Order, led by the Anglo-American empire’s neoliberal criminal faction and an iconic, deceptive new facilitator; and a continuation of Bush/Cheney criminality and war, under smarter and much more effective management.
Now, just months into their tenure, the Barack Obama administration has more than fulfilled the promises he made to his elite constituency, deepening the mass destruction of Bush/Cheney, while charming its victims all over the world into enjoying their own demise.
On Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers quietly released the final draft of an extensive report he first unveiled in January documenting the Bush administration’s “unreviewable war powers” and the possible crimes committed in implementing those policies.
In order to determine whether Bush officials broke laws, Conyers has recommended that Attorney General Eric Holder appoint a special prosecutor to launch a criminal inquiry to investigate, among other things, whether “enhanced interrogation techniques” used against alleged terrorist detainees violated international and federal laws against torture.
“The Attorney General should appoint a Special Counsel to determine whether there were criminal violations committed pursuant to Bush Administration policies that were undertaken under unreviewable war powers, including enhanced interrogation, extraordinary rendition, and warrantless domestic surveillance,” Conyers’s report says. “In this regard, the report firmly rejects the notion that we should move on from these matters.”
Two days after being sworn in as the forty-fourth president of the United States, Barack Obama signed three executive orders, banning torture, requiring the CIA to use the same methods as the military in interrogating terror suspects, shutting down the network of secret CIA prisons and shuttering the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. "What the cynics fail to understand," the president proclaimed in his inaugural address, "is that the ground has shifted beneath them."
But where exactly has the ground shifted? The places of focus--and much of the furor against Bush's terror politics over the past few years--are outside our nation's borders, in distant lands and faraway prisons. The problem of torture and other human rights violations in America's "war on terror" has been framed as a problem that happens largely beyond our shores. The underlying assumption is that if Guantánamo detainees were to be tried on United States soil and in federal courts (as many groups demand), such egregious abuses would not occur.
The Council on Foreign Relations, often described as the "real state department", has launched an initiative to promote and implement a system of effective world governance.
Henry Kissinger, a CFR member, anticipates that President Obama will, "…give new impetus to American foreign policy partly because the reception of him is so extraordinary around the world. I think his task will be to develop an overall strategy for America in this period when, really, a new world order can be created. It’s a great opportunity, it isn’t just a crisis."
The "dirty little secret" that Geithner is going to great degrees to obscure from the public is very simple. There are only at most perhaps five US banks that are the source of the toxic poison causing such dislocation in the world financial system. What Geithner is desperately trying to protect is that reality. The heart of the present problem, and the reason ordinary loan losses are not the problem as in prior bank crises, is a variety of exotic financial derivatives, most especially credit default swaps....This is what must be put into bankruptcy receivership, or nationalization. Every hour the Obama administration delays that, and refuses to demand a full independent government audit of the true solvency or insolvency of these five or so banks, costs to the US and to the world economy will inevitably snowball as derivatives losses explode.
Barack Obama's chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, received hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees last year from firms that have direct financial interests before the government or are intimately involved in the White House's bank relief programs.
The White House released late Friday the personal financial disclosure forms of many high-ranking administration officials. The document provided for Summers, who serves as one of the president's closest confidants, underscores just how close some of these officials are to the industry over which they now have oversight.
Among the firms that paid Summers large amounts in speaking fees include J.P. Morgan Chase. That bank offered the former Harvard president and Treasury Secretary $67,500 for a February 1, 2008 engagement. It has received $25 billion in government bailout funds.
In what could become an historic decision, a Federal judge has ruled that non-Afghan citizens rendered by the U.S. to Bagram prison in Afghanistan have a constitutional right to challenge their detention in American civilian courts.
The decision by Federal Judge John Bates was a stunning rejection of unlimited power for the executive branch of government espoused by former President George W. Bush and his successor, President Barack Obama.
Casualties caused by IEDs in Afghanistan on the rise
By Tom Vanden Brook | USA TODAY
Roadside bombs cause 75% of casualties to coalition forces in Afghanistan, up from 50% two years ago, prompting urgent pleas from commanders there for more armored vehicles to protect troops, according to data and interviews.
The growth in casualties caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) worries Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who meets Friday with a task force meant to speed Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to war zones, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.
"The secretary is concerned that with IED casualties in Afghanistan on the rise and tens of thousands of additional U.S. forces flowing into country that we have enough MRAPs to protect our troops from this increasing threat," Morrell said.
Watch "Inside Guantanamo" on Sunday, April 5th, 8 PM CST or Wednesday, April 8, 7 PM CST - Check your local listings.
“Now, I’d like to speak clearly and candidly to the American people . . .”
I believe him, with a passionate urgency — this new president, swept into office on a surge of hope and anger. I believe him without cynicism. After all, he has a terrifying job to do, a toxic legacy left to mop up. I cut him slack, listen for the sound, in his words, of the turning of the ship of state. How does he plan to engage the future? He’s an intelligent and, I think, courageous leader. And he has a global constituency to back him up. All he has to do is speak to it, clearly and candidly . . .
I was numb to the lies and simplistic rhetoric of George W. Bush. But when Barack Obama tries to fill those incredibly small shoes, to rev up the same constituency of true believers (the constituency that didn’t vote for him) and sell the same war — new! improved! — to the American people, I am not numb. The hope in my heart bursts into flying shrapnel. You’re making a serious mistake, Mr. President.
Obama White House Close to Settling Missing Emails Case
By Nick Baumann | Mother Jones
The long saga of the missing White House emails may be finally nearing its end. The Obama administration and two nonprofits that are suing it over millions of missing Bush-era emails have called a truce. A joint motion (PDF) and proposed order (PDF) filed by Justice Department lawyers and the plaintiffs, the National Security Archive and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), call for an indefinite stay of the case so the two sides can continue settlement negotiations. Both the White House and the nonprofits will have to withdraw their pending motions (including a White House motion to dismiss the case) and update the court on settlement proceedings in three months. But the whole ordeal could be over well before that—if contentious issues are resolved in the next few days or weeks.
Two watchdog groups that sued the Bush administration over the loss of 14 million e-mails filed court papers seeking a stay of their lawsuit while they negotiate a settlement with the Obama administration to resolve the matter.
“There is good cause to grant this motion and stay the case, as the parties have already begun to engage in discussions to resolve the issues raised in these cases through settlement, and more time is needed to conduct these discussions,” says the motion filed by Jones Day, the attorneys who represent George Washington University’s National Security Archive in their lawsuit filed against the Bush administration. “The interests of justice will be furthered by allowing the parties ample time to discuss the possible resolution of these cases without further litigation.”
Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Bush White House, said she was "pleased the [Obama] administration is willing to work with us to find a resolution to this lawsuit outside of litigation.
"Hopefully through this process we can finally learn what happened to the millions of missing emails from the Bush administration and restore for the American public their rightful legacy," Weismann added.
The American Civil Liberties Union has called on the Obama administration to end debate ahead of a approaching court deadline in their Freedom of Information Act case which seeks the release of three Office of Legal Counsel memos that are believed to have authorized torture of prisoners in CIA custody.
The memos were written by Stephen Bradbury in May 2005 when he was a lawyer at the Justice Department.
On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that Obama officials are hotly debating whether to release the memos. White House Counsel Gregory Craig and Attorney General Eric Holder are apparently in favor of releasing the memos "as quickly as possible to distance the new administration from the most controversial policies of the Bush years."
I'LL HAVE A "DRAUGHT DODGER!"
Canadian Parliament votes again to let U.S. war resisters stay
by Mike Ferner | April 1, 2009
Two days ago, for the second time in 10 months, Canada's House of Commons told Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government, including Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, to stop deporting U.S. soldiers resisting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The vote united the three opposition parties, the Liberals, the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party in a close 129-125 vote.
Last week, the War Resisters Support Campaign rallied for former Army soldier, Kimberly Rivera, the first female U.S. soldier to go to Canada. Nearly 100 people filled the chairs and lined the aisles at the Steelworkers hall in Toronto for Rivera, her husband and three children, the youngest born in Canada six months ago.
The "One" campaign against global poverty reports:
The Senate Budget Committee, chaired by Senator Kent Conrad, wants to cut $4 billion from the president's International Affairs Budget - the part of the budget funding almost all of our anti-poverty work.
In response to President Obama's Nowruz overture, Iranian officials said: words are nice, but that what Iran is looking for is concrete changes in U.S. policy. Remarkably, such Iranian statements were presented in much of the U.S. press as evidence that Iranian officials aren't interested in improving relations. Another interpretation is at least plausible: Iran is looking for concrete changes in U.S. policy.
Treating a request for changes as an insult would make sense if we agree to assume that the U.S. is congenitally incapable of making concrete changes in U.S. policy towards Iran. But of course, that's not true at all. On the contrary, the U.S. finds itself like a kid in a candy store, confronted by so many choices for concrete policy changes to improve relations with Iran that one hardly knows where to begin. Here, by way of example, are twelve steps the U.S. could take to improve relations.
By Joan Wile, author, "Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace" (Citadel Press, May 2008)
I poured my hopes into you, Barack. I gave and gave from my limited fixed senior income to you. I hate calling strangers, but I did -- in Ohio and Pennsylvania, saying over and over that you would bring peace, that you would restore our good name throughout the world. I wrung my hands through the Hillary attacks, publishing satirical articles, songs and one-acts on the Internet to humiliate her. Oh, my God, the stress of those months as the polls undulated up and down. It's a wonder I didn't have a stroke.
And, then, Hallelujah, you did it. I rejoiced in your victory and thrilled at your inauguration. Your own grandmother couldn't have been more proud and joyful than I was.
By Dave Lindorff
We are witnessing one of the fastest betrayals of the Democratic Party base in modern memory, as President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party leadership in the Senate slither away from a crucial constituency, the labor movement, and from support of labor’s key legislative agenda item: passage of a bill, “The Employee Free Choice Act,” which would restore a measure of fairness to labor relations.
Twenty-eight years ago, Ronald Reagan used the severe economic downturn of 1980-82 to implement an economic philosophy that not only gave force and meaning to a wide range of initiatives but also offered a way back to sustained economic growth. Is there a similarly powerful animating idea behind Obamanomics?
I believe there is -- and it's not a return to big government.
The expansive and expensive forays of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board into Wall Street notwithstanding, President Barack Obama's 10-year budget (whose projections may prove wildly optimistic if the economy fails to rebound by early next year) presents a remarkably conservative picture. In 10 years, taxes are expected to fall to around 19% of GDP, a lower level than the late 1990s. Spending is expected to drop to around 22.5% of GDP, about where it was under Ronald Reagan -- including nondefense discretionary spending at about 3.6% of GDP, its lowest since data on this were first collected in 1962.
The real distinction between Obamanomics and Reaganomics involves government's role in achieving growth and broad-based prosperity. The animating idea of Reaganomics was that the economy grows best from the top down. Lower taxes on the wealthy prompts them to work harder and invest more. When they do so, everyone benefits. Neither Reagan nor the apostles of supply-side economics explicitly promised that such benefits would "trickle down" to everyone else but this was broadly understood to be the justification.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday that he was in "full agreement" with President Obama's newly announced strategy for Afghanistan, saying it was "exactly what the Afghan people were hoping for" and promising to "work very closely" with the United States to implement the plan.
After months of tension between the Afghan leader and officials in Washington, especially over civilian casualties caused by Western military forces, Karzai seemed pleasantly surprised by Obama's prescriptions for Afghanistan's problems, calling his plan "better than we were expecting."
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, the corporate state is here.
WILLIAM GREIDER: The corporate state is here. And I'd say, let's not argue over that. The fact is, if the Congress goes down the road I see them going down, they will institutionalize the corporate state in a way that will be severely damaging to any possibility of restoring democracy. And I want people to grab their pitch forks, yes, and be unruly. Get in the streets. Be as noisy and as nonviolently provocative as you can be. And stop the politicians from going down that road. And let me add a lot of politicians need that to be able to stand up. Our President needs that to be able to stand up.
For years best-selling author William Greider sounded the alarm about Washington's unholy alliance with Wall Street and the failure of the Federal Reserve and other regulators to take preventive measures to avoid disaster. Now, he offers some suggestions to the question everyone is asking: "What do we do now?"
Today President Obama announced his plan to send upwards of 20,000 more American troops to Afghanistan. Peace Action began organizing grassroots activists and lobbying against the escalation in late February.
Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President
By Ray McGovern
I was wrong. I had been saying that it would be naïve to take too seriously presidential candidate Barack Obama’s rhetoric regarding the need to escalate the war in Afghanistan. I kept thinking to myself that when he got briefed on the history of Afghanistan and the oft proven ability of Afghan “militants” to drive out foreign invaders—from Alexander the Great, to the Persians, the Mongolians, Indians, British, Russians—he would be sure to understand why they call mountainous Afghanistan the “graveyard of empires.”
The Duke Law School Blog just coughed up this airball:
"Whatever else we might say about the signing statement that President Obama issued, each of its objections could be raised by a President who disagrees with [the] expansive theory of presidential power that the Bush Administration accepted."
That shot is rejected by a review of the objections Obama raised. No doubt Obama describes his expansive theory of presidential power in different words than Bush's VP's lawyers did, but his signing statement works the same way Bush's did. Taking something that we understand in practice and awaiting a description of it in theory is like trying to win a basketball game on the plane ride home.
A progressive Congressional staffer once told me: "The first rule of Congress is - if you have the opportunity to vote both ways on the same issue, do it."
In "narrowing" the goals for the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, President Obama appears to have obeyed the first rule of Congress. In his speech on Afghanistan, Obama had it both ways.
He asserted that "we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future" and that "we are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future."