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By Dave Lindorff
If Democrats want to come out of this economic crisis with a powerful mandate to continue running the country, they need to bag the nonsensical talk of “bi-partisanship” and tackle two big lies that have been stymieing progressives for decades.
The first lie is that the only solution to the nation’s deepening health care crisis, which now has over 42 million people—roughly one in seven Americans—living without any health insurance or ready access to medical care, is a combination of limitations on treatment and continued reliance on the private health insurance industry.
The second lie is that Social Security, the single most important economic “safety net” under the lives of America’s elderly, its disabled, and children who lose a wage-earning parent, is headed for “bankruptcy” and needs to have its already skimpy benefits cut back.
On February 12, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told Congress that the global economic crisis was the most serious security challenge facing the United States and that it could topple governments and trigger waves of refugees, the Los Angeles Times reported.
President Obama will hold a "fiscal responsibility summit" in Washington next Monday with the goal of reining in government spending. Watch out.
With our federal budget deficit heading toward $1.4 trillion this year, or nearly 10% of our overall economy, something must be done. Look out.
Obama adviser John Podesta says the summit is the first step in a process to help the public "understand how the financial balance sheet of the federal government comes back into order."
Translation: Middle class and poor folks are going to really get nailed.
According to the Washington Post Obama's team has invited big business, economists and a range of other "special interests" to the event which will feature five breakout sessions. Larry Summers (refer to Naomi Klein interview here) will lead the discussion on Social Security. Hold onto your hat.
Obama's DoJ Sought Dismissal of Missing E-Mails Lawsuit
by Jason Leopold | The Public Record
One day after he was sworn in as President of the United States and in the same week signing executive orders ushering in a new era of government transparency, Barack Obama's Justice Department quietly filed a motion in federal court to dismiss a long-running lawsuit that sought to force the Bush administration to recover as many as 15 million missing White House e-mails.
The American military is shipping battlefield equipment through Jordan and Kuwait, testing possible exit routes in advance of a U.S. withdrawal in Iraq, military officials said.
The convoys — carrying armored vehicles, weapons and other items — mark the Pentagon's first steps in confronting the complex logistics of transporting the huge arsenal stockpiled in Iraq over nearly six years.
It's also part of a wider assessment, ordered by U.S. Central Command, to decide what items the military can transfer, donate, sell or toss away once a full-scale withdrawal is under way, Marine Corps and Army officials told The Associated Press.
The Obama administration, siding with former President George W. Bush, is trying to kill a lawsuit that seeks to recover what could be millions of missing White House e-mails.
Two advocacy groups suing the Executive Office of the President say that large amounts of White House e-mail documenting Bush's eight years in office may still be missing, and that the government must undertake an extensive recovery effort. They expressed disappointment that Obama's Justice Department is continuing the Bush administration's bid to get the lawsuits dismissed.
During its first term, the Bush White House failed to install electronic record-keeping for e-mail when it switched to a new system, resulting in millions of messages that could not be found.
The Bush White House discovered the problem in 2005 and rejected a proposed solution.
The name search took a year, while the company became persona non grata in Iraq, but now it's a reality. The notorious Blackwater Worldwide has officially rebranded itself Xe. According to a company memo, "Xe will be a one-stop shopping source for world class services in the fields of security, stability, aviation, training and logistics."
Note: Obama has selected Ogden for deputy attorney general. The Senate Judiciary Committee is going to vote on his confirmation 2-26.
David Ogden and the New Pornographers: Why the Senate Should Reject His Nomination
by Matthew Schmitz, Public Discourse
February 12, 2009
David Ogden has impressive legal credentials, but his long career as a pornography-industry attorney casts doubt on his ability to enforce laws meant to protect children.
David Ogden graduated from Harvard Law School, clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, and worked in the Justice Department under President Bill Clinton. He brings to his Senate confirmation hearings a long résumé that shows him to be an effective and savvy advocate. Nonetheless, the Senate should decline to confirm as Deputy Attorney General a man who has a long history of representing the pornography industry and opposing laws designed to protect children from sexual exploitation.
Same Old Smoke and Mirrors
By John Perry
Court gives Obama a week to decide
By JOSH GERSTEIN, Politico
A federal appeals court has agreed to give President Barack Obama a little more time—but only a little— to decide whether to support...
...one of President Bush’s most controversial uses of executive privilege. The new administration had asked for a two-week extension until March 4 to decide whether to fight a judge’s ruling that Bush could not use executive privilege to shield his aides from testifying before Congress – a case likely to have implications for whether Karl Rove will have to testify.
However, in an order filed Thursday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the Justice Department only until Wednesday to settle on its position.
Secrecy and Denial as Pakistan Lets CIA Use Airbase to Strike Militants
By Tom Coghlan, Zahid Hussain, and Jeremy Page | Times On Line | Click through for online video | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
The CIA is secretly using an airbase in southern Pakistan to launch the Predator drones that observe and attack al-Qaeda and Taleban militants on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan, a Times investigation has found.
Court: Chinese at Guantanamo Can't Be Freed in U.S.
From Bill Mears | CNN
Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday he will travel to the Guantanamo detention center next week as a "first step" in a process to determine what to do with detainees held there. Holder told reporters after a speech on civil rights that he will make the trip to Cuba on Monday with the Justice Department's point man on counterterrorism, Matt Olsen. Spokesman Dean Boyd termed the trip "the beginning of a review process." Holder told reporters review of the Guantanamo detainees' individual cases has begun and officials are "making progress," but he declined to be more specific.
By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN, Associated Press
WASHINGTON – Despite President Obama's vow to open government more than ever, the Justice Department is defending Bush administration decisions to keep secret many documents about domestic wiretapping, data collection on travelers and U.S. citizens, and interrogation of suspected terrorists.
In half a dozen lawsuits, Justice lawyers have opposed formal motions or spurned out-of-court offers to delay court action until the new administration rewrites Freedom of Information Act guidelines and decides whether the new rules might allow the public to see more.
In only one case has the Justice Department agreed to suspend a FOIA lawsuit until the disputed documents can be re-evaluated under the yet-to-be-written guidelines. That case involves negotiations on an anti-counterfeiting treaty, not the more controversial, secret anti-terrorism tactics that spawned the other lawsuits as well as Obama's promises of greater openness.
Is Obama "Yooing?" Time to Create a Clean-up Team To Identify and Cancel Bad Bush Rules, Edicts and Policies
By Rob Kall, www.opednews.com
Obama is "Yooing"-- using his advisers, like Dubya used John Yoo, to cover his decisions to make wrong choices-- currently, on separation of church and state and presidential privilege. We need to nip this in the bud.
There are different kinds of leaders. Some return the stolen possessions of victims-- things stolen by their predecessors. And some continue to enjoy the stolen goods, whether they be artistic masterpieces, tribal lands... or democratic and constitutional rights.
Obama’s potential nominee to head The Department of]Justice’s Office of Legal Policy, Mark Gitenstein, worked as a lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce between 2000 and 2008, helping his law firm earn more than $6 million in fees, according to federal lobbying records. Obama has set forth strict rules against lobbyists working for him and so Mr. Gitenstein will have to get a waiver. VR Is vehemently opposed to this appointment because of the obvious conflict of interest under which Mr. Gitenstein will labor and because of his work for the Chamber, an organization has been engaged in pervasive illegal and corrupt activity regarding elections nationwide at the behest of big business and Karl Rove.
Co-authored by Linda Milazzo and Georgianne Nienaber
To: The Honorable Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, Washington, DC 20520
To: The Honorable Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the United Nations, United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017
Dear Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice,
The humanitarian situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is disintegrating and it is time for the United States to intervene publicly and forcefully. According to report after report from human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), the violence is escalating, and the United Nations does not have enough peacekeeping troops to contain the violence. Already more innocents have died than in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. The world cannot say again that it had no idea of the scope of this disaster. Rwanda can no longer be given a free pass because of its suffering during the genocide, and Rwandan President Paul Kagame must be held accountable for the alliance he has formed with Congolese President Joseph Kabila who is turning a blind eye to the crimes committed against innocent Hutu civilians in eastern Congo.
In an urgent communiqué to independent media, the Congolese National Congress for the Defense of the People (French acronym, CNDP), is asking to meet with you precipitously regarding the Rwandan government’s unwarranted detention of CNDP leader, General Laurent Nkunda, and the corresponding increase in massacres of Congolese civilians since his January 22nd arrest. As documented by Human Rights Watch on February 13, 2009:
President Barack Obama's new administration presents a unique chance for Washington to remedy human rights violations committed in its anti-terror efforts, a rights report said Monday.
"The change in US administration provides a unique opportunity for change," the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said in its report, "Assessing Damage, Urging Action."
"In the course of this inquiry, we have been shocked by the extent of the damage done over the past seven years by excessive or abusive counter-terrorism measures in a wide range of countries around the world," said ICJ member Arthur Chaskalson, former chief justice of South Africa.
President Barack Obama's picture was removed this week from a Presidents Day sign at the Peterson Air Force Base commissary after customers complained that the image did not fit the holiday commemorating the birthdays of past presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
The head of the local NAACP and a commissary employee say it was blatant racism.
U.S. "war on terror" eroded rights worldwide: experts
By Laura MacInnis | Yahoo! News
Washington's "war on terror" after the September 11 attacks has eroded human rights worldwide, creating lingering cynicism that the United Nations must now combat, international law experts said on Monday.
Mary Robinson, who was the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights when al Qaeda militants flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001, said the United States caused harm with some of the ways it responded.
"Seven years after 9/11 it is time to take stock and repeal abusive laws and policies," the former Irish president said, warning that harsh U.S. detentions and interrogations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba gave a dangerous signal to other countries that could easily follow suit.
Toxic Plans for Toxic Assets
by Stephen Lendman
Exit Paulson, enter Geithner with the latest "no banker left behind plan" - aka whatever Wall Street wants, Wall Street gets. Yet, the reception was underwhelming. The Dow plummeted 382 points while investors took shelter in bonds and gold. AP reported that "the new bank rescue plan landed with a thud on Wall Street" as investors worried that no end to the crisis is in sight. Editorial and op-ed commentaries were near unanimously negative and some especially critical.
At a February 9 congressional briefing, lawmakers greeted Geithner with laughter and sarcasm, but most of it is just politics. Bailout opponent Brad Sherman (D, California) asked for details and a dollar amount, but instead got generalities about what he announced the next day - a plan to:
A Torture Report Could Spell Big Trouble For Bush Lawyers
By Michael Isikoff | Newsweek
But the OPR probe began after Jack Goldsmith, a Bush appointee who took over OLC in 2003, protested the legal arguments made in the memos. Goldsmith resigned the following year after withdrawing the memos, and later wrote that he was "astonished" by the "deeply flawed" and "sloppily reasoned" legal analysis in the memos by Yoo and Bybee, including their assertion (challenged by many scholars) that the president could unilaterally disregard a law passed by Congress banning torture.
An internal Justice Department report on the conduct of senior lawyers who approved waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics is causing anxiety among former Bush administration officials. H. Marshall Jarrett, chief of the department's ethics watchdog unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), confirmed last year he was investigating whether the legal advice in crucial interrogation memos "was consistent with the professional standards that apply to Department of Justice attorneys."
'Pashtunistan' holds key to Obama mission
By Jason Burke, Yama Omid, Paul Harris, Saeed Shah, Gethin Chamberlain | Guardian UK
The mountainous borderlands where Afghanistan meets Pakistan have been described as a Grand Central Station for Islamic terrorists, a place where militants come and go and the Taliban trains its fighters. Now Barack Obama has made solving the 'Af-Pak' question a top priority. But could the battle to tame the Pashtun heartland become his Vietnam?
"The situation there grows more perilous every day," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the American joint chiefs of staff, told journalists earlier this month. Holbrooke reaches for the ultimate comparison: "It's tougher than Iraq."...For Bashir, a Kabul taxi driver, the Americans would leave. "The Soviets couldn't stay in our country. How can the Americans stay?" he asked.
Talks Could Clear Way for Congressional Testimony by Rove
By Carrie Johnson | Washington Post
Luskin replied that he and Rove are awaiting advice from White House counsel Gregory B. Craig about whether Obama would back the executive privilege assertion by his predecessor. "The president is very sympathetic to those who want to find out what happened," Craig said in a statement yesterday. "But he is also mindful as president of the United States not to do anything that would undermine or weaken the institution of the presidency. So, for that reason, he is urging both sides of this to settle."
White House lawyers and representatives for former president George W. Bush are engaged in discussions that could clear a path for congressional testimony by onetime Bush aide Karl Rove, three sources familiar with the talks said yesterday.
Word of the negotiations came on the same day that House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) issued Rove a fresh subpoena regarding his role in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006, allegedly for political reasons.
Rove has deflected congressional demands for information about the dismissals by citing executive privilege and instructions from Bush. But Democrats say President Obama's view of the matter may open the door for Rove's eventual appearance on Capitol Hill.
Ron Paul: What If? ... The American People Learn the Truth!
Statement of Congressman Ron Paul
February 12, 2009
There is certainly a great deal of slack-jawed shock going around these days, especially in progressive circles, where pundits, commentators, analysts and kibitzers continually find themselves reeling from yet another "inexplicable" move by the Obama Administration to uphold the core principles of their predecessors: enriching the rich, extending the empire, and enhancing the authoritarian power of a thoroughly militarized state.
By Dave Lindorff
Hand it to Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH). The conservative senator from the Granite State turned down an appointment to the position of President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Commerce citing “irreconcilable differences.”
Citing the latest Senate vote on Obama’s economic stimulus package, for which Gregg voted “no,” Gregg said, “ We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy."
This has been a uniquely bad week for civil libertarians. The Obama Administration appears to be rushing to dispel any notions that Obama will fight for civil liberties or war crimes investigations. After Eric Holder allegedly assured a senator that there would be no war crimes investigation and seemed to defend Bush policies, Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan, Obama’s Solicitor General nominee, reportedly told a Republican senator that the Administration agreed with Bush that we are “at war” and therefore can hold enemy combatants indefinitely. In the meantime, Obama himself seemed to tie himself in knots when asked about investigating war crimes and leading democrats are again pushing for a symbolic “truth commission.” I discussed these issues in this segment of Countdown this week.
Senator Leahy Starts Bush Truth Commission Petition - Will You Sign On?
I have proposed the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate abuses during the Bush-Cheney Administration -- so they never happen again.
By Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Newspapers
Washington - The Obama administration, which vowed to usher in a "new era of openness in our country," either has delayed action on requests for access to government records or refused to disclose them in three early, high-profile tests of the pledge.
This week, Justice Department lawyers announced that they'd continue to assert the state secrets argument made by the Bush administration in a lawsuit alleging that five men were tortured abroad in U.S.-run prisons.
In a separate case, the Obama Justice Department has agreed with the Bush administration - at least initially - that the news media shouldn't have immediate access to court records in the ongoing Guantanamo detainee litigation.