Friday, November 28, 2008
Rachel Maddow Show: Republicans Blaming the Workers for the Problems at GM, Ford and Chrysler from Crooks and Liars
Rachel Maddow talks to Ron Gettlefinger from the UAW about the demonization of union workers and the attempt by the right to blame the auto workers for the problems at GM, Ford and Chrysler. The chattering class on cable news has done its best to tout the Republican party line and scare everyone to death about the dangers of unionization when unions are our last front in trying to prevent a complete race to the bottom in this country, and Rachel's right, it is class warfare. The ones who have been winning that war are desperate to maintain the status quo. Look for this fight to get louder and uglier if they try to get the Employee Free Choice Act through the Congress again.
Five weeks before Jeff Merkley spoke of the Obama spirit of reconciliation during the Senate Democratic caucus meeting that eventually voted 42-13 to allow Joe Lieberman to keep his Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee gavel, Lieberman donated $5,000 to incumbent Oregon GOP Senator Gordon Smith's reelection
Lieberman's support of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for the presidency was well known, punctuated by his nationally televised speech at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul criticizing Obama as not prepared to be president. His endorsement of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who has served as the top Republican beside him at the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also was well known in Democratic circles.
But not even Merkley knew of Lieberman's backing of Smith in their critical Senate race, until Capitol Briefing alerted his staff today.
"We were surprised to hear this news, but it's time to put the election behind us. Jeff Merkley is looking forward to working with all his new colleagues on an agenda that will put our nation back on track," said Julie Edwards, spokeswoman for Merkley.
Jonathan Turley on The Rachel Maddow Show: We're all complicit in Bush's war crimes if we ignore them from Crooks and Liars
As David already discussed, constitutional-law expert Jonathan Turley joined Rachel last night to discuss the fate of top Bush administration figures involved in "harsh interrogation techniques." The White House has indicated that Bush will not be issuing blanket pardons, but the Wall Street Journal later reported that that's because it's "unnecessary" to do so.
Turley makes a critical point in the interview -- namely, that the moral burden of torture is on the backs of each one of us until these people are brought to justice. And it will be profoundly immoral to let them go:
"We have third world countries that when they have found that their leaders committed torture war crimes, they prosecuted them. But the most successful democracy in history is just, I think, about to see war crimes, do nothing about it. And that's an indictment not just of George Bush and his administration. It's the indictment of all of us if we walk away from a clear war crime and say it's time for another commission."
This Thanksgiving, progressives have a lot to be thankful for. Here's our list:
We're thankful we'll soon have a president who will hit the ground running instead of a president who is running the country into the ground.
We're thankful that Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow are demonstrating every night how strong and intelligent progressive voices can be successful on TV.
We're thankful we live in a center-left America rather than "Hannity's America."
We're thankful John McCain has more time to spend in the houses he owns...even if he can't remember them all.
We're thankful Sarah Palin has more time to watch over Russia and warn us in case Vladimir Putin ever "rears his head."
We're thankful that we're moving closer towards a complete withdrawal from Iraq.
We're thankful for the thousands of protesters who took to the streets across America to push for marriage equality.
We're not thankful for neo-McCarthys, neo-Hoovers, neo-Nazis, and neocons.
We're thankful for Tina Fey.
rest at http://pr.thinkprogress.org/
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow put together a list of Bush officials that have been indicted or resigned abruptly in order to recall "just how bad the bad old times have been."
Former assistant to the President Felipe Sixto was charged with stealing from a Cuba-related nonprofit organization. Edgar Johnson, who worked for the Department of the Interior, was charged with taking bribes. Julia McDonald, deputy assistant secretary at the Department of the Interior, resigned after an investigation found she gave government documents to lobbyists.
The number two person at the department of the interior, Steven Griles, was sentenced to 10 months as a part of the Jack Abramoff Scandal. Abramoff was also responsible for taking down Roger Stillwell from the Office of Insular Affairs, Robert Coughlin, who was chief of the criminal division at the Justice Department, and David Safavian, who was chief of staff in the General Services Administration.
Lester Crawford, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, who resigned and pled guilty to holding stock in companies that he was regulating. Claude Allen was the assistant to the president for domestic policy. He resigned for a scheme of defrauding Target stores.
Brian Doyle was deputy press secretary for Homeland Security. He went to prison for child porn. Frank Figueroa also worked for Homeland Security as head of Operation Predator and got in trouble for exposing himself to a girl in a mall.
John Korsmo, chairman of the Federal Housing Board, was convicted of lying about inviting banks that he was supposed to be regulating to a fundraiser for a Congressional candidate. His wife -- deputy chief of staff at the Labor Department -- also lost her job in the scandal.
Head of the ATF, Charles Truscott, resigned for ordering employees to help his child with a school project.
Ken Tomlinson was chairman for public broadcasting and resigned after he was exposed for running a horse racing operation out of his office.
The executive director of the CIA, Dusty Foggo, pleaded guilty in the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal.
Janet Rehnquist, who is daughter of the late Supreme Court Justice, resigned from her position as Inspector General after it was learned she delayed an audit of Florida's pension fund at the request of Jeb Bush.
Deputy assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks David Smith, resigned after killing a buffalo and accepting the corpse as a gift.
Philip Cooney was chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality and resigned when it was discovered that he revised scientific reports on global warming. A press aide at NASA, George Deutsch, resigned for keeping the governments' top scientist from talking about climate change.
The administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Thomas Scully, resigned after pressuring employees to say the medicare drug bill would costs less than it really would. Sean Tunnis, also of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, faked documentation about his medical education.
Bernie Kerik was going to be head of Homeland Security before he was indicted. Scooter Libby, the vice presidents chief of staff, was convicted on four felony counts of lying in the CIA leak case. And finally, Alberto Gonzales, who resigned from his position as Attorney General after being accused of lying to Congress about the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys.
rest and video at http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Why_Rachel_Maddow_thankful_Bush_administration_1127.html
No press conference by President-elect Barack Obama means no $50 wireless Internet fee for reporters covering it.
For three days this week, reporters arrived at the Hilton Chicago ballroom to cover Obama's press conferences only to discover that their air cards couldn't get a signal. The only option was to buy into the Hilton's Internet plan for $50 a day.
Now, that may sound like a lot of money just for getting online to file a story or Google "Paul Volcker," but the hotel's telecommunications staff assured reporters that 50 bucks was a great deal — more than 80 percent off.
The usual conference rate for logging on at the Hilton is $600 a day.
Wow, If We Still Had a Constitution We Wouldn't Have to Have Clinton as Secretary of State from AfterDowningStreet.org
Some legal scholars believe appointing Clinton to State would be unconstitutional
By Ron Brynaert, Raw Story
While the appointment of Senator Hillary Clinton to Secretary of State appears to be an all but done deal, there are some legal scholars who believe that the move would be unconstitutional.
"Why? Because the Constitution forbids the appointment of members of Congress to administration jobs if the salary of the job they'd take was raised while they were in Congress," NBC's Pete Williams reports.
Article I, Section 6: "No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office."
An Emolument is defined as the product (as salary or fees) of an employment, The Atlantic's Matthew Berger points out.
"Essentially, you cannot take a job if the salary was increased during your current congressional term," Berger notes. "And the salary for cabinet officials has gone up in the past year. Even if it is lowered back down, constitutional scholars say that may not be enough to fix the problem."
The Washington Post notes, "In Clinton's case, during her current term in the Senate, which began in January 2007, cabinet salaries were increased from $186,600 to $191,300."
Okay, so where are Zombie Street's hoops to dine? Where is Zombie Street's timetable of repayment for accepting $2 trillion from the Federal Reserve in emergency loans? Where is Zombie Street's proof it hasn't already started a "Great Depression" by its own acceptance of tax breaks above and beyond the original feeding-frenzy bill? And why does the U.S. government helping the Big Three automakers — but not Zombie Street — get labled "protectionist"? Why are the Big Three the "cry babies," yet Zombie Street gets no tough love for its bitching? Why not treat the Big Three and Zombie Street the same? Restructure their business systems!
Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, is unfortunately wrong now. Wall Street is not a "multi-trillion-dollar crime scene" anymore. It's a bloodbath. It's Night of the Living Capitalists.
Congress must do what traditional zombie hunters do during a zombie invasion. Aim for their heads, which means in this case, figuratively speaking, of course, jail their leaders. Or if that's too extreme, President Barack Obama come Jan. 20, 2009, could follow Sen. Bernie Sanders' recommendation for the second course of the feeding-frenzy.
"We should use the second $350 billion tranche to create millions of good paying jobs rebuilding our crumbling bridges, roads, culverts, schools and water systems. We can also create millions of jobs by moving away from foreign oil and fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies," the Independent Vermont senator said.
In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, Karl Rove applauds Barack Obama's appointment of a "first-rate economic team," cheering the selections of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, National Economic Council director Lawrence Summers, Council of Economic Advisers chief Christina Romer, and OMB head Peter Orszag.
But while issuing compliments of most of Obama's nominees, Rove issued this back-handed swipe at Melody Barnes, who ThinkProgress first reported would be chosen to lead the White House Domestic Policy Council:
The only troubling personnel note was Melody Barnes as Domestic Policy Council director. Putting a former aide to Ted Kennedy in charge of health policy after tapping universal health-care advocate Tom Daschle to be Health and Human Services secretary sends a clear signal that Mr. Obama didn't mean it when his campaign ads said he wouldn't run to the "extremes" with government-run health care.
During the campaign, Barnes helped inform Obama's health care approach — the same approach he is now promising to pursue in office. Obama pledged to bring together "doctors and patients, unions and businesses, Democrats and Republicans" together to build on the existing system and "reduce the cost of health care to ensure affordable, accessible coverage for all Americans."
Taking a look at the health care stats in the Bush/Rove era, it's clear that most Americans have seen a decline in their health care at the same time that health insurance companies have reaped tremendous gains:
– Since 2000, the ranks of the uninsured have grown by 7.2 million.
– Health care premiums have doubled under Bush. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have risen from $5,791 in 1999 to $12,680 in 2008.
– The fastest growing component of health care is health insurers' administrative costs.
– The combined profits of the nation's largest insurance companies and their subsidiaries increased by over 170 percent between 2003 and 2007.
Obama is putting together a team, starting with Melody Barnes and Tom Daschle, who will be committed to ending the unfairness and inequity of the current health care system. Meanwhile, Karl Rove is committed to defending the health insurance industry and preventing any change to the status quo. Fortunately, the American people are proclaiming that they are ready for the change that Obama is promising.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The Obama family made a surprise visit to a Chicago church food bank earlier today to help distribute meals, according to a pool report filed today by Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News. After 40 minutes or so, the soon-to-be first family visited with students at the parochial school attached to the church, where they answered questions and got in a little teasing at the expense of the Secret Service.
One of the most powerful simple statements from the pool report came from Obama: Asked why he'd brought his daughters along, he replied: "I want them to learn the importance of how fortunate they are and to make sure they're giving back."
DeFrank's pool report is so full of life and color on this Thanksgiving Eve, I'm going to reproduce it in full. It begins after Obama's press conference this morning when he announced his Economic Recovery Advisory Board:
With the economy in turmoil, Congress in recess and President George W. Bush all but absent from the economic debate, President-elect Barack Obama again held the national spotlight Wednesday, announcing the newest members of the economic team that will advise him on how to manage the crisis.
In his third press conference this week, Obama named former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker and campaign adviser Austan Goolsbee, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, to head the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board. The new panel will help to lift the nation's recession and stabilize financial markets. Proclaiming that Washington's policy-making is often "too insular," Obama said the two experts will bring outside-the-Beltway thinking to the nation's capital.
For evidence of Obama's sudden ascendancy, look no further than the corner of the television screen during the president-elect's third and final economic news conference of the week. Stocks were rising from earlier declines Wednesday as Obama promised to get the economy back on track.
"Markets hate uncertainty, and if they're not getting direction from the current administration they'll look to the next," said Vincent Reinhart, a former director of the Federal Reserve Board's Division of Monetary Affairs during the Bush administration.
What's striking in this case, however, is the market's tolerance for the widely different approach that Obama is promoting, compared to recovery plan laid out by Bush.
Obama is promoting multi-billion dollar economic stimulus package that the Bush administration vowed to veto.
Democrats Need to Advocate for Impeachment Proceedings in the House, Before Bush/Cheney Leave Office from AfterDowningStreet.org
Democrats need to advocate for impeachment proceedings in the House, before Bush/Cheney leave office
By Karen Rubin
Countless editorials and op-ed pieces have described the flurry of activity in the Bush Administration to cement into law and entangle the incoming Obama Administration with regulations that continues the pattern of pro-Corporation, anti-environment, anti-civil rights rule-making that the electorate effectively rejected in 2006 and 2008.
That is why even in these waning days of the Bush/Cheney Administration, to save the Republic, the House must act to impeach Bush & Cheney now, even in these final days, even in what is called the lame duck presidency.
In the first place, even as a lame duck, Bush is still abusing his powers by signing regulations that will entangle the next Administration, effectively canceling out the will of the people as expressed in this tidal wave election.
Every day this week, President-elect Barack Obama has introduced new members of his economic team. Today it was Paul Volcker and Austan Goolsbee, who will lead the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.
Asked if the flurry of public activity was a response to the current Administration's handling of the current crisis, President-elect Obama said that his focus on the economy was about something much broader.
"No, I think what it speaks to is the frustration of eight years in which middle class wages have gone down, or in real terms their family incomes have been reduced," he said. "It expresses frustration about our inability to tackle some of the long term problems that we've been facing and have been talking about for decades, whether it's health care, energy, an education system that's been slipping behind in critical areas like math or science. And most of all, I think frustration with the incapacity of Washington to take bold, clear, decisive steps to deal with our economic problems."
For years President-elect Obama has fought not only for an overhaul of the regulations that govern Wall Street -- as his economic agenda states, "Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that our deep systemic financial market crisis requires a systemic response" -- but for bold action in nearly every area of public policy.
The members of the economic team he announced this week clearly reflect these key principles. Each has the experience, ability, and will to enact bold change. Below we've put together some recent statements from each member of the team to give you an idea of where they're coming from on these key issues.
Timothy Geithner, Treasury Secretary-designate:
"Apart from the mix of incentives and constraints set by regulatory policy, the structure of the regulatory system in the United States needs substantial reform. Our current system has evolved into a confusing mix of diffused accountability, regulatory competition, an enormously complex web of rules that create perverse incentives and leave huge opportunities for arbitrage and evasion, and creates the risk of large gaps in our knowledge and authority. This crisis gives us the opportunity to bring about fundamental change in the direction of a more streamlined and consolidated system with more clarity around responsibility for the prudential safeguards in the system."
--Speech, 6/9/08, link
Larry Summers, Director-designate of the National Economic Council:
"I think the defining issue of our time is: Does the economic, social and political system work for the middle class?... Because the system's viability, its staying power and its health depend on how well it works for the middle class."
--New York Times, 6/10/07, link
Christina Romer, Director-designate of the President's Council of Economic Advisors:
"Poverty is arguably the most pressing economic problem of our time. And because rising inequality, for a given level of income, leads to greater poverty, the distribution of income is also a central concern."
--Economic Review, 1/1/99, link
Melody C. Barnes, Director-designate of the Domestic Policy Council:
"To restore fairness to our system, I will embark on a multi-faceted approach including increasing our investment in public education, promoting genuine health care reform, and backing a higher minimum wage... Our economic security, our national security, our health, and the future of the global environment are fundamentally linked to the choices we make about energy."
--"What a Progressive President Might Say," Op-ed, Washington Post, 1/22/07, link
Peter Orszag, Director-designate of the White House Office of Management and Budget:
"While I'm on the topic of health care, I'd like to make a point related to the current turmoil in financial markets. Many observers have noted that addressing the problems in financial markets and the risks to the economy may displace health care reform on the policy agenda… Although it may not seem immediately relevant given our current difficulties, it will be crucial to address the nation's looming fiscal gap -- which is driven primarily by rising health care costs -- as the economy eventually recovers from this current downturn."
--CBO Director's Blog, 10/13/08, link
Paul Volcker, Chair of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board:
"The new system seemed to work effectively in fair financial weather, with great confidence in its efficiency and presumed benefits. However, I believe there is no escape from the conclusion that, faced with the kind of recurrent strains and pressures typical of free financial markets, the new system has failed the test of maintaining reasonable stability and fluidity... The critical pressures on our financial markets are not unique, nor can an approach to dealing with those pressures be successful in isolation. We have a lot upon which to build, and we should not miss the opportunity to extend the areas of cooperation."
--Testimony to the Joint Economic Committee, 5/14/08, link
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Mr. Geithner also oversaw and regulated an entire industry whose decline has delivered a further blow to an already weakened American economy. Under his watch, some of the biggest institutions that were the responsibility of the New York Fed — Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and most recently, Citigroup — faltered. While he was one of the first regulators to smartly articulate the potential for an impending disaster, a number of observers question whether he went far enough to stop the calamity.
This isn't about big government or small government. It's about building a smarter government that focuses on what works.
Bravo, President-Elect Obama. That's how you explain the progressive vision of government to an anxious country that needs serious leadership to calm the jitters.
Obama addressed the need for government belt-tightening and a health care system for all at a press conference this morning during which he also named his OMB team.
The address in full:
The Obama transition office recently announced nearly 400 individuals who have been dispatched to review the workings of federal agencies. Our researchers here at the Center for Responsive Politics are working to match these individuals to our databases of contributors, bundlers and lobbyists.
Check out the full list of names, along with tallies of their campaign contributions and links to their profiles in our Lobbying, Revolving Door and Bundler databases here. Here's a summary of what we've found:
rest at http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2008/11/obamas-transition-team-include.html
During yesterday's press conference with President-elect Obama, the journalists were divided into a White Sox section and a Cubs section. The pool reporter lamented that he — "a genuine White Sox fan" — was assigned to the Cubs section. During today's press conference, Obama apologized to the reporter and took a shot at the Bush administration's unwillingness to admit error:
The reporter, Steve Thomma, responded, "Thank you sir, that's the change we need on behalf of White Sox fans."
I understand that as a life-long White Sox fan, you were placed in the Cubs section yesterday. And I want to apologize for that. This is also part of the new way of doing business: When we make mistakes, we admit them.
video and rest http://thinkprogress.org/2008/11/25/obama-admits-mistakes/
Dick "Suck On The Toe" Morris is always good for a low mordant chortle or two, especially when he gets called out for shilling a group he has a financial relationship with.
Because Morris hasn't the good sense enough to stop at that point. So there he was yesterday on Fox's Hannity and Colmes, doing it yet again -- on the very day he was called out:
Monday, November 24, 2008
Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle has been tapped by Obama to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, and, according to Roll Call, has accepted the position. Think Progress reports that he will also
take on the position of "health care czar" in the Obama White House. CNN's Ed Henry is also reporting he negotiated the "health care czar" position in order to be "the point person on all White House health-related issues."
I'm okay with this selection -- and that's exactly as noncommittal a reaction as it sounds.
On the plus side, Daschle has (literally) written the book on the healthcare crisis. He knows the ins and outs of Congress and how to get shit done; as Drum says, he "is plainly dedicated to healthcare reform, he understands the legislative realities as well as anyone." Steve notes: "The Daschle announcement reinforces the notion that an Obama administration is going to take the push for healthcare reform very seriously" and "the Daschle news makes me even more encouraged about the prospect of a healthcare package actually passing.
Emanuel is insisting that an incremental approach won't do; Baucus and Kennedy are laying the groundwork on the Hill; and Daschle has been preparing for this fight for quite awhile."
On the other hand, Daschle is definitely not as lefty as I'd like to see with regard to socializing healthcare and not running it through corporate America; instead, he favors a Federal Health Board, which would "create a management infrastructure to integrate our public and private health-care systems." (He's also not as lefty as I'd like on everything else.) He's always been too corporatey for me to like or trust him a whole lot. His public persona is less than dynamic; I'm not sure how successful he'll be in mobilizing public support for a major institutional overhaul -- though maybe that's more the charismatic president-elect's role, anyway.
Daschle's a safe choice. He can get the job done, and he's probably as far left as anyone Obama would have been willing to choose for this role.
To be perfectly blunt, because there are so many long-ignored issues surrounding healthcare access, research, and treatment specific to women, racial minorities, and/or LGBTQIs, this is the one cabinet position where I really wanted to see a woman of color, preferably queer, with a relevant background, so to get a straight white guy from South Dakota is a little disappointing. But any leader is only as good (or is as great) as the people with whom s/he surrounds her/himself, so hopefully Daschle will surround himself with a diverse team who are interested in building a new healthcare system that better serves a wider spectrum of people.
Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin is basically one of the most respected men in the entire Democratic Party. The Citigroup "Senior Counselor" (he joined Citigroup as temporary chair after legislation he shepherded through congress allowed Citigroup's creation, natch) has close ties to just about every other Democratic economic policy guru with influence, and he's especially close to just about all of President-elect Barack Obama's proposed economy-fixing team. Of course, until about a year ago, there'd never been a bad word written about Rubin in the press, but the guy should probably be exiled to an island somewhere and forced to think about what he's done to our fine nation.
What did Rubin do in the Clinton White House? He and Alan Greenspan joined forces to swing the Democratic Party's economic policies so far to the right that the terms of the debate never recovered. Now, economic leftism is Eisenhower Republicanism and the right-wing's economic policy is basically to hand over as much Treasury money and tax cuts as possible to the wealthy and occasionally force some underfunded mandates through congress because why not? Rubin encouraged Clinton to pass NAFTA before tackling health care, to this day he shudders at the idea of demanding worker protection before passing more free trade pacts, and then, for his final act before returning to the private sector, he resisted calls for the regulation of derivatives and strongly encouraged the repeal the Glass-Stengall act, thus leading directly to our current economic crisis. Of course he is still the Democratic party's most respected and powerful economic thinker.
South Carolina's The State reported that Dawson had resigned from the Forest Lake Club after concerns about its "whites only" deed. He said that he'd fought to change the restriction over the summer, though he'd been a member for 12 years.
Dawson announced his candidacy Sunday.
"The paper says he was a member for 12 years, so it seems like a pretty fair question to ask whether he started working to change the club's rules this summer, and then resigned, in preparation for his RNC chair candidacy," TPM's Greg Sargent wrote.
Read the full story here.
The New York Times tugs on the loose threads in the Rubin story to see if it will unravel a little. Ostensibly this is a story about Rubin's acolytes coming to power and how they're going to have to repudiate–or transform–the basic tenets of Rubinomics. But that's a red herring. No one would expect the endlessly pragmatic Rubin to be pushing a 15-year-old playbook:
All three advisers — whom Mr. Obama will officially name on Monday and Tuesday — have been followers of the economic formula that came to be called Rubinomics: balanced budgets, free trade and financial deregulation, a combination that was credited with fueling the prosperity of the 1990s.
But times have changed since then. On Wall Street, Mr. Rubin is facing questions about his role as director of Citigroup given the bank's current woes. And in Washington, he and his acolytes are calling for a new formulation to address the global economic crisis that Mr. Obama will inherit — and rejecting or setting aside, for now, some of their old orthodoxies.
Few observers outside Wall Street understand that the hundreds of billions of dollars pumped into AIG by the Fed of NY and Treasury, funds used to keep the creditors from a default, has been used to fund the payout at face value of credit default swap contracts or "CDS," insurance written by AIG against senior traunches of collateralized debt obligations or "CDOs." The Paulson/Geithner model for dealing with troubled financial institutions such as AIG with net unfunded obligations to pay CDS contracts seems to be to simply provide the needed liquidity and hope for the best. Fed and AIG officials have even been attempting to purchase the CDOs insured by AIG in an attempt to tear up the CDS contracts. But these efforts only focus on a small part of AIG's CDS book.
The Paulson/Geithner bailout model as manifest by the AIG situation is untenable and illustrates why President-elect Obama badly needs a new face at Treasury. A face with real financial credentials, somebody like Fannie Mae CEO Herb Allison. A banker with real world transactional experience, somebody who will know precisely how to deal with the last bubble that needs to be lanced - CDS."
Schumer is talking a 500 billion to 700 billion dollar stimulus bill, spread over 2 years. The Obama campaign is talking about 2.5 million jobs. This is good, a very large stimulus bill is needed.
As with everything, the devil will be in the details. There are good ways to do stimulus, such as food stamps and unemployment extensions, and there are bad ways to do stimulus, like tax cuts for the rich or giving money to corporations which aren't efficient at creating jobs.
In general, here's some of what I'd like to see in a stimulus bill, from most important to least:
NEW YORK (AP) — A Democratic official says President-elect Barack Obama will name New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as commerce secretary.
The official says Obama plans to announce Richardson's selection after Thanksgiving. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations.
Richardson was energy secretary and U.N. ambassador under President Bill Clinton. Richardson would be the most visible Hispanic named to Obama's Cabinet.
Richardson dropped out of the Democratic presidential contest in January and endorsed Obama.
video and rest at http://thinkprogress.org/2008/11/23/will-new-deal/
Another reason to hate good ol Joe: On Lieberman’s Watch Katrina Kids Sickest in US from Firedoglake
For all the talk during last week's Senate Democratic caucus about how Joe Lieberman went South forty years ago to march for racial equality and justice, did anyone even ask about his oversight of the Homeland Security Department that's created Katrina Kids, the sickest ever?
Now, the children of Katrina who stayed longest in ramshackle government trailer parks in Baton Rouge are "the sickest I have ever seen in the U.S.," says Irwin Redlener, president of the Children's Health Fund and a professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. According to a new report by CHF and Mailman focusing on 261 displaced children, the well-being of the poorest Katrina kids has "declined to an alarming level" since the hurricane. Forty-one percent are anemic—twice the rate found in children in New York City homeless shelters, and more than twice the CDC's record rate for high-risk minorities. More than half the kids have mental-health problems. And 42 percent have respiratory infections and disorders that may be linked to formaldehyde and crowding in the trailers, the last of which FEMA finally closed in May.
The "recovery" from Katrina may be worse than the initial response itself:
The "unending bureaucratic haggling" at federal and state levels over how to provide services and rebuild health centers for the Gulf's poor has made a bad situation much worse, says Redlener: "As awful as the initial response to Katrina looked on television, it's been dwarfed by the ineptitude and disorganization of the recovery."
Here is a snippet - Fox News presenter Sean Hannity is the quintessential hack - no brain, just a vacant space in his head for GOP talking points. Hannity is a smooth presenter, articulate and emotive, the perfect frontman for the bankrupt ideology he is paid to promote. Hannity has gone from dreadful to absolutely nauseating since Palin ignited his loins, gushing over the re emergence of brainless conservatism and filling his head with dreams of a conservative comeback in 2012. The visible anguish Hannity now shows after the Democratic victory is a joy to watch, clearly karmic pay back for the years of gloating over the sorry state of Democrats. Hannity was sick to his stomach after Obama was elected, and may develop some serious ulcers over the next four years. However, luckily for him, he may get treatment for free if Obama institutes universal health care."
In case you thought Chiquita and Marc Rich were Eric Holder's only stumbling blocks on his way to being nominated as Barack Obama's Attorney General, Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones revealed yet another reason why Senate GOPs might go to town on this nomination.
Her characterization of the Holder's involvement in the Marc Rich pardon as a "minor hiccup" may not hold up after George Lardner Jr's New York Times op-ed column today, but she had this to say last week about Holder:
Given Holder's otherwise squeaky-clean reputation and a democratic Congress, that minor hiccup isn't likely to slow him down. What might give some members of Congress pause, however, is Holder's record as US Attorney for the District of Columbia during the Clinton administration. If Democrats are looking for a crusader to clean house at the Justice Department and elsewhere in the federal government, Holder might not be their man.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Washington - With a series of forceful actions in recent days, amid an almost unprecedented set of challenges, Barack Obama has taken an unusual step for a president-elect: attempting to alter the country's perilous course even before he takes office.
The most dramatic example came Saturday, when Obama announced a far more aggressive economic stimulus plan than previously promised - a two-year program to addd 2.5 million jobs he said represented "an early down payment on the type of reform my administration will bring to Washington."
Fran Townsend has been peddling an alternate reality version of how Eric Holder came to OK the Marc Rich pardon.
Holder "got a last-minute phone call" from the Clinton White House to vet Rich, Townsend told CNN, where she is a contributor.
"He was put in a horrible position," Townsend said, adding that Holder was being criticized unfairly in the Rich matter.
The charitable view is that Ms. Townsend's imagination has won some battle with her memory. The less charitable view is that her years in the Bush White House have caused her to adopt one of their more famous mottos, "Reality? We don't need no stinkin' reality, we make our own reality!"
rest at http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=10117
Saturday, November 22, 2008
We worked hard to build a movement for HR 676. This is where we've always wanted to be.
We face some challenges. Fresh off the $700 billion bailout of the banks, a GM bailout is now hanging in the balance. We can, and must, convince Washington that a single-payer, national healthcare system is the best way to help the auto industry. HR 676, the legislation we seek, will save auto companies millions of dollars in healthcare costs for their workers and retirees. It must be part of any recovery plan.
HR 676 will keep jobs here in the US!
Obama aides are wary of taking any steps that would smack of political retribution. That's one reason they are reluctant to see high-profile investigations by the Democratic-controlled Congress or to greenlight a broad Justice inquiry (absent specific new evidence of wrongdoing). "If there was any effort to have war-crimes prosecutions of the Bush administration, you'd instantly destroy whatever hopes you have of bipartisanship," said Robert Litt, a former Justice criminal division chief during the Clinton administration. A new commission, on the other hand, could emulate the bipartisan tone set by Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton in investigating the 9/11 attacks. The 9/11 panel was created by Congress. An alternative model, floated by human-rights lawyer Scott Horton, would be a presidential commission similar to the one appointed by Gerald Ford in 1975 and headed by Nelson Rockefeller that investigated cold-war abuses by the CIA.
This Is Change? Twenty Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama's White House from Truthout
A who's who guide to the people poised to shape Obama's foreign policy.
U.S. policy is not about one individual, and no matter how much faith people place in President-elect Barack Obama, the policies he enacts will be fruit of a tree with many roots. Among them: his personal politics and views, the disastrous realities his administration will inherit, and, of course, unpredictable future crises. But the best immediate indicator of what an Obama administration might look like can be found in the people he surrounds himself with and who he appoints to his Cabinet. And, frankly, when it comes to foreign policy, it is not looking good.
Obama has a momentous opportunity to do what he repeatedly promised over the course of his campaign: bring actual change. But the more we learn about who Obama is considering for top positions in his administration, the more his inner circle resembles a staff reunion of President Bill Clinton's White House. Although Obama brought some progressives on board early in his campaign, his foreign policy team is now dominated by the hawkish, old-guard Democrats of the 1990s. This has been particularly true since Hillary Clinton conceded defeat in the Democratic primary, freeing many of her top advisors to join Obama's team.
"What happened to all this talk about change?" a member of the Clinton foreign policy team recently asked the Washington Post. "This isn't lightly flavored with Clintons. This is all Clintons, all the time."
Amid the euphoria over Obama's election and the end of the Bush era, it is critical to recall what 1990s U.S. foreign policy actually looked like. Bill Clinton's boiled down to a one-two punch from the hidden hand of the free market, backed up by the iron fist of U.S. militarism. Clinton took office and almost immediately bombed Iraq (ostensibly in retaliation for an alleged plot by Saddam Hussein to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush). He presided over a ruthless regime of economic sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and under the guise of the so-called No-Fly Zones in northern and southern Iraq, authorized the longest sustained U.S. bombing campaign since Vietnam.
Under Clinton, Yugoslavia was bombed and dismantled as part of what Noam Chomsky described as the "New Military Humanism." Sudan and Afghanistan were attacked, Haiti was destabilized and "free trade" deals like the North America Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade radically escalated the spread of corporate-dominated globalization that hurt U.S. workers and devastated developing countries. Clinton accelerated the militarization of the so-called War on Drugs in Central and Latin America and supported privatization of U.S. military operations, giving lucrative contracts to Halliburton and other war contractors. Meanwhile, U.S. weapons sales to countries like Turkey and Indonesia aided genocidal campaigns against the Kurds and the East Timorese.
The prospect of Obama's foreign policy being, at least in part, an extension of the Clinton Doctrine is real. Even more disturbing, several of the individuals at the center of Obama's transition and emerging foreign policy teams were top players in creating and implementing foreign policies that would pave the way for projects eventually carried out under the Bush/Cheney administration. With their assistance, Obama has already charted out several hawkish stances. Among them:
His plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan; An Iraq plan that could turn into a downsized and rebranded occupation that keeps U.S. forces in Iraq for the foreseeable future; His labeling of Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a "terrorist organization;" His pledge to use unilateral force inside of Pakistan to defend U.S. interests; His position, presented before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), that Jerusalem "must remain undivided" -- a remark that infuriated Palestinian officials and which he later attempted to reframe; His plan to continue the War on Drugs, a backdoor U.S. counterinsurgency campaign in Central and Latin America; His refusal to "rule out" using Blackwater and other armed private forces in U.S. war zones, despite previously introducing legislation to regulate these companies and bring them under U.S. law.
Obama did not arrive at these positions in a vacuum. They were carefully crafted in consultation with his foreign policy team. While the verdict is still out on a few people, many members of his inner foreign policy circle -- including some who have received or are bound to receive Cabinet posts -- supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Some promoted the myth that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. A few have worked with the neoconservative Project for the New American Century, whose radical agenda was adopted by the Bush/Cheney administration. And most have proven track records of supporting or implementing militaristic, offensive U.S. foreign policy. "After a masterful campaign, Barack Obama seems headed toward some fateful mistakes as he assembles his administration by heeding the advice of Washington's Democratic insider community, a collective group that represents little 'change you can believe in,'" notes veteran journalist Robert Parry, the former Associated Press and Newsweek reporter who broke many of the stories in the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s.
As news breaks and speculation abounds about cabinet appointments, here are 20 people to watch as Obama builds the team who will shape U.S. foreign policy for at least four years:
There was no stronger sign that Obama's foreign policy would follow the hawkish tradition of the Democratic foreign policy establishment than his selection of Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate. Much has been written on Biden's tenure as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but his role in the invasion and occupation of Iraq stands out. Biden is not just one more Democratic lawmaker who now calls his vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq "mistaken;" Biden was actually an important facilitator of the war.
In the summer of 2002, when the United States was "debating" a potential attack on Iraq, Biden presided over hearings whose ostensible purpose was to weigh all existing options. But instead of calling on experts whose testimony could challenge the case for war -- Iraq's alleged WMD possession and its supposed ties to al-Qaida -- Biden's hearings treated the invasion as a foregone conclusion. His refusal to call on two individuals in particular ensured that testimony that could have proven invaluable to an actual debate was never heard: Former Chief United Nations Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter and Hans von Sponeck, a 32-year veteran diplomat and the former head of the U.N.'s Iraq program.
Both men say they made it clear to Biden's office that they were ready and willing to testify; Ritter knew more about the dismantling of Iraq's WMD program than perhaps any other U.S. citizen and would have been in prime position to debunk the misinformation and outright lies being peddled by the White House. Meanwhile, von Sponeck had just returned from Iraq, where he had observed Ansar al Islam rebels in the north of Iraq -- the so-called al-Qaida connection -- and could have testified that, rather than colluding with Saddam's regime, they were in a battle against it. Moreover, he would have pointed out that they were operating in the U.S.-enforced safe haven of Iraqi Kurdistan. "Evidence of al-Qaida/lraq collaboration does not exist, neither in the training of operatives nor in support to Ansar-al-Islam," von Sponeck wrote in an Op-Ed published shortly before the July 2002 hearings. "The U.S. Department of Defense and the CIA know perfectly well that today's Iraq poses no threat to anyone in the region, let alone in the United States. To argue otherwise is dishonest."
With both men barred from testifying, rather than eliciting an array of informed opinions, Biden's committee whitewashed Bush's lies and helped lead the country to war. Biden himself promoted the administration's false claims that were used to justify the invasion of Iraq, declaring on the Senate floor, "[Saddam Hussein] possesses chemical and biological weapons and is seeking nuclear weapons."
With the war underway, Biden was then the genius who passionately promoted the ridiculous plan to partition Iraq into three areas based on religion and ethnicity, attempting to Balkanize one of the strongest Arab states in the world.
"He's a part of the old Democratic establishment," says retired Army Col. Ann Wright, the State Department diplomat who reopened the U.S. embassy in Kabul in 2002. Biden, she says, has "had a long history with foreign affairs, [but] it's not the type of foreign affairs that I want."
Obama's appointment of Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff is a clear sign that Clinton-era neoliberal hawks will be well-represented at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. A former senior Clinton advisor, Emanuel is a hard-line supporter of Israel's "targeted assassination" policy and actually volunteered to work with the Israeli Army during the 1991 Gulf War. He is close to the right-wing Democratic Leadership Council and was the only member of the Illinois Democratic delegation in the Congress to vote for the invasion of Iraq. Unlike many of his colleagues, Emanuel still defends his vote. As chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006, Emanuel promoted the campaigns of 22 candidates, only one of who supported a swift withdrawal from Iraq, and denied crucial Party funding to anti-war candidates. "As for Iraq policy, at the right time, we will have a position," he said in December 2005. As Philip Giraldi recently pointed out on Antiwar.com, Emanuel "advocates increasing the size of the U.S. Army by 100,000 soldiers and creating a domestic spying organization like Britain's MI5. More recently, he has supported mandatory paramilitary national service for all Americans between the ages of 18 and 25."
While Obama has at times been critical of Clinton-era free trade agreements, Emanuel was one of the key people in the Clinton White House who brokered the successful passage of NAFTA.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
For all the buzz and speculation about the possibility that Sen. Clinton may be named Secretary of State, most media coverage has focused on her rivalry with Obama during the primary, along with the prospect of her husband having to face the intense personal, financial and political vetting process required to secure a job in the new administration. But the question of how Clinton would lead the operations at Foggy Bottom calls for scrutiny of her positions vis-a-vis Obama's stated foreign-policy goals.
Clinton was an ardent defender of her husband's economic and military war against Iraq throughout the 1990s, including the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which ultimately laid the path for President George W. Bush's invasion. Later, as a U.S. senator, she not only voted to authorize the war, but aided the Bush administration's propaganda campaign in the lead-up to the invasion. "Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile-delivery capability and his nuclear program," Clinton said when rising to support the measure in October 2002. "He has also given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaida members ... I want to insure that Saddam Hussein makes no mistake about our national unity and for our support for the president's efforts to wage America's war against terrorists and weapons of mass destruction."
"The man who vowed to deliver us from 28 years of Bushes and Clintons has been stocking up on Clintonites," New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recently wrote. "How, one may ask, can he put Hillary -- who voted to authorize the Iraq war without even reading the intelligence assessment -- in charge of patching up a foreign policy and a world riven by that war?"
Beyond Iraq, Clinton shocked many and sparked official protests by Tehran at the United Nations when asked during the presidential campaign what she would do as president if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. "I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran," she declared. "In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."
Clinton has not shied away from supporting offensive foreign policy tactics in the past. Recalling her husband's weighing the decision of whether to attack Yugoslavia, she said in 1999, "I urged him to bomb. You cannot let this go on at the end of a century that has seen the major holocaust of our time. What do we have NATO for if not to defend our way of life?"
While Obama's house is flush with Clintonian officials like former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Defense Secretary William Perry, Director of the State Department Office of Policy Planning Greg Craig (who was officially named Obama's White House Counsel) and Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, perhaps most influential is Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton's former Secretary of State and U.N. ambassador. Albright recently served as a proxy for Obama, representing him at the G-20 summit earlier this month. Whether or not she is awarded an official role in the administration, Albright will be a major force in shaping Obama's foreign policy.
"It will take time to convince skeptics that the promotion of democracy is not a mask for imperialism or a recipe for the kind of chaos we have seen in the Persian Gulf," Albright recently wrote. "And it will take time to establish the right identity for America in a world that has grown suspicious of all who claim a monopoly on virtue and that has become reluctant to follow the lead of any one country."
Albright should know. She was one of the key architects in the dismantling of Yugoslavia during the 1990s. In the lead-up to the 1999 "Kosovo war," she oversaw the U.S. attempt to coerce the Yugoslav government to deny its own sovereignty in return for not being bombed. Albright demanded that the Yugoslav government sign a document that would have been unacceptable to any sovereign nation. Known as the Rambouillet Accord, it included a provision that would have guaranteed U.S. and NATO forces "free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout" all of Yugoslavia -- not just Kosovo -- while also seeking to immunize those occupation forces "from any form of arrest, investigation or detention by the authorities in [Yugoslavia]." Moreover, it would have granted the occupiers "the use of airports, roads, rails and ports without payment." Similar to Bush's Iraq plan years later, the Rambouillet Accord mandated that the economy of Kosovo "shall function in accordance with free-market principles."
When Yugoslavia refused to sign the document, Albright and others in the Clinton administration unleashed the 78-day NATO bombing of Serbia, which targeted civilian infrastructure. (Prior to the attack, Albright said the U.S. government felt "the Serbs need a little bombing.") She and the Clinton administration also supported the rise to power in Kosovo of a terrorist mafia that carried out its own ethnic-cleansing campaign against the province's minorities.
Perhaps Albright's most notorious moment came with her enthusiastic support of the economic war against the civilian population of Iraq. When confronted by Lesley Stahl of "60 Minutes" that the sanctions were responsible for the deaths of "a half-million children - more children than died in Hiroshima," Albright responded, "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it." (While defending the policy, Albright later called her choice of words "a terrible mistake, hasty, clumsy, and wrong.")
Like Albright, Holbrooke will have major sway over U.S. policy, whether or not he gets an official job. A career diplomat since the Vietnam War, Holbrooke's most recent government post was as President Clinton's ambassador to the U.N. Among the many violent policies he helped implement and enforce was the U.S.-backed Indonesian genocide in East Timor. Holbrooke was an Assistant Secretary of State in the late 1970s at the height of the slaughter and was the point man on East Timor for the Carter Administration.
According to Brad Simpson, director of the Indonesia and East Timor Documentation Project at the National Security Archive at George Washington University, "It was Holbrooke and Zbigniew Brzezinski [another top Obama advisor], both now leading lights in the Democratic Party, who played point in trying to frustrate the efforts of congressional human-rights activists to try and condition or stop U.S. military assistance to Indonesia, and in fact accelerated the flow of weapons to Indonesia at the height of the genocide."
Holbrooke, too, was a major player in the dismantling of Yugoslavia and praised the bombing of Serb Television, which killed 16 media workers, as a significant victory. (The man who ordered that bombing, now-retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, is another Obama foreign policy insider who could end up in his cabinet. While Clark is known for being relatively progressive on social issues, as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, he ordered bombings and attacks that Amnesty International labeled war crimes.)
Like many in Obama's foreign policy circle, Holbrooke also supported the Iraq war. In early 2003, shortly after then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech to the UN, where he presented the administration's fraud-laden case for war to the UN (a speech Powell has since called a "blot" on his reputation), Holbrooke said: "It was a masterful job of diplomacy by Colin Powell and his colleagues, and it does not require a second vote to go to war. Saddam is the most dangerous government leader in the world today, he poses a threat to the region, he could pose a larger threat if he got weapons of mass destruction deployed, and we have a legitimate right to take action."
Middle East envoy for both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Ross was one of the primary authors of Obama's aforementioned speech before AIPAC this summer. He cut his teeth working under famed neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon in the 1970s and worked closely with the Project for the New American Century. Ross has been a staunch supporter of Israel and has fanned the flames for a more hostile stance toward Iran. As the lead U.S. negotiator between Israel and numerous Arab nations under Clinton, Ross' team acted, in the words of one U.S. official who worked under him, as "Israel's lawyer."
"The 'no surprises' policy, under which we had to run everything by Israel first, stripped our policy of the independence and flexibility required for serious peacemaking," wrote U.S. diplomat Aaron David Miller in 2005. "If we couldn't put proposals on the table without checking with the Israelis first, and refused to push back when they said no, how effective could our mediation be? Far too often, particularly when it came to Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, our departure point was not what was needed to reach an agreement acceptable to both sides but what would pass with only one -- Israel." After the Clinton White House, Ross worked for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a hawkish pro-Israel think tank, and for FOX News, where he repeatedly pressed for war against Iraq.
Founder of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Indyk spent years working for AIPAC and served as Clinton's ambassador to Israel and Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, while also playing a major role in developing U.S. policy toward Iraq and Iran. In addition to his work for the U.S. government, he has worked for the Israeli government and with PNAC.
"Barack Obama has painted himself into a corner by appealing to the most hard-line, pro-Israel elements in this country," Ali Abunimah, founder of ElectronicInifada.net, recently told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, describing Indyk and Dennis Ross as "two of the most pro-Israel officials from the Clinton era, who are totally distrusted by Palestinians and others across the Middle East, because they're seen as lifelong advocates for Israeli positions."
Clinton's former National Security Advisor was an early supporter of Obama and one of the few top Clintonites to initially back the president-elect. Lake began his foreign policy work in the U.S. Foreign Service during Vietnam, working with Henry Kissinger on the "September Group," a secret team tasked with developing a military strategy to deliver a "savage, decisive blow against North Vietnam."
Decades later, after working for various administrations, Lake "was the main force behind the U.S. invasion of Haiti in the mid-Clinton years," according to veteran journalist Allan Nairn, whose groundbreaking reporting revealed U.S. support for Haitian death squads in the 1990s. "They brought back Aristide essentially in political chains, pledged to support a World Bank/IMF overhaul of the economy, which resulted in an increase in malnutrition deaths among Haitians, and set the stage for the current ongoing political disaster in Haiti." Clinton nominated Lake as CIA Director, but he failed to win Senate confirmation.
Hamilton is a former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and was co-chairman of both the Iraq Study Group and 9/11 Commission. Robert Parry, who has covered Hamilton's career extensively, recently ran a piece on Consortium News that characterized him this way: "Whenever the Republicans have a touchy national-security scandal to put to rest, their favorite Democratic investigator is Lee Hamilton. ... Hamilton's carefully honed skill for balancing truth against political comity has elevated him to the status of a Washington Wise Man."
Former Assistant Secretary of Sate Susan Rice, who served on Bill Clinton's National Security Council, is a potential candidate for the post of ambassador to the U.N. or as a deputy national security advisor. She, too, promoted the myth that Saddam had WMDs. "It's clear that Iraq poses a major threat," she said in 2002. "It's clear that its weapons of mass destruction need to be dealt with forcefully, and that's the path we're on." (After the invasion, discussing Saddam's alleged possession of WMDs, she said, "I don't think many informed people doubted that.")
Rice has also been a passionate advocate for a U.S. military attack against Sudan over the Darfur crisis. In an op-ed co-authored with Anthony Lake, she wrote, "The United States, preferably with NATO involvement and African political support, would strike Sudanese airfields, aircraft and other military assets. It could blockade Port Sudan, through which Sudan's oil exports flow. Then U.N. troops would deploy -- by force, if necessary, with U.S. and NATO backing."
A longtime CIA official and former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, Brennan is one of the coordinators of Obama's intelligence transition team and a top contender for either CIA Director or Director of National Intelligence. He was also recently described by Glenn Greenwald as "an ardent supporter of torture and one of the most emphatic advocates of FISA expansions and telecom immunity." While claiming to oppose waterboarding, labeling it "inconsistent with American values" and "something that should be prohibited," Brennan has simultaneously praised the results achieved by "enhanced interrogation" techniques. "There has been a lot of information that has come out from these interrogation procedures that the agency has, in fact, used against the real hard-core terrorists," Brennan said in a 2007 interview. "It has saved lives. And let's not forget, these are hardened terrorists who have been responsible for 9/11, who have shown no remorse at all for the death of 3,000 innocents."
Brennan has described the CIA's extraordinary rendition program -- the government-run kidnap-and-torture program enacted under Clinton -- as an absolutely vital tool. "I have been intimately familiar now over the past decade with the cases of rendition that the U.S. Government has been involved in," he said in a December 2005 interview. "And I can say without a doubt that it has been very successful as far as producing intelligence that has saved lives."
Brennan is currently the head of Analysis Corporation, a private intelligence company that was recently implicated in the breach of Obama and Sen. John McCain's passport records. He is also the current chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), a trade association of private intelligence contractors who have dramatically increased their role in sensitive U.S. national security operations. (Current Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell is former chairman of the INSA.)
Miscik, who works alongside Brennan on Obama's transitional team, was the CIA's Deputy Director for Intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war. She was one of the key officials responsible for sidelining intel that contradicted the official line on WMD, while promoting intel that backed it up.
"When the administration insisted on an intelligence assessment of Saddam Hussein's relationship to al-Qaida, Miscik blocked the skeptics (who were later vindicated) within the CIA's Mideast analytical directorate and instructed the less-skeptical counterterrorism analysts to 'stretch to the maximum the evidence you had,' " journalist Spencer Ackerman recently wrote in the Washington Independent. "It's hard to think of a more egregious case of sacrificing sound intelligence analysis in order to accommodate the strategic fantasies of an administration. ... The idea that Miscik is helping staff Obama's top intelligence picks is most certainly not change we can believe in." What's more, she went on to a lucrative post as the Global Head of Sovereign Risk for the now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers.
John Kerry and Bill Richardson
Both Sen. Kerry and Gov. Richardson have been identified as possible contenders for Secretary of State. While neither is likely to be as hawkish as Hillary Clinton, both have taken pro-war positions. Kerry promoted the WMD lie and voted to invade Iraq. "Why is Saddam Hussein attempting to develop nuclear weapons when most nations don't even try?" Kerry asked on the Senate floor in October 2002. "According to intelligence, Iraq has chemical and biological weapons ... Iraq is developing unmanned aerial vehicles capable of delivering chemical and biological warfare agents."
Richardson, whose Iraq plan during his 2008 presidential campaign was more progressive and far-reaching than Obama's, served as Bill Clinton's ambassador to the UN. In this capacity, he supported Clinton's December 1998 bombing of Baghdad and the U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq. "We think this man is a threat to the international community, and he threatens a lot of the neighbors in his region and future generations there with anthrax and VX," Richardson told an interviewer in February 1998.
While Clinton's Secretary of Energy, Richardson publicly named Wen Ho Lee, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, as a target in an espionage investigation. Lee was accused of passing nuclear secrets to the Chinese government. Lee was later cleared of those charges and won a settlement against the U.S. government.
Washington consensus is that Obama will likely keep Robert Gates, George W. Bush's Defense Secretary, as his own Secretary of Defense. While Gates has occasionally proved to be a stark contrast to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he would hardly represent a break from the policies of the Bush administration. Quite the opposite; according to the Washington Post, in the interest of a "smooth transition," Gates "has ordered hundreds of political appointees at the Pentagon canvassed to see whether they wish to stay on in the new administration, has streamlined policy briefings and has set up suites for President-elect Barack Obama's transition team just down the hall from his own E-ring office." The Post reports that Gates could stay on for a brief period and then be replaced by Richard Danzig, who was Clinton's Secretary of the Navy. Other names currently being tossed around are Democratic Sen. Jack Reed, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel (a critic of the Iraq occupation) and Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, who served alongside Biden on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Ivo H. Daalder
Daalder was National Security Council Director for European Affairs under President Clinton. Like other Obama advisors, he has worked with the Project for the New American Century and signed a 2005 letter from PNAC to Congressional leaders, calling for an increase in U.S. ground troops in Iraq and beyond.
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance during the Clinton administration, Sewall served as a top advisor to Obama during the campaign and is almost certain to be selected for a post in his administration. In 2007, Sewall worked with the U.S. military and Army Gen. David Petraeus, writing the introduction to the University of Chicago edition of the Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. She was criticized for this collaboration by Tom Hayden, who wrote, "the Petraeus plan draws intellectual legitimacy from Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, whose director, Sarah Sewall, proudly embraces an 'unprecedented collaboration [as] a human rights center partnered with the armed forces.'"
"Humanitarians often avoid wading into the conduct of war for fear of becoming complicit in its purpose," she wrote in the introduction. "'The field manual requires engagement precisely from those who fear that its words lack meaning."
Flournoy and former Clinton Deputy Defense Secretary John White are co-heading Obama's defense transition team. Flournoy was a senior Clinton appointee at the Pentagon. She currently runs the Center for a New American Security, a center-right think-tank. There is speculation that Obama could eventually name her as the first woman to serve as defense secretary. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported: "While at CNAS, Flournoy helped to write a report that called for reducing the open-ended American military commitment in Iraq and replacing it with a policy of 'conditional engagement' there. Significantly, the paper rejected the idea of withdrawing troops according to the sort of a fixed timeline that Obama espoused during the presidential campaign. Obama has in recent weeks signaled that he was willing to shelve the idea, bringing him more in line with Flournoy's thinking." Flournoy has also worked with the neoconservative Project for the New American Century.
Wendy Sherman and Tom Donilon
Currently employed at Madeline Albright's consulting firm, the Albright Group, Sherman worked under Albright at the State Department, coordinating U.S. policy on North Korea. She is now coordinating the State Department transition team for Obama. Tom Donilon, her co-coordinator, was Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Chief of Staff at the State Department under Clinton. Interestingly, Sherman and Donilon both have ties to Fannie Mae that didn't make it onto their official bios on Obama's change.gov website. "Donilon was Fannie's general counsel and executive vice president for law and policy from 1999 until the spring of 2005, a period during which the company was rocked by accounting problems," reports the Wall Street Journal.
While many of the figures at the center of Obama's foreign policy team are well-known, two of its most important members have never held national elected office or a high-profile government position. While they cannot be characterized as Clinton-era hawks, it will be important to watch Denis McDonough and Mark Lippert, co-coordinators of the Obama foreign policy team. From 2000 to 2005, McDonough served as foreign policy advisor to Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle and worked extensively on the use-of-force authorizations for the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which Daschle supported. From 1996 to 1999, McDonough was a professional staff member of the House International Relations Committee during the debate over the bombing of Yugoslavia. More recently, he was at the Center for American Progress working under John Podesta, Clinton's former chief of staff and the current head of the Obama transition.
Mark Lippert is a close personal friend of Obama's. He has worked for Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, as well as the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Democratic Policy Committee. He is a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve and spent a year in Iraq working intelligence for the Navy SEALs. "According to those who've worked closely with Lippert," Robert Dreyfuss recently wrote in The Nation, "he is a conservative, cautious centrist who often pulled Obama to the right on Iraq, Iran and the Middle East and who has been a consistent advocate for increased military spending. 'Even before Obama announced for the presidency, Lippert wanted Obama to be seen as tough on Iran,' says a lobbyist who's worked the Iran issue on Capitol Hill, 'He's clearly more hawkish than the senator.' "
Barack Obama campaigned on a pledge to bring change to Washington. "I don't want to just end the war," he said early this year. "I want to end the mindset that got us into war." That is going to be very difficult if Obama employs a foreign policy team that was central to creating that mindset, before and during the presidency of George W. Bush.
"Twenty-three senators and 133 House members who voted against the war -- and countless other notable individuals who spoke out against it and the dubious claims leading to war -- are apparently not even being considered for these crucial positions," observes Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy. This includes dozens of former military and intelligence officials who spoke out forcefully against the war and continue to oppose militaristic policy, as well as credible national security experts who have articulated their visions for a foreign policy based on justice.
Obama does have a chance to change the mindset that got us into war. More significantly, he has a popular mandate to forcefully challenge the militaristic, hawkish tradition of modern U.S. foreign policy. But that work would begin by bringing on board people who would challenge this tradition, not those who have been complicit in creating it and are bound to continue advancing it.
Jeremy Scahill pledges to be the same journalist under an Obama administration that he was during Bill Clinton and George Bush's presidencies. He is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army and is a frequent contributor to The Nation and Democracy Now! He is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.