Drowning Duck Begs for Life Preserver

The WSJ reveals that–faced with the likely prospect that only five Republican Senators (presumably) would support giving Paulson the second half of the bailout funds–BushCo is trying to get Obama’s help to get to the funds.

A request for more TARP money now would come amid growing lawmaker criticism of Treasury’s implementation of its rescue program — including Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s decisions to forgo buying bad loans from distressed banks in favor of making equity injections in those institutions, and to not place stronger conditions on banks that receive government funds.

The existing bailout legislation does fast-track release of the next $350 billion of TARP money; Congress would have to pass new legislation to block the funding after a request is made. The president could then veto the blocking bill and force opponents to muster a two-thirds majority to override that veto.

But officials with the Treasury and the transition agree that the spectacle of even a failed effort to block the money could send financial markets into an uproar. One transition official said he was told Mr. Bush could expect only a handful of Republican votes — perhaps five — in his favor.

Can you say lame duck?

I understand Obama’s desire to avoid any affiliation with Bush’s failures. But I’m curious about the strategy behind the refusal to engage.

BushCo appears to be pitching for Obama’s help by claiming it will use the funds for foreclosure relief. Though the Bush team seems willing to consider only their crappy plans, and not Sheila Bair’s peg of new mortgages at 30% of an owners income.

Treasury and Fed staff outlined the three main ideas under discussion: A modification of the proposal being pushed by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair; a plan to help bring down interest rates; and a proposal championed by the Fed to buy distressed mortgages. 

If it’s true that they still refuse to adopt the most practical response, then I would conclude they were still not acting in good faith. In fact, given that they blew off Dodd’s hearing the other day, I’d say it’s a good sign they’re still not acting in good faith.

At the same time, Democrats in Congress are screaming for foreclosure relief.

Of course, 50 Democrats + 5 Republicans only equals 55, so there’s no real reason for Obama to invest his own political will now. Read more

Shinseki: No Trial Balloons

Athenae, always the wordsmith, captures the beauty of the Eric Shinseki pick to lead Veterans Affairs.

Obama To Bush

"How would you like to SUCK MY BALLS?"

Spencer, writing with the seriousness and respect Shinseki deserves, has more.

To say this is an inspired choice underscores its magnitude. Shinseki’s personal courage and virtue are close to unparalleled in the current generation of general officers. He knows the sacrifices of war personally, as he left part of his right foot in Vietnam. The new generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans — already underserved by the country that sent them to war — can know that he has their backs. After all, before the war began, he all but ended his career (Rumsfeld had announced his successor months before after they feuded over the Crusader artillery system) by telling Congress that the indefinite occupation of Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of troops to keep the peace, far beyond the antiseptic and now-discredited estimates of the Bush administration. At his retirement ceremony, Shinseki gave a prescient and impassioned speech imploring the Pentagon to "beware a 12-division strategy for a 10-division Army."

Last year, an exemplary soldier named Paul Yingling wrote a scathing essay indicting the generals who acquiesced to the Bush administration’s inadequate plans for the occupation. It was titled "A Failure in Generalship." Yingling accused the current generation of generals of cowardice, egotism, careerism and dereliction of duty, putting self-interested deference to the administration before integrity, intellectual honesty and service to both the frontline soldier, sailor, airman and marine and the country itself. Ric Shinseki was the man who stood against this unfortunate trend, and he paid for his integrity with his career. To see him vindicated is to witness a proud moment in American history.

But there’s one more point I’d like to make. 

Perhaps it’s because I’m not tied into veterans circles (so it may be that I’ve just missed it), but this is the first major nomination Obama has made for which he hasn’t first sent out a trial balloon: Chief of Staff, Treasury, State, DNI, even Commerce. Even at AG, DHS, and NSA, there were public discussions about who he would pick ahead of time. 

This time around, the news didn’t get out until the Saturday evening before Obama went on MTP to announce it, at a time when the choice was already made. 

That does two things. Read more

Fold The Holder Nomination

graphic by twolf

Clearly it is Eric Holder day here at FDL and I didn’t want to be left out of the party. Especially since I was one of the ones starting it. Now Looseheadprop has covered a lot of the ground, here, here and here and Dr. Kirk Murphy here and here, but I would like to elaborate and knock back a meme that has been floated by Glenn Greenwald, namely that Holder’s involvement in the Chiquita matter is just principled, zealous representation of his client akin to the heroic souls that have taken the mantle of defending Gitmo detainees.

I’ve seen some attempts to criticize Holder based upon clients he has represented while in private practice, most notably his defense of Chiquita Brands in a criminal case brought by the DOJ arising out of Chiquita’s payments and other support to Colombian death squads. Attempts to criticize a lawyer for representing unsavory or even evil clients are inherently illegitimate and wrong — period. Anybody who believes in core liberties should want even the most culpable parties to have zealous representation before the Government can impose punishments or other sanctions. Lawyers who defend even the worst parties are performing a vital service for our justice system. Holder is no more tainted by his defense of Chiquita than lawyers who defend accused terrorists at Guantanamo are tainted by that.

I admire Glenn Greenwald’s writing and respect his work immensely, but I take pretty big issue with this position. The key that Greenwald is putting in the wrong lock is that those ethical standards of guaranteed zealous representation, like the detainees at Gitmo and other defendants are entitled to, apply to formally charged actual criminal defendants.

Chiquita, their executives, offices and board, et al. were not. Instead, what you had here was a dirty as mud corporation that had been illegally and immorally playing both sides a third world country’s violent terrorist/factional problem, sometimes clandestinely with the CIA, including drug running and attendant money laundering, but always for the benefit and profit of Chiquita. You then have this complicit company, whose powerful Board member Rod Hills (and his wife, Carla Hills, a powerful former DOJ official and significant voice with the Bush Administration) is a major friend, supporter and donor to the Bushies, conspiring with the Bush DOJ to whitewash and cover up all this muck. And that is what Holder and the DOJ, together, did. Read more


images5.thumbnail.jpegTime waits for no one, and it won’t wait for President-Elect Barack Obama. Poor man doesn’t even have his cabinet fleshed out and people are already musing over who his Supreme Court nominees might be. You think maybe some of the robed ones might be saying "But I’m not dead yet!"?

No matter; speculate we must. It’s our duty. Salon gives the set up:

Barack Obama might have as much power to shape a new court as Reagan. Like Reagan, Obama could appoint as many as three justices before Inauguration Day 2013. John Paul Stevens, 88, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 75, are of retirement age, and Ginsburg is a colon cancer survivor. David Souter, 69, has reportedly expressed an interest in returning to his home in New Hampshire. (Kennedy, who has twice had minor heart procedures, is 72, as is Scalia.)

So will an Obama presidency usher in a new liberal era on the court? The short answer: probably not (and not just because the president-elect’s apparent choice for attorney general, Eric Holder, is one more sign that he does not fear the taint of Clintonism). Since the justices most likely to retire are from the court’s liberal wing, Obama will have less of an opportunity to tilt the court’s ideological orientation. Currently, the court has a rough balance of power, with four conservative justices, four liberal and a swing vote in Justice Kennedy.

"The real question is: Is Obama going to appoint significantly more liberal judges than President Clinton did? Or appoint justices that are center-left like Ginsburg and Breyer?" said Thomas Goldstein, head of the Supreme Court practice for the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Obama has not tipped his hand in this regard, but the Senate’s second-most-powerful Republican, John Kyl of Arizona, promised earlier this month to filibuster any Supreme Court nominee that Republicans deem too liberal.

This is a what have you done for me lately world. And Barack Obama not only hasn’t done anything lately for the progressive segment of the citizenry, he has not done anything period.

Salon goes on to delineate a "Top Ten" list of potential Obama Supreme Court picks. A rather uninspiring list in many regards. Let us do our own rundown of potential, and desired, picks for the vacancies that Obama will face.

First though, it should be noted that Democrats, especially progressives, do not have the Read more

About that Hillary as Secretary of State Thing

Say. Did you notice how successful Colin Powell was at pushing the Bush Administration to adopt his less-horrible foreign policy solutions, like peace in Israel and a government in Iraq that included all factions?

Oh wait. I remember now. In spite of his national stature, in spite of the skills learned in a career of negotiating the bureaucracy and politics of the military, he was profoundly unsuccessful at influencing the direction of policy in the Administration.

There’s something missing from the discussions about whether Obama will indeed name Hillary his Secretary of State: a discussion of how that position has become much weaker in the last half century, as compared to the National Security Advisor or the Defense Secretary. Here’s the closest we get to an acknowledgment of this issue.

Friends said the potential loss of her independence, hard won by her election to the Senate from New York in 2000, caused Clinton to waver last week as she considered Obama’s offer. But advisers said the discussions got back on track after he promised she would have considerable input on staffing decisions and plenty of access to him. 


Indeed, perhaps as a counterweight to the Clinton pick, Obama is likely to name James L. Jones, a widely respected former Marine Corps commandant and NATO commander, to be his national security adviser. Jones would lend a powerful voice on foreign policy matters right in the White House, while Clinton was at the State Department or overseas. 

National Security Advisor

The Secretary of State has lost power for two different reasons. The National Security Advisor has had proximity and–increasingly–operational means. As the person who convenes the National Security Council, the NSA has some ability to guide the agenda. She also would help the President balance the competing views of the other members of the NSC, so would have more sway over final decision-making. And, as the staff of the NSC at the White House grows, the NSA increasingly has the ability to implement presidential foreign policy plans directly, without the cooperation of the State Department (the best example of this was Iran-Contra, in which Ronnie and Poppy implemented entire foreign policy programs through NSC). 

While Condi was a disaster at this role and Hadley only slightly better, that role of internal foreign policy advisor was basically taken over by Cheney in this White House–but there, too, the lesson of an internal force setting policy–including much of the war on terror–remains valid. Read more

Well, This Should Make the President-Elect More Anxious to Overturn Domestic Spying

Getting snooped on by Verizon employees…

Some Verizon Wireless employees accessed billing records from a cell phone President-elect Barack Obama had used, the Obama transition and Verizon Wireless said Thursday.


Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam issued a statement apologizing to Obama. He also said that whether they were authorized or not, the employees who breached the president-elect’s account face possible disciplinary action and were immediately put on leave without pay. [my emphasis]

I’m sorry, Mr. McAdam. Are you suggesting these Verizon employees may have been authorized to access Obama’s records? By whom?

I’m preparing my Book Salon review for James Bamford’s Shadow Factory right now. (Bamford will be at FDL Sunday at 5PM ET.) And his story of Verizon’s Israeli-connected spooky side is way more troubling than the already troubling AT&T Israeli-connected spooky side.

Update: The CNN story on this makes it sound like the authorized v. unauthorized question pertains more to whether people had any business with Obama’s call records. Also note it says those involved were suspended with pay.

Verizon Wireless, meanwhile, has launched an internal probe to determine whether Obama’s information was simply shared among employees or whether "the information of our customer had in any way been compromised outside our company, and this investigation continues," McAdam said in an internal company e-mail obtained by CNN.

"Employees with legitimate business needs for access will be returned to their positions, while employees who have accessed the account improperly and without legitimate business justification will face appropriate disciplinary action," McAdam said, "up to and including termination." [my emphasis]

Eyes On The Spies: What Obama Can Do About Illegal Surveillance

With all the commotion and hubbub surrounding the personalities and gossip of Obama’s cabinet formation, and expression of everyone’s opinion on how that should proceed, little has been said about the actual policies and actions (other than Iraq) that should be implemented right out of the gate. One area that has been neglected is that of the illegal wiretapping and surveillance policies and practices that were instituted in the country’s name by the Cheney/Bush regime.

Our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have some ideas for the incoming Obama Administration in this regard, and they are pretty good.

President Obama can end the immunity process. Consistent with his previous opposition to immunity — then-Senator Obama voted in favor of Senator Dodd’s amendment to strip the immunity provisions out of the FAA altogether — Obama could instruct his new Attorney General to withdraw the government’s motion to dismiss the lawsuits based on the immunity statute. Or,

President Obama can temporarily freeze the immunity process until he has learned all the details about the NSA program. Read more

Napolitano To DHS; Skeletor To Be Buried

images.thumbnail.jpegAs most of you know, I firmly supported Janet Napolitano for Attorney General in the new Obama administration. It looks as if Eric Holder will be the Attorney General instead, but CNN has just announced that Napolitano will be the choice for Department of Homeland Security. Here is the Reuters headline:

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s top choice to lead the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, CNN reported on Wednesday, citing multiple sources.

The Democratic governor, a supporter and campaigner for Obama’s presidential campaign, had been reported to be on a short list of people to fill cabinet posts in the new administration.

Assuming she makes vetting and is confirmed, Janet will make a fantastic Secretary of DHS. Some of the skills and abilities I pointed out as qualifications for AG will serve her very well as Homeland Security.

Napolitano is well versed and experienced with constitutional law and civil rights, having been mentored as the hand picked protege of one of the country’s great Constitutional scholars and authorities, John P. Frank, one of the two legal fathers of the Miranda decision. She has sizable long term experience not only as the Arizona Attorney General (a huge office), but also as chief executive of an entire state government as Arizona Governor. Of critical significance, she was the US Attorney for the District of Arizona for six years under President Clinton, prior to her terms in state office as Arizona’s AG and Governor.

The job ahead is going to, in addition to the legal skills, require someone with Federal experience and the established ability to manage a giant bureaucracy. Janet Napolitano has a very rare combination of background and experience to fit that bill. The attention to bureaucratic detail, not just in Washington DC, but in all of the 93 US Attorney district offices is going to have to be immense. Wholesale institutional change needs to be implemented, and malefactors rooted out.

Janet Napolitano has this ability in droves over any other candidate discussed for AG. She is spectacularly good at bureaucratic detail and getting big entities working as an efficient team. Janet has an incredibly feel good aura around her, and it is contagious to those working with and for her. She is a master team builder, both in terms of efficiency and competence as well as morale and attitude. Janet has already exhibited her turnaround skills in her Read more

Obama’s Long Arm/Short Arm Stiff Of The Netroots

When I was first sworn into the bar, I had the good fortune of being mentored by an experienced and wise senior partner. One of the first things that he taught me in dealing with other parties was to be aware of the long arm-short arm syndrome. This is where a person has a long arm for taking, and a short arm for giving.

When it comes to the netroots, Barack Obama has the long arm-short arm syndrome. He has taken much from us in terms of support, voice, momentum, money, footwork and energy. Obama has given little, if anything, in return to the netroots. Unless you count disdain and scorn. And pokes in the eye with a blunt stick.

Let’s go through a bill of particulars, starting with oh, say, today:

Eric Holder: Eric Holder is a horrid choice for Attorney General. Looseheadprop knows this and gave her take earlier. Holder conspired with his friend Scooter Libby to get a pardon for Marc Rich; Obama must have been mighty impressed by that. Or maybe he was more impressed with Holder’s ability to skate his Republican/Bush bigwig friends at Chiquita Brands for their complicity in paying millions of dollars to rightwing death squads in Colombia that murdered union leaders and workers. Uh, and then Chiquita paid off the other side. While they were probably smuggling narcotics for the CIA. Another excellent entry on the resume for Obama I guess. Oh, and Holder was not very popular with the career rank and file at DOJ when he was there; he was seen as very divisive. So we got that going for us. Just what is needed for the rotting carcass at DOJ that Bush/Cheney is leaving.

In short, hey, seriously, if you like the corporate apologist, rich people coddling, torturing approving and covering, illegal wiretapping loving, breakdown in the career ranks bullshit DOJ of the last eight years, you will absolutely love Eric Holder. He will, of course, be nominally better that Mukasey. If that is good enough for you, he is your guy! Thanks Barack!

Joe Lieberman: As y’all might have heard, Rape Gurney Joe Lieberman was ejected from the Democratic Caucus, er stripped of his DHS Chair, …. Oh, hell, Harry Reid kissed the sucker on both cheeks and thanked the back stabbing little prick for being magnanimous. Read more

Joe and Dick: Looks Like Everything Went Swimmingly

I can’t tell whether all the giggling was from nervousness or just because Joe and Dick have been in DC for longer than forever.

And Biden’s staff isn’t telling:

"The Vice President-elect and Dr. Jill Biden met with Vice President Cheney and his wife Lynne at the Naval Observatory this evening.  The Bidens thank the Cheneys for welcoming them into their home and for their gracious hospitality," said spokesperson for the Vice President-elect Elizabeth Alexander.  

No giggling from Dick, though. And no word on the man-sized safe, either.