January 19, 2021 / by 


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. That math changes shortly to 58 (0r 59) + 3 to 5 (depending on whether those 5 include Norm Coleman or Gordon Smith). That is, even in the worst case scenario, that math presumably gives Obama 61 votes to chase with his political capital in January, as opposed to 56.

And by refusing to ally with Bush now, Obama refuses to give Republicans an opportunity to distance themselves from Bush’s economic failures, as they tried to do with the earlier bailout. 

Thus far, the Republicans have proved able to claim that their ideology is not to blame for this crash. Will Obama holding off for a month and then quickly passing a stimulus change that?

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. First, it focuses attention on Obama’s timing: the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

More deliciously, if you’re going to say "suck my balls" to someone, including the element of surprise really adds to the effect.

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.

This from Marcy Wheeler gives a good description of the Chiquita situation:

The Sentencing Memorandum the government filed in the Chiquita case reveals something rather interesting. Chiquita was an equal opportunity terrorist supporter. You see, from 1989 to 1997, Chiquita paid protection money to FARC and ELN, left wing terrorist groups. Then, after FARC and FLN were declared terrorist groups in 1997, Chiquita switched sides, paying protection money to right wing terrorist group AUC instead. Of course, Chiquita got in trouble because, in 2001, after the US declared AUC a terrorist organization, Chiquita kept right on paying their protection money, presumably having no other side to flip to. I guess it’s nice not to be bound by ideology in your support of terrorist organizations.

In spite of funding the AUC long after Chiquita became aware they were breaking the law, the government is recommending that Chiquita be able to keep half of its profits from doing business under the protection of a terrorist organization. They’re recommending a fine of half their profits, when the maximum fine was twice their profits for the period.

We knew that that was the government’s recommendation for a fine. What is new, though, is that the government has decided not to indict the well-connected Republican lawyer Roderick Hills for recommending his clients engage in ongoing criminal behavior. Perhaps Michael Chertoff had something to say about that decision. You see, Hills alleged that Michael Chertoff, the guy who’s in charge of our Homeland Security, okayed Chiquita’s ongoing payments to right wing terrorists. The government denies those allegations in its Sentencing Memorandum.

The Department of Justice never authorized defendant Chiquita to continue under any circumstances the Company’s payments to the AUC–not at the meeting on April 24, 2003, nor at any other point. To be sure, when first presented with this issue at the meeting on April 24th, Department of Justice officials acknowledged that the issue of continued payments was complicated. But this acknowledgment did not constitute an approval or authorization for defendant Chiquita to continue to break the law by paying a federally-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.

But I guess they weren’t confident enough in their own side of the story to take that to court.

And so it happens that another well-connected Republican with ties to funding terrorism gets off scot free.

Holder didn’t represent a charged criminal with protected rights in relation to an active prosecution, he conspired with an unethical and corrupt Justice Department to cover up and conceal crimes. This is a far cry from the heroic zealous public defender type of representation Glenn Greenwald, and others, are painting for Holder.

No, Holder is a lot closer to a mob consigliere than principled defender of justice. He should be treated as such. And if you want the Department of Justice to get serious about business and financial fraud, which this country desperately needs, we sure need someone diametrically different than Eric Holder.

You got to know when to hold them and when to fold them. Fold Holder.


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 organized minor league feeder programs, and promotional schemes, like the right wing Federalist Society, nor does the left engage in the relentless seeding and intentional grooming of future justices like the right does. This is not inherently a bad thing, in fact, the institutional indoctrination, dogmatizing, and car salesman like glossy packaging the right injects into the process is quite demeaning and reprehensible to the dignity of the process. Demeaning and reprehensible is not a bug to the right, however, it is a feature.

So, off to the salt mines we go, let’s get to work:

Cass Sunstein: I’ll be honest, since long before he even won the nomination, I have suspected that Barack Obama would appoint his friend, colleague and advisor, Cass Sunstein to the Supreme Court bench. I still feel that he will do just that. It is a singularly horrid choice; he is a dyed in the wool Chicago School drooling idiot. Remember Obama’s FISA cave and lie? This is one of the men behind it and that went out cravenly apologizing and rationalizing it. If Sunstein doesn’t have any more respect for the Constitution than that, he has no place on the final arbitration panel interpreting it. Sunstein is a Constitutional opportunist; he will bend and shape it to fit his own little and petty business centric view of the world. Nuff said; the man is patently unfit. Sunstein is the most likely Obama nominee; he may also be the worst. Oh mamas and papas, no Cass please.

Erwin Chemerinsky: For my money, Erwin Chemerinsky would be an ideal, if not the ideal pick. He is everything that the weasel Sunstein is not. Chemerinsky is principled, consistent, a Constitutional scholar of the highest order, understands that it is critical to proved access and justice for the afflicted and downtrodden as much as for the rich and powerful (something wholly lacking with too many on the Court today), and he is a staunch advocate for the individual liberty, privacy and civil rights that we understand are paramount, including the much neglected as of late Fourth Amendment. One of my friends here at the Lake says of Chemerinsky "we’ll never get him because he’s too outspoken". But yet another says "Too outspoken? And Scalia is a shrinking violet?" The right wingnuts would literally howl, but Erwin Chemerinsky would be s simply breathtaking and outstanding selection. Obama should send hi up to the Hill and then use his muscle to get him though; we need men like Chemerinsky on the Court to counteract the right wingnuts Bush has burrowed into the bench for decades to come.

Senator Russ Feingold: There is not much discussion needed for Russ Feingold, the readers of FDL know him, and his strengths, well. A Feingold on the Court would also provide the unique benefit of interjecting some working knowledge of Congress and the legislative process. There has become a distressing paradigm where the Court punts issues with the hope that Congress will take care of it and vice versa. A healthy dose of insight into the real sausage making of legislation would be a good thing for the SCOTUS collective. Feingold also brings that good old mid-west sensibility and ability to see through issues and problems and see the people affected, which would be an extraordinarily good thing for the bench.

Valerie Jarrett: Since one of the early vacancies is likely to be Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s chair. That means to maintain a female presence on the Court, which likely must and should be done, Obama will have to appoint another woman. Two prominent women that Salon discussed are Elena Kagan and Maria Sotomayor, both currently sitting Federal judges. Quite frankly, both look far too centrist, and actually center right in some aspects, for my taste. I think Obama’s longtime friend and advisor Valerie Jarrett might be a possibility. She is brilliant, a proven calm consensus building type of personality that would be very effective on the Court, and has an incredibly diverse background. She is also related to Vernon Jordan; never discount that factor. As both a woman and a minority, Jarrett could cover two important niches. I would like to know much more about her legal philosophies (although remember blank slates sometimes are better these days to the eye of the idiots in the press and the Senate), but I find her a very intriguing possibility.
Jennifer Granholm and/or Janet Napolitano: Jennifer Granholm is a distinct possibility for an Obama appointment, but not on the first round of two openings that, between Stevens, Ginsberg, Kennedy and Breyer collectively, are bound to come quite quickly, likely perhaps even in the first year. She is governor of Michigan and that state’s former attorney general; however, has no bench experience and, as a Catholic, people would feel free to hit her hard on choice and she might be squishy on things like late term abortion. She’s got to do time at the Circuit, first, which is good, bc our circuit could use some Dems. I would suspect an appointment in the next year to the circuit, putting John Cherry in the Gov’s mansion in time to run as an incumbent in 2010.

Far more likely, would be Janet Napolitano. She has the governorship and attorney general resume entries that Granholm does, but a heck of a lot more experience along the way. 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. And, by the time the nomination might be contemplated, Napolitano would also likely have some experience as DHS Secretary (which may or may not be problematic; time will tell). Janet would be a simply outstanding choice.

Other possibilities mentioned are Harold Hongju Koh, Deval Patrick, Diane Wood, Ruben Castillo, Merrick Garland and Amelia Kearse.

Who do you suggest? Discuss and argue Passionately!

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. Colin Powell got effectively shut out of key discussions about torture even though it was a key issue for the international community. And Cheney always was the last one giving Bush advice.

Given the way Clinton’s consideration for State has foreclosed certain other appointments in the national security team, I do wonder the degree to which Jones’ consideration is meant to ensure the decision making remains inside the White House. 

Secretary of Defense

And then there’s the power that the Secretary of Defense has, both because in budgetary terms he has all the toys, and because some of the functions that used to be done at State are now largely being done by Defense. 

One of the reasons why Powell’s attempts to bring sanity to the Iraq reconstruction failed is because every time a representative of State tried to set up meetings between stake-holders in Iraq, Defense would make it tough to find the logistical support for such a meeting, even while ferrying Chalabi and his team into place to pre-empt the meeting (this is also the reason State became so dependet on Blackwater as diplomatic guards, so as to rely less on Defense). Rummy’s control over the means to implement policy on the ground was a powerful tool.

And, even in times of peace (ha!), the regional structure of the military supplants a good deal of the diplomatic infrastructure. Dana Priest’s The Mission showed how the regional commanders conducted a lot of day-to-day diplomacy, not least because they’ve got planes ready to fly to meetings, but also because when the US searches for international solutions–such as disaster aide–frequently the military is the most ready hammer in our tool box to throw at the problem.

It’s worth noting, of course, that Bob Gates–who most observors think will stick around for a while after Obama is sworn in–has been a big proponent of increasing the military’s capacity to provide these nation-building services. And that Anthony Zinni–who stars in Priest’s book as he played diplomat-General from his time as head of CentCom and who was a special envoy to address the Palestinian issue under Bush–is an outside candidate to take over at Defense when Gates is done (he wouldn’t be able to do so until sometime in 2010, though). In other words, by all appearances, Defense will continue to expand its soft power functionality, and it will continue to have the logistical capacity to do things that State cannot now do.

Now, obviously, Hillary is no dummy, and in discussions of their negotiations, it sounds like he has agreed to give her big influence over who gets hired at State and lots of direct access to him. She won’t take this if it appears to consign her to a Powell-like figurehead position. But until the structure of the White House and the structure of the State Department changes, she’ll still be at a structural disadvantage to the NSC and DOD. 

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. Consistent with his support of Senator Bingaman’s proposed FAA amendment to delay implementation of the immunity provisions, Obama could instruct his new Attorney General to ask the court for a temporary stay of the immunity proceedings. That would give the Administration time to review the classified details of the NSA program as well as the FAA-mandated reports about the program that are expected by this July from the Inspectors General of the Department of Justice, the NSA, and other agencies involved in the program. After having reviewed all the facts, the new administration can then re-evaluate whether it wants to continue to press for immunity in court, or drop its motion to dismiss and let the cases against the telecoms continue. Or,

President Obama can choose not to appeal if the immunity statute is found unconstitutional. If, after the hearing on December 2nd, Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the federal Northern District of California agrees with EFF that the immunity statute is unconstitutional and denies the government’s motion to dismiss, Obama could instruct his new Attorney General to not appeal that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

All of these are things Obama could do — on his own and without any help from Congress — to stop the implementation of the immunity scheme that he repeatedly opposed during his presidential campaign.

These recommendations aren’t EFF’s alone: as part of the transition roadmap published yesterday by a broad coalition of groups including EFF, seventeen different civil liberties organizations signed onto national security surveillance recommendations that included the proposition that President Obama should "[d]irect the Attorney General to withdraw the government’s motion to dismiss pending privacy litigation brought against telecommunications carriers for assisting with unlawful warrantless surveillance, or seek a stay of those proceedings until such time as the Attorney General, based on review of the Inspectors’ General reports required by the FISA Amendments Act, determines that a grant of immunity is appropriate."

We at EFF — along with many of Obama’s supporterswere sorely disappointed when he failed to uphold his promise to filibuster any bill that contained immunity, and instead reversed course and ultimately voted for passage of the FAA. But, as Obama himself said when defending his support for the FAA:

This was not an easy call for me. I know that the FISA bill that passed the House is far from perfect. I wouldn’t have drafted the legislation like this, and it does not resolve all of the concerns that we have about President Bush’s abuse of executive power. It grants retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that may have violated the law by cooperating with the Bush Administration’s program of warrantless wiretapping. This potentially weakens the deterrent effect of the law and removes an important tool for the American people to demand accountability for past abuses. That’s why I support striking Title II from the bill, and will work with Chris Dodd, Jeff Bingaman and others in an effort to remove this provision in the Senate.

As we all know, those efforts to amend the FAA by stripping immunity out of the bill or delaying its implementation failed, despite Obama’s support. But now, as President, Obama will have the power to make things right. By taking one of the above steps after he takes office on January 20th, Obama would prove that he meant what he said when he opposed telecom immunity, that he stands behind the votes he made against immunity, and that his claims of a coming "change" when it comes to reversing the Bush Administration’s excesses are more than empty rhetoric.

If Obama truly supports change — if he truly supports a more open and accountable federal government, where Americans have the tools to demand accountability for past abuses — then he should end the Bush Administration’s attempt to cover-up lawbreaking by the NSA and its telecom collaborators, and ensure that the judicial branch is finally allowed to rule on the legality of NSA program.

Some decent points. I would like to add a couple. The Obama DOJ could flat out withdraw allegations of "state secrets" in any instance that has been pled and is not absolutely necessary to national security. By what I can tell, that is going to be most of the cases. In a corollary, the Obama DOJ could declassify and otherwise release information and documentation that the Bush Administration wrongfully classified to brazenly obstruct justice and prevent plaintiff’s abilities to establish standing and the prima facie burden for their suits.

In short, the Obama could reset the table so that the scales of lady justice are able to find their own natural balance, as they were designed and intended to do.

However, for all of those that think this will be an easy call for Obama and his DOJ, it will not. There will be a lot of pushback from intelligence and DOJ personnel that were involved in the Bush/Cheney programs, there will some instances where there really are operational details that must be protected and, quite significantly, there is the issue of liability for damages. Yes, money is a big time consideration. The potential for damage liability could extend into the billions. It is a factor, and there is a very fair chance that the government is on the hook for most all of it, not the telcos. In the financial straits this country is in, do not discount that as a factor.

In short, there are many things that Barack Obama can do to right the wrongs of the Bush/Cheney administration on illegal surveillance and, specifically, on the imposition of retroactive immunity by the Bushies and a complicit (near criminally) Democratic Congressional Leadership. But will he do it? Time will tell.

It is time to lead, President-to-be Obama, and to do so for the right instead of from the right. Remind us what it is like to have an American Government that does the right thing instead of the politically expedient thing. Please.

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 transformation of the Arizona Executive branch, which was in shambles when she took over.

Additionally, as governor of a critical border state, and head of the National Governor’s Association, Napolitano will have the credibility and experience with state governors that is necessary for many of the operations and coalitions that form the backbone of the DHS operation.

The best news of all is that there will finally be an honest and competent person in the critical post that Michael Chertoff has been defiling the last few years. It will will be good to bury the tenure of Skeletor and put that era behind us once and for all.

Janet is a first rate choice. She will make us, America and the Obama Administration proud.

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.

Now, how exactly did we come to the point to where the guy who bolted the party and actively campaigned side by side, hand in hand, for the better part of two years for the race baiting Republican shame-meister John McCain? Who caused this love to be given to one of the netroots’ most hated men? Uh, that would be good old long arm-short arm Barack Obama.

Obama didn’t just shaft the netroots though, he stuck the shiv in the American people by engineering Lieberman’s retention of his DHS Chairmanship. That man should not be allowed in the same universe as that committee. The American people are entitled to a man that will do the freaking job. A great American city was drowned. People are dead. Tens maybe hundreds of thousands are effectively still homeless. Billions of dollars were wasted. He. Did. Freaking. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Say goodnight New Orleans, and tell Barack Obama thank you!

The FISA Lie: Barack Obama gave his word (likely to cravenly gain credibility with Russ Feingold, Wisconsin Democratic primary voters, and the netroots) that he was against retroactive telcom immunity and would filibuster any attempt to pass it through the Senate. Then, when his nomination was all but assured and the bill came up for a vote, Barack Obama showed his colors and shoved the shiv once again in the raw bloody back of the progressives and netroots. Obama turned on a dime and not only did not filibuster, it was his lead that Pelosi and Reid followed in ramming the craptastic FISA Amendments Act through with retroactive immunity for the Bush/Cheney criminals. Heckuva job Baracky! It is an action that is second nature for Obama; he literally seems to enjoy it. Hard to understand how Obama was not seen as a con man on the spot; mostly the desperate netroots needed a few more blade strokes I guess. Well, we have those now; can we start calling the progressive bashing Obama out for what he is yet?

More Particulars: Here are some more greatest hits from Barack Obama the progressive hater: Campaigning for Barrow in Georgia and against the wonderful progressive candidate, wobbliness on the auto bailout, lack of interest in pursuing torture and war crime offenders in the justice department and throughout the government, appointment of ultimate DLC centrist hack Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff, agreement to offshore drilling and dissing of clean coal technology…..

The list is getting awfully long. Almost as long as Barack Obama’s arm that he used to take our money and efforts to get himself elected. All we have seen is the short arm he has used to punch us in the face and collect street cred with villagers for having done so.

It is sickening. It is so bad that even Pat Buchanan (see video above) is feeling sorry for the progressive netroots and is calling on President-Elect Obama to at least have the mercy to throw a little bone. Looks like it will be a damn small bone.

Heckuva job Barack!

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. 

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/obama-administration/page/31/