Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Paul holds US liable for Gazans death

Republican congressman Ron Paul says the US is aiding and abetting Israel in Gaza through its financial and military support for Tel Aviv.

"The weapons being used to kill so many Palestinians are American weapons, and American funds, essentially, are being used for this," said the congressman Friday.

Israel launched an all-out war against the Gaza Strip and its democratically-elected ruler, the Hamas movement, to put an end to rocket attacks against southern Israel.

At least 821 Palestinians have been killed during the operation and some 3,330 others are reported wounded. At least 10 Israeli troops have been killed during the offensive so far.

Hamas demands a cessation to an 18-month Israeli blockade on Gaza before its fighters stop rocket attacks against Israel.

Congressman Paul criticized Washington for its indirect intervention in the affairs of other countries.

"There's a political liability, which I think is something that we fail to look at, because too often there's so much blowback from our intervention in areas that we shouldn't be involved in," he said.

Paul also expressed his opposition to a House resolution that strongly supported Israel in its Gaza invasion. "I rise in opposition to this resolution, not because I am taking sides and picking who the bad guys are and who the good guys are."

"I'm looking at this more from the angle of being a United States citizen, an American, and I think resolutions like this really do us great harm," he added.

Earlier on Friday, House of Representative speaker Nancy Pelosi backed the Israel's military operations on Gaza, saying that "Israel, like any nation, has a right to self-defense when under attack".

"There's a lot of reasons why we should oppose this resolution. It is not in the interests of the United States. It's not in the interests of Israel, either," Paul concluded.

United States of Financial Distress


By &

Obama waves to the crowdCongressional Democrats are firing a surprising number of unexpectedly sharp brushback pitches at President-elect Barack Obama and his staff over policy plans and personnel picks, making him look embattled during what was to be a triumphant debut week in Washington.

The honeymoon isn't over — the president-elect remains widely popular, even among some Republicans — and his Inauguration on Jan. 20 will be a signature event in the lifetime of most Americans, giving his opening days a greater lift and pop than any president since at least Ronald Reagan.

But as Obama buckled down his week heading a shadow government across Lafayette Park from the waning one in the White House, Democrats hit him with daily fast balls reflecting two realities: His team is smart but not perfect, and Democrats are supportive but not supine.


• Obama ended his troubled search for CIA director by naming Leon Panetta. The immediate response: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) fired off a statement of disapproval, giving a negative tilt to most coverage of the pick.

• Obama floated his plan to name TV star Dr. Sanjay Gupta as surgeon general. House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers didn't even wait for the official announcement before leading a public campaign to kill the nomination. Gupta "lacks the relevant experience," Conyers wrote to colleagues.

• As Obama makes plans to roll out a sweeping economic plan, Majority Leader Harry Reid gave interviews with Politico and The Hill newspaper and made clear he won't take marching orders from Obama. "I don't work for" Obama, he told us.

• Even before Obama's plan was formally unveiled, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made plain her displeasure with parts of Obama's emerging fiscal plan, which she believes does not move fast enough to raise taxes. "I couldn't be more clear," she said Thursday at her weekly news conference. "Put me down as one in favor of repeal [of the Bush tax cuts] as soon as possible." 

• Finally, once the package was unveiled, Obama's adviser got a frosty response to some provisions from Senate Democrats, who were kind enough to go public with their concerns. "I just don't think it works. I don't think that's going to give much lift to the economy, as well-intended as it is," Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, told Politico's David Rogers.

What mandate for change?

Barack Obama is already facing pushback from Congress about his economic stimulus plan. But it's coming from Democrats.

By Mike Madden

The hard sell that Barack Obama put on last week went beyond the normal political smooth-talking that presidents (or presidents-elect) sometimes use to promote their legislative agenda and crossed over into something a bit more urgent.

"For the sake of our economy and our people, this is the moment to act and to act without delay," Obama said Friday, pushing Congress -- for the second day in a row -- to get moving on a massive $775 billion economic stimulus plan as soon as possible. (On Thursday, he'd devoted an entire speech to the plan, the first time he'd given what his staff had billed as a "major policy address" since he won the election.) "The American people are struggling. And behind the statistics that we see flashing on the screens are real lives, real suffering, real fears. And it is my job to make sure that Congress stays focused in the weeks to come and gets this done." His Saturday radio/YouTube address had more of the same; the transition team simultaneously released a 14-page report claiming Obama's plan would create 3 to 4 million jobs by the end of next year.

But the main target of his blitz isn't necessarily voters, who polls show are on board with just about anything that will help save jobs. And it isn't the Republican opposition in Congress; they may not go along with the plan in the end, but Democrats have big enough margins in both the House and the Senate that they shouldn't need too many GOP votes to pass Obama's plan. As it turns out, that's the problem: Democrats, who with their expanded majorities were supposed to make it easy for Obama's agenda to cruise through Congress, started objecting to the stimulus plan as soon as details leaked to the press.

One crisis at a time

Bush ordered ceasefire retreat at UN

Rice told to abstain in last-minute phone call from the White House

By David Usborne

Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, was forced to step back from voting in favour of the Gaza ceasefire resolution at the UN Security Council after orders from Washington, diplomatic sources said yesterday.

The US abstention on the resolution vote early yesterday, which clearly weakened its impact, was the final twist in a tumultuous three-day marathon of negotiations in New York.

For the UN to do nothing in the face of the mounting civilian casualties was becoming increasingly untenable. But when three of the world's top diplomats – Ms Rice, David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, and his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner – descended on New York on Tuesday to take action there was plenty of reason to believe that their efforts would end in tears.

Most alarming was the prospect of a vote on a ceasefire text tabled by Libya. The US was threatening to veto it; nor indeed was America ready at that point to support any formal resolution in deference to Israel. But by Thursday morning, the US had had a surprising change of heart. It could back a resolution, if the British drafted one. Which Mr Miliband and his diplomatic crew duly did.

It fell to Mr Miliband, above all, to bring everyone on side before the council could hold a vote sometime Thursday evening. He, M. Kouchner and Ms Rice spent all day shuttling with knitted brows in and out of a conference room in the basement of the UN building where Arab foreign ministers were huddled. By dusk, it seemed at last that everyone was on board. Mr Miliband was smiling.

"Nothing is in the bag at the UN until everything is in the bag," one senior British official was heard remarking. Indeed. Once more the deal threatened to unravel as Americans muttered about new amendments and the French asked to delay the vote to give Israel time to consider its position. The Arabs almost rebelled. "It was hairy there for a moment," one source admitted.

When finally every last hurdle was cleared and the members of the Security Council were headed to their chamber for the vote, there was a mood of celebration in the building. Ministers from Arab nations especially were slapping backs. It was only in the last minutes before the vote was due that word began suddenly to circulate. America was not going to vote in favour after all.

US plans massive arms delivery to Israel

GPS-guided Small Diameter Bombs, GBU-39
The Pentagon plans to make a large arms delivery to Israel, rising fears that the military campaign in Gaza will go on for a long time.

The US is trying to hire a merchant ship that can carry hundreds of tons of weapons from Greece to Israel later this month; Reuters reported citing tender documents it had obtained.

According to the US Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC), the ship will transport 325 standard 20-foot containers of what has been called 'ammunition' from the Greek port of Astakos to the Israeli port of Ashdod on two separate trips in the second half of January.

A description on the manifest says the containers will be loaded with 'hazardous material', such as explosive substances and detonators, without giving any more details.

The Pentagon announced the tender for the ship in the last hours of 2008. The two deadlines set for the deliveries are January 25 and the last day of the month.

Meanwhile, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed the planned arms shipment to Israel, but denied that the delivery was linked to the Israel's deadly offensive in Gaza.

"This previously scheduled shipment is routine and not in support of the current situation in Gaza," said Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder.

However, a senior military analyst in London, who wished to remain unnamed, said the timing of the shipments shows that they may be 'irregular' and linked to the military operation in Gaza.

The new junior senator from Illinois

President Bush saved U.S. lives? That's only more Karl Rove-style spin

George Bush, still President, is engaging in a legacy tour of media outlets. This comes despite his earlier having said he did not know how history would judge the Iraq war "because we'll all be dead."

Actually, many people are already dead because of Bush, and that is the point to keep in mind when he talks about his legacy.

Among the themes Bush is striking are that through action at home and fighting "them" over there, not over here, his administration stopped terrorist attacks and prevented another 9/11. There is a surface plausibility to those claims, as there has often been with the messaging served up by the Karl Rove spin machine. But let's look beneath the surface of the assertions.

Bush stopped terrorist attacks? Yes, some of the many alleged plots cited by the White House probably would have matured into attacks had not the U.S. intelligence community acted. Many were more aspirational than operational, and others were the pure inventions of FBI informants. (In the Miami Liberty City case, an FBI informant apparently bribed people who previously had no interest in Al Qaeda. When they swore the oath to Osama Bin Laden, they were then arrested for doing so.)

But even if taken on its face as true, should having stopped terrorist attacks earn this President a Harry Truman-like reassessment down the road? I can attest from firsthand knowledge that the Clinton administration stopped numerous terrorist operations that would have resulted in American deaths. Yet I don't hear Bill Clinton running around boasting about that. Clinton has other things to lay claim to - a balanced budget, huge job growth and eight years without a major war. If you don't think the Clinton administration stopped a major terrorist attack in New York City, you might want to talk with the blind sheik, who was involved in a plot to blow up the United Nations, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington Bridge and a federal building housing the FBI. But that would be tough to do because Omar Abdel-Rahman is in solitary in a federal prison in Colorado.

President Bush's Legacy: One of Our Greatest Presidents

by Jon Swift

As I recently predicted, in few months, with the benefit of hindsight, historians will look back on the Bush presidency as an unalloyed success and consider President Bush to be one of our greatest presidents. Although the White House has sent around its own talking points highlighting the President's accomplishments, I don't think they go far enough. So I have put together my own list of talking points, which should convince anyone why George W. Bush belongs on Mount Rushmore, along with Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and the other guy.

After Hurricane Katrina President Bush kept our cities safe.

In the three years and a half years since Hurricane Katrina not a single American city has been destroyed or partially destroyed. There are more than 10,000 cities in the United States and because of George Bush every single one of them, except for New Orleans, is still largely intact. Of course, no one could have predicted Hurricane Katrina, and if President Clinton had not left us so woefully unprepared, New Orleans would probably be in a lot better shape than it is now. But since Katrina, there have been numerous hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, fires and earthquakes and none of them has gotten out of hand and wiped out an entire city because of the disaster preparedness policies President Bush put in place. For national security reasons we may not know until records are declassified how many other potential disasters, like epidemics or nuclear power plant meltdowns or alien invasions, were averted because of the work that government agencies did behind the scenes. Unfortunately, Presidents don't usually get credit for all the disasters that don't happen. But I think we should congratulate the President for doing a heckuva job on keeping America safe in the years since Katrina.

After the October 2008 stock market correction there have been no Great Depressions.

Although the excesses of the Clinton administration's failed economic policies finally caught up with us in October 2008, in the seven years before this economic downturn the economy was doing really well. Not every President can boast of seven years of prosperity. What's more, even since October there have been no Great Depressions, which means President Bush has given us eight completely depressionless years. Although some credit Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's swift and bold moves after the market tanked for staving off a depression, I think most economists will come to agree that it was Bush's 2001 tax cuts that really kept the economy afloat. Bush's prescient tax cuts lifted up the economy to such a level that any economic downfall just brought us back to where we were before instead plunging us into depression. Meanwhile, because of easy credit during the Bush years, more people had the opportunity to buy the homes of their dreams and live in them for a few years before they had to give them back. If Obama's economic policies do plunge us into a Great Depression, Americans will look back on the relative economic prosperity of the Bush years wistfully and have only themselves to blame.

Bedside manner


# 10 drinking


For a journalist, there are a few things to look forward to. There's the end of an election. The closing of a trial and of course when the town's annual rodeo/festival/art show is finally over. After a long day of grilling public officials, dredging through public records, chasing ambulances and writing 25-inch stories, journalists like to relax with a tall cold one.

The old stereotype of the curmudgeon journalist with a bottle of whiskey in his desk is alive and well today because journalists like to drink.

Between natural disasters, covering triple homicides and reporting on fatal accidents, journalists see some pretty horrific stuff. And since journalist pay ranks around that of a trained circus monkey, they can't afford any psychological help. However, they can afford a $15 bottle of Fighting Cock bourbon.

Nothing takes the edge off after a day of reporting on the scene of drug bust, shifting through six years of financial papers at city hall and stressing over deadlines like a nice shot of low-shelf whiskey or a pint.

Interns and journalists just out of school have all heard the stories of the days when journalists kept flasks in their back pockets and handles of Jim Bean in their filing cabinets. But today, newspapers and their corporate owners shun such habits. But go to any veteran journalist and he'll show you were he keeps his bourbon.  

And if journalists don't like to drink because of having to interview a widow who just lost her husband in Iraq, then there is always job security. As one journalist after another exits the newsroom with their severance check in hand, journalists flee to their safe haven – dive bars.

Drinking is done best by journalists in shotty bars and questionable establishments. The kind of places where a journalist might run into the same perps he writes about on his beat. 

And while journalists can never really ever take off their journalist hats, while drinking, there is an unspoken ceasefire among journalists. Rival journalists, otherwise would not share more than a glance with each other at a press conference, share stories about griping editors and mayors who like to call journalists sweetie or honey. Editors and journalists, who in a newsroom walk a very palpable line of rank, talk about the cute receptionist and how the publisher is a moron. But after shots have been taken and tabs have been paid, journalists go back trying to scoop the competition and avoiding social interaction with editors.  

You can tell a journalist's bar by names such as Trail Dust, Cell House 7 and Top Hat Lounge. Such dingy hole in the wall watering holes will typically have two beers on tap, PBR and Budweiser, and a well of cheap liquor.

Here journalists gather to complain about the death of their industry and how much they miss the good ol' days. Most of the time such bars are a stone's throw from the newsroom so weary journalists won't have to stumble too far to wet their dry pallet's.

A good beer and a shot is just the medicine for any spent journalist who survived another treacherous day in the trenches reporting the truth. To report the news is to be a journalist. Same goes for drinking. Drinking is so much a part of a journalist's life that J-schools nearly made it part of the curriculum but instead choose copy editing. And journalism has suffered ever since.  


#75 low pay

Reporters sleeping outside of the Captiol building the first morning after the first session of Congress.  Journalists like to think of themselves as the regular working man/woman. Journalist like to kick the same dust as regular folks. Yes there are the millionaire reporters. But those are as rare as readers who subscribe to more than one newspaper. But for the journalists who are not Brian Williams or Rick Reilly, it's the reality of living paycheck to paycheck. 

When selecting a career, journalists knew they would make sacrifices: long hours, working holidays and low pay.

When young journalism students ask veteran journalists for advice, virtually all veterans reply with "go to business school."

However, journalists like the low pay because it allows them to focus on the news at hand rather than investing in the crashing stock market, buying a home in foreclosure or saving for retirement.

In fact, thanks to low pay journalists can forget about retirement entirely. Instead they focus on more important things like the city's $5 billion budget or the proposed salary increase for police, even though the crime rate has risen by 25%.

Journalists don't have to worry about such annoying issues like a balanced diet or traveling to exotic places. Thanks to low pay,  journalists can eat Ramen noodles or soup in a can every day for lunch and dinner, and spend their days off valeting their publisher's cars to pay the rent. In journalism, the good die poor.

But perhaps the thing journalists like most about low pay is being able to complain about it. One thing journalists like most is complaining, and complaining about low pay is at the top of their list. Go to any local watering or dive bar where journalists congregate and be a fly on the wall one evening after deadline.

You are sure to hear the topic of low pay come up at some time, usually in the context of "damn I wish I had gone to business school."

Obama’s Cheney Dilemma

Cheney pushed for expanded presidential powers. Now that he's leaving, what will come of his efforts? The new president won't have to wait long to tip his hand.

By Stuart Taylor Jr. and Evan Thomas

Dick Cheney, who will step down as vice president on Jan. 20, has been widely portrayed as a creature of the dark side, a monstrous figure who trampled on the Constitution to wage war against all foes, real and imagined. Barack Obama was elected partly to cleanse the temple of the Bush-Cheney stain, and in his campaign speeches he promised to reverse Cheney's efforts to seize power for the White House in the war on terror.

It may not be so simple. At a retirement ceremony recently for a top-level intelligence official, the senior spooks in the room gave each other high-fives. They were celebrating the fact that terrorists have not attacked the United States since 9/11. In the view of many intelligence professionals, the get-tough measures encouraged or permitted by George W. Bush's administration—including "waterboarding" self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—kept America safe. Cheney himself has been underscoring the point in a round of farewell interviews. "If I had advice to give it would be, before you start to implement your campaign rhetoric, you need to sit down and find out precisely what it is we did and how we did it, because it is going to be vital to keeping the nation safe and secure in the years ahead," he told CBS Radio.

In times of war and crisis, as presidents such as Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt discovered, the nation needs a strong chief executive. The flaw of the Bush-Cheney administration may have been less in what it did than in the way it did it—flaunting executive power, ignoring Congress, showing scorn for anyone who waved the banner of civil liberties. Arguably, there has been an overreaction to the alleged arrogance and heedlessness of Bush and Cheney—especially Cheney, who almost seemed to take a grim satisfaction in his Darth Vader-esque image. The courts, at first slow to respond to arrogations of executive power after September 11, have pushed back. Many federal officials have grown risk-averse, fearing that they will be prosecuted or dragged before a congressional committee for fighting too hard against terrorism. (A growing number of CIA officials buy insurance policies to cover legal fees.)

Would I lie to you?