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CHICAGO – In an unwavering statement of innocence, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Friday he will be vindicated of criminal corruption charges and has no intention of letting what he called a “political lynch mob” force him from his job.

“I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong,” Blagojevich said, speaking for about three minutes in his first substantial public comments since his arrest last week on federal corruption charges.

The Democrat is accused, among other things, of plotting to sell or trade President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat in secretly recorded phone conversations.

“I’m not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob,” Blagojevich said.

Still, one of the governor’s attorneys said Blagojevich will take his constituents into account as the case moves forward.

“He told me if it doesn’t work, if it is too hard if the people of Illinois suffer, he will step aside,” attorney Sam Adam, Jr., after the governor finished speaking.

Itching to talk
Blagojevich had been itching to talk, saying he wanted to tell his side of the story even though his lead defense attorney, Ed Genson, didn’t like the idea. On Friday, Blagojevich asked Illinoisans to “sit back and take a deep breath, and please reserve judgment.”

“Afford me the same rights that you and your children have — the presumption of innocence, the right to defend yourself,” said the governor, who said he wants to “answer every allegation” in court.

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springfield

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The speaker of the Illinois House took the first step Monday toward impeaching scandal-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich, appointing a committee to recommend whether he should be ousted after his arrest on federal corruption charges.

“We’re going to proceed with all due speed, but we’re going to make sure that what we do is done correctly,” said Speaker Michael Madigan, who often has clashed with fellow Democrat Blagojevich.

Once the committee makes a recommendation, the full House will formally decide whether to file impeachment charges. The Senate then would rule on the charges.

Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on federal fraud and bribery charges, including allegations of a scheme to profit from his power to appoint a replacement for the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

The state constitution gives lawmakers broad authority to impeach a governor for any reason they consider sufficient.

The governor, who remains defiant and returned to work Monday to sign a tax credit bill, had no immediate reaction to the impeachment committee, spokesman Lucio Guerrero said after Madigan’s announcement.

“Impeachment talk’s nothing new for this governor,” Guerrero said. “They’ve been talking about it for a long time.”

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Indeed, Madigan said Monday his staff has been reviewing the legal possibilities for impeachment for about a year. His office produced a memo earlier this year outlining all the arguments legislative candidates could make in favor of impeachment.

Blagojevich’s administration has been under a federal corruption investigation for years.

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The 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid will get 39 miles per gallon.

The 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid will get 39 miles per gallon.

It is worth mentioning that auto CEO’s did give Congress assurance that they would not use this bailout money to sue states over their emission standards. It is a big about turn for the auto industry – almost everything they have been against now they have to be – for, one of the auto CEO’s did say that they thought electric cars were the way forward – as everyone has a plug – hybrid-electric is a good step, until battery life improves – at the moment we have car batteries that can go 240 miles without recharging – but they are heavy – and they weigh a tonne literally – though there is car battery technology being developed in Japan (always Japan) that is half the weight 450 lbs – their car companies quite sensibly work with the battery companies – the Japanese are also working on bringing down recharging times to about a half an hour.

Environmental groups are disappointed that money put aside to aid automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars is now going to fund their operations.

Although the bill promises the money for retooling plants will be replenished in the future, environmentalists are skeptical. And they’re also upset the bailout doesn’t ban automakers from suing states that set tougher emissions limits than federal rules.

“We know they need help retooling their factories, and we feel very strongly that if those funds are going to be diverted and not replenished, Congress is walking away from their own commitment to fuel efficiency,” says Phyllis Cuttino, head of the U.S. Global Warming Campaign for the Pew Environmental Group.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 called for increasing fuel efficiency to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. In exchange for agreeing, automakers would get $25 billion in loans to help revamp their plants. They waited over a year for Congress to allocate the money. Now, some will go to the bailout.

“The funding Congress is considering now is just a Band-Aid, and it diverts funds originally intended to help the Big Three and other companies produce more fuel-efficient vehicles,” says Michelle Robinson, director of the Clean Vehicles Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Those funds should be replenished when the new Congress convenes in January.”

INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC: A state-by-state look at auto industry jobs

What particularly irks environmentalists is that the automakers will continue on their quest to stop individual states from enacting their own emissions rules.

Roland Hwang, vehicle policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “The White House has decided they want to hold up this entire bailout bill in order to remove this litigation provision. We’re very disappointed.”

Still, even though they aren’t getting money to increase fuel efficiency, high gas prices have forced the automakers to revamp their lineups in favor of more fuel-efficient cars. As Congress debated the bailout bill Wednesday, Ford showed off its 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid in Marina del Rey, Calif., and said that at 39 miles per gallon, it will be the highest-mileage midsize car.

“We’re going squarely after the imports with this,” says Frank Davis, executive director for North American product. The goal: “not only to compete but lead.” It’s exactly the pitch that Detroit needs to win the hearts of a skeptical Congress and American public, and the environmental lobby. Ford has not asked for loans now. General Motors and Chrysler say they need loans to stave off bankruptcy filings.

While it makes a play for environmentalists, the new hybrid will also be aimed at being a commercial success for Ford. Davis says it should add up to 25,000 sales of Fusions a year. While pricing isn’t set, the hybrid system is 30% less expensive than the last generation, like that in the Ford Escape hybrid SUV.

Ford plans to spend $14 billion in the U.S. on advanced technologies and products to improve fuel economy in the next seven years, it told Congress in the business plan it submitted as part of the bailout consideration. It plans a pure electric sedan by 2011.

Source: USA Today

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The House of Representatives handily passed a bill Wednesday night that would provide up to $14 billion in bridge loans to automakers, but Republican opposition cast doubt about the bill’s fate in the Senate later this week.

The U.S. House approved an auto bailout package Wednesday, but it could hit a roadblock in the Senate.

The stopgap measure, approved by a vote of 237 to 170, is designed to let the new Congress and incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama craft a long-term solution. It would also give the companies time to negotiate with creditors and the United Auto Workers union on additional concessions needed to stem their ongoing losses.

Thirty-two GOP representatives voted with 205 Democrats in support of the bill while 20 Democrats and 150 Republicans opposed the bill.

In Michigan, the home of the three major U.S. automakers — Chrysler, Ford and General Motors — eight Republicans joined the six Democrats in the state’s delegation in voting for the measure. A ninth Michigan Republican, Timothy Walberg, did not vote.

Seven other Republicans that voted for the bill are from nearby Midwestern states that are also home to auto plants. However, outside of the auto belt, the bailout had little Republican support.

Even Democrats couldn’t come to complete agreement on the bill, with House and Senate Democrats going their separate ways on one of the criteria the “car czar” must consider in determining an auto company’s long-term viability plan.

House Democrats used language requiring that autos meet stricter “applicable” fuel efficiency and emissions standards — which would cover consideration of state standards such as those adopted in California and New York — while the Senate version of the bill calls for vehicles to meet “federal” standards, which are not as high as some state benchmarks.

A Senate Democratic leadership aide told CNN that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Wednesday morning that the bill would never pass the Senate with the House language.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted the higher efficiency standard so that liberal Democrats who are not inclined to help the auto manufacturers would feel they had assurances that these companies would adopt and make more fuel-efficient cars, according to House Democratic aides.

However, even if language about the fuel efficiency standards is resolved, Senate Republicans still aren’t likely to flock behind the bill.

“I don’t think the votes are there on our side of the aisle,” reported Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, one of few vocal Republican backers of the bill.

“It’s not gonna pass right now,” echoed Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, a fierce critic of the bill.

Voinovich and Shelby spoke after Senate Republicans huddled behind closed doors in the Capitol on Wednesday to weigh the merits of the bailout. Vice President Dick Cheney and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten attended the meeting — called “spirited” by one senator — to sell the bill the White House negotiated with congressional Democrats.

Several senators said they were concerned the so-called “car czar,” created by the legislation, would not have enough power to force the troubled automakers to restructure to become profitable.

“I have concerns about the power of the czar,” said Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minnesota, a moderate who Democrats have hoped would vote for the bill, “that he actually has some real power. And I think that’s a concern a lot of my colleagues have right now.”

“The car czar needs the authority to create a de facto structured bankruptcy. Not consulting. Not calling meetings. He needs the capacity of a master of bankruptcy to force things to happen,” said Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah.

Some senators oppose any assistance to the automakers, saying they should file for bankruptcy, but White House spokeswoman Dana Perino pointed out that many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle believe that allowing “a disorderly bankruptcy could be fatal to U.S. automakers and have devastating impacts on jobs, families and our economy.”

“As a result, they also agree we should find a way to foster the companies’ restructuring so that they can become viable and profitable,” she said. “We believe the legislation developed in recent days is an effective and responsible approach to deal with troubled automakers and ensure the necessary restructuring occurs.”

Other senators said they were concerned that the carmakers might never pay taxpayers back for the loans, meant to keep General Motors and Chrysler afloat until they can finalize a long-term viability plan — by March 31, according to the legislation.

GM has said it needs $4 billion by the end of the month to continue operations, and believes it’ll need an additional $6 billion in the first three months of 2009. Chrysler has said it needs $4 billion by the end of the first quarter.

Ford, which has more cash on hand than its U.S. rivals, is not expected to tap into this bailout in the coming months.

Source: CNN

By David Horowitz

The continuing efforts of a fringe group of conservatives to deny Obama his victory and to lay the basis for the claim that he is not a legitimate president is embarrassing and destructive. The fact that these efforts are being led by Alan Keyes, a demagogue who lost a Senate election to the then-unknown Obama by 42 points, should be a warning in itself.

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This tempest over whether Obama, the child of an American citizen, was born on American soil is tantamount to the Democrats’ seditious claim that Bush “stole” the election in Florida and hence was not the legitimate president. This delusion helped to create the Democrats’ Bush derangement syndrome and encouraged Democratic leaders to lie about the origins of the Iraq war, and regard it as illegitimate as Bush himself. It became “Bush’s War” rather than an American War — with destructive consequences for our troops and our cause.

The birth-certificate zealots are essentially arguing that 64 million voters should be disenfranchised because of a contested technicality as to whether Obama was born on U.S. soil. (McCain narrowly escaped the problem by being born in the Panama Canal zone, which is no longer American.)

What difference does it make to the future of this country whether Obama was born on U.S. soil? Advocates of this destructive campaign will argue that the constitutional principle regarding the qualifications for president trumps all others. But how viable will our Constitution be if five Supreme Court justices should decide to void 64 million ballots?

Conservatives are supposed to respect the organic nature of human societies. Ours has been riven by profound disagreements that have been deepening over many years. We are divided not only about political facts and social values, but also about what the Constitution itself means. The crusaders on this issue choose to ignore these problems and are proposing to deny the will of 64 million voters by appealing to five Supreme Court Justices (since no one is delusional enough to think that the four liberal justices are going to take the presidency away from Obama). What kind of conservatism is this?

It is not conservatism; it is sore loserism and quite radical in its intent. Respect for election results is one of the most durable bulwarks of our unity as a nation. Conservatives need to accept the fact that we lost the election, and get over it; and get on with the important business of reviving our country’s economy and defending its citizens, and — by the way — its Constitution.

Source: NRO

New York State Democratic Party sources tell NBC News that Caroline Kennedy has expressed interest in the New York Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton.

She is known to have discussed the upcoming vacancy with New York Gov. David Paterson, who will be appointing the next senator to serve the remaining two years in Clinton’s term once she becomes Secretary of State.

Appointing Caroline Kennedy to the seat once held by her uncle Robert would be a very popular choice politically for Paterson, who is under pressure to replace Clinton with a woman.

The Kennedy name on the ballot could help Paterson’s 2010 reelection chances. Paterson became governor after Eliot Spitzer was forced to resign during a prostitution scandal.

Caroline Kennedy would also have an advantage in being able to raise money for the very expensive New York Senate contest.

Other contenders — if Kennedy is not chosen — include be congress members Kirsten Gillibrand (from an Upstate district) and Carolyn Maloney (NYC), Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is also a possible contender.

Kennedy’s cousin — Robert Jr., an environmentalist, has taken himself out of contention

Source: msnbc

(CNN) — President-elect Barack Obama formally announced Sunday that retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki is his pick to be secretary of Veterans Affairs.
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Retired Gen. Eric Shinseki Sunday promised to work for veterans “each and every day.”

“There is no one more distinguished, more determined, or more qualified to build this VA than the leader I am announcing as our next secretary of Veterans Affairs — General Eric Shinseki,” Obama said at a press conference. “No one will ever doubt that this former Army chief of staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans. No one will ever question whether he will fight hard enough to make sure they have the support they need.”

Obama said the nation must focus on helping troops who have served their country especially during bad economic times.

“We don’t just need to better serve veterans of today’s wars. We also need to build a 21st century VA that will better serve all who have answered our nation’s call,” Obama said. “That means cutting red tape and easing transition into civilian life. And it means eliminating shortfalls, fully funding VA health care, and providing the benefits our veterans have earned.

Shinseki, who spoke after Obama, made a vow to his fellow veterans. If confirmed, he said, he will “work each and every day” to ensure the nation is serving them “as well as you have served us.”

The official announcement took place in Chicago on Sunday, the anniversary of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

“When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling even more than those who have not served — higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate — it breaks my heart,” Obama said earlier in the day on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“And I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who’s going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home.”

“He has agreed that he is willing to be part of this administration because both he and I share a reverence for those who serve,” Obama said in the interview recorded Saturday and broadcast Sunday.

Host Tom Brokaw said Shinseki had lost his job in the Bush administration “because he said that we would need more troops in Iraq than the secretary of defense, Don Rumsfeld, thought that we would need at that time.”

“He was right,” Obama replied.

Veterans groups appeared to support the selection.

“I am excited. I don’t know him personally but this is a huge move,” said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

For years, Shinseki, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, has been cited as an example by Pentagon critics who say the former Army chief’s sage advice was ignored in 2003, resulting in too few U.S. troops being sent to Iraq after the invasion.

Shinseki testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2003 that “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers would be required” to pacify the country. The comment infuriated some Bush administration officials, and he retired just a few months later.

Shinseki has never spoken publicly about his testimony, which has often been cited by critics as evidence that Rumsfeld ignored the advice of one of his key generals.

But as Army chief of staff, Shinseki was not in the chain of command, and played no direct role in drawing up the war plans.

Pentagon sources say that, in fact, Shinseki never advocated higher troop levels for Iraq, in part because it was not his job to do so. And sources say that just before the invasion, when asked by then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers if he agreed with the war plans, Shinseki voiced no objections.

Still, Rieckhoff said, “Shinseki is a guy who had a career putting patriotism above politics. He is a wounded veteran so he understands the plight of veterans.”

He said Shinseki would have to make key connections with the veterans community, adding, “This is a big name and it shows that he (Obama) is not going to treat the Veterans Affairs secretary as a low priority.”

John Rowan, president of Vietnam Veterans of America, called the reported pick an “interesting choice.”

“I am satisfied with it,” Rowan told CNN on Saturday, adding that the choice seems to be in the Obama transition team’s pattern of “bringing in strong personalities into all the positions who aren’t going to ‘yes’ him to death.”

“When Shinseki had his disagreements with the administration, he wasn’t afraid to speak up,” Rowan said.

Veterans for Common Sense also weighed in, issuing a statement “strongly” supporting Shinseki.

“In February 2003, General Shinseki honestly and correctly assessed our nation’s military needs before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003,” the statement said. “This same level of candor and honesty will serve President-elect Obama well so he can quickly and accurately identify VA’s many challenges and then implement responsible solutions that take into consideration our veterans’ needs and concerns.”

Source: CNN

Project Would Be the Largest Since the Interstate System

President-elect Barack Obama shakes hands with Florida Governor Charlie Crist as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich looks on during a bipartisan meeting

President-elect Barack Obama shakes hands with Florida Governor Charlie Crist as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich looks on during a bipartisan meeting

On the heels of more grim unemployment news, President-elect Barack Obama yesterday offered the first glimpse of what would be the largest public works program since President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the federal interstate system in the 1950s.

Obama said the massive government spending program he proposes to lift the country out of economic recession will include a renewed effort to make public buildings energy-efficient, rebuild the nation’s highways, renovate aging schools and install computers in classrooms, extend high-speed Internet to underserved areas and modernize hospitals by giving them access to electronic medical records.

“We need to act with the urgency this moment demands to save or create at least 2 1/2 million jobs so that the nearly 2 million Americans who’ve lost them know that they have a future,” Obama said in his weekly address, broadcast on the radio and the Internet.

Obama offered few details and no cost estimate for the investment in public infrastructure. But it is intended to be part of a broader effort to stimulate economic activity that will also include tax cuts for middle-class Americans and direct aid to state governments to forestall layoffs as programs shrink.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has called for spending between $400 billion and $500 billion on the overall package. Some Senate Democrats and other economists have suggested spending even more — potentially $1 trillion — in the hope of jolting the economy into shape more quickly.

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Republican Anh 'Joseph' Cao (right) hugs Rep. Steve Scalise after defeating Rep. William Jefferson for a House seat.

Republican Anh 'Joseph' Cao (right) hugs Rep. Steve Scalise after defeating Rep. William Jefferson for a House seat.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Voters in Louisiana ousted indicted Democratic Rep. William Jefferson on Saturday, instead electing a Republican attorney who will be the first Vietnamese-American in Congress.

Unofficial results showed Anh “Joseph” Cao denying Jefferson a 10th term. Republicans made an aggressive push to take the seat from the 61-year-old incumbent, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, laundering money and misusing his congressional office.

Cao, 41, won a predominantly black and heavily Democratic district that covers most of New Orleans.

A barrage of election-day automated telephone calls on Cao’s behalf flooded the district, including a pitch from the national Republican Party.

New Orleans voters had long been loyal to Jefferson, re-electing him in 2006 even after news of the bribery scandal broke. Late-night TV comics made him the butt of jokes after federal agents said they found $90,000 in alleged bribe money hidden in his freezer.

Rep. William J. Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat, shown with his wife, Dr. Andrea Green-Jefferson, was expected to win re-election Saturday in a race delayed by Hurricane Gustav.

Rep. William J. Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat, shown with his wife, Dr. Andrea Green-Jefferson, was expected to win re-election Saturday in a race delayed by Hurricane Gustav.

“People are innocent until proven guilty,” said Faye Leggins, 54, an educator and Democrat who moved back to the city six months ago and still has fresh memories of Hurricane Katrina. She voted for Jefferson on Saturday. “He has enough seniority, so he can do a lot to redevelop this city.”

But Republicans argued the scandal had cost Jefferson his clout in Congress. Election Day brought excitement to the state’s usually low-key Vietnamese-American community, said David Nguyen, 45, a store manager and Cao supporter.

“The Vietnamese aren’t much into politics,” he said.

Turnout appeared light in the district, where two-thirds of voters are Democrats and 11 percent are Republicans. More than 60 percent are black.

Though he was the underdog, Cao received endorsements from some Democrat and green-conscious groups as well as the area’s Vietnamese-American community. Cao came to the United States as a child after the fall of Saigon in 1975 and went on to earn degrees in philosophy, physics and law.

The election was one of two in Louisiana postponed because of Hurricane Gustav.

In western Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District, Republican physician John Fleming defeated Democratic district attorney Paul Carmouche in a very close race to replace U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery, a 10-term Republican who is retiring. Fleming had 48 percent of the vote to Carmouche’s 47 percent. Two minor candidates split the remaining vote.

Cao

Cao

Both candidates had help from national heavyweights. President-elect Barack Obama recorded a radio ad for Carmouche, while Vice President Dick Cheney helped Fleming with fundraising.

The national GOP also backed Cao, an immigration lawyer, with a barrage of advertising portraying Jefferson as corrupt.

Prosecutors contend Jefferson used his influence as chairman of the congressional Africa Investment and Trade Caucus to broker deals in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and other African nations on behalf of those who bribed him.

The 2007 indictment claims Jefferson received more than $500,000 in bribes and demanded millions more between 2000 and 2005, including the $90,000 found in the freezer of his Washington home.

No trial date has been set for Jefferson, who became Louisiana’s first black congressman since Reconstruction when he took office in 1991.

He also faced the Green Party candidate Malik Rahim and Libertarian Gregory W. Kahn in the race.

Source: Washington Times

We sat in on a meeting of the Transition’s Health Policy Team to introduce you to some of the team’s members and give you a feel for how they make decisions — and Senator Tom Daschle, the leader of the team, sat down to tell us how he plans to tackle health care.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss wins the runoff in Georgia, denying the Dems a filibuster-proof majority. Saxby’s win reinforces McCain’s Georgia win and the GOP inroads into the South in the 2008 presidential election

Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) — Bill Richardson’s nomination as Commerce secretary won’t satisfy top Latino lawmakers, who sent President-elect Barack Obama’s transition office a letter yesterday afternoon recommending a slate of 14 Hispanics for the remaining eight Cabinet slots.

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“We’d definitely be disappointed,” if Richardson, 61, a former energy secretary and United Nations ambassador, were the lone Latino in Obama’s Cabinet, said California Representative Joe Baca, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He warned that Obama’s legislative agenda could be jeopardized if the president-elect doesn’t nominate additional Hispanics.

“If it’s just one, he’s going to have to answer to a lot of the issues that come before us,” Baca said in an interview.

There could be one more appointment soon. Two Democrats close to Obama’s transition office said that Representative Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat, has been offered the job of U.S. trade representative. The two Democrats didn’t say Becerra, 50, will accept the post.

Obama’s victories in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, all states carried by President George W. Bush in 2004, was “in large measure because of Hispanic support,” said Representative Charles Gonzalez, a Texas Democrat. Election-day exit polls of Latinos gave Obama a 2-to-1 advantage on Nov. 4.

Obama is expected to announce Richardson’s selection today in Chicago, a Democratic official said.

Becerra, who once declared U.S. trade policy was “broken completely,” would take part in global trade talks, negotiate with China on product-safety issues and possibly renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Caucus Recommendations

The Hispanic Caucus letter recommends Colorado Representative John Salazar for agriculture secretary, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion for Housing and Urban Development secretary and Texas Assemblyman Rick Noriega for veterans’ affairs secretary, among others.

Baca described the letter, sent to transition director John Podesta, as the “the beginning of demonstrating that we are ones to be reckoned with and not to be taken lightly.” Baca and Gonzalez signed the letter on behalf of the 21-member caucus.

Richardson is the highest-profile Latino elected official in the U.S. Before being elected as governor of New Mexico in 2002 and winning a second term in 2006, he served in two Cabinet positions in President Bill Clinton’s administration and eight terms in the U.S. House.

Endorsed Obama

Richardson ended his own bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in January and later endorsed Obama, calling him a “once-in-a-lifetime leader” who can unite the country. That move was a rebuke to Hillary Clinton, and her husband publicly lashed out at Richardson at the time.

For several weeks, Baca and Gonzalez led a group of 10 lawmakers to create a list for Obama’s transition team, which was approved by a required two-thirds of the caucus members.

“We understand that the incoming administration will have a vast pool of talent from which to choose,” wrote Baca and Gonzalez. “The individuals we have endorsed constitute the best talent, while reflecting the diversity that is so valued by President-elect Obama.”

Baca expects Obama to improve upon the two Hispanics that Presidents Clinton and Bush had in their Cabinets. “We’ll start with two and then work for three,” he said. “But it’s got to be more than what we’ve had.”

Bush, Clinton Picks

Bush began his first term with Mel Martinez serving as Housing and Urban Development secretary and Alberto Gonzales as his White House counsel. In his second term, Bush promoted Gonzales to attorney general and had Carlos Gutierrez as his commerce secretary.

Clinton started off with Henry Cisneros at HUD and Federico Pena as transportation secretary and then later as his energy secretary, until Pena was replaced by Richardson.

Gonzalez said he was “confident” that Obama will select additional Hispanics for his Cabinet, insisting that “the process is still in play.” He cheered the choices of Louis Caldera to head the White House Military Affairs Office and Cecilia Munoz as White House director of intergovernmental affairs.

Other Latino lawmakers, while insisting that Hispanics deserved credit for the Democrats’ victory, said they weren’t focused on Obama’s final Cabinet tally. Representative Linda Sanchez, who left the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in 2006 but was still recommended the group as a potential labor secretary, said “for me it’s not a numbers game.”

She criticized Baca for “speaking a little hastily,” in setting down firm demands that Obama appoint more than two Hispanics. Baca is “very strident and he’s very passionate,” about wanting to ensconce Hispanics in influential positions.

Clinton Alumni

Republicans, meanwhile, had their own criticism of the Richardson pick. “Nothing says change like picking the Clinton administration’s energy secretary and UN representative to be commerce secretary,” said Alex Conant, a spokesman at the Republican National Committee.

Obama already has tapped top officials from the Clinton administration, including former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers to be his White House economic director, former Treasury official Timothy Geithner as his Treasury secretary, and Illinois Representative Rahm Emanuel, who was a special adviser to Bill Clinton, as his chief of staff. Obama also picked Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state.

“Obama’s Cabinet is starting to look like a Clinton administration reunion,” Conant said.

Source: Bloomberg

::::

saxbychambliss ATLANTA, Dec 2 (Reuters) – Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss won a run-off election in Georgia on Tuesday, CNN said, denying Democrats the chance for a 60-seat “super majority” in the Senate that would have enabled them to pass legislation virtually at will.

Chambliss, the incumbent, defeated Democrat Jim Martin for the seat in a race that gained national significance because Democrats and their independent allies held 58 of the 100 seats in the Senate after the Nov. 4 election. One seat in Minnesota is subject to a recount.

The net at Risk (1 / 9)

Quite an interesting series of videos – if you are interested in net neutrality.

ebay-mccain-whitmanLuckily Obama is for net neutrality – to gain a quick over view of the subject watch this video here Telecoms basically want to slice and dice the internet up into corporate interests. Like for example you would be able to access eBay easier than you could access google, if they had their way.

ebay-mccain Likely Meg Whitman of eBay – would not be for net neutrality – if you look at the example below eBay is on the premier corporate internet package – she is clearly in the in crowd. If McCain would have won – you can see Meg Whitman was well placed to implement policy against net neutrality – if she wished – more it would have been taking advantage McCain’s lack of technological knowledge – here’s a man who’s never sent an email – or when questioned about the reason American cell phone technology is so far behind South Korean – McCain denied this and said well – anyway I’ll take American technology over Korean any day! Clueless and ripe for plunder – by techno hawks – like Meg Whitman looking for unfair advantage over the internet. Tried and failed with Romney – slipped herself right in there with Mccain.

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Alan Colmes leaving...

Alan Colmes leaving...

During this election period Sean Hannity’s commentating verged on kooky – so much so I tuned out – Colmes offered some restraint ~ whenever he could get a word in – but at times you could almost feel the tension between the two men. Sean Hannity was an example of how extreme the Republicans had become – and likely why they lost their intellectuals – and ultimately the election.

Sean Hannity will go it alone for the foreseeable future.

The liberal half of Fox News Channel’s longest-running show “Hannity & Colmes” is taking a break. Alan Colmes’ departure reportedly means that the conservative host, Hannity, will take over for the full hour of the show.

Colmes is expected to stay with the show through to the end of the year. At that time, Colmes will become a commentator for the conservative cable newser. He is also developing a potential weekend program for the “We Report, You Decide” network.

“H & C” ranks second at FNC for viewers behind “The O’Reilly Factor.” We told you recently how O’Reilly is slowly becoming spokesperson for the network, which also acquired Glenn Beck and lost E.D. Hill.

Source: Examiner

ThinkProgress»

turkey.jpgThis 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 andRachel 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-McCarthysneo-Hooversneo-Nazis, and neocons.

We’re thankful for Tina Fey.

We’re thankful to be liberal hacks.

We’re not thankful for hack operatives burrowing into career civil service jobs.

We’re more thankful for Vice President Joe Biden and “Morning Joe” than Joe Lieberman and “Joe the Plumber.”

We’re thankful that our troops will be able to get the education they so richly deserve.

We’re thankful for the “Mustache of Justice,” “Rahmbo,” “Axe,” and “Skippy.”

We’re thankful that reality still has a liberal bias.

We’re thankful that there are only 54 days left until the end of the George W. Bush presidency.

We’re thankful for the progressive mandate to govern.

Happy Thanksgiving!

ThinkProgress

Congratulations,

liberal/progressive/terrorist! This is the first Thanksgiving in eight years where you represent the political majority. Because you know who voted with you? Oh, just fifty-three percent of the United States of America. HELL YEAH! Who’s a member of the fringe lunatic this holiday season? Not you!

But what happens if your right-wing relatives still want to debate the outcome of the election? Defang your conservative loved ones with these ten helpful facts!:

 

     President-elect Obama won by 8 million votes.   

President Bush is probably drinking again.

Many media conservatives are furious with President Bush.

Experts say that Al Qaeda’s recent video shows that the terrorists are afraid of President-elect Obama.

President-elect Obama is cocky enough to think he can pull this “economic miracle” shit off.

The “socialist” takeover of America’s banks happened on Bush’s watch.

The “Democratic” Senate has been working with a one vote majority, and that vote is Joe Lieberman. If they get to the “Magic 60,” that sixtieth vote is still Joe Lieberman

The majority of rich Americans voted to have their wealth spread.

President Obama will probably only get to replace liberal judges on the Supreme Court.

Cheer up, the GOP still owns the “racist belt!”:

 

 

Source: 23/6

barackobamacampaignscolorado_kffqorjz5jl

WASHINGTON — Despite attracting millions of new contributors to his campaign, President-elect Barack Obama received about the same percentage of his total political funds from small donors as President Bush did in 2004, according to a study released today by the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute.

The analysis undercuts Obama’s claim that his supporters “changed the way campaigns are funded” by reducing the influence of special-interest givers.

“The myth is that money from small donors dominated Barack Obama’s finances,” said Michael Malbin, the institute’s executive director. “The reality of Obama’s fundraising was impressive, but the reality does not match the myth.”

About $156 million, or a quarter of Obama’s record-shattering campaign account, came from donors of $200 or less, according to the institute’s analysis of federal election reports through Oct. 15. That compares with $205 million, or about a third, from those who gave between $2,300 and $4,600, the maximum allowed by law.

Forty-eight percent of Obama’s total take came from donors of $1,000 or more, compared with 56% for John Kerry and 60% for both Bush and John McCain, the analysis found.

The small-donor percentage is lower than figures previously reported in news stories because the institute’s analysis accounted for people who gave several small donations over the course of the election that added up to a larger sum, Malbin said.

Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in an e-mail that the campaign had more than 3.95 million donors, and “91% of our contributions were in amounts of $100 or less. … There’s no doubt that small-dollar contributors played a critical and unprecedented role” in Obama’s victory.

The study said Obama brought in a total $638 million, the most ever raised in a political campaign, compared with $206 million by McCain, who accepted $84.1 million in taxpayer financing for the general election. Obama reported 580,000 donors who gave more than $200.

Donors giving $200 or less need not be disclosed, but by the Obama campaign’s count, there were nearly 3 million of them.

McCain reported 170,000 donors of $200 or more.

Obama opted out of public financing, raising private money through November and significantly outspending McCain in battleground states.

When Obama announced in June that he would forgo public financing, he told supporters in a video message that “instead of forcing us to rely on millions from Washington lobbyists and special-interest PACs, you’ve fueled this campaign with donations of $5, $10, $20, whatever you can afford. … You’ve already changed the way campaigns are funded, because you know that’s the only way we can truly change how Washington works.”

Meredith McGehee, a campaign-finance reform advocate at the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center, said Obama cannot claim “this election somehow created an alternative system for public finance. … The data doesn’t show that.”

Obama did not accept contributions from political action committees or registered federal lobbyists, but many of his top fundraisers have keen economic interests in federal policies.

Source: USA Today

:::

Since Barack Obama’s election, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other pro-gun groups have been warning that the new president will take away their second amendment rights. This multi-million dollar campaign is already having effects. Not only is the NRA trying to profit off this fear-mongering by increasing its membership, many gun sellers are holding “Obama Sales.”

On Friday, ThinkProgress visited The Nation’s Gun Show in Chantilly, VA, where 1,000 vendors took over a building the size of two football fields. The NRA’s fear-mongering was all over the event. An ad in the Washington Post read, “GET YOUR GUNS WHILE YOU STILL CAN!!!” While we waited in a long line in the cold, visitors willing to begin or renew their NRA membership were able to get in free and skip the line.

We spoke with an NRA coordinator at the event who confirmed that the organization had seen a dramatic increase in membership after Obama’s election and noted that the turnout at this gun show was much higher than at one two months ago. When we asked whether Obama would revoke gun owners’ rights, she strayed from the official line and admitted that with important issues like the economy, he may not go after it right away. Some of the materials that were being handed out at the NRA booth:

gunsticker1Click for pdf.

Traces of these myths infiltrated some of the vendors’ tables as well:

nobama2

One vendor with Liberty Firearms was wearing a button with Obama’s name crossed out and warned a couple, “Get ready for the Obamanation.” He told us that he was actually having trouble restocking and ordering new wares because suppliers were canceling orders and getting ready to dramatically increase prices to take advantage of the hype, as they did in 1994. The man selling the “NObama” shirts said that his business was also way up. “People are afraid,” he said.

Despite the NRA’s best efforts, many individual gun owners recognize the campaign as nothing but hype. ThinkProgress spoke with Gary Foster of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, who said that while he could not speak for his organization, his personal opinion was that many media stories about a rush on guns are overblown:

As FactCheck.org has explained, much of the NRA’s information is completely inaccurate: “Obama has spoken in favor of government registration of handguns, for example, but has not called for registration of all ‘firearms’ including hunting rifles and shotguns. [Many of NRA] TV spots and fliers also make claims that are directly contrary to what Obama actually says about guns.” Obama has also reassured voters that he has no intention or desire to take away their guns.

ThinkProgress

:)

23hillary-600

WASHINGTON — The thaw in the resentful relationship between the most powerful woman in the Democratic Party and her younger male rival began at the party’s convention this summer, when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton gave such a passionate speech supporting Senator Barack Obama that his top aides leapt out of their chairs backstage to give her a standing ovation as she swept past.

Mr. Obama, who was in the first steps of what would become a strategic courtship, called afterward to thank her. By then, close aides to Mrs. Clinton said, she had come to respect the campaign Mr. Obama had run against her. At the least, she knew he understood like no one else the brutal strains of their epic primary battle.

By this past Thursday, when Mr. Obama reassured Mrs. Clinton that as secretary of state she would have direct access to him and could select her own staff, the wooing was complete.

UNHAPPY TOGETHER President Bush and Colin Powell had a strained relationship. Enlarge+

UNHAPPY TOGETHER President Bush and Colin Powell had a strained relationship. Enlarge+

“She feels like she’s been treated very well in the way she’s been asked,” said a close associate of Mrs. Clinton, who like others interviewed asked for anonymity because the nomination will not be formally announced until after Thanksgiving.

Few are predicting that this new relationship born of mutual respect and self-interest will grow into a tight bond between the new president and the woman who will be the public face of his foreign policy, though some say it is not impossible. They argue that a close friendship between the two powerful officials is useful but not essential, and is not a predictor of the success of the nation’s chief diplomat.

While James A. Baker III was extraordinarily close to the first President George Bush and is widely considered one of the most successful recent secretaries of state, Dean Acheson was not a friend of Harry S. Truman and Henry A. Kissinger did not particularly like Richard M. Nixon.

“Two of the nation’s greatest secretaries of state in the modern period, Dean Acheson and Henry Kissinger, were not personally close but were intellectually bonded to their presidents,” said Walter Isaacson, the author of a biography of Mr. Kissinger and the co-author, with Evan Thomas, of “The Wise Men,” a book about America’s postwar foreign policy establishment. “I think that Obama and Clinton could form a perfect partnership based on respect for each other’s view of the world.”

TIGHT TEAM James A. Baker III’s success lay in his ties to the first President Bush Enlarge+

TIGHT TEAM James A. Baker III’s success lay in his ties to the first President Bush Enlarge+

Colin L. Powell, who was President Bush’s first-term celebrity secretary of state, would appear to be a cautionary tale for Mrs. Clinton since his relationship with the president was strained, and he left office an unhappy man. But Mr. Bush’s second-term secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is generally not viewed as having the success her unusually tight bond with the president might have engendered.

 

In the Obama-Clinton relationship, advisers say, the relatively smooth nature of their talks about the secretary of state job indicate that both, for now, have a working chemistry. The advisers say that Mr. Obama was clearly interested in bringing a rival under his wing, and that he also recognized that Mrs. Clinton had far more discipline and focus than her husband.

At the same time, Mr. Obama’s advisers said, he had the self-confidence to name a global brand as his emissary to the world. He recognizes, they said, that after Jan. 20, he will have to build the kind of relationship that ensures that foreign leaders know that when Mrs. Clinton speaks, she is speaking directly for him.

Harry S. Truman and his secretary of state, Dean Acheson. Enlarge+

Harry S. Truman and his secretary of state, Dean Acheson. Enlarge+

“It helps to have a relationship that Bush had with Baker, that’s no doubt true,” said Martin Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel, who was a supporter of Mrs. Clinton in the primary battles. “But if they are seen as working together effectively, I think that can be easily overcome. I don’t think he would have decided to appoint her if he didn’t want her to be effective.”

 

One close adviser to Mr. Obama said the president-elect also saw that Mrs. Clinton’s political skills would serve her well in the job, as happened with Mr. Baker and Mr. Kissinger. “They understood that statecraft is politics by another name,” the adviser said.

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton first spoke after their primary fight on a flight in June to Unity, N.H., their first stage-managed appearance after he won the nomination. As they settled into their seats on his plane, the conversation, according to people on both sides, was far less awkward than they had feared. Over the passing weeks, the relationship gradually improved.

“They got past this long before their supporters and the party activists did,” said one Democrat who is close to both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton.

Henry A. Kissinger and Richard M. Nixon at the White House. Enlarge+

Henry A. Kissinger and Richard M. Nixon at the White House. Enlarge+

After Mrs. Clinton’s speech in support of Mr. Obama at the Democratic convention, she crisscrossed the country tirelessly to campaign for him — so much so that he told aides he was impressed by the sheer number of events she was doing on his behalf.

Mrs. Clinton, it should be said, was herself diligent in advertising how hard she was working for the man who defeated her. When announcing her appearances, her press office included tallies of how many events she had held for Mr. Obama, and in how many states. At some rallies, organizers would distribute “Hillary Sent Me” buttons, as if Mrs. Clinton was being magnanimous by “sending” her followers to vote for Mr. Obama.

But Mr. Obama began calling Mrs. Clinton after some of the events — he dialed directly from his cellphone to hers one day in Michigan and another day in Florida — to check in and thank her for helping. By then, their intense primary fights over policy, which both sides now insist was more about heat than substance, had long receded.

“The reality at the end of the day was, whether it was Iran or health care or some of these other issues, we were always fighting big battles over small differences,” said a senior aide to Mr. Obama, adding that “in a campaign, conflict is what you go to.”

Substantively, the two were at odds over the Iraq war — Mrs. Clinton voted to authorize it and Mr. Obama said he would have opposed it had he been in the Senate then — and to a lesser extent over negotiations with Iran. But although Mrs. Clinton criticized Mr. Obama for being willing to sit down and talk to dictators, he has said he would have a lower-level envoy do preparatory work for a meeting with Iran’s leaders first. Mrs. Clinton has said she favors robust diplomacy with Iran and lower-level contacts as well.

In the weeks just before the election, the relationship between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton further mellowed, even as she found herself in a startling role reversal with her younger rival. As a celebrity senator and powerhouse on Capitol Hill, she had helped Mr. Obama in his Senate race and offered advice when he first came to Washington; now she was the workhorse for a political phenomenon.

Since the election, Mrs. Clinton has talked to Mr. Obama only a handful of times, even as two close advisers to Mr. Obama who held top positions in the Clinton administration — Rahm Emanuel and John D. Podesta — have served as key negotiators between her and the president-elect on the secretary of state position.

But Mrs. Clinton has talked several times to Michelle Obama about raising a family in the White House and private schools in Washington. On Friday, Mrs. Obama said the two Obama girls, Malia and Sasha, would attend the Sidwell Friends School, just as Chelsea Clinton did.

Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting from Chicago, and Mark Leibovich from Washington.

nyt-logoprinter

 

 

:::.

The GOP selected Sarah Palin as its VP to stoke its base, but expanding that base should be the partys goal.

The GOP selected Sarah Palin as its VP to stoke its base, but expanding that base should be the partys goal.

In the wake of the Republican defeat, there has been much recrimination and finger-pointing over tactics and strategy. Was the Sarah Palin choice fatal? Should John McCain have suspended his campaign during the financial crisis?

But the larger issue is whether 2008 was a “realigning election” that went deeper than the candidates or the current issues. The jury is still out as to whether Democrats can turn one sweeping victory into a generation-long dominance of the White House. A key element in a possible structural shift favoring Democrats is the changing demographics of the electorate. The U.S. is growing bigger, increasingly diverse and more cosmopolitan — and the GOP seems on the wrong side of all these trends.

The United States is the only developed country that is projected to add lots of new residents by mid-century. In 2006, the nation’s population reached 300 million. The Census Bureau estimates that the U.S. will get to 400 million by 2039. To put this growth in perspective, consider that even China (yes, China) will not add 100 million people by that date. The U.S. will gain more new residents in the next three decades than the current population of Germany — the largest European Union nation.

With each decade, more than 22 million potential new voters will enter the electorate. Parties that fix on a strategy may find that it is unworkable in just a few cycles. The Republican Party’s idea of stoking its base to gain office assumes a somewhat static voting public, which, given the dynamic nature of American demographics, is a faulty notion.

So who are most of these new people? The quick answer is both recent immigrants and their American-born offspring. By 2043, the U.S. may be a majority minority nation. Another scenario is that a high rate of intermarriage among whites and minorities may open to question the whole notion of who is “majority.” The bottom line for Republicans is that no matter how this population is defined, an increasing number of current minorities are voting for Democrats.

Republicans can, of course, switch their strategy and make more direct appeals to minority voters. As recently as 2004, President George W. Bush almost won the Latino vote. But at the moment, the Republicans seem branded as the party of white people. Furthermore, much of the Republican base — especially those listening to talk radio — believe the U.S. is being flooded with immigrants (legal and illegal). It may be hard to pivot and embrace diversity without alienating the GOP base. By contrast, many whites in the Democratic Party are comfortable with diversity and now form a transracial coalition with minority voters.

As the U.S. expands and diversifies, it is becoming more urban. The Census finds that 83 percent of Americans live in metropolitan areas and that well over half live in regions with more than 1 million residents. By other calculations, two-thirds of people added by 2040 will settle in just 20 megapolitan areas — massive urban complexes that contain more than 5 million residents.

Were just the big metro areas to vote, the presidential race would be a rout every time. The Democrats dominate major urban regions. An analysis by the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech found that Barack Obama won the votes in the nation’s top 50 metro areas — often by double-digit margins.

Worse for Republicans, in 2006 and 2008, Democrats significantly expanded the areas of the metros they won. Their electoral dominance has spilled out of cities and close-in suburbs and now reaches into the kinds of sprawling subdivisions that were once reliably Republican. The suburbs in key swing states such as Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia played a particularly decisive role in delivering the presidency to Democrats.

Republicans must adjust to the demographic shifts sweeping America or risk being politically marginalized. Most significantly, the party needs to recognize that there are simply not enough rural white voters to balance the growing number of minority voters and cosmopolitan whites living in big metro areas. If Republicans think 2008 went badly, try running the same kind of small-town-flavored campaign in 2020. At that point, the vastly expanded and racially diverse metro areas in Texas and Georgia could tip those once reliably red states to the Democrats.

Robert E. Lang is co-director of the Alexandria, Va.-based Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech and an associate professor in urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech’s School of Planning and International Affairs.

politico-logo

 

::

See no exhaust pipe! 0-60 3.6 seconds! Cost $4 per 240 mile charge to run!

Tesla Roadster: See no exhaust pipe! 0-60 3.6 seconds! Cost $4 per 240 mile charge to run!

I think the whole aim of the car industry has been to keep us on oil – and so for years they have been suppressing any and all viable alternatives. While we advance in leaps and bounds in computers and technological industries — aside from the outer cover and some new electronics – cars have virtually stayed the same. In today’s technological world this is unacceptable.

Not surprisingly sympathy is thin on the ground for the Big Three automakers – and in order to survive they are going to have to decouple from the oil industry. This is where policy comes in – as the Bush administration has been all about oil – and how to get us all to spend more on it – he got his wish – but it was a bit like the king who touched his daughter and turned her into gold. Up until recently the whole aim was to make us believe – that we needed more and more of this oil – this coming directly from the addict-in-chief. The mindset is so bad – that at the RNC you had Republicans chanting Drill Baby Drill, because the thought of a technological way around the oil – is unthinkable to them. 50 years down the line they still see us using the same technology – needing roughly the same amount of oil. Palin – an oil addict and others like herself – first need to line up the belief that we need this oil and we can not do without it – for a long long time – then they place themselves in the position to be the providers of that oil. Even better than the measly cash that a guy would make as a lobbyist. This is like Beverly HillBillies’ cash – no wonder they are addicted.

But here is the trap for the car industry – The Big Three – Republicans are into little or no government intervention – their philosophy is bankruptcy would do them good – ironically the Drill Baby Drill – was for the hungry engines the Big Three were making – that they refused to modernize [in ways that inventors have done time and time agian in their garages] – more a Republican-conservative idea – oh the betrayal!

On the other hand the Democrats’ position – is that the Big Three have been too arrogant for too long – and they are actually holding up real progress – if you want us to bail you out – then we are going to have to see some electric cars, some hybrid/electrics and cars that are going to largely bypass the burning fossil fuels to run. The oil addicts should be getting really uncomfortable – but these are the same guys who are willing to let the car companies fail.

Alternatively, by letting the car industry collapse – the Obama administration can then divert more funds to the smaller car industry – which are willing to produce the cars of the future – like the Tesla.

Porsche (eRuf Model A) the first fully electric version of the car.

Porsche (eRuf Model A) the first fully electric version of the car.

This whole bailout/loan deal with the auto-industry will hinge on what kind of plan these automakers will come back with in two weeks – we can only hope that it will not be a plan to help the oil industry – but one with a view of the future – that will instead help themselves and the people who will be driving their cars. I’m all for the fully electric SUV. Who says we have to make them small – just energy efficient. Today the best car batteries can take us 200 miles/300 km on a single charge – tomorrow 400 miles/600 km on a single charge? We may end up having to charge our cars once a week – today it cost 2¢/mile to run – tomorrow it might 2¢/10 miles? If the present car industry isn’t willing to do it – perhaps we need an alternative car industry.   


jobs-steve

Nov. 20 (Bloomberg) — I sat in the window of a cafe this month in Annapolis, Maryland, a sailing town near Washington, counting parked cars. “Honda, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Lexus (made by Toyota), Mazda, and a battered 1970s Cadillac.”

No wonder the U.S. carmakers are in meltdown and begging to be plugged in to the Treasury’s life-support machines.

Don’t be misled, though — the something that is rotten in the auto industry has nothing to do with the credit crunch, and everything to do with years of mismanagement, shoddy products and bad choices.

Consider the credit-rating histories of General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. For both companies, the rot started all the way back in August 2001, when Standard & Poor’s put the A grades they had enjoyed for a decade on review for downgrade. In October of that year, they each suffered a two-level cut to BBB+ that left them just three moves away from junk status.

So seven years ago, the car companies were already on the slide, after years of their Japanese rivals stealing market share with improved production methods and better reliability. That was well before the words “credit crunch” had become as ubiquitous as “would you like large fries with that?” or “the new Bond film isn’t as good as the previous one.”

[..]

Pirates of Detroit

In other words, give us what we want or suffer the consequences. That sure sounds like blackmail to my ears, except even Somali oil-tanker pirates have so far stopped short of trying to pilfer $25 billion from their victims.

So, what to do? Nobody, least of all President-elect Barack Obama, wants to see the 250,000 people who work directly for the big three U.S. automakers tossed on the scrapheap, or the other 4 million workers whose job security is at risk somewhere along the supply chain from the drawing boards of Detroit to the car showrooms of America.

There seems to be a groundswell of support building for the concept of retraining and retooling auto workers away from churning out four-wheeled gas guzzlers to put them instead at the vanguard of the fight against climate change.

“Wouldn’t the benefits be greater if the U.S. government spent $25 billion to $75 billion — the current dollars proposed to bail out the auto industry — to train engineers, support infrastructure and work in the much-neglected alternative energy space?” wrote Tom Sowanick, who helps manage $20 billion as chief investment officer of Clearbrook Financial LLC in Princeton, New Jersey.

I Spy iCar

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman suggested earlier this month that Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs should be persuaded to sign up for “national service” and run a car company for a year, long enough to invent the iCar.

I think Friedman is on to something. Sure, the iCar would be available in any color as long as it’s white (with a black model to be introduced as soon as all the early adopters have a pearlescent model in the driveway), and the windshield would be scratched to opacity within weeks. It would probably run on fresh air, though, and the packaging would be to die for.

First off, the U.S. government would need to absorb all those legacy pension and health-care costs that the automakers have used as an excuse for years to dodge getting their collective act together. Splitting the welfare issue from the business travails would deliver some much-needed clarity to the true financial position of the carmakers.

Then, turn the entire industry over to people who might make a difference. Give GM to Jobs, let Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates run Ford and allow billionaire Warren Buffett to try his hand at Chrysler. In five years, I bet that car counting in Annapolis would deliver a very different result.

(Mark Gilbert is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Source: Bloomberg

data

No v. 21 (Bloomberg) — President-Elect Barack Obama’s transition team is exploring a swift, prepackaged bankruptcy for automakers as a possible solution to the industry’s financial crisis, according to a person familiar with the matter.

A representative of Obama’s team has already contacted at least one bankruptcy-law firm to say that Daniel Tarullo, a professor at Georgetown University’s law school who heads Obama’s economic policy working group, would call to discuss the workings of a so-called prepack, according to this person.

U.S. lawmakers yesterday delayed until December a vote on whether to give General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC a $25 billion bailout. GM today said it would idle production at four plants an extra week and return some corporate jets to conserve cash. Automakers could use a judge-supervised bankruptcy to reduce debt and reject expensive contracts.

“It creates the environment to deal with GM’s problems but limits government financial commitment,” said bankruptcy lawyer Mark Bane of Ropes & Gray in New York.

Bankruptcy is just one option being examined. Obama told CBS News’s “60 Minutes” on Nov. 16 that government aid to automakers might come in the form of a “bridge loan,” advanced if the industry could draw up plan to make itself “sustainable.” The president-elect earlier urged Congress to approve as much as $50 billion to save automakers, using the model of Chrysler’s bailout in 1979.

Tarullo referred questions on a prepack to the transition team press office. Team spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said, “We have not put out anything specific for the auto industry except that something needs to be done immediately.”

No Cash

GM, the largest U.S. automaker, said it might run out of cash as early as the end of the year and that the risk was even greater by mid-2009. GM Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner said this week GM would have to liquidate if it filed for bankruptcy.

The automaker probably has weeks rather than months left before it runs out of money unless it gets federal aid, Jerome York, an adviser to billionaire Kirk Kerkorian and a former GM board member, told Bloomberg Television yesterday.

In a prepackaged bankruptcy, an automaker would go into court with financing in hand after reaching agreement with lenders, workers and suppliers on what each would give up and on the business plan to be followed. The process might take six to 12 months, compared with two to five years if the automakers followed an ordinary Chapter 11 proceeding and worked out agreements under a judge’s supervision, Bane said.

Government Financing

Automakers would have to depend on government financing to restructure in bankruptcy court and probably couldn’t attract private loans until they were ready to emerge from the process, Bane said.

Officials of the three automakers told members of Congress this week that they had studied a pre-arranged bankruptcy, championed by Republican lawmakers such as Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, before dismissing the idea as unworkable.

Read more…

obama-clinton_1012811i1

I was agnostic on the matter of Hillary Clinton’s possible appointment as secretary of state–until last night.

If Barack Obama, the president-elect, wanted to pull a Team of Rivals play, that had seemed fine to me. And placing Clinton in Foggy Bottom would remove her from the dicey business of passing health care reform. Would it unite the party? Well, judging from the election results, the party is pretty darn united already. Despite the griping of a few Hillaryites at the Democratic convention, her voters certainly swung behind Obama in the general election (see Pennsylvania), after HRC and WJC campaigned for BHO in the fall. Unless an explicit deal was made between Obama and Hillary Clinton, it did not seem that Obama, after bypassing her for veep, had to appoint her anything for the party’s sake. Still, if Obama and his savvy band of advisers thought that handing her one of the best jobs in the Cabinet would generate political benefits they could use to advance their agenda, I, as a non-fan of Hillary Clinton, was willing to say, okay–for what that was worth.

But then this happened: the presidential transition of no-drama Obama became infected by the never-ending soap opera of the Clintons. And it really is time to turn that program off. There are plenty of policy and political reasons for a progressive not to fancy Hillary. She served on the Wal-Mart board when the mega-firm was fighting unions; she screwed up health care reform for almost a generation; she voted wrong on the Iraq war and then refused to acknowledge she had erred. But, worst of all, as the cliché goes, with the Clintons, it always does seem to be about the Clintons.

So we’ve had a week of will-she-or-won’t-she and what-about-him. Couldn’t this have been handled with a little more grace? Maybe not, since it involves the Clintons.

I don’t know how the Obama camp approached the issue. But before Obama met last week with Hillary to talk about this, his team should have done a pre-vetting of Bill. And then Obama, at this meeting, ought to have said something like this to her:

    If you might be interested in the State position, there are a few issues that would come up concerning Bill. Let me run through a few. Would he be willing to release the names of his foundation’s donors, as well as those who contribute to his presidential library? Would he be willing to forego contributions and speaking fees from foreign governments, foreign heads of states, and major foreign companies that would have an interest in US foreign policy decisions? Would he be willing to discuss with my national security adviser his foreign travel plans and his foundation’s projects before they are announced and undertaken–and would he be willing to defer to us if we believe they are not appropriate or helpful at the time? I know that these are big things to ask. But given his global activity and standing, there’s not much choice. And if it’s a deal-breaker, I certainly would understand. But before you and I go down this road, we should make sure there are no major obstacles. Can you talk to him and get back to me in a day or two? And, to be helpful, Rahm has come up with a list….

Hillary’s answer would have to have been either (a) of course, or (b) thank you for considering me, but I don’t believe this would be a good fit. Two days would pass, and then the drama–or at least this part of it–could be over.

Today the news is that Bill will do what he can. AP is reporting:

    Former President Bill Clinton has offered several concessions to help Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his wife, become secretary of state, people familiar with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition vetting process said Wednesday.
    Clinton has agreed to release the names of several major donors to his charitable foundation and will submit future foundation activities and paid speeches to a strict ethics review, said Democrats knowledgeable about the discussions.
    They also said that Clinton would step away from day-to-day responsibility for his foundation while his wife serves and would alert the State Department to his speaking schedule and any new sources of income.

Does that take care of it? Note the use of the word “several.” It’s hard not to see some sticking points arising about what is disclosed and when. The negotiations between the Obama camp and the Clinton team are supposedly proceeding smoothly. But why should there be negotiations? And could it end up with news reports saying Bill Clinton is willing to reveal X, but the Obama side wants him to release X plus Y? That is, more drama. According to AP, “One Clinton adviser noted that former President George H.W. Bush has given paid speeches and participated in international business ventures since his son, George W. Bush, has been president–without stirring public complaints or controversy about a possible conflict of interest.” This does raise the suspicion that the Clintonites might not agree to all the necessary limitations. And don’t they–or at least, this aide–understand there’s something of a difference between their case and that of the Bushes (though it was probably not appropriate for Daddy Bush to engage in that activity).

Bottom-line: if HRC came fuss-free, then maybe there’d be no reason to kick up a fuss about her appointment. Yet that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening.

But there’s another issue to consider, one that has been overshadowed by the drama: if she runs the State Department in a fashion similar to how she managed her campaign, then the country will be in trouble. Her spinners went beyond the boundaries of fair and reasonable spinning. Her team was a snake pit of competitive aides. She did not master the art of refereeing internal disputes. She signed off on strategic blunders. Hers was not a steady hand.

Perhaps that’s the better argument against her. Being secretary of state isn’t just about giving speeches and touring the world as a celebrity, it’s about managing (and now reviving) the creaky and beleaguered foreign policy apparatus of the United States. And Clinton’s résumé is not strong on that front.

Source: Mother Jones

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was once seen as a good bet for secretary of state. Now, some are concerned that neither he nor any other Latino has yet been named to a high-ranking position in the Obama administration. AP

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was once seen as a good bet for secretary of state. Now, some are concerned that neither he nor any other Latino has yet been named to a high-ranking position in the Obama administration. AP

As Hillary Rodham Clinton inches toward becoming secretary of state, Latino advocates are asking: Whither Bill Richardson?

The New Mexico governor has been the best hope for a Latino to land a high-ranking post in the new administration. But Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador and energy secretary, appears to have lost out to Clinton — although he could land another Cabinet post, perhaps at Interior.

Still, anxiety is running high among Latino leaders because Obama has yet to name a Latino to a top White House or Cabinet position. This is on the minds of senior transition officials — including Obama’s designated chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel — who are said to be considering Latino candidates for several Cabinet posts.

“The Obama transition team and the chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, understand the role that the Latino vote played in this election, and I think we will see representation in the Obama Cabinet and at the White House,” said Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza.

Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), a member of the House Democratic leadership, said he has been forwarding the names of Latino candidates “for every type of position you can think of in the federal government, from Cabinet on down.”

“We can remember the days when people said we had no applications, or there’s no one qualified,” Becerra said. “Everyone understands that the days of excuses are over.”

Becerra, who’s been mentioned as a candidate for labor secretary, said he is “not looking” for an administration job.

At least four Latino candidates are said to be under consideration to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development: Miami Mayor Manny Diaz; Adolfo Carrion Jr., a longtime New York pol, and Bronx borough president; Saul Ramirez Jr., a former deputy HUD secretary; and Nelson A. Diaz, who has been a judge and a HUD general counsel.

As for Richardson, Murguia suggested he could serve as secretary of commerce or the interior. “Perhaps there’s an ambassador role to China,” she added.

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11-20-2008-3-02-03-pm

TIME

Daschle appearing here at DNC - is looking forward to his job in the Obama administration.

Daschle appearing here at DNC - is looking forward to his job in the Obama administration.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle told CNN Thursday that he is excited about the possibility of heading Health and Human Services in an Obama administration where he would be a point person in helping to reform the nation’s healthcare system.

Daschle, a close advisor to President-elect Barack Obama, is expected to be nominated for this Cabinet-level position if he passes the vetting process. His top priority as HHS secretary would be healthcare, one of Obama’s signature policy issues during the campaign.

“I hope to have the plan enacted by next year, and then it will take several years to implement,” said Daschle, as he waited to board a plane in Washington, DC bound for Obama’s hometown of Chicago.

When asked if the U.S., in this current economic climate, could afford to reform the healthcare system, Daschle said it is imperative.

“We can’t afford not to do it,” he said. “If we do nothing, we’ll be paying twice as much on healthcare in 10 years as we do today.”

Daschle served as Democratic leader in the Senate from 1995 until he lost reelection in 2004. Representing South Dakota, Daschle was first elected as a congressman in 1978 and served in the House until he was elected to the Senate in 1986.

Daschle recently authored a book on healthcare titled “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.”

Source: CNN PoliticalTicker

A new poll out Thursday paints a bleak picture for the GOP.

A new poll out Thursday paints a bleak picture for the GOP.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Republican Party has hit a new low.

 

Just 34 percent of Americans in a Gallup Poll released Thursday say they have a favorable view of the party, down 40 percent from a month ago, before the election.

What’s worse: 61 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party.

According to Gallup, that unfavorable rating is the highest the polling organization has recorded for the GOP since the measure was established in 1992.

The poll of national adults was conducted on November 13-16 with a three percent margin of error.

The numbers are slightly up from a CNN poll released last week that indicated a 54 percent unfavorable rating for Republicans. Only 38 percent of those polled had a favorable rating for the party.

Meanwhile, Democrats continue to bask in the glow of President-elect Barack Obama’s historic victory on November 4. The Gallup poll suggests that 55 percent of Americans hold a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party, with 39 percent saying they have an unfavorable view. Those numbers are mostly unchanged from a mid-October survey.

As the debate rages within GOP ranks over where to take the party, the poll might offer some guidance.

Most Republicans — 59 percent — want the party to become more conservative, according to the poll. Another 28 percent want it to remain about the same ideologically, while only 12 percent would prefer to see the Republican Party become less conservative.

Independents are split on whether the party should track left or right: 35 percent of independent voters say the GOP should become more conservative, and 35 percent say less conservative.

Source: CNNPoliticalTicker

The Big Three CEOs -- Richard Wagoner of General Motors, left, Robert Nardelli of Chrysler and Alan Mulally of Ford -- went begging on the Hill. (By Chip Somodevilla -- Getty Images)

The Big Three CEOs -- Richard Wagoner of General Motors, left, Robert Nardelli of Chrysler and Alan Mulally of Ford -- went begging on the Hill. (By Chip Somodevilla -- Getty Images)

The Big Three CEOs — Richard Wagoner of General Motors, left, Robert Nardelli of Chrysler and Alan Mulally of Ford — went begging on the Hill. (By Chip Somodevilla — Getty Images)

Instead, the chief executives of the Big Three automakers opted to fly their company jets to the capital for their hearings this week before the Senate and House — an ill-timed display of corporate excess for a trio of executives begging for an additional $25 billion from the public trough this week.

“There’s a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hands,” Rep. Gary L. Ackerman (D-N.Y.) advised the pampered executives at a hearing yesterday. “It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high-hat and tuxedo. . . . I mean, couldn’t you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled or something to get here?”

The Big Three said nothing, which prompted Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) to rub it in. “I’m going to ask the three executives here to raise their hand if they flew here commercial,” he said. All still at the witness table. “Second,” he continued, “I’m going ask you to raise your hand if you’re planning to sell your jet . . . and fly back commercial.” More stillness. “Let the record show no hands went up,” Sherman grandstanded.

By now, the men were probably wishing they had driven — and other members of the House Financial Services Committee weren’t done riding the CEOs over their jets. “You traveled in a private jet?” Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) contributed. Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.) felt the need to say that “I’m not an opponent of private flights by any means, but the fact that you flew in on your own private jet at tens of thousands itself dollars of cost just for you to make your way to Washington is a bit arrogant before you ask the taxpayers for money.”

It was a display of stone-cold tone-deafness by the automaker chiefs. In their telling, they have no responsibility for the auto industry’s current mess. Threatening the nation with economic Armageddon if they are not given government aid, they spent much of the session declaring what a fine job they’ve been doing in Detroit.

“Chrysler really is the quintessential American car company!” Chrysler’s Nardelli boasted.

“We have products that are winning car and truck of the year regularly,” General Motors’ Wagoner proclaimed.

“We are equal to or better than Honda and Toyota,” Ford’s Mulally added. “Every new vehicle that we make, whether it’s small, medium or large, is best in fuel efficiency. The given is safety. And we have more, at Ford, more five-star quality and safety ratings than any other automobile.”

Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) cut him off. “Thank you, Mr. –“

“And the best value!” Mulally blurted out.

“Commercials can go later,” the chairman proposed.

They would have to go later, because members of the committee wanted to turn the session into a special edition of “Car Talk.” Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) spoke of his ’99 Jeep: “It probably has about 150,000 miles on it, and it’s still running doggone well.” Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) invoked his ’98 Jeep Cherokee: “Small problem with the back hatch staying open; we can talk about that afterwards.” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) praised her Chrysler minivan. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) had good words for her Jeep but complained that it didn’t come in a hybrid version.

“I drive the same ’66 Plymouth Valiant that I’ve always had,” Ackerman proffered. He went on to discuss a problem with the GPS system in his Cadillac. “I wanted a loaded car in blue; I had to reach out to five states to find one in blue,” he complained.

It seemed everybody had a car story to tell. Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) let it be known that he was a car dealer for 25 years. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) disclosed that he had worked at the GM plant in Framingham. Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.) wanted to see more ads for the car made in his district, while Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) said the Edsel was once made in his home town. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) read from Cicero and held up photos of cars. And Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) had no car stories to tell but delivered the surprising news that the problem with the Titanic was not its collision with an iceberg.

Detroit area lawmakers made passionate arguments that the carmakers had already done what “they possibly can to restructure and become globally competitive,” as Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) put it.

But the executives were not helping their own case. When Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) tried to find out when GM would run out of cash, Wagoner hemmed and hawed until the lawmaker protested that “I don’t quite understand what the hell you just told me.” When Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) asked about GM’s outlook for the quarter, Wagoner informed him that “we don’t provide financial guidance in earnings.”

So it was hard to feel sorry for the executives when Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), late in the hearing, reminded them again that “the symbolism of the private jet is difficult,” and mischievously asked the witnesses whether, in another symbolic gesture, they would be willing to work for $1 a year, as Nardelli has offered to do.

“I don’t have a position on that today,” demurred Wagoner (2007 total compensation: $15.7 million).

“I understand the intent, but I think where we are is okay,” said Mulally ($21.7 million).

“I’m asking about you,” Roskam pressed.

“I think I’m okay where I am,” Mulally said.

And don’t even think about asking him to fly commercial.

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11-20-2008-11-04-41-am

Iran is forging ahead with its nuclear programme, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog reported on Wednesday, deepening the dilemma facing US president-elect Barack Obama over his campaign promise to engage with Tehran.

The latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency reveals that Iran is rapidly increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium, which could be rendered into weapons-grade material should Tehran decide to develop a nuclear device.

nuclear timeline +

Iran: nuclear timeline +

The agency says that, as of this month, Tehran had amassed 630kg of low enriched uranium hexafluoride, up from 480kg in late August. Analysts say Iran is enriching uranium at such a pace that, by early next year, it could reach break-out capacity – one step away from producing enough fissile material for a crude nuclear bomb.

“They are moving forward, they are not making diplomatic overtures, they are accumulating low enriched uranium,” said Cliff Kupchan, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy in Washington. “These guys are committed to their nuclear programme: if we didn’t know that, they just told us again.”

The IAEA report also says there has been a breakdown of communication between the agency and Iran over alleged research on an atomic weapon. “The Iranians are making good progress on enrichment but there is absolute stone-walling on past military activities,” said Mark Fitzpatrick of the International institute for Strategic Studies. “It’s very disappointing.”

Reaed it all

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Incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel’s career as an investment banker was short but, oh, so sweet. Emanuel left the Clinton White House in 1998 as a senior adviser on a government salary. By the time he won election to the House in 2002, he had earned an astonishing $16 million.

How did he do it?

Partly, it was simple luck: Emanuel dipped quickly into the world of investment banking in time to catch the tail end of the 1990s boom economy as a Chicago-based managing director at Wasserstein Perella & Co., where he worked from 1999 to 2002. While he was there, the firm was sold to the German Dresdner Bank for $1.37 billion in stock, netting Emanuel much of his Wall Street windfall.

Returning to Chicago in 1998 after his White House stint, Emanuel soon ran Wasserstein’s small Midwestern office, developing a reputation as a deal guy who focused on mergers and acquisitions among companies that were subject to heavy government regulation. There, he deployed his skills as a born negotiator who knew the inner workings of government bureaucracies.

Frequently, Emanuel turned big Democratic donors and others he’d met during his White House years into clients for Wasserstein Perella, a firm that was led by Bruce Wasserstein, a hefty financial supporter of Clinton.

Emanuel is “tireless,” said John Canning, a managing director of Chicago-based Madison Dearborn Partners, a multibillion-dollar private equity firm.

Canning became friendly with Emanuel while he was setting himself up in Chicago business circles and has remained close to him through his congressional career. “He’s got a nose for a transaction, a sense for what each party’s looking for and where each party can concede,” Canning said.

Emanuel was unavailable for comment. But in 2003, he described his investment banking career to the Chicago Tribune.

“Fundamentally, I brought in business and worked on business that was very successful,” Emanuel said then. “I didn’t work on one deal. I didn’t work on two deals. I think it was close to six or seven, of which a couple of them were over $1 billion.”

The Democratic congressman from Illinois will be starting out as White House chief of staff for President Barack Obama during a severe global economic crisis. And as a former investment banker himself, Emanuel may be well-positioned to understand the problems and priorities of the nation’s struggling financial system.

While Emanuel lucked into the timing of the Wasserstein sale, the deals he worked on contributed in a significant way to the firm’s bottom line, generating hefty bonuses for him along the way.

One signature transaction was the $16 billion merger of Unicom Corp. and PECO Energy Co. into Exelon Corp., now one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, with nearly $19 billion in annual revenue. The company owns 17 nuclear reactors, which produce about 20 percent of the nation’s nuclear power.

Read it all…

11-16-2008-12-19-41-am

Foreign income makes up only a small part of Bill Clinton’s post-presidential speaking-circuit bounty.
Photo: AP

Bill Clinton’s apparent willingness to forgo foreign income in order to smooth his wife’s path into the Secretary of State’s office won’t put the couple into the poor house, publicly available financial records show.

Of the $111 million the Clintons have pulled in since leaving the White House, a little more than $8 million came from foreign sources, according to joint tax returns the couple released during Hillary Clinton’s contentious battle for the Democratic presidential nomination with President-elect Barack Obama, who is reportedly close to offering his vanquished rival the top diplomat’s post.

The Clinton’s foreign income, for which the tax returns show they claimed more than $650,000 in foreign tax credits, “was from speeches President Clinton abroad and income from the blind trust,” Jay Carson, a campaign spokesman, told Politico when the Clintons released their taxes in April.

The trust was dissolved last year, revealing that the couple had investments with Quellos, an asset manager accused of structuring offshore tax shelters.

Still, foreign income was only a small slice of Bill Clinton’s post-presidential speaking-circuit bounty, which came to nearly $52 million. The couple also collected more than $40 million for the two books each penned, including an eye-popping $15 million advance paid to Bill Clinton for his 2004 autobiography “My Life.”

If Hillary Clinton were to become Secretary of State, she would be legally barred from receiving most outside earned income, but Bill Clinton wouldn’t—provided it could be shown that it did not conflict with her duties as the nation’s ambassador to the world.

Plus, taxpayers would continue to fund the Clinton’s lifestyles to the tune of about $1.4 million a year. That’s accounting for the Secretary of State’s salary of more than $190,000 a year— a $20,000 raise from Hillary Clinton’s salary as a New York Senator—plus more than $1.2 million a year that Bill Clinton receives in presidential retirement benefits. Those include everything from a $200,000 annual pension to upwards of $50,000 for travel, about $160,000 in staff salaries and benefits and about $735,000 to rent and equip Clinton’s 8,300-square-foot Harlem penthouse office, which offers views of Central Park, the George Washington Bridge and most of Manhattan.

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Weyant’s World : November 19, 2008

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President-elect Barack Obama has chosen former U.S. Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle to be Health and Human Services secretary, news media reported on Wednesday, citing sources close to Obama’s transition team.

Daschle, of South Dakota, was an early supporter of Obama’s, encouraging the first-term senator from Illinois to make his presidential run.

daschle-obama

He currently serves as the head of Obama’s health-care policy group as the president-elect prepares to take office on January 20.

His appointment was reported by CNN and Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper.

Daschle served as the top Democrat in the Senate between 1994 and 2004, and was as majority leader when Democrats controlled the chamber between 2001 and 2003. He was elected to the Senate in 1986 and before that served eight years in the House of Representatives.

Since losing his re-election bid, Daschle has worked as a public-policy advisor for the law firm Alston and Bird.

He was not immediately available for comment.

Daschle was reported to be a candidate for Obama’s chief of staff before that job went to Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel.

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11-9-2008-12-01-01-pmPresident-elect Barack Obama, in the latest of several moves to heal election wounds, persuaded Democrats to reject stiff punishment for Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) despite his campaign efforts for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Lieberman is the beneficiary of the president-elect’s emerging tactic of binding former enemies close to him — which reportedly includes offering the State Department to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), his bitter rival for the Democratic nomination.

Obama is wielding his newfound political dominance to its fullest extent and leaving his fingerprints almost daily on decisions that are not technically his — such as shaping Democratic congressional action on the auto industry rescue.

Soon after Election Day, Obama told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a telephone call that he wanted Lieberman to stay in the Democratic Conference, taking the momentum away from efforts to snatch up his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — which could have driven him into the arms of the Republican Conference.

The call for reconciliation with Lieberman, who attacked Obama as unfit for the presidency, represents the first clear example of Obama’s influence among Senate Democrats and his willingness to stiff-arm his Democratic base, which had been calling for Lieberman’s head.

“He single-handedly delivered change today,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), one of Obama’s closest Senate allies. “The old politics would be revenge, punishment, retribution. The new politics would be, ‘Let’s get busy and solve some problems.’ ”

Source: The Hill

inslee-sims-full1
President-elect Barack Obama signaled his eagerness to address climate change by addressing a bipartisan group of governors in a “surprise” taped message.

Obama’s transition team said the president-elect addressed the Bi-Partisan Governors Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning to “discuss his commitment to marking a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process.”

Obama said that there are few challenges facing the world that “are more urgent,” adding that the scientific evidence of climate change is “beyond dispute.”

The president-elect pledged to implement a federal cap-and-trade system with “strong annual targets” that would reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and an additional 80 percent by 2050.

He said the U.S. will invest $15 billion a year in safe nuclear energy, clean-coal technologies, solar power, wind and biofuels.

    “This investment will not only help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, making the United States more secure. And it will not only help us bring about a clean energy future, saving our planet. It will also help us transform our industries and steer our country out of this economic crisis by generating five million new green jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced,” Obama said.

Governors present included Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D), Illinois Gov. Rod Blagoevich (D), Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).

The transition team said that there were also representatives from 22 other states and officials from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Poland and the U.K.

    “Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all,” Obama said. “Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high. The consequences, too serious. Stopping climate change won’t be easy. It won’t happen overnight. But I promise you this: When I am president, any governor who’s willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House. Any company that’s willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in Washington. And any nation that’s willing to join the cause of combating climate change will have an ally in the United States of America.”

Source: The Hill

The Democratic pursuit of the magic number of Senate seats received new life when Ted Stevens lost his Senate seat. AP

The Democratic pursuit of the magic number of Senate seats received new life when Ted Stevens lost his Senate seat. AP

The Democratic pursuit of 60 Senate seats received new life Tuesday night after Alaska Democrat Mark Begich was declared the winner against Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate.

Begich defeated the Senate giant by a 3,724-vote margin after absentee and early votes were counted, a stunning end to a 40-year Senate career marred by Stevens’ conviction on corruption charges a week before the election.

Begich’s victory gives Democrats their 58th Senate seat, with the party still awaiting a pending recount in the too-close-to-call Minnesota Senate race and the Georgia Senate runoff next month. If Democrats win those two seats, they will reach a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Democratic prospects of reaching 60 seats didn’t look so bright the day after the election. In Alaska, Stevens led Begich by more than 3,000 votes. In Minnesota, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman was holding a narrow lead. GOP Sen. Gordon Smith had not yet been declared the loser in the Oregon Senate race and in Georgia, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss was just over the 50 percent mark necessary to win re-election in Georgia.

But over the ensuing two weeks, the landscape began to tilt in the Democrats’ favor. The Associated Press declared Jeff Merkley the winner over Smith in Oregon, Coleman’s lead shrank to 215 votes, Chambliss fell just short of the 50 percent threshold necessary for an outright victory, and Begich captured a majority of the nearly 90,000 absentee and early votes that were counted after Election Day to win the Alaska Senate seat.

Now, with the prospect of 60 Senate seats hanging in the balance, both parties are throwing everything they can at the two remaining undeclared races, pouring money, lawyers and field organizers into Georgia and Minnesota.

Developments on the ground suggest Democrats have a fighting chance of picking up both seats.

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Fourteen years after failing to deliver health reform for her husband’s White House, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will play a key role in advancing the issue in 2009 — if she remains in the Senate.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) designated Clinton to head a task force to develop a Senate Democratic proposal to expand health insurance coverage as part of his larger push to move a major overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system next year.

Kennedy’s designation of Clinton as one of three senators to lead a healthcare task force provides her with an opportunity to make a significant contribution to an issue that has defined her political career.

Clinton, however, may have her sights on foreign policy, not domestic concerns. She is reportedly under consideration to serve as President-elect Barack Obama’s secretary of State, a position that would take her out of the healthcare debate.

Clinton is a junior member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which Kennedy chairs, but has been a prominent Democratic voice on healthcare issues dating back to President Clinton’s first term, when she led the administration’s ultimately unsuccessful effort to reform healthcare.

Were Clinton to remain in Congress, there are no clear avenues for her to assume a formal leadership position or chair a committee.

Being given a influential position on health reform may serve as some consolation, and expanding healthcare coverage is arguably the most important and contentious component of the Democratic health reform platform.

During the primary campaign, Clinton and Obama frequently clashed over healthcare. The biggest point of dissension was whether individuals should be required by law to obtain some form of health coverage: Clinton said yes, Obama said no.

Kennedy and his aides have repeatedly indicated that they will base their legislation on Obama’s health plan, but they not have not disclosed whether the bill would include such a mandate. Despite Obama’s position during the campaign, he would be unlikely to oppose a major Democratic healthcare bill on that point alone.

Kennedy also assigned Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to lead the committee’s efforts on prevention and public health and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) to tackle healthcare quality.

“Our committee is fortunate to have the services of major leaders who are committed to improving healthcare for the American people. Sen. Harkin, Sen. Mikulski and Sen. Clinton have generously offered to step forward and assume an expanded role on critical aspects of health reform,” Kennedy said in a statement.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who controls a large portion of the jurisdiction over health reform in the Senate, issued a white paper laying out options for health reform, which include an individual mandate. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), another key lawmaker on health issues, is the author of a bipartisan bill that also has a mandate.

Source: The Hill

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