All the time spent calling Obama a celebrity – it is a little amusing that the GOP ended up with one of their own – Sarah Palin – famous for being famous – over substance. Sarah as been quoted as saying she is ‘not doing this for nought’ – then we should expect 2012 is definitely on the cards. Trips to the library to study up on policy – well let’s hope these wont be nought!

Fresh off his runoff victory Tuesday night Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss credited Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with firing up his base.

“I can’t overstate the impact she had down here,” Chambliss said during an interview Wednesday morning on Fox News.

“When she walks in a room, folks just explode,” he added. “And they really did pack the house everywhere we went. She’s a dynamic lady, a great administrator, and I think she’s got a great future in the Republican Party.”

Chambliss said that after watching her campaign on his behalf at several events Monday, he does not see her star status diminishing within the party.

The Republican also thanked John McCain and the other big name Republicans that came to Georgia, but said Palin made the biggest impact.

“We had John McCain and Mike Huckabee and Gov. Romney and Rudy Giuliani, but Sarah Palin came in on the last day, did a fly-around and, man, she was dynamite,” he said. “We packed the houses everywhere we went. And it really did allow us to peak and get our base fired up.”

But as Chambliss heaped praise on Palin and other big ticket Republicans that came to Georgia on his behalf, he questioned why President-elect Barack Obama would not use his star power to aid his Democratic opponent Jim Martin.

“I have no idea why he didn’t come down,” Chambliss said.

“His people were here. His organization was here,” he added. “They really did a good job in the general election of turning out people. And whatever their game plan was this time, if he had been here, I have no idea whether it would have worked better.”

Source: Politico

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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

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73818136AW008_Meet_The_Pres David Gregory – is actually very well suited to host Meet the Press, in place of Tim Russert. He has a mild temperament and he is very well versed in Washington politics. Thumbs up if he is chosen.

NBC News has settled on David Gregory as its choice to be the successor to Tim Russert in the role of moderator of its longtime Sunday discussion program “Meet the Press.” But the network has not finalized the deal, NBC executives said Tuesday.

Mr. Gregory is in negotiations with NBC to secure the position, however, and one reason he may get the job is his value to NBC’s most dominant property, the “Today” show. He has long been regarded as the network’s choice to one day succeed Matt Lauer as a “Today” host.

The news of Mr. Gregory’s appointment has been reported on several Web sites this week, including Politico.com and HuffingtonPost.com, though NBC has steadfastly denied that any deal is in place with this White House correspondent, who has most recently served as anchor of a 6 p.m. talk show on MSNBC, NBC’s cable news channel.

NBC executives said on Tuesday that the leaks of Mr. Gregory’s selection could be a potential impediment to concluding the deal.

But on Sunday NBC executives made calls to people who had been considered as potential hosts or panelists on “Meet the Press,” letting them know a decision had been made. The list of contenders had at one time been long, including two other NBC correspondents, Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell; the MSNBC host Chris Matthews; the PBS host Gwen Ifill; the CNN correspondent John King; and even the “CBS Evening News” anchor Katie Couric, who had been a longtime host of “Today.” [..]

The transition from Mr. Russert to the next permanent moderator has been less smooth, partly, NBC executives said, because Mr. Russert’s death was so sudden, and partly because his reputation was so big in both the television and political worlds. [..]

And while it had been assumed by many of the other competitors for the “Meet the Press” post that Mr. Gregory’s contract was ending soon, making a jump to another network a real threat, that is not the case. Mr. Gregory is under contract at NBC until January 2010.

Read it all

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 gun lobby has long intimidated politicians with its war chest and its trumpeted ability to deliver single-issue voters, especially in tight races. After this year’s election, those politicians should be far less afraid and far more willing to vote for sensible gun-control laws.

The National Rifle Association directed much money and bile against Barack Obama. In false, misleading and, fortunately, ineffective ads, fliers, mailers and Web postings, the group said that Mr. Obama posed a “clear and present danger” to Second Amendment rights and that his election would mean a gun ban.

Despite that harsh barrage, Mr. Obama won states with heavy gun ownership, including Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. That success should send a signal to other politicians: consistency matters.

In fact, Mr. Obama has long been a supporter of the argument, disputed by this page, that the Second Amendment bestows an individual right to bear arms unrelated to raising a militia. But Mr. Obama did not abandon his support for reasonable gun-control laws. “Don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals,” he declared at the Democratic convention.

In Congressional races, the N.R.A. endorsed candidates in 20 of the 25 races where Democrats picked up seats from Republicans. We will not miss Florida’s Tom Feeney and Ric Keller, Idaho’s Bill Sali, Michigan’s Joe Knollenberg, Ohio’s Steve Chabot, Colorado’s Marilyn Musgrave and Pennsylvania’s Phil English — willing champions of an extreme agenda.

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On the Senate side, the N.R.A. spent considerable sums to help Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Bob Schaffer, the Republican Senate candidate in Colorado. Both were defeated.

And the N.R.A.’s poor showing was not just a single isolated event. A useful election analysis prepared by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence shows that its 2006 campaign effort also was a big flop.

We hope the trend continues. To fight crime and keep Americans safe, this country needs sound gun-control laws. To pass those laws as president, Mr. Obama will need strong Congressional support.

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Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. at the National Governors’ Association meeting. (Photo: Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

PHILADELPHIA – Vice President Cheney always seemed to relish working in the shadows. After all, he’s the one who popularized the term “undisclosed location.” But that doesn’t seem to suit his successor.

Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. appeared glad to be out in public on Tuesday when he joined President-elect Barack Obama in meeting with the nation’s governors here. In the month since the election, he has been the mostly silent sidekick, joining Mr. Obama in private meetings and standing behind him wordlessly during news conferences.

But this week, Mr. Biden looks to be unleashed, at least a little bit. He was given a speaking role both at the unveiling of the national security team in Chicago on Monday and then again during the meeting with the National Governors’ Association here on Tuesday. By word count, he even had somewhat more to say to the governors than Mr. Obama did.

And then there was that little moment that may or may not have been revealing. At one point during his remarks, Mr. Biden noted the presence of his former opponent, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, and greeted her warmly.

thecaucus75 “Since the race is over, no one pays attention to me at all,” Mr. Biden said. “So maybe you will walk outside with me or something later and say hello to me.”

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The poster that saw Barack Obama rise to fame has been altered to accommodate the beaky face of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and plastered around the streets of Paris. Nobody knows who’s behind the somewhat baffling idea; only that the mystery is attracting a lot of attention.

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The image is a take-off of the poster designed by LA artist Shepard Fairey for Obama’s election campaign. There are various accompanying messages, like “Make polluting companies pay: Yes we can”, and “Save each household €1,000 a month: Yes we can”.

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The poster-plasterers in action: “Who are they?” “What do they want?”

picture-35The Associated Press says that Sarkozy’s centre-right UMP party has denied being behind the campaign. Regrettably, according to a representative from the party’s youth movement, who said: “we would have liked it to have been us, because we like this message”. The Elysee has paid no heed to the campaign… Unlike the French media, which is tying itself in knots over the mystery. Young artists trying to be controversial? Subliminal messaging from industrialists? An anti-Sarko campaign in disguise? Whoever it is, they’re certainly enjoying themselves. Yesterday the group posted photos and videos of themselves prancing around Paris, hidden behind the very posters in question.

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President-elect Barack Obama turned from national security to domestic concerns on Tuesday, telling the country’s governors that his administration would not delay in pushing an economic recovery plan that would bring relief to the states, 41 of which are forecasting budget shortfalls this year or next.

Speaking at a conference of the National Governors Association in Philadelphia, Mr. Obama said his background in the Illinois state senate made him particularly sympathetic to the needs of state and local governments. And he declared himself open to good ideas that work, whether they come from Democrats or Republicans.

“We are not going to be hampered by ideology in trying to get this country back on track,” he told the governors, many of whom he met for the first time at the conference. “We want to figure out what works.” Vice President-elect Joseph Biden Jr. also attended the meeting.

Aides to Mr. Obama have suggested that a recovery plan, which the president-elect hopes to be able to sign not long after taking office on Jan. 20, might carry a price tag of as much as $700 billion.

But even as the president-elect spoke on Tuesday, the dimensions of the challenges facing him at home and abroad continued to grow more stark. The three American automakers were due to announce more weak results and detail their revamped requests for federal aid during the day, while overseas, the terror attack in Mumbai, renewed violence in Iraq and difficult conditions in Afghanistan further darkened the picture.

In dealing with the worsening climate that faces state governments, many of them now obliged to balance their budgets by cutting jobs and programs, Mr. Obama asked the governors not just for their support but for their input in drafting a national recovery plan.

“To solve this crisis and to ease the burden on our states, we need action, and action swiftly,” he said. “That means passing an economic recovery plan to help both Wall Street and Main Street, and this administration does not intend to delay in getting you the help that you need.”

The importance of the federal help Mr. Obama offered was underscored on Monday when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California declared a fiscal emergency in his state and urged lawmakers to “get off of their rigid ideologies” to close a $28 billion budget gap. He said the state could run out of cash within two months.

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Picking the people was the easy part.

President-elect Obama and his new national security team will now turn to a world full of vexing, linked problems on every continent, and tricky, early choices. From the speed of withdrawal from Iraq to the speed of investment in Afghanistan, from Kashmir to Moscow, Obama will make some of his most important choices early. Here are some of the toughest.

IRAQ

The war in Iraq, and the promise of a radically different approach to it, helped make Obama president. But he will arrive in the White House with his predecessor having already negotiated a Status of Forces Agreement providing for a timeline for withdrawal from the country, the core of Obama’s campaign promise.

The agreement “points us in the right direction,” Obama told reporters in Chicago Monday.

The most rapid pace contemplated is Obama’s campaign plan to have all American combat troops out of Iraq 16 months after he was sworn-in — that is, by May of 2010. The U.S. agreement with the Iraqi government ensures American troops will be out by the end of 2011.

“The question is how much, if at all, do you deviate from the agreement that’s been negotiated and passed in Iraq,” said Anne Marie Slaughter, the dean of Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. “Does that agreement supersede what President Obama said when he was candidate Obama?”

Slaughter pointed to Obama’s decision to retain the defense secretary who played a key role in negotiating the agreement as a sign that he’s likely to conform his own policy to its timeline.

But he’ll face pressure from both sides. Iraq remains a violent and unpredictable place, with suicide bombers killing at least 31 Iraqis in two attacks Monday.

And the Status of Forces Agreement likely means that as Obama takes office, American commanders will be adjusting to a new paradigm in which they shift more of the burden to Iraqi units, allowing them to take the lead and, at times, to fail in battles with insurgents. He’s likely to face intense internal debates over how involved the United State should be on a day-to-day basis, and pressure from the Iraqi government to help in some places, and step back in others.

But Obama said repeatedly during the campaign that his 16-month timeline was realistic, and many of his supporters seen no reason to dally. What’s more, the troops and materiel are needed elsewhere.

In Chicago Monday, Obama told reporters that the Status of Forces Agreement indicates that the United States is “now on a glide path to reduce our forces in Iraq.”

“The challenge for him is going to be determining the slope of that glide path,” said Shawn Brimley, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security.”

AFGHANISTAN

General James Jones, the president-elect’s National Security Advisor, drew attention recently for stating emphatically that international forces were “not winning in Afghanistan.”

Indeed, there’s a wide consensus that the situation in the country that launched the 9/11 terror attacks is a mess: The Taliban is resurgent on the ground, corruption is rampant, and opium is the national industry. Meanwhile, the multinational force patrolling the country opposing them is adrift.

“There been no unifying strategy,” said Steve Coll, president of the New America Foundation. “NATO operates its own way, every country operates its own way, the State Department and the Defense Department don’t agree.”

Part of the answer seems to be more Western troops. Obama’s advisors hope a new, pro-American mood will encourage European and other allies to send reinforcements to Afghanistan. And Obama has backed sending two or three more American brigades to the country, though the rate of that increase will be dictated by how fast Americans can leave Iraq.

Obama will also be briefed on a new Afghanistan strategy prepared by the military, the contours of which Gates outlined in a speech in Canada last week.

“All of us agree that one of our most important, and maybe the most important, objective for us in 2009 in Afghanistan is a successful election,” Gates said.

That likely means an urgent new focus on Afghanistan, to make it – at least – secure enough to hold an election at the end of next year.

But skeptics warn that Afghanistan has bled dry other occupiers, and that the U.S. should be realistic about its goals.

“Success is not going to be the creation of a secular, prosperous, and democratic Afghanistan,” said Coll, who said a new U.S. policy will likely include a massive investment in training the country’s army and police.

“That’s the ticket home – that’s the ticket to his reelection in 2012 and getting American troops out of direct action by then,” Coll said.

PAKISTAN

The potentially catastrophic aftermath of the terrorist siege in Mumbai last week could instantly jump to the top of Obama’s list of crises to deal with – depending on how India and Pakistan respond in the 50 days before he takes the oath of office.

It falls to the Bush administration – which sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region Monday – to try to keep the two South Asian rivals from moving back to the brink of war. U.S. officials so far seem to be succeeding in persuading Pakistan to fully cooperate in tracking down those responsible for the attacks – and in restraining India from responding with provocative military gestures.

But both countries will be looking for Obama to signal how he will manage what will still be, at best, a perilously tense situation. And Obama’s options, as always in South Asia, are fraught with danger. Will he push a new and fragile Pakistani government – as he suggested in the campaign – to crack down further on terrorist groups? Will he back off the Bush administration’s increasingly aggressive use of military strikes against al-Qaeda and Taliban elements on Pakistani soil?

Even more important, given preliminary indications that the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba may be implicated in the Mumbai attacks, could Washington get more involved in pushing for a negotiated settlement to the long-held grievances of India and Pakistan over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir?

“In order to start to get Pakistanis to focus on the insurgent groups, you need to have them start to feel less paranoid about India, and the way to do that is to start dealing with the Kashmir issue,” said Caroline Wadhams, a national security analyst at the Center for American Progress.

“His team has talked about the need to start working on the Kashmir issue. There’s a big debate over whether the U.S. can even play a positive role in that. They will have to decide how hard they have to push that issue.”

Look for Vice President-elect Biden to play a key role on this one – he has significant and important contacts in both countries. And if Obama needs any reminding about the potential peril posed by a Kashmir-fueled conflict between the two nuclear-armed rivals, his nominee to be secretary of State should be able to attest. Hillary Clinton’s husband once called Kashmir, “the most dangerous place on earth.”

GUANTANAMO

An easier decision for Obama is one that he widely talked about during the campaign and confirmed during his recent interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” – his intention to close the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

“I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that,” Obama said.

There is a wide bipartisan consensus that the Gitmo should be closed. And politics would be pushing Obama to make the move even if the merits of the decision were not completely compelling. Many of his initial foreign policy and national security appointments – Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and the retention of Bob Gates at the Pentagon chief among them – have caused grumbling within Obama’s base of support on the Democratic left.

But closing Gitmo could very well open a Pandora’s Box that could overwhelm both the political and diplomatic benefits that the action would doubtless bring for the new administration.

As in – where do the roughly 250 prisoners being held at Guantanamo go?

Some could be repatriated – but that likely will mean intensive diplomacy by the young administration at a time when it is tending to a number of other foreign policy brushfires. And if some countries do accept detainees – China is one example – what kind of treatment awaits them when they return?

Furthermore, if some are kept in the U.S., as they most certainly will be, can they successfully be prosecuted, given the extreme and extraordinary circumstances surrounding their incarceration at Guantanamo?

The possibility that a future terrorist act could result from a current Guantanamo detainee being freed is truly the stuff of nightmares for the new Obama national security team.

MISSILE DEFENSE

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev put his country firmly on Obama’s agenda by attacking the president-elect the day after his election.

He and Vladimir Putin have also made a specific demand: That Obama scrap plans to set up a missile defense system based in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Obama has been a skeptic of missile defense, raising doubts primarily about whether the technology is ready. He’s also signaled that he would like to work more closely with Russia on a range of other issues, beginning with nuclear proliferation. However, he and his advisors are skeptical of Russia’s autocratic leaders.

Hawks want Obama to signal that he’s taking a tough line, and that he won’t be intimidated by Russia. Moscow would like him to put missile defense on a back burner before they arrive at the negotiating table.

Some arms control advocates see a middle ground: Obama can continue to question the system’s technical capacity, making space to negotiate.

“A decision on new deployments of strategic missile interceptors can be deferred until the system is proven effective through realistic tests and has the full support of U.S. allies,” Daryl Kimball, the president of the Arms Control Association, wrote in the Washington Times last month.

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Jewish Rabbi Marvin Hier remembers Mumbai’s dead and Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and wife Rivka who were also killed in Mumbai at the Chabad House.

Well worth a listen to, the Rabbi goes on to make some pointed suggestions – on suicide attacks being dealt with at the UN. Part of the reason why it is not being dealt with there – is that world has gone out of its way to offer the Islamic religion special protection – but then if it continues to be used in this hateful and destructive way – Islam will inevitably lose some of its protection – as the world tries to deal with the phenomena of its teachings of death over life.

Freedom of religion – has to have its boundaries – if freedom of religion allows for other people to be harmed – then we must draw back some of that freedom.

With Islam there are two arguments – there is the politicly correct one that says there is the just a few terrorist – who are hijacking the Islamic religion’s good name. But this blatantly ignores history and ignores the teachings of the Koran and Islamic Holy books.

Then there is the more realist argument – which is stifled for the most part – which says whatever the Prophet did and what the Holy books say about jihad (97% Holy war), we live in the modern world and those kinds of practices – of killing mass amounts of people in order to convert them – through fear or terror – are no longer viable – are no longer useful.

When you look at the subject of Islamic terror realistically – then you can see the real problem that the Islamic world faces – on one side the Holy books issue commands to either convert or kill the infidel and on the other side they wish to live in the modern world and have the respect of others. The lesser option is to subjugate all of the non-Muslim world and make them pay a tax as penalty for not being Muslim.

I dare say that I have an inkling of suspicion that if these Islamic countries thought that they could win this battle – of jihad against the western world – then they would not only turn a blind eye to it – as they have been doing – they would encourage it – because if they won then that would put them in a dominant position. A kind of reverse colonialism.

Then you have the moderate verses in the Koran – which are used frequently in politically correct PR exercises mainly for the western audience. To save argument – in the west we get there is no compulsion to Islam – but in Egypt, Malaysia and Indonesia it is a crime to leave Islam – and if you wish to do so you have to apply to the court – you will be locked-up , tortured or sent to re-education camps – while in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan you would be put to death — as you can see there is a kind of glossy reality – versus the real one.

Two things can happen – the Islamic world can continue its control of it people – and hope that the world one day sees sense in what they are doing and joins them – or they loosen control – and allow freedom of religion. And the actions of the terrorist might make this choice stark. If you have half the country believing that the penalty for leaving Islam is death – so they have already dehumanized the person who has made a conscious choice – there must be a fine line between thinking death for the person who leaves Islam and death for the person who refuses to take it up – like the Hindu – like the Jew – like the American Christian – in the Islamic world any one who wants to leave Islam – would be tortured, arrested, hulled into court (for carrying bibles in Algeria), so there is already an accepted level of intolerance for the non-Muslims among them – within th confines of the Islamic world – that then becomes the room full of oxygen that the Imam – can then light the spark to say go after the non-believer/infidel outside of our group. On the whole most of the people who are being killed in Islamic suicide attacks are Muslims – and that is because these Muslims have been deemed infidel or non-believers – and in the attacker’s mind should attacked in a similar way as you would do a Jew or Hindu or other.

But if the Muslim world would free the people – by allowing them to choose their own religion – then you break a part of the terrorist support system – as the state no longer supports the killing, torturing, and imprisonment of infidel – what the terrorist wants is for these controls over the Islamic populations to be strengthened – and in some cases they have – for example after the terrorist bombing in Mauritius – instead of fully cracking down on the terrorists and those who promoted it – they decided to change the law so that no one could be a Mauritius citizen without being a Muslim – so if you changed your religion – you could no longer legally hold citizenship there. Robert Gates actually has told the leaders that they need to get rid of this policy.

I am sure that terrorism is a great embarrassment to the Islamic world – it makes their countries look bad and it makes the religion look bad – the western world might have to depend on their shame to deal with the problem. To the point – Pakistan has these outback areas – that are sometimes surprisingly close to large cities – where these Taliban like militants go in and set up a mosque – everyone would automatically think – well this is a mosque – these people have their religion – but once the mosque is set up – then they preach every kind of religious hatred from the minaret – the girls schools in the area are threatened – either if they don’t wear head scarves – we will kill the girls, or f the girls go to school- we will kill the girls. Next the Pakistani army is no longer allowed to enter the town /region without a fight. To make deals with these guys they offer them Islamic or Sharia law in their areas – if they will stop the violence – and of course out of these areas come the terrorist who go down to India and go across to Afghanistan and kill and maim innocents there. Clearly a source of emarrassment for Pakistan.

Believe me these guys are reading the Koran – mainly in these Madrasses. The Pakistani government is respecting their religion – but under their idea of religious freedom – people outside of their beliefs should be killed – and this is where freedom of religion comes up against its limits – and therefore some of the respect for the Islamic religion should be withdrawn.

hp12-1-08i President-elect Obama made official the worst-kept secret in Washington this morning: that his national security team will be headlined by a bitter political rival (Clinton) and a member of President Bush’s war cabinet (Gates).

Beyond the obvious symbolism, however, Monday’s moves also offer some important evidence on the best-kept secret of the past two years: how will a President Obama actually govern in these troubled times?

The parlor game of who gets what job is largely over, save a few of the less prestigious cabinet gigs. Here is what today’s announcement – combined with the unveiling of his top White House staff and economic team – tell us about the 44th president as he prepares to take over.

• He is an intellectual, who is more impressed by academic and governing credentials than familiarity and loyalty.

New York Times columnist David Brooks nailed it recently when he called the emerging cabinet a “valedictocracy”: a team of the nation’s first-in-class Ivy League elites. He meant it as a compliment. He’s not alone: it’s hard to find Republicans who don’t express admiration (at least in private) for the emerging Obama team.

Of the 18 top appointments announced so far, 12 have degrees from Ivy League institutions, Stanford or MIT. Susan Rice was a Rhodes Scholar; Larry Summers was the youngest tenured professor in Harvard history and Greg Craig, the top White House lawyer, attended Exeter, Harvard, Cambridge and Yale.

Few of the early picks could be considered Obama loyalists. Hillary Rodham Clinton thought she would be banished to the outer reaches of Obama’s world. Now, she’s secretary of state. Robert Gates thought he was headed for retirement. Now, he will run war policy for anti-war Obama. The victor has proved to be anything but vindictive.

There could be a cost to having so many high achievers around the same table. Bush’s war Cabinet was also praised for its experience and gravitas, but wound up being a dysfunctional snake pit.

• He is willing to take big risks.

His economic and national-security teams are getting packed with huge personalities who see themselves as architects, not assembly-line workers. The potential for big clashes in tough times is high. But so is the potential for big results.

Hillary Clinton could be a fabulous world diplomat, considering her familiarity with leaders and global problems. She could also be a disaster if the Clinton family’s penchant for personal and political dramas distract the Obama presidency…

Read on…

Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse-Getty Images)

President-elect Barack Obama presented his national security team at a news conference in Chicago on Monday. (Photo: Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse-Getty Images)

That’s a Wrap | 11:35 a.m. As they all walked off stage, Mr. Obama put his arm around Mrs. Clinton and escorted her out while the others tagged along. The entire press conference underscored that, at least for now, Mrs. Clinton is first among equals.

Iraq | 11:34 a.m. The last question was whether Mr. Obama still intended to withdraw American forces from Iraq within 16 months of his inauguration.

Mr. Obama said America is on a path to reducing forces in Iraq but didn’t answer the question directly. He said he would listen to the recommendations of commanders in the fields and that his priority would be to keep the troops safe.

All You’re Going to Get | 11:33 a.m. Asked for details of how they came together after the marathon primary, Mr. Obama wasn’t too forthcoming. He said she is tough and smart and disciplined and shares his core values and that he was “always interested” after the primary in finding ways in which they could collaborate.

“I extended her the offer and she accepted,” he said blandly, adding: “I know that’s not as juicy a story as you were hoping for, but that’s all you’re going to get.”

Reconciliation | 11:28 a.m. You knew some of those old quotes from the primary trail would come up — Mr. Obama suggested at one point that Mrs. Clinton’s global experience consisted of having tea — so how have they come to reconcile their differences?

“This is fun for the press to try to stir up whatever quotes were generated during the course of the campaign,” he says, batting away the suggestion. He directs reporters to look at the statements that Mrs. Clinton and he have made outside of the heat of a campaign. He says they share a view that America has to be safe and secure and in order to do that “we have to combine military power with strength and diplomacy,” we have to build and forge stronger alliances around the world. “I believe there’s no more effective advocate than Hillary Clinton for that well-rounded view” for how we advance America’s interests around the world.

He went on to cite her service on the Armed Services committee, she knows world leaders and she and he have discussed the “strategic opportunities” that exist out there to strengthen American’s posture in the world. “She’ll be an outstanding Secretary of State,” he says, “and if I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t have offered her the job and if she didn’t believe I’m equipped to lead this nation, she would not have accepted.”

‘Buck Will Stop With Me’ | 11:20 a.m. Q: How can you ensure that the staff will be smoothly-functioning team of rivals?

Mr. Obama gave a lengthy answer here. He said that they have worked together before, have respect for each other and are outstanding public servants. “They would not have agreed to join my administration and I wouldn’t have asked them unless we share a core vision on what’s needed to keep the American people safe,” he said. He said his picks would not have left their current jobs if they weren’t convinced they could work together as an effective team.

He also added that he is a strong believer in having strong personalities and strong opinions. People in the White House can “get wrapped up in group think” but he said he will welcome vigorous debate inside the White House. But understand, he said, “I will be setting policy as president,” and he will be responsible for the vision this team is carrying out. “The buck will stop with me.”

Biden Speaks | 11:05 a.m. The other Obama appointees gave briefer, more perfunctory comments. Now, even Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is getting the chance to speak.

He’s been up on these stages with Mr. Obama several times now, but mute. He congratulates Mr. Obama for picking a “first-class team” (and makes no mention of how he and Mrs. Clinton might work together).

A Difficult and Exciting Adventure | 11:01 a.m. In reference to various crises around the world, Mrs. Clinton said that America cannot solve them without the rest of the world and the world can’t solve them without America.

In a nod to the fact that Mr. Obama will be the boss, Mrs. Clinton said that with his election, the American people have demanded a new direction at home and a renewed effort to improve American’s standing in the world.

She said that “the best way to continue serving my country” is to join Mr. Obama “at this defining moment.”

Paraphrasing President Kennedy, she said: “I am proud to join you on what will be a difficult and exciting adventure in this new century, and may God bless you and all who served with you and our great country.”

Now a Word From the Former President | 10:59 a.m. Former President Bill Clinton released the following statement:

    As an American, I am thankful that President-elect Barack Obama has asked Hillary to be Secretary of State and that she has accepted. As her husband, I am deeply proud.
    She is the right person for the job of helping to restore America’s image abroad, end the war in Iraq, advance peace and increase our security, by building a future for our children with more partners and fewer adversaries, one of shared responsibilities and opportunities.
    She has already earned the respect of foreign leaders and diplomats through her work to promote human rights and the empowerment of women through access to education, healthcare and economic opportunity. And Americans know, from her leadership in the Senate on national security, that she will always put the security, values and the interests of our people first.
    In her service to the people of New York and our nation, Hillary has demonstrated the knowledge, passion, resilience, and capacity to learn that our country needs at this critical time. She loves being a Senator from New York, but as she has in all the thirty-seven years I’ve known her, she answered the call to serve. I commend President-Elect Obama for asking her to be a part of a great national security team. America will be well-served.

Clinton Thanks New Yorkers | 10:55 a.m. When Mr. Obama introduced his other nominees, none of them spoke. But this occasion clearly called for words from Mrs. Clinton, and Mr. Obama couldn’t very well let her speak and no one else, so now they are all getting a chance to say a few words.

Mrs. Clinton gave something of a valedictory address. She thanked New Yorkers — this is her first time acknowledging to her constituents that she is leaving the Senate. She said they had prepared her for this new job because they aren’t afraid to speak their minds and they do so in many languages. She also used some phrases that Clinton-watchers have heard since her husband’s first presidential campaign in 1992, saying she wanted to help everyone achieve their God-given potential.

The Team Speaks | 10:54 a.m. Mr. Obama invites the members of his team to speak, beginning with Mrs. Clinton.

Get to Work | 10:51 a.m. Mr. Obama said his new team met this morning to discuss the situation in Mumbai. He emphasized the non-partisan nature of their task.

An American ‘of Tremendous Stature’ | 10:47 a.m. Mr. Obama introduced Mrs. Clinton first, calling her a friend, a tough primary opponent and intelligent and said she had a remarkable work ethic. He said she was an American “of tremendous stature” who would have his complete confidence and command respect in every capital around the world. “I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton is the right person to lead our State Department,” he said.

A Unique Team | 10:46 a.m. “The team that we have assembled here today is uniquely suited to do just that,” Mr. Obama said. “They share my pragmatism about the use of power, and my sense of purpose about America’s role as a leader in the world.”

The Team | 10:42 a.m. Mr. Obama’s new national security team is now on stage: Mrs. Clinton; Robert M. Gates, the current defense secretary, who will remain in that job; Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander, will be national security adviser; Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona will be homeland security chief; Eric Holder will be attorney general; and Susan Rice, ambassador to the United Nations.

‘Looking Forward to You Advising Me’ | 10:25 a.m. As we await Barack Obama’s news conference in a few minutes (10:40 a.m. Eastern), our minds drift back to one of the wittier moments of the long debate season.

It was last December, before the Iowa caucuses, when Mr. Obama was asked how his administration would differ from Bill Clinton’s administration if he planned to appoint so many Clinton advisers.

Senator Hillary Clinton, who was off screen, piped up with a laugh: “I want to hear that!”

“Well, Hillary,” Mr. Obama responded coolly, “I’m looking forward to you advising me, as well.”

It was a brilliant comeback, but few saw it as prescient.

But here we are, less than a year later, with President-elect Obama about to name his former rival as his Secretary of State, a position in which she will indeed be advising him and representing him on some of the most important matters he will face.

For weeks, anonymous Democrats have been whispering about why Mr. Obama made this unexpected choice (“team of rivals,” “global brand,” etc.) and why Mrs. Clinton is choosing to give up her independent power base in the Senate (dead-end job) and head to State (high-profile fiefdom, her own staff, access to the president).

But today, we will hear directly from Mr. Obama about why he is picking her, and we’ll be live blogging it right here. Come back in a few minutes.

thecaucus75

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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Transcript:

At this Thanksgiving dinner I will toast some very, very wonderful things to be thankful for; my friends, family and supporters, the collapse of Republicanism, the humiliating implosion and utter failure of the Republican party and unregulated free market doo doo economics and the defeat of racism, fear mongering and paranoia- albeit by a margin too close for comfort. One of my hopes for future Thanksgiving toasts will be the death of the contemporary equivalent of racism- homophobia and maybe beyond that the relegation of Religion to the same fate as The Pet Rock.

The party that scrutinizes every single tax dollar to see that it doesn’t risk ending up in the hands of some shiftless minority or rebuilding and equipping public schools, providing health care to the working poor, cleaning up after corporate polluters, advancing clean energy, or any other horrible “communist” enterprise that might provide for the welfare of American citizens, has just financed their own failure with your money- tax payer money. More accurately, your labor and the labor of your children. The tax haters are in line for their hand outs.

Remember when Bush wanted to privatize Social Security? What a fuckin’ joke! More of that brilliant self-reliance fiscal bull shit. It has finally be laid out plain as the nose on your face- these low tax, free market, self reliant, moral giants are colossal frauds and intellectual neanderthals. They are stricken with an illness that prevents them from giving a shit about anyone but themselves. Fearful, violent witch hunters, empty moral midgets and ethical pygmies that protect themselves from themselves with denial, superstition and Religion and now tax dollars.

The cost of The Marshall Plan, Louisiana Purchase, Race to the Moon, S&L Crisis, Korean War,The New Deal, Invasion of Iraq, Vietnam War, and NASA: TOTALS: $3.92 trillion dollars… Inflation Adjusted dollars!

The current Wall Street gamblers, liars and failures bailout is costing us $4.62 trillion dollars.

Universal health care, securing Social Security, providing books and supplies for our children’s class rooms, enhancing veteran’s benefits? Not a fuckin’ chance. Those are godless Communist programs. Picking up the tab for billionaires who lost money gambling on irresponsible bets and playing multi-billion dollar ponzi schemes? That’s the patriotic, self reliant thing to do. What better way to spend those evil, ill gotten tax dollars? Anyone but the poor and working class.

Never forget the Bush Cheney disaster and the crash of the Republican corporate free market, diaper changing ideology. You’re paying for it and will be for a long time. If we’ve learned our lesson, we can be thankful.

WASHINGTON–Representatives from industry, government, and advocacy groups agreed on Thursday that the Internet needs to be open and widely available throughout the United States. The question is how to get there.

A newly emboldened Democratic Congress is sure to have a long wish list, including new Internet regulations that corporations believe are unwise or unnecessary. Net neutrality regulations are one possibility, as is broadband and spectrum legislation. But it’s unclear where the money to pay for sweeping new projects will come from–neither tax increases nor deficit spending on tech seem that likely when a Wall Street and Detroit bailout are center stage–so today’s laws and regulations may end up being extended by default.

Save the internet

Arianna Huffington & Google’s CEO on the Internet Presidency

The next Congress is sure to introduce Net neutrality legislation, a Democratic congressional staffer said Thursday. “With the Obama administration being extremely supportive of Net neutrality, we’re quite excited we can actually get things done,” said Frannie Wellings, telecom counsel for Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.).

Speaking at a telecommunications law and policy conference hosted by the University of Nebraska College of Law, Wellings said, “We definitely feel legislation is necessary” in the area of Net neutrality. (On the other hand, the Democrats have controlled Congress for two years and have advanced precisely zero Net neutrality bills, even though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi once called it a tremendously important topic.)

Representatives from the telecommunications industry insisted they have a common interest in maintaining open networks since their revenues come from carrying bits–but say that they’re OK with the current state of the law. New legislation, they say, is not the way to achieve open access–and could even have adverse results.

The Federal Communications Commission’s ruling against Comcast proved the commission’s approach of reviewing possible Net neutrality violations on a case-by-case basis is effective, said James Cicconi, senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs for AT&T.

Panelists at a conference Thursday discuss the merits of broadband and Net neutrality legislation.

Panelists at a conference Thursday discuss the merits of broadband and Net neutrality legislation.

“The essence of network management is some form of discrimination,” he said. “This really is about what’s reasonable and what isn’t. Discrimination that impacts consumers negatively is something unreasonable.”

Cicconi said Comcast’s appeal of the decision “was a mistake from many standpoints,” and that a ruling in Comcast’s favor would almost certainly lead to Net neutrality legislation, which would make the FCC’s review of telecom practices less flexible.

Replacing a flexible, case-by-case approach to Net neutrality enforcement with a common approach “would lead to more litigation, not less,” Cicconi said. (See a related CNET article about wireless Net neutrality.)

The threat of litigation against Net neutrality rules may be overblown, suggested Ben Scott, policy director of media advocacy group Free Press. He cited the news that the wireless trade association CTIA recently dropped its legal challenge to the open access conditions the FCC imposed on the C-Block spectrum Verizon purchased earlier this year. Verizon dropped its legal challenge in October.

The 111th Congress will also reintroduce legislation to promote universal broadband, Wellings said, though the need for that was also disputed.

“It’s probably the case the FCC, despite the uncertainties, can probably accomplish much of the Obama administration’s agenda without legislation,” said Richard Wiley, a former FCC chairman who now represents telecom companies as a partner at Wiley Rein.

There was a consensus among the panelists that one significant step the Obama administration could take would be to reallocate spectrum currently appropriated to government agencies.

“The biggest reason it’s a precious resource is because the government has appropriated half of it,” said Cicconi.

“If we’re serious about having wireless as a serious competitor to wired networks, we’re going to have to find more spectrum,” Scott added. “The best place I see is government allocations.”

The Obama administration will also have to revamp the FCC’s approach to establishing an public safety network on the D-Block, panelists said.

Cicconi called it “borderline scandalous” that Congress and the Bush administration “saddled the FCC with the conundrum of how to do it without appropriations.”

The situation was analogous to giving an agency land on which to build a highway system exclusively for police cars and ambulances but expecting the agency to get private sector funding, Scott said.

“This is a great opportunity and great challenge for the Obama administration,” Wiley said.

Source: CNET

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WASHINGTON (AFP) — US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called and briefed president-elect Barack Obama on the series of attacks in Mumbai, the State Department said Friday.

“I can confirm on the record that Secretary of State Rice has called president-elect Obama twice since the attacks on Mumbai began to brief him on the situation,” said spokesman Gordon Duguid.

Duguid earlier confirmed that two Americans had been killed and two injured, although he declined to identify them.

Rice was at the presidential retreat Camp David providing updates to US President George Bush.
Indian forces were Friday still trying to hunt down the Islamic militant gunmen holed up in the city after two days of attacks which have left 130 people dead, including at least 17 foreigners.

It was not clear how many gunmen remained at large in the city, nor how many people might still be held hostage, after scores of people were released, many of them foreign tourists.

Source: AFP

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Just days before he is expected to roll out his national security team after the Thanksgiving holiday, President-elect Barack Obama condemned Wednesday’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, which have killed at least 101 people, wounded 287 others, and left others held hostage.

“President-elect Obama strongly condemns today’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and his thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the people of India,” said Brooke Anderson, Chief National Security Spokesperson for the Obama Transition Team, in a statement released this evening.

The gunmen targeted Westerners in their assaults on luxury hotels, tourist hot-spots, and a train station in Mumbai, India’s financial capital.

“These coordinated attacks on innocent civilians demonstrate the grave and urgent threat of terrorism,” Anderson said.

A senior Obama official told ABC News that the President-elect was following the situation closely and getting regular updates from his staff, as well as updates and information from the Bush Administration.

“The United States must continue to strengthen our partnerships with India and nations around the world to root out and destroy terrorist networks,” Anderson stated. “We stand with the people of India, whose democracy will prove far more resilient than the hateful ideology that led to these attacks.”

The Obama Transition Team has established a team to interact with the State Department and with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. An Obama aide says the Bush administration “helpfully provided regular updates through several channels.”

Source: ABC Political Punch

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

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CHICAGO (AP) — President-elect Barack Obama was staying in Chicago for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday Thursday and squeezing in some holiday shopping, a day after trying to reassure Americans about the ailing economy as stores braced for a rough season.

“Help is on the way,” he proclaimed Wednesday at his third news briefing on the economy this week. Fifty-five days away from taking office, he declared he would have an economic plan ready for action “starting day one.”

To help with ideas from outside the White House, Obama also announced he was forming a new team of advisers with former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker as the head.

“There is no doubt that during tough economic times family budgets are going to be pinched,” Obama said. “I think it is important for the American people, though, to have confidence that we’ve gone through recessions before, we’ve gone through difficult times before, that my administration intends to get this economy back on track.”

Read it all…

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama has named a team of high-profile executives and fundraisers to oversee his inauguration and imposed limits on who can contribute to it and how much they can give.

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The group leading the Jan. 20 celebrations includes Chicago Bears part-owner Patrick Ryan, former Commerce secretary William Daley, and Penny Pritzker, a billionaire Chicago businesswoman who helped Obama raise record sums as his campaign’s finance chairwoman.

No budget has been set. Fundraising for President Bush’s inauguration in 2004 surpassed $42 million, federal records show.

While presidential candidates can collect no more than $2,300 in campaign contributions from individuals per primary and general election, federal law sets no limits on inaugural fundraising.

Obama, who vowed during the campaign that special interests would not yield undue influence in his White House, is limiting inaugural contributions to $50,000 each and will not accept money from corporations, unions, political action committees, or federal lobbyists, inaugural spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Individuals who raise money on behalf of the inaugural committee cannot collect more than $300,000 each, he said. Obama, however, still will accept donations from corporate executives, wealthy individuals and former federal lobbyists.

“While this isn’t a perfect solution, it’s a clear indication that he’s taking serious steps to change business as usual in Washington,” Earnest said.

Sheila Krumholz of the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics said Obama’s move marks the tightest restrictions on inaugural giving. But wealthy donors still can try to use their contributions to gain access to the president-elect, she added. “If you have the means, you can essentially buy elite status … you may even get prime seats for the parade and (inaugural) ball tickets in the process.”

Earnest said big donors will not have an inside track in the new administration. The committee also plans a grass-roots fundraising campaign to collect money from a broad cross-section of Americans, he said.

Other members of the inaugural team: Obama fundraiser John Rogers, CEO of Chicago-based Ariel Investments, and Julianna Smoot, who served as Obama’s national finance director.

The federal government provides $1.2 million in public funds to pay for the swearing-in and a luncheon. Private donations pay for most other activities — from the splashy Inaugural Balls to installing jumbo television screens on the National Mall, where spillover crowds will watch the ceremony.

Bush imposed a $250,000 cap on inaugural donations in 2004 but did not bar corporate contributions.

Source: USA Today

vatican-solar-460_1121727cvatican-solar-460a_1121726c1

The Vatican, the world’s smallest sovereign state, has stepped up its fight against global warming by installing a huge rooftop solar energy system.

More than 2,000 photovoltaic panels have been fixed to the roof of one of the city state’s main buildings, enabling the Holy See to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by about 225 tonnes a year, saving the equivalent of 80 tonnes of oil annually.

Looming over them is the imposing bulk of St Peter’s Basilica, but the panels will not be visible from ground level, leaving the Vatican’s impressive skyline unblemished.

The solar energy system covers the massive roof of the “Nervi Hall”, where Pope Benedict XVI holds general audiences.

The 2,400 panels, designed by a Germany company, will heat, light and cool the hall and several surrounding buildings, producing 300 kilowatt hours (MWh) of clean energy a year.

The hall, built in 1971 and one of the Vatican’s newest buildings, has a sweeping, wave-shaped roof which made the project feasible.

The Vatican’s official mouthpiece, the daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, said in an editorial that “the gradual exhaustion of the ozone layer and the greenhouse effect have reached critical dimensions.”

Pope Benedict, like his predecessor John Paul II, has made several appeals for greater efforts to protect the environment.

Last year the Holy See announced that it would become the world’s first carbon-neutral state by planting trees in a national park in Hungary in order to offset its carbon-dioxide emissions.

This latest initiative puts the Vatican at odds with Italy. The Italian government said this week that it would veto new European Union limits on greenhouse gas emissions unless it won concessions.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said a plan proposed by France’s President, Nicolas Sarkozy, to cut emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, was unrealistic.

Italy’s greenhouse gas emissions are around 13 per cent above 1990 levels – one of the worst performances in the EU.

Analysts believe that Italy may be dragging its heels in order to secure a better deal for its industry and that the government would not dare risk the stigma of sabotaging the EU’s self-declared role as the world leader in tackling climate change.

Source: Telegragh

AP Raw Video: Obamas Hand Out Turkeys

The censored version has already been added to OFKR – but for posterity’s sake we had to add this uncut version – of what will be a classic Sarah Palin.

[It’s a comedy!]

23/6

During a press conference earlier today, CNN’s Ed Henry challenged President-elect Barack Obama on his naming of some recent appointees who have had experience serving in the government. “What do you say to your supporters looking for change?” Henry wondered. Obama noted that there is a “conventional wisdom floating around Washington that ‘well, there’s a recycling of people who were in the Clinton administration.’”

Addressing the media criticism directly, Obama explained:

    It would be surprising if I selected a Treasury secretary who had had no connection with the last Democratic administration because that would mean the person had no experience in Washington whatsoever. And I suspect you would be troubled and the American people would be troubled if I selected a Treasury secretary or a chairman of the National Economic Council…who had no experience whatsoever.

Obama said his personnel selections will “combine experience with fresh thinking.” But he underscored that the buck stops with him:

    But understand where the vision for change comes from first and foremost. It comes from me. That’s my job — is to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure that my team is implementing it.

Watch it:

Obama concluded, “What I don’t want to do is to somehow suggest that because you served in the last Democratic administration that you’re somehow barred from serving again — because we need people are going to be able to hit the ground running.”

Source: Think Progress

Political squabbling over how to store waste could hold back the industry.
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US Nuclear Map: Click to Enlarge+

It must be noted that New Zealand derives 10% of its electricity from geothermal energy and they are building more plants – this is just one of the options that could be used to safely replace nuclear. Another crucial thing to note – is that there is not enough nuclear material to supply the all the world’s needs – and it is not a renewable energy source. Obama is right to be sceptical. At the moment a clean nuclear energy is being developed – something called bottling the sun – where a type of hydrogen called tritium is used instead of uranium – in a similar way as the sun burns hydrogen to remain hot. More there is also a high powered laser technology that can be shot at the hydrogen – which could produce abundant energy that could generate electricity. Although these things are in development – geothermal is something that we can do today – instead of sinking a well for oil. We sink a well to go down far enough to where the earth’s temperature is much hotter – water is then pumped down and heated and the hot water that returns can move a turbine, which can then produce the electricity we need. Think – nuclear power – with all its glorious spectacle and promise – is just heating water – we could do the same thing by sending the water down towards the earth’s mantle – and have the water heated there safely cleanly – no one is injured and there is no waste – just plug the hole back up when it longer produces the same amount to heat.

It was one of Barack Obama’s big applause lines. At nearly every campaign stop, the candidate promised to end our dependence on foreign oil and slash carbon emissions 80 percent by midcentury. “I will set a clear goal as president,” he said in his speech accepting the Democratic nomination. “I will tap our natural-gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.” He also promised to back biofuels and wind, water and solar power. The crowd cheered.

Now all he has to do is make good on the promise. But despite all the inspiring talk about windmills and solar panels, it’s difficult to see how Obama will reach that goal without relying, in large part, on nuclear power. Commercial reactors currently provide 20 percent of the nation’s power—but accounts for 70 percent of the country’s emission-free energy. “We cannot get to the reduction of CO2 in a big way without relying on nuclear energy even more than we do today,” says Mujid Kazimi, the director of MIT’s Center for Advanced Nuclear Systems.

So does that mean Obama will become the nation’s cheerleader in chief for nuclear power? Not likely. Obama has been cautious whenever he’s been asked about the issue. In a “Meet the Press” appearance in May, he hedged when the subject came up. “I think we do have to look at nuclear, and what we’ve got to figure out is can we store the material properly? Can we make sure that they’re secure? Can we deal with the expense?”

Not exactly a full-throated endorsement. Obama’s lack of enthusiasm is easy to understand politically, especially given the apprehension many voters have about the safety of nuclear-power plants. Three decades later, Three Mile Island still haunts—despite the pleas of industry advocates who say the technology has improved to the point that accidents are almost unheard of. Most Americans probably have no idea that there are 104 commercial nuclear-power plants currently operating in the United States today. None has suffered a malfunction that led to a major leak of radioactive material. Nuclear-power proponents often point to France, which depends on nukes for 80 percent of its power.

Read it all…

koppel_ted_cp_7376718 Ted Koppel, possibly angling to get back into the news game by taking the late Tim Russert’s role on “Meet the Press,” has formally dissolved his ties to Discovery Communication.

Koppel had six months left on his contract, but sources said he’s better off if he’s disentangled from any network or cable contract.

Koppel had not made any formal statement about the Russert slot, but TV sources said it’s a well-known desire for the former host of “Nightline” for 25 years. Koppel signed a three-year deal with Discovery right after he left “Nightline.”

A number of internal NBC candidates are up for the job as well.

Variety reported that The Koppel Group had produced 15 hours of documentary programming for Discovery under the “Koppel on Discovery” label. This year’s projects included the four-part China profile “The People’s Republic of Capitalism” and October’s “The Last Lynching.”

The parting of ways was described as “amicable,” but Koppel in a statement made no bones about the reason for the split.

“Producing our kind of news-related programs is an expensive proposition,” Koppel said. “It has long been clear that neither of us is interested in an extension of the current contract. Discovery and I worked on terminating the contract a few months early under terms that both sides found acceptable.

Daily Fish Bowl LA

Ann Coulter

Page Six is reporting that right-wing agitator and controversy-seeker Ann Coulter’s jaw is wired tightly shut.

I know, I know. If the report is true, It’s almost as if our prayers have been answered.

Apparently it was broken, but by whom, no one seems to be sure. We could hazard a guess, but why throw roses yet.

The blogosphere is already aquiver over the idea of a forced Coulter Moment of Silence.

Finally, the Right Wing Barbie Doll has to shut up. This is, after all, the woman who called 2004 VP nominee John Edwards the F-word in 2007 while speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

“I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the ‘gay hate word’ ” so I’m — so, kind of at an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards, so I think I’ll just conclude here and take your questions.”

The rehab reference was a right-wing joke (and we use the term loosely) about actor Isaiah Washington using that word for his “Grey’s Anatomy” co-star T.R. Knight and been forced by the network to undergo psychological treatment.

But her unfunny comments drew criticism from all fields, Democrats, Republicans and gay rights groups.

But here’s the best part about the Coulter broken jaw news. No really, this is really good: Seems she has a brand new book titled “GUILTY” due out in early January and, of course, was all booked on TV and radio talk shows to discuss the “much-needed reality check on a Left gone wild,” declares the book’s jacket.

Her latest work reportedly exposes and mocks the media’s love affair with all things Democrat and all things President-elect Barack Obama.

Too bad Ann won’t be able to say a word about her new book.

That’s just a gosh darn shame.

Source: LA Times Blog

During a Hannity & Colmes interview last night (11/24/08), Republican Governor of North Carolina Mark Sanford, introduced as “one of the rising stars of the Republican Party,” cracked up when Alan Colmes asked if Sarah Palin might be one of the future stars of her party. He quickly recovered by offering the faint praise that she’d be “among the mix.” But then he soon moved on to name other names that did not include hers. With video.

In their discussion about the future of the GOP, Sanford told Colmes, “If you look at the Bobby Jindals of the world, who’s the governor of Louisiana, or look at Rick Perry in Texas or Mitch Daniels up in Indiana, there are a lot of governors, there are a lot of folks at the precinct level, at the county level who are working very hard to bring back the conservatism in the Republican Party.”

Colmes asked “Who else would you put in that category? …Sarah Palin for example?”

Sanford laughed heartily. Then he added, “Uh, certainly. She’s among the mix. I think it’s a broad swath that literally goes from Jim Douglas, who won in the most blue of blue states there, in Vermont… or it is indeed somebody who’s like a young rising star like Bobby Jindal. It is somebody like Sonny Perdue there in Georgia, who’s been working on a lot of neat reforms. It’s a broad swath of different folks.”

He never mentioned Palin again.

Source: News Hounds

Forget audacity and the changes so many of us voted for and are hoping for. Like so much about the GOP, Fox is steeped in negativity and doesn’t want to let it go. That’s what I take from a new promo Fox is airing. I saw it for the first time yesterday. When I saw it again today (November 25, 2008), I figured they were serious.

Checkout the explosions. The fires. The terror, despair and anger in people’s faces. Listen to the music. Note the countdown at the end (10, 9, 8, etc.) and the explosion that caps it all off. Oh, and look – the only nationally known people pictured are Joe Biden, Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama.

Source: News Hounds

The Obama girls will be the youngest kids to live in the White House in decades.

The Obama girls will be the youngest kids to live in the White House in decades.

As incoming President Barack Obama ponders economic-bailout plans in the Oval Office, some pretty heavy action will be taking place in the private quarters of the White House, too.

Malia and Sasha Obama, ages 10 and 7, respectively, are the youngest children to inhabit the White House in decades. And they will be facing some seismic challenges of their own, in child-development terms. The Obama girls will pass from childhood into the upheaval of the pre-teen and early teenage years in a venue that past presidential kid Luci Johnson termed a “museum, a public fishbowl and a prison.”

The loss of privacy, continuity and constancy imposed by their move to the White House — coupled with the monumental new opportunities it offers — will have a huge impact on the Obama children’s sense of identity and competence at a critical stage, child-development experts say. While the glare of the spotlight has burned some presidential kids, others have emerged unscathed and strong. A look at the risks and rewards, based on research and past examples, holds lessons for any parent raising children under unusual stress.

Malia and Sasha are facing some core “developmental tasks,” in child-development parlance: the need to build their own sense of personal identity, or their concept of who they are in relation to others and the world at large, and their belief in their competence as individuals. These growth stages must be accomplished in an ever-widening context of friendships, school, the neighborhood and the world at large.

The Obamas, child-development experts say, seem to be a picture of health, based on the deep affection and easy communication family members displayed last July in their only video interview together. Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, have vowed to hold life as steady as possible for the girls, and are taking grandmother Marian Robinson to Washington to help.

Read on…

According to Rachel Maddow only MSNBC covered the McCain conference live ~ I guess Fox News wasn’t feeling up to it yesterday!

President-elect Barack Obama, right, with Budget Director-designate Peter Orszag, left, during a news conference in Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama, right, with Budget Director-designate Peter Orszag, left, during a news conference in Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008

CHICAGO – President-elect Barack Obama is naming a board of economic experts outside government to advise him on ways to create jobs and bring stability to the ailing financial system.

Obama was expected to introduce members of the advisory board Wednesday at a news conference, his third in as many days as Americans moved into the long Thanksgiving weekend. It was a remarkable burst of public activity for Obama, who has sought to assure nervous consumers and financial markets that he will bring swift economic relief as president.

Tuesday, Obama introduced Congressional Budget Office Director Peter Orszag as his candidate to run the White House Office of Management and Budget. The president-elect also pledged a “page-by-page, line-by-line” budget review to root out unneeded spending.

On Monday, Obama tapped New York Federal Reserve President Tim Geithner as his treasury secretary and named several other top economic advisers.

His economic team largely complete, Obama was expected next week to introduce national security officials, including Hillary Rodham Clinton as his secretary of state. Aides said the New York senator had not yet formally accepted the offer, but transition officials have indicated that the nomination is on track.

Source: AP

In this Sept. 2, 2008 file photo, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, left, and former first lady Barbara Bush are seen at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn

In this Sept. 2, 2008 file photo, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, left, and former first lady Barbara Bush are seen at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn

HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush was in a Houston hospital Tuesday after complaining of a “little bit of pain.”

Family spokesman Jim McGrath said Mrs. Bush went to Methodist Hospital as a precaution. She had been experiencing some pain this week but McGrath did not know what it was.

Mr. McGrath said all of the results for tests she had undergone had been negative. Mrs. Bush may be released later Tuesday or could be held overnight to watch her condition.

Mr. McGrath said former President George H.W. Bush was with her. Mrs. Bush is 83.

The former Barbara Pierce, daughter of the publisher of McCall’s magazine, married George H.W. Bush in January 1945 when he returned a hero from World War II.

She was the girl who, swept off her feet by a handsome Navy aviator, dropped out of college to marry him, “the first man I ever kissed,” and thence was destined for a lifetime role as Supermom.

They had had their first child, George, while still at Yale in 1946. A daughter, Robin, died in 1953 of leukemia a few weeks before her 4th birthday. The other Bush children are sons Jeb, Neil and Marvin, and daughter Dorothy.

For years, Barbara Bush has been a sunny presence in American life, the sort of person who would make herself and others comfortable at your kitchen table. But she also was tough.

In the course of being George H.W. Bush’s wife, she had to pack up and move the household 28 times before residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.

Mrs. Bush disclosed she was suffering from an overactive thyroid ailment known as Graves’ disease when she lived at the White House. The disease causes teary eyes and double vision in Mrs. Bush, according to her doctors.

Source: WSJ

liebermanwinslucasuploa_043819_2087507912 HARTFORD, Conn. – Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman took another step Tuesday toward mending his relationship with Democrats, saying that Barack Obama’s actions since winning the presidency have been “just about perfect.”

“Everything that President-elect Obama has done since election night has been just about perfect, both in terms of a tone and also in terms of the strength of the names that have either been announced or are being discussed to fill his administration,” Lieberman said during a visit to Hartford.

Lieberman, the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, was re-elected to the Senate in 2006 as an independent but continues to caucus with Democrats. He supported Republican John McCain’s presidential campaign, going as far as to criticize Obama and make a speech at the Republican National Convention.

Democrats threatened to strip him of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee but instead removed him as head of a smaller environmental subcommittee.

Connecticut Democrats meet Dec. 17 and are still considering a possible censure of Lieberman for his actions during the presidential campaign.

“I will ask them to judge me by my record,” Lieberman said. “Generally speaking, I’ve had a record, a voting record, which is really ultimately what it’s about, not unlike most Democrats.”

Lieberman said he believes the rift between himself and the party stemmed mainly from his support of President Bush’s policy in Iraq and will close as that becomes less of an issue.

“It appears to me that the war in Iraq is coming to a successful — I don’t want to say conclusion yet, but it’s moving in a way that it will not be a divisive issue either in the Democratic Party or between Democrats and Republicans in the time ahead,” Lieberman said. “And therefore, I think we’ll return to more normal times, which I welcome.”

Source: AP

President-elect Obama will appoint Paul Volcker to head an advisory board.

President-elect Obama will appoint Paul Volcker to head an advisory board.

President-elect Barack Obama will appoint former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker on Wednesday to be the chairman of a new White House advisory board tasked with helping to lift the nation from recession and stabilize financial markets, Democratic officials say.

University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee, one of Mr. Obama’s longest-serving policy advisers, will serve as the board’s staff director, along with his duties as a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Members of the panel will be drawn from a cross-section of citizens outside the government, chosen for their independence and nonpartisanship.

[..]

Wednesday’s event was more of a surprise, but with it, Mr. Obama has found a place for the former Fed chairman who is largely credited with halting inflation in the early 1980s. Since the financial crisis erupted in September, Mr. Obama has leaned heavily on the 81-year-old Mr. Volcker for advice.

[..]

Advisers familiar with the team selection said Mr. Volcker’s advanced age always made it unlikely he would get the Treasury job, but Mr. Obama wanted him in the White House with Mr. Summers, who, like Mr. Volcker, moved into the center of the Obama policy orbit in recent months.

Read it all…

President-elect Barack Obama’s team has confirmed reports about another news conference, set for 10:45 a.m. ET tomorrow. This one, like those yesterday and today, will also be related to the economy and its troubles.

On the lighter side of things out in Chicago at Obama HQ, it would appear the president-elect is sensitive to the sporting preferences of the reporters who are covering the transition. The room where he’s holding his news briefings has been jokingly divided into a north side for fans of the Chicago Cubs and a south side for fans of the Chicago White Sox. That unusual arrangement came up at today’s briefing.

    Obama: “All right. We’ve got — I’m going to call on Steve Thomma (of McClatchy Newspapers). Where’s Steve? And the reason I’m going to call on Steve, I understand that, as a lifelong White Sox fan, you were placed in the Cubs section yesterday, and I want to apologize for that. This is also part of the new way of doing business. When we make mistakes, we admit them.” 

    Thomma: “Well, thank you, sir. That’s the change we need on behalf of White Sox fans.”

Source: USA Today

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has served for two years under President Bush.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has served for two years under President Bush.

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama’s security team came into sharper focus, with officials confirming that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would retain his job and that retired Marine Gen. James Jones would likely join the incoming administration as national security adviser.

The picks, which are expected to be formally announced in Chicago Monday, signal Mr. Obama’s desire for experience and continuity with the nation embroiled in two wars.

The probable appointments — along with Sen. Hillary Clinton’s likely ascension to the secretary of state position — also mean that Mr. Obama is entrusting his foreign policy to centrist figures who have at times advocated policies that were more hawkish than his own.

Lawmakers from both parties had been urging Mr. Obama to retain Mr. Gates for weeks, arguing that it would improve the new administration’s ability to oversee the war effort. It would also put a Republican in the cabinet of a president who promised to bridge partisan divides.

Mr. Obama appears to have made a similar calculus in asking Gen. Jones to be his national security adviser. The former North Atlantic Treaty Organization supreme commander and Marine Corps commandant hasn’t decided whether to take the job, but people close to him said the general appears likely to accept.

The job would make Gen. Jones, a nonpartisan figure, the chief policy coordinator between the State Department, the Pentagon and other national-security agencies.

Gen. Jones would become the first former military general to serve as the top White House national-security adviser to a president since retired Gen. Colin Powell worked alongside President Ronald Reagan 20 years ago. He is close to Sen. Clinton, and has close ties to many lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where he worked for years as a Marine liaison.

Gen. Jones also has deep knowledge of two of the biggest challenges Mr. Obama will face in his first term: the need to redesign America’s energy infrastructure and the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama’s decision to retain Mr. Gates, while expected, is the clearest indication to date of the incoming administration’s thinking about Iraq and Afghanistan. The defense secretary has opposed a firm timetable for withdrawing American forces from Iraq, so his appointment could mean that Mr. Obama was further moving away from his campaign promise to remove most combat troops from Iraq by mid-2010.

Read more..

president-elect-barack-obama-talks-about-choosing-orszag-as-his-choice-for-director-of-the-office-of-management-and-budget-during-a-news-conference-in-chicago CHICAGO (Reuters) – President-elect Barack Obama takes another step toward tackling the ailing U.S. economy on Wednesday as part of an aggressive effort to demonstrate that his administration will face the global financial crisis head-on.

In his third news conference this week, Obama will make an “economic announcement” at 10:45 a.m. EST, his transition office said, following a similar event on Tuesday, when he presented his picks to head the White House budget office.

The Wall Street Journal reported Obama would name Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to chair a new economic advisory panel designed to stabilize financial markets and steer the country out of a recession.

Quoting Democratic officials, the newspaper reported on its Web site that University of Chicago economist and Obama policy adviser Austan Goolsbee would serve as the panel’s staff director.

It said the board would not supplant the Treasury Department, but give Obama an official forum for getting expert advice outside bureaucratic channels.

Obama, who succeeds President George W. Bush on January 20, seems already to be taking the reins as financial market players increasingly tune out the current president and focus instead on the country’s next leader.

In addition to naming his top economic advisers, Obama has come closer to forming his national security team, with reports saying that Republican Robert Gates will stay on as defense secretary and retired Marine Gen. James Jones will take over as national security adviser.

Those appointments, along with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, are likely to be made early next week, after the November 27 Thanksgiving holiday.

For now Obama has put his focus squarely on the economy, pledging a costly stimulus package that he urged the next Congress to pass quickly.

On Tuesday, he vowed to cut billions of dollars in wasteful government spending.

But questions remain about both goals. Obama declined to put a figure on the stimulus package — other Democrats have estimated it could cost hundreds of billions of dollars — and he did not identify specific government programs to be cut.

Analysts said Obama’s daily economic pronouncements showed the next president stepping into a leadership chasm.

“Confidence in Bush as an effective president has eroded so substantially that he is no longer taken seriously,” said Paul Beck, a professor of political science at Ohio State University.

“There is, of course, much more confidence in Obama or he would not have been elected as president. And, he is the president-in-waiting, so the only alternative the country has to Bush as a leader, especially in a period when the markets have failed and government must play an enlarged role in them.”

Obama has not shied away from telling struggling industries like banks and automakers to take responsibility for their ailing position in the economy.

In an interview with ABC television network, Obama said bank executives should forego their bonuses this year.

Source: Reuters

office-of-management-and-budget-omb-and-rob-nabors-r

CHICAGO (Reuters) – President-elect Barack Obama announced his top budget officials on Tuesday and promised significant spending cuts to partially offset a costly stimulus package that aims to revive the U.S. economy.

As the top two officials at the Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag and Rob Nabors will closely examine federal spending to cut out wasteful programs, Obama said.

“If we are going to make the investments we need, we also have to be willing to shed the spending that we don’t need,” Obama said at his second press conference in as many days.

One obvious example: Crop subsidies to farmers who make more than $2.5 million per year, Obama said.

Though he does not take office until January 20, Obama’s team of economic advisers are already working out the details of a two-year package to save or create 2.5 million jobs that could cost several hundred million dollars.

Obama himself meanwhile has dropped his former low-profile approach and spoken directly to the American people with two news conferences this week. A third Obama press appearance is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. EST Wednesday.

Bush administration officials continue to extend massive life support efforts to the ailing U.S. financial system.

The Federal Reserve on Tuesday announced a $600 billion program to buy mortgage-related debt and securities, and a $200 billion program to increase the availability of consumer debt, such as credit cards and auto loans.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urged patience and said any effort will take time to work.

Orszag now heads the Congressional Budget Office and Nabors currently serves as staff director of the House Appropriations Committee. Both previously held White House positions under President Bill Clinton.

Their announcement follows on Monday’s unveiling of New York Federal Reserve Bank President Timothy Geithner as Obama’s Treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers, a former Treasury secretary under Clinton, as director of his National Economic Council.

Obama’s aides are in contact with Bush administration officials, who said they would work closely with Geithner and other incoming officials on any new rescue plans.

The scope of the economic crisis has widened since Obama’s November 4 victory over Republican John McCain, with auto companies warning that they are short on cash, unemployment numbers rising and the government bailing out yet another gigantic financial institution, Citigroup Inc.

New figures released on Tuesday showed that the U.S. economy shrank more severely during the third quarter than previously estimated as consumers cut spending at the steepest rate in 28 years. Corporate profits and business investment fell as well.

Obama has kept a low profile until this week’s news conferences, which are intended to show the priority he places on addressing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

He said on Monday he has not yet decided whether to roll back President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts for the wealthy, which would provide the government with much-needed revenue, or simply allow them to expire at the end of 2010 as scheduled, a move that would avoid what would likely be a bruising fight in Congress.

Source: Reuters

Three weeks after his election as president, the public’s confidence in Barack Obama remains “remarkably consistent” and “doesn’t yet appear to be have been affected, positively or negatively, by news coverage of the president-elect’s staff and Cabinet appointments, or by reports of his economic and other policy plans,” Gallup reports this morning.

The polling firm’s daily tracking poll now shows 65% of those surveyed say they’re confident in the Democratic president-elect’s ability to be a good president. The figure has stayed between 63% and 67% since Election Day. Margin of error: +/- 3 percentage points.

obama_confidence

Source: USA Today

US soldiers hunt for Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants in Afghanistan's Khost province. President Hamid Karzai has told the UN Security Council that the international community sets a "timeline" for ending military intervention in Afghanistan.

US soldiers hunt for Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants in Afghanistan

President Hamid Karzai demanded on Tuesday at a meeting with a UN Security Council team that the international community set a “timeline” for ending military intervention in Afghanistan, his office said.

Karzai told a delegation from the Council that his country needed to know how long the US-led “war on terror” was going to be fought in Afghanistan or it would be forced to seek a political solution to a Taliban-led insurgency.

“The international community should give us a timeline of how long or how far the war on terrorism will go,” Karzai’s chief spokesman Homayun Hamidzada cited the president as telling the meeting.

“If we don’t have a clear idea of how long it will be, the Afghan government has no choice but to seek political solutions,” he told AFP.

Source: France 24

Obama and Maliki at their Baghdad meeting

Obama and Maliki at their Baghdad meeting

WASHINGTON – The top U.S. military officer said Tuesday the Pentagon is developing plans to get troops quickly out of Iraq and into Afghanistan to battle a more confident and successful Taliban.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the AP in an interview that the military has already identified and practiced traveling out of Iraq along exit routes through Turkey and Jordan to determine “what the challenges might be.” The governments in those two countries, he said, have supported that effort.

While he was careful to note that he is still following the orders of President Bush, Mullen said he was clearly aware of President-elect Barack Obama’s battle plan to withdraw from Iraq in 16 months.

“I’ve been listening to the campaign, and I understand,” Mullen said. “And he has certainly reinforced that since the election, so from a planning standpoint we are looking at that as well.”

He said he is working to get as many troops into Afghanistan as quickly as possible and noted he’s not surprised that Taliban leaders said this week that they would not entertain settlement talks with the Afghan government as long as foreign forces remained in the country.

“It’s my belief that you negotiate from a position of strength and right now the Taliban is doing pretty well,” said Mullen. “I think that’s important as we discuss how we negotiate, and with whom we negotiate, that we do so from a position of strength.”

Source: MSNBC

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Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. spoke at a news conference at the Treasury Department on Tuesday in Washington.

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. spoke at a news conference at the Treasury Department on Tuesday in Washington.

The United States government unveiled $800 billion worth of new loans and debt purchases on Tuesday, hoping another massive infusion of cash would smooth troubled credit markets and make borrowing easier for homebuyers, small businesses and students.

The Federal Reserve said it would buy up to $600 billion in mortgage-backed assets from government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It would buy up to $100 billion in debt directly from the companies and up to $500 billion in mortgage-backed securities.

“This action is being taken to reduce the cost and increase the availability of credit for the purchase of houses, which in turn should support housing markets and foster improved conditions in financial markets more generally,” the Federal Reserve said in a statement.

Separately, the Fed and Treasury Department announced a $200 billion program to ease commercial lending on debt like student loans, car loans or business loans. The Fed would lend up to $200 billion to holders of asset-backed securities supported by car loans, credit card loans, student loans, and business loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.

The program would be seeded with $20 billion in “credit protection” from the Treasury Department, which is drawing the money from the original $700 billion bailout.

“It gives institutions liquidity and it’s clearly direct lending that will help consumers,” Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. said Tuesday at a news conference.The announcements came one day after President-elect Barack Obama unveiled his economic team and tried to assure Americans that he was seeking to fill any leadership vacuum, and said his economic advisers would begin working “today.” The advisers include Timothy F. Geithner, his choice for Treasury secretary. 

 nyt-logoprinter

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

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WASHINGTON – The government introduced a pair of new programs Tuesday that will provide $800 billion to help unfreeze the market for consumer debt and to make mortgage loans cheaper and more available.

The new programs from the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department are the latest effort to provides billions in government support to get the U.S. financial system back to more normal operations and keep the country from sliding into a deep and prolonged recession.

The Fed program for consumer debt will lend up to $200 billion to the holders of securities backed by various types of consumer loans such as credit cards, auto and student loans. The goal is to provide greater demand for these securities as a way of lowering interest rates consumers are paying and to make these loans more available.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had signaled that the government was working on this new program. It will be supported by $20 billion of credit protection provided by the $700 billion government rescue fund.

The Fed also said Tuesday it will buy up to $600 billion in mortgage-backed assets in a separate attempt to deal with the financial crisis.

The Fed said it will purchase up to $100 billion in direct obligations from mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as the Federal Home Loan Banks. It also will purchase another $500 billion in mortgage-backed securities, pools of mortgages that are bundled together and sold to investors.

The severe financial crisis rocking global markets began more than a year ago with rising defaults on subprime mortgages, loans provided to borrowers with weak credit histories.

The billions of dollars of losses financial institutions have suffered on their mortgage loans have caused banks to stop making new loans of various types. The huge loan losses have also caused multiple failures and takeovers, resulting in the biggest upheavals in the financial system since the Great Depression.

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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

ABC News has learned that Dr. Susan Rice has emerged as the leading candidate to be President-elect Obama’s nominee as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Neither Dr. Rice nor the Obama Transition Team had any comment. The usual caveats apply — nothing is yet a done deal, nothing has been officially offered or accepted, national security team announcements will not come until after Thanksgiving.

Obama 2008 Foreign Policy

Dr. Rice, a member of President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council and a former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, was involved in President-elect Obama’s campaign as a senior foreign policy adviser.

The former Rhodes Scholar in 2000 received the National Security Council’s Samuel Nelson Drew Memorial Award for distinguished contributions to the formation of peaceful, cooperative relationships between nations, and U.S. security policy for global peace.

The purpose of Al Qaeda’s latest video message is to get Muslims to hate Barack Obama. It didn’t work.

NEWSWEEK: Ahmed Benchemsi

The video message from Al Qaeda’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in which he called Barack Obama a “house Negro,” demonstrates, if anything, that the terrorists are always damn good in PR. You feel disgusted? Horrified? That’s exactly their aim. In this regard, Zawahiri’s diabolical comparison of Obama and Malcolm X (“an honorable American who converted to Islam,” as Zawahiri put it) is an even bolder move: not only do they insult the American president-elect, but they rub it into one of America’s deepest wounds—the racial divisions and the profound antagonisms generated by Malcolm X’s radical claims. In terms of “hatred arts,” this is just brilliant. Those who are shocked by Zawahiri’s words have merely to remember: spreading hate is the terrorists’ job. Hating you is not enough; they also need you to hate them, so the struggle goes on unchallenged.

ayman-al-zawahiris-video-message-in-which-he-pays-tribute-to-the-killed-al-qaida-military-commander-abu-al-libi

Al Qaeda and all its followers badly need to perpetuate Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” paradigm. The West and Islam are deadly enemies, in the radicals’ view. The more irreconcilable the former, the happier the latter. In this regard, the agenda of Bush and the neocons was a true blessing for the terrorists. Consider this: after 9/11 and the U.S. strike on Afghanistan, Al Qaeda was badly hit and its leaders were piteously hiding in caves. Later, by attacking Iraq for no valid reason–which caused, as a direct or indirect consequence, hundreds of thousands of deaths among innocent civilians–Bush’s administration provided Al Qaeda leaders with a new rationale. They reinvigorated, prospered and recruited hundreds, if not thousands, of brand-new adeptsfollowers, infused with a strong willingness for jihad. “War on terror”? If they could, they would just keep it on forever.

Al Qaeda’s true problem with Obama has indeed nothing to do with the color of his skin. By proposing to meet Iran’s Ahmadinejad without preconditions instead of just bombing him out, the American president-elect thinks outside of the confrontation box. The radicals just hate that. And above all, they hate the idea of the United States resuming the chase of Al Qaeda operatives in the mountains of the Pakistan-Afghanistan borders. He’s coming to them, how could they not react fiercely?

There is something else, which I witness everyday in the streets of Casablanca, where I live: Muslims tend to claim Obama as their own—because he’s black, because he comes from an oppressed minority, because his middle name is Hussein. I presume this holds true for all the nonradical Muslims (the vast majority of them) throughout the world. Not that they think Obama is a Muslim himself—he made clear that he was not. Yet he could have been. His father was. Anyway, this man looks like a “brother” to many Muslims, which is indeed a good thing for the prospect of global peace.

Not surprisingly, Zawahiri’s video message targeted this specific point: “Obama is not a Muslim, he’s a renegade who abandoned his ancestor’s religion to embrace the ‘crusaders faith’ and the ‘Zionists’ ideology’,” Zawahiri suggests. The genuine message being: please don’t like him!

Well, too bad for them: we do. We will like him more, of course, if he keeps his promise of backing out of Iraq within 16 months and putting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on track. Meanwhile, let’s all of us, Muslims and Westerners, take advantage of the honeymoon period. And let’s enjoy the terrorists’ embarrassment: it’s a rare occasion.

Benchemsi is editor and publisher of the Moroccan newsweekly magazines TelQuel and Nichane

11-10-2008-11-04-36-am1 We’ve never had a First Lady quite like Michelle Obama. How she’ll change the world’s image of African-American women—and the way we see ourselves.

NEWSWEEK: Allison Samuels

At a recent Sunday brunch after church, my “sista friends” and I sat on the patio of a Los Angeles restaurant gabbing about the election of Barack Obama. Sure, we were caught up in the history of the moment. Most of us never thought we’d see an African-American president. But as a group of six black women in our 30s and 40s, we were equally excited by who is coming along with Obama to the White House—his wife, Michelle, and their two young daughters. We all praised—OK, maybe even envied—Michelle’s double Ivy League pedigree, her style, her cool but friendly demeanor. And yet we’re all aware of how much we have riding on her. At 44, Michelle Obama will be the youngest First Lady since Jacqueline Kennedy. And many are expecting her to usher in a similarly glamorous era in Washington. (“Bamelot,” as some are already calling it.) But Michelle’s influence could go far beyond the superficial. When her husband raises his hand to take the oath of office, Michelle will become the world’s most visible African-American woman. The new First Lady will have the chance to knock down ugly stereotypes about black women and educate the world about American black culture more generally. But perhaps more important—even apart from what her husband can do—Michelle has the power to change the way African-Americans see ourselves, our lives and our possibilities.

Read On…

WILMINGTON, Del. – Edward “Ted” Kaufman, a former aide to Sen. Joe Biden, was named Monday by Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to fill the Senate seat Biden is leaving for the vice presidency. Kaufman, co-chair of Biden’s transition team and an Obama-Biden transition project advisory board member, plans to serve until the 2010 election, when a new senator is elected. He said he is comfortable stepping down after two years in office.

Ted Kaufman speaks after being appointed by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to fill the Senate seat Joe Biden is leaving for the vice presidency, in Wilmington, Del. Monday, Nov. 24, 2008. Kaufman, a former aide to Sen. Joe Biden, is president of a political and management consulting firm based in Wilmington.

Ted Kaufman speaks after being appointed by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to fill the Senate seat Joe Biden is leaving for the vice presidency, in Wilmington, Del. Monday, Nov. 24, 2008. Kaufman, a former aide to Sen. Joe Biden, is president of a political and management consulting firm based in Wilmington.

“I don’t think Delaware’s appointed senator should spend the next two years running for office,” Kaufman said. “I will do this job to the fullest of my ability, and spend my days focused on one thing and one thing only: serving Delaware.”

Speculation on Biden’s successor had centered in recent weeks on his son, Attorney General Beau Biden. But last week the younger Biden announced that he planned to fulfill his National Guard duties and wouldn’t accept an appointment to his father’s U.S. Senate seat.

Biden is a prosecutor for the 261st Signal Brigade, which left for Iraq last week. The unit is due back in September 2009, in time for Biden to run for his father’s Senate seat.

Kaufman, 69, said Monday night that he was “not a placeholder for anyone. At the end of the two years, anyone who wants to run can run.”

The elder Biden said in a statement, “It is no secret that I believe my son, Attorney General Beau Biden, would make a great United States Senator just as I believe he has been a great attorney general. But Beau has made it clear from the moment he entered public life that any office he sought he would earn on his own.”

Just before announcing Kaufman as the appointee, Minner acknowledged speculation about the younger Biden being picked for the post and said she would have strongly considered him.
“The fact that Beau Biden is committed to fulfilling his obligation and not seeking appointment to this office tells us everything we need to know about his character,” she said. “Should Beau choose to run for this office in 2010, he will — as will whoever runs — have to earn on his own the trust of the people of Delaware.”

Minner said she thought Kaufman was the best qualified candidate and she also looked for an appointee whose political views were close to the Biden’s.

Kaufman said he couldn’t think of anything he and Biden disagreed on and he was impressed by that even back in 1972 when Biden was first running for office.

“I was struck by how many things he believed that I also believed,” he said.

However, Kaufman’s experience in Washington will differ from Biden’s in one respect. He does plan to spend time in Delaware, but he and his wife will get a home in Washington, unlike Biden, who rode Amtrak between Washington and Wilmington.

Biden will be sworn in on Jan. 6, but in mid-January he will step down and Kaufman will be sworn in, Kaufman said.

Kaufman held a senior position in all of Biden’s federal campaigns. He served on Biden’s Senate staff from 1973 to 1994, including 19 years as chief of staff.

He is a senior lecturing fellow at Duke University and has served by presidential appointment since 1995 as a charter member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. He also heads a political and management consulting firm based in Wilmington, Del., and previously worked for the DuPont Co.

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President-elect Barack Obama introduced his economic team on Monday in Chicago. From left are, Timothy F. Geithner, Christina Romer and Lawrence Summers.

President-elect Barack Obama introduced his economic team on Monday in Chicago. From left are, Timothy F. Geithner, Christina Romer and Lawrence Summers.

Citing an “economic crisis of historic proportions” President-elect Barack Obama announced the key members of his economic team at a news conference in Chicago.

Update | 12:34 p.m. The Q & A was over pretty quickly, and Mr. Obama and his newly introduced economic team filed offstage.

Here’s a quick thumbnail that Mr. Obama gave in introducing each of them:

Mr. Geithner: “offers not just extensive experience shaping economic policy and managing financial markets – but an unparalleled understanding of our current economic crisis, in all of its depth, complexity and urgency. Tim will waste no time getting up to speed. He will start his first day on the job with a unique insight into the failures of today’s markets – and a clear vision of the steps we must take to revive them.”

“Growing up partly in Africa and having lived and worked throughout Asia; having served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs – one of many roles in the international arena; and having studied both Chinese and Japanese, Tim understands the language of today’s international markets in more ways than one.”

Mr. Summers: “Larry helped guide us through several major international financial crises – and was a central architect of the policies that led to the longest economic expansion in American history, with record surpluses, rising family incomes and more than 20 million new jobs. He also championed a range of measures – from tax credits to enhanced lending programs to consumer financial protections – that greatly benefited middle income families.”

“As a thought leader, Larry has urged us to confront the problems of income inequality and the middle class squeeze, consistently arguing that the key to a strong economy is a strong and growing middle class. This idea is the core of my own economic philosophy and will be the foundation for all of my economic policies.”

Ms. Romer: “Christina is both a leading macroeconomist and a leading economic historian, perhaps best known for her work on America’s recovery from the Great Depression and the robust economic expansion that followed. Since 2003, she has been co-director of the National Bureau of Economic Research Monetary Economics program. She is also a member of the Bureau’s Business Cycle Dating Committee – the body charged with officially determining when a recession has started and ended – experience which will serve her well as she advises me on our current economic challenges.”

“Christina has also done groundbreaking research on many of the topics our Administration will confront – from tax policy to fighting recessions. And her clear-eyed, independent analyses have received praise from both conservative and liberal thinkers alike. I look forward to her wise counsel in the White House.”

Ms. Barnes: She has a “brilliant legal mind” and is “one of the most respected policy experts in America, will be serving as director of my Domestic Policy Council.” She will be “working hand-in-hand with my economic policy team to chart a course to economic recovery. An integral part of that course will be health care reform – and she will work closely with my Secretary of Health and Human Services on that issue.”

“As executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress, Melody directed a network of policy experts dedicated to finding solutions for struggling middle class families. She also served as chief counsel to the great Senator Ted Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee, working on issues ranging from crime to immigration to bankruptcy, and fighting tirelessly to protect civil rights, women’s rights and religious freedom.”

Related: What Economic Blogs Are Saying

Auto Industry | 12:32 p.m. Question: What should be done about the auto industry?

Mr. Obama gets tough on Detroit and says he was “surprised” that the auto execs went to Washington last week without being better prepared.

“We can’t allow the auto industry to simply vanish,” he says, but “we can’t just write a blank check.” Nor, he said, can taxpayers be expected “to pony up more money to an auto industry that has been resistant to change.”

Then this: “I was surprised they didn’t have a better-thought-out proposal when they arrived in Congress.” He says Congress “did the right thing to say you guys need to come up with a better plan and come back.”

But any additional money for the industry, he says, should assure a long-term sustainable auto industry and is not just “kicking the can down the road.”

Economic Approach | 12:27 p.m. Question: How will your approach to the economy differ from the “ad hoc” approach of the last year?

Mr. Obama says he wants to make sure that moving forward he is “clearly articulating” his end goals, what he is trying to achieve and that there is “clarity and transparency” to his plan. Markets have been confused about the overall direction of the economy, he says, and he wants to provide clarity.

Stimulus Package? | 12:25 p.m. Ah, now we’ve got sound. But he still declines to discuss the size of the stimulus package. He says there is a consensus “across the spectrum” that we need an economic stimulus package and that it’s big enough to give a “jolt” to the economy. He is vague about how to pay for it beyond “reforms” in Washington.

On to Questions | 12:19 p.m. In the question-and-answer period, the questions, alas, are inaudible. But Mr. Obama declines to put a price tag on his stimulus package. Apparently he was asked about the Bush tax cuts because Mr. Obama says he isn’t sure exactly how those tax cuts will be repealed.

No Shortcuts | 12:15 p.m. “We need a recovery plan for both Wall Street and Main Street – a plan that stabilizes our financial system and gets credit flowing again, while at the same time addressing our growing foreclosure crisis, helping our struggling auto industry, and creating and saving 2.5 million jobs – jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing our schools, and creating the clean energy infrastructure of the twenty-first century,” he says. “Because at this moment, we must both restore confidence in our markets – and restore the confidence of middle class families, who find themselves working harder, earning less, and falling further and further behind.”

He adds: “Again, this won’t be easy. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes to this crisis, which has been many years in the making – and the economy is likely to get worse before it gets better. Full recovery won’t happen immediately. And to make the investments we need, we’ll have to scour our federal budget, line-by-line, and make meaningful cuts and sacrifices as well – something I’ll be discussing further tomorrow.”

‘Crisis of Historic Proportions’ | 12:09 p.m. “We are facing an economic crisis of historic proportions,” Mr. Obama says, and we need the best minds to bring sound judgment and fresh thinking. He said his team are people who share his fundamental belief that we can’t have a thriving wall street without a thriving Main Street.

The News Conference Begins | 12:03 p.m. The market continues to cilmb as Mr. Obama opens his news conference. The Dow is up 306 points so far.

In addition to Mr. Geithner, Mr. Summers and Ms. Romer, Mr. Obama announces Melody C. Barnes will be director of the Domestic Policy Council, which will Ms. Barnes previously served as executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress and as chief counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee from December 1995 until March 2003, according to the transition team. Mr. Obama said that an integral part of Ms. Barnes’s job will be working closely with the Secretary of Health and Human Services on health care reform.

Prepared Text

The Economic Team | 11:53 a.m. President-elect Barack Obama is about to hold a news conference in Chicago and announce the members of his economic team, including Timothy F. Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve, as his Treasury secretary.

Mr. Obama also plans to name Larry Summers, who was Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration, as the head of his National Economic Council and Christina Romer, a well-regarded economist at the University of California at Berkeley, to lead the Council of Economic Advisers.

And he is expected to make the case for an expanded economic stimulus package to create or preserve 2.5 million jobs during the next two years.

thecaucus75

barack-obama-audacity-of-hope

Barack Obama’s presidential victory permeates this month’s list of best-selling political books, with both of his own works returning to the top and several by others landing among the 15 most popular.

President-elect Obama’s “Audacity Of Hope,” a former mainstay since the inception of the Caucus’s Poli-Book list, returns at No. 1, and his earlier memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” lands at No. 2.

An overwhelming focus continues on the 44th president-elect in pictorials and essays: “The American Journey Of Barack Obama” by the editors of Life magazine is No. 4; “The Rise Of Barack Obama” by Pete Souza is No. 8; “Obama” by Deborah Willis and Kevin Merida is No. 15. And “Michelle” by Liza Mundy falls at No. 13, as the first book on First Lady Michelle Obama to grace the list.

Also new this month is “American Lion” by Jon Meacham at No. 6. The controversial seventh president, founder of the Democratic Party, Andrew Jackson, made a radical stir in the political hierarchy, with lasting effects to date, by shifting from government concerns to giving more power to ordinary citizens.

The full list follows:

Poli-Book Best Seller List

Based on sales for weeks ending Oct. 25 through Nov. 15, 2008

1. The Audacity Of Hope, by Barack Obama. (Crown, $25.) The president-elect asks Americans to move beyond political divi sions.

2. Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama. (Crown, $25.95.) The president-elect on life as the son of a black African father and a white American mother.

3. Hot, Flat, And Crowded, by Thomas L. Friedman. (Far rar, Straus & Giroux, $27.95.) How a green revolution can renew America, by The New York Times columnist.

4. The American Journey Of Barack Obama, by the editors of Life magazine. (Little, Brown, $24.99.) Photographs and essays, starting with Obama’s birth in Hawaii.

5. Fleeced, by Dick Morris and Eileen McGann. (Harper, $26.95.) Americans are fleeced by government, business, labor unions and lobbyists.

6. American Lion, by Jon Meacham. (Random House, $30.) An drew Jackson, the seventh president, in the White House, by the editor of Newsweek.

7. Tried By War, by James M. McPherson. (Penguin Press, $35.) Abraham Lincoln as commander in chief, from the author of “Battle Cry of Freedom.”

8. The Rise Of Barack Obama, by Pete Souza. (Triumph, $27.95.) Photographs of Obama’s career, from his first day in the United States Senate to the Pennsylvania primary last April.

9. Ted, White, And Blue, by Ted Nugent. (Regnery, $27.95.) A manifesto by the rock star, gun advocate and host of an Outdoor Channel hunting show celebrates “what so many Americans em brace as abundant truth, common sense and inescapable logic.”

10. Kill Bin Laden, by Dalton Fury. (St. Martin’s, $25.95.) The siege of Tora Bora by the elite counterterrorism unit Delta Force, by the senior ranking military officer at the battle.

11. The Limits Of Power, by Andrew Bacevich. (Holt, $24.) A retired Army colonel argues that American citizens are ultimately responsible for the country’s military and economic woes. (†)

12. Goodnight Bush, by Erich Origen and Gan Golan. (Little, Brown, $14.99.) A requiem for the Bush administration, based on the children’s book “Goodnight Moon.”

13. Michelle, by Liza Mundy. (Simon & Schuster, $25.) The Washington Post writer paints an intimate portrait Of Michelle Obama’s life.

14. The War Within, by Bob Woodward. (Simon & Schuster, $32.) White House debates over the Iraq war, 2006-8.

15. Obama, by Deborah Willis and Kevin Merida. (Amistad, $26.95.) Photographs capturing Obama’s 18-month campaign to the presidency.

thecaucus75

Something for the prediction lovers out there!
He’s someone who says things are going to be looking up!

On the Chris Matthews Show today, Matthews argued that one of the major differences between President Bush and President-elect Barack Obama is the fact that Obama is intellectually curious. As an example of Bush’s lack of intellectual curiosity, Matthews played a 2004 clip of Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward saying on 60 Minutes that Bush “is not an intellectual” or what “would be called a deep thinker.”

Asked by Matthews to explain why Bush “shows little intellectual curiosity,” Woodward said it was essentially because Bush “doesn’t like homework”:

    WOODWARD: I think he’s impatient. I think, my summation: He doesn’t like homework. And homework means reading or getting briefed or having a debate. And part of the presidency, part of governing, particularly in this area, is homework, homework, homework.

Watch:

Woodward, who has written four books on the Bush White House, has reported multiple instances in which Bush has put his distaste for homework on display. In 2004, Woodward told PBS’s Frontline about how Bush describes himself as “a gut player” who doesn’t “play by the book“:

    QUESTION: What does that tell us about this president, how his mind works and how he functions as an executive? …
    WOODWARD: Bush looks at problems. And he told me, he said: “I’m a gut player. I play by instincts. I don’t play by the book.” And of course the book is Policy 101 about how you make these kinds of decisions, and all of this [is] coming from the gut.

In his most recent book, Woodward reported that Bush actually bragged about not attending meetings where key decisions about the surge were made, telling Woodward, “I’m not in these meetings, you’ll be happy to hear, because I got other things to do.” Woodward has said that in his eyes, Bush has “often displayed impatience and a lack of interest in open debate.”

Transcript:

    MATTHEWS: Bob, he obviously relies a lot on instinct and is proud of that fact. Is that why he shows little intellectual curiosity about other people’s thinking?
    WOODWARD: I think he’s impatient. I think, my summation: He doesn’t like homework. And homework means reading or getting briefed or having a debate. And part of the presidency, part of governing, particularly in this area, is homework, homework, homework.
    MATTHEWS: And Obama?
    WOODWARD: Obama is the opposite. He mainlines homework. He does, you know, where is extra credit.

Source: Think Progress

Timothy Geithner is a seasoned crisis manager with a temperament to match that of Barack Obama

timgeithner

STOCKMARKETS soared on Friday November 21st when investors learned that Barack Obama would nominate Timothy Geithner as his Treasury Secretary. That might seem odd. The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was already a favourite for the post. And he brings no magical solution to the financial crisis: he has been battling it for over a year, with no end in sight.

The 494-point (6.5%) jump in the Dow Jones Industrial Average is more a statement about investors’ anxiety over the unsettled state of economic policymaking. News of the Treasury nominee holds out the prospect of a more coherent and forceful approach to the crisis. The current treasury secretary, Hank Paulson, is reworking the $700 billion bail-out plan on the fly, policymakers are struggling over a new approach to foreclosures, the status of the mortgage agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is in limbo, and Congress has just sent the carmakers, teetering close to insolvency, home empty handed. The two months before Mr Obama is sworn in seem like an eternity.

Investors were also relieved that their darkest fears of a Sarah Palin-like shock announcement did not come to pass and that Mr Obama, as in his other important appointments, has chosen ability over connections. Mr Geithner does not know Mr Obama well and has no notable ties to the Democratic Party. But for this cabinet post more than any other, an overtly political appointment would have been corrosive to investor confidence.

Assuming he is nominated Mr Geithner brings two crucial qualities. First, he represents continuity. From the first days of the crisis last year, he has worked hand in glove with Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, and Mr Paulson. He can continue to do so while awaiting confirmation. If Citigroup, for example, needs federal help, Mr Geithner will be involved. An unknown when he joined the New York Fed in 2003, he is now a familiar face to the most senior executives on Wall Street and to central bankers and finance ministers overseas.

Second, he represents competence. He has spent more time on financial crises, from Mexico and Thailand to Brazil and Argentina, than probably any other policymaker in office today. Mr Geithner understands better than almost anyone that in crises you throw out the forecast and focus on avoiding low probability events with catastrophic consequences. Such judgments are excruciating: do too little, and you undermine confidence and generate a bigger crisis that needs even bigger policy action. Do too much, and you look panicked and invite blowback from Wall Street, Congress and the press. At times during the crisis Mr Geithner would counsel Mr Bernanke on the importance of the right “ratio of drama to effectiveness”.

Mr Geithner looks a lot younger than his 47 years. He skateboards and snowboards and exudes a sort of hipster-wonkiness, using “way” as a synonym for “very” as in “way consequential” and occasionally underlining his point with the word “fuck”. 

In temperament he seems similar to Mr Obama: he is suspicious of ideology, questions received wisdom

 

In normal times, risk aversion damps economic cycles; in a crisis, it accentuates them, leading to withdrawn credit, evaporating liquidity, margin calls, falling asset prices, and more risk aversion. “The brake becomes the accelerator,” as he puts it. Indeed, although he worked alongside Mr Paulson on the crisis, he has at times advocated a more aggressive approach. For example, news reports say that he was not comfortable with Mr Paulson’s decision to take public money off the table in the ultimately unsuccessful effort to save Lehman Brothers. He has not always got it right: he was the most important architect of the original bail-out of American International Group, an insurer, which in time has proved flawed, requiring significant amendment.

Mr Geithner looks a lot younger than his 47 years (though not as young as he did before the crisis began). He skateboards and snowboards and exudes a sort of hipster-wonkiness, using “way” as a synonym for “very” as in “way consequential” and occasionally underlining his point with the word “fuck”. In temperament he seems similar to Mr Obama: he is suspicious of ideology, questions received wisdom, likes a competition of ideas and is keenly aware of how uncertain the world is.

Mr Geithner learned about crisis management as an aide to Lawrence Summers who rose to Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton. Mr Summers was the other candidate for the job under Mr Obama, and his appointment would probably also have been greeted enthusiastically. He will reportedly join the administration in a White House advisory role.

Mr Geithner leaves a big hole; the New York Fed president is by tradition the financial system’s go-to crisis manager, and that job has never been more important in the modern era than it is now. A probable candidate to succeed him is a Fed governor, Kevin Warsh. Though young (he is just 38) he has been a central player in the crisis thanks to his extensive contacts in the financial world and closeness to Mr Bernanke, who puts great store in Mr Warsh’s feel for politics and markets (see our recent blog post). That appointment will be made by the board of the New York Fed.

Mr Geithner faces a huge job. He will have critical decisions to make on whether to enlarge or alter the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Programme, what sort of firms will qualify for its money, whether and how to bail out the carmakers, what to do with the flailing mortgage agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and how to deal with countless other chapters in the continuing crisis. Unlike Mr Summers he is not an economist and brings no expertise to many of the big economic-policy questions that the Obama administration will confront such as health care, fiscal policy and taxes, even though he will be the primary spokesman on the administration’s economic policies.

He is a quick learner: within a year of joining the New York Fed he could debate the intricacies of monetary policy with academic experts. But he will join an administration rapidly filling up with heavyweights on economic policy, not least of them Mr Summers. Indeed, one of the big questions of the new team that Mr Obama is expected to unveil on Monday is just how Mr Summers, a brilliant but intimidating and sometimes abrasive figure, will fit in.

Mr Obama is assembling a formidable economic team. With the economy perhaps on the precipice of its worst recession since the Depression, he will need it.

Source: Economist

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AT HIS RIGHT HAND Barack Obama and Valerie Jarrett getting lunch last week in Chicago. Ms. Jarrett took Mr. Obama under her wing nearly two decades ago.

AT HIS RIGHT HAND Barack Obama and Valerie Jarrett getting lunch last week in Chicago. Ms. Jarrett took Mr. Obama under her wing nearly two decades ago.

 

CHICAGO — On a dark afternoon last week, the road to Jerusalem and Beijing momentarily veered through the office of a real estate company here.

Valerie Jarrett, the company’s chief executive, had signed her resignation letter an hour earlier, and now she was taking phone calls from potential top diplomatic appointees.

“You don’t need to thank me,” she said soothingly to a booming male voice on her cellphone. “I just wanted you to have a chance to make your case.”

If someone were to rank the long list of people who helped Barack and Michelle Obama get where they are today, Ms. Jarrett would be close to the top. Nearly two decades ago, Ms. Jarrett swept the young lawyers under her wing, introduced them to a wealthier and better-connected Chicago than their own, and eventually secured contacts and money essential to Mr. Obama’s long-shot Senate victory.

In the crush of his presidential campaign, Ms. Jarrett could have fallen by the wayside, as old mentors often do. But the opposite happened: Using her intimacy with the Obamas, two BlackBerrys and a cellphone, Ms. Jarrett, a real estate executive and civic leader with no national campaign experience, became an internal mediator and external diplomat who secured the trust of black leaders, forged peace with Clintonites and helped talk Mr. Obama through major decisions.

She “automatically understands your values and your vision,” Michelle Obama said in a telephone interview Friday, and is “somebody never afraid to tell you the truth.” Mrs. Obama added: “She knows the buttons, the soft spots, the history, the context.”

In January, Ms. Jarrett will go to the White House as a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, where she will be “one of the four or five people in the room with him when decisions get made,” as Anita Dunn, a Democratic strategist close to Mr. Obama, put it. Ms. Jarrett, who is a co-chairwoman of Mr. Obama’s transition effort, will also serve as the White House contact for local and state officials across the nation and the point person for Mr. Obama’s effort to build a channel between his White House and ordinary Americans.

Less formally, she intends to help Mr. Obama preserve his essential self as he becomes president, even as she becomes the type of person who chats with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, mingles with Warren Buffett and is now sometimes greeted by strangers.

Washingtonians who assess the new White House crew sometimes cast Ms. Jarrett in parochial terms: she is the hometown buddy, they say, or the one who will hear out the concerns of black leaders. They note that presidential friends do not always fare well in the capital, that confidants from Arkansas and Texas have stumbled in the corridors of the West Wing.

Asked what was her biggest worry about the job, which is a major leap from anything she has undertaken before, Ms. Jarrett said she sometimes feared she did not know enough. “I will try to do my homework,” she said.

Ms. Jarrett, 52, has often been underestimated: perhaps because she is often the only black woman at the boardroom tables where she sits, or perhaps because she can seem girlish, with a pixie haircut, singsong voice and suits that earned her a recent profile in Vogue.

A protégée of Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago, Ms. Jarrett served as his planning commissioner, ran a real estate company, the Habitat Company — whose management of public housing projects has come under scrutiny with Ms. Jarrett’s rise — and sits on too many boards to count. She is an expert in urban affairs, particularly housing and transportation, in an administration expected to lavish more money and attention on cities than its predecessors.

And she has something no other adviser in the Obama White House ever will: ties to the president-elect and future first lady that go deeper than a political alliance. Ms. Jarrett is only a few years older than the Obamas, but her relationship with them can seem almost maternal. “I can count on someone like Valerie to take my hand and say, You need to think about these three things,” Mrs. Obama said. “Like a mom, a big sister, I trust her implicitly.”

During big speeches, Ms. Jarrett watched Mr. Obama with a gaze of such intensity that he and their other friends laugh about it. “Barack always jokes, You can’t look Valerie in the eye, she’s going to make you cry,” said Martin Nesbitt, the treasurer of the campaign.

Read on…

President-elect Barack Obama and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who will have a desk near the Oval Office, during a pre-election stop on Sept. 29.

President-elect Barack Obama and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who will have a desk near the Oval Office, during a pre-election stop on Sept. 29.

Loyal allies to dominate inner sanctum but Clinton vets will abound

WASHINGTON – Two main quarries are supplying the building blocks for President-elect Barack Obama’s new administration.

Longtime, deeply loyal associates will dominate the White House inner sanctum. And veterans of Bill Clinton’s presidency will hold vital jobs throughout the government, although a bit farther from the Oval Office.

The structure suggests Obama is confident enough to hand top posts to former rivals whose loyalty is not guaranteed, a strategy many presidents have avoided. But most of those on Obama’s team who will have his ear everyday will be old friends and experienced advisers who are seen as having no ambitions beyond his success.

Obama raised eyebrows this month when he tapped some of Clinton’s closest allies for important jobs.

John Podesta, Clinton’s former White House chief of staff, is heading the transition effort. Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a former top Clinton adviser, is Obama’s chief of staff. Former Clinton appointees Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano appear in line for Cabinet posts.

Even more startling to many, Obama has signaled plans to name former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.

Some Obama supporters have praised him for reaching out to his toughest primary opponent. But others question why they worked so hard to defeat Clinton only to see her, and many close to her, grab prizes in the new administration. They note that Obama repeatedly campaigned against “the politics of the past” and Washington “dramas,” thinly veiled jabs at the Clinton presidency as well as President George W. Bush’s tenure.

Stephen Hess, a George Washington University authority on presidential transitions, said Obama is playing it smart.

“It’s easy to make a leap that this is going to be a repeat of the Clinton administration and there’s no way that’s going to happen,” said Hess, who first worked for the Eisenhower administration.

Value of ‘old-timers’
Obama needs a core of Democrats with federal government experience, Hess said, and veterans of Bill Clinton’s administration are virtually the only source.

“The old-timers are exceedingly valuable to him now,” he said, but Obama “also has his own group of advisers, and he will merge the two groups.”

That merger began taking shape last week. Obama’s three “senior advisers,” who will have desks near the Oval Office, are some of his closest and longest-serving allies:

  • David Axelrod, his Chicago-based media strategist, will focus on message and communications.
  • Valerie Jarrett, a Chicago businesswoman and close family friend, probably will concentrate on intergovernmental relations and community outreach.
  • Pete Rouse, who was Obama’s Senate chief of staff, is expected to work closely with Emanuel on White House operations and congressional affairs.
  • :.
    Read on…
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    Today on “Fox News Sunday,” Obama adviser David Axelrod talked to Chris Wallace about the economy and the upcoming appointments that the President-elect plans to make.
    Real Clear Politics

    President Bush, who not so long ago argued that it was defeatist to insist upon a timetable for a withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq, now tentatively has negotiated — drum roll, please — a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops.

    The status of forces agreement reached recently between the Bush administration and the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki calls for pulling American forces out of Iraqi cities by the end of next June and the departure of all U.S. military units by the end of 2011.

    The situation may not look ideal in Iraq for a while.

    The situation may not look ideal in Iraq for a while.

    Moreover, the President agreed to other Iraqi demands he once dismissed: no permanent U.S. bases in Iraq; a ban on use of Iraqi territory to attack neighbors, including Iran and Syria; and more Iraqi control over U.S. military operations and movements.

    Of course, nothing in Iraq is simple or certain. The Iraqi parliament must approve the deal in a vote scheduled for this week. Any plan would be carried out on the U.S. end not by Mr. Bush but by Barack Obama, who has favored a faster pullout. Shiite cleric and militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr demands the immediate ouster of the American “invader,” and some Sunni and Kurdish leaders fear being left at the mercy of Mr. al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government.

    Still, in the byzantine world of Iraqi politics, such wrangling may have less to do with how to deal now with the Americans than with how various factions are positioning themselves for a post-American future.

    That is a consideration that Mr. Obama should be weighing as well.

    It is going to be tempting for the incoming president — particularly considering the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the war’s cost of more than $10 billion per month — to speed up the American withdrawal.

    And perhaps that will be possible. We hope so. At the same time, if Mr. al-Maliki is able to win approval of the pact, American involvement is going to be needed to prod the Iraqis toward political consensus and real sharing of oil revenues, accelerate training of Iraqi security forces and encourage responsible Middle Eastern countries to foster stability in Iraq.

    Leaving Iraq as quickly as feasible is desirable. Doing everything possible to prevent a need ever to return is imperative.

    Source: c-j

    :.

    Sarah Palin continues to attract huge media interest despite her failed bid to become vice president.

    Sarah Palin continues to attract huge media interest despite her failed bid to become vice president.

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Oprah wants her, and so do Letterman and Leno. Fresh from her political defeat, Sarah Palin is juggling offers to write books, appear in films and sit on dozens of interview couches at a rate that would be astonishing for most Hollywood stars, let alone a first-term governor.

    Sarah Palin continues to attract huge media interest despite her failed bid to become vice president.

    The failed Republican vice presidential candidate crunched state budget numbers this week in her 17th-floor office as tumbling oil prices hit Alaska’s revenues. Meanwhile, her staff fielded television requests seeking the 44-year-old for late-night banter and Sunday morning Washington policy.

    Agents, including those from the William Morris Agency, have come knocking. There’s even been an offer to host a TV show.

    “Tomorrow, Gov. Palin could do an interview with any news media on the planet,” said her spokesman, Bill McAllister. “Tomorrow, she could probably sign any one of a dozen book deals. She could start talking to people about a documentary or a movie on her life. That’s the level we are at here.”

    “Barbara Walters called me. George Stephanopoulos called me,” McAllister said. “I’ve had multiple conversations with producers for Oprah, Letterman, Leno and ‘The Daily Show.’ ”

    Asked whether Winfrey was pursuing Palin for a sit-down, Michelle McIntyre, a spokeswoman for Winfrey’s Chicago-based Harpo Productions Inc., said she was “unable to confirm any future plans” for the show.

    Palin may have emerged from the campaign politically wounded, with questions about her preparedness for higher office and reports of an expensive wardrobe, but she’s returned to Alaska with an expanded, if unofficial, title: international celebrity.

    Sen. John McCain plucked Palin out of relative obscurity in late August and put her on the national Republican ticket. Now, she has to decide how and where to spend her time, which could have implications for her political future and her bank account, with possible land mines of legal and ethical rules.

    Palin is considering about 800 requests for appearances from December through 2009, with 75 percent coming from out of state. A year ago, just a sprinkle of requests came from beyond Alaska’s borders. They range from invitations to speak at the Chief Executives’ Club of Boston, Massachusetts, and to attend a 5-year-old’s birthday party, from a prayer breakfast in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to a business conference in Britain.

    Michael Steele, the former Maryland lieutenant governor who wants to be the next chairman of the Republican National Committee, is seeking face time.

    She has invitations to make appearances in 20 foreign countries, typically with all expenses paid, McAllister said. She has more than 200 requests for media interviews, again from around the globe.

    “She has to pace herself,” suggested veteran Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman. “She wants a career made in a Crock-Pot, not a microwave.”

    In her two months on the national stage, Palin energized the Republican base but turned off moderates and independents, according to some surveys. Flubbed answers in national television interviews raised questions about her competence. She was embarrassed by the disclosure that the RNC spent at least $150,000 for designer clothing, accessories and beauty services for her and her family.

    The right book or movie deal could help Palin reintroduce herself to the nation, on terms she could dictate.

    Although books and movie deals could be worth millions of dollars, it’s not clear whether Palin would be able to legally earn it. State rules say she cannot accept outside employment for compensation. But there appears to be little in the way of precedent left by former governors to judge if book deals or lucrative speaking appearances amount to “employment.”

    Palin has sent unmistakable signals that she is open to running for president in 2012, but to advance her political ambitions, she must stay in the public eye in the lower 48 states.

    As with any celebrity, there is the risk of overexposure. At the same time, she’ll be under pressure to attend to governing her home state, which is thousands of miles from the rest of the nation.

    “She has to deal with the perception that she bobbled her debut,” said Claremont McKenna College political scientist John Pitney. “She needs to stay home for a while. If she wants a future in national politics, her No. 1 job is doing a good job as governor.”

    Just this week, shortly after conducting a string of national TV interviews and skipping a state education conference, she was scolded by the Anchorage Daily News.

    “There are … low graduation rates, plummeting North Slope oil prices, proposals to build alternative energy projects, the gas pipeline,” the paper said in an editorial. “It’s time for the governor to refocus on Alaska’s needs.”

    Source: CNN
    :>

    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

     

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    Heather Zichal, a member of the Obama-Biden Transition’s Energy and Environment Policy Team, responds to questions submitted to http://www.change.gov on topics ranging from increasing the number of hybrid cars on the road to making the White House green.

    Bob Jones U. campus where interracial dating was banned until 2000

    Bob Jones U. campus where interracial dating was banned until 2000

    Never mind that most if not all Blacks descending from slavery in the US are mixed to some degree and Hispanics are a people created purely out of the New World. In any case Bob Jones thought that these people were a sin – and not worthy of having a place at his University up until 2000 – after George Bush famously visited the school. If it really matters at all – we are glad that the BJU has now seen the light.

    (CBS/AP) Bob Jones University is apologizing for racist policies that included a one-time ban on interracial dating and its unwillingness to admit black students until 1971.

    In a statement posted Thursday on its Web site, the fundamentalist Christian school founded in 1927 in northwestern South Carolina says its rules on race were shaped by culture instead of the Bible.

    The university says president Stephen Jones decided to issue the apology because he still receives questions about the school’s views on race.

    In the statement, BJU said that it was founded to help young men and women cultivate a Biblical worldview, and to represent Christ and his teachings to others, “in every dimension of life.

      “BJU’s history has been chiefly characterized by striving to achieve those goals; but like any human institution, we have failures as well. For almost two centuries American Christianity, including BJU in its early stages, was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture. Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that ethos than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures. We conformed to the culture rather than provide a clear Christian counterpoint to it.
      “In so doing, we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves. For these failures we are profoundly sorry. Though no known antagonism toward minorities or expressions of racism on a personal level have ever been tolerated on our campus, we allowed institutional policies to remain in place that were racially hurtful.”

    The school, which has about 5,000 students, banned interracial dating until 2000.

    President George W. Bush was criticized in 2000 for a campaign speech at the school while the interracial dating ban was in place.

    Source: CBS News

    barack-obama-dropping-his-daughters-malia-and-sasha-at-their-private-school-in-chicago-they-will-attend-sidwell-friends-school-in-washington

    WASHINGTON — After a school search that set off weeks of frenzied speculation among parents here, President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, announced Friday that their two daughters would attend Sidwell Friends School, the prestigious academy that has educated generations of this city’s elite.

    The Quaker-run Sidwell, which was established in 1883, has educated the children of at least three presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton. And there was an added bonus: grandchildren of Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who are friendly with the Obama girls, attend Sidwell.

    The Obama family had considered two other private institutions, Georgetown Day School and Maret School, for their girls, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.

    But Sidwell has long been described by some as the Harvard of Washington’s private schools. Its tuition runs as high as $29,442 a year.

    “A number of great schools were considered,” said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Obama. “In the end, the Obamas selected the school that was the best fit for what their daughters need right now.”

    Mayor Adrian M. Fenty of Washington strongly lobbied the Obamas to consider a public school, but that was apparently never an option.

    The Obama girls currently attend private school, the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where annual tuition runs as high as $21,480, and the family did not tour any public schools on their recent visits.

    Since Election Day, guessing which school the Obamas would choose became one of affluent Washington’s most popular parlor games.

    Camera crews staked out the schools in hopes of a glimpse of Mrs. Obama (who visited Sidwell and Georgetown Day twice) and the girls (who visited schools once this week). Parents hotly debated the merits of each.

    nyt-logoprinter

    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…

    s-obama-infomercial-large Backing Obama – with whatever he decides.

    All press reports on Hillary as Secretary of State are at the moment pre-mature.

    11-13-2008-12-44-08-am1

    First lady Laura Bush said today that Michelle Obama did not ask for advice when she visited the White House earlier this week with her two daughters.

    Instead they discussed closets.

    “We talked about is what any women would talk about as one is moving out of a home and somebody is moving in,” the First Lady told “Nightline.”

    The White House she noted, has great closets.

    Traveling to Panama for her last solo foreign trip as First Lady, Mrs. Bush gave her only television interview to “Nightline.” In a candid and wide-ranging interview to air Monday night she talked about a range of issues, including her meeting with Michelle Obama and her daughters Malia and Shasha.

    In fact, one of Mrs. Bush’s twin daughters, Barbara, accompanied Mrs. Bush on the trip and also agreed to a rare interview.

    “It was great,” said Barbara Bush of the Obama girls visit. “They’re really sweet and they’re excited, but they also have the same concerns that we had when we were 18 when our dad became President.

    “I mean, it’s a huge adjustment, and they’re not used to Secret Service, and they’re not — and they’re switching schools, and they have to make new friends. I mean, we felt… people feel like that regardless of how old they are. So it was really fun to get to meet them and to get to see them being excited about their move, and to get to talk to them about the same things that we had to deal with, regardless of age.”

    Barbara said she and her sister Jenna showed the Obama girls the bedrooms they occupied as first daughters.

    She and Mrs. Bush both said they imagined the Obama girls would select the same rooms that the Bush girls chose for themselves. They were the “obvious” children’s rooms, said Mrs. Bush.

    Asked what her advice to the Obama girls would be, Ms. Bush said, “I think my advice to them is just when they move, just make really good friends and surround themselves with people that will protect them because they love them, regardless.”

    “We were lucky” she contined. “We had great friends in Texas, and we were talking with them, and Malia has really good friends that are in fifth grade with her and at home, so they’re going to come visit her. I mean, they’ll be fine. They’re really cute, smart girls. ”

    Mrs. Bush reflected on her own children’s lives.

    “We really wanted Barbara and Jenna to be able to have a totally normal life, to not take advantage of the so-called podium that they might have, because we wanted them to get to be high school, college-age kids, which they were when we moved there,” she said.

    “So it’s, you know, it’s really a balance as you work through the whole idea of how your family can accommodate the publicity and the klieg lights that are on the President of the United States.”

    Mrs. Bush said if she was asked for advice she would urge anyone occupying the White House with children to ” err on the side of privacy for children. I think it lets children grow up and make childish mistakes, which, of course, they will out of the limelight. And I think that’s really the best.”

    Watch Cynthia McFadden’s interview with First Lady Laura Bush Monday on “Nightline” at 11:35 p.m. ET.

    11-11-2008-7-54-11-am1

     
    Source: ABC NEWS

    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

    The initial reports of Attorney General Mukasey’s collapse last night sounded very grim. But his friends and family must now be breathing a deep sigh of relief. According to a Justice Department statement just moments ago, doctors at George Washington University Hospital gave him various stress and cardiac tests overnight. And they all came up normal. So they appear to have ruled out a stroke or cardiac event. And they expect he’ll be released from the hospital later today.

    TPM

    Harvard Law

    Harvard Law

    By DAVID BROOKS

    Jan. 20, 2009, will be a historic day. Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) will take the oath of office as his wife, Michelle (Princeton, Harvard Law), looks on proudly. Nearby, his foreign policy advisers will stand beaming, including perhaps Hillary Clinton (Wellesley, Yale Law), Jim Steinberg (Harvard, Yale Law) and Susan Rice (Stanford, Oxford D. Phil.).

    The domestic policy team will be there, too, including Jason Furman (Harvard, Harvard Ph.D.), Austan Goolsbee (Yale, M.I.T. Ph.D.), Blair Levin (Yale, Yale Law), Peter Orszag (Princeton, London School of Economics Ph.D.) and, of course, the White House Counsel Greg Craig (Harvard, Yale Law).

    This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed.

    Already the culture of the Obama administration is coming into focus. Its members are twice as smart as the poor reporters who have to cover them, three times if you include the columnists. They typically served in the Clinton administration and then, like Cincinnatus, retreated to the comforts of private life — that is, if Cincinnatus had worked at Goldman Sachs, Williams & Connolly or the Brookings Institution. So many of them send their kids to Georgetown Day School, the posh leftish private school in D.C. that they’ll be able to hold White House staff meetings in the carpool line.

    And yet as much as I want to resent these overeducated Achievatrons (not to mention the incursion of a French-style government dominated by highly trained Enarchs), I find myself tremendously impressed by the Obama transition.

    The fact that they can already leak one big appointee per day is testimony to an awful lot of expert staff work. Unlike past Democratic administrations, they are not just handing out jobs to the hacks approved by the favored interest groups. They’re thinking holistically — there’s a nice balance of policy wonks, governors and legislators. They’re also thinking strategically. As Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute notes, it was smart to name Tom Daschle both the head of Health and Human Services and the health czar. Splitting those duties up, as Bill Clinton did, leads to all sorts of conflicts.

    Most of all, they are picking Washington insiders. Or to be more precise, they are picking the best of the Washington insiders.

    Obama seems to have dispensed with the romantic and failed notion that you need inexperienced “fresh faces” to change things. After all, it was L.B.J. who passed the Civil Rights Act. Moreover, because he is so young, Obama is not bringing along an insular coterie of lifelong aides who depend upon him for their well-being.

    Read on…

    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.

    washington-post_logo

    BOSTON (Reuters) – Passions flared in a Maine town on Thursday over a sign in a store asking customers to place bets on an assassination of President-elect Barack Obama.

    The Town Council in Standish condemned the sign on Thursday in a 6-0 vote and declared it reprehensible at a meeting where some residents defended the store owner, saying he had a right to free speech even if in bad taste, local authorities said.

    “The town of Standish condemns in the strongest terms any such alleged activity calling for violence against any individual no matter their position, race or ethnicity,” said the resolution posted on the town’s website.

    The sign in the Oak Hill General Store asked customers to place a $1 bet on the date of Obama’s assassination, and said “Let’s hope someone wins,” the Portland Press Herald reported. It was called the “Osama Obama Shotgun Pool.”

    The store in the town of 9,285 people in southwest Maine has remained closed since reports of the sign appeared in the media on Sunday.

    About 80 people attended the meeting, including some who defended the store owner, said town clerk Mary Chapman.

    “There were folks on both sides of the issue,” Chapman said in a telephone interview. “People were passionate of their opinion but very respectful of others.”

    Obama’s historic election victory as the nation’s first black president has sparked racist incidents nationwide, according to groups that monitor hate crimes.

    Obama, an Illinois senator, won the November 4 presidential contest in Maine over Republic Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

    Source: Reuters

    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has reduced the size of her presidential campaign debt to less than $7.5 million as of Nov. 1, according to campaign finance reports filed Thursday.

    The documents show Clinton raised nearly $690,000 in October, a minor sum compared with the $218 million she amassed in her failed presidential bid.

    11-18-2008-2-39-59-pm

    Of the $7.5 million owed to vendors, nearly $5.4 million was to her former adviser and pollster, Mark Penn. Clinton owed vendors a high of $12 million at the end of June. That was the month she abandoned her presidential campaign and ceded the Democratic nomination to now President-elect Barack Obama.

    The amount she owes Penn has been her longest outstanding debt.

    She also lent herself nearly $13.2 million. Under federal law Clinton can only repay herself $250,000 with private donations. The report also showed that she had nearly $1 million cash on hand at the end of October.

    Obama is considering Clinton for secretary of state. As a Cabinet member Clinton would face fundraising restrictions to retire her vendor debt.

    A 2001 advisory opinion by the federal Office of Special Counsel said a federal employee who still had a campaign debt would be prohibited from “personally soliciting, accepting or receiving political contributions.”

    Clinton could name an agent from her campaign committee to continue to organize and hold fundraising events to retire the debt. Clinton would be limited to attending a fundraising event and simply stating her appreciation to donors.

    Source: AP

    There is definitely something raw about that lady!!

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

    TIME