Friday, December 19, 2008

Secretary of Appeasement

Report: Obama Team Planning Iranian Outreach Post

Friday, December 19, 2008

Barack Obama is planning to create a new administration post meant to reach out to Iran, The Washington Times reported Friday.

Such a move would support the president-elect's pledge during the campaign to engage the rogue nation.

The Times quoted a State Department official who said Obama's team discussed naming a senior Iranian outreach coordinator in early meetings with Hillary Clinton, Obama's pick for secretary of state.

Iranian specialists also said the position was in the works. Obama's team has made no official announcement on the creation of such a post.

Obama drew criticism from his GOP rival John McCain during the presidential campaign for saying he would be willing to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Though the Bush administration has traditionally refused to negotiate with Iran without preconditions, Undersecretary of State William Burns attended a meeting in Switzerland over the summer with an Iranian nuclear official.

Click here to read the full story in The Washington Times.
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"Purple haze all in my brain. Lately things just don't seem the same..."

More Palin family trouble: Levi's mom's been arrested
From the Anchorage Daily News:
WASILLA, Alaska — A 42-year-old Wasilla woman was arrested Thursday at her home by Alaska State Troopers with a search warrant in an undercover drug investigation. Sherry L. Johnston was charged with six felony counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance.

Johnston is the mother of Levi Johnston, the Wasilla 18-year-old who received international attention in September when Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, announced their teenage daughter was pregnant and he was the father. Bristol Palin, 18, is due on Saturday, according to a recent interview with the governor's father, Chuck Heath.

Troopers served the warrant at Johnston's home at the "conclusion of an undercover narcotics investigation," said a statement issued Thursday by the troopers as part of the normal daily summary of activity around the state.

Troopers charged Johnston with second-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance -- generally manufacturing or delivering drugs -- as well as fourth-degree misconduct involving controlled substances, or possession.

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LAPD Agrees Officers Should Understand the Constitution

After a judge called out the LAPD for stretching the limits of the Fourth Amendment as part of an effort to clean up skid row, a police captain gives ground: "There's nothing wrong with us going back and making sure that our officers clearly understand the Constitution."

The LA Times reports on the settlement between the LAPD and the ACLU.
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USDA Going Sub-Prime -- on Mortgages, Not Beef

Think you can't find a lender willing to make one of those wacky home-mortgage loans? Try the USDA.

The Wall Street Journal reports the Ag loan program, intended to help rural home byers, allows borrowers to finance more than 100% of the home price.
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Most Corrupt Members of Congress: GOP leads 14-6

Check out the Top 20 here.

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Ya' see, the Rev. Ted Haggard was unavailable...

From the LA Times "Top of the Ticket" Blog:

Obama to gay protesters: Rick Warren's my inauguration pastor pick

No backing down whatsoever today from President-elect Barack Obama in the face of some strong criticism from gay and lesbian interests over his choice of Saddleback's Rick Warren for the invocation speaker at the Jan. 20 inauguration.

As pastor of his mega-church in Lake Forest, Warren was an outspoken proponent of Prop. 8, which passed on Nov. 4 and overturns a court decision allowing same-sex marriage in California.

As reported earlier today, gay and lesbian groups, which had been key backers of Obama but largely silent on his ostentatious other moves toward the political center since winning the White House, erupted in a loud chorus of opposition to Obama's pick of Warren.

But at another news conference at his transition headquarters in Chicago today, Obama held firm, saying an important premise of his entire campaign was that different sides can disagree on some issues without being disagreeable and unable to work together on others. After all, last spring he claimed he attended the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church for 20 years while disagreeing with his radical sermons, which he also said he hadn't heard.

He said he maintains his consistent support for equal rights for gays and lesbians. And he's not changing his choice of who gives the opening prayer at his historic Inauguration on the Capitol steps the morning of Jan. 20.

We'll let the president-elect speak for himself on this breaking news video just below here.

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The real question: can he challenge Obama for the nomination in 2012?...

Is Al Franken Trailing by Just Two Votes?

The AP puts Norm Coleman's lead over comedian Al Franken at 2 votes, causing many conservatives in the blogosphere to despair. There may be good reason to be anxious, if not desperate, but not because of the AP count.

Click here for the full article from the Weekly Standard.


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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Same As It Ever Was

Obama Team Has Forged Another Link With Clintons

Published: December 16, 2008
WASHINGTON — It’s official. The old Clinton gang really is back together again. Answering the phones these days for the co-chairman of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition, John D. Podesta, is none other than Betty Currie.

Emerging from retirement in southern Maryland to volunteer at Obama headquarters, Ms. Currie was the personal secretary to President Bill Clinton, who became caught up in an independent counsel investigation into his trysts with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Since leaving the White House, Ms. Currie, 69, has shied from publicity and kept a low profile in Hollywood, Md., where she lives with her husband, Bob, and Socks, the presidential cat, which she took with her after Mr. Clinton left office.

Ms. Currie, who works with local nonprofit organizations and serves on the Alcohol Beverage Board of St. Mary’s County, declined to discuss her work for Mr. Obama or her recent life, citing a transition office policy against volunteers giving interviews.

Compelled to testify to a grand jury five times about Mr. Clinton’s relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, Ms. Currie is widely admired in Clinton circles for her loyalty and effectiveness.

Mr. Podesta, who was Mr. Clinton’s last White House chief of staff, said it was natural for him to call Ms. Currie back to service.

“Of course I asked her because in the 30 years we have worked together, I have never known anyone with more grace, dedication and public spirit than Betty,” he said. “And she has one mean Rolodex.”

Ms. Currie is the latest familiar face from the Clinton era to assist Mr. Obama’s team. In addition to Mr. Podesta, Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, his White House counsel and his economics, energy and environmental advisers all served in the Clinton administration. So did most of the cabinet officers he has chosen and many of the transition aides conducting agency reviews. And the newly designated secretary of state is Hillary Rodham Clinton.

A longtime secretary in agencies like the Peace Corps, Ms. Currie left government to work for Democratic presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988 before joining Mr. Clinton in 1992. She then served in Mr. Clinton’s transition until he picked her to be his secretary. She stayed through all eight years, calmly managing the intersection of power and policy.

Other Obama aides said they expected Ms. Currie to help out through the transition but not to return to the White House after the inauguration.

Ms. Currie has kept in touch with the Clintons and donated $750 to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination this year. When she ran into Mrs. Clinton last spring, she told a writer from Southern Maryland Newspapers, Mrs. Clinton asked about Socks.

U.S. News & World Report has reported that Socks, now 19, has cancer.
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Finally, a way to insure that Chryslers don't drop a transmission at 75,000 miles...

Chrysler to Shut Factories for a Month

DETROIT — Chrysler said Wednesday that it would close all 30 of its factories for at least one month, starting at the end of this week, in response to plunging vehicle sales in the United States.

Read more from the New York Times.

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All he needs is a wheelchair and a dog named Fala...

Obama May Seek a Stimulus Plan Exceeding $850 Billion

Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Barack Obama may ask Congress next year to approve a stimulus plan of around $850 billion, an amount that has grown as the U.S. economy sinks deeper into recession, an adviser to the president-elect said.

To read the full report, click here.


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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More Change We Can Believe In...

Nepotism Nation: Dems embrace dynasty politics

Barack Obama's path to the presidency included beating what had been one of the nation's most powerful families. But, in an unusual twist, his election last month is helping accelerate the trend toward dynasty politics.

His secretary of state will be Hillary Clinton, the wife of the former president. The Senate seat she’ll vacate is being pursued by Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of a president and the niece of two senators. Joe Biden’s Senate seat may go to his son Beau. Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, Obama’s pick for interior secretary, could end up being replaced by his brother, Rep. John Salazar.

And Obama’s own seat could go to the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. – less likely now in light of developments in the Rod Blagojevich scandal – or to the daughter of Illinois’ current House speaker.

Read the full article here.


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It's 3:00 AM, Do You Know Where Your President Is?

Report: Bush Prepares Crisis Contingency Briefings for Obama

President George W. Bush's administration will brief president-elect Barack Obama and his team on more than a dozen contingency plans in case an international crisis breaks in the days after his inauguration, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The memorandums for the Obama administration cover several crisis scenarios including a North Korean nuclear explosion, a cyberattack on American computer systems, a terrorist strike on a U.S. facilities overseas, or an outbreak of instability in the Middle East, people briefed on them told the newspaper.

Each contingency planning goes beyond what other administrations have done and outlines options Obama can consider, they added.

"This is very unusual," Roger Cressey, a former Clinton White House counterterrorism official told the Times. "We certainly did not do that. When the transition happened from Clinton to Bush, remember it was a totally different world. You had some documents given that gave them a flavor of where things were at. But now you've got two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a hot war against Al Qaeda."

Beyond terrorism, Obama could face an early international test on any number of fronts, as his running mate, Joe Biden, predicted on the campaign trail.

Beside the memorandums, the Bush administration has given crisis training to nearly 100 government officials who may stay on after the inauguration while political appointees await Senate confirmation, the paper said.

The plans were reportedly recommended by the commission that investigated the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The commission noted problems during the hand over from former president Bill Clinton to Bush, and in its report on the attacks called for a better handover process "since a catastrophic attack could occur with little or no notice."

Read the full report at The New York Times.

Fox News
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So, Will the Barney Frank Sr. High Fighting Flamingos Be a 4-A School?

Obama’s New School Chief Supported Creating Gay High School in Chicago

So, how often do you think that the Old Media will mention that Barack Obama’s choice for Secretary of Education, Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan, supported to be opened in Chicago a gay, lesbian and transgender high school? Any takers?

I have looked over many of the stories on Obama’s pick for Sec of Ed, but seen mention of his support of the gay high school only a few times. Only three stories mentioned it out of the first 20 I checked. Even the Wall Street Journal didn’t mention it in their announcement of the Obama pick.

Of that gay-friendly school, Duncan was quoted by Chicago land news outlets in October.

“If you look at national studies, you see gay and lesbian students with high dropout rates…Studies show they are disproportionately homeless,” Duncan said. “I think there is a niche there we need to fill.”

One wonders if Duncan will bring this proposal with him to Washington D.C. and attempt to force school systems all across the country to start up their own gay, lesbian and transgender schools?


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Dr. Who?

Why does Joe Biden refer to Barak Obama as "Mr. President"?


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Monday, December 15, 2008

At Least The Democrats Wouldn't Nominate Anyone Inexperienced, Ya Know, Like a Palin...

Caroline Kennedy to Seek Clinton’s Senate Seat
The New York Times reports here.


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The Obama administration may be like JFK's "Camelot" after all...

Russian warships head for Cuba

Russia said on Monday it was sending a group of warships to Soviet-era ally Cuba in its latest defiant naval move around US waters, part of a drive to revive old Cold War ties with Latin America.

The warships will visit Havana on December 19-23, the navy said, continuing a tour that has already taken in US foes Venezuela and Nicaragua and seen the ships pass through the Panama Canal for the first time since World War II.

"This will be the first visit to Cuba by Russian warships since the Soviet era," the Russian naval headquarters said in a statement.

The destroyer Admiral Chabanenko and two other ships already held exercises with Venezuela's navy in the Caribbean Sea last month.

The naval manoeuvres close to US waters are seen as a riposte to Washington's own moves in Russia's Soviet-era sphere of influence, including in the Black Sea.

US officials have said they see no military threat from Russia's naval manoeuvres but continue to keep a close eye on the situation.

The naval visit to Cuba, scene of a dramatic 1962 stand-off between Moscow and Washington over nuclear missiles, comes as tensions over US missile defence plans in eastern Europe have prompted talk of a renewed Cold War among some analysts.

Last month Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made a tour of Latin America where he visited Cuba and Venezuela and met former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, part of efforts to revive what he called "privileged relations" from Soviet times.

Last week he also received Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner, another Latin American critic of the United States.

Nicaragua's leftist President Daniel Ortega is to visit Moscow on Thursday, after he risked Washington's wrath this summer by following Russia in recognizing two Moscow-backed rebel regions of Georgia as independent.

The Russian moves in Central and Latin America follow heightened tensions over Russia's military onslaught in Georgia, a close US ally.

Russia strongly objected to US naval deployments off Georgia's Black Sea coast, accusing the United States of covertly rearming Georgia, a charge Washington denied.

On Monday the Russian navy avoided direct reference to the United States, saying that visits to Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela signified "long-term prospects for developing cooperation among these countries' navies in the interest of building stability and trust on the world's oceans."

During the Cuba visit, residents will be welcomed aboard the Russian ships and Russian officers will lay flowers at a memorial to Cuban campaigner for independence and critic of US expansionism Jose Marti, the navy said.

Last week the navy said it was sending ships from its Pacific Fleet to join ships from the Northern Fleet for exercises with India's navy and in parallel would continue anti-piracy operations off Somalia.

Despite the growing Russian assertiveness, defence experts have said Russia's navy remains severely weakened following years of post-Soviet neglect.

That impression was reinforced by the inadvertent fatal poisoning last month of 20 people aboard a Russian nuclear-powered submarine that was undergoing tests off the Pacific coast.

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I guess he doesn't want bitter cabinet members, clinging to their guns and religion...

From The Politico:
Barack Obama is 15 picks into his Cabinet — he announced New Yorker Shaun Donovan as his Housing and Urban Development head on Saturday—but has yet to name one who hails from the South.

"Not a one," grumbles a one senior Democratic aide who hails from the South. "Not even half of one, unless you count Hillary Clinton, and she doesn't count because she's not even an Arkansan anymore. She's a Yankee."

The full article can be found here.


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Just wait til the federal government runs our health care...

War veteran widows wrongly denied help

According to an Associated Press report on December 14, surviving spouses of war veterans have been wrongfully denied up to millions of dollars in government benefits over the past 12 years due to computer glitches that often resulted in money being seized from the elderly survivors' bank accounts.

The Veterans Affairs Department said Saturday it wasn't fully aware of the problem. It pledged to work quickly to give back the pension and disability checks — ranging from $100 to more than $2,500 — that hundreds of thousands of widows or widowers should have received during the month of their spouse's death.
"This problem must be fixed," said VA Secretary James Peake. The department indicated in an "action plan" provided to The Associated Press that up to millions of dollars in back payments could be given to the surviving spouses sometime after next February, once it can identify them.
To expedite matters, the VA said those who believe they were wrongfully denied payments can call its help line at 1-800-827-1000.
Congress passed a law in 1996 giving veterans' spouses the right to keep their partners' final month of benefits. It instructed the VA to make changes as needed to comply with the law, which took effect for spouses of veterans who died after Dec. 31, 1996.
But the VA never updated its automated computer systems, which send out checks and notification letters. As a result, widows or widowers were either denied the final month of payment or asked to send the checks back. In many cases, if the checks were already deposited or spent, the U.S. Treasury moved to seize the money directly from their accounts.
Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, confronted Peake about the problem in a letter last week after receiving a complaint from a widow. In response, Peake instructed the Veterans Benefits Administration to update its systems as quickly as possible to prevent future denials of benefits.
"This flawed practice has caused serious hardship for many widows," Akaka said Saturday. "Now that this problem has been brought to light, I trust that surviving spouses will receive the benefits they are due."
The VA has yet to identify the exact number of widows or widowers affected, but acknowledged Saturday it could be "sizable." Akaka's committee estimates that 50,000 surviving spouses each year since 1996 could be affected, based on VA numbers indicating more than 100,000 veterans die each year — some of whom may have been single or divorced — while receiving VA benefits.
Out of that 50,000, some spouses might have received the payments they were due if they called the VA at the time to inquire about their rights.
The disclosure comes as the VA is scrambling to upgrade government technology systems before new legislation providing for millions of dollars in new GI education benefits takes effect next August. Thousands of veterans currently also endure six-month waits for disability benefits, despite promises by Peake and his predecessor, Jim Nicholson, to reduce delays.
President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to "fix the benefits bureaucracy" at the VA. Last week, he named Retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, a former Army chief of staff, to be the next VA secretary.

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