Saturday, January 3, 2009

Okay: Now, Everything You Need to Know About Gaza

A Public Service of the Rapier

The Gaza Strip is a coastal strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea currently governed by Hamas. It borders Egypt on the south-west and Israel on the north and east. It is about 25 miles long, and between 4 and 7.5 miles wide, with a total area of 139 sqaure miles. The area is not recognized internationally as part of any sovereign country but is claimed by the Palestinian National Authority as part of the Palestinian territories. Since the June 2007 battle of Gaza, actual control of the area is in the hands of the Hamas de facto government.

In 1517 Gaza fell to the Ottomans and was part of the Ottoman Empire until the First World War. Starting in the early 19th century, Gaza was culturally dominated by neighboring Egypt. Though it was part of the Ottoman Empire, a large number of its residents were Egyptians who had fled political turmoil.

Following World War I, Gaza became part of the British Mandate of "Palestine" (today's Jordan, Gaza, Israel and "West Bank") was mandated to Great Britain under the authority of the League of Nations. In 1923, the British divided the "Palestine" portion of the Ottoman Empire into two administrative districts, a "Jewish" area west of the Jordan River (this area included Gaza and was called "Palestine"), and a Palestinian area to the east. The eastern territory was renamed Trans-Jordan (Trans-Jordan and would again be renamed "Jordan" in 1946).

Jews were present in Gaza until the 1929 Palestine riots, when Jews were forced to leave. British rule of Palestine ended with the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

According to the terms of the 1947 United Nations partition plan, Gaza was to become part of a new Arab state. Following the dissolution of the British mandate of Palestine and 1947-1948 Civil War in Palestine, Israel declared its independence in May 1948. The Egyptian army invaded the area from the south, starting the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The Gaza Strip as it is known today was the product of the subsequent 1949 Armistice Agreements between Egypt and Israel.
Egypt occupied the Strip from 1949 (except for four months of Israeli occupation during the 1956 Suez Crisis) until 1967.

Towards the end of the 1948 war, an All-Palestine Government was proclaimed in Gaza City by the Arab League (a regional alliance of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen). It was conceived partly as an attempt to limit the influence of the British-created entity of "Transjordan" over the Palestinian issue. The government was not recognized by Transjordan or any non-Arab country. Egypt never annexed the Gaza Strip, but instead treated it as a controlled territory and administered it through a military governor.
Refugees from the area were never offered Egyptian citizenship.

During the Sinai campaign of November 1956, the Gaza Strip was overrun by Israeli troops. International pressure soon forced Israel to withdraw.

Israel occupied the Gaza Strip again in June 1967 during the Six-Day War. The military occupation lasted for 27 years, until 1994. However, according to the Oslo Accords, even after relinquishing control, Israel retains control of air space, territorial waters, offshore maritime access, the population registry, entry of foreigners, imports and exports as well as the tax system.

During the period of Israeli occupation, Israel created a settlement bloc in the southwest corner of the Strip near the Egyptian border. In total Israel created 21 settlements, comprising some 20% of the total Gaza Strip territory. Besides ideological reasons for being there, these settlements also served Israel's security concerns. In March 1979 Israel and Egypt signed the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, but the final status of the Gaza Strip as with relations between Israel and Palestinians was not dealt with in the treaty. The treaty did settle the international border between Gaza Strip and Egypt. Egypt renounced all territorial claims to the region beyond the international border.

In 1987, and continuing through 1993, the First Intifada ("war of the stones") took place. This was a mass popular uprising against Israeli rule that quickly spread throughout Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In May 1994, a phased transfer of governmental authority to the Palestinians took place. Much of the Strip (except for the settlement blocs and military areas) came under Palestinian control. Israeli forces left Gaza City and other urban areas, leaving the new Palestinian Authority ("PA") to administer and police the Strip. The PA rule of the Gaza Strip and West Bank under leadership of Yasser Arafat suffered from serious mismanagement and corruption.

A Second Intifada broke out in September 2000. In February 2005, the Israeli government voted to implement a unilateral disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip. Under the plan, all Israeli settlements and military basesin the Gaza Strip (and four in the West Bank) were dismantled. However, Israel maintained it's control over the crossings in and out of Gaza.

In accordance with the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority took over the administrative authority of the Gaza Strip in 1994. In the Palestinian parliamentary elections held on January 25, 2006, the radical party Hamas("Islamic Resistance Movement") won 74 out of 132 total seats. When Hamas assumed power the next month, it refused to recognize international demands that it renounce violence and recognize Israel, and in April, several nations, including the United States and the collective nations of the European Union, responded by cutting off direct aid to the Palestinian government. The resulting political disorder and economic stagnation led to many Palestinians emigrating from the Gaza Strip.

In January 2007, fighting errupted between Hamas and Fatah ("Palestine Liberation Movement"), the center-left Palestinian party. In May 2007, new fighting broke out between the factions. In June 2007, the Palestinian Civil War between Hamas and Fatah intensified. Hamas routed Fatah after winning the democratic election. Hamas then proclaimed itself to be the legitimate government of Gaza.

Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas's government, operating from the West Bank of Jordan, won widespread international support, however. In late June 2008 Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia said that the West Bank-based Cabinet formed by Abbas was the sole legitimate Palestinian government, and Egypt moved its embassy from Gaza to the West Bank. Since then, the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip has faced international, diplomatic, and economic isolation.

Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt have pressed Abbas to start serious talks with Hamas. Abbas had always conditioned this on Hamas returning control of the Gaza Strip to his Palestinian Authority. Hamas was supported by Syria and Iran. Since taking control of Gaza, Hamas has continued to fire rockets from the Strip across the border into Israel. According to Israel, between the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip and the end of January 2008, 697 rockets and 822 mortar bombs were fired at Israeli towns.

In response, Israel targeted military targets and declared the Gaza Strip a hostile entity, to make it possible to cut fuel and electricity supplies. In January 2008 the situation escalated; Israel curtailed travel from Gaza, the entry of goods, and cut fuel supplies to the Strip, resulting in power shortages. This brought charges that Israel was inflicting collective punishment on the Gaza population, but Israel countered that Gaza had enough food and energy supplies for weeks. In the ensuing months, rocket attacks and military responses continued.

At the end of December 2008, Israeli F-16 strike fighters launched a series of airstrikes against targets in Gaza. Struck were militant bases, a mosque, various Hamas government buildings, and a science building in the Islamic University in the Gaza Strip. The attack was a response to Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel, which totaled over 3000 in 2008 and which intensified during the few weeks preceding the operation.

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Know Your Obama Underlings, Part 6

Editor's Note: This is another installment in the Rapier's daily profiles of one of Barack Obama's nominees to a cabinet or high-level administration post.
Today's Profile
Secretary of Education:
Arne Duncan

Born November 6, 1964. Duncan was raised in Hyde Park, Chicago, where his father Starkey Duncan was a psychology professor at the University of Chicago, and mother Susan Morton runs The Sue Duncan Children's Center for African American youth on Chicago's South Side. Duncan spent a great deal of his free time in his youth sharpening his basketball skills with the neighborhood children. Duncan's spoken accent at this time led at least one college basketball coach to assume that he was of African-American descent. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in sociology in 1987. His senior thesis, for which he took a year's leave to do research in Kenwood, in inner-city Chicago, was entitled The values, aspirations and opportunities of the urban underclass. At Harvard, Duncan became co-captain of the varsity team and named a first team Academic All-American. From 1987 to 1991, Duncan played professional basketball in Australia. He currently resides with his Australian wife, Karen, and his two children in Hyde Park.

Duncan has extensive experience in educational policy and management, but has not been a teacher. In 1992 Duncan became director of the Ariel Education Initiative, a program to enhance educational opportunities for children on Chicago's South Side. Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Duncan to serve as CEO of Chicago Public Schools on June 26, 2001.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

The other 4 were too busy being shot at to give an answer...

6 in 10 Soldiers Wary About Obama as Commander in Chief.

Read the poll data from the Army Times here.


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"Yeah, but I'm sure the guy was ABOUT to commit SOME crime..."

Blago Appointee Once Prosecuted Innocent Man.

Roland Burris, the man appointed to Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat, once drew heavy criticism for his decision to seek the death penalty for a defendant despite evidence supporting his innocence.

Read more about it here.


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Know Your Obama Underlings, Part 5

Editor's Note: This is another installment in the Rapier's daily profiles of one of Barack Obama's nominees to a cabinet or high-level administration post.
Today's Profile
Ambassador to the United Nations:
Dr. Susan Rice

Born November 17, 1964, in Washington, DC, daughter of a former governor of the Federal Reserve. Rice was a three-sport athlete in high school, and attended Stanford University, where she graduated with a BA in History. Awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, the Chatham House-British International Studies Association honored her dissertation as the UK's most distinguished in international relations. Rice is married to Canadian-born ABC News producer Ian Officer Cameron. They have two children.

Rice was a foreign policy aide to Michael Dukakis during the 1988 presidential election. Rice served in the Clinton administration in various capacities: at the National Security Council from 1993 to 1997; as Director for International Organizations and Peacekeeping from 1993 to 1995; and as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs from 1995 to 1997.

Secretary of State Madeline Albright is a longtime mentor and family friend to Rice, who urged Clinton to appoint Rice as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in 1997. In that job, Rice was viewed by many officials and diplomats as very bright, but also as inexperienced and inflexible. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Rice served as a foreign policy adviser to John Kerry.

On December 1, 2008, she was nominated by President-elect Obama to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, a position which he also upgraded to cabinet level. Rice will be the second youngest[21] and first African American woman US Representative to the UN. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Sputtering to a Stop

The number miles Americans travel in their cars is dropping at a record rate. In a new report, D.C. think-tank Brookings Institution provides the first-ever ranking of 50 states and top 100 metro areas.

Among states, Nevada, Idaho, Colorado, Georgia and Tennessee are breaking from the car culture fastest. Click here for the Brookings press release. Or here for a summary of the report.

From the Brookings report: "The number of miles that Americans have traveled in their cars (“Vehicle Miles Traveled” or VMT)started to slow as far back as 2004 - long before the extreme fluctuation in gas prices and the start of the economic slowdown - and has been falling since 2007. From October 2007 to September 2008, for
example, we drove 90 billion fewer miles than the same time period the year before. For the first time in our history, the amount of roadway available to drivers is outpacing the number of miles we actually drive. Transit use, interestingly, is at its highest level since the 1950’s, and Amtrak just set a ridership record this year."
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Thursday, January 1, 2009

"To prepare, I would carefully examine each and every page..."

Bill Clinton A Possible N.Y. Senate 'Caretaker?'

Democrats Pushing Paterson To Name Temp Replacement For Hillary; Scenario Sets Up Wild Election In 2010

The former president is among several boldface names being touted as possible "caretakers" for New York's Senate seat -- people who would serve until the 2010 elections but wouldn't be interested in running to keep the job.

Read the full story here.


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Know Your Obama Underlings, Part 4

Editor's Note: This is another installment in the Rapier's daily profiles of one of Barack Obama's nominees to a cabinet or high-level administration post.
Today's Profile
Secretary of Transportation:
Raymond H. "Ray" LaHood

Born December 6, 1945. LaHood is a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives since 1995, representing the downstate 18th district of Illinois.

He is well-known, especially among C-SPAN viewers, as the presiding officer of more debates than any other member. Most notably, he presided over the impeachment vote against President Bill Clinton. LaHood was born in Peoria, Illinois. He was educated at Bradley University in Peoria, from which he earned a degree in education. He was a high school teacher, and an aide to Representatives Tom Railsback and Robert Michel before running for office himself. LaHood served as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives for one term between 1982 and 1983. He is of Jordanian and Lebanese descent.

Elected as part of the Republican Revolution of 1994, he was one of only three Republican candidates who did not sign on to the Contract with America, Newt Gingrich's manifesto for a Republican majority. LaHood was said to be considering a challenge to Governor Rod Blagojevich's re-election bid in 2006, but on August 18, 2005 he ruled out a run, saying few outside his district knew him.

LaHood received a 0% rating from the conservative and anti-earmark Club for Growth 2007 RePORK Card. He received an 11% rating from Citizens Against Government Waste for 2007 and holds a lifetime 49% rating from the group. Lahood's son, Sam Lahood, worked on John McCain's presidential campaign in 2008.
LaHood is one of two Republican members of President-elect Barack Obama's Cabinet (along with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is a registered independent but has publicly referred to himself as a Republican).

LaHood's resume on transport matters is seen as thin by some critics. He does not currently serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, although he has in the past. While picking LaHood drew praise for its bipartisan symbolism there was also a sense that LaHood’s lack of expertise would diminish the department’s role in 2009 major policy debates and leave him as more of a ceremonial figure. James Oberstar, the Democratic Congressman who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is expected to hold more influence and will likely play a stronger leading role. Oberstar praised LaHood’s “temperament” and “managerial talent,” but when asked to cite an issue LaHood championed during his time on the Transportation Committee in the 1990s, Oberstar seemingly drew a blank. “I can’t point to any specific legislation that he authored,” he said. “He was a team player all the way through.”

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Who's Managing the Balls in this Family?

Bill and Hillary will ring in 2009 for the nation tonight, as the Secretary of State and her husband push the button that lowers the ball into Times Square. New York Post has details.

The celebration will include the release of 1,000 balloons printed with the words "joy" and "hope." Tight security means no booze and no backpacks. Jonas Brothers provide the only indulgence.
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Why Isn't This Man Smiling?

In a year when all the cable-TV news outlets saw their audiences grow, Fox News was the ratings winner for the seventh year in a row.

Matea Gold from the L.A. Times reports that Fox News reached an average of 2.1 million viewers during prime-time hours. That's an increase of 40 percent from 2007.

MSNBC had lower numbers than CNN or Fox News but experienced the greatest growth. Reaching an average of 920,000 viewers in prime time, MSNBC's ratings represent an 82 percent jump from a year ago.
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Know Your Obama Underlings, Part 3

Editor's Note: This is another installment in the Rapier's daily profiles of one of Barack Obama's nominees to a cabinet or high-level administration post.
Today's Profile
Secretary of Homeland Security:
Janet Napolitano

Born November 29, 1957. Napolitano is the current governor of the U.S. state of Arizona, originally elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006.

Napolitano was born in New York City. She is a Methodist. She was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. She graduated from Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California, and then received her Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Virginia School of Law. In 1991, while a partner with the private Phoenix law firm Lewis and Roca LLP, Napolitano served as attorney for Anita Hill (who testified in the U.S. Senate that then U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her ten years earlier when she was his subordinate at the federal EEOC).

In 1993, Napolitano was appointed by President Bill Clinton as United States Attorney for the District of Arizona. She ran for and won the position of Arizona Attorney General in 1998. While still serving as attorney general, she spoke at the 2000 Democratic National Convention just three weeks after having a mastectomy.

In November 2006, Napolitano won the gubernatorial election of 2006, defeating the Republican challenger, Len Munsil, by a nearly 2-1 ratio and becoming the first woman to be re-elected to that office (she is Arizona's third female governor). If Napolitano is confirmed as Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of State Jan Brewer will become the governor of Arizona, as the state does not have a lieutenant governor.

To combat illegal immigration, the governor has opted to: crackdown on employers who hire undocumented workers; catch forgers of I.D. documents; push for more Homeland Security measures to deter border crossings.

Napolitano is regarded as perhaps the most effective governor at combatting illegal immigration, although conservatives deride her refusal to support legislation targeting illegal immigrants working for U.S. employers.

Napolitano is single. According to the Arizona Republic, "Napolitano, who has never been married or had children, has long been the subject of a whisper campaign about her sexuality, including some dirty campaign tricks in 2002 when 'vote gay' fliers were posted next to her campaign signs. She is not gay, she has said, 'just a straight, single workaholic.' Gov Napolitano says she opposes same-sex marriage (as does Obama), and supports an Arizona law barring gay marriages. However, she opposed the Federal Marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution on the grounds of states rights.

After a news conference in Philadelphia on December 2, 2008, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell made a controversial remark about why he thought Napolitano being single qualified her to serve as Secretary for Homeland Security: "Janet's perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it." Rendell, it should be noted, has NOT been asked to serve in the Obama cabinet...

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And Now a Reading from "Uncle Tom's Senate Seat"...

Who is Blago's Senate Appointee and Why the Heck Is His Playing This Game?

From Teagan Goddard's

Dan Conley, a former speechwriter for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and a keen observer of Illinois politics, offers his take on today's attempt by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to appoint a new senator:

The selection of former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to replace President-Elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate has very little to do with the actual seat. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has already made it clear that he will not certify any Blagojevich pick. That will give the Senate Democratic caucus sufficient cause to reject the appointment,
which they have already pledged to do. At this point, it would be impossible for the Democrats to backtrack on their earlier pledge, it would implicate them in the Blagojevich sleaze, which is something they will avoid at all costs. So while Burris seems like a winner today, he's a long-term loser.

Why did he agree to be used? Because he's desperate to return to the limelight. It's a sad end to a career that included numerous runs for governor, the U.S. Senate and Mayor of Chicago, plus a term as the state's Attorney General. The truth is, he wasn't much of an Attorney General -- the legal opinions that came out of his office in the early 90s were legally suspect and linguistically challenged -- but he has been a fixture in Illinois politics for years and he's escaped any hint of corruption.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Perhaps soon they'll merge and call themselves "Embarq"...

Today's Rapier Tutorial: Hamas vs. Hezbollah and How to Tell the Difference:
by AuH2O

"Hamas" is an acronym for the Arab words for Islamic Resistance Movement; the word itself means "zeal." It was founded in 1987 at the time of the Palestinian uprising, the "intifada," in Gaza and the West Bank. It is one of 28 groups officially declared a "foreign terrorist organization" by the State Department.

Its goal is to destroy Israel and to put in place an Islamic Palestinian state. Its methods include assassination, raids, bombing, and suicide bombing. It also runs a network of mosques and social service organizations, such as medical clinics. Its Web site lists "The Glory Record," 85 incidents of terror. Hamas opposed the Palestinian Liberation Organization's (PLO) 1988 acceptance of the United Nations resolutions acknowledging Israel's right to exist and further objected to the 1993 peace agreement and mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO. In recent years Palestinian security forces have cooperated with Israel to help keep Hamas in check. Hamas has fund-raising networks in the United States and Europe, which supplies about a third of its $30-million annual budget. It also gets money from Iran and Saudi-born terrorist Osama Bin Laden. In June 2008, an informal truce was agreed between Hamas and Israel. However, on December 23, 2008, Hamas issued a statement declaring the six months ceasefire was over, Hamas blamed Israel for the end of the ceasefire on Friday, saying it had not respected its terms, including the lifting of the blockade under which little more than humanitarian aid has been allowed into Gaza. In the following days, following the launch of more than 70 rockets from Gaza targeted at Israel, Israel launched a series of airstrikes across Gaza against Hamas.

"Hezbollah," also spelled Hizballah, means "party of God." It is a Shiite Muslim organization headquartered in Lebanon whose goal is a fundamentalist Islamic state there and beyond and the obliteration of Israel. It was created in 1982 after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and last May forced the Israeli withdrawal from that country. Hezbollah is also on the State Department's foreign terrorist organization list. Hezbollah trains Hamas militants and is seeking to further arm Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. For those Palestinians without guns, Hezbollah encourages them to stab Israelis to death. The group is believed responsible for the 1983 suicide bombing of an American Marine barracks in Lebanon that killed 241 American military personnel, as well as the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992. Hezbollah has extremely close ties with Iran, from which it gets everything from diplomatic aid to weapons to an estimated $100 million a year; Syria is a substantial supporter as well. Hezbollah also runs social service organizations and has its own satellite television station, which broadcasts training of suicide bombers.

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Okay, but who do we blame for "Puff the Magic Dragon" as a song????

You can blame the "Barack the Magic Negro" Uproar on The L.A. Times and Left-Wing Sociologists -- NOT Limbaugh and the G.O.P.

Newbusters has the full story here.


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Know Your Obama Underlings, Part 2

Editor's Note: The Rapier will, prior to the inauguration, provide a daily installment with a brief profile of one of Barack Obama's nominees to a cabinet or high-level administration post. This way, you'll know who to blame...
Today's Profile
Attorney General: Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Born January 21, 1951. Holder is a former Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, United States Attorney and Deputy Attorney General of the United States. He grew up in Queens, to parents with roots in Barbados. Holder attended public school until the age of 10. When entering the 4th grade he was selected to participate in a program for intellectually-gifted students. He went on to attend Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and attended Columbia University, where he played freshman basketball. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in American history in 1973. Holder also received his law degree from Columbia Law School, graduating in 1976.

After graduating from law school, Holder joined the U.S. Justice Department's new "Public Integrity Section" during an interval lasting from 1976 to 1988. During his time there, he assisted in the prosecution of Democratic Congressman John Jenrette for bribery discovered in the Abscam sting operation. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan appointed Holder to serve on the Bench as a Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Holder stepped down from the bench in 1993 to accept an appointment for U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia from President Bill Clinton. At the beginning of his tenure, he oversaw the conclusion of the corruption case against Dan Rostenkowski, part of the Congressional Post Office Scandal. He was a U.S. Attorney until his elevation to Deputy Attorney General in 1997.

Clinton nominated Holder to be the next Deputy Attorney General under Janet Reno. During his confirmation hearing, Holder's opposition to the death penalty was questioned, but he pledged his intention to cooperate with the current laws and Attorney General Janet Reno, saying, "I am not a proponent of the death penalty, but I will enforce the law as this Congress gives it to us." Holder briefly served as Acting Attorney General under President George W. Bush, until the Senate confirmed Bush's nominee, John Ashcroft.

In his final days with the Clinton administration, Holder was involved with Clinton's last-minute pardon of fugitive and Democratic contributor Marc Rich. Between November 2000 and January 2001, Jack Quinn, Rich's lawyer and former White House Counsel from 1995-96, had been contacting Holder, testing the waters for the political viability of a presidential pardon. After presenting his case to Holder in a November phone call and a last minute January 17th letter, Quinn arranged a phone call between the White House and Holder, asking the Deputy Attorney General to share his opinion on the Rich pardon. Ultimately, Holder gave Clinton a "neutral, leaning towards favorable" opinion of the pardon.

Since 2001, Holder has worked as an attorney at Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C.,representing clients such as Merck and the National Football League. He represented the NFL during its dog fighting investigation against Michael Vick.

While D.C. v. Heller was being heard by the Supreme Court in 2008, Holder joined the Reno-led amicus brief, which urged the Supreme Court to uphold Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban and said the position of the Department of Justice, from Franklin Roosevelt through Bill Clinton, was that the Second Amendment does not protect an individual right to keep and bear arms for purposes unrelated to a State’s operation of a well-regulated militia. Holder said that overturning the 1976 law "opens the door to more people having more access to guns and putting guns on the streets."

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Monday, December 29, 2008

"Junior" Somehow Didn't Fit As Well...

Palin's daughter gives birth to son named "Tripp"

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The 18-year-old daughter of former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has given birth in Alaska to a son.

People magazine reports that Bristol Palin gave birth to Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston on Sunday. He weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces.

Relative Colleen Jones tells the magazine the baby is fine and Bristol is "doing well." Jones is the sister of Bristol's grandmother.

The father is Levi Johnston, a former hockey player at Alaska's Wasilla High School. He has said he and Bristol plan to marry.

Palin created a stir in September by announcing the pregnancy as she prepared to accept her nomination at the Republican National Convention.

The governor's office called the birth a private family matter.

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Know Your Obama Underlings, Part 1

Editor's Note: The Rapier will, prior to the inauguration, provide a daily installment with a brief profile of one of Barack Obama's nominees to a cabinet or high-level administration post. This way, you'll know who to blame...
Today's Profile
Secretary of the Treasury: Timothy F. Geithner

Born August 18, 1961. Geithner is currently the 9th president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In that role he also serves as Vice Chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). Geithner was born in Brooklyn, New York. Geithner spent most of his childhood living outside the United States, including present-day Zimbabwe, India and Thailand, where he completed high school at International School Bangkok. He then attended Dartmouth College, graduating with a A.B. in government and Asian studies in 1983. He earned an M.A. in international economics and East Asian studies from Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in 1985.

After completing his studies, Geithner worked for Kissinger and Associates in Washington, D.C., for three years and then joined the International Affairs division of the U.S. Treasury Department in 1988. He went on to serve as an attache at the US Embassy in Tokyo. He was deputy assistant secretary for international monetary and financial policy (1995–1996), senior deputy assistant secretary for international affairs (1996-1997), assistant secretary for international affairs (1997–1998). He was Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs (1998–2001) under Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers.

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Gosh, I'd Hate to Live in One of Those Right-Wing States Where Privacy Rights Are Not Respected...

Oregon Governor Looking to Enforce Gas Tax Based on Mileage By Using Satellite Tracking

From the Albany Democrat-Herald:

A year ago, the Oregon Department of Transportation announced it had demonstrated that a new way to pay for roads — via a mileage tax and satellite technology — could work.

Now Gov. Ted Kulongoski says he’d like the legislature to take the next step.

As part of a transportation-related bill he has filed for the 2009 legislative session, the governor says he plans to recommend “a path to transition away from the gas tax as the central funding source for transportation.”

What that means is explained on the governor’s website:

“As Oregonians drive less and demand more fuel-efficient vehicles, it is increasingly important that the state find a new way, other than the gas tax, to finance our transportation system.”

According to the policies he has outlined online, Kulongoski proposes to continue the work of the special task force that came up with and tested the idea of a mileage tax to replace the gas tax.

The governor wants the task force “to partner with auto manufacturers to refine technology that would enable Oregonians to pay for the transportation system based on how many miles they drive.”

The online outline adds: “The governor is committed to ensuring that rural Oregon is not adversely affected and that privacy concerns are addressed.”

When the task force’s study and test were in the news in 2006 and 2007, critics worried that the technology could be used to track where vehicles go, not just how far they travel, and that this information would somehow be stored by the government.

In more than one interview with the Democrat-Herald and others, James Whitty, the ODOT official in charge of the project, tried to assure the public that tracking people’s travels was not in the plans.

The task force’s final report came out in November 2007. It was based largely on a field test in which about 300 motorists in the Portland area and two service stations took part over

10 months, ending in March 2007.

A GPS-based system kept track of the in-state mileage driven by the volunteers. When they bought fuel, a device in their vehicles was read, and they paid 1.2 cents a mile and got a refund of the state gas tax of 24 cents a gallon.

The final report detailed the technical aspects of the program. It also stressed the issue of privacy.

“The concept requires no transmission of vehicle travel locations, either in real time or of travel history,” the report said. “Accordingly, no travel location points are stored within the vehicle or transmitted elsewhere. Thus there can be no ‘tracking’ of vehicle movements.”

Also, the report said, under the Oregon concept of the program, “ODOT would have no involvement in developing the on-vehicle devices, installing them in vehicles, maintaining them or having any other access to them except, perhaps, in situations involving tampering or similar fee evasion activities.”

Equipment for the Oregon test was developed at Oregon State University.

Whitty said last year it might take about $20 million to establish that the mileage tax is commercially viable. Eventually, GPS devices would have to start being built into cars, and fueling stations would have to be similarly equipped.

The gas tax would stay in force — Kulongoski has proposed that it be raised 2 cents — for vehicles not equipped to pay the mileage tax.

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He's Not a Chicago Politician But He Plays One on TV...

Seems like Rod Blagojevich is not the only governor who might have indulged in a little pay-for-play action...

New Mexico’s Gov. Bill Richardson, who is the newly named Secretary of Commerce in Obama’s about-to-be Cabinet, is also being investigated by a federal grand jury in his home state for possibly steering state bond business from the New Mexico Financial Authority toward David Rubin, a significant campaign contributor, according to an NBC News report, among others.

NBC’s Lisa Myers reports that two former state officials say they’ve recently been questioned by a federal grand jury specifically about allegations that Richardson or aides pushed state business worth nearly $1.5 million in fees toward CDR Financial Products in 2004. The company is headquartered in Beverly Hills.

Redstate has the rest of the story here.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

...which, oddly, correlates with Gore being clean-shaven all year...

"2008 was the year man-made global warming was disproved" -- according to the UK Telegraph.

Read all about it here.


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