Wednesday, December 31, 2008
A candidate for consideration of the appointment herself, she wrote in Sunday's New York Daily News (http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2008/12/28/2008-12-28_new_yorks_next_sena tor_needs_to_help_reb.html) that whoever is appointed will have the urgent tasks of turning around New York's economic and infrastructure decline, securing significant federal funds for New York from stimulus, infrastructure and other national initiatives, boosting upstate New York's economy and agricultural base and strengthening New York education and the SUNY system, among other key agenda items.
She said today, "We are fortunate to have a field of several well-qualified candidates for the Senate seat. The pertinent question is, which one of us is going to do the best for New York amid this historic crisis we're in? How specifically does each of us propose to address New York's biggest needs? Those needs are the paramount thing. Many New Yorkers are losing their jobs, their homes, or choosing between food and medicine. Ordinary New Yorkers are at the epicenter of this crisis and suffering acutely from it, yet they have gotten nothing concrete from this year's trillion-dollar bailouts. Since they can't vote on this Senate seat for another two years, we have an obligation to make sure whoever fills it now will represent New Yorkers' concerns most effectively. Who is best able from their first day on the job to get onto the Senate floor and into the cloakroom and fight for the federal resources we need to help us rebuild New York's economy and infrastructure, create jobs, resolve our very tough budget issues, reduce our Medicaid burden, meet our education needs, and generally be New Yorkers' advocate in Washington? This is what the Governor will weigh in making the appointment, and what media coverage should focus on, like a laser beam. It took a year and a half of primaries and many debates to choose the best presidential candidate. We have just a few weeks to choose the best person for this Senate seat; we must use them to focus relentlessly on the issues."
Former Rep. Holtzman spoke to Governor Paterson about her interest in serving in the U.S. Senate in early December. Her record in elective office includes leadership on civil rights as Brooklyn District Attorney, steering New York City through a fiscal crisis as City Comptroller, and eight years in Congress where she championed infrastructure spending on the House Budget Committee, stood up for the Constitution and the rule of law during the Watergate crisis on the House Judiciary Committee and co-founded the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues.
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008
NLPC Says Barack Obama Invited Blagojevich Appointment of Roland Burris by Backing Off Call for Special Election
"It's getting more difficult for Barack Obama to extricate himself from the political mess in Illinois. Obama and other leading Democrats should have stuck to their calls for a special election to fill his Senate seat, instead of reverting to a brokered process. It only invited this kind of shenanigans from Blagojevich.
"It is hard to see how Blagojevich's appointment of Roland Burris has less credibility or moral standing than one brokered by other Illinois politicians. They all come out of the same corrupt culture that includes both parties.
"Much of the initial media coverage of Blagojevich missed the point. I don't believe was he was out of control or some sort of lone wolf. I believe his intercepted conversations are typical of politicians in Illinois and other states.
"The media focus on Obama's Senate seat is justified but it is obscuring equally important information from the FBI affidavit, namely the role of Obama's political sponsor Tony Rezko as Blagojevich's bagman. I doubt Rezko had one set of ethical standards when Obama was in the room, and another when he was with Blagojevich."
NLPC promotes ethics in public life, and sponsors the Government Integrity Project.
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"In consultation with bipartisan Congressional leaders, it is my intention to move forward on the appointment of Dr. Doug Elmendorf as the new Director of the Congressional Budget Office," Speaker Pelosi said. "Dr. Elmendorf possesses a broad base of experience, having worked in all of the critical federal agencies which implement and oversee national economic policy: Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and the Council of Economic Advisers plus the Congressional Budget Office. He has the intellect, experience and integrity to serve the Congress in this critical position and shares our commitment to controlling deficits."
"We undertook an aggressive search process for this position and interviewed a number of outstanding candidates," said Chairman Spratt. "Doug Elmendorf has a superb macroeconomic background with particular expertise in housing and financial market issues, which will be critically important when he is advising the Congress on proposals to tackle our economic crisis. Given the state of our economy, I hope the House and Senate Budget Committees can move forward quickly in the new year to make our statutory recommendation."
"I am very pleased to join House Budget Committee Chairman Spratt in recommending Douglas Elmendorf to be the next Director of the non-partisan CBO," Senate Budget Committee Chairman Conrad said. "Dr. Elmendorf is one of our nation's leading economists. He will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to this post."
Senate President Pro Tempore Robert C. Byrd said, "The operation of the government - to enforce our laws, to serve our people, to protect our liberties - depends upon the Congress providing the funds necessary to do so. So it is imperative that we have at the helm of our independent Congressional Budget Office an individual who will not only review the budget submitted to the Congress by the President, but will also advise the members of Congress about how to best establish spending parameters as we craft a budgetary framework for the next fiscal year and beyond. In my capacity as a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committees and as President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate, I look forward to working with Dr. Elmendorf in these endeavors."
Dr. Douglas W. Elmendorf, an economist with a Ph.D. from Harvard, is currently Director of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, has taught at Harvard, worked at the Congressional Budget Office, the Federal Reserve, and served during the Clinton Administration at the Council of Economic Advisers and at the Treasury Department.
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"Free media are essential to any society that values liberty. Radio Liberty, the Voice of America and the BBC should remain on the air to serve listeners in Azerbaijan with unfettered access to information and a variety of viewpoints. Depriving listeners of these services is a violation of the right to free expression that will constrain debate in Azerbaijan, undermining its commitment to democracy in the eyes of the world. The government of Azerbaijan should rescind its decision to block these broadcasts."
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Click to see the video.
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President-elect Barack Obama is preparing to create significant changes in federal contracting law that will allow some of the nation's wealthiest investors to receive federal contracts earmarked for small businesses. Under the banner of "increasing access to capital" for small businesses, the policies will allow firms controlled by individual venture capitalist and even large venture capital firms to participate in federal small business contracting programs.
The Obama Administration's new pro-venture capital policy could virtually repeal the Small Business Act for legitimate American small businesses by modifying the longstanding federal definition of a small business as "independently owned."
Under the proposed Obama Administration policy, "independently owned" will be changed to include firms that are not independently owned, but are actually controlled by wealthy investors and possibly some of the nation's largest venture capital firms.
Opponents of the new policy say it appears to be designed more to increase wealthy venture capitalist access to billions of dollars in federal small business contracts as opposed to "increasing access to capital" for legitimate small businesses.
If the policy is successfully implemented it could force the average American small business to compete head-to-head with firms controlled by wealthy investors for even the smallest government orders for goods and services. Thousands of middle class jobs could be lost as billions of dollars in federal small business contracts are diverted to a small number of venture capitalist controlled firms.
The plan will likely include a provision that would exempt the venture capitalist owned firms from capital gains taxes. The Obama-Biden Transition Team website, www.change.gov mentions such a proposal.
The appointment of multi-millionaire venture capitalist Karen Mills to head the Small Business Administration (SBA) is the latest indication that President-elect Obama is moving forward with his plans to divert government small business contracts to venture capital controlled firms.
The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) and its members have been lobbying for the new loophole in federal contracting law for more than two years. The NVCA and its members have contributed millions of dollars to Obama and key Democratic leaders in Congress such as Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton. (http://www.maplight.org/map/us/interest/F2500)
"The easiest and quickest way to stimulate our nation's failing economy is for the government to spend infrastructure funds with America's 27 million small businesses that create all the new jobs and employ most Americans," American Small Business League President Lloyd Chapman said. "This new Obama policy will do just the opposite and will push our economy closer to a depression by diverting billions of dollars in federal funds away from middle class America and into the hands of small number of wealthy investors that backed Obama."
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Monday, December 22, 2008
By Naftail Bendavid
Even as they depict a massive stimulus package as indispensable to turning the economy around, U.S. Democratic leaders are aggressively lowering expectations that the package will yield dramatic accomplishments quickly..... More
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Vice President's Ceremonial Office
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building
December 19, 2008
11:42 A.M. EST
Q Mr. Vice President, welcome back to FOX News Sunday.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's good to be back, Chris.
Q The President has announced a $13 billion short-term loan to the U.S. automakers without binding conditions on the unions or the bond holders. Haven't you, in effect, kicked this problem down the road to the Obama administration?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I wouldn't describe it quite the way you did, Chris. I think what he's tried to do is manage a difficult problem. And obviously an important consideration is the fact that we're in the middle of a transition, and that it will shortly become a problem that the next administration is going to have to deal with.
But the President's package basically extends a line of credit to the companies for a specified period of time, and also at the same time, tries to encourage the kind of changes and restructuring that we think is going to be essential if the companies are ever going to become viable. So you've got clear references in the announcement that he's made this week about the conditions, for example, that were part of the bill that passed the House of Representatives, but didn't pass the Senate, as well as some other suggestions and recommendations from people like Senator Corker from Tennessee.
Q But some of the specific measures -- for instance, getting the auto workers union to have competitive wages and work rules -- that's a target, that's not a restriction. If the bond holders are taking equity instead of debt, that's a target, not a restriction. When you met with Senate Republicans last week, you were quoted as saying: "If you let the Big Three collapse, the GOP will be remembered for years, again, as the party of Herbert Hoover." Once you made that argument, didn't you in fact give up your leverage to force concessions on the auto workers?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I want to come back to the first part of your question, in terms of those conditions that we talked about with respect to the package. And a key consideration here is this notion of economic viability. And if they have not produced economically viable plans, that is, if they haven't put together a program that will take them to viability, then those loans will be withdrawn, or recalled, in effect. So there's a strong incentive here for them to address these issues.
Now, you can only go so far. The Obama administration ultimately is going to be the one who is going to have to resolve this issue. We've got about a month to go here, and then it will be a problem they have to deal with. But what the President tried to do, and I think did successfully, is to make certain that companies are able to stay in business for a period of time here, as well as encourage them to move in the right direction in terms of restructuring.
Q But it isn't just me, there are a lot of top Republicans -- in fact, Republican leaders of the House and the Senate have sent out notes blasting the administration's solution. They say it isn't tough enough, it is too encouraging, and not with enough teeth in it. And they also criticize you for opening up the so-called "TARP money," the $700 billion that was supposed to go simply for financial relief. And they say, look, if you bail out one industry that's in trouble, what happens the time the next industry comes up, the retail industry, and says, we need a bailout?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right, but remember that you're dealing here with the automobile industry. It's a massive industry. It's got millions of jobs connected with it. There are all the suppliers that are affected by whatever happens to the companies. And those same suppliers, frankly, supply a lot of parts to the rest of the automobile industry that's not in trouble. It's a very big, complicated problem. And the President decided specifically that he wanted to try to deal with it, and not preside over the collapse of the automobile industry just as he goes out of office. I don't think that's an unreasonable position for him to take. And I do think we did -- obviously I can't speak for the Obama administration, but we did keep them apprised of what we were doing as we went forward.
So I think the situation is made doubly difficult -- it would be tough enough to have to deal with this question of whether or not the companies can survive under normal circumstances. These aren't normal circumstances. We're in the midst of the worst financial crisis in recent memory. We're on the downside of what looks like a very deep recession, maybe the worst since the end of World War II. And we're in the midst of a presidential transition. And you've got a situation that as of noon on January 20th, it will be President Obama; before that it's President Bush, and trying to manage all that and take care of all those needs and requirements. We believe that this was in fact the best course of action.
I think it's a good package. I think -- you know, we talk about the Congress being critical. They had ample opportunity to deal with this issue, and they failed. The President had no choice but to step in.
Q The Democrats are now talking about as much as a trillion-dollar economic stimulus package over the next two years, once they get in office. Using the same reasoning you've just used about these extraordinary times, do you support a trillion dollar economic stimulus package?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I haven't even seen the package, Chris. And --
Q Does it strike you as --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't have any way of --
Q -- amount of money?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'd want to see what they're going to spend it on. There usually are fairly significant differences between we Republicans and the Democrats on how you stimulate the economy. I'm a big advocate of tax cuts. That's what we did in '03. That's how we recovered from the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
The Democrats usually want to spend a lot more money on government services. So there are probably -- I would guess, without having seen their package -- significant differences. But I do think there's a general concern out there that there does need to be action taken given the situation we find ourselves in economically. But I -- it's impossible for me to pass judgment on a program that hasn't even been announced yet.
Q According to the latest FOX News opinion dynamics poll -- I know how much you like polls -- you now have the lowest approval rating of the last eight years: 29 percent have a favorable opinion, 61 percent unfavorable. I know that you say that politicians shouldn't chase polls. But when people see all that you did as Vice President in a kind of final report card, they'll be right here to say they still disapprove. Does that bother you?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No. We didn't set out to achieve the highest level of polls that we could during the course of this administration. We set out to do what we thought was necessary and essential for the country. That clearly was the guiding principle with respect to the aftermath of 9/11. I feel very good about a lot of the things we've done in this administration. I think that they will be viewed in a favorable light when it's time to write the history of this era.
I think the fact that we were able to protect the nation against further attacks from al Qaeda for seven-and-a-half years is a remarkable achievement. To do that, we had to adopt some unpopular policies that have been widely criticized by our critics. But I think, in terms of, is 29 percent good enough for me? Well, we fought a tough reelection battle. We won by an adequate margin in 2004. We've been here for eight years now. Eventually, you wear out your welcome in this business. But I've -- I'm very comfortable with where we are and what we achieved substantively. And, frankly, I would not want to be one of those guys who spends all his time reading the polls. I think people like that shouldn't serve in these jobs.
Q During the Vice Presidential debate in October, Joe Biden was asked about your interpretation of the powers of your office as Vice President. And here's what he said: "Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous Vice President we've had probably in American history." Transition officials say that Biden plans to shrink his office; that he is not going to meet with Senate Democrats the way you did every week with Senate Republicans; that he is not going to have his own "shadow government" in the White House. Biden has said that he believes you have dangerously expansive views of executive power.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I just fundamentally disagree with him. He also said that all the powers and responsibilities of the executive branch are laid out in Article I of the Constitution. Well, they're not. Article I of the Constitution is the one on the legislative branch. Joe's been chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a member of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate for 36 years, teaches constitutional law back in Delaware, and can't keep straight which article of the Constitution provides for the legislature, which provides for the executive.
So I think I'd write that off as campaign rhetoric. I don't take it seriously. And if he wants to diminish the office of Vice President, that's obviously his call. I think that President-Elect Obama will decide what he wants in a Vice President. And apparently, from the way they're talking about it, he does not expect him to have as consequential a role as I have had during my time.
Q Do you have some advice for your successor?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, he hasn't asked for any, and so I won't go beyond where I've been.
Q What do you think are the powers of the President, relative to Congress and the courts during the war?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think they're very significant. And I think they have to be. And I think there's ample precedent for that. And the fact of the matter is that, especially given the kind of conflict we're faced with today, we find ourselves in a situation where I believe you need strong executive leadership. What we did in this administration is to exert that kind of authority. We did it in a matter that I believe, and the lawyers that we looked to for advice believed, was fully consistent with the Constitution and with the laws of the land. And there is, as I say, ample precedent for them.
If you think about what Abraham Lincoln did during the Civil War, what FDR did during World War II, they went far beyond anything we've done in a global war on terror. But we have exercised I think the legitimate authority of the President under Article II of the Constitution as Commander-In-Chief in order to put in place policies and programs that have successfully defended the nation. I think you've --
Q If you could conceptualize it for me, sir, what do you think are the powers of the President relative to Congress and relative to the courts during war?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think in wartime, when you consider his responsibilities as Commander-In-Chief, clearly that means command of the Armed Forces. It also, when you get into use of forces in wartime, means collecting intelligence. And therefore, I think you're fully justified in setting up a terrorist surveillance program to be able to intercept the communications of people who are communicating with terrorists outside the United States. I think you can have a robust interrogation program with respect to high-value detainees.
Now, those are all steps we took that I believe the President was fully authorized in taking, and provided invaluable intelligence, which has been the key to our ability to defeat al Qaeda over these last seven years.
Q This is at the core of the controversy that I'm going to get to with you in a moment. If the President, during war, decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: In general proposition, I'd say yes. You need to be more specific than that. I mean, but clearly, when you take the oath of office on January 20th of 2001, as we did, you take the oath to support and defend and protect the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. There's no question about what your responsibilities are in that regard.
And, again, I think that there are bound to be debates and arguments from time to time, and wrestling back and forth about what kind of authority is appropriate in any specific circumstance. But I think that what we've done has been totally consistent with what the Constitution provides for.
The President of the United States now for 50 years is followed at all times, 24 hours a day, by a military aide carrying a football that contains the nuclear codes that he would use and be authorized to use in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States. He could launch the kind of devastating attack the world has never seen. He doesn't have to check with anybody, he doesn't have to call the Congress, he doesn't have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in. It's unfortunate, but I think we're perfectly appropriate to take the steps we have.
And go back and look at how eager the country was to have us work in the aftermath of 9/11 to make certain that that never happened again. Now we've had a lot of time pass over it and so we've had -- I think more people are more complacent, perhaps, than was true some time ago. We've also had a lot of our critics who want to score political points who've made what I think are outrageous charges. But in my mind --
Q What rights do the Congress -- what constitutional rights do the Congress and the courts have to limit the power of the President when it comes to these matters of national security?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the Congress has -- clearly has the ability to write statutes and has certain constitutional authorities granted in the Constitution. But I would argue that they do not have the right by statute to alter presidential constitutional power. In other words, you can't override his constitutional authorities and responsibilities with a statute --
Q So if they want to say you can't surveill or he can't detain?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, they have, for example, said -- passed the War Powers Act. The War Powers Act is still in force out there today, that requires him to grant certain notifications to the Congress and give them the authority to supersede those by vote if they want to when it comes to committing troops. No President has ever signed off on the proposition that the War Powers Act is constitutional. I would argue that it is, in fact, a violation of the Constitution; that it's an infringement on the President's authority as the Commander-in-Chief. It's never been resolved, but I think it's a very good example of a way in which Congress has tried to limit the President's authority and, frankly, can't.
Q Mr. Vice President, we have to step aside for a moment, but when we come back I want to continue this conversation with Vice President Cheney about the controversies over surveillance, over interrogation, over detention. Back in a moment.
* * * * *
Q And we're back now to continue our conversation with Vice President Dick Cheney.
I want to discuss the controversies that we've alluded to over national security over the last eight years. First of all, let's get to the big picture: Was it worth it? Did the decisions that you helped set in place on interrogation, on detention, on surveillance, did they, in fact, save lives that you would maintain would not have been saved under the old rules?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, I believe that.
Q Can you be specific?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I guess I'd direct you to the intelligence agencies involved, but I know specifically of attacks that were thwarted -- I think of the airliner attack that was planned out of Heathrow, when they were going to hijack --
Q -- bomb attacks.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- six airliners and blow them up over American cities. There has not been a single attack against the homeland, against the United States, in seven-and-a-half years. There have been attacks in Madrid, Spain; in London, England; in Mumbai and Bali and Mombosa -- all over the globe. And the threat is still out there and still very real. But the actions that we took, based on the President's decisions and based on some outstanding work by the intelligence community and by the military, has produced a safe seven-and-a-half years, and I think the record speaks for itself.
Q Let's drill down into some of the specific measures that you've pushed: First of all, the warrantless surveillance, on a massive scale, without telling the appropriate court, without seeking legislation from Congress -- why not in the aftermath of 9/11, in the spirit of national unity, get approval, support, bring in the other branches of government?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let me tell you a story about the Terror Surveillance Program. We did brief the Congress and we brought in --
Q A few members.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We brought in the Chairman and the Ranking Member, House and Senate, and briefed them a number of times up until -- this would be from late '01 up until '04, when there was additional controversy concerning the program. At that point, we brought what I describe at the "Big 9" -- not only the intel people, but also the Speaker, the Majority and Minority Leaders of the House and Senate, and brought them into the Situation Room in the basement of the White House. I presided over the meeting. We briefed them on the program and what we'd achieved and how it worked, and asked them, should we continue the program. They were unanimous, Republican and Democrat alike, all agreed, absolutely essential to continue the program.
I then said, do we need to come to the Congress and get additional legislative authorization to continue what we're doing? They said, absolutely not, don't do it, because it will reveal to the enemy how it is we're reading their mail. That happened. I mean, we did consult. We did keep them involved. We ultimately ended up having to go to the Congress after The New York Times decided they were going to make the judge review all their -- make all of this available, obviously, when they -- in reacting to a specific leak.
But it was a program that we briefed on repeatedly. We did these briefings in my office; I presided over them. We went to the key people in the House and Senate Intel Committees, and ultimately the entire leadership, and sought their advice and counsel and they agreed we should not come back to the Congress.
Q You also pushed to strip enemy combatants of any ability to challenge their status in court and also denied them any protection under the Geneva conventions.
Even in the midst of a war on terror, is there something wrong with not allowing even a suspected terrorist to have his "day in court," to have an independent review of the status of his case?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, there's several points there, Chris, that you've touched upon. I think the -- first of all, you've got to remember that what we did after 9/11 was make a judgment that the terrorist attacks we were faced with were not a law enforcement problem, they were, in fact, a war. It was a war against the United States -- and therefore, that we were justified in using all the means available to us to fight that war.
And in a war, you capture the enemy and you hold them until the war is over with. You don't capture German prisoners of war and then put them on trial in World War II. That's not what we had to deal with here. But in terms of what kind of rights these folks had, they were not covered by the Geneva Convention. They were unlawful combatants. They were not --
Q -- the Supreme Court --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, okay. But they were not -- this was the decision we made at the time based on the precedent that was available. They were not citizens of a state that was a party to the Geneva Convention. They did not adhere to the laws of war. They spent all their time trying to kill civilians for their -- to achieve their political ends. They didn't wear uniforms. I mean, by any definition that was available to us at the time, the Geneva Convention does not traditionally apply to terrorists.
Q Here's my --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Second -- no, let me finish.
Q Can I just ask you one question, because I think it will bring the point in? In the first big test case, which was against Osama bin Laden's driver, Salim Hamdan, the military jury in the end -- military jury ended up acquitting him of all the major charges against him. The government asked for 30 years to life. The judge ended up deciding that he should be released based on time served. The question basically is this: Even the government can get things wrong sometimes.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So?
Q So the question is, therefore, don't Salim Hamdan, whomever, have a right to have some independent person judge and say, this person is being held based on legitimate evidence or not being held based on --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, remember the situation here. We had hundreds of people that were held at Guantanamo. And the majority of them have been released. And they were released based upon reviews of their cases, and determinations that were made that there was no longer a need to hold them because they were no longer a threat, or they no longer had any intelligence value.
They're all guaranteed an annual review of their case at Guantanamo. And when you do get ultimately to trial, they'll be tried by military commissions. They will have representation. And military commissions is exactly the way, in World War II, that we treated those handful of individuals that -- like, for example, the German saboteurs who landed on Long Island, were captured, were tried by military commission, and subsequently executed. And those commissions were upheld in a Supreme Court decision after the war. We follow that same basic fundamental precedent here.
Q Let me ask you about the Supreme Court. In the last few years, I think you'd agree the Supreme Court has sharply undercut the powers of the executive branch. It has said --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think that's an overstatement.
Q Well, it has said that all detainees have a right to challenge their status. It said you have to go to Congress to get approval of military commissions. And it said, in fact, even enemy combatants have protections under the Geneva Convention.
Bruce Fein, legal conservative scholar, worked in the Reagan Justice Department -- said the following: "The irony with the Cheney crowd pushing the envelope on presidential power is that the President has now ended up with lesser powers than he would have had if they had made less extravagant, monarchical claims." Did you overreach? Did you end up making the presidency weaker, not stronger?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't believe so. I think, again, I'd come back to the proposition that when we made judgments, for example, about military commissions, we followed precedent. We did exactly what was done by FDR in World War II, subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court, in a decision the Court made.
Q Then what do you make of what the court ended up --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The court changed. The court changed its mind, obviously, and evolved over time, and there are a different set of judges now than there was then.
Q Does that mean you were wrong?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, I don't think we were wrong. We have to follow whatever the court determines. Sometimes, the court makes bad decisions, or decisions we disagree with.
Q Was that a bad decision?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think it was. I think -- we did go and get congressional authorization from the Congress for the military commissions. But I think that, frankly, the basic decision they made was wrong. But it's their authority. The vote was 5-4. It was different than the one that had prevailed after World War II that was available to us at the time that we put all of this together.
But in terms of undermining the presidency, no, I don't think so. I think reasonable people can disagree. You make decisions to the best of your ability. You work with the other branches of government. If the court makes a judgment or a ruling, then we comply with the ruling of the Supreme Court.
Q I want to get into one last area in the couple of minutes remaining in this segment. In Stephen Hayes' biography of you, he says that "if I had had the wit to ask you back in 2007, you would have told me that you strongly disagreed with President Bush's decision to fire Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense." Is that true?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Obviously, I did disagree with the decision. It wasn't my decision to make. The President doesn't always take my advice. I will say that I think Bob Gates has done a good job as Secretary of Defense. I've worked closely with him; I've known him a long time. We worked together many, many times over the years. And so I think Gates has done a fine job. But I was a Rumsfeld man. I'd helped recruit him and I thought he did a good job for us.
Q And just to follow up, when you look at how badly the occupation was handled, and in 2006, what a mess Iraq was, and how much things have improved under Bob Gates and General Petraeus, perhaps, was President Bush right and you wrong?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, you'd have to give the President credit for the surge, as well, too. I mean, some good decisions were made. But I'm not one of those who believes nothing good happened in Iraq prior to 2007. I think the fact that we were able to go in as effectively as we did and take down the Saddam regime; that we were able to kill his sons, capture him, bring him to trial; that we had three national elections; that the Iraqis wrote a constitution that's bearing fruit today; that they've got a government that we've just signed a historic agreement with in the Status of Forces Agreement -- all of those things happened, including the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi -- all of those things happened up through the end of '06.
So to do what many people want to do, which is say everything was bad before '07, only good after '07, I don't think that's fair, and I don't think the President would buy that analysis, nor do I think Bob Gates would.
Q Mr. Vice President, we have to take a final break here. But when we come back, I'm going to ask Dick Cheney about Iran, about Osama bin Laden, and about how he and Washington have changed over the last 40 years. Back in a moment.
* * * * *
Q And we're back now for one final segment with Vice President Dick Cheney.
A little over a year ago, Mr. Vice President, you said the following: "We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon." As you and the President leave office in a month, isn't Iran in fact closer than ever to achieving that goal?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, they're clearly continuing to work on it very aggressively, Chris, no doubt about it. We're continuing to work to prevent that from happening. And I would expect that the Obama administration will do the same as soon as they're sworn in.
Q But this was perhaps the centerpiece of the Bush doctrine, that we will not allow the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons. Is it a failure by your administration to be leaving that problem to Barack Obama?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't think so, in the sense that this is a continuing issue, this whole question of proliferation. We did, obviously, take down Saddam Hussein's regime. He'd been one of the proliferators previously. We stripped Libya of its nuclear aspirations. They turned over all their centrifuges and feedstock and weapons design to us. We took down the A.Q. Khan black market network that was selling nuclear weapons technology to Libya --
Q Iran --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- Iran. They were selling to Libya and to Iran, and to North Korea. So we -- I think we've done a good job of working generally the nuclear proliferation problem. We have not yet been able to stop the Iranian program. We continue to work on it. And we will pass on to President Obama the legacy that exists with respect to the efforts that we've already put in place.
Q You have been very honest in this discussion today. And so I'm going to ask you, in your heart of hearts, do you believe diplomacy can solve this?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's the policy of the administration, and I support the policy of the administration.
Q But you're not prepared to say that you believe diplomacy can solve this?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I hope it can. That's clearly what we've tried.
Q Over your objections, sir?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, not over my objections. I've supported the efforts to try to put in place sanctions, which I think have had a significant impact on the Iranian economy, to support the efforts going through the U.N. Security Council. We've tried a broad range of possibilities here to try to slow down the Iranian operation.
Q They haven't worked.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Not yet.
Q Speaking of disappointments, do you believe that Osama bin Laden is still alive?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't know. I'm guessing he is. We've had certain pieces of evidence become available from time to time -- there will be a photograph released, or something that allows the intelligence community to judge that he is still alive.
Q I know that we have severely damaged al Qaeda, but on a personal level, is it a major disappointment to you that the likelihood is that we will not catch him on your watch?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I would prefer to have gotten Osama bin Laden a week after 9/11; so would the President. I think more important, though, is what we've been able to do generally to his organization. Even if you were able to get Osama bin Laden, which clearly we would like to do, you've still got -- have had in the past a strong functioning organization there. He's been holed up in a way where he's not even been communicating. I mean, there are questions about whether or not he's even running the operation. But we have had major success against the organization. We've captured and killed a lot of al Qaeda members and, as I say, we prevented further attacks against the United States.
So that's probably the most important objective. Capturing Osama bin Laden is something we clearly would love to do -- there are 30 days left.
Q The Republican Party has suffered stinging defeats the last two elections and now the Democrats are going to have overwhelming control of this town for at least the next two years. Where has the GOP gone wrong, and what does it need to do to recapture its hold on the American people?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I've been through these kinds of cycles before, Chris. I figured out the other day this is my fourth transition from government to private life. It's not my first rodeo, so to speak. And I remember other periods -- the late '70s, when we Republicans lost the White House in '76 and the Democrats had overwhelming control of the House and Senate. And of course, right around the corner was 1980, the election of Ronald Reagan. We recaptured the Senate and so forth.
So the pendulum swings back and forth. Right now we're in a down period I think from the standpoint of the Republicans, but I think we'll be back. You go through these cycles and eliminate some of the old underbrush that was there and recruit new talent. We've got some very bright, capable people out there coming along. And I think we will regroup and I think we're very competitive politically. And so I'm not as pessimistic as some are.
Q From what you saw in this campaign, is Sarah Palin a serious candidate for 2012 and beyond?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, that's up to Sarah Palin whether or not she wants to pursue higher office again. I don't think she has any kind of lock on that. She'll have to go out and earn it just as anybody else would have to.
Q As we've mentioned, you are ending 40 years on and off in public service here in Washington, and we'd like to do a lightning round of quick questions and quick answers, if we could, with you.
Washington -- better or worse over these four decades?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think there's some of both. I mean, I -- when I arrived here in 1968, we'd had the Martin Luther King assassination, the Bobby Kennedy assassination, riots in the city of Washington. There were machine guns deployed on the steps of the Capitol in order to make certain that the rioters didn't get close to the center of the city.
This time is much better than that, when you think about it. We're about to have an inaugural ceremony down here that will inaugurate the first African American as President of the United States. Millions of people will come to the city for a tremendous celebration. That's major progress. So to say that it's worse now than it used to be, I guess I wouldn't buy that.
Q It's a very good answer. I must say you're not quite observing the rules of the lighting round. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: These are important questions.
Q I understand that. Highest moment in the last eight years?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Highest moment in the last eight years? Well, I think the most important, the most compelling, was 9/11 itself, and what that entailed, what we had to deal with, the way in which that changed the nation and set the agenda for what we've had to deal with as an administration.
Q And I assume that's also your lowest moment.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sure, yes.
Q Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm going to pass on that.
Q What about the criticism that in the Blagojevich case, as in the Libby case, he doesn't just stay within the four corners of the indictment, but he makes political comments?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm going to pass on that.
Q Did you really tell Senator Leahy, "bleep" yourself?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I did.
Q Any qualms, or second thoughts, or embarrassment?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, I thought he merited it at the time. (Laughter.) And we've since, I think, patched over that wound and we're civil to one another now.
Q Favorite President over the four decades?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Boy, I've got more than one and I wouldn't want to single out any one particular one. Obviously --
Q -- your favorite was Jerry Ford?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I loved working for Jerry Ford. I was there at a very special time. But I couldn't say anything with respect to my time in office that didn't focus very much on the current President and on this administration -- I mean, these eight years, in terms of my involvement and in terms of the tough decisions the President had to make. He's been, in my mind, a very consequential President, a guy who made very tough decisions and never looked back.
And to some extent there are similarities between the two. They've both been willing to make very tough decisions that they thought were right for the country and let history judge down the road whether or not they made good decisions.
Q Finally -- and we have about -- less than two minutes left -- in July of 2007, when the President was having a medical procedure and was under anesthesia, you became the acting President for I think a couple of hours. And you wrote a letter to each of your grandchildren in which you said the following: "My principal focus as Vice President has been to protect the American people and our way of life. I ask of you as my grandchildren that you always strive in your lives to do what is right." And you signed it, Grandpa Cheney.
Why did you write that letter, sir?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I thought it was important for the family and for the grandkids to have a sense of the importance of the moment. I felt I wanted to mark it in some fashion and I couldn't think of a better way to do it than the letter that I wrote to my grandchildren.
Q But what does it say about your motivation these 40 years, and especially these last eight?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, I don't know that it says anything special about my motivation. Obviously at the time I was focused and I've continued to be focused upon the importance of doing everything we could to defend the nation. I think that's the -- sort of the first and highest priority for any administration.
Q Mr. Vice President, we want to thank you for today, and always, over these last years, taking our questions, sometimes friendly, sometimes not. And I also want to thank you, sir, for your service --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Chris.
Q -- over these four decades.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I've enjoyed it.
END 12:20 P.M. EST
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Sunday, December 21, 2008
“America is spending billions of dollars every month on foreign oil, money that we need to be putting into our own economy right now,” Isakson said. “It is imperative that the new Congress move quickly to enact an energy plan and I am committed to making sure that happens. This is an economic issue and it’s also a national security issue.”
“Right now America is importing 70 percent of its oil -- Senator Isakson understands the threat this has on our economy and national security,” said Pickens, who has been in the oil industry for 50 years. “America can no longer afford to move forward without a plan that addresses our dependence on foreign oil. I am proud to have Senator Isakson’s support and leadership as we push Congress to enact an energy plan within the first 100 days of the new administration.”
Today’s announcement is another step in Isakson’s commitment to energy independence. Isakson previously joined a coalition that called for a comprehensive approach that includes increased domestic production of oil through offshore drilling, a commitment to nuclear energy, conservation, and a focused effort to transition the nation’s motor vehicle fleets to fuels other than gasoline and diesel.
Isakson has also co-sponsored the Gas Price Reduction Act of 2008, which would allow states the option to explore oil and gas resources in the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelf, repeal the moratorium on Western state oil shale exploration, increase research and development for plug-in electric cars and trucks and strengthen U.S. futures markets through increased transparency.
Isakson is a co-sponsor of the Domestic Energy Production Act of 2008 that aims to lower the cost of energy and enhance U.S. energy security by increasing domestic supply. He has also voted numerous times to explore oil reserved in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“We have a diverse country with many assets that regionally are very different. If we’re going to have standards that call on us to find renewable energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we must promote all those sources and not narrow those sources,” said Isakson.
The Pickens Pledge reads:
We will no longer stand by and watch as America’s national security and economyUnveiled on July 8, 2008 by T. Boone Pickens, the Pickens Plan is a detailed solution for ending the United States’ growing dependence on foreign oil. Earlier this year, when oil prices reached $140/barrel, America was spending about $700 billion for foreign oil, equaling the greatest transfer of wealth in human history. That figure has decreased some while oil prices have retreated, but the U.S. is still dependent on foreign nations for nearly 70 percent of its oil, representing a continuing national economic and national security threat. The plan calls for investing in power generation from domestic renewable resources such as wind and using our abundant supplies of natural gas as a transportation fuel, replacing more than one-third of our imported oil.
become more dependent on the unstable foreign nations that we rely on for nearly
70% of the oil we use each day.
We spend nearly $700 billion every
year buying foreign oil, which represents the greatest transfer of wealth in the
history of mankind.
The new President and the 111th Congress need
to enact an energy plan that reduces our foreign oil dependence by at least 30%
within ten years.
This plan must include proven American technology
and resources; the development of new energy sources; and the expansion and
modernization of the national electrical grid to transport renewable energy to
homes and businesses.
Delaying any further means tacit support for
continuing America’s addiction to foreign oil.
I join with T. Boone
Pickens and his army of supporters in calling for an Energy Independence Plan to
be enacted within the first 100 days of the new administration.
For more information on the Pickens Plan, please visit www.pickensplan.com.
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Community News You Can Use
Fayetteville, Peachtree City, Tyrone
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Cowdery admitted to conspiring to offer more than $10,000 in campaign contributions to another Alaska state senator (State Senator A) in exchange for State Senator A's support of oil tax legislation during the 2006 Alaska state legislative session.
Cowdery pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline in Anchorage to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. In court documents, Cowdery admitted to conspiring with Bill J. Allen, the former chief executive officer of VECO Corporation (VECO), a now-defunct multinational oil field services company, and Richard L. Smith, a former VECO vice president, to offer at least $10,000 in purported campaign contributions to State Senator A in exchange for State Senator A's support of a proposed petroleum profits tax, or PPT, that VECO wanted the Alaska state legislature to pass in 2006. Cowdery admitted that he and Allen met State Senator A on June 25, 2006, at an Anchorage restaurant to offer State Senator A the bribe. Cowdery admitted that he and Allen specifically conditioned receipt of the bribe, which State Senator A did not accept, on State Senator A's support for the PPT legislation sought by VECO and Allen. Allen and Smith both pleaded guilty to multiple federal corruption charges in May 2007 and both are awaiting sentencing.
At sentencing, Cowdery faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of a plea agreement with Cowdery, the government has agreed to recommend a sentence of six to 12 months of home confinement. Sentencing has been scheduled for March 10, 2009.
Including Cowdery's guilty plea and those of Allen and Smith, there have been ten criminal convictions to date arising out of the ongoing investigation into public corruption in the state of Alaska. Thomas T. Anderson, a former elected member of the Alaska House of Representatives, was convicted in July 2007 and sentenced to five years in prison for extortion, conspiracy, bribery and money laundering for soliciting and receiving money from an FBI confidential source in exchange for agreeing to perform official acts to further a business interest represented by the source. Peter Kott, a former speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives, was convicted in September 2007 and sentenced to six years in prison for extortion, bribery and conspiracy. Victor H. Kohring, a former elected member of the Alaska House of Representatives, was convicted at trial in November 2007 for attempted extortion, bribery and conspiracy, and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. In March 2008, James A. Clark, chief of staff to a former governor of Alaska, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services mail and wire fraud. Former Anchorage lobbyist William Bobrick pleaded guilty in May 2007 to felony public corruption charges. U.S. Sen. Theodore F. Stevens was convicted at trial on Oct. 27, 2008, of making false statements regarding his required U.S. Senate financial disclosures for 2001 through 2006. Former Alaska businessman William Weimar was sentenced to six months in prison on Nov. 12, 2008, after pleading guilty on Aug. 12, 2008, to conspiracy to commit honest services mail and wire fraud and structuring financial transactions.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Nicholas A. Marsh and Edward P. Sullivan of the Criminal Division's Public Integrity Section, headed by Chief William M. Welch II, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph W. Bottini and James A. Goeke from the District of Alaska. The ongoing investigation is being led by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.
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Friday, December 19, 2008
President Bush announced he will use executive power to bailout the U.S. automakers in a plan similar to the legislation which died in the Senate.
Transcript of speech:
BUSH: Good morning.
For years, America's automakers have faced serious challenges; burdensome costs, shrinking share of the market and declining profits. In recent months, the global financial crisis has made these challenges even more severe.
Now, some U.S. auto executives say that their companies are nearing collapse and that the only way they can buy time to restructure is with help from the federal government. It's a difficult situation that involves fundamental questions about the proper role of government.
On the one hand, government has the responsibility not to undermine the private enterprise system. On the other hand, government has a responsibility to safeguard the broader health and stability of our economy.
Addressing the challenges in the auto industry requires us to balance these two responsibilities. If we were to allow the free market to take its course now, it would almost certainly lead to disorderly bankruptcy and liquidation for the automakers.
Under ordinary economic circumstances, I would say this is the price that failed companies must pay. And I would not favor intervening to prevent the automakers from going out of business. But these are not ordinary circumstances.
In the midst of a financial crisis and a recession, allowing the U.S. auto industry to collapse is not a responsible course of action. The question is how we can best give it a chance to succeed.
Some argue the wisest path is to allow the auto companies to reorganize through Chapter 11 provisions of our bankruptcy laws and provide federal loans to keep them operating while they try to restructure under the supervision of a bankruptcy court.
But given the current state of the auto industry and the economy, Chapter 11 is unlikely to work for American automakers at this time. American consumers understand why. If you hear that a car company is suddenly going into bankruptcy, you worry that parts and servicing will not be available and you question the value of your warranty.
With consumers hesitant to buy new cars from struggling automakers, it would be more difficult for auto companies to recover. Additionally, the financial crisis brought the auto companies to the brink of bankruptcy much faster than they could have anticipated. And they have not made the legal and financial preparations necessary to carry out an orderly bankruptcy proceeding that could lead to a successful restructuring.
The convergence of these factors means there is too great a risk that bankruptcy now would lead to a disorderly liquidation of American auto companies. My economic advisers believe that such a collapse would deal an unacceptably painful blow to hardworking Americans far beyond the auto industry. It would worsen a weak job market and exacerbate the financial crisis. It could send our suffering economy into a deeper and longer recession.
And it would leave the next president to confront the demise of a major American industry in his first days of office.
The more responsible option is to give the auto companies an incentive to restructure outside of bankruptcy and a brief window in which to do it. And that is why my administration worked with Congress on a bill to provide automakers with loans to stave off bankruptcy while they develop plans for viability.
This legislation earned bipartisan support from majorities in both houses of Congress. Unfortunately, despite extensive debate and agreement that we should prevent disorderly bankruptcies in the American auto industry, Congress was unable to get a bill to my desk before adjourning this year.
This means the only way to avoid a collapse of the U.S. auto industry is for the executive branch to step in. The American people want the auto companies to succeed and so do I.
So today I'm announcing that the federal government will grant loans to all the companies under conditions similar to those Congress considered last week. These loans will provide help in two ways. First, they will give automakers three months to put in place plans to restructure into viable companies which we believe they are capable of doing.
Second, if restructuring cannot be accomplished outside of bankruptcy, the loans will provide time for companies to make the legal and financial preparations necessary for an orderly Chapter 11 process that offers a better prospect of long-term success and gives consumer confidence that they can continue to buy American cars.
Because Congress failed to make funds available for these loans, the plan I'm announcing today will be drawn from the financial rescue package Congress approved earlier this fall. The terms of the loans will require auto companies to demonstrate how they would become viable.
They must pay back all their loans to the government and show that their firms can earn a profit and achieve a positive net worth. This restructuring will require meaningful concessions from all involved in the auto industry — management, labor unions, creditors, bond holders, dealers, and suppliers.
In particular, automakers must meet conditions that experts agree are necessary for long-term viability, including putting their retirement plans on a sustainable footing, persuading bond holders to convert their debt into capital that companies need to address immediate financial shortfalls, and making their compensation competitive with foreign automakers who have major operations in the United States.
If a company fails to come up with a viable plan by March 31st, it would be required to repay its federal loans. The automakers and unions must understand what is at stake and make hard decisions necessary to reform.
These conditions send a clear message to everyone involved in the future of American automakers. The time to make hard decisions to become viable is now. Or the only option will be bankruptcy.
The actions I'm announcing today represent a step that we wish were not necessary. But given the situation, it is the most effective and responsible way to address this challenge facing our nation. By giving the auto companies a chance to restructure, we will shield the American people from a harsh economic blow at a vulnerable time and we will give American workers an opportunity to show the world, once again, they can meet challenges with ingenuity and determination and bounce back from tough times and emerge stronger than before.
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. For years, America's automakers have faced serious challenges -- burdensome costs, a shrinking share of the market, and declining profits. In recent months, the global financial crisis has made these challenges even more severe. Now some U.S. auto executives say that their companies are nearing collapse -- and that the only way they can buy time to restructure is with help from the federal government.
This is a difficult situation that involves fundamental questions about the proper role of government. On the one hand, government has a responsibility not to undermine the private enterprise system. On the other hand, government has a responsibility to safeguard the broader health and stability of our economy.
Addressing the challenges in the auto industry requires us to balance these two responsibilities. If we were to allow the free market to take its course now, it would almost certainly lead to disorderly bankruptcy and liquidation for the automakers. Under ordinary economic circumstances, I would say this is the price that failed companies must pay -- and I would not favor intervening to prevent the automakers from going out of business.
But these are not ordinary circumstances. In the midst of a financial crisis and a recession, allowing the U.S. auto industry to collapse is not a responsible course of action. The question is how we can best give it a chance to succeed. Some argue the wisest path is to allow the auto companies to reorganize through Chapter 11 provisions of our bankruptcy laws -- and provide federal loans to keep them operating while they try to restructure under the supervision of a bankruptcy court. But given the current state of the auto industry and the economy, Chapter 11 is unlikely to work for American automakers at this time.
American consumers understand why: If you hear that a car company is suddenly going into bankruptcy, you worry that parts and servicing will not be available, and you question the value of your warranty. And with consumers hesitant to buy new cars from struggling automakers, it would be more difficult for auto companies to recover.
Additionally, the financial crisis brought the auto companies to the brink of bankruptcy much faster than they could have anticipated -- and they have not made the legal and financial preparations necessary to carry out an orderly bankruptcy proceeding that could lead to a successful restructuring.
The convergence of these factors means there's too great a risk that bankruptcy now would lead to a disorderly liquidation of American auto companies. My economic advisors believe that such a collapse would deal an unacceptably painful blow to hardworking Americans far beyond the auto industry. It would worsen a weak job market and exacerbate the financial crisis. It could send our suffering economy into a deeper and longer recession. And it would leave the next President to confront the demise of a major American industry in his first days of office.
A more responsible option is to give the auto companies an incentive to restructure outside of bankruptcy -- and a brief window in which to do it. And that is why my administration worked with Congress on a bill to provide automakers with loans to stave off bankruptcy while they develop plans for viability. This legislation earned bipartisan support from majorities in both houses of Congress.
Unfortunately, despite extensive debate and agreement that we should prevent disorderly bankruptcies in the American auto industry, Congress was unable to get a bill to my desk before adjourning this year.
This means the only way to avoid a collapse of the U.S. auto industry is for the executive branch to step in. The American people want the auto companies to succeed, and so do I. So today, I'm announcing that the federal government will grant loans to auto companies under conditions similar to those Congress considered last week.
These loans will provide help in two ways. First, they will give automakers three months to put in place plans to restructure into viable companies -- which we believe they are capable of doing. Second, if restructuring cannot be accomplished outside of bankruptcy, the loans will provide time for companies to make the legal and financial preparations necessary for an orderly Chapter 11 process that offers a better prospect of long-term success -- and gives consumers confidence that they can continue to buy American cars.
Because Congress failed to make funds available for these loans, the plan I'm announcing today will be drawn from the financial rescue package Congress approved earlier this fall. The terms of the loans will require auto companies to demonstrate how they would become viable. They must pay back all their loans to the government, and show that their firms can earn a profit and achieve a positive net worth. This restructuring will require meaningful concessions from all involved in the auto industry -- management, labor unions, creditors, bondholders, dealers, and suppliers.
In particular, automakers must meet conditions that experts agree are necessary for long-term viability -- including putting their retirement plans on a sustainable footing, persuading bondholders to convert their debt into capital the companies need to address immediate financial shortfalls, and making their compensation competitive with foreign automakers who have major operations in the United States. If a company fails to come up with a viable plan by March 31st, it will be required to repay its federal loans.
The automakers and unions must understand what is at stake, and make hard decisions necessary to reform, These conditions send a clear message to everyone involved in the future of American automakers: The time to make the hard decisions to become viable is now -- or the only option will be bankruptcy.
The actions I'm announcing today represent a step that we wish were not necessary. But given the situation, it is the most effective and responsible way to address this challenge facing our nation. By giving the auto companies a chance to restructure, we will shield the American people from a harsh economic blow at a vulnerable time. And we will give American workers an opportunity to show the world once again they can meet challenges with ingenuity and determination, and bounce back from tough times, and emerge stronger than before.
END 9:08 A.M. EST
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"The President's announcement this morning provides an opportunity for the American automakers to become viable and competitive while securing millions of jobs. The auto companies and all other parties now must engage in comprehensive negotiations that will require all parties to make concessions.
"The White House proposal unfortunately singles out workers and clearly puts them at a disadvantage before negotiations have even begun. It is essential that the development of the restructuring plans proceed in a fair and equitable manner, that the necessary sacrifice be mutual, and all laws governing fuel efficiency, emissions and improvements in automotive technology be preserved.
"The binding conditions contained in today's White House plan largely reflect those negotiated between the White House and the Congress and passed by the House last week. These conditions require strong protections for taxpayers, tough accountability measures for the industry, and a thorough restructuring plan that sets out a roadmap to viability.
"Congress stands ready to work with all parties during this difficult restructuring to restore the domestic auto industry, help revitalize the national economy, and secure millions of U.S. jobs."
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Thursday, December 18, 2008
"Congress needs to exercise extreme caution when considering any new government programs that are intended to act as a remedy for economic decline," says Davis. "The New Deal taught us that government programs die hard, and we're still suffering from the leftovers of FDR's administration."
"Government got us here, and more government will not get us out," observes Davis.
The Libertarian Party blames the current economic crisis on government's intervention in the economy, and worries about the economic impact of exploding government expenditures.
"Out of every four dollars of economic activity, one of those is from government spending," Davis notes. "Not since World War II have we seen the federal share of the economy at this level. This will have severe economic consequences down the road if we don’t look for options to this economic crisis other than more government spending."
According to an article published on Dec. 10, 2008 in USA Today, the federal share of the economy was at its highest in 1943 and 1944, at 44 percent.
"Trying to solve this economic crisis by risking another one in the future is not sound, sensible, responsible policy," says Davis. "There are several other options for economic relief that don't involve increasing government, such as tax cuts, deregulation and an avoidance of anything resembling a bailout."
The Libertarian Party has recently focused on the spending plans of the incoming Obama administration, which includes plans for the largest public works project since the 1950s. The cost is projected to reach more than $500 billion dollars.
"It's understandable that in these hard economic times that people are looking for answers and solutions," Davis explains. "However, history has taught us that government solutions only worsen problems, and do nothing to expedite recovery. The federal government has already put taxpayers at an incredible risk for trillions of dollars with the last bailout. Any further action will just dig that hole even deeper."
"It's absolutely immoral to strap future generations of taxpayers with this level of debt," says Davis.
The platform of the Libertarian Party states "a free and competitive market allocates resources in the most efficient manner," adding that the only role of government in the economy is to "protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected."
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Published in the Dec. 15, 2008, issue of CQ Weekly (www.cqweekly.com), the CQ Vote Studies report adheres to a specific and consistent methodology to deliver conclusive findings. The findings are unique because CQ's approach is quantitative, unlike other vote studies that rely largely on the judgment of their reporters and editors.
"CQ takes a more empirical approach and calculates how often members actually vote with their party or the president," said Mike Riley, editor and senior vice president of CQ. "We don't try to establish a litmus test or ideological labels because it is easy to poke holes in the legitimacy of that sort of analysis. What we're looking for is something that more closely represents how members might characterize their own votes.
Riley added, "We find that a whole host of players -- political campaigns, the media and academia, to name a few -- rely heavily on our analysis. We are pleased to be able to provide this information, and feel it is consistent with CQ's long-standing mission of providing accurate, non-partisan information on Congress and politics."
The past year showed a continuation of the high level of partisanship that has divided Capitol Hill for more than a decade. And with the Democrats in charge in this highly polarized environment, President Bush achieved far less than he enjoyed during the first six years of his presidency, although he was able to prevail on big occasions with a combination of compromise and procedural clout.
As CQ reporter Shawn Zeller writes in the story accompanying the 2008 party unity study, "Eight years ago, George W. Bush arrived in Washington promising to bring a central claim of his presidential campaign -- 'I'm a uniter, not a divider' -- to bear in his dealings with Congress. He leaves next month having presided over the most polarized period at the Capitol since Congressional Quarterly began quantifying partisanship in the House and Senate in 1953. That reality is reflected both in the relatively high percentage of party unity votes -- those that pit a majority of Republicans against a majority of Democrats -- and in the increasing propensity of individual lawmakers to vote with their fellow partisans."
Among the central findings of CQ's party unity study:
House Democrats voted on average with the majority of their caucus 92 percent of the time, tying the high-water mark for cohesion that they set last year.
House Republicans stuck together 87 percent of the time, a figure higher than a year ago, and just below their record of 91 percent, reached three times: in 1995, 2001 and 2003.
Senate Democrats voted as a unified caucus 87 percent of the time, a shade below their all-time high of 89 percent reached in 1999 and 2001.
Senate Republicans stuck together 83 percent of the time, higher than in 2007, though below their high mark of 94 percent set in 2003.
CQ's study of presidential support in 2008 found that President Bush had the second worst year of his presidency. As CQ reporter Richard Rubin writes in the story accompanying the study, "Bush should have been the ultimate lame duck, a president with no ability to press his agenda in Congress or to prevent members of his party from abandoning White House policies to save their careers. For the most part, that's exactly what happened."
Among the central findings of CQ's presidential support study:
Bush prevailed on just 47.8 percent of roll call votes on which he took a clear position, the eighth-lowest score in the 56-year history of the survey, although higher than Bush's 38.3 percent success rate in 2007.
As moderate GOP lawmakers fled from the president, the average House Republican supported Bush just 64 percent of the time. That's down 8 percentage points from a year ago and the lowest for a president's party since 1990. Bush's average support score of 70 percent among GOP senators also was the lowest for a president's party since 1990.
Democrats voted with Bush far less often than they had when the Republicans were in charge and could set the agenda. House Democrats voted with Bush just 16 percent of the time on average -- just above their 2007 support score of 7 percent and the second lowest for any president. Democratic senators supported Bush on 34 percent of roll call votes, down from their average support score of 37 percent a year ago.
The Party Unity study examined all roll call votes where a majority of one party voted against a majority of the other party. During the second session of the 110th Congress, there were 367 such votes in the House (53 percent of all votes), and 111 in the Senate (52 percent). The Presidential Support study was based on 80 House votes and 54 Senate votes for which CQ editors determined that Bush had taken a clear position prior to the vote. Overall in 2008, there were 688 such roll call votes in the House (not counting two quorum calls where lawmakers are only allowed to vote "present") and 215 in the Senate.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008
That salary alone, which excludes all other outside income and spousal wages, ranks each lawmaker in the top six percent of American households.
Congress automatically gets a pay raise each year, and has to introduce legislation to prevent the increase. Although legislation to halt the Congressional raise has been introduced, the most supported bill (H.R. 5087) has just 34 co-sponsors, far short of the 218 necessary for passage.
"As lawmakers make a big show of forcing auto executives to accept just $1 a year in salary, they are quietly raiding the vault for their own personal gain," said Daniel O'Connell, chairman of The Senior Citizens League (TSCL). "This money would be much better spent helping the millions of seniors who are living below the poverty line and struggling to keep their heat on this winter."
According to a Congressional Record Service dated November 26, 2008, lawmakers will receive a 2.8 percent increase in pay next year, from $169,300 to $174,000.
Meanwhile, a senior receiving average benefits will get a $63 monthly increase to just $1,153 per month next year, bringing their annual total to $13,836. An estimated 12 percent of all seniors are living at or below the poverty line, and one-third of all beneficiaries depend on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.
The Senior Citizens League supports three bills - H.R. 5087, H.R. 5091, and H.R. 6417 - which would prevent the pay raise from automatically going into effect. TSCL encourages its members to contact their Members of Congress and ask them to support those bills.
With 1.2 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League (www.SeniorsLeague.org) is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. The Senior Citizens League is an affiliate of The Retired Enlisted Association.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Viguerie, Chairman of ConservativeHQ.com, noted "The country is facing a collapse in the trust and confidence necessary for the economy to function. Wall Street self-dealers are getting bailed out by their old friends with taxpayers' money. Top leaders in government and the private sector are being exposed as con men.
"Meanwhile, we face challenges around the world, from the likes of Putin and Chavez and the governments of Iran and China. And we face the likelihood, within the next five years, of a terrorist attack that could kill thousands of people -- with New York perhaps the most likely target.
"Yet the political establishment is putting forth, as a U.S. Senator from New York, a person whose qualification is her last name," Viguerie said.
"Once again, politicians are acting like politicians -- basing a decision this important on politics: Who can help get votes for Governor Paterson? Who will best hold the seat? Who can raise the most money?
"How about these questions: Who can help protect New York and the rest of the country from attack? Who can help people recover the value of their homes? Who can help people keep their jobs?
"How about a successful business person, or someone else who has shown the ability to run a large, complex organization and bring projects in on time and under budget? How about someone who has challenged the political orthodoxy on important issues, and won? How about someone who has some significant qualifications for the job, other than being born into the right family?
"Isn't anybody in the political establishment connected to reality?" Viguerie asked.
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Text of the letter is as follows:
Dear Chairman Duncan,
I was saddened to learn that at a time of national trial, when a president-elect is preparing to take office in the midst of the worst financial crisis in over seventy years, that the Republican National Committee is engaged in the sort of negative, attack politics that the voters rejected in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.
The recent web advertisement, "Questions Remain," is a destructive distraction. Clearly, we should insist that all taped communications regarding the Senate seat should be made public. However, that should be a matter of public policy, not an excuse for political attack.
In a time when America is facing real challenges, Republicans should be working to help the incoming President succeed in meeting them, regardless of his Party.
From now until the inaugural, Republicans should be offering to help the President-elect prepare to take office.
Furthermore, once President Obama takes office, Republicans should be eager to work with him when he is right, and, when he is wrong, offer a better solution, instead of just opposing him.
This is the only way the Republican Party will become known as the "better solutions" party, not just an opposition party. And this is the only way Republicans will ever regain the trust of the voters to return to the majority.
This ad is a terrible signal to be sending about both the goals of the Republican Party in the midst of the nation's troubled economic times and about whether we have actually learned anything from the defeats of 2006 and 2008.
The RNC should pull the ad down immediately.
Chairman, American Solutions
Former Speaker of the House of Representatives
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Federal Lawsuit Filed Against Treasury Secretary to Stop AIG Bailout Financing of Terrorist Activities
The basis of the lawsuit is that AIG intentionally promotes Shariah-compliant businesses and insurance products, which by necessity must comply with the 1200 year old body of Islamic cannon law based on the Quran, which demands the conversion, subjugation, or destruction of the infidel West, including the United States. To help achieve these objectives and with the aid of federal tax dollars, AIG employs a three-person Shariah Advisory Board, with members from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Pakistan. According to AIG, the role of its Shariah authority "is to review [its] operations, supervise its development of Islamic products, and determine Shariah compliance of these products and [its] investments."
Of particular significance is the Pakistani Board member, Dr. Muhammed Imran Ashraf Usmani. Dr. Usmani is the son and devoted disciple of Sheik Mufti Taqi Usmani, the leading authority on Shariah financing who, in 1999, authored a book dedicating an entire chapter on why a Western Muslim must engage in violent jihad against his own country - even if Muslims are given equality and freedom to practice their religion and to proselytize.
The lawsuit was filed in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of Kevin J. Murray, a former Marine infantryman who served two tours of duty in Iraq. Murray is represented by the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and David Yerushalmi, an associated attorney who specializes in litigation and is an expert on Shariah law (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1105101) and Shariah compliant financing. Mr. Yerushalmi also serves as general counsel to the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C.
According to the lawsuit, use of taxpayer funds to acquire ownership of a business that intentionally promotes, endorses, supports, and funds Shariah-based Islamic religious practices violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented, "This lawsuit not only raises significant constitutional issues, it also shines a light on serious national security issues that our own government has created by direct financial support and ownership of a business that supports anti-American, radical Islamic activities. Make no mistake, there is an internal cultural jihad underway against our great nation, and I fear that many of our political leaders are unwittingly complicit in it."
On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists, guided by principles of Shariah-mandated jihad against "infidels," attacked and killed thousands of innocent American civilians. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. went on the offensive by engaging Islamic terrorists overseas in Iraq and in Afghanistan. As in the past when our Nation faced great crisis, American servicemen were called to action, and Kevin Murray answered the call. From March to October 2003, Murray - a U.S. Marine - was deployed overseas in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Yet today, Murray's federal tax dollars are being used to advance the very cause of global jihad he and his fellow servicemen were placed in harm's way to overcome. Shariah explicitly demands the murder of infidels like Kevin Murray and the destruction of the United States, which Murray took an oath to defend. Shariah is the same law that is used to justify beheadings, stonings, and amputation for petty crimes in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Sudan, which Americans deplore.
Nevertheless, AIG acknowledges and boasts its promotion of Shariah law and Shariah-based business practices. AIG itself describes "Sharia" as "Islamic law based on the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet [Mohammed]."
In further support of the federal government's endorsement of Shariah, the U.S. Treasury department co-sponsored a seminar in November of this year entitled "Islamic Financing 101" (http://www.thomasmore.org/downloads/sb_thomasmore/-AnnouncementonIslamicFinan ce.pdf) to promote Shariah financing among American institutions. The Seminar was jointly sponsored by Harvard University, one of the many American universities and colleges receiving millions of dollars from oil-producing countries to influence their Middle East programs, which are often staffed with professors who are anti-American, anti-Israeli, and pro-Islamic.
"It is clear," said Thompson, "oil money is purchasing the sovereignty of the United States and whatever loyalty to America these greedy financial institutions, corporations, and universities have left. It's up to the American people to take back their country from those who so easily betray its interests."
The federal lawsuit challenges that portion of the "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008" that appropriated $40 billion in taxpayer money to fund and financially support the United States government's majority ownership interest in AIG, which engages in Shariah-based Islamic religious activities that are anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, and anti-American.
According to the lawsuit, through the use of taxpayer funds, the U.S. government acquired a majority (79.9%) ownership interest in AIG, and as part of the bailout, Congress appropriated and expended an additional $40 billion of taxpayer money to fund and financially support AIG and its financial activities. AIG, which is now a government owned company, engages in Shariah-compliant financing, which subjects certain financial activities, including investments, to the dictates of Islamic law and the Islamic religion. This specifically includes any profits or interest obtained through such financial activities.
An important element of Shariah-compliant financing is a form of obligatory charitable contribution called zakat, which is a religious tax for assisting those that "struggle [jihad] for Allah." The amount of this tax is between 2.5% and 20%, depending upon the source of the wealth. The zakat religious tax is used to financially support Islamic "charities," some of which have ties to terrorist organizations that are hostile to the United States and all other "infidels," which includes Christians and Jews.
The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, recently convicted for providing material support to Islamic terrorist organizations, is an example of an Islamic "charity" that qualifies for receipt of the zakat. Thus, as a direct consequence of the taxpayer funds appropriated and expended to purchase and financially support AIG, the U.S. government is now the owner of a corporation engaged in the business of collecting religious taxes to fund interests adverse to the United States, Christians, Jews, and all other "infidels" under Islamic law
Continued Thompson, "This lawsuit is as much about protecting constitutional principles as it is about protecting our national security and preventing another 9/11 - whether it be overt through flying planes into buildings or covert through appropriating taxpayer money to fund an Islamic cultural jihad."
The lawsuit seeks a court order to stop the taxpayer funding of AIG and its Islamic-based businesses and activities.
The Thomas More Law Center has been involved in several cases dealing with the insidious threat of radical Islam. Law Center attorney Robert Muise, who is handling this case involving AIG, is also one of the Law Center's attorneys defending LtCol Jeffrey Chessani, USMC, the senior officer charged in the so-called "Haditha Massacre" case. Those charges were dismissed by a military judge, and the government has appealed that ruling. Muise is also representing former Marine Jesse Nieto, whose anti-Islamic terrorism message was recently banned by military authorities at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune because of some unknown complaints.
The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America's Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life. It supports a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America. The Law Center accomplishes its mission through litigation, education, and related activities. It does not charge for its services. The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization. You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at www.thomasmore.org.
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