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Pelosi & Obama praise George W. Bush. For real.

Mark the date: It might be the one day you hear some Democrats saying nice things about former President George W. Bush.

The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum was dedicated today in Dallas.

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“Today, we take the opportunity to honor our 43rd President, George W. Bush, for his service to our country. No matter whether you agreed with his policies, there was never any doubt that he was a leader of conviction, dedication to duty, and faith in American ideals.

“Committed to taking concrete steps on energy independence, President Bush bucked the partisan divide to work with Democrats in setting higher fuel economy standards that reduce our dependence on foreign oil and ensure a stronger and cleaner future for our country. While many events may distinguish his presidency, his devotion to combatting the scourge of HIV/AIDS will certainly define his legacy. Thanks to his commitment to work with Congress in establishing PEPFAR, we are saving millions of lives around the world and working toward the day when we completely eliminate new HIV infections among children.

“I hope the George W. Bush Library long stands as a true tribute to his passion, patriotism, and presidency.”

Read the remarks President Obama delivered at the dedication ceremony, after the jump:
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Under: Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, President Bush, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

Activists again urge disbarment for Yoo, Haynes

Two Bay Area lawyers who played roles in the Bush Administration’s legal justifications for torture should be disbarred, according to papers filed Friday in Washington, D.C.

John YooDisbar Torture Lawyers, a group of non-governmental organizations with more than a million members, filed complaints with the District of Columbia Bar’s Board on Professional Responsibility against John Yoo, now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall Law School, and William Haynes, now chief corporate counsel at San Ramon-based Chevron Corp. The group also filed a complaint against former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The group filed the complaints in Washington because that’s where the targets were practicing at the time of their alleged violations. Yoo served in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; Haynes served as the Defense Department’s general counsel. Both helped provide a legal framework for fear- and pain-inducing techniques for interrogating suspected terrorist detainees.

“The evidence is overwhelming that Yoo, Haynes, and Gonzales violated their oath by advocating and allowing torture against U.S. detainees,” attorney and group spokesman Kevin Zeese said in a news release. “Just as a lawyer cannot ethically advise a police officer to torture a criminal defendant, a government lawyer cannot ethically advise a government employee to torture a detainee. In both cases, the lawyers would be in violation of the law, and would be subject to disbarment. We strongly urge the Department of Justice to release its own OPR investigation into the conduct of these and other attorneys who provided cover for the wholesale use of torture by our government. We are hopeful that the investigation supports our call for disbarment.”

William Haynes The group filed similar petitions against Yoo and Haynes with the state bars of Pennsylvania and California, respectively, earlier this year.

Also, the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild in March filed a complaint against Haynes with the State Bar of California; after the State Bar closed that case, the NLG said it would pursue the case to the state Supreme Court, but the court rejected the petition in October.

Meanwhile, protestors yet again will urge Cal to fire Yoo today, staging protests at noon on Sproul Plaza and at 3 p.m. – just before one of Yoo’s scheduled classes – at the law school.

UPDATE @ 1:30 P.M. TUESDAY: A Chevron spokesman has just fronted me a letter that William T. Coleman Jr., a prominent Washington, D.C. attorney, wrote to the National Lawyers Guild in March – an impassioned defense of Haynes. “I know first-hand that Jim Haynes is a superb lawyer of the highest integrity, and believe that he discharged his responsibilities while General Counsel of the Defense Department in accordance with his oath of his office and the highest ethical standards,” wrote Coleman, who served as Secretary of Transportation under President Gerald Ford. “We should all be grateful that we had such courageous, committed, knowledgeable and superior people including Jim Haynes, not only willing to serve in these times of peril, but having the love of just laws would always act within the law, even though their mission was to prevent many more attacking terrorist actions on American citizens in the United States and elsewhere in the world.”

Posted on Monday, November 30th, 2009
Under: Civil liberties, President Bush, War on Terror | 2 Comments »

Karl Rove in SF: Back into the lions’ den?

Former White House insider Karl Rove will speak about President Barack Obama’s “growing political challenges and the nation’s longing for conservative principles” in addressing the inaugural event of the San Francisco Bay Committee for Heritage next Thursday, Sept. 24 at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in San Francisco.

The press release that went out today says the 7 p.m. dinner, following a 6 p.m. reception, already is sold out.

Rove was President George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff and senior adviser from 2001 to 2007; seen by many as the architect of Bush’s election victories and political machinations, Rove now contributes to the Fox News Channel and writes columns for the Wall Street Journal and Newsweek. Some progressives have tagged him as a war criminal, and one protestor tried to “arrest” him at a San Francisco appearance last October. If there’s not a slew of ‘em on the sidewalk outside that hotel next Thursday night, I’ll eat my hat.

The press release describes the committee as “a group of business and civic leaders in northern California who support the conservative public policy research of The Heritage Foundation, the leading Washington think tank.” It’s chaired by Seligman Investments Portfolio Manager Paul Wick, and is one of a dozen such Heritage-affiliated groups that has sprung up across the nation. Basic American Foods Chairman William J. “Jerry” Hume of San Francisco; Teranetics CEO Nersi Nazari of Atherton; and former U.S. Ambassador to France Howard Leach of San Francisco are listed as honorary chairmen.

Posted on Friday, September 18th, 2009
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency, President Bush | 2 Comments »

Miller will probe pension agency’s ex-chief

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, is opening a committee investigation into “very serious questions” of whether a Bush Administration pension agency chief got too cozy with the Wall Street contractors from which he was taking bids on lucrative contracts.

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. – a federal corporation created by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, with the secretaries of Labor, Commerce and Treasury as its board of directors – protects the pensions of nearly 44 million American workers and retirees in more than 29,000 private single-employer and multiemployer defined benefit pension plans. Charles E.F. Millard – earlier, a managing director at Lehman Brothers and Prudential Securities as well as a Republican New York City Councilman and a member of Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s administration – served as PBGC’s director from December 2007 through Jan. 20 of this year.

According to a PBGC Inspector General report issued earlier this week, PBGC executives in February 2008 gave the board a proposal to revise the corporation’s investment policy, moving billions of dollars out of fixed-income treasury securities and into marketable equities, real estate and private equity – basically, from investing in the government to investing in Wall Street.

The board unanimously approved the policy, and PBGC set about reinvesting its $48.4 billion portfolio, seeking bids from “strategic partners” on Wall Street who could manage parts of the fortune. Contracts awarded in October called for the purchase of nearly $2.5 billion in real estate and private equity; total fees for the three strategic partnership contracts, over a ten-year period, could top $100 million.

But Millard interposed himself in the bidding process, the report says:

“Phone records and emails show that the former Director was communicating directly with some bidders at the same time that he was actively evaluating their Strategic Partnership proposals, a clear violation of the prohibition of contact with potential offerors. Further, the former Director took an unprecedented role in the procurement process, to include serving on Technical Evaluation Panels (TEP) to formally assess some of the same Wall Street firms with whom he was in frequent contact; at a minimum, this violated the principle of separation of duties. However, it should be noted that our audit did not identify evidence of criminal activity on the part of any bidders.”

“The former Director was advised that his actions could cast doubt on the intergrity of the procurement process, but he did not heed these warnings.”

Millard denies he was manipulating the contracts in order to land a job with one of the contractors, the report says – but e-mails show a senior official at Goldman Sachs, which won a contract to invest $700 million of PBGC’s money, was actively helping Millard find a job.

Should be quite an investigation.

Posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2009
Under: George Miller, President Bush, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

DiFi skips Judiciary’s ‘truth commission’ hearing

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing this morning on “Getting to the Truth Through a Nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry,” taking testimony from constitutional experts and legal scholars on what the focus and scope would be for a proposed “truth commission” to probe the Bush Administration’s national security and executive power policies. (View the hearing’s archived, two-hour Webcast here.)

“There are some who resist any effort to look back at all, while others are fixated on prosecution, even if it takes all of the next eight years, or more, and further divides this country,” chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in his opening statement. “Over the last month, I have suggested a middle ground to get to the truth of what went on during the last several years, in a way that invites cooperation. I believe that that might best be accomplished though a nonpartisan commission of inquiry. I would like to see this done in a manner removed from partisan politics. Such a commission of inquiry would shed light on what mistakes were made so that we can learn from these errors and not repeat them.”

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., sits on the Judiciary Committee but didn’t attend this hearing and “hasn’t seen a proposal for a truth commission,” so she won’t comment, spokesman Gil Duran said today. He did note, however, that Feinstein — who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee — issued a statement last Friday saying her panel “will conduct a review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation practices, and we will have a brief statement to issue on that subject in the near future.”

Posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2009
Under: Dianne Feinstein, President Bush, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Bush commutes sentences for Ramos, Compean

This just in… In his final day in office, President George W. Bush today issued commutations to a pair of former Border Patrol agents serving prison sentences for the shooting of an unarmed drug dealer on the border in early 2005. This case had become a rallying point for conservatives and those who favor a sharp crackdown on illegal immigration across the U.S. border. Here’s the release:

WASHINGTON – On Jan. 19, 2009, President George W. Bush granted commutations of sentence to two individuals:

Jose Alonso Compean – El Paso, Texas

  • Offense: Assault with a dangerous weapon, and aiding and abetting, 18 USC § 7, 113 and 2; assault with serious bodily injury, and aiding and abetting, 18 USC § 7, 113 and 2; discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, 18 USC § 924; deprivation of rights under color of law, 18 USC § 242.
  • Sentence: Nov. 12, 2008; Western District of Texas; 12 years in prison, three years of supervised release following the prison term, $2,000 fine.
  • Terms of commutation: Prison sentence to expire on March 20, 2009, leaving intact and in effect the three year term of supervised release with all its conditions and the fine.
  • Ignacio Ramos, a/k/a Ignacio Ramos Jr. – El Paso, Texas

  • Offense: Assault with a dangerous weapon, and aiding and abetting, 18 USC § 7, 113 and 2; assault with serious bodily injury, and aiding and abetting, 18 USC § 7, 113 and 2; discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, 18 USC § 924; deprivation of rights under color of law, 18 USC § 242.
  • Sentence: Nov. 13, 2008; Western District of Texas; 11 years and one day in prison, three years of supervised release following the prison term, $2,000 fine.
  • Terms of commutation: Prison sentence to expire on March 20, 2009, leaving intact and in effect the three year term of supervised release with all its conditions and the fine.
  • UPDATE @ 10:12 A.M. MONDAY: I must note that while the case did indeed become a cause celebre for many conservatives, the government’s prosecution of these two men garnered criticism from a wide range of people across the political spectrum. After the Senate Judiciary Committee probed the case in 2007, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., co-signed a letter urging President Bush to take the action he took today.

    Posted on Monday, January 19th, 2009
    Under: President Bush | No Comments »

    CodePINK’s solidarity with the shoe-thrower

    There’s never a wrong time for street theater against the war, as far as CodePINK is concerned, and so the activists who blockaded and protested downtown Berkeley’s U.S. Marine Corps recruiting station for all that time will be back outside the station at 8 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, Dec. 17, in a show of ow solidarity with Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during a press conference Sunday in Baghdad.

    (Didja see how fast Bush ducked? Not bad for a 62-year-old who’s used to having a room full of trained professionals throw themselves in front of him at the first sign of trouble. And, by the way, I can understand how al-Zaidi could have a chance to launch the first loafer, but shouldn’t someone have gotten to him before the second?)

    ANYway, CodePINK activists are calling for his immediate release without charges; they even want Bush to intervene on his behalf. (Yes, good luck with that, let me know how it goes.) They’ll march around the recruiting station at 64 Shattuck Square holding their shoes aloft, then line them up for a dramatic tableau; it’s meant not only to show support for al-Zaidi’s act of civil disobedience, but also to represent Iraqis killed, tortured, maimed and U.S. soldiers who’ve died in Iraq, the news release says.

    “It’s outrageous that al-Zaidi could get two years in prison for insulting George Bush, when Bush is directly responsible for the deaths of 1.5 million Iraqis and 4,200 U.S. troops, and 5 million displaced Iraqis,” said CodePINK cofounder Medea Benjamin. “The one who should be in jail is George Bush, and he should be charged with war crimes.”

    Posted on Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
    Under: Berkeley, Iraq, President Bush | No Comments »

    Today’s Congressional odds and ends

    Pelosi urges Bush to be tough on automakers: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, wrote to President Bush today amid reports that the White House will act by itself to bail out the automobile industry now that a group of Republican Senators have stonewalled the legislation hammered out by the House and the Bush Administration. “The Administration must now require, as a condition of receiving those taxpayer funds, the same tough accountability and shared sacrifice by all parties – executives, unions, suppliers, creditors, dealers, bondholders, and shareholders – mandated in the bipartisan legislation passed by the House this week,” Pelosi wrote. “As you know, that legislation contained tough accountability and strict timelines for the automakers to develop a comprehensive restructuring plan to place them on a path toward viability and competitiveness. Failure by the automakers and other stakeholders to act urgently in developing and implementing a restructuring plan would end taxpayer assistance and permit the recalling of all loans. These same strong taxpayer protections and tough conditions should apply to any assistance provided to the automakers by your Administration.” But for Californians, alas, Pelosi already gave up a key condition for the auto bailout: a requirement that would’ve barred car companies from pursuing lawsuits against California and other states that want to establish tailpipe emission standards tougher than the federal government’s. Threatened with a veto, House Democrats jettisoned that provision Wednesday before the bill even went to the Senate.

    More Barbara Lee book signings: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, is doing more signings of her memoir, “Renegade for Peace and Justice,” this weekend. From 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, she’ll be at Network Coffee, 2708 98th Ave. in Oakland; at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, she’ll be at the Kwanza Holiday Gift Show in the Oakland Marriott Convention Center, 1001 Broadway.

    Go see Jerry McNerney: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, will hold his next “Congress At Your Corner” constituent meet-and-greet from 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, in Java Aroma, 2233 Grand Canal Blvd. #102 in Stockton. For all you 11th Districters who took part in McNerney’s “Holiday Cards For Our Troops” program, you’ll be glad to know he delivered some of your cards Thursday morning to soldiers recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and to sailors and marines at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He’ll take the rest to the Parks Reserve Forces Training Area in Dublin next week to deliver cards to National Guard and Reserve soldiers. More than 9,000 cards (some of which are featured on McNerney’s Web site) were received and will be distributed; that’s almost 13 times as many as last year, he said, “and the fact that so many people from our region took the time out to write messages of thanks to our soldiers is encouraging. It’s this kind of effort that will help make a difference in the lives of the men and women who have served our nation.”

    Posted on Friday, December 12th, 2008
    Under: Barbara Lee, Jerry McNerney, Nancy Pelosi, President Bush, U.S. House | No Comments »

    Who’s the lame duck here?

    Congressional Democrats seem to want the the Big Three automakers, as a condition of getting government loans, to drop their legal opposition to efforts by California and 15 other states to enforce tougher tailpipe-emissions standards than those set by the federal government – something for which state officials as well as health, environmental and public interest groups have been fighting hard.

    But the White House opposes this, and given House Democrats’ track record so far on caving to President Bush’s demands on this auto-industry bailout, it’ll be interesting to see whether this proposal survives.

    What track record, you ask? Just check today’s Washington Post report:

    Democrats bent to the will of the president on several key demands, most notably in agreeing that the emergency funding would be drawn from an existing loan program aimed at promoting fuel-efficient technologies.

    [snip]

    Democrats had hoped to take the money from the Treasury’s $700 billion financial rescue program, but the White House objected. A breakthrough came Friday, when Pelosi dropped her opposition to tapping the loan program established by Congress this fall to help the automakers retool factories to produce more-fuel-efficient vehicles.

    The Democratic proposal makes no provisions to replenish the loan fund, as Pelosi had hoped. But aides predicted that she would have little trouble adding the cash to a massive economic stimulus package President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to sign soon after he takes office in January.

    [snip]

    Democrats flirted with the idea of naming a seven-member board to oversee the auto bailout but decided instead to have the president name an individual, as Bush had suggested. Frank said that the car czar is likely to be a government official who could get to work quickly, rather than an outsider, and that Obama could replace Bush’s appointee once he takes office.

    So it seems the Democrats are hoping the Obama Administration will put this deal right after the fact, but given the Bush Administration’s ability to take a ball and run with it — often in the wrong direction — with little or no time left on the clock, that seems risky.

    Sure, compromise is part of any government activity, but I see the Democrats giving a lot while the White House largely gets what it wants. If the deal does help California and the other states with the emissions litigation, that would seem like something in return; otherwise, what’s everyone getting for this $15 billion we’re about to shell out?

    As San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris put it in a letter sent today to Congressional leaders (and distributed to the press by her campaign for state Attorney General in 2010), “(t)he automakers aren’t the only ones needing a bailout — the people breathing our air need a bailout from pollution.”

    Posted on Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
    Under: Nancy Pelosi, President Bush, U.S. House | No Comments »

    Will local House members oppose Bush pardons?

    Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., late last week introduced H.Res. 1531, urging President Bush not to pardon senior administration officials for whatever crimes the President might have authorized. The legislation resolves that:

    (1) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the granting of preemptive pardons by the President to senior officials of his administration for acts they may have taken in the course of their official duties is a dangerous abuse of the pardon power;

    (2) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the President should not grant preemptive pardons to senior officials in his administration for acts they may have taken in the course of their official duties;

    (3) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that James Madison was correct in his observation that `[i]f the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds [to] believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty’;

    (4) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that a special investigative commission, or a Select Committee be tasked with investigating possible illegal activities by senior officials of the administration of President George W. Bush, including, if necessary, any abuse of the President’s pardon power; and

    (5) the next Attorney General of the United States appoint an independent counsel to investigate, and, where appropriate, prosecute illegal acts by senior officials of the administration of President George W. Bush.

    It’s a safe bet at least a few Bay Area House members will sign onto this as co-sponsors, though while most probably have no problem opposing pardons, some might balk at calling for an independent counsel to review the past eight years lest doing so conflict with the wishes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, President-elect Barack Obama or both.

    “We need to look at it (he just dropped it) but we are very interested,” Julie Nickson, Rep. Barbara Lee‘s chief of staff, told me today, noting lawmakers won’t be able to sign on until Congress meets again in December.

    Similarly, a staffer for Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, tells me the Nadler resolution has been submitted for Stark’s review but he hasn’t signed off on it yet.

    No word this afternoon from the offices of George Miller, Ellen Tauscher, Jerry McNerney, Jackie Speier and Lynn Woolsey.

    There is some precedent for such pardons (not that this makes it right). You’ll recall that President George H.W. Bush — in his final, lame-duck days in the Oval Office after Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory — issued pardons to six Reagan Administration officials involved in the Iran-Contra affair, a scandal which had cast a pall over both Reagans’ and Bush’s presidencies. Of course, George W. Bush won’t have a friendly administration following his as Reagan did; if he wants pardons done, he’ll have to do them himself.

    As an aside, one of those pardoned in the Iran-Contra affair was Elliott Abrams, whom President George W. Bush has named to several National Security Council posts including Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy. So, perhaps Abrams could be the first person in U.S. history to receive pardons from father-and-son presidents! (Note: I’m not aware of any crimes Abrams has committed while serving the Bush Administration that would necessitate a pardon, unless you’re one of those who consider any participation in this Administration to be a crime.)

    Anyway, if this president does issue last-minute pardons for members of his own Administration, does anyone care to guess who the recipients might be?

    Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2008
    Under: Barbara Lee, Ellen Tauscher, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, Lynn Woolsey, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, President Bush, U.S. House | No Comments »