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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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?

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Barbara Lee’s Iraq amendment gone from bill

I wrote a story back in March about how Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, co-authored a resolution barring President Bush from making major, long-term economic and military commitments to Iraq without consulting Congress first. Lee ended up having such language incorporated into the 2009 Defense Authorization Act as approved by the House in May.

But the Senate version didn’t pick up her language, and the House OK’ed that Senate version today on a 392-39 vote. Lee was among the nays, as were Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, while the rest of the Bay Area’s delegation voted for the bill.

Lee is not amused:

“When this Defense Authorization bill cleared the House last May, it included an amendment that I authored requiring congressional approval of any agreement negotiated between the President and the Government of Iraq which commits the United States to the defense and security of Iraq from internal and external threats. But because the White House threatened to veto the bill over this prudent and reasonable provision, the version of the bill returned to us from the Senate no longer includes that limitation. That is reason alone to oppose this bill, which I do.

“Supported by members of both parties, the LEE Amendment to the Defense Authorization Act of 2009 easily passed the House of Representatives on May 22, 2008, by a vote of 234-183. Under the LEE Amendment, no provision contained in any Status of Forces Agreement or ‘SOFA’ negotiated between the President and the Government of Iraq which commits the United States to the defense and security of Iraq from internal and external threats would be valid unless that agreement has been authorized and approved by Congress.

“An agreement to commit American troops to the defense and security of another country is not routine or typical or minor. It is a major commitment that must have the support of the American people. And that popular can only be reflected by the Congress of the United States. That is why the LEE Amendment was necessary and was supported by a bipartisan majority of the House.

“I regret we have lost a valuable opportunity to bring much needed accountability and transparency to our relationship with Iraq.”