by Glenn Greenwald
Few things interest me less at this point than royal court personnel changes. I actually agree with the pro-Obama/Democratic-Party-loyal commentators who insist it doesn't much matter who becomes White House Chief of Staff because it's Obama who drives administration policy. Obama didn't do what he did in the first two years because Rahm Emanuel was his Chief of Staff. That view has the causation reversed: he chose Emanuel for that position because that's who Obama is. Similarly, installing JP Morgan's Midwest Chairman, a Boeing director, and a long-time corporatist -- Bill Daley -- as a powerful underling replacing Emanuel isn't going to substantively change anything Obama does. It's just another reflection of the Obama presidency, its priorities and concerns, and its overarching allegiances.There's a section of my forthcoming book about the rule of law which examines the direct causal line between the vast number of Wall Street officials in key administration positions and the full-scale exemption from accountability which financial elites enjoy even for the most egregious lawbreaking. When you compile all of those appointments in one place, the absolute stranglehold large-scale corporate interests exert over virtually all realms of government policy is quite striking. But it's nothing more than what the economist Nouriel Roubini meant when he told the makers of the 2010 documentary "Inside Job" that Wall Street has "captured the political system" on "the Democratic and the Republican side" alike, or what Simon Johnson describes as "The Quiet Coup": "The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against" elite business interests.
After first day in Congress, Republicans have outlined three bills aimed at limiting power of the Environmental Protection Agency
by Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
Republicans have wasted no time in using their new majority in Congress to try to block the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to act on climate change.
In their first full day in the new Congress, Republicans outlined three different bills – encapsulating three different strategies – aimed at limiting the powers of the EPA. It also shut down a house committee that had tackled energy and climate issues.
The first, introduced by Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, would declare that greenhouse gas emissions are not subject to the Clean Air Act - even though supreme court ruled in 2007 that they are.
The second, introduced by Ted Poe of Texas, would block funding to any government agency associated with cap-and-trade.
He has zero faith in the incoming speaker of the House, John A. Boehner, whom he calls a “tool of special interest.”
He derides the Tea Party’s successes as “bought and paid for by the enormously rich and the selfish.”
And he can barely contain distaste for his Republican successor, whose views he sums up as “bizarre fundamentalist.”
Representative Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Florida’s Eighth Congressional District, is leaving office on Wednesday much as he entered it two years ago — as the pugnaciously partisan, verbal-bomb-tossing, liberal folk hero of the 111th Congress.
But in a wide-ranging interview as his term drew to a close, he repeatedly aimed his artillery in an unexpected direction: toward his own party.
by Joanne BambergerOhio Congressman and House Speaker-elect John Boehner is our town crier. Not a cry-baby crier, but an 'It might be politically expedient to show my softer side' kind of crier.
by David Corn
When the Obama administration began and Richard Holbrooke was appointed as special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan policy, there was cause for some hope. Holbrooke, who died Monday night at the age of 69, was a veteran diplomat who had achieved a forced peace in the Balkans via the Dayton Accords of 1995. He could be imperious and arrogant, but with his clout and foreign policy know-how, he had a chance at pushing the camel through the AfPak needle. On March 27, 2009, the morning after President Barack Obama unveiled his Afghanistan policy, Holbrooke participated in an on-the-record briefing with reporters.During that session, in response to a question I asked, he candidly acknowledged the problem of corruption in Afghanistan. He came across as quite smart in asserting that one of the most cost-effective steps Washington could take would be to boost the agriculture sector of Afghanistan, which in years past had been a productive and profitable source of exports. Replicate the past success, he said, and Afghans would have money and jobs—and that, in turn, would create stability in the country. He called for "a complete rethink" of the drug problem in Afghanistan, suggesting that draconian eradication programs were bound to fail. The aura of confidence he always exuded appeared to be backed up by knowledge of the region and fresh ideas.
Will black Democrats join with Republicans to kill the congressional ethics office that investigated the veteran lawmaker?
— By Suzy Khimm
Save for expulsion, it was the harshest punishment Congress could dole out. After being found guilty of 11 ethics violations by the House Ethics Committee, Rep. Charlie Rangel's congressional colleagues voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to censure the Harlem Democrat for improper financial disclosures, fundraising violations, and other misdeeds.
Rangel protested his punishment to the very end, and his allies in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) rose to his defense. Now some of Rangel's staunchest supporters have resolved to go after the independent panel that dredged up the most damning evidence against the 80-year-old congressional veteran, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). As more of their colleagues come under scrutiny, some CBC Democrats say they will even consider teaming up with the incoming GOP House majority to gut the ethics panel—or even eliminate it entirely.Back in the spring, a group of twenty CBC members signed onto a resolution to rein in the OCE and curtail its authority to make investigations public, arguing that the office was destroying political reputations and victimizing black lawmakers. But soon they may have the chance to do more than just neuter the OCE. Having vocally opposed the creation of the panel, incoming House Speaker John Boehner and other top Republicans are quietly discussing ways to kill the OCE when it comes up for mandatory reauthorization next year—and it looks like at least a handful of Democrats could be on board.
by Tom DiemerSen. Patty Murray, the mom in tennis shoes who narrowly won re-election to a fourth term on Nov. 2, will lead Democrats in what is likely to be a struggle to hold their majority in the Senate in 2012.
Diplomatic communiqués released by Wikileaks shine unprecedented light on the US and how it sees the world
by Jerome Taylor, Cahal Milmo and David Usborne, US Editor
The doors to a previously hidden world of diplomatic intrigue and insults were dramatically thrown open last night as the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks published its vast tranche of secret American diplomatic communiqués. The release of hundreds of thousands of secret messages from staff at US embassies revealed how Washington has struggled to confront the geopolitical realities of a post-9/11 world.
It also exposed the often less than diplomatic language used by State Department insiders to describe some of the planet's most powerful leaders. Contained within the quarter of a million secret memos are revelations that:
*The Obama administration has ordered diplomats to gather vast amounts of personal, biometric and banking details about key global figures, including the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon;