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Originally Published: 12/13/2008

Presidential Records:  Remember my concern about Bush's Executive Orders (EO) regarding the Presidential Records Act? Charles Homans seems to have a lot of answers to my questions. The first time someone had to do something to adhere to the law was at the beginning of Bush's tenure. Reagan's records had to be released. Alberto Gonzales, then Bush's White House Counsel, requested that the deadline to turn over the papers be extended to June. Then he requested August. Then November. Then Bush issued his first EO, 13233, effective immediately, that "the release of presidential records would require the approval of both the sitting president and the president whose records were in question, rather than just the former." The EO wasn't to protect Reagan. His documents had been made public "enthusiastically." Some speculated it was to protect Bush's his father. But Homans says: "It was about the new president and vice president, and the kind of government they intended to run." Homans speculates that "when Bush hands over the keys to the White House in January, he will leave behind more unanswered questions of sweeping national importance than any modern president." Because he will be hiding his records, we won't know "how intelligence operatives, acting in the name of the United States, have interrogated suspected terrorists, and how they are interrogating them now," nor "how many Americansí phone calls and e-mails were scanned by the National Security Agency," nor "who ordered the firings of the U.S. attorneys who didnít comply with the Bush administrationís political agenda," nor "who may have been wrongly prosecuted by those who did." And don't forget "the backstories to everything from pre-war intelligence in Iraq to the censoring of scientific opinion at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior. And those are the things we know we donít know -- there are also what Donald Rumsfeld might call the unknown unknowns." This is an amazing piece, filled with a history of the exploits of Bush and Cheney and their efforts to hide from public scrutiny everything they were doing, and would do. I highly recommend you read it.
 
Torture:  The Senate Armed Services Committee completed its 2-year investigation on torture. The report, released by Senators Carl Levin (D, MI) and John McCain (R, AZ), blame the "harsh interrogation tactics" on former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and "other top Bush administration officials." This report contradicts Bush's contention that the torture "originated lower down the command chain." This one statement nails it: "The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees." The tactics that had been used by the CIA at its secret prisons were "adapted" for Gitmo "and later migrated to U.S. detention camps in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the infamous Abu Ghraib prison." The White House has said that the tactics were developed "in response to demands from field officers who complained that traditional interrogation methods weren't working on some of the more hardened captives." The Senate investigators said this isn't true. "The true genesis of the decision to use coercive techniques, the report said, was a memo signed by President Bush on Feb. 7, 2002, declaring that the Geneva Convention's standards for humane treatment did not apply to captured al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. The investigators said that, as early as that spring, top administration officials, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, participated in meetings in which the use of coercive measures was discussed. The panel drew on a written statement by Rice, released earlier this year, to support that conclusion." (TWW, Torture, 4/12/08) (Washington Post)
 
Spying Documents:  Obama's transition team wanted to review the classified legal opinions about the secret spying programs, particularly the "legal rationale" for doing it. But the Justice Department has refused to turn them over. Justice Department head, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, said he was "reluctant" to give them up without "permission" from the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA). Permission? (Raw Story)
 
Canada:  Just when you think our problems are the worst, along comes this. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in an attempt to save his own ass, suspended Parliament -- which was about to give him a "no confidence" vote. Parliament won't be back until January 26. (CNN)
 
Mumbai:  The camp in Kashmir run by Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group believed to be responsible for the Mumbai attacks, was raided by Pakistani authorities. They arrested Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the supreme commander, who it believes is the leader and commanded the attack. (NY Times) What a novel idea. Find the leader of the attack group and arrest him. Hmm. I wonder why India didn't attack Syria. Or Lebanon. Or some other country that had nothing to do with the attack. Anyway, since India and Pakistan are long-time enemies, what caused the cooperation? Could it be the mysterious night-time telephone call last week that was supposedly from India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee to Pakistani President Asif Zardari? After a "heated conversation," Zardari believed that India was about to attack. He put his forces on "high alert." In other words, they came close to war. However, the phone call was a hoax. (McClatchy) But maybe seeing how close they came spurred Zardari to help India rather than irritating it.
 
Irreparable War Damage:  Many things can be re-built, but some things are gone forever. Mixed in the rubble left by the U.S. military on the ancient site of Babylon, are "bricks engraved with cuneiform characters thousands of years old." Iraq is known as the cradle of civilization, and onto this cradle the military "built embankments, dug ditches and spread gravel to hold the fuel reservoirs needed to supply the heliport of Camp Alpha." "Archaeologists say a year of terracing work and 18 months of military presence, with tanks and helicopters, have caused irreparable damage." (AFP) I'd also like to remind you of the history we lost during the Gulf War bombings and this war's attack bombings.
 
The Taliban:  It's accused of being responsible for an attack on 2 transport terminals in Pakistan, where they torched more than 160 vehicles headed to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. (AP) The attack apparently happened while Pakistan was focused on its problems with India. (see above) (McClatchy)
 
Afghanistan:  Geez. Things are going from worse to worser. U.S. troops killed 6 Afghani police officers and a civilian and wounded 13 Afghani security officers "during an assault on the hideout of a suspected Taliban commander." The military called it "mistaken identity." At least it wasn't another wedding. They also claim that they killed a "suspected" Taliban commander and captured someone else. (NY Times)
 
Destroying Crime Evidence:  Shortly after our invasion of Afghanistan, "a convoy of container trucks rumbled across northern Afghanistan loaded with the human cargo of suspected Taliban and al Qaida members who'd surrendered to Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Afghan warlord and a key U.S. ally in ousting the Taliban regime." [Emphasis added.] However, "when the trucks arrived at a prison in the town of Sheberghan, near Dostum's headquarters, they were filled with corpses. Most of the prisoners had suffocated, and others had been killed by bullets that Dostum's militiamen had fired into the metal containers." Dostum's men buried the bodies in the desert, human rights officials saying there were about 2,000. Later, Dostum's gang went back to the burial ground with bulldozers and backhoes and exhumed the bones and removed the evidence. Faqir Mohammed Jowzjani, a former Dostum ally and the deputy governor of Jowzjan province where the graves were located . . . [said] it's common knowledge that Dostum sent in the bulldozers. . . NATO - which has command authority over a team of troops less than 3 miles from the grave site - the United Nations and the United States have been silent about the destruction of evidence of Dostum's alleged war crimes." (McClatchy)
 
Pentagon Weapons Plan:  Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is planning to jettison the expensive weapons projects, like high-tech jets and the Future Combat Systems program, in favor of things that are more affordable. (LA Times)
 
Britain & Iraq:  The few troops that Britain still has in Iraq will begin to be pulled out in March, leaving only 300 or 400 by June. (NY Times)
 
Blackwater:  The U.S. Justice Department has gotten indictments against 5 of the Blackwater security guards who killed at least 17 Iraqi civilians. The NY Times said a 6th guard, Jeremy P. Ridgeway, was negotiating a plea, but the Washington Post said he had pleaded guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit voluntary manslaughter." I guess he's going to testify against the others. Blackwater hasn't been charged. (See also Military Culture) Blackwater officials say the guards acted in self-defense. Really? Against unarmed civilians? And they didn't just shoot. Prosecutors say they used machine guns and grenade launchers. (BBC) The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson had a good piece on this. He says that while it seems great to hold private security guards accountable for what appears to be an indefensible massacre, it really represents "a whitewash that absolves the government and corporate officials who should bear ultimate responsibility." Just like the Abu Ghraib tortures, the government is singling out a group of individuals and ignoring the larger corporate and governmental policies that allowed it to happen in the first place. "The 5 Blackwater guards may have fired the weapons, but they were locked and loaded in Washington."
 
The Supremes on Obama:  The U.S. Supreme Court considered the case of Donofrio v. Wells (TWW, Obama's Birth, 12/6/08) but declined to hear the challenge to Obama's eligibility to be president. "[T]he court issued its standard written list of orders identifying Donofrio v. Wells as one of about 300 cases that won't be heard any further." There's still the suit brought by Pennsylvania attorney Philip J. Berg. "A federal judge in Eastern Pennsylvania threw out Berg's lawsuit in October, saying that he lacked legal standing to bring the challenge since he couldn't show he faced individual harm even if he could prove his claims about Obama's citizenship. The judge didn't get to the point of weighing the substantive merits of Berg's claim." (McClatchy)
 
The Supremes on Terrorists:  The Supreme Court is also going to take up a case that's been filed against former AG John Ashcroft, FBI director Robert Mueller, and various federal agents and prison guards as well as their "supervisors." The suit was filed by a Pakistani man who "was held as a terror suspect for 5 months in solitary confinement in a U.S. prison although there was no evidence connecting him to terrorism." Apparently Javaid Iqbal was just one of hundreds of Muslims "who were swept up in a massive government dragnet in the New York City area in the weeks and months after the Sept. 11 attacks. Most of the men were arrested on valid immigration-related charges. But instead of being housed in an immigration detention center to await deportation, some of the men -- including Mr. Iqbal -- were taken to a maximum security section of a federal prison in Brooklyn." (Christian Science Monitor)
 
More Last-Minute Giveaways:  Bush's IRS team is busy trying to save corporations from paying taxes. Stephen Gandel said that in the past year, the Internal Revenue Service has been "unusually aggressive in doing what it can to lower corporate taxes, going above and beyond what has been allowed in the past." In 2008, the IRS issued 113 notices, "many of which will lower the taxes companies will pay this year and in the future." Gandel noted that this number breaks the record of 111 notices, set in 2006, "and is nearly double the 65 issued in the last year of Bill Clinton's presidency." These changes "drain billions of dollars of badly needed tax revenue at a time when the federal deficit is mushrooming," and many of the changes "may lower corporate tax revenue for years to come." One proposed change would enable companies to significantly reduce their taxes for as long as 20 years.
 
More Rule Changes:  Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne did another one. This time he eliminated a 35-year-old regulation in the Endangered Species Act that requires an independent scientific review of proposed federal projects to determine whether they imperil protected plants and animals. Now they can just start their projects -- like oil and gas drilling -- by making their own assessment. No more independent, scientific reviews. (LA Times) One of the areas where they want to move ahead is drilling in polar bear habitat off Alaska's coast. (TWW, Polar Bears, 6/21/08) And he's overturning a 25-year-old federal rule that "restricts loaded guns in national parks." Pretty soon, anyone can carry a concealed, loaded gun into national parks and wildlife refuges. (NY Times) He's really been busy. (TWW, More Last-Minute Rules, 12/6/08 & Polar Bears, 5/17/08) He's turning out to be exactly what he was predicted to be. (TWW, Replacing Gale Norton, 3/18/06)
 
Bush's Failures:  The scope of the mismanagement of the federal government, in addition to crimes, is shocking. 730,000 backlogged patent applications. 760,000 backlogged Social Security disability claims. 806,000 backlogged Veterans Affairs disability claims. Loss of hundreds, if not thousands, of laptop computers with sensitive information. The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) set out to look at what went wrong and, as they say, the results surprised even them. They made a list of 250 failures, then narrowed it down to just 128 "that attracted bipartisan criticism and had major impacts on the lives of ordinary Americans." They found: $300 billion over budget for Defense Department weapons acquisitions. $100 billion lost every year to corporate offshore tax shelters. The National Security Administration (NSA) computer system costing more than $4 billion. The complete failure of a $100 million attempt to create a new system of internal information-sharing for the FBI in the wake of 9/11. $9.91 billion spent on government secrecy in 2007 alone. Dismissal of all but 17 out of the 1,273 whistleblower complaints filed from 2002 to 2008. Pollution causing about 20,000 deaths a year and putting 60,000 newborns at risk of neurological problems. A 66% drop-off in the cleanup of toxic waste sites. 2.5 million toxic toys recalled in the summer of 2007. The list goes on.
 
Energy Team:  Obama has picked his energy team and, oh, my God, it'll be headed by a real scientist. Steven Chu was named Secretary of Energy. "Chu is director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics. He was an early advocate for scientific solutions to climate change." Carol Browner, EPA head under Clinton, was chosen as energy and climate coordinator. Nancy Sutley, currently deputy mayor for energy and environment for Los Angeles who formerly served on the California State Water Resources Control Board, will head the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Lisa Jackson, formerly commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection in New Jersey, will run the EPA. (Reuters)
 
More Bonuses:  3 top executives in the Pentagon Inspector General's (IG) office -- Patricia Brannin, Charles Beardall, and Donald Horstman -- each received a hefty bonus of about $30,000, 20% of their annual basic pay, and the Meritorious Executive Presidential Rank Awards for "outstanding leadership." One of the ratings for the award is the person's "ability to lead people and get results." The award was given despite the agency's low staff morale and strained relations between employees and supervisors. (AP)
 
Supporting the Troops:  The Pentagon's IG released a report saying that the military was well aware of the dangers posed by roadside bombs before the Iraq war but did little to develop vehicles that could have done a better job of protecting service members. The Marine Corps leadership ignored a 2005 request for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and said that outfitting more armor in existing Humvees was the "best available" option. A study earlier this year claimed hundreds of Marines died unnecessarily because of delays in getting the appropriate vehicles to the war zone. (USA Today)
 
Marc Dreier:  He's a New York attorney who's been arrested by the feds for allegedly stealing $380 million from hedge funds and investors. He's apparently been stealing since 2006 but federal attorney Jonathan Streeter said his victims were "very sophisticated investors." Bloomberg doesn't say how he did it, but an American Bar Association blog said that he'd been persuading people to invest "in fake paper supported by forged financial documents and removing client funds amounting to tens of millions of dollars from law firm escrow accounts into his own personal accounts." The Wall Street Journal noted that they haven't found much of the money. I wonder if they've looked in the Cayman Islands.
 
Bernard Madoff:  The former chair of the Nasdaq was arrested this week and charged with running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme. Some are calling it the biggest fraud case ever. (Reuters)
 
AIG:  It owes financial firms about $10 billion "on speculative trades that turned sour." The key word here is "speculative." The Wall Street Journal said that the details of these trades, which have just been released, "mark the first indication that AIG may have been gambling with its own capital." (AFP)
 
Sheila Bair:  Where did this woman come from? She's the only Bush official who's been outspoken about rescuing homeowners from foreclosure rather than just throwing money at the financial industry. (TWW, Homeowners, 11/15/08) She said: ďIíve heard the stories of people who are suffering and can stay in their homes if there is just a small adjustment to their loans. There are some people in the Republican Party who resent the idea of helping others. But the market is broken right now, and unless we intervene, these people and the economy wonít be helped." (NY Times) Obama should keep this woman around.
 
Depression Economies:  2 Milwaukee, WI neighborhoods are contemplating printing their own money. "The idea is that the local cash could be used at neighborhood stores and businesses, thus encouraging local spending. The result, supporters hope, would be a bustling local economy, even as the rest of the nation deals with a recession." This isn't a new idea. It was used in areas throughout the country during the last Republican Great Depression. (Chicago Tribune)
 
Foreclosures:  "A record 1.35 million homes were in foreclosure in the third quarter, driving the foreclosure rate up to 2.97%." This is a 76% increase from a year ago. The "number of homeowners falling behind on their mortgages rose to a record 6.99%, up from 5.59% a year ago." (CNN) Geez.
 
Blaming Poor People:  4 former CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Chair Henry Waxman (D, CA) said that 400,000 documents that the committee has gone through show that blaming the crisis on them and the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) is nothing more than a myth. Waxman's Opening Statement said, "The CEOs of Fannie and Freddie made reckless bets that led to the downfall of their companies. Their actions could cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. But it is a myth to say they were the originators of the subprime crisis. Fundamentally, they were following the market, not leading it." Let me remind you that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac didn't do any subprime lending -- because they canít. By definition a subprime loan is a loan that doesn't meet the requirements imposed by law. Fannie and Freddie buy only mortgages issued to borrowers who made substantial down payments and carefully documented their income, known as "conforming" loans, meaning they "conform" to the set standards. During the hearing, Rep. Edolphus Towns (D, NY) asked the CEOs whether poor people caused the current financial crisis. All said "no." Congress passed CRA in 1977 requiring banks "to lend throughout the communities they serve." In the 1990s, greater mortgage lending to lower-income households by CRA-covered banks increased the homeownership rate for lower-income and minority families. But these were still "conforming" loans. Most of the subprime loans were made by non-bank mortgage companies, who didn't deal with CRA. About 50% of the subprime loans were made in 2005 (New American Foundation)
 
Jobs:  Sony announced it'll lay off 16,000 workers (Bloomberg) and Dow Chemical will "slash" 5,000 full-time jobs (11% of its workforce) and "close 20 plants and sell several businesses to control costs amid the economic recession." (MSNBC)
 
Business Closings:  Steve & Barrys, Linens & Things, Bombay, Levitz, and Circuit City have filed for bankruptcy. Zales, Wilsons Leather, and Fashion Bug are closing many of their stores. (Indy Star) Tweeter shut down this week and Sharper Image is liquidating. (NY Times)
 
Auto Industry Help:  The Democrats came up with a plan that would loan $15 billion to automakers but "grant the federal government broad authority to manage a massive restructuring of their operations." The plan would establish a 7-member "auto board" of Cabinet secretaries, with Bush appointing the chair, a "car czar," who would "oversee both the short-term loans and a long-term effort to restore the faltering industry to profitability. If the companies take the cash, they would be accountable to the government for nearly every move, and for every transaction of $25 million or more." (AP) If the auto companies don't comply with orders from the "car czar," he can call in the loans. (Washington Post) The proposal also bans any dividend payments or executive bonuses as long as the loans are outstanding. Ford said it wouldn't seek federal aid, but if the other companies take the money, they'll have to accept some restrictions on executive compensation. (NY Times) Wednesday the House passed the proposal for $14 billion (NY Times) but the Senate Republicans blocked it on Thursday. (NY Times) Friday the AP said that the world markets fell "amid concerns about the future of the U.S. auto industry following the Senate's rejection of a $14 billion rescue deal." Then, after weeks of refusing to dip into the $700 billion TARP fund, Bush gave in and said he'd consider using the money to give auto companies a loan, but they haven't decided how much or on what terms. (NY Times)
 
What Killed the Bill?:  The LA Times reported that the problem that Republicans have with the bill is workers' wages. While they agreed to the requirement that the Big Three cut their debt by at least two-thirds by the end of March, they wanted the unions to cut their wages and benefits to match those of U.S. employees of foreign automakers. The UAW agreed to wage cuts but disagreed with the date. Republicans wanted the wage cuts to occur sometime in 2009, but the UAW said it should happen in 2011 when the UAW contract expires. The UAW said, "Unfortunately, Senate Republicans insisted that workers and retirees be singled out and treated differently from all other stakeholders."
 
Auto Workers' Wages:  In addition to the myth-busting I did last week (TWW, Auto Worker Myth, 12/6/08), David Leonhardt had a piece on the so-called wage gap. He says the disparity between the Big Three and foreign automakers isn't as big as you might think. "[T]he main problem facing Detroit, overwhelmingly, is not the pay gap. That's unfortunate because fixing the pay gap would be fairly straightforward." Unionized workers make about $10 an hour more than those at nonunionized plants, mostly because of benefits. In addition, the Big Three pay more in retiree benefits but that's mainly due to the obvious fact that they're responsible for more retired workers. Ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, despite all the attention that is paid to the issue, labor costs add up to about 10% of the cost of making a vehicle.
 
Republican Ambivalence:  Don't you find it interesting that Bush supported this bill but it was killed by Senate Republicans? He wanted it so badly that he sent VP Cheney to the Senate to talk to them. He said, "If we don't do this, we will be known as the party of Herbert Hoover forever." (NY Times) If Bush and Cheney want this thing that badly, I'm inclined to believe it should be killed. I suspect it's because the bill allows them to appoint the "car czar," who would probably be the person to finish Reagan's goal of destroying unions.
 
Disaster Capitalism:  Confused about why we didn't think twice about $700 billion for Wall Street and won't provide a loan for automakers? Why Wall Street got the money with no condi-tions but the auto companies are agreeing to all kinds of things? Why workers, middle class people, are blamed for the demise of the American auto industry but Wall Street rip-off artists aren't considered responsible for the state of the economy? Think Obama's gonna fix everything? Paul Farrell of MarketWatch has an excellent piece. He says it doesn't matter any more who's president. "The real 'game changer' already happened. Democracy has been replaced by Wall Street's new 'disaster capitalism.' That's the big game-changer historians will remember about 2008, masterminded by Wall Street's ultimate 'Trojan Horse,' Hank Paulson. Imagine: Greed, arrogance and incompetence create a massive bubble, cost trillions, and still Wall Street comes out smelling like roses, richer and more powerful!" Let me also point you to Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine.
 
Credit Cards:  "If you haven't yet had your credit limit slashed on one of your credit cards, it's highly likely you will." Meredith Whitney, an analyst and managing director at Oppenheimer & Co., says that "creditcard issuers will eliminate more than $2 trillion in available credit over the next 18 months." (Market Watch)
 
The People Rise Up:  Republic Windows and Doors of Chicago laid off 250 workers with only 3 daysí warning, though they knew they were going to do this in mid-October. They didn't pay them the wages owed to them either. So, the workers refused to leave. To further piss off the workers, it came out that one of the Republic shareholders bought out the company and is closing it down and opening a new business, Echo Windows, a cheaper operation, in Iowa, but this hasn't been confirmed. And to make this more interesting, Republic had been negotiating with its lender, Bank of America, for the money to pay these people and Bank of America refused to help. So, just to get pissy too, Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich said that the State of Illinois would suspend its business with the Bank of America and that the state's Department of Labor would file a complaint over the plant closing if need be. "Political leaders on the Chicago City Council and in Cook County threatened similar actions." (NY Times) What have we taxpayers done for BofA? Last week we backed up another $9 billion in in bonds. (Bloomberg) Earlier this year we backed up its takeover of Countrywide to the tune of $4 billion. (CNN Money) And last February BofA was flowting the idea of a $739 billion government bailout for troubled financial organizations. (NY Times) Maybe this is where Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson came up with the $700 billion figure. I think there's a movie in this. BofA must have decided the bad publicity wasn't worth it. On Tuesday they said they would "extend limited loans to the factory so it could resolve the dispute." (AP) The NY Times had a piece on how this has changed the face of labor. "By the time their 6-day sit-in ended on Wednesday night, the 240 laid-off workers at this previously anonymous 125,000-square-foot plant had become national symbols of worker discontent amid the layoffs sweeping the country. Civil rights workers compared them to Rosa Parks. But all the workers wanted, they said, was what they deserved under the law: 60 days of severance pay and earned vacation time."
 
Governor Blagojevich:  On Tuesday the Illinois gov and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested by the FBI agents on federal corruption charges. [Here's the Complaint. The whole thing on selling the Senate seat is on pages 54 to 74. Pay particular attention to paragraph 104. Watch for Candidate #5. ABC News reported that #5 is Jesse Jackson, Jr. It's believed that Candidate #1 is Valerie Jarrett, a good friend of Obama's (TWW, Transition, 121/8/08) and widely reported as who he'd like to see get his seat.] According to the Chicago Tribune, "Blagojevich and Harris were accused of a wide ranging criminal conspiracy" that not only included attempting to sell the Senate seat vacated by Obama, but also of "obtaining campaign contributions in exchange for other official actions." This is the 5th Illinois governor to be charged with criminal conduct over the last 50 years. 3 were convicted and 1 was acquitted. (LA Times) U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is the prosecutor on the case. If you remember, he's the guy who investigated the Valerie Plame affair, which didn't go anywhere, and, I must remind you, was one of the federal attorneys who wasn't fired, probably because he played ball with the Bush administration. Some papers report that Blago has been under investigation for 5 years; some say for 3 years. But some are reporting that it's the possibility of the Senate being tainted that pushed Fitzgerald to bring the charges now.
 
Obama's Involvement:  He said he had never spoken to Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy and was "confident that no representatives" of his had engaged in any deal-making with Blago about it. The LA Times said that Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, did talk to Blago "about who would replace Obama in the U.S. Senate and cited a list of people who would be acceptable." They also report that Emanuel has "long been close to both Blagojevich and Obama." I don't suppose anyone is going to lie about this. After all, it's all on tape.
 
Who's Running Illinois?:  Blago is, for now. On Friday morning his chief of staff, John Harris, resigned. (Chicago Tribune) Illinois' Attorney General Lisa Madigan has gone to the state Supreme Court asking that Blago be removed, "saying the public corruption charges against him have effectively rendered him 'disabled' and unable to serve." (NPR)
 
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