Archive for December, 2008

Roland Burris was appointed by Gov. Blagojevich to fill Barack Obama’s senate seat but Mr. Obama is against the governor’s appointment

December 31, 2008
ROLAND BURRIS AT A PRESS CONFERENCE WITH GOVERNOR BLAGOJEVICH

ROLAND BURRIS AT A PRESS CONFERENCE WITH GOVERNOR BLAGOJEVICH

In a surprise announcement, Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois appointed Roland W. Burris to Barack Obama’s vacant position in the United States Senate.

At a press conference on December 30, 2008, Gov. Blagojevich called Mr. Burris “a senior statesman of the state of Illinois.” 

Governor Blagojevich added: “Please don’t let the allegations against me taint this good and honest man.”

A 16 minute video of the press conference from the web site of C-Span is found at this link: http://www.c-span.org/Watch/watch.aspx?MediaId=HP-R-13848

Congressman Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) spoke on Mr. Burris’ behalf at the press conference.

“I will ask you to not hang and lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer,” Rep. Rush said.

Burris, 71, currently runs a political consulting firm that bears his name (Burris and Lebed Consulting) and is senior counsel at the Chicago law firm of Gonzalez Saggio Harlan.  His appointment  must be certified by the Illinois Secretary of State  Jesse White and accepted by the United States Senate. 

Secreary of State White said that he will not certify Mr. Burris “because of the cloud of controversy surrounding the governor.”   Even if Mr. Burris is certified by the  secretary of state, Mr. Burris is likely to have a difficult time being accepted into the Senate because President Elect Barack Obama is against the governor’s appointment.  Mr. Obama issued a statment that read:

Roland Burns is a good man and a fine public service, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they can not accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat.  I agree with  their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it.  I believe that the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place.  While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy.

Mr. Obama was the only African American member of the Senate.  Burris is also an African American.

Mr. Burris’ last government job was that of attorney general of the state of Illinois from 1991-95.   (While attorney general, he was chair of the Civil Rights Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General.)  He ran against Richard M. Daley for mayor of Chicago in 1995 but was defeated. 

Lost elections are nothing new to Mr. Burris.  His other disappointments in elections: an unsuccesful run for a state house position in 1968, defeated in a campaign for comptroller of the state of Illinois in 1974, turned away by voters in his bid for the United States Senate in 1984 (he lost to Paul Simon in the primary; Rep. Rahm Emanuel worked on Mr. Simon’s campaign) and three primary election losses in runs for Governor in 1994, 1998 and 2002.   (In 2002, he lost to Gov. Blagojevich. )

Mr. Burris was the vice chairperson of the Democratic National Committee from 1985-89.  He was comptroller of  the state of Illinois from 1979-91.  When he was successful in his 1978 campaign for comptroller, he became the first African-American to win a statewide office in Illinois.

Mr. Burris was born in Centralia, Ilinois on Aug. 3, 1931.  He obtained a B.A. in political science from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and a J.D. in 1963 from Howard University.  He is married to Berlean M. Burris, Ph.D.

Photo Credit

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Israel should be condemned by the rest of the world for its unjustified killings in Gaza

December 28, 2008
THIS HAMAS POLICE STATION IN GAZA WAS DESTROYED BY THE ISRAELI MILITARY

THIS HAMAS POLICE STATION IN GAZA WAS DESTROYED BY THE ISRAELI MILITARY

“Iran strongly condemns the Zionist [Israel’s] wide-ranging attacks against the civilians in Gaza,” said Iranian foreign minister spokesman Hasan Qashqavi.  “The raids against innocent people are unforgivable and unacceptable.”

The United States and the rest of the world should join Iran and also condemn Israel’s unjustified killings in Gaza.

There was no immediate comment from President-Elect Barack Obama, who is vacationing in Hawaii with his family.

“This is how our incoming president is reacting to the worst attack on the Palestinian people in 20 years — by not reacting at all,” wrote Justin Raimondo in Anti-War.com.

“The Bush White House, of course, has responded as we all know they would: Israel-has-the-right-to-defend itself, let the killing begin, ad nauseum,” Mr. Raimondo added.

Kurt Nimmo wrote in Alex Jones’ Infowars:

Obama no longer has to placate pro-Israel voters, including no shortage of Christian Zionists, so his lack of comment on the premeditated slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza should send us a message — an Obama administration will continue the long-standing U.S. policy of allowing Israel to wantonly kill Palestinians and pay the Israeli government handsomely to do so. In 2008, the U.S. gave $20.27 billion to Israel, more than a 12 percent increase in foreign aid from 2007.

(Emphasis in original.)

The response by the Bush administration

“Hamas’ continued rocket attacks into Israel must cease if the violence is to stop,” said Gordon Johndroe, deputy assistant to Mr. Bush.

“These people [Hamas] are nothing but thugs, and so Israel is going to defend its people against terrorists like Hamas,” Johndroe said.

“Israel’s hammer blow against Hamas in the Gaza Strip bears all the hallmarks of its doctrine of overwhelming force,” wrote Ian Black in London’s Guardian.

The attacks by Israel on Gaza

During the morning of Saturday, December 27, F-16s supplied by the United States fired missles on the Gaza Strip.  More than 225 persons were killed and more  than 750 persons were seriously injured.  On Sunday, December 28, the Israelis resumed the attacks.   More than 20 air strikes were counted during the first hours. 

One Israeli was killed by Palestinian rocket fire.

BODIES FROM THE SITES OF ISRAELI AIR STRIKES ARE LINED UP AT A HOSPITAL IN GAZA

BODIES FROM THE SITES OF ISRAELI AIR STRIKES ARE LINED UP AT A HOSPITAL IN GAZA

“The air strikes began about 11:30 a.m. and continued for about two hours,” reported Arab News.  “The first wave of air strikes was launched by about 60 warplanes, which hit a total of 50 targets.  In a second wave of attacks, 20 warplanes struck another 50 targets.”

“Gaza witnesses reported heavy damage after more than 30 missiles were fired from helicopter gunships and fighter jets on about 40 different locations in the strip,” reported Al Jazeera.  “Many of the dead in the series of attacks were police officers, including Tawfig Jabber, the Gaza chief of police.”

“The deadliest Israeli strike was at the Hamas police headquarters, where a graduation ceremony for cadets was taking place at the time,” reported Hisham Abu Taha in Arab News.  “After the strike, the courtyard of the headquarters was littered with disfigured bodies of policemen, while survivors were rushed to the  city’s overwhelmed Al-Shifa Hospital.”

The attacks could fuel a humanitarian crisis

“Aid groups said they feared the Israeli operation could fuel a humanitarian  crisis in the coastal enclave, home to 1.5  million Palestinians, half of them dependent on food aid,” reported Nidal al-Mughrabi of Reuters.

After meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia contacted President George W. Bush.  King Abdullah told Mr. Bush that the United States and other major powers have a responsibility to stop the Israeli attack.

SPA, the Saudi state news agency, said that King Abdullah and Mr. Bush discussed “the Israeli aggression against Gaza” and the “implications of continuing Israel’s policies of blockage, occupation and torture against the Palestinian people all over the Occupied Territories.”  SPA also said that King Abdullah called for “the major countries to shoulder their responsibilities to stop this Israeli attack and save the lives of the innocent and remaining infrastructure in the Palestinian territories.”

The Bush administration called on Hamas to stop cross-border rocket attacks and urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties.  It did not demand that Israel stop the Israeli attacks.

Israel’s intention is to “obliterate Hamas”

Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak said the attacks to “obliterate Hamas will take place as  long as it takes.”

Barak said in a televised statement: “There is a time for calm and a time for fighting, and now the time has come to fight.”

ISRAELI F-16 WAR JETS, WHICH WERE SUPPLIED BY THE UNITED STATES AND BUILT BY LOCKHEED MARTIN.  THE WAR JETS WERE ORIGINALLY DEVELOPED BY GENERAL DYNAMICS FOR THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE.

ISRAELI F-16 WAR JETS, WHICH WERE SUPPLIED BY THE UNITED STATES AND BUILT BY LOCKHEED MARTIN. THE WAR JETS WERE ORIGINALLY DEVELOPED BY GENERAL DYNAMICS FOR THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE.

“The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] also begun mobilizing tanks and reinforcement  infantry troops to the Gaza region in the event a ground incursion is ordered,” wrote Hanan Greenberg in Y News Net, a website of Israel News.  “Barak said that ground forces indeed would enter the Strip if the move was deemed necessary by Jerusalem.”

Operational deception by Israel

An editorial by Barak Ravid in the  Israeli newspaper Haaretz  reported that Israel defense minister Barak “instructed the Israeli Defense Forces to prepare the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.”  The editorial stated:

Long-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public — all these stood behind the Israel Defense Forces “Cast Lead” operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.

 

“I believe what happened . . . is a continuity of  the Israeli collective crime against Palestinians,” said Osama  Hamdan, a Hamas representative in Lebannon. “Israel is not learning  the lesson.  They don’t know that this kind of aggressive attack against the Palestinians creates a new cycle of violence inside Palestine.  It will not defeat the Palestinian resistance.”

“This is nothing short of a massacre, an outrage,” said independent Palestinian MP Hanan Ashrawi of Ramallah to BBC News.   She added:

 This will enhance the standing of Hamas.  People are sympathizing with Hamas as the people who are being ruthlessly targeted by Israel.  They are seen as victims of ongong Israeli aggression.

 

“We are facing a continuing spectacle that has been carefully planned,” said Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa.  “So we have to expect that there will be many casualties.  We face a major human catastrophe.”

The world’s largest Muslin organization speaks out

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the largest Muslim organization in the world, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) denounced Israel’s attacks upon Palestinians and urged the international community to stop the unjustified killings

“The latest Israeli massacre is a war crime and shows what little regard Israel has for international law and the 4th Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war,” said OIC chief Ekmeleddin Ishanoglu said in a statement.

GCC secretary general Abdul Rahman al-Attiyah called upon the international community to stop “the heinous  massacre and barbaric acts being committed by Israeli military forces” against Palestinians.

“Despite the peace initiatives, conferences and agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel over the past years, scenes of killing, destruction and dispelling and starving of Palestinians continues,” the GCC chief said.

Attacks called “criminal” by Palestinian president

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas called the Israeli attacks “criminal” and called for the international community to intervene.

European Union foreign chief Javier Solana stated: “We are very concerned at the events in Gaza.  We call for an immediate ceasefire and urge everybody to exercise maximum restraint.”

Egypt asked Israeli ambassador Shalom Cohen to demand an end to the attacks.  Egypt opened its Rafah border crossing to Gaza so that persons wounded could get medical care.

Egypt president Hosni Mubarak said that “Egypt condemns the Israel attacks.”

Statement by the president of the UN Security Council

The United Nations Security Council called for an end to all violence in Gaza.

“The members of the Security Council expressed serious concern at the escalation of the situation in Gaza and called for an immediate halt to all violence,” said council president Neven Jurica, Croatia’s ambassador, in a statement that he read.

“The members called on the parties to stop immediately all military activities,” Mr. Jurica said.

A video of some of the death and destruction caused by the Israeli military was found on the website of The Real News Network: http://therealnews.com/t/index.php?option=com_seyret&Itemid=91&task=videodirectlink&id=704

Photo Credits:

Bodies lined up (Mahmud Hams for AFP/Getty Images)

Destroyed police station (Mohammed Abed for AFP/Getty Images)

A policeman shot and killed a 15-year-old, unarmed boy in Athens, which set off injury causing, property damaging and peaceful protests

December 21, 2008

ALEXANDROS.GRIGOROPOULOS.DIED.DEC.6.2008

ALEXANDROS GRIGOROPOULOS

On the night of Friday, December 6, 2008, in a popular district in Athens called Exarcheia, 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot and killed by police.  

A fellow student at Psychiko Public High School named Nikos witnessed his friend’s killing.  An interview of Nikos was translated from Greek to English and published at: http://www.anarkismo.net/article/10959

Nikos said Alexandros’ nickname was Gregory.  He and Nikos planned to meet at Mesolongi Street in Exarcheia after Niko attended a polo match.  At 7:10 p.m. Alexandros phoned Nikos to advise that the match was over and he was going to start out for Exarcheia. 

Nikos arrived at Exarcheia less than five minutes before Alexandros.  They went to a convenience store to get something to eat and some soft drinks.  They went out to the sidewalk on Mesologgiou Street to eat and talk. 

While eating their food at the intersection of Mesolongi and Tzavelia, they heard a loud bang.  “Near enough to us that we could hear it, but far enough away that we couldn’t figure out what had happened,” Nikos said.  “We didn’t pay any attention.”  But within two minutes, four or five persons passed by and said that “the cops are coming, something happened . . . .”

Nikos said that out of curiosity they went to the middle of Tzavelia Street to see what happened.

When we went out into the middle of the walkway, we saw from a distance of 15 to 20 meters two police officers. . . . Next they stopped at the intersection . . .  .  There was no one else, Alexandros was in front of me and I was behind and to the right of them. . . . Someone from behind me tossed an empty plastic bottle and naturally it did not reach the police. . . . When I saw the police, they started to curse at me and Alexandros, saying “We will f— the Virgin Mary, come here and I’ll show you who is the tough guy'” and things like that.  The guys behind us were yelling “get back” and “go to hell” at the  police.

When someone threw the plastic bottle, the police . . . took their weapons out of their holsters, aimed in front of them, that  is toward the place where I, Alexandros and the other person were, and three continuous shots were heard. . . . They aimed towards our location  and  fired!

Alexandros fell down . . . on  the first or second gunshot . . . .  People were yelling and some people lifted up Alexandros’ shirt.  I saw that he had a hole in the middle of the chest and a little toward the heart.  There was blood from the wound.

Let me tell you also that the police who fired, when they saw Alexandros fall, they left. . . . Then the ambulance came and took Alexandros, dead.  I say this because he didn’t have a pulse and there was blood coming from his mouth.

Since Alexandros’ death, there has been civil unrest in Athens.

“It began with one death, one bullet, fired in anger by a hot-headed policemen [sic] in the heart of Athens’ edgy Exarcheia district on last Saturday,” wrote Helen Smith in The Observer on the website of the London newspaper Guardian.  “No one thought they would wake up to a revolt in the streets.  But the death of Alexandros Grigoropoulos . . . was the match that lit the inferno.”

“This was only the latest instance of police brutality against immigrants, and left-wing and anarchist activists — especially youth, in the wake of a major youth resistance movement against privatization of education that rattled the right-wing government of Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis,” wrote Panos Petrou in the December 18, 2008 edition of Counterpunch.

“The [young man’s] murder triggered an immediate reaction,” wrote George Yorgos.  “Thousands of angry young protesters fed up with continuous unpunished police violence seized the center of Athens in a manner of  hours.”

In a December 14, 2008 report, Ms. Smith stated that Greece was in week two “of pitched battles between rock-throwing protesters and riot police — with security forces turning to Israel and Germany to replenish depleted reserves of toxic gases to contain the angry crowds . . . .”

Ms. Smith added:

[T]he orgy of violence that has gripped this beautiful land masks a deeper malaise.  It is a sickness that starts not so much at the top but at the bottom of Greek society, in the ranks of its troubled youth.  For many these are a lost generation, raised in an education system that is undeniably shambolic and hit by whopping levels of unemployment (70 percent among the 18-25s) in a country where joblessness this month jumped to 7.4 per cent.  . . . One in five Greeks lives beneath the poverty line.  Exposed to the ills of Greek society as never before, they have become increasingly frustrated witnesses of allegations of corruption implicating senior conservative government officials and a series of scandals that have so far cost four ministers their jobs.

 On the night of the 15-year-old boy’s death and thereafter tens of  thousands of persons of persons have demonstrated on the streets of Athens.  They have also demonstrated in Thessaloniki, Patras and in smaller towns and villages. 

“While most of the protests have been peaceful, the tone of the demonstrations has been set by a violent fringe, with more young people willing to join such elements than in the past,” wrote Jenny Percival in the December 14, 2008 edition of Guardian.

“In the end, the violence that we use is minimal in comparison to the violence the system uses, like the banks,” said Paris Kyriakides, who identified herself as an anarchist.

“The police attacked the demonstrations, using chemical sprays and tear gas,” wrote Mr. Petrou, a member of the Workers International Left (DEA by its initials in Greek).  “The demonstrators resisted by building barricades and bonfires all night long in the center of Athens.”

The protesters targeted police stations and banks.  More than 30 banks were set on fire along with large stores and public buildings.

“Armed with Molotov cocktails and stones, the demonstrators attacked symbols of police, setting patrol cars, banks and department stores on fire in the angriest riots to erupt in Greece in years,” wrote Mr. Yorgos.

Eleftherotypia, a Greek newspaper, reported that during the past 10 years 70 persons were killed by police.

“The demonstrators made their objectives known: By targeting the police departments, they were attacking the government’s authoritarian policy of repression,” Mr.  Petrou wrote.  “By targeting the banks, they were attacking the symbols of capitalism to show their anger with neoliberal policy.”

The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) was a primary organizers of some demonstrations.

“The hatred of police repression and the country’s rich was everywhere,” Mr. Petrou wrote.

Alekos Alavanos, the head of SYRIZA, met with Prime Minister Karamanlis.  Instead of coming out of the meeting with a plea for the protesters to stop, Mr. Alavanos urged people to continue to work to topple the Karamanlis government.  Mr. Alavanos also demanded that the government give a “real apology” to Greek youth, disarm the police, end the privatization of education and increase employment opportunities for youth.

The Communist Party of Greece , through party secretary Aleka Papariga, criticized SYIZA for supporting the anarchists.  PASOK, the social democratic party led by Georgios Papandreou, denounced murder, police oppression and the demonstrations.  PASOK proposed candlelight vigils.

“DEA is participating enthusiastically in the resistance movement,” wrote Mr. Petrou.  “We support the unity of the young demonstrators fighting against repression and the workers and their unions fighting against exploitation.”

“The right-wing government [of Karamanlis] is headed toward its downfall,” wrote Mr. Petrou.  “Every opinion poll shows that is has already suffered a huge loss of support after the outbreak of big corruption scandals revolving around illegal sales of public land in collaboration with the church.”

Mr. Karamanlis’ government has a majority by only one vote.

The protests are for not just the killing of Alexandros Grigoropoulos but also for “a struggle to overthrow government’s policy,” said Panagiotis Sotiri, a spokesman for a coalition of leftist groups called Uniting Anti-Capitalist Left.  “We are experiencing moments of a great social revolution.”

The policeman who shot and killed Mr. Grigoropoulos is now in jail on a charge of murder.   He alleges that he fired a warning shot in self-defense.  The policeman who was with him was charged as an accomplice.  The lawyer for Mr. Grigoropoulos disputed the claim of self-defense and said that the policeman aimed to kill without significant provocation.

Photographs of the conflict with captions are found at: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/12/2008_greek_riots.html

THE COFFIN OF ALEXANDROS GRIGOROPOULOS IS CARRIED AT A FUNERAL ON DEC. 9, 2008 IN THE OUTSKIRTS OF ATHENS

THE COFFIN OF ALEXANDROS GRIGOROPOULOS IS CARRIED AT A FUNERAL ON DEC. 9, 2008 IN THE OUTSKIRTS OF ATHENS

A slide show depicting the social unrest in Greece is at: http://www.slide.com/r/mJUgZRxc0T9LgaGmy3h6C7RBw6ciaAFb?cy=bb

Photo Credits:

Coffin carried by mourners photo: Reuters (Oleg Popov)

Policeman in flames photo: Associated Press (Lefteris Pitarakis)

A MEMORIAL FOR ALEXANDROS GRIGOROPOULOS NEAR THE AREA WHERE HE WAS KILLED IN ATHENS.

A MEMORIAL FOR ALEXANDROS GRIGOROPOULOS NEAR THE AREA WHERE HE WAS KILLED IN ATHENS.

A GREEK RIOT POLICEMAN IS ENGULFED IN FLAMES FROM A PROTESTER'S PETRO BOMB ON DEC. 12, 2008 IN ATHENS

A GREEK RIOT POLICEMAN IS ENGULFED IN FLAMES FROM A PROTESTER'S PETRO BOMB ON DEC. 12, 2008 IN ATHENS

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush “has expressed the feelings and ambitions of the Iraqi people toward the symbol of tyranny”

December 20, 2008

MR. ZAIDI AT THE MOMENT THAT HE PITCHED HIS SHOE AT MR. BUSH
MR. ZAIDI AT THE MOMENT THAT HE PITCHED HIS SHOE AT MR. BUSH

The “Shoe Man” (aka the”Baghdad Clogger”) has become a hero for Iraqis.

The shoe man is Muntazer al-Zaidi, a 28-year-old journalist who took off his shoes at a press conference in Baghdad and threw them at President George W. Bush, who was speaking at a podium.  (The journalist was also identified as Muntadar Al-Zeidi.)

“This is a gift from the Iraqis, this is the farewell kiss, you dog!,” Mr. Zaidi shouted in Arabic as he threw the first shoe.   And as he threw the second shoe, he shouted: “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!” 

Mr. Zaidi was at the press conference being given by Mr. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on December 14, 2008.  He was covering the  event for Al-Baghdadia, an independent news agency based in Cairo, Egypt.  His brother, Durgham al-Zaidi, said he was jailed in a secure area of the Green Zone in Baghdad.

“He has a broken arm and ribs and cuts to his eye and arm,” the brother was quoted as saying  in a report by Oliver August of London’s Times Online.  “He is being held under forces under the command of Muwafaq al-Rubaie.”  (Rubaie is Iraq’s national security advisor.)

“Thousands of Iraqis, both Sunni and Shia, took part in a second day of street protests [on December 16, 2008] demanding Mr. Zaidi’s release and hailing him a national hero,” Mr. August wrote.  “In Mosul . . . an estimated 1000 protested carried banners and chanted slogans in support.  Several hundred more protested in Nasiniyah, a Shia city . . . and in Fallujah, a Sunni area . . . .”

Nassar Afrawi, a  protester in  Nasiriyah, said: “Muntadhar al-Zaidi has expressed the feelings and ambitions of the Iraqi people toward the symbol of tyranny.”

After Mr. Zaidi threw the shoes, he was immediately man-handled and taken into custody.

“Security guards . . . surrounded Zaidi, took him outside and beat him,” wrote Eric Ruder in the December 17, 2008 edition of  the Socialist Worker.  “His screams were audible in the room where Bush, Maliki and the rest of the journalist remained.”

Judge Dhai al-Kinani, who is investigating the occurrence, gave a statement to the Associated Press in which he said that Mr. Zaidi “was beaten in the news conference and we will watch the tape and write an official letter asking for the names of those who assaulted him.”

Judge Kinami said the investigation would be completed and sent to the criminal court within seven to 10 days.

“Images of Bush ducking the fast-flying shoes . . . aired repeatedly on Arab satellite TV networks were cathartic for many in the Middle East, who have for years felt that their own leaders kowtow to the American president,” wrote Robert H. Reid of the Associated Press.  “So the sight of an average Arab standing up and making a public show of resentment was stunning.”

The article by Mr. Reid added:

The pride, joy and bitterness it uncorked showed how many Arabs place their anger on Bush personally for what they see as a litany of crimes — chief among them the turmoil in Iraq and tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths since the 2003 invasion.

“I swear to Allah, he is a hero,” said Mr. Zaidi’s sister, who is nicknamed Umm Firas.  “May Allah protect him.”

Some of the words of Mr. Bush’s speech just before the shoes were thrown were reported by Matthew Rothschild in The Progressive:

Seconds beforehand, Bush had bragged about the Iraq War approaching “a successful end” and being “decisively on its way to being won.”  He even reheated some of the boilerplate about Iraq being “a force for freedom and a force for peace in the heart of the Middle East, a country that will serve as a source for stability in a volatile region.”

Mr. Zaidi’s brother, Maythem al-Zaidi, said that his brother “was provoked when Mr. Bush said [during the news conference] this is a farewell gift to the Iraqi people,” said a report in The New York Times.

Remi Kanazi, a Palestinian-American poet living in New York, wrote in an article that appeared in Dissident Voice:

It doesn’t take someone with an IQ higher than the president to deduce why Iraqis are so pissed off: our government is responsible for the deaths of a million Iraqis, the country lacks proper access to electricity, and nearly five million people have been made refugees.  Compound this with Bush cramming US victory chants down the throats of  Iraqis, and one can understand the journalist’s tame gesture.

An opinion article by Hamera Tahir that appeared in London’s Guardian discussed the symbolism of the shoes being thrown at the United States president:

Is it any wonder that George Bush had shoes thrown at him as a symbol of utter contempt?  The US has trampled on its own ideals with its illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; it has torn to shreds its notions of democracy and justice for all with its illegal prisons in Abu Ghraid and Guantanamo, and by rendition.   As if that wasn’t enough, the breathtaking greed and fraud of its Wall Street traders has brought the entire world to its knees.  Every economy has suffered the negative effects of the “greatest country in the world.”

A 54-second video with two different angles of Mr. Zaidi throwing his shoes at Mr. Bush is found at: http://video.google.com/videosearch?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4GZAZ_enUS281US281&q=bush%20shoe&um=1&sa=N&tab=wv#

Meanwhile, White House press secretary Dana Perino said: “The president harbors no hard feelings over the incident. . . . Obviously, [Mr. Zairi] was very angry.”

Outside the White House, a group of anti-war protesters held a shoe protest on December 17, 2008.  “The demonstrators threw shoes at a man wearing a President Bush face mask and wearing a jail uniform,” said a report on the website of Democracy Now.

Photo Credit:

AP Photo

AN IRAQI JOURNALIST THROWS A SHOE AT PRESIDENT BUSH DURING A PRESS CONFERENCE IN IRAQ ON MR. BUSH'S FAREWELL VISIT TO THE COUNTRY THAT HE CASUED TO BE INVADED AND OCCUPIED

AN IRAQI JOURNALIST THROWS A SHOE AT PRESIDENT BUSH DURING A PRESS CONFERENCE IN IRAQ ON MR. BUSH'S FAREWELL VISIT TO THE COUNTRY THAT HE CASUED TO BE INVADED AND OCCUPIED

U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey recused himself from the Bernard Madoff prosecution so that his son, Marc Mukasey, can represent a close employee of Mr. Madoff

December 18, 2008
A CARTOONIST'S DEPICTION OF MR. MUKASEY DURING HIS SENATE CONFIRMATION HEARINGS

A CARTOONIST'S DEPICTION OF MR. MUKASEY DURING HIS SENATE CONFIRMATION HEARINGS

BERNARD MADOFF AT HIS SECURITIES OFFICE IN HAPPIER DAYS WHEN HE WAS CONSIDERED TO BE A FINANCIAL MAVEN AND A BIG MACHER; HE HAS BEEN REDUCED TO THE STATUS OF A MOMZER NOW THAT HIS TRUE CHARACTER HAS BECOME KNOWN
BERNARD MADOFF AT HIS SECURITIES OFFICE IN HAPPIER DAYS WHEN HE WAS CONSIDERED TO BE A FINANCIAL MAVEN AND A BIG MACHER; HE HAS BEEN REDUCED TO THE STATUS OF A MOMZER NOW THAT HIS TRUE CHARACTER HAS BECOME KNOWN

When the federal government is involved in prosecuting perhaps the biggest financial fraud ever perpetuated by a single securities firm, it would be expected that the top law enforcement lawyer in  the United States — the attorney general — would take a center stage in the case.  But United States Attorney General Michael Mukasey recused himself from the case.  Why?  So that his son, a partner in Rudolph Giuliani’s law firm, can represent one of the members of Bernard Madoff’s now defunct securities company.  (Mr. Giuliani, the mayor of New York City on 9/11, was the United States Associate Attorney General in the 1980s during the Reagan administration.)

Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said on Wednesday that Attorney General Mukasey would not be involved in any aspect of Mr. Madoff’s prosecution, which is being run by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan.

Attorney General Mukasey’s taking himself out of the Madoff prosecution is akin to Eli Manning declining to play in the Super Bowl, which would have caused Giants fans to yell bloody murder if Mr. Manning had sidelined himself.

Marc L. Mukasey, a partner in the law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani, is representing Frank DiPascali, the top financial officer of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC operated by the notorious Bernard Madoff, a 70-year-old New Yorker.  The young Mr. Mukasey has neutralized the older Mr. Mukasey from performing the job that Americans expect the United States Attorney General to perform.

“DiPascali was the Madoff employee who had the most day-to-day contact with the firm’s investors,” said an article by Pete Yost and Marcy Gordon of the Associated Press.  “Several described him as the man they reached by phone when they had questions about the firm’s investment strategy, or wanted to add or subtract money from their accounts.”

“Officials in Washington declined to answer if the Attorney General knew Bernard Madoff personally from his time in New York,” said Jason Ryan of ABC News.

Attorney General Mukasey is a 1959 graduate of the Ramaz School, a modern Orthodox Jewish school in New York.  The school invested $6 million in a fund that was a client of Mr. Madoff, said Kenny Rochlin,  Ramaz’s director of institutional advancement, according to a report on Bloomberg.com.

It was reported by Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times that Mr. Madoff’s wife, Ruth Madoff, 67, also has close ties to the Ramaz school in Manhattan, where she served on the board.

Marc Mukasey was an assistant United States attorney in New York for eight years.  He is currently the head of Mr. Guiliani’s White Collar Criminal Defense and Special Investigations practice.  Mr. Mukasey’s web  site states that his practice involves the representation of corporations and individuals accused of “securities fraud, antitrust violations, environmental crimes, money laundering, bribery, mail/wire fraud, tax offenses, embezzlement, and other business crimes.”

Americans throughout the country are outraged by the horrendous treachery of  Mr. Madoff, whose crimes have disproportionately affected Jewish Americans and Jewish charities. 

“Many of the investors allegedly swindled by Wall Street money manager Bernard Madoff are, like him, Jewish, and for many of them, contributing to Jewish causes is a crucial part of their culture,” said an Associated Press article.  “The effect of their losses on the Jewish philanthropic world is being seen as nothing less than catastrophic.”

Jewish Americans from Orthodox to Reformed congregations are furious at the wickedness of Mr. Madoff.  The Orthodox internet publication, Vos Iz Neias? (What Is News?) ran a headline that stated: Bernie “the Ganef” Out On Bail: Gets Curfew, Monitoring Bracelet At Hearing.  Mukasey: I Am Out Of This Case.  The Israeli internet publication, YNetNews, had a headline stating: Madoff scandal “a shot through Jewish heart.”

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said it missed repeated opportunities to discover Mr. Madoff’s fraud.  SEC chairman Christopher Cox said that the SEC failed to act on “credible, specific” allegations about Mr. Madoff dating back to 1999.

“I am gravely concerned by the apparent multiple failures over at least a decade to thoroughly investigate these allegations or at least any point to seek formal authority to pursue them,” Mr. Cox said in a written statement.

“I can’t comprehend how a well-run investigation would have missed a fraud of this magnitude,” said Lynn Turner, a former SEC chief accountant.

At article on Bloomberg.com by David Scheer and Allan Dodds Frank stated:

The SEC, already faulted over the collapse of Bear Stearns Cos. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., faces critcism for failing to detect the fraud that prosecutors say Madoff confessed to.  A House panel will hold a hearing  next month.

Madoff’s responses to a 2005 SEC inspection of his brokerage operation should have raised suspicions and prompted further inquiries, said two people familiar with the matter.

Two years later, the agency closed a separate probe into tips and press report suggesting his investment returns were too good to be true.  Money manager Harry Markopolos helped trigger that inquiry by suggesting Madoff may be running a Ponzi scheme or front-running, a person with knowledge of the  case said.  In the latter practice, traders buy shares for their account before filling customer orders, betting on a likely market move.

One of the SEC’s investigative teams that examined the Madoff firm was headed by a lawyer named Eric Swanson, who served 10 years at the SEC before leaving in 2006 when he was the assistant director of the office of compliance inspections and examinations in Washington.  In 2007, Mr. Swanson married Shana Madoff, a niece of Bernard Madoff and the daughter of his brother, Peter Madoff, the Madoff firm’s chief compliance officer.

The SEC issued a statement in which it reported that Mr. Swanson was part of a team that looked into the books of Mr. Madoff’s securities firm in 1999 and 2004.  It said that it has “strict rules” prohibiting employees from participating in cases involving companies in which they have a personal interest.

Mr. Swanson is currently employed by BATS Exchange in Kansas City, according to the New York Times.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote in the Dec. 16, 2008 issue of Vos Iz Neias? titled The “Ganef” Madoff: Rancid Materialism Is Corrupting Our Community:

The Jewish community better get serious about the cancer that’s growing inside it.  The devastation on Wall Street carries a lot of Jewish names, from firms like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers to individuals such as Bernard Madoff, whose $50 billion Ponzi scheme collapsed over the weekend, and  lawyer Marc Dreier, arrested last week for defrauding investors of millions of dollars.

On the Internet more and more people who don’t like us are beginning to connect the dots, pointing out that there are an awful lot of Jews who bear responsibility for Wall Street’s fall.  Anti-Semites will always find something to hate us for, and I’m way to busy to worry about what a bunch of bigots think anyway.

Rather, what worries me is this: what if some [of] it is true?  What if our community has become too obsessed with money? . . . What if a disproportionately large number of young Jews are running to work on Wall Street and never even considering  jobs like teaching, the rabbinate, or doing outreach becasue the compensation, comparatively, stinks?

Mr. Madoff is out of custody on bail.  U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein ordered Mr. Madoff to wear an ankle monitoring  bracelet and stay at his Park Avenue apartment from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m.  Judge Gorenstein also ordered Mr. Madoff and his wife to surrender their passports.

For a 35-second video clip of Mr. Madoff at an April 2004 hearing, during which he suggests that he is an honest money manager, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGDF4MZn_uY

BERNARD.MADOFF.PRISON.PHOTO.BY.PETER.RAD

BERNARD MADOFF IN PRISON (PHOTO BY PETER RAD)

Art Credit:

Mukasey cartoon (Dwayne Booth, a Los Angeles cartoonist, who goes by the name of Mr. Fish)

Filipino boxing champion Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao TKOs Oscar “Golden Boy” de la Hoya in the “Dream Match”

December 7, 2008

Oscar “Golden Boy” de la Hoya (39-5, 30 KOs) and Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao (47-3-2, 35 KOs)  fought Dec. 6, 2008 in a welterweight fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas that was billed as the “Dream Match.”

Pacquiao moved up two weight divisions to face de la Hoya, who was considered boxing’s greatest superstar during the past 10 years.  For de la Hoya, 35, it was a chance to prove that he was still a great fighter or, perhaps, to show that it was time for him to retire from the sport.

A gold medalist in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, de la Hoya had won 10 world titles in six different weight divisions.  His victories came over big names in the sport like Julio Cesar Chavez,  Fernando Vargas and Pernell Whitaker.   However, de la Hoya, a native of Mexico and East Los Angeles, had fought only four times during the past four years and lost twice.

Three of de la Hoya’s five losses came at the MGM: to Floyd Mayweather, Jr., in 2007, to Bernard Hopkins in 2004 and to Shane Mosley in 2003.  But the MGM is also where de la Hoya beat Richard Mayorga, Arturo Gatti, Felix Strum and Javier Castillejo.

THE PACMAN DELIVERS A BLOW TO THE GOLDEN BOY

THE PACMAN DELIVERS A BLOW TO THE GOLDEN BOY

 

 

POSTER PROMOTING THE DE LA HOYA - PACQUIAO DREAM MATCH

POSTER PROMOTING THE DE LA HOYA - PACQUIAO DREAM MATCH

Pacquiao, who will be 30 on Dec. 17,  2008, is considered by many to be the best “pound for pound” boxer in the world.  He had won his last eight fights.  His wins included two knockout victories over Erik Morales together with wins over Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Martinez. (Pacquiao’s last loss was a 12-round unanimous decision by Morales three years ago at the MGM.)

Because of Pacquiao’s wins over Morales, Berrera and Martinez, he earned the nickname of the “Mexecutioner.”

“They call me Mexecutioner but I don’t like it, I’m just doing my job,” Pacquiao said.  

Shortly before fight time, de la Hoya was favored.  The best odds  for gamblers backing de lay Hoya were -150.  (A bet of $150 on de la Hoya would pay $100 if he won.)  The best odds for Pacquiao to win were +180. (A bet of $100 on Pacquiao would pay $180 if he prevailed.)

“I will be extremely, extremely disappointed if this fight doesn’t end in a knockout,” de la Hoya said.  “It will be a total disaster for me.”

de la Hoya added:

If you have a fighter who is going to come at me, a fighter who is going to throw some strong punches with full force and is going to stay in front of me and has his heart to fight as hard as he can, then I welcome it.  I open up the door and let them right into my home.  Hey, let’s fight.

Pacquiao, a native of the Philippines, made his debut 13 years ago as a 106-pounder.  He won his first title at 112 pounds and his last title during June 2008 at 135 pounds, a lightweight bout against David Diaz.  He had never fought an opponent as large as de la Hoya, who fought at weights as high as 160 pounds.

“It’s going to be boxing history if I win the fight,” Pacquiao said.  “I believe my power and my speed can beat him.”

“Manny Pacquiao can handle the weight gain because of his power and speed,” de la Hoya said.   de la Hoya added:

He’s not the slowest fighter out there.  He’s possibly the fastest fighter out there.  A Manny Pacquiao who’s  going to jump up 10 pounds, 20 pounds or 30 pounds is still  a fast Manny Pacquiao so I think it’s not going to affect him that much the way it affected me because I jumped up six weight classes  and by the sixth one, it was tough.

Pacquiao is a hero in the Philippines and is mobbed everywhere in goes in his country.   President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called on the nation to rally behind Pacquiao and to pray for him because the fighter had brought so much international honor and recognition to the Philippines.

“The entire nation, a nation of 90 million people, is focusing on [Pacquiao’s] every move,” said boxing promoter Bob Arum.  “It is the most important topic of conversation in the Philippines.”

“If Manny wins, I see him as the greatest Asian fighter of all time,” said boxing historian and sports writer Bert Sugar.

Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, predicted that the fight would be stopped in the ninth round.  de la Hoya predicted that he would knock out Pacquiao within five rounds.

Pacquiao entered the ring for the scheduled 12-round bout dressed in a red, white and blue robe: the colors of the Philippine flag. He went directly to his corner where he kneeled for several seconds to pray.  de la Hoya then entered the ring in a red robe with a trailing banner depicting the American flag on one side and the Mexican flag on the other side.

Before referee Tony Weeks gave the signal to the fighters to begin, three national anthems were played: the anthem of the Philippines for Pacquiao and the anthems of Mexico and the United States for de la Hoya.  Within the crowd of about 16,000 persons were entertainers such as Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria and Russell Crowe, sports stars such as Magic  Johnson, Gary Sheffield and Reggie Miller, and boxers such as Mike Tyson, Thomas Hearns and Juan Manuel Marquez.

The fight was described by the Associated Press as “lopsided from the beginning, with Pacquiao landing punch after punch while De La Hoya chased after him, trying to catch him with a big punch.”  

Before the beginning of the ninth round, de la Hoya’s left eye was closed shut as he sat on his stool.  The ring doctor and de la Hoya’s cornermen discussed the fighter’s condition.  de la Hoya did not complain when it was decided that the fight must be stopped.  It was only the second time in de la Hoya’s 16-year pro career that he was stopped in a fight.

“He was empty,” said de la Hoya’s trainer, Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain.  “I stopped the fight.”

de la Hoya got off his stool and walked across the ring to congratulate Pacquiao.

“You’re still my idol,” Pacquiao said to de la Hoya.

“No, you’re my idol,” de la Hoya replied.

“We knew we had him after the first round,” said Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer said.  “He had no legs, he was hesitant and he was shot.”

“Freddie, you’re right,” de la Hoya said.  “I just don’t have it anymore.”

“Oscar was in good condition but he couldn’t control the southpaw stance or Manny’s style,” said Nacho Beristain,  in his first fight as de lay Hoya’s trainer.  “He just didn’t seem to have the strength to stop him.”

Two of the three judges awarded every round to Pacquiao.  One judge awarded the first round to de la Hoya.  The score cards were 79-72, 80-71 and  80-71 for Pacquiao.  It was reported that Pacquiao was paid $11 million and de la Hoya was paid $20 million for the fight.

“He’s just a great fighter,” de la Hoya said about Pacquiao.  “I have nothing bad to say about him.  He  prepared like a true champion.”

Pacquiao’s next big fight is likely to be against England’s Ricky “The Hitman”  Hatton (45-1, 32 KOs) in the spring or early summer.

Unpopular conservative prime minister is more interested in salvaging his political career than helping working class Canadians as they lose their jobs and financial security

December 7, 2008

 

JACK LAYTON OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY, STEPHANE DION OF THE LIBERAL PARTY AND GILLES DUCEPPE OF BLOC QUEBECOIS

JACK LAYTON OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY, STEPHANE DION OF THE LIBERAL PARTY AND GILLES DUCEPPE OF BLOC QUEBECOIS

Canadians are in need of strong federal leadership to help stop the loss of jobs and the rapid deterioration of their financial security.  Instead, their government was shut down by a prime minister who is more interested in trying to salvage his own political career than the well being of working class citizens.

On Monday, Dec. 1, 2008, leaders of the Liberals, the New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois signed an agreement to replace the minority government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.   A cooperative government was to be formed by the Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP) with support of the Bloc.   (The Bloc, which wants French-speaking Quebec to leave Canada, pledged to back the coalition’s budgets and general policies.  Many French-speaking residents of Quebec are offended by accusation of some Conservatives that they are not interested in remaining  a part of Canada.)

If the coalition was successful, then Stephane Dion, leader of the Liberal Party, the largest opposition party in the House of Commons, was to head the coalition.

 The agreement to form a coalition was in direct response to the Conservative government’s inaction on the country’s ailing economy.   In a statement about the coalition, NDP leader Jack Layton wrote in a statement:

We have a government that refuses to act when our economy, and the people whom it serves, need it more than at any time in a generation.  The government has lost the confidence of the  people of Canada and therefore it has lost the confidence of this Parliament.  It falls on us to act.  The New Democrats and the Liberal Party, with the support of Bloc Quebecois, have chosen a path to stimulate the economy in a stable and responsible government.  A government that will put the economy first.  Because we must act now.  Because due to the Conservative government’s inaction in the face of the economic crisis, the government has shown that it has no confidence in our people.  That’s why the government has lost confidence in the Conservative government.

A confidence vote was to take place on Monday, Dec. 8, 2008.  Mr. Harper was expected to get a vote of no confidence.  Instead of allowing the vote to take place, Mr. Harper persuaded an unelected politician with the title of “Her Excellency” to allow him to suspend Parliament for seven weeks, when Mr. Harper’s government will present a budget.

“Her Excellency” is Governor General Michaelle Jean, who is Queen Elizabeth II’s representative and de facto head of state.  Mr. Harper asked Ms. Jean to support a suspension of Parliament.

While the role of the governor general is said to be largely ceremonial, it became apparent that “Her Excellency” has near dictatorial powers.

Before declaring the parliamentary suspension, Mr. Harper had a 2-1/2 hour meeting with Ms. Jean in Ottawa.  Ms. Jean did not explain why she agreed to the suspension.

“There’s every reason to believe that [Ms. Jean’s] saying no would have thrown the whole nation in turmoil,” said C. E. S. Franks, a professor emeritus of political studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

Technically, Mr. Harper’s efforts amounted to a  prorogue of Parliament, which stops all actions on bills and other business.  It goes well beyond adjournment, which was not available to Mr. Harper because adjournment requires parliamentary approval. 

Mr. Harper managed “to avoid being ousted by opposition parties angry over the minority Conservative government’s economic plans and  an attempt to cut off party financing,” wrote Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren in a Dec. 4, 2008 report for Reuters.

Reporters Nirmala  Menon and Joe Barrett of The Wall Street Journal wrote in the Dec. 5, 2008 issue of their newspaper:

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, facing almost certain defeat in a crucial vote next week, shut down a two-week-old session of Parliament Thursday in a bid to stay in power until he can present a budget in January.

Mr. Harper’s Conservatives had been due to face off against a united opposition at a vote of confidence on  Monday.

* * *

The Conservatives were reelected with a stronger mandate at the federal election less than two months ago, but still lack the majority of seats that would allow them to govern without support from at least one opposition party.  The opposition parties have a combined 163 seats, 20 more than the Conservatives.

After the Queen’s designee gave Mr. Harper the prorogue that he wanted, Mr. Harper told reporters: “Today’s decision will give us an opportunity — and I’m talking about all the parties — to focus on the economy and work together.”  Mr. Harper promised to present a budget on Jan. 27, 2009.

“He’s put a lock on the door of the House of Commons,” said Mr. Layton of the New Democrats.  “He refuses to face the people of Canada through their elected representatives.”

“We do not want any more of [Mr. Harper’s] words, we don’t believe them,” Mr. Dion told reporters before the closed doors of the House of Commons.  “We want to see changes, monumental changes.”

“Do we want a party that is so undemocratic that it will not meet the House of Commons?” — asked Bob Rae, a member of the Liberal Party who is attempting to become his party’s leader when Mr. Dion steps down in May 2009.  (Michael Ignatieff is reported to be the front-runner in the Liberal leadership race.)

“Harper’s request for suspension was unprecedented,” Mr. Palmer and  Mr. Ljunggren wrote in the Reuters report.  “No prime minister had asked for Parliament to be suspended to avoid a confidence vote in the House of Commons.”

Constitutional scholars have denounced the suspension of Parliament.

“This really has been a blow to parliamentary democracy in Canada,” said Nelson  Wiseman, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto.  “It has lowered the status of the elected Parliament and raised the status of the unelected prime minister.”

Adam Dodek, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said Canadian courts could only offer an opinion about the constitutionality of the decision but that the courts lack the power to issue orders to the governor general.

Just one day after the Conservatives shut down Parliament, it was reported by Statistics Canada that 71,000 Canadian jobs were lost during November, which was the largest loss of jobs in a single month in 26 years.

There is little doubt that Canada’s economy will get much worse before it gets better.  The anxieties of many Canadians about the state of the economy and the poor leadership of Mr. Harper were shared with readers of London’s The Guardian by columnist Heather Mallick.  She wrote in the Dec. 5, 2008 issue of the newspaper:

Right now, we fear for our jobs and the lives of our children.  Canada’s auto industry is a sandcastle at high tide.  House prices are collapsing.  We are nakedly, embarrassingly unprepared for climate change.  But Harper has slashed at his funny little pet hates, like pay equity for women, human rights commissions and federal cash to fund all political parties,  things that had been toddling alone fine.  Harper’s no dragon slayer; he garrottes bunnies.

* * *

Harper thought being elected as prime minister meant that he ruled a country.  That’s like confusing votes with love.  It was a crazy thing for Harper to do, and he nearly lost what he thinks of as his throne.

An Ipsos Reid poll conducted on Dec. 2 and 3, 2008, showed that 72 percent of Canadians are “truly scared for the future of the country.”  A Strategic Counsel poll conducted on Dec. 3, 2008 disclosed that 55 percent of respondents think Canada is “on the wrong track” with just 33 percent holding the opinion that Canada is “headed in the right direction.”

The downside of the suspending Parliament when more than 70,000 Canadian jobs were lost in a single month can not be underestimated.

“Today’s news underlines the tragedy of  Stephen Harper’s prorogation,” said Scott Brison, a Liberal Party finance critic.  “As another 71,000 Canadian families face financial uncertainty, Mr. Harper has decided to shut down Parliament.  While action is required, Mr. Harper delays.”

Statistics Canada reported that of the 71,000 jobs lost last month, 38,000 were in manufacturing.  Ontario alone lost 66,000 jobs.

“We are facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” read a statement issued by the Liberal Party on Dec. 4, 2008.  “Mr. Harper promises action but he has already wasted two months on partisan games and now he has locked the doors of Parliament.”

“For the first time in the history of Canada the prime minister is running away from the parliment of Canada,” said Mr. Dion.

During November 2008 Mr. Harper presented a proposed budget that did not include the stimulus programs wanted by the opposition to help Canada’s worsening economy.  The New Democrats and Liberals were further angered by a  proposal to eliminate public financing for political parties.  The opposition parties then began working on a coalition with the  backing of Bloc Quebecois to displace Mr. Harper’s minority government.

Before the coalition was agreed upon, Mr. Harper tried to keep his political opponents at bay by accusing them of wanting to practice “socialist economics.”

Editorials in conservative  newspapers tried to justify the unprecedented move by Mr. Harper.  An editorial in the Dec. 5, 2008 edition of The Vancouver Sun stated:

Stephen Harper’s credibility has been sorely diminished, yet the prime minister is correct on one point, namely, the potential disaster of a government built on socialist and separtist principles.

Harper’s attempt to neutralize the opposition parties by cutting off their funding was an act of reckless arrogance.  By presenting the move as a money-saving initiative, he was exploiting the economic downturn for political gain.

* * *

And then there’s Liberal leader Stephane Dion, who is supposed to hold the coalition together.  This is the same man who is widely considered the weakest Liberal leader of modern times, a man who has trouble running a political campaign, never mind a country.

So when Harper suggests, as he did in his televised address, that  this coalition has trouble written all over it, he’s  right.

Another editorial in the Dec. 5, 2008 issue of The Vancouver Sun stated:

Gov.-Gen. Michaelle Jean made the right decision in allowing Prime Minister Stephen Harper to shut down Parliament.

Refusing his advice would have been unwarranted interference in our political process, given that the prime minister has promised to reconvene a new session in seven weeks and present a budget.

Even so, it was an extraordinary decision that sets a dangerous precedent, which shouldn’t be repeated except in the face of exceptional events such as those of the  past week.

Some political experts have expressed the opinion that Mr. Harper’s suspension of Parliament will result in a destruction of the coalition.

With Parliament prorogued, the coalition is dead,” wrote Andrew Coyne on Dec. 4, 2008 on the website of Macleans.  Mr. Coyne added:

 The only way they were going to make this thing stick, even temporarily, was by way of a speedy assumption of power, the glue that mends all breaks.  But having lunged and missed, they will be very much on their back feet.  I repeat: The coalition is over.  I’ll be surprised if it last the week.

Conservatives were vocal in their reaction to the efforts by the Liberals and the New Democrats to form a coalition.

“That is as close to treason and  sedition as I can imagine,” said Bob Dechert, a Conservative Party member, echoing a refrain heard widely in Alberta, the prime minister’s home  province.

Environmental Minister Jim Prentice, a Conservative Party member, was quoted in the Dec. 2, 2008 issue of The Wall Street Journal as calling the oppositions parties’ move

an attempt in effect to impose an alternative government upon Canadians, a government that was not elected barely six weeks ago, and a coalition that is supported by separatists, people who would break up our country.

Mr. Brison of the Liberal Party noted that it was the Conservative government that was in power during Canada’s decline in economic growth, Canada’s largest decline in productivity in two decades and its  return to budget deficits.

Murray Brewster of The Canadian Press reported on a rally in Toronto on Dec. 6, 2008 .  Mr. Dion told the rally that the Liberals and the NDP want to help the country fight “the economic crisis that is coming.”  Mr. Dion said to a cheering crowd:

Don’t you think we should thank the Liberal-NDP coalition, with support of the Bloc, for having stopped this bad, harmful nonsense, so-called Conservative economic plan.

Even as Mr. Dion received cheers from the crowd, it was reported that members of the Liberal Party are not satisfied with his leadership and want him to resign.  John Manley, a Liberal Party member and former deputy prime minister, wrote on the subject in an opinion article in the Dec. 6, 2008 issue of The Globe and Mail. 

“Confronted by a political crisis that  was not his making, Mr. Dion has become an obstacle to his party, and to the opposition, in dealing with it,” Mr. Manley wrote.  He said that it was “delusional at best” to believe that the public would want Mr. Dion as coalition prime minister.

“The political storm reflected badly on Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose decisions ignited it, but even worse on Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, whose  impetuous reaction led the party astray,” wrote Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson in his newspaper’s Dec. 6, 2008 edition.

Mr. Simpson added:

Now, the Liberals are trapped.  They failed to kill the king.  He and his supporters are still in charge.  The Liberals, having failed, are turning on themselves.  Mr. Dion had almost no support in the caucus before the attempted coup, and certainly has none now.  Many caucus members  are nervous, as is the rank and  file.

* * *

The coalition did temporarily frighten the Conservatives; the coalition now frightens the Liberals.

However, a weak Dion would serve Canadians better than a clueless Harper.  As stated about Mr. Harper by Ms. Mallick in The Guardian, in an article titled Bushier than Bush:

Prime minister Stephen Harper, a neoconservative ideologue, ignored, no, snubbed the world economic crisis that he had just described as the worst since 1929.  We are the Americans’ biggest trading partner, but he announced nothing in tandem with them.  He had no plans for R & D, not even a pothole to fill or a bridge to shore up.  In fact, he cut back on spending, and did it in a manner that would have had Karl Rove saying, “Whatever floats your boat, George, but I’d do this on the quiet and take it slow.”

Photo Credit:

CANADA.PARLIAMENT.OTTAWA.FROM.CANADA.ARCHIVES

PROPOSED DESIGN FOR THE PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS IN OTTAWA (LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA)

Is Rahm Emanuel a good choice to serve as Barack Obama’s chief of staff in the White House?

December 6, 2008
REP. RAHM ISRAEL EMANUEL

REP. RAHM ISRAEL EMANUEL

President-elect Barack Obama’s first appointment to a high position in his administration was Rep. Rahm Israel Emanuel (D-Ill.).  The question arises whether Mr. Emanuel’s ties to Israel will interfere with the opportunity for Mr. Obama to work on an effective Israel-Palestine peace plan.

Mr. Emanuel, 49, did not serve in the United States military.  However, he was a volunteer for the Israel Defense Forces at an Israeli army base during the 1991 Gulf War.  His hawkish pro-Israel position — perhaps as strong as the position of Sen. Joseph Lieberman — suggests that the Obama Administration may not promptly end the war in Iraq.  Mr. Obama’s promises about Iraq have gone from “I will bring this war to an end in 2009” (statement made before he won the nomination of the Democratic party) to his current goal of gradually removing troops until most of them are removed by the summer of 2010.

Mr. Emanuel’s Israeli pedigree was discussed by Anshel Pfeffer and Shlomo Shamir, who wrote in the Nov. 6, 2008 issue of Haaretz:

Emanuel, a former Bill Clinton adviser, is the son of a Jerusalem-born pediatrician who was a member of the Irgun (Etzel or IZL), a militant Zionist group that operated in Palestine between 1931 and 1948.

Commentator and humorist Jay D. Homnick tried to visualize the Arab reaction to hearing about Mr. Emanuel’s selection by Mr. Obama.  In the Nov. 7, 2008 edition of The American Spectator, Mr. Homnick wrote:

To the Palestinians, hearing that a Jew was the first pick can’t be encouraging.  To hear he’s an Israeli must be galling.  But to hear he comes from an Irgun family will enrage them to a fever pitch.

The Arabs, even the most simpatico among them, are not fans of the Zionists who liberated Israel from British rule.  The fact that Ben-Gurion, Weitzmann and their Haganah force were political leftists endears them but little.  Still, through gritted teeth they learn to tolerate.  But try and mention Begin’s Irgun or Yitzhak Shamir’s Lehi to any non-Jewish Middle Easterner and watch smoke coming out of their ears.  The Irgun and Lehi were the right-wing, and a much tougher crew.  The story of Anwar Sadat is rendered far more amazing by his willingness to make peace not only with Israel, but an Israel led by arch enemy Begin.

Mr. Homnick wrote that pro-Israel persons “have to like that Obama’s first thumb went into someone else’s eye.”

Shortly after Mr. Emanuel’s appointment was announced, Mr. Emanuel’s father, Dr. Benjamin Emanuel, made a disparaging remark about Arabs.  Speaking about his son’s potential impact on the Obama administration, Dr. Emanuel said in an inteview with Ma’ariv, an Israeli newspaper:

Obviously he’ll influence the President to be pro-Israel.  Why wouldn’t he?  What is he, an Arab?  He’s not going to be mopping floors at the White House.

Dr. Emanuel’s remarks brought a prompt response from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).  In a letter to Rep. Emanuel  dated Nov. 11, 2008 from Mary Rose Oakar, ADC president, and Kareem Shora, the organization’s executive director, the ADC asked Rep. Emanuel to publicly disavow and repudiate his father’s “unacceptable smear.”  Ms. Oakar and  Mr. Shora wrote:

One can readily imagine the justifiable outcry if someone made a similar remark about African-Americans, Jews, or Hispanics, concerning cleaning the floors of the White House.   Do the normal standards of decency and  civility not apply when talking about Arabs? . . . We sincerely hope you distance yourself from any demeaning characterizations of any ethnic, religious, or racial group.

A statement issued by Rep. Emanuel’s office said that Mr. Emanuel called Ms. Oakar and “apologized on behalf of his family and offered to meet with representatives of the Arab-American community at an appropriate time in the future.” 

The ADA website reported that Rep. Emanuel said: “From the fullness of my heart, I personally apologize on behalf of my family and  me.  These are not the values upon which I was raised or those of my family.”

Apology or no apology, Rep. Emanuel’s hard line pro-Israel position can not be dismissed.

A Sept. 25, 2006 article by Nina Easton, Washington bureau chief of Fortune, was titled Rahm Emanuel, Pitbull politician.  Ms. Easton further described the Emanuel family’s Israeli military connection:

“[Rahm Emanuel] has one of the strongest survival instincts I’ve ever seen,” says longtime friend Mary Leslie, who attributes that inner reserve to his Israeli roots.  His father, Benjamin, was born in Jersusalem, the son of pharmacists who had escaped the Russian pogroms.  In the 1940s Benjamin Emanuel interrupted his medical school training in Switzerland to take part in an unsuccesful scheme to smuggle guns from Czechoslovakia to the Israeli underground.  He later served as a medic in the 1948 Israeli war of independence.  (Rahm would echo his father’s dedication during the Gulf war.  With Iraqi Scuds falling on his father’s home country, he volunteered for military-vehicle-maintenance duty near the Lebanese border.)

The Haaretz article by Mr. Pfeffer and Mr. Shamir said that Mr. Emanuel was named for a friend of Dr. Emanuel named “Rahamin,” who was killed while fighting for Lehi.  (Lehi is the Hebrew acronym for the Lohamei Herut Israel, Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, also known as the Stern Gang after its notorious leader Avraham Stern.)

Mr. Emanuel’s surname also results from fighting for Israel.   Elisabeth Bumiller wrote in the June 15, 1997 edition of The New York Times Magazine:

The Boys [Rahm and his two brothers, Ariel and Ezekiel, aka Zeke] went to summer camp in Israel, and reveled in the family lore: in 1933, after their uncle Emanuel Auerbachwas killed in a skirmish with Arabs in Jerusalem, the family changed its last name to his first, as a tribute. 

An article in the Nov. 6, 2008 issue of The Jewish Journal noted that Mr. Emanuel is bearish about a Palestine-Israel peace agreement.  The publication stated:

These days, however, Emanuel is not optimistic about the chance of a Palestinian state arising from the current ruin.  “If you were to say up front, ‘We’re creating a state and then we’re negotiating the details,” he told CNBC last summer, “not only would you be rewarding terrorism, you would be rewarding all the corruption that goes with it.”

Mr. Obama’s selection of Mr. Emanuel supports the position of Ralph Nader that Mr. Obamais siding with hard-liners for Israel.  In an open letter to Mr. Obama dated Nov. 3, 2008, Mr. Nader said that Mr. Obama made a

transformation from an articulate defender of Palestinian rights in Chicago before your run for the U.S. Senate to an acolyte, a dittoman for the hard-line AIPAC lobby, which bolsters the militaristic oppression, occupation, blockage, colonization and land-water seizures over the years of the Palestinian peoples and their shrunken territories in the West Bank and Gaza.

Mr. Nader said that for “there [to] be a chance for a peaceful resolution of this 60-year plus conflict” between Israel and Palestine, there will need to be support by the United States.  He then criticized Mr. Obama for not being even handed in the conflict:

[Y]ou align yourself with the hard-liners, so much so that in your infamous, demeaning speech to the AIPAC convention right after you gained the nomination of the Democratic Party, you supported an ‘undivided Jerusalem,’ and opposed negotiations with Hamas — the elected government in Gaza.  Once again, you ignored the will of the Israeli people who, in a March 1, 2008 poll by the respected newspaper Haaretz, showed that 64% of Israelis favored ‘direct negotiations with Hamas.’  Siding with the AIPAC hard-liners is what one of the many leading Palestinians advocating dialogue and peace with the Israeli people was describing when he wrote ‘Anti-semitism today is the persecution of Palestinian society by the Israeli state.’

In an interview of Mr. Nader by Alexander Cockburn in the Nov. 7/8, 2008 edition of Counterpunch, Mr. Nader described Mr. Emanuel as “the worst of Clinton” and a “[s]pokesman for Wall Street, Israel, globalization.”

Mr. Emanuel was born in Chicago, where he attended Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School.  His family moved to Wilmette, IL, a lake shore Chicago suburb, where he graduated from New Trier High School.  Short in stature (5′-7″) with dark circles under his eyes, Mr. Emanuel also studied ballet at the Evanston School of Ballet.  He obtained a liberal arts degree at Sarah Lawrence College in 1981.  (In an article in the Summer 2003 issue of Sarah Lawrence Magazine Mr. Emanuel said that he studied “American history — we studied mainly by reading Supreme Court opinions on major constitutional issues.”)  Mr. Emanuel also obtained a master’s degree in speech and communication from Northwestern University in 1985. 

While working on his undergraduate degree, Mr. Emanuel worked on the unsuccessful congressional campaign of David Robinson of Chicago.  He worked on Democrat Paul Simon’s election to the U.S. Senate in 1984.  In 1988, he became the national campaign director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).  In 1989, he served as the senior advisor and chief fundraiser for Richard M. Daley’s successful campaign for mayor of Chicago.

After his volunteer service in Israel, Mr. Emanuel became the director of finance for then Governor Bill Clinton’s presidential primary campaign in 1991.

Mr. Emanuel’s fundraising skills were described in the Nov. 6, 2008 edition of The Jewish Journal.  The article quoted Steve Rabinowitz, a political and public relations consultant in Washington who also worked in the Clinton White House: “He schmoozed many, many millions [of dollars] all over the country, including money from traditional Democratic Party givers, who are disproportionately Jewish, and new Democratic givers.”

After Mr. Clinton was elected president, Mr. Emanuel was a senior advisor to Mr. Clinton in the White House from 1993-98.  He served as assistant to the president for political affairs and then senior advisor to the president for policy and strategy.

Ms. Easton discussed Mr. Emanuel’s tenure with the Clinton Administration in her Fortune article on Mr. Emanuel.  She wrote:

A year after Clinton took office, Emanuel was demoted.  “He was very upset,” recalls [brother] Zeke.  “He thought he was going to get kicked out of the White House.”  He didn’t, and neither did he quit.  Instead, Emanuel regrouped, helping lead the charge on key Clinton initiatives, including the crime bill, the assault weapons ban, and NAFTA.  “He was constantly on the offense,” says [Paul] Begala.  Emanuel planned to leave after the 1996 election, but Clinton promoted him to take George Stephanopoulos’s spot as senior advisor for policy and strategy.

Still, Emanuel had political aspirations of his own, which necessitated some financial security.  So in late 1996 he traded in Clinton as his boss for Bruce Wasserstein, a major Democratic donor and Wall Street financier.  ‘Money is not the be-all and end-all for him,” says brother Zeke.  “But he knew he needed money so that wouldn’t be a problem while he was doing public service.”  Over a 2 1/2-year period he helped broker deals — often using political connections — for Wasserstein Perella.

According  to congressional financial disclosures, he earned more than $18 million during that period.  His deals included Unicom’s merger with Peco Energy and venture fund GTCR Golder Rauner’s purchase of SBC subsidiary SecurityLink.  But friends say his competition also benefited from two sales of the Wasserstein firm itself, first to Dresdner Bank and then to Allianz AG.

While a member of the Clinton Administration, Mr. Emanuel was present for the 1993 Rose Garden signing ceremony after the Oslo accord between Israel and Palestine.  It was reported that he choreographed the handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

Mr. Emanuel left his position in the Clinton Administration to accept a high paying investment banking job with Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in Chicago, where he reportedly earned an estimated $16-18 million.

“It’s a striking sum even in the richly paid world of corporate deal-making, let alone for someone without an MBA or any prior business experience other than running a small political consultancy,” said a 2003 Chicago Tribune story about Mr. Emanuel’s substantial earnings.

The timing of his departure from Dresdner Kleinwort was fortuitous for Mr. Emanuel because a few years later the investment bank began booking large losses.

“Dresdner Kleinwort racked up losses towards the end of [2007] from investments in subprime and other risky investments,” reported Reuters on March 14, 2008. 

Dresdner Kleinwort was part of Germany’s Dresdner Bank AG, which was owned by Europe’s biggest insurer, Allianz SE.  In September 2008, The Wall Street Journal reported that Dresdner Kleinwort was eliminating about 3,000 jobs to bring its work force to about 6,000.

In Mr. Emanuel’s first congressional financial disclosure, he reported earning $9.7 million in deferred and other compensation in 2002 alone from Wasserstein Perella and Co.

Mr. Emanuel also has ties to another institution which contributed to the current financial crisis: the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (aka Freddie Mac).  Mr. Emanuel served on the board of directors of Freddie Mac between 2000 and 2003.  

“Clinton’s going-away gift to Emanuel was a seat on the quasi-governmental Freddie Mac board, which paid him $231,655 in director’s fees in 2001 and $31,060 in 2000,” wrote Lynn Sweet in the Chicago Sun-Times on Jan. 3, 2002.  Mr. Emanuel told Ms. Sweet that his duties as a member of the board were to attend quarterly meetings and take part in committee meetings in person or via phone.

Mr. Emanuel ran for United States Representative for the 5th District of Illinois and took office in 2002.  His candidacy was at the end of his tenure with Freddie Mac, which contributed $25,000 to his campaign, according to the Chicago Sun-Times article by Ms. Sweet.  (Freddie Mac was Mr. Emanuel’s third largest contributor.)   He ran for the seat vacated by Rod Blagojevich, who became the governor of Illinois.  During the campaign, he “indicted his support of President Bush’s position on Iraq, but said he believed the president needed to better articulate his position to the American people,” reported Eli Kintisch for Jewish Telegraphic Agency.  

During Mr. Emanuel’s campaign, he was able to get the assistance of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) to condemn allegedly anti-semitic comments made about Mr. Emanuel by the late Edward Moskal, president of the Polish American Congress.  Mr. Moska was supporting Nancy Kaszak, a Polish-American state representative, for the position being sought by Mr. Emanuel.  He charged that Mr. Emanuel had dual citizenship with Israel and had served in the Israeli Army.

Ira N. Forman, executive director of the NJDC, stated in an NJDC press release dated March 7, 2002 that “Emanuel was born in Chicago and never served in the Israeli army.”  

The Israel army status is probably more a matter of semantics (i.e., volunteer in the Israel army or volunteer with the Israel army).  In an interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell on the day that Mr. Emanuel endorsed Mr. Obama for president, Ms. Mitchell said to Mr. Emanuel that “you were in the Israeli army” and Mr. Emanuel nodded his head in agreement.  

[NOTE — See 1:19 into the video at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/24970618#24970618See also 0:44 into the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_yA8J-oGQkSee also article dated Nov. 2, 2008 by Orly Azoulay in the Israeli publication Ynet News: “When Bill Clinton began his campaign for presidency, he appointed Rahm Emanuel to direct the campaign’s finance committee.  But Emanuel left when the Gulf War broke out, in order to volunteer in the IDF.”]

After Mr. Emanuel easily defeated Republican challenger Mark Augusti in the general election, he supported the October 2002 joint Congressional resolution authorizing the Iraq War.  The other nine members of the Illinois Congressional delegation including Sen. Richard Durbin voted against the resolution.

An example of Mr. Emanuel’s hawkish, pro-Israel position was pointed out in an editorial by Ali Abunimah in the Nov. 5, 2008 edition of The Electric Intifada:

In Congress, Emanuel has been a consistent and vocal pro-Israel hardliner, sometimes more so than President Bush.  In June 2003, for example, he  signed a letter criticizing Bush for being insufficiently supportive of Israel.  “We were deeply dismayed to hear your criticism of Israel for fighting acts of terror,” Emanuel, along with 33 other Democrats wrote to Bush.  The letter said that Israel’s policy of assassinating Palestinian political leaders “was clearly justified as an application of Israel’s right to self-defense.”

In July 2006, Emanuel was one of several members of Congress who called for the cancellation of a speech to Congress by visiting Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki because al-Maliki criticized Israel’s bombing of Lebanon.  Emanual called the Lebanese and Palestinian governments “totalitarian entities with militias and terrorists acting as democracies” in a 19 July 2006 speech supporting a House resolution backing Israel’s bombing of both countries that caused thousands of civilian victims.

Mr. Emanuel became a member of the house sub-committee that had oversight of Freddie Mac, reported Ms. Sweet in the Chicago Sun-Times.  Ms. Sweet reported that Mr. Emanuel also had options for 2,500 shares of Freddie Mac while he was on the sub-committee.  Mr. Emanuel told Ms. Sweet that it was not a conflict of interest because his financial stake in Freddie Mac was in a blind trust and he would recuse himself from voting on Freddie Mac issues.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) ultimately charged Freddie Mac with assisting in 85 fundraisers between 2000 and 2003 that collected about $1.7 million for federal candidates.  In 2006, Freddie Mac paid a $3.8 million fine to the FEC to settle the case.  See press release from the FEC at http://www.fec.gov/press/press2006/20060418mur.html

In 2005, Mr. Emanuel was named the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).  The committee recruits candidates for the House of Representatives and helps to raise funds for Democrats running for the House.

“As head of the party arm charged with recruiting and electing candidates, [Emanuel] was known to end fundraising calls with the oath: ‘Fuck you.  I love you,'” said an article titled Battering Rahm: Democrat attack dog in the Nov. 8, 2008 issue of London’s The Guardian.

Democratic strategist Paul Begala described Mr. Emanuel’s aggressive style as a “cross between a hemorrhoid and a toothache,” it was reported by Ms. Easton in her article in Fortune. 

“I love Rahm but that’s a small group of us,” Mr. Begala was quoted as saying.   “He’s not a beloved figure like Tip O’Neill or Dick Gephardt.  Rahm’s there because they want to win.”

On his reputation as a Democratic attack dog, Mr. Emanuel was quoted in the Nov. 12, 2006 Chicago Tribune: “I wake up some mornings hating me too.”

Mr. Emanuel is known to be vulgar and overly aggressive when working behind the scenes.  His off-camera vocabulary is said to be peppered with four letter words; he “knows his way around lewd speech as well as any David Mamet character,” wrote Jack Shafer in the Nov. 6, 2006 edition of Slate.  “Emanuel . . . is a drama queen; seething, foaming Mamet production; a big mouth; and a calculating mensch who loves nothing more than to stroke the feed bag for press-corps noshers.”   (Mr. Mamet is a short — 5′ 6″ — Jewish screenwriter/director/producer/playwright/poet from Chicago known for realistic, profane dialog and whose “gritty work . . .reflects the hardened attitude of his native Chicago and often revolves around domineering male characters and their macho posturing.”   Biography on Mr. Mamet promoting his availability as a speaker through The American Program Bureau.

Mr. Emanuel has been said to display “naked aggression” and a “slash-and-burn style,” wrote Robert Kurson in a recent article in Esquire.

An example of Mr. Emanuel’s aggressiveness was mentioned in an article by Joshua Green in the Oct. 20, 2005 edition of Rolling Stone:

[T]here’s the story of how, the night after Clinton was elected, Emanuel was so angry at the president’s enemies that he stood up at a celebratory dinner with colleagues from the campaign, grabbed a steak knife and began rattling off a list of betrayers, shouting “Dead! . . . Dead! . . . Dead!” and plunging the knife into the table after every name.  “When he was done, the table looked like a lunar landscape,” one campaign veteran recalls.  “It was like something out of The Godfather.  But that’s Rahm for you.”

Ms. Easton further described the perception of Mr. Emanuel by other Democratic officials:

He also symbolizes the party’s painful internal divisions.  He is praised by Democratic strategists who think the party needs to resist moving left (nearly twice as many American voters call themselves conservative as call themselves liberal) and distrusted by some in the party’s liberal wing.  He considers Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman a good friend, even though Lieberman’s support of the Iraq War inflamed leftist sentiment and cost him his party’s nomination. . . . Emanuel himself criticizes Bush’s conduct of the war but not the original decision to topple Saddam Hussein.

Ms. Easton further reported about Mr. Emanuel’s support of the Iraq war:

On Iraq, Emanuel has steered clear of the withdraw-now crowd, preferring to criticize Bush for military failures since the 2003 invasion.  “The war never had to turn out this way,” he told me at one of his campaign stops.  In January 2005, when asked by Meet the Press’s Tim Russert whether he would have voted to authorize the war — “knowing that there are no weapons of mass destruction” — Emanuel answered yes.  (He didn’t take office until after the vote.)  “I still believe that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do, okay?” he added.

In an essay dated Dec. 9, 2005, Andrew Cockburn wrote in Counterpunch that Mr. Emanuel recruited candidates who were not strong opponents of the Iraq War.

As [head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] he decides which candidates for the House should get money and other support from the national party.  At a time when any fool can see that the public hates the war more this month than last, and will hate it even more next month and the month after that, [Mr. Emanuel] is doing his best to recruit candidates, preferably rich ones, guaranteed to eschew vocal opposition to the war.

Mr.Cockburn also reported that NAFTA, which passed in 1993, resulted in “the consequent evisceration of the American industrial economy” and that Mr. Emanuel “directed the Clinton White House operation to get the treaty passed by any means necessary.”

Writing in the Oct. 24, 2006 edition of Counterpunch, John Walsh provided insight into Mr. Emanuel’s view on the Iraq war and how to deal with leaders who might criticize Israel:

The war on Iraq benefited Israel by laying waste a country seen to be one of its major adversaries.  Emanuel’s commitment to Israel and his Congressional service to it are not in doubt.  The most recent evidence was his attack on the U.S. puppet Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al Maliki, because Maliki had labeled Israel’s attack on Lebanon as an act of “aggression.”  Emanuel called on Maliki to cancel his address to Congress; and he was joined by his close friend and DSCC counterpart, Sen. Chuck Schumer, who asked: “Which side is he (Maliki) on when it comes to the war on terror?”  In terms of retired Senator Fritz Holling’s statement that Congress is Israeli occupied territory, Rahm Emanuel must be considered one of the occupying troops. 

In April 2006, Mr. Emanuel announced that he would support Hillary Rodham Clinton if she ran for the presidency in 2008.  In January 2007, Mr. Obama asked Mr. Emanuel to support him for his bid for the presidency.  Mr. Emanuel chose to stay officially neutral.

“I’m hiding under the desk,” Mr. Emanuel was quoted by reporter Mike Dorning in the Chicago Tribune.  “I’m hiding under the desk.  I’m very far under the desk, and I’m bringing my paper and my phone.”

Mr. Emanuel stayed neutral in the Clinton-Obama battle for the Democratic nomination until June 4, 2008, when Mr. Obama’s nomination became all but a certainty.  Mr. Emanuel was the last member of the Illinois Congressional delegation to endorse Mr. Obama.  The endorsement was made just before Mr. Emanuel went with Mr. Obama for Mr. Obama’s appearance before the AIPAC executive committee.

Referring to the AIPAC meeting, Mr. Emanuel said in an interview on June 4, 2008 on All Things Considered on National Public Radio:

This is where I wanted to support him.  Without a doubt there were a lot of expectations in today’s speech, and I think he gave a very powerful speech. . . . What is a friend?  Somebody who you implicitly trust for their loyalty and you expect their honesty.  If Barack was elected, Israel would have a friend.

In 2006, Mr. Emanuel became the Democratic Caucus Chairman.  He succeeded Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), who was elevated to Majority Whip.  During 2006, he also co-authored a book titled The Plan: Big Ideas for America with former Clinton policy advisor Bruce Reed, president of the Democratic Leadership Council.  

In The Plan, the authors proposed compulsory service for all Americans ages 18 to 25.  To “fight against the spread of  evil and totalitarianism” the authors suggested increasing “the military’s ‘thin green line’ around the world by adding to the U.S. Special Forces and the Marines, and by expanding the U.S. army by 100,000 more troops.”  They made the plea that “we must protect our homeland and civil liberties by creating a new domestic counter terrorism force like Britain’s MI5.”  (MI5 means “Military Intelligence, Section 5.”)

It is curious that Mr. Emanuel would equate MI5 with protecting civil liberties.  MI5 is reported to have secret files on more than 270,000 persons.  The MI5 was accused by Liberal Democrat MP Norman J. Baker of “hoarding information about people who pose no danger to this country,” reported Martin Delgado in London’s Daily Mail in July 2006.

“A new domestic spying operation is an obvious threat to our civil liberties,” wrote John Walsh in Counterpunch.

A close friend of Mr. Emanuel is David Axelrod, who was Mr. Obama’s chief strategist during his presidential campaign.  Mr. Obama has named Mr. Axelrod as his senior advisor.

Mr. Axelrod signed the ketubah (Jewish wedding contract) at Mr. Emanuel’s 1994 wedding to Amy Rule, who Mr. Emanuel met on a blind date.  Mrs. Emanuel converted to Judaism shortly before their wedding.  She is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  They have three children, son Zacharias and daughters Ilana and Leah.  The children attend the same Conservative Jewish day school that Mr. Emanuel attended in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago.  The Emanuels are members of Anshe Shalom B’nai Israel, a modern Orthodox congregation in Chicago.

Mr. Emanuel’s mother, Martha Smulevitz, is a psychiatric social worker and  former civil rights worker.   Emanuel’s older brother, Ezekiel, is an oncologist and bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health.  His younger brother, Ari, is a talent agent in Los Angeles.  He also has an adopted sister, Shoshanna, who is 14 years younger than him.

Photo Credit:

The Washington Post/Getty Images