Columbia FTA: Pelosi’s Move

10colombia_map The Colombia Free Trade Agreement is best summed up as a proposal to formalize U.S. support for the assassination of labor union organizers by death squads, impoverishment of workers and the undermining of farming operations that will leave more landless peasants with no alternative but to immigrate to the United States seeking work.

The Wisconsin-based Colombia Support Network, which has led the campaigning by U.S. activists to support human rights in that South American country, says without equivocation that the Colombia FTA “would solely benefit US transnational companies.”

The Colombia Support Network is highlighting opposition on the part of labor, farm and human activists in Colombia to the trade deal now being promoted by the Bush administration. That opposition is echoed by U.S. labor, farm and human rights groups, which have united in their efforts to block congressional approval of the pact.

Colombian union federations say they opposed the pact not just because it would weaken domestic industries and jeopardize employment but because it would make it harder to advance the cause of human rights in a country where more than 2,500 trade unionists have been murdered over the past two decades.

While President Bush and his allies attempt to suggest that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez has made progress in promoting human rights, honest political players in that country say the opposite. “(Uribe) has not responded adequately to the violence that plagues Colombians and particularly union leaders and human rights activists, as is demonstrated by the alarming figures from last month, in which four union leaders were murdered,” explains Carlos Gaviria Diaz, the Harvard-educated constitutional lawyer who serves as president of Colombia’s Polo Democrático Alternativo political party.

The former president of Colombia’s Constitutional Court has deep concerns about the treaty because of the threat it poses to human rights campaigning in his country, but Gaviria’s worries do not stop there.

“The fundamental problem with the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the United States and Colombia is that it has been reduced to an agreement between winners and losers,” he says. “Unfortunately, we Colombians are the losers, because we lose any possibility of achieving prosperous development. Likewise, many have also indicated correctly that this FTA benefits only a select minority in the United States, not the general population. For example, the destruction of Colombian agriculture caused by the FTA will stimulate the planting of coca in Colombia and more drug dealing in the streets of American cities.”… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <The Nation>

There has been some consternation in Congress over this. Progressives, both Democratic candidates for President, and the American people are opposed to it. On the other hand, greedy corporations stand ready to donate and bundle huge caches of campaign cash in return for its passage. While it appears to be a time to celebrate, there may be a foul plot afoot.

pelosi-bush This just off the Reuters wire:

The House of Representatives will decide on Thursday whether to put off indefinitely a vote on the Colombia free-trade agreement that President George W. Bush submitted to Congress this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. Pelosi, announcing the move to reporters on Wednesday, would not give a time frame for when the trade pact might be debated and put up for a vote on passage in the House. The vote on Thursday would change rules for considering the deal by eliminating a 90-day deadline for Congress to approve the Colombia trade deal.

This is good news, bad news and potentially ugly news.

The good news: Finally, a Democratic leader is trying to use some modicum of legislative power to halt our economically destructive and wildly unpopular trade policies. It’s a start.

The bad news: Pelosi has yet to say she will work to kill the pact outright. In fact, she issued a press release earlier this week merely worrying that Bush’s tactics jeopardize the final passage of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Meanwhile, other top Democrats like Jim Clyburn have gone on record saying they want this deal to pass (Clyburn has since amended his statement – but sometimes the truth is in the first reaction).

The potentially ugly news: Is Pelosi throwing America’s fair trade majority a meaningless bone that ends up helping lobbyists pass this deal?

While it certainly is good in the short-term that Congress is postponing passage of the Colombia deal, if Democrats are ultimately aiming to pass it anyway, then the delay may actually be a bad thing, in that it would serve to give K Street lobbyists more time to pressure Congress to pass it. It’s quite possible (probable, really, based on the Democrats willingness to sell out on this issue) that this postponement (if it passes) will let them cut a deal with Bush to modestly increase Trade Adjustment Assistance funding in exchange for the free trade deal. That would be a terrible bargain for workers, giving them a few crumbs while robbing yet another loaf of bread out of their hands.

In fact, Pelosi’s press release this morning seems to suggest she still wants this bill to pass:

“I thought there was a risk, the President sending it to the Congress now. If brought to the floor immediately, it would lose. And what message would that send?”

See that? Her big fear is not the deal passing, thus hurting American workers and validating the murderous Colombian government. No, her big fear is that the deal would NOT pass right now.

If Pelosi is successful in engineering this rejection of fast track – rather than the rejection of the Colombia FTA – it puts the timetable for the vote firmly in her hands… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Open Left>

The buzz I’m hearing from several sources, but none sufficiently reliable to state with reasonable certainty is that Pelosi intends to hold off until after the November elections and push it through in the lame-duck session of Congress then, when Reps no longer need fear the effects that passage might have on their reelections. Pelosi’s propensity to sell out progressives and the American people with such double dealing is why I have repeatedly called for her replacement as Speaker and continue to do so.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

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LIEberman LIE Exposed

10liebermanlies Way back in 2006, during the heat of a contested primary against Ned Lamont, Joe Lieberman’s website crashed. Lieberman and his team argued that this was the result of a vicious attack from Lamont supporters, and demanded a criminal investigation.

The Lieberman campaign denied speculation among liberal Web pundits that the centrist Democrat’s Web site had simply crashed because it used a low-budget Web host unable to handle the volume.

Well, guess what.

A federal investigation has concluded that U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s 2006 re-election campaign was to blame for the crash of its Web site the day before Connecticut’s heated Aug. 8 Democratic primary.

The FBI office in New Haven found no evidence supporting the Lieberman campaign’s allegations that supporters of primary challenger Ned Lamont of Greenwich were to blame for the Web site crash…. “The server that hosted the joe2006.com Web site failed because it was overutilized and misconfigured. There was no evidence of (an) attack,” according to the e-mail.

Inserted from <Crooks and Liars>

I can’t say that this lie influenced the election, but it is such GOP tactics that make LIEberman particularly distasteful. A traitor to his party, he should not be allowed to caucus with Democrats. Now I realize that the party is not going to act on this until next year, but when the time comes, he must be thrown out of the caucus.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

The True Danger of Bush/GOP Spying

bushreich As the battle over reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act rages in Congress, civil libertarians warn that legislation sought by the White House could enable spying on “ordinary Americans.” Others, like Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), counter that only those with an “irrational fear of government” believe that “our country’s intelligence analysts are more concerned with random innocent Americans than foreign terrorists overseas.”

But focusing on the privacy of the average Joe in this way obscures the deeper threat that warrantless wiretaps poses to a democratic society. Without meaningful oversight, presidents and intelligence agencies can — and repeatedly have — abused their surveillance authority to spy on political enemies and dissenters.

The original FISA law was passed in 1978 after a thorough congressional investigation headed by Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) revealed that for decades, intelligence analysts — and the presidents they served — had spied on the letters and phone conversations of union chiefs, civil rights leaders, journalists, antiwar activists, lobbyists, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices — even Eleanor Roosevelt and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The Church Committee reports painstakingly documented how the information obtained was often “collected and disseminated in order to serve the purely political interests of an intelligence agency or the administration, and to influence social policy and political action.”… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <LA Times>

Yesterday I said that Bush and the GOP fear oversight, to avoid getting caught over what they have done. Today, let me add that they are even more reluctant to get caught at what they are still doing. With this in mind, as I have repeatedly stated before, I wonder what dirt Bush and the GOP have collected on certain Senators. Harry Reid, the ultimate cave-in artist, immediately comes to mind.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

House Holds Secret FISA Session

14GOP_cliff The House held an unusual closed-door session to talk about classified intelligence gathering in anticipation of a vote Friday on a warrantless eavesdropping bill.

The Democratic bill would set rules for the government’s surveillance of phone calls and e-mails. President Bush has vowed to veto it.

The president’s main objection is that the bill does not protect from lawsuits telecommunications companies that allowed the government to eavesdrop on their customers without permission from a court after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

House Republicans succeeded Thursday in delaying the vote by one day by requesting a rare, late-night closed session of Congress to discuss the bill. It was the first secret session of the House in a quarter century.

The last such session was in 1983, on U.S. support for paramilitary operations in Nicaragua. Only five closed sessions have taken place in the House since 1825… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Huffington Post>

I watched this unfold yesterday on C-SPAN, and figured that this hush-hush secrecy was just a GOP ploy to deceive sheeple that they had some compelling information and stall a day to arm-twist Bush Dog DINOs. I was correct, as Steny Hoyer’s statement after the session reveals.

fisa WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) released the following statement tonight after the House held a secret session to discuss information relevant to the debate on legislation to modernize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA):

I did not hear any new information tonight that dissuades me from my very strong belief that the FISA bill House Democrats have produced – and which the House will vote on tomorrow – is a reasonable, thoughtful, appropriate piece of legislation that will ensure that the intelligence community has all the tools it needs to protect our nation, while also respecting the Constitutional protections that Americans rightfully feel are so important. Tomorrow, I will urge members on both sides of the aisle to vote for this legislation.”… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <The Gavel>

Of course, telecom immunity is not and never has been the issue here. The real issue is Bush/GOP immunity from disclosure of their criminal acts in spying on Americans.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

McConJob’s SecDef?

13lieberman-mccain If Sen. John McCain (D-AZ) prevails in his bid to keep the White House in Republican hands for the next four years, one of his most hawkish colleagues could find himself overseeing the Department of Defense, State or Homeland Security within a McCain White House.

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democrats’ onetime vice presidential nominee who left the party last year, is seen as a likely McCain pick for a cabinet level appointment, according to Roll Call:

Atop McCain’s short list, according to closely aligned Republican Senators and aides, likely would be two of the Arizonan’s most vocal supporters: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) for attorney general or Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) as secretary of State, Defense or Homeland Security. Graham and Lieberman have been stumping for McCain for months and are considered two of the most loyal and ardent backers of his Iraq War policy.

“Those are two of the most obvious choices from the Senate,” observed one Republican Senate aide.

Other long-shot possibilities for McCain could include Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) at Treasury or Justice, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) at Veterans Affairs, or even conservative Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who is retiring in 2010, as attorney general or secretary of Health and Human Services. Several GOP sources advised that a Brownback selection is unlikely, however, since Kansas is home to a Democratic governor and Obama supporter in Kathleen Sebelius.

Lieberman remains one of the most ardently supportive voices for President Bush’s war effort in the Senate, and he has suggested expanding the war from Iraq to Iran… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Raw Story>

Can you imagine LIEberman as SecDef? That would be a worse combination than Bush/Rumsfeld! What better way could he ensure that the “more wars” he has promised will be realized, if he is elected?

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

More McCain Muck!

22mccain The nation’s top federal election official told Sen. John McCain yesterday that he cannot immediately withdraw from the presidential public financing system as he had requested, a decision that threatens to dramatically restrict his spending until the general election campaign begins in the fall.

The prospect of being financially hamstrung by the very fundraising system he helped create is the latest in a series of bitter challenges for the presumed GOP nominee, who still faces a fractured conservative coalition as he assumes the mantle of party leadership… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Washington Post>

I find it poetic justice the McCain has been trapped trying to game the system of oversight that he helped create, back when he tried to recreate himself as a reformer after his Keating 5 debacle. Hypocrisy is certainly nothing new for McCain.

22McCainHypocrite For years, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has railed against lobbyists and the influence of “special interests” in Washington, touting on his campaign Web site his fight against “the ‘revolving door’ by which lawmakers and other influential officials leave their posts and become lobbyists for the special interests they have aided.” But when McCain huddled with his closest advisers at his rustic Arizona cabin last weekend to map out his presidential campaign, virtually every one was part of the Washington lobbying culture he has long decried. His campaign manager, Rick Davis, co-founded a lobbying firm whose clients have included Verizon and SBC Telecommunications. His chief political adviser, Charles R. Black Jr., is chairman of one of Washington’s lobbying powerhouses, BKSH and Associates, which has represented AT&T, Alcoa, JPMorgan and U.S. Airways.

Senior advisers Steve Schmidt and Mark McKinnon work for firms that have lobbied for Land O’ Lakes, UST Public Affairs, Dell and Fannie Mae.

McCain’s relationship with lobbyists became an issue this week after it was reported that his aides asked Vicki Iseman, a telecom lobbyist, to distance herself from his 2000 presidential campaign because it would threaten McCain’s reputation for independence… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Washington Post>

With that lineup, we can be sure that McCain will do everything in his power to oppose Net Neutrality. There can be no further doubt that McCain has a deep and abiding love for lobbyists, in more ways than one. Of course, there is one most despicable character upon whom McCain can always count.

22mccain-lieberman Sen. Joe Lieberman defended Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Thursday, calling a New York Times story suggesting he favored a lobbyist’s clients “outrageously unfair.”

Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with Democrats but has endorsed McCain’s presidential bid, made his remarks during a stop at a Middletown diner.

“The story I think is outrageously unfair to him. There’s no ‘there’ there,” Lieberman told reporters before stepping into O’Rourke’s Diner. “I’m so far pleased with the reaction from people because they see no case there. There’s nothing new in that story.”…

Inserted from <Boston Globe>

What better proof of his guilt could there be than a protest of his innocence by Joe LIEberman?

Although I cannot document this, I strongly suspect the McCain is also in Pfizer’s pocket, bought with donations of product, rather than cash.

Cross posted from Politics Plus