domingo, 31 de maio de 2009

O adeus de Jay Leno ao Tonight Show: 17 anos revisitados em cinco minutos

A ameaça do Paquistão (VII): Madeleine Albright está muito preocupada

Apesar dos ataques dos conservadores, Obama insiste que Sotomayor é a melhor escolha para o Supremo

Na mensagem semanal, o Presidente deixa bem claro que manterá a nomeação da juíza de ascendência porto-riquenha, acusada de «racismo» por parte de membros destacados do Partido Republicano:

sábado, 30 de maio de 2009

E depois dos estímulos virá a... hiperinflação?

Um risco analisado (e desdramatizado) pelo Prémio Nobel da Economia, Paul Krugman, em artigo publicado no New York Times:

«Suddenly it seems as if everyone is talking about inflation. Stern opinion pieces warn that hyperinflation is just around the corner. And markets may be heeding these warnings: Interest rates on long-term government bonds are up, with fear of future inflation one possible reason for the interest-rate spike.

But does the big inflation scare make any sense? Basically, no — with one caveat I’ll get to later. And I suspect that the scare is at least partly about politics rather than economics.

First things first. It’s important to realize that there’s no hint of inflationary pressures in the economy right now. Consumer prices are lower now than they were a year ago, and wage increases have stalled in the face of high unemployment. Deflation, not inflation, is the clear and present danger.

So if prices aren’t rising, why the inflation worries? Some claim that the Federal Reserve is printing lots of money, which must be inflationary, while others claim that budget deficits will eventually force the U.S. government to inflate away its debt.

The first story is just wrong. The second could be right, but isn’t.

Now, it’s true that the Fed has taken unprecedented actions lately. More specifically, it has been buying lots of debt both from the government and from the private sector, and paying for these purchases by crediting banks with extra reserves. And in ordinary times, this would be highly inflationary: banks, flush with reserves, would increase loans, which would drive up demand, which would push up prices.

But these aren’t ordinary times. Banks aren’t lending out their extra reserves. They’re just sitting on them — in effect, they’re sending the money right back to the Fed. So the Fed isn’t really printing money after all.

Still, don’t such actions have to be inflationary sooner or later? No. The Bank of Japan, faced with economic difficulties not too different from those we face today, purchased debt on a huge scale between 1997 and 2003. What happened to consumer prices? They fell.

All in all, much of the current inflation discussion calls to mind what happened during the early years of the Great Depression when many influential people were warning about inflation even as prices plunged. As the British economist Ralph Hawtrey wrote, “Fantastic fears of inflation were expressed. That was to cry, Fire, Fire in Noah’s Flood.” And he went on, “It is after depression and unemployment have subsided that inflation becomes dangerous.”

Is there a risk that we’ll have inflation after the economy recovers? That’s the claim of those who look at projections that federal debt may rise to more than 100 percent of G.D.P. and say that America will eventually have to inflate away that debt — that is, drive up prices so that the real value of the debt is reduced.

Such things have happened in the past. For example, France ultimately inflated away much of the debt it incurred while fighting World War I.

But more modern examples are lacking. Over the past two decades, Belgium, Canada and, of course, Japan have all gone through episodes when debt exceeded 100 percent of G.D.P. And the United States itself emerged from World War II with debt exceeding 120 percent of G.D.P. In none of these cases did governments resort to inflation to resolve their problems.

So is there any reason to think that inflation is coming? Some economists have argued for moderate inflation as a deliberate policy, as a way to encourage lending and reduce private debt burdens. I’m sympathetic to these arguments and made a similar case for Japan in the 1990s. But the case for inflation never made headway with Japanese policy makers then, and there’s no sign it’s getting traction with U.S. policy makers now.

All of this raises the question: If inflation isn’t a real risk, why all the claims that it is?

Well, as you may have noticed, economists sometimes disagree. And big disagreements are especially likely in weird times like the present, when many of the normal rules no longer apply.

But it’s hard to escape the sense that the current inflation fear-mongering is partly political, coming largely from economists who had no problem with deficits caused by tax cuts but suddenly became fiscal scolds when the government started spending money to rescue the economy. And their goal seems to be to bully the Obama administration into abandoning those rescue efforts.

Needless to say, the president should not let himself be bullied. The economy is still in deep trouble and needs continuing help.

Yes, we have a long-run budget problem, and we need to start laying the groundwork for a long-run solution. But when it comes to inflation, the only thing we have to fear is inflation fear itself.»

No trilho de quatro correspondentes na Casa Branca

Obama vai nomear um «cyber czar» para responder às ameaças do mundo virtual

sexta-feira, 29 de maio de 2009

Ainda Sonia Sotomayor: uma vida ligada à Justiça

Um artigo de Richard Lacayo, na Time:

«Barack Obama said he wanted: a Supreme Court nominee with a "common touch." With Sonia Sotomayor, he got somebody with a common touch and an uncommon story. Nobody expects you to be chosen someday for the Supreme Court when your father was a welder with a third-grade education. Nobody expects you to make it to Princeton when you come from a public-housing project.

But barring a big surprise, most people expect Sotomayor to be on the court when it opens its next term in October. The Democrats already have 59 votes in the Senate. And Sotomayor isn't a barn-burning leftist. She tends to write narrowly crafted rulings that focus on close application of the law. She resists rhetorical flourishes and sweeping philosophical statements. Altogether, she's a liberal jurist who will be replacing another mostly liberal vote on the court, David Souter, which means her arrival there won't do much to change the ideological balance.

If anything, Sotomayor may disappoint activists on the left who were hoping that Obama would choose a two-fisted progressive to trade punches with Justice Antonin Scalia, who anchors the conservative end of the court. There are episodes in her history as a judge that Republicans will scrutinize carefully, especially an affirmative-action decision that the Supreme Court is re-examining right now. But absent a time bomb hidden among her rulings and public statements, there's not much Sotomayor's opponents can do to turn her into a scary radical — or to counter that compelling personal story.

On May 21, when he met her for the first time, Obama, a former law professor, engaged Sotomayor in a lengthy discussion about the court and the Constitution. "What the President told us," an Obama senior adviser said later, "was that he was very struck by her discussion of her approach to judging, how effective she has been in working with her colleagues on the Second Circuit, including colleagues appointed by Republican Presidents, and how her judicial craftsmanship and precision in the law can be effective in bridging ideological differences and producing consensus opinions."

A Bronx Tale
But as Obama said when he introduced Sotomayor at the White House on Tuesday, he was also drawn to her by her "extraordinary journey" in life. It could be said to have begun with a journey her parents made during World War II, when they moved from Puerto Rico to New York City, where their daughter was born in 1954. Sotomayor was 3 when the family found an apartment at the Bronxdale Houses, a city-owned development built to provide affordable housing to working-class families. Her father died when Sotomayor was just 9 — one year after she was given a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes, which still requires her to monitor her blood sugar and inject herself regularly with insulin. After that, her mother Celina raised Sotomayor and her younger brother Juan on a nurse's salary but still managed to send them to Catholic schools that prepared them for bigger things. Today Juan is a doctor. His sister, who spent a lot of time as a kid watching Perry Mason on television, had other plans.

By 1972, Sotomayor had moved on to Princeton, where she studied history. She once said that when she got there, she felt like a "visitor landing in an alien country." But she left with highest honors and a Phi Beta Kappa key. From there, she went on to law school at Yale, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. By that time, she was also married to a high school sweetheart, Kevin Edward Noonan — a marriage that ended in divorce in 1983.

At Yale, Sotomayor never took her foot off the pedal. "She was something of a grind," says Stephen Carter, a classmate and friend who now teaches at Yale. "She was always in the library, always had a casebook under her arm." But unlike some of the hardest-charging young law students, says Carter, "she always had a manner that was open. She didn't put down other people." Even then, her approach to the law was meticulous and small bore, as in a piece she published in the law journal on a technical issue affecting potential Puerto Rican statehood. "She wasn't advocating for or against a particular position on statehood," says Martha Minow, a colleague at the journal who now teaches at Harvard Law School. "She was carefully parsing out the legal questions." (See four myths about Supreme Court nominees.)

After law school, Sotomayor worked for five years in the office of Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau, where she prosecuted everything from petty drug crimes to felony assaults and murder. No less than her background in the projects, her experience pressing criminal cases may have affected her outlook years later on the bench. One case she presided over, U.S. v. Falso, seemed likely to go against police who had charged a man with possessing child pornography after they entered his house on a wrongly issued search warrant. Instead, Sotomayor ruled in favor of the officers. "It wasn't just a pro-prosecutor bias," says Carter. "It was her understanding of the practical problems of being a police officer."

Sotomayor left Morgenthau's office in 1984 to move into private practice as an attorney with a firm specializing in business cases. When George H.W. Bush was looking for nominees to the federal district court in the Southern District of New York, it was a Democrat, New York Senator Daniel Moynihan, who recommended her. She was easily confirmed, but in 1997, when Bill Clinton decided to move her up to the appeals court, Republicans held off a confirmation vote for more than a year, fearing that she was being fast-tracked to be Clinton's next Supreme Court nominee.

More than a decade later, her appointment has finally arrived, and it couldn't come at a more difficult moment for her opponents. For now, the GOP strategy for dealing with Sotomayor is to walk softly and carry a big magnifying glass, searching for a potentially explosive opinion buried somewhere in her roughly 400 rulings from the federal bench. Republicans have their work cut out for them. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals hears plenty of cases involving business and securities law but not many that touch on the hot-button issues that make for good attack ads. Abortion, the death penalty, gay rights, executive power — those haven't come up much, if at all, on Sotomayor's docket. The White House says its nominee has been fully researched, but Republicans are pinning their hopes on the fact that the Obama Administration has had a somewhat spotty vetting record.

The New Haven Case
So far, Sotomayor's involvement in an affirmative-action case last year is the episode attracting the most attention. The case, Ricci v. DeStefano, involves a group of 18 white firefighters, including one Hispanic. They filed a discrimination suit against the city of New Haven, Conn., after the city decided in 2004 not to certify the results of a job-promotion exam because no African Americans had scored high enough to be promoted. The city argued that federal law treats tests resulting in such outcomes as suspect, meaning that New Haven would probably have been sued by the minorities who failed the test had the white firefighters been promoted.

A lower court decided in favor of the city. In February 2008, Sotomayor was part of a three-judge panel that upheld the lower-court decision in a very brief ruling. Four months later, she was part of a 7-6 majority that decided not to rehear the case before the full appeals court. Writing for the six dissenters, Judge Jose Cabranes, a Clinton appointee who has been something of a mentor for Sotomayor, said the majority "failed to grapple with the questions of exceptional importance raised in this appeal." The three-judge panel's "perfunctory disposition," he wrote, contained "no reference whatsoever to the constitutional claims at the core of this case" — unusually blunt language for a court known for its collegiality in public.

That case is now before the Supreme Court, which heard arguments last month. On that day, both Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justice Scalia indicated that they believed New Haven officials were concerned only about the test's failure to produce a desired outcome. When a lawyer representing the Federal Government told Roberts that the government would have supported tossing out the exams if the results of blacks and whites had been reversed, the Chief Justice raised a skeptical eyebrow, and Scalia said, "I don't think you'd say that." Gregory Coleman, an attorney representing the firefighters, told the Justices his clients were being punished solely because they are white. "Racial classifications are inherently pernicious and, if not checked, lead as they did in New Haven to regrettable and socially destructive racial politics," he said.

The New Haven dispute will probably be one of the final cases the court rules on before adjourning for the summer in late June. The Justices have already reversed three rulings that Sotomayor had joined over the years. That's not a high number for a longtime appellate judge, and unlike the affirmative-action case, those generally involved such technical issues that it would be hard to build an opposition campaign around them. For instance, this year a 6-3 Supreme Court overturned a 2007 Sotomayor decision that ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency could not use cost-benefit analysis when deciding whether to require power plants to take steps to limit their impact on aquatic life.

In another case, Sotomayor ruled that investors could bring certain kinds of fraud suits against investment firms in state courts rather than in federal courts. The Supreme Court unanimously overturned that decision, ruling that to permit the suits in state courts would lead to "duplicative litigation." In the third case, the court reversed a decision written by Sotomayor that said individuals have the right to sue a corporation working on behalf of the Federal Government for violations of their constitutional rights. But that was a narrow, 5-4 reversal in which the court's four most consistent liberals — Souter, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens — all supported her reasoning.

In one of her rare hot-button rulings, seven years ago Sotomayor decided against an abortion-rights group that attempted to challenge the federal ban — since lifted by President Obama — on funding international family-planning groups that provide abortions. Writing to uphold a lower-court decision that threw out the case, Sotomayor said, "The Supreme Court has made clear that the government is free to favor the antiabortion position over the pro-choice position, and can do so with public funds." But that case didn't require Sotomayor to comment on the fundamental premise of Roe v. Wade — that the Constitution provides a right to abortion. Nothing has come to light so far in her rulings from the bench that give any clue as to whether she thinks Roe was correctly decided.

How Big a Battle?For Republicans, opposing a candidate first nominated to the bench by a Republican President and twice confirmed by the Senate will be hard enough. But to do that without stumbling over the fact that she's also the first female Hispanic nominee will require an especially delicate touch. Having alienated many Hispanics with years of anti-immigrant rhetoric, the GOP can scarcely afford to drive them deeper into the Democratic fold. Last November, Obama won 67% of Latino votes, compared with John McCain's 31%, enough to put Florida, New Mexico and Colorado in the Democratic column.

But if Republicans are worried about putting off Hispanics, they are also under enormous pressure from the right not to let Sotomayor go without a fight. "President Obama carried through on his threat to nominate a Justice who would indulge her policy preferences and biases on the bench," says Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a group opposing Sotomayor's candidacy. "I'm going to continue to do all I can to expose Sotomayor's view of judging and why she's not a good pick for the court." Conservative activist groups are already airing commercials that attack Sotomayor's role in the New Haven case. Even a losing fight can have benefits for a party as disabled as the GOP is now.

Leading the charge will be Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who became the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee when Arlen Specter switched parties last month. Sessions himself was once a Reagan nominee to the federal bench who was rejected by this same committee — at the time controlled by Republicans — after he called the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People "un-American," reportedly telling a colleague that they "forced civil rights down the throats of people." He now runs the risk of becoming the story if he says anything that could be interpreted as indelicate. So after Sotomayor's nomination was announced, Sessions responded with a statement as blandly worded as a high school civics paper: "The Senate Judiciary Committee's role is to act on behalf of the American people to carefully scrutinize Ms. Sotomayor's qualifications, experience and record."

Meanwhile, Republicans are pushing to slow down the process, to give themselves maximum time to find that incendiary something in her rulings and public statements. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he'd like to see Sotomayor confirmed before the Senate leaves town on Aug. 7 for its summer recess.

Texas Senator John Cornyn, a Republican on the Judiciary Committee, says Obama has agreed to a "John Roberts timetable" — there were 74 days from the day the Chief Justice was nominated to his swearing-in. For Sotomayor, the equivalent date would be Aug. 6, but Kevin McLaughlin, a spokesman for Cornyn's office, now says that date might not give Republicans enough time. "Given the length and breadth of her record, we're not sure it's possible to meet that deadline," he says.

Conservatives who want to go after Sotomayor may find more ammunition in her public statements outside the court than in her rulings. During a panel discussion at Duke University four years ago, Sotomayor said the federal court of appeals is where "policy is made," the kind of statement that can get you tagged an "activist" judge who tries to make law instead of interpret it. Sotomayor appeared to know that was the danger in the words she had let slip, because she quickly added, "And I know that this is on tape, and I should never say that. Because we don't 'make law' ... I'm not promoting it, and I'm not advocating it."

In a 2001 speech at the University of California, Berkeley, Sotomayor aired the view that judges' gender and ethnic backgrounds inevitably affect their decision-making and probably should. She said then, "Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement ... I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Perhaps. But for all the controversy or appeal that sentiment may arouse, it's not a useful guide to how Sotomayor has ruled. Like that of most lower-court judges, much of her history on the bench has involved minute applications of the law, not the kind of cases in which life experience, even when it is as inspiring as hers, would have offered much guidance. There tend to be more cases of the big-picture kind on the Supreme Court, and if she gets there, she may take the opportunity to become the passionate liberal she has never really been on the lower benches. First, of course, she has to get there. But one thing that everybody agrees on about Sotomayor: all her life, she's been very good at getting places.»

quinta-feira, 28 de maio de 2009

Obama sobre a sua eleição: «A mudança ainda não foi garantida. A minha vitória apenas nos deu a oportunidade de a concretizarmos. É isso que faremos»

Obama promete: «Vamos responder aos desafios»

Obama destaca «enorme produção» nos primeiros quatro meses de mandato

Obama diz que o Plano de Recuperação já «criou ou salvou» 150 mil empregos

A coisa está a azedar para o lado conservador

Depois de Rush Limbaugh ter acusado Obama e Sonia Sotomayor de serem «racistas», agora é Newt Gingrich a afirmar que a juíza nomeada para o Supremo deve desistir da indicação «pelas suas posições racistas».

«Rush Limbaugh isn't the only one calling Sonia Sotomayor a racist. Newt Gingrich is, too — and he's demanding that Obama's pick to the Supreme Court withdraw her nomination.

On Twitter, Gingrich pointed to a line in Sotomayor's 2001 speech to a Hispanic group in Berkeley that has drawn fire from some conservatives.

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life," Sotomayor said in that speech, describing how life experience can inform judicial opinions.

On Wednesday, Gingrich tweeted: "Imagine a judicial nominee said 'my experience as a white man makes me better than a latina woman.' new racism is no better than old racism."

Moments later, he followed up with the message: "White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs responded to Gingrich's criticism at Wednesday's briefing.

"I think it is probably important for anybody involved in this debate to be exceedingly careful with the way in which they've decided to describe different aspects of this impending confirmation," Gibbs said.»

quarta-feira, 27 de maio de 2009

Opor-se a Sonia Sotomayor: a missão delicada dos republicanos

Um artigo de Shailagh Murray e Michael D. Shear, no Washington Post:

«President Obama nominated federal judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court yesterday, putting her in line to become the nation's first Hispanic justice and creating a difficult political equation for Republicans as they weigh how aggressively to fight her appointment.

An all-out assault on Sotomayor by Republicans could alienate both Latino and women voters, deepening the GOP's problems after consecutive electoral setbacks. But sidestepping a court battle could be deflating to the party's base and hurt efforts to rally conservatives going forward.

In introducing Sotomayor at the White House yesterday morning, Obama hailed the 54-year-old appeals court judge as an accomplished and "inspiring" individual with a compelling life story. She would replace Justice David H. Souter, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush but became a reliable member of the court's liberal wing.

Senate Republicans responded with restraint to the announcement yesterday, and their largely muted statements stood in sharp contrast to the fractious partisanship that has defined court battles in recent decades. Leading conservatives outside the Senate, however, did not hold back, targeting a pair of speeches in which Sotomayor said appellate courts are where "policy is made" and another in which she said a Latina would often "reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Critics also targeted her support for affirmative action, with Rush Limbaugh calling her a "reverse racist" in his syndicated radio program, citing a case in which she ruled against a group of white firefighters who claimed discrimination in hiring practices.

White House officials argued that the comments in the speeches were taken out of context, and they said that the firefighters case was an example of Sotomayor accepting established precedent, something they said conservatives should applaud. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, who are on the verge of controlling a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate, warned Republicans of the dangers of pushing too hard against Obama's first court pick.

"They oppose her at their peril," Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said of his GOP colleagues and conservative activists who are leading the court fight. "I think this process is going to be more a test of the Republican Party than of Sonia Sotomayor."

Conservative interest groups have been warily preparing for the prospect of Sotomayor's nomination since word of Souter's retirement first circulated last month, viewing her as among the most liberal contenders for the appointment. But some Senate GOP officials privately conceded that, barring a major stumble, the judge will probably be confirmed with relative ease.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that we need to tread very carefully," said John Weaver, a Republican political consultant who advised Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for years. "The only way we'll find ourselves in a political predicament is if we don't treat her with the same respect that other nominees received."

"If she answers questions in a crazy way, then that's one thing," said one senior Republican aide who participated in strategy discussions. "But the immediate reaction is not to just try and bring her down."

Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, did not comment on Sotomayor's qualifications for the nation's highest court yesterday but indicated that he was not inclined to rush the confirmation process.

"We must remember that a Supreme Court justice sits for a lifetime appointment, and the Senate hearing is the only opportunity for the American people to engage in the nomination process," Sessions said in a statement. "Adequate preparation will take time."

Obama's Plan
Senior White House officials said the key to what they hope will be a 72-day campaign to confirm Sotomayor by Aug. 7, the start of the Senate's month-long recess, is to ensure that they retain control over the story line of the judge's life and career. A senior White House official said the administration had mapped out four distinct phases of what officials hope will be the path to an easy confirmation: the first 24 to 72 hours of the rollout; the period between the rollout and the start of Sotomayor's Judiciary Committee hearing; the hearing process itself; and the period between the hearing and the Senate floor vote.

"We have to keep control of the narrative, to make sure that her story doesn't get told by someone else," the senior aide said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss strategy. Within hours of the announcement, White House officials and Senate Democrats circulated favorable quotes about Sotomayor from Republicans, including former senator Alphonse D'Amato of New York, who supported her 1992 appointment to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush.

Schumer, who is Sotomayor's senior home-state senator, will take the lead in introducing her to his colleagues, officials said. One Democratic aide who is helping to manage the nomination said that to minimize potential missteps, Sotomayor will pay courtesy visits to Judiciary members "and then disappear" until the confirmation hearings begin.

On Record
Senate Democratic aides said one factor working in Sotomayor's favor is her long public record as a federal judge. The confirmation of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., for instance, was slowed while the committee sought to extract records from the nominee's executive branch service from the Reagan presidential library. But no such obstacles appear to threaten information gathering on Sotomayor, aides said.

White House officials were scrambling to prepare materials to transmit to the Judiciary Committee yesterday. The nominee will submit an extensive committee questionnaire in the coming days, and a law enforcement background check is already underway, as is an effort to gather all of her judicial opinions. But if Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sessions fail to reach agreement on a time frame for moving forward, and Republicans elect to exercise their right to procedural delays, the confirmation process could easily spill into September, giving Sotomayor's opponents four additional weeks to attempt to derail her nomination.

Sotomayor is no stranger to confirmation politics. In 1997, President Bill Clinton nominated the federal district judge to a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. The Judiciary Committee held her nomination hearing in September 1997 but took six months to approve her on a 16 to 2 vote, in March 1998. She was finally confirmed on Oct. 2, 1998, after facing extensive questioning about her position on federal sentencing guidelines.

The effort to confirm Sotomayor will be led inside the White House by Cynthia Hogan, the chief counsel to Vice President Biden. White House officials described her as a veteran of the process and said Biden, a former Judiciary Committee chairman, and his chief of staff, Ron Klain, will also play key roles.

Republican aides have already noted the warm response to Sotomayor's nomination from a key group of centrist Democrats and Republicans who could make or break their chances at waging a filibuster. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) noted that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called her before the announcement to inform her about the pick. And White House aides highlighted a conciliatory statement from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

"Judge Sotomayor has a compelling life story and a long record of judicial service that will require careful consideration for this most important appointment," Collins said. "I look forward to a timely confirmation process that is fair, thorough, and conducted with civility."»

Barómetro semanal: 68 por cento de aprovação

... E continuam bem altas as taxas de aprovação de Barack Obama junto da opinião pública americana.


-- Taxa de aprovação: 68%
-- Reprovação: 30%
-- Indecisos: 2%

Conservadores já atacam Sonia Sotomayor

A confirmação da escolha de Obama para o Supremo Tribunal só será votada, no Senado, no próximo mês de Julho, mas já há vozes, do lado republicano, a contestar as opções ideológicas da juíza de origem porto-riquenha:

Sonia Sotomayor: uma história com final feliz

Conheça mais um pouco sobre o percurso pessoal da juíza escolhida por Obama para ocupar a vaga deixada por David Souter no Supremo Tribunal dos EUA:

Susan Rice e a resposta que deve ser dada à Coreia do Norte

A embaixadora norte-americana nas Nações Unidas comenta a ameaça assumida pelos testes nucleares dos norte-coreanos.

terça-feira, 26 de maio de 2009

Aqui está a confirmação: Obama anuncia Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor: de um início humilde até ao Supremo Tribunal

Um artigo de Keith Richburg, no Washington Post:

Sonia Sotomayor's journey to a seat on the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit began in a public housing project in the Bronx in the 1950s, as the neighborhood was changing from majority white to predominantly Puerto Rican.

Sotomayor's father died when she was 9, leaving her mother to raise her and her brother alone on a nurse's salary. But her mother instilled in the two children a strong ethic of hard work and the importance of education. After graduating from a Catholic high school, Sotomayor attended Princeton University, where she graduated summa cum laude, and then Yale Law School.

At Yale, her classmates recall a young woman with a brilliant legal mind who was tough when arguing for her views. And although they said she never forgot her modest background, and always identified with the disadvantaged, her main passion was for the law, not a particular political agenda.

Most legal analysts expect Sotomayor -- who White House officials say will be announced this morning as President Obama's nominee to replace retiring Justice David Souter -- would be a solid vote for the Supreme Court's liberal wing. But those who know her said she would come to decisions through reason and carefully researched arguments, not ideology -- a trait they saw developing in the young law student.

"She's really tough to pigeonhole," said Susan Sturm, a Columbia Law School professor and a colleague of Sotomayor's from the Yale Law class of 1979. "This is something I saw evolving over time." Sturm added, "She does not have an ideological litmus test for her clerks. They run the gamut."

Robert Klonoff, another classmate and friend of Sotomayor's who is now dean of the Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, said she "was tenacious, she was absolutely brilliant."

At Yale, in the 1970s, a woman of Puerto Rican descent sometimes saw double discrimination, and Klonoff said that "she and I back in law school days talked about how difficult it was for someone" of her background. He said Sotomayor gave him an "understanding, in a way I hadn't before, the hurdles someone has to overcome, even when they're a student at Yale."

As editor of the Yale Law Journal, Sotomayor published a student "note" on the topic of what would happen to Puerto Rico's mineral rights if the commonwealth were admitted as a U.S. state. "At the time, it was a very divisive issue," said Yale Law professor Stephen Carter, a classmate who edited the note. "It was a very thoughtful piece and a very even-handed piece."

"Thirty years ago writing a student note, she was showing a very even-handed way of resolving" issues, Carter said. Now in his classes, Carter said he teaches two of Sotomayor's judicial opinions to his students.

After Yale, Sotomayor went to the Manhattan district attorney's office, under the legendary prosecutor Robert Morgenthau, where she prosecuted a range of criminal cases.

In 1984, George Pavia, a New York lawyer representing Fiat and other Italian business clients, said he was looking for a young lawyer with courtroom experience to help with products liability cases. He said he found Sotomayor "just ideal for us in terms of her background and training."

"She is liberal, as am I," Pavia said. "Liberal without being a flaming type of do-gooder or anything of the sort. To call her a centrist would not be accurate. To call her wild-eyed would also not be accurate. She is far too rational, far too interested in the underlying facts."

Sotomayor was nominated to be a judge on the U.S. District Court for Manhattan's Southern District by President George H.W. Bush in 1991. She was confirmed the following year, becoming the first Hispanic federal judge in New York. On the court, her most memorable decision was ending the 1994 Major League Baseball strike in a decision that sided with the players against the owners.

President Bill Clinton nominated her to the appeals court in 1997, but several Republican senators blocked her nomination for more than a year. She was confirmed by a vote of 67 to 29, with most Democrats and half the Republicans voting for her.

Sotomayor was divorced as a young woman and never remarried or had children. A visitor to her office recently recalled the judge asking to see photos of his new child, and then telling the visitor that because she never had children of her own, her clerks are like her children.»

A juíza Sonia Sotomayor é a escolha de Obama para o Supremo

Sonia Sotomayor, 54 anos, de ascendência porto-riquenha, até agora juíza federal no 2.ª círculo do Tribunal de Apelo, é a escolha de Barack Obama para o Supremo Tribunal dos EUA, ocupando a vaga deixada em aberto por David Souter.

Obama permite, assim, que entre a segunda mulher na mais alta instância judicial norte-americana, depois de Ruth Ginsberg, sendo Sotomayor é a primeira hispânica no Supremo.

Obama e o perigo norte-coreano

O Presidente considera que os testes nucleares da Coreia do Norte são uma «grave ameaça» à segurança internacional:

«WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Obama castigated the North Korean government Monday for conducting a second nuclear bomb test in defiance of multiple international warnings.

President Obama calls North Korea's nuclear test "a grave threat to the peace and stability of the world."

North Korea's actions "pose a grave threat to the peace and stability of the world," Obama said at the White House.

Obama promised that the United States and the international community would strongly respond to the test.

He added that North Korea's actions have "flown in the face of United Nations resolutions" and were inviting deeper international isolation for the communist state. Watch how U.S. is reacting to the test »

North Korea's state news agency reported the nuclear detonation a little more than an hour after the U.S. Geological Survey reported a magnitude 4.7 seismic disturbance at the site of North Korea's first nuclear test, which occurred in October 2006.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency said Monday's test was conducted "as part of the measures to bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defense in every way."

In a one-two punch, the secretive communist state also apparently test-fired a short-range missile on Monday, the White House said.

In an earlier White House statement, Obama called Pyongyang's actions "a matter of grave concern to all nations."

"By acting in blatant defiance of the United Nations Security Council, North Korea is directly and recklessly challenging the international community," the statement said. "North Korea's behavior increases tensions and undermines stability in Northeast Asia. Such provocations will only serve to deepen North Korea's isolation."

The top-ranking U.S. military officer said Monday that North Korea's reported nuclear test is a primarily a diplomatic matter right now, not a military one.

"I think it's really important ... right now to emphasize the diplomatic path," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN's "American Morning." "That's really the one they're on."

"Obviously we've got forces deployed to that part of the world, we have had for a significant period of time, we've got over 25,000 troops who are stationed in South Korea," he added. "We've got very close alliances there with Japan and South Korea as well. ... The countries who are involved in [the six-party talks], I think, are absolutely critical as we move forward to address this increasingly belligerent challenge from North Korea."

Mullen said the test did not come as a surprise to the United States.

"We weren't surprised because of recent statements by North Korean leadership that they intended to do this," he said.

"As you know, they also recently ... unsuccessfully launched potentially an intercontinental ballistic missile."

He said the reported test shows Pyongyang is becoming "increasingly belligerent."

Most other countries have denounced the test. Even China -- North Korea's strongest ally -- said it opposed the test.

China's government "expresses firm opposition" to the test, in which North Korea "disregarded the opposition of the international community," according to a statement from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.»


O melhor dos americanos, segundo Barack Obama

O Presidente presta tributo aos americanos que sacrificaram as suas vidas em nome do seu país.

segunda-feira, 25 de maio de 2009

A ameaça do Paquistão (IV): a guerra silenciosa da CIA

Um artigo de Mark Thompson, na Time:

«The wilds of Waziristan, the tribal belt along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, make an unlikely showcase for the future of warfare. This is a land stuck in the past: there are few roads, electricity is scarce, and entire communities of ethnic Pashtun tribesmen live as they have for millenniums. And yet it is over this medieval landscape that the U.S. has deployed some of the most sophisticated killing machines ever created, against an enemy that has survived or evaded all other weaponry. If al-Qaeda and the Taliban could not be eliminated by tanks, gunships and missiles, then perhaps they can be stamped out by CIA-operated unmanned drone aircraft, the Predator and the Reaper.

That was the bet President George W. Bush placed during his final months in office, when the CIA greatly increased drone sorties and strikes in Pakistan. The accelerated attacks have been stepped up under President Barack Obama. Nowadays, the low hum of the drones has become a familiar sound in Waziristan, where tribesmen call them machay, or red bees. Their lethal sting has been felt in villages and hamlets across the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). The main objectives of the campaign: to take out al-Qaeda's top tier of leadership, including Osama bin Laden, and deny sanctuary in FATA for the Taliban and those fighters who routinely slip across the border to attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Combining high-tech video surveillance with the ability to deliver deadly fire, drones allow joystick-wielding operators on the far side of the world--Creech Air Force Base, near Las Vegas--to track moving targets in real time and destroy them. All this, without spilling American blood and for a small fraction of the cost of conventional battle.

But is the drone war winnable? The White House routinely dodges questions on the subject, and neither the CIA nor the State Department would talk about the program on the record. But officials familiar with the CIA's operations say at least nine of the top 20 high-value al-Qaeda targets identified last fall have been killed by drone strikes, along with dozens of lesser figures. Many bases and safe houses have been destroyed. On the other hand, Pakistani officials say the majority of strikes have either missed their targets or, worse, killed innocent civilians. The News, a Pakistani daily, reported recently that 60 strikes since early 2006 had killed 687 civilians and only 14 al-Qaeda leaders, a ratio few Pakistanis would find acceptable. The campaign, in fact, may be contributing to a swelling of anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and weakening the fragile government of President Asif Ali Zardari.

Moreover, while the drones may seem a technological marvel and strategic asset to those waging the campaign on the American side, they don't impress the local tribesmen. On the contrary, they feed a perception that the U.S. is a cowardly enemy, too frightened to shed blood in battle. "The militants say that if the Americans want to come and fight, they should fight them face to face," says Mahmood Shah, a retired brigadier who was once the top Pakistani official in FATA. Shah, a Pashtun himself, says the families of the drones' victims are required under the tribal code to seek revenge, which makes them ideal recruits for militant leaders like Baitullah Mehsud, the Pashtun commander of the Pakistani Taliban. Mehsud, says Shah, "likes to boast that each drone attack brings him three or four suicide bombers."

The Predator and the Reaper are both made by General Atomics, a San Diego defense contractor. The Predator is the older of the two; the first one was delivered to the Air Force in 1994. By the end of the 1990s, the CIA was using it to track bin Laden. Capable of flying for up to 40 hours without refueling, the drone was a "brilliant intelligence tool," recalls Hank Crumpton, then the CIA's top covert-operations man in Afghanistan. Although the CIA was keen to weaponize the drone early on, the Air Force resisted the idea until 2000. Even then, firing the weapons was another matter. Crumpton remembers watching someone he is convinced was bin Laden on a video feed from a Predator in late 2000. "The optics were not great, but it was him," Crumpton says. But back then, "there were too many political, legal and military constraints," and the CIA couldn't simply pull the trigger. The equation changed after 9/11. The Predator drew blood for the first time on Nov. 5, 2002, when it destroyed an SUV in Yemen, killing six men, including a top local al-Qaeda leader.

The Predator's firepower is limited, but the Reaper can deliver laser-guided 500-lb. bombs like those commonly found on the F-16 jet, together with Hellfire missiles. And the hardware comes relatively cheap. The Reaper costs $10 million--chump change compared with manned fighter aircraft; the cutting-edge F-22 Raptor, for instance, costs nearly $350 million. The drones' relatively low cost is due mainly to the fact that they don't have a pilot--which may also contribute to the Pakistani leadership's tacit acceptance of the CIA campaign. "If we were sending F-16s into FATA--American pilots in Pakistani airspace--they might have felt very differently," says James Currie, a military historian at the U.S.'s National Defense University.

By staring at hours of video footage of houses, vehicles and people, analysts looking at screens in Nevada can detect "patterns of life analyses," or timelines of movements and meetings in any given area. But the drones' utility is dramatically enhanced when analysts know exactly what they're looking for and where. For that, there's nothing better than human intelligence. Reports from Waziristan suggest the CIA has access to a network of spies. Tribesmen have told TIME of agents who drop microchips (locally known as patrai) near targets; the drones can lock onto these to guide their missiles or bombs with pinpoint precision. But it has proved difficult to verify these claims of human assets and their homing chips.

The drones are far from infallible, however. They can survey only small patches of territory at a time, and it would take thousands of them to cover every nook and cranny of Pakistan's long frontier. Several crashes have been reported. Thermal cameras are notoriously imperfect. Even under ideal conditions, images can be blurry. In one of several stills from drone video seen by TIME, it's hard to tell if a group of men is kneeling in prayer or the men are militants in battle formation. "The basic problem with all aerial reconnaissance is that it's subject to error," says George Friedman, who heads the security firm Stratfor. "But in a place like Pakistan, errors have enormous political consequences."

That they do. Critics of the drones ask if it makes sense for the U.S. to use them when every strike inflames Pakistani public opinion against a pro-U.S. government that is at the point of collapse. "If we wind up killing a whole bunch of al-Qaeda leaders and, at the same time, Pakistan implodes, that's not a victory for us," says David Kilcullen, a counterterrorism expert who played a key role in developing the surge strategy in Iraq. "It's possible the political cost of these attacks exceeds the tactical gains." And yet Pakistani leaders like army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kayani seem to have concluded that using drones to kill terrorists in FATA is generally a good thing. This is a major change in direction; although former President Pervez Musharraf allowed drones to operate, he placed severe limits on where and when they could strike. After Musharraf resigned last summer, the shackles came off. The U.S. struck a tacit bargain with the new administration in Islamabad: Zardari and Kayani would quietly enable more drone operations while publicly criticizing the U.S. after each strike. The arrangement has worked well for the U.S., though the Pakistanis would like to tweak it. Visiting Washington last month, Zardari asked Obama to let Islamabad have direct control of the drones.

Ordinary Pakistanis, though, remain unconvinced that the campaign serves Pakistan's interests. The drones feature in anti-U.S. and anti-Zardari graffiti and cartoons and are the punch line of popular jokes about American impotence or cowardice: Asked why she's ditching her U.S. boyfriend, a Pakistani woman says, "He shoots his missile from 30,000 ft."

The accusation of cowardice is especially damaging in the tribal areas, where bravery is regarded as an essential quality in an ally. Kilcullen warns that if the U.S. hopes to eventually win over the tribesmen, as it did with Iraqi insurgents, "we can't afford to be seen as people who fight from afar, who don't even dare to put a pilot in our planes." The drones seem to be uniting militant groups against the U.S. and the Zardari government. Waziristan warlord Maulvi Nazir signed a nonaggression pact with the Pakistani military in 2007 and sent his fighters to battle Mehsud. But because he continued to mount attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, he became the target of drone strikes. Enraged, he recently buried the hatchet with Mehsud and joined forces with him and a third warlord in a united front against the U.S., Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Mehsud has stepped up his campaign of terrorism on Pakistani soil as well, saying a recent attack on a police-training center in Lahore was a response to the drone attacks.

For all the caveats, the hum of the machay will grow louder in Pakistani skies this summer. The arrival of more U.S. troops in Afghanistan will make it all the more important to deprive al-Qaeda and the Taliban of their safe haven in Pakistan. Obama is widely expected to authorize a broadening of the drone attack to include the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan and its capital, Quetta, where the Taliban high command is thought to be hiding.

But in the long term, the Pakistani frontier can be safe only when the tribes are more favorably disposed toward the U.S. and the Pakistani government than toward the militants. The U.S. hopes that can be achieved by supplementing the drones with development aid, much of it earmarked for the tribal areas. But can that money start working its magic before the resentments roused by the drone campaign metastasize into an irreversible jihad? On that question of timing may hinge the success or failure of a modern war fought in an ancient environment.»

Colin Powell responde a Cheney: «Está mal informado»

O antigo secretário de Estado, em entrevista a Bob Schieffer, na CBS, critica aquele que erao vice-presidente na mesma administração...

Watch CBS Videos Online

domingo, 24 de maio de 2009

John McCain, ainda e sempre um caso à parte (para melhor, claro), no Partido Republicano

Perdeu as eleições com elevação e dignidade para Barack Obama (e com mais de 46% dos votos, muito acima do que qualquer outro nomeado republicano teria em tais circunstâncias, tamanha era a herança de Bush). Chamaram-lhe velho e acabado, mas ele continua activo no Senado, para onde vai recandidatar-se a novo mandato.

John Sidney McCain, 72 anos, velho leão da política, é um caso à parte num GOP em total desorientação, que não consegue livrar-se de velhos fantasmas de corpo presente, como Dick Cheney. Jeffrey Goldberg, em post publicado no seu blogue alojado à revista The Atlantic, conta uma bela história que comprova isto mesmo. Com o humor refinado de John à mistura, sobre como Cheney apoiaria a... inquisição espanhola em matéria de tortura.

«I stopped by to see John McCain this afternoon in his Senate office. I haven't seen him for several months, and was glad to see that he seemed rested and ready, if not tan. He was in high spirits, and we talked for a while about the Obama Administration's embrace of realpolitik, Pakistan, Iran, the whole nine yards. But first I asked him about Dick Cheney and his defense of Bush Administration torture policies. He told me of his fundamental disagreement with Cheney: "When you have a majority of Americans, seventy-something percent, saying we shouldn't torture, then I'm not sure it helps for the Vice President to go out and continue to espouse that position," he said. "But look, he's free to talk. He's a former Vice President of the United States. I just don't see where it helps."

And then he got acerbic: Cheney, he says, "believes that waterboarding doesn't fall under the Geneva Conventions and that it's not a form of torture. But you know, it goes back to the Spanish Inquisition."

I'll post more of what McCain said -- including his critique of Obama's speech -- tomorrow.»

Obama 'vs' Cheney (V): as últimas

Obama 'vs' Cheney (IV): Barack volta a criticar o antigo vice-presidente

Na mesma entrevista a Steve Scully, no C-SPAN:

Sobe o descontentamento da ala esquerdista do Partido Democrata

Como lidará Obama com a pressão dos esquerdistas do seu partido em questões como as etapas para o fecho de Guantánamo? Neste artigo, Michael Isikoff, na Newsweek, fala em... «fogo amigo» que pode chamuscar o estado de graça de Barack entre os democratas:

«Fending off criticism from human-rights and civil-rights groups at a private White House meeting Wednesday, a frustrated President Obama complained about the "mess" he'd been left by his predecessor.

The exchange came during an hour-and-15-minute "off the record" session in the White House cabinet room that highlighted growing tensions between the president and his liberal base. While the White House session was billed as an effort by the president to listen to his critics on the left, some of them left disappointed.

According to three sources who attended the meeting, Obama reiterated his intention to retain a version of the military-tribunal system established to try terror detainees and said his administration will likely end up adopting some form of "indefinite detention" policy to justify holding some selected suspects without trial. Still, Obama brusquely rejected suggestions by some of those present that, in doing so, he was adopting key tenets of Bush-era policies considered unacceptable by his liberal supporters.

"It doesn't help to equate me to Bush," Obama said, arguing that such comparisons overlook important differences between the two administrations' policies, according to several sources attending the meeting.

The sources, all of whom asked not to be identified because of the White House insistence that the meeting was private, also said Attorney General Eric Holder sat by silently while the president curtly dismissed the idea that his Justice Department should criminally prosecute at least one Bush administration official for torture, if only as a symbolic move to demonstrate that actions such as waterboarding will never be tolerated again.

While declining to talk about any of the specific back-and-forth, American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony Romero told NEWSWEEK he was not happy about much of what he heard during the meeting. Obama showed a "remarkable command" of the issues, Romero said. But, he added, "it is disappointing that he appears poised to continue with many of the Bush policies that have ended in failure. If he goes down that track, President Obama will find himself in the same legal morass that swallowed up George Bush."

The session was held even as the Senate was voting by an overwhelming margin to reject the administration's request for funds necessary to shut down Guantánamo. The vote was a stunning setback for the president, potentially undermining his vow to shut down the detention facility by the end of the year. The messy split between the White House and Congress sparked complaints among some Democrats that the administration had mishandled the issue, ceding ground to Republican critics like former vice president Dick Cheney. "The Republicans smell blood in the water on this," said one Democratic Senate aide.

Obama will seek to regain control of the debate with a major speech at the National Archives Thursday, in which aides say he will lay out a broad vision for overhauling Bush-era counterterrorism policies while still protecting national security. But the speech is expected to provide few details about how precisely the president plans to proceed with closing Guantánamo or deal with the more than 240 detainees still at the facility, according to sources familiar with the address.

While the criticism from Cheney and other Republicans has been a constant in the Washington media, Wednesday's meeting underscores how worried the White House is about critics closer to home. Administration officials organized the session just a few days ago, summoning the leaders of groups such as Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU, as well as several liberal law professors. As a sign of how seriously the White House took the matter, just about all of Obama's senior staff were there, including chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, White House counsel Gregory Craig, senior adviser David Axelrod and Holder.

But sources say Obama did all the talking, starting the meeting with a 10- to -15-minute discourse on his attempts to "institutionally" overhaul the Bush counterterror agenda by establishing clear policies and guidelines based on the rule of law and not dependent on the individual judgment of him or any other future president. It was at that point, according to two sources in attendance, that Obama talked about inheriting "a mess" from the prior administration. Obama also appeared frustrated by the growing criticism directed at him over the Guantánamo issue, two of those present said.

"He was worried about the theoretical possibility of people being released [from Guantánamo] and then committing terrorist acts," one of those present said. "He talked about what would happen if he released somebody and then they committed a terrorist act. He wants to keep open the option of keeping people in detention with trial."

While some recent press reports have suggested the White House is considering seeking legislation that would specifically authorize the president to hold terror suspects captured abroad without trial—a move that would be sure to spark enormous controversy—some of those attending the Wednesday meeting believe Obama will instead seek to persuade the courts to hold combatants indefinitely under the laws of war. That distinction offered little solace for attendees from human-rights and civil-liberties groups. One of them warned that, once Obama moves in that direction, Bush's policies "would become his own"—a suggestion that displeased the president and prompted him to comment that it was "not helpful" to compare him to Bush, another source said.

Another issue raised at the meeting was the idea of a "truth commission" to investigate Bush-era policies. Obama didn't completely reject the idea, two sources said, but instead complained that current congressional investigations into such issues were too time-consuming for key members of his administration. Looking directly at Holder, the president reportedly said the attorney general was already spending too much time dealing with litigation related to Bush-administration policies. "He was worried that his people would be consumed with responding to these things," said one of those present. "He said his staff was stretched very thin."

It was at that point, toward the end of the meeting, that one attendee raised the idea of criminal prosecution of at least one Bush-era official, if only as a symbolic gesture. Obama dismissed the idea, several of those in attendance said, making it clear that he had no interest in such an investigation. Holder—whose department is supposed to make the call on criminal prosecutions—reportedly said nothing.

At another point, Obama surprised some of those present by suggesting that his aides had received poll results showing that the American people were still behind him on national security and the war on terror. Obama told the group that the poll showed "50 percent believe Obama is doing more to protect security than Bush had," one source present said. Only 25 percent of those polled thought Bush had done more to protect security, according to the figures cited by Obama, the source added.

Asked about the poll, White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said the White House does not conduct polls. Pressed on where the figures the president cited came from, LaBolt said the White House does not normally comment on what takes place in private meetings.»

Mesmo encostada à parede pelos republicanos, Nancy Pelosi mantém afirmações sobre o comportamento da CIA na questão de tortura

Obama no C-SPAN

Em entrevista ao canal do cabo que se dedica 24 horas à política americana, o Presidente respondeu a tudo. Aqui ficam os links dos principais temas:

1. O futuro da General Motors

2. A reforma da Saúde

3. A última conversa com George W. Bush

sábado, 23 de maio de 2009

Um 'bailout' para a Califórnia?

Um interessante (mas preocupante) artigo de Joe Mathews, da New America Foundation, no New York Times, sobre o risco de insolvência do estado governado por Arnold Schwarzenegger:

«IS California too big to fail?

That’s the question President Obama and Congress will soon face. While many states have severe fiscal problems, the depth and unusual persistence of California’s budget problems — the state has run deficits for most of the decade — has emptied Sacramento’s till. On its current path, California will run short of the cash it needs to pay its bills in late July.

It’s highly unlikely that the state’s political leaders will be able to fix the problem themselves. Typically, states build up a cushion of tax revenues in the spring to pay expenses through the fall, when little cash comes in. But enormous drops in tax revenue have left California without the savings to meet even one month’s worth of expenses.

The other methods of cash management — transfers to the general budget from other state accounts and short-term borrowing in the credit markets — are no longer enough to address the problem. California’s leaders have drawn so deeply in recent years on the state’s hundreds of special funds that there is little cash left to repurpose.

And selling short-term notes in the credit markets is difficult because of California’s credit rating, the lowest of any state. Even if the state could pay high interest costs, California may require more cash — more than $20 billion by some estimates — than it can plausibly acquire in the markets.

It is true that California’s Legislature and governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, could take bold action to conserve cash. But the size of the deficit and the state’s governing system make such action next to impossible. A two-thirds vote of the Legislature is required to pass any budget or raise any tax in the state, and compromise has become a dirty word.

A legislative deal reached in February to address part of the budget problem came under such fierce attack from the left (for its spending cuts) and from the right (for its tax increases) that voters rejected five of its major components in a special election on Tuesday. The state Republicans, egged on by right-wing talk radio hosts, have started campaigns to recall two Republican lawmakers who voted for the compromise. California is not a patient that can heal itself.

What to do? Bankruptcy would appear to be out. Federal law authorizes only local governments, not states, to seek bankruptcy protection. Yet in California, irresponsible voices on the right (and a few on the left) have suggested testing the limits of the law and forcing the state to begin to delay or default on its obligations.

That would be a disaster, not only for California, but also for the country. Financial analysts fear that the failure of California’s government could further damage the state’s economy (and by extension, the nation’s) and shake confidence in the bond markets, making it difficult for cities and counties to borrow and perhaps sending some local governments into real bankruptcy.

Others in Sacramento — including the Assembly speaker, Karen Bass, and the state treasurer, Bill Lockyer — are investigating the possibility of federal assistance. This could take several forms. The Treasury could offer guarantees on any short-term bonds that California sells to raise cash. Or money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program could be used to backstop such notes. Or Washington could speed up some of the stimulus money earmarked for the state.

Each of those ideas, or a combination of the three, offers hope. However, as a condition of any assistance, the federal government should charge the state a fee that includes penalties if it fails to make major changes in its budgeting process. At a minimum, California should be required to submit for federal approval a multiyear plan to meet its obligations and to eliminate its structural deficit. Washington might also require the establishment of a board to oversee state finances. (Federal loan guarantees to New York City in the 1970s provide one model.)

There would be fierce resistance to federal aid. Other states may wonder why California deserves special attention — it’s a fair point, and it might be wise for the government to offer similar guarantees to other states in distress. California officials might worry about the loss of sovereignty. And Democrats in the administration and Congress, many of them Californians, may be tempted to help a Democratic state without conditions.

But they shouldn’t. By attaching strings to any aid, the federal government would give the state its best chance at saving itself.

Most important, President Obama should press California’s elected officials and its voters — 61 percent of whom supported him last November — to make constitutional changes. Among these would be the elimination of the gridlock-creating two-thirds vote for budgets and tax increases, and new curbs on ballot initiatives that mandate spending for popular programs without identifying new tax dollars to pay for them.

Federal officials may resist intervening at first, out of misplaced caution. But the combination of the state’s size and its dysfunction means that Washington will probably have to intervene sooner or later. There can be no American recovery if California collapses.»

Obama 'vs' Cheney (III): David Axelrod explica estratégia de Barack

O chefe de conselheiros do Presidente lança críticas implícitas ao antigo vice-presidente, em conversa com Chris Mathews, na NBC:

Republicanos atacam zigue-zagues de Obama e democratas sobre o fecho de Guantánamo

quinta-feira, 21 de maio de 2009

Obama 'vs' Cheney (II): os factos

Um trabalho de Josh Gerstein, no

«President Barack Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney laid out a variety of arguments Thursday in staking out two widely divergent views of national security in the age of terror.

But do their claims hold up?

Here is a look at some of the central assertions by each man, and the evidence that does – or doesn’t – back them up.

OBAMA: “The courts have spoken. They have found there is no legitimate reason to hold 21 of the people confined at Guantanamo….I cannot ignore these rulings.”

The reality: The legal situation is not as dire or urgent as Obama suggested.

For example, only one judge has ordered the release of Guantanamo detainees into the United States. That ruling, involving 17 Uighur men, was stayed and later overturned by a federal appeals court.

It’s true about two dozen detainees have been ordered released by federal judges. But at the moment those orders are largely unenforceable due to a D.C. Circuit Court ruling denying judges the authority to bring detainees to the United States.

While Obama “cannot ignore” the rulings, he certainly doesn’t have to do much right now to comply with them. But making it sound like he’s under pressure from the courts makes it sound like he has no choice but to close Gitmo.

CHENEY: The prisoners left at Guantanamo are “hardened terrorists” and “the ones that were considered low risk were released a long time ago.”

The reality: Not so, say both the Obama administration and the former Bush administration.

Officials have said that as many as three quarters of the 240 men at Guantanamo can probably be safely released or sent abroad. Indeed, about two dozen have already been ordered released by federal courts, which found evidence they are a threat to society to be lacking.

Many prisoners ended up at Guantanamo as the result of questionable informants and of bounties being paid for Arabs or foreigners found in Afghanistan. There are certainly some “hardened terrorists” at Gitmo, but it’s dubious that a majority of the men there meet that definition.

OBAMA: In “seven years….the system of military commissions at Guantanamo convicted a grand total of three suspected terrorists…. Instead of bringing terrorists to justice, efforts at prosecution met setbacks.”

The reality: That’s true but ignores a few important facts.

First, it was never expected that a majority of the prisoners at Guantanamo would be tried through those commissions, so the small numbers don’t mean much. Officials always said a few dozen men would be charged at most. It’s also not clear anything Obama’s proposing or will propose will yield many more cases than that.

Second, the Bush administration’s policy allowed for indefinite detention of Guantanamo prisoners, so the value of convicting prisoners was largely symbolic

Third, a total of 21 Gitmo prisoners had pending charges when Obama ordered a halt to the commissions process in January. So while Obama complains that the process has been too slow, for the moment he is the one slowing it down.

CHENEY: “The intelligence officers who questioned the terrorists can be proud of their work and proud of the results, because they prevented the violent death of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people.”

The reality: This assertion can’t be verified based on the current record. And it may ultimately be unknowable.

Cheney didn’t cite any specific plots that were disrupted by aggressive interrogations. Bush did describe some in a speech in 2005. However, critics immediately seized on that address for portraying some fantastical plots as realistic. Also at least one major plot Bush claimed was “disrupted,” a plan to attack the Library Tower in Los Angeles, only came to the U.S.’s attention after plotters had been picked up abroad.

Cheney is seeking the release of CIA reports that purport to show information gained from the so-called enhanced interrogations. But the fact that suspects gave up information after harsh questioning doesn’t definitively preclude the possibility that they might have given up information through less physical forms of interrogation – which is one of Obama’s central points.

OBAMA: “We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people.”

The reality: Obama really can’t make this promise, if detainees are brought to U.S. soil, as expected.

It’s at least possible that courts could order the release of prisoners brought to the U.S. to face military commissions or civilian trials. Congress could pass legislation to block such a release, but even that is not a rock-solid guarantee the courts won’t release a prisoner who is acquitted.

CHENEY: “You can look at the facts and conclude that the comprehensive strategy has worked, and therefore needs to be continued as vigilantly as ever. Or you can look at the same set of facts and conclude that 9/11 was a one-off event-coordinated, devastating, but also unique and not sufficient to justify a sustained wartime effort.”

The reality: By the end of President George W. Bush’s second term, even his administration was moving in some of the directions Obama is going now – making Cheney’s all-or-nothing formulation seem too stark.

Over time, the Bush administration gave up some of the harshest interrogation tactics, emptied out the secret prisons and sent hundreds of people out of Guantanamo Bay [prison.] Bush even made overtures to allies abroad, who soured on Bush over the Iraq war and the war on terror.

In addition, some of the legal realities have changed. Bush asserted an almost unquestionable right to hold detainees indefinitely. Courts since then have said even the president doesn’t have that right. Also, Obama would argue he’s no less vigilant than Bush but merely believes there is another way to take on terrorism.

OBAMA: “I released these [legal opinion] memos because there was no overriding reason to protect them.”

The reality: While Obama now frames the decision to release the “torture memos” as his choice, he said at the time he really didn’t have a choice. “Their release is required by the rule of law,” he said.

The president seems to be leaving that aspect of the issue out because in the same legal case the courts ruled that the photos he now wants to withhold were also required by law to be disclosed. In fact, there was never any order requiring disclosure of the memos. Obama could have opposed the memo release as well, mounting the same kind of court challenge and many experts believe he could have prevailed.

CHENEY: “Releasing the interrogation memos was flatly contrary to the national security interest of the United States. The harm done only begins with top secret information now in the hands of terrorists…..The public was given less than half the truth.”

The reality: This charge from Cheney has a healthy dollop of hypocrisy in it.

Cheney is faulting Obama for releasing four Justice Department memos justifying and detailing so called enhanced interrogation techniques. The memos do contain some details of information obtained after use of such techniques, though, as Cheney noted, some portions were blacked out in the public versions.

Cheney objects to the release as incomplete and at odds with national security, but his formal request to declassify two reports on the results and effectiveness of the techniques was made on March 31, more than two weeks before Obama released the Justice Department memos.

So Cheney evidently thought at that time both that light could be shed on this debate without endangering national security and that a partial release of two memos would be legitimate.

It’s also worth noting that in his first media outings on this subject, Cheney did not heartily join the chorus of those objecting to release of the legal memos.»

Obama 'vs' Cheney (I): Barack é de Vénus, Dick é de Marte

Um curioso artigo de David Corn, no Mother Jones:

«It was close as it gets to a grand Lincoln-Douglas-style debate. On Thursday, President Barack Obama spoke at the National Archives, where America's values are enshrined on the nation's age-stained founding documents; a mile or so away, former Vice President Dick Cheney addressed the American Enterprise Institute, where neocons spent years pushing for the war in Iraq. Both men addressed fundamental issues of national security and civil liberties, taking on such controversial matters as torture (or enhanced interrogation techniques), Guantanamo, and warrantless wiretapping. Guess who was Lincoln?

Obama went first (in part because Cheney delayed the start of his speech), presenting a vigorous defense of several recent decisions. He made the now-familiar arguments against "so-called enhanced interrogation techniques." He contended that Gitmo has "weakened national security" by alienating allies and providing a rallying cry for enemies: "The existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained." He slammed the fear-mongers who have decried the possible transfer of some Gitmo detainees to facilities in the United States, calling on a GOP senator for assistance:

Nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal "supermax" prisons, which hold hundreds of convicted terrorists. As Senator Lindsey Graham said: “The idea that we cannot find a place to securely house 250-plus detainees within the United States is not rational.”

Obama also explained his policy moves that have been criticized by human rights and civil liberties activists: proceeding with reformed military commissions for the trials of some suspected terrorists; opposing the release of photos showing the abusive treatment of detainees; and continuing to use the state secrets privilege to prevent certain lawsuits (while reviewing this privilege). He noted that he opposed creating some type of truth commission, saying, "I believe that our existing democratic institutions are strong enough to deliver accountability." He cited Congress in this regard and added, "The Department of Justice and our courts can work through and punish any violations of law." In other words, don't look to him to push for prosecutions or investigations. "I have no interest," Obama explained, "in spending our time re-litigating the policies of the last eight years."

The president criticized the Bush administration for having "made a series of hasty decisions" in the wake of 9/11. But he was a tad gracious: "I believe that those decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people." Yet he didn't back away from his overall criticism of the Bush-Cheney years:

I also believe that—too often—our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, we too often set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And in this season of fear, too many of us—Democrats and Republicans; politicians, journalists and citizens-fell silent.

Ultimately, Obama endeavored to position himself in the high and middle ground:

The recent debate has been obscured by two opposite and absolutist ends. On one side of the spectrum, there are those who make little allowance for the unique challenges posed by terrorism, and who would almost never put national security over transparency. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who embrace a view that can be summarized in two words: “anything goes.” Their arguments suggest that the ends of fighting terrorism can be used to justify any means, and that the President should have blanket authority to do whatever he wants—provided that it is a President with whom they agree. Both sides may be sincere in their views, but neither side is right. The American people are not absolutist, and they don’t elect us to impose a rigid ideology on our problems. They know that we need not sacrifice our security for our values, nor sacrifice our values for our security, so long as we approach difficult questions with honesty, and care, and a dose of common sense.

It was classic Obama, sounding reasonable, rising above the contentiousness.

Over at AEI's 12th floor conference room, the crowd watched him on a big screen, and audience members muttered scornfully as Obama spoke. The president said he goes to bed and wakes up thinking about keeping the American people safe, and several people around me groaned or said, "Yeah, right." When Obama explained his decision to ban waterboarding and the like, the audience at the National Archives applauded. In the AEI conference room, people shook their heads. When Obama maintained that using torture undermines the rule of law, a person near me exclaimed, "He really believes this stuff." Obama said, "We have made our share of mistakes," and AEIers grumbled.

Moments after Obama finished, Cheney hit the podium. And as he spoke, it became clear that he and his fans do believe in absolutism—enthusiastically and righteously (or self-righteously, as the case may be).

"In the fight against terrorism," he declared, "there is no middle ground." You're either all in—or vulnerable to annihilation. "There is never a good time to compromise when the lives and safety of the American people are in the balance," he said. Cheney tried to have it both ways. He claimed the interrogation tactics he supported were not torture but that it's essentially okay to do whatever it takes to squeeze information out of terrorists. (He didn't call detainees "terrorist suspects"; he referred to them, as he always does, as "terrorists.")

But Cheney wasn't content to draw the difference as one between those with will and those who are wimps. In trying to define the debate to his favor, the former veep set up a false dichotomy:

Here is the great dividing line in our current debate over national security. You can look at the facts and conclude that the comprehensive strategy [of the Bush-Cheney administration] has worked, and therefore needs to be continued as vigilantly as ever. Or you can look at the same set of facts and conclude that 9/11 was a one-off event—coordinated, devastating, but also unique and not sufficient to justify a wartime effort.

So it's war or not. Cheney was ignoring Obama's actual position: that this is a war—"Now let me be clear: we are indeed at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates"—but that the United States still must follow some rules to stay true to its values and core principles. The true difference in this debate is whether you see the need for balance or adhere to an absolutism that approaches an ends-justifying-the-means stance. Cheney was not honest enough to acknowledge this. He argued that either you take 9/11 seriously or you do not. He wants black and white.

His speech was full of the expected tough rhetoric. He accused Obama of having mischaracterized the national security decisions of the Bush-Cheney administration. He blasted the New York Times for disclosing the warrantless wrietap program: "It impressed the Pulitzer committee, but it damn sure didn't serve the interests of our country, or the safety of our people." Contradictorily, he slammed Obama for releasing the torture memos while also criticizing him for not intervening and declassifying two documents that Cheney insists shows that waterboarding and other harsh techniques yielded important evidence. (Cheney has a point: Obama should declassify those records—plus a host of other material on this matter.) The former vice president mocked those calling for a truth commission and derided the prospect of prosecuting former Bush-Cheney administration officials. And he repeatedly defended the use of what he wouldn't call torture, dismissing public concern: "All the zeal that has been directed at interrogations is utterly misplaced." He denounced the "feigned outrage" over the use of torture that is "based on a false narrative," adding, "In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists." And he channeled 24's Jack Bauer, claiming that "arguments about interrogations" and other constitutional matters involved in the war on terrorism only reveal to "the terrorists" American "weakness."

Cheney didn't let a demagogic opportunity slip by. Following the lead of congressional Republicans—and some Democrats—who have warned of disaster should Gitmo detainees be brought to the United States, Cheney decried the use of "US taxpayer support them." But aren't US taxpayer dollars being used to fund Gitmo? And he made it seem as if Obama is about to distribute the Gitmo detainees to states throughout the United States, when surely Cheney knows that convicted terrorists tend to be dispatched to one supermax facility in Florence, Colorado. But he was on a roll—and that included bashing "the Left" for blaming America first.

Cheney's speech was loaded with references to 9/11—and precious few to the Iraq war. He said little to justify that war. But he maintained, "our administration will stand up well in history—not despite our actions after 9/11 but because of them." And he chided those who have second-guessed the Bush-Cheney administration or accused it of "hubris." (Interest declared: Michael Isikoff and I wrote a book called, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.) When he finished his speech, Cheney left quickly without taking questions--though his office had told AEI he would stick around for a Q&A.

The made-for-cable-TV Obama-Cheney duel did encapsulate an important debate that the country has intermittently waged since that horrific days when two airliners slammed into the World Trade Tower, one hit the Pentagon, and one crashed into a Pennsylvania field. The AEI audience—which cheered when Cheney said American safety should never be compromised—was in a different world than the one that applauded Obama at the National Archives. It's a stark divide. In years past, the security-first absolutists have usually held the upper hand politically. But thanks to Bush and Cheney, that shifted in the last election. But those election results will not end this debate. Cheney, for one, showed no signs he will dismount. His charge will continue—and political strategists can argue whether that helps or hurts his party (as if he cares). As for the substance of the policy debate, the real world has a way of affecting how such debates play out over the long term. But Thursday's face-off demonstrated how far apart the two sides are. Clearly, Obama is from Venus, and Cheney is from Mars. Really from Mars.»