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Ahead of last night's vote on the $819 billion House stimulus bill, which no Republican supported, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) frequently asserted that his party's alternative stimulus plan -- consisting largely of tax cuts -- would create 6.2 million jobs.

That sounds great. After all, it's double the 3 million jobs that the president aims to create or save. But where did the Republicans get that number? By drawing some fuzzy conclusions from a 2007 paper by Dr. Christina Romer, chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers.

If you look at page 3 of the GOP's document, you'll see this passage:

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Are Blackwater's days in Iraq numbered?

The Iraqi government has said it won't be issuing a new operating license for the contractor, which is the prime security company for the US Embassy in the country.

It's hard to blame the Iraqis. Blackwater has several times been accused of using excessive force. In 2007, its guards opened fire in a crowded street, killing 17 civilians. The guards were charged with voluntary manslaughter and are awaiting trial.

According to Iraqi officials, it was this incident that prompted them not to renew the license, reports the Washington Post.

There's a bit of a catch though. The Post adds:

Blackwater employees who have not been accused of improper conduct will be allowed to continue working as private security contractors in Iraq if they switch employers, Iraqi officials said Wednesday.


And according to Wired magazine, that's exactly what could easily happen. It reports:
The State Department has a contract for "Worldwide Personal Protective Services" with three firms: Blackwater, DynCorp, and Triple Canopy. If Blackwater is no longer allowed to operate in Iraq, a lawyer steeped in the field tells Danger Room, there's no legal reason why the other two firms can't scoop up Blackwater's employees. "State simply issues a new task order to DynCorp or Triple Canopy, who turn around and hire some or all of Blackwater's employees," he says.


So we may ultimately find out whether the string of violent acts we've seen from Blackwater guards were the result of the company's culture itself -- or the types of personnel they hired.

Norm Coleman is not giving up on forgery as a constitutional right.

Just now in court, Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg launched into an aggressive defense in the case of Douglas Thompson, the friendly Coleman witness from two days ago who said his absentee ballot should be counted even though his girlfriend forged his signature on the application. Thus, Thompson's ballot was rejected because of a very real signature mismatch against his own signature on the ballot itself.

Friedberg didn't directly mention Thompson by name, but he described the exact same situation. "Now suppose I said to Mr. Trimble [another Coleman lawyer], 'Hey, I'm busy, could you sign an application for me, and send it in for me?' I'm gonna get the ballot, aren't I?" said Friedberg.

After some more back and forth, we got to this interesting exchange:

Friedberg: In point of fact, even though I did something I wasn't supposed to do with the application, my ballot should still count because my signature is genuine.

Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann: Not according to the procedures we use to determine whether the signature is genuine.

Friedberg: I don't care about your procedures.

(Franken lawyer calls an objection, is sustained.)

Friedberg: Okay, I do care...

Last week, in one of its first moves, the Obama administration told its military prosecutors to ask for delays in the proceedings of 21 Guantanamo detainees who have been charged, so that their cases, and the military commissions process as a whole, could be reviewed.

Most military judges have complied with that request. But one judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, has now declined to do so, saying he found the government's reasoning "unpersuasive," reports the Washington Post.

Pohl wrote:

The Commission is unaware of how conducting an arraignment would preclude any option by the administration. Congress passed the military commissions act, which remains in effect. The Commission is bound by the law as it currently exists, not as it may change in the future.


Pohl is presiding over the case of Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi citizen of Yemeni descent accused of planning the October 2000 Al Qaeda attack on the USS Cole warship, which killed 17 service members.

The Pentagon may now be forced to withdraw the charges against Nashiri if it wants to impose the broader delay. It could bring them up again, but that would bring the case back to square one, costing the government time.

But the wider impact of Pohl's opinion isn't yet clear. It may be limited to this specific case, but it could also potentially throw a wrench into the new administration's plan to put the process on hold pending a review, and even complicate Obama's plan to close Guantanamo.

We'll keep you posted as things become clearer.

Late Update: The ACLU has called on Defense Secretary Robert Gates to withdraw the charges against Nashiri so that the charges can be tried in a legitimate court. In a statement, the group's executive director, Anthony Romero, said:
Judge Pohl's decision to unabashedly move forward in the al-Nashiri military commission case shows how officials held over from the Bush administration are exploiting ambiguities in President Obama's executive order as a strategy to undercut the president's unequivocal promise to shut down Guantánamo and end the military commissions. Judge Pohl's decision to move forward despite a clear statement from the president also raises questions about Secretary of Defense Gates - is he the 'new Gates' or is he the same old Gates under a new president? Secretary Gates has the power to stop the military commissions and ought to follow his new boss' directives.


Later Update: But the commander of the USS Cole, Kirk Lippold, who is now affiliated with Military Families United, a group that bills itself as a "the nation's premier military family advocacy organization", takes the opposite view. Lippold said in a statement:
Today's decision is a victory for the 17 families of the sailors who lost their lives on the USS Cole over eight years ago. This trial is a long overdue step toward accountability and justice for the attacks on the USS Cole. The seventeen American sailors who lost their lives on October 12, 2000, when we came under suicide terrorist attack by al Qaeda, were not just sailors. They were sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and friends to so many. The sacrifice of these sailors and all of our brave military service members who have died to protect this country and apprehend terrorists is a key reason why we should not close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay precipitously.

By President Obama signing the executive order to close Guantanamo Bay within a year, he is not considering or addressing the impact on the families who have paid so dearly to defend our freedom.

President Obama has weighed in on the controversy over Wall Street bonuses.

Obama this morning called the bonuses "outrageous", according to White House Robert Gibbs, speaking at a press briefing moments ago.

A report released by the New York State comptroller's office and written up today by the New York Times found that Wall Street firms awarded over $18 billion in bonuses, despite the financial crisis that many of them helped trigger.

Yestrday, it was reported that AIG paid $450 million in bonuses to the unit that sold those disastrous credit default swaps.

And of course, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating Merrill Lynch's awarding of billions in bonuses, on an accelerated schedule, before it went formally went under the control of Bank of America.

Late Update: Obama went further in comments to reporters today after meeting with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. The presIdent said that awarding billions in bonuses "at a time when most of these institutions are teetering on the brink of collapse and they are asking for taxpayers to sustain them" is "the height of irresponsibility" and "shameful."

He added: "Show some restraint, and show some discipline, and show some sense of responsibility."

Another important development happened today in the Minnesota Senate trial: The Coleman campaign actually dropped one of their many claims against the election result.

Coleman was previously objecting to the counting of 171 ballots during the recount in the St. Paul suburb of Maplewood, which were in addition to the Election Night totals for that precinct. The ballots were found in a machine that had broken down on Election Night, thus leading to them not being in the original totals, and they gave Al Franken a net gain of 37 votes.

The Coleman camp initially tried to raise suspicions over the chain of custody, but were never able to find evidence of actual malfeasance. And over the last couple days the Franken camp laid out cases where Coleman approved of counting other found ballots during the recount, which just so happened to come from Republican areas. In other words, two can play this game.

So Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg realized there were bigger fish to fry, and dropped this complaint. Then he moved on to the next order of business: The use of Election Night totals in a pro-Franken precinct where officials concluded that 133 ballots went missing in the recount, a decision that saved Franken from losing a net 46 votes. So don't think this is all being resolved nicely.

The Coleman campaign just had some fun with the Franken campaign, who have accused them of reversing all their positions on counting votes. The Coleman reply: So have you!

The Franken camp spent yesterday and this morning reading over the vast number of examples where the Coleman campaign argued that the requirements for properly filling out absentee ballots should be strictly construed, and that absentee voting is not a right but a privilege. By contrast, the Coleman camp is now arguing for lenient standards to bring in more ballots.

So Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg just got up for another turn, bringing up legal filings by the Franken campaign from during in the recount, a mix of direct Franken arguments or favorable quotations from prior case law:

• "The Minnesota courts have repeatedly emphasized that the overriding concern in interpretation of the election laws is the enfranchisement of voters. Consequently, all ballots cast in substantial compliance with the law must be counted."

• "As long as there is substantial compliance with the laws and no showing of fraud or bad faith, the true result of an election should not be defeated by an innocent failure to comply strictly with the statute, and mere irregularities in following statutory procedure will often be overlooked."

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With the Senate expected to approve Attorney General nominee Eric Holder on Monday, one conspicuous opening remains in President Obama's Cabinet: Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) has yet to be confirmed as Secretary of Labor.

We reported last week on GOP concerns with how Solis addressed queries on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) during her confirmation hearing. It's worth repeating that the problem is not technically a Senate "hold," as some outlets have reported.

Chamber rules prevent official holds from being placed until a committee has released a nominee to the full Senate -- and a spokesman for Sen. Mike Enzi (WY), chief GOPer on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions panel, told me that Republicans are still awaiting answers to more written queries from Solis.

"Republicans are still doing our due diligence on this nomination," the Enzi spokesman said, noting that the latest round of written questions was sent to Solis on Tuesday. He declined to discuss the nature of the GOP's queries, but said that more than just the EFCA is at issue.

Late Update: TPM alum Greg reports at The Plum Line that the president will host labor leaders for a signing of executive orders tomorrow. One suspects that the Solis nomination will be much-discussed on the sidelines ...

A lot of attention has been paid lately to the idea of a "bipartisan" economic recovery bill. Clearly the House GOPers are happy to blame Dems while voting against the stimulus, but what about the Senate? Well, Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) just distilled his side's notion of cooperation during a press conference on the recovery legislation:

How about the Senate? Well, there have been two committee meetings, the Appropriations Committee and the Finance Committee, in which I sit. Not a single one of our [Republican] amendments was voted up. Every one was rejected.

So essentially no changes as a result of those two markups on the bill that will come to the Senate floor next week. And if [the Ledbetter and SCHIP bills] are any indication, we'll get votes on amendments, they'll all lose, and the bill will then pass, and we end up with a totally partisan package. I don't think that's what the president had in mind when he talked about putting legislation together in a bipartisan way.


Okay ... so "bipartisanship" means not an exchange of ideas from both parties, or a chance to vote on proposals from both parties, but Democratic agreement on approving the GOP agenda? Good luck with that.

The list of Bush administration officials who could now face prosecution for their misdeeds over the last eight years doesn't only include those who authorized harsh tactics in the War on Terror.

Yesterday, Ken Salazar, the Interior Secretary, said at a White House briefing that he planned to reopen probes into a web of ethical misconduct at the department's Minerals Management Service, which included employees accepting gifts from, and having sex with, representatives of the oil and gas companies they were supposed to be regulating.

Reports by the department's Inspector General recommended that two MMS managers implicated in the scandal be prosecuted. But the Bush Justice Department declined to bring charges, a decision that the IG, Earl Devaney, publicly criticized, telling a congressional committee last September: ''I would have liked a more aggressive approach, and I would have liked to have seen some other people prosecuted here.''

Devaney also complained during his testimony that his report had been incomplete because Chevron -- one of the companies charged with giving gifts to the staffers -- had hired lawyers for six employees implicated in the scandal who later refused to cooperate with the IG' investigation.

One of those who escaped prosecution was Greg Smith, who ran the Denver office of MMS's Royalty in Kind (RIK) program, in which the government forgoes royalties and takes a share of the oil and gas for resale instead. Smith was accused in the reports -- including one special report focused on him -- of coercing two subordinates into sex, doing cocaine with a subordinate, suggesting to other employees that they should lie to investigators, and taking $30,000 from a private company for marketing its services to oil and gas companies.

One employee told investigators that "Smith directed her to purchase cocaine for him during normal MMS business hours, and Smith used the term "office supplies" when discussing cocaine while at work."

Here's another good excerpt:

The RIK employee recalled that on one occasion in late 2004, Smith telephoned her repeatedly asking for drugs. She said she provided cocaine to him early that evening, but he continued to call her. Eventually, she said, Smith traveled to her house and wanted her to have sex with him. She said he also asked her if she had more cocaine, and she stated that she did not but that someone who was staying with her might. She said Smith obtained crystal methamphetamine from one of these individuals and she watched him snort it off the toaster oven in her kitchen. The RIK employee also said she and Smith engaged in oral sex that evening.


The other official who Devaney recommended prosecuting is accused of less tabloid friendly -- but equally serious -- misdeeds.

Lucy Dennet, a top official of the Minerals Revenue Management office in Washington DC, is accused of helping another MMS employee, Jimmy Mayberry, to create a lucrative MMS contract that benefited him after he left MMS. Mayberry and another former MMS employee, Milton Dial, have already pleaded guilty to creating the deal. Mayberry faces up to five years in prison.

One of the IG reports found:
In the matter involving Ms. Dennet, Mr. Mayberry and Milton Dial, the results of this investigation paint a disturbing picture of three Senior Executives who were good friends, and who remained calculatedly ignorant of the rules governing post-employment restrictions, conflicts of interest and Federal Acquisition Regulations to ensure that two lucrative MMS contracts would be awarded to the company created by Mr. Mayberry - Federal Business Solutions - and later joined by Mr. Dial. Ms. Dennet manipulated the contracting process from the start. She worked directly with the contracting officer, personally participated on the evaluation team for both contracts, asked for an increase to the first contract amount, and had Mayberry prepare the justification for the contract increase. Ms. Dennet also appears to have shared with Mr. Mayberry the Key Qualification criteria upon which bidders would be judged, two weeks before bid proposals on the first contract were due.


So it looks like Smith and Dennet may not be out of the woods yet.

Salazar also suggested that he'd re-open the investigation into the activities of Steven Griles, the former Deputy Interior Secretary who was convicted of obstructing justice in connection with the Jack Abramoff investigation. More on that to come...

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