The House is preparing to vote on the revised $700 billion Wall Street bailout after rejecting a similar bill on Monday. The measure actually totals more than $800 billion when factoring in additional corporate and personal tax cuts. Congressional leaders spent Thursday lobbying colleagues to vote for the revised legislation one day after its approval in the Senate. At the White House, President Bush also urged lawmakers to back the measure.
President Bush: "This issue has gone way beyond New York and Wall Street. This is an issue that’s affecting hard-working people. They’re worried about their savings. They’re worried about their jobs. They’re worried about their houses. They’re worried about their small businesses. And the House of Representatives must listen to these voices and get this bill passed, so we can get about the business of restoring confidence."
At least a dozen Congress members who opposed the bill on Monday must change their position to avoid a second defeat. The vote comes as the International Monetary Fund has issued its most dire warning to date on the US economy. In a new report, the IMF says the collapse of US financial markets has turned into “a full-blown crisis.”
The two main party vice-presidential candidates squared off last night in St. Louis in their first and only debate. Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin disagreed over tax policy and the occupation of Iraq but found common ground over confronting Iran, supporting the Israeli government and opposing gay marriage. Palin touted both herself and Senator John McCain as mavericks willing to take on powerful interests.
Gov. Sarah Palin: "We’re tired of the old politics as usual. And that’s why, with all due respect, I do respect your years in the US Senate, but I think Americans are craving something new and different and that new energy and that new commitment that’s going to come with reform. I think that’s why we need to send the maverick from the Senate and put him in the White House, and I’m happy to join him there."
Biden disputed Palin’s characterization of McCain as a "maverick."
Sen. Joe Biden: "Let’s talk about the maverick John McCain is. And again, I love him. He’s been a maverick on some issues, but he has been no maverick on the things that matter to people’s lives. He voted four-out-of-five times for George Bush’s budget, which put us a half-a-trillion dollars in debt this year and over $3 trillion in debt since he’s got there. He has not been a maverick in providing healthcare for people. He has voted against — he voted against including another 3.6 million children in coverage of the existing healthcare plan, when he voted in the United States Senate. He’s not been a maverick when it comes to education. He has not supported tax cuts and significant changes for people being able to send their kids to college. He’s not been a maverick on the war. He’s not been a maverick on virtually anything that genuinely affects the things that people really talk about around their kitchen table."
A senior Obama adviser has suggested Defense Secretary Robert Gates might be a holdover from the Bush administration if Democrats win the White House. The adviser, former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, said Gates could do “even better” under an Obama presidency. Danzig went on to say Obama has agreed with many of Gates’s policies as head of the Pentagon. Gates joined the Bush administration in December 2006 and has firmly opposed any timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
In other election news, the McCain campaign says it’s abandoned efforts for a win in Michigan. Republicans had initially hoped to compete in the state, but the faltering economy is said to have given Obama an insurmountable edge amongst Michigan voters. Last month, McCain’s Michigan campaign attracted controversy after it was accused of planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting. McCain will stop airing ads in Michigan and send staffers to other battleground states.
In Iraq, about two dozen people were killed in two suicide attacks in Baghdad. The bombings targeted two Shiite mosques during a holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
In other Iraq news, a US soldier who admitted to involvement in the shooting of Iraqi prisoners has been sentenced to eight months in prison. Specialist Steven Ribordy says he helped stand guard when four handcuffed and blindfolded prisoners were shot dead near a Baghdad canal last year. Six other troops face charges in the killings. Another soldier was sentenced to seven months in jail last month.
The Pentagon has awarded a total of $300 million in new contracts to produce pro-US propaganda for Iraqi audiences. According to the Washington Post, four American companies have been awarded the deals to generate news stories, entertainment programs and so-called “public service advertisements” to run in the Iraqi media. The four contractors are the Washington-based Lincoln Group, the LA-based Leonie Industries, as well as MPRI and SOSI, both based in Virginia.
Here in New York, an officer involved in the tasering that sent a mentally handicapped man plunging to his death has committed suicide. Lieutenant Michael Pigott had been stripped of his badge and gun for ordering an officer to taser Inman Morales as he stood on a second-story building ledge. Morales fell headfirst to the ground below, dying instantly. Police say they had called for an inflatable bag to break Morales’s fall. But it had not arrived before the officer fired the taser.
In Mexico, tens of thousands of people marched through Mexico City to mark the fortieth anniversary of the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre of student protesters. Human rights groups estimate up to 300 people were killed when government forces opened fire on students gathered in Tlatelolco Plaza. Marcelino Perello, a university professor who helped organize the protests in 1968, said their legacy should inspire movements for social justice today.
Marcelino Perello: "I think that the 1968 legacy is yet to become a reality. We are still suffering from a hangover. We are living through a dark moment in history, but the same story will again lead us to sweeter times, to the resurrection of the popular struggle for freedom and justice."
The Mexican government has been accused of failing to investigate the massacre properly. Former government officials have been accused of ordering police to open fire. Earlier this week, Amnesty International asked the Mexican government to launch an extensive probe.
Women’s rights advocates are criticizing the Bush administration for imposing new restrictions on family-planning funding in several African countries. The State Department has told US aid recipients in Africa to terminate a program that allows for the distribution of contraceptives to African women. The program is run by the leading family planning group Marie Stopes International. Critics say the restriction will have a major effect on programs in at least six African countries.
And ahead of today’s House vote on the $800 billion Wall Street bailout, journalist and Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein appeared on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report last night. Klein told host Stephen Colbert the bailout exemplifies how governments and corporations try to push through self-serving policies during moments of crisis.
Naomi Klein: “The problem is the Bush administration doesn’t really believe in the free market. They have invented no-risk capitalism, OK? So, they spend seven years just transferring public money into private hands. Their final act is taking private debt and transferring it into public hands.”
Stephen Colbert: “But aren’t you — it sounds like you’re just, you know, upset that you’re not a banker right now.”
Klein: “I think we’re all a little upset that we’re not bankers right now.”
Colbert: “Of course! But that’s our fault for not getting in on the game.”
Klein: “Yes. Here’s another example of disaster capitalism. After Hurricane Katrina, this is the classic example."
Colbert: "I remember it. I remember it. Yeah?"
Klein: “I was in New Orleans. I was working on this book at the time. The city was still underwater. Richard Baker, the Republican congressman, says, ‘We couldn’t clean out the public housing projects, but God did.’ They used a horrible disaster to push through this preexisting agenda that hey had. They don’t believe in public housing. You know what they believe in?”
Colbert: “My friend, they were just giving credit where credit is due.”
Klein: “What they believe in is getting poor people into houses they can’t afford, so that their friends can speculate on the money, and then they can bail them out."