ThinkFast: December 3, 2008

The Labor Department reported this morning that 533,000 jobs were lost last month, and unemployment surged to 6.7%. The job losses are much higher than the 300,000 losses that analysts predicted. This is the 11th straight month of job losses and the largest monthly decline since 1974. Nearly 2 million jobs have been lost this year.

Yesterday, the Interior Department “unveiled a new rule that challenges Congress’s authority to prevent mining planned on public lands.” Congress has “emergency power to stop mineral development, and has used it six times in the last 32 years” but Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne “has ignored that Congressional directive, saying it was procedurally flawed.”

New financial disclosures show that the RNC spent “a total of about $180,000 for clothes and various accessories for the family of vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin,” including expenses at outlets like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Toys R Us and Victoria’s Secret. The McCain campaign paid Palin’s traveling makeup artist $68,400, “and her hair stylist received more than $42,000 for roughly two months of work.”

55 percent: The share of Americans who back President-elect Barack Obama’s plan to move U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey. Sixty-three percent oppose the war in Iraq, whereas 52 percent “favor” efforts in Afghanistan.


At a farewell ceremony yesterday, the 55-person contingent of Marines from Tonga became the latest member of the “coalition of the willing” to end its mission in Iraq. With the UN mandate ending on Dec. 31, “most of the remaining 18 countries are shutting down their operations swiftly and heading home.” The U.S. held exit ceremonies for troops from Azerbaijan and South Korea earlier this week.

The Supreme Court plans to meet today to decide whether to hear a case challenging President-elect Barack Obama’s right to be president based on his citizenship at birth. Justice Clarence Thomas picked up the petition to hear the lawsuit “after it was denied by Justice David H. Souter.” Thomas “referred it to the full court, which decided to distribute the case for the judges’ conference.”

Between 2004 and 2007, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) steered $79,560 in campaign cash to an Internet company run by his son, Steven Rangel, for a pair of “poorly designed” political Web sites. “This is probably legal but is definitely wrong,” said Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center.

The Blackwater Worldwide guards who shot and killed 17 Baghdad civilians in 2007 could face a mandatory 30-year prison sentence. Prosecutors, who could issue charges as early as Monday, might use a 1988 drug law that “calls for 30-year prison terms for using machine guns to commit violent crimes of any kind, whether drug-related or not.”

Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) asked Attorney General Michael Mukasey to clarify statements he made suggesting that Bush administration officials who authorized torture were within the law because they were acting in good faith. “Conyers and Nadler said they were ‘troubled’ by the ‘breadth’ of the statement, especially because there was significant opposition at many levels of the federal government.”’


Miami Mayor Manny Diaz is being rumored as a possible nominee for Obama’s cabinet. But he is coming under fire from a coalition of labor and activist groups who argue he has not done enough for working people. ‘’Manny Diaz’s track record is he’s ignored the middle class,’’ said Fred Frost, president of the South Florida AFL-CIO.

And finally: Lately, Barack Obama has been reaching out to congressional Republicans, sometimes with hilarious results. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) also recently heard from the President-elect, although he was shopping with his wife and four-year-old grandson when he received the voicemail. King was uncomfortable talking to Obama from the toy department, so he went outside to a police car and asked if he could call him from there. “’The guy in the car looked at me like he got the first psycho of the night,’ King said. But there were other police on the scene as well and King even offered to play the message. They let him in the vehicle to make the call and he reached a voice-mail.”

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