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Robert Gates is asking his staff to draw up a plan to close the Guantanamo prison and he wants it ready by Inauguration Day. This is good news in my book, even though the formulation of a plan is not a concrete indication that it will close anytime soon. However, I want the plans formulated and the details worked out so Obama can check that campaign promise off his list shortly after taking office.

Also, reaction to Obama's choices for labor and trade positions and a look at the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Dr. Jane Lubchenco for NOAA.

And, what word would you use to describe Bush? One word only!

Well, this is certainly welcome news. The Washington Post reports that Robert Gates has asked Pentagon staff to draw up a plan for closing Guantanamo and to have it ready by Obama's inauguration:

Gates "has asked his team for a proposal on how to shut it down -- what would be required specifically to close it and move the detainees from that facility while at the same time, of course, ensuring that we protect the American people from some dangerous characters," Morrell said at a news briefing.

Any plan will probably address whether to also abolish the military commission system and, if so, what kind of legal framework can be substituted to put detainees on trial. The U.S. government will have to negotiate homes in third countries for as many as 60 detainees who have been cleared for release but cannot be returned to countries such as Uzbekistan and Libya because of fears they will be tortured. And the next administration will have to find or build appropriate detention facilities in the United States, as well as negotiate with local and state authorities who may not want terrorist suspects housed in prisons in their areas.

I am encouraged by this announcement, but I just want to make sure that the focus is not solely on Guantanamo. Obama is also going to have to deal with our policies of rendition, interrogation and detainment at our prisons around the world as well, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The ACLU praised the announcement and remarked that it demonstrated Obama's commitment to follow through on his promise to close the detention facility. While I have not seen a ton of coverage about this today in the American press (as opposed to the Warren controversy), it is being covered extensively overseas including by euronews, Deutsche Welle and Xinhua News.

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The Wall Street Journal editorial board has wasted no time calling Senator Carl Levin's report on torture and the Bush administration "embarrassing" and "dishonest." The editorial board also describes the administration and CIA policies as "light years away from actual torture" and claims the left is gearing up to prosecute administration officials for protecting the country. Gag. What's embarrassing is this editorial. It always amazes me how there are no shortage of people - in prominent positions like the WSJ editorial offices - who will justify and make excuses for a very shameful period in our nation's history.

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Clive Crook points out that Obama's picks for Labor and Trade have very different views on trade policy:

It seems that Obama has chosen Ron Kirk as his USTR and Hilda Solis as his labor secretary. Kirk, a former mayor of Dallas, is said to be a supporter of NAFTA in particular and free trade in general. Solis is apparently a labor advocate and friend of the unions, and not so keen on liberal trade.

The New York Times speculates that these picks were deliberately selected to appeal to each side of the free trade debate. As expected, labor leaders were skeptical about Kirk but heaped praise on Solis, while business groups expressed dismay over Obama's choice of Solis but were happy with the selection of Ron Kirk.

John Judis, meanwhile, thinks Hilda Solis may not have the necessary "clout" for a Secretary of Labor:

My guess is that American workers would have been better off with former Reps. David Bonior or Dick Gephardt, both of whom had national political reputations. Don’t get me wrong--LaHood and Solis could turn out to be a great choice. Harold Meyerson, whose opinion I respect, certainly thinks Solis is a great choice, and so do some of my friends in the labor movement. But right now neither she nor LaHood look like the kind of big shots that Obama picked for his other cabinet posts. And that makes me worry about his priorities.

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Van Jones is thrilled with the Solis announcement and praises her work on green jobs initiatives:

We're thrilled that Hilda Solis shares the green jobs vision. In fact, she's already helped make it real. Rep. Solis was the original author of the Green Jobs Act, and our Green For All team worked closely with her in 2007. During that year's Congressional session, she worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle and was instrumental in getting that hallmark legislation passed. Her work demonstrated her commitment to a socially responsible, clean-energy economy that will create millions of good-paying jobs and save our environment. She is the right secretary of labor to take advantage of a great opportunity not only to make America's economy stronger by making it greener, but also to make Americans living in poverty part of a revitalized middle class.

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Reaction is overwhelmingly positive to news that Obama has chosen Dr. Jane Lubchenco to head NOAA. The Northwest Progressive Institute applauds her appointment:

Dr. Lubchenco is an outstanding choice for NOAA Administrator. We at the Northwest Progressive Institute commend President-elect Barack Obama for tapping one of the Pacific Northwest's brightest and most respected scientists for this important job. OSU's loss will be America's gain.

The Executive Director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Julie Packard, is also thrilled with the pick and calls her an "impressive advocate for ocean issues."

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If you live in Colorado (or not), Governor Ritter wants to know your opinion on who should replace Ken Salazar in the Senate. He has set up an email address for public comment at ussenate.comments@state.co.us.

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Of course you know that the media will turn anything having to do with the Clintons into some sort of controversy, so there are many headlines this morning about the alleged "conflicts of interest" contained in Bill's donor list. Eugune Robinson thinks this should be expected:

It's far-fetched to think that Hillary Clinton's performance of her duties as secretary of state would be influenced in any way by foreign donations to her husband's charitable foundation. But it is naive to think that the exhaustive list of donors released yesterday by the William J. Clinton Foundation won't provoke suspicion and give rise to conspiracy theories in parts of the world where transparency is seen as nothing more than an illusion.

Politico has the ominous headline: Conflicts abound in donor list and Bloomberg News speculates Clinton's diplomacy may be complicated by husband's money ties. All I can say is that Clinton must have really wanted this job, because they knew this was coming if the donors were released.

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I saw this posted over at Think Progress and I thought it was hysterical. Good luck with your legacy project, W! The Pew Research Center did a lengthy study on public opinion of President Bush and the results, well, aren't really that surprising but still fun to look at! 64% of Americans believe Bush will be remembered more for his failures than his accomplishments and only 13% believe Bush has made progress towards solving the major challenges facing our country. My favorite section, though, was describing Bush in a word:

 title=

I love how the numbers for "incompetent" and "arrogant" went up from 2004 to 2008, while the numbers for "excellent" dropped to 0.

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And you thought American politicians were entertaining!

 title=

Members of the staff of main opposition Democratic Party lawmakers get blasted by a fire extinguisher as they try to attend a meeting of the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee, where the ruling Grand National Party, acting alone, submitted a ratification agreement bill for the Korea-U.S. FTA on December 18.

Some of us were talking in the comments yesterday about the craziness going on in the Korean government right now, as lawmakers wrangle over the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States. The Democratic Party is expressing opposition to the ratification and they have occupied the speaker's office.

Several members of the committee who did not want to vote on ratification were locked into the meeting room, and members of the opposition party, who wanted to voice their dissent against ratification, were sprayed with fire extinguishers as they tried to force their way in. Crazy, huh?

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So what's on your mind this morning?

Originally posted to Kula2316 on Fri Dec 19, 2008 at 12:54 AM PST.

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