FUBAR

The influence game: How lobbyists work an inaugural

The sushi was plentiful, the jazz ensemble loud and the guest list included just what the party-givers wanted: members of Congress, incoming Obama administration officials and celebrities.

The invitation-only reception at the National Museum of Women in the Arts was among scores that lobbyists and corporations are hosting around the capital to mark Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration on Tuesday. For those staging such events, the celebrations are a chance to rekindle old relationships, start new ones, flash influence and impress clients.

Guess who’s paying for all the fun and festivities?

Donors from the securities and investment industries — which stand at the vortex of the Wall Street meltdown — have been the most generous in helping to pay for Barack Obama’s inauguration festivities.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which analyzed the contributions disclosed so far by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, 118 donors who identified themselves as being part of those industries have shelled out $3.6 million to help pay the estimated $40 million bill for inauguration balls and other events.

Foreclosures up 81 percent

U.S. foreclosure activity jumped 81 percent in 2008, with one in every 54 households getting at least one filing notice, suggesting various state laws and private programs to slow the process have been ineffective, RealtyTrac reported on Thursday.

Nearly 3.2 million foreclosure filings on 2.3 million properties were made last year, the Irvine, California-based research firm said. Filings include notice of default, auction sale or bank repossession.

When you torture, criminals go free

We did torture a Guantanamo Bay prisoner, to the point of twice almost killing him. That judgment comes from Susan Crawford, the Bush administration official responsible for convening the military commissions to try the detainees.

As a result, she has withdrawn war crimes charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani. Crawford has impeccable credentials — a retired judge, inspector general of the Pentagon under Dick Cheney and general counsel for the Army in the Reagan administration. She spoke out in an interview with The Washington Post.

U.S. official admits Guantanamo detainee tortured

The Pentagon official overseeing the tribunals for Guantanamo Bay detainees has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

"We tortured Qahtani," Susan Crawford said in an interview with the newspaper. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

Gitmo: A good idea gone bad

In theory, a special prison at Guantanamo Bay for captives in the war on terror made sense. It would be totally under U.S. control and unlike prisons in Afghanistan and Pakistan there was no chance the inmates could break out or bribe their way out.

It would give U.S. intelligence officials the leisure to question the prisoners, using approved techniques in effect since World War II, and decide whom to release, whom to try for war crimes and whom to hold until the cessation of hostilities.

Tax problems threaten Obama’s treasury nominee

A Capitol Hill grilling is likely for Timothy Geithner, President-elect Barack Obama’s pick to head the Treasury Department, after public revelations he failed to pay $34,000 in taxes several years ago.

Senate Democrats are pressing to schedule a quick confirmation hearing for Geithner on Friday, hoping to tee up swift approval of his nomination on Inauguration Day. But newly released information about the tax goofs by Geithner, regarded as a brilliant financial markets specialist well-positioned to deal with the nation’s considerable economic problems, could complicate the process.

Will Bill’s charity continue to haunt Hillary?

Concerns about her husband’s foreign fund-raising cast a shadow over Sen. Hillary Clinton’s nomination as U.S. secretary of state when Republicans on Tuesday pressed her to do more to avoid conflicts of interest.

Clinton is expected to easily win confirmation as President-elect Barack Obama’s top diplomat and she carefully avoided breaking new ground on foreign policy as she appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Memo to Virginians: Stay home on inauguration day

Washington has a curious way of celebrating Barack Obama’s inaugural. The authorities are shutting down most of the city for the day.

Particularly hard hit will be the capital’s Northern Virginia suburbs. All the downtown bridges between Virginia and Washington will be closed to traffic from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. and only two of them will be open to pedestrians. One Virginian wondered if they would mine the Potomac River to stop desperate residents of the Old Dominion from paddling across.

No punishment planned for CIA over torture

As President-elect Barack Obama assures intelligence officials that his complaints are with the Bush administration, not them, there are growing hints from Democratic Senate allies that spy agency veterans will not be prosecuted for past harsh interrogation and detainee policies.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein told The Associated Press in an interview this week that there is a clear distinction between those who made the policies and those who carried them out.