(See updates through 1/2/09 below)
Senate leaders seem to think they have the authority to reject Gov. Ron Blagojevich's choice of Roland Burris as the senator from Illinois to succeed President-elect Barack Obama, but the last time we checked it took more than a criminal complaint from a federal prosecutor to remove a governor from office. Not even Dick Cheney has claimed that the feds have the authority to summarily remove state governors from office (though Cheney might have that in a memo from some jackleg "constitutional scholar" somewhere).
We're not defending Blagojevich or the well-publicized allegations of his attempts to market the senate vacancy, but until he is removed from office, he is the duly-elected governor with the authority to appoint the interim senator to serve until the next general election, and unless the Senate has reason to believe that Burris improperly gained that appointment -- and no such evidence has been alleged, indeed Burris' reputation is said to be above reproach -- then the Democratic caucus has no business snubbing Burris. This is the same Democratic caucus, after all, that forgave Joe Lieberman's betrayal and not only welcomed him back in the caucus but let him keep his committee chairmanship after he repeatedly undermined the party, broke his pledges and campaigned against its candidates, so they have plenty of experience in bending principles.
If the Senate refused to seat senators with shady connections, it would struggle to keep its membership in double figures. If Democrats don't think Burris should be a senator, they should run somebody better then him in the primary two years hence. If that doesn't work, the Republicans will have a shot at him in the general election.
Against the tide of blogosphere complaints about the Burris appointment, Steve Benen of WashingtonMonthly.com entertains the argument made by Brian Beutler, who's slammed Blagojevich's corruption but nonetheless argued that Barack Obama and Senate Democrats are "doing the wrong thing" by refusing to accept Burris' appointment. John Cole at Balloon Juice also said he "fundamentally disagrees" with the Democrats' position. "We are a nation of rules, after all. How about we follow them rather than creating all this damned drama?"
UPDATE 1/1/09: Jane Hamsher at firedoglake.com notes that "It would certainly be interesting to watch the same Senate who gave convicted felon Ted Stevens a standing ovation (Reid calling him 'distinguished colleague') exclude Burris."
Harry Reid has sworn to use his mastery of Senate procedure to block the Burris appointment and protect the integrity of that very exclusive club, which nonetheless warmly embraces Joe Lieberman.
If only he had been so Johnny-on-the-spot when Bush was appointing Supreme Court Justices, ramming through telecom immunity, FISA and the Military Commissions Act, and otherwise trashing the country.
I think this may be my favorite part, however:
Should Roland Burris show up Tuesday for duty in the Senate, armed police officers stand ready to bar him from the floor. ...
Would that by any chance be the Sergeant-at-Arms, who oversees the Capital police, who was never deployed to enforce congressional subpoenas when the Bush administration refused to comply?
The Washington Post reports there are several possible "next steps":
• Burris arrives on Tuesday and is sworn in with the senators who were elected in November.
• Burris shows up, and his appointment is rejected because the Illinois secretary of state, Jesse White, has refused to sign the paperwork certifying the appointment.
• Burris shows up in Washington, and his appointment is referred to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which conducts an investigation of his selection by the governor to determine whether Burris should be seated.
• The matter ends up in Illinois and federal courts as Burris tries to force the Senate to seat him.
In any event, Hamsher noted, "Blago has done a damn good job of making the Democratic leadership look absolutely ridiculous."
UPDATE 1/2/09: Chris Bowers of OpenLeft sees selective outrage over Burris:
If Senate Democrats do indeed block Roland Burris from entering the Senate chamber, as they have threatened to do, it will be the strongest action they have undertaken, like, ever. Hearing Democrats invoking Article One, Section Five of The Constitution is more reminiscent of Republican attempts to impeach President Clinton or destroy filibusters than it is of anything under Harry Reid's leadership. It is worth noting that blocking a Democrat who was unquestionably appointed legally, from being seated in the Senate is the issue where Democrats decide to grow a spine and play hardball. I mean, really, this is the issue where Senate Democrats decide to stand up for themselves?
After hearing Obama's selection of "GMO-lovin', bio-fuelish, feedlot-friendly Tom Vilsack for Secretary of Agriculture [draw] a resounding 'Bleech!' from the blogosphere this week," Kerry Trueman of Eating Liberally asked Denise O'Brien, an organic farmer who ran (unsuccessfully) for Iowa's secretary of agriculture in 2006, what she thought of Vilsack, who served two terms as Iowa governor.
O'Brien noted that Vilsack in 1998 was the first Democrat to hold the office of governor in 30 years, since Harold Hughes, who left office in 1969.
"Many were ecstatic that a Dem had made it to this high office and that at last, we would have access," O'Brien wrote in a letter at OpenLeft.com. And Vilsack's office was accessible. "We thought we could stop Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and do something about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and have a voice for fair trade. But alas, we found that even though we were of the same party, there were some differences. ..."
It wasn't far into his administration, it finally dawned on many that our Governor Tom Vilsack was a centrist as was the leader of our country - Bill Clinton - and that we were likely to disagree on a lot of issues. What's a progressive to do? Give up? Not bother to even engage in discussions about relevant issues? The best thing to do was to keep talking and to keep exposing the governor to a more progressive line of thinking. We resigned ourselves to the fact that our expectations of a Democratic Governor were exactly that, expectations and that there was still a lot of work to do.
There were a number of times that Governor Vilsack did act on issues that were more in line with a progressive agenda. He brought people together for problem solving. He appointed a strong leader as the head of the Department of Natural Resources who worked hard to reign in the CAFOs but was ultimately unsuccessful. The Governor also appointed people to the Environmental Protection Council who were intelligent and outspoken in their opposition to the CAFOs. Alas, big ag still had the upper hand.
One of the best issues that addressed a progressive agenda during his administration was the creation, by Executive Order, of the Iowa Food Policy Council. This was the second one to form in the United States. A number of progressives served on this Council and were able to make inroads on issues of food security, local foods, farmer's markets and programs addressing the needs of people in poverty - food stamps and WIC. Yes, this happened in Iowa, the "Belly of the Beast" of agribusiness, and Vilsack was the leader who made it happen.
The bottom line is that we can work with Governor Vilsack. ...
Read the rest.
See a roundup of reactions to Vilsack's appointment at Bleeding Heartland and more reaction at MyDD.com.
News that former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack was President-elect Barack Obama's choice for agriculture secretary has drawn some jeers from the progressive community because he steered a centrist course on ag issues and supported development of genetically modified croups.
Chase Martyn writes in the Iowa Independent:
On matters of agriculture, Vilsack was a pragmatic centrist, content with incremental changes and reluctant to take steps to significantly disrupt the status quo. When he successfully ran for his first term as governor in 1998, the generally pro-Republican Farm Bureau decided not to oppose him, choosing instead to endorse both him and his opponent. That was an impressive feat for an underdog Democrat running for governor — especially for a trial lawyer who had never farmed a day in his life. ...
Art Cullen writes in the Storm Lake (Iowa) Times:
Vilsack grew into the governorship from a cautious compromiser to a bold leader who set out to reshape Iowa on its key strengths: natural resources and education. Vilsack envisioned a state that would become a national leader in biosciences. He told the eager Beavers that we could feed the hungry and cure the sick through advancements in life science through livestock and plants.
Through fits and starts, we believe that Vilsack set the stage for Iowa’s golden era where town and farm alike prosper through scientific innovation. Our verdant fields can become a source for fuel and food. With Vilsack leading the USDA, we can expect to get the push we need. ...
We think Vilsack will be a good fit for the Obama administration. Vilsack is familiar with the same farm economics Obama worked with as senator from Illinois. (They grow a lot of corn and soybeans in Illinois, too.) Vilsack promotes development of rural areas, small farmers and ranchers and renewable energy resources, as does Obama. He also supports stricter limits on farm subsidies, as does Obama. He is friendly with Monsanto and supports the development of genetically modified crops, but you can't win ’em all. Vilsack will restore balance to the USDA but progressive activists who were hoping the USDA would veer leftward were bound to be disappointed.
George Will and the Big GOP Lie
Economists on both the left and right broadly agree that the need for stimulative government spending is necessary to prevent a further collapse of the global economic system — just as the New Deal and the deficit spending of World War II restored the health of the global economy in the last century.
This morning on ABC’s This Week, conservative columnist George Will echoed the false right-wing meme that FDR’s New Deal policies made the Depression worse:
Before we go into a new New Deal, can we just acknowledge that the first New Deal didn’t work?
No, we can't. As Nobel-laureate Paul Krugman wrote recently in the New York Times, “There’s a whole intellectual industry, mainly operating out of right-wing think tanks, devoted to propagating the idea that F.D.R. actually made the Depression worse. So it’s important to know that most of what you hear along those lines is based on deliberate misrepresentation of the facts. The New Deal brought real relief to most Americans.”
Krugman observed that the true short-comings of the New Deal policies resulted from the fact that they were not bold enough over the short-term:
[T]he truth is that the New Deal wasn’t as successful in the short run as it was in the long run. And the reason for F.D.R.’s limited short-run success, which almost undid his whole program, was the fact that his economic policies were too cautious. […]
In short, Mr. Obama’s chances of leading a new New Deal depend largely on whether his short-run economic plans are sufficiently bold. Progressives can only hope that he has the necessary audacity.
Economist Brad DeLong offers a chart that tracks how private investment bottome out in 1932 and recovered in a very healthy fashion as Roosevelt's New Deal took effect from 1933 to 1937. The recovery was interrupted in 1937 and 1938 as Roosevelt switched to more "orthodox" economic policies and tried to move the budget toward balance while the Federal Reserve tightened the money supply by raising bank reserve requirements.
Ultimately, the flight of capital from Europe as World War II approached combined with US industry cranking up to become the arsenal of the Allies to lift the US out of the Great Depression.
Will is a slow learner. The previous week, he made similar comments on "This Week" but in that case Krugman was there to correct the record. Steve Benen of WashingtonMonthly.com noted:
In a fairly devastating 45 seconds, Krugman not only set the record straight, but explained that it was FDR's desire to balance the budget and cut federal spending that contributed to a decline in 1937.
This week Krugman apparently was not available to refute Will's misrepresentations.
The Bishops and Obama
South Carolina’s Charleston-based Roman Catholic Diocese said Friday that it doesn’t believe parishioners who voted for Barack Obama should have to seek penance before partaking Holy Communion, a condition a Greenville priest suggested this week because of Obama’s stance on abortion, the Greenville News reported.
"As administrator of the Diocese of Charleston, let me state with clarity that Father Newman’s statements do not adequately reflect the Catholic Church’s teachings," Monsignor Martin T. Laughlin said Friday in a posting on the diocese’s Web site. "Any comments or statements to the contrary are repudiated."
A priest in Greenville, S.C., Fathr Jay Scott Newman, has told parishioners that those who voted for Barack Obama should not receive Holy Communion until they've done penance, USA Today reported. A spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Charleston said the local priest's move is appropriate and in line with church teaching. [That show of support apparently was superceded after the bishop got home from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. See below. Ed.]
It may be part of an effort to gin up participation in confession, as exit polls showed that 54% of self-described Catholics voted for Obama.
John Allen Jr. of National Catholic Reporter, in a postmortem of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, suggested that the church's official stance toward Obama voters is more nuanced than the South Carolina subset. Allen noted that the bishops confirmed their opposition to abortion and galvanized in opposition to the Freedom of Choice Act, or FOCA, which would bar restrictions on abortion at state and federal levels such as parental notification laws or limits on partial birth abortion, and which, according to worst-case readings, could eventually put Catholic hospitals in the position of either providing abortions or closing their doors. That shouldn't be a suprise. But he noted:
Perhaps the greatest paradox of Catholic life in America has long been that abortion is one of the few contentious issues where Catholics are basically in agreement. It's tough to find many Catholics who disagree that abortion is always a tragedy, and that a world without abortion would be a better world. Yet abortion also fuels the most painful divisions in the church, because Catholics are split in three other ways:
• First, whether opposition to abortion necessarily implies efforts to outlaw it. Catholic Democrats often argue that a "reduction strategy" of social policies in support of women and children are more effective, not to mention less divisive. Pro-lifers, however, often compare such arguments to the false compromises of the 19th century over slavery, insisting that sooner or later the country has to face the issue itself -- whether it will allow the legal destruction of a whole category of human beings, or not.
• Second, how much weight abortion should carry among the church's social concerns. For one camp, abortion is the contemporary Holocaust, and to pretend that any other issue is comparable is a kind of moral blindness. Others insist that the church should have a "consistent ethic of life" giving comparable weight to matters such as poverty, health care, and war.
• Third, how punitive to be with Catholics, especially politicians, who don't support legal restrictions on abortion. Some argue for dialogue, while others are firmly convinced that pro-choice Catholics must be denied communion -- on the grounds, as Jim Sedlak, vice-president of the American Life League, put it in a thundering address outside the bishops' hotel in Baltimore, "You can't say abortion is a sin against God, and then deliver that God into the hands of those who vote for abortion."
"There was no real dissent from a consensus that abortion must be a towering social and political priority," he wrote. "There were, however, differing accents on how exclusive the focus should be, and how confrontational the advocacy should be."
Allen noted that Bishop Blase Cupich of Rapid City, South Dakota, for example, warned that "a prophecy of denunciation quickly wears thin," arguing that "we must be, and be seen to be, caring pastors as well as faithful teachers." Archbishop Elden Curtiss of Omaha, Nebraska, urged his brother bishops "not to be seen as being deliberately divisive now, or creating division by our actions."
Perhaps the closest the bishops came to a vote on how to proceed with pro-choice Dems came in the election of the new chair of the bishops' Committee on Communications -- the bishop who serves as a public spokesperson for the conference.
That race pitted Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., a hard-liner who before the election had warned Catholics considering a vote for Obama that their "eternal salvation" was at risk, against Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala of Los Angeles, a moderate who said that "we're not a single-issue church" and that issues such as "racism, torture, genocide, immigration, war, and the impact of the economic downturn" deserve consideration alongside abortion.
Zavala won by a margin of 129 votes to Finn's 97, meaning 57 percent to 43 percent. "Though one shouldn't over-interpret that result, it's nonetheless intriguing that the moderate notched a clear victory," Allen noted.
There bishops also indicated openness to collaboration with Obama on other fronts. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago mentioned "economic justice and opportunity for all; immigration and the situation of the undocumented; better education and adequate health care for all, especially for women and children; [and] religious freedom and peace at home and abroad."
To paraphrase Mr. Dooley (on the Supreme Court), the bishops conference follows the election returns.
The Morning After
Frank Rich still feels good.
Our nation was still in the same ditch it had been the day before, but the atmosphere was giddy. We felt good not only because we had breached a racial barrier as old as the Republic. Dawn also brought the realization that we were at last emerging from an abusive relationship with our country’s 21st-century leaders. The festive scenes of liberation that Dick Cheney had once imagined for Iraq were finally taking place — in cities all over America.
For eight years, we’ve been told by those in power that we are small, bigoted and stupid — easily divided and easily frightened. This was the toxic catechism of Bush-Rove politics. It was the soiled banner picked up by the sad McCain campaign, and it was often abetted by an amen corner in the dominant news media. We heard this slander of America so often that we all started to believe it, liberals most certainly included. If I had a dollar for every Democrat who told me there was no way that Americans would ever turn against the war in Iraq or definitively reject Bush governance or elect a black man named Barack Hussein Obama president, I could almost start to recoup my 401(k). Few wanted to take yes for an answer.
So let’s be blunt. Almost every assumption about America that was taken as a given by our political culture on Tuesday morning was proved wrong by Tuesday night.
Obama not only beat Bush and McCain; he also beat the Conventional Wisdom of Beltway pundits and rule by cliché.
Congratulations President-Elect Obama!
We hope you're just blowing smoke with all this talk about Republicans in your administration, but for now it's an historic night to savor.
In Congressional races, Democrats have increased their majority in the House from the 236-199 margin before the election. Dems, who needed the support of two independents to claim a 51-49 majority in the Senate in the past Congress, also have gained at least five seats in the Senate to claim a clear majority, with four more seats still up for grabs as counting continued late Tuesday and into Wednesday morning.
The Bishops' Futile Election Strategy
Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, apparently trying to turn the Diocese of Kansas City into a political action committee, urged Catholics not to vote for Barack Obama, saying that Catholics who support him put their souls at risk by supporting Obama's "fanatical" stance on abortion.
Before Finn's condemnation of Obama, the National Catholic Reporter, an independent weekly, editorialized:
Another presidential election cycle is nearly ended, and once again the Catholic bishops in the United States have sadly distinguished themselves for the narrowness and, in too many cases, barely concealed partisanship of their political views. ...
Year after year, however, the bishops get little in return for their antiabortion political endorsements, while often aiding in the election of politicians who have little regard for the rest of the church’s social agenda.
The abortion rate has been going down steadily in America, from a high of 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44 in 1981 to 19.4 abortions for the same demographic through 2005, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
The independent weekly noted that legal scholars Douglas Kmiec and Nicholas Cafardi, who have unimpeachable antiabortion credentials, among others have advanced compelling arguments regarding the futility of using a legal ban as a political litmus test.
Kmiec, who worked on briefs attempting to overturn Roe, said earlier this year when explaining his support for Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama: “We have been at the business of trying to find the elusive fifth vote on the Supreme Court for 30 years. We haven’t found it and even if we do find it, overturning Roe would not save a single life, but instead merely return the question to the states. While that would be important, it is not intended and never was intended to close the American mind or, for that matter, the Catholic mind to different or alternative ways to discourage abortion.”
The editorial concluded, "Certainly the conduct of many of the bishops this election cycle has diminished the significance of abortion and undermined the importance of the rest of the Catholic social agenda by turning the abortion issue into a partisan rallying cry. Their conduct further erodes the legitimate authority of an already beleaguered episcopal conference."
Also in NCR, Kmiec defended his book, Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question about Barack Obama, in which he concludes that a Catholic can vote for Sen. Obama with a clear conscience.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, at an October speech to a women's group, strongly criticized Kmeic, and called it absurd for self-professedly pro-life Catholics to support Obama, "the most committed 'abortion-rights' candidate ... since the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973."
Kmiec, a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, noted that Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) accepted the idea that voting results in a type of remote cooperation with sin, but counseled: "When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion . . . but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons." Kmiec added:
In short, Catholic voters -- like other citizens -- are not morally precluded from picking an imperfect candidate. Does applying the Ratzinger formulation help resolve the disagreement between Archbishop Chaput and myself? Not completely, but it does reveal some divergence between Cardinal Ratzinger and the Archbishop.
Kmiec noted that when Chaput calls Obama "the most committed 'abortion-rights' presidential candidate of either major party since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in 1973, he apparently is referring to the senator's promise to sign the so-called Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which would roll back waiting periods for abortions but would allow restrictions on abortion when they exist on other comparable medical procedures.
Either way, is this an independent reason for Catholics to disregard Obama's commitment to social justice?
Not really. At the Democratic convention, leading members of the House and Senate publicly expressed the view that FOCA is so deeply flawed - some scholars believing it unconstitutional and most lawmakers finding it unacceptable as a matter of policy - that it will never reach the president's desk. This is a fact that has some plausibility given its history, but of course, one that may change with the composition of the new Congress. This is more fairly an issue regarding the election of others, and not primarily Obama or McCain. ...
The circumstances for Catholics in 2008 are a happier one than Archbishop Chaput lets on. The social justice policies of Senator Obama and his ability to work toward the common good upon common ground makes him a source of hope for all Americans, including sincere and faithful Catholics -- except those who are wittingly or unwittingly ensnared by the artificial cultural divisions of the past or trapped within the narrative framework of one political party.
Catholics are a key swing voter group and Tom Roberts of NCR noted that the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported Oct. 30 that support for Obama from white, non-Hispanic Catholics has grown from a 13-point deficit in late September to an eight-point lead in late October.
See also the Faithful Citizenship website of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. It turns out that the church is concerned with other social justice and pro-life issues, after children are born.
Steve Benen makes an important point:
No matter what happens tomorrow, I'd like to think presidential campaign have learned a valuable lesson about the importance of vetting. That's obviously the case when it comes to running mates -- John McCain had no idea who Sarah Palin was before putting her on the national ticket -- but it's also true when it comes to picking mascots to exploit.
Sam "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher asked Barack Obama a question a couple of weeks ago, and according to the McCain campaign, quickly became the single most important person on the planet. McCain didn't know anything about the guy, but Obama told him he'd like to "spread the wealth" around to the middle class, and as far as the Republican ticket was concerned, that's all they needed to know. Wurzelbacher became the central focus of a McCain debate strategy, ad campaign, stump speech, and multi-state tour.
And yet, Wurzelbacher's penchant for saying insane things suggests McCain probably should have thought this through before acting. Yesterday, McCain's mascot told Fox News that "greatly" questions Obama's "loyalty to our country."
This came five days after Wurzelbacher endorsed the idiotic idea that a vote for Obama would be "a vote for the death of Israel," and four days after Wurzelbacher said the notion of progressive taxation is "honestly right out of Karl Marx's mouth. No one can debate that. That's not my opinion. That's fact."
McCain appears to have a real problem with choosing competent people to run his campaign, to be his running mate and to act as a campaign surrogate. And they claim Obama is risky?
The New Poll Tax
Rachel Maddow of MSNBC calls the understaffing of voter precincts in minority and working-class neighborhoods what it is: the new poll tax. Lines at early voting sites in Florida and Georgia took as many as 10 hours to vote. If people have to stand in line for several hours to cast a vote, most of them have to take off work to do so. "Who is not in those lines because they can't afford to be?" Maddow asked. She noted that a survey in Ohio in 2004 found that 129,000 people left polling places because of the long lines in polling places -- 10,000 more than the margin by which George W. Bush beat John Kerry.
Ezra Klein agreed:
We tend to frame long voting lines as an inspiring vision of democracy, but they're quite the opposite: They are disenfranchisement in action. A longer line does not simply mean more people are voting. It means more people are not voting, as they could not afford the time tax.
Kevin Drum at MotherJones.com added:
The flip side, of course, is neighborhoods like mine. I live in an upscale, white, suburban city, and you will be unsurprised to learn that I haven't had to wait more than five minutes to vote since the day I moved here. Quite a coincidence, eh?
We agree with Steve Benen, who wrote at WashingtonMonthly.com:
Voting problems in this country have reached the point at which they cannot be ignored. Voter-suppression tactics, electronic voting machines, and disjointed paper ballots are already areas of serious concern, but these ridiculously long lines should embarrass officials into action. It's simply untenable that our democracy tries to function this way.
Madelyn Dunham, R.I.P.
Barack Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died after battling cancer just one day shy of seeing her grandson make it to the White House. She was 86 years old.
DemFromCT notes at DailyKos,
He did the right thing to visit her, even as it took him off the campaign trail. Dunham was 'inundated' with well wishes from strangers after that visit. Obama's post-election schedule is still up in the air.
The campaign released a statement from Obama and his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, according to the Washington Post:
"It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer. She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances. She was proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and left this world with the knowledge that her impact on all of us was meaningful and enduring. Our debt to her is beyond measure.
"Our family wants to thank all of those who sent flowers, cards, well-wishes, and prayers during this difficult time. It brought our grandmother and us great comfort. Our grandmother was a private woman, and we will respect her wish for a small private ceremony to be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to any worthy organization in search of a cure for cancer."
Our condolences to the Obama family.
Meanwhile, in the last desperate attempt to grab a headline at Obama's expense, the California Republican Party on Monday filed a complaint against Barack Obama for flying home on his campaign plane for the last visit to his grandmother. BarbinMd noted at DailyKos, "If it wasn't so pitiful, it would be funny."
Obama for America violated federal law by converting its campaign funds to Senator Obama's personal use. Senator Obama recently traveled to Hawaii to visit his sick grandmother ... Therefore, the Obama Campaign violated the FEC's ban on "personal use" of campaign funds when it paid over $100,000 for the Campaign's charter to fly to Hawaii without obtaining reimbursement from Senator Obama.
UPDATE: ABC News reports that Madelyn Dunham cast an absentee ballot on Oct. 27 and it will be counted.
Unless, of course, the Republican Party goes to court to stop it.
What It's Come Down To
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, who likely will be leading an even smaller minority next year, calls Barack Obama a "chicken s*it" in a speech to students at Miami University of Ohio.
Studs Terkel R.I.P.
His epitaph: "Curiosity did not kill this cat."
Roger Ebert's tribute.
CNN Doesn't Even Try Anymore
ThinkProgress notes that CNN announced it will host a one-hour special this weekend called “Election Countdown: View from the Right,” featuring prominent right-wing pundits. However, it doesn’t appear that there will be a corresponding special featuring progressive voices.
Former Reagan Chief of Staff Endorses Obama
Kenneth Duberstein, former chief of staff for Ronald Reagan, became the latest high-profile Republican who has endorsed Obama. Duberstein told CNN's Fareed Zakaria, in an interview to be broadcast Sunday, that he'll be voting for the Democratic nominee on Tuesday. He cited Colin Powell's endorsement as one factor, saying, "Well let's put it this way -- I think Colin Powell's decision is in fact the good housekeeping seal of approval on Barack Obama."
On MSNBC, he added a little insult to injury -- literally. Referring to John McCain's choice of running mate, Duberstein said, "What most Americans, I think, realize, is that you don't offer a job, let alone the vice presidency, to a person after one job interview. Even at McDonald's, you're interviewed three times before you're given a job." Watch the video. (Alex Koppelman at Salon.com.)
Increasingly Desperate--and Clumsy--GOP Smear
In recent days, ThinkProgress.org noted, John McCain, Sarah Palin and their surrogates have attempted to paint Barack Obama as holding anti-Israel views because of his relationship with Palestinian-American Professor Rashid Kahlidi. Last night on Fox News Channel, Rudy Giuliani continued the anti-Khalidi campaign by claiming that he holds a “very hostile view of Israel” and has “a connection to the PLO.” On Fox Noise, Rudolph Giuliani disapprovingly noted that the Woods Foundation funded “Khalidi’s organizations” with $70,000 or $80,000 while Obama and Bill Ayers were board members. Palin has characterized Khalidi as a "radical professor" and "a political ally" of Obama's.
In fact, the “public record” shows that Khalidi is a well-respected, mainstream scholar of Middle Eastern studies at Columbia University who is equally critical of corrupt Arab nationalist regimes and Israeli policies in the occupied territories--and was funded by the International Republican Institute while McCain served as the group's chairman.
ThinkProgress.org noted that while McCain served as chairman of its board, the International Republican Institute distributed several grants to the Palestinian research center co-founded by Khalidi.
Seth Colter reported at the Huffington Post that a 1998 tax filing for the McCain-led group shows a $448,873 grant to Khalidi’s Center for Palestine Research and Studies for work in the West Bank. But the Republican group's relationship with Khalidi extends back as far as 1993, when John McCain joined IRI as chairman in January. Foreign Affairs noted in September of that year that IRI had helped fund several extensive studies in Palestine run by Khalidi’s group, including over 30 public opinion polls and a study of “sociopolitical attitudes.”
If anything, Keith Olbermann noted on MSNBC's Countdown last night, the clumsy McCain campaign not only has uncovered McCain's ties with Khalidi, but also has tied inadvertently tied McCain to Ayers, the former Weather Underground leader. Horrors!
Jo-Ann Mort, who writes frequently about Israel for US, UK and Israeli publications, wrote at TPM:
It has come to this--the red baiting and the nastiness of the McCain/Palin campaign, in desperation to get Jewish support, is now baiting and bad-mouthing a notable Palestinian-American historian, Rashid Khalidi, for his and his wife's friendship with Obama. The Khalidis know Obama from their time in Hyde Park, when Rashid was a professor at the University of Chicago.
Now at Columbia University, he is someone who has always reached out to all sides in the debate about the future of Israel and Palestine. He has been outspoken in his arguments against Arafat's ways of governing and terrorism and when he was at U of C, he was close to Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, one of the most important American Jewish figures of our time. For the Republicans to go after him is pure vile--they think that the Jewish vote is so stupid and racist that they will turn away from the Democrats solely on this type of slander. For someone like Daniel Pipes, quoted in today's New York Times story, to call him 'marginal,' is a joke. It's time to move the Center back to the Center--let's hope that happens as of November 5--for the sake of America, the sake of Israel and the sake of Palestine.
Josh Marshall also noted that the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, which has never been accused of being a hotbed of anti-semites or crazed Muslim terrorists, debunked the smears and lies the McCain campaign has been spreading about Rashid Khalidi and the PLO. Khalidi denies he has ever been a spokesman for the PLO, which apparently dates from a mistaken reference in a 1982 article in the New York Times.
In fact, the JTA notes, Khalidi was an adviser to the Palestinian delegation to the 1991 Madrid talks. That delegation--to a person--had no formal affiliation with the PLO, which Israel regarded as terrorist; "then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir made NOT being affiliated with the PLO a condition of Israel’s agreement to participate. The names of the Palestinian team would have been vetted by Israeli intelligence."
'The Economist' Endorses Obama
"America should take a chance and make Barack Obama the next leader of the free world," the conservative London-based weekly says in its "leader" (what we would call an editorial).
More Republican Ugliness
Brownsox at DailyKos notes that the National Republican Campaign Committee has produced a TV ad that darkened the complexion of Democratic candidate Ashwin Madia, an Indian American running in Minnesota's 3rd District.
And it's not the first time the GOP has attempted to use Madia's ethnicity against him (last month, the GOP held a press conference pushing the theme that Ashwin Madia was not "one of us").
"It would be nice if this were especially surprising, but unfortunately, it's rather par for the course for today's Republican Party," Brownsox commented.
UPDATED. Greg Sargent at TPM notes that two Republican groups are running racially-charged ads against Obama.
The National Republican Trust PAC, for instance, just reported to the FEC that it sank nearly $900,000 into a new ad buy, most likely for a spot hitting Obama with the selective footage of the rants of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor.
Meanwhile, another "winger" outside group, Let Freedom Ring, which has been known to spend serious money, is up with a new spot using Martin Luther King's "content of their character" line to urge a vote against Obama.
At least the ad featuring Rev. Wright, former pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in South Chicago, which is affiliated with a mainline Protestant denomination, might help with the number of people who mistakenly believe that Obama is Muslim. A recent poll by the University of Texas and Texas Politics Project finds that nearly a quarter of Texans erroneously believe that Obama is a Muslim.
Support Airwaves for Internet Access
A coalition of consumer, media and public interest groups is calling on Congress to support using empty public airwaves -- known as "white spaces" -- to bridge the digital divide and bring Internet service to millions of Americans in underserved rural and low-income communities.
In a letter sent to Congress on Friday, Free Press, Media Access Project, Consumer Federation of America, Public Knowledge, New America Foundation, Consumers Union, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Prometheus Radio Project, Tribal Digital Village, Acorn Active Media Foundation, CUWiN Foundation and Ethos Group urged members not to interfere with the Federal Communications Commission's planned Nov. 4 vote to open the empty broadcast television channels (or "white spaces") for public use.
"In the upcoming vote on Nov. 4, the commission has the opportunity to take a major step toward expanding affordable broadband access and trigger major investment, innovation and consumer benefits in this sector," the coalition wrote.
Timothy Karr of FreePress.net said the powerful lobbyists at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) are trying to scare Washington with horror stories about "white spaces."
The NAB’s hired guns have bombarded policy makers with false claims in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to hoard these airwaves and to disrupt a critical FCC vote taking place in just six days.
The FCC's five commissioners must not buckle under the intense lobbying pressure:
Tell the FCC: Don't Give in to NAB Scare Tactics
Here are the facts:
1. If we open white spaces now, we can bring the social and economic benefits of a fast Internet connection to tens of millions of Americans now on the wrong side of the digital divide.
2. FCC engineers have tested white spaces devices and determined that the technology can deliver high-speed wireless Internet, without interfering with adjacent TV broadcasts.
3. The NAB and Big Media are doing everything in their power to close off access to white spaces because they fear competition from new innovators and losing control of the public airwaves.
The NAB is furiously spending millions of dollars on dirty tricks and political intimidation to scare the FCC away from white spaces. They have high-priced lawyers and lobbyists, but we have you.
Take just one minute to sign this Halloween action card and forward it to your friends. Free Press will deliver your cards to the FCC on Halloween and make sure they "treat" us by opening white spaces for eveyone's benefit:
This Halloween: Stand Up to the Lobbyists' Scare Tactics
Hightower: McCain's a Maverick We Can't Afford
Our colleague, Jim Hightower, writes:
John McCain keeps telling us he's a "maverick." Puh-leeze! I know mavericks, and none of them have 177 lobbyists for Big Oil, Wall Street banks, and other corporate powers running their campaign-as McCain does.
On the issues of importance to our country and to our future, he's the same kind of corporate critter we got with George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the rest of their corrupt Beltway gang (of plutocrats, autocrats and kleptocrats). America can't stand four more years of the Bush/McCain economic agenda, and 21st Century Democrats is on the frontlines of the fight to elect Barack Obama and progressive Democrats in several battleground states.
Stop John McCain and build a more progressive America by making a contribution to 21st Century Democrats today!
At a time when Americans are terrified about the state of our economy and looking for leadership in Washington, John McCain is running around like a chicken with its head cut off. His first move was to "suspend" his campaign to work out a compromise - only to have it rejected by his own party. Some leadership! Now all he and his faux-populist side-kick can do is sling mud at Barack Obama and attack community organizations like ACORN. We can't afford to have these people in the White House.
As a co-founder of 21st Century Democrats, I'm thrilled by the organization's success in cultivating grassroots political activism and electing populist and progressive Democrats across the country. Democracy is not something that happens just at election time, and it's not something that happens just with one event. It's an ongoing process, and it takes a lot of committed people working together.
I hope that you will support the great work 21st Century Democrats is doing by making a contribution to their Field Organizer Fund. They understand that elections are won and lost on the ground, and they're putting the people in the field who are going to swing this election to progressives and change this country. Together we can determine the future of America.
Old Media's Decline
It's not so much a surprise that the Christian Science Monitor announced that, after a century, it would stop publishing a daily newspaper. Most people probably are surprised that the Monitor is still publishing, years after its national circulation dipped below 100,000. (It now stands at 52,000.) The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston kept the publication alive with subsidies ($12 million this past year), but it recently concluded that it could get the message out with a weekend edition and a robust website and cut the subsidy to a more manageable $4 million a year.
David Carr noted in the New York Times that Time Inc., which publishes Time magazine, Fortune, People and Sports Illustrated, announced it would cut 600 jobs. Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the county, announced it would lay off 10% of its workforce--up to 3,000 people.
The day before, the Tribune Company had declared that it would reduce the newsroom of The Los Angeles Times by 75 more people, leaving it approximately half the size it was just seven years ago.
The Star-Ledger of Newark, the 15th-largest paper in the country, which was threatened with closing, apparently will survive, but only after the editorial staff is reduced by 40%.
Two weeks ago, TV Guide, one of the famous brand names in magazines, was sold for one dollar, less than the price of a single copy, Carr noted.
(US News and World Report also announced in June that in 2009 it would cut back to publishing every other week. The Capital Times in Madison, Wis., went from daily to twice-weekly free editions with a beefed-up website. The Superior, Wis., Daily Telegram went to twice-weekly publication. When Scripps folded the Cincinnati Post at the beginning of the year, it kept the Kentucky Post online, Rick Edmonds noted at Poynter Online. Newspaper circulation nationwide continued its decline, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, with daily and Sunday circulation dropping almost 5% in September from a year earlier as readers migrate to the Internet, the Boston Globe reported.)
The Christian Science Monitor website now gets 3 million page views a month and hopes to increase that to more than 20 million a month in the next five years, Stephanie Clifford reported in the Times. Moving to a web focus will mean it can keep most of its 95-person editorial staff and its eight foreign bureaus.
The paradox of all these announcements is that newspapers and magazines do not have an audience problem — newspaper Web sites are a vital source of news, and growing — but they do have a consumer problem.
Stop and think about where you are reading this column. If you are one of the million or so people who are reading it in a newspaper that landed on your doorstop or that you picked up at the corner, you are in the minority. This same information is available to many more millions on this paper’s Web site, in RSS feeds, on hand-held devices, linked and summarized all over the Web.
Many readers ask why they should care whether the news is printed on paper or on the Internet. The answer, Carr notes, is that the paper edition is how the news is paid for. More than 90% of the newspaper industry's revenue still derives from the print product.
The difference between print dollars and digital dimes — or sometimes pennies — is being taken out of the newsrooms that supply both. And while it is indeed tough all over in this economy, consider the consequences.
New Jersey, a petri dish of corruption, will have to make do with 40 percent fewer reporters at The Star-Ledger, one of the few remaining cops on the beat. The Los Angeles Times, which toils under Hollywood’s nose, has one movie reviewer left on staff. And dozens of communities served by Gannett will have fewer reporters and editors overseeing the deeds and misdeeds of local government and businesses. ...
Print publishers are madly cutting, in part because the fourth quarter, postfinancial crisis, is going to be a miserable one. Advertising from the car industry, retail business and financial services — for years, the three sturdy legs of a stool that print once rested comfortably on — are in steep decline.
So who can still afford to pay for the phone calls that reporters have to make? USA Today was made exempt from the current rounds of cuts at Gannett but even national papers, including The New York Times, have resorted to modest staff cuts over the last year. The blogosphere has had its share of news breaks, but absent a functioning mainstream media to annotate, it could be pretty darn quiet out there.
The Progressive Populist, which publishes a twice-monthly newspaper, gets less than 1% of its revenue from this website.
Do not ask for whom the press rolls. It rolls for you. -- JMC
POLL OF POLLS
By James McCarty Yeager
Lots of people 'don't believe in polls.' They think polls are like weather forecasting, inherently deceptive and ultimately futile. Well, maybe it's that bad and maybe not. Polls are used for measuring complex systems, though it is arguable whether they are as complex as the whole earth's atmosphere, rotation, mass and seasonality. (Maybe what polls measure is more complex, since they are within the almost incomprehensible field of human action.) Even so, it is generally accepted that the closer polls are, the more likely they are to change before the final result and the less likely to reflect that final result.
Over the span of the campaign we have seen remarkably steady polls. Since the nominees were determined in June McCain has never led at all except for an outlier or two, and certainly never led the consensus of all polls and never for as long as a month. Obama has been above 50% for the last month, McCain around 45%. No single reputable national poll has shown McCain at more than 50% in more than a month.
The experts say Obama's margin is right on the tipping point for a landslide. At 6-7% you start getting huge coattails in House and Senate, and a disproportionate electoral vote lead. A 3-4% lead is really very close to just being even.
So at a steady 6% for over a month we're not poised on the brink of victory or defeat, we're poised on the brink of either winning more than 50% of the votes for the first time since Jimmy Carter won in 1976 or winning as big as Reagan beat Carter in 1980 (10%.) The most likely alternatives are the biggest victory in 32 years vs. an historic landslide, not victory vs. defeat.
But the astute have hammered home the notion that the national polls mean less than meets the eye. McCain's tally is exaggerated by the results in the south and mountain west where, with the exception of sizeable Texas, he wins big margins in small states. One way to look at it is, McCain wins in a landslide in almost all the states that hardly anybody lives in. The size of that margin and the number of states involved exaggerates his overall strength.
The weakness of white support for Obama in the south is striking, especially considering he wins whites overall; so his margins in other states must be huge to overcome the unprecedented deficit in the south, where only George McGovern was more unpopular among whites than Obama is today. The most recent tightening in the national polls seems to be attributable to Republicans coming home from undecided land, and doing so in the south in particular.
Today, one week from what may be the second most important election of the last sixty years (less than 1948 but more than 1968,) the numbers show Obama/Biden reaching 270 electoral votes by counting only states in which they are above 50% (meaning even if all the undecideds voted McCain/Palin it would not affect Dem victory.) The lowest margin in any of the states Dems need to win to reach 270 is 8.9%, three times the margin of error.
Overall, those who calculate these things (www.fivethirtyeight.com) say Obama has a 96.29% chance of election, whereas averaging the two leading gambling sites puts it at 87%.
MSNBC's numbers guru was saying Monday night the week before the election that four states whose polls close at 7PM (all times Eastern) will give a pretty good clue to the rest of the evening. They are Indiana, Virginia, Kentucky and Georgia. (While South Carolina and Vermont close then, they are considered less predictive.ÊSeven-eighths of Florida also closes at 7PM but results are never revealed until the other eighth close at 8PM.) Closing at 7:30PM are Ohio, North Carolina and West Virginia.
There is a potential for a really short night and the shorter the better for the Dem squad.
• If by 8PM the networks and wire services are calling IN for Obama, it's a landslide. If by 8PM they are calling either the KY or GA Senate races Dem, it's a landslide.
• If they haven't called VA for Obama by 8PM, it's going to take a while to know anything.
• If FL, OH or WV is called Obama by 9PM, it's a landslide.
• If at 9PM it is still too close to call in IN, and none of NC, KY or GA Senate seats have gone Dem, it could be a long night before the eventual Obama victory.
So pretty much we could know if it's lots of good news by 8PM, and we could know we won't know for a while by 9PM, which would be not-so-good-but-not-fatal news. In any case, we should know almost everything there is to know by 11PM except the fate of Prop 8 in CA.
Adjust your rate of popcorn ingestion while viewing accordingly.
(Here's a few more cheery words on a similar subject by another author.)
Bankers Divert Bailout to Bonuses
(Updated 6:02 p.m.)
Executives at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70 bln, a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian reported.
Staff at six banks, including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, are in line to pick up the payouts despite being the beneficiaries of a $700 bln bail-out from the US government that has already prompted criticism. The government's cash has been poured in on the condition that excessive executive pay would be curbed. ...
John Dunbar of the Associated Press reports that bankers might use the bailout money to buy other banks, pay dividends, give employees a raise and executives a bonus, or just sit on it.
Insurance companies now want a piece; maybe automakers, too, even though Congress has approved $25 billion in low-interest loans for them.
Three weeks after becoming law, and with the first dollar of the $700 billion yet to go out, officials are just beginning to talk about helping a few strapped homeowners keep the foreclosure wolf from the door.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy, is pressing his efforts to head off an avalanche of Wall Street bailout bonuses. Recent reports indicate bonuses and other compensation packages paid by financially troubled firms receiving government assistance could reach into the tens of billions of dollars.
He released a letter sent to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, asking that the Full Committee move quickly to investigate how bailout funds are being spent by the financial service companies participating in Treasury’s capital purchase program.
“It would be an affront to taxpayers and shareholders alike if Wall Street executives cashed in on the bailout. We must prevent the diverted directly or indirectly of bailout funds to bonuses and exorbitant compensation packages,” he said. ...
UPDATE: Bloomberg reported that five straight quarters of losses and a 70 percent slide in its stock this year haven't stopped Merrill Lynch & Co. from allocating about $6.7 billion to pay bonuses.
Georgia Illegally Purges 50,000
CNN reports that 50,000 voters in Georgia have been flagged as mismatches in the state voter database, and that thousands of them may not have their votes counted this year. Kyla Berry is one of these voters:
The letter, which was dated October 2, gave her a week from the time it was dated to prove her citizenship. There was a problem, though -- the letter was postmarked October 9.
"It was the most bizarre thing. I immediately called my mother and asked her to send me my birth certificate, and then I was like, 'It's too late, apparently,' " Berry said.
Berry is one of more than 50,000 registered Georgia voters who have been "flagged" because of a computer mismatch in their personal identification information. At least 4,500 of those people are having their citizenship questioned and the burden is on them to prove eligibility to vote.
A Serwer at Tapped notes:
It is, of course, illegal to purge voters from the rolls within 90 days of an election, so there's no reason why Berry should have been receiving a letter on Oct. 2 telling her to prove her citizenship. Republican Secretary of State Karen Handel says this isn't "voter suppression" but that's absurd. Not only is it voter suppression, it's blatantly illegal. Moreover, Georgia has been using the Social Security Administration database to match voter information -- essentially the most flawed method they could possibly use. In 2007, the SSA admitted that of 2.6 million voter registration records submitted to the SSA, nearly half resulted in a failed match.
UPDATE: Georgians whose eligibility to vote has been questioned must be allowed to cast a ballot in the Nov. 4 election, a panel of federal judges ruled Monday. The three-judge court finds that Georgia's purge cannot be implemented until the Department of Justice grants preclearance. The court allows these voters to cast provisional ballots, which Rick Hasen of Election Law Blog says "looks like a good political compromise, but I am not sure it is right on the law of preclearance."
And the Purge Goes On ...
The surprise Georgia purge is the sort of thing that is going on across the US. The Brennan Center for Justice has noted that 39 states and the District of Columbia reported purging more than 13 million voters from registration rolls between 2004 and 2006. Much of that purging was necessary and accurately done to keep voter rolls up to date, but election officials strike voters from the rolls through a process that is shrouded in secrecy, prone to error, and vulnerable to manipulation for partisan gain.
In 2004, for example, Florida planned to remove 48,000 “suspected felons” from its voter rolls. Many of those identified were in fact eligible to vote. The flawed process generated a list of 22,000 African Americans to be purged, but only 61 voters with Hispanic surnames, notwithstanding Florida’s sizable Hispanic population. Under pressure from voting rights groups, Florida ordered officials to stop using the purge list. Although this purge was uncovered and mostly stopped before it was completed, other improper purges may go undetected and unremedied.
In a few examples from this year:
• In Mississippi earlier this year, a local election official discovered that another official had wrongly purged 10,000 voters from her home computer just a week before the presidential primary.
• In Muscogee, Georgia, this year, a county official purged 700 people from the voter lists, supposedly because they were ineligible to vote due to criminal convictions. The list included people who had never even received a parking ticket.
• In Louisiana, including areas hit hard by hurricanes, officials purged approximately 21,000 voters, ostensibly for registering to vote in another state, without sufficient voter protections.
See the Brennan Center's ongoing blog on voter suppression incidents, including voter intimidation and deceptive practices reported in New Mexico, California, Travis County, Texas, Madison County, N.C., and Kern County, Calif.
Obama as His Friends Know Him
Schoolfriends remember his love for comic books, basketball and teasing the girls. A former boss recalls him as a young man running a community project in Chicago. A fellow senator remembers being beaten by him at poker. Gifted student, quiet persuader, charismatic speaker, loyal friend ... Britain's Observer speaks to the people who knew Barack Obama best, revealing an intimate, often touching, portrait of a man on the brink of greatness.
Pa. GOP is Willing to Go There
The right hand claims it doesn't know what the righter hand is doing.
Pennsylvania Republicans are disavowing an e-mail sent to Jewish voters by a Republican consultant that likens a vote for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to events that led up to the Holocaust, the Associated Press reports.
"Jewish Americans cannot afford to make the wrong decision on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008," the e-mail reads. "Many of our ancestors ignored the warning signs in the 1930s and 1940s and made a tragic mistake. Let's not make a similar one this year!"
A copy of the e-mail, provided by Democratic officials, says it was "Paid for by the Republican Federal Committee of PA - Victory 2008." State GOP officials disavowed the e-mail and said the strategist who helped draft it had been fired. Bryan Rudnick, who was employed a few weeks ago by the party to reach out to Jewish voters, confirmed to the Associated Press that he no longer works for the party but he said he had authorization from party officials to send the email.
The email was signed by several prominent McCain supporters in the state: Mitchell L. Morgan, a top fund-raiser; Hon. Sandra Schwartz Newman, a member of Mr. McCain’s national task-force monitoring Election Day voting, and I. Michael Coslov, a steel industry executive, the New York Times reported.
Hilzoy at WashingtonMonthly.com comments:
We should never forget what the Nazis actually did, or what the Pennsylvania Republican Party has seen fit to invoke so lightly; and we should not dishonor those who were murdered by using them to score cheap political points.
Unfortunately this seems to fit a pattern. Steve Benen of WashingtonMonthly noted, "This is the same Pennsylvania Republican Party that recently issued a press release describing Obama as "a terrorist's best friend," and the same Pennsylvania Republican Party that apparently was involved in promoting the Ashley Todd hoax.
Greg Sargent of TPM reported that John McCain's Pennsylvania communications director told reporters in the state an incendiary version of the hoax story about the attack on a McCain volunteer well before the facts of the case were known or established -- and even told reporters outright that the "B" carved into the victim's cheek stood for "Barack," according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions.
If the hoax perpetrator's story had not fallen apart so quickly, the campaign could have taken an ugly turn. And at least some of McCain's people were willing to go there.
David Kurtz of TPM noted that the McCain spokesperson doing the distancing from the Holocaust email on Saturday was none other than Peter Feldman. That's the same guy who on Thursday, the day the email went out, was pushing the mugging hoax to reporters as a politically motivated attack by a black Obama supporter, playing to the worst of white fears and racial prejudices.
Speaking of the email to Jewish voters and without any apparent hint of irony, Feldman told the AP Saturday night that McCain "rejects politics that degrade our civics."
White House Joins GOP Voter Suppression Effort
David Kurtz wrote at TPM: "You might think the US attorneys scandal would be enough to make the White House steer clear of voter fraud bamboozlement in the very next election. You'd be wrong."
The Washington Post reports that President Bush has asked DOJ to look into a request by House Republican leader John Boehner that would force Ohio's Secretary of State to provide local election officials with information on 200,000 newly registered voters who have mismatched registration data. That could make it possible for Republicans to issue challenges to many of these voters, perhaps forcing them to cast provisional ballots.
Last week the US Supreme Court ruled that Ohio Republicans, who were seeking to force the Secretary of State, Democrat Jennifer Brunner, to provide the information on mismatches to local officials, did not have standing to bring the case.
Court tosses Wis. Voter Suppression Suit
A state district judge in Madison, Wis., dismissed Wisconsin Attorney Gen. J.B. Van Hollen's lawsuit against the state elections board Thursday, saying he had not shown any violations of state or federal law, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Van Hollen, an ambitious Republican who wanted to force local clerks to perform laborious cross-checks of new voter registrations and drivers license records, according to TalkLeft, said he would promptly appeal the decision, but a decision by an appeals court before the Nov. 4 election appears unlikely.
Indiana GOP Fails to Shut Down Early Vote
The Indiana Supreme Court declined to approve a bid by the GOP to shut down early voting centers in Democratic strongholds of a key county. A lower court had rejected the GOP effort earlier this week, Zachary Roth noted at TPM. The Supreme Court ruled Friday that the case had to to be heard by an appeals court first, rather than going straight to the state's high court as the Republican plaintiffs wanted, so the Supreme Court ruling effectively ensures that voting will continue.
Lake County Republicans had sued to have the centers shut down, on the grounds that the law required a unanimous vote of the county election board to set up early voting centers. (The Lake County board had voted 3-2 to open them.)
Without the early voting centers in the northern Lake County cities of Hammond, Gary and East Chicago, residents of those cities would have had to travel over an hour to vote early in the county seat of Crown Point, in the southern part of the county. Barack Obama needs a strong turnout in northern Lake County if he's to have a chance of winning Indiana, a state where he's been running almost even with John McCain.
The centers have already been open for several weeks, and the court ruled that valid votes already cast will count.
GOP Intimidating N.M. Latino Voters?
New Mexico Republicans last week claimed to have proof that 28 people voted fraudulently in the June Democratic primary. The party released the names of 10 people, almost all of whom are Hispanic. Zachary Roth of TPM reported that Pat Rogers, a lawyer and state committeeman for the Republican Party, who in the past worked closely with the party to pressure then-US Attorney David Iglesias to pursue bogus voter-fraud cases, apparently has worked with a private investigator who has visited the homes of minority voters, intimidating and confusing them about their right to vote in the general election.
Roth reported that Guadalupe Bojorquez, who works in law enforcement, told TPM that her mother, Dora Escobedo, was one of the 10 voters whose names were released by the GOP as fraudulently voting. After this happened, she said, her mother (with the help of ACORN) confirmed with the county clerk that she is indeed eligible to vote, and had been when she voted in June.
On Wednesday, Bojorquez said her mother received a visit from a man who asked for her personal ID in reference to her eligibility to vote and asked what she would do if immigration authorities contacted. She wouldn't let him in her house, but the man waited there until her son showed up. Then Escobedo called Bojorquez and put her on the phone with the man, who asked for Escobedo's personal information and identified himself as Al Romero.
Roth also reported that a man who identified himself as Al Romero showed up at Jenais Griego's house looking for Emily Garcia, her grandmother, who also was on the list of "fraudulent voters." As with Escobedo, ACORN already had contacted Garcia and verified that she was a legitimate voter. "So when Romero asked Griego whether Garcia intended to vote, Griego replied that she did. At that point, said Griego, Romero became 'angry' and 'upset,' and left abruptly."
A. Serwer of Tapped also talked with Bojorquez and noted that Escobedo, who is Mexican-American, became a citizen last spring.
Bojorquez says her mother was really shaken up by the incident.
“About an hour later I left work and went over to her house and she was still crying. She couldn’t understand why she worked so hard to become a citizen to be able to vote, and then she was going through all of this.”
Bojorquez told Roth that the intimidation didn't work, as her mother already has voted in the general election by absentee ballot--which she was eligible to cast because she has trouble walking.
The New Mexico Independent reported that Project Vote, which works with ACORN to register voters, has called on US Attorney Gregory J. Fouratt to investigate the apparent violations of the Voting Rights Act. In a letter, Project Vote said the private investigator’s visits constitute a form of “intimidation and suppression” that violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“We request that you conduct an immediate investigation into the attempts by the Republican Party of New Mexico to intimidate minority, first-time voters into not exercising their right to vote,” the letter said.
Death Threat, Vandalism Hit ACORN offices after McCain comments
Greg Gordon at McClatchy Newspapers reports:
An ACORN community organizer received a death threat and the liberal activist group's Boston and Seattle offices were vandalized Thursday, reflecting mounting tensions over its role in registering 1.3 million mostly poor and minority Americans to vote next month. ...
A female staffer in Providence, R.I., got a threatening call from someone who said words to the effect of "We know you get off work at 9," then uttered racial epithets ...
Separately, vandals broke into the group's Boston and Seattle offices and stole computers, [ACORN spokesman Brian] Kettenring said.
The incidents came the day after McCain charged in the final presidential debate that ACORN's voter-registration drive "may be perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history" and may be "destroying the fabric of democracy."
McCain's comments provoked a response from ACORN.
"I would not say that Senator McCain is inciting violence," Kettenring said, "but I would say that his statements about the role of this manufactured scandal were totally outlandish. We would call on Senator McCain to tamp down the fringe elements in his party."
Since McCain's remarks, ACORN's 87 offices across the country have received hundreds of hostile e-mails, many of them containing racial slurs, Kettenring said. "We believe that these are specifically McCain supporters" sending the messages, he said.
If only Barack Obama had agreed to hold more town hall meetings, John McCain would not have had to resort to such tactics.
DoJ Rejoins GOP Voter Suppression Effort
Steve Benen of WashingtonMonthly.com noted that the FBI is investigating whether the community activist group ACORN helped foster voter registration fraud around the nation before the presidential election.
A senior law enforcement official confirmed the investigation to The Associated Press. A second senior law enforcement official says the FBI was looking at results of inquiries in several states, including a raid on ACORN's office in Las Vegas, for any evidence of a coordinated national effort.
The report reminded Benen of this piece that ran in the Wall Street Journal's conservative editorial page on Nov. 3, 2006, a few days before the mid-term elections:
[A]llegations of fraud have tainted Acorn voter drives across the country.... The good news for anyone who cares about voter integrity is that the Justice Department finally seems poised to connect these dots instead of dismissing such revelations as the work of a few yahoos.
Benen noted that "the Justice Department has always had standing policy of avoiding election law prosecutions shortly before voters head to the polls, but just days in advance of the midterm elections two years ago, as part of the politicization of the Justice Department, Bradley Schlozman apparently rushed ACORN indictments for maximum political benefit to Republicans."
The Bush administration's politicized Justice Department pulled a scam, fired US Attorneys who refused to go along, got caught and suffered through a massive scandal that forced an Attorney General to resign in disgrace. Now, Benen said, the DoJ "appears to be pulling the exact same scam just two years later."
As Josh Marshall put it, "This is a big deal. It may be their last gasp to use the DOJ to help mitigate the scale of Republican defeat on November 4th."
D-Day commented: "The Justice Department is using its law enforcement arm to stir up doubt about a legitimate community organization as a means to delegitimize this election. This is designed to sap voter confidence in the process. It's also designed to harass and intimidate low-income and minority voters.... There should be outrage at this maneuver, a federal attempt to step into the election process and a complete waste of taxpayer dollars."
ACORN helped to register 1.3 million voters in 21 states this past year, the Washington Post reported. Bertha Lewis, interim chief organizer, said ACORN routinely notifies local officials of incomplete or suspicious registration cards, Lewis said. Local election officials sometimes use those cards to "come back weeks or months later and accuse us of deliberately turning in phony cards," she said.
Lewis said that "groups threatened by our historic success" have gone after ACORN because of whom the group registers: As many as 70% of the new voters are minorities, and half are younger than 30.
UPDATE: Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey and FBI Director Robert Mueller expressing his "shock and disappointment" to hear that the FBI was publicizing an investigation of "ACORN, a longstanding and well regarded organization that fights for the poor and working class" right before the election. He cites the US Attorneys scandal, in which several U.S. attorneys were fired for not pursuing voter fraud cases with sufficient aggressiveness, as well as the fact that John McCain had raised the ACORN issue in last night's debate.
One of the US Attorneys who was fired for failing to bring bogus vote fraud indictments against Democrats or time other election-eve indictments, David Iglesias, said, "I'm astounded that this issue is being trotted out again. Based on what I saw in 2004 and 2006, it's a scare tactic."
What to Expect in the Final Days
Hunter S. Thompson was right when he frequently compared politics to football … with more brutality. This is the real blood sport. We’re in the 4th quarter and Obama’s up, but not by enough to trigger a coach-drenching Gatorade attack. We must remember that a neocon, faced with the knowledge that a loss is likely, becomes the intellectual equivalent of a cornered, rabid animal. They will do absolutely anything to win.
Here’s what you should expect to see as this campaign comes to its close:
• Increased racism and xenophobia. It’s pretty much all they have left and, heck, it may just work. Expect to see dog-whistle politics taken to an un-dreamt of level.
• More attacks on Obama’s character, especially since he’s a pal of terrorists (the plural there is important).
• An attempt to disenfranchise voters that will make 2004 look like a pretty honest city council election.
• An hysterical push from the Right to change the subject from the Economy (which will enjoy a modest upsurge if the Dow is your guide) to ACORN.
• A continued lockdown on Palin and the press. “Nu-uh I shore didn’t abuse my power as Governor or violate any ethics laws! You betcha,” only works for so long when the first conclusion of the Troopergate report is that, well gosh-you-betcha, she did exactly that.
• A continued push from the media to keep this thing close enough to be interesting.
• John McCain attempting to capitalize on his sort-of correction of a woman who asserted that Obama was “an Arab.” I haven’t heard it noted yet that McCain had to do exactly what he did. This man is no rookie: he recognized danger and knew that there is opportunity in every danger. He took the mic from the woman and called Obama “decent.” He has now immunized himself against charges that he is inciting violence or pushing false, racist stories about Obama. He is, of course, but look at the tape. He corrected her. End of story for the MSM
• A tightening of the race—barring a game-changer—resulting from the tactics of the ugliest campaign since the 60’s. Am I referencing US Rep. John Lewis? You betcha! (Charles Cullen)
Political Correctness at National Review
Christopher Buckley outraged readers of National Review, the longtime Bible of conservatives (founded by his father, the late William F. Buckley), when the younger Buckley endorsed Barack Obama (not in the pages of the National Review, but in Tina Brown's Daily Beast website on Oct. 10). Since then, he wrote today, mail flooding into National Review Online has run about 700-to-1 against Buckley's heresy.
I had gone out of my way in my Beast endorsement to say that I was not doing it in the pages of National Review, where I write the back-page column, because of the experience of my colleague, the lovely Kathleen Parker. Kathleen had written in NRO that she felt Sarah Palin was an embarrassment. (Hardly an alarmist view.) This brought 12,000 livid emails, among them a real charmer suggesting that Kathleen’s mother ought to have aborted her and tossed the fetus into a dumpster. I didn’t want to put NR in an awkward position.
There was one bright spot, he noted:
To those who wrote me to demand, 'Cancel my subscription,' I was able to quote the title of my father’s last book, a delicious compendium of his NR 'Notes and Asides': Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription.
Within hours of my endorsement appearing in The Daily Beast it became clear that National Review had a serious problem on its hands. So the next morning, I thought the only decent thing to do would be to offer to resign my column there. This offer was accepted—rather briskly!—by Rich Lowry, NR’s editor, and its publisher, the superb and able and fine Jack Fowler. I retain the fondest feelings for the magazine that my father founded, but I will admit to a certain sadness that an act of publishing a reasoned argument for the opposition should result in acrimony and disavowal.
My father in his day endorsed a number of liberal Democrats for high office, including Allard K. Lowenstein and Joe Lieberman. One of his closest friends on earth was John Kenneth Galbraith. In 1969, Pup wrote a widely-remarked upon column saying that it was time America had a black president. (I hasten to aver here that I did not endorse Senator Obama because he is black. Surely voting for someone on that basis is as racist as not voting for him for the same reason.)
My point, simply, is that William F. Buckley held to rigorous standards, and if those were met by members of the other side rather than by his own camp, he said as much. My father was also unpredictable, which tends to keep things fresh and lively and on-their-feet. He came out for legalization of drugs once he decided that the war on drugs was largely counterproductive. Hardly a conservative position. Finally, and hardly least, he was fun. God, he was fun. He liked to mix it up.
So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me. ...
I've never been a big fan of the National Review, but it used to have more sense. In fact, a former publisher, Wick Allison, also has endorsed Obama. Allison, now editor in chief of D Magazine, concludes, "As a cause, conservatism may be dead. But as a stance, as a way of making judgments in a complex and difficult world, I believe it is very much alive in the instincts and predispositions of a liberal named Barack Obama."
(From Meteor Blades, DailyKos):
National Debt When Jimmy Carter arrived at the White House:
Added during Carter's four years: $337 billion.
Added during Ronald Reagan's eight years: $1.6 trillion.
Added during George H. W. Bush's four years: $1.6 trillion.
Added during Bill Clinton's eight years: $1.5 trillion.
Added during George W. Bush's seven years, nine months: $4.5 trillion.
Portion of the $9.5 trillion added to the national debt during the past 31 years and seven months that came during Republican presidencies: $7.7 trillion.
Percentage of that $7.7 trillion added during George W. Bush's two terms: 58%.
Could somebody explain again what "fiscal conservative" means?
It wasn't Fannie and Freddie and It Wasn't Minority Homebuyers that Broke the Economy
As the economy worsens and Election Day approaches, a conservative campaign that blames the global financial crisis on a government push to make housing more affordable to lower-class Americans has taken off on talk radio and e-mail.
Commentators say that's what triggered the stock market meltdown and the freeze on credit. They've specifically targeted the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the federal government seized on Sept. 6, contending that lending to poor and minority Americans caused Fannie's and Freddie's financial problems.
Federal housing data reveal that the charges aren't true, and that the private sector, not the government or government-backed companies, was behind the soaring subprime lending at the core of the crisis. ...
Conservative critics claimed the Clinton administration pushed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make home ownership more available to riskier borrowers with little concern for their ability to pay the mortgages. "Loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster," said Neil Cavuto of Fox News.
But Goldstein and Hall noted that Fannie, the Federal National Mortgage Association, and Freddie, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., don't lend money to minorities or any other individual. They purchase loans from the private lenders who actually underwrite the loans.
To be sure, encouraging lower-income Americans to become homeowners gave unsophisticated borrowers and unscrupulous lenders and mortgage brokers more chances to turn dreams of homeownership [into] nightmares.
But these loans, and those to low- and moderate-income families represent a small portion of overall lending. And at the height of the housing boom in 2005 and 2006, Republicans and their party's standard bearer, President Bush, didn't criticize any sort of lending, frequently boasting that they were presiding over the highest-ever rates of U.S. homeownership.
Conservative critics also blame the subprime lending mess on the Community Reinvestment Act, which was enacted in 1977 to reverse years of redlining and other restrictive banking practices that locked the poor, and especially minorities, out of homeownership. The CRA requires federally regulated and insured financial institutions to show that they're lending and investing in their communities.
Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote that the CRA "led to tremendous pressure on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — who in turn pressured banks and other lenders — to extend mortgages to people who were borrowing over their heads. That's called subprime lending. It lies at the root of our current calamity."
Goldstein and Hall noted that Fannie and Freddie didn't pressure lenders to sell them more loans; they struggled to keep pace with their private sector competitors.
What's more, only commercial banks and thrifts must follow CRA rules. The investment banks don't, nor did the now-bankrupt non-bank lenders such as New Century Financial Corp. and Ameriquest that underwrote most of the subprime loans.
These private non-bank lenders enjoyed a regulatory gap, allowing them to be regulated by 50 different state banking supervisors instead of the federal government. And mortgage brokers, who also weren't subject to federal regulation or the CRA, originated most of the subprime loans.
In a speech last March, Janet Yellen, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, debunked the notion that the push for affordable housing created today's problems.
"Most of the loans made by depository institutions examined under the CRA have not been higher-priced loans," she said. "The CRA has increased the volume of responsible lending to low- and moderate-income households."
Read the whole thing.
(h/t Mark Thoma)
Health Reform Needed Now
The longer we delay fixing the health care system -- reigning in costs, covering everyone, and fairly sharing risk -- the harder it will be to reform the system at all, J Ro notes at MyDD.com. And it's not just because America is currently facing, in the words of just about everyone, "the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression." As David Lightman and Kevin G. Hall point out today in McClatchy Newspapers, the simple demographics will be against us if we wait:
Beginning in 2011, the first wave of baby boomers - Americans born between 1946 and 1964 - will reach official retirement age. From that point forward, the federal government's finances will be strained, as more and more Americans retire expecting a shrinking number of active workers to pay their promised health and pension benefits.
To put it more starkly: Medicare's trustees project the hospital insurance fund will become insolvent in about 10 years, as its expenditures grow at a 7.4 percent annual rate. The government, the trustees said, will need $342 billion to cover insurance costs during that period.
"The longer action on reforming health care and Social Security is delayed, the more painful and difficult the choices will become," said a Government Accountability Office study in June. "The federal government faces increasing pressures, yet a shrinking window of opportunity for phasing in adjustments."
Medicare, the report said, "represents a much larger, faster-growing and more immediate problem than Social Security."
A series of factors are driving up Medicare costs. According to the GAO and the trustees, medical technology is often overused; the health care market doesn't operate on a supply-and-demand basis as people often don't shop for the lowest price; and chronic health problems - such as obesity or substance abuse - require expensive, lengthy treatment.
J Ro, who works for Health Care for America Now, adds,
"Medicare (and similarly, Medicaid) face such staggering budget shortfalls to a large extent as a consequence of America's private, patchwork health care system. Preventative care is less costly in the long run, yet, because the health insurance industry has been so deregulated as to allow them to deny care at every opportunity and price care out of the reach of millions, America has 47 million uninsured and millions more under-insured. This means millions of Americans don't see their doctor as regularly as they should to catch medical problems early before they become costly emergencies. And, as the economy sinks, people are cutting back on care, making the problem worse. ...
Simply getting everybody covered adequately would be a huge step forward. A guarantee of a certain level of care, no matter if you're on private or public insurance plans, would make sure people receive the care they need throughout their life, lowering overall costs. A subsidized public insurance plan that would take everybody would go a long way towards eliminating the number of people in America without insurance. And regulating all insurance plans - public and private - to make sure they cover pre-existing conditions and can't dump "unprofitable" customers would ensure risk is shared fairly, as it is meant to be.
This, of course, is Health Care for America Now's vision, shared by 83 Members of Congress, including Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
Contrast that with the conservative vision, championed by John McCain:
• Less regulation on insurance companies to do away with state based insurance, allowing companies to set up shop in the states with the least regulation and forcing Americans to shop on their own for health insurance.
• Taxing your employee health benefits, doing away with the employer-based system
• Funding a paltry tax credit (which goes straight to the insurance industry) with cuts to Medicare and Medicaid
The most efficient way to provide health care is by expanding Medicare to cover everybody, which we favor. But doing so would put private health insurance industry out of business, which Obama apparently does not think is possible. See Health Care for America Now, a national grassroots campaign organizing millions of Americans to win affordable health care for all. It includes community organizers, nurses, doctors, small business owners, faith-based groups, organizations of people of color, and seniors who believe it's time we had an American solution that provides quality, affordable health care for everyone.
Big Media Won't Ackowledge Obama's Lead:
Chris Bowers of OpenLeft.com notes how the Washington Post rates state races:
Obama +13.8%: Battleground state (PA)
Obama +10.4%: Battleground state (NH)
Obama +10.0%: Battleground state (NJ)
Obama +9.5%: Battleground state (IA)
Obama +9.0%: Battleground state (OR)
Obama +8.2%: Battleground state (MN)
Obama +8.2%: Battleground state (MI)
Obama +8.8%: Battleground state (WI)
Obama +7.3%: Battleground state (NM)
McCain +6.8%: Leaning Republican (GA)
Obama +5.1%: Battleground state (VA)
Obama +4.0%: Battleground state (CO)
McCain +3.8%: Leaning Republican (IN)
Obama +3.5%: Battleground state (OH)
Obama +3.1%: Battleground state (FL)
Obama +3.0%: Battleground state (NV)
McCain +2.2%: Leaning Republican (WV)
That is, every state in which McCain has a lead, even if it's just 2.2%, is rated "leaning Republican." Every state in which Obama has the lead, even if it's over 10%, is a "battleground".
Bowers also recently noticed:
Here are the latest electoral projections from independent, small media electoral forecasting websites:
Election Projection: Obama 364-174
Electoral-Vote.com: Obama 349, McCain 174, 15 tied
Fivethirtyeight: Obama 347.6-190.4 McCain
Pollster.com: Obama 320, McCain 158, Toss-up 60
Real Clear Politics: Obama 277, McCain 158, Toss-up 103
There are many more, but I'll stop there. The key point is that all small media election projection websites, including the Republican Election Projection and Real Clear Politics, have Obama over 270 electoral votes. This is because polls now objectively show that Obama is well over 270 electoral votes. However, none of the big, and so-called liberal, media websites show Obama over 270 right now. Every single one is even more favorable to McCain than Real Clear Politics:
MSNBC: Obama 264-174 McCain
CNN: Obama 264-174 McCain
New York Times: Obama 260-200 McCain
None of these websites can admit what is patently obvious to even Republican poll watchers right now: Obama is over 270 outside the margin of error. The inability of these big media sites to simply admit reality--reality that is evident in their own reporting about McCain playing from well behind right now--is pathetic.
Maybe they are afraid of being accused of pro-Obama bias (probably). Maybe they are just biased toward McCain (possibly). Maybe they just suck at electoral forecasting (definitely). Maybe they are invested in a close campaign (absolutely). Whatever it is, you would be well served to never, ever listen to big media for election forecasts and horserace information.
They are invested in the horserace for ratings purposes, and they are certainly fearful of being accused of pro-Obama bias. So instead of providing an accurate picture for their readers, they misinform them.
I mean, Washington Post really thinks New Jersey is a battleground state? Really?
How Far Out of Touch is McCain?
Hilzoy at WashingtonMonthly.com noted this, from Politico:
"As part of a plan to reinvigorate his flagging campaign, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is considering additional economic measures aimed directly at the middle class that are likely to be rolled out this week, campaign officials said.
Among the measures being considered are tax cuts -- perhaps temporary -- for capital gains and dividends, the officials said."
"Because what everyone is really worried about right now is how they'll manage to pay the taxes on their massive capital gains," Hilzoy commented.
Then, as Brad DeLong explained, the reporting itself is flawed: "Capital gains and dividend tax cuts are simply not 'economic measures aimed directly at the middle class': the middle class doesn't collect capital gains, or dividends, in any material amount."
Steve Benen of WashingtonMonthly.com adds, "is it me or is the McCain campaign deliberately trying to reinforce the 'erratic' meme the Obama campaign has been pushing? Since the financial crisis began in earnest, consider just how many responses McCain has offered the public: he was for and against the AIG bailout on successive days; he wanted to see Chris Cox fired; he wanted a commission to study what had gone wrong; he pretended to 'suspend' his campaign; he said earmarks are the real problem; he unveiled a 'Homeowner Resurgence Plan.' ..."
Anti-War Nuns Branded as Terrorists
Sisters Carol Gilbert and Ardeth Platte have been “secretly branded by Maryland State Police as terrorists and placed on a national watch list” due to their participation in anti-war protest activities, the Washington Times reported. The Dominican nuns were added to the list after Maryland state police spied on them:
“This term terrorist is a really serious accusation,” Sister Ardeth, a nun for 54 years, told The Washington Times on Thursday in the first interview that the women have given since being informed they were among 53 people added to a terrorist watch list in conjunction with an extensive Maryland surveillance effort of antiwar activists.
“There is no way that we ever want to be identified as terrorists. We are nonviolent. We are faith-based,” she said. […] “Democracy is built on these elements on being able to speak out to speak what we believe is truth,” Sister Carol said.
The nuns said they were not involved in the protests that state police say they targeted. The spying occurred during the administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican. David Rocah, an attorney for the ACLU, which is representing the nuns, has asked Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, to force state police to release copies of the files and allow attorneys to be present during a review.
As a commenter at ThinkProgress.org noted, "Look out, they have rulers!!!
McCain's Health 'Reform' Scam Explained
Sam Cox, a former health insurance actuary and father of Time Swampland blogger Ana Marie Cox, does a pretty good job of explaining how stupid John McCain's health plan is.
Boiling it down: McCain's proposal to give a tax credit of $2,500 to individuals or $5,000 to families to buy private insurance appears to be a good deal for people who already have insurance, which costs an average of $12,000 for a family of four. But insurance costs are escalating faster than overall price inflation, so unless the tax credits are indexed to heath care costs, the advantage will disappear in a few years. And McCain's proposal says nothing about indexing.
Worse, it likely will cause more employers to drop their health coverage:
"Only about 60% of employers provide health care coverage. McCain's program removes the incentive for employers to provide it so I expect a lot of them will stop providing it. More Americans will be on their own, those with preexisting conditions will not get insurance. And it provides no incentive for employers to start covering employees."
And McCain plans to deregulate health insurance, which will make shopping for insurance a nightmare.
"Now the states regulate it and provide consumer protection, solvency and other regulations. McCain says he will deregulate as 'we have done over the last decade in banking.' We see now how that turned out. It will be a huge mess."
"There is no reason to believe McCain's propoals will solve the problems of rising health costs or lack of coverage. Indeed, I think it will aggrevate these serious problems."
Also, McCain proposes to pay for the $1.3 trillion the rebates would cost with cuts in Medicare and Medicaid health care for seniors and the poor.
Cindy McCain Wades in the Gutter
Cindy McCain played the military mama card yesterday, lashing out at Obama for opposing a war spending bill last year.
"The day that Senator Obama cast a vote not to fund my son when he was serving sent a cold chill through my body, let me tell you," she told a Pennsylvania crowd before introducing her husband and Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin.
"I would suggest Senator Obama change shoes with me for just one day. I suggest he take a day and go watch our men and women deploying," she also said, to boisterous cheers from the campaign.
The sleazy claim already has been debunked, but as Greg Sargent and Eric Kleefeld noted at TalkingPointsMemo.com:
"If Obama's vote against that supplemental [appropriation] can be said to constitute a vote not to fund Cindy's son, as she put it, McCain, too, can be said to have voted to defund his own son.
"McCain, of course, also opposed an Iraq troop funding bill in 2007 -- the one that did include a withdrawal timetable -- and voted against passage of the bill in the Senate. ...
"In reality, of course, neither man supported "defunding" the troops. The goal of Obama's vote was to impose a withdrawal timetable, and the goal of McCain's vote was to oppose one. Not that reality matters, of course."
Steve Benen wonders at WashingtonMonthly.com:
[D]oes this mean Cindy McCain is fair game for criticism? For the most part, candidates' spouses are supposed to off limits from political attacks. But this week Cindy McCain seems intent on entering the fray, and spreading some pretty sleazy and shameful lies.
So, does this put Mrs. McCain's controversies on the table? If she's going to be a partisan hack, lying to voters, should she be subject to pushback, just like other partisan hacks?
FYI, there's plenty of stuff out there on Cindy McCain's personal problems, if she wants to go there. And it isn't as if the right wing has laid off Michelle Obama.
McCain Forgets His Own 'Air Raid' Slurs
In August 2007, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) remarked that the war in Afghanistan “requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians.” Last night on Hannity and Colmes, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called on Obama to “retract that statement,” saying, “that’s so insulting to the men and women who are serving in the military.”
But ThinkProgress.org noted that McCain made virtually identical remarks about the US military’s conduct in Kosovo during his 2000 presidential bid:
MCCAIN: In the most obscene chapter in recent American history is the conduct of the Kosovo conflict when the president of the United States refused to prepare for ground operations, refused to have air power used effectively because he wanted them flying — he had them flying at 15,000 feet where they killed innocent civilians because they were dropping bombs from such — in high altitude.
(10/8/08, updated 10/9/08)
McCain Rallies Get Uglier
Fox News’ political reporter Carl Cameron is on the trail with John McCain. Reporting from a live McCain rally this evening, he said:
You’ll hear the booing behind me. In recent days, when Barack Obama’s name has been mentioned, it has gone from boos and hissing to actual chants and calls of traitor, criminal, and even terrorist.
The McCain campaign says they don’t condone it, they don’t want to see it happen, but it’s happening more and more every day.
ThinkProgress.org notes: "The crowd reaction may have something to do with the frequent charges from the McCain campaign that Obama 'pals around with terrorists.'"
Whipping crowds into mobs is fun, but while Obama presumably is well-protected by the Secret Service, it is only a matter of time before a frothing McCain/Palin supporter, frustrated at Obama's rise in the polls, decides to take it out on an unguarded Obama supporter.
It's already happened in London, England, where a man was shot three times on a London street for wearing a Barack Obama t-shirt.
Update: Joe Biden challenges Sarah Palin to condemn the ugly slurs her supporters have been trafficking in at rallies.
"I watched the news and I heard a couple people hollering from the audience, semi-vile things about 'terrorists,' things like that," Biden said on NBC's Today Show. "The idea that a leading American politician who might be vice president of the United States would not just stop mid-sentence and turn and condemn that -- it's just a slippery slope, it's a place that we shouldn't be going."
Update 10/9/08: See video of the latest smear of Obama by the McCain/Palin campaign, which claims, among other things, that Bill Ayers and Obama ran a radical "education" foundation together, a clear distortion of the Annenberg Challenge in Chicago, which was funded by the conservative Annenberg Foundation, run by the former publishers of that radical rag, Readers Digest. And it turns out that McCain has accepted the endorsement and contributions from radical terrorist sympathizer Leonore Annenberg.
HuffingtonPost noted that a former Republican representative in Illinois told NPR on Monday that smearing Obama for his board association with Ayers is "nonsensical."
"It was never a concern by any of us in the Chicago school reform movement that he had led a fugitive life years earlier ... It's ridiculous," Republican state Rep. Diana Nelson said. "There is no reason at all to smear Barack Obama with this association. It's nonsensical, and it just makes me crazy. It's so silly."
See videos of the malignant consequences of McCain/Palin demagoguery taken at Republican rallies featuring Palin in Ohio and McCain in Pennsylvania.
We're All Prisoners
John McCain refers to Americans as "my fellow prisoners." Is he losing it, or is he referring to a secret Dick Cheney initiative that we haven't heard about yet?
Update: Rachel Maddow wonders if, as prisoners, we now get a constitutional right to health care and "three hots and a cot."
McCain's Dog Whistle
When John McCain, who is now running the ugliest campaign I’ve ever seen, called Obama “that one” during last night’s debate, I reacted physically. I cringed. It reminded me of playing summer baseball games in Georgia that would inevitably end in fights after a racial epithet was hurled at one of our players (usually the “N” word.) This kind of body language and coded speech is crystal clear to viewers in the deep South, be they Republican or Democrat. Perhaps in the Midwest “that one” simply plays as overly dismissive of a senator and presidential nominee. Not so in Georgia.
I know it’s accepted political strategy to at times refer to your opponent indirectly. But we have an accepted way of doing so: We say “my opponent.” Instead, McCain came one step shy of calling Obama “boy.” It wasn’t “that one” who cast the vote to which McCain was referring; it was United States Senator Barack Obama. If McCain can’t bear to say Obama’s name, he should at least refrain from using signals and coded language that every racist from North Carolina to Texas can grin at. (Charles Cullen)
Brokaw Repeats Social Security Breakdown Lie
As Dean Baker writes, "If Social Security was private corporation, then it would sue Tom Brokaw for every penny he has," for implying during the debate Tuesday night that Social Security was going broke.
A recent nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report, which forecasts out 75 years, finds that the system is currently running an annual surplus but as more Baby Boomers retire the accumulating surpluses in the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted in 2049. Even then, ongoing revenues will still be sufficient to fund about 81% of promised benefits at the end of the 75-year period (in 2082). The reason for this is that wages and Social Security revenues will continue to grow as the economy grows. The trust fund will cushion the large baby boom retirement, as it was designed to do, but most benefits will continue to be funded by direct transfers from workers to retirees, as they are now. (Obama proposes to eliminate the $102,000 ceiling on wages subject to Social Security taxes to fix any long-term funding problems.) See the CBO report.
Steal Back Your Vote
Bobby Kennedy Jr., Rev. Jesse Jackson and Greg Palast invite you to co-sponsor their voter guide, “Steal Back Your Vote.”
Steal Back Your Vote lays out the "Six Ways They’re Stealing the Election – and the Seven Ways you can Steal It Back." It’s a 24-page downloadable graphic guide - an investigative comic book. Click here to see one chapter, "Night of the Living Vote Snatchers." The whole book should be downloadable soon.
W.V. Coal Miners Stop Work to Defend Obama
One of the big questions in this election season has been whether white working-class voters would support Barack Obama, and West Virginia was thought to be a particularly long shot for the Democratic nominee. But the spirit of Populism reared its welcome head there as coal miners stayed home on Sept. 29 to protest political coercion … from the NRA. You’re welcome to read that sentence again. I’ll wait. Apparently the NRA invaded a Consol mining site (with the permission of management, which normally is very guarded about whom it allows on the property) looking for anti-Obama sound-bites from coal miners for a TV ad the NRA was producing. But the United Mine Workers of America has already endorsed Obama and didn’t appreciate being pushed around. "This was a surprise visit," local union Safety Chairman Eric Greathouse told WBOY-TV of Clarksburg, W.V., "and a lot of the miners felt this was a direct slap in the face of the union because they were trying to coerce our people into saying things against Barack Obama."
Will Obama win West Virginia? Probably not. Is Populism and real pride in a hard days work alive and well from Appalachia, to Iowa, to Oregon? Yes it is. (Charles Cullen)
Bailout Failure: No Great Loss
Before the House voted 206-227 against the Wall Street bailout bill today, Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research wrote that "the bailout rewards some of the richest people in the country for their incompetence. It provides little obvious economic benefit and could lead to long-term harm. That looks like a pretty bad deal."
The basic argument for the bailout is that the banks are filled with so much bad debt that the banks can't trust each other to repay loans. This creates a situation in which the system of payments breaks down. That would mean that we cannot use our ATMs or credit cards or cash checks.
That is a very frightening scenario, but this is not where things end. The Federal Reserve Board would surely step in and take over the major money center banks so that the system of payments would begin functioning again. The Fed was prepared to take over the major banks back in the 80s when bad debt to developing countries threatened to make them insolvent. It is inconceivable that it has not made similar preparations in the current crisis.
In other words, the worst case scenario is that we have an extremely scary day in which the markets freeze for a few hours. Then the Fed steps in and takes over the major banks. The system of payments continues to operate exactly as before, but the bank executives are out of their jobs and the bank shareholders have likely lost most of their money. In other words, the banks have a gun pointed to their heads and are threatening to pull the trigger unless we hand them $700 billion.
David Sirota writes, "it's clear that Congress is facing a full on revolt from both the Right and Left -- the very revolt that I predicted in my book, The Uprising. No longer is this a populist revolt merely scaring Wall Street and Washington -- this is a populist revolt that has, to quote Markos, crashed the gate, and it represents a real victory for the progressive movement and voices who said Hell No."
Congress should go back to the drawing board and write a bill that includes a speculators tax, re-regulation, economic stimulus, bankruptcy law reform and aid to homeowners, he wrote, adding, "this is not a moment of celebration, it is a moment for increasing pressure."
A good start is a speculator tax (HR 7125) proposed by Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), which would impose a modest 0.25% tax on financial transactions. Such a tax would have a negligible effect on regular stockholders and mutual fund investors but it would generate more than $100 billion a year and it might discourage short-term speculators who seek to exploit securities fluctuations as little as 0.25%.
The US had a similar tax from 1914 to 1966, DeFazio noted. The Revenue Act of 1914 levied a 0.2% tax on all sales or transfers of stock. In 1932, Congress more than doubled the tax to help plug the holes from the Great Depression. And today the United Kingdom has a modest financial transaction tax of 0.25%, a penny on every $4 invested.
See also "A Pitchfork Plan and a Political Crisis, Speculator's Tax and an Election," by Matt Stoller at openleft.com
David Cay Johnston, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former investigative financial reporter for the New York Times, is still wondering, "What Crisis?"
James K. Galbraith also questions the need for a bailout, but the Democratic bill represents an improvement over the Treasury proposal. He noted that the bill would allow the Treasury to buy asets from foreign entities and it allows entities to circumvent many of the restrictions simply by using middlemen rather than participating directly, so language could be improved.
He proposes to handle much of the credit crisis through the FDIC, eliminating the current $100K cap on Federal Deposit Insurance, using a direct appropriation to purchase preferred shares in viable banks requiring recapitalization, and using the bridge bank facility to deal with banks that are actually insolvent.
However, neither the bailout bill nor his FDIC proposal will restore economic growth and high employment. "For that purpose, resolution of the underlying housing problem, of the revenue problem of state and local governments, and of the wealth and income problems of retirees and other asset-dependent parts of the population are all essential. Those measures lie ahead; they will not be part of this bill," Galbraith wrote.
Robert Kuttner writes that the failure of the bill may be a blessing in disguise, if it causes Democrats to write a more progressive bill.
Robert Reich predicts a scaled-down bill will be enacted by the end of the week, providing the Treasury with a first installment of $150 billion. "Treasury can use it to back Wall Street’s bad debts with ... no-interest loans of up to two years, until the housing market rebounds. Or to invest in Wall Street houses directly, in exchange for stocks and stock warrants. There will be strict oversight. Congressional leaders will promise further installments, but with conditions calling for limits on salaries and relief to distressed homeowners."
Brad DeLong calls for nationalization, as the Swedes did in 1992.
Nationalization has the best chance of avoiding large losses and possibly even making money for the taxpayer. And it is the best way to deal with the moral hazard problem.
It might work like this. Congress:
• grants the Federal Reserve Board the power to take any financial firm whatsoever with liabilities and capital of more than $25 billion that is not well capitalized into conservatorship
• requires the Federal Reserve Board to liquidate any financial firm in its conservatorship when it judges that the firm is insolvent paying off in full or not paying off in full the liabilities of the firm at its discretion, unless
• the Federal Reserve Board finds that preservation as a going concern is in the interest of the taxpayer, in which case Congress
• grants the Federal Reserve Board the power to transform equity stakes in the firm into junior preferred stock at par value and then transfer ownership and custody of the firm to the Treasury
• requires the Federal Reserve to terminate conservatorship if the firm becomes well-capitalized once again.
Doug Henwood, publisher of Left Business Observer, says that the economy could get "very bad ... if the current turmoil in the credit markets spreads to real day-to-day business kinds of lending, the so-called commercial industrial loans that banks make, for example, or routine consumer credit – not just mortgages, but credit cards and other kinds of consumer debt. If that were to freeze up, then I think the economy could go into a very serious tailspin."
Reforms should include re-regulation, but Henwood added:
The public should get something in return: that means different kinds of financial institutions emerging from this crisis: community, nonprofit organizations – cooperative institutions that would provide basic financial services at low fees to lower and middle-income people, and stay out of speculative markets. This would create a much less speculative and profit-driven financial sector.
It would be interesting to see what effect that would have in competition with the big banks. These new institutions could conceivably offer basic financial services at lower cost than the big guys do. People are paying fees through the nose for basic financial services now. If there were some competition coming from public or cooperative institutions, that would be an interesting use of market competition to promote the public welfare.
(See "Bailout Defeat Offers Opportunity," by Meteor Blades.)
McCain Absentee Ballots May Disqualify Voters
John McCain's campaign has sent confusing or incorrect absentee ballot request forms to voters in at least ten states, BlackBoxVoting.com has reported. Faulty absentee ballot forms have been reported in Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin so far. In each state, the mailers have a different error, but in any of these cases, the voter could be disenfranchised by the error. In at least one state voters could disqualify themselves or be vulnerable to election challenges if they mailed these forms in. Mailers sent to Wisconsin voters are encouraging voters to send their applications to clerks in communities where they do not live.
According to Examiner.com, reports of absentee ballot problems began surfacing in Ohio. In that case, the problem was with a small note at the top of the ballot that reads: "I am a qualified elector and would like to receive an Absentee Ballot for the November 4, 2008 General Election." Next to the statement is a small checkbox.
The box is easy to miss, and on Sept. 11, the Ohio Secretary of State ordered applications to be rejected if the box was not checked. While it's not clear how many ballots have been disallowed, Hamilton County election officials said on Sept. 12, they have already invalidated more than 740 ballots. Ohio State election officials estimate as many as a million ballots may have been mailed to voters in that state alone.
Ballot applications reportedly were sent to registered voters in a number of states. In Wisconsin, Minnesota, Florida, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Iowa the ballots seem to target primarily registered Democrats or voters otherwise identified as possible Obama voters, Rick Ellis reported for Examiner.com. In many cases, the ballots appear to have the address of the incorrect election office, and often an office in the wrong state.
Sending the absentee ballot to the wrong election office would almost certainly ensure it wouldn't be counted. And in most case, the voter attempting to cast the ballot would never learn of the problem in time to vote at their local precinct.
In the battleground state of Missouri, the McCain campaign has admitted it has sent out absentee ballots to voters of both parties. But Missouri has a strict set of guidelines on who can vote absentee. And convenience is not a valid reason. That leads to a scenerio where absentee votes could be successfully challenged by Republicans who suspect that a vote was cast by someone who did not fit the state's mandated guidelines.
Ryan Hobart, spokesperson for the Missouri Secretary of State's office. said: "Voters need to read the fine print on mailers like this because there are specific requirements for absentee voting in Missouri."
If you receive an absentee ballot request form from the McCain campaign (or any private entity) and you do want to vote absentee, then check with your county election official (usually the county clerk) to get the correct information.
Just Say No to Blank Check for Bailout
Contact your Congress member and senators and tell them: No blank check to the Bush administration to bail out Wall Street financiers (much less foreign bankers). And any bailout should be paid by a tax on transactions of stocks and bonds and/or a surtax on the wealthy who profited from the last eight years of excesses.
See Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)'s plan which would protect the interests of the middle class. He proposes:
"... a five-year, 10% surtax on the income of individuals above $500,000 a year, and $1 million a year for couples; a requirement that the price the government pays for any mortgage assets are discounted appropriately so that government can recover the amount it paid for them; and, finally, the government should receive equity in the companies it bails out so that when the stock of these companies rises after the bailout, taxpayers also have the opportunity to share in the resulting windfall. Taken together, these measures would provide the best guarantee that at the end of five years, the government will have gotten back the money it put out.
"Second, in addition to protecting the average American from being saddled with the cost, any serious proposal has to include reforms so that we end the type of behavior that led to this crisis in the first place. Much of this activity can be traced to specific legislation that broke down regulatory safety walls in the financial sector and allowed banks and others to engage in new types of risky transactions that are at the heart of this crisis. That deregulation needs to be repealed. Wall Street has shown it cannot be trusted to police itself. We need to reinstate a strong regulatory system that protects our economy.
"Third, we need to address the needs of working families in this country who are today facing very difficult times. If we can bail out Wall Street, we need to respond with equal vigor to their plight. That means, for example, creating millions of jobs through major investments in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and creating a new renewable energy system. We must also make certain that the most vulnerable Americans don’t freeze in the winter or die because they lack access to primary health care.
"Finally, we need to protect ourselves from being at the mercy of giant companies that are "too big to fail," that is, companies who are so large that their failure would cause systemic harm to the economy. We need to assess which companies fall into this category and insist they are broken up. Otherwise, the American taxpayer will continue to be on the financial hook for the risky behavior, the mismanagement, and even the illegal conduct of these companies' executives."
Democrats should not be rushed into approving what amounts to dictatorial powers for Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. See a good roundup of critics of the bailout by "New Deal democrat" at DailyKos. Among the critics, the New York Times' Paul Krugman says, "No Deal," concluding, "Treasury needs to explain why this is supposed to work — not try to panic Congress into giving it a blank check. Otherwise, no deal." Krugman revises and extends his thoughts in his Monday column, "Cash for Trash."
See Dean Baker's "Progressive Conditions for a Bailout," which includes a modest financial transactions tax:
Such taxes have long existed in other countries. For example, the United Kingdom charges a tax of 0.25 percent on the purchase or sale of share of stock. This is not a big deal to someone who holds their shares for ten years, but it could be a considerable cost for the folks who buy stocks in the morning that they sell in the afternoon.
Scaled taxes on the transfer of other financial instruments (e.g. a 0.02 percent tax on a trade of an options, future, or credit default swaps.) could go a long way in reducing speculation and the volume of trading in financial markets. Such a tax could also raise an enormous amount of money--easily more than $100 billion a year. This would go a long way toward funding new programs or reducing the budget deficit.
And, this tax would be hugely progressive. Middle-income shareholders might take a small hit; but it would be comparable to raising the capital gains tax rate back to 20 percent, where it was before it was cut to 15 percent in 2003. The real hit would be on the big speculators.
See "Three Times is Enemy Action" by Devilstower at DailyKos, which traces deregation from the early 1980s, with the savings-and-loan deregulation that turned into a debacle (and ensnared John McCain in the Keating Five scandal) to today's crisis.
See David Sirota's "The $700 Billion Question" at In These Times, asking these key questions:
1. What will prevent the bill from allowing both parties to use the guise of purchasing worthless mortgages to further enrich their largest campaign donors?
2. How are Americans and investors supposed to feel confident that the crisis will be solved, if the very people who engineered the crisis are being relied on to solve it?
3. How is this meltdown a failure of "oversight" if it has almost nothing to do with illegality?
4. When did a crisis suddenly mean that giving away taxpayer cash to campaign donors is laudably apolitical, but spending taxpayer money on taxpayers is inappropriately "political?"
5. How are we going to pay for this?
Steve Benen notes that John McCain decided this week to start taking on Barack Obama over military spending, chastising Obama for having the audacity to support "slow[ing] our development of Future Combat Systems."
Yesterday, the Army Times explained that McCain was criticizing Obama for taking a position entirely in line with his own.
Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute told the Army Times, "Future Combat Systems is the centerpiece of Army modernization. However, McCain has been more critical of it than anyone else in the chamber. Obama has been much more detailed and thoughtful in his comments about future military investment than McCain's very superficial statements."
The Army Times asked the McCain campaign to explain the discrepancy. The campaign "did not return phone calls and emails requesting clarification."
Josh Marshall notes that "It seems like the English language isn't big enough to contain the lies of John McCain. McCain has now launched a Spanish language in which he blames Barack Obama for torpedoing comprehensive immigration reform -- even though they were both on the same side."
NBC's First Read notes in a roundup of media reaction against the McCain campaign's distortions, "Wheels Come Off Straight Talk Express," that McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said this to the Politico about the increased media scrutiny of the campaign's factual claims: "We're running a campaign to win. And we're not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it."
Marshall notes, "Basing a campaign for high office on a strategy of deliberate lies is not an issue of tactics. It calls into question the character of the candidate and his fitness for office." He also notes that it's also a violation of the US Naval Academy's honor code -- the rules of conduct midshipmen are supposed to live by and against which they are judged.
The first two lines of the Honor Concept are:
Midshipmen are persons of integrity: They stand for that which is right.
They tell the truth and ensure that the full truth is known. They do not lie.
Palin's Back on the Low Road
Josh Marshall notes that "Gov. Palin dropped her 'Bridge to Nowhere' lie from her stump speech during her trip to Alaska last week, presumably because too many locals knew about her actual role as a major supporter of the project. So I'd been wondering whether the line would return once she returned to the lower 48. Sure enough, today in Carson City, Nevada, she's back at it."
Good job, Charlie
Perhaps he is the beneficiary of the "soft bigotry of low expectations," but ABC News' Charlie Gibson did OK with his interview of fresh-faced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. As Todd Gitlin wrote, "By network standards, Gibson was a lipstickless bulldog. The encounter was combative enough to blow some of her Teflon off. ...
I give Gibson a B+. He didn't ask about Palin's affection for the Alaska Independence Party, the America-hating affiliate of Jerome Corsi's lunatic Constitution Party. There's much more to be said about her grotesque misunderstanding of the melting Arctic ice cap next door--about as close as Russia, in fact. There's vastly more to be known.
Still and all, I'm guessing that Sarah Palin has peaked, and my apprehensions about Charlie Gibson are, for the moment, assuaged. Who'll step up next to fill in the spaces he left?
Never mind. After Gibson proved not as deferential as perhaps the McCain camp was expecting, it looks like Palin's running for cover, scheduling her next interview with Faux News' Sean Hannity.
We won't hold our breath until Palin goes on The View, after the treatment McCain got Friday.
McCain campaigners lobbied for companies linked to sex, drugs and oil scandal
Greg Sargent and Eric Kleefeld of TalkingPointsMemo report that McCain's national finance co-chair, Wayne Berman, is a paid lobbyist, and has been one for years, for two of the oil companies that are at the center of the sex, drugs and oil scandal enveloping the Interior Department.
Another of McCain's high-ranking campaign officials, John Green, also lobbied for the companies for years -- during time periods when the scandal has unfolded -- up until he joined the McCain campaign in the spring.
"The lobbyists themselves aren't tied to the scandal in any way, and their activity on the companies' behalf doesn't implicate McCain, either," Sargent and Kleefeld write, showing admirable scruples. "But it's legit to ask why it is that a campaign that proclaims that it's about reform is taking advice and/or money from lobbyists who were getting paid by companies involved in the scandal, one of whom is still collecting money from them."
From Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo: "It seems like the English language isn't big enough to contain the lies of John McCain. McCain has now launched a Spanish-language ad in which he blames Barack Obama for torpedoing comprehensive immigration reform -- even though they were both on the same side."
Bipartisan subpoenas for Palin henchmen
According to the Anchorage Daily News (via DailyKos), the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee voted today to grant independent investigator Stephen Branchflower the subpoenas he requested to continue his investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin, including a subpoena for the testimony of the First Gentleman, Todd Palin.
The state Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3-2 today to subpoena 13 people -- including the husband of Gov. Sarah Palin -- in an investigation of whether Palin abused her power in trying to get her former brother-in-law fired. ...
Retired prosecutor Stephen Branchflower asked the state House and Senate judiciary committees for power to subpoena the 13 witnesses, including Todd Palin, the governor's husband.
"He's such a central figure. ... I think one should be issued for him," Branchflower said.
The Senate committees granted the request. Voting for were Sens. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, and two Anchorage Democrats, Hollis French and Bill Wielechowski.
Voting no were Sens. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, and Gene Therriault, R-North Pole
The subpoenas became necessary when Palin reneged on her agreement to cooperate with the investigation. Branchflower said he wants to interview Palin herself but did not ask for a subpoena for her.
McCain Challenge: 'Name a Flip-Flop'
The Women of The View, grilling Sen. John McCain, make Charlie Gibson look like he was lobbing softballs to Gov. Sarah Palin.
In one exchange, host Joy Behar complained to John McCain that “you used to be more of the maverick, then you sort of turned.”
“In what way?” McCain asked.
“You became much more lockstep, I think, with your party, with George Bush’s policies,” Behar answered, adding, “I don’t see the old John McCain. … I understand why — you want to get elected.”
McCain issued this challenge in his defense:
I’ve been through this litany before, where I say, “ok, what specific area have I quote changed?” Nobody can name it. … I am the same person and I have the same principles.
ThinkProgress has at least 42 McCain flip flops.
You Can Put Lipstick On a Lie…
You can put lipstick on a lie; it’s still a lie. Obama got it exactly, albeit belatedly, right when he accused the McCain camp of manufacturing phony outrage. If you haven’t watched the video of Obama’s lipstick comment, you really should. He’s clearly talking about McCain’s policies—insinuating that they’re almost identical to Bush’s—and then, without getting close to mentioning Palin, he says “you can put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.” But what’s vitally important is what he says just prior to his “lipstick” comment. Obama lists the policies McCain has in common with Bush and then says “that’s just callin’ somethin’, something that’s the same thing and sayin’ it’s something different.” Was that confusing? Does anyone honestly think that had anything to do with Gov. Palin? If so, I have a bridge to nowhere to sell you.
Then we have the almost unbelievably reprehensible “Sex Ed” ad, asserting that Obama wants to teach “comprehensive” sex education to kindergarteners. “Learning about sex before learning to read?” intones the distressed narrator, “Barack Obama: Wrong on education. Wrong for your family.” This is probably the sleaziest non-527 ad ever run during a presidential campaign. It makes the Willie Horton ad look like a reasonable disagreement on policy. “Comprehensive” is supposed to be code for teaching kindergarteners how to properly put on a condom. Obama was actually trying to teach young children what they need to know: the difference between good touch and bad touch, that their bodies are their own, that they should come to an adult if they feel threatened, y’know, how to avoid sexual predators. Maybe this is part of a McCain human free market system. Things will sort themselves out. Those kids who get seduced by the guy in the van with puppies and candy, hey they deserve to be molested. Educating them about predators is just encouraging them to be weak and needy later in life. Gotta weed out the weak and stupid and let ‘em learn things the hard way. John McCain did. He was a POW … in case you hadn’t heard.
All this sordid nonsense forces us to ask, WHERE in God’s name is the press? They’ve called the sex ed ad misleading, and are finally noting that just about everybody with a salt shaker’s worth of common sense has conceded Obama wasn’t referring to Palin when he made his lipstick remarks. Ari Fleischer (bless his twisted heart) has tried to argue that the crowd *knew* Obama was referring to Palin—Ari’s clearly clairvoyant—and that Obama *knew they knew*. Obama, Ari argues, should have immediately chastised the crowd … for clapping. Obama, not possessing the same psychic gifts Ari enjoys, did not.
Again, where is the press? And what has happened to us as a people? McCain’s tactics are at least as awful as Bush’s 2000 “McCain fathered an illegitimate Black baby with a hooker” gambit. In fact, more so because McCain has a real chance of winning this thing, and putting a woman who makes Dan Quayle look like Stephen Hawking one very old heartbeat away from the Presidency. If given the choice between Bush-Cheney and McCain-Palin, I would vote for Bush everyday of the week and twice on Sundays. Is this the country we’ve become?
During a primary debate with Bush, just after the lovechild controversy, McCain told Bush he should be ashamed. Sen. McCain, you have outdone 2000-Bush and you, sir, should be ashamed. -- Charles Cullen
Republicans know: McCain is unstable
In our March 15, 2008, Dispatches, we noted that before he dropped out of the GOP presidential race, Mitt Romney produced a "Straight Talk Detour" press release recounting John McCain's tendency to lose his temper, even with fellow Republicans. The release (1/5) titled "The McCain Way: Attack Republicans" details McCain's top 10 outbursts. Since he has endorsed McCain, the Romney campaign has removed the press release from its Web site. But we remember (and you can still find it on Google):
1. Defending his amnesty bill, Sen. McCain lost his temper and screamed, ‘F**k you!' at Sen. John Cornyn" (R-Texas). Presidential hopeful John McCain — who has been dogged for years by questions about his volcanic temper — erupted in an angry, profanity-laced tirade at a fellow Republican senator, sources told the [New York] Post yesterday. In a heated dispute over immigration-law overhaul, McCain screamed, ‘F*** you!' at Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who had been raising concerns about the legislation. ‘This is chickens***-stuff,' McCain snapped at Cornyn, according to several people in the room off the Senate floor Thursday. ‘You've always been against this bill, and you're just trying to derail it.'" (Charles Hurt, "Raising McCain," New York Post, 5/19/07)
2. In 2000, Sen. McCain ran an attack ad comparing then-Gov. George W. Bush to Bill Clinton. SEN. MCCAIN: I guess it was bound to happen. Gov. Bush's campaign is getting desperate, with a negative ad about me. The fact is, I'll use the surplus money to fix Social Security, cut your taxes and pay down the debt. Gov. Bush uses all of the surplus for tax cuts, with not one new penny for Social Security or the debt. His ad twists the truth like Clinton. We're all pretty tired of that. As president, I'll be conservative and always tell you the truth. No matter what." (McCain 2000, Campaign Ad, 2/9/00.
3. Sen. McCain repeatedly called Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) an a**hole", causing a fellow GOP senator to say, I didn't want this guy anywhere near a trigger." Why can't McCain win the votes of his own colleagues? To explain, a Republican senator tells this story: at a GOP meeting last fall, McCain erupted out of the blue at the respected Budget Committee chairman, Pete Domenici, saying, ‘Only an a—hole would put together a budget like this.' Offended, Domenici stood up and gave a dignified, restrained speech about how in all his years in the Senate, through many heated debates, no one had ever called him that. Another senator might have taken the moment to check his temper. But McCain went on: ‘I wouldn't call you an a**hole unless you really were an a**hole.' The Republican senator witnessing the scene had considered supporting McCain for president, but changed his mind. ‘I decided,' the senator told Newsweek, ‘I didn't want this guy anywhere near a trigger.'" (Evan Thomas, et al., "Senator Hothead," Newsweek, 2/21/00)
4. Sen. McCain had a heated exchange with Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and called him a f***ing Jerk." Senators are not used to having their intelligence or integrity challenged by another senator. ‘Are you calling me stupid?' Sen. Chuck Grassley once inquired during a debate with McCain over the fate of the Vietnam MIAs, according to a source who was present. ‘No,' replied McCain, ‘I'm calling you a f***ing jerk!' (Grassley and McCain had no comment.)" (Evan Thomas, et al., "Senator Hothead," Newsweek, 2/21/00)
5. In 1995, Sen. McCain had a scuffle" with 92-year-old Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) on the Senate floor. In January 1995, McCain was midway through an opening statement at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing when chairman Strom Thurmond asked, ‘Is the senator about through?' McCain glared at Thurmond, thanked him for his ‘courtesy' (translation: buzz off), and continued on. McCain later confronted Thurmond on the Senate floor. A scuffle ensued, and the two didn't part friends." (Harry Jaffe, "Senator Hothead," The Washingtonian, 2/97)
6. Sen. McCain accused Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of the "most egregious incident" of corruption he had seen in the Senate. "It escalated when McCain reiterated the charges Oct. 10 in a cross-examination, calling McConnell's actions the ‘most egregious incident' demonstrating the appearance of corruption he has ever seen in his Senate career." (Amy Keller, "Attacks Escalate In Depositions," Roll Call, 10/21/02)
7. Sen. McCain attacked Christian leaders and Republicans in a blistering speech during the 2000 campaign. MCCAIN: "Unfortunately, Governor Bush is a Pat Robertson Republican who will lose to Al Gore. ... The political tactics of division and slander are not our values... They are corrupting influences on religion and politics, and those who practice them in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party and our country. Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of Amiceran politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right." (Sen. John McCain, Remarks, Virginia Beach, VA, 2/28/00)
8. Sen. McCain attacked Vice President Cheney. MCCAIN: "The president listened too much to the Vice President ... Of course, the president bears the ultimate responsibility, but he was very badly served by both the Vice President and, most of all, the Secretary of Defense." (Roger Simon, "McCain Bashes Cheney Over Iraq Policy," The Politico 1/24/07)
9. Celebrating his first Senate election in 1986, Sen. McCain screamed at and harassed a young Republican volunteer. "It was election night 1986, and John McCain had just been elected to the U.S. Senate for the first time. Even so, he was not in a good mood. McCain was yelling at the top of his lungs and poking the chest of a young Republican volunteer who had set up a lectern that was too tall for the 5-foot-9 politician to be seen to advantage, according to a witness to the outburst. ‘Here this poor guy is thinking he has done a good job, and he gets a new butt ripped because McCain didn't look good on television,' Jon Hinz told a reporter Thursday. At the time, Hinz was executive director of the Arizona Republican Party. ... Hinz said McCain's treatment of the young campaign worker in 1986 troubled him for years. ‘There were an awful lot of people in the room,' Hinz recalled. ‘You'd have to stick cotton in your ears not to hear it. He (McCain) was screaming at him, and he was red in the face. It wasn't right, and I was very upset at him.'" (Kris Mayes and Charles Kelly, "Stories Surface On Senator's Demeanor," Arizona Republic, 11/5/99)
10. Sen. McCain "publicly abused" Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). "[McCain] noted his propensity for passion but insisted that he doesn't ‘insult anybody or fly off the handle or anything like that.' This is, quite simply, hogwash. McCain often insults people and flies off the handle... There have been the many times McCain has called reporters ‘liars' and ‘idiots' when they have had the audacity to ask him unpleasant, but pertinent, questions. McCain once... publicly abused Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama." (Editorial, "There's Something About McCain," the Austin American-Statesman, 1/24/07)
Dems also could bring up the comments of Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss, who said of McCain, "The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me." But after his first choices, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney, dropped out of the race, Cochran on Feb. 7 endorsed McCain, telling the Jackson, Miss., Clarion-Ledger his "criticisms of McCain were behind me."
Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., was outspoken in his opposition to McCain's candidacy, the Washington Post noted. "Everybody has a McCain story. If you work in the Senate for a while, you have a McCain story. ... He hasn't built up a lot of goodwill."
To be fair, McCain wasn't always wrong when he blew his top. But he's changed his mind on many of the things he was once right about.
Amy Goodman, 2 News Producers, Arrested at RNC
UPDATED 11:52 p.m. CT
Glenn Greenwald reports that at least 50 people were arrested Monday in St. Paul, Minn., including Amy Goodman, who has been working journalist for more than 20 years (and whose column is carried in The Progressive Populist). A police spokesman later said she was involved in unspecified criminal activity.
"Beginning last night, St. Paul was the most militarized I have ever seen an American city be, even more so than Manhattan in the week of 9/11 -- with troops of federal, state and local law enforcement agents marching around with riot gear, machine guns, and tear gas cannisters, shouting military chants and marching in military formations. Humvees and law enforcement officers with rifles were posted on various buildings and balconies. Numerous protesters and observers were tear gassed and injured," Greenwald said.
See video of her arrest.
Democracy Now! -- the Pacifica radio/TV program that Goodman hosts -- reports that the Goodman was arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers who were being unlawfuly detained. They are Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Kouddous and Salazar were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. "Goodman’s crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press," the statement said.
Ramsey County Sherrif Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were being arrested on suspicion of rioting. They are currently being held at the Ramsey County jail in St. Paul.
(UPDATE: Democracy Now! announced that Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar were released Monday night.)
It isn't the first time Goodman has run afoul of authorities during times of unrest. In 1991, covering the independence movement in East Timor, Goodman and fellow journalist Allan Nairn were badly beaten by Indonesian soldiers after they witnessed a mass killing of Timorese demonstrators in what became known as the Dili Massacre.
Goodman has received dozens of awards for her work, including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and the George Polk Award. In 2001, she declined to accept the Overseas Press Club Award, in protest of the group's pledge not to ask questions of keynote speaker Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and because the OPC was honoring Indonesia for their improved treatment of journalists despite the fact that they had recently beaten and killed reporters in occupied East Timor.
Democracy Now! is a nationally-syndicated public TV and radio program that airs on over 700 radio and TV stations across the US and the globe.
UPDATE: The Washington Post has details on arrests of the Democracy Now! crew:
"I was down on the convention floor interviewing delegates when I heard that two of our producers had been arrested," said Goodman. "I ran down to Jackson and 7th Street, where the police had moved in."
Goodman said that when she ran up to find out what was going on, she was also arrested.
"They seriously manhandled me and handcuffed my hands behind my back. The top ID [at the convention] is to get on the floor and the Secret Service ripped that off me. I had my Democracy Now! ID too. I was clearly a reporter."
Goodman, who was released after being charged with a misdemeanor, said that Salazar had been hurt in the face, while Kouddous had been thrown up against a wall and hurt his elbow.
"Nicole told me that as they moved in on three sides, she asked them 'How do I get away from this?' and they jumped on her."
In addition, Glenn Greenwald noted that a photographer for Associated Press was also arrested today while covering the protests. An AP spokesman said of the arrest: "covering news is constitutionally protected, and photographers should not be detained for covering breaking news." Democratic strategist and CNN commentator Donna Brazile was hit by pepper spray on her way into the Xcel Center.
Constitutional Rights Set Aside as Feds Involved in Pre-Emptive Raids on RNC Protesters
Protesters in Minneapolis were targeted by a series of police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets, Glenn Greewald reported at Salon.com. Friday night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff's department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than "fire code violations," and early Saturday morning, the Sheriff's department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.
Greenwald was at two of those homes Saturday morning -- one which had just been raided and one which was in the process of being raided. Each of the raided houses is known by neighbors as a "hippie house," where 5-10 college-aged individuals live in a communal setting, and everyone he spoke with said that there had never been any problems of any kind in those houses, that they were filled with "peaceful kids" who are politically active but entirely unthreatening and friendly. (See the story for a video of the scene, including various interviews, which convey a very clear sense of what is actually going on here.)
In the house that had just been raided, those inside described how a team of roughly 25 officers had barged into their homes with masks and black swat gear, holding large semi-automatic rifles, and ordered them to lie on the floor, where they were handcuffed and ordered not to move. The officers refused to state why they were there and, until the very end, refused to show whether they had a search warrant. They were forced to remain on the floor for 45 minutes while the officers took away the laptops, computers, individual journals, and political materials kept in the house. One of the individuals renting the house, an 18-year-old woman, was extremely shaken as she and others described how the officers were deliberately making intimidating statements such as "Do you have Terminator ready?" as they lay on the floor in handcuffs. The 10 or so individuals in the house all said that though they found the experience very jarring, they still intended to protest against the GOP Convention, and several said that being subjected to raids of that sort made them more emboldened than ever to do so.
As the police attacks on protesters continued Sunday, Greenwald reported that it appeared increasingly clear that Federal authorities were directing the intimidation campaign.
Minnesota Public Radio reported Saturrday that "the searches were led by the Ramsey County Sheriff's office. Deputies coordinated searches with the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation."
The Minneapolis Star Tribune Sunday added that the raids were specifically "aided by informants planted in protest groups." Back in May, Marcy Wheeler presciently noted that the Minneapolis Joint Terrorist Task Force -- an inter-agency group of federal, state and local law enforcement led by the FBI -- was actively recruiting Minneapolis residents to serve as plants, to infiltrate "vegan groups" and other left-wing activist groups and report back to the Task Force about what they were doing.
"So here we have a massive assault led by Federal Government law enforcement agencies on left-wing dissidents and protesters who have committed no acts of violence or illegality whatsoever, preceded by months-long espionage efforts to track what they do," wrote Greenwald, a constitutional lawyer with experience in civil rights law. "And as extraordinary as that conduct is, more extraordinary is the fact that they have received virtually no attention from the national media and little outcry from anyone. And it's not difficult to see why. As the recent 'overhaul' of the 30-year-old FISA law illustrated -- preceded by the endless expansion of surveillance state powers, justified first by the War on Drugs and then the War on Terror -- we've essentially decided that we want our Government to spy on us without limits. There is literally no police power that the state can exercise that will cause much protest from the political and media class and, therefore, from the citizenry."
During the Olympics just weeks ago, Greenwald noted, there was endless hand-wringing over the efforts by the Chinese Government to squelch dissent and incarcerate protesters. On August 21, The Washington Post fretted:
Six Americans detained by police this week could be held for 10 days, according to Chinese authorities, who appear to be intensifying their efforts to shut down any public demonstrations during the final days of the Olympic Games. . . .
Chinese Olympic officials announced last month that Beijing would set up zones where people could protest during the Games, as long as they had received permission. None of the 77 applications submitted was approved, however, and several other would-be protesters were stopped from even applying.
On August 2, The Post gravely warned:
Behind the gray walls and barbed wire of the prison here, eight Chinese farmers with a grievance against the government have been consigned to Olympic limbo.
Their indefinite detainment, relatives and neighbors said, is the price they are paying for stirring up trouble as China prepares to host the Beijing Games. Trouble, the Communist Party has made clear, will not be permitted.
Greenwald asked, "Would The Washington Post ever use such dark and accusatory tones to describe what the U.S. Government does? Of course it wouldn't. Yet how is our own Government's behavior in Minnesota any different than what the Chinese did to its protesters during the Olympics (other than the fact that we actually have a Constitution that prohibits such behavior)? And where are all the self-righteous Freedom Crusaders in our nation's establishment organs who were so flamboyantly criticizing the actions of a Government on the other side of the globe as our own Government engages in the same tyrannical, protest-squelching conduct with exactly the same motives?"
Greenwald noted that over the weekend homes of college-aid protesters were raided by rifle-wielding police forces. Journalists were forcibly detained at gun point. Lawyers on the scene to represent the detainees were handcuffed. Computers, laptops, journals, diaries, and political pamphlets were seized from people's homes. "And all of this occurred against U.S. citizens, without a single act of violence having taken place, and nothing more serious than traffic blockage even alleged by authorities to have been planned." And the detainees have been told that police have 36 hours to charge her, but the clock doesn't start until after the Labor Day holiday, so they may be held without charge until Wednesday.
No Editorial Bouquets from Those Who Know Palin Best
Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher magazine noted at HuffingtonPost.com that the two leading newspapers in Alaska -- the Anchorage Daily News and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner -- have been raising all sorts of questions about Sarah Palin's fitness to be vice president.
The Anchorage Daily News editorialized that "it's stunning that someone with so little national and international experience might be heartbeat away from the presidency."
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorialized that "Most people would acknowledge that, regardless of her charm and good intentions, Palin is not ready for the top job. McCain seems to have put his political interests ahead of the nation's when he created the possibility that she might fill it."
Mitchell adds the comments of some other Alaska journalists:
A reporter for the Anchorage daily, Gregg Erickson, even did an online chat with the Washington Post, in which he revealed that Palin's approval rating in the state was not the much-touted 80%, but 65% and sinking -- and that among journalists who followed her it might be in the "teens." He added: "I have a hard time seeing how her qualifications stack up against the duties and responsibilities of being president.... I expect her to stick with simple truths. When asked about continued American troop presence in Iraq, she said she knows only one thing about that (I paraphrase): no one has attacked the American homeland since George Bush took the war to Iraq."
His paper found a number of leading Republican officeholders in the state who mocked Palin's qualifications. "She's not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president?" said Lyda Green, the president of the State Senate, a Republican from Palin's hometown of Wasilla. "Look at what she's done to this state. What would she do to the nation?"
Another top Republican, John Harris, the speaker of the House, when asked about her qualifications for Veep, replied with this: "She's old enough. She's a U.S. citizen."
Dermot Cole, a columnist for the Fairbanks paper, observed that he thinks highly of Palin as a person but "in no way does her year-and-a-half as governor of Alaska qualify her to be vice president or president of the United States.
"One of the strange things Friday was that so many commentators and politicians did not know how to pronounce her name and had no clue about what she has actually done in Alaska....I may be proven wrong, but the decision announced by McCain strikes me as reckless. She is not prepared to be the next president should something happen to McCain."
Mitchell also noted that on Sunday the top story on the Anchorage paper's site carried the headline, "Palin touts stance on 'Bridge to Nowhere,' doesn't note flip-flop." The Fairbanks paper has an article by the Associated Press and a column by Dermot Cole on the same theme.
The Bridge to Nowhere
Sarah Palin was for it before she was against it.
Be Careful What You Pray For
Scout Finch at DailyKos.com noted that Stuart Shepard of Focus on the Family prayed before the Democratic convention for torrential rains "of Biblical proportions" to wash out Barack Obama's speech at Invesco Field last Thursday night. "Would it be wrong to pray for rain?" Shepard asked, in what apparently was supposed to be a humorous video.
Well, we don't believe God takes sides in political races, and we also doubt that He aims precipitation in response to jakeleg preachers' politically-motivated requests, but we note that the weather for Obama's speech was perfect but news coverage of the opening of the Republican convention Monday is likely to be disrupted by the arrival of Hurricane Gustav -- with its reminder of the Bush administration's disastrously inept response to Hurricane Katrina's devastation of the Gulf Coast three years ago.
If Shepard wanted to practice some Christianity, he might spend some time joining New Orleans residents who are praying that the levees that were hurriedly rebuilt by the US Army Corps of Engineers will hold this time. -- JMC.
Unacceptable Risk Taker
John McCain’s surprise announcement of Sarah Palin as his running mate on Friday managed to take the attention away from Barack Obama’s acceptance speech the previous night -- but getting attention isn’t necessary a good thing.
The McCain campaign is trying to knock down the suspicion that Palin was a last-minute choice who was not fully vetted to find problems in her background. But there is evidence that the McCain campaign did not look very closely at Palin, a protegé of indicted Sen. Ted Stevens who has been governor of Alaska for 20 months after serving as part-time mayor of a town of less than 9,000 population. Josh Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo.com noted that "there's good reason to doubt these claims that Palin received an extensive vetting," including the Anchorage Daily News' report:
Former House Speaker Gail Phillips, a Republican political leader who has clashed with Palin in the past, was shocked when she heard the news Friday morning with her husband, Walt.
"I said to Walt, 'This can't be happening, because his advance team didn't come to Alaska to check her out," Phillips said.
Phillips has been active in the Ted Stevens re-election steering committee and remains in close touch with Sen. Lisa Murkowski and other party leaders, and she said nobody had heard anything about McCain's people doing research on his prospective running mate.
"We're not a very big state. People I talk to would have heard something."
"Perhaps she's just a hostile or isn't as plugged in as she thinks," Marshall says. But the biggest question about Palin is the ethics investigation into possible abuse of power in her firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan in a dispute over the governor's attempts to fire her former brother in law, a state trooper, who had been involved in a bitter custody dispute with Palin's sister. "I can see possible reasons why the McCain camp would hesitate to make contact with Monegan. But with credible claims that she abused her office and subsequently lied about her actions, I would think the McCain camp would want to understand that case inside and out. But according to another article in the ADN, Monegan says that no one from the McCain campaign ever contacted him about Palin.
TalkingPointsMemo.com has been reporting on the Palin case since the second week in August, well before she became a national figure.
Marshall noted that some people are claiming that bringing up Palin's conduct in the troopergate scandal is tantamount to making a victim of or defending what they believe to be a slimeball ex-brother-in-law. He reviews the facts as known and concluded:
We rely on elected officials not to use the power of their office to pursue personal agendas or vendettas. It's called an abuse of power. There is ample evidence that Palin used her power as governor to get her ex-brother-in-law fired. When his boss refused to fire him, she fired him. She first denied Monegan's claims of pressure to fire Wooten and then had to amend her story when evidence proved otherwise. The available evidence now suggests that she 1) tried to have an ex-relative fired from his job for personal reasons, something that was clearly inappropriate, and perhaps illegal, though possibly understandable in human terms, 2) fired a state official for not himself acting inappropriately by firing the relative, 3) lied to the public about what happened and 4) continues to lie about what happened.
These are, to put it mildly, not the traits or temperament you want in someone who could hold the executive power of the federal government.
We agree. Sarah Palin may be a charismatic governor of a frontier state but she is untested on the national stage and there are plenty of policy reasons to oppose her nomination as vice president. And it looks like one of her first acts as governor was to pursue a personal vendetta that pretty much shatters the "reform" image the McCain campaign is trying to portray. In July, when her name came up as a possible vice presidential choice, she said that she was not sure what the vice president does, but her conduct in the trooper scandal shows she apparently shares some unattractive traits with Dick Cheney.
It doesn't speak well for McCain that he chose Palin in haste, without checking out her background. If he chose her knowing about the Troopergate scandal but disregarding it, it speaks even worse for his judgment. -- JMC
UPDATE: Paul Rosenberg at OpenLeft.com reports on another branch of the Troopergate investigation:
After Monegan was fired, Palin hired Chuck Kopp, who lasted a full two weeks before stepping down when it turned out he'd lied about a previous sexual harrasment complaint being dismissed. Kopp received a $10,000 payment as part of his severance agreement -- $1,000 for every day on the job -- while Monegan recieved not a dime. In fact, this payment was, apparently, orginally done in secret, and was brought to light by blogger Andrew Halcro (a former state representative, who recently got his own talk show) ...
Now, even if Troopergate weren't a scandal, one has to ask, what is Palin doing giving a $10,000 severance package to someone who served 10 days who lied to her in the process of getting the job in the first place? And, of course, one has to wonder what kind of vetting process Palin herself uses if she didn't even bother to check out his claim that the sexual harrasment complaint had been dismissed.
Rosenberg also discusses allegations that the governor's office may be tampering with witnesses. -- JMC
McCain Picks Palin: A Grateful Nation Asks “Wha?”
We all know that Palin is about as far away from Progressive or Populist as one can get. I won’t belabor that point because many others will do it for me. But I would like to point out that this settles the argument—once and for all—about Republicans and why they do what they do. There was a time, I’m told, when Republicans simply disagreed with Democrats on how to run the country. They wanted things to go well, they wanted peace and prosperity, they just thought they were right and we were wrong. The selection of Palin signals that time has passed. They do not care. It’s all about winning. The selection of Palin is simple calculation. Nobody thinks Palin’s capable of being President (a role she may have to fill), nor does anyone I’ve spoken to think she’s capable of being VP. This is a simple political trap for Democrats. Mock Palin and you’re being mean to an attractive, hardworking mother, who still finds time to be Governor of her great, wild state. The temptation make fun of her is like an alcoholic being offered a lifetime supply of free scotch. So far Obama is doing the right thing; staying away from the issue and allowing the media to do his dirty work for him. If he wants to get Rovian (weakness is strength, strength weakness) he should have surrogates go nuts over the fact that many, many more qualified Republican women were passed over for a former beauty queen. Palin’s only strength, other than being an evangelical nut, is her sex. Turn that against her and the election is over. -- Charles Cullen
Why “I’m not George Bush” Will Work, This Time
I was there, not 25 feet away when John Kerry “reported for duty.” And that was the first time I knew he was going to lose. As soon as Kerry popped that phony salute, I knew we were doomed. The knowledge announced itself as simple panic and dread; feelings I kept trying to put behind me by telling myself that I was a worrywart, that we were right, and that the American people were just too damned smart to elect George Bush honestly. I remember joking with the head of this august publication about what would happen to his readership after Kerry was elected. Even then I knew. But Obama is no Kerry, and this is not 2004. With that in mind, these are the reasons you can expect to see a Black Man sworn in.
1) Even in good times the Electorate gets restless. Historically it’s unusual for a single party to get three terms in the White House. These are awful times.
2) Obama is a better politician than either Kerry or Gore by orders of magnitude. Gore suffered from two fatal problems: he thought he had to distance himself from Clinton, and that meant losing one of the most politically talented staffs in modern political history. It also meant hiring people like the unendingly moronic Donna Brazile (a mistake Kerry made as well). Gore simply, and rightly, thought that he was running against some rich idiot and that there was no way to lose the election. You can see it in his behavior during debates, his relatively easy schedule, and his glacier-like responses to Bush’s outrages attacks. Plus, the American people were bored and the media was pushing the “both parties are the same,” narrative like their collective lives depended on it. Kerry suffered from the same disease as Gore (intelligence) but he did an even poorer job controlling it. He actually tried to explain his policies to the American people as one would explain something complex and just assumed they would pay attention. He also responded extremely slowly to the outrageous attacks leveled against him.
3) McCain has picked Sarah Palin, Palin as a running mate. This isn’t 1999, folks. It’s 2008 and people are scared out of their minds. McCain will be the oldest President ever sworn in (assuming he’s sworn in; an event that will precipitate my hasty retreat to Costa Rica), and he is running with the most inexperienced, and least ready VP in living memory.
4) McCain has now thrown his most effective line of attack out the window. Anytime he tries to bring up Obama’s experience, a reporter will ask about Palin. If McCain counters that she isn’t running for POTUS, someone will bring up the question of McCain’s age.
5) This is already being reported as a Hail Mary, and even the most pro-Hillary blogs are writing that McCain probably handed Obama the election. The ONE THING Biden can’t do is get mean with Palin during a debate. That’s it. That’s the only thing this pick gets McCain. -- Charles Cullen
OBAMA'S SPEECH. Wow. Even Pat Buchanan on MSNBC praised it as one of the best convention speeches ever.
David Sirota calls it "probably the most populist national speech Obama has given."
Charles Babington of the Associated Press, parting from what appeared to be a growing consensus, wrote that it was not specific enough.
'DREAM' LIVES ON. See Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech on the 45th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Notes on convention coverage ...
Due to our production schedule, we were unable to attend the Democratic National Convention for the first time in six elections. We’re sorry to miss the parties and sideshows, but as far as the business of the convention, we probably were better able to follow the floor action on good ole C-SPAN.
TV critic David Bianculli has done a good job of monitoring the coverage and marking which events the various “news” channels have ignored.
In summary, C-SPAN is the only network with gavel-to-gavel coverage. If you want to follow the convention, stick to C-SPAN. PBS does the next best job, presenting the major speakers during the evening sessions. The other “news” channels made curious choices and all too often broke away from speakers to focus on pundits bloviating and speculating about the latest Republican talking points.
For example, on Monday, Bianculli noted that “CNN presented the Jimmy Carter video and appearance and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg's introduction to Ted Kennedy and endorsement of Barack Obama -- but didn't run the Ted Kennedy tribute film co-created by Ken Burns. CNN also ignored the opening speech by Nancy Pelosi, but did televise remarks, in the same opening prime-time hour, by Jesse Jackson, Jr.
“MSNBC, on the other hand, showed the Pelosi speech and the Kennedy video, which CNN skipped, but ignored the Carter tribute video and Jackson, which CNN showed.
“And over on Fox News, the entire first hour of DNC material was ignored completely -- no Pelosi, no Carter, no Jackson. But Fox News, unlike CNN, did show the Kennedy tribute film, rather than spend the time with its own correspondents.”
When the commercial broadcast networks began their hour of coverage at 9 p.m. CT, only ABC presented Ted Kennedy’s stirring, unscheduled speech intact. CBS and NBC only played snippets as they looked toward Michelle Obama’s speech.
On Tuesday. the networks focused on Hillary Clinton’s speech, which ran over the 10 p.m. CT prime-time limit, pushing into the local news.
The best political analysis came from Comedy Central, as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report commented on events from the previous day. Bianculli singled out Comedy Central's Daily Show as “perfect. I absolutely adored John Oliver's report on the angry Hillary supporters who refused to back Barack Obama. He sought the help of a child psychologist, who said, ‘Sometimes children just aren't group-ready,’ and suggested therapeutic games and songs to help them along.”
On Wednesday Bianculli noted that two of Wednesday’s most anticipated dramatic and historic events -- Obama being nominated by acclamation by Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton’s supportive speech -- occurred when CBS, NBC and ABC weren’t televising the convention.
Bianculli noted that CNN was the only channel (other than C-SPAN) to televise Melissa Etheridge’s musical medley, which included “Give Peace a Chance” and “Born in the USA.” CNN and PBS were the only ones that showed Steven Spielberg’s video about war veterans, which was narrated by Tom Hanks. Fox News and MSNBC ignored both Etheridge and the Spielberg film and also ignored the prime-time speech by John Kerry. CNN showed part of Kerry’s address while PBS showed all of it.
One of the speeches that was overlooked on the opening night of the Democratic convention was delivered by Jim Leach (see the video on Youtube and the text at the DNC website). Leach served 30 years as a moderate Republican congressman from eastern Iowa before his constituents in 2006 no longer could abide with his role in helping to form a Republican majority.
While he remains a Republican, Leach endorsed Obama, saying “today’s Republican Party has broken with its conservative heritage. The party that once emphasized individual rights has gravitated in recent years toward regulating values. The party of military responsibility has taken us to war with a country that did not attack us. The party that formerly led the world in arms control has moved to undercut treaties crucial to the defense of the earth. The party that prides itself on conservation has abdicated its responsibilities in the face of global warming. And the party historically anchored in fiscal restraint has nearly doubled the national debt, squandering our precious resources in an undisciplined and unprecedented effort to finance a war with tax cuts.”
He concluded, “This is not a time for politics as usual, or for run of the mill politicians ... America needs new ideas, new energy and a new generation of leadership.” He credited the Democrats with “nominating a transcending candidate, an individual whom I am convinced will recapture the American dream and be a truly great president: the senator from Abraham Lincoln's state--Barack Obama.”
Speakers that were overlooked by the networks on Tuesday included US Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who urged the crowd to “Wake Up America” see the video or the text); Sen. Bob Casey, who noted that McCain voted with Bush 95% of the time last year and commented, “That’s not a maverick, that’s a sidekick” (see the video or the text); and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who was a hit in his blazer, blue jeans, bolo tie and cowboy boots, kicked some butt on Republican one-shot energy policy and brought the convention to its feet as he endorsed Obama's comprehensive energy policy and engaged the audience in a call and response:
“Can we afford four more years?” he asked. “No!” came the reply.
“Is it time for change?” “Yes!”
“When do we need it?” “Now!”
"Who's going to lead us there, as the next president of the United States?" "Barack Obama."
(see the video or the text).
(Jimmy Orr of the Christian Science Monitor blogged, "Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer did the equivalent of summiting Everest for the first time yesterday, getting the crowd to roar while discussing renewable energy.")
Speakers that were overlooked Wednesday included retir Army Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, the military intelligence chief who was the first woman to achieve the rank of three-star general and said “In Barack Obama, our troops will have a commander-in-chief who has the judgment to use them wisely, sending them into harm’s way as a last resort, not a first resort; who listens to intelligence, doesn’t exaggerate it; who will bring our troops home from Iraq responsibly, not keep them there indefinitely; who knows that torture is not only morally repugnant, it’s militarily ineffective” (see text); retired Rear Admiral John Hutson, who told why he switched from Republican to Democrat: "Because the Republican Party I once knew has become something different, something I no longer recognize. The “Grand Old Party” is no longer grand. It’s just old" (see text); and Tammy Duckworth, a former Army helicopter pilot who lost both her legs and suffered damage to her right arm while on duty in Iraq. She said McCain wants to ration health care to veterans while Barack Obama fought for a new GI Bill and wants to improve VA health programs as well as general health care. She also noted, “I met him when he visited me and other wounded troops at Walter Reed. He came without reporters. He wasn’t looking for credit. He just cared about how we were doing. He knew that wherever you stand on the war, you must love the warrior, and he does” (see text).
You can find text of speeches delivered at the convention at the Democratic National Convention website.
SPORTS WITH RALPH. Dave Zirin writes: "Ralph Nader is best known as a legendary consumer advocate, a person who has touched virtually every aspect of our lives from car safety to the quality of our food. He's also a notable thorn in the side of Democratic Party activists desperate to win a presidential election and flummoxed by his quadrennial candidacy. However, few people know that Nader is also an avid sports fan. He was responsible for the launching of the League of Fans, a sports reform project, and he has also passionately pushed for a "Bill of Rights" for the American sports fan. ... See his interview with Nader.
BUSH GUSHES MISINFORMATION. With his approval ratings sinking below 30%, George W. Bush once again has lowered the bar for contempt of the nation's chief executive with his suggestion that lifting the federal ban on offshore oil exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf would bring immediate relief to high gas prices.
Bush on June 18 called on Congress to “pass good legislation as soon as possible” that would lift the ban and allow states to permit offshore oil drilling. Bush said in order to relieve the “painful level” of gas prices, “our nation must produce more oil.”
As part of his plan, Bush also reiterated his demand that Congress allow oil drilling in the Alaskan Arctic Wildlife Refuge. According to Bush, drilling for oil in the Arctic Refuge will “bring enormous benefits to the American people”:
BUSH: we should expand oil production by permitting exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or ANWR. … In the years since , the price of oil has increased sevenfold and the price of American gasoline has more than tripled. … I urge members of congress to allow this remote region to bring enormous benefits to the American people.
But ThinkProgress.org notes that Bush’s claim isn’t even backed up by his own administration. A Department of Energy report released in May found that the Arctic Refuge’s reserves will do little to reduce the price of a barrel of oil:
If Congress were to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, crude oil prices would probably drop by an average of only 75 cents a barrel, according to Department of Energy projections issued Thursday.
The report…found that oil production in the refuge “is not projected to have a large impact on world oil prices.”
Moreover, in 2005, DoE estimated that there are nearly 18 billion barrels of oil available in the OCS, which is roughly double the reserves in the Arctic Refuge. Thus, by 2025, drilling in Alaska and the OCS would shave around $2.25 off the cost of a barrel of oil meaning “little to no impact on the price at the pump, today or tomorrow.”
ThinkProgress concluded, “At best, Bush’s plan saves mere pennies on a gallon of gasoline 20 years from now, while putting billions more into Big Oil’s pockets. Perhaps oil company executives were the ‘American people’ he was referring to.”
Brad Johnson of ThinkProgress.org adds that lifting the offshore moratorium is a boon to Big Oil and nobody else.
He notes that the federal moratorium on Outer Continental Shelf drilling was signed into law by President Reagan in 1981 and extended by President George H.W. Bush after the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989. Bush's justification for ending the moratorium relies on misleading and false statements, Johnson added:
Congress — which was under Republican control for most of the Bush presidency — is not blocking drilling. The number of off- and on-shore drilling permits has exploded in recent years, going from 3,802 five years ago to 7,561 in 2007. Between 1999 and 2007, the number of drilling permits issued for development of public lands increased by more than 361%.
In fact, Congress and this administration have already opened the floodgates for more oil and gas drilling in the years to come. Since 2002, the number of permits issued has greatly outstripped the number of new wells drilled. In the last four years, the Bureau of Land Management has issued 28,776 permits to drill on public land; yet, in that same time, 18,954 wells were actually drilled. That means that companies have stockpiled nearly 10,000 extra permits to drill that they are not using to increase domestic production.
Furthermore, less than a quarter of offshore acreage open to drilling is being used. Only 10.5 million of the 44 million leased acres are currently producing oil or gas.
The vast majority of federal oil and gas resources offshore are already available for development. According to the Minerals Management Service, of all the oil (85.9 billion barrels) and gas (419.9 trillion cubic feet) believed to exist on the Outer Continental Shelf, 82% of the natural gas and 79% of the oil is located in areas that are currently open for leasing (such as areas in the Gulf of Mexico and off the Alaska coast).
Joe Romm's notes at Climate Progress that the 2007 Annual Energy Outlook from the U.S. Energy Information Administration found:
The projections in the OCS access case indicate that access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.
And in 2030, “any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant.”
Romm has more on McCain's flip-flop on offshore drilling, pandering to the oil companies, and embrace of “the exact same strategy endorsed by the man McCain is trying so hard to run away from — President Bush.”
We add that Bush was not a very successful oil executive, but he has enough background in the oil business to know that drilling in the Arctic Refuge and offshore reserves would take years to produce oil, if they are successful.
John McCain and Fla. Gov. Charlie Crist also have strained their credibility by jumping on the offshore drilling bandwagon. Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) “challenged Gov. Charlie Crist and John McCain’s implication that drilling could lower gas prices anytime soon.” Rubio, an attorney involved in real estate and land use, told the Miami Herald that Crist and McCain are making a “disingenuous” and “flawed” argument:
“For anyone to represent that someone drilling off the coast in Florida is going to lower gas prices here or anywhere in this country is disingenuous and a flawed argument,” he said. “Oil drilling could take 10 years before any oil is pulled out of the ground, and there are a large number of leases held by oil companies that are not being exploited now. We can’t say we need more until we’ve exploited those.”
TIM RUSSERT, R.I.P. We're sorry to hear that Tim Russert, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," has died of a heart attack at age 58.
WHY CLINTON LOST (AND OBAMA WON)
Contributing editors at DailyKos.com focused their Sunday essays on one question, Why Clinton Lost (and Obama Won) in the first-ever Sunday Kos Symposium in which we all focused on one topic, but came at it from different angles, for a full day. The essays were as follows:
- Hunter opened with (appropriately) Why Clinton Lost, a sweeping overview that ultimately came down to: her campaign did not campaign.
- Smintheus weighed in with Change and the Bush Legacy, in which he argued that Clinton was so closely identified with Bush, mostly through her vote for the Iraq war, that a vote against her was the equivalent of a "smite Bush" button.
- Devilstower drew attention to the role of Bill--and the unfortunate timing of the role he played--in Too Soon a Bulldog.
- Brownsox took the opportunity to look not so much at where Clinton went wrong as what her opponent did right in The Obama Express.
- Trapper John deconstructed the misogyny and dehumanization that fed into the stereotype of the threatening, ambitious professional woman in The Nutcracker.
BRAVE NEW ELECTION COVERAGE. After watching the right-wing pundits on CNN and MSNBC commenting on the Democratic primary election in South Carolina it was a pleasure to find Brave New Films presenting live election coverage with Cenk Uygyur and Michael Shure of the Young Turks and Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films as well as guests from Firedoglake, Alternet, The Huffington Post, Crooks and Liars and other progressive organizations analyzing election results from a left point of view. BNF also plans coverage of the “State of the Union Party” on Monday, Jan. 28, from 7 to 10 p.m. ET and “Super Tuesday” -- the 22 states that will be holding primary elections on Tuesday, Feb. 5, from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. ET.
LIES THAT LED TO WAR: The Center for Public Integrity has compiled at least 935 false statements made by President George W. Bush and seven of his top aides to promote the invasion of Iraq. Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith write:
President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.
On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration's case for war.
It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to Al Qaeda. This was the conclusion of numerous bipartisan government investigations, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (2004 and 2006), the 9/11 Commission, and the multinational Iraq Survey Group, whose "Duelfer Report" established that Saddam Hussein had terminated Iraq's nuclear program in 1991 and made little effort to restart it.
In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003. Not surprisingly, the officials with the most opportunities to make speeches, grant media interviews, and otherwise frame the public debate also made the most false statements, according to this first-ever analysis of the entire body of prewar rhetoric. ...
Check out the overview and the database of 380,000 words of Iraq-related misinformation and sdisinformation by top Bushy administration officials.
WHAT'S IN A LABEL: Heartland Labor Forum at KKFI 90.1-FM in Kansas City did a show on the difference between populism and libertarianism on Jan. 17, interviewing John Henry, professor of economics from the University of Missouri-Kansas City; Randy Langkraehr of the Missouri Libertarian Party; and Jim Cullen of The Progressive Populist. The audio is now online.
HAVE FUN IN MICHIGAN: Kos proposes that Michigan Dems cross over to the Republican primary next Tuesday, Jan. 15, to vote for Mitt Romney and repay Michigan Republicans fofr years of mischief.
OUR TAKE ON THE IOWA CAUCUSES: On the Democratic side, Barack Obama is for real. Hillary Clinton is not inevitable. And John Edwards is the progressive populist in the race.
Now that the Democratic presidential race has practically narrowed to those three candidates, Edwards remains the progressive populist choice for change. Many progressive voters would be proud to vote for a black candidate or a female candidate with a solid chance to occupy the Oval Office, but while Obama and Clinton have been occupying the middle of the road, Edwards, a former North Carolina senator who comes from a working-class background and made his bones as a trial lawyer challenging reckless and abusive corporations, has been challenging the status quo. Although he has been derided by some for his wealth, he made his fortune by winning verdicts for his working-class clients who were injured by those corporations that are unregulated by the Republicans and lightly regulated by the D.C. Dems.
(Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa Republican caucuses, also has earned the contempt of the GOP establishment with his focus on economic inequality and his appeal to class-based populism, but the former Baptist preacher and Arkansas governor is no friend of workers, as he showed Jan. 2 when he crossed a union picket line to appear on NBC's "Tonight Show" on the eve of the Iowa caucuses.)
Since the 2004 campaign, Edwards has pursued a progressive populist agenda, working with labor unions and grassroots organizations such as ACORN to address the growing divide between the working class and the wealthy. Edwards has proposed a plan for universal health care that takes on the insurance and drug companies, and promises to cover every man, woman, and child in America with better care at lower cost. It isn't single-payer national health care, but it would be a good start if he could get any traction with it. His plan requires businesses and other employers to either cover their employees or help finance their workers' health insurance. It makes insurance affordable by creating new tax credits, reforms insurance laws to stop insurance companies from "cherry picking" healthy customers and it creates regional "health care markets" to create competition and help Americans find affordable health care.
We would prefer an expansion of Medicare to cover everybody, as Dennis Kucinich, among others, has proposed, but if congressional Democrats sent Edwards a national health care bill, we bet he'd sign it.
Edwards has outlined an ambitious agenda of economic justice and fairness. He has proposed a rural recovery plan and he will reverse Bush's tax and trade policies that have given multinational corporations and investors advantages at the expense of American industry and working people.
The D.C. pundits are still mocking Edwards for paying a lot for hair styling -- as if those TV blowhards ever darkened the doorway of a SuperCuts. Edwards also has been criticized by the D.C. Dems for not showing deference to the party establishment. More admirable, as David Mizner noted at MyDD.com, Edwards has "little discernible support" on K Street in Washington, and his moves in recent months have done nothing to change that. "Edwards has never taken money from federal lobbyists, and this summer he went one better, calling on all Democrats, including Hillary, the national party, and the congressional committees to join him in rejecting K-Street cash. If you're trying to anger the establishment, this is a good way to do it."
Edwards has all the right enemies, but he beat the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton, in Iowa. Obama, who gets full credit for bringing an unprecedented number of young and independent voters to the caucuses, is an appealing progressive candidate but for all his rhetoric about change we don't hear him taking on the vested interests that control both the major parties the way Edwards has.
Edwards has described the choice facing the country as "the establishment elites versus the American people." He points out that the system is "controlled by big corporations, the lobbyists they hire to protect their bottom line and the politicians who curry their favor and carry their water. And it's perpetuated by a media that too often fawns over the establishment, but fails to seriously cover the challenges we face or the solutions being proposed."
Make no mistake: Dennis Kucinich is still a more progressive candidate and he appears to be carrying on with his campaign, but Wall Street is not worried about Kucinich reaching the White House. However, if John Edwards starts moving toward the nomination, in a year where the Republican base is fractured, expect the corporate media to repeat the character assassination that sidelined Howard Dean in 2004. The mainstream media won't give Edwards any breaks. Jim Cramer, a former hedge fund manager, hit the nail on the head on MSNBC's Hardball a few months ago when he called Edwards Wall Street's "Public Enemy No. 1."
That's a ranking Edwards can be proud of.
Don't wait for November to complain about the lack of choices. Do something now by supporting John Edwards.