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Monday, June 30, 2008

Wesley Clark Hammers McCain's Experience

ImageWesley Clark was on Face the Nation today, and he took aim at the idea that McCain’s Vietnam War experience makes him more qualified to be president. “He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded, that wasn't a wartime squadron,” Clark said.

Host Bob Schieffer said that Barack Obama hasn’t had these experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. Clark replied that, “I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.” With one swoop, Clark attacked the entire basis for the McCain presidential campaign.

McCain spokesman Brian Roberts tried to use Clark’s statement to paint Obama as a typical politician, “If Barack Obama’s campaign wants to question John McCain’s military service, that’s their right. But let’s please drop the pretense that Barack Obama stands for a new type of politics. The reality is he’s proving to be a typical politician who is willing to say anything to get elected, including allowing his campaign surrogates to demean and attack John McCain’s military service record.”

Of course, Clark is correct. The whole idea that McCain would make a better president because he was a P.O.W. is stupid. Clark was not challenging McCain’s military record, what he was challenging is the phony idea that McCain’s military record makes him a more qualified candidate than Obama. McCain’s experience in Vietnam probably shaped his ideology, so isn’t it fair to ask if this ideology is the correct one to lead the nation forward at this time.

I am glad that somebody finally had the guts to stand up and challenge the Republican Party and their faux patriotism. For too long Democrats have cowered at the prospect of being labeled un-American, so it was refreshing to see Wesley Clark finally step up and challenge these GOP myths. Now I am left to wonder if Clark just elevated himself on Obama’s VP short list.

Original here

The McCain Residences: A Google Earth Tourv

Inspired by the McCains' recent tax default, I decided to go on a little tour of their many homes across the nation. Enjoy!


YouTube link

p.s.: This is my first attempt at narrating a video. What do you think? Should I do it more often? Was it too long? Short? Would it have been better had I spoken backwards?

Original here

Obama Undercuts His Brand

Sen. Barack Obama is risking his brand as a political reformer, according to reports today in the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. In recent weeks, he has moderated or changed positions on a number of politically-charged issues, leading to criticism from demoralized Democratic activists and charges of "flip-flopping" from conservatives.

The Times reports:

In recent weeks, he toughened his stance on Iran and backed an expansion of the government's wiretapping powers. On Wednesday, he said states should be allowed to execute child rapists. When the Supreme Court the next day struck down the District of Columbia's ban on handguns, he did not complain...


..."I've been struck by the speed and decisiveness of his move to the center," said Will Marshall, president of the centrist Progressive Policy Institute...

...And Obama endorsed a compromise wiretapping bill despite stiff opposition from liberal activists. MoveOn.org, the liberal online activist group, asked its members to flood Obama's campaign office with phone calls and e-mails urging him to support a filibuster of the bill.

The changes carry some risk that Obama will diminish the image he has sought to build as a new type of leader who will change how Washington conducts business. McCain and other Republicans have used his recent policy statements to argue that Obama is a traditional politician, unwilling to take clear stands on tough issues and abandoning his principles when he finds it advantageous.


The Post reports that those who should be his strongest supporters are taking this as a wake-up call:

The switch is not without precedent. On a variety of issues, including gun control and campaign finance regulation, the presumptive Democratic nominee has shown himself willing to settle for incremental changes in the face of political reality rather than to hold out for the sweeping and uncompromising positions he initially stakes out.


But even some who should be his core constituents -- in the Democratic Party's progressive wing and the liberal blogosphere -- have taken his recent maneuvers as a wake-up call. They are warning the senator that in his quest to reach voters in the middle of the political spectrum, he risks depressing the enthusiasm of the voters who clinched the nomination for him.

"American voters tend to reward politicians who take clear stands," said David Sirota, a former Democratic aide on Capitol Hill and author of the new populist-themed book "The Uprising." "When Obama takes these mushy positions, it could speak to a character issue. Voters that don't pay a lot of attention look at one thing: 'Does the guy believe in something?' They may be saying the guy is afraid of his own shadow."

Original here

Did An Activist Supreme Court Punt On Heller?

This weeks 5-4 Supreme Court decision on District of Columbia vs. Heller was widely touted as a landmark ruling. The court settled, finally, the big question; did the Second Amendment provide for private ownership of guns or did the Founding Fathers intend only to guarantee the right to arm militias?

The Constitution does not permit "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home," Justice Antonin Scalia, the court's arch-conservative, wrote in the majority opinion.
While the decision may have addressed the question of private ownership and "absolute prohibitions" like the District of Columbia statute, it raises new questions about what restrictions are reasonable.
"It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose," Scalia wrote.

Gun-control advocates say the ruling's focus on gun bans safeguards reasonable gun restrictions from the flurry of litigation it will undoubtedly trigger. "The Court's decision indicated regulation of guns, as opposed to the banning of handguns, is entirely permissible," says Dennis Henigan, vice president for law and policy at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
It came as no surprise that by the end of the week the NRA had already filed suits against gun ban statutes in the cities of Chicago and San Francisco.

While the Court's decision addresses bans on firearms, it didn't address what might be considered reasonable regulation of those firearms. Some jurisdictions have banned a specific type of firearm, like assault weapons or fully automatic weapons. The Court's Heller ruling might allow the challenging of those statues.

It's also worth noting this was a close decision by the Court. Four of the justices dissented and Justice Stevens was particularly critical of the majority:
In one of two dissenting opinions, Justice John Paul Stevens called Scalia's argument "strained and unpersuasive." He also blistered the majority for its expansive reading of the Amendment's "ambiguous" text. "Until today, it has been understood that legislatures may regulate the civilian use and misuse of firearms so long as they do not interfere with the preservation of a well-regulated militia," Stevens wrote. "The Court's announcement of a new constitutional right to own and use firearms for private purposes upsets that settled understanding."
The best case is now that the whole militia/individual question is resolved and there are finally assurances that private ownership is sanctioned, some of the steam may be taken out of the debate and reasonable discussions about how guns can be kept from those individuals we all agree have absolutely no business owning a gun.

Original here

Mrs. McCain, San Diego County Would Like a Word

When you're poor, it can be hard to pay the bills. When you're rich, it's hard to keep track of all the bills that need paying. It's a lesson Cindy McCain learned the hard way when NEWSWEEK raised questions about an overdue property-tax bill on a La Jolla, Calif., property owned by a trust that she oversees. Mrs. McCain is a beer heiress with an estimated $100 million fortune and, along with her husband, she owns at least seven properties, including condos in California and Arizona.

San Diego County officials, it turns out, have been sending out tax notices on the La Jolla property, an oceanfront condo, for four years without receiving a response. County records show the bills, which were mailed to a Phoenix address associated with Mrs. McCain's trust, were returned by the post office. According to a McCain campaign aide, who requested anonymity when discussing a private matter, an elderly aunt of Mrs. McCain's lives in the condo, and the bank that manages the trust has not been receiving tax bills on the property. Shortly after NEWSWEEK inquired about the matter, the McCain aide e-mailed a receipt dated Friday, June 27, confirming payment by the trust to San Diego County in the amount of $6,744.42. County officials say the trust still owes an additional $1,742 for this year, an amount that is overdue and will go into default July 1. Told of the outstanding $1,742, the aide said: "The trust has paid all bills shown owing as of today and will pay all other bills due."

Dan McAllister, treasurer- tax collector for San Diego County, said that about 3 percent of San Diego's approximately 1 million property owners default on their property taxes each year. The county assesses a 1.5 percent penalty for each month that goes by unpaid and puts houses up for sale after five years. "We do hear an awful lot of excuses for why people don't pay," McAllister said. "Under the law, the property owner is responsible for keeping the address current. We're only as good as the information we are given."

Original here

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Candidate Runs to a G.O.P. Chorus of ‘Don’t’

By JULIE BOSMAN

Veronika Lukasova for The New York Times

Bob Barr of Georgia, the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee, has his eyes on a few key states in which he can be the spoiler.

ATLANTA — He has been called a spoiler. A would-be Ralph Nader. A thorn in the side of Senator John McCain and the Republican establishment.

None of it bothers Bob Barr, the former Republican congressman from Georgia turned Libertarian Party candidate for president, who gleefully recounted what he says a group of Republicans told him at a recent meeting in Washington: Don’t run.

“ ‘Well, gee, you might take votes from Senator McCain,’ ” Mr. Barr said this week, mimicking one of the complainers, as he sat sipping Coca-Cola in his plush corner office, 12 stories above Atlanta. “They all said, ‘Look, we understand why you’re doing this. We agree with why you’re doing it. But please don’t do it.’ ”

But with the Libertarian nomination in hand, Mr. Barr hopes to follow in the footsteps of Ross Perot and Mr. Nader, whose third-party presidential bids wreaked general-election havoc.

For one, he is hoping to hitch his wagon to the enormous grass-roots movement behind Representative Ron Paul, the libertarian-minded Republican from Texas who recently abandoned his own presidential bid.

And with presidential elections increasingly boiling down to state-by-state battles for Electoral College votes, many political analysts think a Barr candidacy, no matter how marginal, could have some impact.

On the ballots in 30 states so far, Mr. Barr has the chance to be a spoiler for Mr. McCain, the presumed Republican nominee, in several states, among them Alaska, Colorado and Georgia. Mr. Barr’s campaign advisers also assert he has similar potential in other mountain states, New Hampshire, Ohio and other swing states.

The Republican Party and the McCain campaign have swatted away the Barr candidacy, but some Republicans are taking it seriously. If the early polls hold up, and Senator Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic nominee, pours heavy resources into Georgia, that state could be up for grabs, said Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia.

“If Barr got 8 percent, and you’ve got the higher African-American turnout from Barack Obama, then you’d have a significantly close race in the state,” Mr. Isakson said.

Yet Mr. Barr faces formidable obstacles. No Libertarian candidate has ever won more than 1 percent of the vote in a presidential election, and Mr. Barr is severely lacking in money, resources and name recognition. He has yet to lease a campaign headquarters, have a fund-raiser, tape a television advertisement or hold a campaign event.

Even those sympathetic to the party’s beliefs complain that it is prone to infighting, fundamentally more committed to principle than electoral action and seemingly incapable of raising money or organizing supporters.

And some of its own members are asking how they ended up with Mr. Barr, who at the Libertarian Party convention in Denver last month squeaked by with the nomination only after six raucous rounds of votes.

“There certainly are still those,” Mr. Barr said, switching to the third person, “that may view Bob Barr as somewhat of a Johnny-come-lately.”

While libertarian philosophy generally bows to the rights of the individual — and against government intervention — Representative Barr voted for the USA Patriot Act; voted to authorize the war in Iraq in 2002; led the impeachment charge against President Bill Clinton in 1998; and introduced the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

After joining the Libertarian Party two years ago, Mr. Barr declared his intention to run for the 2008 presidential nomination only 10 days before the party’s convention in May. (Mr. Barr is also remembered for an incident in 2002, while preparing a Senate bid on a gun-rights platform, when he accidentally fired an antique .38-caliber pistol during a fund-raiser, shattering a sliding glass door.)

But Mr. Barr has largely disavowed his record in Congress as a Republican, a turnaround his campaign manager, Russell Verney, sunnily referred to as “the journey that Bob went through.”

Now, on the war in Iraq, he advocates for a speedy and complete withdrawal of troops, with no permanent bases; on same-sex marriage, he believes that states should make their own laws; and on wiretaps without warrants, he is fiercely opposed, arguing that the bill that would legalize searches without warrants violates an individual’s constitutional rights.

Mr. Barr says he is running because he is fed up with what he calls years of Republicans turning their backs on the party’s fundamental values of tight spending and limited government. He is doing it with very little money; just over $300,000 has trickled into the campaign so far.

Mr. Verney, a political consultant based in Dallas who was introduced to Mr. Barr in April, was behind Mr. Perot’s self-financed third-party runs in 1992 and 1996.

“One of the blessings of the Perot campaign,” Mr. Verney said dryly, “was that you didn’t have to worry about the money part.”

Some of the money problems might be solved if Mr. Paul’s libertarian supporters coalesce behind Mr. Barr. But Mr. Paul’s followers, many of whom were inspired by his passionate opposition to the war, might not be so quick to transfer their allegiance to a candidate who initially supported it.

Mr. Paul has pointedly declined to endorse his former Congressional colleague. Some of Mr. Paul’s former campaign staff members and other supporters have said privately that they resent Mr. Barr’s efforts to co-opt their constituency. Near the top of their list of complaints is Mr. Barr’s campaign Web site, BobBarr2008.com, which bears a strong resemblance to RonPaul2008.com, complete with bouncy graphics and a money clock at the top of the home page.

Like the Paul campaign, Mr. Barr is trying to build support on the Web. “Meetup, the Facebook, the YouTube,” said Mr. Verney, ticking off the Web sites where the campaign has established itself. “We have more Meetups than Hillary and McCain combined.”

Mr. Barr’s skeleton staff has set up temporary camp in the offices of Liberty Strategies, Mr. Barr’s public relations firm. He has a half-dozen full-time employees, but Mr. Verney said there were plans to move into a 4,600-square-foot space and expand to 28 people later this summer.

While the Barr campaign flies mostly under the radar, a Los Angeles Times-Bloomberg poll this week showed that if the presidential election were held today, Mr. Barr would garner 3 percent of the vote, mostly from people who would otherwise vote Republican.

A recent national poll suggested that Mr. Nader has roughly the same percentage of support as Mr. Barr. While in the past he has drawn largely from disenchanted Democrats, Mr. Nader said in an interview that he now attracted support from people who would otherwise vote Republican.

Many Republicans said they were unconcerned about Mr. Barr’s presence in the race. “We’re confident that regardless of the field, our candidate’s message will carry through to November,” said Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for the McCain campaign.

But analysts said Mr. Barr could be a menace to Mr. McCain, particularly in Georgia, where Mr. Barr is relatively well known and Mr. Obama has already begun running television advertisements.

“Clearly in Georgia, Bob Barr is making the state competitive,” said Larry J. Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “We all remember Nader. Sometimes you can get a tiny fraction of the vote and make a difference electorally in a state or two. It’s entirely possible.”

Similarly, Mr. Barr could have impact in Colorado, where Mr. Perot’s presence gave Bill Clinton the opening to win the state in 1992, said Robert D. Loevy, a professor of political science at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

“If Bob Barr gets it up to 3, 4, 5 percent of the vote, it could definitely throw Colorado to Barack Obama,” Mr. Loevy said.

The Obama campaign has played up the Barr campaign’s potential impact, citing it as a potential plus during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday.

“If Barr were to get 2 percent in most states, our belief is he’ll get 4 percent here,” said David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, speaking of Georgia. “Most of it coming out of McCain’s hide.”

Original here

John McCain Doesn't Know the Price of Gas/Can't Remember the Last Time He Bought Any

John McCain kind of stepped in it the other day, here in California, but luckily no one noticed. He was being driven from John Wayne airport to a fundraiser, and he took a quick call from Martin Wisckol of the Orange County Register. Wisckol asked him a series of softball questions so tedious McCain's driver had to crack the window so the breeze would keep him from passing out, but then this:

WISCKOL: I'd like to ask you a couple questions suggested by voters here. They're not reporter-type questions.


McCAIN: Sure. It'd be a pleasure.

WISCKOL: When was the last time you pumped your own gas and how much did it cost? 


McCAIN: Oh, I don't remember. Now there's Secret Service protection. But I've done it for many, many years. I don't recall and frankly, I don't see how it matters. I've had hundreds and hundreds of town hall meetings, many as short a time ago as yesterday. I communicate with the people and they communicate with me very effectively.

... I'm going through a tunnel... ... bzzzzzzzztttttt bzzzzzztttttt...I'm gonna lose you... bzzzztttttt... bye!

No, I added that last part.

Okay. A few things here.

1) John McCain doesn't know what gas costs, because the Secret Service protects him from finding out, possibly because they're afraid the knowledge will kill him. Not a healthy man.

2) John McCain isn't an elitist or a big government bureaucrat. He's a maverick who has certainly pumped his own gas at some point in his life, perhaps during the single 18-month period when he wasn't in the navy or in congress, but was living off his wife.

3) It doesn't matter. How do we know it doesn't matter? Because John McCain says it doesn't matter.

4) John McCain may not know what gas costs or when he last pumped any, or performed any other act not connected to politics or outpatient care, but he's had hundreds of town hall meetings, many as short a time ago as yesterday. Which somehow answers questions about gas prices, but it's not clear exactly how.

5) John McCain communicates with people and they communicate with him very effectively.

6) John McCain is an excellent driver. Dad lets him drive slow down the driveway every Saturday.

7) Fifteen minutes to Wapner.


--


Asking a politician about groceries is a dusty old trick. Mitt Romney doesn't know what Saran Wrap costs, and why should he? Unless it's important to the image he's trying to build, as a regular guy, or at least someone who gives a shit.

But some gotcha questions do matter.

For instance, back in 1999, when Andy Hiller had this exchange with then-Governor George W. Bush:

HILLER: Can you name the president of Chechnya?"


BUSH:
No, can you?

HILLER: Can you name the president of Taiwan?

BUSH: Yeah, Lee.

HILLER: Can you name the general who's in charge of Pakistan?

BUSH: Wait, wait, is this 50 questions?

HILLER
: No, it's four questions of four leaders in four hot spots.

BUSH: The new Pakistani general, he's just been elected -- not elected, this guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country and I think that's good news for the subcontinent.

HILLER: Can you name him?

BUSH: General. I can name the general. General.

HILLER: And the prime minister of India?

BUSH: The new prime minister of India is -- no. Can you name the foreign minister of Mexico?

HILLER: No sir, but I would say to that, I'm not running for president.

BUSH: What I'm suggesting to you is, if you can't name the foreign minister of Mexico, therefore, you know, you're not capable about what you do. But the truth of the matter is you are, whether you can or not.

You'd think that the candidacy was over at "I can name the general. General," but it turns out it wasn't. These questions might not have mattered. (Pakistan? Come on! As if the president really needs to know about Pakistan!) What was important was the way the candidate answered.

Which was like a belligerent dick.


--


As opposed to John McCain on the question of pumping his own gas. Who comes off as a floundering panderer who's lost a step.


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I'm not even sure Martin Wisckol was trying to play gotcha with John McCain. I think he was fishing for a colorful anecdote. If you read the rest of the interview, you'll see he certainly didn't ask any other questions that couldn't be answered by a press release.

John McCain has spent the last three months -- since he floated his gas tax holiday -- pretending to care about the cost of driving. He should have had a slightly better answer than "I've had hundreds of town halls."

He knows it, too. Which is why he panics after a few more questions, when Wisckol is trying to wind things up.

WISCKOL: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with me.


McCAIN: Thank you. It's a pleasure.... Hang on just one second. I think the last time that I ... I've been on the campaign trail for so long I don't remember when I last filled up my own gas tank, but I certainly did for many, many, many years and I understand the difficulties and challenges that it poses for the people of California and my home state of Arizona. I thank you, my friend.

And the name of the general is General.

Original here

McCain's Eight Most Inappropriate Jokes

If you've ever seen Ricky Gervais' BBC series, The Office (the overseas predecessor to the hit US show), you've already met David Brent. The miscreant man-in-charge is a serial joke-maker, though his workplace rubes almost always tend toward the inappropriate and insensitive.

Jump to the real-life political David Brent: John McCain. The Arizona Senator and GOP nominee has taken a number of stabs at humor on the campaign trail. Some have hit the spot. Others have missed the mark completely, garnering a gaggle of negative media attention as a result.

Now, as a general rule, I make a policy of not relating television to politics, or to anything in real life for that matter. But if the shoe fits...

8. Wife Beating Joke

In a June, 2008 interview with ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper, McCain was asked why he had passed over Nevada's Republican Governor Jim Gibbons when choosing his state campaign chair (traditionally, the first choice if the governor and the presidential nominee are members of the same party). McCain explained that he had a longstanding relationship with the state's lieutenant governor, and that his choice was not a snub of any kind. Pressing the subject, Tapper asked whether McCain had passed over Gibbons as a result of the governor's relatively low approval ratings.

"And I stopped beating my wife just a couple of weeks ago," McCain laughed.

The reference is to what Tapper refers to as a "distasteful bit of DC yuckery so commonly quoted its hackneyed."

Despite the widespread news stories on it in Nevada, it's possible that McCain hadn't heard about Gibbons' recent high-profile divorce, stemming from multiple charges of infidelity. Moreover, a cocktail waitress accused Gibbons of grabbing and threatening her with sexual assault in a parking garage.

In Tapper's words: "Awkward."

7. Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran

Probably one of the most publicized instances of McCain's attempts at humor is his infamous rendition of the Beach Boys classic, "Barbara Ann." When asked what he would do about Iran, McCain broke into song, but substituted "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" in place of the name of the female subject of the song.

McCain defended his quip amid a vocal outcry, telling detractors to, "get a life." Criticism abounded, alleging that McCain's failure to treat the prospect of military action- especially in the midst of two ongoing wars- was indicative of a callous and bellicose approach to foreign policy.

6. Waterboarding Charlie Crist

When Rudy Giuliani made his own attempt at humor, comparing the presidential race to torture, McCain- a torture victim himself- was outraged. And yet, McCain has made a few jokes of his own on the matter.

In late January of 2008, reporters asked Florida Governor Charlie Crist if McCain had pressured him for his endorsement. A nearby McCain interjected, "It was just waterboarding."

McCain's joke, while off-color, might not have been the most inappropriate, especially when compared to some of his other ones. But what makes it worse for the candidate is that it was he who was the first to condemn similar remarks from his opponents.

5. Waterboarding His Staff

About a month later, The New Yorker reported that McCain made the joke again. His presidential hopes apparently derailed, a number of his staff had abandoned the campaign, only to be brought back when McCain reemerged as the Republican front-runner. He joked that he conducted "a short period of waterboarding to find out what they did in their absence."

4. The French

In an interview with Fox News, McCain aimed his ill-fated humor at our allies, the French. "You know," he began, "the French remind me a little bit of an aging actress of the 1940s who is still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn't have the face for it." This is a country that is heavily involved in the Afghan conflict. McCain's questionable comments raised some a measured ruckus in both foreign and domestic circles, calling the Senator's diplomatic skills into question.

3. IED on Jon Stewart's Desk

Given, The Daily Show is satirical. But when McCain appeared on Jon Stewart's hit series most recently, he joked that he'd brought Stewart an improvised explosive device as a gift from Iraq.

The problem: more than1,700 US soldiers in Iraq have been killed by IEDs, accounting for more than one-third of all US casualties since the 2003 invasion. His comments were called, "insensitive" and "inappropriate" by a wide range of critics.

2. The Death of Fidel Castro

The Cold War- particularly the tension with Cuba- spanned six presidencies- those of Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan. Not one of them ever joked about Fidel Castro dying. John McCain did.

In February of 2008, McCain told a town hall in Indiana, "I hope he has the opportunity to meet Karl Marx very soon."

Current president George W. Bush made no jokes about the death of Saddam Hussein, and in fact encouraged respectful treatment of the situation by others. Why? Because to do otherwise would have been unbecoming of a statesman.

1. 18 Year Old Chelsea Clinton

McCain has a legendary temper. When his wife teased that his hair was getting "a little thin," McCain fumed. "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollup, you c*nt!"

But for his own sensitivity, he's not one to restrain himself when it comes to dishing it out. In fact, he can be downright nasty.

In 1998, McCain was speaking before a GOP fundraiser in Washington, D.C. when he asked, "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because Janet Reno is her father." The joke was wrong on so many levels- for it's offense to the Attorney General, for it's offense to the president and his wife. But most of all, for his attack on a eighteen year old girl.

Anyone who has a daughter can tell you that those middle teenage years can be tough. Girls at school can be vicious as it is. But when a national figure makes a predatory attack on a defenseless girl to further his own political causes, it's downright disgusting.

Original here

What does McCain mean by ‘we’?

There was a vote last night in the Senate on the war supplemental, which included the Webb/Hagel GI Bill. The spending bill, including the expanded education benefits for veterans, passed overwhelmingly (92 to 6), and will be added to the $165 billion that the House and Senate have already approved for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The roll-call is online; every Democrat, and most Republicans, voted for the bill. John McCain, as is now common, didn’t show up for work. Barack Obama was there, and he voted for the funding.

What’s especially interesting, though, is McCain’s response to last night’s vote.

For those who can’t watch clips online, McCain, campaigning in Ohio, told voters, “I’m happy to tell you that we probably agreed to an increase in educational benefits for our veterans that not only gives them increase in their educational benefits, but if they stay in for a certain period of time than they can transfer those educational benefits to their spouses and or children. That’s a very important aspect I think of incentivizing people of staying in the military.”

Is that so. McCain is “happy” to promote a bill “we” passed to help veterans with their education benefits.

You’ve. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

As regular readers no doubt recall, McCain opposed the Webb/Hagel GI Bill. He actively fought against it.

Remember this?

The Senate approved a $194.1 billion wartime spending bill Thursday that promises a greatly expanded GI education benefit for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan…A Vietnam veteran himself, McCain has opposed Webb’s bill as overly generous to veterans at the expense of career military officers and NCOs. McCain did not return to the Capitol for Thursday’s votes…

Indeed, McCain’s opposition nearly scuttled the bill.

What’s more, when the Obama campaign began hitting McCain over this, he got pretty touchy about it.

And now he wants voters to think he supported the bill all along? That “we” — by implication, including himself — increase “educational benefits for our veterans”?

Even by McCain standards, this is pretty outrageous.

Original here

Five GOP Groups That Can't Stand John McCain

1. His Colleagues

John McCain has a serious problem with his own party. Back in 2000, when the GOP nomination race came down to he and George W. Bush, he had the backing of just four of his Senate colleagues. When he ran this time around, they were vocal with regard to their discontent. In the most oft-quoted comment, Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran said that the though of McCain in the White House sent "a cold chill down my spine." Tom DeLay called him a hypocrite. Fellow candidate Tom Tancredo put it fat out: "I don't like John McCain," he said.

The list those who have either expressed public dislike for McCain or who've been on the receiving end of his legendary temper is long and distinguished: Senators, Chuck Grassley, Pete Domenici, Bob Bennett, Former Senators Rick Santorum and Bob Smith, Former Representatives Dennis Hastert and Rick Renzi. The list goes on and on, ranging from those who served with him in Congress, to governors, state party chairs, and so on. All of them are Republican.

To be fair, many of them have now changed their tune, offering at the very least tepid support for the Arizona Senator since he's won the party nomination.

2. The NRA

Forget that the National Rifle Association has been overwhelmingly friendly to Republican candidates over the years- John McCain is not their favorite person. McCain effectively neutralized the NRA's influence as an advocacy group in politics with his McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act, putting him high on their list of enemies. In his general address at one of the NRA's annual convention, long time CEO Wayne LaPierre had this to say to the audience, "Is it possible that John McCain thinks you have too much freedom?...I gotta tell you, I don't know what's happening to John McCain."

A fact sheet still available on the NRA's website shows a second amendment advocate with tape over his mouth, and the words "McCain-Feingold" written across it. The pamphlet begins by warning members that "John McCain and others are attempting to muzzle your voice concerning critical national issues- including the Second Amendment."

Since then, McCain has attempted to smooth things over with the gun group, but with less than convincing success. In an article on the 2008 NRA convention, the LA Times quoted various members of the organization who were disillusioned with the Republican nominee. One called McCain, "the lesser evil," his sentiment was echoed by a chorus of others. To this day, the group that has reliably jumped behind GOP candidates in the past has yet to offer McCain its endorsement.

3. Evangelical Christians

In 2000, McCain made a mistake- a big mistake- when he delivered a speech and mentioned by name mega-Evangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, calling them "agents of intolerance." He went on to accuse them of "distorting religion." Thus he touched off a rift with not only these men, but their followers as well, that continues to this day. In fact, it's only gotten more volatile- the extremely influential James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. Dobson emphatically stated that he would not vote for McCain "under any circumstance," despite McCain's past praise of Dobson's work.

McCain's estrangement from the core group that carried George W. Bush to victory in both 2000 and 2004 could be disastrous, and the Arizona Senator knows it. Just before Falwell's death, McCain tried to patch their rocky relationship, speaking at Falwell's Liberty University.

Still, healing past wounds may be a tall order for McCain, and he's learning that eight might not be long enough to wash away the sting of past conflict with these groups.

4. Conservatives

John McCain ran a miraculous primary campaign, winning without the support of the backbone of the Republican Party. Were it not for open primaries that allowed independent voters to participate in the earliest contests, McCain might have been wiped out before Super Tuesday.

McCain's core support is founded on the backs of independent and moderate Republican voters. Conservatives and hardcore Republicans eschewed McCain, splitting their vote in favor of Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, allowing McCain to be competitive without reaching into the rank and file of his own party. Many conservatives do not count McCain among their ranks. Both columnists Robert Robb (of the Arizona Republic) and Matthew Continetti (of the LA Times) paraphrased the late conservative figurehead William F. Buckley when they said that McCain, while sometimes favoring conservative issues, was simply not "a conservative."

Conservatives' problems with McCain stem from his "maverick" reputation. He's bucked the party too many times on important issues like his votes against tax cuts (which he now has pledged to make permanent, despite his previous opposition), immigration, and campaign finance reform, just to name a few. Though many will swallow their discontent to avoid a Barack Obama presidency, it's been widely reported that some conservatives will simply sit this election out- which could be a big problem for McCain in November.

5. Right Wing Pundits

If you tally up the faithful radio audiences of the right wing pundits who've come out in opposition to John McCain, you'd start to wonder how McCain stands any chance of winning their votes in the general election. Rush Limbaugh said that his presidency would "destroy the Republican party." Ann Coulter called him "Bob Dole minus the charm, conservatism, and youth." The list goes on and on. Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, David Limbaugh, and Michelle Malkin have all publicly denounced the Republican nominee.

Sensing a battle that he might not win, McCain has largely steered clear of talk radio and other conservative outlets. That deprives him of a significant resource that has been incredibly valuable to other Republicans in the past. Airtime on these shows was daily free advertising for Bush, but McCain has to do without.


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A Real Choice


McCains Defaulted On Home Taxes For Last Four Years, Newsweek Reports

** UPDATE BELOW **

Newsweek is set to publish a highly embarrassing report on Sen. John McCain, revealing that the McCains have failed to pay taxes on their beach-front condo in La Jolla, California, for the last four years and are currently in default, The Huffington Post has learned.

Under California law, once a residential property is in default for five years, it can be sold at a tax sale to recover the unpaid taxes for the taxpayers.

The McCains own at least seven homes through a variety of trusts and corporations controlled by Cindy McCain.

UPDATE: Newsweek's story is now online. The report notes that the McCains paid the bulk of their back taxes yesterday, but continue to owe additional taxes:

When you're poor, it can be hard to pay the bills. When you're rich, it's hard to keep track of all the bills that need paying. It's a lesson Cindy McCain learned the hard way when NEWSWEEK raised questions about an overdue property-tax bill on a La Jolla, Calif., property owned by a trust that she oversees. Mrs. McCain is a beer heiress with an estimated $100 million fortune and, along with her husband, she owns at least seven properties, including condos in California and Arizona. [...]


Shortly after NEWSWEEK inquired about the matter, the McCain aide e-mailed a receipt dated Friday, June 27, confirming payment by the trust to San Diego County in the amount of $6,744.42. County officials say the trust still owes an additional $1,742 for this year, an amount that is overdue and will go into default July 1. Told of the outstanding $1,742, the aide said: "The trust has paid all bills shown owing as of today and will pay all other bills due."

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AT&T Whistleblower: Spy Bill Creates 'Infrastructure for a Police State'


Mark Klein, the retired AT&T engineer who stepped forward with the technical documents at the heart of the anti-wiretapping case against AT&T, is furious at the Senate's vote on Wednesday night to hold a vote on a bill intended to put an end to that lawsuit and more than 30 others.

[Wednesday]'s vote by Congress effectively gives retroactive immunity to the telecom companies and endorses an all-powerful president. It’s a Congressional coup against the Constitution.

The Democratic leadership is touting the deal as a "compromise," but in fact they have endorsed the infamous Nuremberg defense: "Just following orders." The judge can only check their paperwork. This cynical deal is a Democratic exercise in deceit and cowardice.

Klein saw a network monitoring room being built in AT&T's internet switching center that only NSA-approved techs had access to. He squirreled away documents and then presented them to the press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation after news of the government's warrantless wiretapping program broke.

Wired.com independently acquired a copy of the documents (.pdf) -- which were under court seal -- and published the wiring documents in May 2006 so that they could be evaluated.

The lawsuit that resulted from his documents is now waiting on the 9th U.S. Appeals Court to rule on whether it can proceed despite the government saying the whole matter is a state secret. A lower court judge ruled that it could, because the government admitted the program existed and that the courts could handle evidence safely and in secret.

But the appeals court ruling will likely never see the light of day, since the Senate is set to vote on July 8 on the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which also largely legalizes Bush's warrantless wiretapping program by expanding how the government can wiretap from inside the United States without getting individualized court orders.

Klein continues:

Congress has made the FISA law a dead letter--such a law is useless if the president can break it with impunity. Thus the Democrats have surreptitiously repudiated the main reform of the post-Watergate era and adopted Nixon’s line: "When the president does it that means that it is not illegal." This is the judicial logic of a dictatorship.

The surveillance system now approved by Congress provides the physical apparatus for the government to collect and store a huge database on virtually the entire population, available for data mining whenever the government wants to target its political opponents at any given moment—all in the hands of an unrestrained executive power. It is the infrastructure for a police state.

Neither the House nor the Senate has had Klein testify, nor have telecom executives testified in open session about their participation.

The bill forces the district court judge handling the consolidated cases against telecoms to dismiss the suits if the Attorney General certifies that a government official sent a written request to a phone or internet provider, saying that the President approved the program and his lawyers deemed it legal. Judge Vaughn Walker of the California Northern District can ask to see the paperwork, but would not be given leeway to decide if the program was legal.

Photo: Mark Klein in the offices of his lawyers in San Francisco. Credit: Ryan Singel/Wired.com

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Kucinich: 'We went to war for the oil companies'

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who has introduced measures to impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, said Thursday that oil executives who secretly met with the vice president in 2001 should be held criminally liable for pushing an illegal war.

"In March of 2001, when the Bush Administration began to have secret meetings with oil company executives from Exxon, Shell and BP, spreading maps of Iraq oil fields before them, the price of oil was $23.96 per barrel. Then there were 63 companies in 30 countries, other than the US, competing for oil contracts with Iraq," the Ohio Democrat said during a speech on the House floor.

"Today the price of oil is $135.59 per barrel, the US Army is occupying Iraq and the first Iraq oil contracts will go, without competitive bidding to, surprise, (among a very few others) Exxon, Shell and BP."

The New York Times reported last week that those companies, Chevron, Total and some smaller companies were set to receive no-bid contracts from Iraq's Oil Ministry. According to the paper, such deals "are unusual for the industry," and the companies prevailed over more than 40 others, including some from Russia, China and India.

In March 2001, two years before Iraq was invaded, Cheney met with top executives from Exxon Mobil Corp., Shell Oil Co., BP America Inc. and others on his infamous secret Energy Task Force.

Kucinich seemed to accuse participants in that meeting of plotting the invasion of Iraq. There's no indication that the participants discussed military action, although documents later released showed they did eye Iraq's oil fields.

The White House convinced the Supreme Court to let it keep secret the proceeding's of Cheney's task force, although the Washington Post later revealed most of its activities.

Kucinich accused the US government of forcing Iraq to privatize its oil fields, which are estimated to hold more than 100 billion barrels of oil, and keeping US troops at war to protect the oil reserves.

"Our nation's soul is stained because we went to war for the oil companies and their profits. There must be accountability not only with this Administration for its secret meetings and its open illegal warfare but also for the oil company executives who were willing participants in a criminal enterprise of illegal war, the deaths of our soldiers and innocent Iraqis and the extortion of the national resources of Iraq," he said.

"We have found the weapon of mass destruction in Iraq. It is oil," Kucinich continued. "As long as the oil companies control our government Americans will continue to pay and pay, with our lives, our fortunes our sacred honor."

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Rove-Reversal: Jewish Dems Attack McCain's "Strength" On Iran

Several of Congress' most prominent Jewish members are set to go after John McCain on an issue of perceived strength: his proclaimed "toughness" in dealing with Iran.

On Thursday, Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Ben Cardin, alongside more than half-a-dozen members of the House of Representatives and the National Jewish Democratic Council, will host a press conference highlighting a vote McCain made that helped corporations like Halliburton continue doing business with sanctioned countries like Iran.

The vote, McCain's critics argue, demonstrates a strand of political hypocrisy -- on the campaign trail, the Senator has repeatedly called for divestment from Iran -- and pokes holes in his attacks on Barack Obama.

"John McCain has been arguing that he is Mr. Tough Guy on Iran," said Ira Forman, Executive Director of the NJDC. "At the AIPAC conference he talked about how he would introduce stronger sanctions and boycott measures. He's also saying Obama is naïve and can't be trusted to deal with the Iranians. But when it came to deciding to be tough on Iran or supporting Halliburton, he stuck with Halliburton. It is easy to talk the talk but it is not so easy to walk the walk."

In July 2005, Sen. Lautenberg introduced an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that would have closed a loophole allowing U.S. corporations to do business with terrorist-sponsoring nations by setting up foreign shell companies. The measure had broad support as it became evident that several major companies, including Halliburton, had taken advantage of the system. Frank Gaffney, the neoconservative columnist, opined that the situation was an "affront to the letter and spirit of the law."

But when the provision came to the floor, the vote split almost entirely down party line. Only two GOP Senators supported the amendment and neither had the last name McCain.

Soon thereafter, a less-stringent amendment was passed, roughly reinstating the legal status quo. As a Democratic aide noted, "it allowed Republicans to cover themselves on the issue." The Center for Security Policy wrote:

"The [GOP version] would seek to penalize individuals or entities who evade [International Emergency Economic Powers Act] sanctions - if they are "subject to the jurisdiction of the United States." This is merely a restatement of existing regulations. The problem with this formulation is that, in the process of purportedly closing one loophole, it would appear to create new ones... If the Senate is serious about truly closing this loophole, it must adopt the Lautenberg Amendment."

Now, three years later, Lautenberg, Cardin, the NJDC and others are trying to extract a political price from McCain for not supporting their legislation. And, as some Jewish politics observers suggested, there could be political room to operate.

"The bottom line is this," said Mark Mellman, President & CEO of The Mellman Group. "There is an obviously grave concern in the American Jewish community about a nuclear Iran. This is a leadership that has pledged to wipe out Israel and is developing the means to do that. And so there is grave concern within the Jewish community but also outside the Jewish community."

It is a Rovian effort -- going after an opponent's perceived strength. After all, McCain has made the concept "getting tough" on hostile regimes a central thrust of his foreign policy. During a speech at AIPAC he spoke directly about the benefits of cutting off Iran's financial pipelines.

"As more people, businesses, pension funds and financial institutions across the world divest from companies doing business with Iran, the radical elite who run that country will become even more unpopular than they are already," he said.

And the Senator has often backed his rhetoric with action. In 1992, McCain coauthored the Iran-Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Act, which prohibited the transferring for weapons or technology to those two countries. More recently, he has championed the Lieberman-Kyl amendment, which designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. In fact, in 2006, McCain tried to have Iran banned from participating in the World Cup soccer tournament.

All this Forman acknowledged. But he added, "when you are the guy who says 'I am tough, I will be the one who will extend sanctions against Iran, and my opponent is weak' -- when you run your campaign in the Jewish community around this point, you are particularly vulnerable when you didn't do what you said you will."

As demonstrated by the Lautenberg amendment, McCain's resume isn't entirely without weak points. This list include his campaign staff, which currently includes Charlie Black, whose firm was paid $60,000 to lobby on behalf of the Chinese oil conglomerate doing business in Iran; and Carly Fiorina, who as CEO saw her company Hewlett-Packard trade with the Iranians.

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Obama using 'white guilt,' Nader says

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Ralph Nader's presidential candidacy has received little media attention, but his latest critique of Sen. Barack Obama has come under fire for its seemingly racial overtones.

Ralph Nader is running for president as an independent.

Ralph Nader is running for president as an independent.

Speaking with Colorado's Rocky Mountain News, Nader accused Obama of attempting to "talk white" and appealing to "white guilt" in his quest to win the White House.

"There's only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate. He's half African-American," Nader told the paper in comments published Tuesday.

"Whether that will make any difference, I don't know. I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white? He doesn't want to appear like Jesse Jackson? We'll see all that play out in the next few months and if he gets elected afterwards," Nader added.

Obama said Wednesday in Chicago, Illinois, that Nader was simply trying to "get attention."

"What's clear is, Ralph Nader hasn't been paying attention to my speeches," he said. "Ralph Nader's trying to get attention. He's become a perennial political candidate. I think it's a shame, because if you look at his legacy ... it's an extraordinary one. ... At this point, he's somebody who's trying to get attention, whose campaign hasn't gotten any traction." Video Watch panelists weigh in on Nader's remarks »

Obama's presidential campaign earlier had called Nader's comments disappointing, and his communication's director, Robert Gibbs, said Tuesday that they were "reprehensible and basically delusional."

"I don't think he's spent a lot of time looking at the record of Barack Obama," Gibbs said on MSNBC.

Nader is a longtime consumer advocate who was blamed by many Democrats for Al Gore's loss in the 2000 presidential election; they said he claimed votes that would otherwise have gone to their candidate.

He said Obama's top issue should be poverty in America, given his racial heritage. Video Watch Nader describe whom the Democrats should be "going after" »

"I mean, first of all, the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor, especially in the inner cities and the rural areas, and have a very detailed platform about how the poor is going to be defended by the law, is going to be protected by the law and is going to be liberated by the law," he said. "Haven't heard a thing."

Nader also said Obama is making a concerted effort not to be "another politically threatening African-American politician."

"He wants to appeal to white guilt. You appeal to white guilt not by coming on as black is beautiful, black is powerful. Basically, he's coming on as someone who is not going to threaten the white power structure, whether it's corporate or whether it's simply oligarchic. And they love it. Whites just eat it up."

Nader formally entered the presidential race in the spring, expressing disappointment with both remaining Democratic candidates at that time.

"They are both enthralled to the corporate powers," he said of both Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton. "They've completely ignored the presidential pattern of illegality and accountability; they've ignored the out of control waste-fraud military expenditures; they hardly ever mention the diversion of hundreds of billions of dollars to corporate subsidies, handouts and giveaways; and they don't talk about a living wage."
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75% blame Bush's policies for deteriorating economy

The figure includes large numbers of dissatisfied Republicans and represents a sharp increase in pessimism over the last year. Higher fuel prices have sharpened the criticism.
By Maura Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 26, 2008
WASHINGTON -- Three out of four Americans, including large numbers of Republicans, blame President Bush's economic policies for making the country worse off during the last eight years, according to a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll released Wednesday, reflecting a sharp increase in public pessimism during the last year.

Nine percent of respondents said the country's economic condition had improved since Bush became president, compared with 75% who said conditions had worsened. Among Republicans, 42% said the country was worse off, while 26% said it was about the same, and 22% thought economic conditions had improved.
Phillip Thies, a registered Republican and clothing-store owner in Cedar, Mich., who was one of those polled, said the president was doing an able job through the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but "right after that, it was steadily, steadily downhill."

"There has been a lack of leadership and a lack of timeliness of leadership, of not being conscious of the magnitude of the problems," Thies said of Bush in a follow-up interview. "He's always a day late and a dollar short."

Said Lois Coleman, 84, of Floyds Knobs, Ind., who described herself as an independent, "I'm not as well off as I was before he was president and that pertains to all my friends, too, everyone I know."

Economic pessimism has deepened sharply in the last year, intensified by higher fuel prices, the poll found. When the question was asked in March 2007, 24% of respondents said Bush's policies had improved the nation's economy and 46% said they had made it worse.

The increased unhappiness is reflected in an all-time low in Bush's approval rating -- just 23% now, compared with 34% in February.

"It is no surprise that Americans are feeling very pessimistic about the economy -- with rising gas and oil prices and food prices affecting their pocketbooks," said Times Poll Director Susan Pinkus.

"They don't see an end to the rise in prices. . . . Americans blame the president, along with the oil companies, for not having done enough to stem the tide of rising gas prices."

Seventy percent of respondents said the rising cost of fuel had caused hardship for their families, and the pain appeared to be spread across all income groups: 79% of people with incomes of less than $40,000 a year said the higher prices were a hardship, but so did 55% of respondents with incomes above $100,000.

Scott White, 47, a registered Republican from Saco, Maine, said he had to get public assistance twice last year to pay for home heating oil. He says he expects things to get worse before they get better.

"I'm what I call middle-class poor," said White, who has muscular dystrophy and recently had to stop working because of his disability. "It seems like [President Bush] is not in touch with the American people. . . . I voted for him both elections, but I wouldn't vote for him again."

Asked for their view of the cause of the higher prices, respondents blamed the Bush administration and oil company profits in roughly equal measure -- 29% holding the administration responsible and 25% blaming the oil companies, a spread within the poll's margin of error.

Thirteen percent of those polled said commodities speculators were responsible for the increases; 14% said they were not sure who was at fault.

Amber Guckenberg, a 28-year-old stay-at-home mother in Kalispell, Mont., said she wasn't sure Bush deserved all the blame for rising energy prices, but she wished he had found a way to rein them in.

"We've had to scale back on a lot of things -- not going on camping trips, watching what we buy at the grocery store," Guckenberg said, noting that her monthly heating bills now top $300. "This year my kids probably won't be able to take swimming lessons because I can't afford it."

The poll also suggested that public support for a foreclosure rescue bill had weakened a bit while opposition had strengthened. Only 25% of respondents in a May Times/Bloomberg poll said they opposed government assistance for homeowners, while 36% oppose it now. Just 55% of respondents said they favored such government assistance now, compared with 60% in the May poll.

"I'm totally opposed to government coming to the aid of individuals who made poor decisions," said Thies, the clothing-store owner from Michigan. "It's tough cheese, Charlie."

Though respondents had strong opinions about the economy, they were not sure how to make it better. Asked what the top priority for improving the economy should be, 27% said cutting taxes, 20% said reducing the federal deficit, 13% said funding public programs and 13% said addressing the price of energy.

All together, 82% of respondents said the economy was doing badly, compared with 71% who felt that way when the question was asked in February. And the pessimism has intensified: Fifty percent of respondents said the economy was doing "very badly," compared with 38% in February.

The Times/Bloomberg poll, conducted June 19-23 under Pinkus' supervision, interviewed 1,233 adults nationwide. The poll's margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

maura.reynolds@latimes.com
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To Hell With the Human Collateral Damage: McCain's Dangerous War Mentality

It's staring us all straight in the face.

All McCain wants to do is tie up Bush's loose ends - usher in The War to End All Wars. If he is voted into office in November, McCain will be a battle-seeking heir to Bush's tragically expanded executive powers. Put plainly, John McCain would be the Second Coming of George Bush, and I ain't just paying lip service - that's the cold, hard truth.

And you don't have to look too far to confirm it.

McCain aide Charles Black was recently quoted as saying that a terrorist attack inside the United States of America "certainly would be a big advantage to" McCain.

This aide did not come up with that idea in some sort of vacuum - probably every last member of the McCain campaign had mulled this one over until one of them decided to give it voice one day in some meeting. And as they all considered it, they found it hard to calm their giddiness over the false conclusion they drew: voters would trample each other running to the polls to vote for McCain. It's a sick fantasy, to be sure, but it is also a pitiful admission that Black made unwittingly.

Charles Black, McCain, and the rest of them don't want the public to know that, essentially, they got nothing. They know that Obama - with his strong intellect and resolve - is positioned much better to handle most issues faced by this country right now. And they never wanted the American people to know they themselves believe that McCain is so outdone that the only way he could win is if some horrific fate befalls America once again. They believe in some odd twist of logic that all of America could be frightened right into McCain's voting bloc column.

That's astonishingly disturbing.

An aide who probably had McCain's ear on a whole host of issues discussed how a human über-tragedy on America's soil would be a political plus for his candidate. This is evidence enough alone that McCain has personally kicked around the idea himself. But the tepid response to Black's remark by the media is what was most troubling. Some in the media suggested that this would probably only be a one-day story before 24 hours were even up.

I cringe at the callousness of it all.

But I'm really happy that Black revealed this ugliness that roils inside of the McCain camp for this one main reason: it reveals just how extremely similar McCain is to Bush. McCain, like Bush, wants turmoil to arise regarding Islamic terrorism so that he can come to the rescue and display just how great of a leader he is. McCain really wants to prove to us that the word "hero" fits him.

In his book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, McClellan stated that Bush hoped that by going into Iraq he would then have an "opportunity to create a legacy of greatness" by morphing the Middle East into a democracy. McCain and Bush both want to prove themselves - whether through a manufactured war per Bush's way, or through a terrorist attack that has yet to happen on U.S. soil, as Charles Black suggested per McCain's way.

To hell with the human collateral damage.

If you don't want to take McClellan's word for it, if you don't want to accept that Bush is a decided egoist with only his aggrandizement as his first priority-- much like McCain--then just look at everything that has been neglected over the years as a result of Bush's pursuits in the Middle East.

Yeah, I've heard the entirely ludicrous assertion that an Obama presidency would be both the most dangerous and disastrous ever. But how can that be when Bush's tenure was the most unabashed and unrestrained historically in both its incompetence and its belligerence? This current administration has left us more vulnerable than we ever were prior to 9/11. And that's an incredible feat Bush has accomplished, considering the clout America is supposed to have as the greatest, mightiest nation on earth.

America now carries little to no credibility or moral authority when we waged war on a country that had not attacked us first while our very own citizens suffered in Hurricane Katrina and Darfur crumbled into a new kind of depraved inhumanity. We entered into a misguided, badly planned and executed war while the mortgage lending portion of our economy collapsed in on itself, America became one of China's greatest debtors, and oil-rich countries decided to take us for a ride.

And that torturer of his own people, Kim Jong Il remains in power, unhampered. We have no leverage to even try to persuade him to pull in the reins. And any military action against him, especially with the help of the international community, is out of the question because of the horribly mismanaged Iraq War.

Ultimately, if it's not apparent enough that the war mongering intent of McCain's is dangerously similar to that of Bush's, then McCain's WWIII imaginings should just about make it painfully clear. McCain provided just a little insight into the probable innerworkings of his and other Republican politicians' minds when he agreed partially with Newt Gingrich that we are in the "early stages" of the Third World War. McCain even once expressed that he believed that a military draft would be necessary if we were to enter into a Third World War.

Bush had echoed this same concept some time back when he said there was a possible coming, imminent World War III involving Iran as one of the main participants.

The one thing that haunts McCain, just as it did Clinton, is that McCain voted for the Iraq invasion. Since that fateful vote, Clinton has called for a withdrawal of troops and an end to this farce of war. However, McCain defends this unethical, immoral war even though he takes issue with how it's been managed.

The only question left now is, if he is elected, how long afterward does John McCain plan to initiate this War to End All Wars that he, Bush, and Rove keep talking about? How soon after the election would McCain begin to get that itch to prove himself in the only way both he and Bush seem to know how: in an unnecessarily waged war?

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President Beck: I Wouldn’t Detain Terror Suspects, I’d ‘Shoot Them All In The Head’»

Today on his radio show, CNN host Glenn Beck expressed his disdain of the recent Supreme Court ruling granting terror suspects the right to challenge their detention in civilian courts, exclaiming that if he were President, he would do away with detaining and prosecuting terrorism suspects altogether. Instead, a President Beck would “shoot them all in the head [if] we think that they are against us.”

BECK: We’re going to shoot them all in the head. If we think that they are against us, we’re going to shoot them and kill them, period. Because that’s the only thing we’ve got going for us is we can put them away and get information. If we can’t put them away and they’re going to use our court system, kill them.

Listen here:

If Beck were President since 9/11, he would have killed many innocent people. Here are some of those held in Guantanamo who have either been cleared of charges or were mistakenly detained. For example:

– The “Tipton Three” who were forced into false confessions and later released.

Huzaifa Parhat, an ethnic Uighur Chinese national swept up by the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who was improperly classified as an “enemy combatant.” Parhat has been recommended for release by U.S. officials, while a military tribunal found no evidence that Parhat was a member of any radical group.

– Over 30 former Guantanamo detainees who have already been released.

Not only would such a policy undoubtedly kill innocents, but as former Navy general counsel Alberto Mora has said, the belligerent treatment of terror suspects increases the recruitment of “insurgent fighters into combat.”

Orginal here

Laptop Searches in Airports Draw Fire at Senate Hearing

WASHINGTON — Advocacy groups and some legal experts told Congress on Wednesday that it was unreasonable for federal officials to search the laptops of United States citizens when they re-enter the country from traveling abroad.

Civil rights groups have said certain ethnic groups have been selectively profiled in the searches by Border Patrol agents and customs officials who have the authority to inspect all luggage and cargo brought into the country without obtaining warrants or having probable cause.

Companies whose employees travel overseas have also criticized the inspections, saying that the search of electronic devices could hurt their businesses.

The federal government says the searches are necessary for national security and for legal action against people who bring illegal material into the country.

“If you asked most Americans whether the government has the right to look through their luggage for contraband when they are returning from an overseas trip, they would tell you ‘yes, the government has that right,’ ” Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, said Wednesday at the hearing of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee.

“But,” Mr. Feingold continued, “if you asked them whether the government has a right to open their laptops, read their documents and e-mails, look at their photographs and examine the Web sites they have visited, all without any suspicion of wrongdoing, I think those same Americans would say that the government absolutely has no right to do that.”

In April, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Customs and Border Protection agency could conduct searches without reasonable suspicion.

In her testimony, Farhana Y. Khera, the president and executive director of Muslim Advocates, said Muslim Americans traveling abroad had often had electronic storage devices seized without apparent cause. She said several had also been questioned about their political views.

Susan K. Gurley, executive director of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, said the seizing of laptops could hurt people who travel overseas for business.

“In today’s wired, networked and borderless world, one’s office no longer sits within four walls or a cubicle; rather, one’s office consists of a collection of mobile electronic devices such as a laptop, a BlackBerry, PDA, and a cellphone,” Ms. Gurley said in prepared remarks.

She said the searches meant that “you may find yourself effectively locked out of your office indefinitely.”

Ms. Gurley said a concern was the lack of published regulations explaining what happened to data when it was seized and who had access to it.

Tim Sparapani, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in an interview, “You can’t go into my home and search my computer without a warrant, but simply because I’m carrying my computer with me as I travel, you can search it.”

But Nathan A. Sales, an assistant professor at the George Mason University School of Law, said in a statement: “The reason the home has enjoyed uniquely robust privacy protections in the Anglo-American legal tradition is because it is a sanctuary into which the owner can withdraw from the government’s watchful eye. Crossing an international border is in many ways the opposite of this kind of withdrawal.”

Mr. Feingold expressed discontent that the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the customs and border agency, did not send a witness to testify. He said a written statement by Jayson P. Ahern, deputy commissioner for the agency, provided “little meaningful detail on the agency’s policies.”

Mr. Ahern’s statement said that the agency’s efforts did not infringe upon privacy and that it was important to note that the agency was “responsible for enforcing over 600 laws at the border, including those that relate to narcotics, intellectual property, child pornography and other contraband, and terrorism.”

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Childhood Poverty Costs the U.S. about $500 Billion a Year

In the last election, the America people spoke clearly for change. Ever since, Democrats have been taking our nation in a New Direction. In particular, we have worked to make America a place where every citizen has the opportunity to achieve the American dream. Central to that dream is a safety net in times of trouble, and also a ladder of opportunity.

After the successes of the 110th Congress we have made progress, but we must continue our efforts. When I was sworn in as Speaker, I did so surrounded by children, because they must be the center of our work in Congress. It is simply unacceptable that nearly one out of every five children in America -- 13 million -- live in poverty. In addition to the human suffering that poverty brings, an estimate by the Center for American Progress found that persistent childhood poverty costs our country about $500 billion a year by way of lost productivity, school drop-outs, crime, and growing numbers enrolled in nutrition and public assistance programs.

To address some of these challenges, we got to work right away. In the first 100 hours we took office, we increased the minimum wage for the first time in nine years. This will benefit nearly 13 million people.

To help families struggling in a difficult economy, we passed an economic stimulus package that sent Recovery Rebates to 130 million Americans to help with the higher costs of gasoline, groceries, and health care. These Recovery Rebates will also help strengthen the lagging economy.

This year we also passed a Farm Bill that makes a significant investment in the nutrition of all Americans. It helps families who are struggling with the high costs of food and provides support for food stamps and food banks; it also helps lower food prices.

For those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, we have extended unemployment insurance.

This is just the beginning. We are continuing our efforts for comprehensive and affordable quality health coverage, to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, and to improve our schools for all our children.

Our efforts to take America in a New Direction are not finished. We will continue to work to improve the lives of America’s working families and those struggling to make it, and we are counting on you for your help.
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