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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Manifestly Unserious

At this point, I realize I'm belaboring the point. "Sarah Palin is an awful choice for a running mate," I can hear you saying, "We get it."

But I can't help but think the magnitude of this mistake has not yet sunk in among political observers. I was talking to a friend last night who is a political professional in DC, and the discussion, not surprisingly turned to Palin. He has extensive campaign experience, and every time I argued that this is completely insane, he explained to me a variety of reasons why this John McCain's campaign will benefit, significantly, as a result of this move. I suspect he's probably right.

We were, however, talking about different things. The Palin announcement probably stepped all over Barack Obama's post-convention bounce. Hell, for all I know, this one decision might actually help McCain win the presidency.

But that doesn't change the fact that this is the single most ridiculous development in presidential politics in a generation.

A top "loyal Bushie" told the Politico's Mike Allen that McCain's decision is "disrespectful to the office of the presidency." That's actually a pretty good way of characterizing it.

Campaigns have their ads, their polls, and their tactics, but at the end of the day, credible people who care about the country know that this is more than just a theatrical game -- the future of the nation counts more than the future of a candidate. Those who take affairs of state seriously may take cheap shots, shade the truth now and then, and run the kind of conventional campaigns we've all grown accustomed to, but honorable Americans of character don't gamble with the nation's well-being. They know there are lines that can't be crossed for expediency's sake, no matter how strong the temptation.

McCain was asked a while back about what he'd look for in a running mate. He said the "key" is to find the person "most prepared to take my place" in the event of a crisis. McCain spent the ensuing months with a motto: "Country first."

I don't doubt for a moment that Sarah Palin is a nice person and probably a competent Alaskan governor. But she also has the thinnest background of any candidate for national office since 1908. Is McCain willing, with a straight face, to argue that Palin is the single "most prepared" person in the entire United States to assume the presidency should tragedy strike? Is anyone, anywhere, prepared to argue that McCain has put "country first"? Of course not; these ideas are literally laughable.

Palin's qualifications are, to a very real degree, secondary to the issue at hand. What matters most right now is John McCain's comically dangerous sense of judgment. He picked a running mate he met once for 15 minutes, who's been the governor of a small state for a year and a half, and who is in the midst of an abuse-of-power investigation in which she appears to have lied rather blatantly. She has no obvious expertise in any area, and no record of any kind of federal issues. McCain doesn't care.

Sensible people of sound mind and character simply don't things like this. Leaders don't things like this. It's the height of arrogance. It's manifestly unserious. It's reckless and irresponsible. It mocks the political process. Faced with a major presidential test, McCain thought it wise to tell an imprudent joke of lasting consequence.

Kevin noted:

This is all part of what I was talking about the other day when I noted that McCain is running such a palpably unserious campaign. Steve Schmidt seems solely interested in winning the daily news cycle; his staff spends its time gleefuly churning out juvenile attack videos; McCain himself has retreated into robotic incantations of simpleminded talking points; and now he's chosen a manifestly unqualified VP that he knows nothing about. I've honestly never seen anything like it.


No one has; it's without precedent in modern American politics. The novelty and gimmickry might hold sway with those who base their votes on who they'd like to have a beer with, but that doesn't make it any less of a joke.

Sullivan added, "Palin isn't the issue here. McCain's judgment is. It's completely off the wall. Is there something wrong with him?"

That may sound like a flippant question, but it deserves a serious answer. Is there something wrong with him? Might this be evidence of some kind of impulse problem, as reflected in his shoot-first, think-second approach to foreign policy?

When I think about the respect that John McCain had worked so hard to develop, the stature he'd taken years to cultivate, and the reputation he'd built his career on, it's breathtaking to see him throw it all away. If there's a more complete collapse in modern political times, from hero to clown, I can't think of it.

We're poised to learn a great deal about Sarah Palin, but we've just learned even more about John McCain. He's fundamentally unsuited for the presidency.

Nine medieval ships found in Oslo mud

The largest collection of antique shipwrecks ever found in Norway has been discovered under mud at the building site for a new highway tunnel in Oslo, the project's lead archaeologist said Friday.

The archaeologist, Jostein Gundersen, said at least nine wooden boats, the largest of them 17 meters, or 56 feet, long, were found well preserved nearly 400 years after they sank at Bjoervika, an Oslo inlet near the new national opera house.

"For us, this is a sensation," he said. "There has never been a find of so many boats and in such good condition at one site in Norway."

The wrecks were remarkably well preserved because they had been covered in mud and fresh water, where river waters reach the sea, he said.

"We have a fantastic opportunity to learn more about old shipbuilding techniques and the old harbors," said Gundersen of the Norwegian Maritime Museum in Oslo.

He said the wrecks were believed to have sunk sometime after a fire swept the wooden buildings of old Oslo in 1624. After that disaster, the Danish-Norwegian king, Kristian IV, ordered the city center moved before reconstruction started.

The discovered boats were moored at the old port, which became a remote area after the city was moved. He said the boats might have been 30 or 40 years old when they sank.

"There is nothing to indicate that the ships were deliberately scuttled," Gundersen said. "They could have sunk one by one, because of sloppy mooring or poor maintenance, or maybe sank in a storm."

He said the wreckage would be charted and removed as quickly as possible, so construction of the undersea tunnel could continue. It will then take years, he said, to examine all the ship's remnants back at the museum.

Gundersen said the find will help fill gaps in knowledge of vessels between Norwegian Viking ships of about 1,000 years ago and more modern vessels.


Palin Repeatedly Professed Desire To Renew Federal Funding For ‘Bridge To Nowhere’

During the unveiling of his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) tried to cast her as a “reformer” and “fiscal conservative.” She boldly claimed that with regard to Sen. Ted Stevens’s (R-AK) infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” she told Congress, “Thanks, but no thanks“:

I championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. In fact, I told Congress — I told Congress, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ on that bridge to nowhere. If our state wanted a bridge, I said we’d build it ourselves.

It appears, however, that Palin is lying. As Bradford Plumer first noted, the Anchorage Daily News interviewed Palin during her 2006 campaign for governor. At the time, federal funding for the bridge had been stripped by Congress. They asked if she was in favor of continuing state funding for the project. “Yes,” she responded, noting specifically her desire to renew Congressional support:

Yes. I would like to see Alaska’s infrastructure projects built sooner rather than later. The window is now–while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist.

That assistance never materialized. When she finally canceled the $400 million project, Palin lamented the fact that Congress was not more forthcoming with federal funding. She said in a statement at the time:

Despite the work of our congressional delegation, we are about $329 million short of full funding for the bridge project, and it’s clear that Congress has little interest in spending any more money on a bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina Island.

Palin’s desire to have federal funding directed toward pet projects in Alaska, however, did not diminish. As recently as March 2008 — around the time she first met McCain — her special counsel, John Katz, wrote in the Juneau Empire that despite recognizing increased scrutiny of such spending, Palin was not “not abandoning earmarks altogether.” While McCain expressed high-profile disdain for earmarks, the Palin administration held that:

[E]armarks are not bad in themselves. In fact, they represent a legitimate exercise of Congress’ constitutional power to amend the budget proposed by the president.

Palin denies global warming is manmade.

In an interview released today by Newsmax, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) — Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) newly minted running mate — was asked for her “take on global warming and how is it affecting our country.” “A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location,” Palin said, adding, “I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.” DeSmogBlog notes that NASA and the National Academy of Sciences disagree:

The first greenhouse gas demonstrated to be increasing in atmospheric concentration was carbon dioxide, formed as a major end product in the extraction of energy from the burning of the fossil fuels–coal, oil, and natural gas–as well as in the burning of biomass.

Illegal Police Raid on Anti-RNC Convergence Space in St. Paul

[TC-IMC Update 2 AM - Web media takes notice: TC Daily Planet: Police break down doors in night-time raid on anarchist meeting, Minnesota Independent: Rumors circulating of possible police sweeps in Minneapolis this weekend]

At 9:15 Friday night, the Saint Paul Police entered all doors of the RNC Convergence Space in St. Paul, MN with guns drawn. The Space serves as a community center and organizing space for the upcoming protests against the Republican National Convention. At the time of the raid, people were sitting down to dinner and watching a movie.

The police presented no warrant at the time of the raid, but claim that they have a warrant to search the space for "bomb-making" materials. No "bomb-making" materials were found. Rather, the police barked orders for everyone, including a 5 year old child, to get on the floor with their faces to the ground. Everyone inside was put in handcuffs.

In the hours following, the police photographed everyone inside the space and recorded information from their Identification cards. The police took all personal laptops and hard drives.

One female activist was sexually harassed by a cop who groped her crotch.

At around 11pm, after a crowd had gathered outside the space, the police began releasing detainees one by one. Corporate media showed up eventually. By midnight, the last detainees were being released.

As of the most recent reports, there have been NO ARRESTS.

The police are claiming that the space must be closed down due to "fire code" violations. According to City Council member Dave Thune, the police do not have the authority to enforce fire code. Only the Fire Department has the power to enforce this code.

The following statement has been released by the RNC Welcoming Committee, which organized the space:

PRESS STATEMENT FROM RNC WELCOMING COMMITTEE AFTER SHERIFF AND SPPD RAID OF CONVERGENCE SPACE

FRIDAY AUGUST 29 2008

Assitant Police Chief Bostrom has talked about the St. Paul Standard, and on the anniversary of last years’ critical mass police riot, we saw its true face. The ramsey county sheriff’s dept and the SPPD raided the RNC convergence space and detained over 50 people in an attempt to preempt planned protests of the rnc on Monday.

Looking for items found in any twin cities house like jars, paint, and rags, this attempt to portray us as criminals and destroy our credibility has already backfired as evidenced by the masses who have come to support us.

We are now accused of a simple fire code violation -which is outside the scope of the sheriffs department and clearly not justified provocation for a forceful raid with guns being drawn. Children and elderly people were inside the convergence center when the police violently busted down the doors. The police may claim that the raid was executed according to protocol - however, the violence inherent in this action may only be a hint of the violence to be expected on Monday and beyond, and is only a hint at the violence perpetrated daily by the police.

The convergence center is simply a gathering place and is not used for illegal actions - it is a place for workshops and trainings. Tonight we were watching films and sharing food.

This action will not deter us from our plans to protest the RNC on September 1st. We want to invite all people who oppose this police oppression to join us on Septemeber 1st. See you in the streets.

Original here

Bush quietly seeks to make war powers permanent, by declaring indefinite state of war

As the nation focuses on Sen. John McCain's choice of running mate, President Bush has quietly moved to expand the reach of presidential power by ensuring that America remains in a state of permanent war.

Buried in a recent proposal by the Administration is a sentence that has received scant attention -- and was buried itself in the very newspaper that exposed it Saturday. It is an affirmation that the United States remains at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban and "associated organizations."

Part of a proposal for Guantanamo Bay legal detainees, the provision before Congress seeks to “acknowledge again and explicitly that this nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us and who are dedicated to the slaughter of Americans.”

The New York Times' page 8 placement of the article in its Saturday edition seems to downplay its importance. Such a re-affirmation of war carries broad legal implications that could imperil Americans' civil liberties and the rights of foreign nationals for decades to come.

It was under the guise of war that President Bush claimed a legal mandate for his warrantless wiretapping program, giving the National Security Agency power to intercept calls Americans made abroad. More of this program has emerged in recent years, and it includes the surveillance of Americans' information and exchanges online.

"War powers" have also given President Bush cover to hold Americans without habeas corpus -- detainment without explanation or charge. Jose Padilla, a Chicago resident arrested in 2002, was held without trial for five years before being convicted of conspiring to kill individuals abroad and provide support for terrorism.

But his arrest was made with proclamations that Padilla had plans to build a "dirty bomb." He was never convicted of this charge. Padilla's legal team also claimed that during his time in military custody -- the four years he was held without charge -- he was tortured with sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, forced stress positions and injected with drugs.

Times reporter Eric Lichtblau notes that the measure is the latest step that the Administration has taken to "make permanent" key aspects of its "long war" against terrorism. Congress recently passed a much-maligned bill giving telecommunications companies retroactive immunity for their participation in what constitutional experts see as an illegal or borderline-illegal surveillance program, and is considering efforts to give the FBI more power in their investigative techniques.

"It is uncertain whether Congress will take the administration up on its request," Lichtblau writes. "Some Republicans have already embraced the idea, with Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, introducing a measure almost identical to the administration’s proposal. 'Since 9/11,' Mr. Smith said, 'we have been at war with an unconventional enemy whose primary goal is to kill innocent Americans.'"

If enough Republicans come aboard, Democrats may struggle to defeat the provision. Despite holding majorities in the House and Senate, they have failed to beat back some of President Bush's purported "security" measures, such as the telecom immunity bill.

Bush's open-ended permanent war language worries his critics. They say it could provide indefinite, if hazy, legal justification for any number of activities -- including detention of terrorists suspects at bases like Guantanamo Bay (where for years the Administration would not even release the names of those being held), and the NSA's warantless wiretapping program.

Lichtblau co-wrote the Times article revealing the Administration's eavesdropping program along with fellow reporter James Risen.

He notes that Bush's language "recalls a resolution, known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress on Sept. 14, 2001... [which] authorized the president to 'use all necessary and appropriate force' against those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks to prevent future strikes. That authorization, still in effect, was initially viewed by many members of Congress who voted for it as the go-ahead for the administration to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban, which had given sanctuary to Mr. bin Laden."

"But the military authorization became the secret legal basis for some of the administration’s most controversial legal tactics, including the wiretapping program, and that still gnaws at some members of Congress," he adds.

Original here

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Democratic National Convention Ratings: 38 Million Watch Obama's Acceptance Speech

Barack Obama's audience for his acceptance speech likely topped 40 million people, and the Democratic gathering that nominated him was a more popular television event than any other political convention in history.

More people watched Obama speak from a packed stadium in Denver on Thursday than watched the Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing, the final "American Idol" or the Academy Awards this year, Nielsen Media Research said Friday. (Four playoff football games, including the Super Bowl between the Giants and Patriots, were seen by more than 40 million people.)

His TV audience nearly doubled the amount of people who watched John Kerry accept the Democratic nomination to run against President Bush four years ago. Kerry's speech was seen by a little more than 20 million people; Bush's acceptance speech to GOP delegates had 27.6 million viewers.

Through four days, the Democratic convention was seen in an average of 22.5 million households. No other convention _ Republican or Democratic _ had been seen in as many homes since Nielsen began keeping these records for the Kennedy-Nixon campaign in 1960. There weren't enough television sets in American homes to have possibly beaten this record in years before that.

The convention that comes closest in interest was the 1976 Republican gathering, which averaged 21.9 million homes. That was the year President Gerald Ford fought off a challenge for the nomination from future President Ronald Reagan. For Democrats, the closest came during the 1980 convention where Sen. Edward Kennedy challenged President Jimmy Carter for the nomination.

This year's nomination fight was another epic battle, between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Even though it was decided before the convention, viewers apparently were drawn to the historic nature of the first black man nominated as a major party presidential candidate.

Nielsen said that 38.4 million people watched Obama's speech as it was carried live by 10 commercial networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, BET, TV One, Univision and Telemundo.

PBS also televised the speech, but didn't pay Nielsen for a count of its national viewership. Based on a sample of several large cities, PBS estimated that an additional 4 million people saw the speech on its network. C-SPAN, which also televised the speech, has no estimate of its audience.

Obama's speech was the fifth-highest-rated, non-sports event watched by blacks in the last 11 years. A 30th anniversary Michael Jackson special on CBS in 2001 was on top.

The acceptance speech was a particular triumph for CNN, which clearly beat the three big broadcasters head-to-head on a news event for the first time ever. An estimated 8.1 million people watched on CNN Thursday.

In general, audience estimates for the convention show the dramatically waning influence of ABC, CBS and NBC in coverage for these events. The three big broadcasters aired only one hour of convention coverage each night, and it seemed a particular handicap on Thursday as its cable competition was able to show the buildup to Obama's speech.

ABC was the second-most network for Obama-watchers, with 6.6 million. NBC had 6.1 million, CBS 4.7 million, Fox News Channel 4.2 million and MSNBC 4.1 million.

The Republican convention begins Monday in St. Paul, Minn. Republican candidate John McCain sought to take away some of the attention from his rival on Friday by selecting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Sarah Palin: A Champion For Big Oil


sarah.jpgWith the choice of Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) as his running mate, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is not backing down from oil drilling. Palin is a champion for drilling, the Bush-Cheney approach to energy policy that brought us $4.00-per-gallon gasoline and the rising threat of global warming.

Like McCain, Palin believes that oil drilling is the only solution to our energy problems. “I beg to disagree with any candidate who would say we can’t drill our way out of our problem,” she says. She supports more drilling in protected areas of the Outer Continental Shelf and the Alaska Natural Wildlife Refuge, once attacking McCain for his “close-mindedness on ANWR.”

But the Department of Energy believes that offshore drilling “would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.” Moreover, about three-quarters of all the oil in public lands in the continental U.S. are already open to drilling – and yet only one quarter of this oil is under production. Opening the Arctic Refuge would cut gasoline prices by two cents in 17 years. For that, Palin would destroy the home of America’s native polar bears. Not even T. Boone Pickens still thinks we can drill our way out of this crisis.

Palin rejects clean renewable energy that is an alternative to oil. Earlier this month, she claimed that “alternative-energy solutions are far from imminent and would require more than 10 years to develop.”

Alaska has become the “poster state” for the threat of global warming as the climate gets hotter and dryer and sea levels rise. More than 100 towns are vulnerable due to eroding sea lines. Polar bears are threatened by the melting ice floas, and this month bears were spotted swimming as much as 50 miles offshore.

Nonetheless, like many other oil champions, Palin is skeptical of global warming. During her gubernatorial campaign, she said she was unconvinced about how much human emissions contribute to current global warming trends. Palin also opposes listing our polar bears as a threatened species because it could require action on climate change.

As Carl Pope of the Sierra Club says, “No one is closer to the oil industry than Governor Palin.” Sarah Palin has taken positions that would ensure a continuation of the Bush-Cheney energy policies. She supports drilling everywhere and ignores the need for binding reductions in global warming pollution even though her state is melting. The continuation of these policies will continue higher energy costs, more severe hurricanes and droughts, and despoiled natural treasures.

Original here

McCain's VP Wants Creationism Taught in School


Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin wants creationism taught in science classes.

In a 2006 gubernatorial debate, the soon-to-be governor of Alaska said of evolution and creation education, "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of education. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

(Read about Palin's views on ANWAR and polar bears on our sister blog, Threat Level.)

Asked by the Anchorage Daily News whether she believed in evolution, Palin declined to answer, but said that "I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class."

"I'm not going to pretend I know how all this came to be," she said.

The battle between evolution and creationism -- specifically, Christian creationism -- in U.S. classrooms dates back to the 1925 Scopes trial, when a Tennessee court banned the teaching of evolution. Since then, state and federal courts have repeatedly rejected so-called creation science in public schools, calling it religion rather than science.

The latest courtroom defeat came in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover case, when the superficially religion-neutral theory of intelligent design was classified as religious creationism. The Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that teaching creationism violated the separation of church and state.

Nevertheless, pro-creationism education initiatives driven by Christian conservatives have flourished, and defenders of evolution -- and, more broadly, scientific integrity -- worry that Palin's pick will give momentum to this church-over-state push.

"It's unfortunate McCain would pick someone who shares those particular anti-science views, but it's not a surprise," said Barbara Forrest, a Southeastern Lousiana University philosophy professor and prominent critic of creationist science. "She's a choice that pleases the religious right. And the religious right has been the chief force against teaching evolution."

In February, Florida's Board of Education narrowly defeated a bill calling for evolution to be balanced by "alternatives." The language is widely regarded as a euphemism for creationism engineered by the pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute, whose "wedge strategy" calls for the gradual dilution of classroom evolution and its eventual replacement by "a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."

Armed with courtroom-friendly language, Texas is currently considering creationism-friendly revisions to its own curriculum. In June, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal passed the Louisiana Science Education Act, encouraging schools to provide alternative critiques of global warming, human cloning and evolution. Similar initiatives were defeated in South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Missouri and Michigan.

Palin's statements track with the official Alaska Republican Party platform, which support creation science and intelligent design by name, and says that "evidence disputing the theory should also be presented."

According to Fordham Institute science education expert Lawrence Lerner, Palin's nomination is less worrisome in terms of education than the broad relationship of science and government.

"In the direct sense, vice presidents don't have much to do with what goes on in classrooms. But a person who's a creationist doesn't understand science and technology at all," said Lerner. "It doesn't bode well for science, and doesn't bode well for interaction between science and government."

President Bush has been publicly skeptical of evolution, while Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama has professed support. "I think it's a mistake to try to cloud the teachings of science with theories that frankly don't hold up to scientific inquiry," he said in April.

John McCain's campaign did not respond in time for publication.

When asked about Palin potentially being a step removed from the White House, Forrest responded, "We'd have a creationist as President. But that's not new -- we've already got one."

Palin: You're no Hillary Clinton

None of my pro-Hillary female friends are falling for this obvious GOP pander. To the contrary, McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his VP is drawing hoots of derision.

Once they learn that Sarah Palin opposes rape and incest exceptions for women seeking abortion, they completely write her off.

One female friend said: "Sarah Palin is to the movement for women's equality what Clarence Thomas is to civil rights. She's an extremist and an enemy to the cause that has been fought on her behalf.... Someone should stand up and say: 'I know Senator Clinton. Senator Clinton is a friend of mine. And Sarah Palin is no Hillary Rodham Clinton.'"

One female friend did some quick internet research and said, "Sarah Palin has a great deal of surface appeal, at first. But once America's women look behind that cheerleader smile and see at her extreme social agenda, they will run the other direction."

Another said, "McCain picked a fan, not an equal partner. She has no international experience. She was just fawning all over him. No independence. Given McCain's temper, Sarah Palin probably won't challenge John McCain on any substantive issues."

Then she added, with a laugh, "The only thing he is going to let her do in the White House is teach him how to use the internet."

Another said, "It just seems desperate and calculated."

She added, "Palin makes McCain look ancient, out-of-touch and totally yesterday. McCain makes her look like a perky kid. Each one dramatically and perfectly underscores the other's weakness. At least, nobody can criticize Obama's alleged youth and inexperience now. But this is not the best team America could produce, by any stretch."

John McCain has gone from maverick to "me too" -- trying to out-Democrat the Democrats and pick up some Hillary voters.

But it ain't working.

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain picks Alaska Gov. Palin as running mate

(CNN) -- Sen. John McCain has picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, a senior McCain campaign official told CNN on Friday.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, here in February, will be Sen. John McCain's running mate, a campaign official says.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, here in February, will be Sen. John McCain's running mate, a campaign official says.

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Palin, 44, who's in her first term as governor, is a pioneering figure in Alaska, the first woman and the youngest person to hold the state's top political job.

She catapulted to the post with a strong reputation as a political outsider, forged during her stint in local politics. She was mayor and a council member of the small town of Wasilla and was chairman of the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates Alaska's oil and gas resources, in 2003 and 2004.

The conservative Palin defeated two so-called political insiders to win the governor's job -- incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski in the GOP primary and former two-term Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles in the 2006 general election. iReport.com: What do you think of McCain's VP pick?

Palin made her name in part by backing tough ethical standards for politicians. During the first legislative session after her election, her administration passed a state ethics law overhaul.

Palin's term has not been without controversy. A legislative investigation is looking into allegations that Palin fired Alaska's public safety commissioner because he refused to fire the governor's former brother-in-law, a state trooper.

Palin acknowledged that a member of her staff made a call to a trooper in which the staffer suggested he was speaking for the governor.

Palin has admitted that the call could be interpreted as pressure to fire state trooper Mike Wooten, who was locked in a child-custody battle with Palin's sister.

"I am truly disappointed and disturbed to learn that a member of this administration contacted the Department of Public Safety regarding Trooper Wooten," Palin said. "At no time did I authorize any member of my staff to do so."

Palin suspended the staffer who made the call.

Palin has focused on energy and natural resources policy during her short stint in office, and she is known for her support of drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, a position opposed by McCain but supported by many grass-roots Republicans.

Her biography on the state governor's Web site says one of the two major pieces of legislation passed during her first legislative session was a competitive process to construct a gas pipeline.

Palin started Alaska's Petroleum Systems Integrity Office, an oversight and maintenance agency for the state's oil and gas equipment, facilities and infrastructure. She created the Climate Change Subcabinet that would forge a climate change strategy, according to the biography.

Palin chairs the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, a multistate panel "that promotes the conservation and efficient recovery of domestic oil and natural gas resources while protecting health, safety and the environment," the biography says.

She has been named chair of the National Governors Association's Natural Resources Committee. That panel is focused on legislation to ensure that federal policies take state priorities into account in agriculture, energy, environmental protection and natural resource management.

She is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and takes part in two of Alaska's popular pastimes -- fishing and hunting.

The governor's biography says Palin's other priorities have been "education and workforce development, public health and safety, and transportation and infrastructure development."

The biography touts her other achievements as governor as the investment of $5 billion in state savings, overhaul of educational funding and implementation of a program to help low-income elderly Alaskans.

Born in Idaho, she is a longtime Alaskan and a Protestant. Her biography says she arrived in Alaska in 1964 "when her parents came to teach school in Skagway."

She graduated from Wasilla High School in 1982 and received a bachelor of science degree in communications-journalism from the University of Idaho in 1987.

Her husband is Todd Palin, an oil production operator on Alaska's North Slope. They have five children, including a son who enlisted in the Army last year.

Congressional Quarterly notes Sarah Palin's other past occupations, including commercial fishing company owner, outdoor recreational equipment company owner and sports reporter.

Palin also made an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor in 2002, Congressional Quarterly said.

Original here

Obama: John McCain doesn't get it

DENVER, Colorado (CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama laid out his plan for change in America as he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday night, securing his place in history as the first African-American to lead a major party ticket.

Sen. Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination for the presidency Thursday night.

Sen. Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination for the presidency Thursday night.

"Change happens because the American people demand it -- because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time. America, this is one of those moments," he told supporters at the Democratic National Convention. "I believe that as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming."

Obama pitted himself against John McCain, repeatedly countering attacks from his Republican rival while casting the election as a choice between change and failure, as he addressed tens of thousands of cheering people and millions of primetime TV viewers.

McCain would continue the policies of the Bush administration, Obama said.

"We are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look just like the last eight. On November 4, we must stand up and say: 'Eight is enough,' " he told the Denver throng.

In addition to slamming McCain on Iraq, energy policy and health care, Obama said his rival for the White House is out of touch with the concerns of the average American. Watch Obama's entire speech: Video Part 1 » | Video Part 2 »

"He said that our economy has made 'great progress' under this president. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisers -- the man who wrote his economic plan -- was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a 'mental recession,' and that we've become, and I quote, 'a nation of whiners,' " Obama said, eliciting boos from the crowd.

"It's not because John McCain doesn't care," Obama said. "It's because John McCain doesn't get it." Video Watch Obama blast the status quo »

The speech marked the culmination of the four-day convention in Denver, during which party leaders pushed to heal the rift from a bitter and prolonged primary battle between Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton. By Thursday, Obama had received clear endorsements from Clinton and her husband former President Bill Clinton.

By early evening, the line of people seeking to get into Invesco Field to hear Obama's address stretched for six miles, and the crowd that filled the stadium was more than 80,000 strong.

"I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring," Obama told the audience. "What the naysayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me. It's about you." Video Watch Obama accept the historic nomination »

In a statement issued immediately after the speech, the McCain campaign called the speech "misleading" and said it was "fundamentally at odds with the meager record of Barack Obama."

"When the temple comes down, the fireworks end, and the words are over, the facts remain: Sen. Obama still has no record of bipartisanship, still opposes offshore drilling, still voted to raise taxes on those making just $42,000 per year, and still voted against funds for American troops in harm's way. The fact remains: Barack Obama is still not ready to be president," said a statement from the campaign. The "temple" is a reference to the columns that formed the backdrop for Obama's speech. Grade Obama's speech

Obama also outlined his promises for the nation -- vowing to cut taxes, end the country's dependence on oil from the Middle East and offer affordable healthcare for all Americans. He also pledged to end the war in Iraq responsibly, and "finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan." iReport.com: Watch and share your thoughts on Obama's speech

He wrapped up his speech by telling the crowd, "America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future." Video Watch as fireworks mark the end of the convention »

The crowd gave Obama a roaring welcome and met lines of his speech with chants of his catchphrase, "Yes, we can." Many political pundits said Obama hit it out of the park with his nearly 50-minute speech, and those in attendance agreed. See what CNN analysts have to say about Obama's speech »

"It was an excellent home run," said Matt Besser, an Obama representative to the DNC platform committee. "He did everything he needed to do. He gracefully dissected John McCain and then set out his own vision, and clearly everyone got it."

In the hours leading up to the speech, a star-studded line up of musicians performed, including Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Sheryl Crow and Will.i.am. Video Watch musicians perform at the convention »

The scene was much like a rock concert, with the foot-stomping, flag-waving crowd dancing and bouncing beach balls as they awaited Obama's arrival.

When Obama officially locked in his party's nomination on Wednesday, delegates sobbed, cheered and hugged in celebration of the historic moment.

The Democratic candidate's address fell on the 45th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech.

In an emotional tribute to the slain civil rights leader earlier in the evening, King's children paid respect to their father and said he would have been proud of the party and the generation that would realize his dream. Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, were seen hugging each other and weeping.

McCain also honored Obama's achievement in a television ad that aired during the convention.

Earlier in the evening, former presidential candidate Al Gore turned the focus to the environment, an issue that received little attention earlier in the week. He also invoked the bitterly disputed 2000 presidential election to argue that Americans should elect Obama in November. Read about Gore's address

"Eight years ago, some said there was not much difference between the nominees of the two major parties and it didn't really matter who became president," he told delegates. "But here we all are in 2008, and I doubt anyone would argue now that election didn't matter," he said.

Next week, it's the Republicans turn. Their four-day convention gets underway Monday in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota.

Original here

Google CEO: Internet spurred Obama's nomination

Posted by Declan McCullagh


Eric Schmidt fields questions from liberal talk show host Rachel Maddow (and the audience) about politics, online journalism, and privacy.

(Credit: Declan McCullagh/News.com)

DENVER--Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt said on Thursday that the Internet gave presidential candidate Barack Obama the ability to bypass traditional media and claim the Democratic nomination.

Schmidt showed up at the Democratic convention here on Thursday to field questions about politics, how Google is influencing online journalism, and the company's policies on privacy.

During an appearance at the literal and figurative Big Tent, a blogger workspace sponsored by Google and Digg.com, Schmidt said that Web sites like YouTube allow politicians to connect more directly with voters.

Here are some highlights of Schmidt's nearly hour-long conversation on stage with Rachel Maddow, a liberal talk radio and MSNBC host:

(Credit: Declan McCullagh/News.com)

* Privacy: "We do worry that as this information gets collected it becomes a treasure trove. You can imagine that in the worst possible case... we know everything you're doing and the government tries to track you." Schmidt said that some solutions are a judicial system that limits government overzealousness, the ability to discuss the topic openly that didn't exist a few decades ago, and his company's policy of limiting what data they collect beyond 18 months.

* Ted Stevens: The recently-indicted Republican senator, who previously headed the committee that drafted Internet-related laws, became famous for his mangled description of a "series of tubes." Schmidt said, in response to a question about what he thought of Stevens: "There's always a person who's first. And there's always a person who's last. And we found him."

* Recruiting: Google studied the way its recruiting process worked for male vs. female engineering hires, and made changes. It turned out that the male rating of possible hires was predictive of future performance, but the rating for women wasn't. "We had actual data that showed a bizarre bias that existed in our system. We changed it to correct that." Schmidt indicated in response to a question that Google engages in affirmative action for racial and sexual minority hiring.

* Journalism and the Internet: "We've got a major national crisis around journalism, particularly investigative journalism." Schmidt said that the three factors are higher costs of newsprint, loss of print ad revenue and effectiveness, and the shift of classified ads online (in part going to Google.) He said Google is "working hard to try things" including partnerships with media organizations in conjunction with Google News, but acknowledged that it's unclear what will work.

Alan Davidson, one of Google's Washington representatives, said the company is planning a sizable presence at the Republican convention next week as well.

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McCain: Iraq Is ‘A Peaceful And Stable Country Now’

madmccainweb2.jpgToday, Time Magazine published an interview with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that it conducted aboard McCain’s campaign airplane. Reporters James Carney and Michael Scherer described McCain as “prickly” and “at times, abrasive” during the course of the interview.

Carney and Scherer noted to McCain that the Iraqi government is calling for a deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq even though McCain’s previously stated definition of “victory” — “a peaceful, stable, prosperous democratic state” — has not been achieved. The Arizona senator dismissed their characterization of the situation, saying that Iraq is “a peaceful and stable country now”:

Q: Some members of the [Iraqi] government have made it clear in the last month or two that they might want to withdraw before complete stability, before totally secure borders, before some of the completeness of victory as you described. Is there any change, do you think there is some wiggle room there because what you described with Petraeus was an end point that was rather complete — a peaceful, stable country.

MCCAIN: Its a peaceful and stable country now.

Listen here:

Here are some examples (from just this month) of McCain’s so-called “peaceful and stable” Iraq:

August 9: A suicide car bomb in Tal Afar killed at least 25 people.

August 24: A suicide bomber killed 25 people, including women and children, in Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib district.

August 27: A suicide bomber killed 28 and wounded 45 in Iraq’s Diyala province.

Moreover, while U.S. troop deaths in Iraq reached their lowest point since the beginning of the war last month, they are on the rise again. According to icasulaties.org, 20 U.S. military personnel have been killed so far this month in Iraq — up from 13 in July.

But this isn’t the first time McCain’s assessment of the security situation in Iraq has been off. Last May he said the northern city of Mosul was “quiet” despite the fact that a car bomb had killed three and wounded nine there the very same day.

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IAVA Director: If McCain Thinks The VA Isn’t Working, ‘It’s In Part Because He Hasn’t Funded It’

reickhoff24.jpgYesterday, Sen. John McCain promoted his veterans private health care “plastic card” in a speech to the American Legion. Though he insisted the “card is not intended to either replace the VA or privatize veterans’ health care,” veterans groups aren’t buying it. AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars all argue McCain’s scheme may undermine the VA.

Today ThinkProgress spoke to Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, at the Democratic National Convention. When we asked him what he thought of McCain’s private health card plan, Rieckhoff slammed McCain for blocking funding for the VA:

Basically every major veterans group is opposed to it so far, so I think that pretty much says it all. We’ve got to come up with a comprehensive solution to VA health care, and that starts with VA funding. Sen. McCain has consistently voted against expansion of VA funding. So if he says the VA’s not working, it’s in part because he hasn’t funded it properly. … A lot of vets groups are going to push back against the card because it may be on the path toward privatization. So we’ve got to really make the VA as strong as it can be, and that should be our priority.

Despite his repeated claims to the contrary, McCain’s record on veterans health funding is disappointing to say the least:

– Voted AGAINST providing $430 million to the VA for outpatient care “and treatment for veterans,” one of only 13 senators to do so. [4/26/06]

– Voted AGAINST increasing VA funding by $1.5 billion by closing corporate loopholes. [3/14/06]

– Voted AGAINST increasing VA funding by $1.8 billion by ending “abusive tax loopholes.” [3/10/04]

McCain can try to convince veterans groups that he opposes privatization, but considering his disdain for government-sponsored health care, it’s no surprise he wants to put veterans health into the hands of private business.

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Cindy McCain's Half-Sister: I'm Voting For Obama

Cindy McCain's half-sister tells Us Magazine that she won't help put her famous sibling in the White House:

"I'm not voting for McCain," Kathleen Hensley Portalski tells Us. "I have a different political standpoint.


"I'm voting for Obama," the Phoenix resident says. "I think his proposals to improve the country are more positive and I'm not a big war believer."

...

Portalski's son Nathan, an aerospace machinist, is also backing Obama.

"I wouldn't vote for John McCain if he was a Democrat," he tells Us. "I would not vote at all before I'd vote for him.

"I question whether Cindy is someone I'd want to see in the White House as first lady," he adds.

Portalski went public with her connection to the McCains after hearing Cindy say on the trail that she was an only child.

"I'm upset," she told NPR. "I'm angry. It makes me feel like a nonperson, kind of."

"It's terribly painful," Portalski added. "It is as if she is the 'real' daughter. I am also a real daughter."

The Washington Post subsequently reported that Cindy has another half-sister who seems to have slipped her mind:

Before her marriage to Hensley, Johnson had a daughter, Dixie Burd, by a previous relationship. Burd, who is much older than Cindy, could not be reached for comment.
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Texas still leads nation in rate of uninsured residents

By JASON ROBERSON / The Dallas Morning News
jroberson@dallasnews.com

Texas once again led the nation with the highest percentage of residents without health insurance, a U.S. Census Bureau report showed Tuesday, although the same study also reports a slight dip last year in the percentage without coverage across the nation.

Almost one of every four Texas residents – 24.8 percent – were uninsured in 2006 and 2007, based on an average of the rates for those two years. That's up from 23.9 percent for 2004 and 2005.

The national number also increased a bit for the two-year period to 15.5 percent. However, looking at 2007 by itself, the percentage of uninsured in the country fell from 15.8 percent in 2006 to 15.3 percent in 2007. (State percentages were given only for two-year periods.)

California still has the highest number – not percentage – of uninsured residents at 6.7 million, compared with 5.7 million Texans. The Texas number is up from 5.5 million in 2006.

McCain adviser

But the numbers are misleading, said John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a right-leaning Dallas-based think tank. Mr. Goodman, who helped craft Sen. John McCain's health care policy, said anyone with access to an emergency room effectively has insurance, albeit the government acts as the payer of last resort. (Hospital emergency rooms by law cannot turn away a patient in need of immediate care.)

"So I have a solution. And it will cost not one thin dime," Mr. Goodman said. "The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American – even illegal aliens – as uninsured. Instead, the bureau should categorize people according to the likely source of payment should they need care.

"So, there you have it. Voila! Problem solved."

Mr. Goodman's analysis drew a sharp response from the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based think tank focusing on poverty issues. "That is not the same thing as having health insurance," said Eva Deluna, a budget analyst for the center. People without insurance are less likely to seek care, and when they do, the cost to the health system is greater, she said.

Fight on statistics

According to Mr. Goodman, only people who are denied care are truly uninsured – everyone who gets care is effectively insured by some mechanism. "So instead of producing worthless statistics that people fling around in vacuous editorials and pointless debates, the Census Bureau should produce meaningful numbers, identifying all of the sources of funds people will draw on if they need medical care," he said.

Ms. Deluna argued that the situation actually is worse now than the Census Bureau reported. The just-released data does not reflect the recent economic downturn, she said.

It makes no sense, she continued, for Texas to have the nation's highest percentage of uninsured residents, while having one of the nation's strongest economies for job growth.

In luring jobs to Texas, state and local officials have simply focused on the number of jobs, rather than on quality jobs offering health insurance, Ms Deluna said.

"People are working harder than ever, but the jobs they have don't provide health insurance," she said.

The number of Texans receiving health insurance through their jobs dropped to 11.9 million last year, from 12.1 million the year before, according to the Census Bureau.

Nationally, the overall number without insurance fell to 45.7 million last year, from 47 million in 2006.

The decline came as more Americans shifted to government Medicaid and Medicare coverage, said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a nonprofit health care advocacy group in Washington D.C.

An estimated 1.3 million additional people signing up for Medicaid and 1 million more signing up for Medicare were the main drivers of the lower uninsured rate, he said. "Ironically, this all happened while the president was trying to cut back on Medicaid," Mr. Pollack said.

Household incomes

In other findings, the report said:

• The nation's official poverty rate in 2007 was 12.5 percent, unchanged from 2006. However, the number of Americans living in poverty grew to 37.3 million in 2007, up from 36.5 million in 2006.

• Real median income, adjusted for inflation, rose for both black and non-Hispanic white households between 2006 and 2007, representing the first real increase in annual household income for each group since 1999.

• Among racial groups, black households had the lowest median income in 2007 at $33,916. That compares with a median of $54,920 for non-Hispanic white households. Asian households had the highest median income, $66,103. The median income for Hispanic households was $38,679.

Original here

McCain's Prickly TIME Interview

For years, John McCain's marathon bull sessions with reporters were more than a means of delivering a message; they were the message. McCain proudly, flagrantly refused direction from handlers, rarely dodged tough questions and considered those who did wimps and frauds. The style told voters that he was unafraid, that he had nothing to hide and that what you see is what you get. "Anything you want to talk about," he promised reporters aboard the Straight Talk Express in Iowa back in March 2007. "One of the fundamental principles of the bus is that there is no such thing as a dumb question." When asked if he would keep the straight talk coming, McCain replied, "You think I could survive if I didn't? We'd never be forgiven ... I'd have to hire a food taster, somebody to start my car in the morning." Even after he won the GOP nomination, he demanded that his new campaign plane be configured to include a sofa up front so he could re-create the Straight Talk Express at 30,000 ft.

Sticking to the old formula seemed like a good idea. But with the press focused on Obama, McCain got attention only when he slipped up during one of his patented freewheeling encounters with reporters. And so in July, the campaign decided to clamp down on the candidate. Open-ended question time was reduced to almost nothing, and the famously unscripted McCain began heeding his talking points, even as his aides maintained he missed the old informality.

And so when TIME's James Carney and Michael Scherer were invited to the front of McCain's plane recently for an interview, they were ushered forward, past the curtain that now separates reporters from the candidate, past the sofa that was designed for his gabfests with the press and taken straight to the candidate's seat. McCain at first seemed happy enough to do the interview. But his mood quickly soured. The McCain on display in the 24-minute interview was prickly, at times abrasive, and determined not to stray off message. An excerpt:

What do you want voters to know coming out of the Republican Convention — about you, about your candidacy?
I'm prepared to be President of the United States, and I'll put my country first.

There's a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define honor for us?
Read it in my books.

I've read your books.
No, I'm not going to define it.

But honor in politics?
I defined it in five books. Read my books.

[Your] campaign today is more disciplined, more traditional, more aggressive. From your point of view, why the change?
I will do as much as we possibly can do to provide as much access to the press as possible.

But beyond the press, sir, just in terms of ...
I think we're running a fine campaign, and this is where we are.

Do you miss the old way of doing it?
I don't know what you're talking about.

Really? Come on, Senator.
I'll provide as much access as possible ...

In 2000, after the primaries, you went back to South Carolina to talk about what you felt was a mistake you had made on the Confederate flag. Is there anything so far about this campaign that you wish you could take back or you might revisit when it's over?
[Does not answer.]

Do I know you? [Says with a laugh.]
[Long pause.] I'm very happy with the way our campaign has been conducted, and I am very pleased and humbled to have the nomination of the Republican Party.

You do acknowledge there was a change in the campaign, in the way you had run the campaign?
[Shakes his head.]

You don't acknowledge that? O.K., when your aides came to you and you decided, having been attacked by Barack Obama, to run some of those ads, was there a debate?
The campaign responded as planned.

Jumping around a bit: in your books, you've talked about what it was like to go through the Keating Five experience, and you've been quoted as saying it was one of the worst experiences of your life. Someone else quoted you as saying it was even worse than being a POW ...
That's another one of those statements made 17 or 18 years ago which was out of the context of the conversation I was having. Of course the worst, the toughest experience of my life was being imprisoned, so people can pluck phrases from 17 or 18 years ago ...

I wasn't suggesting it as a negative thing. I was just saying that ...
I'm just suggesting it was taken out of context. I understand how comments are taken out of context from time to time. But obviously, the toughest time of my life, physically and [in] every other way, would be the time that I almost died in prison camp. And I think most Americans understand that.

How different are you from President Bush? Are you in step with your party? Are you independent from your party?
My record shows that I have put my country first and I follow the philosophy and traditions of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Sometimes that is not in keeping with the present Administration or my colleagues, but I've always put my country first, whether it's saying I didn't support the decision to go to Lebanon or my fighting against the corruption in Washington or out-of-control pork-barrel spending, which has led to members of Congress residing in federal prison. So I've always stood up for a set of principles and a philosophy that I think have been pretty consistent over the years.

Your tougher line on Russia, which predated [the Russian invasion of Georgia], now to many looks prescient. Others say it's indicative of a belligerent approach to foreign policy that would perhaps further exacerbate the tensions being created with our allies and others around the world under the Bush Administration. How do you respond to that critique?
Well, it reminds me of some of the arguments we went through when Ronald Reagan became President of the United States. I think Russian behavior has been very clear, and I've pointed it out for quite a period of time, and the chronicle of their actions has been well known since President [Vladimir] Putin came to power, and I believe that it's very important that Russia behave in a manner befitting a very strong nation. They're not doing so at this time, so therefore I will criticize and in some cases — in the case of the aggression against Georgia — condemn them.

You were a very enthusiastic supporter of the invasion of Iraq and, in the early stages, of the Bush Administration's handling of the war. Are those judgments you'd like to revisit?
Well, my record is clear. I believe that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. I believe it's clear that he had every intention to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction. I can only imagine what Saddam Hussein would be doing with the wealth he would acquire with oil at $110 and $120 a barrel. I was one of the first to point out the failure of strategy in Iraq under [former Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld. I was criticized for being disloyal to the Republicans and the President. I was the first to say I would lose a campaign rather than lose a war. I supported the surge. No observer over the last two years would say the surge hasn't succeeded. I believe we did the right thing.

A lot of people know about your service from your books, but most people don't know that you have two sons currently in the military. Can you describe what it means to have Jack and Jimmy in uniform?

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Pushing Russia Into the Cold

A year after taking power, in June 1934, Adolf Hitler made his first visit abroad — to his idol Benito Mussolini in Venice.

Babbling on incessantly about "Mein Kampf "and the Negroid strain in Mediterranean peoples, the Fuhrer made a dismal impression.

"What a clown this Hitler is," Mussolini told an aide.

Two weeks later, Hitler executed the Roehm purge and murdered scores of old Stormtrooper comrades. In late July, Austrian Nazis, attempting a coup, assassinated Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, a friend of Mussolini whose wife and child were then his guests.

Il Duce ordered four divisions to the Brenner Pass and flew to Vienna to vent his rage and disgust with Hitler. He called a summit at Stresa with Britain and France to agree on military action should Hitler make any new move in violation of Versailles.

At the time, however, Il Duce was also plotting revenge on Abyssinia for a bloody border clash with Italian Somaliland.

Mussolini thought his Allies would understand if he invaded the Ogaden to add an African colony to his new Roman Empire, just as the British and French had so often done in previous decades.

Mussolini miscalculated. Morally outraged, Britain and France went before the League of Nations and had sanctions imposed on Italy that were too weak to defeat her but punitive enough to insult her.

Friendless, isolated and condemned as an aggressor by Europe, Italy and Mussolini had nowhere to turn now but Hitler's Germany.

Thus, over the fate of an Abyssinian slave empire, Britain drove her faithful World War I ally into the arms of a Nazi dictator Mussolini loathed and had wished to confront beside Britain. And Abyssinia was overrun.

Are we making the same mistake in the Caucasus?

Mikheil Saakashvili started this war with his barrage attack and occupation of South Ossetia. Russia's war of retribution was far less violent or excessive than the U.S. bombing of Serbia for 78 days over Kosovo, or our unprovoked war on Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which has brought death to scores of thousands, or Israel's 35 days of bombing of Lebanon for a border skirmish with Hezbollah.

Yet, declared John McCain of Russia, "In the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations." Even Dick Cheney must have guffawed.

Russia must get out now, adds Bush, for South Ossetia and Abkhazia belong to a sovereign Georgia. But when did Bush demand that Israel get off the Golan Heights or withdraw from the birthplace of Jesus, which Israelis have occupied for 41 years, as he demands that Russia get out of the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, which Russia has occupied for two weeks?

As Israel was provoked in 1967, so, too, was Russia provoked.

Russians died in Saakashvili's attack, as American died in Pancho Villa's raid on New Mexico in 1916. We sent "Black Jack" Pershing, future Gen. George Patton and a U.S. army 300 miles into Mexico to kill Villa. Was this proportionate?

If we proceed on a course of isolating Russia from the West, keeping her out of the World Trade Organization, throwing her out of the G-8 and ending cooperation with NATO, where do we think Russia will go? Where did Il Duce go, when he was excommunicated from the West?

Condi Rice compares Vladimir Putin's action in Georgia to Leonid Brezhnev's crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968. She raced to Warsaw to ink a deal to put 10 anti-missile missiles and U.S. Patriot missiles manned by Americans into Poland.

Does the Stanford provost have any idea where the end of this road lies, upon which she and Bush have started the United States?

What do we do if Russia responds to our Patriots in Poland with the Russian S-300 anti-aircraft system in Iran and Syria?

If the United States intends to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO and arm them to fight Russia, why should Russia not dissolve the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe and move her tank armies into Belarus and up to the borders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania?

Would we send U.S. troops into the Baltic republics to signal that we will fight Russia to honor our NATO war guarantees? Which NATO allies would fight alongside us against a nuclear-armed Russia?

If we bring Ukraine into NATO, what do we do if Russified east Ukraine secedes and Russia sends troops to back the rebels? Do we send warships into Russia's bathtub, the Black Sea, and commit to fight as long as it takes to restore Ukraine's territorial integrity?

In March 1939, Britain pledged to declare war and fight Germany to the death to guarantee the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Poland. How did that one turn out for Britain and Poland?

Before we start down the road of isolating and encircling Russia with weak NATO allies, let us think through Gen. Petraeus' question in 2003 about Iraq, "Tell me, how does this thing end?"

But, then, these folks never seem to think anything through.

To find out more about Patrick Buchanan, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tax Expert: McCain’s Tax Cuts Are Aimed At The Rich ‘Even More So Than Bush’s Were’»

bushmccain.jpgIn 2001 and 2003, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) opposed President Bush’s tax cuts, arguing that he couldn’t “in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us.” But since then, McCain has ditched his concern about policies tilted towards the wealthy and now wants to double Bush’s tax cuts.

Examining McCain’s shifts on taxes today, the Wall Street Journal’s Martin Vaughan writes that “an apt description” for McCain’s tax proposals would be to say “that the wealthy would benefit most.” In fact, as the Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards points out, McCain’s proposals are aimed at the wealthy “even more so than Bush’s”:

McCain’s apparent bent towards deeper tax cuts at the higher end of the income scale in his recent campaign proposals surprised many who recall his rejection of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts.

McCain’s proposals this year are consistently pretty supply-side, even more so than Bush’s were,” said Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute.

Earlier this year, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center found that McCain’s economic plan “would primarily benefit those with very high incomes.” In fact, under McCain’s plan, John and Cindy McCain would get a $300,000 tax break while middle class Americans would save only $319. The McCains save $60,016 more under McCain’s tax plan than under Bush’s.

In their more candid moments, McCain’s supporters admit that he is doubling down on Bush’s tax policies. In May, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) said that McCain’s “tax policies” would “be in effect a third Bush term.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told ABC News in June that McCain’s policies would “absolutely” be an “extension” and “enhancement” of Bush’s.

Original here

McCain's slips, and Reagan's

With Democrats on the precipice of raising the age issue against John McCain, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont seemed to cross the line completely, then immediately backtrack, my colleague Ken Vogel reports.

Leahy told Vogel yesterday the media has given McCain a free pass on flubs including mixing up Middle East geography, Shiite and Sunni Muslims, and referring to Russia's relationship Czechoslovakia — a country that hasn't existed for 15 years.

"It was the same way with Ronald Reagan in the last few years he was president," Leahy said, referring to the belief that Reagan experienced early signs of Alzheimer's disease late in his presidency.

The press "let Ronald Regan get away with" slips, Leahy said, though he denied he was suggesting that McCain was experiencing mental decline.

"No, I'm just saying he gets a free ride," Leahy said.

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Georgia is the graveyard of America's unipolar world

Russia's defiance in the Caucasus has brought down the curtain on Bush senior's new world order - not before time

Seumas Milne

If there were any doubt that the rules of the international game have changed for good, the events of the past few days should have dispelled it. On Monday, President Bush demanded that Russia's leaders reject their parliament's appeal to recognise the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Within 24 hours, Bush had his response: President Medvedev announced Russia's recognition of the two contested Georgian enclaves.

The Russian message was unmistakable: the outcome of the war triggered by Georgia's attack on South Ossetia on August 7 is non-negotiable - and nothing the titans of the US empire do or say is going to reverse it. After that, the British foreign secretary David Miliband's posturing yesterday in Kiev about building a "coalition against Russian aggression" merely looked foolish.

That this month's events in the Caucasus signal an international turning point is no longer in question. The comparisons with August 1914 are of course ridiculous, and even the speculation about a new cold war overdone. For all the manoeuvres in the Black Sea and nuclear-backed threats, the standoff between Russia and the US is not remotely comparable to the events that led up to the first world war. Nor do the current tensions have anything like the ideological and global dimensions that shaped the 40-year confrontation between the west and the Soviet Union.

But what is clear is that America's unipolar moment has passed - and the new world order heralded by Bush's father in the dying days of the Soviet Union in 1991 is no more. The days when one power was able to bestride the globe like a colossus, enforcing its will in every continent, challenged only by popular movements for national independence and isolated "rogue states", are now over. For nearly two decades, while Russia sunk into "catastroika" and China built an economic powerhouse, the US has exercised unprecedented and unaccountable global power, arrogating to itself and its allies the right to invade and occupy other countries, untroubled by international law or institutions, sucking ever more states into the orbit of its voracious military alliance.

Now, pumped up with petrodollars, Russia has called a halt to this relentless expansion and demonstrated that the US writ doesn't run in every backyard. And although it has been a regional, not a global, challenge, this object lesson in the new limits of American power has already been absorbed from central Asia to Latin America.

In Georgia itself, both Medvedev's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia's independence and Russia's destruction of Georgian military capacity have been designed to leave no room for doubt that the issue of the enclaves' reintegration has been closed. There are certainly dangers for Russia's own territorial integrity in legitimising breakaway states. But the move will have little practical impact and is presumably partly intended to create bargaining chips for future negotiations.

Miliband's attempt in Ukraine, meanwhile, to deny the obvious parallels with the US-orchestrated recognition of Kosovo's independence earlier this year rang particularly hollow, as did his denunciation of invasions of sovereign states and double standards. Both the west and Russia have abused the charge of "genocide" to try and give themselves legal cover, but Russia is surely on stronger ground over South Ossetia - where its own internationally recognised peacekeepers were directly attacked by the Georgian army - than Nato was in Kosovo in 1999, where most ethnic cleansing took place after the US-led assault began.

There has been much talk among western politicians in recent days about Russia isolating itself from the international community. But unless that simply means North America and Europe, nothing could be further from the truth. While the US and British media have swung into full cold-war mode over the Georgia crisis, the rest of the world has seen it in a very different light. As Kishore Mahbubani, Singapore's former UN ambassador, observed in the Financial Times a few days ago, "most of the world is bemused by western moralising on Georgia". While the western view is that the world "should support the underdog, Georgia, against Russia ... most support Russia against the bullying west. The gap between the western narrative and the rest of the world could not be clearer."

Why that should be so isn't hard to understand. It's not only that the US and its camp followers have trampled on international law and the UN to bring death and destruction to the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the early 1990s, the Pentagon warned that to ensure no global rival emerged, the US would need to "account for the interests of advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership". But when it came to Russia, all that was forgotten in a fog of imperial hubris that has left the US overstretched and unable to prevent the return of a multipolar world.

Of course, that new multipolarity can easily be overstated. Russia is a regional power and there is no imminent prospect of a serious global challenger to the US, which will remain overwhelmingly the most powerful state in the world for years to come. It can also exacerbate the risk of conflict. But only the most solipsistic western mindset can fail to grasp the necessity of a counterbalance in international relations that can restrict the freedom of any one power to impose its will on other countries unilaterally.

One western response, championed by the Times this week, is to damn this growing challenge to US domination on the grounds that it is led by autocratic states in the shape of Russia and China. In reality, western alarm clearly has very little to do with democracy. When Russia collapsed into the US orbit under Boris Yeltsin, his bombardment of the Russian parliament and shamelessly rigged elections were treated with the greatest western understanding.

The real gripe is not with these states' lack of accountability - Russian public opinion is in any case overwhelmingly supportive of its government's actions in Georgia - but their strategic challenge and economic rivalry. For the rest of us, a new assertiveness by Russia and other rising powers doesn't just offer some restraint on the unbridled exercise of global imperial power, it should also increase the pressure for a revival of a rules-based system of international relations. In the circumstances, that might come to seem quite appealing to whoever is elected US president.

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