Tuesday, April 1, 2008

John McCain, Ignorant About The Issues (This Time on AIDS And Condoms)

Oh, that John McCain. Adorable and straight shooting. A war hero, too, and that's for real. But so is his noteworthy ignorance on issues of war and peace (it's kinda important to know the difference between Shi'a and Sunni in Iraq when you're supposed to be a foreign policy "expert".) The idea that it's okay because many Americans don't know the difference, as suggested by the adoring McCain press defenders, is scary because we know that'll be the attitude when we get into questions about science.

Science? Start with an appearance by McCain at a Discovery Institute sponsored lunch last year for a speech:

Friday at noon in Seattle, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., will speak at a luncheon event being co-presented by the Discovery Institute -- the controversial organization that promotes intelligent design theory and combats Darwinism.

As usual, the adoring press finds excuses for McCain:

McCain is beng hammered by a liberal group for associating with the Discovery Institute, although the luncheon is being formally hosted by the CityClub of Seattle and the Seattle World Affairs Council, with the Discovery Institute is one of nine organizations "co-presenting" the event...

McCain's campaign pooh-poohs the controversy.

"He's addressing the Seattle World Affairs Council and CityClub of Seattle and there are a number of co-presenters as well, of which the Discovery Institute is one," says McCain exploratory committee spokesman Brian Jones.

The Discovery Institute is as loathsome to science as an appearance at an anti-Catholic fundie school like Bob Jones would be to those of faith, or anti-Catholic bigot John Hagee (let's talk about his sermons, fair and balanced press):

Our double standard: Barack Obama takes a hit for wacko comments by his minister. And the GOP prince? McCain said he was "very honored" by the support of the Rev. John Hagee, who takes a back pulpit to no one in the divisive-speech department. Hagee slams feminists, gays and the Catholic Church (he calls it "the great whore"). Like Obama, McCain says he disagrees with the pastor's comments. Unlike Obama, McCain is forgiven.

- Linda Valdez, editorial writer

But McCain hasn't stopped there. So far, two weeks in a row, he has put his foot in his mouth on science and medicine issues that, btw, are laced with politics and controversy. Last week it was over vaccines and autism:

McCain said, per ABC News' Bret Hovell, that "It’s indisputable that (autism) is on the rise amongst children, the question is what’s causing it. And we go back and forth and there’s strong evidence that indicates that it’s got to do with a preservative in vaccines."

McCain said there’s "divided scientific opinion" on the matter, with "many on the other side that are credible scientists that are saying that’s not the cause of it."

Actually, there's overwhelming evidence that there's no scientific link between vaccines and autism and there's no "divided scientific opinion". Another pass from the press, because isn't McCain just adorable, and, like, science is, you know, hard!

So now to this week last year, this time, and to help everyone out, here are the facts from CDC:

When condoms are used reliably, they have been shown to prevent pregnancy up to 98 percent of the time among couples using them as their only method of contraception. Similarly, numerous studies among sexually active people have demonstrated that a properly used latex condom provides a high degree of protection against a variety of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection.

and from the Fed's own AIDS site:

Be safe. The best way to prevent HIV is to abstain from having sex. If you do have sex, use a new latex condom every time. Do not share needles or syringes.

Any questions? Any questions for straight shooting John [March, 2007, bolded mine]?

Reporter: "Should U.S. taxpayer money go to places like Africa to fund contraception to prevent AIDS?"

Mr. McCain: "Well I think it’s a combination. The guy I really respect on this is Dr. Coburn. He believes – and I was just reading the thing he wrote– that you should do what you can to encourage abstinence where there is going to be sexual activity. Where that doesn’t succeed, than he thinks that we should employ contraceptives as well. But I agree with him that the first priority is on abstinence. I look to people like Dr. Coburn. I’m not very wise on it."

(Mr. McCain turns to take a question on Iraq, but a moment later looks back to the reporter who asked him about AIDS.)

Mr. McCain: "I haven’t thought about it. Before I give you an answer, let me think about. Let me think about it a little bit because I never got a question about it before. I don’t know if I would use taxpayers’ money for it."

Q: "What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?"

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) "Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy."

Q: "So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?"

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) "You’ve stumped me."

Q: "I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?"

Mr. McCain: (Laughs) "Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it."

Q: "But you would agree that condoms do stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Would you say: ‘No, we’re not going to distribute them,’ knowing that?"

Mr. McCain: (Twelve-second pause) "Get me Coburn’s thing, ask Weaver to get me Coburn’s paper that he just gave me in the last couple of days. I’ve never gotten into these issues before."

John "the surge is working" McCain. When you don't know something, do as George W. Bush does. Bush was ignorant about Shi'a and Sunni before he invaded Iraq for bogus reasons, and that's sure worked out well for the US, hasn't it? Sure it has. Just ask John McCain to read the graph.

Original here

Debt Be Not Proud

Jake Tapper is ABC News' Senior National Correspondent based in the network's Washington bureau. He writes about politics and popular culture and covers a range of national stories.

The $8.7 million in debts owed by Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign as of her last Federal Election Commission filing deadline are staggering for their breadth and range.

The debts date back to last Fall, to states long ago decided -- an October 10 event in New Hampshire,for instance, for which the Boston Symphony Orchestra is listed as being owed $29,617.70.

Iowa Hy-Vee supermarkets are owed $14,956.24.

Seemingly every facet of human existence is represented in Clinton's unpaid bills. Atlanta's Catering with a Flair, Inc. -- owed $10,250.00. The Texas portapotties of A Clean Portoco -- owed $1,851.08.

Aetna Healthcare - owed $228,841.30. CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield - owed $62,744.52.

Schools and universities seem particularly hard-hit, as they were frequent locations for events, and often offer catering.

Southern New Hampshire Univ. Athletic Department - $9,542.80. San Diego State University - $10,000.00. Cuyahoga Community College $3,540.00. Dartmouth College - $2,489.00.

Clinton owes $3,161 to Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Illinois.

That's her own alma mater!

Neighborhood House in St. Paul, Minn., is owed $580. “Neighborhood House is a multicultural, multilingual community center with programming for all ages and open doors for all people and is often a first stop for new immigrants and refugees."

The Politico reports that "word is getting around that Clinton’s campaign does not promptly pay those who labor to make her events look good, said an employee of the event production company Forty Two of Youngstown, Ohio. 'I feel insulted by the way that the campaign treated this company and treated us personally,' said the employee, who did not want to be named talking about a client. ...the employee said the campaign has stopped returning phone calls, e-mails and didn’t respond to a certified letter. 'We worked very hard to put together these events on a moment’s notice and do absolutely everything to a ‘t’ to make it look perfect on television for her and for her campaign,' said the employee. 'Sen. Clinton talks about helping working families, people in unions and small businesses. But when it comes down to actually doing something that shows that she can back up her words with action, she fails.'"


The Clinton campaign's Jay Carson emails that "The campaign pays its bills regularly and in the normal course of business, and pays all of its bills. Sometimes invoices are not paid immediately because we need additional information for our records, or to verify expenses."

Carson adds that "While the FEC refers to what you are asking about as 'debt' these are not true debts accruing by the campaign, but simply invoices that were unpaid at the end of the filing period. The committee had more cash on hand than 'debt' (or unpaid invoices) at the end of Feb. The FEC requires a campaign to disclose as 'debt' any unpaid bill it had in hand by the closing day of the reporting period, even if the bill was received on the last day of a reporting period. For instance, if a $250,000 invoice was received on Feb 29, then paid on March 2, it would still be reported as a $250,000 'debt' on the year-end FEC report even though the bill was paid promptly and in the normal course of business, and even if by the year end filing date of Feb 29 (when the report is actually due), the invoice had been paid in full."

Carson adds that the Boston Symphony Orchestra bill was paid earlier this month.

No matter how you slice it, though, $8.7 million is an immense amount of debt.

Original here

Clinton Campaign running out on campaign bills

Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-NY) presidential campaign has been delaying paying their bills, “earning the campaign a reputation of a deadbeat in some small-business circles,” according to Politico’s Kenneth P. Vogel. Tucker Carlson joins the Morning Joe crew to discuss the latest from the 2008 presidential campaign trail. The following video is from MSNBC’s Morning Joe, broadcast on March 31, 2008

  • Clinton’s cash on hand, meanwhile, is being spent on critical media buys, intended to bolster an increasingly uphill bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

    “A pair of Ohio companies owed more than $25,000 by Clinton for staging events for her campaign are warning others in the tight-knit event production community — and anyone else who will listen — to get their cash upfront when doing business with her,” Vogel writes. “Her campaign, say representatives of the two companies, has stopped returning phone calls and e-mails seeking payment of outstanding invoices. One even got no response from a certified letter.”

    “Their cautionary tales, combined with published reports about similar difficulties faced by a New Hampshire landlord, an Iowa office cleaner and a New York caterer, highlight a less-obvious impact of Clinton’s inability to keep up with the staggering fundraising pace set by her opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama,” Vogel adds.

    Clinton’s campaign declined to reply to “recent, specific questions” about such transactions, Politico said.

    “But Clinton spokesman Jay Carson pointed on Saturday to an earlier statement the campaign issued to Politico, asserting: ‘The campaign pays its bills regularly and in the normal course of business, and pays all of its bills.’”

Original here

Top 10 Myths Keeping Hillary in the Race

I have noted a number of myths amongst the comments here as to why Hillary should stay in the race. Here are ten enduring, kudzu-like myths, with the debunking they sorely need.

Myth: This race is tied.

No, actually, it's not. Obama has the lead in number of states won, in pledged delegates and in overall delegates. Nothing will happen in the remaining primaries to substantially change that. As to the one thing Hillary does lead in, superdelegates, her quickly shrinking margin is among DNC personnel only. When you look at the elected superdelegates, Congressman, Senators and Governors (i.e. people who actually work with both Obama and Clinton) Obama leads there, too.

Myth: Okay, the popular vote is tied.

There are people who claim that because of the 3% separation, that Obama's lead in the popular vote is a "statistical tie." This is a myth because, when you can actually count things, there's no need of statistics and no such thing as a margin of error. The popular vote is not an estimate based on a sampling, like a poll. Like the general election, there are winners and losers and, so far, Obama is the winner.

Myth: Fine, but what if we count electoral votes? NOW Hillary is ahead!

Not so much. The proportions of electoral votes to population versus delegates to population are pretty comparable. So if you allocated electors proportionally in the same manner that you allocate delegates, Obama is still ahead. If you allocate them on a winner-take-all basis, then that would be the same as allocating the delegates on a winner-take-all basis, so why bring electors into it?

Myth: But if we did do it like the Electoral College, that proves Hillary is more electable than Obama, because of states like California.

This is perhaps the saddest little myth of all. It's ridiculous to suggest that Obama will lose New York and California to McCain because Clinton won them in the primaries. No, come November, those states will join with Obama's Illinois to provide 40% of the electors necessary for him to win.

Myth: Very well, then, Mr. Smarty-Math. But if we counted Michigan and Florida, THEN Hillary would be winning!

Nooo, she wouldn't. The margin would depend on how you allocate the delegates, but Obama would still be ahead. And he'd still be about 100,000 ahead in the popular vote, too, despite not even being on the ballot in Michigan. However, it would enhance Hillary's chances of catching up in the remaining races.

Myth: Ah HA! So Dean is keeping them out just to help Obama! And Obama is keeping them out.

That's two myths, but I'll treat it like one. The only people who can come up with a solution to this problem are the states themselves, to be presented to the Rules and Regulations Committee of the DNC for ratification. It was Rules and Regs, not Howard Dean, who ruled that Florida and Michigan were breaking the rules when they presented their original primary plans. If the two states cannot come up with a plan to reselect delegates, they can try to seat whatever delegates were chosen in the discounted primaries by appealing to the Democratic Convention's Credentialing Committee, which includes many members from Rules and Bylaws.

Myth: If they don't get seated until the convention but a nominee is selected before these poor people get counted then these states are disenfranchised.

There are two ways to debunk this myth: semantically and practically. The first is based on the word "disenfranchised:" these people have not been deprived of their right to vote. Through the actions of their states, their votes don't impact the outcome. Now, you may say that that is specious semantics (Myth: I do say that!) but practically speaking, this is the usual effect of the nominating process, anyway. All of the Republican primaries since McCain clinched the nomination have been meaningless, but those voters are not disenfranchised.

Florida and Michigan tried to become more relevant in the process by breaking the rules. They risked becoming irrelevant instead.

Myth: Well, I say they are disenfranchised, and Hillary Clinton is their champion.

Only when it suits her. Last fall, when the decision was first made to flush 100% of Michigan and Florida delegates, Clinton firmly ratified it. That was because the typical punishment of only 50% representation also kept the candidates from raising money in those states. Figuring that she would wrap up the nomination handily anyway, the clear front-runner agreed with all the other candidates - including Obama - to completely "disenfranchise" those two states.

Myth: Well, never mind 2007. She's doing more now to bring them in.

Not really. Recent stories in the St. Petersburg Times political blog said that 1) the Obama camp has reached out to the Florida Democratic party about a compromise and that 2) the Clinton camp will discuss nothing else but re-votes, which are legally, practically and politically dead.

Myth: Whatever! Hillary can still win! I know she can! She and her 37% positive rating will sweep through the remaining primaries and Michigan and Florida, winning 70% of everything and superdelegates will flock to her banner and Barack Obama will personally nominate her at the Convention and John McCain will give up and George Bush will even quit early so she can take over and... and... and... can I have a glass of water?

Yes, and you should lie down, too.

Original here

Klobuchar Endorses Obama

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), shown here at a 2007 news conference on Capitol Hill, has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). (Getty Images.)

By Shailagh Murray
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota announced this morning that she was endorsing Sen. Barack Obama, the latest prominent superdelegate to climb off the fence for the Illinois senator.

Klobuchar, a freshman, had been reluctant to publicly reject Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, even though Obama had easily won her state in Feb. 5. In a statement, she compared him to homestate icon Hubert Humphrey, lauding Obama's "different voice, bringing a new perspective and inspiring a real excitement from the American people."

She said her decision reflected Obama's success in Minnesota as well as "my own independent judgment about his abilities."

Campaigning across Pennsylvania by bus, Obama is taking a new approach to engaging with Clinton, urging her to continue campaigning as long as she wants while asserting that their 15-month battle is "historic" and would do no lasting damage. The magnanimous approach is a stark contrast to the growing frustration expressed by Obama supporters like Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who are eager for Clinton the quit the race, so the party can pivot to general election mode. But it could make it easier for Obama to mend fences with Clinton supporters, when and if he becomes the nominee.

"This has been a great contest. Great for America," Obama told a rally in State College on Sunday. "It's engaged and involved people like never before. I think it's terrific that Sen. Clinton's supporters have been as passionate as my supporters have been, because that means that people are invested and engaged in this process. And I am absolutely confident that when this primary season is all over, Democrats will be united, because we understand what's at stake in this election."

Obama also is beginning to hone his case against Sen. John McCain, portraying the Arizona Republican and presumptive GOP nominee as "clinging to the past," while offering himself as the stronger contrast, with generational overtones.

"So the question we have to ask ourselves is, how are we going to debate John McCain?" Obama said in State College. "Do we want to debate John McCain with somebody who agree with him on the war in Iraq? Do we want to debate John McCain about who's been in Washington longer? Because that's a debate John McCain is going to win."

He continued, "As soon as this nomination is settled, we will be unified because we understand that we are not going to be clinging to the policies of the past. We are the party of the future. We don't want to look backwards. We are marching forward."

Original here


By SELIM ALGAR, Post Correspondent

WAR STORY: Ejup Ganic (above), the ex-acting president of...

SARAJEVO, Bosnia - The Bosnian girl who famously read a poem to Hillary Rodham Clinton during her 1996 visit to the war-torn country is shocked - and her countrymen infuriated - that the former first lady claimed to have dodged sniper fire that day.

Emina Bicakcic, now 20 and studying to become a doctor, told The Post she stood on the tarmac at the air base in Tuzla, greeted Clinton and even had time to share the lines of verse she'd written - all without fear of attack from an unseen enemy.

"I was surprised when I heard this," Bicakcic said, referring to Clinton's assertion that she braved snipers upon landing, ducking and sprinting to military vehicles.

Other Bosnians said they had one of two reactions to Clinton's debunked action-hero account of her visit: laughter or anger.

"It's an exaggeration," said former acting President Ejup Ganic, who was present during Clinton's visit. "No one was firing. There were no shots fired."

Sema Markovic, 22, a student, said she has long respected Hillary as a strong leader but was angered by her remarks.

"It is an ugly thing for a politician to tell lies,' she said. "We had problems for years, and I don't like when someone lies about them. It makes us look bad."

Clinton has since admitted she "misspoke."

Bicakcic, asked if she feared any threat of violence that day, said she felt just the opposite.

"No," she said, speaking at her home in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital. "I was just excited. I wanted to look [Clinton] in the eye and say, 'Thank you.' "

And Clinton, she said, seemed far more interested in her poem than in dashing for shelter.

"She was really listening," Bicakcic recalled. "She was drinking in every word of my poem."

Her poem begins with the words, "Peace has come."

Bicakcic said she was reluctant to criticize Clinton's account of that day because of a deep appreciation for the US role in ending Bosnia's bloody nightmare.

A picture of the girl's meeting with the then-first lady - signed and inscribed by Clinton - has become a treasured family heirloom.

Still, Bicakcic admitted that she is not supporting Clinton in her contest against Barack Obama.

"I'm staying neutral," she said, declining to discuss the issue further. "I have very mixed emotions about it. It's a difficult situation for me."

Original here

Clinton didn't pay health insurance bills

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Among the debts reported this month by Hillary Clinton’s struggling presidential campaign, the $292,000 in unpaid health insurance premiums for her campaign staff stands out.
Photo: AP

Among the debts reported this month by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s struggling presidential campaign, the $292,000 in unpaid health insurance premiums for her campaign staff stands out.

Clinton, who is being pressured to end her campaign against Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination, has made her plan for universal health care a centerpiece of her agenda.

The campaign provides health insurance to all its employees, their spouses, partners and children — and that wasn’t interrupted by any lag in payments to insurance providers, said Jay Carson, a Clinton campaign spokesman.

He said the campaign this month paid off all outstanding bills to Aetna Healthcare and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. Those payments will be reflected on a report the campaign will file this month with the Federal Election Commission, which Carson said will show “zero debt owed to both vendors.”

“Sometimes invoices are not paid immediately because we need additional information for our records, or to verify expenses,” Carson said in a statement e-mailed to Politico. “Sometimes invoices arrive at the very end of the month at the cutoff of the reporting period, which means that we are required to report them as a debt on the current FEC report, even where they are paid in regular course during the next month.”

But the unpaid bills to Aetna were at least two months old, according to FEC filings.

They show the campaign ended last year owing Aetna more than $213,000 for “employee benefits.”

During the first two months of the year, the campaign did not pay down any of that debt. In fact, it accrued another $16,000 in unpaid bills last month, and it finished the month owing Aetna $229,000.

Though the campaign reported owing $63,000 to Carefirst at the end of February for employee benefits, it appears Clinton paid that company on a more frequent basis. The New York senator’s presidential campaign began the month owing $299,000 to Carefirst, but paid that amount in its entirety, and the $63,000 it owed at the end of the month appears to be from services rendered last month.

Campaigns resemble businesses in many ways. Like businesses, one of their biggest costs is salaries, payroll taxes and the benefits of their employees. Also like businesses, they tend to carry unpaid bills as debt from week-to-week or even month-to-month.

But Arizona Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, did not report any unpaid bills to insurance providers at the end of February. And the only insurance-related debt reported by Obama, an Illinois senator, was $908 to AIG American International Group for “insurance.”

Their campaigns also reported substantially less debt overall than Clinton’s, which owed $8.7 million at the end of February. Obama owed $625,000 and McCain $4.3 million, though most of his debt was from a bank loan, and only $1.3 million was in the form of unpaid bills to a dozen vendors.

Carson stressed that Clinton’s campaign pays all its bills “regularly and in the normal course of business.”

Original here

Hooked on Hillary

I would like to put myself among the growing chorus of people demanding that Hillary Clinton withdraw from the election. I don't really think it's fair to ask her to withdraw, and I certainly don't believe she's going to; she'll hang in there till the last dog dies, or till she runs out of money, whichever comes first. I'm not asking her to withdraw because I prefer Obama, and I don't think she should withdraw "for the sake of party unity," or whatever current bromide is being flung at her to get her to pull out. I think she should withdraw because I'm losing my mind.

Don't get me wrong, this primary election has been swell. Like Michelle Obama, I feel proud of my country for the first time in a long time. I loved Dennis Kucinich, and I had a big sneaker for Chris Dodd. But now that we're down to two contenders, it's turned into an unending last episode of Survivor. They're eating rats and they're frying bugs, and they're frying rats and they're eating bugs; no one is ever going to get off the island and I can't take it any more.

I am particularly sensitive to this because I'm a woman of a certain age, and this means that part of the pie that passes for my brain contains a large slice called Hillary. I've been thinking about her in a fairly pathological way ever since 1992 and dreaming about her as well. She is me, and then again she's not. I used to love her and I no longer do, but unlike what usually happens when love dies, I still think about her far too much. When she tells a big lie, like her recent Bosnia episode, I can lose hours trying to figure out why. I mean, why? Was it one of those things that she'd said so often that she'd come to believe it? Was it a story that had worked in the past so she thought she'd gotten away with it? Did she honestly think that no one would rat her out? Does she not understand that if you're famous, there's almost nothing you do that someone doesn't have a picture of? I have no idea what the answer is to any of this because I'm not a liar and she is. (By the way, I don't think she was always a liar, the way some kids are born liars and never get over it. I think she was once a truthful person and her lying skills were forged in the early years of her marriage, forged in the crucible of Bill's infidelities and in her role as point person in dealing with them. This is what happens when you marry a narcissist: he spills the milk, you clean it up and your love grows. And then you end up a liar, just like him.)

But the point is that it doesn't matter why Hillary lied; what matters is that I'm hooked on Hillary and on the Rorschach process that defines my relationship with her: she does something, I spend far too much time thinking about it, I superimpose my life and my choices onto hers, I decide how I feel about what she's done, I bore friends witless with my theories, and then, instead of moving on, I'm confronted with yet another episode of her behavior and am forced to devote more hours to developing new theories about her behavior. I don't have time for this.

I understand that asking Hillary to withdraw from the race has more to do with me than it does with her, but that's my point.

Original here

Obama Statement on Countrywide Payouts

Statement of Barack Obama on Countrywide Execs Who Will Reportedly Collect Multi-Million Dollar Payouts

CHICAGO — Senator Barack Obama issued the following statement today in response to reports that two Countrywide executives, who are accused of exacerbating the ongoing home mortgage crisis, are slated to receive multi-million dollar payouts tied to the company’s performance during their tenure:

“All across this country, we’ve seen how it’s becoming harder and harder for working families to make ends meet. That’s because for far too long, the rules in our economy have been written to benefit Wall Street at the expense of Main Street.

“We saw this again today when we learned that two executives at Countrywide, the nation’s top subprime lender, are set to walk away with nearly $20 million in payouts. This is an outrage. Top mortgage lenders spent $185 million in recent years lobbying Washington to look the other way, while they tricked families into buying homes they couldn’t afford, forcing millions of Americans to face foreclosure and pushing our economy toward recession.

“These executives crossed the line to boost their bottom line. We should be reprimanding them, not rewarding them. Rewarding their bad behavior just encourages others to pursue the same kinds of irresponsible practices that led us into this financial mess in the first place.

“That’s why nearly two years ago, I introduced legislation to treat those who commit mortgage fraud like the criminals they are. And it’s why in a speech last week, I called for realigning incentives and compensation packages, so that both high level executives and employees better serve the interests of shareholders.

“We have to restore balance to our economy, and make sure that we have rules of the road that work for ordinary Americans, not just the wealthy and well-connected. And that’s what we’ll do when I’m President of the United States.”

Original here

New Backing for Obama As Party Seeks Unity

WASHINGTON -- Slowly but steadily, a string of Democratic Party figures is taking Barack Obama's side in the presidential nominating race and raising the pressure on Hillary Clinton to give up.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is expected to endorse Sen. Obama Monday, according to a Democrat familiar with her plans. Meanwhile, North Carolina's seven Democratic House members are poised to endorse Sen. Obama as a group -- just one has so far -- before that state's May 6 primary, several Democrats say.

Helping to drive the endorsements is a fear that the Obama-Clinton contest has grown toxic and threatens the Democratic Party's chances against Republican John McCain in the fall.


Sen. Clinton rejects that view. Over the weekend, she reiterated her intent to stay in the race beyond the last contest in early June -- and all the way to the party's convention in Denver, if necessary.

"There are some folks saying we ought to stop these elections," she said Saturday in Indiana, which also has a May 6 primary. "I didn't think we believed that in America. I thought we of all people knew how important it was to give everyone a chance to have their voices heard and their votes counted."

Sen. Obama told reporters, "My attitude is that Sen. Clinton can run as long as she wants."

In earlier eras, the standoff between the two candidates might have been resolved by party elders acting behind the scenes. But no Democrat today has the power to knock heads and resolve the mess. Party Chairman Howard Dean says he was "dumbfounded" at the suggestion by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy Friday that Sen. Clinton should pull out.

"Having run for president myself, nobody tells you when to get in, and nobody tells you when to get out," Mr. Dean said. "That's about the most personal decision you can make after all the time and effort you put into it."

New York Sen. Clinton still hopes that by turning in strong performances in the final primaries, she can blunt the momentum of her rival from Illinois and make the case that she is best-positioned to take on Sen. McCain. With Mr. Dean, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Vice President Al Gore and other party leaders remaining neutral, the question is whether the trend of party figures endorsing Sen. Obama will build enough momentum to tip the race.

The expected move by Minnesota's Sen. Klobuchar follows Friday's endorsement of Sen. Obama by Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, which holds its primary April 22.

Both senators had planned to remain neutral, according to party officials, but decided to weigh in as the Democrats' campaign became more negative and Sen. McCain was free to exploit the confusion looking to the November election.

One North Carolinian confirmed that at least several of the state's House members would go public in favor of Sen. Obama before long. Meanwhile, elected officials in other states with upcoming contests, including Indiana, Montana and Oregon, are weighing whether to endorse Sen. Obama.

What makes such endorsements significant is that they're from superdelegates. These delegates -- members of Congress, governors and other party officials -- can vote for whomever they want at the Democratic convention in August. Sen. Obama has a slight lead over Sen. Clinton in the pledged-delegate count -- the delegates won during primaries and caucuses -- but neither can amass enough pledged delegates for a majority. That makes the vote of the superdelegates decisive.

Since the "Super Tuesday" primaries on Feb. 5, Sen. Obama has won commitments from 64 superdelegates and Sen. Clinton has gotten nine. Sen. Obama has a total of 217 superdelegates in his camp while Sen. Clinton has 250, and her margin has been shrinking with each week. Sen. Clinton would have several more in her tally, but they're from Michigan, and delegates from Michigan and Florida won't be seated -- at least for now -- because both states defied party rules and held their primaries earlier than permitted.

"I think that says a lot about just where people are and what they're thinking," says former Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle, an Obama supporter. "And I think the numbers are just going to keep getting better" for Sen. Obama. Counting Sen. Klobuchar, Sen. Obama leads 13-11 among their Democratic colleagues in the Senate.

Even raising the prospect of a convention fight could backfire for Sen. Clinton by antagonizing the superdelegates she needs. Many superdelegates are on the ballot themselves this year, and the last thing they want is a chaotic convention that plays into the hands of Republicans.

In interviews, some House Democrats said Sen. Obama has the edge in the chamber. They noted that he has proved himself the stronger fund-raiser and has attracted more new voters to the party than anyone in recent memory -- both advantages that could benefit other Democrats. They worry that Sen. Clinton's high negative ratings in polls would incite more Republicans to mobilize against her and the Democratic ticket.

Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, a former presidential candidate and a past party chairman, told National Journal Friday that Sen. Obama's nomination is "a foregone conclusion" and "enough is enough." Sen. Dodd has endorsed Sen. Obama.

Mr. Dean, the party chairman, is urging uncommitted superdelegates to take sides no later than July 1, and effectively name the nominee. "If we go into the convention divided, it's pretty likely we'll come out of the convention divided," he said.

Democrats across the board, he said, "are haranguing me to show leadership." But they're often partisans for one candidate or the other, he added. Meanwhile, he said he is conferring with other party leaders, including Mrs. Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada; former Vice President Al Gore; civil-rights veteran and Clinton confidante Vernon Jordan; former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo; and Jesse Jackson and his son, Chicago Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

"Most of their advice is, 'Let this play out, let's get through the primaries,' " Mr. Dean said. "And I think that's right....Voters have to have their say. It's painful, because that means we've got another two months of this."

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Obama is the change that America has tried to hide

I have come home from a long stay in Mexico to find - because of the presidential campaign, and especially because of the Obama-Clinton race for the Democratic nomination - a new country existing alongside the old. On any given day we, collectively, become the goddess of the three directions and can look back into the past, look at ourselves just where we are, and take a glance, as well, into the future. It is a space with which I am familiar.

When I joined the freedom movement in Mississippi in my early 20s, it was to come to the aid of sharecroppers, like my parents, who had been thrown off the land they'd always known - the plantations - because they attempted to exercise their "democratic" right to vote. I wish I could say white women treated me and other black people a lot better than the men did, but I cannot. It seemed to me then, and it seems to me now, that white women have copied all too often the behaviour of their fathers and their brothers. In the south, especially in Mississippi, and before that, when I worked to register voters in Georgia, the broken bottles thrown at my head were gender-free.

I made my first white women friends in college; they loved me and were loyal to our friendship, but I understood, as they did, that they were white women and that whiteness mattered.

I am a supporter of Barack Obama because I believe he is the right person to lead the United States at this time. He offers a rare opportunity for the country and the world to do better. It is a deep sadness to me that many of my feminist white women friends cannot see him, cannot hear the fresh choices toward movement he offers. That they can believe that millions of Americans choose Obama over Clinton only because he is a man, and black, feels tragic to me.

When I have supported white people, it was because I thought them the best to do the job. If Obama were in any sense mediocre, he would be forgotten by now. He is, in fact, a remarkable human being, not perfect but humanly stunning, like King was and like Mandela is. He is the change America has been trying desperately and for centuries to hide, ignore, kill. The change it must have if we are to convince the rest of the world that we care about people other than our (white) selves.

True to my inner goddess of the three directions, however, this does not mean I agree with everything Obama stands for. We differ on important points, probably because I am older; I am a woman and person of three colours (African, Native American, European); I was raised in the south; and, when I look at the world after 64 years of life, there is not one person I wish to see suffer.

I want a grown-up attitude to Cuba, for instance, a country and people I love. I want an end to the war immediately, and I want the soldiers to be encouraged to destroy their weapons and drive themselves out of Iraq. I want the Israeli government to be made accountable for its behaviour to the Palestinians, and I want the people of the US to cease acting as if they don't understand what is going on. But most of all I want someone with the confidence to talk to anyone, "enemy" or "friend", and this Obama has shown he can do.

It is hard to relate what it feels like to see Mrs Clinton (I wish she felt self-assured enough to use her own name) referred to as "a woman" while Barack Obama is always referred to as "a black man". One would think she is just any woman, but she is not. She carries all the history of white womanhood in the US in her person; it would be a miracle if we, and the world, did not react to this fact. How dishonest it is, to try to make her innocent of her racial inheritance.

I can easily imagine Obama sitting down and talking to any leader - or any person - in the world, with no baggage of past servitude or race supremacy to mar their talks. I cannot see the same scenario with Clinton, who would drag into 21st-century US leadership the same image of white privilege and distance from others' lives that has so marred the country's contacts with the rest of the world. But because Clinton is a woman and may be very good at what she does, many people (some in my own family) originally favoured her. I understand this, almost. It is because there is little memory, apparently, of the foundational inequities that still plague people of colour and poor whites.

When I offered the word "womanism" many years ago, it was to give us a tool to use, as feminist women of colour, in times like these. These are the moments we can see clearly, and must honour devotedly, our singular path as women of colour in the US. We are not white women, and this truth has been ground into us for centuries. But neither are we inclined to follow a black person, man or woman, unless they demonstrate considerable courage, intelligence, compassion and substance.

We have come a long way, sisters, and we are up to the challenges of our time, one of which is to build alliances based not on race, ethnicity, colour, nationality, sexual preference or gender, but on truth. Even if Obama becomes president, our country is in such ruin it may be beyond his power to lead us to rehabilitation. If he is elected, however, we must, as citizens of the planet, insist on helping him do the best job that can be done; more, we must insist that he demand this of us. And remember, as poet June Jordan and Sweet Honey in the Rock never tired of telling us: We are the ones we have been waiting for.

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CNN Scrubs Dobbs’ Racially Charged Comment From Transcript»

Referring to Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) recent speech on race while speaking with a group of journalists last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. “still has trouble dealing with race because of a national ‘birth defect’ that denied black Americans the opportunities given to whites at the country’s very founding.” Rice added that this “birth defect” makes it “hard for us to talk about it, and hard for us to realize that it has continuing relevance for who we are today.”

When asked to respond to Rice’s remarks on the Situation Room last Friday, CNN host Lou Dobbs became agitated. TPM’s Josh Marshall noted that Dobbs explained “how he’s sick of ‘cotton pickin’ black leaders telling him how he can and can’t talk about race (he catches himself at the last minute — sorta).”

Watch it:

While it appears that Dobbs was about to say “cotton picking” (often used as a racially charged slur) in reference to Rice, he caught himself, only uttering the word “cotton.” Yet, the CNN transcript from Friday’s Situation Room has omitted the word “cotton” from Dobbs’ remarks:

DOBBS: We’ve got to be able to talk about it and I can guarantee you this, not a single one of these [the word “cotton” should appear here] — just ridiculous politicians should be the moderator on the issue of race. We have to have a far better discussion than that.

One could perhaps wonder then if CNN has a habit of doctoring Lou Dobbs’ statements for its official transcripts.

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Cusack on Military-Industrial Complex: 'the gig's up'

John Cusack was on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher and spoke about his upcoming film, War. Inc., which according to Cusack focuses on the military-industrial complex.

The film, says Cusack, differs from other films inspired by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because, it "has a much more absurdist take on [war]."

Cusack added, "some things are so vicious if you didn't look at them through a different lens you couldn't get out of bed. And certainly the war profiteering, immorality and illegality of this disastrous, free-market Utopian enterprise out there is certainly well-documented."

While explaining that the film shares similar themes as those found in Naomi Klein's book, The Shock Doctrine, Cusack said, "the very core things that make up our government like wars or interrogation or border patrol, jailing, any of those types of things that you would think would be sacred things that would happen with the state are now being turned into for-profit enterprises. And if you want all these things to be, if you want corporate ethics to be our national interest, then you have the situation we're in now. But right now, when you think that we've out sourced everything to interrogation, which means torture is a cost-plus enterprise, I think you can see a complete spiritual bankruptcy to this whole neo-con movement. It's a nightmare beyond anything you can really imagine."

Maher asked if these issues were just a result of a neo-conservative movement and Bush administration or evidence of a "rot in America itself that is a lot deeper."

Cusack responded, "Yeah, I do think the issue goes deeper, a lot deeper."

Adding later, "Some of these truths are so horrible you don't want to think about that, but it's just -- I mean the gig's up. If guys who are statesmen on CNN are also sitting on the board and are shareholders in some of the most profitable defense contractors in the world and they publicly make the case to go to war, got to war, then create a new market with the war, come back and speak evangelically about free markets that aren't free, these aren't particularly subtle fact and the stock prices jump 145% and their companies are awarded $2.3 billion contract. After a while you have to expose and shame and indict and hopefully convict the participants in this illegal immoral ideology."

The full interview can be seen in the video below.

Original here