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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Expert Support For Gas Tax Holiday Appears Nonexistent

Over the past several days, some of the nation's leading economic and political pundits have weighed in critically on the proposal of both Sens. Hillary Clinton and John McCain to institute a gas tax holiday this summer.

Paul Krugman of the New York Times said on Tuesday that Clinton's idea, while less "evil" than McCain's, was still "pointless" and "disappointing."

One day later, Tom Friedman, also of the Times, called the idea "so ridiculous...it takes your breath away."

And Jonathan Alter of Newsweek piled on: "Hillary Clinton has now joined John McCain in proposing the most irresponsible policy idea of the year -- an idea that actually could aid the terrorists."

Surely, however, there must be someone out there not associated with a politician or a candidate who supported the idea of a gas tax reprieve -- especially if, as Clinton suggests, it would be paid for by an excess profits tax on oil companies.

I emailed Howard Wolfson, Clinton's spokesperson, asking him to put me in touch with an economic or environmental analyst who favored his boss' plan. He never wrote back.

So I took the task upon myself. I would call experts from all sides of the ideological aisle to get a sense of where the debate stood. In the end, every single analyst I surveyed judged the gas tax holiday proposal to be, roughly speaking, a silly, superfluous, or outright pandering idea.

I started with what I thought would be my best shot, the libertarians. Jerry Taylor, a fellow for the Cato Institute, unfortunately, called the proposal a "holiday from reality."

"What would happen more likely than not, gas taxes would be cut, but pump prices wouldn't go down, service stations would just continue charging what they are charging," he said. "I'm a Libertarian and I don't mind that. But you might not be a Libertarian and you might believe the federal treasury needs that money... Now if this were a permanent reduction of the tax, I would be all for it."

Alright, one "no." Perhaps the free-marketers would be of a different ilk. I was wrong.

"I think it is close to political pandering," said Max Schulz, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. "It is bad policy and political gimmickry. If you want to deliver relief to folks you have to do more than just this little holiday from the gas tax. You have to address what is driving the price of crude oil, even problems with the weak dollar. You aren't going to win any points doing that, however. But you will get points if you get up and say let's suspend the gas tax for a few months... I never have seen the wisdom of playing gimmicks games of the tax code."

Who, I asked, would favor the proposal? "Political advisers to candidates," was Schulz's response. "It is entirely due to the focus of the presidential election coinciding with the summer."

From Schulz, I moved on to the conservative crowd. But Ken Green, an energy expert for the American Enterprise Institute, ended up being similarly dismissive.

"There would be economic sense in eliminating the gas tax completely and replacing it with tolls. That would make sense," he said, "but if you remove the tax now, the things being funded with the money will still need funds. Or it will be funded with taxpayer's dollars from other things. So it will be less at the pump and more in your tax bill."

He went on: "All of these candidates claim to be environmentally conscious people, so what do they want to do? Lower the cost of driving in the summer time when it is the highest demand in the first place."

"I'm afraid," he summarized, "that your record is going to be unbroken in terms of finding someone who will like this idea."

Sigh. I tried my hand with the progressive wing of the ideological spectrum. There too, however, the idea of a gas-tax holiday was dismissed as ineffectual and publicity-driven.

Bob Sussman, an energy analyst with the Center for American Progress, and, for full disclosure, a supporter of Barack Obama, saw little benefit or popularity to either Clinton or McCain's proposal.

"Rather than indiscriminately suspending the gas tax, if we have a revenue source here to help people in need, we out to target the money to people who really need it. And if you suspend the gas tax you are giving a small break to every body instead of a significant break to the people pinched by the high prices," he said. "They might appreciate a small economic break. But I haven't heard anyone clamoring for this."

But Sussman offered a glimmer of hope. He suggested I might be able to find support from transportation workers, unions and organizations.

So I tracked down Roger Tauss, the International Vice President for the Transport Worker's Union, which supports Obama but would, nevertheless, stick to its issues. The results were more of the same.

"It is crazy," he said. "There is a bunch of different reason it is crazy and all the economist are saying it is nuts. First of all it is pocket change and it doesn't do anything short term. It will just put more money in the oil companies pockets. It is typical Washington beltway crap. It is just like typical. They make a big fight over a small, nothing issue, and nothing will ever get done."

Finally, I got a quote from Robert Shapiro, formerly the undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration and the author of "Futurecast." An independent voice with ties to the former first lady, however, did not give the expected results.

"Stated as clearly as I can," he wrote, "it's utterly misguided both environmentally and economically. Environmentally, it does actual harm, since it reduces the price of producing greenhouse gases. And economically it's trivial or worse -- by reducing the price of driving it encourages more of it, thereby increasing demand for gasoline, which inevitably pushes the price back up - the consumer gains nothing, and the oil companies and OPEC collect the extra bucks instead of the government."

UPDATE: Even the American Trucking Association, the group the Clinton camp says is most favorable to it's idea, offers a tepid thanks but no thanks. From the group's spokesperson:

ATA appreciates the effort and supports the proposals. But we do have concerns that any fuel tax suspension proposal could damage the already ailing Highway Trust Fund. To the extent that McCain and Snowe's proposals use general revenue funds to offset the hit to the trust fund, that concern is addressed. ATA did not ask for this legislation. And we believe it is only a very short term answer that does not do anything to address the longer term issue of rising fuel prices. ATA recognizes that rising fuel costs have a disproportionate impact on small trucking companies where even a small savings can be the difference in their staying in business.

Clinton, it should be noted, would not pay for the tax break from the Highway Trust Funds. But the message seems the same: this is not the answer needed.

Original here

Senator: Obama Has Dozens Of Secret Superdelegates Lined Up

Capitol Hill insiders say the battle for congressional superdelegates is over, and one Senate supporter of Barack Obama is hinting strongly that he has prevailed over Hillary Rodham Clinton.

While more than 80 Democrats in the House and Senate have yet to state their preferences in the race for the Democratic nomination, sources said Tuesday that most of them have already made up their minds and have told the campaigns where they stand.

"The majority of superdelegates I've talked to are committed, but it is a matter of timing," said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). "They're just preferring to make their decision public after the primaries are over. ... They would like someone else to act for them before they talk about it in the cold light of day."

Obama currently holds an 18-13 lead among committed superdelegates in the Senate, while Clinton holds a 77-74 lead in the House. Asked which way the committed-but-unannounced superdelegates are leaning, McCaskill -- who has endorsed Obama -- said: "James Brown would say, 'I Feel Good.'"

Just this morning, Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley announced he would be supporting Obama, while Bill George, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, came out for Clinton.

UPDATE: More superdelegates declare. Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) has announced her support for Obama right here on HuffPost, and Indiana Rep. Baron Hill will endorse Obama tonight.

Meanwhile, Marc Ambinder reports:

Chelsea Clinton just bagged a superdelegate for her mother. The youngest Clinton is campaigning today in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A few moments ago, at the Universidad del Sagrado Corazon, Luisette Cabanas, an unpledged superdelegate, announced her support for Clinton, giving the campaign the majority of automatic** delegates on the island.

Original here

Mr. Obama and Rev. Wright

It took more time than it should have, but on Tuesday Barack Obama firmly rejected the racism and paranoia of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., and he made it clear that the preacher does not represent him, his politics or his campaign.

Senator Obama has had to struggle to explain this relationship ever since a video surfaced of Mr. Wright damning the United States from his pulpit. Last month, Mr. Obama delivered a speech in which he said he disapproved of Mr. Wright’s racially charged comments but said that the pastor still played an important role in his spiritual life.

It was a distinction we were not sure would sit well with many voters. But what mattered more was the speech’s powerful commentary on the state of race relations in this country. We hoped it would open the door to a serious, healthy and much-needed discussion on race.

Mr. Wright has not let that happen. In the last few days, in a series of shocking appearances, he embraced the Rev. Louis Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism. He said the government manufactured the AIDS virus to kill blacks. He suggested that America was guilty of “terrorism” and so had brought the 9/11 attacks on itself.

This could not be handled by a speech about the complexities of modern life. It required a powerful, unambiguous denunciation — and Mr. Obama gave it. He said his former pastor’s “rants” were “appalling.” “They offend me,” he said. “They rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced. And that’s what I’m doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.”

He said he was angry that Mr. Wright suggested that he was insincere when he previously criticized the pastor’s views. “If Reverend Wright thinks that that’s political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn’t know me very well,” Mr. Obama said. “And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought either.”

In March, Mr. Obama tried to walk a fine line — seeking to dispel any sense of a political relationship with Mr. Wright, while trying to preserve a personal tie that was clearly important to his religious development. On Tuesday, he abandoned that.

“I want to use this press conference to make people absolutely clear that obviously whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this,” he said, adding that if Mr. Wright speaks out again, he will not represent the Obama campaign.

It was the most forthright repudiation of an out-of-control supporter that we can remember. We would like to say that it will finally take the racial charge out of this campaign. We’re not that naïve.

It is an injustice, a legacy of the racist threads of this nation’s history, but prominent African-Americans are regularly called upon to explain or repudiate what other black Americans have to say, while white public figures are rarely, if ever, handed that burden.

Senator John McCain has continued to embrace a prominent white supporter, Pastor John Hagee, whose bigotry matches that of Mr. Wright. Mr. McCain has not tried hard enough to stop a race-baiting commercial — complete with video of Mr. Wright — that is being run against Mr. Obama in North Carolina.

If Mr. Obama is the Democratic presidential nominee, we fear that there will be many more such commercials. And Mr. Obama will have to repudiate Mr. Wright’s outbursts many more times.

This country needs a healthy and open discussion of race. Mr. Obama’s repudiation of Mr. Wright is part of that. His opponents also have a responsibility — to repudiate the race-baiting and make sure it stops.

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Have You Left No Sense Of Decency?

If the corporate media had been as diligent about watchdogging President Bush as they have been about watchdogging Reverend Wright, it's very likely we wouldn't have invaded Iraq.

If the corporate media had spent as much time exposing the obvious flaws and grotesque inequalities of Reaganomics throughout the last 30 years as they've spent on Wright, we wouldn't necessarily be staring into the maw of another depression.

If the corporate media were as diligent about debunking the lies surrounding Iran's so-called nuclear program as they've been about Wright, there wouldn't be such a sense of inevitability in terms of attacking -- or entirely obliterating -- Iran.

So what is the very serious corporate media, the only industry that is explicitly protected by the Constitution, doing to remedy their failures of the recent past? Rather than watchdogging the Bush administration and Senator McCain on Iraq, Iran, the economy and all the rest of it -- areas in which Senator McCain is laughably wrong and dangerously inconsistent -- what are we seeing instead?

All three major cable news networks are wasting valuable air time on Senator Obama's former pastor. Why? Is the story newsworthy? Sure. Is wall-to-wall Wright coverage more important than Iraq or gas prices or the climate crisis? No way. But Reverend Wright is a scary, shouting black man and scary shouting black men equal ratings-sweet-ratings.

We expect to see this sort of race-baiting behavior from Fox News Channel, but CNN and MSNBC have, once again, similarly crossed the tabloid threshold into the very same nefarious Roger Ailes realm by beating this nothing story to death.

MSNBC, for example, continues to invite Pat Buchanan onto their air -- a known race-baiter and author of a recent article in which he claims that, despite 300 years of slavery, America has been the best nation ever for black people (food stamps, for example). The article, by the way, totally ignores the reality that, had it not been for slavery and Jim Crow laws, Africans could very easily have immigrated to America as free people and enjoyed the benefits of our constitutional liberties; but the article also lords welfare and food stamps over the heads of African Americans -- as if Buchanan ever once supported such measures in the first place.

Yet Buchanan gets thawed out of his cryo-freeze chamber every time there's some race-baiting to be done. Of the thousands of Republicans at their disposal as a means of balancing out the brilliant Rachel and the equally brilliant Keith, MSNBC chooses the one Republican who's known as much for his racism as he is for his high pitch voice. This leads me to believe that MSNBC is knowingly stoking the racial fires of the Wright story, simply because they continue to invite Buchanan to speak for the angry white men who think they're God's gift to black people (food stamps, for example).

The reality is that only one of the candidates is being attacked for their connections when, in fact, all three candidates have controversial and embarrassing relationships. The difference, as near as I can tell, is that only one candidate has an angry, shouting black connection. And -- bonus! -- there's videotape of this angry, shouting black man suggesting that America is partly to blame for the attacks of September 11!

Wait, wait. That claim sounds familiar. Who else besides, you know, the 9/11 Commission has claimed that American foreign policy in the Middle East was partly to blame for the September 11 attacks? In other words, who else has basically said -- and repeatedly so -- that America's "chickens have come home to roost"?

That'd be Republican Congressman Ron Paul. So let's see here... Which Republicans must, by their own standards, be held accountable for their relationship with such an obvious America-hater? Who ought to be forced to repeatedly renounce and reject Congressman Paul?

"I think it's all up for grabs, and I don't think that anyone's emerging. I think these people who are racing to declare anyone the true frontrunner at this point -- I just don't see it. Although I am partial to Ron Paul..." --Laura Ingraham
"That's music to my ears, Laura." --Tucker Carlson responding to Ingraham's praise
"I like him personally, I know him personally... I will say that he is also the one candidate that everybody knows who fought against big government. He voted against unsure Medicare, the prescription drugs, and No Child Left Behind. He's consistent, he's courageous." --Pat Buchanan
"Ron Paul is one of the outstanding leaders fighting for a stronger national defense. As a former Air Force officer, he knows well the needs of our armed forces, and he always puts them first. We need to keep him fighting for our country." --Ronald Reagan
"[Ron Paul] is the only candidate out there that's talking like a lot of us talked in 94. And that's what a lot of Americans want but no one will say anything anymore...I bet he's gonna shock a lot of people in New Hampshire." --Joe Scarborough
"He's a very engaging person... I'd like to see him as president."

"I think I'm fondest of Ron Paul... He's the only person I agree with on foreign policy."

"Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) continues to amaze on many levels, and he had finally started to register on the polls. In last Tuesday's Midwestern ice storm, almost every Iowa event was cancelled. The exception was a Paul rally, which drew hundreds. His crowds are regularly huge and enthusiastic. He chalked up another record fundraising day on Sunday's anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, with more than $6 million in online donations in a single day." --Bob Novak

"The most honest man in Congress." --Senator John McCain

With the exception of President Reagan of course, I expect all of these Republicans politicians and pundits will step forward and declare their intentions to sever all ties to Congressman Paul, and to subsequently retract all praise for the Congressman.

How about it, Joe Scarborough? Does Ron Paul really talk like you used to talk? And would you, Pat Buchanan, define blaming America for September 11 as "courageous." And do you still support Ron Paul, Tucker? If Ron Paul is the most honest man in Congress, Senator McCain, does that mean he's telling the truth about September 11?

Naturally, the difference here is that Congressman Paul is a white Republican, and Reverend Wright is crazy shouting black pastor. Many (too many) white Americans fear angry black people, even though, given the historical record, we all ought to fear old, white, powerful Republicans a little more than we do right now.

What about other white Republicans who have said equally crazy things? Pastor Hagee, who has endorsed Senator McCain, just recently claimed that God "damned" New Orleans. Add that statement to the anti-Semitic statements and the anti-Catholic statements and you've got yourself a controversy. But are the cable networks cutting to live coverage of Pastor Hagee for two hours at a stretch? Are ABC and Fox News going to question Senator McCain about his relationship with Hagee -- the same questions over and over again, backed with the same footage over and over again? Of course not.

In addition to Hagee's awful remarks about New Orleans, the networks, by-in-large, skimmed past the news that this month has been the deadliest month in Iraq since September 2007. The networks continue to ignore the root causes of the current recession and Senator McCain's promise to continue the Reaganomics of the current administration. The networks all but ignored Senator Clinton's promise to "obliterate" Iran with nuclear weapons, even though hundreds of thousands of Iranian people, who held pro-American vigils after September 11, favor government reforms and disapprove of Ahmadinejad.

So I have to ask the appropriate network executives the familiar yet appropriate question: Have you no sense of decency at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

The constant, around-the-clock coverage has become a race-baiting spectacle far beyond the realms of journalistic decency, honor and integrity, especially given the slag heap through which most Americans are marching right now -- a march which truly deserves wall-to-wall news coverage. And if the cable news networks can't help but to prioritize their headlines with the same twisted fury as far-right talk show hosts or racist Republican strategists like Floyd Brown or Alex Castellanos, it's clear that the answer to that famous question is a resounding "nope."

Original here

Obama's Reverend Wright Press Conference (VIDEO)

Excerpts From Barack Obama's press conference on Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Scroll down for video and read updates from AP here:

I'm outraged by the comments that were made and saddened by the spectacle that we saw yesterday. I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992 and have known Jeremiah Wright for almost 22 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but they also give comfort to those that prey on hate and I believe they do not accurately portray the perspective of the black church. They certainly do not accurately portray my values and beliefs. If Reverend Wright thinks that is political posturing on my part, he does not know me very well.

I have already denounced those comments that have come out of these previous sermons. I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church, has built a wonderful conversation. They are a wonderful people and what attracted me has always been the ministries reach beyond church walls. But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions, that the U.S. government is involved in AIDS, when he suggests that Louis Farrakhan represents one of the greatest voices of the 21st century, when he equates the United States' wartime effort with terrorism, then there are no excuses. They offend me, they rightfully offend all Americans, and they should be denounced. That is what I am doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.


I have spent my entire adult life trying to bridge the gap between different kinds of people. That's in my DNA, trying to promote mutual understanding to insist that we all share common hopes and common dreams as Americans and as human beings. That's who I am, that's what I believe, and that's what this campaign has been about.

More from Obama's press conference via the New York Times:

"His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church," Mr. Obama said, his voice welling with anger. "They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs."[...]

"I find these comments appalling. It contradicts everything that I'm about and who I am."


During Q and A with reporters, Senator Obama was asked why he hadn't reacted this way when he responded to Wright yesterday. The reporter was referring to Reverend Wright's remarks at the National Press Club on Monday (watch video).

I will be honest, I had not seen it yet. ... What I had heard is that he had given a performance and I thought at that time it would be sufficient to repeat what I said in Philadelphia. Upon watching it, what came clear to me was that it was more than just him defending himself. What became clear is that he was presenting a worldview that contradicts who I am and what I stand for. What particularly angered me was his suggestion that my previous denunciation of his remarks was political posturing. Anybody who knows me or what I am about knows that I am trying to bridge gaps and seize the commonality in all people.

Here's Obama's opening statement from today, and some other clips from the Q&A session:


---
EARLIER:

Ben Smith reports that Obama is planning a big press conference on Jeremiah Wright:

Obama is asked about Wright by a woman in Winston-Salem who tells the audience to watch his PBS interview, which will quell their concerns.


"I'm going to be having a big press conference afterward to talk about this Obama says, then refers back to a story the woman told about a mother having to borrow month to get to work.

Earlier, Obama addressed Wright's controversial remarks at the National Press Club, saying that "they don't represent my views and they don't represent what this campaign is about.":

"I think certainly what the last three days indicate is that we're not coordinating with him, right?" Mr. Obama said. "He's obviously free to speak his mind, but I just want to emphasize that this is my former pastor. Many of the statements that he has made both to trigger this initial controversy and that he's made over the last several days are not statements that I've heard him make previously. They don't represent my views and they don't represent what this campaign is about."
Original here

McCain Strongly Rejected Long-Term Iraq Presence: "Bring Them All Home"

When it comes to getting U.S. troops out of Iraq, Sen. John McCain was for the idea before he was against it.

Three years before the Arizona Republican argued on the campaign trail that U.S. forces could be in Iraq for 100 years in the absence of violence, he decried the very concept of a long-term troop presence.

In fact, when asked specifically if he thought the U.S. military should set up shop in Iraq along the lines of what has been established in post-WWII Germany or Japan -- something McCain has repeatedly advocated during the campaign -- the senator offered nothing short of a categorical "no."

"I would hope that we could bring them all home," he said on MSNBC. "I would hope that we would probably leave some military advisers, as we have in other countries, to help them with their training and equipment and that kind of stuff."

Host Chris Matthews pressed McCain on the issue. "You've heard the ideological argument to keep U.S. forces in the Middle East. I've heard it from the hawks. They say, keep United States military presence in the Middle East, like we have with the 7th Fleet in Asia. We have the German...the South Korean component. Do you think we could get along without it?"

McCain held fast, rejecting the very policy he urges today. "I not only think we could get along without it, but I think one of our big problems has been the fact that many Iraqis resent American military presence," he responded. "And I don't pretend to know exactly Iraqi public opinion. But as soon as we can reduce our visibility as much as possible, the better I think it is going to be."

The January 2005 comments, which have not surfaced previously during the presidential campaign, represent a stunning contrast to McCain's current rhetoric.

They also run squarely against his image as having a steadfast, unwavering idea for U.S. policy in Iraq -- and provide further evidence to those, including some prominent GOP foreign policy figures in the "realist" camp, who believe McCain is increasingly adopting policies shared by neoconservatives.

Finally, the comments undercut much of the criticism the senator has launched at his Democratic and even Republican opponents.

On the campaign trail, for example, McCain has accused Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton of a "failure of leadership" by advocating a policy of drawing down troops. But in the MSNBC interview, McCain was arguing that U.S. "visibility" was detrimental to the Iraq mission and that Iraqis were responding negatively to America's presence - positions held by both Obama and Clinton.

Somewhere along the way, McCain's position changed. Perhaps twice. As Think Progress reported, in August 2007, as the troops surge was underway, McCain told the Charlie Rose Show that the Korea model was "exactly" the right template for U.S. forces in Iraq. Only three months later, and on the same show, he completely reversed himself.

"Do you think that this - Korea, South Korea is an analogy of where Iraq might be," Rose asked in November 2007.


"I don't think so," replied McCain.

"Even if there are no casualties?" Rose chimed in.

"No," said McCain. "But I can see an American presence for a while. But eventually I think because of the nature of the society in Iraq and the religious aspects of it that America eventually withdraws."

Then, in the lead up to the New Hampshire primary, the senator famously said that he wouldn't mind seeing the U.S. in Iraq for a hundred years, "as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed." And when his political opponents used that statement against him, McCain responded by saying he was drawing an analogy to the current military presence in Japan, Germany and South Korea.

And yet, when he was asked by Matthews in 2005, if he "would you be happy with [Iraq] being the home of a U.S. garrison" like Germany, McCain again said no.

The McCain campaign did not return a request for comment.

UPDATE: On Tuesday morning, MSNBC aired video of McCain's 2005 remarks:

LATE UPDATE: The McCain campaign and Marc Ambinder note that earlier in the Matthews' interview, the Senator argued that:

Sure we`re going to come home. But the fact is that the key to it is not when the troops come home. It is when we stop reading -- today, Shuster just reported four brave young Marines were killed. It is the casualties that creates the discontent amongst Americans. We`ve been in Bosnia for, what, 10, 12, years, Kosovo for 10 years, South Korea for 50 years. Americans aren`t upset about that. But we have got to get the casualty rate down. And that`s the transfer of well-trained and well-equipped Iraqis to handle the security situation.

Ambinder argues that, "the full context of the interview he gave in 2005 suggests that he modeled a long-term U.S. commitment to Iraq on South Korea, albeit with a big difference: a major corps would not necessarily have to embed itself in the country."

Two points, however, remain. McCain, in Matthews' follow-up question (and the Rose interview) did specifically reject the South Korea model. More significantly, there still seems to be an obvious friction between what the Senator said in 2005 and what he is arguing on the campaign trail. Do American forces stay in Iraq, in some capacity, for "maybe 100 years" after violence dies down, or do they leave the country once the violence cedes?

Ambinder says that under McCain, "Soldiers" would merely be "euphamized as 'military advisers.'" But McCain did argue in 2005 that "visibility" was a problem to the U.S. mission.

The McCain campaign, at this point in time, has not returned request for comment on the last question.

Original here

Howard Dean: Obama Or Clinton Must Drop Out In June

In this photograph provided by "Meet the Press," Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee appears during the taping of "Meet the Press'" Sunday, April 27, 2008, at the NBC studios in Washington. (AP Photo/Meet The Press, Brendan Smialowski)

WASHINGTON — Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean said Monday that either Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama must drop out of the Democratic presidential race after the June primaries in order to unify the party by the convention and win the election in November.

But Dean didn't say which candidate should drop out, only that it should happen after primary voters have been to the polls.

"We want the voters to have their say. That's over on June 3," Dean said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Dean also said that while the party rules say Democratic superdelegates can wait until the party's August 25 convention to make up their minds, that would be too late to unify the party and defeat the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain.

"We really can't have a divided convention. If we do it's going to be very hard to heal the party afterwards," Dean said. "So we'll know who the nominee is and that'll give us an extra 2 1/2 months to get our party together, heal the wounds of having a very closely divided race and take on Senator McCain."

Dean said he won't have to tell either Clinton or Obama when it's time to leave the race.

"Either of these candidates, if it's time for them to go, they'll know it and they will go," Dean said. "They don't need any pushing from me. You know when to get in and you know when to get out. That's just part of the deal."

"This is not about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama," Dean added. "This is about our country. It's about a better course for our country. ... We've got to move on and win the presidency."

Obama has more delegates and popular votes than Clinton, but she is also fresh off a big-state win in Pennsylvania.

Dean said that "none of the so-called party elders I talked to" think the contest should go until the convention. "I agree with that," Dean said.

"We've got nine more primaries ... Five hundred of the 800 unpledged delegates have already said who they are for. The remaining 300 will do that by the end of June and we'll know who our nominee is and that's what we need to do," Dean said on NBC's "Today" show.

Original here


Breaking News! : Hillary Clinton Required to Testify in November to FEC Fraud!

To All Super Delegates! : This is very disturbing news!

In the landmark civil fraud case against Bill Clinton in Los Angeles, where the former President is charged with defrauding a Hollywood dot com millionaire to help Hillary Clinton obtain more than $1.2 million from him for her 2000 Senate campaign, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Aurelio Munoz ruled on Friday, April 25 that Hillary Clinton would not be required to testify in a sworn deposition as a material witness in the case until AFTER the November election!

While Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Al Gore, Ed Rendell, Barabara Streisand, Cher, Stan Lee, Brad Pitt, Mike Wallace, Larry King et al may be called to testify and be deposed starting in May, Hillary alone has been protected from explaining her role in her husband’s fraud charges.

In an astonishing ruling by the Judge, Hillary Clinton may NOT be deposed about her role in the illegal solicitation and cover up of the largest contribution made to her Senate campaign until after the presidential election. This is the same contribution Hillary denied knowing about or receiving when Lloyd Grove of the Washington Post asked her specifically about it and her relationship with the donor, Peter Paul, in August 2000. Its the same contribution her finance director David Rosen was criminally tried in May, 2005, or hiding from her and her campaign. Its the same contribution the FEC fined her campaign for hiding from the voters in three false FEC reports by her treasurer between 2000-2006. (www.paulvclinton.com)

Equally surprising as the ruling was the judge’s request to Hillary defense lawyer David Kendall to “say hello to his ( Judge Munoz”) friend Bill, also a partner in Kendall’s law firm”
The decision to shield Hillary Clinton from civil discovery for an additional seven months, thereby delaying a long postponed trial, was made by the judge on his own, without any request by Hillary or her lawyer to make the ruling. No discussion was permitted by Paul’s lawyer before the decision was made. Judge Munoz’ unilateral decision effectively saved the floundering campaign and hopes of Hillary Clinton to win her party’s Presidential nomination!

Had Senator Clinton be forced to testify under oath, as a material witness and beneficiary of the fraud that her husband is being sued for before the Democratic Convention, her remote chances for being nominated the party candidate would have been unquestionably destroyed.

Hillary has never publicly commented on the case in which she was a defendant from 2003-2006. Nor has Hillary ever commented on the videotaped phone call she made to Peter Paul the day he began spending more than $1 million for her Senate campaign, the false statements she made through Howard Wolfson to the Washington Post denying working with Paul or receiving any contributions from him, the sworn Declaration she made under oath where she refused to deny any of Paul’s allegations, the role her White House aide Kelly Craighead played in coordinating Paul’s expenditures and befirending Paul’s Japanese business partner during a White House visit and many other unanswered questions of illegal conduct.

The illegalities detailed in Paul’s civil complaint and FEC complaint caused Hillary’s finance director to be criminally indicted and tried in 2005 by the Department of Justice Office of Public Integrity (the same group that prosecuted Scooter Libby) for hiding the cost of a fundraiser paid for by Paul. Paul’s FEC allegations forced Hillary’s campaign to admit to the FEC in October, 2005, that it violated FEC reporting requirements by hiding more than $700,000 received from Paul that Hillary personally said she never received.

Hillary’s sworn deposition is expected to reveal numerous illegalities directed by Hillary, with Bill’s help, to win and keep her Senate seat and avoid being accountable to the law. The judge’s sua sponte decision to delay Hillary’s deposition until after the presidential election denies the public’s right to know what a presidential candidate and a former president have done to undermine the Rule of Law and the Constitution by corrupting the Department of Justice Office of Public Integrity and its very Chief, Noel Hillman, federal judge A Howard Matz appointed by Bill Clinton (who deceived the jury in the criminal trial of Hillary’s finance director by telling the jury that Hillary was not involved in any way) and the FEC itself which aided and abetted Hillary filing a fourth false FEC report in January, 2006 that omitted any reference to the $1.2 million contribution the FBI and DOJ swore Paul made.

The Department of Justice prosecutor in the May, 2005 criminal case stated that $1.2 million was personally contributed by Paul at the request of Bill Clinton as part of an employment deal for Clinton’s post White House rainmaking services and was confirmed by FBI Special Agent David Smith as explained by Dept of Justice Prosecutor Dan Schwaber (pages 55,57,72) during the criminal trial of Hillary’s finance director David Rosen in May 2005.
Hillary’s treasurer was later forced to admit filing the false FEC reports to hide more than $700,000 paid by Paul, and fined $35,000 (the only fine imposed on Hillary’s campaign) yet Hillary has never answered one question to the media or the courts about these charges!

In fact, Hillary’s sworn Declaration in response to Paul’s sworn allegations constituted a legal admission to Paul’s charges becauseHillary refused to deny any of the allegations!
Strangely, Hillary admitted to the Washington Post in August 2000 knowing that the fundraising event Paul produced and paid for in August, 2000 cost more than $1 million- yet Rosen was indicted on three counts of hiding this fact from Hillary’s campaign causing 3 false FEC reports to be filed!

The cover-up of the original felony violations of the federal election law committed by Hillary and Bill Clinton (they solicited and coordinated Paul’s $1 million plus contribution as a quid pro quo for Clinton’s post White House employment) have resulted in a corruption of every branch of the government by the Clinton’s- all in plain view of the public and with the collusion of the media and the government. Watergate seems insignificant in the breadth of its public corruption in comparison with what has become the mother of all coverups orchestrated by Hillary Clinton.

Original here

Clinton Criticizing Closure of Indiana Factory That Clinton Helped Close

In my upcoming book, The Uprising, one of the threads tying together the disparate forms of populism on both the Right and Left is a sense of confused frustration at a political system whose politicians employ disinformation and propaganda to make basic economic issues indecipherable. This has been no more obvious than on the issue of trade and globalization in the presidential race -- and Hillary Clinton's latest television ad (which is also a standard part of her stump speech) shows exactly what I'm talking about.

Clinton is airing this advertisement in Indiana, bemoaning the closure of a defense contractor Magnequench's manufacturing plant in Valparaiso (she is also echoing this line in her stump speeches). Looking at the camera, she tells us she's upset that the 200 jobs that were sent to China, and that "now America's defense relies on Chinese spare parts." And then comes the kicker: She tells viewers that "George Bush could have stopped it, but he didn't."

Clinton is certainly right that it is a tragedy that 200 American jobs were killed in a corporate deal that also exported sensitive military technology to China. But she forgets to mention that it wasn't George Bush who was in the key position to stop it -- it was Bill Clinton.

Back in 1995, a Chinese consortium, which included two Chinese state-owned companies, made a bid to take over Magnequench. Because the company makes key parts for smart bombs, the takeover had to be approved by the Clinton administration's Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States. Despite the national security and economic problems with selling off such critical manufacturing capacity to the Chinese -- and despite the knowledge that such a deal would likely end in a domestic mass layoff -- the Clinton administration approved the deal. This same deal -- not surprisingly -- paved the way for those 200 Indiana jobs and that sensitive military technology to be shipped to China.

The Clinton administration's move was not surprising. This was an administration whose NAFTA and China PNTR record more than proved it was intent on helping Big Money interests face as little resistance to international financial transactions as possible -- consequences be damned. But the move was very controversial, raising the ire of key Hillary Clinton surrogate Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN). As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2005, "Bayh was particularly disturbed by the committee's decision in 1995 to approve a Chinese consortium's takeover of Magnequench Inc." In 2006, Bayh specifically slammed the Clinton administration's approval of the deal to the South Bend Tribune, saying "It's not smart to put ourselves in the position of relying on the Chinese for a critical component of a vital weapon system, and yet that is what the CFIUS process has allowed."

Unfortunately, as he has campaigned around Indiana with Hillary Clinton listening to her decry the Magenquench fiasco, Bayh has suddenly gone silent on the matter. Apparently, the power-worshiping pursuit of the vice presidency is enough to silence a senator whose constituents were so brazenly sold out and who had previously feigned outrage at the situation.

Luckily, at least some Hoosiers have not forgotten. Here's just one recent letter to the editor -- this one from the Merrillville Post-Tribune on 4/17/08:

Hillary Clinton must have been hoping we Hoosiers have short memories when she decided to take Magnequench as her main talking point in Valparaiso. Apparently Evan Bayh didn't tell her the company was sold in 1995 to an investment group, Sextant, that included two Chinese companies. Her husband was president at the time and allowed this to happen.

In 1995, Beijing San Huan New Material High-Tech Inc. and China National Non-Ferrous Metals Import & Export Corp. partnered with an investment firm, the Sextant Group Inc., to acquire Magnequench.

The sale required approval from the Committee on Foreign Investments in the U.S. That committee is chaired by the secretary of the treasury. It was approved by the committee even though it was known that China National Non-Ferrous Metals is run under the State Council, an arm of the Chinese government.

That same year, it was found by the U.S. International Trade Commission that the San Huan New Materials was associated with the Chinese government and was engaged in illegal practices that harmed domestic industry.

The Clinton White House had one more chance in 1999 to stop the move when the Anderson, Ind., plant shut down and started shipping the equipment to China, but it failed to act. Can we really trust a Clinton not to let our jobs and national security go overseas?

Ed Dixon, Valparaiso

Certainly, some will attempt to argue that Hillary Clinton is not Bill Clinton and therefore she is perfectly justified in criticizing what happened in Valparaiso. But that strained logic crashes into two walls of truth.

First and foremost, Clinton has been citing her experience as a top economic and national security adviser in the Clinton administration as proof she's the most experienced candidate running. Either you take her at her world and you believe her experience in the administration was very real and very serious, or she's the most inexperienced person ever to make a major bid for president of the United States. I, for one, take her at her word about her experience -- and that means it is perfectly appropriate -- nay, essential -- to ask her to answer for major decisions like the Clinton administration's approval of a deal shipping sensitive military technology to the Chinese and eliminating critical jobs in an economically hard-hit part of the heartland. And let's not forget -- Hillary Clinton was an outspoken supporter of the China PNTR deal that helped smooth these kinds of deals for the long-haul.

Then there's the issue of blame. Even if you somehow don't think Clinton should have to answer for a major policy of the administration she brags about working in, it's hard to argue that she's being forthright by airing an ad blaming the deal on George Bush -- and not on Bill Clinton. After all, her ad is saying that Bush should have used the Committee on Foreign Investments to stop the outsourcing -- when Clinton should have used the very same Committee to stop the whole thing in the first place.

And that gets us back to the intense sense of outrage brewing all over the country. It is an outrage inherent in Ed Dixon's letter to the editor -- one that suggests more and more Americans know they are be treated like fools. Politicians like Clinton head to Indiana airing ads pretending to care about economic havoc that they helped sow, denying their own long-record of advocating for NAFTA, then manufacture staged photo-ops so that the national press corps can snap pictures of them downing a shot of whiskey -- as if that proves their down-home credentials. But more Americans have a sense that something is wrong -- that these politicians are lying to them in a desperate attempt at election-year pandering.

It is this awakening and corresponding outrage that is now being channeled into a populist uprising on both the Right and Left. And as my book will show, that populism is not just impacting the presidential election, but changing American politics before our eyes.

Join the book club for David Sirota's upcoming book, The Uprising, due out on 5/27.

Original here

The Untold Story of How the Canadian Government Sabotaged Barack Obama

This is the largely untold story of how the Harper government, with the help of a television reporter, sought to sabotage the candidacy of Barack Obama. Many of the facts of this story are on the record, in pieces, from disparate sources. What is untold is how those pieces fit together into a coherent narrative. And it is only with this narrative that the severity, and maliciousness of this incident is revealed.

Ian Brodie was probably exhausted. "Budget day" was winding down and prime minister Stephen Harper's chief staffer had spent weeks negotiating a deal that would stave off an election challenge from the Liberal opposition. Now he was standing around chatting with reporters from CTV who were enjoying a rare bit of face time with the normally inaccessible Mr. Brodie. These were the circumstances in which an off the cuff remark would create an international crisis.

One of the reporters asked Brodie about the anti-NAFTA rhetoric emanating from the Democratic primary campaign. Naturally this was of great interest to Canadians as the US is their single biggest trading partner. This, according to the Canadian Press, is how one of the reporters present described Mr. Brodie's response:

"He said someone from Clinton’s campaign is telling the embassy to take it with a grain of salt ... That someone called us and told us not to worry."

It was a devastating blunder. When it got out that Hillary Clinton was telling Ohio voters one thing, and the Canadian embassy something else, it would be politically damaging for her campaign. But the fact that this information emerged from the Canadian embassy, albeit indirectly, violated the most fundamental canons of diplomatic confidentiality.

This is one of the elements of this story that has not been properly reported. The Harper government, and specifically the Canadian embassy in Washington, spent at least some portion of the next 24 hours in crisis mode. A diplomatic communique by one of the presidential candidates of the United States had been recklessly leaked to the press. This is virtually unheard of.

What happened next is of critical importance. We know that CTV informed their Washington bureau chief Tom Clark of Brodie's comment. We know that Clark decided to cover the story. And we know that the next day Clark called his old friend, Canadian ambassador Michael Wilson.

What we don't know is exactly what was said in that conversation. But after that phone call, a miracle occurred. Suddenly, the story was no longer about how Ian Brodie had revealed that the Clinton campaign made private assurances to the Canadian embassy to take her NAFTA rhetoric with a grain of salt, but how it was actually the Obama campaign that did.

Here are the relevant points of the CTV report:

LLOYD ROBERTSON (anchor): CTV News has learned that campaign officials for Barack Obama told Canada not to worry about criticism of NAFTA, it's only politics. And while the Clinton people showed outrage, they're uneasy, too. CTV's Washington bureau chief Tom Clark reports.

TOM CLARK: CTV News has learned [that] within the last month a senior member of the Barack Obama campaign telephoned the Canadian ambassador to the United States, Michael Wilson. In that call the Obama operative warned the ambassador that NAFTA would become part of the debate in the Democratic primaries and that Obama would take some heavy swings at the trade deal, but told the ambassador, don't worry, it's just campaign rhetoric. It's not serious. Canadian sources say that the message was taken as being completely authentic and representing the views of the Obama campaign. But last night in Ohio, where NAFTA is blamed for massive job losses, Obama promised the voters that he would do what his campaign privately told Canada he would not.

Somehow, the story is about Barack Obama. No mention of Ian Brodie or his remark to CTV reporters the day before. Only a fleeting, cryptic reference. Here it is:

CLARK: Sources have also told CTV that the Clinton campaign has made indirect contact with the Canadian government trying to reassure Ottawa of their support despite her words.

Now, as you try to untangle that sentence, keep in mind that in the actual broadcast, this fleeting, and almost illegible reference to the Brodie comment was tucked into a three minute piece that focused almost entirely on Obama. Then, before the brain can even decode it, it cuts to Hillary reaffirming her position. CTV was so impressed with the wording of that sentence that they used it again the next day, word for word, in a completely separate story( Wonder why I thought Mark Penn might have been involved?). Here's the video:

The way the story was presented was my first clue that CTV was in on the smear. But it was their follow up pieces that confirmed it.

The day after the first CTV story broke, the AP's discredited reporter and reliable Obama smearer Nedra Pickler gets the scoop straight from Canadian embassy minister Roy Norton: it never happened. Here is their formal denial:

"The Canadian Embassy confirms that at no time has any member of a presidential campaign called the Canadian Ambassador or any official at the Embassy to discuss NAFTA. Last night, the Canadian television network CTV falsely reported that such calls had been made. That story is untrue. Neither before nor since the Ohio debate has any presidential campaign called Ambassador Wilson or the embassy to raise NAFTA."

So what's going on here? First Wilson gets his old pal, CTV reporter Tom Clark, to pull a switch, then he hangs him out to dry? Not quite.

It was known all along that the Canadian embassy would have to issue a denial. International protocol demanded as much. But while they were publicly denying the report, behind the scenes they were secretly feeding CTV new information to make the story stick.

Enter Austan Goolsbee. The following night, Thursday, Feb 28, CTV posts a follow up on their website under the byline, CTV.ca News Staff: Obama campaign mum on NAFTA contact with Canada

On Thursday, the Canadian embassy in Washington issued a complete denial.

"At no time has any member of a presidential campaign called the Canadian ambassador or any official at the embassy to discuss NAFTA," it said in a statement.

But on Wednesday, one of the primary sources of the story, a high-ranking member of the Canadian embassy, gave CTV more details of the call. He even provided a timeline. He has since suggested it was perhaps a miscommunication.

The denial from the embassy was followed by a denial from Senator Obama.

"The Canadian government put out a statement saying that this was just not true, so I don't know who the sources were," said Obama.

Sources at the highest levels of the Canadian government -- who first told CTV that a call was made from the Obama camp -- have reconfirmed their position.

As would be reported later, all the embassy had on Barack Obama was a memo which may or may not have been genuine that interpreted a conversation between Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, and Canada's consul-general in Chicago, Georges Rioux at a meeting (not a phone call).

The so-called DeMora memo characterized Goolsbee's characterization of Obama's statements on NAFTA as "political positioning." Yet that memo is internally inconsistent - on one hand it says Goolsbee told them Obama's NAFTA rhetoric was only positioning, but on the other it quotes Goolsbee as telling Rioux exactly the same thing Obama was saying on the stump. From the memo:

"On NAFTA, Goolsbee suggested that Obama is less about fundamentally changing the agreement and more in favour of strengthening/clarifying language on labour mobility and environment and trying to establish these as more 'core' principles of the agreement."

This is exactly what Obama was saying publicly. So we have a memo that claims an Obama adviser said that Obama was engaging in "political positioning" by saying publicly exactly what his adviser says he really intends to do?

This is what the embassy had come up with to feed CTV. Yet even though CTV now, a day after their initial report, had the name of Austan Goolsbee, they were still claiming there was a telephone call made - even a "timeline". This strongly suggest that when Tom Clark first contacted Michael Wilson on this story, Wilson was improvising. Otherwise, he would have fed Clark the correct details on the Goolsbee meeting from the start.

But with what we do know, it is obvious what happened here: Ian Brodie screwed up, and leaked the fact that Hillary Clinton was lying about her position on NAFTA. The Harper government and the Canadian ambassador went into damage control and decided the best way to cover Clinton's ass was to manufacture the same charge against Obama using the Goolsbee meeting as ammunition. A corrupt and complicit reporter, Tom Clark of CTV, either knowingly facilitated the cover story, or at least allowed himself to be used as an agent of it. And this whole scheme worked long enough to win Ohio for Clinton.

Another element that has not been reported is that the Canadian ambassador, Micheal Wilson, has strong ties to the Clintons. It was he, in fact, who, as Canada's Minister of Trade, actually negotiated NAFTA in the first place - right along with Mickey Kantor.

And the thing to remember about those negotiations were that far from being opponents in the deal, Wilson and Kantor were allies against the real opponents, the US congress. I've failed to find any report of Wilson and Kantor breaking open the champagne upon passage of NAFTA, but given their relationship, that would have been appropriate.

Regardless, it is striking that the person who tried to cover Clinton's ass on her NAFTA lies was the very one who actually headed the passage of NAFTA for the Canadian government.

Now, much speculation has occurred as to what the Canadians' motives were in this attack on our candidate - the most popular being that being conservatives, they wanted to help the GOP by ensuring Hillary was the candidate since the GOP fear Obama more. I find this theory implausible.

I believe the evidence clearly shows that the Harper government believed that one, Hillary would win so they didn't want to make her an enemy, and two, they recognized that Hillary is the establishment candidate who most shares their agenda on free trade. Remember, the Canadians knew all along who was really posturing on NAFTA. And it wasn't Obama.

So, in conclusion, we have a situation where Canada's prime minister, his appointed ambassador to the US, and a top Canadian television network, all conspired to divert a would be scandal for Hillary Clinton onto her Democratic opponent Barack Obama.

Now, this may be old news to you. But it is not to me. To have the government (albeit conservative government) of another country so blatantly interfere with an American election is unforgivable. I would say that if they had tried to sabotage John McCain, who I vehemently oppose.

The establishment media has forgotten all about this. I haven't. I believe it is highly probable that this cost Obama Ohio, and has harmed his campaign since.

I actually wrote most of this almost two months ago. I was waiting for some break in the case as a result of Canada's "investigation". It appears however that the Canadian parliament and Washington want to bury this story. This is unacceptable.

Update [2008-4-28 4:53:5 by TocqueDeville]: From the comments, to be sure, the vast majority of Canadian people are victims of their government as we are ours. They have my condolences. It might be good if they could spend some time demanding a real investigation.

Original here

Bill Vs. Barack

Pentagon Suspends Briefings for Analysts

The Pentagon announced on Friday that it was suspending its briefings for retired military officers who often appear as military analysts on television and radio programs.

A spokesman for the Pentagon said the briefings and all other interactions with the military analysts had been suspended indefinitely pending an internal review.

On Sunday, The New York Times reported that since 2002 the Pentagon has cultivated several dozen military analysts in a campaign to generate favorable coverage of the administration’s wartime performance. The retired officers have made tens of thousands of appearances for television and radio networks, holding forth on Iraq, Afghanistan, detainee issues and terrorism in general.

Records and interviews show that the Bush administration worked to transform the analysts into an instrument intended to shape coverage from inside the major networks.

The analysts, many with undisclosed ties to military contractors, have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior government officials, given access to classified information and taken on Pentagon-sponsored trips to Iraq and Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, The Times reported.

Internal Pentagon documents showed that Defense Department officials referred to the retired officers as “surrogates” or “message force multipliers” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” in the form of their own opinions.

The documents, which included transcripts of private briefings between senior military leaders and the military analysts, also reveal a symbiotic relationship in which the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.

Military analysts have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Several said they had used their special access as a marketing and networking opportunity or as a window into future business possibilities.

A Pentagon spokesman said the decision to halt the briefings, which was first reported on Friday by Stars and Stripes, was made by Robert Hastings, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.

The decision came amid criticism and questions from members of Congress.

Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, wrote Robert M. Gates, the defense secretary, this week asking the Pentagon to investigate the program.

Representative Ike Skelton, Democrat of Missouri and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a speech on Thursday that he and many other members of Congress were “very angry” about the issues raised by the article. “The story does not reflect well on the Pentagon, on the military analysts in question, or on the media organizations that employ them,” he said.

“There is nothing inherently wrong with providing information to the public and the press,” Mr. Skelton added. “But there is a problem if the Pentagon is providing special access to retired officers and then basically using them as pawns to spout the administration’s talking points of the day.”

A third member of Congress, Representative Rosa L. DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, wrote to the heads of the five major television networks this week asking each to provide more information on procedures for vetting and hiring military analysts.

“When you put analysts on the air without fully disclosing their business interests, as well as relationships with high-level officials within the government, the public trust is betrayed,” Ms. DeLauro wrote.

Original here

Obama's Prescient Judgment Again

Obama warned of the impending mortgage crisis a year ago. Here's the relevant letter on March 22, 2007. On this and on Iraq nd on Pakistan, his actual judgment simply put him on a level far beyond Clinton and McCain, let alone the current president. Judge for yourself:

Dear Chairman Bernanke and Secretary Paulson,

There is grave concern in low-income communities about a potential coming wave of foreclosures. Because regulators are partly responsible for creating the environment that is leading to rising rates of home foreclosure in the subprime mortgage market, I urge you immediately to convene a homeownership preservation summit with leading mortgage lenders, investors, loan servicing organizations, consumer advocates, federal regulators and housing-related agencies to assess options for private sector responses to the challenge.

We cannot sit on the sidelines while increasing numbers of American families face the risk of losing their homes.

And while neither the government nor the private sector acting alone is capable of quickly balancing the important interests in widespread access to credit and responsible lending, both must act and act quickly.

Working together, the relevant private sector entities and regulators may be best positioned for quick and targeted responses to mitigate the danger. Rampant foreclosures are in nobody's interest, and I believe this is a case where all responsible industry players can share the objective of eliminating deceptive or abusive practices, preserving homeownership, and stabilizing housing markets.

The summit should consider best practice loan marketing, underwriting, and origination practices consistent with the recent (and overdue) regulators' Proposed Statement on Subprime Mortgage Lending. The summit participants should also evaluate options for independent loan counseling, voluntary loan restructuring, limited forbearance, and other possible workout strategies. I would also urge you to facilitate a serious conversation about the following:

* What standards investors should require of lenders, particularly with regard to verification of income and assets and the underwriting of borrowers based on fully indexed and fully amortized rates.

* How to facilitate and encourage appropriate intervention by loan servicing companies at the earliest signs of borrower difficulty.

* How to support independent community-based-organizations to provide counseling and work-out services to prevent foreclosure and preserve homeownership where practical.

* How to provide more effective information disclosure and financial education to ensure that borrowers are treated fairly and that deception is never a source of competitive advantage.

* How to adopt principles of fair competition that promote affordability, transparency, non-discrimination, genuine consumer value, and competitive returns.

* How to ensure adequate liquidity across all mortgage markets without exacerbating consumer and housing market vulnerability.

Of course, the adoption of voluntary industry reforms will not preempt government action to crack down on predatory lending practices, or to style new restrictions on subprime lending or short- term post-purchase interventions in certain cases. My colleagues on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs have held important hearings on mortgage market turmoil and I expect the Committee will develop legislation.

Nevertheless, a consortium of industry-related service providers and public interest advocates may be able to bring quick and efficient relief to millions of at-risk homeowners and neighborhoods, even before Congress has had an opportunity to act. There is an opportunity here to bring different interests together in the best interests of American homeowners and the American economy. Please don't let this opportunity pass us by.

Original here

The joys of parenthood

Why conservatives are happier than liberals

Illustration by Kevin Kallaugher

IN EVERY nursery there is one child known as the Biter. Who suffers the most from this child's delinquency? Not his classmates, whose bite marks quickly heal. It is the Biter's mum and dad, who endure sideways glances from other parents when dropping him off in the morning and fret constantly that their own poor parenting has produced a monster.

Arthur Brooks was once the father of a Biter. For a year, his son gnawed on boys, girls, siblings, friends and so many guests that he had to be removed from his own fourth birthday party. Mr Brooks worried, argued with his wife, lost sleep and sought professional help. So he speaks from experience when he says that having children does not make you happy.

Happily for the reader, his book, “Gross National Happiness”, is not a memoir. It is a subtle and engaging distillation of oceans of data. When researchers ask parents what they enjoy, it turns out that they prefer almost anything to looking after their children. Eating, shopping, exercising, cooking, praying and watching television were all rated more pleasurable than watching the brats, even if they don't bite. As Mr Brooks puts it: “There are many things in a parent's life that bring great joy. For example, spending time away from [one's] children.”

Despite this, American parents are much more likely to be happy than non-parents. This is for two reasons, argues Mr Brooks, an economist at Syracuse University. Even if children are irksome now, they lend meaning to life in the long term. And the kind of people who are happy are also more likely to have children. Which leads on to Mr Brooks's most controversial finding: in America, conservatives are happier than liberals.

Several books have been written about happiness in recent years. Some have tried to discern which nations are the happiest. Many more purport to offer a foolproof guide to self-fulfilment. Others wonder if the obsessive pursuit of happiness is itself making people miserable. Mr Brooks offers something different. He writes only about Americans, thus avoiding the pitfalls of trying to figure out, for example, whether Japanese people mean the same thing as Danes when they say they are happy. And he writes intriguingly about the politics of happiness.

In 2004 Americans who called themselves “conservative” or “very conservative” were nearly twice as likely to tell pollsters they were “very happy” as those who considered themselves “liberal” or “very liberal” (44% versus 25%). One might think this was because liberals were made wretched by George Bush. But the data show that American conservatives have been consistently happier than liberals for at least 35 years.

This is not because they are richer; they are not. Mr Brooks thinks three factors are important. Conservatives are twice as likely as liberals to be married and twice as likely to attend church every week. Married, religious people are more likely than secular singles to be happy. They are also more likely to have children, which makes Mr Brooks confident that the next generation will be at least as happy as the current one.

When religious and political differences are combined, the results are striking. Secular liberals are as likely to say they are “not too happy” as to say they are very happy (22% to 22%). Religious conservatives are ten times more likely to report being very happy than not too happy (50% to 5%). Religious liberals are about as happy as secular conservatives.

Why should this be so? Mr Brooks proposes that whatever their respective merits, the conservative world view is more conducive to happiness than the liberal one (in the American sense of both words). American conservatives tend to believe that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can succeed. This makes them more optimistic than liberals, more likely to feel in control of their lives and therefore happier. American liberals, at their most pessimistic, stress the injustice of the economic system, the crushing impersonal forces that keep the little guy down and what David Mamet, a playwright, recently summed up as the belief that “everything is always wrong”. Emphasising victimhood was noble during the 1950s and 1960s, says Mr Brooks. By overturning Jim Crow laws, liberals gave the victims of foul injustice greater control over their lives. But in as much as the American left is now a coalition of groups that define themselves as the victims of social and economic forces, and in as much as its leaders encourage people to feel helpless and aggrieved, he thinks they make America a glummer place.

Extreme happiness

So much for right versus left. Mr Brooks also finds that extremists of both sides are happier than moderates. Some 35% of those who call themselves “extremely liberal” say they are very happy, against only 22% of ordinary liberals. For conservatives, the gap is smaller: 48% to 43%. Extremists are happy, Mr Brooks reckons, because they are certain they are right. Alas, this often leads them to conclude that the other side is not merely wrong, but evil. Some two-thirds of America's far left and half of the far right say they dislike not only the other side's ideas, but also the people who hold them.

Oddly for a political writer, Mr Brooks thinks his country is doing pretty well. Americans are mostly free to pursue happiness however they choose with little interference from the state. Well-meaning coercion is less common than in Europe, though it can still backfire spectacularly. He cites this example: a county in Virginia recently banned giving food to the homeless unless it was prepared in a county-approved kitchen, to prevent food poisoning. Churches stopped ladling soup, and more homeless people were forced to scavenge in skips. This hurt not only the hungry, but also the volunteers who might have found satisfaction in helping them. The surest way to buy happiness, argues Mr Brooks, is to give some of your time and money away.

Original here

Give me the lesson without the spin

Throughout my life, my teachers have told me that school is a neutral environment where my classmates and I can count on teachers and textbooks to provide us with the factual and unbiased information that will equip us for life. Lately, though, I've begun to wonder whether they really mean it.

In my junior year of high school in New Jersey, my U.S. history teacher used the first week of class to preach his religious beliefs. He told students, among other things, that they "belong in hell" if they reject Jesus as their savior, that evolution and the Big Bang are ridiculous and unscientific theories, and that there were dinosaurs on Noah's Ark.

When I confronted him in the principal's office, he denied making the remarks. What he didn't realize was that I had recorded the classes. But even after I informed school officials what had happened, they ignored my concerns. So after more than a month, my parents and I took the news to the media.

At first, I was harassed and intimidated by other students. School officials ignored the harassment and even a death threat I received.

Only after the story became national news did the school district begin to take us seriously. After lengthy negotiations (and against continuing opposition from the school board), we finally persuaded the district to address the teacher's false and inappropriate remarks. The Anti-Defamation League was brought in to teach the faculty about the separation of church and state, and experts in the fields of church-state separation, evolution and cosmology came to our school to conduct assemblies.

After that, I thought I was done with controversy for a while. But now, in my senior year, I am back in the midst of it. In one of my classes, we use the 10th edition of "American Government" by James Q. Wilson, a well-known conservative academic, and John J. DiIulio, a political scientist and former head of President Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. (2005). The text contains a statement, repeated three times, that students may not pray in public schools. In this edition of the text, the authors drive the point home with a photograph of students holding hands and praying outside a school. The caption reads: "The Supreme Court will not let this happen inside a public school."

I knew this was false. In fact, students are allowed to pray in schools; courts have ruled many times that a student's right to pray may not be abridged. What's generally impermissible is state-sponsored prayer, in which school officials lead prayer or students are called on or required to pray. It seemed clear to me that the purpose of the discussion in the textbook was to indoctrinate, not to educate.

Continued reading revealed numerous other instances of bias, as well as erroneous and misleading statements. For example, the section on global warming begins with a few well-chosen words to set the tone: "It is a foolish politician who today opposes environmentalism. And that creates a problem because not all environmental issues are equally deserving of support. Take the case of global warming."

The authors neglect to mention the growing scientific consensus on this subject. They dismiss those who are concerned about global warming -- that is, the overwhelming majority of scientists -- as "activists" motivated not by data but by "entrepreneurial politics." Those who deny or downplay it are described as "skeptical scientists."

Pointing out dissent within the scientific community is appropriate. Suggesting that the majority, but not the minority, is politically motivated is not appropriate. If a controversy truly exists, then the authors should not instruct students which side to "support."

I contacted a not-for-profit group called the Center for Inquiry. It enlisted support from scientists, including James Hansen, NASA's top climate scientist, and organizations, including Friends of the Earth and People for the American Way, to address concerns about the textbook.

What is most distressing is not that some public school teachers preach their religion, or that some authors put politics ahead of education. It is that it is so rare for anyone to call them on it. This text is widely used. Yet to my knowledge, no one has challenged these incorrect and misleading statements.

As Americans, we should stand up for our common values. We should champion education and settle for nothing less than the best. Our teachers should do the same and should not misuse their positions to promote their personal agendas.

Matthew LaClair is a high school student in Kearny, N.J.
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