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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Chuck Hagel Takes On McCain, Repeatedly Praises Obama

Chuck Hagel is quickly becoming Barack Obama's answer to Joe Lieberman.

The Republican Senator from Nebraska was a political thorn in McCain's side on Tuesday night, repeatedly lavishing praise on the presumptive Democratic candidate and levying major foreign policy criticisms at the GOP nominee and the Republican Party as a whole. At one point, Hagel even urged the Arizona Republican to elevate his campaign discourse to a higher, more honest level.

"We know from past campaigns that presidential candidates will say many things," Hagel said of some of McCain's recent rhetoric, namely his policy on talking to Iran. "But once they have the responsibility to govern the country and lead the world, that difference between what they said and what responsibilities they have to fulfill are vastly different. I'm very upset with John with some of the things he's been saying. And I can't get into the psychoanalysis of it. But I believe that John is smarter than some of the things he is saying. He is, he understands it more. John is a man who reads a lot, he's been around the world. I want him to get above that and maybe when he gets into the general election, and becomes the general election candidate he will have a higher-level discourse on these things."

Hagel, speaking to a small gathering at the residence of the Italian ambassador, took umbrage with several positions taken by the McCain campaign, including the Arizona Senator's criticism of Obama for pledging to engage with Iran. Engagement is not, and should not be confused for, capitulation, he argued.

"I never understand how anyone in any realm of civilized discourse could sort through the big issues and challenges and threats and figure out how to deal with those without engaging in some way...."

Hagel then offered a wry tweak of his GOP colleague. "I am confident that if Obama is elected president that is the approach we will take. And my friend John McCain said some other things about that. We'll see, but in my opinion it has to be done. It is essential."

Hagel, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, went on to belittle the tendency for some within his own party to disparage those who tout diplomacy. "You take some risks in talking about this," he said, "especially in the Congress, because you can immediately be branded as an appeaser."

And when asked to respond to rumors circulating within political circles that the Bush administration was ginning up the possibility of war with Iran, the Senator even raised the specter of impeachment.

"You've got the power of impeachment, now that is a very defined measure if you are willing to bring charges against the president at all. You can't just say I disagree with him, let's impeach him," said Hagel. An attack on Iran without Congress' consent, he added, "would bring with it... outstanding political consequences, including for the Republican Party."

Finally, he charged that if the preeminent foreign policy objective is to achieve security in Israel and stability within the broader Middle East, then the Bush track -- which McCain has endorsed -- is ill-advised.

"If you engage a world power or a rival, it doesn't mean you agree with them or subscribe with what they believe or you support them in any way," he said. "What it does tell you is that you've got a problem you need to resolve. And you've got to understand the other side and the other side has got to understand you."

Much of Hagel's address, hosted by the Ploughshares Fund, was spent weaving between Obama praise and McCain quips. He urged the media, for example, to focus on important policy issues an "not just why Barack [doesn't] wear flag pins on his lapel."

Asked whether he would be open to serving as Secretary of Defense in a hypothetical Obama administration, Hagel demurred. But in the process, he praised the Illinois Democrat for being open to a bipartisan cabinet.

"Take me out of the equation," he said, "I do think that the next president and Obama has talked about this, and McCain not as much, I think he is going to have to put together a very wide, smart, experienced, credible, bipartisan cabinet. And that is going to be required absolutely."

Original here

Clinton is Posturing for 2012

This will most likely be my last anti-Hillary Clinton post.

As I wrote earlier this month, Obama will clinch a pledged delegate victory tonight in Oregon which will render Sen. Clinton even more irrelevant than she has been for the past two weeks. When we wake up on Wednesday morning, as Obama supporters, there will no longer be a need to worry about Hillary Clinton. The focus will be squarely on John McCain and the Republican Party.

By now we all know the magic number of delegates required to win the Democratic Nomination is 2,025, but with 798 superdelegates factored into that number, the magic number of pledged delegates is 1,627. Obama enters tonight's contests in Oregon and Kentucky with 1,610.5 pledged or elected delegates.

With 103 pledged delegates at stake tonight Clinton would need to win 83% of them in order to put off the inevitable until the 1st of June in Puerto Rico. Given Oregon's vote-by-mail system, chances are there have already been enough ballots cast to give Obama the 17 remaining elected delegates he needs to clinch.

After Oregon, Clinton's only possible path to the nomination will have to include either the unelected superdelegates overruling the will of the elected delegates or Clinton somehow managing to get the Democratic Party to suddenly change the method for keeping score after the game has already been played.

There is no chance The Democrats will allow either of those scenarios to play out. It would destroy The Party and squander a golden opportunity to take control of both Congress and the Presidency.

The question then, is what is Hillary Clinton still doing in this race? Why is she desperately hanging on and frantically attempting to move the goal posts to any position which may help her? Why is she even going as far as to invoke the name and logic of the man known as Bush's Brain, Karl Rove? What is she up to?

The answer to all of these questions is a number; 2012.

While the Clinton's may be smart enough to understand that 2008 is out of reach they also happen to be stubborn enough to not give up on their ultimate goal of getting back into the White House.

A desire to achieve her loftiest goal is not a bad thing in itself, but the problem is that the Clinton's ambitions to return to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. place them in an awkward position within their own political party.

The fear of many Clinton supporters is that eight years from now, in 2016, Clinton will be too old to run for President. Not only would the then 69-year-old Clinton continue to face the challenges of being a female candidate for president, but she would also face the same age related criticism now being dished out to 72-year-old John McCain.

Many in the Clinton camp feel that the Senator's window of opportunity will not extend all the way into 2016. But they believe that window might be open in 2012 and that's what makes her ambitions awkward.

With Sen. Obama as the nominee of the Democratic Party in 2008, the only way Clinton can win the Presidency in 2012 is either to run against her own party's incumbent president or to root for McCain to win this year. Either way, she needs damage to be inflicted on the Democratic Party in order to achieve her ultimate goal.

While Clinton claims she wants to see a Democrat win the Presidency in November, regardless of who the nominee is, her actions do not match her words.

Sen. Clinton has adopted a scorched earth policy in this campaign which has shown little regard for the health or well-being of The Party or her opponent. That being said, she has toned down her anti-Obama rhetoric a notch or two, not because it is the right thing to do, but because her and her staff are intelligent enough to understand that running a tough campaign against Obama at this point puts her rapidly declining credibility at even greater risk.

This leaves Clinton in a tough spot. She wants Barack Obama to lose the General Election against McCain this year, but she doesn't want anyone to know that she wants that.

So instead of directly attacking Obama, she takes a more subtle approach to damaging Sen. Obama as he heads into the fall with the Democratic Nomination under his belt.

In the past day or two Clinton's surrogates have been clawing for any tiny piece of air time they can still get their hands on. They are using that time to make a desperate plea to the superdelegates to recognize Karl Rove's analysis of the situation that she is the stronger candidate to win in November than Barack Obama is.

The beauty of this is that it works on two levels for her. First, it plants those treasured seeds of doubt that any salesman trying to take a sale away from his opponent cherishes. Second, if all of Clinton's attacks do in fact end up doing considerable damage to the Obama campaign, Democrats will begin second guessing themselves. Many of them will start to think "Hmm...maybe we should have given Hillary a chance after all."

That thought is what gives Clinton a ticket to the 2012 nomination, or at least so she thinks.

Before she gets to 2012 however, there is still more fighting to be done here in 2008. Once again, Clinton can't be seen as the one perpetuating any anti-Obama sentiment, so the timing is perfect to send out the wacky Geraldine Ferraro to play the gender card against Obama.

Ferraro and the lunatic fringe of Team Clinton are claiming that Obama is sexist. But please, someone explain this to me. At what point in this campaign has Barack Obama acted in any manner that could be interpreted as sexist?

As Hillary Clinton knows all too well, the answer to this question is irrelevant. All that matters is that the current reality is manufactured in a way which benefits her. And right now that means a re-branding of Hillary Clinton as an underdog and a fighter.

She has taken many steps in this direction already and some have pointed to Clinton's ability to morph into whatever the politics of the moment want her to be and called it a strength. But really it is just one more indication that Clinton is stuck in the politics of yesterday.

All of these subtle attacks on Obama would not be as effectively pulled off if Sen. Clinton had to launch them from the sidelines. A continued campaign provides her with just enough of a veil to cover up her true intentions while at the same time giving her the reputation as being the little engine that could.

The problem is Hillary Clinton's window is not going to be open until 2012. In fact it has already closed and it is time for the Clintons to come to grips with the fact that as much as they wanted to move back into the White House it isn't going to happen.

The window was still open in early 2008, but the latch keeping it open had already been undone. The greatest mistake of Hillary Rodham Clinton's political career was not running in 2004. She would have had to break a campaign promise not to run in order to do so, but that's exactly what her husband did when he first ran in 1992.

In 2004 Hillary Clinton's window was wide open and for the past half decade I have wondered why she never jumped through it. She would have been a far better candidate than John Kerry and if she had run back then we probably wouldn't have even had a Democratic primary in 2004. Instead Clinton/Edwards would be gearing up to take on John McCain in a battle for their second term.

So even though we had to deal with the cloud of George W. Bush for four more years, the silver lining we got out of the deal, Barack Obama, almost makes up for it.

On that note, happy poll watching tonight. My prediction for Kentucky is that Clinton wins by 20% - 27%. Obama will win Oregon between 12% and 14%. Stay tuned. I'll be hanging out in the forums section again tonight, please feel free to drop by and say hello.

Original here

Veepstakes: Biden Trains Fire On McCain

One of the chief credentials of a vice presidential nominee is partisan toughness; you've got to be a credible attack dog against the opposing presidential candidate. Today, in the second speech Sen. Joe Biden has delivered on the topic, he lit into... heck, he bit into, his own friend, Sen. John McCain, and McCain's approach to foreign policy. It's as if one of Obama's vice presidential judges, a la American Idol, told Biden that the "category this week is a speech that links McCain to Bush."

Biden, speaking this morning at the Center for American Progress:

"Under George Bush’s watch, Iran, not freedom, has been on the march: · Iran is much closer to the bomb; · Iran’s influence in Iraq is expanding · Iran’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah is ascendant in Lebanon and the country is on the brink of civil war. Beyond Iran, Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan – the people who actually attacked us on 09-11 – are stronger now than at any time since 9-11. Hamas controls Gaza and launches rockets at Israel every day. And 140,000 American troops remain stuck in Iraq with no end in sight. Because of the policies George Bush has pursued and John McCain would continue, the entire Middle East is more dangerous. The United States and our allies, including Israel, are less secure."

More:

Last week, John McCain was very clear. He ruled out talking to Iran. He said that Senator Obama was “naïve and inexperienced” for advocating engagement. “What is it he wants to talk about?” John asked. If John can’t answer the question, we are in trouble.

And:

What’s John’s plan for dealing with these dangers? You either talk; you go to war; or you maintain the unacceptable status quo. If John has ruled out talking, that means we’re going to get more of what we’ve had for most of the Bush administration – or worse. First, let’s end this false argument about “pre-conditions.” Senator Obama is right that the United States should be willing to engage Iran on its nuclear program without insisting that Iran first freeze the program – the very subject of any negotiations. We didn’t insist that the Soviets freeze their nuclear arsenal before we talked to them about arms control. The net effect of demanding pre-conditions that Iran rejects is this: we get no results and Iran gets closer to the bomb. Second, let’s stop the Bush/McCain fixation on regime change. We all abhor the regime, but think about the logic: renounce the bomb – and when you do, we’re still going to take you down. The result is that Iran accelerated its efforts to produce fissile material.

And:

Like President Bush, John grounds his argument for a war with no end in his assessment of the dire consequences of drawing down our forces Iraq.

Finally:


When it comes to the most urgent national security challenges we face – Iraq, Iran and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan – last week made it clear that stylistically and substantively, there is no day light between George Bush and John McCain. They are joined at the hip. There would be no change with a McCain presidency and so there will be a real choice for Americans next November.

Original here

Not a Happy Party

Editor’s Note: Hawaii Reporter has covered all of the state’s main political conventions since its inception 6 years ago, and before that, for other publications. This weekend, we covered the Republican Party of Hawaii Convention and next weekend will be dedicated to the Democrat Party of Hawaii Convention. For more photos and commentary by Mel Ah Ching, log onto http://www.flickr.com/photos/macprohawaii/

HONOLULU, HI - Traditionally over the last decade, the Republican Party of Hawaii held annual festive conventions that rallied party members’ spirits and sent candidates energetically on their way with hopes of defeating powerful Democrat incumbents in the Hawaii State Legislature. Booths outside the convention room were packed with flashing American Flag pins, GOP Hawaii tee shirts, and red, white and blue elephants. Party officials warmly greeted the hundreds of delegates and guests attending the series of pricey lunches, dinners and speeches. Inside the convention room, patriotic-themed balloons filled the ballroom, campaign supporters packed the convention room with political signs of their favorite candidates, and upbeat “Rocky” music played as each new person walked on stage. Most delegates left satisfied that their party was working to defeat the Democrats’ 54-year domination of Hawaii politics.

This year’s convention at the Hilton Hawaiian Village hotel, however, was more comparable to being in a pressure cooker about to blow. Tension in the air was as thick as the volcano haze outside. Those checking in were asked for picture identification, even if they were known media or elected officials. Security was tight and hired security officers packed the room surrounding delegates. Guests and media were kept separated with a full physical barricade. Decorations were sparse. The same old Rocky theme, playing briefly as people walked on stage, seemed tired. Many Republicans quietly confided in trusted friends about the party’s direction.

On Saturday, the main day of the conference, spokespeople carefully read detailed scripts that told them every rehearsed word to say -- even jokes were written down.

See the script here:

http://www.studioryan.net/hawaii_reporter_video/2008_Hawaii_GOP_convention_script_scanned.pdf

There was no spontaneity or the usual laughter that comes with it. Those backing John McCain or Ron Paul for president were divided, but it was immediately clear that the party leaders planned to dismiss the estimated one-fifth of the participants rooting for Paul. Signs on every doorway entrance promoted McCain. Party leaders and the governor focused on McCain. No Paul supporter was given time to speak -- even 2 minutes -- to educate members about Paul’s platform. There was a paranoia by party leaders about controlling Paul supporters and anyone else who might be a “dissident.”

Clamp Down Began in January

The clamp down started in January. Several Republican delegates interviewed for this piece say their party saw a big influx of new members and party leaders were frightened because they thought they might lose control of the platform and the presidential nomination. They would not even allow debate on the platform at platform meetings held beforehand, and instead carefully orchestrated a meeting with their own new members where they cut off debate and adopted a 2-year-old platform.

Before the convention, several delegates interviewed by Hawaii Reporter were called by party volunteers and grilled on whether they support McCain or Paul. A party list was compiled of potential Ron Paul supporters and dissidents who might want to change the party platform partially from quotes and letters to the editor in the media.

Saturday was well organized to keep Paul supporters or perceived dissidents in check. McCain supporters were secretly handed a florescent green index-sized folded card, which listed which delegates they should vote for. They were even told later that these cards could be used in place of official ballots. That theme continued with several people in red McCain hats parading around like Wheel of Fortune’s Vanna White carrying large cue cards that told McCain supporters whether to vote “No” (red card) or “Yes” (green card) to maintain the party status quo.

Party leaders allowed no room for free thought and quickly cut off debate or discussion. Malia Gray, office manager for House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan, and others employed in the Republican administration, physically blocked delegates with differing views from getting to the microphones.


Department of Labor Director Darwin Ching cut off all debate on the Republican platform, preventing any discussion on important policy positions. Photo by Mel Ah Ching

In fact, at one point, Darwin Ching, the state’s labor director who ran the contentious platform committee segment of the convention, ordered that one of two microphones in the audience be turned off so those who wanted the Republican platform debated could not be heard. Republican members throughout Saturday’s events spontaneously yelled at each other to “sit down” or “shut up.” The event only deteriorated from there.


Party leaders confer on how they will handle the platform debate - in the end, no debate was allowed and the 2006 platform was adopted. Photo by Mel Ah Ching

A shocking 4 minutes and 30 seconds was spent on the platform adoption process, despite weeks of volunteer effort to develop a new platform for 2008. No debate was allowed, no amendments or changes permitted and loud voices “calling for the question” ended what is usually a major convention every even numbered year. The delegates were then left with an added two hours of non-events prior to the evening’s luau dinner. Veteran delegates recall that in the past, even activist environmentalists, gay rights advocates and native Hawaii separatists were welcomed and given ample opportunity to debate the platform openly.

Liz Moore, who, along with her husband Phil, has attended 41 years of Hawaii Republican conventions as a delegate, says she is disappointed with what occurred over the weekend. “We’ve often been on the opposite side of party leaders on platform issues, but we’ve never not been able to debate those issues at past conventions. The party leaders' last minute rule changes, altering the voting structure so it was top down and not grassroots, and refusal to let the platform be debated as long as it was needed, left a lot of people with a bad taste.” Moore, an alternate for this year’s platform committee and a member of previous platform committees, says she recalls years where the platform was debated long into the night.

Patrick Price and Daniel Brackins, both Ron Paul supporters, were disappointed with how they were treated, saying their candidate did not get a fair shake. They were also frustrated that there was no open discussion on issues and that when attempts were made to hold debate, the microphones were blocked or turned off.

Newcomer Mark Piscioneri, a delegate from District 23 (Waikiki and Ala Moana) and combat veteran who attended his first Republican convention this weekend, says he doesn’t plan to come back.

When he wouldn’t just commit to the preprinted green ballot supporting McCain’s people, and wanted to support a retired Navy captain who was accidentally left off the list of delegate candidates, he was first put off and then prevented from voting.

“I am one of the few people who came here as a regular citizen to participate in this process and make my own choices, not on a ballot where people told me who to vote for.”

Piscioneri says he’s been to other conventions in other states and for different political parties and this was the “worst run convention he’s ever seen with Roberts Rules of Order and party rules continually being violated and manipulated.”

“There is some atmosphere of fear here that they are not even letting resolutions to the platform come to the floor, which I have never heard of or seen before. Sadly, I got involved in this process because I thought a valid two-party system is good for Hawaii. I thought I would bring some new energy and experiences to the party. But if they won’t even let you vote when you are an elected delegate, I don’t think they are very interested in growing or expanding their party or having people with life experience being part of it. They are looking for sheep to hand in the ballots they want.”

As a veteran, Piscioneri says he fought for his right to have free speech, to vote and to live in a democracy, adding “This is the worst travesty of justice and constitution democracy that I have ever seen in an official setting in my life experience.”

Party Deteriorating with Dismissal of Fundamental Republican Values

So why were party leaders so fearful this year? They claimed they were trying to prevent the Ron Paul supporters from taking over the party convention like they did in Nevada. But critics within the party say problems run much deeper than that.

Many veteran Republicans are increasingly dissatisfied with the philosophical direction their party and political leaders are taking and they are talking about it more openly for the first time. They see their local party on the brink of disaster, with the number of House members dropping from 22 of 51 to just 7 of 51 since Lingle took office in 2002. Senate members are at 4 of 21, with Sen. Paul Whalen of Kona not seeking re-election and a strong Democrat expected to grab that seat. Two so-called Republicans switched parties last year, becoming Democrats in favor of better benefits they receive in the majority party. On a national level, things aren’t any better.

Hawaii Republicans have very few candidates recruited to run in 2008. When the party usually has candidates lined up to challenge most of the House seats, this year that is far from the case. And the deadline to register for the September primary is July. To unseat some of the more powerful Democrat incumbents, candidates should have started work one to two years ago.

In addition, there are no candidates set to run against easy targets. For example Sen. Ron Menor, D-Mililani, who was just arrested for Driving Under the Influence of alcohol with his children in the car, and then in a short public statement, misrepresented to the media what really happened -- and House Judiciary Chair Tommy Waters, D-Lanikai, who single-handedly defeated much needed tort reform, Karen’s law and other pro-victim legislation, and made many enemies in the process.

Democrats Rep. Michael Magaoay and Sen. Clayton Hee, disliked by many in their own party, would seem to fit this list, except that the governor elicited their support to help her "win the day" on the controversial Turtle Bay hotel takeover during the recent legislative session.

Is James "Duke" Aiona the Best Republican Gubernatorial Contender for 2010?


Governor Linda Lingle promotes James Duke Aiona and Presidential candidate John McCain. Photo by Mel Ah Ching

With delegates, there also is concern about James "Duke" Aiona as the next GOP gubernatorial candidate. To his credit, Aiona professionally delivered a well-written speech filled with election rhetoric for his 2010 gubernatorial candidacy. He touted typical Republican virtues including bettering Hawaii’s business climate by empowering small businesses and taxpayers, helping doctors and patients with tort reform, and getting people more involved with government through a constitutional convention. But how convincing was he?

During his 6 years as lieutenant governor, Aiona focused on trying to rid Hawaii of illegal drugs and underage drinking -- arguably difficult issues to measure progress. Other pledges the Lingle/Aiona team made to fix the economy and the business climate, make government more transparent and better Hawaii’s nearly worst in the nation public school system, along with virtually every other issue, have been left to Lingle to handle publicly without him. Critics say this strategy hasn’t inspired confidence in Aiona’s ability to tackle serious problems outside his expertise. Many Republicans are privately worried that the lack of competition combined with Aiona’s perceived weaknesses, will enable the Democrats to snatch the administration branch back for another 4 decades.

There is little the Republicans feel they can do. Gov. Linda Lingle, who clearly calls the shots in her party, told Republicans during last year’s convention that Aiona is the party’s gubernatorial candidate for 2010, cutting off opportunities for a competitive race. While stifling competition might be fine if Aiona were a strong candidate, his critics believe he’s not. In stark contrast to Lingle, some say he’s shown his weakness on the radio and in press conferences where he isn’t handed a prepared script and he has to think on his feet; and that he knows too little about issues outside drugs, crime and alcohol abuse. They question whether he can debate polished politicians such as Congressman Ed Case (2002 to 2006), Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann or Congressman Neil Abercrombie in a race for governor.

But then again, delegates ask "where are the other viable Republican candidates?" The governor announced she is starting a leadership academy this year, but that is too late for this year’s election. What was done during the past few years to groom young, talented Republicans for office?

Party’s Weaknesses Highlighted by Republican Elected Officials Track Record

But the party leaders’ failures run even deeper than an inability to attract candidates, to beat incumbents or to even retain seats. Much like the national party leaders, many Republicans feel local GOP directors and the majority of their elected leaders have abandoned fundamental Republican principles and opted for politics over principles.

Starting with the top, Lingle promised to boost the economy and improve the business climate. While the economy bettered just after she was elected and sustained for several years, meeting record highs in several categories such as unemployment, real estate property sales and personal income, the economy is taking a dive, and part of this can be blamed on Lingle economic policies.

Lingle promised to lower taxes. Despite signing a tax pledge with Americans for Tax Reform in 2002 not to support or introduce tax or fee increases, Lingle quickly broke that promise more than once beginning in 2005. Citing home rule, she allowed HB 1305 to become law to give the Honolulu City Council and Mayor Hannemann the power to implement the county’s biggest tax increase in its history to fund a multi-billion dollar rail system. The 12.5 percent General Excise Tax surcharge was implemented in January 2007 and grosses nearly $150 million a year in additional taxes. Economists in a recent Small Business Hawaii economic summit cite this tax increase as one of the primary reasons for financial difficulties and record small business closures with more to come. Lingle has asked lawmakers to make other reforms to the tax code, but they’ve refused, so the outcome is taxes have risen to an all time high after she promised cuts.

Lingle also promised to fix public education by decentralizing the single statewide Board of Education but backed off the fight publicly when strong opposition continued in the Democrat dominated state Legislature. Students are paying the price in terms of some of the lowest reading and math scores in the nation.

The governor has made her administration more transparent than her predecessors, and for that she deserves credit, but Hawaii government still has a long way to go before it is truly accountable to taxpayers and rid of corruption.

The real crux of the problem, her critics say, is Lingle has succumbed to distractions that have taken her eye off the ball and her team off its stated mission.

Her attorney general and the governor herself have spent a great deal of effort and political good will lobbying Congress and the president for the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, even though it is a Democrat bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, more than 7 years ago and it was not part of her original election platform.

Known as the Akaka Bill, it seeks federal recognition of Hawaiians and would allow native Hawaiian leaders to create their own government within Hawaii, with their own laws, land base, finances and autonomous political hierarchy. Many Republicans are appalled at this legislation because they see it as a murky racist initiative that is unnecessarily divisive and gives a great deal of power and money to a yet unknown and undefined entity. Lingle says the Akaka Bill is the only way to protect race-based programs for native Hawaiians from being shot down by the U.S. Supreme Court. But the debate has given political power and momentum to those native Hawaiians who want Hawaii to secede from the union and has left Hawaii more racially divided than it’s ever been.

Another Republican fiasco, the business community says, is Lingle’s decision to pursue the purchase of the Turtle Bay resort in order to keep its owners from building five additional hotels on the North Shore of Oahu. She sprung this plan on the Legislature and the owners of the resort in her 2008 State-of-the-State address. She only obtained the votes in the Democrat-controlled Legislature to pursue this plan by arm-twisting Republicans into supporting a plan that should be against their principles and recruiting votes from opportunistic Democrats seeking re-election this year and hoping to get support from environmental groups involved in the issue.

But critics in her party are appalled. Here is a Republican governor announcing her plans to take a private resort by force if she has to with taxpayer dollars. Here is a Republican governor willing to have the state take over a private business with no business plan of her own. Will the state be able to resell the hotel as she says while retaining the open land nearby? What if the taxpayers get stuck running a hotel and a huge bill to boot? Or the hotel is forced to close, and many more jobs are lost because lack of additional revenues from even the most modest development? For a governor who promised to make Hawaii “open for business” what kind of message does this send to the business community and investors around the world?

People Speaking Out

Like the story of the frog in boiling water, Republicans tolerated Lingle’s increasingly more liberal agenda partly because she’s accomplished something they never have. In 2002, she broke the Republican dry spell and defeated then Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono to become Hawaii’s first Republican governor in more than 4 decades. She achieved important cultural barriers as the first woman, first person of Jewish ancestry and the first neighbor island mayor to become governor and she is bright and speaks the language of business.

But there are no coattails for legislative candidates and the party’s lost ground it could take years to get back. Candidates say part of the problem is their party is so busy helping Lingle’s campaign that they are left to fend for themselves, even when faced with daily attacks on their campaign by the Democrats and their party. The party is also out of touch with what is happening at the capitol, candidates say. Rarely, if ever, are Republican party officials at the Legislature, whereas Democrat party leaders frequently are there keeping track of what is going on and testifying as well.

Eric Ryan, a local graphic artist and Republican since 1992, has tried to keep the party on track. He created a series of cartoons depicting the dilemma that Republicans find themselves in because of Lingle’s political choices and the party’s refusal to stand against the direction of the party and for Republican principles. He’s also contributed to http://www.ZeroShibai.com, a Web site updated daily with local political satire, where various artists take shots at elected Republicans and party leaders.

Willes Lee, the party chairman, said on several occasions that he’d like Ryan to use his talents to attack Democrats rather than Republicans. But when Ryan twice did offer his services free of charge, even creating an attack ad on Democrats, he got no response from the party leaders. See his story here: "Hawaii Republican Party Rejects Ad Campaign Donated by Party Supporters"

“The need to change our party leadership has never been clearer. We’ve been railroaded by insiders for too long who only care about protecting their power base and preventing the discussion of our platform and principles,” Ryan says. “We’ve strayed a great distance from our party’s beliefs and we don’t even bother to tell voters what we believe in. If party leaders spent as much time implementing a winning strategy as they do circling the wagons to prevent reform, Hawaii would be a different and better place today.”

In an interview with Hawaii Reporter on Saturday afternoon, Lee said he was proud of how the convention was run. A press release the party issued says more than 450 Hawaii delegates voted to send 17 delegates, and 17 alternates to vote for John McCain as the Republican presidential nominee in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Sept. 1-4. In all, more than 600 Republicans from 51 house districts (480 certified to vote) attended the Hawaii Republican State Convention to celebrate this year’s theme, “Republican Leadership Matters.”

Lee, who announced his support for McCain’s presidency at the beginning of the convention, says he is pleased that McCain’s candidacy received more support than Paul.

“Now more than ever, America needs a President with the experience, judgment and character to lead our nation through challenging times. There is no truer representation of these qualities than John McCain, and Hawaii Republican delegates made their enthusiastic support for Mr. McCain clearly evident this weekend.”

Sen. Gordon Trimble, R-Waikiki, who is up for election this year, also took an optimistic view of the convention. “As we have seen from the federal level to the state Legislature, Republican leadership matters and makes a difference. The over 600 Republicans who attended this year’s convention are ready to elect a President and state legislators who will continue to lead our nation and state in the right direction.”

But critics like Ryan say they can’t count on the Republican leadership in their party to take them to victory in 2008 and beyond. He and others started an unofficial caucus within the party called Reform Republican Victory Caucus and they hope to live up to the name.

Reach Malia Zimmerman, editor of Hawaii Reporter, at mailto:Malia@hawaiireporter.com

Original here

Siegelman: ‘This Will Make Watergate Look Like Child’s Play’»

siegelm.gif In a new interview with the Anniston Star (AL), former Democratic Alabama governor Don Siegelman speaks out about Karl Rove’s involvement in his prosecution. Siegelman is currently out on bond, after being sentenced to serve seven years in a bribery case in 2006. In his chat with the Star, Siegelman questions Rove’s motives for refusing to testify to Congress under oath about the case:

The Star: Why do you believe Rove hasn’t agreed to testify under oath?

Siegelman: He doesn’t want to run the risk of lying under oath and being prosecuted for perjury.

You know, I think it’s telling that he talks a good game. He wrote a, I think it was a five-page letter to [MSNBC anchor] Dan Abrams basically asking Dan Abrams questions about why he should testify under oath. When Conyers invited him to testify under oath, he’s dodged that, he’s skated, and I think it’s clear he’s got something to hide. Otherwise, there is no reason why he wouldn’t testify under oath.

Last week, House Judiciary Committee members rejected Rove’s offer to answer the committee’s questions in writing — rather than testifying under oath — stating that “we can see no justification for his refusal to speak on the record to the Committee.”

In his interview, Siegelman also stressed that that his case is “not an isolated incident”:

Siegelman: I think this will make Watergate look like child’s play when it is fully investigated, not so much this case because certainly it’s not about me. It’s about restoring justice and protecting our democracy and, because this case shows the lengths to which those who are obsessed with power will go in order to gain power or retain power, it has attracted the attention of the national press.

This was a pernicious, political plan that was set in motion by Karl Rove to further his espoused dream of establishing a permanent Republican majority in this country, and what he left out was by any means necessary.

Harpers’ Scott Horton has reported that “most experienced and senior career prosecutors” opposed the Siegleman prosecution, yet the Justice Department pushed the case forward “with blunt political force.” Former GOP operative Jill Simpson has also alleged that Rove asked her to find evidence that Siegelman was cheating on his wife.

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McCain Confronted With New Iran Gaffe, Gets Facts Wrong Again (VIDEO)

Yesterday, Time's Joe Klein noted that he could find no evidence that Sen. Barack Obama had ever specifically said he would negotiate with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

On Friday, I promised to check into whether Obama had ever said that he would negotiate--specifically, by name -- with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Indeed, according to the crack Time Magazine research department and the Obama campaign, he never has. He did say that he would negotiate with the Iranian leadership -- but, on matters of foreign policy and Iran's nuclear program, the guy in charge is the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. As of today, John McCain was still accusing Obama of wanting to negotiate with Ahmadinejad. Why doesn't the McCain campaign and other assorted Republicans ever accuse Obama of wanting to negotiate with Khamenei? Well, because Khamenei isn't quite the flagrant anti-Semite Ahmadinejad is...and, as we keep hearing, Obama has a Jewish problem.

Later in the day, Klein confronted McCain with this question at a press conference. For a foreign policy "expert," McCain clearly has a pattern of getting the basic facts wrong. McCain insisted that ultimate political authority in Iran rests with Ahmadinejad -- even mocking Klein when he challenged him on it. In fact, according to the CIA's World Factbook, ultimate political authority in Iran rests with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, not the president.

Here's the exchange:

KLEIN: I've done some research, and um -


MCCAIN: I have too.

KLEIN: Also checked, also checked with the Obama campaign and he never, he's never sai -- mentioned Ahmadinejad directly by name. He did say he would negotiate with the leaders, but as you know - Ayatollah,

MCCAIN: (Laughing) Ahmadinejad is, was the leader.

KLEIN: But if -

MCCAIN: Maybe I'm mistaken.

KLEIN: Maybe you are, because -

MCCAIN: Maybe. I don't think so though.

KLEIN: The Supreme, you know, according to most diplomatic experts, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the guy who's in charge of Iranian foreign policy and also in charge of the nuclear program, but you never mention him. Do you, you know, um, why do you always keep talking about Ahmadinejad since he doesn't have power in that, in that realm?

MCCAIN: Oh I thin-Again, I respectfully disagree. When he's the person that comes to the United Nations and declares his country's policy is the extermination of the state of Israel, quote, in his words, wipe them off of the map, then I know that he is speaking for the Iranian government and articulating their policy and he was elected and is running for reelection as the leader of that country. Yes sir, go ahead.

NEW REPORTER: One more quest-

MCCAIN: I mean, the fact is he's the acknowledged leader of that country and you may disagree, but that's a uh, that's your right to do so, but I think if you asked any average American who the leader of Iran is, I think they'd know. Go ahead. Or anyone who's well-versed in the issue.

Ilan Goldenberg of the National Security Network notes:

Let's be clear: Iran has a very complex system of government with varying institutions, but at the top of it sits Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who essentially has only accountable to the Council of Guardians made up of clerics, many of whom are appointed by Khamenei. So, Ahmadinejad is not the leader. And as the Council on Foreign Relations explains, especially in the area of foreign policy, Ahmadinejad has very little influence.


On top of that as Klein points out, the President's job is to educate the public on questions of policy. So if the "average American" thinks that Ahmadinejad is the ultimate leader of Iran, it's up to the President to dissuade them of this notion - not reinforce it. Back in 2002 more then half of Americans thought Saddam was responsible for 9/11 and President Bush did nothing to disprove this assumption (In fact, while never directly claiming that Saddam was responsible for 9/11 the Administration did everything it could to reinforce the notion). That doesn't mean our policy should be based on those false assumptions.

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The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder

The Legal Framework for the Prosecution

That the king can do no wrong is a necessary and fundamental principle of the English constitution. -Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1765

No living Homo sapiens is above the law. -(Notwithstanding our good friends and legal ancestors across the water, this is a fact that requires no citation.)

With respect to the position I take about the crimes of George Bush, I want to state at the outset that my motivation is not political. Although I've been a longtime Democrat (primarily because, unless there is some very compelling reason to be otherwise, I am always for "the little guy"), my political orientation is not rigid. For instance, I supported John McCain's run for the presidency in 2000. More to the point, whether I'm giving a final summation to the jury or writing one of my true crime books, credibility has always meant everything to me. Therefore, my only master and my only mistress are the facts and objectivity. I have no others. This is why I can give you, the reader, a 100 percent guarantee that if a Democratic president had done what Bush did, I would be writing the same, identical piece you are about to read.

Perhaps the most amazing thing to me about the belief of many that George Bush lied to the American public in starting his war with Iraq is that the liberal columnists who have accused him of doing this merely make this point, and then go on to the next paragraph in their columns. Only very infrequently does a columnist add that because of it Bush should be impeached. If the charges are true, of course Bush should have been impeached, convicted, and removed from office. That's almost too self-evident to state. But he deserves much more than impeachment. I mean, in America, we apparently impeach presidents for having consensual sex outside of marriage and trying to cover it up. If we impeach presidents for that, then if the president takes the country to war on a lie where thousands of American soldiers die horrible, violent deaths and over 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, including women and children, even babies are killed, the punishment obviously has to be much, much more severe. That's just common sense. If Bush were impeached, convicted in the Senate, and removed from office, he'd still be a free man, still be able to wake up in the morning with his cup of coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice and read the morning paper, still travel widely and lead a life of privilege, still belong to his country club and get standing ovations whenever he chose to speak to the Republican faithful. This, for being responsible for over 100,000 horrible deaths?* For anyone interested in true justice, impeachment alone would be a joke for what Bush did.

Let's look at the way some of the leading liberal lights (and, of course, the rest of the entire nation with the exception of those few recommending impeachment) have treated the issue of punishment for Bush's cardinal sins. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote about "the false selling of the Iraq War. We were railroaded into an unnecessary war." Fine, I agree. Now what? Krugman just goes on to the next paragraph. But if Bush falsely railroaded the nation into a war where over 100,000 people died, including 4,000 American soldiers, how can you go on to the next paragraph as if you had been writing that Bush spent the weekend at Camp David with his wife? For doing what Krugman believes Bush did, doesn't Bush have to be punished commensurately in some way? Are there no consequences for committing a crime of colossal proportions?

Al Franken on the David Letterman show said, "Bush lied to us to take us to war" and quickly went on to another subject, as if he was saying "Bush lied to us in his budget."

Senator Edward Kennedy, condemning Bush, said that "Bush's distortions misled Congress in its war vote" and "No President of the United States should employ distortion of truth to take the nation to war." But, Senator Kennedy, if a president does this, as you believe Bush did, then what? Remember, Clinton was impeached for allegedly trying to cover up a consensual sexual affair. What do you recommend for Bush for being responsible for more than 100,000 deaths? Nothing? He shouldn't be held accountable for his actions? If one were to listen to you talk, that is the only conclusion one could come to. But why, Senator Kennedy, do you, like everyone else, want to give Bush this complete free ride?

The New York Times, in a June 17, 2004, editorial, said that in selling this nation on the war in Iraq, "the Bush administration convinced a substantial majority of Americans before the war that Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to 9/ 11, . . . inexcusably selling the false Iraq-Al Qaeda claim to Americans." But gentlemen, if this is so, then what? The New York Times didn't say, just going on, like everyone else, to the next paragraph, talking about something else.

In a November 15, 2005, editorial, the New York Times said that "the president and his top advisers . . . did not allow the American people, or even Congress, to have the information necessary to make reasoned judgments of their own. It's obvious that the Bush administration misled Americans about Mr. Hussein's weapons and his terrorist connections." But if it's "obvious that the Bush administration misled Americans" in taking them to a war that tens of thousands of people have paid for with their lives, now what? No punishment? If not, under what theory? Again, you're just going to go on to the next paragraph?

I'm not going to go on to the next unrelated paragraph.

In early December of 2005, a New York Times-CBS nationwide poll showed that the majority of Americans believed Bush "intentionally misled" the nation to promote a war in Iraq. A December 11, 2005, article in the Los Angeles Times, after citing this national poll, went on to say that because so many Americans believed this, it might be difficult for Bush to get the continuing support of Americans for the war. In other words, the fact that most Americans believed Bush had deliberately misled them into war was of no consequence in and of itself. Its only consequence was that it might hurt his efforts to get support for the war thereafter. So the article was reporting on the effect of the poll findings as if it was reporting on the popularity, or lack thereof, of Bush's position on global warming or immigration. Didn't the author of the article know that Bush taking the nation to war on a lie (if such be the case) is the equivalent of saying he is responsible for well over 100,000 deaths? One would never know this by reading the article.

If Bush, in fact, intentionally misled this nation into war, what is the proper punishment for him? Since many Americans routinely want criminal defendants to be executed for murdering only one person, if we weren't speaking of the president of the United States as the defendant here, to discuss anything less than the death penalty for someone responsible for over 100,000 deaths would on its face seem ludicrous.** But we are dealing with the president of the United States here.

On the other hand, the intensity of rage against Bush in America has been such (it never came remotely this close with Clinton because, at bottom, there was nothing of any real substance to have any serious rage against him for) that if I heard it once I heard it ten times that "someone should put a bullet in his head." That, fortunately, is just loose talk, and even more fortunately not the way we do things in America. In any event, if an American jury were to find Bush guilty of first degree murder, it would be up to them to decide what the appropriate punishment should be, one of their options being the imposition of the death penalty.

Although I have never heard before what I am suggesting -- that Bush be prosecuted for murder in an American courtroom -- many have argued that "Bush should be prosecuted for war crimes" (mostly for the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo) at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. But for all intents and purposes this cannot be done.

*Even assuming, at this point, that Bush is criminally responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 people in the Iraq war, under federal law he could only be prosecuted for the deaths of the 4,000 American soldiers killed in the war. No American court would have jurisdiction to prosecute him for the one hundred and some thousand Iraqi deaths since these victims not only were not Americans, but they were killed in a foreign nation, Iraq. Despite their nationality, if they had been killed here in the States, there would of course be jurisdiction.

**Indeed, Bush himself, ironically, would be the last person who would quarrel with the proposition that being guilty of mass murder (even one murder, by his lights) calls for the death penalty as opposed to life imprisonment. As governor of Texas, Bush had the highest execution rate of any governor in American history: He was a very strong proponent of the death penalty who even laughingly mocked a condemned young woman who begged him to spare her life ("Please don't kill me," Bush mimicked her in a magazine interview with journalist Tucker Carlson), and even refused to commute the sentence of death down to life imprisonment for a young man who was mentally retarded (although as president he set aside the entire prison sentence of his friend Lewis "Scooter" Libby), and had a broad smile on his face when he announced in his second presidential debate with Al Gore that his state, Texas, was about to execute three convicted murderers.

In Bush's two terms as Texas governor, he signed death warrants for an incredible 152 out of 153 executions against convicted murderers, the majority of whom only killed one single person. The only death sentence Bush commuted was for one of the many murders that mass murderer Henry Lucas had been convicted of. Bush was informed that Lucas had falsely confessed to this particular murder and was innocent, his conviction being improper. So in 152 out of 152 cases, Bush refused to show mercy even once, finding that not one of the 152 convicted killers should receive life imprisonment instead of the death penalty. Bush's perfect 100 percent execution rate is highly uncommon even for the most conservative law-and-order governors.

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US billionaire Buffett backs Obama for president

FRANKFURT (AFP) - Warren Buffett, the world's richest man, is backing Barak Obama for US president and thinks current US economic policy will push the dollar lower against other global currencies

Buffett told a press conference here Monday he had offered support to both Obama and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton but that since it appeared Obama would win the party's nomination, "I will be very happy if he is elected president.

"He is my choice," Buffett said.

Commenting on the US economy, the 77-year-old investor who is known as the "Sage of Omaha," stressed that fiscal, monetary and trade policies were of great importance.

"I think that the US has followed and is following policies which will cause the US dollar to weaken over a long period of time," he said.

After voicing support for Obama, Buffett nonetheless noted the US economy had managed to do "awfully well" despite a depression, two world wars and many financial crises.

"They say in the stock market ... buy stock in a business that's so good that an idiot can run it because sooner or later one will," he added.

"Well, the United States is a little like that. We can take a little mis-management from time to time," Buffett said.

The chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, a holding company with 76 businesses, also said he was ready to add one or two more, on condition they were well-run and had annual pre-tax earnings on the order of 50 million euros (78 million dollars), he added.

"The bigger the better," Buffett said.

Almost all of his companies are in the United States but after investing in the Israeli industrial group Iscar, he was visiting Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Italy to spread the word that European groups were also welcome to give him a call.

"I kind of go the the office everyday and wait for the phone to ring and hope it isn't a wrong number," he quipped to describe his strategy of letting companies come to him rather than searching them out.

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Kennedy diagnosed with malignant brain tumor

Condition found after he was treated for seizure over weekend, doctors say
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., center, is surrounded by family members, left to right, son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., stepson, Curran Roclin, son, Edward Kennedy Jr., daughter, Kara Kennedy, and his wife, Vicki, in a family room at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on Tuesday afternoon.

BOSTON - A cancerous brain tumor caused the seizure Sen. Edward M. Kennedy suffered over the weekend, doctors said Tuesday in a grim diagnosis for one of American politics' most enduring figures.

The Massachusetts Democrat has a malignant glioma in the left parietal-lobe, according to doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital, where Kennedy, 76, has been undergoing tests since Saturday after having a seizure at his Cape Cod home.

The usual course of treatment includes combinations of radiation and chemotherapy, but Kennedy's treatment will be decided after more tests.

"He has had no further seizures, remains in good overall condition, and is up and walking around the hospital," said a joint statement issued by Dr. Lee Schwamm, vice chairman of the Department of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Dr. Larry Ronan, Kennedy's primary care physician.

The doctors said Kennedy will remain in the hospital "for the next couple of days according to routine protocol."

"He remains in good spirits and full of energy," they said.

Son by his side
Kennedy's wife and children have been with him each day since he was hospitalized. Senator Kennedy's son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., plans to stay at the hospital for the time being.

"Obviously it's tough news for any son to hear," said spokeswoman Robin Costello. "He's comforted by the fact that his dad is such a fighter, and if anyone can get through something as challenging as this, it would be his father. So he's optimistic, he's hopeful, but obviously he's concerned."

President Bush was notified by his staff of Kennedy's diagnosis at 1:20 p.m.

"He said he was deeply saddened and would keep Sen. Kennedy in his prayers," spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Malignant gliomas are a type of brain cancer diagnosed in about 9,000 Americans a year — and the most common type among adults. It's a starting diagnosis: How well patients fare depends on what specific tumor type is determined by further testing.

Average survival can range from less than a year for very advanced and aggressive types — such as glioblastomas — or to about five years for different types that are slower growing.

Surgery can be an option for some types, especially to reduce symptoms as a tumor enlarges and puts pressure on the rest of the brain. Many gliomas infiltrate normal brain tissue instead of forming a solid mass, making it hard to remove much of the tumor.

In a sadly ironic twist, just two weeks ago Kennedy called for a new “war on cancer,” saying at a Senate hearing that he planned to introduce legislation to encourage more coordination of cancer research, prevention and treatment.

“Cancer is still the second-highest cause of death in America,” Kennedy said at the hearing. “Clearly, we need a new way forward in battling this frightening disease. We must build on what the nation has already accomplished and launch a new war on cancer for the 21st century.”

Senators bow heads in prayer
Senate Democratic and Republican leaders both interrupted their parties' regularly scheduled party luncheons to announce the news about Kennedy. Republicans bowed their heads and said a prayer. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., told colleagues that Kennedy is optimistic.

"I'm having a hard time remembering a day in my 34 years here I've felt this sadly," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

"I'm really sad. He's the one politician who brings tears to my eyes when he speaks," former Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., said when told in a Senate hallway about Kennedy's condition.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer said, "We pray for him and know he will be back because he is a fighter, and we — and America — need him so."

Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia broke down in tears on the Senate floor and said "Thank God for you, Ted."

"I am so deeply saddened I have lost the words," Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said in a Senate hallway. Warner said he and Kennedy had been friends for 40 years. Both served on the Senate Armed Services Committee together.

"We hope and pray that they will be able to treat it and that he will experience a full recovery," said presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain on his "Straight Talk Express."

"I have described Ted Kennedy as the last lion in the Senate," said McCain. "And I have held that view because he remains the single most effective member of the Senate."

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton offered her own well wishes to Kennedy, saying his "...courage and resolve are unmatched, and they have made him one of the greatest legislators in Senate history."

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Flying RC Penis Disrupts Garry Kasparov Speech

We had to double check that this wasn't a story about Second Life, but rather is an actual event in actual meatspace occurring this past weekend in Moscow. As former chess champion Garry Kasparov was giving a speech to unite opposition political forces, a radio-controlled penis flew across the room to some applause and laughter. The fun was ended when a dour-faced man smashed the penis out of the air. That's always the case, isn't it? Some guy's having fun with a flying penis when someone joker just has to ruin the party. [India Times via Sharenator]
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