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Monday, May 26, 2008

Clinton demands Mars be seated

Dateline: Kennedy Space Center, June 4, 2008:

Hillary Clinton announced that her campaign would continue "...until
every Martian voice is heard and respected." Pointing out that, as of
yet, no Martian delegates had been selected, "No one can say they have
won the nomination until each and every state -- red states, blue
states and little green states, have been heard from!"

(It gets even stranger after the cut)

Senator Clinton then forced her way onto the launchpad and into the
cockpit of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. She demanded to be flown to
Mars and back "in time for the Credentials Committee meeting in July",
so that she could bear witness to the legitimate claims of
a disenfranchised Martian populace.

While NASA officials were debating what to do, the shuttle
unexpectedly launched. A new mission controller by the name of Dean
Howard, (who claimed on his now-publicly-released resume to have been
the head of some obscure committee or other) apparently accidently hit
the 'BLASTOFF' button. He apologized profusely to Bill and Chelsea
Clinton, the people of West Virginia, and the current residents of the
space station, the shuttle's pre-programmed destination.

Senator Clinton is not expected to be able to return until November
7th.

Original here

Barack Obama at Wesleyan Commencement Ceremony


Clinton Camp Stokes RFK Controversy By Blaming Obama


Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign accused Sen. Barack Obama's campaign of fanning a controversy over her describing the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy late in the 1968 Democratic primary as one reason she is continuing to run for the presidency.

"The Obama campaign ... tried to take these words out of context," Clinton campaign chairman Terence R. McAuliffe said on "Fox News Sunday." "She was making a point merely about the time line."

The issue is particularly sensitive given longstanding concerns about Obama's safety as a presidential candidate. (He first received Secret Service protection last May.) The Obama campaign called Clinton's words unfortunate and circulated a TV commentary criticizing them, although Obama himself said Saturday that he took Clinton at her word that she meant no harm.

Original here

All About Eve

WASHINGTON


Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Maureen Dowd

Maybe it was the proximity of Mount Rushmore and Deadwood, but something caused Hillary’s inner Eve Harrington to leap out in South Dakota.

Venturing into Daschle-Obama territory, she inadvertently and inelegantly illuminated her thinking on why she wants to keep running as long as she can: stuff happens.

In politics, there are many unpredictable and unsavory twists and turns. That’s why she’s hanging around, and that’s why she and Bill want to force Barack Obama to take her as his vice president, even if he doesn’t want her, even if Michelle can’t stand her, even if she has to stir the sexist pot, and even if she tarnishes his silvery change message.

In an interview with The Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, Hillary disagreed that she’s hurting party unity: “My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”

She was talking about the timeline for June, not wishing physical harm upon her rival. But many Democrats were upset. Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina called her words “beyond the pale.”

Maybe a tired, stressed Hillary was giving an unfiltered version of a blunt conversation that she’s had with her husband and advisers about staying in the race, using R.F.K. as an anything-can-happen example, in the same way she fantasizes about Sean Hannity breaking a story that would demolish Obama.

She’s made the tasteless assassination comment before, including in a March interview with Time.

But coming right after the anniversary of the King assassination, right before the anniversary of the Bobby Kennedy assassination, right in the midst of the wrenching news about Teddy Kennedy’s brain tumor, and right in the middle of Billary’s hostile takeover attempt on the vice president’s mansion, the image was jarring.

Senator Clinton apologized and, in a fairly inspired reach, suggested that it was the awful diagnosis for Teddy that had put the dark thought in her head.

Standing incongruously in front of the salad-dressing section of a Sunshine Foods, she said, “The Kennedys have been much on my mind the last days because of Senator Kennedy” and pointed out that she holds Bobby Kennedy’s Senate seat.

Teddy Kennedy decided to endorse Obama in part because he was upset that Hillary sat silently when Francine Torge introduced the New York senator at a New Hampshire event saying: “Some people compare one of the other candidates to John F. Kennedy. But he was assassinated. And Lyndon Baines Johnson was the one who actually” signed the civil rights bill into law.

Hillary knows that in politics, bimbos erupt. Tapes leak. Husbands disappoint. Friends commit suicide. Rivals get sick. Her Senate race against Rudy Giuliani suddenly turned in her favor when he got prostate cancer and dropped out.

The macabre story of 2008 is that the vice presidential picks are important. On the Republican side, it’s because of John McCain’s age and history of skin cancer, and that’s openly discussed.

But on the Democratic side, it is, as The Times’s Obama reporter Jeff Zeleny has written, a “hushed worry.” Barack Obama has fused two of the most powerful narratives in American history — those of Martin Luther King Jr. and Camelot — and that makes him both magical and vulnerable.

He was only 6 years old in the spring of 1968, when Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. But the unspoken fear that he is in some danger as their spiritual heir hovers over his race. He got a Secret Service cordon last May, the earliest a candidate has ever been given it.

Alma Powell’s worries about assassination helped influence Colin Powell not to run. Michelle Obama expressed concern before her husband’s election to the Senate but said on “60 Minutes,” “I don’t lose sleep over it, because the realities are that, you know, as a black man, you know, Barack can get shot going to the gas station.”

Mike Huckabee had to apologize after making a joke at the National Rifle Association convention about a noise, saying it was Obama tripping off a chair when “somebody aimed a gun at him and he dove for the floor.”

Obama now has the perfect excuse not to pick Hillary as his running mate. She has been too unseemly in her desire to be on the scene if he trips, or gets hit with a devastating story. She may want to take a cue from the Miss America contest: make a graceful, magnanimous exit and wait in the wings.

That’s where the runners-up can be found, prettily lurking, in case it turns out the girl with the crown has some naked pictures in her past.

Original here

FOX Pundit Wishes for Obama Assassination, Laughs

During a live interview, FOX Contributor Liz Trotta jokingly wished for the assassination of Sen. Barack Obama.

This latest incident from FOX News continues the trend in violent rhetoric about Sen. Obama from pundits, politicians, and entertainers.

Grinning While Joking About Killing A Candidate
The incident happen in an exchange with the FOX News anchor. When asked her opinion of the recent scandal surrounding some comments made by Sen. Hillary Clinton, which Trotta described by saying that, "some are reading [it] as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama." Hemmer quickly corrected Trotta, having noticed that she had said "Osama" when she meant "Obama." At this point, Trotta said, "Obama. Well...both if we could!" Trotta then laughed gleefully.

(The full interview can be viewed here)

What prompted Trotta to joke about the assassination of Sen. Obama was her apparent inability to differentiate between Sen. Obama and the terrorist leader responsible for the terrorist attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001.

Since Sen. Obama first declared his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for president, right-wing pundits on FOX News and a variety of other broadcast outlets have regularly called the Sen. Obama by the name "Osama" in a systematic propaganda campaign to convince the American public that a sitting member of their government has secret ties to terrorists.

As if she were providing a punchline to that long-running propaganda campaign, Trotta made known that the conclusions the public should draw were (1) that Sen. Obama and Osama bin Laden are equivalent, and (2) they both deserve to be assassinated.

Americans Everywhere Are Tired Of This!
There is no question that broadcast pundits "can" make jokes about assassinating a Senator and a Presidential candidate. The United States Constitution protects freedom of expression to the extreme. But that is the wrong question to ask in this situation. The issue is not "can" pundits make jokes about assassinating Sen. Obama, but "should" they?

It is astounding that Americans should even be forced to have such a conversation, let alone on Memorial Day Weekend when we remember with respect the sacrifices of fallen soldiers. But here we are.

I have to wonder how many people there actually are in the U.S. who think it is funny to make jokes about the assassination of Sen. Obama? What percentage of the American population consists of people who think that the assassination of Sen. Obama--or anyone for that matter--makes for a good punchline? Is it 50 people? 75, maybe?

Perhaps I am overly optimistic, but I do not believe there are very many people in our country--or anywhere else for that matter--who laugh or find it remotely funny when broadcast pundits stoop to the level of making jokes about killing an elected leader. It does not feel funny. It feels like someone spitting in our faces.

I believe that the vast majority of Americans--people in every corner of the country and of all political stripes--all react with an equal level of disgust when we hear remarks of the sort that Liz Trotta made on FOX News.

When we hear such "jokes" about assassinating a member of the Senate--a member of our government--we do not laugh, but instead wonder. We wonder what has happened to broadcast media in our country. We wonder to ourselves, to our families, and to our friends: How have we arrived at this point? How has our broadcast media so utterly lost its moral compass?

That same optimism leads me to conclude that the vast, vast majority of Americans do not want this kind of vile, utterly disgusting, "assassination" humor to become a recurrent part of our national debate between now and the general election, nor at any other time.

We do not want it.

That's it.

Enough.

It ends right now.

What Americans want is a guarantee from the whole of the broadcast media industry that whenever we turn on our televisions and our radios we will never again be affronted with this brand of total, unadulterated disrespect in the form of a joke about assassinating our leaders.

And why do we demand this guarantee? It is not because we are sensitive. It is because the free press belongs to us--to the American people. It belongs to us and nobody has a right to debase it.

We do not care how many stations a single corporation owns, how many billions of dollars in revenue a media outlet produces--no corporation has the right to debase the free press in this country.

The reason for a free press--for our free press--is not to degrade our political institutions, undermine our elections, and threaten our politicians, but to strengthen and sustain our deliberative democracy.

If FOX News or any other broadcast media outlet cannot live up to that standard, then they should shut off their lights, sell their equipment, and choose another line of work.

Original here


Montana's huge black population gives Obama the edge

Census numbers:

Black Persons, 2006: 0.4%
White Persons, 2006: 90.8%

The rest are either Latino (2.5%) or Native American (6.4%).

Montana is also the nation's fifth poorest state. It's poor, it's white, and has no African Americans to speak of. Therefore, if what the Clinton campaign and its apologists say is correct, if what the political news media tell me is accurate, Clinton should have another 30-point blowout in store. Right?

Mason-Dixon for Lee Newspapers. 5/19-21. Likely Democratic primary voters. MoE 5% (12/17-19 results)

Obama 52 (17)
Clinton 35 (29)

I expect the Clinton campaign to spin bullshit. It's been the entirety of their campaign now for several months. But it's shocking to me how difficult it has been for the political media to distinguish from Obama's Appalachian problem and his non-existent problems with white voters at large.

Then again we can always ju jitsu this and ask, "Why is Clinton suddenly having a hard time with working class whites? Are they now abandoning her?" Such a question would be bullshit, of course. Obama has always done very well west of the Mississippi, and Clinton poorly outside of the Latino vote in the southwest. But if they want to deal in bullshit, we can always oblige.

M-D also polled general election matchups, and this state, which Kerry lost by 20 points, is a single-digit affair for Obama.

Mason-Dixon for Lee Newspapers. 5/19-21. Likely Democratic primary voters. MoE 4% (No trend lines)

Total Men Wom Rep Dem Ind
McCain (R) 47 50 44 85 12 39
Obama (D) 39 37 41 4 77 41

McCain (R) 51 48 48 91 7 50
Clinton (D) 40 38 42 2 88 33

There's an obvious typo there -- McCain can't be winning both women and men with 48 percent of the vote, and overall 51-40. Regardless, once Obama brings home Democrats to Clinton-like levels, it'll tighten Montana that much more. With his lead among independents and the larger number of undecided Republicans willing to give him a shot, Montana is definitely going to be in play.

And favorability ratings:

McCain: 46 favorable, 35 unfavorable, 19 neutral
Obama: 41 favorable, 38 unfavorable, 21 neutral
Clinton: 29 favorable, 50 unfavorable, 21 neutral

It'll be nice heading into this general election without having to deal with Clinton's sky-high negatives.

Original here

Trouble brewing in N.Y. for Clinton


IN HARLEM: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton poses with well-wishers in 2006. The racial overtones of her presidential campaign have eroded some of her support among black New Yorkers. “She has a problem,” says the Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist .
Black leaders say that if Hillary Rodham Clinton returns as senator, she'll need to heal racial wounds her campaign has inflicted.

Even as she continues her longshot presidential bid, Hillary Rodham Clinton faces a political rift in New York, where black leaders say her standing has dropped due to racially charged comments by her and her husband during the campaign.

African American elected officials and clerics based in New York City say Clinton will need to defuse resentment over the campaign's racial overtones if she returns to New York as U.S. senator.

State Sen. Bill Perkins, who represents Harlem, said constituents recently phoned him because they wanted to demonstrate outside Bill Clinton's Harlem office against comments by the former president.

Michael Benjamin, a state assemblyman who represents parts of the Bronx, said his wife removed a photograph of Bill Clinton from her office wall -- an expression of the misgivings that some black New Yorkers feel.

Assemblyman Karim Camara of Brooklyn contributed $500 to Hillary Clinton's Senate reelection campaign in 2006 and described Bill Clinton as a political hero. He said: "Once the campaign is over there has to be a lot of work to heal the wounds. She needs to go back to the black churches she visited in the course of her campaign and have a frank conversation about who she is and how much the support of the black community means. There would not have been a first Clinton presidency in 1992 if not for the African American community."

Many of the officials back the presidential bid of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, Clinton's rival for the Democratic nomination, though they say they have long supported the Clintons, defending him in the past and supporting her Senate run.

Their sentiments reflect the peculiar arc of the 2008 campaign. Black voters were once central to the Clinton family's political identity and base of support. But that relationship has been strained by the emergence of a charismatic African American candidate who has been propelled by black voters.

"The Clintons have their die-hard fans who would never abandon them," said Eric Adams, a state senator who represents Brooklyn. "But there are those New Yorkers who feel there was a lot of insult, slight and disrespect toward an African American candidate, and it translated as a slight to the African American community."

Clinton's campaign declined to comment. In New York, she still enjoys the support of some high-profile black leaders. U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel has endorsed Clinton, as has the state's first black governor, David Paterson. But both men have been critical of her recently.

Rangel told reporters this month that her claim she has the support of white voters was "the dumbest thing she could ever have said." Clinton later agreed with that.

Paterson recently told a radio show he saw "desperation" in Clinton's effort to count in her favor disputed delegates from Michigan and Florida. Clinton's dwindling chance of winning the nomination includes snagging as many Florida and Michigan delegates as possible.

As the campaign unfolded, both Clintons made comments that some black leaders deemed dismissive of Obama. There was Bill Clinton's suggestion that Obama's victory in South Carolina carried no more weight than Jesse Jackson's success there in the 1980s. Other sore points were Hillary Clinton's claim that she enjoys the support of "hard-working Americans, white Americans" and the credit she gave to President Lyndon Johnson -- rather than the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. -- on civil rights legislation.

"There has been a consistent pattern of comments made by both Sen. Clinton and President Clinton from January until this moment that are deeply troubling to the African American community," said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, whose district is in Brooklyn. "That will require meaningful reconciliation and discussion when Sen. Clinton returns to New York."

The Rev. Clinton Miller of Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn said that any hurt feelings left by the campaign could be easily overcome.

"There are wounds, but I don't think they necessarily have to be that deep," Miller said. "They're deep wounds for people who never liked Hillary in the first place."

He encouraged her to be more of a presence in the city's neighborhoods.

"For her to heal those wounds, she would be well served either in public office or just in her private life by being herself and working toward those ideals that she's always espoused as a person."

African American leaders said she could repair frayed ties by visiting black churches, backing legislation that shows she is sensitive to conditions in black neighborhoods, and apologizing for comments she and her husband made that seemed to polarize voters and marginalize Obama.

"She has a problem," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, a New York-based civil rights activist. "If she doesn't aggressively deal with the problem -- rather than sit in denial -- it will haunt her at home in her Senate race."

Clinton's Senate term ends in January 2013.

Some Democrats have mentioned that she could run for governor of New York if she isn't nominated for president.

That prospect unnerves some black leaders. They said they didn't want to see her challenge Paterson, who plans to run in 2010. With Paterson in the job, some black leaders want a definitive statement from Clinton that she would not subject him to a primary challenge -- and say they haven't gotten it yet.

Benjamin said: "I was pretty much appalled when supporters said one of her options was to run for governor. We have a governor. He's a black Democrat. It's not wise for them to challenge a black Democrat for governor.

"She should have come out and said a flat no, that folks were wrong, but I did not see that or hear that coming from her."

Original here

Memories of Iraq haunted soldier until suicide

April Somdahl holds a portrait of her brother, Brian Rand

Randy Davey / MCT

April Somdahl holds a baby shoe and a portrait of her brother, Sgt. Brian Rand, who committed suicide after serving in Iraq.

WASHINGTON — Until the day he died, Sgt. Brian Rand believed he was being haunted by the ghost of the Iraqi man he killed.

The ghost choked Rand while he slept in his bunk, forcing him to wake up gasping for air and clawing at his throat.

He whispered that Rand was a vampire and looked on as the soldier stabbed another member of Fort Campbell's 96th Aviation Support Battalion in the neck with a fork in the mess hall.

Eventually, the ghost told Rand he needed to kill himself.

According to family members and police reports, on Feb. 20, 2007, just a few months after being discharged from his second tour of duty in Iraq, Rand smoked half of a cigarette as he wrote a suicide note, grabbed a gun and went to the Cumberland River Center Pavilion in Clarksville, Tenn. As the predawn dark pressed in, he breathed in the wintry air and stared out at the park where he and his wife, Dena, had married.

Then he placed the gun to his head and silenced his inner ghosts.

"My brother was afraid to ask for help," said April Somdahl. "And when he finally did ask for help the military let him down."

Since the start of the Iraq war, Fort Campbell, a sprawling installation on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, has seen a spike in the number of suicides and soldiers suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

In 2007, nine soldiers from Fort Campbell committed suicide — three during the first few weeks of October, according to a letter to base personnel by the 101st Airborne Division's commander, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser.

"As our soldiers fight terrorism, the sacrifices asked of them and their families have increased significantly," Schloesser said in the letter. "... Regrettably, under such circumstances, it is natural for our people to feel the stress of these demands and to be overwhelmed at times. Tragically, these pressures too often end in suicide."

Fort Campbell spokeswoman Cathy Gramling said post officials were unable to track the suicides referred to in the letter and declined to give additional suicide figures. The Pentagon said it does not track suicides by military installation.

Fort Campbell's suicide record tracks with a national upsurge — 99 active-duty troops committed suicide in 2006, the highest rate in nearly three decades, according to the Pentagon.

According to the Army, more than 2,000 active-duty soldiers attempted suicide or suffered serious self-inflicted injuries in 2007, compared to fewer than 500 such cases in 2002, the year before the United States invaded Iraq.

A recent study by the nonprofit Rand Corp. found that 300,000 of the nearly 1.7 million soldiers who've served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from PTSD or a major mental illness, conditions that are worsened by lengthy deployments and, if left untreated, can lead to suicide.

Soldiers deployed from Fort Campbell have served up to 15-month stints and have fought in such heavy combat zones as Basra, Mosul and Al Anbar province. Some soldiers, like Brian Rand, have been deployed multiple times since the war began.

The Pentagon and the Department of Veteran Affairs have added mental health workers and staff to help families and troops cope with the effects of prolonged combat and to encourage deployed troops to support each other through a buddy system.

But sometimes soldiers fall through the cracks.

Rand's family says a culture that often attaches a stigma to troops who seek help and a stop-loss policy designed to keep soldiers on the battlefield ultimately led to his death.

"Truthfully I don't think Brian had a grip on why things were happening the way they were," said his mother, Janice Minnella.

For a while Sgt. Brian Rand enjoyed being assigned to Fort Campbell and working as a helicopter mechanic.

But that was before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the War on Terror.

Before Iraq.

As the war dragged on and Rand was sent first to Kuwait, then Iraq, he told family members that he felt torn about the things he saw.

Once while wounded soldiers were being evacuated by helicopter in the Green Zone in central Baghdad, Rand waved at a man he knew. The man turned and Brian saw that half of the man's face was ripped off.

Brian later told his sister he was shocked by how white the bones looked under the flesh.

Then one day, while standing guard near the Green Zone, Rand killed an Iraqi man.

"The spirit of the man that he killed didn't leave him, it kept harassing him," Somdahl said of her brother. "He said this guy is following me around in the mess hall, he's trying to kill me. I told him to leave me alone but he says he wants to take me with him.'"

To help ease his nightly terrors, April would log onto her computer and talk to her brother over the Internet until he fell asleep.

She ended every conversation the same way.

"Sleep well, baby boy. Tomorrow is a new day."

But when he returned from Iraq in 2005, Brian Rand was a different man.

His voice was distant. His jokes were morbid. He moved as if trapped in a nightmare.

At his family's behest, he finally sought counseling at a hospital near Fort Campbell. He later told his sister the waiting room was full of soldiers who went in for 10-minute visits with a psychiatrist and came out with prescriptions for pills.

The psychiatrist spent nearly two hours with him and wrote an evaluation that suggested he not return to battle, Somdahl said. But that paperwork never made it to his commanding officer. That Sunday, Rand was told his unit was deploying back to Iraq.

His widow, Dena, said the military told her it has no record of the psychiatrist's recommendation that he not redeploy to a combat zone or any record of requests during his first tour of duty for a mental evaluation.

Months after he returned to Iraq in November 2005, Rand picked up a fork, stabbed a fellow soldier in the neck in the mess hall, then crawled into the fetal position and sobbed. The soldiers in Rand's unit picked him up and carried him over to a phone, dialed his sister and placed the phone to his ear.

"I asked why did you do that?" Somdahl said. "He said I thought I was a vampire. I said, you're going to get a punishment, but maybe they'll let you come home."

They didn't, at least not right away.

When he did return in August 2006, he answered "yes" to questions on a post-deployment health assessment form that asked if he was having nightmares, mood swings and felt hopeless, according to his wife, who has copies of his medical paperwork.

But his demons followed him home.

"He wanted to hibernate with me, he started to be more clingy," Dena Rand said. "One day he got upset and he started punching himself and gave himself a black eye. He went to formation with that black eye."

Eventually Rand's thoughts turned to death.

"He had a rifle that his wife bought for him," his mother said. "He had been rehearsing (the suicide) by putting it to his mouth and threatening his wife that he would do it. I asked him if he was serious, he said no."

He also became increasingly violent toward his pregnant wife, and his stepdaughter once had to call the police.

"He was very remorseful about that," Dena Rand said.

Weeks later, his body was found steps from the place where he and his wife married.

Original here