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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

McCain economic policy shaped by lobbyist

Swiss bank paid McCain co-chair to push agenda on U.S. mortgage crisis

Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images file
Republican Presidential candidate U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) standing with former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm (L)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s national campaign general co-chair was being paid by a Swiss bank to lobby Congress about the U.S. mortgage crisis at the same time he was advising McCain about his economic policy, federal records show. [See sidebar.]

“Countdown with Keith Olbermann” reported Tuesday night that lobbying disclosure forms, filed by the giant Swiss bank UBS, list McCain’s campaign co-chair, former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, as a lobbyist dealing specifically with legislation regarding the mortgage crisis as recently as Dec. 31, 2007.

Gramm joined the bank in 2002 and had registered as a lobbyist by 2004. UBS filed paperwork deregistering Gramm on April 18 of this year. Gramm continues to serve as a UBS vice chairman.

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McCain Keeps Bush Fundraiser Under Wraps


UPDATE: Sen. Barack Obama hit McCain over the fundraiser at an event today in Nevada:

"I just had the privilege of visiting with Felicitas Rosel and Francisco Cano at their home here in Las Vegas.


Today, John McCain is having a different kind of meeting. He's holding a fundraiser with George Bush behind closed doors in Arizona. No cameras. No reporters. And we all know why. Senator McCain doesn't want to be seen, hat-in-hand, with the President whose failed policies he promises to continue for another four years."

EARLIER:

President Bush is lending his massively unpopular hand to help fundraise for GOP nominee John McCain tonight. The fundraiser will be behind closed doors. Bloomberg explains the dance that McCain is aiming to pull off, taking money from Bush while trying to distance himself from his policies.

John McCain's challenge in winning the presidency isn't unique. George H.W. Bush in 1988 and Al Gore in 2000 also struggled to chisel an identity separate from a two- term incumbent president of their party.


There's one big difference: in 1988, Ronald Reagan had a 51 percent approval rating, according to Gallup surveys, and in 2000 Bill Clinton's was 57 percent. Today, President George W. Bush's rating is 28 percent and the leading House Republican political analyst, Virginia Representative Tom Davis, said the president is "absolutely radioactive" for party candidates, including McCain, the presumptive presidential nominee.

Reuters also delves into McCain's contradictory relationship with the President:

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain has said he wants help from Bush, who can haul in enormous campaign cash. But McCain has walked a fine line with the unpopular Bush, backing the president on the Iraq war while bucking him on how to address climate change.

Bush will kick off raising money for McCain on Tuesday and Wednesday at three events in Arizona and Utah, but they will only be together at one and it will be out of the public eye. That has raised questions about whether Bush helps or hurts the Arizona senator.

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Where Have You Gone, Joe?

Enlarge this Image By Associated Press
Likely Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., left and Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., wave before McCain speaks with members of the National Restaurant Association in Chicago on May 19.

On the evening of Jan. 27, 2004, I was in Manchester, N.H., waiting in a ballroom for Sen. Joe Lieberman to come make his concession speech and leave the race for president. I had flown up days earlier, like most of our national campaign staff, from Washington, D.C. I disagreed with Sen. Lieberman on certain policy issues, but he was intelligent, thoughtful and decent, and I was proud to be working for him.

So it was with sadness that I was preparing myself that evening for the end of the campaign. Yet, when Sen. Lieberman took the stage, he declared that he and others were in a “three-way split decision for third place.”

In truth, we very clearly ended up finishing fifth - three points behind Sen. John Edwards and four behind Gen. Wesley Clark. But with the utterance of that now infamous phrase, Sen. Lieberman had announced his intention to continue on.

Despite even the most junior staffers knowing it was likely over, every staff member and numerous volunteers continued working hard. There was no mystical expectation of success, but there was a deep feeling of loyalty to Sen. Lieberman. It had been a difficult and rocky campaign, but if he wanted to make one last push, he deserved to do so and we owed him nothing but our best efforts which I believe most staffers gave.He worked hard for state

Fast forward two and a half years. Despite my disagreement with Sen. Lieberman's continuing support of the Iraq war, I made the decision to openly support him in both the primary and general elections for Senate in 2006. I may have not agreed fully with Sen. Lieberman but he had worked hard for Connecticut, and I believed he deserved to be re-elected.

And then late last year, after years of support and loyalty to the senator, it all changed. The moment on Dec. 16, that Sen. Lieberman announced he was supporting John McCain for president, my support for Sen. Lieberman came to an unambiguous end.

I wasn't angry. I wasn't hurt. I wasn't surprised. I was simply disappointed that he would voice support for a man who championed policies Lieberman had fought against for years.

The Democratic Party is a big tent. After the 2006 Senate primary, I was forced to constantly explain to friends why I was continuing to support Sen. Lieberman. I have always believed that Democrats are not and should not be a single viewpoint party, with a choice of conforming to a rigid far left partisan viewpoint or being constantly isolated and alone.

Democrats, to succeed, genuinely need both the liberal Daily Kos and the moderate DLC factions. I am not interested in being fragmented and pigeonholed into one or the other. I am a Democrat - period. When Sen. Lieberman stood up and endorsed John McCain, he made clear that he is not.

The modern Democratic Party permits and often encourages, for the sake of electoral success, candidates to take positions that are not in line with traditional core Democratic policies. One need look no further than the fact that Democrats elected Sen. Harry Reid as majority leader and cleared the primary field in Pennsylvania for now Sen. Bob Casey, despite the fact that both are pro-life. Some repudiated him

And so, I understood why Sen. Lieberman, when going through the 2006 primary, felt that the Connecticut Democratic Party and its populous were treating him unfairly - and perhaps he was right. A large segment of Connecticut Democrats repudiated Sen. Lieberman for his policies on the Iraq war, disregarding his years of loyal service and championing of core Democratic values and principles.

But for Sen. Lieberman to use, in part, his primary difficulties to now try to somehow justify his endorsing Sen. McCain, by saying that the Democratic Party has abandoned him, is both arrogant and offensive. Sen. Lieberman said recently that the Democratic Party is no longer a party of “strong internationalists, strong on defense, pro-trade, pro-reform in our domestic government.” Well I am all of those things and I am a proud Democrat who is fully supporting Sen. Barack Obama for president.

When I hear Sen. McCain talking about policies including nominating justices to the Supreme Court in the mold of Justice Samuel Alito (who Sen. Lieberman voted against), it is impossible not to recognize that it was Lieberman who abandoned the Democratic Party, not the other way around.

I will miss the Joe Lieberman that I supported for years. But being a Democrat means an allegiance to core values, not to individuals. Joe Lieberman is gone, but with Sen. Obama at the helm, the Democratic Party and the country have a chance once again, to thrive.

Jonathan Panikoff is a lawyer and the former chief of staff of delegate operations for the Joe Lieberman for President Campaign. More recently he served in the political department of the Democratic National Committee.

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John McCain still can't keep his story straight

So John McCain is trotting out a familiar argument today, slapping Barack Obama with the "surrender" label for supporting a timetable in Iraq:

For him to talk about dates for withdrawal, which basically is surrender in Iraq after we're succeeding so well is, I think, really inexcusable.

This is the same John McCain who supports a timetable of his own. In a speech describing what America would be like at the end of his first term, he said:

By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom

McCain says that the problem with Obama's appoach to Iraq is that if we withdraw our combat forces, the country would descend into chaos, and we would be forced to return.

But if he believes that, wouldn't his plan present same problem? Like Obama, he plans on leaving some troops in the country, but not in combat roles.

McCain has actually addressed this question in the past, albeit indirectly. After attacking both Obama and Clinton for supporting timetables, he said that he would guarantee that our soldiers would never have to fight another war for oil in the Middle East because he would develop a new energy policy.

His campaign furiously tried to backpedal from his assertion that we are fighting the Iraq war for oil, but none of their explanations made any sense. It was, on McCain's part, a gaffe in the truest sense: he accidentally said what he really believes.

I just can't wait for this campaign to really get heated -- McCain is having enough trouble keeping his story straight now. Under the pressure of a 24x7 general election, he's going to implode, big time.

Original here


How The Clintons Would Disenfranchise Florida And Michigan Voters

A reader makes an excellent point:

The Clintons repeatedly say, when making their "count Florida and Michigan" argument that 2.3 million voters cast ballots in these States, and Hillary often adds that the 1.7 million turnout in Florida was the highest ever for a Democratic primary. Sounds impressive. But guess what? I compared the number of persons who cast ballots this year in each of the other top ten States to the number of persons who voted for John Kerry in the 2004 general election. In every single State where both candidates campaigned -- meaning every State but New York, which Obama ceded to Hillary and Illinois, which Hillary ceded to Obama -- the turnout was at least 75% of the Kerry vote. (CA: 75%; TX: 103%; PA: 79%; OH: 85%; NC: 107%; GA: 79%; as for IL and NY, IL: 70%; NY: 44%).

In contrast, in Michigan, the percentage was a paltry 24% and in Florida the percentage was 44%.

That tells me that counting Michigan and Florida would disenfranchise a large number of voters who did not vote, because there was no campaigning and/or the voters there thought the contest would not count and so did not bother to vote.

The fundamental point is that a contest should be governed by the rules agreed to in advance. Period. If the primary campaign were about the popular vote, as the Clintons now want to argue, then the strategies of both campaigns would have been different, and Obama's radically different. To change the rules of the contest retroactively because one candidate lost is an outrageous attack on fairness, civility and sanity. It would turn all future primary races into complete mayhem, as candidates would vie to make any number of different factors count at any point in the race.

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Previewing McCain and Obama on geek issues

Ron Paul may be the president of the Internet, but the next occupant of the brick-and-mortar White House will also influence the future of that vast series of tubes. Last week, representatives for Barack Obama and John McCain addressed the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference on topics ranging from NSA surveillance to net neutrality to the competitiveness of American workers in the new economy.

The clearest contrast between the candidates emerged over the geek hot-button of net neutrality. Chuck Fish, an attorney for the McCain campaign and former Time Warner executive, warned against using regulation to impose any broad network model on service providers, especially in advance of any evidence that discriminatory packet switching is causing pervasive harm. Instead, he suggested existing antitrust law could be used to address specific instances of misbehavior. But Daniel Weitzner, an MIT computer scientist and technology adviser to the Obama campaign, insisted that this was "not enough." "Openness is more important than bandwidth," said Weitzner, referring to the argument that "tiered" networks providing faster access to content providers who can pay could spur investment in fatter pipes. "I'd rather have a more open Internet at lower speeds than a faster Internet that has all sorts of discrimination built in. We've lived with tiny narrow little pipes and done extraordinary things with them." Fish later countered that we "now we have unduly low expectations of our infrastructure needs."

On the question of retroactive immunity for telecoms that participated in warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency, Fish sought to reassure the civil libertarian–leaning audience that McCain did not support "indulgences" (an allusion to the medieval church's practice of selling absolution for sins) and surprised many by saying that hearings should be conducted to determine the scope and extent of NSA acquisitions. (The campaign later walked back from that position, leaving it unclear just where Fish was coming from.) Weitzner, by contrast, took a retrospective approach, suggesting that Obama's commitment to civil liberties was evident in his voting record, including his opposition to telecom immunity and to the confirmation of Gen. Michael Hayden as Director of Central Intelligence.

Fish was substantially vaguer on the question of what sort of checks and oversight should be imposed on future surveillance, and reiterated McCain's condemnation of Democrats in the House for "fail[ing] to address" the problem of reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. (The House has, in fact, twice passed bills reforming FISA, both of which have been deemed unacceptable by the White House.) He did, however, articulate a more general philosophy of "privacy as security." This, he explained, meant that "just as liberty is not licentiousness [sic]," privacy should not be conceived as absolute control over personal information, but rather as protection from harms accruing from the use or disclosure of information. Weitzner expressed skepticism about this formulation, in part because subjects would often remain unaware of privacy violations (and so unable to allege harm) but also because the standard of "harm" seemed question-begging, as "you've got to decide what harms you're recognizing."

In terms of the candidates' broader philosophies on tech issues, Weitzner primarily relied on Obama's lengthy white paper. He stressed Obama's commitment to using technology as a means of promoting greater openness in government, and touted his plan to name a federal government–wide Chief Technology Officer to coordinate policy across the alphabet soup of federal agencies. Playing to the civil libertarian crowd, he also stressed Obama's anti-censorship approach to child protection, centered on prosecution of child exploiters and technological empowerment of parents.

Fish outlined the four core principles that would guide a McCain administration's approach to technology. First, ensuring the availability of risk capital in order to promote investment and innovation. Second, creating a skilled work force, by means of education, but also tax and immigration policy. (On the latter front, Fish claimed that for each H1-B visa hire, 20 domestic jobs are created. I have only been able to find a study supporting the far more modest claim that H1-B visa requests are correlated with 5–7 new domestic jobs, which may simply indicate that expanding firms hire more workers, both local and foreign. Fish did not respond to an e-mail seeking a source for his claim.) Third, Fish stressed the importance of a employing a light regulatory touch and respecting open markets. He noted that misregulation can impede innovation, and invoked what he called the "futility principle": There are some genuine problems that are only made worse by attempts to meliorate them. Finally, he stressed McCain's "commitment to discovery," and noted that while we currently spend some 2.7% of GDP on research and development, "more can be done."

And in case you were wondering, Fish reassured us that McCain "does know how to use e-mail... and a few other modern conveniences."

Original here

How George W. Bush made me an Ex-Conservative



Let’s just get this out of the way. I voted for George W. Bush not once, but, twice. I formally apologize to everyone in the United States. I was wrong. While we are in confession mode, I likely would have voted for Bob Dole, too, had I been old enough. As you have probably guessed, I have been a pretty dedicated conservative for my whole life.

In fact, I guess you could say that I fall right in the core Republican demographic. I am a white male who lives in Alabama. Many of my friends & family members root for Republicans in the same way that they root for the Alabama Crimson Tide or the Auburn Tigers.

I was raised Baptist and spent some of my older years in the Church of Christ. I am the son of a small business owner, and while I certainly wouldn’t consider my family among society’s upper class, we were always pretty comfortable from a financial standpoint. I graduated from a local university with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. If you were imagining the typical Republican voter in my late 25-34 demographic age range, you would probably imagine someone much like myself. Southern, white, male, married, Christian, in good financial standing, working in business management, I am the embodiment of the stereotypical Republican voter.

But, over the past few months, I have experienced an awakening of sorts that made me question and, eventually, denounce my conservative leanings. I wish I could tell you that there was some grand moment of realization that made me turn away from Bush and the conservatives, as it would make a much better story, but, I can’t. This was more of a gradual realization over time as I uncovered facts about current events and discovered history that I had missed and realized that I had some mistaken notions about Republicans in general.

What made a lifelong Republican voter take a step back and re-evaluate? Well, my first child was born recently and, as anyone who has a child can tell you, this makes you look at the world very differently than before. Politics took a new meaning when I considered the long-term effects that political choices might bear for my daughter. So, after years of casual following of politics, I finally sat down and spent some time researching presidential candidates for ‘08 with truly open mind, for the first time. This led to further soul-searching and research into all manner of political information, including our current state of affairs as a nation.

As I took my first completely objective and in-depth look at the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress in a long time, I realized what a truly unmitigated disaster the whole thing has become. Don’t get me wrong, I had become disillusioned much like everyone else over the past two or three years. I had heard the headlines on Iraq, the concerns with Karl Rove, the rumblings over issues with the Patriot Act.

But, as I was looking more deeply into what I have missed out on, I was a little shocked to find out about a less mentioned, but, in some respects, more shocking & serious problem for the Bush administration - complete and total financial mismanagement. The kind of mismanagement that speaks to a complete lack of coherent planning, restraint, or responsibility. The kind of mismanagement that I never expected from Republicans, the supposed “small government” party. The kind of mismanagement that would put even the strongest business out of business and would make the richest family bankrupt. As I mentioned, I studied business and, now, I am currently running my family business, so something about this struck a special chord with me in a way that more abstract issues like foreign policy did not.

Consider this - the Bush administration entered the White House with just over $5 trillion in national debt. The national debt sits at over $9 trillion today. That is over $30,000 worth of debt for every man, woman, and child in this country. This was somewhat staggering to me. Especially considering that the debt has continued to rise 1.5 billion a day since 2007. (Check out the National Debt Clock for up to the second numbers). This looks even worse since it turns out that Bush entered office with a government budget surplus in hand - that is the government was actually paying down the national debt every year, not increasing it. The amount on the government “credit card” has nearly doubled in Bush’s term. And we all know what this means - not just do we owe more money, but, we are writing bigger interest checks than ever. A bigger portion of your taxes than ever are going to countries like China in the form of interest payments.

The financial mismanagement quickly got more sickening when I discovered the facts about the Bush tax cuts, particularly the capital gains & dividends tax cuts in 2003. The facts are that the wealthy are, by far, the greatest beneficiaries. Take a look at this report from the Citizens for Tax Justice. The wealthiest 1% of the tax bracket reaped over 70% of the financial benefit of the reduction in capital gains & dividends taxes. Meanwhile, the bottom 60% of the tax bracket received a mere 2.1% of the benefit. This tax cut achieves the double whammy of, not only sending the federal government further into debt, but, also further exacerbating the already growing gap between rich and poor in the United States. Nice going, guys. Anyway, this could (and probably will) make another blog entry on its own, so, I will leave most of this ground to be tread another day.

But, the biggest problem is not the tax cuts alone. No, the problem is that these large tax cuts for the rich took place at virtually the same time as a dramatic increase in spending by the federal government. Raw federal spending has grown during the Bush administration at a rate that hasn’t been seen since the days of Nixon/Ford. And, when looked at as a percentage of GDP, we have seen the greatest federal spending increases since Roosevelt (USA Today). In other words, the Bush administration and the Republicans in Congress have been behind the greatest spending increase since the New Deal. Let that sink in for a minute.

Back with me? Good. Certainly, some of this spending was likely warranted after 9/11, the ensuing Homeland Security spending and the Afghanistan invasion. Those costs would have occurred under any other administration as well. But, that argument only gets you so far.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if you are at war or at peace - the federal government must be fiscally responsible. Sure, if we are under imminent threat of being destroyed, then maybe caution goes to the wind, but, otherwise we must keep some level of restraint. While certainly a strong military & strong national security are vitally important, a strong economic & financial situation is at least equally important, perhaps even more important for a superpower. Just ask the U.S.S.R.

If a war must be fought for national security and it will cost a lot of money, then something has to be given up back home. We cannot do everything at once like a shopping junkie with a credit card and just plan to “pay for it later”, because, for us, “later” never seems to come. If we let terrorists scare us into bankrupting our nation and destroying ourselves from within, then the terrorists have really won.

The Republican combination of policies over the past 8 years - bigger government programs, astronomical increases in spending, lower taxes for the super wealthy - are a mix that just cannot work together and no sane person would think that it would. In fact, you get the idea from looking at everything that there is no overall plan, instead policies seem to be getting set by disparate groups with no communication or consideration of what else is going on. If we continue down our current path, I am afraid that it leads to ruin.

Between Iraq, our national debt, terrorism, our worsening economic situation, our disastrous oil dependency situation, & a host of issues, it seems that we are surrounded with major problems on all sides. For many of us younger voters, this is probably the most precarious situation we have seen our nation in. I think it is fair to say that the 2008 election represents a critical juncture in our nation’s history.

I am here because I hope to share information with more conservatives like myself who have been betrayed by their own politicians, but, may have not realized it yet. I hope to also share information with liberals & independents & anyone in-between. I hope to not only share information with you, and I also hope to gain information from you because I certainly don’t have all the answers.

Information is the weapon with which this war for our country’s future must be waged. Too long has our country wallowed in political apathy. Too long have many of us cast uninformed votes for candidates who have manipulated us to their own ends. I have been as guilty as anyone, but, it must stop today.

Politics must once again become a subject of interest again for Americans, young and old, for it is a subject that will determine our collective fate. The time has come for Americans on both sides of the aisle to take our government back from extremists, lobbyists, special interest groups and multi-billion dollar corporations. The power in this country must move away from corporate boardrooms and back to where it was intended - the people.

And, in case you have any remaining doubt, yes, I plan to vote for Barack Obama, not John McCain, in the 2008 election. The reasons why are numerous, and I will cover them in the future, rather than further lengthening this first entry, which is already longer than I had hoped.

Over the coming days, weeks & months, I will be blogging on a variety of political issues and news topics. I have plenty more in-depth discussion planned on everything from the country’s financial crisis to the modern mainstream media & their culpability in where we are today to news & opinion on the Presidential race. I hope you will continue to join me from time to time and will share this blog with your friends and relatives. In the end, only one voice cannot accomplish much in a country this large. But, when we join together with others and spread information & awareness then we can truly make a difference.

I am no longer a conservative. I am now an ex-conservative. An Excon, if you will. Join me and let’s try to make a difference.

Original here

Is It True About Obama?


Assassination Chatter and the End of Legitimacy

Legitimacy is the most elemental and elusive of political goods; a gift which only a society can give its leaders, and only the same society can take away.

To deprive a politician of legitimacy is long and serious work. A good deal of the process has always taken place behind the scenes before the evidence comes into view.

Thus, from 1994 onward, a language of generalized insult and contempt was used by Republicans about Bill Clinton in order to deprive him of the claim to be recognized as the legitimate holder of the office of president. Newt Gingrich and the Contract-with-America wing of the party were deliberate in the tactics they deployed. They coolly decided to use the word "sick" to characterize the Clintons and their policies. Instructions regarding which words of contempt to use and when to use them, went out in memorandums and were put into practice on pundit shows and talk radio. This story is told by David Brock, an insider who came to regret the part he played, in his memoir Blinded by the Right.

The delegitimation of Bill Clinton led from the sprawling fruitless Whitewater investigation to the Paula Jones suit to the interrogation of Monica Lewinsky to the impeachment of the president. On the whole this is not an episode Americans look back on with pride. When the Supreme Court in May 1997 decided that Paula Jones's lawsuit against a sitting president could go forward, because there was no reason to suppose it would interfere with his performance of his duties, the judges were oddly unanimous in their indifference to the power of legitimacy.

What Bill Clinton felt at the time is barely possible to imagine; the bitter taste the impeachment left with both Clintons, they have taken great pains to conceal.

We have seen a return this year to the politics of delegitimation by the extreme Republican right. Yet what has been most surprising is the complicity, and then the open participation in that process by the Clinton campaign. Race was always going to be an element in this year's election. But the comparison of the front runner Barack Obama to the marginal candidate Jesse Jackson on the pretext that both had won South Carolina was a shocker when people heard it come out of the mouth of Bill Clinton. Again, the talk, by Hillary Clinton and her operatives after Ohio, of "the commander in chief test" which (it was said) she and John McCain had "passed" but Obama mysteriously could not pass, was a second stroke of the same kind. There was no scientific or political content to the statement. Its significance was gestural. It was an effort to delegitimate Obama, and its truth could only be shown by its success or failure.

Hillary Clinton's recent careless-careful mention of the assassination of Robert Kennedy, in answer to a question about why she would stay in the Democratic race when all the numbers are against her, raised the tactics of delegitimation to a pitch as weird as anything the Clintons can have seen in the years 1997-98.

The most disturbing element of her remark was this: that it chose to treat assassination as just one more political possibility, one of the things that happen in our politics, like hecklers, lobbyists, and forced resignations. The slovenly morale and callousness of such a released fantasy is catching. So when, a few days later, the Fox News contributor Liz Trotta was asked her opinion of Senator Clinton's statement, Trotta said: "some are reading [it] as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama...Obama. Well...both if we could!" Liz Trotta laughed as she said that. Later, she apologized, as Senator Clinton also has apologized.

Race comes easily and inevitably into discussions of Barack Obama, and never far from race is the thought of violence. It is there when you hear mentally feeble persons say, "I am afraid of this one; so afraid! something makes me afraid!" And race comes into the discussion when you hear clever people say, "He can never win the white vote; the white working class just aren't ready for him."

An unmeasurable but well-recorded condition for the assassination of John F. Kennedy was the campaign of delegitimation that preceded that terrible event. Anti-Castro Cubans hated Kennedy because he had disappointed them at the Bay of Pigs, and seemed to be a warm friend cooling. Many Southern white people hated him for his indications of solidarity with the cause of civil rights. There are other actors and reactions that might be added; but all shared the belief that Kennedy was not a legitimate leader, that he didn't deserve to be given the chance to go on governing. The hatred was especially virulent in the South. Death threats were in the air and Kennedy had been warned against taking the trip to Texas.

When a democratic society fails to honor the contract by which we elect our leaders in peace, and let them govern in peace, and show our approval or disapproval by keeping them or turning them out of office--when the incantation "He is not one of us" dips so far below sanity that we pretend the rules and decencies aren't in force any more--it is more than one person who is harmed. This loose way of talking and thinking of violence hardens us against real responsibility if the violent thing should happen. We are administering shocks to ourselves in advance so as not to be surprised by the actuality. But such preparations are in their very nature corrupt, and corrupting. And they are not less so when used against any person of dignity and estimation, on the public stage, than when they are leveled against an elected official.

William James wrote of the hope of democracy after the Civil War:

"The deadliest enemies of nations are not their foreign foes; they always dwell within their borders. And from these internal enemies civilization is always in need of being saved. The nation blest above all nations is she in whom the civic genius of the people does the saving day by day, by acts without external picturesqueness; by speaking, writing, voting reasonably; by smiting corruption swiftly; by good temper between parties; by the people knowing true men when they see them, and preferring them as leaders to rabid partisans or empty quacks. Such nations have no need of wars to save them."

The original meaning of the phrase "We shall overcome" is too often forgotten. The words didn't mean: "We--black and white people--will win equal rights for black people." They meant rather: "We--human beings--will overcome our savage impulse to settle our differences by violence. In both domestic and foreign arenas of dispute, we will overcome our endless reliance on short-violent-cuts to success."

The acceptance of political violence, apparent in the recent casual chatter of assassination, shows a despair of overcoming that is as monstrous in its way as the acts of violent men themselves.

Original here

Will Bob Barr Help Obama Beat McCain?

November 4th, 2008 is rapidly approaching, 161 short days from now.

No one knows for sure what the outcome of the election will be, but yesterday two things became clear; 1). Bob Barr's name will be almost as well known as Ralph Nader's and 2). Barack Obama is likely to receive at least some sort of an Electoral Map boost from Barr in November.

Yesterday in Denver, Colorado the Libertarian Party nominated former Republican U.S Congressman, Bob Barr, as their official candidate to square off against John McCain and Barack Obama in the fall, and it looks like Barr's candidacy will siphon off more votes from McCain than it will from Obama.

In the past the Libertarian Party has not made too much of a splash in Presidential politics. With only 250,000 members nationwide they have struggled with even getting their candidate on the ballot in many states.

2008 is shaping up to be a different kind of year for the Libertarians, however. They expect to be on the ballot in 48 states and they are working to gain access to ballots in West Virginia and Oklahoma in order to make it 50.

Plus, as Bob Barr himself has said, this nation is craving political change.

Early polling indicates that a small slice of that change will come in the form of votes for Bob Barr. Rasmussen recently conducted a poll which pitted Barack Obama, John McCain, Ralph Nader and Bob Barr against each other in a hypothetical General Election. The results:

Barack Obama: 42%

John McCain: 38%

Bob Barr: 6%

Ralph Nader: 4%

The presumption is that Barr will have more of a negative impact on McCain while Nader will pull in a few more potential Obama voters. Polling appears to confirm this.

Of course we're dealing with very small percentages here, a percent or two at best, but if the General Election were held today, a 2% swing in either direction could change the outcome in at least nine states containing 82 Electoral Votes. That is a major chunk of the 270 needed to win the Presidency.

Additionally there is always the possibility that Bob Barr's candidacy hits a tipping point and really takes off. We have seen two relatively unknown candidates in Howard Dean and Ron Paul achieve incredible electoral feats in the past two election cycles by quickly becoming household names with the ability to raise huge sums of money.

Of course Dean and Paul were both running in primary battles within one of the two major parties, but maybe it is a third party candidate's turn to ride an internet driven wave of popularity.

Barr and the Libertarians seem to think so. They have been studying Ron Paul's Campaign during this election cycle and they have even hired a strategist from Paul's campaign, as well as a former Ross Perot strategist.

There are some major obstacles for Barr though. As a former Democrat and a former Republican who voted for the USA Patriot Act and aggressively fought the "war on drugs" Barr is not likely to catch fire within the base of the "Stay outta my business" Libertarian Party. But, as a candidate who talks a great game about reducing the size of government, he may appeal to some of the less zealous Libertarians out there and to many small-government-Republicans who have felt ignored by the GOP throughout the past several election cycles.

Despite the above challenges, Barr has said that he believes he will be invited to the national political debates by qualifying with 15% in national polls. We'll see about that, but if Barr even comes close to that number it will make for an even more interesting and groundbreaking election than we are already having.

And who knows? Maybe Rep. Barr can even knock off McCain in the Congressman's home state of Georgia and steal 15 Electoral Votes from the Republicans. And what if that left both major candidates without the required 270 votes to win the election?

It is certainly a long shot, but Representative Bob Barr could be the force that throws this Election to Congress.

How crazy would that be?


Original here


Thirty-Five Years of Rockefeller ‘Justice’

Enacted in 1973, New York’s Rockefeller drug laws penalized some first-time drug offenders more severely than murderers. Named for Nelson Rockefeller, who was governor at the time, the laws tied the hands of judges and mandated lengthy sentences for young offenders who often deserved a second chance. The laws, which were supposed to ensnare “kingpins,” have filled the prisons with drug addicts who would have been better dealt with through treatment programs. They also undermined faith in the fairness of the justice system by singling out poor and minority offenders while exempting wealthy ones.

New York has made incremental changes in laws in recent years but has failed to restore judicial discretion. A sentencing commission appointed by Eliot Spitzer, the former New York governor, pretty much ducked the issue in an interim report issued last fall. But criminal justice advocates have higher hopes for Mr. Spitzer’s successor, David Paterson, who spoke out vigorously for Rockefeller reform as a state senator. He was arrested while demonstrating against the laws in 2002.

If Governor Paterson is looking for motivation to take on this issue, he can find it in a recent report from The Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit group that monitors prison conditions. According to the report, New York is currently paying $500 million a year to house its drug offenders. The costs are rising as more people go to prison for minor, nonviolent drug offenses.

The law often metes out long prison terms to addicts, petty dealers or people only peripherally involved in the trade. Indeed, 4 in 10 drug offenders in the state’s prisons were locked up for possession as opposed to selling. These are hardly kingpins. In fact, nearly half the drug offenders in the state’s prisons were convicted of the lowest level crimes.

Many of these people are clearly addicts who would benefit from treatment. But the mandatory sentencing guidelines limit the courts’ ability to choose the treatment option. It is long past time for New York to overturn these laws and to return judicial discretion. Governor Paterson, who can cite chapter and verse on this issue, should to take the lead in this important fight.

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Clinton's Grim Scenario

If this campaign goes on much longer, what will be left of Hillary Clinton?

A woman uniformly described by her close friends as genuine, principled and sane has been reduced to citing the timing of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination as a reason to stay in the race -- an argument that is ungenuine, unprincipled and insane. She vows to keep pushing, perhaps all the way to the convention in August. What manner of disintegration is yet to come?

For anyone who missed it, Clinton was pleading her cause before the editorial board of the Sioux Falls, S.D., Argus Leader on Friday. Rejecting calls to drop out because her chances of winning have become so slight, she said the following: "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. You know I just, I don't understand it."

The point isn't whether you take Clinton at her word that she didn't actually mean to suggest that someone -- guess who? -- might be assassinated. The point is: Whoa, where did that come from?

Setting aside for the moment the ugliness of Clinton's remark, just try to make it hold together. Clinton's basic argument is that attempts to push her out of the race are hasty and premature, since the nomination sometimes isn't decided until June. She cites two election years, 1968 and 1992, as evidence -- but neither is relevant to 2008 because the campaign calendar has been changed.

In 1968, the Democratic race kicked off with the New Hampshire primary on March 12; when Robert Kennedy was killed, the campaign was not quite three months old. In 1992, the first contest was the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 10; by the beginning of June, candidates had been battling for about 3 1/2 months -- and it was clear that Bill Clinton would be the nominee, though he hadn't technically wrapped it up.

This year, the Iowa caucuses were held on Jan. 3, the earliest date ever. Other states scrambled to move their contests up in the calendar as well. When June arrives, the candidates will have been slogging through primaries and caucuses for five full months -- a good deal longer than in those earlier campaign cycles.

So Clinton's disturbing remark wasn't wishful thinking -- as far as I know (to quote Clinton herself, when asked earlier this year about false rumors that her opponent Barack Obama is a Muslim). Clearly, it wasn't logical thinking. It can only have been magical thinking, albeit not the happy-magic kind.

Clinton has always claimed to be the cold-eyed realist in the race, and at one point maybe she was. Increasingly, though, her words and actions reflect the kind of thinking that animates myths and fairy tales: Maybe a sudden and powerful storm will scatter my enemy's ships. Maybe a strapping woodsman will come along and save the day.

Clinton has poured more than $11 million of her own money into the campaign, with no guarantee of ever getting it back. She has changed slogans and themes the way Obama changes his ties. She has been the first major-party presidential candidate in memory to tout her appeal to white voters. She has abandoned any pretense of consistency, inventing new rationales for continuing her candidacy and new yardsticks for measuring its success whenever the old rationales and yardsticks begin to favor Obama.

It could be that any presidential campaign requires a measure of blind faith. But there's a difference between having faith in a dream and being lost in a delusion. The former suggests inner strength; the latter, an inner meltdown.

What Clinton's evocation of RFK suggests isn't that she had some tactical reason for speaking the unspeakable but that she and her closest advisers can't stop running and rerunning through their minds the most far-fetched scenarios, no matter how absurd or even obscene. She gives the impression of having spent long nights convincing herself that the stars really might still align for her -- that something can still happen to make the Democratic Party realize how foolish it has been.

Clinton campaigns as if she knows she will leave some Democrats with bad feelings. That's the Clinton way: Ask forgiveness, not permission. But every day, as more superdelegates trickle to Obama's side, it becomes a surer bet that she will not win. She and her family enjoy good health and fabulous wealth. They'll be fine -- unless, while losing this race for the nomination, Hillary Clinton also loses her soul.

The writer will answer questions at 1 p.m. today athttp://www.washingtonpost.com. His e-mail address iseugenerobinson@washpost.com.

Original here

Exclusive: McClellan whacks Bush, White House

Scott McClellan
McClellan says the administration relied on "propaganda" to sell the war.
Photo: A

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan writes in a surprisingly scathing memoir to be published next week that President Bush “veered terribly off course,” was not “open and forthright on Iraq,” and took a “permanent campaign approach” to governing at the expense of candor and competence.

Among the most explosive revelations in the 341-page book, titled “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception” (Public Affairs, $27.95):

• McClellan charges that Bush relied on “propaganda” to sell the war.

• He says the White House press corps was too easy on the administration during the run-up to the war.

• He admits that some of his own assertions from the briefing room podium turned out to be “badly misguided.”

• The longtime Bush loyalist also suggests that two top aides held a secret West Wing meeting to get their story straight about the CIA leak case at a time when federal prosecutors were after them — and McClellan was continuing to defend them despite mounting evidence they had not given him all the facts.

• McClellan asserts that the aides — Karl Rove, the president’s senior adviser, and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff — “had at best misled” him about their role in the disclosure of former CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity.

A few reporters were offered advance copies of the book, with the restriction that their stories not appear until Sunday, the day before the official publication date. Politico declined and purchased “What Happened” at a Washington bookstore.

The eagerly awaited book, while recounting many fond memories of Bush and describing him as “authentic” and “sincere,” is harsher than reporters and White House officials had expected.

McClellan was one of the president’s earliest and most loyal political aides, and most of his friends had expected him to take a few swipes at his former colleague in order to sell books but also to paint a largely affectionate portrait.

Instead, McClellan’s tone is often harsh. He writes, for example, that after Hurricane Katrina, the White House “spent most of the first week in a state of denial,” and he blames Rove for suggesting the photo of the president comfortably observing the disaster during an Air Force One flyover. McClellan says he and counselor to the president Dan Bartlett had opposed the idea and thought it had been scrapped.

But he writes that he later was told that “Karl was convinced we needed to do it — and the president agreed.”

“One of the worst disasters in our nation’s history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush’s presidency. Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush’s second term,” he writes. “And the perception of this catastrophe was made worse by previous decisions President Bush had made, including, first and foremost, the failure to be open and forthright on Iraq and rushing to war with inadequate planning and preparation for its aftermath.”

McClellan, who turned 40 in February, was press secretary from July 2003 to April 2006. An Austin native from a political family, he began working as a gubernatorial spokesman for then-Gov. Bush in early 1999, was traveling press secretary for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign and was chief deputy to Press Secretary Ari Fleischer at the beginning of Bush’s first term.

“I still like and admire President Bush,” McClellan writes. “But he and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war. … In this regard, he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those involved directly in national security.”

In a small sign of how thoroughly McClellan has adopted the outsider’s role, he refers at times to his former boss as “Bush,” when he is universally referred to by insiders as “the president.”

McClellan lost some of his friends in the administration last November when his publisher released an excerpt from the book that appeared to accuse Bush of participating in the cover-up of the Plame leak. The book, however, makes clear that McClellan believes Bush was also a victim of misinformation.

The book begins with McClellan’s statement to the press that he had talked with Rove and Libby and that they had assured him they “were not involved in … the leaking of classified information.”

At Libby’s trial, testimony showed the two had talked with reporters about the officer, however elliptically.

“I had allowed myself to be deceived into unknowingly passing along a falsehood,” McClellan writes. “It would ultimately prove fatal to my ability to serve the president effectively. I didn’t learn that what I’d said was untrue until the media began to figure it out almost two years later.

“Neither, I believe, did President Bush. He, too, had been deceived and therefore became unwittingly involved in deceiving me. But the top White House officials who knew the truth — including Rove, Libby and possibly Vice President Cheney — allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie.”

McClellan also suggests that Libby and Rove secretly colluded to get their stories straight at a time when federal investigators were hot on the Plame case.

“There is only one moment during the leak episode that I am reluctant to discuss,” he writes. “It was in 2005, during a time when attention was focusing on Rove and Libby, and it sticks vividly in my mind. … Following [a meeting in Chief of Staff Andy Card’s office], … Scooter Libby was walking to the entryway as he prepared to depart when Karl turned to get his attention. ‘You have time to visit?’ Karl asked. ‘Yeah,’ replied Libby.

“I have no idea what they discussed, but it seemed suspicious for these two, whom I had never noticed spending any one-on-one time together, to go behind closed doors and visit privately. … At least one of them, Rove, it was publicly known at the time, had at best misled me by not sharing relevant information, and credible rumors were spreading that the other, Libby, had done at least as much. …

“The confidential meeting also occurred at a moment when I was being battered by the press for publicly vouching for the two by claiming they were not involved in leaking Plame’s identity, when recently revealed information was now indicating otherwise. … I don’t know what they discussed, but what would any knowledgeable person reasonably and logically conclude was the topic? Like the whole truth of people’s involvement, we will likely never know with any degree of confidence.”

McClellan repeatedly embraces the rhetoric of Bush's liberal critics and even charges: “If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq.

“The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. … In this case, the ‘liberal media’ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”

Decrying the Bush administration’s “excessive embrace of the permanent campaign approach to governance,” McClellan recommends that future presidents appoint a “deputy chief of staff for governing” who “would be responsible for making sure the president is continually and consistently committed to a high level of openness and forthrightness and transcending partisanship to achieve unity.

“I frequently stumbled along the way,” McClellan acknowledges in the book’s preface. “My own story, however, is of small importance in the broad historical picture. More significant is the larger story in which I played a minor role: the story of how the presidency of George W. Bush veered terribly off course.”

Even some of the chapter titles are brutal: “The Permanent Campaign,” “Deniability,” “Triumph and Illusion,” “Revelation and Humiliation” and “Out of Touch.”

“I think the concern about liberal bias helps to explain the tendency of the Bush team to build walls against the media,” McClellan writes in a chapter in which he says he dealt “happily enough” with liberal reporters. “Unfortunately, the press secretary at times found himself outside those walls as well.”

The book’s center has eight slick pages with 19 photos, eight of them depicting McClellan with the president. Those making cameos include Cheney, Rove, Bartlett, Mark Knoller of CBS News, former Assistant Press Secretary Reed Dickens and, aboard Air Force One, former press office official Peter Watkins and former White House stenographer Greg North.

In the acknowledgments, McClellan thanks each member of his former staff by name.

Among other notable passages:

• Steve Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, said about the erroneous assertion about Saddam Hussein seeking uranium, included in the State of the Union address of 2003: “Signing off on these facts is my responsibility. … And in this case, I blew it. I think the only solution is for me to resign.” The offer “was rejected almost out of hand by others present,” McClellan writes.

• Bush was “clearly irritated, … steamed,” when McClellan informed him that chief economic adviser Larry Lindsey had told The Wall Street Journal that a possible war in Iraq could cost from $100 billion to $200 billion: “‘It’s unacceptable,’ Bush continued, his voice rising. ‘He shouldn’t be talking about that.’”

• “As press secretary, I spent countless hours defending the administration from the podium in the White House briefing room. Although the things I said then were sincere, I have since come to realize that some of them were badly misguided.”

• “History appears poised to confirm what most Americans today have decided: that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder. No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now when we can more fully understand its impact. What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary.”

• McClellan describes his preparation for briefing reporters during the Plame frenzy: “I could feel the adrenaline flowing as I gave the go-ahead for Josh Deckard, one of my hard-working, underpaid press office staff, … to give the two-minute warning so the networks could prepare to switch to live coverage the moment I stepped into the briefing room.”

• “‘Matrix’ was the code name the Secret Service used for the White House press secretary."

McClellan is on the lecture circuit and remains in the Washington area with his wife, Jill.

Original here

You Think NAFTA, CAFTA & the Economy is Bad Now? Wait..

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In preparation for the Republican National Convention, the FBI is soliciting informants to keep tabs on local protest groups

Moles Wanted

By Matt Snyders

They were looking for an informant to show up at
They were looking for an informant to show up at "vegan potlucks" throughout the Twin Cities and rub shoulders with RNC protestors.

Paul Carroll was riding his bike when his cell phone vibrated.

Once he arrived home from the Hennepin County Courthouse, where he’d been served a gross misdemeanor for spray-painting the interior of a campus elevator, the lanky, wavy-haired University of Minnesota sophomore flipped open his phone and checked his messages. He was greeted by a voice he recognized immediately. It belonged to U of M Police Sgt. Erik Swanson, the officer to whom Carroll had turned himself in just three weeks earlier. When Carroll called back, Swanson asked him to meet at a coffee shop later that day, going on to assure a wary Carroll that he wasn’t in trouble.

Carroll, who requested that his real name not be used, showed up early and waited anxiously for Swanson’s arrival. Ten minutes later, he says, a casually dressed Swanson showed up, flanked by a woman whom he introduced as FBI Special Agent Maureen E. Mazzola. For the next 20 minutes, Mazzola would do most of the talking.

“She told me that I had the perfect ‘look,’” recalls Carroll. “And that I had the perfect personality—they kept saying I was friendly and personable—for what they were looking for.”

What they were looking for, Carroll says, was an informant—someone to show up at “vegan potlucks” throughout the Twin Cities and rub shoulders with RNC protestors, schmoozing his way into their inner circles, then reporting back to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, a partnership between multiple federal agencies and state and local law enforcement. The effort’s primary mission, according to the Minneapolis division’s website, is to “investigate terrorist acts carried out by groups or organizations which fall within the definition of terrorist groups as set forth in the current United States Attorney General Guidelines.”

Carroll would be compensated for his efforts, but only if his involvement yielded an arrest. No exact dollar figure was offered.

“I’ll pass,” said Carroll.

For 10 more minutes, Mazzola and Swanson tried to sway him. He remained obstinate.

“Well, if you change your mind, call this number,” said Mazzola, handing him her card with her cell phone number scribbled on the back.

(Mazzola, Swanson, and the FBI did not return numerous calls seeking comment.)

Carroll’s story echoes a familiar theme. During the lead-up the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, the NYPD’s Intelligence Division infiltrated and spied on protest groups across the country, as well as in Canada and Europe. The program’s scope extended to explicitly nonviolent groups, including street theater troupes and church organizations.

There were also two reported instances of police officers, dressed as protestors, purposefully instigating clashes. At the 2004 Republican National Convention, the NYPD orchestrated a fake arrest to incite protestors. When a blond man was “arrested,” nearby protestors began shouting, “Let him go!” The helmeted police proceeded to push back against the crowd with batons and arrested at least two. In a similar instance, during an April 29, 2005, Critical Mass bike ride in New York, video footage captured a “protestor”—in reality an undercover cop—telling his captor, “I’m on the job,” and being subsequently let go.

Minneapolis’s own recent Critical Mass skirmish was allegedly initiated by two unidentified stragglers in hoods—one wearing a handkerchief over his or her face—who “began to make aggressive moves” near the back of the pack. During that humid August 31 evening, officers went on to arrest 19 cyclists while unleashing pepper spray into the faces of bystanders. The hooded duo was never apprehended.

In the scuffle’s wake, conspiracy theories swirled that the unprecedented surveillance—squad cars from multiple agencies and a helicopter hovering overhead—was due to the presence of RNC protesters in the ride. The MPD publicly denied this. But during the trial of cyclist Gus Ganley, MPD Sgt. David Stichter testified that a task force had been created to monitor the August 31 ride and that the department knew that members of an RNC protest group would be along for the ride.

“This is all part of a larger government effort to quell political dissent,” says Jordan Kushner, an attorney who represented Ganley and other Critical Mass arrestees. “The Joint Terrorism Task Force is another example of using the buzzword ‘terrorism’ as a basis to clamp down on people’s freedoms and push forward a more authoritarian government.”

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