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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Poor old John Bush McCain: Gonna' get clobbered

From a McCain press conference earlier today:

Q: One thing [Obama] said was that he proposed disinvestment [from Iran] a year ago and you didn’t agree with it and so he’s wondering why you didn’t. And also he says he wanted to meet with Iranian leaders but he said there would preconditions, they would be carefully controlled meetings, and democracy could be used to leverage to force Iranian. Can you respond to those things?

JSM: Sure, I’ve never favored investment.

Q: It was disinvestment sir.

JSM: Look, I - we should never invest - well let me just say it’s very clear my record on whether we should in any way support terrorist organizations...

Q: And are you familiar with his disinvestment bill?

JSM: No, I am not familiar with it at all. I do not know if it passed the senate or had any hearing or anything else.

Just for the record, Obama's legislation (which Joe Lieberman co-sponsored) is being held up in the Senate right now by Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama -- but it passed the House by a 408-6 margin.

Seems like something McCain should have known. Then again, you say Sunni, I say Shiite, and McCain says Shunnite.

3:59PM Pacific - Update with video (after the jump):

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Update, Thursday, 4:19PM -- U. Penn.'s non-partisan, non-profit FactCheck.org debunks one of McCain's claims from the press conference:

McCain misrepresents Obama's stand on naming Revolutionary Guard as terrorists.

John McCain is attacking Barack Obama's opposition to the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which (among other things) called for labeling Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. McCain claims that Obama's opposition means that he also opposed calling the IRGC terrorists. We find otherwise.

Original here

Obama's In Control: No More Lobbyist Contributions To Democratic Party

ABC News reports:

It's been less than two days since he crossed the delegate threshold to become the Democratic presidential nominee and Sen. Barack Obama's mark on the party is already being felt.


On Good Morning America Thursday, ABC News' Chief Washington Correspondent George Stephanopoulos reported "the Democratic National Committee will no longer accept contributions from federal lobbyists, will no longer take contributions from PACs" in keeping with Obama's well-publicized policy.

UPDATE: DNC issues a statement:

"The DNC and the Obama Campaign are unified and working together to elect Barack Obama as the next president of the United States. Our presumptive nominee has pledged not to take donations from Washington lobbyists and from today going forward the DNC makes that pledge as well," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. "Senator Obama has promised to change the way things are done in Washington and this step is a sure sign of his commitment. The American people's priorities will set the agenda in an Obama Administration, not the special interests."

Original here

McCain's Day Marked By False Statements And Gaffes

A series of misstatements and verbal gaffes hampered Sen. John McCain on the day that unofficially marked the beginning of his general election campaign against Barack Obama.

Appearing at a press conference in Louisiana on Wednesday, McCain claimed that he had supported "every investigation" into the flawed response to Hurricane Katrina, when, in fact, he had twice voted against creating a commission to inspect the tragedy.

The remark immediately bounced around political circles and websites. After all it was just a few months ago when McCain defended those very votes on the back of his campaign bus, casting them as part of a broader campaign against wasteful spending.

"I'm proud of my support of American citizens regarding the taxpayers," the Senator said in April. "I will not vote for projects and programs and bills that are laden with pork-barrel projects that waste taxpayers' dollars."

The entire episode elicited a scathing rebuttal from the Obama camp.

"Whether he simply wasn't aware of his voting record again or he was intentionally misleading the people of Louisiana, John McCain certainly isn't offering us 'leadership you can believe in,'" wrote aide Hari Sevugan. To which, McCain's aides accused Obama of negative campaigning, saying the Senator wasn't familiar with the specific votes and had always supported Senate investigations, just not commissions.

That trip-up, however, was mild in compared to the gaffe that happened earlier in the day, when McCain acknowledged he was not aware that Obama had introduced a bill that called for international divestment from Iran.

Reporter: Are you familiar with his disinvestment bill?

McCain: No, I am not familiar with it at all. I do not know if it passed the senate or had any hearing or anything else. I had, so, literally thousands and thousands pieces of legislation are proposed every year. I know what he did. He voted against the Iranian revolutionary guard being declared a terrorist organization.

The admission could prove damaging for a variety of reasons. For starters, Obama's bill, which passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives, is currently being held up in the Senate by Republican Sen. Richard Shelby. More significantly, two McCain surrogates, Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Rep. Eric Cantor, are co-sponsors of Obama's measure despite, on Wednesday, ripping the Illinois Democrat for not having the experience to deal with Iran.

But a more worrisome issue for the McCain campaign may just be that a theme is emerging, both within the media and political circles, that the Arizona Republican has a penchant for playing loose with the facts. Indeed, last week, McCain lost crucial news cycles after he falsely claimed that force levels in Iraq had been drawn down to pre-surge levels and then, instead of admitting he misspoke, said the whole thing was a debate over verb tense. This, in turn, came after the Senator claimed, again falsely, that Iran was training al-Qaeda in Iraq, when in fact the two groups are religious and political adversaries.

All told, the gaffes have provided Obama an opportunity to re-frame a man who is best known as a "straight talker," a image battle McCain can ill afford to lose.

Original here

McCain Falsely Claims He Has ‘Supported Every Investigation’ Into Katrina Failures»

Today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) held one of his town hall meetings in Baton Rouge, LA. During this event, a reporter from the CBS station in New Orleans pressed the senator on his sordid Katrina record, asking him why he “voted twice against the creation of a commission to investigate the levee failures in New Orleans.”

McCain quickly responded that he has supported “every investigation” into the levee failures, even though he then admitted that he wasn’t aware of the votes the reporter referenced:

I’ve supported every investigation and ways of finding out what caused the tragedy. I’ve been here to New Orleans. I’ve met with people on the ground. I’ve met with the governor. I’m not familiar with exactly what you said, but I’ve been as active as anybody in efforts to restore the city.

I also voted against one of the bills that came down that was loaded with pork barrel projects that had nothing to do with New Orleans too. It had billions for projects and programs that had nothing to do with the recovery of the city of New Orleans.

Watch it:

In the past, McCain has actually bragged about opposing the levee commission. “[T]here have been many investigations taking place – the causes are well known,” he said in April, adding he thought most people in America know “what caused that mismanagement.” Additionally, he opposed a 2006 spending bill “that would have provided $28 billion in hurricane relief, and legislation that would have extended unemployment and Medicaid benefits to hurricane victims for several months.”

McCain also tried to establish his Katrina record by bragging, “I’ve been here to New Orleans. I’ve met with people on the ground.” But until traveling there one month ago, McCain had “made just one public tour of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina touched down in August 2005.”

Evidently, rebuilding after Katrina is just more unnecessary pork.

Digg It!

Transcript:

REPORTER: Senator, Maya Rodriguez at the CBS station out of New Orleans. My understanding is you have voted twice against the creation of a commission to investigate the levee failures in New Orleans. And my question is, why have you voted against that?

McCAIN: I’ve supported every investigation and ways of finding out what caused the tragedy. I’ve been here to New Orleans. I’ve met with people on the ground. I’ve met with the governor. I’m not familiar with exactly what you said, but I’ve been as active as anybody in efforts to restore the city.

I also voted against one of the bills that came down that was loaded with pork barrel projects that had nothing to do with New Orleans too. It had billions for projects and programs that had nothing to do with the recovery of the city of New Orleans.

So I don’t know exactly what you are describing at this moment, but I am proud of my record of support, meeting with women of the storm, being here, doing everything I can.

Original here

Obama In Heated Conversation With Lieberman

Update: Obama and Lieberman had a heated conversation on the floor of the Senate later today. Details below.

Senator Joe Lieberman, serving aptly as John McCain's foreign policy attack dog, jumped on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday to rip holes into Barack Obama's stance on Israel.

Playing off of Obama's address to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the Connecticut independent acknowledged that he hadn't heard the speech -- and urged for a "civil and constructive" presidential campaign -- before taking Obama to task for not being consistently tough on Iran.

"I appreciate many of the very good intentions to Israel and Israeli security that Senator Obama expressed today," said Lieberman. "I thought in the speech there was a disconnect between things Senator Obama said today, particularly in regard to Iran, and things he has said or done earlier either in the campaign or the Senate."

The crux of Lieberman's argument, however, was that Obama was putting the blame for Iran's rise in the Middle East on America's doorstep, pushing the argument that the Iraq war had strengthened Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's standing in the region and left Israel less secure.

"If Israel is in danger today it is not because of us foreign policy, which has been strongly supportive of Israel in every way," he said. "It is not because of what we have done in Iraq. It is because Iran is a fanatical, terrorist, expansionist state and has a leader and a leadership that constantly threatens to extinguish the state of Israel."

The remarks fit into a traditional GOP rallying cry, that the Democrats have a blame-America-first mentality. But there are outstanding factors that could muddle Lieberman's message. For starters, most objective metrics indicate that Iran has, in fact, been strengthened by America's involvement in Iraq. Ahmadinejad, after all, has increasingly meddled in Iraqi affairs.

But also, McCain, despite tough rhetoric on Iran, has several advisers with deep connections to the country; perhaps the most embarrassing of which is Charlie Black, the campaign's chief strategist. Before leaving his perch as a D.C. lobbyist, Black represented a Chinese oil company that did business with the Iranian government. He and his firm also represented Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi exile who helped churn up support for the war in the United States and has subsequently been accused of selling U.S. secrets to Iran.

UPDATE: Roll Call reports:

Furthermore, during a Senate vote Wednesday, Obama dragged Lieberman by the hand to a far corner of the Senate chamber and engaged in what appeared to reporters in the gallery as an intense, three-minute conversation.


While it was unclear what the two were discussing, the body language suggested that Obama was trying to convince Lieberman of something and his stance appeared slightly intimidating.

Using forceful, but not angry, hand gestures, Obama literally backed up Lieberman against the wall, leaned in very close at times, and appeared to be trying to dominate the conversation, as the two talked over each other in a few instances.

Still, Obama and Lieberman seemed to be trying to keep the back-and-forth congenial as they both patted each other on the back during and after the exchange.

Afterwards, Obama smiled and pointed up at reporters peering over the edge of the press gallery for a better glimpse of their interaction.

Obama loyalists were quick to express their frustration with Lieberman's decision and warned that if he continues to take a lead role in attacking Obama it could complicate his professional relationship with the Caucus.

Original here

Obama’s Plan to Reduce Foreign Oil Dependence


As Americans spend $41 million in foreign oil an hour and are left broke at the pump, what plan does Obama have to solve this problem?






Oil is destined to be a heated issue in this upcoming presidential election and Barack Obama’s opposition to the gas tax “holiday” has already been a hot topic. Obama has made it clear that national energy policy needs to be taken in a new direction.

“We send a billion dollars to foreign nations every single day and we are melting the polar ice caps in the bargain,” said Obama. “That has to change.”

Here are some of the key elements of Obama’s energy plan:

Fuel Economy Standards

Doubling fuel economy standards within the next 18 years is a priority to Obama. Research in engines and advanced lightweight materials will help meet this goal. He also wants to assist auto makers in increasing fuel economy standards through loan guarantees and tax credits for domestic auto manufacturers.

“We are going to raise fuel efficiency standards on cars because that is the only way that we can actually lower gas prices over the long-term and I know you need that,” said Obama.

Next Generation Biofuels

Obama’s goal is to have two billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol in use by 2013. He plans to use tax incentives, government contracts and cash prizes to help this industry mature and specifically wants to encourage farmer-owned refineries. He would like renewable fuel standards to increase, such that 60 billion gallons of advanced biofuels are in the fuel supply by 2030.

A National Low Carbon Fuel Standard is a mechanism that Obama plans to use that requires fuel suppliers to decrease carbon emissions from fuels by 10% by 2020 and he specifically wants to encourage non-petroleum fuels to reach this target.

“The only way we are going to seriously reduce the price of gas is if we actually start investing in alternative fuels and we raise fuel standards on cars,” said Obama.

solar panel installationRenewable Energy

By 2025, Obama would like 25% of U.S. electricity to be generated from clean, renewable sources including wind, solar and geothermal with a Renewable Portfolio Standard. Obama calls for $150 billion to be invested over 10 years in clean energy and infrastructure to support it. Investment in a national digital electric grid would allow greater amounts of renewable energy to be utilized and make plug-in hybrids more environmentally sound.

“For the sake of our security, our economy, our jobs and our planet, the age of oil must end in our time,” said Obama.

Original here

Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control


JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

George Bush with General David Petraeus at Al-Asad Air Base in Anbar Province, Iraq, last year

A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.

The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.

But the accord also threatens to provoke a political crisis in the US. President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated. But by perpetuating the US presence in Iraq, the long-term settlement would undercut pledges by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, to withdraw US troops if he is elected president in November.

The timing of the agreement would also boost the Republican candidate, John McCain, who has claimed the United States is on the verge of victory in Iraq – a victory that he says Mr Obama would throw away by a premature military withdrawal.

America currently has 151,000 troops in Iraq and, even after projected withdrawals next month, troop levels will stand at more than 142,000 – 10 000 more than when the military "surge" began in January 2007. Under the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases in Iraq. American negotiators are also demanding immunity from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors, and a free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government.

The precise nature of the American demands has been kept secret until now. The leaks are certain to generate an angry backlash in Iraq. "It is a terrible breach of our sovereignty," said one Iraqi politician, adding that if the security deal was signed it would delegitimise the government in Baghdad which will be seen as an American pawn.

The US has repeatedly denied it wants permanent bases in Iraq but one Iraqi source said: "This is just a tactical subterfuge." Washington also wants control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft and the right to pursue its "war on terror" in Iraq, giving it the authority to arrest anybody it wants and to launch military campaigns without consultation.

Mr Bush is determined to force the Iraqi government to sign the so-called "strategic alliance" without modifications, by the end of next month. But it is already being condemned by the Iranians and many Arabs as a continuing American attempt to dominate the region. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful and usually moderate Iranian leader, said yesterday that such a deal would create "a permanent occupation". He added: "The essence of this agreement is to turn the Iraqis into slaves of the Americans."

Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is believed to be personally opposed to the terms of the new pact but feels his coalition government cannot stay in power without US backing.

The deal also risks exacerbating the proxy war being fought between Iran and the United States over who should be more influential in Iraq.

Although Iraqi ministers have said they will reject any agreement limiting Iraqi sovereignty, political observers in Baghdad suspect they will sign in the end and simply want to establish their credentials as defenders of Iraqi independence by a show of defiance now. The one Iraqi with the authority to stop deal is the majority Shia spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In 2003, he forced the US to agree to a referendum on the new Iraqi constitution and the election of a parliament. But he is said to believe that loss of US support would drastically weaken the Iraqi Shia, who won a majority in parliament in elections in 2005.

The US is adamantly against the new security agreement being put to a referendum in Iraq, suspecting that it would be voted down. The influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called on his followers to demonstrate every Friday against the impending agreement on the grounds that it compromises Iraqi independence.

The Iraqi government wants to delay the actual signing of the agreement but the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney has been trying to force it through. The US ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, has spent weeks trying to secure the accord.

The signature of a security agreement, and a parallel deal providing a legal basis for keeping US troops in Iraq, is unlikely to be accepted by most Iraqis. But the Kurds, who make up a fifth of the population, will probably favour a continuing American presence, as will Sunni Arab political leaders who want US forces to dilute the power of the Shia. The Sunni Arab community, which has broadly supported a guerrilla war against US occupation, is likely to be split.

Original here

Guarantee net neutrality

The information superhighway that is the internet has been an equal opportunity route. A local shop's web page isn't shunted into the slow lane while Mega Corporation's blows by in the express. Each is entitled to use the same path at the same speed.
Federal legislation is needed to ensure internet providers, primarily phone and cable companies, don't undermine that equality. There is a danger that internet providers will charge extra for faster transmission of websites or services, leaving those unwilling or unable to pay to lag behind. There also is a danger that providers might block sites or services because of content.
Internet providers say they would never do such things. They say that even if one company did, competition would ensure "net neutrality," as the wonkish call it.
These assurances are nowhere near enough of a firewall against net discrimination. Competition isn't robust enough in many places to guarantee protection. And providers already have tried to treat some net users differently.
Last year an Associated Press investigation confirmed that Comcast was hindering file sharing by some subscribers. Also last year Verizon blocked text messages sent by an abortion rights group until a public outcry forced the telecom to reverse position. And three years ago the Federal Communications Commission fined a rural telephone company for blocking its DSL customers from making phone calls over the internet.
Equal access is vital. It has been a key ingredient in the web's fostering of creativity and technological and economic growth.
Unfortunately, the FCC has failed to aggressively counter threats to network neutrality. A strong federal law is essential to make it clear to both internet providers and regulators that internet democracy cannot be restricted.
Bills now in Congress take two general approaches. One would require the FCC to strictly enforce neutrality. The other would allow government antitrust suits against providers that fail to treat all users equally. But combining the two strategies would provide by far the most effective protection.
Internet neutrality is one of those rare issues that has united unusually diverse groups, from the Gun Owners of America to the Christian Coalition. And for good reason. Congress should adopt a comprehensive net neutrality law this year.

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