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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Obama's Poll Numbers Bump Up As Democrats Consolidate

In the first sign that voters are coalescing around Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee, two daily tracking polls notice a widening of the gap over his Republican rival John McCain. Both Gallup and Rasmussen now have Obama holding a gap of 6% over McCain. The numbers in parentheses show the point change from last week:

Obama 48% (+3)
McCain 42% (-4)
Margin of error: 2%

Obama 50% (+4)
McCain 44% (-2)
Margin of error: 4%

Chris Bowers notices that the gap grew significantly after Hillary's concession speech on Saturday, which suggests that the spread has only just begun:

Obama appears to be rising even faster following Hillary Clinton's concession speech on Saturday than he rose from Wednesday through Friday. Since Clinton's speech, despite only a two-day sample, Obama has gained 5% relative to McCain in Gallup, and 3% relative to McCain in Rasmussen. Cumulatively, that is more than half of Obama's gain, despite only having a two-day sample (the tracking polls measure three days, according to both websites).

Rasmussen also notices that Obama is not doing poorly among women voters, as is commonly presumed in most coverage:

Pollster Scott Rasmussen says that as of today, based on 3,000 automated telephone surveys over the past three nights, Obama gets support from 52% of the women in his national tracking poll compared with 40% for presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. He says that's better than Democrat John Kerry did with women against President Bush in 2004.

Scott attributes Obama's performance to unification within the Democratic Party over the past few days. "Before last Tuesday, Obama routinely earned around 70% of vote from Democrats," he tells us in an e-mail. "He's up to 81% today. Clearly the party has been coming together."

All of this, of course, should be taken with a grain of salt. A bump is one thing, but it remains to be seen is Obama will sustain this lead over McCain.

Original here

Fox News anchor calls the Obamas’ fist pound ‘a terrorist fist jab.’»

Last week, when Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) secured enough delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination, he and his wife Michelle exchanged a fist pound greeting before he gave his speech. Teasing an upcoming “body language expert” segment on Friday, Fox News host E.D. Hill referred to the exchange as a possible “terrorist fist jab“:

HILL: A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently. We’ll show you some interesting body communication and find out what it really says.

Watch it:

As Media Matters notes, at no point during the ensuing segment did Hill explain her earlier reference to “a terrorist fist jab.”

Original here

Barack Obama's Record on Women's Issues


Obama Passed Law to Help Combat Violence Against Women
Obama co-sponsored a bill that would authorize increased appropriations for FY2006-FY2010 for grants to combat violent crimes against women, revise provisions specifying purposes for grants to include use for under served populations and for forensic medical exams of sex offense victims, increase set aside amounts for grants to Indian tribal governments and U.S. territories and possessions, prohibit law enforcement officers, prosecutors, or other government officials from requiring sex offense victims to submit to a polygraph examination as a condition for proceeding with an investigation or prosecution of a sex offense. The bill would establish a sexual assault services program, directing the Attorney General to make grants to states, territories, and tribal entities for rape crisis centers or other programs and projects to assist those victimized by sexual assault, culturally specific community-based organizations for various services on behalf of sexual assault victims, and state, territorial, and tribal sexual assault coalitions. The bill would also award grants to accredited schools of medicine to develop interdisciplinary training and education programs that provide health professions students with an understanding of, and clinical skills pertinent to, domestic violence, sexual assault, and dating violence. [109th, HR 3402 (S. 1197), Passed by Unanimous Consent, 12/16/05; PL 109-162, 1/5/06]

Obama Passed A Law To Create The Victims Economic Security And Safety Act(VESSA), Which Helps Victims Of Abuse Seek Treatment Without Losing Their Job.
Obama was the chief sponsor and voted to created the Victims' Economic Security and Safety Act. The bill provided that an employee who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence, or who has a family or household member who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence, may take leave from work to address domestic or sexual violence by seeking medical attention or obtaining health or legal services. The Chicago Tribune reported, "But VESSA, as it is known, allows time off for personal issues not covered by the FMLA and is designed to help victims keep their jobs." Obama said he sponsored the bill after being approached by several advocacy group for battered women. "They came to me and indicated how difficult it is for victims of physical and sexual abuse to deal with the repercussions of an assault and then try to balance it with work and everything else." [93rd GA; HB 3486; 3R P 58-0-0, 5/20/03; Signed into law 8/25/03, PA 93-0591; Chicago Tribune, 8/20/03; University Wire, 8/22/03]

Obama Passed Law To Increase Penalties For Repeat Domestic Offenders.
Obama was the chief co-sponsor and voted for House bill providing that domestic battery or a violation of an order of protection is a Class 4 felony if the defendant had a prior conviction for certain enumerated offenses, including first degree murder, aggravated domestic battery, and criminal sexual assault. A person commits stalking if he or she has been previously convicted of stalking another person and knowingly (on one occasion) follows that same person or commits certain threatening acts against that person or that person's family. [92nd GA; HB 4081; 2002; Signed into law 8/22/02, PA 92-0827]

Obama Passed Law To Increase Penalties For Committing Battery In Or Near A Domestic Violence Shelter
. Obama was the chief co-sponsor of and voted for bill providing that a person commits aggravated battery if he or she (or the person battered) is in a domestic violence shelter, or if the person battered is within 500 feet going to or from the shelter. [92nd GA, SB 0175, 3/29/01, 3R P; 55-0-0; P.A. 92-0516, 1/1/02; 91st GA, SB 1406, Session Sine Die, 1/9/01]

Obama Passed Law Improving "No Contact" Court Procedures in Domestic Abuse Petitions.
Obama helped amend the Civil No Contact Order Act, including simplifying the forms for filing a petition. The law allows for the court to appoint counsel to represent the petitioner if the respondent is represented by counsel and changes what a civil no contact order may contain. [93rd, HB4395, 3R: 57-0-0, 5/5/04; PA 93-0811, 7/26/04]

Obama Passed Law Requiring Clear Language be Included in Emergency Orders of Protection.
Obama co-sponsored and helped pass a law that requires the government be specific about the restrictions placed on the recipient of an emergency order of protection. This legislation prevents perpetrators of domestic violence from claiming ignorance of the law. [93rd GA, SB2495, 3R: 57-0-0, 3/25/04; Concurrence: 53-0-0, 5/26/04 PA 93-0944, 8/17/04]

Obama Passed Law Raising Standards Related to Domestic Violence. Obama sponsored a bill and voted to amend the Nursing Home Care Act and the Hospital Licensing Act to require licensees under those Acts to comply with standards relating to domestic violence established by the Joint Committee on Accreditation or other accrediting organizations approved by the Department of Public Health. [91st GA, SB0850, 1999, PA 91-0163, 99-07-16]


Obama Passed The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Database Act of 2005.
Obama co-sponsored a bill that would require the Attorney General to make publicly available in a registry via the Internet, from information contained in the National Sex Offender Registry or in state sex offender websites, specified information about sexually violent predators and persons convicted of a sexually violent offense or a criminal offense against a minor, who are required to register with a minimally sufficient state sexual offender registration program; and allow registry users to identify offenders who are currently residing within a specified radius of a given location. Requires registry information to include the offender's name, address, date of birth, physical description, and photograph, the nature and date of commission of the offense, and the date on which the offender is released from prison or placed on parole, supervised release, or probation. Linda Walker, Dru Sjodin's mother, said that Dru's Law "is a step in the right direction, but more work needs to be done to protect women and children. 'I think it has to stay in the forefront of our nation's agenda.' she said." [109th, S. 792, Passed by Unanimous Consent, 7/28/05; Referred to House Subcommittee, 9/19/05; Aberdeen American News, 10/6/06]

Obama Passed A Bill To Protect Children From Known Sex Offenders.
Obama co-sponsored a bill to improve the national program to register and monitor individuals who commit crimes against children or sex offenses. The bill would require the Attorney General to maintain a National Sex Offender Registry at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as a National Sex Offender Public Registry. The bill would also require adults or juveniles who are convicted as adults of sexually violent offenses, certain offenses against minors, or other specified crimes (covered individuals) to provide specified information to designated persons in their domicile, work, or school states for the rest of their lives (with specified exceptions). The bill would require such an individual, initially and thereafter as specified, to register with and appear before such designated persons to provide identification, home, work, school, and vehicle information and to have a photograph and fingerprints taken. [109th, S. 1086, Passed by Unanimous Consent, 5/4/06; Held at desk, 5/8/06]

Obama Passed Law Expanding Rights Of Alleged Victims of Sexual Assault.
Obama sponsored a bill and voted to amend the Criminal Code of 1961 to eliminate the 48 hour time requirement after the collection of the sample in which an alleged sexual assault survivor must return to the hospital performing the sample analysis of all controlled substances and alcohol ingested by the alleged victim a signed written authorization in order to have the sample analysis performed. [93rd, HB4771, 2004, Third Reading: 5/19/2004, PA 93-0958 8/20/2004]

Obama Passed A Law To Make Administering A Date Rape Drug Aggravated Battery As Well As An Aggravating Offense To Criminal Sexual Assault.
Obama sponsored a bill and voted to amend the Criminal Code of 1961 to provide that administering a controlled substance to a person without his or her consent for nonmedical purposes constitutes aggravated battery. The bill provided that delivering a controlled substance to a victim without his or her consent as part of the same course of conduct as the commission of criminal sexual assault or criminal sexual abuse is an aggravating circumstance that enhances these offenses to aggravated criminal sexual assault or aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Further amends the Criminal Code of 1961. [90th GA, SB 1224, 3R P 54-0-0, 3/24/98; HA 1 Concur P 55-0-1, 5/20/98; PA 90-0735, 8/11/98]

Obama Passed A Law to Expand the Definitions of "Sex Offender" and "Sex Offense" and Mandate Offender Disclosure.
Obama sponsored a bill and voted to amend the Sex Offender Registration Act to include in the definition of "sex offender" a person who is convicted or adjudicated for a sex offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The bill included in the definition of a "sex offense", a 3rd or subsequent conviction for public indecency or a conviction for custodial sexual misconduct or permitting sexual abuse of a child if these offenses are committed on or after the effective date of this amendatory Act. The bill provided that the sheriff shall disclose sex offender information to the boards of institutions of higher education or other appropriate administrative offices of each non-public institution of higher education located in the county where the sex offender is required to register, resides, or is attending an institution of higher education. [92nd GA, HB 5874, 3R P 55-0-0, 5/7/02; Adopt CC Report P 54-0-1, 5/31/03; PA 92- 0828, 8/22/02]

Obama Passed Law to Require EMS For Sexual Assault Survivors To Include Coverage For Emergency Contraception.
Obama was the chief co-sponsor and voted for adding, as an additional criterion for IDPH approval for a hospital's plan for emergency services for sexual assault survivors, that the plan must provide sufficient protections from the risk of pregnancy by the sexual assault survivor. Bill requires that hospitals providing such services develop and implement protocol that ensures that each sexual assault survivor receives medically and factually accurate information about emergency contraception. [92nd GA; SB 0114; 2001; Signed into law 7/25/01, PA 92-0156]

Obama Passed a Bill Eliminating Good Behavior Time For Sex Offenders.
Obama sponsored and passed a bill to amend the County Jail Good Behavior Allowance Act by stipulating that any convict may not receive time off for good behavior if he has been incarcerated for sexual assault or aggravated sexual abuse. [91st GA, SB 0485, 3/11/99, 3R P; 54-1-2; P.A. 91-0117, 7/15/99; Senate Floor Transcript, 3/11/99, p. 74]

Obama Passed Law to Extend Statute Of Limitations On Certain Sexual Offenses.
Obama was the chief co-sponsor and voted for bill extending the statute of limitations for several criminal sexual offenses, including aggravated criminal sexual assault. [91st GA; HB 0329; 1999; Signed into law 8/11/99, PA 91-0475]

Obama Sponsored Illinois Senate Version Of The Bill That Would Seal Sexual Assault Victim's Records.
Obama sponsored a bill that would amend the Criminal Identification Act to provide that the victim of criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, criminal sexual abuse, or aggravated criminal sexual abuse, may request that the State's Attorney file a petition with the trial judge to have the court records of the case sealed. The bill provided that, upon order of the court for good cause shown, the records may be made available for public inspection. [91st GA, SB 943, 1999, 3R P 58-0-0, 3/23/99, Total Veto Stands, 11/18/99]

SB 943 Was Amended To Include The Exact Bill Language Of HB 854 Before Obama Signed On As A Sponsor.
Obama was the chief co-sponsor of and voted for SB 943, which would amend the Criminal Identification Act to provide that the victim of criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, criminal sexual abuse, or aggravated criminal sexual abuse, may request that the State's Attorney file a petition with the trial judge to have the court records of the case sealed. The bill provided that, upon order of the court for good cause shown, the records may be made available for public inspection. Obama signed onto the bill after the original language was amended to include the same language of HB 854. [91st GA, SB 943, 1999, 3R P 58-0-0, 3/23/99, Total Veto Stands, 11/18/99]


Obama Passed Equal Pay Act In Illinois To Give 330,000 More Women Protection From Pay Discrimination.
Obama co-sponsored and voted for the Equal Pay Act which provided that no employer may discriminate between employees on the basis of sex by paying ages solely on the basis of the employee's gender. According to the AP, the "Illinois Equal Pay Act expands the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 to give about 330,000 more women in the state protection from gender-based discrimination in pay" by applying the law to companies that employee 4 or more people, rather than the federal standard of fifteen. Obama attended the bill signing on Mother's Day of 2003. [93rd GA; SB 0002; 2003; Signed into law, 5/11/03, PA 93-0006; AP, 5/11/03; Chicago Tribune, 5/8/03; Chicago Tribune, 5/12/03]

Obama Passed A Law To Create The Victims Economic Security And Safety Act(VESSA), Which Would Help Victims Of Abuse Seek Treatment Without Losing Their Job.
Obama was the chief sponsor and voted to created the Victims' Economic Security and Safety Act. The bill provided that an employee who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence, or who has a family or household member who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence whose interests are not adverse to the employee, may take leave from work to address domestic or sexual violence by: seeking medical attention for, or recovering from, physical or psychological injuries caused by domestic or sexual violence to the employee or the employee's family or household member; obtaining services from a victim services organization for the employee or the employee's family or household member; obtaining psychological or other counseling for the employee or the employee's family or household member; participating in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocating, or taking other actions to increase the safety of the employee or the employee's family or household member from future domestic or sexual violence or ensure economic security; or seeking legal assistance or remedies to ensure the health and safety of the employee or the employee's family or household member, including preparing for or participating in any civil or criminal legal proceeding related to or derived from domestic or sexual violence. The Chicago Tribune reported, "But VESSA, as it is known, allows time off for personal issues not covered by the FMLA and is designed to help victims keep their jobs." Obama said he sponsored the bill after being approached by several advocacy group for battered women. "They came to me and indicated how difficult it is for victims of physical and sexual abuse to deal with the repercussions of an assault and then try to balance it with work and everything else." [93rd GA; HB 3486; 3R P 58-0-0, 5/20/03; Signed into law 8/25/03, PA 93-0591; Chicago Tribune, 8/20/03; University Wire, 8/22/03]

Obama Passed Into Law a Requirement that Women And Minority Scientists/Engineers Be Represented And Consulted on Specific Technology and Science Efforts.
In 2007, Obama sponsored an amendment, which became law, to the America Competes Act requiring that minorities and females be represented and consulted during the development of innovation/competitiveness strategies at the National Science and Technology Summit (NSTS), on the President's Council on Innovation and Competitiveness, and elsewhere. [S.Amdts. 923, Agreed to by unanimous consent, 4/25/07; S. 761, Incorporated into H.R. 2272, which became P.L. 110-289, 8/9/07]

Obama Passed Into Law An Amendment Creating A Mentoring Program For Women And Underrepresented Groups At DOE.
In 2007, Obama sponsored an amendment, which became law, to the America Competes Act that established a mentoring program to support women and underrepresented groups as they progress through education programs proposed by the Department of Energy. The amendment was included in the final version of the bill that passed Congress and was signed into law. [S.Amdts. 905, Agreed to by unanimous consent, 4/25/07, S. 761, Incorporated into H.R. 2272, which became P.L. 110-289, 8/9/07]

Original here

Fox News Sunday: Damning John McCain With Faint Praise

Maybe I’m reading too much between the lines, but I do not believe that the official GOP Propaganda Office …er, FOXNews feels at all confident about Republican presumptive nominee John McCain’s chances this November. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them be as upfront not only about his personal weaknesses, but also that the general sense is the country overall is not in good shape. I have to believe that there will be calls to Roger Ailes’ office coming from the White House over this surprisingly bleak assessment of the state of the country and upcoming election.

Chris Wallace starts the discussion by saying that the economy is in bad shape and McCain offers nothing to ameliorate voters’ fears. Brit Hume attempts to temper that like the good little GOP flunkie that he is by suggesting that the high gas prices could benefit McCain, but Juan Williams openly scoffs at him. Even hyper-partisan Bill Kristol suggests that McCain is going to have a tough time attracting voters unless he frames himself outside of economic issues.

Transcripts below the fold

CW: Let’s talk about the economy, because the news on Friday was certainly striking, Brit. I mean, you had this $10 spike in the price of a barrel of crude oil, you had the unemployment rate, there were some statistical issues, but it was up by a half a point, the highest in 2 decades. Stock market, 400 points down. If - and I repeat, if — not necessarily that set of perfect trifecta, bad economic news continues, does a McCain stand a chance?

BH: He stands a chance, because he is not the incumbent. But the candidate of the incumbent party is always affected badly by bad conditions in the country. And the economy is not likely to be perceived as particularly good. On the other hand, whatever happened to the recession? I thought we were in a recession; you don’t hear that. It hasn’t happened. It’s kind of a miracle it hasn’t, given all the forces that were weighed against the economy, which continues to kind of poke along at a very slow pace. But remarkable, nonetheless. I would say that if this bad economic news continues, it obviously helps Obama. McCain will need to outline a program that makes it appear he will do something major about it. You would think that gasoline prices could help McCain; it’s helping members of the Republican Party in the Congress where the Democrats are not for doing anything to increase our supply. Except for nuclear power, McCain really isn’t either.

CW: I was going to say, he’s on the Democratic page on this.

BH: I don’t think that’s an issue that works too well for him, although it may work for people down ballot.

JW: You say gas should help McCain?

BH: Gas…I’m saying that the issue of gasoline prices could help McCain because the public polls have changed on this, Juan. People are for exploring for more oil, they’re for more nuclear power, they’re for exploring for oil off the coast. The Democrats are all against this and Obama is too.

JW: Are you kidding me? With two oil men in the White House right now and oil prices going up right now under Republican policies, that’s going to help McCain?

BH: John McCain is not one of those people who is in the White House, Juan.

ML: You know, it’s hard to see how a bad economy helps McCain in any way, shape or form. But, uh, he also hasn’t come up with even just the raw material he needs to make to get into the debate. He needs to have a real plan, a better plan than he does, I think it also matters who he picks as the Vice President. If they’re seen as competent in those areas where McCain has said very honestly that are not his main strengths. I mean, he’s a national security/foreign policy um, guy.

CW: And that raises a really interesting question, Bill, because the fact is McCain has had this time-I mean, he has had four months since he locked up the nomination - and for all the talk about the sickly green backdrop at the speech and the fact that he didn’t read a teleprompter very well, I think the thing that surprised me the most is that he didn’t have a bold initiative on the economy or on energy to sit there and say, you know, beyond just making fun of the “change” line, to say, ‘I represent change and I got some specific, new ideas.’

BK: Well, there’s more he can do, but he’s locked himself in to certain positions which limit his flexibility. For example, he can’t become a huge advocate for drilling, which I agree with Brit, would actually be popular. On taxes, he’s already proposed corporate tax cuts and therefore, his ability to do something bolder with big tax reform is somewhat limited. I think, probably McCain is McCain. You know, if this is a Commander in Chief election, I think he has a good shot of winning. If it’s an Orator in Chief election, he’s going to lose. Or to put it slightly differently, the verdict on is the country in good shape, he’s going to lose. If he can make it a choice election going forward, at a time of war, I think he has a pretty good chance to win. People could decide they got a Democratic Congress, they’re not going to have conservative policies for the next two to four years, much as I would like them, no matter who’s President, isn’t it safer to have McCain as Commander in Chief?

JW: I tell you, you listen to this conversation and you think how can Barack Obama lose? And yet, when you look at the electoral map, the electoral map is pretty much what the electoral map’s always been and it looks like it favors the Republicans and at least forgives the sins of the past eight years.

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McCain: America Established as a Christian Nation

Feminists, the choice is obvious

The policy differences between John McCain and Barack Obama are stark compared with the differences between Obama and Hillary Clinton. The policy differences between John McCain and Barack Obama are stark compared with the differences between Obama and Hillary Clinton. (Dennis Cook/Associated Press/File 2007)

DEAR FELLOW feminists,

more stories like this

Yes, I qualify. Like some of you, I grew up in an era where a woman president was an impossibility, where there were no women doctors, few women in positions of power, no women professors. I went to a coeducational college, where, although women got higher grades than men, we never directed plays, edited the newspaper, or were allowed to lead an organization. We washed dishes regularly in our dorms, while our fellow male students had maids clean their rooms for them. We had male professors who openly derided the idea of women scientists. We graduated and became secretaries; the men graduated and became reporters for The New York Times. I raised my son when there was no child care, was raped before there were rape crisis centers or anyone to talk to.

I get it.

I marched for women's rights, helped found the first feminist group in Cambridge, and like some of you, danced for joy when Geraldine Ferraro was nominated for vice president.

But I also grew up in an era when an African-American president was an impossibility, when African-Americans in the South were shot for having the temerity to vote. I worked for civil rights, registered black voters. Later, I witnessed busing in Boston, where angry white mobs stoned school buses filled with terrified black children, where people of color were never in power.

I get it.

I support Barack Obama for president. It's OK that you have supported Hillary Clinton. I get it, I really do. What I don't get, can't get, is seeing some of you riled up Clinton supporters threatening to vote for McCain.

Let me get this straight; you consider yourself a Democrat and a feminist. Yet rather than vote for a man who supports a woman's right to choose, children's healthcare, and an end to the war in Iraq, you would vote for a man who voted against all of these things.

You would vote for a man who is promising to nominate far-right activists for the Supreme Court, a man who votes consistently against choice, affirmative action, and workers' rights.

You would vote for a man who supports President Bush on most major issues vs. a man whose positions are quite similar to Clinton's.

I just don't get it.

Obama followed the rules, took his name off the ballot in Michigan, and didn't campaign in Florida or the Great Lakes State when his party told him not to. Meanwhile Clinton, who said at the time that those votes "shouldn't count" ended up yelling that they should.

Obama has generally taken the high road; he has criticized some of Clinton's policies, but never sunk to the level of personal attack as her campaign has done, playing on race and questioning his patriotism. He never mentioned that the Clintons consulted the Rev. Jeremiah Wright over their marital problems, at a time when she was attacking him for his association with Wright. He started out with less money, less support from party insiders, less name recognition, and he won. Yet you are so angry at him, you would rather vote for a man who would deny health insurance to your children? A man who would send your children to die in an endless war?

OK, you would dance in the streets to have a woman president. I would dance in the streets to have a woman or an African-American president. Both of these would show us something dramatically changed about America. Most of all, I want a president with integrity, and to me, Barack Obama is that candidate.

OK, you're deeply aggrieved that your candidate, who you think is entitled to the nomination, seems to have lost to someone who played fair and won.

I say, get over it. Sometimes your candidate loses. (My candidates almost always lose). Then, you vote for the next best candidate. You don't pout and whine and vote for somebody you really don't believe in. You don't stamp your feet and refuse to vote.

In short, you grow up.

Susan Jhirad is a professor of English at North Shore Community College.

When Ross Perot Calls…

The former presidential candidate blasts John McCain, and gets an education about Barack Obama's religion.

The phone rang and it was Ross Perot, who hasn't given an interview in years. Perot, who won 19 percent of the vote in the 1992 presidential election, making him one of the strongest third-party candidates in American history, got straight to the point.

"Remember what you wrote about John McCain in the March 13, 2000, NEWSWEEK?"

"Sure," I lied.

"When McCain called Perot 'nuttier than a fruitcake'?"

The Texas billionaire, now 77, still has some scores to settle from the Vietnam era, and his timing is exquisite. Just days before the South Carolina GOP primary, he wants me to know that McCain "is the classic opportunist--he's always reaching for attention and glory. Other POWs won't even sit at the same table with him."

Mark Salter, McCain's longtime top aide, says the Arizona senator has plenty of veteran support and many close friendships among other former POWs.

The Perot-McCain relationship goes back to McCain's five and a half years of captivity in Hanoi. When McCain's then-wife Carol was in a serious car accident, McCain's mother called Perot for help. "She asked me to send my people to Philadelphia to take care of the family," Perot says. Afterwards, McCain was grateful. "We loved him [Perot] for it," McCain told me in 2000.

Perot doesn't remember it that way. "After he came home, he walked with a limp, she [Carol McCain] walked with a limp. So he threw her over for a poster girl with big money from Arizona [Cindy McCain, his current wife] and the rest is history."

Perot's real problem with McCain is that he believes the senator hushed up evidence that live POWs were left behind in Vietnam and even transferred to the Soviet Union for human experimentation, a charge Perot says he heard from a senior Vietnamese official in the 1980s. "There's evidence, evidence, evidence," Perot claims. "McCain was adamant about shutting down anything to do with recovering POWs."

Not surprisingly, McCain sees it differently. He has told me several times over the years that the myth of live POWs was a cruel hoax on the families. He chaired hearings into the issue in the 1990s and found nothing. "The committee did an exhaustive job and pored over thousands of records and every claim of a sighting, no matter how outlandish," says Salter. "It was all untrue."

Perot says he intends to vote for Mitt Romney in the Texas Republican primary on March 4, citing Romney's experience in business and his family values. "When I went to the Naval Academy and met my first Mormons I asked why so many were excellent officers," Perot recalls. "I learned it was because of their strong family unit."

When I asked about Barack Obama, Perot said he admired his eloquence but thought it "a little odd that we would be less concerned about his background than being a Mormon." Perot was pleasantly surprised when I told him that Obama was a Christian, not a Muslim, and relieved when I informed him that the e-mail Perot (and untold others) received about Obama not respecting the Pledge of Allegiance was a fraud.

Perot isn't a Hillary hater, but he's not a fan either, relating the bumper sticker he received that reads: "Monica Lewinsky's Ex-Boyfriend's Wife for President."

The founder of a data-processing empire is still sharp in diagnosing what ails the United States. "The situation in 1992 was not nearly as bad as it is now," he says. "If ever there was a time when it was necessary to put our house in order, it's now.

"It's like having cancer and being in denial. The conduct of the House and Senate is an embarrassment to the nation." President Bush, Perot says, is a "decent person, but you can't say the same thing about the people around him."

Perot is appalled at the specter of big banks having to borrow from foreigners to stay afloat: "We have to go around the world with a tambourine and a tin cup."

He attributes the success of China to the fact that even uneducated Chinese must learn 3,000 characters early in life, compared to the 26 letters in the English alphabet. "Their hand-eye productivity is incredible because of drawing the symbols," Perot says, noting that most of today's Ph.D.s in engineering are from China and India, and only a small percentage from the United States.

Perot offers no easy solutions, instead emphasizing "a strong moral and ethical base, strong homes and the finest schools." He says he's disappointed that big textbook companies successfully lobbied in the Texas state legislature to reverse his landmark school reforms.

The pint-size Texan with the funny voice and the big ears isn't planning to run for president again, but says he will launch a Web site next month with plenty of the charts and graphs he made famous when explaining the deficit in 1992.

Before hanging up, Perot asked me to read the books he recommended on live POWs. I promised him I would.

© 2008

Original here

McClellan To Testify Before Judiciary Committee

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, whose scathing memoir about his time in the Bush administration sent waves through Washington D.C., has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, a senior committee official told The Huffington Post.

[Update: Watch McClellan discuss his upcoming testimony on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Video below.]

McClellan's book "What Happened" detailed the "propaganda campaign" that led up to the Iraq war. His hearing is expected to focus heavily on the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, an episode that McClellan has said was driven by political motivations from within the Oval Office. But the committee could press the former press secretary on other matters within its jurisdiction, including the possible authorization of torture by administration officials (though it remains to be seen how much knowledge McClellan has of that topic).

Earlier on Monday, Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers sent an letter to McClellan requesting his testimony.

"I have extended an invitation...after discussions between Committee staff and his attorneys," wrote Conyers. "In his book, Mr. McClellan suggests that senior White House officials may have obstructed justice and engaged in a cover-up regarding the Valerie Plame leak. This alleged activity could well extend beyond the scope of the offenses for which Scooter Libby has been convicted and deserves further attention."

The date on the invitation, June 20, was set in advance to accommodate McClellan's schedule, the official said.

McClellan will be the highest-ranking Bush administration official to be pressed by Congress on the Plame affair. Former Bush strategist Karl Rove has refused to testify, citing executive privilege.

And as such, the testimony could be extremely revealing. According to McClellan, the decision to leak Plame's covert identity emanated from the very top of the Bush White House. The move, he wrote, was politically motivated, as officials were peeved at the critical statements about Iraq coming from Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson. While McClellan said that the president was ultimately misled by his advisers on the matter, he asserted that the episode itself was a stain on the Oval Office - one that led to his disillusionment.

"It's...clear to me that Scooter Libby was guilty of the perjury and obstruction crimes for which he was convicted," McClellan wrote. "When the president commuted Libby's prison sentence and thereby protected him from serving even one day behind bars, I was disappointed. This kind of special treatment undermines our system of justice."

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Fox Anchor Calls Obama Fist Pound A "Terrorist Fist Jab"

Update: MediaMatters has issued a call to action around this incident.

ACTION: The Obamas' affectionate "fist bump" is no "terrorist fist jab"

On the June 6 edition of Fox News' America's Pulse, host E.D. Hill teased an upcoming discussion on a gesture Sen. Barack Obama shared with his wife, Michelle, saying, "A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently."

A "terrorist fist jab"? Seriously?

Tell Fox News this is appalling and unacceptable, and demand an apology from E.D. Hill.

Sign the Petition.

Call Fox News.

Tell Your Friends.

Original Post: MediaMatters reports that Fox News' E.D. Hill referred to the Barack-Michelle Obama fist pound as a "terrorist fist jab" during Friday's edition of "America's Pulse."

During the June 6 edition of Fox News' America's Pulse, host E.D. Hill teased an upcoming discussion by saying, "A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently." In the ensuing discussion with Janine Driver -- whom Hill introduced as "a body language expert" -- Hill referred to the "Michelle and Barack Obama fist bump or fist pound," adding that "people call it all sorts of things." Hill went on to ask Driver: "Let's start with the Barack and Michelle Obama, because that's what most people are writing about -- the fist thump. Is that sort of a signal that young people get?" At no point during the discussion did Hill explain her earlier reference to "a terrorist fist jab."

From the June 6 edition of Fox News' America's Pulse:

HILL: A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently. We'll show you some interesting body communication and find out what it really says.

CNN notes that the fist-pound is catching on. Witness Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kay Bailey Hutchison share a fist-pound here during CNN's Late Edition.

Related: Obama Fist-Bump Rocks The Nation! [ETP]

Original here

Mistake by Interior Department may cost taxpayers billions in lost royalty payments

Bashing oil companies is a popular water cooler sport these days. At the risk of piling on, I just had to share my anger about some information that I learned on Thursday while listening to NPR’s Marketplace program.

The General Accountability Office released a report on June 5, 2008 that computed that the US Treasury may have to forgo oil royalty payments in excess of $53 Billion over the next 25 years because of an error made by the Interior Department. This forgone money is not uncollected taxes, it is the government’s (taxpayers’s) share of the revenue produced by selling oil that originated from reservoirs under publicly owned sea beds.

Here is what happened. Congress, recognizing that drilling in deep water is difficult and costly, passed a law in 1995 giving the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service authority to provide “royalty relief” for off shore leases. For those who do not keep long term oil prices readily at hand, the price of a barrel of oil in 1995 was between $12 and $18. For the leases issued under this authority in 1996, 1997, and 2000, the MMS included a trigger price where royalty payments would begin if market prices reached certain levels.

For some reason that is not well explained, the MMS failed to include any trigger price limit for the leases issued in 1998 and 1999. The production from areas leased during those two years may be royalty free for the entire length of the lease, no matter how high oil prices get. (In 1998, oil prices dipped below $10 per barrel in the late fall.)

The GAO report provides a number of scenarios that show how the lost revenues to the government will vary depending on actual production and prices and there is quite a range in the estimates from a low of a few billion to a high (assuming oil prices of $100 per barrel) of about $53 Billion. Of course, we all know that $100 per barrel might be a low ball estimate for future prices since we have already seen prices in excess of $130 per barrel.

Of course the oil companies are fighting any ex post facto imposition of royalty payments for 1998 and 1999 probably with good justification. However, what really gets me fired up is that Kerr-McGee has challenged the Interior Department’s authority to impose the trigger price for any of the years in question. I also felt like yelling at the radio when I heard that an oil industry spokesman defended the royalty free production as important for encouraging companies to drill domestic wells for improved energy security.

According to ExxonMobil’s summary annual report for 2007 (available in the investor information section of the company’s web site) it has spent $118 Billion during the years 2003-2007 simply purchasing its own stock. Its capital investment program for new drilling, tankers, pipelines, etc. was less than $90 billion during the same period. The company leadership has a right and a responsibility for making prudent capital allocation decisions, but please do not try to tell me that even a majority of the money saved by not paying royalties is plowed back into providing more energy resources for consumers.

ExxonMobil is not alone in its use of capital for stock buybacks instead of new drilling programs - see, for example Chevron Announces Stock Buyback Program

Though I am generally not a huge fan of government investment programs, it seems to me that even the Department of Energy could figure out ways to invest several billion dollars in new energy supply technology instead of using it to buy financial instruments like company stock.

Oops - I just realized that I might be confusing some people by advocating that the government could do a better job when I started the article with a description of a “mistake” (or was it - see Interior Staff Had Inappropriate Relationships with Oil Industry) by government employees that led to the loss of revenue in the first place. I guess I a just a hopeless romantic that believes that there could be such a thing as “good government” if we return to the concept of “public servants” who really do focus on developing career expertise and a service mindset. For you young people - such a thing used to be possible!

Original here

Activists seek to counter military recruiters on L.A. campuses

Troubled by military recruiting at Los Angeles high schools, activists are seeking equal access to students on campus to provide what they say is unvarnished information about the armed forces and information about nonmilitary careers.

The Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools, a Southern California group of educators, volunteers and veterans dedicated to promoting nonviolent alternatives to military service, is taking the proposal to the Los Angeles Board of Education, saying it is vital that students have the truth about military enlistment. That "truth," however, is subjective: Some view the group's literature as controversial itself.
Recruiters "are marketers. They have a quota, and it's their job to get students to sign up. So just like a car salesman, they're going to say everything they can to get students to sign up," said Arlene Inouye, coordinator of the nonprofit South Pasadena-based group funded by grants and donations.

"The most important thing we want to tell students is that the military enlistment decision is probably one of the -- if not the -- most important decision in their life. It's a really serious matter. They need to hear about some of the realities of what veterans have experienced and what the military enlistment contract actually says."

Some military officials questioned the peace group's motives.

" . . . we are not confident that these groups' intentions are to provide students with opportunities, but rather to spend a great deal of time and effort to provide disinformation that advances their organizations' agenda with little regard to the individual student," said Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a Pentagon spokesman, in an e-mail.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law in 2002, requires schools to provide military recruiters with the same access to high schools as colleges and employers, and compels schools to turn over students' names, addresses and phone numbers unless parents opt out.

The U.S. Department of Defense spends $3.5 billion annually on recruitment and enlisted more than 181,000 people for active-duty forces in the 2007 fiscal year and more than 138,000 for the reserves. The Southland is fertile ground: Los Angeles County ranked third in the nation in raw numbers of Army recruits in 2007.

Military recruiters' access varies among schools, with some administrators allowing them to wander the halls chatting with students, work out with the football team, and bring Hummers and sports cars on campus.

Under a pilot proposal, which United Teachers Los Angeles endorsed in April, peace group volunteers would visit 10 to 15 high schools per week and set up a table where they would offer information about enlistment, career alternatives and opting not to have their personal information shared with the military.

In May, Los Angeles Unified School District administrators said they could not unilaterally order high schools to give the group access. Instead, Inouye was urged to meet with principals, assistant principals and guidance counselors.

Inouye will present the proposal to the school board's curriculum and instruction committee Thursday; it could come before the full board in July.

Legal precedent more than two decades old allows counter-recruiters equal access to schools, but in practice, rules vary widely. Some schools have opened their doors to counter-recruiters for years, while others refuse to allow them on campus. But as concerns about recruitment in a time of war have grown, schools in Oxnard, Minneapolis and Pinellas County, Fla., decided this school year to provide equal access to organizations such as Coalition Against Militarism in Schools, Veterans for Peace and others.

In Austin, Texas, Nonmilitary Options for Youth has worked for more than a decade to reach out to student organizations and guidance counselors. Two years ago, the organization, along with student activists, persuaded district officials to restrict recruiters' movements on campuses so they could no longer roam the halls talking to students and to clarify counter-recruiters' access to campus, said Susan Van Haitsma, a leader of the group.

Currently, the group sets up a table at most of the district's dozen high schools about once a semester, distributing "Addicted to War" comic books, holding a poll in which students vote on how the government ought to spend its budget, and bringing in veterans to talk to students about their military experiences. The group is limited by its small budget and the free time of its volunteers, but Van Haitsma said they reach about 500 students annually.

In Los Angeles, access varies greatly depending on the school, Inouye said. Some administrators will not allow such groups on campus and try to restrict them from distributing pamphlets outside school. Others, such as Garfield High School, are more open.

At a career fair at the East Los Angeles high school last month, Inouye's organization was given a table next to the Marines.

Staff Sgt. Victor Jimenez distributed T-shirts, water bottles, key chains and posters, and collected dozens of students' phone numbers. Jimenez said he typically visits the school about twice a week, meeting with interested teenagers to discuss enlistment and going running with students. He also meets with students in his office in Montebello.

"We sit down with them one on one and talk about what the Marine Corps offers for them," he said.

Recruiters for the Army and the Air Force worked other aisles of the job fair, sprinkled among scores of recruiters from UCLA, a beauty college, Toyota and others. About 1,500 students streamed through the gymnasium.

Jimenez was surprised to learn that the women at the next table were counter-recruiters.

"I don't care," he said. "They're welcome to do what they want."

But when told some of CAMS' talking points, his eyes grew wide. "Wow," he said.

The group does not mince words -- a brochure on the table aimed at young women considering joining the military features the testimony of a woman who said she was raped while serving in the Navy, and says women in the armed forces are more likely to be sexually assaulted compared with women in the general population.

The volunteers told students that they would be sacrificing their lives to enrich private companies, that the military unfairly targeted minorities and poor communities, and that they would be sent to Iraq and "get your heads blown off."

Freshman Ashley Flores, 15, said she was pleased to hear a different viewpoint on campus.

"You see lots of recruiters" at school, said Ashley, who said she was opposed to the war in Iraq and whose stepbrother is an Army soldier stationed there. "I think the military just shows the positives of what you get if you join. They just show the good things."

But junior Jessica Reynoso, 16, whose brother is also in the Army, said the counter-recruiters' table was offensive. In the poll about government spending, she bypassed the options labeled "education," "environment" and "healthcare."

"I put all my pennies in the military," she said. "My brother's risking his life for us."

Inouye asked students why they wanted to join the military, turning to freshman Adrian Cruz, who plans to enlist in the Marines upon graduation.

"I want to fight for our country," Adrian said. "I'll be, like, the hero."

Inouye told the wiry teen he would end up in Iraq "killing a lot of innocent people," or could be killed himself.

"I'm only going to kill people who shoot at me," Adrian replied.

Adrian said he was angry that Inouye, along with his parents, brother and teachers, questioned his decision about what to do with his life.

"It just made me kind of mad," he said. "I know they are right. I just put it in the back of my head. I still want to be a Marine."

Adrian went back to the Marines' table, where Jimenez, in his dress uniform, handed the 15-year-old his phone number.

Original here

Pentagon Told Guantanamo Interrogators To Trash Evidence

In this image reviewed by the U.S. Military, the sun rises over Camp Delta detention compound which has housed foreign prisoners since 2002, at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, in Cuba, Friday, June 6, 2008. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, Pool)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Pentagon urged interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to destroy handwritten notes in case they were called to testify about potentially harsh treatment of detainees, a military defense lawyer said Sunday.

The lawyer for Toronto-born Omar Khadr, Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, said the instructions were included in an operations manual shown to him by prosecutors and suggest the U.S. deliberately thwarted evidence that could help terror suspects defend themselves at trial.

Kuebler said the apparent destruction of evidence prevents him from challenging the reliability of any alleged confessions. He said he will use the document to seek a dismissal of charges against Khadr.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, said he was reviewing the matter Sunday evening.

The "standard operating procedures" manual that contained the purported instructions was made available to Kuebler last week as part of a pretrial review of potential evidence, the Navy lawyer said.

"The mission has legal and political issues that may lead to interrogators being called to testify, keeping the number of documents with interrogation information to a minimum can minimize certain legal issues," the document is quoted as saying in an affidavit signed by Kuebler.

The document could support challenges by other detainees to suppress confessions at Guantanamo, where the U.S. military says it plans to prosecute as many as 80 of roughly 270 detainees before the first U.S. war-crimes tribunals since World War II.

The case against Khadr, who was captured in Afghanistan when he was 15, is on track to be one of the first to trial. He faces war-crimes charges including murder for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. Special Forces soldier during a 2002 firefight.

Kuebler said the nature of the interrogations is particularly relevant in Khadr's case because prosecutors are relying on evidence "extracted" from him at Bagram air base in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo.

"If handwritten notes were destroyed in accordance with the SOP, the government intentionally deprived Omar's lawyers of key evidence with which to challenge the reliability of his statements," Kuebler said in an e-mail to reporters.

The operations manual, which dates to January 2003, was attached to a 2005 report on an investigation into detainee abuse allegations at Guantanamo, Kuebler said. A summary of the findings was released at the time, but the defense lawyer said the section including the manual has not been made available publicly.

The so-called Schmidt-Furlow report documented degrading treatment, including one instance of a top terror suspect forced to dance with another man and behave like a dog. But investigators stopped short of saying torture occurred.

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