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Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Candidate Runs to a G.O.P. Chorus of ‘Don’t’

By JULIE BOSMAN

Veronika Lukasova for The New York Times

Bob Barr of Georgia, the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee, has his eyes on a few key states in which he can be the spoiler.

ATLANTA — He has been called a spoiler. A would-be Ralph Nader. A thorn in the side of Senator John McCain and the Republican establishment.

None of it bothers Bob Barr, the former Republican congressman from Georgia turned Libertarian Party candidate for president, who gleefully recounted what he says a group of Republicans told him at a recent meeting in Washington: Don’t run.

“ ‘Well, gee, you might take votes from Senator McCain,’ ” Mr. Barr said this week, mimicking one of the complainers, as he sat sipping Coca-Cola in his plush corner office, 12 stories above Atlanta. “They all said, ‘Look, we understand why you’re doing this. We agree with why you’re doing it. But please don’t do it.’ ”

But with the Libertarian nomination in hand, Mr. Barr hopes to follow in the footsteps of Ross Perot and Mr. Nader, whose third-party presidential bids wreaked general-election havoc.

For one, he is hoping to hitch his wagon to the enormous grass-roots movement behind Representative Ron Paul, the libertarian-minded Republican from Texas who recently abandoned his own presidential bid.

And with presidential elections increasingly boiling down to state-by-state battles for Electoral College votes, many political analysts think a Barr candidacy, no matter how marginal, could have some impact.

On the ballots in 30 states so far, Mr. Barr has the chance to be a spoiler for Mr. McCain, the presumed Republican nominee, in several states, among them Alaska, Colorado and Georgia. Mr. Barr’s campaign advisers also assert he has similar potential in other mountain states, New Hampshire, Ohio and other swing states.

The Republican Party and the McCain campaign have swatted away the Barr candidacy, but some Republicans are taking it seriously. If the early polls hold up, and Senator Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic nominee, pours heavy resources into Georgia, that state could be up for grabs, said Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia.

“If Barr got 8 percent, and you’ve got the higher African-American turnout from Barack Obama, then you’d have a significantly close race in the state,” Mr. Isakson said.

Yet Mr. Barr faces formidable obstacles. No Libertarian candidate has ever won more than 1 percent of the vote in a presidential election, and Mr. Barr is severely lacking in money, resources and name recognition. He has yet to lease a campaign headquarters, have a fund-raiser, tape a television advertisement or hold a campaign event.

Even those sympathetic to the party’s beliefs complain that it is prone to infighting, fundamentally more committed to principle than electoral action and seemingly incapable of raising money or organizing supporters.

And some of its own members are asking how they ended up with Mr. Barr, who at the Libertarian Party convention in Denver last month squeaked by with the nomination only after six raucous rounds of votes.

“There certainly are still those,” Mr. Barr said, switching to the third person, “that may view Bob Barr as somewhat of a Johnny-come-lately.”

While libertarian philosophy generally bows to the rights of the individual — and against government intervention — Representative Barr voted for the USA Patriot Act; voted to authorize the war in Iraq in 2002; led the impeachment charge against President Bill Clinton in 1998; and introduced the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

After joining the Libertarian Party two years ago, Mr. Barr declared his intention to run for the 2008 presidential nomination only 10 days before the party’s convention in May. (Mr. Barr is also remembered for an incident in 2002, while preparing a Senate bid on a gun-rights platform, when he accidentally fired an antique .38-caliber pistol during a fund-raiser, shattering a sliding glass door.)

But Mr. Barr has largely disavowed his record in Congress as a Republican, a turnaround his campaign manager, Russell Verney, sunnily referred to as “the journey that Bob went through.”

Now, on the war in Iraq, he advocates for a speedy and complete withdrawal of troops, with no permanent bases; on same-sex marriage, he believes that states should make their own laws; and on wiretaps without warrants, he is fiercely opposed, arguing that the bill that would legalize searches without warrants violates an individual’s constitutional rights.

Mr. Barr says he is running because he is fed up with what he calls years of Republicans turning their backs on the party’s fundamental values of tight spending and limited government. He is doing it with very little money; just over $300,000 has trickled into the campaign so far.

Mr. Verney, a political consultant based in Dallas who was introduced to Mr. Barr in April, was behind Mr. Perot’s self-financed third-party runs in 1992 and 1996.

“One of the blessings of the Perot campaign,” Mr. Verney said dryly, “was that you didn’t have to worry about the money part.”

Some of the money problems might be solved if Mr. Paul’s libertarian supporters coalesce behind Mr. Barr. But Mr. Paul’s followers, many of whom were inspired by his passionate opposition to the war, might not be so quick to transfer their allegiance to a candidate who initially supported it.

Mr. Paul has pointedly declined to endorse his former Congressional colleague. Some of Mr. Paul’s former campaign staff members and other supporters have said privately that they resent Mr. Barr’s efforts to co-opt their constituency. Near the top of their list of complaints is Mr. Barr’s campaign Web site, BobBarr2008.com, which bears a strong resemblance to RonPaul2008.com, complete with bouncy graphics and a money clock at the top of the home page.

Like the Paul campaign, Mr. Barr is trying to build support on the Web. “Meetup, the Facebook, the YouTube,” said Mr. Verney, ticking off the Web sites where the campaign has established itself. “We have more Meetups than Hillary and McCain combined.”

Mr. Barr’s skeleton staff has set up temporary camp in the offices of Liberty Strategies, Mr. Barr’s public relations firm. He has a half-dozen full-time employees, but Mr. Verney said there were plans to move into a 4,600-square-foot space and expand to 28 people later this summer.

While the Barr campaign flies mostly under the radar, a Los Angeles Times-Bloomberg poll this week showed that if the presidential election were held today, Mr. Barr would garner 3 percent of the vote, mostly from people who would otherwise vote Republican.

A recent national poll suggested that Mr. Nader has roughly the same percentage of support as Mr. Barr. While in the past he has drawn largely from disenchanted Democrats, Mr. Nader said in an interview that he now attracted support from people who would otherwise vote Republican.

Many Republicans said they were unconcerned about Mr. Barr’s presence in the race. “We’re confident that regardless of the field, our candidate’s message will carry through to November,” said Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for the McCain campaign.

But analysts said Mr. Barr could be a menace to Mr. McCain, particularly in Georgia, where Mr. Barr is relatively well known and Mr. Obama has already begun running television advertisements.

“Clearly in Georgia, Bob Barr is making the state competitive,” said Larry J. Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “We all remember Nader. Sometimes you can get a tiny fraction of the vote and make a difference electorally in a state or two. It’s entirely possible.”

Similarly, Mr. Barr could have impact in Colorado, where Mr. Perot’s presence gave Bill Clinton the opening to win the state in 1992, said Robert D. Loevy, a professor of political science at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

“If Bob Barr gets it up to 3, 4, 5 percent of the vote, it could definitely throw Colorado to Barack Obama,” Mr. Loevy said.

The Obama campaign has played up the Barr campaign’s potential impact, citing it as a potential plus during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday.

“If Barr were to get 2 percent in most states, our belief is he’ll get 4 percent here,” said David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, speaking of Georgia. “Most of it coming out of McCain’s hide.”

Original here

John McCain Doesn't Know the Price of Gas/Can't Remember the Last Time He Bought Any

John McCain kind of stepped in it the other day, here in California, but luckily no one noticed. He was being driven from John Wayne airport to a fundraiser, and he took a quick call from Martin Wisckol of the Orange County Register. Wisckol asked him a series of softball questions so tedious McCain's driver had to crack the window so the breeze would keep him from passing out, but then this:

WISCKOL: I'd like to ask you a couple questions suggested by voters here. They're not reporter-type questions.


McCAIN: Sure. It'd be a pleasure.

WISCKOL: When was the last time you pumped your own gas and how much did it cost? 


McCAIN: Oh, I don't remember. Now there's Secret Service protection. But I've done it for many, many years. I don't recall and frankly, I don't see how it matters. I've had hundreds and hundreds of town hall meetings, many as short a time ago as yesterday. I communicate with the people and they communicate with me very effectively.

... I'm going through a tunnel... ... bzzzzzzzztttttt bzzzzzztttttt...I'm gonna lose you... bzzzztttttt... bye!

No, I added that last part.

Okay. A few things here.

1) John McCain doesn't know what gas costs, because the Secret Service protects him from finding out, possibly because they're afraid the knowledge will kill him. Not a healthy man.

2) John McCain isn't an elitist or a big government bureaucrat. He's a maverick who has certainly pumped his own gas at some point in his life, perhaps during the single 18-month period when he wasn't in the navy or in congress, but was living off his wife.

3) It doesn't matter. How do we know it doesn't matter? Because John McCain says it doesn't matter.

4) John McCain may not know what gas costs or when he last pumped any, or performed any other act not connected to politics or outpatient care, but he's had hundreds of town hall meetings, many as short a time ago as yesterday. Which somehow answers questions about gas prices, but it's not clear exactly how.

5) John McCain communicates with people and they communicate with him very effectively.

6) John McCain is an excellent driver. Dad lets him drive slow down the driveway every Saturday.

7) Fifteen minutes to Wapner.


--


Asking a politician about groceries is a dusty old trick. Mitt Romney doesn't know what Saran Wrap costs, and why should he? Unless it's important to the image he's trying to build, as a regular guy, or at least someone who gives a shit.

But some gotcha questions do matter.

For instance, back in 1999, when Andy Hiller had this exchange with then-Governor George W. Bush:

HILLER: Can you name the president of Chechnya?"


BUSH:
No, can you?

HILLER: Can you name the president of Taiwan?

BUSH: Yeah, Lee.

HILLER: Can you name the general who's in charge of Pakistan?

BUSH: Wait, wait, is this 50 questions?

HILLER
: No, it's four questions of four leaders in four hot spots.

BUSH: The new Pakistani general, he's just been elected -- not elected, this guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country and I think that's good news for the subcontinent.

HILLER: Can you name him?

BUSH: General. I can name the general. General.

HILLER: And the prime minister of India?

BUSH: The new prime minister of India is -- no. Can you name the foreign minister of Mexico?

HILLER: No sir, but I would say to that, I'm not running for president.

BUSH: What I'm suggesting to you is, if you can't name the foreign minister of Mexico, therefore, you know, you're not capable about what you do. But the truth of the matter is you are, whether you can or not.

You'd think that the candidacy was over at "I can name the general. General," but it turns out it wasn't. These questions might not have mattered. (Pakistan? Come on! As if the president really needs to know about Pakistan!) What was important was the way the candidate answered.

Which was like a belligerent dick.


--


As opposed to John McCain on the question of pumping his own gas. Who comes off as a floundering panderer who's lost a step.


--


I'm not even sure Martin Wisckol was trying to play gotcha with John McCain. I think he was fishing for a colorful anecdote. If you read the rest of the interview, you'll see he certainly didn't ask any other questions that couldn't be answered by a press release.

John McCain has spent the last three months -- since he floated his gas tax holiday -- pretending to care about the cost of driving. He should have had a slightly better answer than "I've had hundreds of town halls."

He knows it, too. Which is why he panics after a few more questions, when Wisckol is trying to wind things up.

WISCKOL: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with me.


McCAIN: Thank you. It's a pleasure.... Hang on just one second. I think the last time that I ... I've been on the campaign trail for so long I don't remember when I last filled up my own gas tank, but I certainly did for many, many, many years and I understand the difficulties and challenges that it poses for the people of California and my home state of Arizona. I thank you, my friend.

And the name of the general is General.

Original here

McCain's Eight Most Inappropriate Jokes

If you've ever seen Ricky Gervais' BBC series, The Office (the overseas predecessor to the hit US show), you've already met David Brent. The miscreant man-in-charge is a serial joke-maker, though his workplace rubes almost always tend toward the inappropriate and insensitive.

Jump to the real-life political David Brent: John McCain. The Arizona Senator and GOP nominee has taken a number of stabs at humor on the campaign trail. Some have hit the spot. Others have missed the mark completely, garnering a gaggle of negative media attention as a result.

Now, as a general rule, I make a policy of not relating television to politics, or to anything in real life for that matter. But if the shoe fits...

8. Wife Beating Joke

In a June, 2008 interview with ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper, McCain was asked why he had passed over Nevada's Republican Governor Jim Gibbons when choosing his state campaign chair (traditionally, the first choice if the governor and the presidential nominee are members of the same party). McCain explained that he had a longstanding relationship with the state's lieutenant governor, and that his choice was not a snub of any kind. Pressing the subject, Tapper asked whether McCain had passed over Gibbons as a result of the governor's relatively low approval ratings.

"And I stopped beating my wife just a couple of weeks ago," McCain laughed.

The reference is to what Tapper refers to as a "distasteful bit of DC yuckery so commonly quoted its hackneyed."

Despite the widespread news stories on it in Nevada, it's possible that McCain hadn't heard about Gibbons' recent high-profile divorce, stemming from multiple charges of infidelity. Moreover, a cocktail waitress accused Gibbons of grabbing and threatening her with sexual assault in a parking garage.

In Tapper's words: "Awkward."

7. Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran

Probably one of the most publicized instances of McCain's attempts at humor is his infamous rendition of the Beach Boys classic, "Barbara Ann." When asked what he would do about Iran, McCain broke into song, but substituted "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" in place of the name of the female subject of the song.

McCain defended his quip amid a vocal outcry, telling detractors to, "get a life." Criticism abounded, alleging that McCain's failure to treat the prospect of military action- especially in the midst of two ongoing wars- was indicative of a callous and bellicose approach to foreign policy.

6. Waterboarding Charlie Crist

When Rudy Giuliani made his own attempt at humor, comparing the presidential race to torture, McCain- a torture victim himself- was outraged. And yet, McCain has made a few jokes of his own on the matter.

In late January of 2008, reporters asked Florida Governor Charlie Crist if McCain had pressured him for his endorsement. A nearby McCain interjected, "It was just waterboarding."

McCain's joke, while off-color, might not have been the most inappropriate, especially when compared to some of his other ones. But what makes it worse for the candidate is that it was he who was the first to condemn similar remarks from his opponents.

5. Waterboarding His Staff

About a month later, The New Yorker reported that McCain made the joke again. His presidential hopes apparently derailed, a number of his staff had abandoned the campaign, only to be brought back when McCain reemerged as the Republican front-runner. He joked that he conducted "a short period of waterboarding to find out what they did in their absence."

4. The French

In an interview with Fox News, McCain aimed his ill-fated humor at our allies, the French. "You know," he began, "the French remind me a little bit of an aging actress of the 1940s who is still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn't have the face for it." This is a country that is heavily involved in the Afghan conflict. McCain's questionable comments raised some a measured ruckus in both foreign and domestic circles, calling the Senator's diplomatic skills into question.

3. IED on Jon Stewart's Desk

Given, The Daily Show is satirical. But when McCain appeared on Jon Stewart's hit series most recently, he joked that he'd brought Stewart an improvised explosive device as a gift from Iraq.

The problem: more than1,700 US soldiers in Iraq have been killed by IEDs, accounting for more than one-third of all US casualties since the 2003 invasion. His comments were called, "insensitive" and "inappropriate" by a wide range of critics.

2. The Death of Fidel Castro

The Cold War- particularly the tension with Cuba- spanned six presidencies- those of Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan. Not one of them ever joked about Fidel Castro dying. John McCain did.

In February of 2008, McCain told a town hall in Indiana, "I hope he has the opportunity to meet Karl Marx very soon."

Current president George W. Bush made no jokes about the death of Saddam Hussein, and in fact encouraged respectful treatment of the situation by others. Why? Because to do otherwise would have been unbecoming of a statesman.

1. 18 Year Old Chelsea Clinton

McCain has a legendary temper. When his wife teased that his hair was getting "a little thin," McCain fumed. "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollup, you c*nt!"

But for his own sensitivity, he's not one to restrain himself when it comes to dishing it out. In fact, he can be downright nasty.

In 1998, McCain was speaking before a GOP fundraiser in Washington, D.C. when he asked, "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because Janet Reno is her father." The joke was wrong on so many levels- for it's offense to the Attorney General, for it's offense to the president and his wife. But most of all, for his attack on a eighteen year old girl.

Anyone who has a daughter can tell you that those middle teenage years can be tough. Girls at school can be vicious as it is. But when a national figure makes a predatory attack on a defenseless girl to further his own political causes, it's downright disgusting.

Original here

What does McCain mean by ‘we’?

There was a vote last night in the Senate on the war supplemental, which included the Webb/Hagel GI Bill. The spending bill, including the expanded education benefits for veterans, passed overwhelmingly (92 to 6), and will be added to the $165 billion that the House and Senate have already approved for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The roll-call is online; every Democrat, and most Republicans, voted for the bill. John McCain, as is now common, didn’t show up for work. Barack Obama was there, and he voted for the funding.

What’s especially interesting, though, is McCain’s response to last night’s vote.

For those who can’t watch clips online, McCain, campaigning in Ohio, told voters, “I’m happy to tell you that we probably agreed to an increase in educational benefits for our veterans that not only gives them increase in their educational benefits, but if they stay in for a certain period of time than they can transfer those educational benefits to their spouses and or children. That’s a very important aspect I think of incentivizing people of staying in the military.”

Is that so. McCain is “happy” to promote a bill “we” passed to help veterans with their education benefits.

You’ve. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

As regular readers no doubt recall, McCain opposed the Webb/Hagel GI Bill. He actively fought against it.

Remember this?

The Senate approved a $194.1 billion wartime spending bill Thursday that promises a greatly expanded GI education benefit for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan…A Vietnam veteran himself, McCain has opposed Webb’s bill as overly generous to veterans at the expense of career military officers and NCOs. McCain did not return to the Capitol for Thursday’s votes…

Indeed, McCain’s opposition nearly scuttled the bill.

What’s more, when the Obama campaign began hitting McCain over this, he got pretty touchy about it.

And now he wants voters to think he supported the bill all along? That “we” — by implication, including himself — increase “educational benefits for our veterans”?

Even by McCain standards, this is pretty outrageous.

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Five GOP Groups That Can't Stand John McCain

1. His Colleagues

John McCain has a serious problem with his own party. Back in 2000, when the GOP nomination race came down to he and George W. Bush, he had the backing of just four of his Senate colleagues. When he ran this time around, they were vocal with regard to their discontent. In the most oft-quoted comment, Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran said that the though of McCain in the White House sent "a cold chill down my spine." Tom DeLay called him a hypocrite. Fellow candidate Tom Tancredo put it fat out: "I don't like John McCain," he said.

The list those who have either expressed public dislike for McCain or who've been on the receiving end of his legendary temper is long and distinguished: Senators, Chuck Grassley, Pete Domenici, Bob Bennett, Former Senators Rick Santorum and Bob Smith, Former Representatives Dennis Hastert and Rick Renzi. The list goes on and on, ranging from those who served with him in Congress, to governors, state party chairs, and so on. All of them are Republican.

To be fair, many of them have now changed their tune, offering at the very least tepid support for the Arizona Senator since he's won the party nomination.

2. The NRA

Forget that the National Rifle Association has been overwhelmingly friendly to Republican candidates over the years- John McCain is not their favorite person. McCain effectively neutralized the NRA's influence as an advocacy group in politics with his McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act, putting him high on their list of enemies. In his general address at one of the NRA's annual convention, long time CEO Wayne LaPierre had this to say to the audience, "Is it possible that John McCain thinks you have too much freedom?...I gotta tell you, I don't know what's happening to John McCain."

A fact sheet still available on the NRA's website shows a second amendment advocate with tape over his mouth, and the words "McCain-Feingold" written across it. The pamphlet begins by warning members that "John McCain and others are attempting to muzzle your voice concerning critical national issues- including the Second Amendment."

Since then, McCain has attempted to smooth things over with the gun group, but with less than convincing success. In an article on the 2008 NRA convention, the LA Times quoted various members of the organization who were disillusioned with the Republican nominee. One called McCain, "the lesser evil," his sentiment was echoed by a chorus of others. To this day, the group that has reliably jumped behind GOP candidates in the past has yet to offer McCain its endorsement.

3. Evangelical Christians

In 2000, McCain made a mistake- a big mistake- when he delivered a speech and mentioned by name mega-Evangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, calling them "agents of intolerance." He went on to accuse them of "distorting religion." Thus he touched off a rift with not only these men, but their followers as well, that continues to this day. In fact, it's only gotten more volatile- the extremely influential James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. Dobson emphatically stated that he would not vote for McCain "under any circumstance," despite McCain's past praise of Dobson's work.

McCain's estrangement from the core group that carried George W. Bush to victory in both 2000 and 2004 could be disastrous, and the Arizona Senator knows it. Just before Falwell's death, McCain tried to patch their rocky relationship, speaking at Falwell's Liberty University.

Still, healing past wounds may be a tall order for McCain, and he's learning that eight might not be long enough to wash away the sting of past conflict with these groups.

4. Conservatives

John McCain ran a miraculous primary campaign, winning without the support of the backbone of the Republican Party. Were it not for open primaries that allowed independent voters to participate in the earliest contests, McCain might have been wiped out before Super Tuesday.

McCain's core support is founded on the backs of independent and moderate Republican voters. Conservatives and hardcore Republicans eschewed McCain, splitting their vote in favor of Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, allowing McCain to be competitive without reaching into the rank and file of his own party. Many conservatives do not count McCain among their ranks. Both columnists Robert Robb (of the Arizona Republic) and Matthew Continetti (of the LA Times) paraphrased the late conservative figurehead William F. Buckley when they said that McCain, while sometimes favoring conservative issues, was simply not "a conservative."

Conservatives' problems with McCain stem from his "maverick" reputation. He's bucked the party too many times on important issues like his votes against tax cuts (which he now has pledged to make permanent, despite his previous opposition), immigration, and campaign finance reform, just to name a few. Though many will swallow their discontent to avoid a Barack Obama presidency, it's been widely reported that some conservatives will simply sit this election out- which could be a big problem for McCain in November.

5. Right Wing Pundits

If you tally up the faithful radio audiences of the right wing pundits who've come out in opposition to John McCain, you'd start to wonder how McCain stands any chance of winning their votes in the general election. Rush Limbaugh said that his presidency would "destroy the Republican party." Ann Coulter called him "Bob Dole minus the charm, conservatism, and youth." The list goes on and on. Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, David Limbaugh, and Michelle Malkin have all publicly denounced the Republican nominee.

Sensing a battle that he might not win, McCain has largely steered clear of talk radio and other conservative outlets. That deprives him of a significant resource that has been incredibly valuable to other Republicans in the past. Airtime on these shows was daily free advertising for Bush, but McCain has to do without.


Original here

A Real Choice


McCains Defaulted On Home Taxes For Last Four Years, Newsweek Reports

** UPDATE BELOW **

Newsweek is set to publish a highly embarrassing report on Sen. John McCain, revealing that the McCains have failed to pay taxes on their beach-front condo in La Jolla, California, for the last four years and are currently in default, The Huffington Post has learned.

Under California law, once a residential property is in default for five years, it can be sold at a tax sale to recover the unpaid taxes for the taxpayers.

The McCains own at least seven homes through a variety of trusts and corporations controlled by Cindy McCain.

UPDATE: Newsweek's story is now online. The report notes that the McCains paid the bulk of their back taxes yesterday, but continue to owe additional taxes:

When you're poor, it can be hard to pay the bills. When you're rich, it's hard to keep track of all the bills that need paying. It's a lesson Cindy McCain learned the hard way when NEWSWEEK raised questions about an overdue property-tax bill on a La Jolla, Calif., property owned by a trust that she oversees. Mrs. McCain is a beer heiress with an estimated $100 million fortune and, along with her husband, she owns at least seven properties, including condos in California and Arizona. [...]


Shortly after NEWSWEEK inquired about the matter, the McCain aide e-mailed a receipt dated Friday, June 27, confirming payment by the trust to San Diego County in the amount of $6,744.42. County officials say the trust still owes an additional $1,742 for this year, an amount that is overdue and will go into default July 1. Told of the outstanding $1,742, the aide said: "The trust has paid all bills shown owing as of today and will pay all other bills due."

Original here

AT&T Whistleblower: Spy Bill Creates 'Infrastructure for a Police State'


Mark Klein, the retired AT&T engineer who stepped forward with the technical documents at the heart of the anti-wiretapping case against AT&T, is furious at the Senate's vote on Wednesday night to hold a vote on a bill intended to put an end to that lawsuit and more than 30 others.

[Wednesday]'s vote by Congress effectively gives retroactive immunity to the telecom companies and endorses an all-powerful president. It’s a Congressional coup against the Constitution.

The Democratic leadership is touting the deal as a "compromise," but in fact they have endorsed the infamous Nuremberg defense: "Just following orders." The judge can only check their paperwork. This cynical deal is a Democratic exercise in deceit and cowardice.

Klein saw a network monitoring room being built in AT&T's internet switching center that only NSA-approved techs had access to. He squirreled away documents and then presented them to the press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation after news of the government's warrantless wiretapping program broke.

Wired.com independently acquired a copy of the documents (.pdf) -- which were under court seal -- and published the wiring documents in May 2006 so that they could be evaluated.

The lawsuit that resulted from his documents is now waiting on the 9th U.S. Appeals Court to rule on whether it can proceed despite the government saying the whole matter is a state secret. A lower court judge ruled that it could, because the government admitted the program existed and that the courts could handle evidence safely and in secret.

But the appeals court ruling will likely never see the light of day, since the Senate is set to vote on July 8 on the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which also largely legalizes Bush's warrantless wiretapping program by expanding how the government can wiretap from inside the United States without getting individualized court orders.

Klein continues:

Congress has made the FISA law a dead letter--such a law is useless if the president can break it with impunity. Thus the Democrats have surreptitiously repudiated the main reform of the post-Watergate era and adopted Nixon’s line: "When the president does it that means that it is not illegal." This is the judicial logic of a dictatorship.

The surveillance system now approved by Congress provides the physical apparatus for the government to collect and store a huge database on virtually the entire population, available for data mining whenever the government wants to target its political opponents at any given moment—all in the hands of an unrestrained executive power. It is the infrastructure for a police state.

Neither the House nor the Senate has had Klein testify, nor have telecom executives testified in open session about their participation.

The bill forces the district court judge handling the consolidated cases against telecoms to dismiss the suits if the Attorney General certifies that a government official sent a written request to a phone or internet provider, saying that the President approved the program and his lawyers deemed it legal. Judge Vaughn Walker of the California Northern District can ask to see the paperwork, but would not be given leeway to decide if the program was legal.

Photo: Mark Klein in the offices of his lawyers in San Francisco. Credit: Ryan Singel/Wired.com

Original here

Kucinich: 'We went to war for the oil companies'

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who has introduced measures to impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, said Thursday that oil executives who secretly met with the vice president in 2001 should be held criminally liable for pushing an illegal war.

"In March of 2001, when the Bush Administration began to have secret meetings with oil company executives from Exxon, Shell and BP, spreading maps of Iraq oil fields before them, the price of oil was $23.96 per barrel. Then there were 63 companies in 30 countries, other than the US, competing for oil contracts with Iraq," the Ohio Democrat said during a speech on the House floor.

"Today the price of oil is $135.59 per barrel, the US Army is occupying Iraq and the first Iraq oil contracts will go, without competitive bidding to, surprise, (among a very few others) Exxon, Shell and BP."

The New York Times reported last week that those companies, Chevron, Total and some smaller companies were set to receive no-bid contracts from Iraq's Oil Ministry. According to the paper, such deals "are unusual for the industry," and the companies prevailed over more than 40 others, including some from Russia, China and India.

In March 2001, two years before Iraq was invaded, Cheney met with top executives from Exxon Mobil Corp., Shell Oil Co., BP America Inc. and others on his infamous secret Energy Task Force.

Kucinich seemed to accuse participants in that meeting of plotting the invasion of Iraq. There's no indication that the participants discussed military action, although documents later released showed they did eye Iraq's oil fields.

The White House convinced the Supreme Court to let it keep secret the proceeding's of Cheney's task force, although the Washington Post later revealed most of its activities.

Kucinich accused the US government of forcing Iraq to privatize its oil fields, which are estimated to hold more than 100 billion barrels of oil, and keeping US troops at war to protect the oil reserves.

"Our nation's soul is stained because we went to war for the oil companies and their profits. There must be accountability not only with this Administration for its secret meetings and its open illegal warfare but also for the oil company executives who were willing participants in a criminal enterprise of illegal war, the deaths of our soldiers and innocent Iraqis and the extortion of the national resources of Iraq," he said.

"We have found the weapon of mass destruction in Iraq. It is oil," Kucinich continued. "As long as the oil companies control our government Americans will continue to pay and pay, with our lives, our fortunes our sacred honor."

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