Monday, June 30, 2008

Wesley Clark Hammers McCain's Experience

ImageWesley Clark was on Face the Nation today, and he took aim at the idea that McCain’s Vietnam War experience makes him more qualified to be president. “He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded, that wasn't a wartime squadron,” Clark said.

Host Bob Schieffer said that Barack Obama hasn’t had these experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. Clark replied that, “I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.” With one swoop, Clark attacked the entire basis for the McCain presidential campaign.

McCain spokesman Brian Roberts tried to use Clark’s statement to paint Obama as a typical politician, “If Barack Obama’s campaign wants to question John McCain’s military service, that’s their right. But let’s please drop the pretense that Barack Obama stands for a new type of politics. The reality is he’s proving to be a typical politician who is willing to say anything to get elected, including allowing his campaign surrogates to demean and attack John McCain’s military service record.”

Of course, Clark is correct. The whole idea that McCain would make a better president because he was a P.O.W. is stupid. Clark was not challenging McCain’s military record, what he was challenging is the phony idea that McCain’s military record makes him a more qualified candidate than Obama. McCain’s experience in Vietnam probably shaped his ideology, so isn’t it fair to ask if this ideology is the correct one to lead the nation forward at this time.

I am glad that somebody finally had the guts to stand up and challenge the Republican Party and their faux patriotism. For too long Democrats have cowered at the prospect of being labeled un-American, so it was refreshing to see Wesley Clark finally step up and challenge these GOP myths. Now I am left to wonder if Clark just elevated himself on Obama’s VP short list.

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The McCain Residences: A Google Earth Tourv

Inspired by the McCains' recent tax default, I decided to go on a little tour of their many homes across the nation. Enjoy!

YouTube link

p.s.: This is my first attempt at narrating a video. What do you think? Should I do it more often? Was it too long? Short? Would it have been better had I spoken backwards?

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Obama Undercuts His Brand

Sen. Barack Obama is risking his brand as a political reformer, according to reports today in the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. In recent weeks, he has moderated or changed positions on a number of politically-charged issues, leading to criticism from demoralized Democratic activists and charges of "flip-flopping" from conservatives.

The Times reports:

In recent weeks, he toughened his stance on Iran and backed an expansion of the government's wiretapping powers. On Wednesday, he said states should be allowed to execute child rapists. When the Supreme Court the next day struck down the District of Columbia's ban on handguns, he did not complain...

..."I've been struck by the speed and decisiveness of his move to the center," said Will Marshall, president of the centrist Progressive Policy Institute...

...And Obama endorsed a compromise wiretapping bill despite stiff opposition from liberal activists., the liberal online activist group, asked its members to flood Obama's campaign office with phone calls and e-mails urging him to support a filibuster of the bill.

The changes carry some risk that Obama will diminish the image he has sought to build as a new type of leader who will change how Washington conducts business. McCain and other Republicans have used his recent policy statements to argue that Obama is a traditional politician, unwilling to take clear stands on tough issues and abandoning his principles when he finds it advantageous.

The Post reports that those who should be his strongest supporters are taking this as a wake-up call:

The switch is not without precedent. On a variety of issues, including gun control and campaign finance regulation, the presumptive Democratic nominee has shown himself willing to settle for incremental changes in the face of political reality rather than to hold out for the sweeping and uncompromising positions he initially stakes out.

But even some who should be his core constituents -- in the Democratic Party's progressive wing and the liberal blogosphere -- have taken his recent maneuvers as a wake-up call. They are warning the senator that in his quest to reach voters in the middle of the political spectrum, he risks depressing the enthusiasm of the voters who clinched the nomination for him.

"American voters tend to reward politicians who take clear stands," said David Sirota, a former Democratic aide on Capitol Hill and author of the new populist-themed book "The Uprising." "When Obama takes these mushy positions, it could speak to a character issue. Voters that don't pay a lot of attention look at one thing: 'Does the guy believe in something?' They may be saying the guy is afraid of his own shadow."

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Did An Activist Supreme Court Punt On Heller?

This weeks 5-4 Supreme Court decision on District of Columbia vs. Heller was widely touted as a landmark ruling. The court settled, finally, the big question; did the Second Amendment provide for private ownership of guns or did the Founding Fathers intend only to guarantee the right to arm militias?

The Constitution does not permit "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home," Justice Antonin Scalia, the court's arch-conservative, wrote in the majority opinion.
While the decision may have addressed the question of private ownership and "absolute prohibitions" like the District of Columbia statute, it raises new questions about what restrictions are reasonable.
"It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose," Scalia wrote.

Gun-control advocates say the ruling's focus on gun bans safeguards reasonable gun restrictions from the flurry of litigation it will undoubtedly trigger. "The Court's decision indicated regulation of guns, as opposed to the banning of handguns, is entirely permissible," says Dennis Henigan, vice president for law and policy at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
It came as no surprise that by the end of the week the NRA had already filed suits against gun ban statutes in the cities of Chicago and San Francisco.

While the Court's decision addresses bans on firearms, it didn't address what might be considered reasonable regulation of those firearms. Some jurisdictions have banned a specific type of firearm, like assault weapons or fully automatic weapons. The Court's Heller ruling might allow the challenging of those statues.

It's also worth noting this was a close decision by the Court. Four of the justices dissented and Justice Stevens was particularly critical of the majority:
In one of two dissenting opinions, Justice John Paul Stevens called Scalia's argument "strained and unpersuasive." He also blistered the majority for its expansive reading of the Amendment's "ambiguous" text. "Until today, it has been understood that legislatures may regulate the civilian use and misuse of firearms so long as they do not interfere with the preservation of a well-regulated militia," Stevens wrote. "The Court's announcement of a new constitutional right to own and use firearms for private purposes upsets that settled understanding."
The best case is now that the whole militia/individual question is resolved and there are finally assurances that private ownership is sanctioned, some of the steam may be taken out of the debate and reasonable discussions about how guns can be kept from those individuals we all agree have absolutely no business owning a gun.

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Mrs. McCain, San Diego County Would Like a Word

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.

San Diego County officials, it turns out, have been sending out tax notices on the La Jolla property, an oceanfront condo, for four years without receiving a response. County records show the bills, which were mailed to a Phoenix address associated with Mrs. McCain's trust, were returned by the post office. According to a McCain campaign aide, who requested anonymity when discussing a private matter, an elderly aunt of Mrs. McCain's lives in the condo, and the bank that manages the trust has not been receiving tax bills on the property. 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."

Dan McAllister, treasurer- tax collector for San Diego County, said that about 3 percent of San Diego's approximately 1 million property owners default on their property taxes each year. The county assesses a 1.5 percent penalty for each month that goes by unpaid and puts houses up for sale after five years. "We do hear an awful lot of excuses for why people don't pay," McAllister said. "Under the law, the property owner is responsible for keeping the address current. We're only as good as the information we are given."

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