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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Libertarians: A (Not So) Lunatic Fringe

Bob Barr is hoping to draw votes from the left and the right.
Veronika Lukasova / The New York Times / Redux

With his belly hiding his belt, with his red suspenders and white beard, Glen Parshall is a dead ringer for Santa Claus, except for the snub-nosed pistol he keeps tucked in his back pocket. Parshall spends his days behind the gun cage of Bargain Pawn, in a roughneck North Las Vegas neighborhood littered with homeless encampments, Catholic charities and pawnshops. It's no Bellagio. But he is a gentle man who treats his customers with respect, whether hoodlum or homeowner. He knows everything there is to know about weapons and is a stickler for the byzantine rules of gun ownership--the waiting periods, the background checks, the ATF callbacks and information requests.

But just because he obeys the rules doesn't mean he likes them. Parshall is dissatisfied with a lot of what government does. He hates our gun laws. Hates the war in Iraq. He doesn't use drugs, but he sees the fight against them as another government power grab. Growing up as a Mormon in Salt Lake City, Parshall was a Barry Goldwater Republican. Now he's the kind of voter who should scare the GOP most--and he's not alone.

Maybe you haven't heard, but this is the year of freedom. First there was the Ron Paul revolution, in which an avuncular 10-term Representative from Brazoria County, Texas, raised more than $34 million as a pseudo-Republican candidate, garnered more than a million primary votes and outperformed Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson, all on the back of a get-government-off-my-back platform. Now there's the Libertarian Party, which sold a little bit of its hard-line liberty-loving soul in exchange for the most respectable candidate it has ever had: recently converted former Republican Congressman Bob Barr, who's polling nationally near 6% and could conceivably Naderize John McCain in a few key states and help nudge the presidency to Barack Obama.

Since 2000, Libertarian candidates have peeled off enough votes from Republican congressional candidates to cost the party races in Washington, Nevada, Montana and, most recently, Louisiana. But if anything, the GOP platform has grown more committed to foreign military intervention and domestic moralizing. The selection of John McCain was a final insult--most libertarians view him, fairly or not, as pro-war, anti-gun, pro-environmentalism and anti--free speech (thanks to his advocacy for campaign-finance reform). In Nevada, where the liberty lobby is strong, McCain got trounced in the primary voting, coming in third behind Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. When the state GOP tried to crown McCain at its Reno convention in April, so many Paul supporters showed up that party leaders literally fled the hall, turned off the lights and postponed the convention to make sure the anemic pro-McCain camp wasn't swamped by liberty's marauders. It was like a John Ford western set inside a hotel ballroom.

Land of Liberty

The central goal of Libertarianism is hard to disagree with: freedom. Defining it is another matter. Party members I've met often speak of freedom as if it were a phantom limb: you're born with it, but it gets taken from you by the bureaucratic violence of the EPA, the ATF, the DOE, the DEA, the U.N., NCLB, NAFTA and--above all--the IRS. Freedom's restoration is the magic moment when the nanny state melts away and you can see the life you were supposed to live before the tax auditors and environmental regulators and drug warriors all came to rope, brand and pen you in for life with their endless rulemaking and intrusions.

If the freedom that lives in the Libertarian imagination has an earthly home, it is the American West. If it has a temple, it's Nevada. It's not just the low taxes or the libertine veneer of Las Vegas; Nevada is free, I was told, in part because so much of it is populated by an unbroken and unbowed caste of ranchers, miners and homesteaders who believe in the primacy of private property.

As you might guess, things that come between a Nevadan and his land don't sit well, and over the past decade, there's been nothing more disruptive than the environmental movement's good intentions. Nye County rancher Jim Berg, 68, doesn't call himself a Libertarian, but he thinks the GOP has lost its will to keep the government from affecting his livelihood. He has plenty of war stories about his county's showdowns with the Federal Government, including a 1991 standoff when armed federales came to confiscate cattle belonging to a neighboring rancher who had let his herd graze on off-limits federal land. The Forest Service got some of Berg's cattle in the dragnet, auctioned them off and kept the proceeds. "They wanted trouble that day," he says. "Why else would you gather another man's cattle with 25 to 30 armed men?"

Just across the mountain range, the tiny town of Belmont prides itself on being beyond government control. It was a mining boomtown in its heyday, filled with Cornish and Chinese and Germans and Italians. The main street of the town, now home to just seven households, winds up a steep grade past a row of crumbling stone buildings. One of the buildings had been the local whorehouse. In the basement of another building, local legend goes, two men--union organizers--were hauled out from a mine they were hiding in and lynched. All that history is falling in on itself, but Henry Berg (yup, Jim's cousin), who owns the Belmont Inn with his wife Bertie, is fine with a little neglect. What he really fears is that the electricity will get hooked up. "We don't want power, but it will come in someday, and that will be the end of it," he says. "More people will come in, and they'll want to build a Wal-Mart."

There is a lot in the complaints in the Libertarian heartland that sounds like nostalgia for an idealized American past. Jim Berg will tell you about grazing-rights grievances, but he's just as quick to lament the death of the ranching lifestyle. "My grandkids have scattered like quail," he says. "They've all gone city."

This sense that progress has gone too far and too fast unites a large swath of Libertarians from coast to coast. To many, modernity just means having our daily lives ruled by mechanisms that have grown so complex that they are beyond comprehension or control. It's a notion that bonds anti-WTO progressives and anti-U.N. conservatives alike--and if the party has any real hope of becoming powerful, those seemingly disparate points on the political continuum will have to get closer.

It's tempting to think of Libertarianism as nothing more than old-school Republicanism, but it's always been partially left-wing, drawing from a long history of American anarchism. The modern challenge is to unite those two wings--or, as magician (and stalwart Libertarian) Penn Jillette told me, "Convince the dope guys that the gun guys are O.K., and vice versa." And many Libertarians believe the time is now. It helps that the U.S. has been throttled for a century by two parties whose core differences are narrowing. The current general election has seemed at times a contest about who can crib off the other party's platform more, from McCain's enthusiasm for using government to fight global warming to Obama's hedging on warrantless wiretapping. For an electorate having a harder time distinguishing Coke from Pepsi, there's a thirst for something--anything--new.

The Standard Bearer

"Everybody is Libertarian about something in this country," Bob Barr told me over breakfast in midtown Manhattan recently. It's his best pitch, an oft-used explanation of why the Libertarian Party can leverage the country's many discontents. The strongest part of his message is the delivery. Barr is a level man with a rich, assuring voice. Even in a D.C.-standard-issue dark three-piece suit, there's something warm and tweedy about him--a perfectly calm spokesman for the often cantankerous ideas of his party.

His candidacy, though, is not without risks. The Libertarian Party is looking to introduce itself as an alternative to the major parties, but it has done so by poaching politicians who, like Barr, were very recently Republicans. And Barr wasn't just any Republican. He was a premier culture warrior in Congress, leading the impeachment of Bill Clinton and fighting medical marijuana, gay marriage, even the right of soldiers to practice Wicca--all of which are anathema to the out-of-our-bedrooms libertarian ideal. In fact, one of the biggest political victories of the modern Libertarian Party was to unseat Barr in 2002; it poured money into an anti-Barr campaign, ran attack ads and called him the "worst drug warrior in Congress." Another strike against Barr: he's a former CIA official and a former federal prosecutor. "To Libertarians," one of his opponents told me, "that's like being a child molester."

Barr now alternates between expressing contrition for his past and highlighting his post-9/11 record of fighting against federal rollbacks of civil liberties. He works with both the ACLU and the NRA and quotes Ayn Rand fluently. His platform these days is a soft libertarian diet of lower taxes, more privacy and school choice.

Barr's moderation may keep him from tapping into Ron Paul's base, which rallied around its candidate for one of the most uncompromising campaigns in recent memory. In an interview in his congressional office, Paul told me there's a reason he had so much success, particularly with younger voters. "They're idealistic. They like consistency. They like principle," he said. For a sense of his hard-line heart, consider the fact that his signal issue was the gold standard--returning to the peg the dollar used before 1971 as a bulwark against inflation and federal mismanagement. That would mean scrapping the Federal Reserve, for starters. While Barr talks about shrinking the size of government, Paul wants to tear the entire global financial system limb from limb.

Paul, who ran for President as a Libertarian in 1988, won't be telling his supporters whom to vote for. (Despite his attacks on McCain, Paul decided to stay in the Republican Party rather than mount a third-party run.) He has said, however, that they're free to go Libertarian or head for the Constitution Party. "Others," he said, "might be disgusted and go away." Hardly a ringing endorsement of the former Republicans leading his former party.

How much will Paul's coolness toward Barr hurt the Libertarians? The party ticket is directed by Ross Perot's old campaign manager and is already polling a respectable 6% nationwide in the latest Zogby poll--exactly the same percentage that separates McCain and Obama. Not all of Barr's voters would be McCain voters, of course, but Barr did best with conservatives (7%) and independents (11%).

In the end, that may not be enough to make a difference in 2008. But Barr's running mate, Wayne Allyn Root, says the party can ride a wave of new followers into the next election cycle. Just three years ago, after all, he wrote a book called Millionaire Republican: Why Rich Republicans Get Rich--and How You Can Too! If he can convert, he says, anyone can.

I visited Root at his suburban Las Vegas home back in May. He is certainly well off, having built a sports-handicapping business that he says led him to politics. (The Founding Fathers "loved gambling," he says.) But politics isn't his only passion. Before we could begin talking about the Libertarian Party, he started selling me on his lifestyle. He takes 100 vitamin supplements every day. He and his kids never drink cow's milk, just rice milk and spring water. "I meditate, exercise, pray and do yoga every day," he says. "If I had a staff of 20, they couldn't do the work I do."

All that bluster makes him seem more like a telemarketer or talk-show host than a politician, and he tells me he'd at least like to get a nationally syndicated radio show out of this presidential campaign. It would be a mistake, though, to write Root off. The things he cares about--being able to gamble legally via his home computer, continuing to homeschool his kids without much interference, keeping taxes low--speak to a lot of Americans. If the old party was cobbled together from hard-line strains of voluntarianism, propertarianism and paleolibertarianism, the new Libertarian Party is more likely to build off Root's take, which is essentially suburbanarianism.

And if that happens, voters alienated by our calcified party system may find in the Libertarians a party that's a lot like Glen Parshall--armed to the teeth but with a gentle logic and a contagious enthusiasm for freedom in all its forms. Libertarians are getting ready for the mainstream, and mainstream America may finally be ready for them.

Original here


John McCain -- 61 Flip-Flops and Counting

McCain argues that flip-flops are an example of a political leader who can't be trusted -- so he might as well drop out of the race.

Editor's Note: Writer Steve Benen has graciously compiled a comprehensive tally of John McCain's flip-flops on issues ranging from national security to energy. The following is Benen's list of 61 clear 180-degree switches by McCain on the biggest issues of the day.

National Security Policy

1. McCain thought Bush's warrantless wiretap program circumvented the law; now he believes the opposite.

2. McCain insisted that everyone, even "terrible killers," "the worst kind of scum of humanity," and detainees at Guantanamo Bay, "deserve to have some adjudication of their cases," even if that means "releasing some of them." McCain now believes the opposite.

3. He opposed indefinite detention of terrorist suspects. When the Supreme Court reached the same conclusion, he called it "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country."

4. In February, McCain reversed course on prohibiting waterboarding.

5. McCain favored closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay before he was against it.

6. When Barack Obama talked about going after terrorists in Pakistani mountains with Predators, McCain criticized him for it. He's since come to the opposite conclusion.

Foreign Policy

7. McCain was for kicking Russia out of the G8 before he was against it.

8. McCain supported moving "toward normalization of relations" with Cuba. Now he believes the opposite.

9. McCain believed the United States should engage in diplomacy with Hamas. Now he believes the opposite.

10. McCain believed the United States should engage in diplomacy with Syria. Now he believes the opposite.

11. McCain is both for and against a "rogue state rollback" as a focus of his foreign policy vision.

12. McCain used to champion the Law of the Sea convention, even volunteering to testify on the treaty's behalf before a Senate committee. Now he opposes it.

13. McCain was against divestment from South Africa before he was for it.

Military Policy

14. McCain recently claimed that he was the "greatest critic" of Rumsfeld's failed Iraq policy. In December 2003, McCain praised the same strategy as "a mission accomplished." In March 2004, he said, "I'm confident we're on the right course." In December 2005, he said, "Overall, I think a year from now, we will have made a fair amount of progress if we stay the course."

15. McCain has changed his mind about a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq on multiple occasions, concluding, on multiple occasions, that a Korea-like presence is both a good idea and a bad idea.

16. McCain said before the war in Iraq, "We will win this conflict. We will win it easily." Four years later, McCain said he knew all along that the war in Iraq war was "probably going to be long and hard and tough."

17. McCain has repeatedly said it's a dangerous mistake to tell the "enemy" when U.S. troops would be out of Iraq. In May, McCain announced that most American troops would be home from Iraq by 2013.

18. McCain was against expanding the GI Bill before he was for it.

Domestic Policy

19. McCain defended "privatizing" Social Security. Now he says he's against privatization (though he actually still supports it.)

20. McCain wanted to change the Republican Party platform to protect abortion rights in cases of rape and incest. Now he doesn't.

21. McCain supported storing spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Now he believes the opposite.

22. He argued that the NRA should not have a role in the Republican Party's policy making. Now he believes the opposite.

23. In 1998, he championed raising cigarette taxes to fund programs to cut underage smoking, insisting that it would prevent illnesses and provide resources for public health programs. Now, McCain opposes a $0.61-per-pack tax increase, won't commit to supporting a regulation bill he's co-sponsoring, and has hired Philip Morris' former lobbyist as his senior campaign adviser.

24. McCain is both for and against earmarks for Arizona.

25. McCain's first mortgage plan was premised on the notion that homeowners facing foreclosure shouldn't be "rewarded" for acting "irresponsibly." His second mortgage plan took largely the opposite position.

26. McCain went from saying gay marriage should be allowed, to saying gay marriage shouldn't be allowed.

27. McCain opposed a holiday to honor Martin Luther King Jr. before he supported it.

28. McCain was anti-ethanol. Now he's pro-ethanol.

29. McCain was both for and against state promotion of the Confederate flag.

30. In 2005, McCain endorsed intelligent design creationism, a year later he said the opposite, and a few months after that, he was both for and against creationism at the same time.

Economic Policy

31. McCain was against Bush's tax cuts for the very wealthy before he was for them.

32. John McCain initially argued that economics is not an area of expertise for him, saying, "I'm going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues; I still need to be educated," and "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should." He now falsely denies ever having made these remarks and insists that he has a "very strong" understanding of economics.

33. McCain vowed, if elected, to balance the federal budget by the end of his first term. Soon after, he decided he would no longer even try to reach that goal. And soon after that, McCain abandoned his second position and went back to his first.

34. McCain said in 2005 that he opposed the tax cuts because they were "too tilted to the wealthy." By 2007, he denied ever having said this, and falsely argued that he opposed the cuts because of increased government spending.

35. McCain thought the estate tax was perfectly fair. Now he believes the opposite.

36. McCain pledged in February 2008 that he would not, under any circumstances, raise taxes. Specifically, McCain was asked if he is a "'read my lips' candidate, no new taxes, no matter what?" referring to George H.W. Bush's 1988 pledge. "No new taxes," McCain responded. Two weeks later, McCain said, "I'm not making a 'read my lips' statement, in that I will not raise taxes."

37. McCain has changed his entire economic worldview on multiple occasions.

38. McCain believes Americans are both better and worse off economically than they were before Bush took office.

Energy Policy

39. McCain supported the moratorium on coastal drilling; now he's against it.

40. McCain recently announced his strong opposition to a windfall tax on oil company profits. Three weeks earlier, he was perfectly comfortable with the idea.

41. McCain endorsed a cap-and-trade policy with a mandatory emissions cap. In mid-June, McCain announced he wants the caps to be voluntary.

42. McCain explained his belief that a temporary suspension of the federal gas tax would provide an immediate economic stimulus. Shortly thereafter, he argued the exact opposite.

43. McCain supported the Lieberman/Warner legislation to combat global warming. Now he doesn't.

Immigration Policy

44. McCain was a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to illegal immigrants' kids who graduate from high school. Now he's against it.

45. On immigration policy in general, McCain announced in February 2008 that he would vote against his own bill.

46. In April, McCain promised voters that he would secure the borders "before proceeding to other reform measures." Two months later, he abandoned his public pledge, pretended that he'd never made the promise in the first place, and vowed that a comprehensive immigration reform policy has always been, and would always be, his "top priority."

Judicial Policy and the Rule of Law

47. McCain said he would "not impose a litmus test on any nominee." He used to promise the opposite.

48. McCain believes the telecoms should be forced to explain their role in the administration's warrantless surveillance program as a condition for retroactive immunity. He used to believe the opposite.

49. McCain went from saying he would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade to saying the exact opposite.

Campaign, Ethics, and Lobbying Reform

50. McCain supported his own lobbying-reform legislation from 1997. Now he doesn't.

51. In 2006, McCain sponsored legislation to require grassroots lobbying coalitions to reveal their financial donors. In 2007, after receiving "feedback" on the proposal, McCain told far-right activist groups that he opposes his own measure.

52. McCain supported a campaign-finance bill, which bore his name, on strengthening the public-financing system. In June 2007, he abandoned his own legislation.

Politics and Associations

53. McCain wanted political support from radical televangelist John Hagee. Now he doesn't.

54. McCain wanted political support from radical televangelist Rod Parsley. Now he doesn't.

55. McCain says he considered and did not consider joining John Kerry's Democratic ticket in 2004.

56. McCain is both for and against attacking Barack Obama over his former pastor at his former church.

57. McCain criticized TV preacher Jerry Falwell as "an agent of intolerance" in 2002, but then decided to cozy up to the man who said Americans "deserved" the 9/11 attacks.

58. In 2000, McCain accused Texas businessmen Sam and Charles Wyly of being corrupt, spending "dirty money" to help finance Bush's presidential campaign. McCain not only filed a complaint against the Wylys for allegedly violating campaign finance law, he also lashed out at them publicly. In April, McCain reached out to the Wylys for support.

59. McCain was against presidential candidates campaigning at Bob Jones University before he was for it.

60. McCain decided in 2000 that he didn't want anything to do with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, believing he "would taint the image of the 'Straight Talk Express.'" Kissinger is now the honorary co-chair for his presidential campaign in New York.

61. McCain believed powerful right-wing activist/lobbyist Grover Norquist was "corrupt, a shill for dictators, and (with just a dose of sarcasm) Jack Abramoff's gay lover." McCain now considers Norquist a key political ally.

And while I realize there are some who believe these constant flip-flops are irrelevant, I respectfully disagree.

AlterNet is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed by its writers are their own.

Original here

Despite all his fearmongering, McCain admits he doesn’t know ‘the nature of the threat’ from Iran.»

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) regularly hypes the threat posed by Iran, saying they are “intent on acquiring nuclear weapons” and even attacking Democrats for allegedly not recognizing “the threat posed by an Iran with nuclear ambitions.” But when ABC’s Charlie Gibson asked McCain yesterday if an Israeli strike against Iran would be “jusified” in light of Iran’s recent missile tests, McCain said that he couldn’t determine “the nature of the threat” from Iran:

mccainwebpic2.jpg GIBSON: Would a strike by Israel be justified and what would you say to the Israelis?

MCCAIN: I can’t know whether a strike would be justified because I don’t know the progress or the significance or the nature of the threat. I know the threat is growing because of the continued development of nuclear weapons.

Later in the interview, however, McCain insisted that the Iranian threat was nevertheless “serious.” As Matt Duss notes: “McCain has repeatedly demonstrated that, regardless of whatever experience or judgment he may possess, he simply hasn’t done his homework on the region of the world most likely to command the next administration’s attention.”

Original here

Betrayed by Obama

What an interesting week: I came back from vacation to find the two presumptive presidential nominees running away from their bases. Suddenly John McCain is evading, not embracing, the media, limiting access and getting testy with the very people whose formerly friendly coverage made him a popular "maverick." Meanwhile, Barack Obama is complaining that his "friends on the left" just don't understand him -- he's not moving to the center, he is "no doubt" a progressive, just one who now supports the scandalous FISA "compromise" and Antonin Scalia's views on gun rights and the death penalty, no longer plans to accept public campaign funding, and wants to make sure women aren't feigning mental distress to get a "partial-birth" abortion (the right's despicable term of choice; the correct phrase is either late-term or third-trimester abortion).

I actually have some sympathy for Obama. He was never the great progressive savior that his fans either thought he was, or peddled to their readers. While Arianna Huffington and Markos Moulitsas and Tom Hayden were hyping him as the progressive alternative to Hillary Clinton, Obama was getting away with backing a healthcare bill less progressive than Clinton's, adopting GOP talking points on the Social Security "crisis" and double-talking on NAFTA. So why shouldn't he think his "friends on the left" will put up with his abandoning other progressive causes?

I've admired Obama, but I never confused him with a genuine progressive leader. Today I don't admire him at all. His collapse on FISA is unforgivable. The only thing Obama has going for him this week is that McCain is matching him misstep for misstep. While we're railing about Obama's craven vote on FISA -- rightfully; Glenn Greenwald is a hero for his work on this topic -- McCain was outdoing Dick Cheney with neocon crazy talk, warning that Iran's test of nine old missiles we already knew they had increases the chances of a "second Holocaust." Every time I wonder whether I can ultimately vote for Obama in November, given all of his political cave-ins, McCain does something new to make sure I have to.

But Obama needs to watch himself. Telling voters they have no place else to go, before he officially has the nomination, is not a winning strategy. That's what his people told Clinton voters. That's what they're saying about opponents of the FISA sellout. That's the line on those concerned about his "partial-birth" abortion remarks. It's arrogant -- up against the backdrop of Obama's big plans for an Invesco Field acceptance speech in Denver and a Brandenberg Gate extravaganza in Berlin, I'm starting to worry about grandiosity -- and it could backfire.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, voted against the FISA bill, but I think "what ifs" are unproductive. Matthew Yglesias' self-justifying fiction that, if she was the nominee, she'd have done what Obama did, is silly. But none of us can really know she'd have done the right thing in Obama's shoes. Since I believe Clinton's craven vote to authorize the Iraq war in 2002 cost her the Democratic nomination, I do find myself wondering whether she learned her lesson about caving in to GOP threats. It's funny how so many defeated Democrats -- Al Gore, John Kerry, John Edwards and now Clinton -- seem to become more progressive after they learn that pandering can't protect them from the attacks of the GOP and its friends in the media. Let's hope Obama doesn't have to learn that lesson the same way.

Of course, the only thing more offensive than Obama's yes vote on FISA was McCain's decision to skip the vote entirely -- and then trash Obama for "flip-flopping" on FISA. Unfortunately, Obama did flip-flop on FISA, but McCain didn't bother to show up. So far, this has been a really dispiriting campaign. Part of the problem, I think, is that the two finalists are guys beloved by the media, who've had a fairly free ride to here. With their rivals out of the way, they're getting more scrutiny, and it's not all adoring. Having won impressive underdog victories, neither campaign seems ready for prime time. I know one thing, I'd really like to vote for the guy who said this:

"This Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. When I am president, there will be no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens; no more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime; no more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. Our Constitution works, and so does the FISA court."

Too bad Obama doesn't believe that anymore.

-- Joan Walsh

Original here

Arizona Law Professor: McCain Not Eligible To Be President

In the most detailed examination yet of Senator John McCain's eligibility to be president, a law professor at the University of Arizona has concluded that neither Mr. McCain's birth in 1936 in the Panama Canal Zone nor the fact that his parents were American citizens is enough to satisfy the constitutional requirement that the president must be a "natural-born citizen."

The analysis, by Prof. Gabriel J. Chin, focused on a 1937 law that has been largely overlooked in the debate over Mr. McCain's eligibility to be president. The law conferred citizenship on children of American parents born in the Canal Zone after 1904, and it made John McCain a citizen just before his first birthday. But the law came too late, Professor Chin argued, to make Mr. McCain a natural-born citizen.

"It's preposterous that a technicality like this can make a difference in an advanced democracy," Professor Chin said. "But this is the constitutional text that we have."

Original here

It's Outrageous That Rove Is Walking Free

Let's say I received a subpoena from the Justice Department today telling me I had to testify about matters it considered vital to national security.

Let's say I told them, "I could give a rat's ass about your subpoena, blow me."

What do you think would happen?

I would be in Guantanamo dining on that "cockmeat sandwich" that Harold and Kumar avoided.

So why is Karl Rove walking around free today? Because the Democrats talk a good game but when it comes to taking action, they fail time and time again.

It's simple. Congress tells you that you have to testify? You testify. It's the law. Period.

It doesn't take an epiphany to know that the Bush administration could care less about the law, the Constitution, morality, or life itself.

Where's the action by Congress to enforce its own subpoena? Where is justice? Where is the Democratic leadership? Send some cops, cuff Rove, march him to the hearing and if he refuses to talk, lock him up till he does.

Matter of fact, send him to Guantanamo. He'll confess to everything from car theft to murdering Jon Benet Ramsey. He looks soft, anyway.

What is most astounding is how incredibly far the Democrats in Congress are behind the curve of where the public is at on this and so many other issues.

Joe Lieberman must go? Steny Hoyer is the Congressman who must go first.

Original here

Winning an Election... The Mugabe Way

Original here

Karl Rove, The White House And The Rule Of Law

Rep. John Conyers

Rep. John Conyers

Today was the deadline for a Judiciary Committee subpoena issued to Karl Rove, demanding his appearance before the Committee to testify on his role in the politicization of the Department of Justice and the politically selective prosecutions of Democrats. Unfortunately, Mr. Rove chose not to show up.

The claim that Mr. Rove and the White House make is that high-level aides to the president are totally immune from compelled congressional testimony. Not that there are certain subjects they cannot discuss in a public hearing, nor that the White House has a right to review questions that are asked, but that they are in a class entirely by themselves -- a separate group that is above the reach of a subpoena and, consequently, above the law.

Over the past 18 months, congressional inquiries have uncovered a level of politicization that runs the breadth of the administration and profoundly threatens one of the core elements of our democracy -- equal justice under law. We have seen it in the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys for partisan political purposes, in the hiring practices at the Justice Department, and apparently in the politically selective prosecution of Democrats like Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Thorough investigation of these abuses of power requires that Congress get answers from the Executive Branch. By ignoring the Judiciary Committee subpoena, Karl Rove and the White House once again showed their utter disregard for our system of checks and balances, for Congress as a co-equal branch of government, and ultimately for the American people.

The question that now confronts the Judiciary Committee and, ultimately, the full House of Representatives, is what action to take in the face of such blatant defiance of the rule of law. As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I am considering all options. Regardless of the path we take, the end result must be the same: the full restoration of our Constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no one -- not Karl Rove and not the president -- is above the law.

Original here

Rep. Sanchez: Karl Rove Should Go To Jail»

Yesterday, former White House adviser Karl Rove skipped the country and refused to to appear before the House Judiciary Committee to testify about the politicization of the Justice Department, despite a subpoena.

House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA), chairwoman of the Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee, rejected Rove’s claim of immunity. Conyers called Rove’s absence an “insult to the American people and to the system of checks and balances that are the basis of our constitution and our democracy.”

Yesterday, Sanchez appeared on MSNBC and said that “in the next couple of weeks,” the Judiciary committee will vote to hold Rove in contempt. She believes that if the measure goes to the full House for a vote, there “a very great probability” that it would be approved. Sanchez also said that she thinks Rove should go to jail:

SHUSTER: But in any case, you want Karl Rove put in jail for this, right?

SANCHEZ: I would like to see him held accountable for his complete disregard of the law absolutely.

SHUSTER: But will you say “Yes, Karl Rove should go to jail if he doesn’t cooperate”?

SANCHEZ: I personally believe, yes, absolutely. Anybody who scoffs at the law and who has committed an offense that is punishable by jail time should be put in jail.

Watch it:

Conyers has now given Rove five days to comply with the subpoena. The House has also approved contempt resolutions against White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers, although the Justice Department refused to bring criminal charges against them. The case is now in federal court.

Transcript:

DAVID SHUSTER, GUEST HOST, ‘VERDICT:’ Rep. Linda Sanchez who heads that subcommittee joins us now. Congresswoman, today you’ve voted to reject Rove’s claim of executive privilege. What are you going to do now?

REP. LINDA SANCHEZ, D-CALIF.: Ah, well the next step would be for the full committee to take up the contempt recommendation to vote on it which I’m being told by Chairman Conyers that he’s anxious to do. And from there it would go to the Full house for a vote.

SHUSTER: And how anxious? When will this vote in the committee take place?

SANCHEZ: Mr. Conyers hasn’t given a time deadline but I can imagine it would be in the next couple of weeks or so.

SHUSTER: And you want the contempt vote to happen right? You do want to hold him in contempt. Is that what you’re saying today?

SANCHEZ: Absolutely. Absolutely. The claim of executive privilege and immunity is ridiculous. It’s clear that in conversations that he’s had with the U.S. attorney’s office over different matters that he was handling, the president wasn’t involved in those communications and so the claim of executive privilege is really not a valid one.

SHUSTER: And Congressman I just want to clarify there is a jail in the U.S. Capitol that hasn’t been used for sometime, but you are saying and the committee and some of your colleagues are saying tonight, “you want Karl Rove in that jail.” If he continues to refuse the demands of this committee Is that what you’re saying?

SANCHEZ: Well, the inherent contempt powers of Congress were last used in the 1930s and there was a jail cell located in the Capitol that was utilized for that purpose. My understanding is that with some of the renovations that have gone on in the Capitol over the years there really isn’t an actual jail there.

SHUSTER: But in any case, you want Karl Rove put in jail for this, right?

SANCHEZ: I would like to see him held accountable for his complete disregard of the law absolutely.

SHUSTER: But will you say “Yes, Karl Rove should go to jail if he doesn’t cooperate”?

SANCHEZ: I personally believe, yes, absolutely. Anybody who scoffs at the law and who has committed an offense that is punishable by jail time should be put in jail.

SHUSTER: Congressman are you worried at all about the time frame though? I mean isn’t this the sort of thing- you’re up against the election. Doesn’t this need to happen within the next five months?

SANCHEZ: Well, it’s not limited to particularly this year. I mean in an ongoing investigation it could potentially happen next year but personally I think time is of the essence and the sooner we act on this the better.

SHUSTER: But just to clarify, and again, real quickly here, do you believe yes or no that the United States House of Representatives, your colleagues will support holding Karl Rove in contempt, if you guys send it to the full House.

SANCHEZ: I think if it goes to the full House there is a very great probability that yes, they would hold Karl Rove in contempt.

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McCain slams Obama for missing a vote he also missed.»

Following Iran’s missile tests this week, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) slammed Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) position on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, declaring, “This is the same organization that I voted to condemn as a terrorist organization when an amendment was on the floor of the United States Senate. Senator Obama refused to vote.” CNN’s Political Ticker notes a flaw with McCain’s attack:

The problem with the critique? McCain also missed that vote on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment on September 26, 2007. Records show that Obama was in New Hampshire and McCain was in New York instead of being in the Senate chamber for the vote in question.

Indeed, McCain — the most absent Senator — has missed more than 60 percent of the votes in the 110th Congress.

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New Book Contradicts Bush’s Claim That He Never Saw Secret Red Cross Report On Torture»

In August 2007, investigative journalist Jane Mayer reported in the New Yorker that a highly confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross had found that interrogation methods used in CIA detention facilities were “tantamount to torture.” According to Mayer’s sources, the report warned that CIA “officials may have committed ‘grave breaches’ of the Geneva Conventions.”

After the article was published, President Bush was asked in a news conference if he “had read” the Red Cross report. “Haven’t seen it; we don’t torture,” Bush bluntly responded before moving on to another question. Watch it:

But Mayer’s upcoming book, The Dark Side, appears to contradict Bush’s claim that he never saw the report. In a preview of the book, the New York Times reports today that it claims the CIA “shared the report” with Bush:

The book says the C.I.A. shared the report, which Ms. Mayer first described last year in less detail in The New Yorker, with President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The Red Cross report, according to Mayer’s book, found that the torturous interrogation methods used by the CIA “could make the Bush administration officials who approved them guilty of war crimes.”

As ThinkProgress noted at the time of Bush’s denial, Mayer originally reported that top administration officials, including Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, were “believed to have seen” the report.

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ACLU, others greet Bush FISA bill signing with new lawsuit

By Julian Sanchez

President Bush's signature had barely dried on the FISA Amendments Act, which the Senate approved Wednesday, when the American Civil Liberties Union announced that it would mount a constitutional challenge to the new law, claiming that it violates the First and Fourth Amendments. The group also filed a motion with the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, requesting that proceedings and rulings on the constitutionality of the FAA be made public.

On a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon, ACLU lawyers said they had filed suit in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of an array of plaintiffs. This included a panoply of human rights organizations, prominent defense attorneys, and journalists like Chris Hedges and Naomi Klein of The Nation.

One of the most difficult aspects of challenging secret surveillance law is proving standing to sue, as the National Security Agency does not make a habit of notifying targets that they are being wiretapped. The ACLU therefore hopes to demonstrate that its plaintiffs are harmed, and their First Amendment activities chilled, by the very existence of a law whose "effect and... main purpose," in the words of attorney Jameel Jaffer, "is to give the government unfettered access to the international communications of US citizens and residents."

Hedges and Klein, along with Robert Atwood of the Washington Office on Latin America and Dale Needles of the International Fund for Women, all stressed that their work required communication with overseas parties who were often in conflict with their own governments, and who would be leery of speaking with US reporters and activists if their conversations were at greater risk of being intercepted. Hedges said that his own sources, including one close to Hamas, had already become more reluctant to speak with him openly. He also cited his experience working under authoritarian regimes abroad, when he was trailed or bugged as a matter of course. "The purpose of that was to prevent any dissidents, anybody who had information that countered the government line or the government version of events, to make contact with me," said Hedges. "I have little doubt that the passing of this FISA bill essentially brings this type of surveillance system, and the effectiveness of that system, to the United States."

The ACLU has tried this approach before, however, and has been rebuffed by the court. The group won an initial victory in a 2006 suit over warrantless NSA surveillance, but that ruling was overturned by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that the purported chiling effect was too inchoate to ground a claim of standing. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case. But Jaffer believes that this time, things will be different. He notes that the present suit concerns a public statute, rather than a covert program, attenuating barriers to litigation posed by the state secrets privilege. Jaffer also argues that the Sixth Circuit ruling, on a 2–1 vote, runs contrary to other jurisprudence on standing, and that another court might well be disposed to rule differently.

Lawyers have also filed a motion with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, explained the ACLU's Melissa Goodman, making four requests for transparency. In the event of proceedings that might yield significant interpretations of the FAA, or rulings on its constitutionality, the motion asks that the FISC notify the public, that it allow ACLU to file briefs and participate in the arguments, that it require the government to file a public version of its own legal briefs, and that the Court issue a public version of any ruling. "Otherwise," said Goodman, "we will literally never know how the FISA court interprets the new law. The idea that we could have a secret body of Constitutional Law is more Kafka than America."

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The Media’s Effusive Praise Of Honest Straight-Talker McCain»


mccainplane.jpg According to the national media, no matter what Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says, he’s always going to be a fun, straight-talking, regular guy. In fact, every little thing he does — whether it’s joking about killing civilians or simply grilling meat — is magic to reporters. Just today, when McCain joked about shipping adviser Phil Gramm to Belarus — a place still covered in radiation from Chernobyl — reporters gushed over the “trademark John McCain wit.”

As another example, in today’s LA Times, contributing editor Rob Long effusively praises McCain’s honesty in insulting college students:

A few weeks ago, John McCain made a little joke at his wife’s expense. Referring to her alma mater — Cindy McCain is a graduate of the University of Southern California, where she was a cheerleader and sorority sister — he called it “USC, the University of Spoiled Children.”

It’s not an original joke, of course — it’s been around for ages, possibly even as long as John McCain himself — but it said a lot about the man who wants to be president.

It says he’s honest. He’s a straight-talker. And he’s willing to speak truth to … well, not to power, exactly, but to healthy, fit young people in shorts and flip-flops. Which is more than his opponent can say.

Long is, most likely, being humorous. But his sarcasm mirrors the actual adoration by the media. A look at some other proof the media have used to demonstrate that McCain is just a regular guy:

McCain barbeques: “He was wearing a sweatshirt with a lithograph photo of his family — like a Christmas card picture. So just another grandpa at the grill.” [Mike Allen, Politico]

McCain rides first-class on Acela trains: “John McCain traveled like a man of the people Friday morning, riding an Amtrak train to Philadelphia after a late night of voting in Washington.” [Libby Quaid, Associated Press]

McCain jokes about killing Iranian civilians: “The guy seems like any guy you’d want to have around the dinner table or the bar stool.” [Chuck Todd, NBC]

McCain jokes about blowing up Jon Stewart with an IED: “Despite the fact he steps over the line sometimes. It makes him seem much more accessible to voter. You know, everybody likes a guy with a good sense of humor.” [Carol Costello, CNN]

McCain backtracks from his statements on Iraq: BLITZER: There was some straight talk, very straight talk, from John McCain today. Then, he seemed to backtrack a little bit. What happened?
BASH: He realized his straight talk was too straight, Wolf. [Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash, CNN]

Note to potential presidential contenders: Barbeque, make off-color jokes, and ride first-class on trains, and the media will love you.

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Rove ignores committee's subpoena, refuses to testify

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Karl Rove, President Bush's longtime political guru, refused to obey an order to testify before a House Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday.

Karl Rove's lawyers says he is immune from a congressional subpoena.

Karl Rove's lawyers says he is immune from a congressional subpoena.

Rove's lawyer asserted that Rove was "immune" from the subpoena the committee had issued, arguing that the committee could not compel him to testify due to "executive privilege."

The panel is investigating allegations that Rove and his White House allies dismissed U.S. attorneys and prosecuted officials who they saw as political opponents.

The panel subpoenaed Rove in May after his lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, made clear the former White House deputy chief of staff would not appear voluntarily.

Luskin responded immediately that Rove still would not appear, prompting a threat of prosecution from the Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, and Rep. Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat who chairs the subcommittee on commercial and administrative law.

"A refusal to appear in violation of the subpoena could subject Mr. Rove to contempt proceedings, including statutory contempt under federal law and proceedings under the inherent contempt authority of the House of Representatives," Conyers and Sanchez wrote.

"We are unaware of any proper legal basis for Mr. Rove's refusal to even appear today as required by the subpoena," Sanchez said Thursday morning when Rove failed to show up. "The courts have made clear that no one -- not even the president -- is immune from compulsory process. That is what the Supreme Court rules in U.S. v. Nixon and Clinton v. Jones."

In May, Conyers contrasted Rove's refusal to testify before Congress with his paid work as a commentator for the Fox News Channel and Newsweek magazine.

"Although he does not seem the least bit hesitant to discuss these very issues weekly on cable television and in the print news media, Mr. Rove and his attorney have apparently concluded that a public hearing room would not be appropriate. Unfortunately, I have no choice today but to compel his testimony on these very important matters."

Rove's lawyer cited a letter from the Justice Department saying Rove is "constitutionally immune from compelled congressional testimony." He said Rove is willing to submit to an "informal interview" or to answer written questions about the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, whose ouster Rove is accused of orchestrating.

"Threatening Mr. Rove with sanctions will not in any way expedite the resolution of the issue," Luskin wrote in a letter to the panel on Wednesday.

Luskin noted in May that his client had already received a separate subpoena from the Senate Judiciary Committee. "While the [House] committee has the authority to issue a subpoena, it is hard to see what this will accomplish, apart from a 'Groundhog Day' replay of the same issues that are already the subject of litigation," the lawyer wrote, referring to a movie in which a person lives the same day over and over again.

Luskin added that "issues of executive privilege and separation of powers" could limit Rove's testimony.

In response, Conyers said the two committees are focusing on different matters, with the House committee delving into the prosecution of the former Alabama governor, a Democrat who lost his bid for re-election in 2002 and was convicted on corruption charges in 2006.

Conyers also noted that other former White House officials have testified under subpoena in the past and have dealt with issues of executive privilege on a case-by-case basis. "Mr. Rove should follow the same course," he said.

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, called the subpoena "a sham."

The Democratic-controlled Congress has been battling for months to force the White House to disclose information about the firing of the attorneys and the prosecution of Siegelman.

Current and former White House aides have refused to testify, citing executive privilege.

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President George Bush: 'Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter'

By Robert Winnett, Deputy Political Editor and Urmee Khan

George Bush laughs with Prime Minister of Japan Yasuo Fukuda and Chinese President Hu Jintao at the G8 Summit in Toyako
REUTERS
George Bush shares a joke with Prime Minister of Japan Yasuo Fukuda and Chinese President Hu Jintao at the G8 Summit in Toyako

The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.

Mr Bush, whose second and final term as President ends at the end of the year, then left the meeting at the Windsor Hotel in Hokkaido where the leaders of the world's richest nations had been discussing new targets to cut carbon emissions.

One official who witnessed the extraordinary scene said afterwards: "Everyone was very surprised that he was making a joke about America's record on pollution."

Mr Bush also faced criticism at the summit after Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, was described in the White House press pack given to journalists as one of the "most controversial leaders in the history of a country known for government corruption and vice".

The White House apologised for what it called "sloppy work" and said an official had simply lifted the characterisation from the internet without reading it.

Concluding the three-day event, leaders from the G8 and developing countries proclaimed a "shared vision" on climate change. However, they failed to bridge differences between rich and emerging nations on curbing emissions.

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Rove refuses subpoena, leaves country

Nick Juliano

Update: Conyers gives Rove 5 days to comply before pursuing 'all available options'

Former White House adviser Karl Rove has ignored a subpoena from congressional Democrats to testify about allegations of political pressure at the Justice Department and his alleged role in the prosecution of a former governor of Alabama.

A House subcommittee voted 7-1 Thursday to reject Rove's claim that executive privilege freed him from an obligation to testify, leaving open the possibility the Republican political guru will be held in contempt.

During the hearing, Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) revealed that Rove was out of the country. According to the liberal blog ThinkProgress, Rove's lawyer's confirmed that Rove was out of the country on a trip scheduled long before the subpoena was sent.

Karl Rove failed to appear before the House Judiciary subcommittee. His lawyer revealed that he was out of the country.

This video is from U.S. House, broadcast July 10, 2008.


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Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers seemed hesitant to rush forward with contempt proceedings Thursday, though. In a letter to Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, Conyers expressed his disappointment and insisted that Rove comply with the subpoena, which he has already flatly refused to do, before the committee would be forced to take drastic action.

"This letter is to formally notify you that we must insist on compliance with the subpoena and urge you to reconsider your position... . Please let us know no later than Tuesday July, 15 if Mr. Rove will comply with the subpoena, or we will proceed to consider all other appropriate recourse," wrote Conyers and Rep. Linda Sanchez, chair of the Judiciary subcommittee Rove snubbed Thursday.

Democrats subpoenaed Rove in May to force him to talk about whether he was involved in firing federal prosecutors or sought to influence prosecutors' decisions - including in the corruption case against former Democratic Alabama governor Don Siegelman, who was convicted on corruption charges in 2006. Democrats are investigating whether Rove encouraged the Justice Department to pursue the case.

"By failing to appear in defiance of a subpoena, Mr. Rove, his attorney and the White House are trying to run away from an investigation that's about one thing: ensuring justice is dispensed free of fear or favor," S�nchez said in a news release. "Mr. Rove is not above the law and Congress will assert its constitutional role to serve as a check on the power of the executive branch."

He had been scheduled to appear at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing Thursday morning. In the same statement released Thursday afternoon, Conyers said Rove's absence was "an insult to the American people" and vowed to "seriously consider all available options"; nowhere in the Democrats' statement nor their letter was contempt explicitly mentioned.

Last week, Sanchez and Judiciary Chairman John Conyers threatened to hold Rove in contempt if he followed through on his promise to defy their subpoena. It's unclear whether they will follow through on that threat.

The House already has voted to hold two of President Bush's confidants in contempt for failing to cooperate with its inquiry into whether the administration fired federal prosecutors for political reasons.

The case, involving White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers, is now in court. The White House maintains that its staffers' internal communications are confidential.


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Congress addresses the imminent martial law plan - in private.

Secret meeting in Congress to discuss the imminent martial law. This happened March 13th of 2008. WHY? Congress is expecting the imminent collapse of the U.S. economy sometime in late 2008 and the possibility of “Civil War” in the United States due to the economic collapse. Possibly the most disturbing, “The advance round up of insurgent U.S. citizens that are likely to move against the U.S. Government.” It goes on to project the necessary and unavoidable merger between the U.S. , Canada and Mexico to save the U.S. economy. If this doesn’t motivate you into action then nothing will…. If nothing else watch CSPAN video of Dennis Kucinich asking for the reasons for secret meeting. That video is a MUST SEE….

You think this is not possible then read this NOW:Bush Executive Order: I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat…

Here’s some of the links the author (Michael Herzong) refers to in the audios:
B.A. Brooks
House of Representatives Secret meeting (Wired.com)
House of Representatives Secret meeting (Dennis Kucinich)
Detailed information that is connected to B.A. Brooks
David J. Meyer congress secret meeting


Video of Floor debating Secret Session (Dennis Kucinich)

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