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Sunday, July 13, 2008

McCain Divorce Account Contradicts Court Documents

McCain, who is about to become the GOP nominee, has made several statements about how he divorced Carol and married Hensley that conflict with the public record.

In his 2002 memoir, "Worth the Fighting For," McCain wrote that he had separated from Carol before he began dating Hensley.

"I spent as much time with Cindy in Washington and Arizona as our jobs would allow," McCain wrote. "I was separated from Carol, but our divorce would not become final until February of 1980."

An examination of court documents tells a different story. McCain did not sue his wife for divorce until Feb. 19, 1980, and he wrote in his court petition that he and his wife had "cohabited" until Jan. 7 of that year -- or for the first nine months of his relationship with Hensley.

Although McCain suggested in his autobiography that months passed between his divorce and remarriage, the divorce was granted April 2, 1980, and he wed Hensley in a private ceremony five weeks later. McCain obtained an Arizona marriage license on March 6, 1980, while still legally married to his first wife.

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Phil Gramm’s Greatest Hits: ‘Poor People Are Fat’ And ‘There Should Be No Minimum Wage’»

grammmccain.jpgDuring the last two days, the McCain campaign has gone into damage control over top economic adviser Phil Gramm’s belief that America has “become a nation of whiners” and is only “in a mental recession.” McCain tried to disavow the remarks by saying that “Phil Gramm does not speak for me.” But McCain’s distancing doesn’t change the fact that Gramm is considered his “econ brain.” McCain thinks so highly of Gramm that he was even the chairman of his failed 1996 presidential bid.

As it turns out, this is not the first time that Gramm, a self-styled “foot soldier of the Reagan revolution,” has advocated controversial views on the economy. In the past, he has criticized public works projects, the existence of a minimum wage, and the federal welfare program. Here are some highlights from McCain’s “econ brain,” as compiled by the Houston Chronicle [2/20/95]:

- “Until we are on a pay-as-you-go budget, until we have stopped inflation, I do not intend to support any public works project in the United States.” — Gramm, 10/9/75

- “Minimum wage laws tend to cut the bottom rung off the economic ladder. The plain truth is there should be no minimum wage law in this great land of free enterprise.” — Gramm, 5/17/89

We’re the only nation in the world where all our poor people are fat.” — Gramm, 9/6/81

In addition, Gramm is an advocate of the flat tax and wants to cut taxes on capital gains. [Concord Monitor, 9/26/96] As the Wonk Room has noted, such capital gains cuts would mostly benefit millionaires. Joe Conason writes on Salon that Gramm’s deregulation policies “helped spur the mortage crisis.

But it is not only on the economy that Gramm is out of touch. During a 1984 Senate debate, he criticized his opponent’s stance on gay rights by saying, “I do not want homosexuals teaching my third-grade boy.” [Houston Chronicle, 2/20/95] He also reveled in the defeat of Hillary Clinton’s health care bill by saying that it would pass only over his “cold, dead, political body.” He then called it “deader than Elvis.”

This is all from a man that John McCain said has a “rare intellect that grasps complex issues and explains them to others in plain language [Washington Times, 2/27/95].”

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DHS downplays shock bracelet for airline passengers

It was recently reported that the Department of Homeland Security has expressed interest in "safety bracelets" for air travelers that would include personal information and would not only track the wearer but also be capable of remotely delivering a taser-like shock.

Fox's News' Megyn Kelly talked with terrorism expert Neil Livingstone, who downplayed the reports. "This is kind of an exaggerated story," he stated. "I don't think there's going to be a shock element on it. That's going too far."

However, Livingstone, who has a history of making extreme claims about the threats posed by terrorists, saw nothing wrong with the radio-tracking aspect. "Flying is not a right, it is a privilege," he stated.

Livingstone also suggested that there might be a growing market for such devices, saying, "We may see, actually, these kinds of devices put on felons in order to get parole"

This video is from Fox's America's Newsroom, broadcast July 11, 2008.

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The dangerous hostility game with Iran

With negotiation starting to work, Bush administration hawks promote an atmosphere of crisis -- and the risk of actual conflict grows.

By Joe Conason


Reuters/Molly Riley

Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a news conference at the Pentagon, July 9, 2008, about Iran's missile tests.

July 11, 2008 | Pressure for a military strike against Iran appears to be growing dangerously -- a prospect with untold but certainly dire consequences for American troops in Iraq, a broader conflagration in the Persian Gulf and an oil price spike that could cripple the world economy. Repeated promises by the Bush administration to seek diplomatic solutions to disagreements with the Iranian regime haven't quenched rising hysteria in the United States and Israel. Perhaps that is because the sound of White House vows to use force only as a "last resort" evokes bad memories.

If Washington and Jerusalem are moving toward a military confrontation with Tehran, as many media reports have suggested in recent days, the question is why now. Delving beneath the alarming editorials and headlines about the alleged threat from Iran, parroted by politicians in both parties, it is plain that the actual threat is shrinking slightly, while the opportunity for negotiation is improving.

Consider, for instance, the supposedly startling news that the Iraqis want the United States to agree to a timetable for withdrawal of American troops as the price of any continuing agreement between the two governments. As anyone who has paid attention to Iraqi public opinion understands, it is utterly unsurprising that an elected government would eventually reflect what has been the overwhelming sentiment in that country for years.

Why would Iraqi government officials be sufficiently confident to express their people's wish for true sovereignty now? Official sources and mainstream American media emphasize the growing competence of the Iraqi armed forces, although American generals always stress that such progress is fragile and tentative -- and that to sustain those gains, the U.S. will be required to maintain a substantial military presence for years to come.

In fact the most plausible explanation for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's sudden outspokenness, which was echoed by his national security advisor and other Iraqi officials, much to the embarrassment of the White House, is not his army's strength but his government's relationship with Iran. Clearly the Iranians have been using their influence on events inside Iraq to encourage calm. The flow of weapons over the border (or at least their use against U.S. troops) has virtually halted, and the level of fighting among Shiite factions has likewise diminished. Neither of those trends could have taken hold without Iranian assent.

With levels of violence decreasing, the Iraqi government's call for a scheduled American withdrawal is much harder to resist. It is no mere coincidence that the shift in Iraqi policy mirrors the Iranian position urging a swift end to the U.S. occupation.

It is also not an accident that these developments in Iraq have occurred at a moment when the Iranian mullahs again seem more receptive to negotiations over their nuclear program. Last week the Iranians responded positively to European Union proposals, backed by the United States, Russia and China, that would revive dormant negotiations and forestall stricter economic sanctions. After receiving a new offer from E.U. Foreign Minister Javier Solana, the chief Iranian negotiator promised to respond shortly.

Even as Iran fired ballistic missiles over the Gulf, its officials insisted that the tests were strictly defensive and intended to answer recent Israeli exercises aimed at them. Those tests didn't turn out very well, anyway, as the amateurishly doctored photographs of the launch later proved.

Yet the menace of war remains ominously real.

Obviously the war lobby within the Republican Party and the Bush White House has lost neither influence nor determination, no matter how wrong its predictions nor how disastrous its policies have proved to be. When John McCain jokes that exporting cigarettes to Iran might be a "way of killing them," he isn't really kidding. Like his warbling of "Bomb bomb Iran" last year, that moronic remark represented a profound judgment that war is the only way to achieve American objectives in the Gulf region.

The problem faced by McCain, Vice President Dick Cheney and their fellow hawks in Washington and Jerusalem is that their reign of error may well be coming to an end -- and that Barack Obama as president may be far more inclined to talk than bomb. The final months of the Bush administration are counting down, while its preferred successor McCain is achieving little electoral traction as his campaign founders. Meanwhile in Israel, the government of Ehud Olmert is sinking under charges of political corruption and military incompetence.

While the hawks in both countries worry that the window for war will close over the next few months, they may also regard this period as their final chance to use war -- or at least the threat of war -- to bolster their waning political power. Under the tutelage of Karl Rove, that gambit worked wonders for the Republican Party in the 2002 midterm elections, as the drive to war with Iraq commenced.

The hawks don't have to drop bombs to achieve the "rally effect." But as they promote an atmosphere of crisis, they will drive us closer to actual conflict -- and to the possibility that a spark of confrontation will ignite war, with fearsome consequences that can be imagined but not foreseen.

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An Imminent Victory for ‘Net Neutrality’ Advocates

When Comcast admitted last fall that it was blocking — or slowing down, as the company preferred to call it — certain file transfers by customers, a lot of people complained that the company was unfairly discriminating against heavy Internet users.

Now it seems that the Federal Communications Commission is poised to agree.

The Associated Press reported late Thursday that the F.C.C.’s chairman, Kevin J. Martin, has concluded that Comcast improperly blocked some file transfers. Mr. Martin told the A.P. he would recommend that the commission punish Comcast, and order it to stop the blocking, tell the commission how and how often it blocked file transfers and disclose to consumers its future plans for managing its network. (UPDATE: At a news conference Friday, Mr. Martin said he would seek no fine, but only a change in Comcast’s practices.)

Such an action would be the first time that regulators have slapped an Internet provider for violating F.C.C. open-access rules. Those rules are designed to prevent providers from favoring some services over others — for example, by accelerating the transfer of video from their own movie service or slowing down transfers from competitors.

That will surely please “net neutrality” advocates like Free Press, which brought the original complaint. The group issued a statement Thursday night saying: “The F.C.C. now appears ready to take action on behalf of consumers. This is an historic test for whether the law will protect the open Internet. If the commission decisively rules against Comcast, it will be a remarkable victory for organized people over organized money.”

Comcast’s blocking efforts ignited a wildfire of criticism last fall, after the A.P. tested Comcast’s network and reported that the cable company was manipulating Internet protocols to intermittently block file transfers made by customers using a popular program called BitTorrent.

Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, admitted that it was slowing down certain traffic but claimed it was legitimately managing its network so that a few bandwidth hogs didn’t bog things down for everyone else.

Still, in response to critics, the company decided to work with BitTorrent and experiment with other traffic-management techniques to handle the loads on its network.

The dirty little secret of the Internet industry is that all the providers use software tools to manage their network traffic. Comcast got caught and may have been more aggressive than some rivals, but it’s certainly not alone.

Mr. Martin’s proposed ruling in favor of openness could actually end up hurting Internet users if it accelerates the nascent moves by the industry to charge customers based on how much data they use instead of offering essentially unlimited data for a flat fee.

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