Monday, July 14, 2008

New Yorker Cover Shows "Muslim" Barack With Gun-Slinging Michelle Obama

The New Yorker says it's satire. It certainly will be candy for cable news.

At a press availability Sunday afternoon in San Diego, Senator Obama was asked, according to the diligent Maria Gavrilovic of CBS News: "The upcoming issue of the New Yorker, the July 21st issue, has a picture of you, depicting you and your wife on the cover. Have you seen it? If not, I can show it to you on my computer. It shows your wife Michelle with an Afro and an AK 47 and the two of you doing the fist bump with you in a sort of turban-type thing on top. I wondered if you've seen it or if you want to see it or if you have a response to it?"

Obama (shrugs incredulously): "I have no response to that."

Priceless stage direction by Maria.

The magazine explains at the start of its news release previewing the issue: "On the cover of the July 21, 2008, issue of the The New Yorker, in 'The Politics of Fear,' artist Barry Blitt satirizes the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the Presidential election to derail Barack Obama's campaign."

Original here

Mark Sanford Draws A Blank On McCain/Bush Economics

The most painful clip from the Sunday morning shows: top McCain VP prospect Mark Sanford "drawing a blank" (in his own words) on live TV when asked to name a major economic policy that President Bush and John McCain disagree on.

The transcript:

BLITZER: Are there any significant economic differences between what the Bush administration has put forward over these many years as opposed to now what John McCain supports?

SANFORD: Um, yeah. For instance, take, you know, take, for instance, the issue of -- I'm drawing a blank, and I hate it when I do that, particularly on television. Take, for instance the contrast on NAFTA. I mean, I think that the bigger issue is credibility in where one is coming from, are they consistent where they come from.

Sanford finally came up with an answer -- McCain has opposed earmarks while President Bush hasn't -- but Blitzer twisted the knife a bit further, following up on Sanford's initial mention of NAFTA. "He's a huge supporter of free trade, John McCain, the Bush administration supports free trade. I don't see a big difference."

Sanford said he was going to make a separate point about consistency.

Here's the vid:

McCain On His Computer Illiteracy: ‘I’m Learning To Get Online Myself, And I’ll Have That Down Fairly Soon’»

John McCain has acknowledged that he is “an illiterate” when it comes to computers. He said he “has to rely on his wife for all the assistance he can get.” At the Personal Democracy Forum last month, McCain aide Mark Soohoo argued in McCain’s defense that “you don’t have to use a computer to understand how it shapes the country.” “John McCain is aware of the internet,” Soohoo said. Watch it:

In an interview with New York Times, John McCain confirmed that he doesn’t email, doesn’t read blogs, doesn’t go online, but does occasionally read Drudge. While he’s not a consumer of online information, McCain said he does “understand the impact of blogs on American politics today and political campaigns”:

Q: What websites if any do you look at regularly?

Mr. McCain: Brooke and Mark show me Drudge, obviously, everybody watches, for better or for worse, Drudge. Sometimes I look at Politico. Sometimes RealPolitics, sometimes.

(Mrs. McCain and Ms. Buchanan both interject: “Meagan’s blog!”)

Mr. McCain: Excuse me, Meagan’s blog. And we also look at the blogs from Michael and from you that may not be in the newspaper, that are just part of your blog.

Q: But do you go on line for yourself?

Mr. McCain: They go on for me. I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself. I don’t expect to be a great communicator, I don’t expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need – including going to my daughter’s blog first, before anything else.

Q: Do you use a blackberry or email?

Mr. McCain: No

Mark Salter: He uses a BlackBerry, just ours.

Mr. McCain: I use the Blackberry, but I don’t e-mail, I’ve never felt the particular need to e-mail. I read e-mails all the time, but the communications that I have with my friends and staff are oral and done with my cell phone. I have the luxury of being in contact with them literally all the time. We now have a phone on the plane that is usable on the plane, so I just never really felt a need to do it. But I do – could I just say, really – I understand the impact of blogs on American politics today and political campaigns. I understand that. And I understand that something appears on one blog, can ricochet all around and get into the evening news, the front page of The New York Times. So, I do pay attention to the blogs. And I am not in any way unappreciative of the impact that they have on entire campaigns and world opinion.

McCain said he doesn’t “expect to set up my own blog.” He appears to be unaware that his own campaign has a couple of blogs. McCain may want to check those out on “a google.”

Original here

KBR Charged With 'Homicide'-- By Mother of Electrocuted Soldier

I've written often here about my friend Cheryl Harris, whose son Ryan Maseth was electrocuted and died in Iraq. You remember: the military lied and told her he had carried an electrical appliance into the shower. I helped her trace a total of at least a dozen other electrocutions and she had been instrumental in getting Congress, and the Pentagon, to probe the issue -- and she finally testified before Democrats (and some Republicans) in Congress yesterday.

She is also suing KBR, the contractors in charge, and two former KBR people also blew the whistle yesterday. Another mother, Larraine McGee, who lost a son in Iraq accused KBR of "homicide" yesterday.

"It is about time we got some answers ... at long last," said Sen. Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa. He released a letter to Gen. David Petraeus asking why his command had only recently ordered "theaterwide" technical inspections of military facilities despite being alerted to widespread wiring problems in Iraq installations more than three and a half years ago in a report filed by a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers safety specialist.

Cheryl Harris accused KBR yesterday of "extreme recklessness and a total disregard for public safety." I've written so much about Cheryl and her heroic quest, let me concentrate here on the two former KBR electricians who accuse the company of shoddy and negligent management practices in its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Debbie Crawford of Oregon, who worked for KBR in Baghdad, told the Senate Democratic Policy Committee that the company failed to provide its electricians with basic tools and equipment, and routinely farmed out jobs to local and "third-country" subcontractors who knew nothing about U.S. standards and often had no electrical experience at all.

"Time and time again we heard, 'This is not the United States... OSHA doesn't apply here. If you don't like it, you can go home,'" she said.

Jeffery Bliss, who worked for KBR in Afghanistan, said the company was dominated by a "good-old-boy network" in which "communication was poor and professionalism nonexistent." After he spending two and a half months at one base doing nothing he was finally assigned "the task of building a dog house."

A third non-KBR witness, Rachel McNeill of Wisconsin, who served as an Army Reserves heavy construction equipment operator in Iraq, said soldiers in her unit often received shocks in shower facilities -- but "it made no sense" to report the situation to KBR because the firm "had a reputation for taking a long time to address repairs."

Besides Cheryl, another mother who lost a son to electrocution in Iraq testified. "Anger has taken over my grief," said Larraine McGee of Texas.

She later told the AFP news service, "I don't know that I want to go so far as to say they're murdering our troops, but in essence if you take something that is so easy to fix but you don't even though you know there's a problem, that is homicide, in my mind."

Cheryl Harris said her son's "burnt and smoldering" body was discovered lying in electrified water on the shower stall floor by a soldier who kicked down the door to get in. "One of the soldiers who attempted to rescue Ryan was himself shocked," she added, "because the electrical current was still running through the water in the pipes in Ryan's bathroom....

"It is unacceptable that extreme recklessness and total disregard for public safety has deprived the Army of this exemplary young soldier and deprived my family of our son and brother."

Members of the committee, which has held 17 hearings in the past two years on waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, accused the Pentagon of stonewalling congressional inquiries about its ongoing investigations of possible negligence on the part of the its main construction contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan -- Kellogg, Brown and Root.

The hearing was titled "Contractor Misconduct and the Electrocution Deaths of American Soldiers in Iraq." KBR officials were invited to the hearing but did not attend.

Original here

President George W Bush lobbyist in ‘cash for access’ row

A lobbyist with close ties to the White House is offering access to key figures in George W Bush’s administration in return for six-figure donations to the private library being set up to commemorate Bush’s presidency.

Stephen Payne, who claims to have raised more than $1m for the president’s Republican party in recent years, said he would arrange meetings with Dick Cheney, the vice-president, Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, and other senior officials in return for a payment of $250,000 (£126,000) towards the library in Texas.

Payne, who has accompanied Bush and Cheney on several foreign trips, also said he would try to secure a meeting with the president himself.

The revelation confirms long-held suspicions that favours are being offered in return for donations to the libraries which outgoing presidents set up to house their archives and safeguard their political legacies.

Unlike campaign donations, there is no requirement to disclose the donors to the libraries, no limit on the amount that can be pledged and no restrictions on foreigners contributing.

During an undercover investigation by The Sunday Times, Payne was asked to arrange meetings in Washington for an exiled former central Asian president. He outlined the cost of facilitating such access.

“The exact budget I will come up with, but it will be somewhere between $600,000 and $750,000, with about a third of it going directly to the Bush library,” said Payne, who sits on the US homeland security advisory council.

He said initially that the “family” of the Asian politician should make the donation. He later added that if all the money was paid to him he would make the payment to the Bush library. Publicly, it would appear to have been made in the politician’s name “unless he wants to be anonymous for some reason”.

Payne said the balance of the $750,000 would go to his own lobbying company, Worldwide Strategic Partners (WSP).

Asked by an undercover reporter who the politician would be able to meet for that price, Payne said: “Cheney’s possible, definitely the national security adviser [Stephen Hadley], definitely either Dr Rice or . . . I think a meeting with Dr Rice or the deputy secretary [John Negroponte] is possible . . .

“The main thing is that he [the Asian politician] comes, and he’s well received, that he meets with high-level people . . . and we send positive statements made back from the administration about ‘This guy wasn’t such a bad guy, many people have done worse’.”

Payne said that he would use the services of Mark Pritchard, a Conservative MP who chairs the House of Commons all-party Russia group and was last week on the brink of signing as a paid “adviser” to WSP. Pritchard issued a statement saying that he had not done any work for WSP.

When confronted, Payne said that there would be “no quid pro quo” for any donation and added that his firm was “always above board”.

The White House said it would not be influenced by such donations.

Original here

Bush Homeland Security Aide Caught On Tape Offering High-Level Access For Donations To Bush Library»


The Sunday Times reports Stephen Payne, a Bush pioneer and a political appointee to the Homeland Security Advisory Council, was caught on tape offering access to key members of the Bush administration inner circle in exchange for “six-figure donations to the private library being set up to commemorate Bush’s presidency.”

In an undercover video, Payne is seen promising to arrange a meeting for an exiled leader of Krygystan with Dick Cheney or Condoleezza Rice. (Not President Bush because “he doesn’t meet with a lot of former Presidents these days,” Payne says. “I don’t think he meets with hardly anyone.”) All it will take for him to arrange this high-level meeting, says Payne, is “a couple hundred thousand dollars, or something like that”:

PAYNE: The exact budget I will come up with. But it will be somewhere between $600,000 and $750,000, with about a third of it going directly to the Bush library. […]

200, 250, something like that. That’s gonna be a show of “we’re interested, we’re your friends, we’re still friends.”

Watch the startling video here.

The Times reports, “The revelation confirms long-held suspicions that favours are being offered in return for donations to the libraries which outgoing presidents set up to house their archives and safeguard their political legacies.” Bush loyalists previously said they had “identified wealthy heiresses, Arab nations and captains of industry as potential ‘mega’ donors” to the Bush library.

payne.jpgThe Department of Homeland Security website reports that the “Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary on matters related to homeland security.” Payne has been a member of the council since August 2007.

In Jan. 2008, Payne — an early supporter of Rudy Giuliani — said he would throw his support to John McCain if Giuliani dropped out. A personal friend of Bush, Payne has helped clear brush on the Crawford Ranch with the President (see the picture on the right).

Original here