Thursday, July 17, 2008

McCain Ape Rape Joke Recalled By Sources

News circulated fast late Tuesday afternoon that back in 1986, during his initial run for the Senate, John McCain allegedly told a crude joke about rape involving a woman's affection for an ape.

The story, which was reprised on the blog Rum, Romanism and Rebellion before being blasted out by Think Progress, goes like this: In an appearance before the National League of Cities and Towns in Washington D.C., McCain supposedly asked the crowd if they had heard "the one about the woman who is attacked on the street by a gorilla, beaten senseless, raped repeatedly and left to die?"

The punch line: "When she finally regains consciousness and tries to speak, her doctor leans over to hear her sigh contently and to feebly ask, "Where is that marvelous ape?"

Eeeshh. The joke, as one can imagine, did not go over well with various women's groups, which responded with indignation. But the McCain campaign denied that he had ever said the offensive gag.

"It's pretty obvious to us that this is a politically motivated sideshow," Torrie Clarke, McCain's spokeswoman at the time, said back in 1986. Till this day it has never been proven definitively true or false whether the Senator ever said the line.

The Huffington Post reached out to the original reporter in that story, Norma Coile (who after talking to multiple sources months after it was told wrote about the response to the rape joke in the Tuscon Citizen) to find out if she thought it was true.

"I'm not sure exactly what the wording was of the joke, but something was said. Some joke involving a rape and ape was said. Enough women repeated it to me at the time and the McCain campaign had a non-denial denial," said Coile, now with the Arizona Daily Star. "It came after his 'Seizure World' joke, in which he referred to the [retirement community] Leisure World as Seizure World... I just think it reinforced this idea that John McCain is humor-challenged. Whatever his qualities, he seems to have a tin ear for how these jokes will go over."

Indeed, while this anecdote occurred more than 20 years ago, McCain has occasionally found himself with his foot in his mouth throughout his time in public office. Back in 1998, he odiously declared before a GOP crowd: "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno."

More recently he joked that it might be good for the United States to keep exporting cigarettes to Iran as cancer would prove an effective weapon against that country's citizens.

But venturing into the extremely sensitive subject of rape and humor is not something that - even 22 years later - will endear McCain to the women voters his campaign has sought to recruit. And organizations in Arizona that weighed in on that 1986 line see it as another example of the Senator not being sensitive to female issues and concerns.

"I don't think we can say one example like that is indicative of someone's character. But certainly I think John McCain has made lots of quotes where he says jokes like that," said Linda Barter, head of the Arizona Women's Political Caucus, which objected to McCain's joke at the time. "Our organizational purpose, however, is to increase the number of elected and appointed women, and we support pro-choice women, so there is certainly a division there. John McCain has not been pro-choice or supportive of issues related to women's reproductive health."

Original here

Biden Praises Obama's Spine, Tells McCain To Study History

Sen. Joseph Biden started his speech to the Center for U.S. Global Engagement on Tuesday with the caveat that he is not an Obama insider. But he certainly played the part.

Saying that he knew the Illinois Democrat well from their time together on the campaign trail, Biden said of Obama, he "has the judgment, he has the intellect, which no one doubts, and I guarantee you he has the steel in his spine to lead this country of ours out of the deep hole we have dug ourselves into."

His Obama testimony now complete, Biden-the-surrogate turned to the other task at hand: ripping apart the foreign policy of Sen. John McCain. At times, his critique was scathing, accusing the presumptive Republican nominee of lacking the basic gravitas and intellectual capacity to navigate the choppy international waters.

"President Bush and Sen. McCain lump all the threats together," said Biden. "Al Qaeda, the Shia militia, listen to them speak. Listen to my friend Joe Lieberman, and he really is a friend, listen to them speak. Find me a distinction that they make. As a consequence of this profound confusion they make profound mistakes. The idea that al Qaeda will cooperate with the philistine, a guy who in fact used to run the country in Iraq, the guy who did away with the caliphate... is completely contrary to anything that the now-dead leader of Iraq had in mind. It's dangerous. How can we run a sound foreign policy without understanding these decisions? How can we talk about a Shiite-dominated nation cooperating with a Sunni dominated Wahabi sect of Islam as if they had anything in common? Yet listen to my friends, listen to the president, listen to Joe Lieberman, listen to John McCain. Ladies and gentlemen, if they can't define the enemy we are fighting it is very difficult to define whether we have won or lost."

It was a vintage Biden performance, with theatrical and abrupt changes in tone tempered by equally dramatic pauses. Defying the conventional wisdom that foreign policy critiques must come in digestible sound bites, he walked the crowd (already well-versed in Middle East affairs) through what he presented as the major fallacies in the McCain doctrine. Much time was spent on Iran.

"I find it fascinating, the twisted logic of my friends on the other side talking about how this allows Iran to fight a proxy war against us in Iraq," Biden roared. "Huh? Guess what. What more would Iran like than the continuation of a 140,000 to 160,000 Americans in Iraq, bogged down in Iraq, no end in sight. Tell me how much Ahmadinejad would like to inherit a fractured Iraq. Study history. The premises upon which they rationalize I find breathtaking. The idea that John [McCain] and Joe [Lieberman] are going to eliminate any vestige of Iranian influence in Iraq, bless me father for I have sinned. Are they unaware of a border that has existed there for millennium? Are they unaware of the fact that our guy, Maliki is inviting Ahmadinejad to Baghdad and kissing him on both cheeks, literally not figuratively. Are they unaware of the fact that this government in Iraq feels compelled to visit Tehran to explain what it is that they are attempting to do with a long-term security agreement?"

Biden did not address, directly, rumors of his high place on Barack Obama's short list of vice presidential candidates, choosing instead to make light of being flanked on the Washington Post's rankings by two women: Hillary Clinton and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. And he started the speech off with an ode to his own White House run, openly wondering how he, "the most qualified man to be president," could end up in the role of campaign surrogate.

"I don't know what I'm doing here," he told the crowd.

Original here

McCain raises $62.5 million through public finance loophole

Update: After I posted this entry, I found an article by the WSJ's Todd Farnam reporting on the release of these numbers -- good for him, and good for the WSJ.

Here's a story you can say you read first at The Jed Report: according to FEC reports filed on July 15, through June 30, John McCain had raised at $62.5 million in private funds that can be used for his general election campaign -- even though he's already committed to accepting public funding for the general.

Moreover, based on my own analysis, of that $62.5 million, three-quarters -- $46.3 million -- comes from a total of 1,803 wealthy individuals who made five figure contributions averaging $25,664 each.

So not only is John McCain blatantly violating his public financing pledge, but he's doing it in grand style, raising money in increments of up to $70,000 per donor -- more than thirty times the amount a donor can give to Barack Obama's general election campaign.

How is this all possible? How has most of the media missed the story? Allow me to explain.

As you recall, on June 19th, Barack Obama announced that he would forgo the public finance system, electing to raise money directly from his 1.7 million supporters. In explaining his decision, Barack cited two key arguments: one, that John McCain and the RNC were jointly raising millions for the general election from private sources including from PACs and lobbyists and two, 527s would spend millions attacking him during the closing weeks of the campaign.

Now that the July 15 FEC reports have been filed, Barack's first argument has been validated. The jury is still out on the second argument; it cannot be evaluated until the campaign is over or until a major 527 or independent ad effort has materialized, whichever comes first.

Still, even though Barack has already been proven correct on one of his key points, he was subject to a ruthless browbeating by the mass media, which pilloried him as a cynical opportunist for days on end. Not surprisingly, the McCain campaign aggressively pushed that storyline with a daily barrage of sanctimonious and hypocritical personal attacks from McCain on Obama.

Now, however, it is clear that even as the McCain campaign was on the warpath against Barack Obama, they knew that his argument about the McCain campaign's coordination with the RNC was absolutely true.

First, ten days before Barack Obama announced his decision to forgo the public finance system, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis told McCain supporters that the campaign had discovered a way around the campaign finance system that would allow McCain to raise at least as much money as Obama -- if not more.

Second, of the $62.5 million in private funds that McCain can use in the general election, $54.1 million -- 86% -- was raised before Barack Obama's decision.

So it is absolutely clear that even as the McCain campaign was telling reporters one thing about their intention to stick by the public financing pledge, they were actually raising tens of millions of dollars from private sources for the general election campaign.

In short, the McCain campaign brazenly lied to the media.

::: ::: :::

The issue isn't that John McCain will withdraw from the public finance system -- he won't -- but rather that he's devised a way to spend tens if not hundreds of millions in privates funds even as he takes $85 million in taxpayer funds. (Talk about a bridge to nowhere.)

McCain, whose campaign is predicting a campaign budget of $400 million through the November 4, is skillfully exploiting loopholes in a campaign finance law that he wrote.

Here's the nuts-and-bolts of the loophole: the money McCain is currently raising through the campaign committees which reported their quarterly results on July 15 is actually being funneled to the Republican National Committee, even though each campaign committee bears McCain's name.

There are two reasons why the money is transferred to the RNC. First, if it were not transferred to the RNC, the money could not be used in the general. Second, by raising the money for the RNC, McCain is able to take advantage of a much higher contribution limits, allowing each donor to contribute $70,000 to his campaign instead of the $2,300 limit that Barack Obama's general election campaign has.

(Although Barack Obama could exploit the same loopholes as McCain, he doesn't have access to the sheer number of wealthy donors that McCain does, so the loopholes are of far less value to him.)

Once transferred to the RNC, the money can be used on a number of McCain campaign activities such as get out the vote operations, advertising, or producing literature and signs -- without any spending limitations whatsoever.

The only restriction is that any advertising in excess of $19 million must be orchestrated by what's called an independent expenditure committee. Legally, there can be no coordination between the McCain campaign and this independent expenditure committee, but practically speaking there's no way to enforce that restriction. In fact, the McCain campaign offices and the expenditure vendor offices are just 3 miles apart -- on the same road.

The McCain campaign and the RNC are already running ads through this independent expenditure loophole.

::: ::: :::

Ultimately, what we've got here is a press corps that got completely bamboozled by a dishonest McCain campaign because the McCain campaign was able to deftly take advantage of the fact that most journalists don't know very much about the campaign finance system.

Given John McCain's personal familiarity with that system -- he helped create it, after all -- it's pretty clear that McCain himself knew that he was misleading the press corps.

Now, the question is how the media will respond to having been lied to.

::: ::: :::

Update: If you can afford to, please donate to Obama for America -- with McCain doing this kind of end-run around the system, Barack needs all the help he can get.

Original here

Take Your Paws off the Presidency!

The Dark Side

Suppose the worst happens, and the next terrorist attack hits Washington hard, taking out the president and the vice president. What happens next?

New Yorker writer Jane Mayer's new book, The Dark Side, opens with a shocker. Apparently sometime in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan issued a "secret executive order" that in the event of the death of the president and the vice president "established a means of re-creating the executive branch." Reagan's order violated the express terms of the Constitution and governing statutes.

Does a similar order exist today? We aren't told. But we do know that Dick Cheney participated in the secret "doomsday" exercises under the Reagan order, and given his central role at present, it is imperative for Congress to find out.

Congress last considered the problem of a dual vacancy in the presidency and the vice presidency when Harry Truman was in the White House. In the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, lawmakers stipulated that if both positions are empty, power passes first to the Speaker of the House or, if she, too, does not survive, to the president pro tem of the Senate. But relying on James Mann's earlier book Rise of the Vulcans, Mayer reports that Reagan "amended the process for speed and clarity … without informing Congress that it had been sidestepped." We don't know how. But if the order bypasses the speaker and the Senate president pro tempore in favor of an official in the executive branch, we have a recipe for a constitutional crisis.

With al-Qaida back in business in Pakistan and terrorist incidents proliferating around the world, this is no time to ignore that grim risk. A coup by the executive branch would be especially devastating at a time at which Democrats control the House. In the scenario I'm envisioning, Nancy Pelosi would assert her claim as acting president under existing statutes while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, or some other executive official, would simultaneously assert her competing authority under the executive order.

When confronting these competing claims, it would be the military that would call the shots. As the Washington Post reported three years ago, the Pentagon has "devised its first-ever war plans for guarding against and responding to terrorist attacks in the United States, envisioning 15 potential crisis scenarios and anticipating several simultaneous strikes around the country." In acting on these plans, would the Joint Chiefs choose to recognize the constitutional authority of Pelosi as commander in chief? Or would they respond to the commands of the executive official presiding over the "doomsday" crisis center at some "undisclosed location"? To ask the question is to answer it: The whole point of these "doomsday" exercises is to assure instant obedience to the will of the executive on the other side of the hot line. We are staring at a clear and present danger to the republic.

Where does the Bush administration figure into all of this? Since Sept. 11 , the question of presidential succession has been a preoccupation of some of the most responsible statesmen in Washington. Most notably, James Baker joined the late Lloyd Cutler to chair a bipartisan AEI-Brookings Institution commission on the subject. But their recommendations went nowhere in Congress, and I have always wondered why the Bush administration was content to remain on the sidelines. After all, the administration is certainly serious about terrorism. Why, then, didn't it take energetic steps to make much-needed revisions to the law of presidential succession inherited from the days of Harry Truman?

Despite the administration's repeated acts of lawlessness, I must confess to a certain naivete. It never occurred to me that Bush didn't care how Congress responded to the problem because he had issued a secret executive order that took the law into his own hands. After all, when he issued a public directive on the matter on continuity in government in 2007, he explicitly pledged to act "consistent[ly]" with the Presidential Succession Act. At the same time, however, his directive refers to a secret appendix. And as Ron Rosenbaum pointed out in Slate, even members of the House Committee on Homeland Security have been denied access to the document.

The committee, and Congress, should not take "no" for an answer. But they should also move beyond the appendix and demand to know whether investigative reports of a secret succession order are well-founded. If Reagan did issue an illegal order, Congress should publicly determine how subsequent administrations dealt with it. Perhaps President George H. W. Bush or Bill Clinton expressly repudiated the order. Or perhaps they reaffirmed it, thereby laying the foundation for President Bush, with the encouragement of Vice President Cheney, to do the same—through a process entirely independent of the administration's formal directives on the subject.

In any event, it is time for Congress to find out. Even if Reagan's initial illegal order has been rescinded, Congress must deprive it of all value as a precedent. Lawmakers should pass legislation that expressly nullifies all secret orders, present and future, through which the president asserts the imperial privilege of naming his own successor. We must decisively repudiate these illegal moves before they explode in our faces.

Original here

Congress overrides Bush's Medicare veto

By Donna Smith and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In what likely is the last big showdown between President George W. Bush and congressional Democrats over the popular Medicare health care program, the U.S. Congress on Tuesday voted to override his veto of a bill to keep doctors' payments from being slashed.

By enacting the measure over Bush's objections, Congress rescinded an 11 percent reduction in government payments to doctors treating elderly Medicare patients.

Just hours after Bush vetoed the legislation, the Senate voted 70-26 to overturn him, following the House of Representatives, which voted 383-41 to override. The bill now becomes law.

Twenty-one Republicans in the Senate and 153 in the House broke ranks with Bush and joined majority Democrats to overturn the veto in this election-year vote.

Supporters of the legislation argued that the scheduled 11 percent pay cut for doctors would discourage many of them from taking on Medicare patients.

The bill would offset the cost to the government of restoring the doctors' pay by cutting payments to big insurers, such as UnitedHealth Group Inc and Aetna Inc, which have contracts with the Medicare program.

Democrats argued that those contracts with private health care plans, which were encouraged in the 2003 legislation creating a new government drug benefit for the elderly, cost more than providing health coverage under the traditional Medicare program.

They also argued that more generous subsidies to private health plans threaten to undermine the traditional Medicare program.


"Let's send a message to the president his days of doing us harm are very, very limited," said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat.

Over the years, Democrats and Bush have clashed over his proposed budget cuts for Medicare and the huge new prescription drug benefit he pushed through Congress in 2003.

Tuesday's votes marked the fourth time in his two terms that Bush has had a veto overturned by Congress. Bush has vetoed 12 bills during nearly eight years as president. Nearly all of those vetoes were since Democrats gained their congressional majority in 2007.

Bush said the $13 billion in reimbursement cuts to insurers will discourage program participation and reduce choices for the elderly.

"I support the primary objective of this legislation, to forestall reductions in physician payments. Yet taking choices away from seniors to pay physicians is wrong. This bill is objectionable, and I am vetoing it," Bush said in a statement to the House.

Doctors and the seniors' group AARP supported the bill and waged an aggressive lobbying effort to prevent the doctors' pay cut. The legislation was approved by Congress last week with strong bipartisan support.

The AARP issued a statement on Tuesday saying it will make sure its 39 million members get information on how lawmakers voted on the veto override.

"This bill will improve Medicare for the 44 million Americans who depend on it for quality, affordable health care," said Nancy LeaMond, AARP's executive vice president.

The bill is a temporary measure designed to stop the pay cut for doctors and give Congress and the next president, who takes office January 20, 2009, time to review broader issues surrounding Medicare. The health care program faces growing financial strains as the 77 million baby boom generation retires and begins to draw on government benefits.

(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by David Alexander)

Original here

Poll: ‘McCain Is Yoked To The Legacy’ Of Bush»

mccainandbush.jpgRecently, the McCain campaign tried to distance Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) from President Bush’s record:

- Senior Advisory Carly Fiorina: I think if you look at the record, it may be Barack Obama who is running for Bush III. But it certainly is not John McCain.

- Senior Policy Advisor Douglas Holtz - Eakin: Obama’s budget “is dedicated to the recent Bush tradition of spending money on everything.”

But Americans aren’t buying the spin. According to a new New York Times poll, “Mr. McCain is yoked to the legacy of President Bush.” Indeed, a majority of Americans believe that as President, McCain “would continue Mr. Bush’s policies in Iraq and on the economy”:

- 78 percent: McCain would continue Bush’s Iraq policies

- 61 percent: McCain would continue Bush’s economic policies

- 65 percent: McCain would not bring change to Washington

Indeed, as ThinkProgress has noted, McCain represents a third term of his buddy Bush on issue after issue. According to a CQ analysis of Senate votes on issues President Bush expressed “an explicit, stated opinion,” McCain voted with President Bush 100 percent of the time in 2008 and 95 percent of the time in 2007.

In April, during an appearance on Mike Gallagher’s show, McCain bragged that “no one has supported President Bush on Iraq more than I have.” The American people agree.

Original here

CNN reporter criticizes TSA, finds self on terror watch list

The post-9/11 airline watch list that is supposed to keep terrorists off of airplanes has swelled to more than 1 million names, including at least one investigative reporter who had been critical of the Transportation Security Agency, which maintains the watch list.

CNN's Drew Griffin reported on the bloating of the watch list, which an ACLU count pegged at 1,001,308 names Wednesday afternoon. Griffin's is one of those names, he says.

"Coincidentally, this all began in May, shortly after I began a series of investigative reports critical of the TSA. Eleven flights now since May 19. On different airlines, my name pops up forcing me to go to the counter, show my identification, sometimes the agent has to make a call before I get my ticket," Griffin reported. "What does the TSA say? Nothing, at least nothing on camera. Over the phone a public affairs worker told me again I'm not on the watch list, and don't even think that someone in the TSA or anyone else is trying to get even."

The TSA, which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security, said Griffin's name wasn't even on the watch list, and the agency blamed the airlines for the delays the reporter experienced. The airlines, on the other hand, said they were simply following a list provided by TSA.

While it wouldn't be much of a stretch for plenty of people to believe the TSA would exercise its revenge via watch-list meddling, an agency spokesman insists that just isn't the case.

"So if there's any thought or shadow of a thought that TSA somehow put you on a watch list because of your reporting," spokesman Christopher White said, "it is absolutely fabricated."

This video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast July 16, 2008.

Original here

Seven years on, no answer from White House on anthrax attacks

It's been almost seven years since — in the weeks immediately following 9/11 — anthrax powder sent through the mail killed five people, threatened the lives of two Democratic senators, terrorized the entire nation, and helped prod a panicky Congress into passing the so-called Patriot Act.

In the intervening years, not only has the killer remained free, but missteps in the investigation have had major negative consequences. Just last month, in fact, the Department of Justice agreed to pay $4.6 million to former bioweapons expert Stephen Hatfill to settle a lawsuit Hatfill brought against the Justice Department, the FBI, and former Attorney General John Ashcroft for destroying his reputation and career by publicly implicating him in the case. And Glenn Greenwald has pointed out that in 2001, ABC News was fed false information by several "well-placed sources" (presumably officials in the Bush administration) suggesting an Iraq-anthrax link. That imaginary link was widely cited by pro-war cheerleaders.

At Monday's White House briefing, I asked if President Bush was satisfied with the progress of the investigation into the attacks. Press Secretary Dana Perino told me that she didn't even "know if he has had an update on it."

Here is our exchange:

Q Is the president satisfied with the progress of the investigation into the anthrax attacks?

MS. PERINO: I don't know if he has had an update on it. But obviously this is something that the FBI is doing. We don't do the investigation from the White House.

Q Well, is he following the progress?

MS. PERINO: You know, I'm sure he -- he gets updated by Director Mueller once a week on a variety of issues. And if that comes up, I'm sure he gets an update.

Q You don't know if he's satisfied with the progress?

MS. PERINO: I don't.

One reason I thought the White House might need to be reminded of this issue is because as recently as last January, in his 2008 State of the Union address, the President appeared to have completely forgotten about the attacks, stating, "We are grateful that there has not been another attack on our soil since 9/11." The anthrax letters, of course, were postmarked on September 18 and October 9, 2001, one to four weeks after 9/11. In his radio address to the nation on November 3, 2001, Bush called them "a second wave of terrorist attacks," and promised that "we will solve these crimes, and we will punish those responsible."

But just a few months later, the White House was already stalling. Asked about the pace of the investigation on February 25, 2002, then-Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said, "The President would like to get this, obviously, resolved as quickly as is possible. The pace of justice is a methodical one...the President believes the FBI is doing a good, solid job."

The question didn't come up again at a White House briefing until more than three years later, when a reporter asked Scott McClellan, "Why have we not found the person or persons responsible for the anthrax attacks of 2001?" Scott's reply: "That's a matter that remains a priority. It remains under investigation. The FBI continues to pursue it."

So it's incredible that now, after three more years, all the White House spokesperson has to say is, "If that comes up, I'm sure he gets an update." Not "he believes the FBI is doing a good job." Not even "that matter remains a priority." Just "if it comes up, he gets an update."

That's simply unacceptable. Why isn't THE PRESIDENT bringing it up? And almost as bad, why hasn't the establishment media pressed the administration harder on this issue? Especially after this story by David Willman in the L.A. Times revealed that Justice Department officials kept the investigation focused on Hatfill for almost five years, even though investigators never found any evidence linking him to the attacks, and that many experts who have been involved in the case now believe that it will never be solved.

When the Ramsey family was cleared in the JonBenet case, the media went wild. I can only suppose that one more Bush failure is no longer considered newsworthy.

The preceding article was a White House report from Eric Brewer, who will periodically attend White House press briefings for Raw Story. Brewer is also a contributor at BTC News. He was the first reporter to ask about the Downing Street memo and the Pentagon analysts scandal at White House briefings.

Original here

GOP Asks Net For Advice, Paulites Answer the Call ... and Answer, and Answer

When the Republican Party issued a clarion call last week for its grassroots supporters to submit ideas online to build the party's platform, Republican National Committee officials probably weren't expecting a concerted push for the dismantling of the Federal Reserve and a return to the gold standard. Gopplatform

But Ron Paul supporters have made themselves at home on the the GOP platform site, sounding many of the themes that turned the Texas congressman's doomed run for the Republican presidential nod into an internet cause célèbre.

"Get rid of the unconstitutional Federal Reserve, and go back to a sound gold and silver based currency," wrote Cathy, a contributor from Stevensville, Montana, in a post to the "Jobs and Economic Growth" section of the site.

It's just one of pages and pages of comments submitted by users complaining about the Federal Reserve. Abolishing the bank is one of Paul's core policy issues.

A Libertarian-leaning Republican, Ron Paul formally ended his presidential run June 12, long after rival John McCain effectively secured the nomination. But Paul's army of online supporters, who've collectively contributed millions of dollars and thousands of hours of volunteering, are still out there, and they're now working to sway the direction of the party.

"One thing that should be emphasized is how the last eight years have not been Republican at all," writes Joshua, from Omaha, Nebraska. "Under George W. Bush we saw record government spending, the size of government increase, Fannie and Freddie are going through a crisis, and the Federal Reserve let the dollar inflate like mad. If that isn't something for the Republicans to be ashamed of, I don't know what is."

Says Bob in Clemons, North Carolina: "We need to abolish the Federal Reserve and go back to the gold standard. Not just any gold though, I heard about this stuff, pure-strain gold that has been around since God created the universe. That's what we should base our currency around since it is so close to God."

Other libertarians chimed in with their own sermons from the Book of Paul.

"I'm a little afraid of writing this, as perhaps, I'll be labeled as an 'enemy combatant' and will be whisked away by the [Department of Homeland Security] without the rights previously held by American citizens, but, here goes.... Read The Revolution, by Ron Paul, especially Chapter 2," wrote an anonymous author.

"If the Republican party is to remain a relevant part of America's post-boomer political future, then our position on same-sex marriage must change," wrote another. "As a young person and a 'Ron Paul Republican,' I feel that personal liberties, including the right for any adult to marry any other consenting adult, must be protected. At the very least, the issue should be left up to the states."

"As a paleo-conservative I do not support the current direction of the Republican party," writes "PauPer" in yet another entry. "I think Bob Barr and Ron Paul are the true conservative Republicans. The so-called neo-cons have neglected American Republican values. It's no longer left vs. right, it's state worship vs. individual rights. The feral federal government doesn't recognize state or individual rights, and not doing so make them traitors to American values. Peace out."

Will the Republican party respond to the disaffected online Paulites?

An e-mail to an RNC spokesperson wasn't returned by the time of this posting, nor was a phone call to platform committee chairman Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California).

Original here

Bush claims executive privilege to block testimony on CIA leak

President Bush has asserted executive privilege to prevent Attorney General Michael Mukasey from having to comply with a House panel subpoena for material on the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

A House committee chairman, meanwhile, held off on a contempt citation of Mukasey — who had requested the privilege claim — but only as a courtesy to lawmakers not present.

Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, rejected Mukasey's suggestion that Vice President Dick Cheney's FBI interview on the CIA leak should be protected by the privilege claim — and therefore not turned over to the panel.

"We'll act in the reasonable and appropriate period of time," Waxman, D-Calif., said. But he made clear that he thinks Mukasey has earned a contempt citation and that he'd schedule a vote on the matter soon.

"This unfounded assertion of executive privilege does not protect a principle; it protects a person," Waxman said. "If the vice president did nothing wrong, what is there to hide?"

The assertion of the privilege is not about hiding anything but rather protecting the separation of powers as well as the integrity of future Justice Department investigations of the White House, Mukasey wrote to Bush in a letter dated Tuesday. Several of the subpoenaed reports, he wrote, summarize conversations between Bush and advisers — are direct presidential communications protected by the privilege.

"I am greatly concerned about the chilling effect that compliance with the committee's subpoena would have on future White House deliberations and White House cooperation with future Justice Department investigations," Mukasey wrote to Bush. "I believe it is legally permissible for you to assert executive privilege with respect to the subpoenaed documents, and I respectfully request that you do so."

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Bush invoked the privilege on Tuesday.

Waxman said he would wait to hold a vote on Mukasey's contempt citation until all members of the panel had a chance to read up on the matter.

The Bush administration had plenty of warning. Waxman warned last week that he would cite Mukasey with contempt unless the attorney general complied with the subpoena. The House Judiciary Committee also has subpoenaed some of the same documents from Mukasey, as well as information on the leak from other current and former administration officials.

Congressional Democrats want to shed light on the precise roles, if any, that Bush, Cheney and their aides may have played in the leak.

State Department official Richard Armitage first revealed Plame's identity as a CIA operative to columnist Robert Novak, who used former presidential counselor Karl Rove as a confirming source for a 2003 article. Around that time Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was criticizing Bush's march to war in Iraq.

Cheney's then-chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, also was involved in the leak and was convicted of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI. Last July, Bush commuted Libby's 2 1/2-year sentence, sparing him from serving any prison time.

Libby told the FBI in 2003 that it was possible that Cheney ordered him to reveal Plame's identity to reporters.

Original here

Al-Marri and the power to imprison U.S. citizens without charges

Of all the constitutionally threatening and extremist powers the Bush administration has asserted over the last seven years, the most radical -- and the most dangerous -- has been its claim that the President has the power to arrest U.S. citizens and legal residents inside the U.S., and imprison them indefinitely in a military prison, without charging them with any crime, based on his assertion that the imprisoned individual is an "enemy combatant." Beginning with U.S. citizen Yasser Esam Hamdi (detained in Afghanistan), followed by U.S. citizen Jose Padilla (detained at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport), followed by Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri (in the U.S. on a student visa and detained at his home in Peoria, Illinois), the Bush administration has not only claimed that power in theory but has aggressively exercised and defended it in practice.

The Bush administration's strategy of imprisoning these "enemy combatants" in a South Carolina military brig has (by design) ensured that subsequent legal challenges are heard by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the most right-wing judicial circuit in the country. In September, 2005, a three-judge panel from that circuit issued a ruling in the Jose Padilla case (.pdf) that actually upheld the President's power to arrest and indefinitely detain even U.S. citizens arrested on U.S. soil without charging them with any crime -- a decision which the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review (because the Bush administration, after 3 1/2 years of lawless imprisonment, avoided that review by finally charging Padilla with a crime), thus leaving that Padilla decision as still-valid law in this country.

Citing the allegation that Jose Padilla had "served as an armed guard at what he understood to be a Taliban outpost" in Afghanistan (Dec. at 7), the 2005 Padilla decision held that "the President is authorized by the AUMF to detain Padilla as a fundamental incident to the conduct of war." The court rejected Padilla's claim that -- as a U.S. citizen who was "captured" on U.S. soil -- he was entitled under the Constitution to be charged with a crime and tried in a civilian court. Under Padilla, the President thus has the power to imprison even U.S. citizens in a military brig indefinitely, merely be alleging that they are "enemy combatants" who have "taken up arms against the U.S."

Yesterday, the full Fourth Circuit appellate court, in a 5-4 ruling (.pdf), expanded that Draconian power even further. This ruling was issued in al-Marri's case, whose extraordinary plight I've previously written about in detail. Al-Marri is a citizen of Qatar who, in 2001, was in the United States legally, on a student visa. He was a computer science graduate student at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, where he had earned an undergraduate degree a decade earlier. In Peoria, he lived with his wife and five children. Shortly after the 9/11 attack, al-Marri was detained as a material witness and subsequently charged in a civilian court with a variety of crimes relating to credit card fraud and making false statements as part of the 9/11 investigation. He vehemently denied those accusations, and -- in June, 2003 -- he was preparing for his criminal trial, scheduled to begin the following month.

Suddenly -- a month before his trial was to begin -- George Bush declared him to be an "enemy combatant" and ordered the U.S. military to seize him from civilian officials and transfer him to military custody. There -- in a South Carolina military brig -- al-Marri has remained for the last five years, with no criminal charges having been brought against him and no meaningful opportunity to contest his guilt in a court of law. He has been kept in solitary confinement and denied any contact with the outside world other than his lawyers.

The Fourth Circuit's 5-4 ruling yesterday upheld the President's authority to detain al-Marri in a military prison as an "enemy combatant." What makes the ruling so striking is that -- unlike Hamdi and Padilla -- not even the Bush administration claims that al-Marri fought alongside the Taliban, fought against U.S. forces, or had even been to Afghanistan. He's simply a civilian accused by the President of being involved in a terrorist plot. As one of the seven separate opinions issued as part of the court's ruling yesterday noted [p. 28]:

The Judge who was the swing vote in this ruling (Judge Traxler) -- whose opinion became the court's binding decision -- described, with remarkable casualness, the power that the al-Marri court was therefore vesting in the President [Dec. at 70]:

Thus, the President can order anyone in the U.S. imprisoned in a military brig as an "enemy combatant" -- even if they have never fought on a battlefield or with a foreign power against the U.S. Rather, mere accusations by the President of "terrorism" are sufficient to justify the indefinite incarceration of such an individual as an "enemy combatant," who is then denied basic Constitutional guarantees.

To say that such individuals can be held "for the duration of relevant hostilities" means, of course, that such individuals can be imprisoned by the President in a military brig not just for years but for decades [Dec. at 62]:

Most critically of all -- as two of the opinions separately recognized, including the one from the swing Judge (Traxler) whose opinion was the only one to attract five votes and is therefore the court's opinion -- this decision applies every bit as much, and to exactly the same extent, to U.S. citizens on U.S. soil as it does to non-citizens (such as al-Marri) who are in the U.S. legally. From Judge Traxler's opinion [Dec. at 98]:

And from Judge Gregory's [Dec. at 100]:

So, then, the President has the power to imprison in a military prison even U.S. citizens inside the U.S. -- who are pure civilians, having not been anywhere near a battlefield -- indefinitely and without having to charge them with any crime.

The same court yesterday, also by a 5-4 decision (with Judge Traxler switching sides), went on to rule that, following the Supreme Court's Hamdi decision, even so-called "enemy combatants" are entitled to some minimal, indeterminate amount of "due process" to contest their "enemy combatant" designation (the Bush administration had contended in Hamdi that U.S. citizens designated as "enemy combatants" were entitled to no process at all). The court ruled yesterday that al-Marri -- despite being imprisoned for almost seven years -- has thus far been denied even the minimal process he was due under Hamdi.

Under this ruling, the minimal process due to al-Marri (and, by extension, to any U.S. citizen arrested as an "enemy combatant") is effectively the same as what the Hamdi court accorded to actual combatants captured on a foreign battlefield, and what the Supreme Court in Boumediene recently accorded to non-citizens held at Guantanamo. Thus, while ruling that individuals in al-Marri's position are entitled to some basic procedures to view the evidence against them and offer counter-evidence, the court ruled that those rights are far, far less than the Constitution guarantees generally before the Government can imprison people inside the U.S. The basic Constitutional rights of a citizen against executive imprisonment can therefore effectively be circumvented simply by having the President declare someone an "enemy combatant."

At least with regard to individuals detained on U.S. soil, the Bush administration has exercised these definitively tyrannical powers in only a handful of cases -- two U.S. citizens (Hamdi and Padilla) and one non-citizen in the U.S. legally (al-Marri). But what the administration has done is asserted those powers generally, and embarked upon a strategy to ensure that they are institutionalized. Yesterday's ruling -- likely (though not certain) to be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court -- is but another step down the path of un-American radicalism we've been traversing.

The dangers of empowering the President to order the U.S. military to arrest U.S. citizens inside the U.S. and indefinitely imprison them as "enemy combatants" -- and thereby deny them core Constitutional protections -- is manifest. It's literally hard to imagine a more un-American power than that. Even Justice Scalia, dissenting in Hamdi, warned that allowing the President to hold U.S. citizens as "enemy combatants" is to vest the President with the ultimate power of tyranny, exactly what the Founders most wanted to prevent:

The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive.
George Bush will likely leave office with this particular tyrannical power infrequently exercised but nonetheless vigorously asserted, defended, and close to established. This is yet another step in the creeping extremism of the last seven years -- like torture and warrantless eavesdropping, this power (allowing the President to imprison U.S. citizens in military brigs with no charges) is one that was until quite recently inconceivable, but is now a defining part of how our Government operates.

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Billboard displaying burning twin towers reads ‘please don’t vote for a Democrat.’»

A billboard on display in Orange County, Florida shows the World Trade Center towers burning while telling passers-by: “Please Don’t Vote for a Democrat.” The local ABC News affiliate reports that the person responsible is a local musician “trying to help Republicans” but that “officials with both political parties are calling the billboard inappropriate.”


Federal court: Bush can indefinitely detain civilians

A federal court has issued two rulings, the New York Times reports: One favoring President Bush's indefinite detentions of "enemy combatants," and another granting one of said "enemy combatants" the opportunity to challenge his detention in court.

The court effectively ruled that President Bush has the same right to indefinitely detain a civilian on American soil as he does an enemy soldier on a battlefield.

Ali al-Marri, the only "enemy combatant" to be held in the continental United States, is in military custody in Charleston, South Carolina. He was arrested in Peoria, Illinois on December 12, 2001 on charges of credit card fraud and lying to federal agents before being sent to Charleston in 2003. A 5-4 majority of the United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, said that a sworn statement from an intelligence official as the government's sole testimony in an earlier proceeding was "inadequate." The official, Jeffrey N. Rapp, said that al-Marri was an al-Qaeda sleeper agent whose objective in the United States was to "commit mass murder and disrupt the banking system."

The other ruling effectively reverses an earlier ruling by a three-judge panel with the same court that ordered that al-Marri be either charged with a crime or released.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse, saying that al-Marri had "already received all the process he was due," added that the decision recognize the president's authority to "capture and detain [al-Qaeda] agents who, like the 9/11 hijackers, come to this country to commit or facilitate warlike acts against American civilians."

"This decision," countered Jonathan L. Hafetz, counsel for al-Marri, means the president can pick up any person in the country--citizen or legal resident--and lock them up for years without the most basic safeguard in the Constitution, the right to a criminal trial."

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GOP Brags That McCain Will Continue Bush's Economic Legacy

Last week, I appeared on Fox News to discuss the inflammatory comments by Phil Gramm (John McCain's top economic advisor) and how those comments really epitomize the Republican Party's country clubbish, let-them-eat-cake outlook on the economy. Notice about half-way through as the Republican strategist I'm debating actually acknowledges that McCain's major idea for fixing the economy is continuing George W. Bush's tax policies -- and that when she's called out for saying that, she tries to deny what she just said:

The interchange is instructive for two reasons.

2581824136_fec1f79696_m.jpgFirst and foremost is the admission: namely, that Republicans still want America to believe that the way to steady the economy is to follow Bush's efforts to slash taxes for millionaires. As I show in the very first chapter of my book, this is a prescription being rejected even in some of the most conservative parts of the country.

Second, there is the denial: When called onto the carpet for wanting to continue the policies of the most unpopular president in history, Republicans start running for cover to the point of claiming they never said what they just said. The denial is a tacit acknowledgment of the power of the populist uprising now boiling throughout the country. The GOP knows the country is very angry at conservatives' free market fundamentalism -- and so will deny and obfuscate to pretend they aren't championing such fundamentalism.

Of course, moments after appearing on Fox, my email in-box was filled with hate mail from conservative viewers. For instance, Dave in Bokeelia, Florida told me "Gramm was abolutely correct" in blaming Americans for the economic downturn, then asked, "Why don't you get and your boyfriend move to Denmark or some other socialist country?" (apparently, he's not aware I'm happily married to my wife, Emily). Then he declared, "Obama has already lost, you moron."

A guy named Charles angrily asked, "When did raising taxes ever stimulate economic growth?" then said "raising taxes will only cause a deeper recession," and added "Do your homework before berating someone on television." Apparently, he forgot that our most recent economic boom during the 1990s came immediately after President Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy.

My favorite was from a guy named Steve who wrote, "hey girlyboy, do you have any idea how pitiful you look to normal folks when you open your sissy moth beging the government to help?" (that is his spelling -- for real).

These comments show how powerful conservative propaganda has been - it has convinced a number (albeit a dwindling one, according to polling data) of people to believe that the real problem in our country is that we have too few royalists running the government - not too many. Though this conservative ideology is clearly on the ropes, the Fox News clip shows that the GOP is going to continue trying to ram it down our throats.

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