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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

McCain On The Run: Cancels Press Availability

Marc Ambinder reports that John McCain's one press conference of the week has been abruptly canceled:

The one scheduled McCain press conference of the week has just been canceled, we are told. No word as to why. Grumble, grumble.

Why? Scheduling. Which is like answering "food" to "what did you eat for breakfast."

Ambinder offers a relatively innocuous explanation:

My bet is that the campaign much prefers local and regional interviews. Us national press folks will ask qualitatively different questions -- McCain v. the press, McCain v. history, McCain v. Obamania... The priority here in northern Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional district is on getting good local news coverage.

But Ben Smith sees more, pointing out that Obamania is the least of McCain's worries right now:

Despite the press crowd around Obama, McCain's avail today was the one with more promise to make news:

He hasn't explained what he meant by juggling the timeline on the surge and Awakening (though his staff did the best salvage job possible); whether he meant that Obama was deliberately selling out the country; whether he shares his campaign's grievance with the press; or what he thinks of his staff's genocide-themed attack.

And now he's canceled the avail.

Original here

McCain Camp Attacks Obama's Holocaust Museum Statement

The McCain campaign implied on Wednesday that Barack Obama's commitment to preventing a future genocide was not sincere, attacking the Democratic candidate during his appearance at the Israeli Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem.

In an early morning press release, entitled "Obama on Genocide," McCain aide Tucker Bounds emailed reporters a quote from Obama's appearance in which the Illinois Democrat reiterated the cry "never again." He followed that quote with one taken a year ago from an interview that the Senator gave with the Associated Press in which he said that genocide or humanitarian crises were not a prerequisite for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq (a statement he has since walked back)

"Well, look, if that's the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces," said Obama, "then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now."

The message was fairly explicit: Obama's commitment to stopping future Holocausts is in doubt. Asked for clarification, McCain aide Michael Goldfarb responded:

"Today he says 'never again.' A year ago stopping genocide wasn't a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces in Iraq. Doesn't that strike you as inconsistent?"

It's a heavy charge to make, not least because Obama had just wrapped up his visit to the Holocaust memorial. In addition, there are, for better or worse, outstanding implications when discussing genocide when it comes to Jews -- and the insertion of the issue into the presidential campaign will border for some, on the taboo. Moreover, on the topic of Iraq, Obama has said he would leave a residual force to intervene in potential humanitarian crises and that he reserves the right to intervene militarily with international partners in order to "suppress potential genocidal violence within Iraq."

"I'd love to know more about Obama's residual force," said Goldfarb, when asked about it. "How big is it, where is it based, what is its mission, how long will it remain in Iraq? Nobody knows the answers to those questions, and I'd encourage the Huffington Post to inquire further with the Obama campaign."

UPDATE: Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), one of the most high-profile Jewish supporters of Obama, tells the Huffington Post that McCain's attack is "shameful" and "unconscionable."

Original here

Why John McCain's "Surge" Success Story is a Lie

It really makes the Iraq debate easy for John McCain when he throws around words like "win" and "victory" and "prevail" and "success" without really defining what they mean. A short time ago he was calling for American troops to remain in Iraq forever and that Obama was "naive" for suggesting otherwise. Now that the Iraqi government has indicated its desire for the American troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2010, McCain has gone dovish crediting his own insight for the "surge" that "won" the war. He even hinted today that American troops might be able to come home after all.

But McCain's stance totally contradicts the substance of the "status of force" agreement the Bush administration has been trying to ram down the Iraqi government's throat, which would codify a permanent American military presence in Iraq. General David Petraeus told Barack Obama during his recent trip to Iraq that he opposes a "timetable" for the withdrawal of American troops because he wants to maintain "flexibility." I guess Petraeus didn't get the memo from the George W. Bush-John McCain camp.

The editors of the New York Times opinion page asked McCain to rework his most recent submission. They demanded that he at least define what he means by "winning" in Iraq and what such a "victory" would look like on the ground. It is a welcome, if belated, arrival into the "reality-based community" on the part of the Times. (Of course, they still have David Brooks, Thomas Friedman, and William Kristol).

McCain is going to have some major editing work to do. He must not only declare that the "surge" was a great success, but he has to argue that it was such a magnificent "victory" that an American troop reduction might be in order (this comes after McCain denounced Obama repeatedly for making this same argument).

When McCain isn't talking about non-existent countries like "Czechoslovakia," or non-existent frontiers, like the "Iraq-Pakistan border," he's smugly dressing down Obama on foreign relations. The right-wing is whining about the positive press coverage Obama is getting on his trip, but if Obama referred to "Czechoslovakia" or to the "Iraq-Pakistan border" the media would have plunged his campaign into deep doo-doo.

It is disingenuous and self-serving for McCain to begin all of his discussions about Iraq with the January 2007 "surge." In doing so, he is airbrushing out the inconvenient history of the war.

Let's review.

In January 2007, when George W. Bush decided to pour more American soldiers into Iraq and escalate the U.S. troop commitment there he was responding to domestic politics. The Democrats were about to take over both houses of Congress and the Baker-Hamilton Commission Report had issued an indictment of the administration's lack of a diplomatic track in ending the conflict. Defiant, petulant, and immature as ever, Bush launched what his handlers called a "surge" to lock in the policy as the Democrats took their places on Capitol Hill and to show his Uncle Jim and his Daddy that he didn't need or want their advice.

By January 2007, the occupation in Iraq had long been a strategic and humanitarian disaster. There was already widespread "low intensity" ethnic cleansing, and with the February 22, 2006 destruction of the Shia Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra there was unleashed a sectarian bloodbath that transformed the country. The Shia government, which controlled the Interior Ministry and much of the security apparatus, went on a rampage and shielded freelance death squads and militias that reaped their revenge on Sunni communities throughout the country. In a short period, the ancient city of Baghdad went from being mostly Sunni to being mostly Shia. There were 2 million people who fled the country and another 2 million internally displaced people. It wasn't very long ago Iraqis were torturing each other with Black & Decker power drills. I doubt if the underlying current of hate and the cycle of revenge have dissipated. But after the dust settled there was relative calm. It had nothing to do with the "surge."

Any "success" that McCain or Bush or Kenneth Pollack or Michael O'Hanlon or Michael Gordon or David Petraeus and all the rest of the war-hawks talk about is delusional because it is proclaimed by willfully ignoring the humanitarian costs; the price in blood and treasure the Iraqis have paid, and to a far lesser extent, the Americans too. McCain is celebrating a Pyrrhic victory. The United States destroyed Iraq in order to save it. Just take a look at Falluja, or Baghdad with its hideous blast walls and check points. That place will never be the same. In a just world the United States would pay reparations to Iraq for a hundred years. (Don't take my word for it, read Patrick Cockburn's "Muqtada," and Jonathan Steele's "Defeat.")

Let's review some more.

First, the Senate Intelligence Committee's "Phase II" investigation of the lead-up to the war confirms that the Bush Administration used deception, lies, and misleading statements to hoodwink the public and the Congress into buying the idea that attacking Iraq served American national security interests. The Bush Administration lied this nation into war. Its principal mouthpieces and behind-the-scenes operators should be held accountable for their crimes, which include perjury, obstruction of justice, and abuse of power. (In addition to the international war crimes of aggressive war and torture.) It was a disgrace that will forever besmirch the reputation of this nation. I don't see any "victory" there.

Second, this war has cost our nation at least $750 billion (and counting) and the entire financial burden has been thrown on to the national debt. We'll be paying this thing back, with interest, to the same Wall Street elites that we are currently bailing out as part of a "remedy" for the mortgage meltdown. The 30,000 maimed American soldiers must be taken care of, and their health costs will soar with the cost of everything else. The PTSD cases alone will cost this country dearly in ways that we cannot even anticipate at this time. No "victory" there.

Third, all this talk of "success" in Iraq masks what the original aim of the war was supposed to be: Disarming the regime of Saddam Hussein of its "weapons of mass destruction." There was nothing to "disarm" because the Iraqi government had no weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations weapons inspectors only cost about $50 million per annum and they should have been allowed to do their jobs. Even if they were still in Iraq hunting for WMD right now it would have cost only about $300 million and the U.S. would have partners sharing the financial burden. The things we could have done with all that money we've wasted in Iraq. Bush then changed the objective of the war to an elaborate nation building exercise, an endeavor we still have not accomplished and probably never will. Democracy does not come out of a barrel of a gun. I see nothing "victorious" here.

Fourth, about 1,200 private corporations have been shamelessly profiteering off the Iraq war from day one. Halliburton's graft crimes are legion, and we won't find out the extent of the shoddy services KBR provided our soldiers, or how many Iraqi civilians Blackwater killed, until a new Attorney General is sworn in, and maybe not even then. "Win?" I guess you could say the profiteers "won."

With tens of thousands of innocent civilians killed and maimed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere; and with commentators like John Bolton, Benny Morris, and Charles Krauthammer demanding the United States or Israel attack Iran, thereby expanding the killing fields; and with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) working hand-in-glove with resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda elements in the northwestern border region and in Kashmir; and with the Bush Administration's failed saber rattling, warmongering, and unilateralist bluster -- Can we now safely conclude, at this late date, that Bush's foreign policy has been a catastrophe for the world and the single biggest recruiting tool for international terrorists?

None of the above smells like "victory" to me.

Original here

JedReport's Latest Devastating Video: "McCain's Neverending War"

One of the key components of the McCain hagiography, besides the downed planes and the wife-swapping is that he was a fearsome critic of the way President George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld prosecuted the Iraq War. OH! How he HATED it! Hated it something fierce! But then John McCain bravely authored the philosophy of the idea of the notion of the strategy that became known as the SURGE! And then, somehow, it became totally okay to hire one of the architects of the Rumsfeld plan as his foreign policy advisor.

Am I trying to say that there are some inconsistencies in McCain's backstory on Iraq? Uhm, yyyyyyyyyeeeeeessssss. And now Jed Lewison of has just released his latest video, an extremely comprehensive collection of McCain clips (never-before-seen for most people) which chart the Arizona Senator's position on Iraq over the last several years, and puncture one of the candidates central contentions.

Lewison writes:

My newest video features John McCain talking about the Iraq war from 2002 through the present, exposing -- in his own words -- the lie behind his claim that he was the war's "greatest critic." It demonstrates his chilling commitment to fighting this war no matter what the people of America -- or Iraq -- want.

It is long -- nine minutes, thirty seconds -- but much of the material it contains will likely be new to you...and devastating to McCain.

Take a look:

Original here

Fox’s Brian Kilmeade: ‘There’s just as many convoy attacks in America as there are in Iraq.’»

On the Brian and the Judge radio show today, Fox News host Brian Kilmeade presented his sunshine-filled vision of Iraq, declaring that “the Green Zone could come down in 6 months” and praising a new hotel to be built in Baghdad. His view was so optimistic he declared that there were “just as many convoy attacks” in the streets of America as there are now in Iraq:

KILMEADE: Do you think one of those people could have said, Barack, now that you’re sitting down here in a wonderful summer day, now that we understand that the green zone could come down in 6 months, they’re building– a five-star hotel’s been cleared to be built inside Baghdad, now that you understand that convoy attacks are down to 1 percent — that’s the same percentage that’s in America! I think there’s just as many convoy attacks in America as there are in Iraq–

JUDGE: Now let’s not get carried away. When’s the last time there was a convoy attack in America?

KILMEADE: Okay, fine. Can you roll with me for second?

Listen here:

Apparently in Kilmeade’s America, he wouldn’t be surprised to see something like this in downtown Columbus, OH:


Witness: ‘No way’ Novak didn’t know he hit someone; victim was ’splayed across the front’ of his car.»

Politico reports that conservative pundit Robert Novak “was cited by police after he hit a pedestrian with his black Corvette in downtown Washington, D.C., Wednesday morning.” Novak initially “drove away from the scene,” but turned around when “a bicyclist stopped him and said, ‘You hit someone.’” Novak claimed: “I didn’t know I hit anybody.” But Washington DC’s local ABC affiliate interviewed the bicyclist who saw the incident. WJLA’s Suzanne Kennedy reported live from the scene:

I just spoke with the bicyclist about three minutes ago. He tells me that the pedestrian was actually splayed across the front of Novak’s convertible, and that there would be absolutely no way Novak would have not known that he had hit someone.

Watch it:

Politico notes that in a 2001 interview with the Washington Post, Novak said, “I really hate jaywalkers. I despise them. Since I don’t run the country, all I can do is yell at ‘em. The other option is to run ‘em over, but as a compassionate conservative, I would never do that.”

Original here

Lieberman Compares Hagee To Moses, Says Bloggers Would Have Attacked Him Too»

Yesterday, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) spoke at the controversial pastor John Hagee’s Christians United For Israel Washington-Israel Summit. Lieberman’s close political ally, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), finally rejected Hagee’s endorsement in May. Lieberman, however, says he still has the utmost respect for the pastor, who once said that Hurricane Katrina was punishment to New Orleans for hosting a gay pride parade.

In his address last night, Lieberman used the “tone” of a biblical sermon. He blasted bloggers, reaffirmed his bond with Hagee, and compared the pastor to biblical figures. The Hartford Courant reports:

In response to what he termed the “pretty aggressive campaign,” Lieberman said in his speech, “The bond I feel with Pastor John Hagee and each and every one of you is much stronger than that and so I am proud to stand with you here tonight.”

Lieberman again drew a parallel between Hagee and biblical figures, this time saying biblical heroes, unlike the demigods of Greek mythology, “are humans — great humans, but with human failings.” Lieberman said that Moses had his shortcomings, too.

“Dear friends, I can only imagine what the bloggers of today would have had to say about Moses and Miriam.”

In justifying his decision to speak to Christians United, Lieberman claimed that Hagee has “expressed his regrets about each of the most controversial statements he has made.” In fact, though Hagee pledged “a greater level of compassion and respect for my Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ,” and apologized to Jews, he has never expressed regret over his comments about Katrina.

So according to Lieberman, endorsing John McCain and making offensive comments = parting the Red Sea.

Original here

Savage defends his autism comments by claiming Media Matters hates ‘families and children.’»

Last week, Media Matters caught right-wing radio talker Michael Savage claiming that autism is a “fraud” and “a racket” where “99 percent of the cases, it’s a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out.” Parents of autistic children are outraged, saying Savage’s comments were “way, way, way over the line and cruel.” But Savage refuses to apologize. On Larry King Live last night, he told guest host Glenn Beck that he had simply been “taken out of context” by “men who specialize in hating families and children, namely Media Matters.” Watch it:

Though Beck said he was sympathetic to someone being taken out of context, he told Savage that “as a dad with a child with special needs,” his baseless attack on autistic children “cuts right.”


BECK: It seems pretty clear you don’t really believe autism exists?

SAVAGE: No, no, no, no. Again, you took what they gave you but you didn’t take the entire preceding material. Preceding this, Glenn, was a discussion of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has had the nerve to say that children as young as two years of age should be given anti-cholesterol drugs.

BECK: Right.

SAVAGE: There’s been not one study about the damage this would do or potentially do to two year-olds, and yet you have had doctors come out and say these drugs should be given to the children. This was in the broader context of the over-medicalization, the over- diagnose of disease, using our children as profit centers. I’ve spent all day saying what a shame it is that I, as man who has spent his entire life defending the defenseless, mainly children, should have to defend myself from charges leveled at me by men who specialize in hating families and children, namely Media Matters who probably come after you as well, by ripping me out of context and making me look like the monster that they are.

BECK: Michael, let me ask you this, I am a guy who has been taken out of context. I am a guy who has been called a monster and everything else. I understand context. Talk radio is extremely difficult to do in sound bites because it is a three-hour running monologue, especially with somebody like you. But when you say 99 percent of the cases are brats who should be told to cut the act out and not act like morons, as a dad with a child with special needs, boy that cuts right.

UpdateThe radio station Super Talk Mississippi has announced that "effective immediately, Michael Savage and his Savage Nation Radio Show has been canceled." Here's the full statement:
Effective immediately, Michael Savage and his Savage Nation Radio Show has been canceled on all Super Talk Mississippi stations. Michael Savage's comments about Autistic children were beyond inexcusable and are unacceptable. Super Talk Mississippi and the Gallo Radio Show have assisted numerous Autism organizations on the air in the past and will continue to do so in the future. Autism is a serious condition affecting children and adults in Mississippi. We appreciate our many listeners who notified us of Savage's comments, especially those listeners who have autistic children. Steve Davenport, CEO Telesouth Communications, Inc.

Original here

A big November ahead for Senate Democrats

By Thomas F. Schaller

In the second of two Salon conversations forecasting the November congressional elections, three experts share their opinions about the prospects for Democratic gains in the Senate. Jennifer Duffy is senior editor of the Cook Political Report, where she covers U.S. Senate and governor races. Since 2001, Nathan Gonzales has been political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter covering U.S. House, Senate and gubernatorial campaigns. Amy Walter is editor of the Hotline, the premier daily news digest of Washington politics. They spoke to Salon by phone.

Thomas Schaller: I want to welcome everybody to Salon's conversation. Before discussing this fall's election, let's go back one cycle to provide some context. In 2006, the Democrats captured both chambers of Congress in the same cycle for the first time since 1954, and if you don't count the Jim Jeffords switch of 2001, they recaptured the Senate for the first time since 1986. Did the 2006 Senate results in fact rate along with those earlier cycles, '86 and '54 for the Democrats or, say, 1994 and 1980 for the Republicans, as a certifiable tectonic year, why or why not?

Jennifer Duffy: I think it is comparable to '86 in a lot of ways and even '94, which was obviously a Republican year. It was a sentiment that had been building literally for almost two years since Bush's reelection in 2004, where the environment for Republicans was just awful. The problem for Republicans is that not only has it not gotten better, it's probably gotten worse.

Nathan Gonzales: 2006 is comparable just because of the six seats changing hands. I think that's [among the] top five partisan switches since World War II. But it's also amazing that now we're talking about Democrats having another good cycle and the potential to gain more seats. The shift we're seeing isn't just one cycle; we're seeing this cover two cycles.

Amy Walter: To add to that, two of these states that are now in the presidential battleground for some of us for the first time ever, for others of us for the first time in a long time, Virginia and Colorado, I think are there in part because of the fact that these were two big wins for Democrats. Certainly in Virginia last year with Jim Webb, it's gotten folks to talk about the state as really potentially becoming blue again. You ask the question about tectonic shifts, the suggestion being that we're not simply trading chairs for a while until the next party comes in and picks those seats up. We got back to parity here -- Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Minnesota, places that are blue, picked up Democrats. But to have a place like Virginia pick up a Democrat was also a very important story.

Schaller: You're saying that some of the underlying environmental dynamics of 2006 are still here in terms of the partisan advantage arguably for the Democrats and possibly even worse because the Democrats are defending very few seats this time and the Republicans are defending far more seats. Is there any chance that the Republicans recapture the Senate? Does anybody want to take a chance at playing devil's advocate here and advance any sort of scenario where the Republicans recapture the Senate?

Walter: No.

Duffy: Absolutely not.

Walter: Can I be more emphatic?

Gonzales: No, the reason is, it's not just the playing field itself, it's the three Republican open seats in Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado that really make it impossible for Republicans to gain seats. And they really have one opportunity and that's Mary Landrieu in Louisiana. It's impossible to see a scenario where Republicans net seats in the Senate.

Schaller: The party money between the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, there's not as big an imbalance there as on the House side, but [DSCC chairman] Chuck Schumer is crushing it again, right? How much of a factor is that?

Duffy: It is an enormous factor because Republicans are just not going to have the kind of resources they need to go support the incumbents they have that are in trouble, whereas the Democrats will not only be able to help their challengers -- and we've seen already these ads they have up in Oregon against Gordon Smith that feature their own candidate, Jeff Merkley -- we see that they've reserved media time in places like North Carolina. But they can also further expand the playing field; they can take some risks at the end if they want to. Republicans just won't be in that position at all.

Walter: It's literally just triage. At some point, we'll get to the point where we'll say, "Where's the firewall here for Republicans?" If we're just going to assume that Democrats are plus three, plus four, right off the bat, OK, what's the next state where the Republicans are going to put that money, take whatever limited resources they have and just shovel it into a couple of races and be willing to say, even potentially to incumbents, we can't prop you up, we have to put this money in places we can win? That's going to be a very tough call.

Schaller: Let's turn to some specific states. There are some interesting races this cycle. There are a lot of open seats Republicans are defending, including two in the Southwest. If you had to pick someone who is an incumbent running for reelection, who is the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent and the most vulnerable Republican?

Walter: It's pretty easy. I doubt we'll disagree that Mary Landrieu [of Louisiana] is No. 1 for Democrats and that John Sununu is the top most vulnerable Republican incumbent.

Schaller: Is there any disagreement there, Jennifer and Nathan?

Duffy: Not at all. Mary Landrieu is No. 1 through 5. She's it. There is a long drop between her and anyone else that would be considered.

Original here

Krugman reveals the NYT urged him to ‘lay off’ the Bush administration.»

On Friday at the Netroots Nation conference, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman spoke on a panel about “How the media learned to bend over backwards to please the right.” Krugman discussed the right wing’s success at pressuring the media and how some of that filtered down to him:

KRUGMAN: I could see a little bit of the effects. I was never told to stop writing what I was writing. It was, however, made known to me that I was making management nervous. There were occasional, “Couldn’t you do more straight economics writing?” Pretty much the last time I heard that was in 2005, when I was sort of urged to lay off a bit. The words that stuck in my mind were, “The election settled some of these things.” Basically that all stopped with Katrina, actually.

Watch it (approx. 19:00):

Original here

CNN Highlights Racist Writings To Argue That An Obama Presidency Could ‘Hurt Black Americans’»

sailer.gif Today, CNN’s John Blake has an article titled, “Could an Obama presidency hurt black Americans?” In the piece, Blake notes that some commentators — including African-Americans, whites, Latinos, and conservatives — warn that “an Obama victory could be twisted to suppress the push for racial equality.” One of the white commentators Blake cites is Steve Sailer:

Steve Sailer, a columnist for The American Conservative magazine, wrote last year that some whites who support Obama aren’t driven primarily by a desire for change. […]

“So many whites want to be able to say, ‘I’m not one of them, those bad whites. … Hey, I voted for a black guy for president,’ ” Sailer wrote.

Sailer cited another reason why many whites want Obama as president:

“They hope that when a black finally moves into the White House, it will prove to African-Americans, once and for all, that white animus isn’t the cause of their troubles. All blacks have to do is to act like President Obama - and their problems will be over.”

It’s unbelievable that CNN would use Sailer, who, as Jesse Taylor notes, is more than just a conservative pundit. He has repeatedly made racially insensitive remarks, including:

African-Americans “tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society” [Link]

– “The brutal truth: Obama is a ‘wigger’. He’s a remarkably exotic variety of the faux African-American, but a wigger nonetheless.” [Link]

– Michelle Obama “sounds like she’s got a log-sized chip on her shoulder from lucking into Princeton due to affirmative action.” [Link]

– “Nor is it surprising that the black refugees at the Superdome and the convention center failed to get themselves organized to make conditions more livable. Poor black people seldom cooperate well with each other because they don’t trust other blacks much, for the perfectly rational reason that they commit large numbers of crimes against each other.” [Link]

Several of Sailer’s comments appeared on the site VDARE, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a white nationalist hate group. It’s doubtful that Sailer’s opinions are representative of most whites.

Original here

Not a Gaffe: A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Iraq

John McCain made a mistake this evening, which as far as I'm concerned, disqualifies him from being president. It is so appalling and so factually wrong that I'm actually sitting here wondering who McCain's advisers are. This isn't some gaffe where he talks about the Iraq-Pakistan border. It's a real misunderstanding of what has happened in Iraq over the past year. It is even more disturbing because according to John McCain, Iraq is the central front in the "war on terror." If we are going to have an Iraq-centric policy, he should at least understand what he is talking about. But anyway, what happened.

On Katie Couric tonight McCain says:

Kate Couric: Senator McCain, Senator Obama says, while the increased number of US troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias. And says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What's your response to that?

McCain: I don't know how you respond to something that is as -- such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarlane [phonetic] was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that's just a matter of history. Thanks to General Petraeus, our leadership, and the sacrifice of brave young Americans. I mean, to deny that their sacrifice didn't make possible the success of the surge in Iraq, I think, does a great disservice to young men and women who are serving and have sacrificed.

One problem. The surge wasn't even announced until a few months after the Anbar Awakening. Via Spencer Ackerman, here is Colonel MacFarland explaining the Anbar Awakening to Pam Hass of UPI, on September 29, 2006. That would be almost four months before the President even announced the surge. Petraeus wasn't even in Iraq yet.

With respect to the violence between the Sunnis and the al Qaeda -- actually, I would disagree with the assessment that the al Qaeda have the upper hand. That was true earlier this year when some of the sheikhs began to step forward and some of the insurgent groups began to fight against al Qaeda. The insurgent groups, the nationalist groups, were pretty well beaten by al Qaeda.

This is a different phenomena that's going on right now. I think that it's not so much the insurgent groups that are fighting al Qaeda, it's the -- well, it used to be the fence-sitters, the tribal leaders, are stepping forward and cooperating with the Iraqi security forces against al Qaeda, and it's had a very different result. I think al Qaeda has been pushed up against the ropes by this, and now they're finding themselves trapped between the coalition and ISF on the one side, and the people on the other.

And here is the NY Times talking about the Anbar Awakening back in March 2007.

The formation of the group in September shocked many Sunni Arabs. It was the most public stand anyone in Anbar had taken against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which was founded by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

And here is Colin Kahl in Foreign Affairs:

The Awakening began in Anbar Province more than a year before the surge and took off in the summer and fall of 2006 in Ramadi and elsewhere, long before extra U.S. forces started flowing into Iraq in February and March of 2007. Throughout the war, enemy-of-my-enemy logic has driven Sunni decision-making. The Sunnis have seen three "occupiers" as threats: the United States, the Shiites (and their presumed Iranian patrons), and the foreigners and extremists in AQI. Crucial to the Awakening was the reordering of these threats.

This is not controversial history. It is history that anyone trying out for Commander in Chief must understand when there are 150,000 American troops stationed in Iraq. It is an absolutely essential element to the story of the past two years. YOU CANNOT GET THIS WRONG. Moreover, what is most disturbing is that according to McCain's inaccurate version of history, military force came first and solved all of our problems. If that is the lesson he takes from the Anbar Awakening, I am afraid it is the lesson he will apply to every other crisis he faces including, for example, Iran.

This is just incredibly disturbing. I have no choice but to conclude that John McCain has simply no idea what is actually happened and happening in Iraq.

Update: It gets even better. Marc Lynch points me towards an article (PDF) that Col. MacFarland wrote summarizing his experiences in Anbar and how they helped turn the war in the Sunni parts of Iraq and started the Anbar Awakening. This is essentially the official military history. The timeframe he discusses is June 2006-February 2007. The first surge troops were just arriving as MacFarland and his men redeployed out of Anbar.

Original here

Slammed: Welcome to the Age of Incarceration

By Jennifer Gonnerman

The number first appeared in headlines earlier this year: Nearly one in four of all prisoners worldwide is incarcerated in America. It was just the latest such statistic. Today, one in nine African American men between the ages of 20 and 34 is locked up. In 1970, our prisons held fewer than 200,000 people; now that number exceeds 1.5 million, and when you add in local jails, it's 2.3 million—1 in 100 American adults. Since the 1980s, we've sat by as the numbers inched higher and our prison system ballooned, swallowing up an ever-larger portion of the citizenry. But do statistics like these, no matter how disturbing, really mean anything anymore? What does it take to get us to sit up and notice?

Apparently, it takes a looming financial crisis. For there is another round of bad news, the logical extension of the first: The more money a state spends on building and running prisons, the less there is for everything else, from roads and bridges to health care and public schools. At the pace our inmate population has been expanding, America's prison system is becoming, quite simply, too expensive to sustain. That is why Kansas, Texas, and at least 11 other states have been trying out new strategies to curb the cost—reevaluating their parole policies, for instance, so that not every parolee who runs afoul of an administrative rule is shipped straight back to prison. And yet our infatuation with incarceration continues.

There have been numerous academic studies and policy reports and journalistic accounts analyzing our prison boom, but this phenomenon cannot be fully measured in numbers. That much became apparent to me when, beginning in 2000, I spent nearly four years shadowing a woman who'd just been released from prison. She'd been locked up for 16 years for a first-time drug crime, and her absence had all but destroyed her family. Her mother had taken in her four young children after her arrest, only to die prematurely of kidney failure. One daughter was deeply depressed, the other was seething with rage, and her youngest son had followed her lead, diving into the neighborhood drug culture and then winding up in prison himself.

The criminal justice system had punished not only her but her entire family. How do you measure the years of wasted hours—riding on a bus to a faraway prison, lining up to be scanned and searched and questioned, sitting in a bleak visiting room waiting for a loved one to walk in? How do you account for all the dollars spent on collect calls from prison—calls that can cost at least three times as much as on the outside because the prison system is taking a cut? How do you begin to calculate the lessons absorbed by children about deprivation and punishment and vengeance? How do you end the legacy of incarceration?

The US holds 1 in 4 of the world's prisoners

The US holds 1 in 4
of the world's prisoners.

This is not to say that nobody deserves to go to prison or that we should release everyone who is now locked up. There are many people behind bars who you would not want as your neighbor, but in our hunger for justice we have lost perspective. We treat 10-year sentences like they're nothing, like that's a soft penalty, when in much of the rest of the world a decade behind bars would be considered extraordinarily severe. This is what separates us from other industrialized countries: It's not just that we send so many people to prison, but that we keep them there for so long and send them back so often. Eight years ago, we surpassed Russia to claim the dubious distinction of having the world's highest rate of incarceration; today we're still No. 1.

If awards were granted to the country with the most surreal punishments, we would certainly win more than our share. Thirty-six straight years in solitary confinement (the fate of two men convicted in connection with the murder of a guard in Louisiana's Angola prison). A 55-year sentence for a small-time pot dealer who carried a gun during his sales (handed down by a federal court in Utah in 2004). Life sentences for 13-year-olds. (In 2005, Human Rights Watch counted more than 2,000 American inmates serving life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles. The entire rest of the world has only locked up 12 kids without hope of release.) Female prisoners forced to wear shackles while giving birth. (Amnesty International found 48 states that permitted this practice as of 2006.) A ban on former prisoners working as barbers (on the books in New York state).


Sources: Bureau of Justice Statistics; US Census

(rate per 100,000 people)

Sources: Bureau of Justice Statistics; Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online. (No 2006 drug data.)

America is expert at turning citizens into convicts, but we've forgotten how to transform convicts back into citizens. In 1994, Congress eliminated Pell grants for prisoners, a move that effectively abolished virtually all of the 350 prison college programs across the country. That might not seem like a catastrophe, until you consider that education has been proven to help reduce recidivism. (This was the conclusion of a recent paper by the Urban Institute, which reviewed 49 separate studies.) As the New York Times' Adam Liptak has pointed out, our prisons used to be models of redemption; de Tocqueville praised them in Democracy in America. Many prisons still call themselves "correctional facilities," but the term has become a misnomer. Most abandoned any pretense of rehabilitation long ago. Former California governor Jerry Brown even went so far as to rewrite the state's penal code to stress that the primary mission of that state's prisons is punishment.

Our cell blocks are packed with men and women who cannot read or write, who never graduated from high school—75 percent of state inmates—who will be hard-pressed to find a job once they are released. Once freed, they become second-class citizens. Depending on the state, they may be denied public housing, student loans, a driver's license, welfare benefits, and a wide range of jobs. Perhaps there is no more damning statistic than the fact that within three years, half will be convicted of a new crime.

Recently, there have been some hopeful signs. In April, the Second Chance Act was finally signed into law; it will provide federal grants to programs that help prisoners reenter society. But our punishment industry—which each year spends millions lobbying federal and state lawmakers—has grown so massive and so entrenched that it will take far more than one piece of legislation to begin to undo its far-reaching effects.

Just look at our felony disenfranchisement laws, which prohibit 5.3 million people from voting—including 13 percent of African American men. These numbers actually underestimate the scope of the problem, as many ex-prisoners believe they cannot vote even if they can. And so the legacy of our prison boom continues: We've become a two-tier society in which millions of ostensibly free people are prohibited from enjoying the rights and privileges accorded to everyone else—and we continue to be defined by our desire for punishment and revenge, rather than by our belief in the power of redemption.

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Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post Publishes McCain’s Rejected, Error-Filled Op-Ed»

mccainweb.jpgThe New York Times editorial staff recently rejected an op-ed by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), which responded to a one published last week by Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). The Times said Obama’s article “worked” because it offered “new information” and that they would be “pleased” to “look at another draft” from McCain.

While the Times wanted something “new” from McCain, the New York Post — owned by Rupert Murdoch — has no problem republishing McCain campaign talking points — even if they’re not totally accurate. Today, the Post published McCain’s rejected article in its entirety. From McCain’s Post op-ed:

In 2007, he wanted to withdraw because he thought the war was lost. If we’d taken his advice, the war would have been lost. Now he wants to withdraw because he thinks Iraqis no longer need our assistance.

To make this point, he mangles the evidence. He makes it sound as if Maliki has endorsed his timetable - when the Iraqi prime minister has merely said that he’d like a plan for the eventual withdrawal of US troops at some unspecified future point.

The inconvenient truth for McCain’s piece is that Maliki (and more recently his spokesman) did endorse Obama’s timetable in a recent interview with Der Spiegel:

US presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.”

But McCain didn’t stop there, offering a baseless attack on Obama, claiming that he “doesn’t want to hear” what “the commanders on the ground” in Iraq “have to say.” Obama heard what they had to say just yesterday.

Naturally, the right wing is outraged that the “liberal” New York Times rejected McCain’s op-ed, falsely claiming that its decision is unprecedented. Lucky for them…there’s always Rupert Murdoch.

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