Tuesday, July 29, 2008
VoteVets, the pro-Democrat group of retired military personnel, counters McCain's Black Hawk down statement with some outrage from Col. Katherine Scheirman (Ret.), the retired Chief of Medical Operations for United States Air Force in Europe Headquarters at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany:
"John McCain's new ad is dishonest and shameful, and I say that as the former Chief of Medical Operations. Senators Hagel and Reed confirmed to Bob Schieffer yesterday that Senator Obama visited the Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad as a part of their CODEL, with no media present.
"In Germany, Senator Obama made the right decision to respect wounded troops, and the doctors and nurses doing crucial and time-sensitive work, by not making a visit that was characterized as a campaign event by the Pentagon. Senator Obama should be thanked for putting our military above politics. And, I would hope that John McCain would think in those same terms, the next time he is put in a similar situation.
"Senator Obama has voted for the troops when John McCain has not, most recently on the new GI Bill. I am happy that Senator Obama puts the welfare of our troops above politics."
Also, it's notable that Obama's camp, quick to respond to most every charge and ever-conscious of not repeating the mistakes of Kerry, has yet to go on the air with a spot pushing back against McCain's charge on the troop visit. Apparently, they won't unless McCain puts real money behind his spot and goes beyond just gaming it for earned media.
One of the most depressing parts of this Sunday morning's political fare was the sad sight of Tom Brokaw flying halfway around the world just so he could dully recite Friday's David Brooks column from the New York Times at a Barack Obama who must have been wondering if the National Broadcasting Company bought all their airtime at wholesale prices or something that it could be so wasted. Many commenters and emailers had the same head-cradled-in-hands-moaning sensation at the sight of it, and today, you can all say that you have been of the same mind of this site's founder, who emailed me soon after, stating her own incredulous disbelief.
Brokaw read more or less the entire column, panning the Berlin speech on the air, and Obama basically scoffed, citing the fact that there are nine good reviews of his Berlin speech to every negative one. He goes on to point out numerous examples in the speech that undercut Brooks' central thesis, insofar as he can be said to have one.
Really, when you read the piece, you hardly worry about Obama. You worry about Brooks! That Brooks is no longer impressed with Obama seems to be, by and large, a function of his own boredom. But, even if we take him at his word (and in fairness, it's completely understandable to be bored by Obama), one worries that Brooks is replacing "being rapt with Obama's rhetoric" with blank-headed cynicism:
Much of the rest of the speech fed the illusion that we could solve our problems if only people mystically come together. We should help Israelis and Palestinians unite. We should unite to prevent genocide in Darfur. We should unite so the Iranians won't develop nukes. Or as Obama put it: "The walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down."
As Obama goes on to point out, Brooks is a McCain supporter. Here's Brooks providing his best version of McCain's campaign slogan: "Don't hope for a better life!"
Worse, Brooks goes on to make some terrifyingly myopic conclusions about history:
The great illusion of the 1990s was that we were entering an era of global convergence in which politics and power didn't matter. What Obama offered in Berlin flowed right out of this mind-set. This was the end of history on acid.
Since then, autocracies have arisen, the competition for resources has grown fiercer, Russia has clamped down, Iran is on the march. It will take politics and power to address these challenges, the two factors that dare not speak their name in Obama's lofty peroration.
Of course, the autocracies that have arisen, the resources which have dwindled, the clampdown in Russia and the rise of Iran are just four of the malign things that happened on the watch of President Bush, as a result of his "my mandate is to project blunt American power into the world forever and ever" doctrine One of the reasons Obama went to Europe was to signal that this great delusion of the 2000s was nearing an end.
That's why so many people cheered!
Team Obama accuses McCain of 'dishonorable' campaign
WASHINGTON — Republican John McCain's campaign on Saturday sharply criticized Democratic rival Barack Obama for canceling a visit to wounded troops in Germany, contending Obama chose foreign leaders and cheering Europeans over "injured American heroes."
Obama's campaign called the accusation "wildly inappropriate." His spokesman has claimed that the visit to a military hospital in Germany was scrapped after the Pentagon raised concerns about political activity on a military base. Earlier, though, the campaign had said Obama decided the visit might be seen as inappropriate politicking. However, the Pentagon said the senator was never told not to visit.
A new McCain ad that began airing Saturday (shown below) in selected markets also chides Obama as disrespectful for making "time to go to the gym" during his European visit while at the same time canceling the visit with wounded troops.
"Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras," according to the ad, which is being televised in Colorado, Pennsylvania and the Washington D.C. area. "John McCain is always there for our troops."
McCain himself joined in the rebuke, saying in an interview to be aired Sunday by ABC's "This Week" that "if I had been told by the Pentagon that I couldn't visit those troops, and I was there and wanted to be there, I guarantee you, there would have been a seismic event."
The McCain campaign's criticism came as it grappled for another day with the intense media attention focused on Obama's tour of the Middle East and Europe. The Arizona Republican had goaded Obama into visiting Iraq and Afghanistan, then watched as Obama's meetings with the leaders of those countries and Jordan, Israel, the Palestinians, Germany, France and Great Britain dominated the political news.
Responding, Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama and McCain both believed that troops should be honored and noted that the Illinois senator had visited troops in Iraq and Afghanistan last week and had made numerous trips to Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Obama still didn't want injured soldiers "pulled into the back-and-forth of a political campaign," Vietor said in a statement.
"John McCain is an honorable man who is running an increasingly dishonorable campaign. Senator McCain knows full well that Senator Obama strongly supports and honors our troops, which is what makes this attack so disingenuous. Senator Obama was honored to meet with our men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan this week and has visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed numerous times. This politicization of our soldiers is exactly what Senator Obama sought to avoid, and it's not worthy of Senator McCain or the 'civil' campaign he claimed he would run," Vietor said.
Obama was flying from London to Chicago on Saturday when the McCain campaign issued a statement from Joe Repya, a retired Army colonel who said Obama had broken a commitment to visit the wounded Americans.
"Several explanations were offered, none was convincing and each was at odds with the statements of American military leaders," Repya said. "For a young man so apt at playing president, Barack Obama badly misjudged the important demands of the office he seeks."
On Thursday, the day Obama gave an evening address to an estimated 200,000 people in Berlin, his campaign issued two written statements about the canceled trip to Ramstein Air Base and the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. In the first, no mention was made of Pentagon misgivings, only that Obama "decided out of respect for these servicemen and women that it would be inappropriate to make a stop to visit troops at a U.S. military facility as part of a trip funded by the campaign." A second statement, by retired general and Obama adviser Scott Gration, mentioned the Pentagon's involvement.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Friday that a trip from Berlin to Ramstein had been planned for weeks, with Obama expecting to leave most staff and reporters at the airport while he went to the hospital to avoid appearances of a campaign event. After the Pentagon raised concerns within two days of the visit, it was scrapped, he said.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Obama would have been required to conform to the Defense Department prohibition of political activity, but that the senator was never told he couldn't visit the hospital.
The Barack'n'Roll jet has returned to the United States, and it's just one hundred days until we know how the tour tee-shirt will end: Kabul, Baghdad, Berlin, London ... the White House? Now we are poised for their next move: the unveiling of the Veeps. In the next fortnight, John McCain and Obama will pick their number two, the man or woman who will take the keys if they take a bullet. While the debate has mostly been a personality-obsessed tide of tedium, if we blow off the froth we can find hints about the future of US politics – and the world.
The Republican hunt for a Vice-President has focused on one word: money. Panicked conservative commentators and senators have urged McCain to find a super-rich man to bolt on to the ticket, fast. Why? Because he could "invest" tens of millions of his own cash in the campaign – and persuade his friends to do the same. George W Bush's former chief speechwriter David Frum says megabucks Mitt Romney is the current favourite for Republican number two. It seems the Reagan-Clinton-Bush years have made Big Money so central to the US political system that, in Frum's words, "the Pluto-Vice Presidency" is back.
The last time the top 1 per cent owned a tottering 50 per cent of America's stocks, Charles W Fairbanks was put on to the Republican ticket simply because of his towering wallet. It was normal then. Plutocracy was so integral to the political system that it was standard practice to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency just because you were super-rich and prepared to spend, spend, spend to protect your interests. Enter Mitt Romney, stage right.
McCain has already sailed full-speed in the direction of his super-rich donors. His campaign has taken a fortune from the oil companies. In return, he promises to give them $4bn in tax cuts a year, to drill off the coast of the US, and to maintain US troops in Iraq even as the country's prime minister asks them to leave. It's a logical next step to put a representative of the super-rich on the ticket.
Yet some naïve observers are shocked – shocked! – because McCain built a reputation as a campaign reformer. But they forget the context. McCain only began to call for restrictions on corrupt donations after he was revealed to have taken a great tide of them. In the late 1980s he took money from a fraudster called Charles Keating, and in return lobbied hard for the government regulators to stop looking into his affairs. It worked. Keating went on to steal billions. McCain's reputation was busted – until he tried to make Big Money itself the issue.
But even as he was apparently campaigning for change, McCain continued taking donations from the super-rich and then lobbying federal regulators on their behalf. Now he even says he will appoint Supreme Court justices like Antonin Scalia, who is committed to striking down campaign finance reform. Pairing McCain with a super-rich tycoon would be a perfect symbol of what the world can expect from his presidency.
What about Obama's hunt? We're told to expect the unexpected, with whispers he may appoint recent or current Republicans such as Michael Bloomberg (yes, a billionaire plutocrat), Ann Veneman, or Chuck Hagel. The Democratic Party has long been enmeshed in the same corrupt hunt for money as the Republicans: Obama himself took money from the coal industry and in return opposed Kyoto until 2004. He has spoken out against this kind of corruption – but he keeps Hoovering up the cash, even now.
Why? Because it is these big moneyed interests that end up defining what counts as the "political centre" in US politics. For example, 80 per cent of American citizens consistently say the government should guarantee healthcare for everyone – yet this is considered left-wing and way-out-there. The New York Times says there is "no political support" for it, and Obama doesn't advocate it. Why? Because no huge corporations or super-rich donors will cough up cash for campaigns calling for it. They make huge profits from the current system – so they only support its political defenders. When Obama is applauded by pompous pundits for moving to The Centre, they don't mean he is getting closer to centre of The People, but to centre of The Money.
Yet the politicians who have best articulated this seem to be dropping out of the Veepstakes. John Edwards has apparently been outed as having a love-child. Al Gore doesn't want to do it. And Jim Webb – the senator from Virginia – has said firmly he won't do the job.
But it's worth dwelling for a moment on Webb, because he showed it is possible for a Democrat to win in long-time Republican states by crowbar-ing open these taboos. Webb is one of the most striking figures in US politics: a boxer-novelist, an ex-Marine-intellectual, a "redneck with tattoos" (his words) who quotes Tolstoy. Webb grew up in a military family, moving all over the South. He was intensely conscious of being part of a poor but tough Scots-Irish tribe that had migrated to America from the Highlands of Scotland. He fought in Vietnam and became a Republican, serving in the Reagan administration – until he realised his tribe was being scammed by the right.
When running for the Virginia senate seat in 2004, Webb started off 33 per cent behind. Today, "populist" is an all-purpose swear-word, shot at any politician who tries to mobilise popular support against an entrenched elite. But Webb picked it up from the gutter and pinned it to his chest as a badge of pride. The great movement of Populists who emerged in the 1890s across the South were the first to fight for the direct election of Senators, a graduated income tax, and an eight-hour working day. What's to be ashamed of there?
Webb repeated their cry, warning: "The existing law in America has become class law, a disguise that allows certain privileges to flow to a few dominant groups at the expense of the many." The US system is filled with politicians "who have made Faustian bargains in order to obtain the vast sums of money necessary to fund their campaigns" and are "akin to mouthpieces for special-interest groups". He warned that the Iraq War was being promoted for profit and would be "a disaster", creating even more jihadis. Result? He trounced his money-bloated Republican opponent.
We can't solve any of the great challenges of our time – global warming, or jihadism, or spiralling inequality – until we have broken the lock the super-rich have on US politics. McCain very obviously won't do it. Does Obama want to begin the slow work of picking that lock and tossing it aside? (Yes we can, Barack.) If he does, he mustn't appoint a right-wing Veep, just to appease an artificially-constructed centre set up by the super-rich. The US should be the Land of the Free – not the Land of the Fee.
By simultaneously endorsing the surge and harshly criticizing certain aspects of the Bush plan as potentially disastrous, McCain appears to be hedging his bets should the surge fail. "He is looking for an exit strategy if it does not work," said Stephen Wayne, a political science professor at Georgetown University. "It says: 'You just did not do it right, Mr. President.'"
The article points to a February 8, 2007 Senate floor speech by McCain opposing the nomination of Gen. George Casey to be Army chief of staff. I found video of it, and sure enough, McCain did hedge his bets on the surge -- and he wasn't subtle about it at all. Here's what he said:
I am very nervous about this new strategy. I am very doubtful that we have enough troops. I don't know if the Maliki government will be strong enough. But if General Casey is appointed to this position, my confidence will be lowered because it is not appropriate to put someone who does not support wholeheartedly the new strategy in a position where he will be responsible for a great deal of it.
Here's the video:
Keep in mind that Gen. Casey ended up being confirmed on an 83-14 vote and continues to serve as Army chief of staff to this day. Yet despite McCain's dire warnings, he now claims credit for the current situation on the ground.
Is it not the ultimate in double talk? (And if you're active duty or retired military, how do you feel about seeing a Navy guy throw an Army guy under the bus like this?)
Update: Just to be clear, McCain was covering his ass by simultaneously supporting the surge and also saying it was insufficient. He was giving himself an out so that if it failed, he could always say that there weren't enough troops. Perhaps that was smart politics, but his claim now is that he supported the surge no matter what the political consequences were. And that isn't what he did. He was actually quite political.
At the Unity Conference in Chicago this morning, Barack Obama, for the 365,292nd time, was asked if he felt he needed to admit that the "Surge" worked, and by extension, that McCain is awesome and the Bush administration brilliant. Because the "Surge," a thin sliver of military tactic that lasted a few months and is now over, is the ONE THING about the ENTIRE IRAQ WAR that the press is trying to get their head around. (Exhibit A: Katie Couric)
Here's the question, as asked by Time magazine's Romesh Ratnesar:
RATNESAR: Senator, I want to ask you about a subject you've had to address repeatedly on this trip, which is the situation in Iraq and the question whether the surge has helped improve conditions there. During the primaries, you criticized Senator Clinton for failing to say that her vote authorizing the war was a mistake. Now we have commanders on the ground pretty much saying that the surge succeeded, and yet you've said that if you had to do it all over again, you still would have voted against the surge. We're not going to ask you to change your position here.
OBAMA: You're not going to ask me, but go ahead.
RATNESAR: I would like to know whether you feel that after the last five years, haven't we learned that a commander in chief needs to be willing to acknowledge mistakes or errors in judgment when circumstances change?
So Obama should admit the "surge" has worked because the commanders on the ground say so? The funny thing about those commanders on the ground -- the Bush administration sure had to fire or otherwise hound out of their jobs a WHOLE LOT OF COMMANDERS before we were left with the ones who deploy nothing more than SURGE LOGIC (TM) and knee-jerk reactions whenever they are asked to summarize the strategic situation in Iraq.
And that's the irony of SURGE LOGIC - it actually thrives so long as the conditions include the commander-in-chief never being willing to acknowledge mistakes when circumstances change.
Anyway, Obama's response was this:
You know, I have to say, it is fascinating to me the to hear you guys reemphasize this over and over again. I have not heard yet somebody ask John McCain whether his vote to go into Iraq was a mistake. i haven't, during the entire week that we were having this conversation. And so the question is, what are the strategic judgments that have to be made in order to make America safe? I strongly believe that going into Iraq was a disaster, strategically. It distracted us from finishing the job in Afghanistan. I have acknowledged, repeatedly, in every one of these interviews that the fact that we put more troops in there helped to quell the violence. i've been saying that all week. The question is whether or not my position in suggesting that we need to begin a phased withdrawal, we should have begun it earlier, whether that position that I took was a mistake, and I do not believe it was, because I continue to believe that the only way for us to stabilize the situation in Iraq -- I believed it then, and I believe it now -- is for the parties to arrive at a set of political accommodations.Original here
Pollster.com has at the top of its front page a chart suggesting that the presidential election is all but over.
The public opinion experts who run the site say states with 284 electoral college votes - 14 more than the 270 needed to win - lean to or firmly support Barack Obama; states with 147 lean toward or are in John McCain's camp; and 10 states with 107 electoral votes are tossups.
In other words, the site suggests that Obama does not need to win a single tossup state -- Colorado, Missouri, Florida, Virginia, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, North Dakota, North Carolina or Indiana -- to take the oath of office on January 20, 2009.
There are some in the political science community (if community is the right word, perhaps it should be called a cauldron) who share this view and others who are less sanguine about the prospects of an Obama blowout.
One of the first shots is this dispute among academics was fired here on the Huffington Post. In an essay titled "The Myth of a Toss-up Election," Alan Abramowitz (Emory), Tom Mann (Brookings) and Larry Sabato (Virginia), jointly declared:
[V]irtually all of the evidence that we have reviewed - historical patterns, structural features of this election cycle, and national and state polls conducted over the last several months - points to a comfortable Obama/Democratic party victory in November. Trumpeting this race as a toss-up, almost certain to produce another nail-biter finish, distorts the evidence and does a disservice to readers and viewers who rely upon such punditry....
It is no exaggeration to say that the political environment this year is one of the worst for a party in the White House in the past sixty years. You have to go all the way back to 1952 to find an election involving the combination of an unpopular president, an unpopular war, and an economy teetering on the brink of recession....[I]f history is any guide, and absent a dramatic change in election fundamentals or an utter collapse of the Obama candidacy, John McCain is likely to suffer the same fate as Adlai Stevenson.
In a direct rebuttal to "The Myth of a Toss-up Election," James E. Campbell (SUNY-Buffalo) countered with an essay titled "Anybody's Ball Game." He makes these points:
*Dissatisfaction with President Bush does not necessarily translate into antipathy to Senator McCain...The McCain campaign would certainly prefer it if President Bush's approval ratings stood where they were in 2004, but their drop from that point does not put the election out of reach for the Republicans.
* Republicans have one clear advantage in this election. Despite the party's best efforts, Republicans will nominate the most electable candidate in their field....[W]e have recent and hard evidence that Senator McCain votes as a moderate conservative and Senator Obama votes as an extreme or consistent liberal.... If Americans are really looking for a moderate who can work in a bipartisan way to solve the nation's problems--from energy prices to international crises--McCain has the record they are looking for and Obama does not.
Vanderbilt's John Geer, in turn, is by no means convinced that McCain will lose as badly as Adlai Stevenson in 1952.
"We all know it is a Democratic year. But that does not mean Obama will win. Yes, the odds are in his favor. But there are at least 3 reasons why the election may be close, with either McCain or Obama winning," Geer said.
First, according to Geer, "we live in a post 9-11 world and the public has to be comfortable with a candidate's ability to deal with foreign policy. Many voters are not yet comfortable....Second, McCain is a good candidate....Third, the last two presidential elections have been very close. Yes, there have been Democratic gains in some quarters and turnout may be up. But turnout was up in 2004 from 2000 and Republicans had made gains right after 9-11 and yet the election remained close."
Robert Y. Shapiro (Columbia) also sees a close election, but he adds that the closeness means the quality of the two campaigns will become all the more crucial: "This is where I see Obama as the likely victor not only in the popular vote but in winning, perhaps by very close margins, in the past blue states he needs to hold on to, and in Ohio and states in the west and possibly a few surprises. This will happen if, as I expect, Obama outcampaigns McCain."
Along similar lines, Michael S. Lewis-Beck, of the University of Iowa, said he and a colleague, Charles Tien of Hunter College, City University of New York, have just written an essay forecasting "that Obama will win, but just by a hair. The reason the contest will be so close is because of what we call 'ballot box racism.' We estimate that about 11 or 12 percent of voters who would otherwise vote for Obama will not vote for him because he is black. Our forecasting model, if uncorrected for the race factor, predicts a landslide for Obama. But once the 'racial cost' is corrected for, we get a bare Obama majority (about 50.6% of the two-party popular vote)."
Helmut Norpoth of Stony Brook University has an even closer prediction based on his model: a virtual tie, 50.1 percent for Obama, 49.9 percent for McCain.
Colby College's L. Sandy Maisel, in contrast, argued:The preponderance of the political science analysis leads to the Abramowitz, Mann, Sabato conclusion that Obama will win this election handily.... In my view, this election is Obama's unless he makes some very serious error--and I doubt that will happen. I cannot see what McCain can do to help his own cause appreciably.
Political scientists are not reluctant to add a little edge to their comments. Maisel, for example, said those who argue the election will be competitive "are grasping at straws." Norpoth, in turn, countered that the "Abramowitz et al. claim is the real myth here."
So when the creepy green men are demanding to be taken to our leader, is it better that the leader be John McCain or Barack Obama? We break down the pros and cons of each, and make an endorsement. But, since democracy will reign until the aliens take over, the ultimate decision is yours.
Pro: Already torture tested, a President John McCain wouldn't do something wussy like crumble under the duress of the requisite anal probe and hastily trade a major U.S. city for some sparkly cosmic dust.
Con: When a 71-year-old is introduced to invaders from space, he can't help but conjure up the fantastical movie "Cocoon." Only once McCain drops his guard and prepares to be led to the magical swimming pool of youth, there is a good chance a not-so-senior-friendly alien will eat McCain's brain and then destroy Earth with a death ray.
How Barack Obama compares, after the jump.
Pro: If President Barack Obama is able to bridge the intergalactic gap like he has racial and cultural divides, he could be the one to prevent humanity from being recycled as carbon-based fuel for a giant U.F.O.
Con: We have to assume any visiting life form would be more intelligent than we are. Thus, all of Obama's "hope and change" mumbo-jumbo would probably fall flat, and might even encourage the aliens to cruelly mock our gullibility before they scramble our properties.
VP Wild Card: In 1994, beloved supermarket tabloid "The Weekly World News" ran an exclusive report outing 12 United States' senators as full-blooded space aliens. Two of those senators, Christopher Dodd and Sam Nunn, are currently on Barack Obama's Vice-Presidential shortlist. Putting an extraterrestrial on the ticket would solidify Obama's commitment to getting the best deal possible from our new alien overlords, and would make him our pick to defend Earth in the event of a space invasion.
By JOHN STOSSEL and PATRICK MCMENAMIN
People are (or will be) having sex all around America today. But that's nobody's business. Sex is a private matter, right? Except that local authorities sometimes say it is their business.
At a public park in Columbus, Ohio, a topless woman asked a man to expose himself. The park appeared empty to him, but police were actually videotaping him from an unmarked car nearby as part of a sting operation. Once he exposed himself, police officers drove up and arrested him, not her. Columbus law says being topless is OK, even if you're female.
Sex in parks is a long tradition. Movies show how teens have always used parks and the backseats of cars as places to fool around. And if a cop catches them, they'll often tell the kids to put their clothes back on and move along.
But that's not how some local authorities react in the real world.
'I Was Horrified'
Authorities in Johnson City, Tenn., responded to complaints that gay men were using a local park for sex by setting up a sting operation. Ken Giles, 54, was one of the men they arrested, but he says he simply stepped off the trail to go to the bathroom. "I just thought I was in trouble for urinating in public," he said.
Police allege that Giles exposed himself to an undercover officer. They charged him with indecent exposure and disorderly conduct but did more than just arrest him. Before Giles and the other men were convicted, police released the names, photos and addresses of everyone who had been arrested.
On his way to court, Giles saw his picture in the newspaper and front page headlines. "I was horrified," he said.
He says he was told to plead guilty and did so to avoid a harsher punishment that would have come had Giles pled innocent and then been found guilty. Afterward, his employer fired him.
"When I lost my job over it my wife was so upset and distraught and distressed that she had a major heart attack," said Giles, whose wife died shortly after ABC News interviewed him.
"Right now, it's just about destroyed my life."
Another man, also named by the police, committed suicide.
Sex therapist Marty Klein said this is part of America's "War on Sex".
"Let's not just simply arrest them, let's humiliate them," he said. "Let's drag them through the mud. And that will make people think twice about ever doing that sort of thing again."
Johnson City Police Chief John Lowry said the town was just doing what's necessary to keep parks safe.
"Anytime someone's charged like that, it becomes public record," he said. "It's no different than drug stings that we've done, prostitution stings, things like that."
Peter Sprigg, senior director of policy studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., agreed. "Anybody who's arrested for any crime, that becomes a matter of public record," he said. "We don't grant privacy to people who have been arrested for and charged with crimes."
I pointed out that some people lost their jobs in Johnson City and that one man killed himself.
"That's very unfortunate," Sprigg said. "But we don't make arrest records confidential just in order to protect people's feelings."
Cracking Down on Chippendales
Now, it's one thing if people engage in sex outdoors, in a public place, but it's another thing when it's indoors and frequented by people who want to be there. But police sometimes object to that, too.
Chippendales, a male burlesque show geared toward women, isn't as racy as you might think. They keep their private parts private and they say their routines are PG-13. The men dance, show off their bodies and flirt with some women in the audience.
"We make 80-year-old ladies giggle like they're 18 again," Dancer Kaleb Art said.
For years, Chippendales has toured the country, performing in big towns and small ones. They have never had a problem with authorities, until last year when they came to Jake's Sports Bar in Lubbock, Texas. Ten minutes before the show, police showed up to lay down the law. Lots of police, said bar owner, Scott Stephenson.
"We had 16 uniformed officers, a [police car], a K-9 unit, undercover agents," Stephenson said.
Police warned the dancers to avoid "simulated sex acts" and the Chippendales dancers peppered police with questions to determine what was allowed and what was off-limits. "[Police said] if ladies try and come up and touch you, you know, you can't allow that, which we don't allow that anyways," Art said.
A dancer even went onstage and warned the audience of the limits set by Lubbock's City Council. They did their usual show and it went smoothly, until the portion of the show where the dancers venture into the crowd to thank the audience.
"Right when we stepped off that stage and went in the crowd, it was just like, 'Boom,'" Art said of the police reaction. Arts says the police told the dancers to "'gather your stuff, you're going to jail.' It's kind of like, really?"
Eight Chippendales dancers, their tour manager, promoter and the manager of the bar were all taken to jail. The audience wasn't pleased and started chanting "City Council sucks."
One woman complained to ABC's Lubbock affiliate KAMC, "I'm mad, because I paid to see this show. And to me, it's stupid. They're just dancing! It's no big deal!"
Tour manager Scott Shelton says they were never told exactly what they did wrong. "They weren't able to explain it to us that night, the next morning. I haven't been able to get an explanation since."
In a statement to "20/20," Lubbock police claim some of the dancers thrust their pelvic areas toward women in the audience — what they call a "simulated sex act" — in violation of the sexually oriented business code. After a night in jail, the charges were dropped and the Chippendales group was free.
Sex Toys for 'Medical Reasons'
Finally, some states have laws that creep right into the bedroom. In Alabama, state legislators have banned the sale of sex toys. That upset Sherri Williams, who has owned Pleasures, the "One-Stop Romance Shop," for 14 years.
Williams says her customers certainly seem happy that her store is here. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't get a thank you, or, 'Oh, gosh, I so much appreciate you telling me about that,'" she said.
But then came the ban on adult sex toys.
Sherri Williams' husband, Dave Smith, said there's something odd about the law.
"You know in the state of Alabama I can buy a gun," he said. "I can carry it in my pocket."
But if he buys a vibrator, someone could get arrested and fined up to $10,000 — almost five times the limit for drunken driving.
American Civil Liberties Union president Nadine Strossen helped Sherri Williams challenge the law.
"When you have a right to engage in certain sexual conducts, sometimes products are involved. … You have a right to use sex devices in the privacy of your own bedroom. You can't enjoy that right unless you can buy the sex toys," she said.
But the 11th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on Jan. 31, 2001 that communities have a "legitimate legislative interest in discouraging prurient interests in autonomous sex" — masturbation, in other words — because that may be "detrimental to the health and morality of the State." After numerous appeals affirming the inital ruling, the case was finally settled when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal last October.
Oddly, however, Pleasures is still in business, because the law makes an exception if a sex toy is sold for a medical purpose.
"I do not sell sex toys for enjoyment, no," Williams said. "I only sell sex toys for medical reasons."
Her shop hands out a questionnaire to every customer, asking questions such as, "Do you or your partner have difficulty having an orgasm?" or "Do you climax too quickly?" Saying "yes" once constitutes a medical purpose.
Who's the government protecting? It's not as if anyone has been killed by a vibrator.
The Alabama state senator who sponsored the legislation wouldn't talk. But Sprigg of Family Research Council shared his opinion.
"The government is protecting actually the people who patronize those shops because I don't think it's in their interest to use pornography and sex toys," he said.
But don't adults get to choose what's in their interest?
"We have to look at society's interest as well," Sprigg said. "Society does have an interest in people's private sexual behavior."
No, it doesn't, shopowner Williams countered. She believes private should mean private.
"They will have to pry this vibrator from my cold dead hand before I stop selling them," she said.
Over at the Washington Independent, Spencer Ackerman continues his enlightening "Rise of the Counterinsurgents" series with "A Counterinsurgency Guide for Politicos." The Indy has obtained a copy of a forthcoming manual on counterinsurgency strategy written by David Kilcullen, a "former Australian Army officer who is now an adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice."
The handbook seeks to provide a framework for considering whether Washington should intervene in foreign countries' counterinsurgency operations, raising difficult questions about whether such nations deserve U.S. support; under what conditions that support should occur, and whether success is possible at acceptable cost. No systematic approach to strategic-level questions in counterinsurgency currently exists for senior U.S. government officials.
And how difficult are the questions being raised? Well, in what's sure to be the pull-quote of the piece for those media outlets who still consider anything other than Surge Logic (TM) important, Kilcullen provides a little color:
More bluntly, Kilcullen, who helped Petraeus design his 2007 counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, called the decision to invade Iraq "stupid" -- in fact, he said "fucking stupid" -- and suggested that if policy-makers apply the manual's lessons, similar wars can be avoided in the future.Original here
"The biggest stupid idea," Kilcullen said, "was to invade Iraq in the first place."
Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem
Senator Barack Obama probably thought that the prayer he penned in the solitude of his King David Hotel room in Jerusalem would remain between him and the Almighty. But an Orthodox Jewish student had other ideas.
Following Jewish tradition, Obama donned a yarmulke and went to the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, where shortly before dawn on Thursday he stuffed his prayer into a crevice between the giant white stones, hewn more than 2,000 years ago. Traditionally such prayers — and there are more than a million each year, some arriving by fax and e-mail — are collected twice a year and buried on the Mount of Olives. It is considered taboo to read the prayers.
But after Obama and his entourage left the sacred site, an orthodox seminary student went to the Wall, fished out Obama's personal note and delivered it to Maariv newspaper, which duly printed the Senator's prayer.
The newspaper's decision to publish Obama's private words was "an outrage," said Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, supervisor of the Western Wall. "It damages the personal, deep part of every one of us that we keep to ourselves," the rabbi told Army Radio. "The note placed between the stones of the Western Wall are between a person and his maker. It is forbidden to read them or make use of them."
Obama didn't pray for an election victory, a lottery win to help pay for his campaign or for his Republican rival, Senator John McCain, to be felled by lightning or a pecadillo. On the contrary, his prayer hinted at the struggle within, how Obama is seeking divine guidance to surmount the obstacles that lie ahead of him in his lonely, awesome challenge to become the next President of the United States. On hotel stationery, he penned the following prayer, according to Maariv, which ran a photo of the note: "Lord, protect my family and me," Obama wrote. "Forgive me my sins and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will."
Obama, now finishing up the European leg of his tour, has not commented on his private prayer being made public in Jerusalem.
In today’s Justice Department report on Monica Goodling’s and other DOJ officials’ politicization of the department, the investigators reveal that Goodling’s political considerations were “particularly damaging to the Department because it resulted in high-quality candidates for important details being rejected in favor of less-qualified candidates.”
In one disgraceful example, Goodling refused to hire “one of the leading terrorism prosecutors in the country” because his wife was a Democrat:
He was an experienced terrorism prosecutor and had successfully prosecuted a high-profile terrorism case for which he received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service. … The candidate’s wife was a prominent local Democrat elected official and vice-chairman of a local Democratic Party. […]
[Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) Michael] Battle, [EOUSA Deputy Director and Cheif of Staff] Kelly, and EOUSA Deputy Director Nowacki all told us that Goodling refused to allow the candidate to be detailed to EOUSA solely on the basis of his wife’s political party affiliation. Battle said he was very upset that Goodling opposed the detail because of political reasons.
Goodling’s “damaging” refusal, the report notes, forced the EOUSA to “select a much more junior attorney who lacked any experience in counterterrorism issues” and was grossly unqualified for the position:
Because EOUSA had been unable to fill the counterterrorism detail after Goodling vetoed this candidate, a current EOUSA detailee was asked to assume EOUSA’s counterterrorism portfolio. … He had no counterterrorism experience and had less than the minimum of 5 years of federal criminal prosecution experience required by the EOUSA job announcement. Battle, Nowacki, Kelly, and Voris all said they thought that he was not qualified for the position, since he had no counterterrorism experience.
The news that 4 people had been arrested in Iowa while trying to perform a citizen's arrest on Karl Rove got me wondering: Can we arrest Bush administration officials ourselves? So I slogged through a slew of state statutes, and as it turns out, the answer is yes. But only if you live in certain particular states.
Citizen's arrests have a long, rich tradition dating back hundreds of years. Because the power of ordinary people to help law enforcement execute its duties is important, nearly every state has some sort of statute on the books permitting citizen detentions of suspected criminals.
However, while most states allow citizen's arrests, the majority require the presence of the citizen performing the arrest during the crime. A number of states have more flexible language in their laws, though. The California Penal Code, for example says the following:
837. A private person may arrest another:
1. For a public offense committed or attempted in his presence.
2. When the person arrested has committed a felony, although not
in his presence.
3. When a felony has been in fact committed, and he has reasonable cause for believing the person arrested to have committed it.
Alabama and Kentucky have similar wordings. Montana phrases things thusly:
A private person may arrest another when there is probable cause to believe that the person is committing or has committed an offense and the existing circumstances require the person's immediate arrest.
The dispute here will likely arise over the definition of the words "require the person's immediate arrest." I'd argue that if anyone needed to be immediately arrested, it's Karl Rove, but a Montana judge might disagree. And one of the main downsides to citizen's arrests is that if you're in the wrong, you have almost no legal protection (and depending on state law, may have committed a crime tantamount to kidnapping).
Don't let that deter you, though! If there are reasonable grounds to suspect a felony has been committed by the person arrested, then a citizen's arrest is perfectly legally justified. Just don't go and arrest the man behind the counter at the sandwich shop who gave you the wrong change.
What the four Iowans did is courageous, and is exactly how we should use the citizen arrest power. A citizen's arrest is a peaceful, lawful, old-fashioned, and charmingly Midwestern way to hold government criminals accountable. I suggest that we start a nationwide movement. We will turn any suspected government criminals over to the police. Just wait until a Bush administration official shows up in your town.
Figure out whether they can reasonably be considered guilty of a felony. Check the US Code to see who's guilty of what, and then perform a citizen's arrest.
Rove, for example, could likely be detained on suspicion of obstruction of justice, having violated Title 1, Section 18, Chapter 73, S. 1505:
Whoever corruptly... obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence [or] obstruct...the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress...[s]hall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism...imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.
I would think that one's fairly cut-and-dry. I'm not a lawyer, however, and I don't know whether this would interfere with, or be superseded by, the pending contempt of Congress citation. Still, I think it gives plenty of "reasonable suspicion," and if Rove is in California, that's all you need. You might pick up Miers or Bolton as well with that statute.
It doesn't take much perusing of the U.S. Code to find violations that administration officials are surely guilty of (the Elections and Political Activities section is one particular goldmine), and if you live in a state with lax state laws regarding citizen's arrests, detaining these people is perfectly within your right. It's just important to follow a few key steps.
1. Check your state laws first. This can be done by entering the name of your state and "statutes" into a search engine. An official online copy of existing state law will usually be the first result. The process for citizen's arrests will usually be located in the section under Crimes > Criminal Procedures > Arrests > Arrests by Private Persons, or something similar. Sometimes statutes are incredibly confusing to navigate through, but there will often be a search function somewhere on the page.
2. Check to make sure the particular person in question can be suspected of committing a felony (make sure it's a felony, though this depends on state law also).
3. Detain the person, without using physical force of any sort. Announce that you are performing a citizen's arrest, and cite the crime they are suspected of.
4. Call the police. Make sure you know the relevant citizen's arrest statute number and the U.S. Code number. You don't want to be the one being arrested.
5. This is risky, and all depends on your state. Make sure you're on solid legal ground first. It is best to consult a lawyer. WikiHow has an informative article on citizen's arrests in general.We really ought to be inspired by the 4 courageous Iowans who dared to try to hold Rove accountable for his crimes. Government officials, no matter how high-ranking, should be prevented from even walking the street without fear of arrest, if they are guilty of a crime. Whether or not justice is done should not depend on how politically influential the accused is. If the Justice Department will not do its job, then let citizens uphold the law. Citizen's arrests are a powerful yet peaceful way to show the strength and defiance of the American people.