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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Manifestly Unserious

At this point, I realize I'm belaboring the point. "Sarah Palin is an awful choice for a running mate," I can hear you saying, "We get it."

But I can't help but think the magnitude of this mistake has not yet sunk in among political observers. I was talking to a friend last night who is a political professional in DC, and the discussion, not surprisingly turned to Palin. He has extensive campaign experience, and every time I argued that this is completely insane, he explained to me a variety of reasons why this John McCain's campaign will benefit, significantly, as a result of this move. I suspect he's probably right.

We were, however, talking about different things. The Palin announcement probably stepped all over Barack Obama's post-convention bounce. Hell, for all I know, this one decision might actually help McCain win the presidency.

But that doesn't change the fact that this is the single most ridiculous development in presidential politics in a generation.

A top "loyal Bushie" told the Politico's Mike Allen that McCain's decision is "disrespectful to the office of the presidency." That's actually a pretty good way of characterizing it.

Campaigns have their ads, their polls, and their tactics, but at the end of the day, credible people who care about the country know that this is more than just a theatrical game -- the future of the nation counts more than the future of a candidate. Those who take affairs of state seriously may take cheap shots, shade the truth now and then, and run the kind of conventional campaigns we've all grown accustomed to, but honorable Americans of character don't gamble with the nation's well-being. They know there are lines that can't be crossed for expediency's sake, no matter how strong the temptation.

McCain was asked a while back about what he'd look for in a running mate. He said the "key" is to find the person "most prepared to take my place" in the event of a crisis. McCain spent the ensuing months with a motto: "Country first."

I don't doubt for a moment that Sarah Palin is a nice person and probably a competent Alaskan governor. But she also has the thinnest background of any candidate for national office since 1908. Is McCain willing, with a straight face, to argue that Palin is the single "most prepared" person in the entire United States to assume the presidency should tragedy strike? Is anyone, anywhere, prepared to argue that McCain has put "country first"? Of course not; these ideas are literally laughable.

Palin's qualifications are, to a very real degree, secondary to the issue at hand. What matters most right now is John McCain's comically dangerous sense of judgment. He picked a running mate he met once for 15 minutes, who's been the governor of a small state for a year and a half, and who is in the midst of an abuse-of-power investigation in which she appears to have lied rather blatantly. She has no obvious expertise in any area, and no record of any kind of federal issues. McCain doesn't care.

Sensible people of sound mind and character simply don't things like this. Leaders don't things like this. It's the height of arrogance. It's manifestly unserious. It's reckless and irresponsible. It mocks the political process. Faced with a major presidential test, McCain thought it wise to tell an imprudent joke of lasting consequence.

Kevin noted:

This is all part of what I was talking about the other day when I noted that McCain is running such a palpably unserious campaign. Steve Schmidt seems solely interested in winning the daily news cycle; his staff spends its time gleefuly churning out juvenile attack videos; McCain himself has retreated into robotic incantations of simpleminded talking points; and now he's chosen a manifestly unqualified VP that he knows nothing about. I've honestly never seen anything like it.


No one has; it's without precedent in modern American politics. The novelty and gimmickry might hold sway with those who base their votes on who they'd like to have a beer with, but that doesn't make it any less of a joke.

Sullivan added, "Palin isn't the issue here. McCain's judgment is. It's completely off the wall. Is there something wrong with him?"

That may sound like a flippant question, but it deserves a serious answer. Is there something wrong with him? Might this be evidence of some kind of impulse problem, as reflected in his shoot-first, think-second approach to foreign policy?

When I think about the respect that John McCain had worked so hard to develop, the stature he'd taken years to cultivate, and the reputation he'd built his career on, it's breathtaking to see him throw it all away. If there's a more complete collapse in modern political times, from hero to clown, I can't think of it.

We're poised to learn a great deal about Sarah Palin, but we've just learned even more about John McCain. He's fundamentally unsuited for the presidency.

Nine medieval ships found in Oslo mud

The largest collection of antique shipwrecks ever found in Norway has been discovered under mud at the building site for a new highway tunnel in Oslo, the project's lead archaeologist said Friday.

The archaeologist, Jostein Gundersen, said at least nine wooden boats, the largest of them 17 meters, or 56 feet, long, were found well preserved nearly 400 years after they sank at Bjoervika, an Oslo inlet near the new national opera house.

"For us, this is a sensation," he said. "There has never been a find of so many boats and in such good condition at one site in Norway."

The wrecks were remarkably well preserved because they had been covered in mud and fresh water, where river waters reach the sea, he said.

"We have a fantastic opportunity to learn more about old shipbuilding techniques and the old harbors," said Gundersen of the Norwegian Maritime Museum in Oslo.

He said the wrecks were believed to have sunk sometime after a fire swept the wooden buildings of old Oslo in 1624. After that disaster, the Danish-Norwegian king, Kristian IV, ordered the city center moved before reconstruction started.

The discovered boats were moored at the old port, which became a remote area after the city was moved. He said the boats might have been 30 or 40 years old when they sank.

"There is nothing to indicate that the ships were deliberately scuttled," Gundersen said. "They could have sunk one by one, because of sloppy mooring or poor maintenance, or maybe sank in a storm."

He said the wreckage would be charted and removed as quickly as possible, so construction of the undersea tunnel could continue. It will then take years, he said, to examine all the ship's remnants back at the museum.

Gundersen said the find will help fill gaps in knowledge of vessels between Norwegian Viking ships of about 1,000 years ago and more modern vessels.


Palin Repeatedly Professed Desire To Renew Federal Funding For ‘Bridge To Nowhere’

During the unveiling of his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) tried to cast her as a “reformer” and “fiscal conservative.” She boldly claimed that with regard to Sen. Ted Stevens’s (R-AK) infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” she told Congress, “Thanks, but no thanks“:

I championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. In fact, I told Congress — I told Congress, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ on that bridge to nowhere. If our state wanted a bridge, I said we’d build it ourselves.

It appears, however, that Palin is lying. As Bradford Plumer first noted, the Anchorage Daily News interviewed Palin during her 2006 campaign for governor. At the time, federal funding for the bridge had been stripped by Congress. They asked if she was in favor of continuing state funding for the project. “Yes,” she responded, noting specifically her desire to renew Congressional support:

Yes. I would like to see Alaska’s infrastructure projects built sooner rather than later. The window is now–while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist.

That assistance never materialized. When she finally canceled the $400 million project, Palin lamented the fact that Congress was not more forthcoming with federal funding. She said in a statement at the time:

Despite the work of our congressional delegation, we are about $329 million short of full funding for the bridge project, and it’s clear that Congress has little interest in spending any more money on a bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina Island.

Palin’s desire to have federal funding directed toward pet projects in Alaska, however, did not diminish. As recently as March 2008 — around the time she first met McCain — her special counsel, John Katz, wrote in the Juneau Empire that despite recognizing increased scrutiny of such spending, Palin was not “not abandoning earmarks altogether.” While McCain expressed high-profile disdain for earmarks, the Palin administration held that:

[E]armarks are not bad in themselves. In fact, they represent a legitimate exercise of Congress’ constitutional power to amend the budget proposed by the president.

Palin denies global warming is manmade.

In an interview released today by Newsmax, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) — Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) newly minted running mate — was asked for her “take on global warming and how is it affecting our country.” “A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location,” Palin said, adding, “I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.” DeSmogBlog notes that NASA and the National Academy of Sciences disagree:

The first greenhouse gas demonstrated to be increasing in atmospheric concentration was carbon dioxide, formed as a major end product in the extraction of energy from the burning of the fossil fuels–coal, oil, and natural gas–as well as in the burning of biomass.

Illegal Police Raid on Anti-RNC Convergence Space in St. Paul

[TC-IMC Update 2 AM - Web media takes notice: TC Daily Planet: Police break down doors in night-time raid on anarchist meeting, Minnesota Independent: Rumors circulating of possible police sweeps in Minneapolis this weekend]

At 9:15 Friday night, the Saint Paul Police entered all doors of the RNC Convergence Space in St. Paul, MN with guns drawn. The Space serves as a community center and organizing space for the upcoming protests against the Republican National Convention. At the time of the raid, people were sitting down to dinner and watching a movie.

The police presented no warrant at the time of the raid, but claim that they have a warrant to search the space for "bomb-making" materials. No "bomb-making" materials were found. Rather, the police barked orders for everyone, including a 5 year old child, to get on the floor with their faces to the ground. Everyone inside was put in handcuffs.

In the hours following, the police photographed everyone inside the space and recorded information from their Identification cards. The police took all personal laptops and hard drives.

One female activist was sexually harassed by a cop who groped her crotch.

At around 11pm, after a crowd had gathered outside the space, the police began releasing detainees one by one. Corporate media showed up eventually. By midnight, the last detainees were being released.

As of the most recent reports, there have been NO ARRESTS.

The police are claiming that the space must be closed down due to "fire code" violations. According to City Council member Dave Thune, the police do not have the authority to enforce fire code. Only the Fire Department has the power to enforce this code.

The following statement has been released by the RNC Welcoming Committee, which organized the space:

PRESS STATEMENT FROM RNC WELCOMING COMMITTEE AFTER SHERIFF AND SPPD RAID OF CONVERGENCE SPACE

FRIDAY AUGUST 29 2008

Assitant Police Chief Bostrom has talked about the St. Paul Standard, and on the anniversary of last years’ critical mass police riot, we saw its true face. The ramsey county sheriff’s dept and the SPPD raided the RNC convergence space and detained over 50 people in an attempt to preempt planned protests of the rnc on Monday.

Looking for items found in any twin cities house like jars, paint, and rags, this attempt to portray us as criminals and destroy our credibility has already backfired as evidenced by the masses who have come to support us.

We are now accused of a simple fire code violation -which is outside the scope of the sheriffs department and clearly not justified provocation for a forceful raid with guns being drawn. Children and elderly people were inside the convergence center when the police violently busted down the doors. The police may claim that the raid was executed according to protocol - however, the violence inherent in this action may only be a hint of the violence to be expected on Monday and beyond, and is only a hint at the violence perpetrated daily by the police.

The convergence center is simply a gathering place and is not used for illegal actions - it is a place for workshops and trainings. Tonight we were watching films and sharing food.

This action will not deter us from our plans to protest the RNC on September 1st. We want to invite all people who oppose this police oppression to join us on Septemeber 1st. See you in the streets.

Original here

Bush quietly seeks to make war powers permanent, by declaring indefinite state of war

As the nation focuses on Sen. John McCain's choice of running mate, President Bush has quietly moved to expand the reach of presidential power by ensuring that America remains in a state of permanent war.

Buried in a recent proposal by the Administration is a sentence that has received scant attention -- and was buried itself in the very newspaper that exposed it Saturday. It is an affirmation that the United States remains at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban and "associated organizations."

Part of a proposal for Guantanamo Bay legal detainees, the provision before Congress seeks to “acknowledge again and explicitly that this nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us and who are dedicated to the slaughter of Americans.”

The New York Times' page 8 placement of the article in its Saturday edition seems to downplay its importance. Such a re-affirmation of war carries broad legal implications that could imperil Americans' civil liberties and the rights of foreign nationals for decades to come.

It was under the guise of war that President Bush claimed a legal mandate for his warrantless wiretapping program, giving the National Security Agency power to intercept calls Americans made abroad. More of this program has emerged in recent years, and it includes the surveillance of Americans' information and exchanges online.

"War powers" have also given President Bush cover to hold Americans without habeas corpus -- detainment without explanation or charge. Jose Padilla, a Chicago resident arrested in 2002, was held without trial for five years before being convicted of conspiring to kill individuals abroad and provide support for terrorism.

But his arrest was made with proclamations that Padilla had plans to build a "dirty bomb." He was never convicted of this charge. Padilla's legal team also claimed that during his time in military custody -- the four years he was held without charge -- he was tortured with sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, forced stress positions and injected with drugs.

Times reporter Eric Lichtblau notes that the measure is the latest step that the Administration has taken to "make permanent" key aspects of its "long war" against terrorism. Congress recently passed a much-maligned bill giving telecommunications companies retroactive immunity for their participation in what constitutional experts see as an illegal or borderline-illegal surveillance program, and is considering efforts to give the FBI more power in their investigative techniques.

"It is uncertain whether Congress will take the administration up on its request," Lichtblau writes. "Some Republicans have already embraced the idea, with Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, introducing a measure almost identical to the administration’s proposal. 'Since 9/11,' Mr. Smith said, 'we have been at war with an unconventional enemy whose primary goal is to kill innocent Americans.'"

If enough Republicans come aboard, Democrats may struggle to defeat the provision. Despite holding majorities in the House and Senate, they have failed to beat back some of President Bush's purported "security" measures, such as the telecom immunity bill.

Bush's open-ended permanent war language worries his critics. They say it could provide indefinite, if hazy, legal justification for any number of activities -- including detention of terrorists suspects at bases like Guantanamo Bay (where for years the Administration would not even release the names of those being held), and the NSA's warantless wiretapping program.

Lichtblau co-wrote the Times article revealing the Administration's eavesdropping program along with fellow reporter James Risen.

He notes that Bush's language "recalls a resolution, known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress on Sept. 14, 2001... [which] authorized the president to 'use all necessary and appropriate force' against those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks to prevent future strikes. That authorization, still in effect, was initially viewed by many members of Congress who voted for it as the go-ahead for the administration to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban, which had given sanctuary to Mr. bin Laden."

"But the military authorization became the secret legal basis for some of the administration’s most controversial legal tactics, including the wiretapping program, and that still gnaws at some members of Congress," he adds.

Original here