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Friday, September 5, 2008

RNC Picks Up $1 Million After Palin Speech

Sarah Palin’s speech to the convention Wednesday night energized conservatives, allayed concerns of some nervous party insiders – and inspired excited Republicans to donate a cool $1 million to the Republican National Committee’s effort to elect John McCain.

[Republican Convention]The donations, which came in over the Internet in the hours after the speech, will add to the massive war chest that the Republican Party has built up for the fall contest. A Republican aide leaked us the news that the Republican National Committee ended the month of August with $75 million in the bank.

That’s more than the total that the Democratic National Committee and Barack Obama had in the bank at the end of July. Neither Obama nor the DNC have released their cash on hand figures for August. But the DNC had just $5 million in the bank at the end of July. Meanwhile, Sen. Obama would have been foolish to keep much money in the bank at the end of August because all money raised for the primary campaign had to be spent by the time he officially became a general-election candidate at the Democratic convention last week.

Sen. McCain had $32.8 million in the bank at the end of July, but probably has a zero balance now.

The RNC says donations began pouring in over the Internet soon after Palin began speaking. McCain also got a few last-minute donations. Once McCain accepts the Republican nomination for president tonight, he will no longer be allowed to accept private donations because he as opted to accept $85 million in federal financing for his campaign.

One of the those now inspired to donate to the McCain cause is Aimee Berger, a 42-year old uber-housewife, who voted for Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the Republican primary. Berger had planned to vote for McCain, but until last night said she wasn’t going to open up her pocketbook. “Governor Palin has showed America, and women, and our daughters that you can do anything,” she said.

McCain, Palin invoke live footage of 9/11 planes crashing in RNC video

The Boston Globe has reported that decency and good taste have been abandoned by John McCain, Sarah Palin and the Republican Party after they aired footage of a plane crashing into one of the towers on September 11th, 2001 in one of the videos shown at the Republican National Convention this evening.

From the Boston Globe:

One of the most enduring taboos in American politics, the airing of graphic images from the September 11 attacks in a partisan context, died today. It was nearly seven years old.

The informal prohibition, which had been occasionally threatened by political ads in recent years, was pronounced dead at approximately 7:40 CST, when a video aired before delegates at the Republican National Convention included slow-motion footage of a plane striking the World Trade Center, the towers' subsequent collapse, and smoke emerging from the Pentagon.

The September 11 precedent was one of the few surviving campaign-season taboos. It is survived by direct comparisons of one's opponents to Hitler.

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Alaska police union files complaint against Palin

The GOP candidate for vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin, may be facing yet another ethics investigation back in her home state of Alaska. An ethics complaint obtained by NBC News was filed Wednesday by the police officers union in Alaska, requesting a probe into possible wrongdoing by the governor or her office. It was brought on behalf of state trooper Mike Wooten, an ex-brother-in-law of Palin who is at the center of the "Troopergate" scandal.

The complaint alleges that the governor or her staff may have have improperly disclosed information from Wooten's personnel records. The complaint alleges "criminal penalties may apply."

John Cyr, director of the union that filed the complaint, told NBC News, "It seems obvious to us somebody has improperly accessed [Wooten's] personnel file."

The McCain/Palin campaign Thursday launched a spirited defense when contacted by NBC News. They say the personnel files were not protected; a campaign source says Wooten himself had previously signed a waiver allowing a divorce lawyer to obtain his personnel records. The campaign then sent a copy of that waiver to NBC News, which reads "I hereby waive any privilege I may have to said information to said attorneys."

The issue concerns disclosures about Wooten's records made by a Palin aide - Frank Bailey - in a February 2008 phone conversation. The police officers' union complaint claims the transcript of that conversation clearly indicates there was improper access to Wooten's records.

The McCain/Palin campaign, in a response to NBC News, provided a family twist to the story, saying the governor's husband - Todd Palin - was the source of that information to Bailey. They say the information came from divorce proceedings, and that Gov. Palin never improperly accessed any records.

Taylor Griffiths, a spokesman for McCain, said "When you're a real reformer like Sarah Palin, who isn't afraid to take on entrenched political interests, scurrilous attacks and empty allegations come with the territory."

Community Organizers Respond To Palin’s Attack, Cite Civil Rights Movement


palin2web.jpgLast night during her speech to the Republican National Convention, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) sought to play up her experience as mayor of a small town in Alaska by mocking community organizing:

PALIN: And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a “community organizer,” except that you have actual responsibilities.

Today, the nation’s leading organization’s responded to Palin’s attack:

Center for Community Change: When Sarah Palin demeaned community organizing, she didn’t attack another candidate. She attacked an American tradition — one that has helped everyday Americans engage with the political process and make a difference in their lives and the lives of their neighbors.

Assn. of Community Organizations for Reform Now: ACORN members, leaders and staff are extremely disappointed that Republican leaders would make such condescending remarks on the great work community organizers accomplish in cities throughout this country. The fact that they marginalize our success in empowering low- and moderate-income people to improve their communities further illustrates their lack of touch with ordinary people.

USAction: These groups, and the millions of individuals they represent, are dismayed by the recent dismissal of their efforts in the form of political attacks. Community organizations have been at the heart of every major reform in modern history – from the Boston Tea Party to the civil rights movement for example, the quest for civil rights began when community organizers mobilized the disenfranchised.

Community Organizers of America: The last thing we need is for Republican officials to mock us on television when we’re trying to rebuild the neighborhoods they have destroyed. Maybe if everyone had more houses than they can count, we wouldn’t need community organizers. But I work with people who are getting evicted from their only home. If John McCain and the Republicans understood that, maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to make fun of community organizers like me.

Faith In Public Life has more responses from leading community organizers.

A Palin convert

Eight months ago, I was a registered Republican, standing in a cold room in Iowa supporting Ron Paul in the Iowa caucuses. For most of my life, I've been a believer in small government and individual liberties, the ideals that, according to what I learned in high school civics, the Republican Party stood for. I voted Libertarian in 2004, simply because I felt that the Libertarian candidate seemed to best voice those ideals at the time.

As I stood in that cold caucus room, I listened to several people stand up and talk about their candidate. For the most part, instead of giving me compelling reasons to vote for that candidate, each stump speaker (aside from the bubbly young woman who spoke about Ron Paul) spent their time not talking up their own candidate, but hurling shovels of specific insults at the people in the Democratic caucus in an adjacent building. I didn't learn much about Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney or John McCain, but I did hear a lot of talk about the negative character, poor experience, and profound ignorance of the primary Democratic candidates, Obama, Edwards, and Clinton.

Over the next several months, as the campaign season went along, I started actually opening my ears and listening to talk radio a bit. Previously, I would just listen to music in my truck during my commute, but I started tuning into a pair of local talk radio stations, which aired programs by Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and the like.

And I was deeply disturbed. Instead of hearing compelling arguments for why John McCain was the right man for the job, I would hear three nonstop hours of insults levied toward Barack Obama, much of it not directly aimed towards him, but intended to serve as character assassination by association. Breathless stories about his pastor, Reverend Wright, and a guest pastor at his church, David Pfleiger. Amazing tales about William Ayers.

Very rarely did I hear a word about policy, and when I did, it was usually just deriding a specific plank of Obama's plan.

After a month of listening to a large daily dose of talk radio, I learned virtually nothing about what John McCain actually planned to do for this country.

What I did hear, though, is a lot of supposedly negative things about Barack Obama, most of which seemed nonsensical and completely frivolous compared to the problems of this nation. The worst, for me, was repeated harpings on the idea that Barack Obama was somehow "bad" because he was a community organizer.

I know what community organizers do. I have friends and family who are involved with social work and community organization. They register people to vote. They get people involved with the political process. They know the real, day-to-day problems of the people in their community like the back of their hand. They help people with their life problems, helping elderly folks keep the lights on and helping groups with a significant problem get organized enough to get the attention of an alderman or city hall. The people on the ground, the "community organizers" and very local politicians, do a ton of good work for the people of this country. And through that process, they gain a deep understanding of the real problems and thoughts of everyday people.

That brings us to last night. Until last night, I was slightly leaning towards Obama, but I hadn't firmly decided who I was voting for. I held out hope that during the Convention, I could get a real grasp on where the Republican Party was.

Last night, Sarah Palin gave a speech that was in theory meant to get people like me excited about the Republican ticket. This was one that should have gotten me back on board and excited about the McCain/Palin platform.

Instead, it sickened me in a very deep and personal way.

I could go through some of the quotes that made my stomach turn, but many others have already done a great analysis of the speech.

All I heard was a long stream of extremely bitter attacks against Barack Obama, none of which go even the slightest step towards solving the problems of this country. When I tuned in, Rudy Giuliani was firing off some attacks, but I expected that - every convention has some room for criticism of the opposition.

But Palin's speech was obviously meant to be the centerpiece, the real statement about the direction of the Republican party.

And I heard absolutely nothing about their plans for the future.

All I heard was a long, long stream of pointless attacks against Barack Obama, the Democratic Party in general, and the media.

No solutions. No real content. No anything.

There was one line at the end that really twisted things for me.

"Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America ... he's worried that someone won't read them their rights?"

Every single human being has the right to a fair trial and to be treated humanely by their captors. John McCain, of all people, should understand this. He was a prisoner of war.

On the one fundamental issue that his entire campaign is centered around - the character-building experience of his POW stint - he gets it wrong.

America cannot be a shining beacon of light in the world when we condone policies of treating our enemies with the same standards as the Viet Cong treated their enemies.

Every criminal, no matter how heinous their crimes, deserves humane treatment and a fair and expedient trial. Period. That is a fundamental human right.

When you're giving the central speech of your party's convention, to make a joke out of it makes a joke out of me. Not just as a (former) Republican, but as an American.

This morning, I donated $250 to Barack Obama's campaign. Tomorrow, I'm stopping by the voter registration office to change my party affiliation to Democrat. Saturday, I hope to plant an Obama-Biden sign in my front yard.

This lack of respect for your political opponents, this denial of basic human rights to those who oppose us, this complete emptiness of policy - it ends. Right here, right now.

What a Community Organizer Does

Slowly, slowly, I am recovering from the extremely effective bilge festival staged by the Republicans last night. And while there is much to discuss, there was one item, in particular, that has to be considered infuriating: the attack on Barack Obama's service as a community organizer by the odious Rudy Giuliani--he's come to look like a villain in a Frank Capra movie, hasn't he?--and Sarah Palin.

This morning, I received a press release from a group called Catholic Democrats about the work--the mission, the witness--that Obama performed after he got out of college. Here's the first paragraph:

Catholic Democrats is expressing surprise and shock that Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's acceptance speech tonight mocked her opponent's work in the 1980s for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. She belittled Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's experience as a community organizer in Catholic parishes on the South Side of Chicago, work he undertook instead of pursuing a lucrative career on Wall Street. In her acceptance speech, Ms. Palin said, "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities." Community organizing is at the heart of Catholic Social Teaching to end poverty and promote social justice.

So here is what Giuliani and Palin didn't know: Obama was working for a group of churches that were concerned about their parishioners, many of whom had been laid off when the steel mills closed on the south side of Chicago. They hired Obama to help those stunned people recover and get the services they needed--job training, help with housing and so forth--from the local government. It was, dare I say it, the Lord's work--the sort of mission Jesus preached (as opposed to the war in Iraq, which Palin described as a "task from God.")

This is what Palin and Giuliani were mocking. They were making fun of a young man's decision "to serve a cause greater than himself," in the words of John McCain. They were, therefore, mocking one of their candidate's favorite messages. Obama served the poor for three years, then went to law school. To describe this service--the first thing he did out of college, the sort of service every college-educated American should perform, in some form or other--as anything other than noble is cheap and tawdry and cynical in the extreme.

Perhaps La Pasionaria of the Northern Slope didn't know this when she read the words they gave her. But Giuliani--a profoundly lapsed Catholic, who must have met more than a few religious folk toiling in the inner cities--should have known. ("I don't even know what that is," he sneered.") What a shameful performance.

Romney mocks Gore for non-existent private jet.

Last night, at the Republican National Convention, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) called for “the immediate drilling for more oil off of our shores” and followed with a personal attack on Vice President Al Gore that received thunderous applause:

And I have one more recommendation for energy conservation — let’s keep Al Gore’s private jet on the ground!

Watch it:

ThinkProgress contacted Gore spokesperson Kalee Kreider, who replied, “Gore doesn’t own a jet.”

Why we were falsely arrested

Government crackdowns on journalists are a true threat to democracy. As the Republican National Convention meets in St. Paul, Minn., this week, police are systematically targeting journalists. I was arrested with my two colleagues, Democracy Now! producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, while reporting on the first day of the RNC. I have been wrongly charged with a misdemeanor. My co-workers, who were simply reporting, may be charged with felony riot.

The Democratic and Republican national conventions have become very expensive and protracted acts of political theater, essentially four-day-long advertisements for the major presidential candidates. Outside the fences, they have become major gatherings for grass-roots movements -- for people to come, amidst the banners, bunting, flags and confetti, to express the rights enumerated in the Constitution's First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Behind all the patriotic hyperbole that accompanies the conventions, and the thousands of journalists and media workers who arrive to cover the staged events, there are serious violations of the basic right of freedom of the press. Here on the streets of St. Paul, the press is free to report on the official proceedings of the RNC, but not to report on the police violence and mass arrests directed at those who have come to petition their government, to protest.

It was Labor Day, and there was an anti-war march, with a huge turnout, with local families, students, veterans and people from around the country gathered to oppose the war. The protesters greatly outnumbered the Republican delegates.

There was a positive, festive feeling, coupled with a growing anxiety about the course that Hurricane Gustav was taking, and whether New Orleans would be devastated anew. Later in the day, there was a splinter march. The police -- clad in full body armor, with helmets, face shields, batons and canisters of pepper spray -- charged. They forced marchers, onlookers and working journalists into a nearby parking lot, then surrounded the people and began handcuffing them.

Nicole was videotaping. Her tape of her own violent arrest is chilling. Police in riot gear charged her, yelling, "Get down on your face." You hear her voice, clearly and repeatedly announcing "Press! Press! Where are we supposed to go?" She was trapped between parked cars. The camera drops to the pavement amidst Nicole's screams of pain. Her face was smashed into the pavement, and she was bleeding from the nose, with the heavy officer with a boot or knee on her back. Another officer was pulling on her leg. Sharif was thrown up against the wall and kicked in the chest, and he was bleeding from his arm.

I was at the Xcel Center on the convention floor, interviewing delegates. I had just made it to the Minnesota delegation when I got a call on my cell phone with news that Sharif and Nicole were being bloody arrested, in every sense. Filmmaker Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films and I raced on foot to the scene. Out of breath, we arrived at the parking lot. I went up to the line of riot police and asked to speak to a commanding officer, saying that they had arrested accredited journalists.

Within seconds, they grabbed me, pulled me behind the police line and forcibly twisted my arms behind my back and handcuffed me, the rigid plastic cuffs digging into my wrists. I saw Sharif, his arm bloody, his credentials hanging from his neck. I repeated we were accredited journalists, whereupon a Secret Service agent came over and ripped my convention credential from my neck. I was taken to the St. Paul police garage where cages were set up for protesters. I was charged with obstruction of a peace officer. Nicole and Sharif were taken to jail, facing riot charges.

The attack on and arrest of me and the Democracy Now! producers was not an isolated event. A video group called I-Witness Video was raided two days earlier. Another video documentary group, the Glass Bead Collective, was detained, with its computers and video cameras confiscated. On Wednesday, I-Witness Video was again raided, forced out of its office location. When I asked St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington how reporters are to operate in this atmosphere, he suggested, "By embedding reporters in our mobile field force."

On Monday night, hours after we were arrested, after much public outcry, Nicole, Sharif and I were released. That was our Labor Day. It's all in a day's work.

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