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Saturday, November 1, 2008

California's Prop 8 Is Hateful, Unethical Legislation

Posted by BGH

Where the Supreme Court of the state ruled constitutional the joining in matrimony any two adults who consent, whether it is man/man, woman/woman or man/woman, the conservative bigots in the state have found issue with and drafted legislation to ban such marriages that are other than man/woman.

This issue is not one of 'majority' decision and should not lie in the hands of the voters. This is an example of the explicit reasoning considered when drafting state and federal constitutions, that the "inalienable" rights of the few will not be trampled upon by the many. There is nothing inherently 'wrong' with gay marriage and the sole opposition appears to lie in an uncomfortable bigotry against 'gayness', whether it be from religious doctrine or another learned prejudice. A secular state government cannot endorse the former and should fight against the latter.

Because same sex relationships are not a particular individual's preference, does not mean we should be allowed to force that preference upon others. The divisive, bigoted and hateful speech from those who support such measures to limit the freedom of choice regarding a spouse, hearkens back to a time when similar measures were proposed for interracial marriage.

So, when brought into the light and examined for its merits, the ballot measure to ban gay marriage is an example of an effort to impede the rights of the few with the will of the many, and constitutionally... that is just wrong!

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McCain Was Strong Supporter Of Group Accused Of Terrorist Activities

During the closing weeks of the election, Sen. John McCain has gone to great lengths to present his opponent, Barack Obama, as someone too willing to coddle to groups that have ties to terrorists or terrorist activity.

It is important to understand which individuals and organizations Obama has been associated with, the refrain usually goes, as it is reflective of his foreign policy as a whole.

But if that is indeed the standard by which voters are to judge the candidates, than McCain has some questions of his own.

During the late 1990s, the Senator supported and reportedly helped arm an organization that, while eventually tolerated by the U.S. foreign policy establishment, was accused of terrorist activities and allegedly had ties to al Qaeda.

During the late stages of the Balkan War, the Kosovo Liberation Army was known for committing incredible atrocities in its efforts to facilitate Kosovo's independence from Yugoslavia. The guerrilla group often was responding to acts of violence committed against its own people. But its tactics were, nevertheless, viewed as condemnable: abductions and murders, systematic burning and looting of homes, and harassment and intimidation of Yugoslav officials.

President Clinton's special envoy to the Balkans, Robert Gelbard, described the KLA in 1998 as, "without any questions, a terrorist group."

Eventually, the KLA went from being criticized for threatening a fragile peace process to, gradually, being recognized as a military force that had popular roots within the Albanian community and a shared mission with America. But within the United States, the group was never publicly praised and often considered dangerous.

"As far as I know, no one ever turned around and said, 'these were freedom fighters and I support them,'" said Fred Abrahams, who documented the Balkans War for Human Rights Watch.


Indeed, when the Clinton administration considered forging a stronger relationship with the KLA as a means of bringing all parties to the bargaining table, GOP officials questioned whether such a policy would be a tacit support for a "group with terror, drug ties."

"Such an effusive embrace by top Clinton Administration officials of an organization that only a year ago one of its own top officials labeled as 'terrorist' is, to say the least, a startling development," read a paper put together by the Senate Republican Policy Committee.

And yet, John McCain, the current Republican standard-bearer, was one of the KLA's most outspoken supporters. Back in May 1999, when it seemed as if NATO air raids would prove ineffective in stopping the violence, and calls were being made to send in ground troops, McCain suggested that the U.S. simply fund the KLA instead.

"It wouldn't bother me if you arm the KLA [Kosovo Liberation Army] forces," he said.

Moreover, this past February, former Rep. Joe DioGuardi, a prominent Albanian lobbyist, was quoted as saying that McCain even help get arms for KLA forces.

"Even in 1998 when we had problems with Milosevic, McCain did everything that we asked of him to the benefit of the Albanian people, including arming the KLA," he said. "We are American Albanians and we need a leader who will strengthen this country... We must support John McCain because he did everything we asked of him for Kosovo, from supporting the Kosovo Liberation Army to supporting the independence of Kosovo."

DioGuardi, a bundler for McCain, did not immediately return requests for comment. Brian Rogers, a spokesman for the McCain campaign replied: "You've cracked the code, Sam!"

The Senator's support for the KLA, however, puts him near one of the far ends of his party's mainstream during that conflict. It also represents another potential blemish on a foreign policy record that McCain has held up as virtuous compared to Barack Obama's problematic associations. Earlier it was reported that the Arizona Republican had a served on the board of a far-right conservative organization that had supplied arms to paramilitary organizations in Latin America.

McCain's involvement in the U.S. Council for World Freedom became problematic for his candidacy because of that group's past ties to anti-Semitic figures and its efforts to circumvent U.S. law and fund militant anti-communists.

McCain's support for the KLA was far less clandestine than his service on the U.S. Council for World Freedom board. But it is similarly telling of his world policy views.

While the U.S., as Abrahams noted, generally turned a blind eye on the KLA because the two "shared a common enemy," there is scant evidence of public officials cheer-leading the guerrilla group at the time. Indeed, conservative officials hung the issue over Clinton's head during the late 1990s as of a lack of foreign policy morals.

Part of it had to do with alleged ties to al Qaeda -- the Washington Times reported in May 1999 that several members of the KLA were trained in terrorist camps run by Osama bin Laden himself, charges that Abrahams says have never been proven. But much of the criticism had to do with the KLA's brutal tactics. According to a 2001 report by Human Rights Watch:

The KLA was responsible for serious abuses... including abductions and murders of Serbs and ethnic Albanians considered collaborators with the state. Elements of the KLA are also responsible for post-conflict attacks on Serbs, Roma, and other non-Albanians, as well as ethnic Albanian political rivals... widespread and systematic burning and looting of homes belonging to Serbs, Roma, and other minorities and the destruction of Orthodox churches and monasteries.

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US election: If Iraqis could vote it would be for McCain

For five years Ali and Mohammed have lived alongside US soldiers in their Baghdad neighbourhood near Rasheed Street, a prominent commercial artery running through the heart of the Iraqi capital.

During that time American culture and politics have become familiar to them, and they say that if they could, they would vote for Republican candidate John McCain in next week's US presidential election.

"McCain would be best for Iraq because he would ensure stability," said Ali, 66, an expert on the Sumerian era.

The personal qualities and political platforms of McCain and his Democrat rival Barack Obama are of little import to Ali, however. His focus is on Iraq and its neighbours such as Iran.

"The Iranians believe that if Obama is elected he will not take action against them despite their nuclear ambitions. That worries me," said Ali, sitting on an old bench in Al-Zahawi coffee shop.

"If the Iranians get the bomb they will become the Tarzan of the region," said the former teacher and lecturer at the University of Baghdad, referring to the vine-swinging strongman of the jungle in old Hollywood movies.

Mohammed, also a professor at the university, said he too preferred McCain "because Obama supports a rapid withdrawal of US troops."

"Our army is still too weak and Turkey and Iran are threats. Iran's President (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad has warned Iran would fill the void left when US troops depart," he said.

Rasheed Street with its 1920s-style buildings is still closed to vehicles, and groups of anti-Al-Qaeda fighters guard the stretch that runs north to south.

The street was the scene of major attacks by insurgents after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003 to US-led invading forces. But even before that many business establishments had begun to move away from the thoroughfare.

Today, a few hundred metres (yards) from Al-Zahawi coffee shop, is the famous Al-Mutnabi books market, the only place where Baghdadis can find English books and magazines.

Booksellers display a range of computer publications, periodicals, works of fiction and school textbooks on wooden shelves.

Barack Obama's image peers out between two editions of "Vanity Fair" magazine kept next to the memoirs of former US president Bill Clinton.

But "The Audacity of Hope," one of Obama's books, has yet to find a buyer.

"I have no customer for this book. Iraqis are interested in the campaign, but they prefer to read texts translated into Arabic," said bookseller Shallan Zaidan.

Such Arabic versions, translated and published by Lebanese companies, include "My Year in Iraq" by Paul Bremer, the former US administrator of Iraq, and "Bush at War" by renowned investigative journalist Bob Woodward.

But there are no translations of books on the two candidates bidding to enter the White House.

Iraqis prefer instead to rely on the latest issues of weekly news publications such as Time and Newsweek, said government official Whamith Shadhan, who was browsing through second-hand books and magazines.

"I trust the Republicans more. They're more capable of establishing democracy in the world, especially in Arab countries," said the 33-year-old. "Obama is far too left."

Since the invasion more than five years ago, the Mutanabi market has been twice hit by bombs. The area is predominantly Sunni, and judging by some graffiti on the walls Al-Qaeda is never far away.

"The insurgents aren't bothered by political books sold on the street. They focus on religious ones," said Yasser Ali, an Obama supporter and seller of books for 22 years.

Obama "interrupted his campaign to visit his sick grandmother. That speaks volumes about the man," he said.

Back on Rasheed Street itself, Abu Ahmed waited at a men's hairdresser as his friend got a shave.

"We accept black people more readily in the Middle East. We feel closer to them. We have common sufferings," said the long-time sports coach.

"It would be nice if the Americans elected a black person. And Obama seems less inclined to engage in another war."


Copyright AFP 2008, AFP stories and photos shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium

Original here

Fact Check: Palin's Alaska spreads its wealth

By RITA BEAMISH

Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin summon antidemocratic images of a communist state to attack Democrat Barack Obama's tax plan and his comment about spreading the wealth around. But in her home state, Palin embraces Alaska's own version of doing just that.

Palin and McCain seized on a comment Obama made to Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher, who asked about his tax plans.

Obama wants to raise taxes on families earning $250,000 to pay for cutting taxes for the 95 percent of workers and their families making less than $200,000. "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody," he told Wurzelbacher.

McCain said that sounds "a lot like socialism" to many Americans. Palin has derided the Illinois senator as "Barack the Wealth Spreader."

But in Alaska, Palin is the envy of governors nationwide for the annual checks the state doles out to nearly every resident, representing their share of the revenues from the state's oil riches. She boosted those checks this year by raising taxes on oil.

McCain campaign spokesman Taylor Griffin said Thursday that spreading wealth through Obama's tax plan and doing it through Alaska's oil-profit distribution are not comparable because Alaska requires the state's resource wealth to be shared with residents, but it's not taxing personal income.

"It's how the revenue is shared between the oil companies and the state."

A look at Palin's and McCain's comments and the record in Alaska:

THE SPIN:

"Barack Obama calls it spreading the wealth. Joe Biden calls higher taxes patriotic," Palin told a crowd in Roswell, N.M., and elsewhere. "But Joe the Plumber and Ed the Dairyman, I believe they think it sounds more like socialism.

"Friends, now is no time to experiment with socialism."

In Ohio, she asked, "Are there any Joe the Plumbers in the house?" To cheers, she said, "It doesn't sound like you're supporting Barack the Wealth Spreader."

McCain told a radio audience that Obama's plan "would convert the IRS into a giant welfare agency, redistributing massive amounts of wealth at the direction of politicians in Washington."

"Raising taxes on some in order to give checks to others is not a tax cut; it's just another government giveaway."

THE FACTS:

In Alaska, residents pay no income tax or state sales tax. They receive a yearly dividend check from a $30 billion state investment account built largely from royalties on its oil. When home fuel and gas costs soared last year, Palin raised taxes on big oil and used some of the money to boost residents' checks by $1,200. Thus every eligible man, woman and child got a record $3,269 this fall.

She also suspended the 8-cent tax on gas.

"We can afford to share resource wealth with Alaskans and to temporarily suspend the state fuel tax," she said at the time.

Much as Obama explains his tax hike on the rich as a way to help people who are struggling, Palin's statement talked about the energy costs burdening Alaskans:

"While the unique fiscal circumstances the state finds itself in at the end of this fiscal year warrant a special one-time payment to share some of the state's wealth, the payment comes at a time when Alaskans are facing rising energy prices. High prices for oil are a double-edged sword for Alaskans. While public coffers fill, prices for heating fuel and gasoline have skyrocketed over the last six months and are now running into the $5- to $9-a-gallon range for heating fuel and gasoline across several areas of the state."

In an interview with The New Yorker last summer Palin explained that she would make demands of a new gas pipeline "to maximize benefits for Alaskans":

"And Alaska we're set up, unlike other states in the union, where it's collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs."

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press.

Original here

Neil Cavuto on John McCain: 'On economic matters, you have no convictions'


On FBC's Cavuto show, Neil Cavuto lambasted John McCain over his economic policies, or lack thereof. It's a searing commentary on McCain's nonsensical approach and the shifting positions he has taken during his campaign.

Cavuto: Frankly, neither of your numbers adds up. But I’ve come to see a consistent pattern in Obama's. For the life of me, Senator Straight Talk, I see no such straight thing with yours.

{snip}

You rail against big government, yet continue to push cockamamie spending plans that make a mockery of it. That's why you're losing right now, Senator McCain.

Not because you don't have the courage of your convictions. But because on economic matters, you have no convictions, period

.

Obviously Cavuto disagrees with Obama's economic policies, but explains that he's been consistent throughout his entire candidacy. McCain on the other hand shouts "Socialism" at Obama while embracing the same philosophy as Obama for the most part where convenient. Or, he just doesn't know that much about the economy.

* "I'm going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated." (November 2005)

Cavuto just rips McCain apart in his "The Deal" segment.

John McCain, I figured out today why you're losing. Your positions are always changing.

You voted for the $700 billion rescue package. Yet today lumped your opponent with the Bush Administration for essentially pushing the same package.

What's the deal with the Straight Talk Express?

He voted for this rescue, but now says Barack Obama and the White House, who voted for the same rescue, apparently voted for something different.

(Transcript below the fold)icon Download | Play icon Download | Play

Specifically, McCain wants to target the $700 billion into solving the mortgage crisis, not helping Wall Street banks. Look, I wasn't for this rescue, but I kind of knew what it was about...shoring up the banks.

If Senator McCain didn't know that, he shouldn't have voted for that...maybe he should have read that. Because he is smarter than this, and the verbal gymnastics that rival anything John Kerry was ever for before he was against...way, way before this.

Not that Barack Obama's positions are any more encouraging...but they are consistent.

I don't like the left-leaning, spread-the-wealth approach, but it's a consistent approach and the Democratic nominee has never veered from it.

You can accept him and his views or not.

With John McCain I’m not so sure. But I am sure I'm not the only one confused.

...confused by a man who says he hates government spending, but supports pushing $300 billion to bail out folks behind on their mortgage.

You can't say you're against earmarks when you're earmarking that kind of dough, Senator. Or adding more than $50 billion to a stimulus plan you cannot pay for...all the while blasting your opponent for coming up with programs he can't pay for.

Frankly, neither of your numbers adds up. But I’ve come to see a consistent pattern in Obama's. For the life of me, Senator Straight Talk, I see no such straight thing with yours. Obama argues big government d spells out why we need it...accept it or reject it.

You rail against big government, yet continue to push cockamamie spending plans that make a mockery of it. That's why you're losing right now, Senator McCain.

Not because you don't have the courage of your convictions. But because on economic matters, you have no convictions, period.

Original here

An 'Idiot Wind'

WITH THE presidential campaign clock ticking down, Sen. John McCain has suddenly discovered a new boogeyman to link to Sen. Barack Obama: a sometimes controversial but widely respected Middle East scholar named Rashid Khalidi. In the past couple of days, Mr. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, have likened Mr. Khalidi, the director of a Middle East institute at Columbia University, to neo-Nazis; called him "a PLO spokesman"; and suggested that the Los Angeles Times is hiding something sinister by refusing to release a videotape of a 2003 dinner in honor of Mr. Khalidi at which Mr. Obama spoke. Mr. McCain even threw former Weatherman Bill Ayers into the mix, suggesting that the tape might reveal that Mr. Ayers -- a terrorist-turned-professor who also has been an Obama acquaintance -- was at the dinner.
For the record, Mr. Khalidi is an American born in New York who graduated from Yale a couple of years after George W. Bush. For much of his long academic career, he taught at the University of Chicago, where he and his wife became friends with Barack and Michelle Obama. In the early 1990s, he worked as an adviser to the Palestinian delegation at peace talks in Madrid and Washington sponsored by the first Bush administration. We don't agree with a lot of what Mr. Khalidi has had to say about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the years, and Mr. Obama has made clear that he doesn't, either. But to compare the professor to neo-Nazis -- or even to Mr. Ayers -- is a vile smear.

Perhaps unsurprising for a member of academia, Mr. Khalidi holds complex views. In an article published this year in the Nation magazine, he scathingly denounced Israeli practices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and U.S. Middle East policy but also condemned Palestinians for failing to embrace a nonviolent strategy. He said that the two-state solution favored by the Bush administration (and Mr. Obama) was "deeply flawed" but conceded there were also "flaws in the alternatives." Listening to Mr. Khalidi can be challenging -- as Mr. Obama put it in the dinner toast recorded on the 2003 tape and reported by the Times in a detailed account of the event last April, he "offers constant reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases."

It's fair to question why Mr. Obama felt as comfortable as he apparently did during his Chicago days in the company of men whose views diverge sharply from what the presidential candidate espouses. Our sense is that Mr. Obama is a man of considerable intellectual curiosity who can hear out a smart, if militant, advocate for the Palestinians without compromising his own position. To suggest, as Mr. McCain has, that there is something reprehensible about associating with Mr. Khalidi is itself condemnable -- especially during a campaign in which Arab ancestry has been the subject of insults. To further argue that the Times, which obtained the tape from a source in exchange for a promise not to publicly release it, is trying to hide something is simply ludicrous, as Mr. McCain surely knows.

Which reminds us: We did ask Mr. Khalidi whether he wanted to respond to the campaign charges against him. He answered, via e-mail, that "I will stick to my policy of letting this idiot wind blow over." That's good advice for anyone still listening to the McCain campaign's increasingly reckless ad hominem attacks. Sadly, that wind is likely to keep blowing for four more days.

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