Friday, September 28, 2007
By David S. BroderThursday, September 27, 2007; A25 The spectacle Tuesday of 151 House Republicans voting in lock step with the White House against expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was one of the more remarkable sights of the year. Rarely do you see so many politicians putting their careers in jeopardy. The bill they opposed, at the urging of President Bush, commands healthy majorities in both the House and Senate but is headed for a veto because Bush objects to expanding this form of safety net for the children of the working poor. He has staked out that ground on his own, ignoring or rejecting the pleas of conservative senators such as Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch, who helped shape the compromise that the House approved and that the Senate endorsed. SCHIP has been one of the most successful health-care measures created in the past decade. It was started in 1997 with support from both parties, in order to insure children in families with incomes too high to receive Medicaid but who could not afford private insurance. The $40 billion spent on SCHIP in the past 10 years financed insurance for roughly 6.6 million youngsters a year. The money was distributed through the states, which were given considerable flexibility in designing their programs. The insurance came from private companies, at rates negotiated by the states. Governors of both parties -- 43 of them, again including conservatives such as Sonny Perdue of Georgia -- have praised the program. And they endorsed the congressional decision to expand the coverage to an additional 4 million youngsters, at the cost of an additional $35 billion over the next five years. The bill would be financed by a 61-cents-a-pack increase in cigarette taxes. If ever there was a crowd-pleaser of a bill, this is it. Hundreds of organizations -- grass-roots groups ranging from AARP to United Way of America and the national YMCA -- have called on Bush to sign the bill. America's Health Insurance Plans, the largest insurance lobbying group, endorsed the bill on Monday. But Bush insists that SCHIP is "an incremental step toward the goal of government-run health care for every American" -- an eventuality he is determined to prevent. Bush's adamant stand may be peculiar to him, but the willingness of Republican legislators to line up with him is more significant. Bush does not have to face the voters again, but these men and women will be on the ballot in just over a year -- and their Democratic opponents will undoubtedly remind them of their votes. Two of their smartest colleagues -- Heather Wilson of New Mexico and Ray LaHood of Illinois -- tried to steer House Republicans away from this political self-immolation, but they had minimal success. The combined influence of White House and congressional leadership -- and what I would have to call herd instinct -- prevailed. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) argued that "rather than taking the opportunity to cover the children that cannot obtain coverage through Medicaid or the private marketplace, this bill uses these children as pawns in their cynical attempt to make millions of Americans completely reliant upon the government for their health-care needs." In his new book, former Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan wrote that his fellow Republicans deserved to lose their congressional majority in 2006 because they let spending run out of control and turned a blind eye toward misbehavior by their own members. Now, those Republicans have given voters a fresh reason to question their priorities -- or their common sense. Saying no to immigration reform and measures to shorten the war in Iraq may be politically defensible, because there are substantial constituencies who question the wisdom of those bills -- and who favor alternative policies. But the Bush administration's arguments against SCHIP -- the cost of the program and the financing -- sound hollow at a time when billions more are being spent in Iraq with no end in sight. Bush's alternative -- a change in the tax treatment of employer-financed health insurance -- has some real appeal, but it is an idea he let languish for months after offering it last winter. And, in the judgment of his fellow Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, Bush's plan is too complex and controversial to be tied to the renewal of SCHIP. This promised veto is a real poison pill for the GOP.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Former president Bill Clinton passionately shared his thoughts on the House vote to condemn progressive group MoveOn.org (More at this link) over a controversial newspaper ad on CNN's Situation Room. "There was something completely disingenuous about the feigned outrage of the Republicans and the White House and then the Congress about this. This was classic bait and switch," Clinton said, later adding, "focus on that as opposed to focusing on what's happened [in Iraq]." Clinton's charges of political posturing reached a high level of specificity in his discussion of the elections in 2002 and 2004. Both years saw the Republicans expand their majorities in Congress and then the re-election of President Bush. "These are the people that ran a television ad in Georgia with [former Senator] Max Cleland, who lost half his body in Vietnam, in the same ad with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. That's what the Republicans did, Clinton said. "And the person that rode to the senate on that ad was there voting to condemn the Democrats over the Petraeus ad. I mean, these are the people that funded the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." Clinton pointed out that "the President appointed one of the principal funders of the Swift Boat ads to be an ambassador." "But they’re really upset about Petraeus," Clinton added. "But it was ok to question John Kerry’s patriotism on the blatantly dishonest claims by people that didn’t what they were talking about." The following video is from CNN's Situation Room, broadcast on September 26. MCL comment: Clinton is right here, but I would like to add this item remember back during the Republican convention back in 2004 there was a story that got little play in the national media but was everywhere in the liberal blogging world. The support the troops crowd decided to pass out purple heart band-aids as a way to mock John Kerry jumped to three years later the same Republicans are screaming about an ad, get out of here GOP.
Granholm plans TV address on budget crisis tonight September 27, 2007 By DAWSON BELL FREE PRESS LANSING BUREAU UPDATED AT 2:25 P.M. Gov. Jennifer Granholm plans a five-minute TV and radio address at 6:05 p.m. to discuss the state budget crisis and plans for shutting down parts of state government. “We believe the citizens deserve to hear directly from the governor,” Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said. AdvertisementBoyd declined to say whether the governor will outline any new initiatives to break the logjam over how to address a potential $1.75-billion deficit in the fiscal year that begins at midnight Sunday.In a news release announcing the address, Granholm repeated her opposition to a temporary or continuation budget.She announced Wednesday that only “essential services” will continue if no deal is reached.Budget talks involving Granholm administration officials and lawmakers from both parties were continuing at the Capitol today. But there were no signs a breakthrough was imminent.Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said Republicans would be preparing a response to Granholm’s statement.The response will be made available to broadcast outlets, as well, and should be ready at the conclusion of Granholm’s remarks, Marsden said.
On CNN, Peterson called NAACP "a hate group" Summary: Discussing the Jena Six controversy, CNN host Kyra Phillips said, "Let's talk about the reality of the hate groups that are in that area [Jena, Louisiana] and the reality of a mind-set that does exist." In response, conservative commentator Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson asserted: "I also agree that there are hate groups all around the country. There are skinheads, KKK, and the NAACP. The NAACP is a hate group as well." On the September 26 edition of CNN Newsroom, during a discussion of the events surrounding the Jena Six controversy, host Kyra Phillips said to her guests, CNN contributor Roland Martin and conservative commentator Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, president of the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND): "[L]et's step away from the Jena Six and the criminal justice system, and let's talk about the education. Let's talk about the reality of the people that live" in Jena, Louisiana. Phillips added: "Let's talk about the reality of the hate groups that are in that area and the reality of a mind-set that does exist." In response, Peterson asserted: "I also agree that there are hate groups all around the country. There are skinheads, KKK, and the NAACP. The NAACP is a hate group as well." As Media Matters for America documented, Peterson and BOND have led a boycott of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), claiming the organization is "a tool of the liberal elite socialist wing of the Democratic Party." And after some members of the Congressional Black Caucus accused the Bush administration of forcing former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to resign, BOND asked the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to investigate the relationship between Aristide and the Congressional Black Caucus. In his book Scam: How the Black Leadership Exploits Black America (Nelson Current, October 2003), Peterson attacked the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, as well as other black leaders. Peterson is also listed among WorldNetDaily's "cadre of inspiring, knowledgeable speakers." WorldNetDaily describes Peterson as "the most articulate, outspoken critic of the civil-rights establishment in America today." From the 3 p.m. ET hour of the September 26 edition of CNN Newsroom: PHILLIPS: Roland, let's step away from the Jena Six and the criminal justice system, and let's talk about the education. Let's talk about the reality of the people that live there. Let's talk about the reality of the hate groups that are in that area and the reality of a mind-set that does exist. We've all seen it experienced and talked individuals on both sides. It's not such an easy issue, as we've been saying, not just a black-and-white issue. MARTIN: Well, of course not. I mean, Kyra, you've pointed out, as well as other folks that participated, that when you were interviewing whites there, they say, "Look, we get along with the coloreds here in this town." And so that is an issue that is there. We cannot deny it. We're not -- I mean, so let's just not run away from it. Now, the question is whether or not, in this case, was there was equal justice? You have people on both sides. But you also have whites there who said, "You know what? We don't necessarily think they should have been charged with attempted murder, but they should have been charged." I have made that point. I have never said they should get off if they're convicted. But the question is whether you charge juveniles as adults with attempted murder. That was, again, the real primary issue when this story began to blow up and it became national. PETERSON: I also agree that there are hate groups all around the country. There are skinheads, KKK, the NAACP. The NAACP is a hate group as well. [laughter] PETERSON: But the problem is not -- the problem is not the justice system. The problem is that the average black family is out of order. Black men are not marrying black women and helping raise their children and making sure that they're educated. It's about the family and as long as that family -- PHILLIPS: But Reverend Peterson, but don't you think that it's not -- it's not just the black family, but also the white family, too. Don't you agree? PETERSON: You're right. PHILLIPS: Because I saw ignorance on both sides. PETERSON: You're absolutely right. It is happening to the white family as well. But for the last 50 years, you know, the black family has been destroyed. And the government is the daddy of the family, and corrupt black leaders are the head of the folks
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Giuliani $9.11 Event Comes Under Fire By Marc Santora The Giuliani campaign is being forced to distance itself from the decision of a supporter to throw a fundraising party where supporters of the Republican candidate for president have been asked to donate $9.11. Abraham Sofaer, a State Department adviser under President Reagan, is holding the fundraiser at his Palo Alto, Calif. home on Wednesday, but he told the Associated Press that he was not involved in coming up with the “$9.11 for Rudy” theme. Maria Comella, a spokeswoman for the campaign, said that it was “unfortunate.” “These are two volunteers who acted independently of and without the knowledge of the campaign,” she said in a statement. “Their decision to ask individuals for that amount was an unfortunate choice.” The invitation for the event, first reported by the Associated Press, described “$9.11 for Rudy” an “independent, non-denominational grass-roots campaign to raise $10,000 in small increments to show how many individual, everyday Americans support ‘America’s Mayor.’ ” The event is one of many events that campaign plans to hold Wednesday as part of its “National House Party” night, where Mr. Giuliani will speak to supporters via a live Webcast. Mr. Giuliani was mayor of New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. He gained national fame for how he behaved in the aftermath of the attacks and that leadership is at the heart of his campaign. But he has come under sniping from opponents that he is exploiting the tragedy for political reasons. The campaign vigorously denies the charge, noting that they even shut down their Web site and raised no money on the anniversary of Sept. 11.
Whaa? Rudy using 9.11 for political gains get out of here I don't believe it. You know what's missing from Rudy's campaign? A two foot poster of ground zero with Rudy face posted on it.
Bloomberg Begs to Differ With Giuliani on Gun Suit By DIANE CARDWELL Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took a rare, veiled swipe at his predecessor yesterday, challenging Rudolph W. Giuliani’s assertion that a lawsuit Mr. Giuliani filed as mayor against gun manufacturers had changed so much that he may no longer support it. Saying that the case had “not changed at all” since its inception, Mr. Bloomberg told reporters at a news conference at City Hall, “We believe that it’s a good case, and we hope to win it.” Last week, Mr. Giuliani, a Republican candidate for president, told the National Rifle Association that the suit had “taken several turns and several twists that I don’t agree with.” Maria Comella, a spokeswoman for Mr. Giuliani’s campaign, declined to comment on the disagreement. The lawsuit, originally filed in 2000, sought tens of millions of dollars from more than a dozen gun companies, arguing that firearms makers and distributors failed to monitor retail dealers closely enough and allowed guns to end up in the hands of criminals. Temporarily shelved after the Sept. 11 attack, the case is still winding through the legal process. Although Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Giuliani have generally avoided public spats over the years, they have been finding themselves on opposite sides of the gun issue as Mr. Giuliani has sought to appeal to more conservative Republican voters. The two men also disagree on legislation known as the Tiahrt amendment, a rider that has been attached to federal spending bills since 2003. The amendment places restrictions on the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to release information about the sales histories of guns recovered in crimes to people other than law enforcement officials investigating those crimes. The rider, named for Representative Todd Tiahrt, the Republican from Kansas who introduced it, is intended to keep trace data, which shows the path from manufacturer to retail purchase of a gun recovered in a crime, from being used in civil suits against gun dealers and manufacturers. But some law enforcement officials, including Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, say that without access to aggregate information about the source of guns, it is difficult to see larger patterns in how firearms move to their communities. Mr. Giuliani, speaking to the N.R.A., said he thought the rule was sensible, while Mr. Bloomberg has made its elimination a focus of his national campaign against illegal gun trafficking. Although that effort was dealt a severe blow earlier this year when a key Congressional committee approved the restrictions, Mr. Bloomberg praised the bureau for recently releasing a report tracking gun recoveries state by state for the first time in several years. “I was pleased to see the alcohol, tobacco and firearms division, after what they said was overwhelming demand from around the country, starting to give out more information, probably in violation of the Tiahrt amendment,” Mr. Bloomberg said. A.T.F. officials declined to comment for this article, but they have said that the Tiahrt amendment does not restrict the release of the aggregate statistics they reported, which show, for instance, the kinds of crimes in which guns are recovered and the areas they most frequently come from, but not information about specific dealers.
GOP expects to lose more House seats By: Josh Kraushaar September 25, 2007 09:55 AM EST Top Republicans are privately bracing for the possibility that they could lose additional House seats in next year’s elections as a result of untimely retirements, ongoing scandals and unexpectedly gloomy fundraising forecasts, according to several members and aides. It seems every day brings more bad news for Republicans. As Politico first reported Friday, House Minority Leader John Boehner and his campaign chief, Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, are at war over campaign tactics and operations. Boehner is demanding a major shake-up at the National Republican Congressional Committee. The dust-up might be the least of the GOP’s problems. Three House Republicans in very competitive districts recently announced their retirements — and several more senior GOP members have hinted they may do the same. Put simply, Republicans lack the money to fight seriously for many of these seats. The NRCC is essentially broke, with more debt than money in the bank. “When you look at what’s going on in the House, the prospects for getting back on track are pretty dim at the moment,” said Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.). It is not unusual for fortunes to change quickly in politics. A popular Republican presidential candidate, for instance, could help GOP candidates in swing states, as could an infusion of cash from outside political groups and business interests. The Democratic Congress remains wildly unpopular in polls, and some Republicans are optimistic they will benefit politically when voters look for someone to blame next fall. But fundamentals matter in politics. And right now, Republicans are suffering from setbacks in recruitment, retirements, money and efforts to craft an election strategy. These concerns help explain the recent spat between Boehner and Cole. The NRCC staff is instrumental in crafting the campaign and fundraising strategies for House Republicans. Increasingly concerned and agitated about their performance, Boehner is pressuring Cole to replace his senior staff. Republican sources say Boehner wants to replace Pete Kirkham, the NRCC’s executive director, and Terry Carmack, its political director, with more “aggressive” people with a more “realistic” view on next year’s elections. The dispute will be settled soon, likely with changes at the NRCC. But a new staff would confront the same problems as the current one. Start with retirements. Republican Reps. Jim Ramstad (Minn.), Jerry Weller (Ill.) and Deborah Pryce (Ohio) recently announced their retirements, after spending a decade in the House — and all had a long history of winning suburban, Democratic-trending districts. All three are winnable for Democrats. By contrast, only two House Democrats, Reps. Mark Udall (Colo.) and Tom Allen (Maine), have announced their departure, and both represent safe districts. More Republicans are expected to vacate their competitive seats soon. Rep. Tom Davis (Va.) will likely run for the Senate, and Reps. Ralph Regula (Ohio) and C.W. Bill Young (Fla.) are hinting they might retire soon. Most members, like Weller and Pryce, cited their desire to spend time back home with family as reasons for stepping down. Others will be looking for a more lucrative career in lobbying. But their departures indicate that they have little confidence that Republicans will retake the majority next year. The GOP’s budget is already strained without the additional races to fund. At the end of August, the National Republican Congressional Committee reported only $1.6 million cash on hand, with $4 million in debt. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, by comparison, had banked over $22 million, with only $3 million in debt. Cook Political Report House analyst David Wasserman said that, if the election were held today, Republicans would be in serious risk of losing seats. “If the election were held this November, Republicans would be in for a disastrous result,” said Wasserman. “The thinking goes: It will have to be another cycle before Republicans get their act together.” After last year’s Democratic landslide, the picture for Republicans looked encouraging heading into 2008. Republicans were optimistic that, of the 30 seats they lost, many were situated in conservative territory and would likely revert to the GOP. Yet Democratic freshmen representing those tough districts have been more resilient than expected, while GOP recruitment has lagged against many of their most tempting targets. Four Democratic freshmen — Reps. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Joe Sestak (Pa.), Ron Klein (Fla.) and Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.) — have already banked $1 million, and many others are waiting for a Republican opponent to emerge. Republicans have landed their own share of impressive recruits, including retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard, running against Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.), and state Sen. Nick Jordan, running against Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Kan.). They are also encouraged that they landed several strong candidates in the Northeast, considered especially tough territory for the GOP. “We have defied expectations when it comes to candidate recruitment,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain. “There are a number of top-tier candidates already on the ground running that we expect to compete seriously next year.” But for Republicans to win the 16 seats necessary to take back control of Congress, they need to knock off most of the newly elected Democrats representing conservative districts. And many of those Democrats are finding themselves in unusually good shape for reelection. Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.), representing a northeastern Pennsylvania district that overwhelmingly voted for President Bush, will likely face a GOP opponent without any political experience. U.S. Attorney Tom Marino decided not to run after being courted by the NRCC. The GOP primary is now shaping up between two businessmen, Chris Hackett and Dan Meuser. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), representing a GOP-heavy district in rural western North Carolina, has an easier path to reelection after District Attorney Jeff Hunt and state Sen. Tom Apodaca passed up bids. Republicans there are still scrambling to field a credible candidate. Reps. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Baron Hill (D-Ind.) still don’t have Republican opponents. And in the swing seat vacated by Pryce, a laundry list of Republicans have all passed up bids, from the state’s former attorney general to an Iraq war veteran. “Republicans have done as good of a job as could be expected under the circumstances of the national climate,” said Wasserman. “There’s a substantial conflict within GOP ranks whether to stick with a red-state strategy or whether to see the playing field for what it is.” Furthermore, allegations of corruption are threatening additional members’ standings. Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) has been under federal investigation over his ties to imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Doolittle, who won only 49 percent of the vote last year, has stubbornly refused to step down even as Republican strategists privately concede he cannot win reelection. An investigation into political corruption in Alaska has also damaged the reelection chances of Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). Democrats are hoping the statewide scandal can put that traditionally Republican seat in play. Patrick O’Connor and John Bresnahan contributed to this story. TM & © THE POLITICO & POLITICO.COM, a division of Allbritton Communications Company
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
The Right's Garden of False Narratives By Phil Rockstroh September 20, 2007 Editor’s Note: At the core of the rot that is destroying the American Republic are the many false narratives that have replaced the nation's real history. The Right has proved adept at creating these alluring story lines and selling them through a vast and sophisticated media apparatus, while the mainstream press goes silent or plays along. In this guest essay, poet Phil Rockstroh explores the personal and societal implications of foisting false reality on a nation: One would think that from the cries of (feigned) indignation and calls for repentance arising from conservatives regarding Move-On.org's ad in the N.Y. Times that the liberal-leaning group had not simply questioned the insights and intentions of a public servant, promoting, in a public forum, the policy of an illegal and immoral occupation of a sovereign nation; rather, the folks of Move-On.org had committed blasphemy against the holy name of some revered saint -- General Mary Petraeus, Mother of God. The false outrage of perpetually offended conservatives serves as cover for the true outrages of our era, including: truncated civil liberties, rising levels of social and economic inequality and injustice, and foreign wars of aggression waged by an insular and secretive executive branch and fought by a permanent underclass. The outrages keep arriving, because the collective imagination of the citizen/consumers of the US, arbitrated by a careerist media elite, has been, for decades, in the thrall of false narratives that serve the interests of the elite of the corporate/militarist classes. Concurrently, a sense of unease and despair, due to a sense of personal and collective powerlessness before exploitive power, has created the tone and tenor of the times, and begot the phenomenon of supine liberalism and Viagra conservatism. (In this way, liberals stand fecklessly by, as the public is, time and time again, screwed by the decrepit schemes of the right.) In this way, liberal paternalism is insufferable; worse, it is dangerous. This has been the right's craftiest accomplishment: inducing "reasonable" liberals and "sensible" centrists to enable their crimes, from stolen elections to their present preparation for a massive bombing campaign of Iran, by intimidating them with the fear that any protest on their part will cast them among the ranks of America-hating, lefty moonbats, who wish to see the terrorist win, dumpsters piled high with discarded fetuses and metro-sexuality made the official state religion. Moreover, these assaults upon both reason and the republic (what's left of it) will persist until progressives begin to effectively counter the narratives of the predatory right. Some call it shameful demagoguery; although, conservatives call it career advancement. This is not a novel situation. Throughout history, these kinds of pernicious mindsets have always been with us; it is our tragedy that they have been allowed to prevail. Conservatives are eager to embrace false narratives: The surge is working; the terrorists hate us for our freedom; Fred Thompson is Ronald Reagan incarnate, but with a touch of Jed Clampett "folksiness." Accordingly, when the times are roiled with uncertainty, when thoughts of the future are tinged with dread, conservatives, like a character in Southern Gothic literature, will fall into a swoon, longing for the return of an imagined, purer past that never was. One can picture these right-wing sorts wandering the streets, wearing a faded prom dress and a broken, prom queen tiara, twittering and cooing, while repeating over and over again, "the surge is working; Anbar Province is now a beacon of freedom unto the world...") in an imaginary dialog with the ghost of their long lost beau, Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan, an ungifted actor, by means of playing the role of a "resolute" Cold Warrior, was able to gain the approbation and wealth that had alluded him as a contract player in Hollywood. In truth, Reagan's greatest accomplishment was convincing himself of his own sincerity. To the Exits Constantin Stanislavsky, who is considered the father of modern acting technique, is reputed to have said that when an actor starts to believe he is the character he's portraying it is time to escort him from the theatre. Withal, Fred, Rudy, Rush, Hannity, O'Reilly, et al., can you find the exits on your own or will you need to be medicated, strapped to a gurney, and wheeled from the public arena? Rather than being candidates for President of the United States, most of the Republican field seems to be vying for the title of National Crazy Uncle -- the kind of guy who corners you at a family gathering and rants that the PTA is a terrorist front group and gangs of illegal aliens are engaged in a vast conspiracy to steal single socks from his washer-dryer. The Republican candidates for president and their fantasy-prone constituents wish to set the Way Back Machine to the golden days of the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was impersonating a man just arrived via the 1940s. This phenomenon is known as the Law of Republican Special Relativity, which states: When events begin to accelerate forward, the conservative mind will be cast, at an equal rate of speed, backwards in time. But the paradox is: they arrive in a parallel universe, an alternative past that never existed on this earth -- a low probability dimension, comprised of platitudes and false pieties, where white male privilege is sacrosanct, only for the reason (according to their reality-proof perspective) that it serves to provide all mankind with all things good and holy. This law can be tested by performing the following simple exercise: Engage a conservative true believer in a dialog regarding the manner by which "state's rights" was misused in the Jim Crow dominated Deep South of the pre-Civil Rights Era in order to propagate and maintain segregation, and your conservative-minded test subject will respond as if those realities transpired long ago and far away on a planet that he has never visited. Yet, paradoxically, rightists have manage to create a Time Retrieval Device, a device that has summoned from the past wonders, such as the following: a reversal of many of the rights of working people; the return of unsafe and unsanitary practices in the food industry; widening gaps of wealth, health and privilege between social, racial and economic classes; in short, many the excesses of plutocratic rule inherent to unfettered capitalism. As a result, a generation has inherited power who are devoid of the concept of causation and consequence. Ergo, we have developed a political class who rule by narratives of denial and shallow self-justification. An example of this is the blaming of the people of Iraq for the blood-drenched debacle that has resulted from the illegal and immoral invasion of their nation. As well as, an enabling cadre of media elitists who served as cheerleaders for the invasion, because they deemed it to be good for business, and, to this day, are unwilling to admit their complicity. All of the above leads to the question: What are present-day conservatives striving to conserve? Historically, conservatives gave their utmost to conserve institutions such as slavery, Jim Crow, child labor -- and, of course, the use of leeches for medical purposes. (Perhaps, they simply couldn't stand the thought of a fellow blood-sucker being deemed dangerous, and they feared the start of a trend.) Central Paradox At present, the central paradox of contemporary conservatism is this: How does one practice conservatism within an all-encompassing economy based on disposability? This is analogous to establishing a brothel devoted to the goal of abstinence. When engaged in a dialog with many conservatives, the question becomes: Are their reactions and responses evoked therein simply borne of plain ignorance, willful ignorance, or outright lying? Or are their responses the result of a group hallucination? All progressives have experienced the following nonsensical encounter of the conservative kind. Present a reasoned argument to a conservative -- and, all at once, completely ignoring the tenet, tone and thrust of the point, they begin hallucinating a creature, only known to exist in the right-wing bestiary, known as a "moonbat" -- a mythological beast that, ironically, seems to appear when a conservative is confronted with reality. Accordingly, the time has come for a study of political zoology and to posit who are the true moonbats now making their habitat in the United States. Case study: Unregulated, wish-fulfillment-based conservative economic policy has created those suburban arrays of mold-incubating petri dishes known as products of the housing boom. Moreover, the bursting of the whole bubble-prone Ponzi scheme has sent shock waves throughout international economies and is surging the economy of the U.S. towards recession. Furthermore, conservative anti-regulatory policies have rendered us babes in a cheap, plastic Toyland. What has an era of conservatism wrought? Answer: a culture that has all the value, integrity, sustainability and safety as a toy manufactured in China. Apropos, contemporary life, as conceived and manufactured by conservative "values," is shoddily made, toxic and not a lot of fun. In addition, it has spawned a culture ridden with public relations fabulists and media-savvy confidence artists who tell us that the taste of corporate ass-suck is the ambrosia of the gods. The locked-down, stultifying mindset and ideological barbarianism of present day conservatism is directly linked to the steep decline of the quality of life in the United States. The recent revelations regarding the "I'm-not-gay-I-simply-engage-in-same-sex-encounters-in-public-restrooms" wing of the Republican Party are instructive in understanding the rightist's worldview and its effect on our times. Covert sex in a public bathroom stall is an apt metaphor for how contemporary conservatism limits and restricts the possibilities of human life. In the same way that a closet-case gay conservative stunts the possibilities of his love life, the conservative mindset limits the scope of a culture's possibilities. Accordingly, economic life must be ruled by ruthless, unregulated competition, and the nation's meaning can only be found in war. Hence, under the Bush Junta, we are told, as far as international relations go, that the nation has few options other than its present policy of predatory capitalism and "wide-stance" militarism. Regarding perma-fools such as these, Ernest Becker wrote: "Once you base your whole life striving on a desperate lie, and try to implement that lie, you instrument your own undoing." Accordingly, the republic is dead; its ghost howls online only in pixelated protests such as this one. This grim reality will remain, until we rise up and repudiate the false narratives that have created and continue to comprise these tragic times.
Country music deserts George Bush By Tim Shipman in Washington Last Updated: 1:00am BST 23/09/2007 Country music has thrived for years as the soundtrack to redneck America, supplying the Republican heartlands with a diet of knee-jerk jingoism that has included flag-waving anthems supporting the war on terror. Toby Keith has claimed he never supported the war But as the US death toll rises in Iraq and public patience with the conflict — and with George W. Bush — diminishes, many anti-war songs are emerging from Nashville, Tennessee, home of the genre. No one has moved further than Toby Keith and Darryl Worley, two of the biggest names in country music. In 2002, Keith had a huge hit with Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, which includes the lyric: "You'll be sorry that you messed with the US of A, 'cause we'll put a boot in your ass — it's the American Way." Worley's Have You Forgotten in 2003 justified the Iraq invasion as a response to the September 11 attacks. The military liked it so much he was presented with a flag that had flown over the Pentagon. Now Keith says he is a lifelong Democrat and has claimed he never supported the war(oh really?), while Worley has had a hit with I Just Came Back from a War, about a soldier returning from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder. Tim McGraw — the biggest contemporary country star — has a hit single with If You're Reading This, about a dead soldier's last letter home, and the Dixie Chicks, boycotted in 2003 after lead singer Natalie Maines told an audience in London: "We're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas," won five Grammy Awards this year. The changing tone reflects a growing scepticism in heartlands that have disproportionately contributed the young soldiers who have been fighting and dying.Brian Hiatt, associate editor of Rolling Stone magazine, said: "Popular music is reflecting the culture, as it always does." Keith's switch, however, has angered conservative country fans and anti-war activists alike. Jon Iwanski, a blogger in Chicago, said Keith had "damaged his credibility", while opponents of the war accused the singer of opportunism. MLC comment: How things change from 2003 to now, much like right wing talk it's not popular signing the current policies of the Bush White House either. And Toby Keith little admission really shows not even country music is sticking with this guy.
Friday, September 21, 2007
McCain to criticize Giuliani on guns By LIBBY QUAID, Associated Press WriterThu Sep 20, 11:05 PM ET Republican presidential candidate John McCain lobbed a thinly veiled attack at fellow rival Rudy Giuliani, describing the former mayor's "devious" attempt with a lawsuit "to bankrupt our great gun manufacturers." Giuliani said he preferred to focus on the lion's share of issues on which he and the National Rifle Association agree. Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., and the former New York mayor are among several officials speaking Friday at a National Rifle Association conference. In his prepared speech, McCain refers to a lawsuit by Giuliani and other mayors against the gun industry, to Giuliani's shifting Second Amendment position and to Giuliani's use of the term "extremists" in relation to the NRA. "My friends, gun owners are not extremists; you are the core of modern America," McCain said in the prepared remarks. "The Second Amendment is unique in the world and at the core of our constitutional freedoms. It guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms. To argue anything else is to reject the clear meaning of our founding fathers. "But the clear meaning of the Second Amendment has not stopped those who want to punish firearms owners — and those who make and sell firearms — for the actions of criminals," McCain said. He mentioned "a particularly devious effort to use lawsuits to bankrupt our great gun manufacturers." "A number of big-city mayors decided it was more important to blame the manufacturers of a legal product than it was to control crime in their own cities," McCain said. Ironically, a federal court in New York will hear arguments Friday on the lawsuit Giuliani filed as mayor against gun makers and distributors over violent crimes involving guns. Giuliani said Thursday he doesn't comment on pending lawsuits. "I think right now, the best approach is to focus on what can be done at the state and local level to deal with criminals who use guns, given the level of crime in this country and what's happened with it, as opposed to where we were maybe 10, 12 years ago," he said at a news conference in northern Virginia. "What's needed in this country right now is to focus on people who use guns and use them illegally," he said. Giuliani said candidates sometimes disagree with interest groups. "Tomorrow, when I go before the NRA, I'm going to emphasize the areas in which I think there is a great deal of agreement," he said, adding that he would outline those commonalities on Friday. Borrowing a phrase from President Reagan, he said, "As I've said many, many times, my 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy." On the Second Amendment, Giuliani has said the right to bear arms applies to militias but also said recently that it applies to individuals. He described the NRA as "extremists" in a 1995 interview with PBS' Charlie Rose: "The NRA, for some reason, I think goes way overboard. It's almost what the extremists on the other side do. I think the extremists of the left and the extremists of the right have essentially the same tactic — the slippery slope theory. `If you give one point, then your entire argument is going to fall apart,' and we kind of get destroyed by that," Giuliani said.
The Senate blocked legislation Friday that would have ordered most U.S. troops home from Iraq in nine months, culminating a losing week for Democrats who failed to push through any anti-war proposal. The vote, 47-47, fell 13 votes short of the 60 needed to cut off debate. "We're going to continue to lose lives and squander resources while they (the Iraqis) dawdle," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who sponsored the bill. Republicans blocked the measure, contending it would have dire consequences for the region and usurp control of the war from seasoned war generals on the ground there. Last week, Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, recommended to Congress and President Bush that some 130,000 troops be kept there through next summer — a slight decrease from the more than 160,000 troops there now. "It would be a very overt rejection of Gen. Petraeus' leadership," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The military commanders "have earned the ability to carry on their mission," he said at another point. Petraeus' Capitol Hill testimony is widely seen as a primary factor in shoring up support among Republicans, which had deteriorated steadily throughout summer. While still nervous about the ongoing violence in Iraq and unpopularity of the war, many GOP members say they now remain hopeful that another year of combat will stabilize Iraq and prevent U.S. troops from returning to the region a decade later. "If we leave, we will be back — in Iraq and elsewhere — in many more desperate fights to protect our security and at an even greater cost in American lives and treasure," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a presidential candidate and the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee. Frustrated by the lack of Republicans willing to break ranks, Democrats this week abandoned attempts to reach a bipartisan compromise on Levin's legislation. Levin had said he would have been willing to turn the nine-month date into a goal for troop withdrawals, rather than a mandated deadline. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Republicans, along with Bush, now own the war. "Back home they assert their independence, but in Washington they walk in lockstep with the president and continue to support his failed policies," said Reid, D-Nev. Recent polls show that American views of the war largely have not changed since Petraeus appeared before congressional committees two days last week. A poll released this week by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 54 percent of Americans still favor bringing troops home as soon as possible. And despite slight improvements in the public's view of military progress, more said the U.S. will likely fail in Iraq than succeed — by 47 percent to 42 percent — about the same margin as in July. Friday's vote finished a week of disappointments for Democrats. On Wednesday, the Senate blocked legislation by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., that would have guaranteed troops more time at home; it fell by a 56-44 vote with 60 votes needed to advance. On Thursday, the Senate blocked legislation sponsored by Reid and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., that would have cut off funding for combat in June 2008. That measure failed by a 70-28 vote, 32 votes short of 60. On Thursday, Republicans successfully pushed through a resolution condemning an advertisement by the liberal activist group MoveOn.org. Displayed in The New York Times, the ad taunted Petraeus as "General Betray Us." The resolution, sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, passed by a 72-25 vote. House Republican leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the House should consider a similar measure. But when asked if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would allow it, spokesman Nadeam Elshami said in an e-mail: "The House is going to devote its full attention to providing health care to children, promoting energy independence to improve America's security, reducing global warming, and responsibly redeploying U.S. forces now in Iraq. "These are the priorities of the American people," he said.
The moral of the story:
Vote these Republican bastards out in 2008 even Snowe and Collins vote them all out in 2008.
Note: Click on the top link to see the video Keith Olbermann had a searing "Special Comment" for President Bush and his press conference denunciations yesterday of MoveOn.org and Democrats who refused to condemn the liberal group's recent ad criticizing Gen. David Petraeus. The president was, according to Olbermann, "behaving a little more than usual like we'd all interrupted him while he was watching his favorite cartoons on the DVR." After criticizing Bush for sidestepping substantive issues at the press conference in "condescending and infuriating fashion," Olbermann zeroed in on the final moments of the Q&A, which he called "a big, wow political finish that indicates, certainly that if it was not already, the annual Republican witch-hunting season is underway." "Most importantly, making that the last question?" Olbermann asked about a question from reporter Bill Sammon, who asked what the president thought of the MoveOn ads. "A plant, so that there was no chance at a follow-up and so nobody could point out...that you were the one who inappropriately injected Gen. Petraeus into the political dialogue of this nation in the first place." "Deliberately, pre-meditatively and virtually without precedent," he continued, "you shanghaied a military man as your personal spokesman and now you're complaining about the outcome--and then running away from the microphone." Olbermann also played tape of a television ad from the Republican National Committee--originally aired 19 days before the 2006 mid-term elections--which featured a quote from terrorist Ayman al-Zawahiri claiming he had acquired "suitcase bombs." The ad concluded with an image of an explosion, followed by the text, "These are the stakes. Vote on November 7." "That one was OK, Mr. Bush?" Olbermann asked. "Terrorizing your own people in hopes of getting them to vote for your own party has never brought as much as a public comment from you." "But a shot at Gen. Petraeus...that merits this pissy, juvenile blast at the Democrats on national television?" "Your hypocrisy is so vast, sir," the host accused Bush, "that if you could somehow use it to fill the ranks in Iraq, you could realize your dream and keep us fighting there until the year 3000." The following video is from MSNBC Keith Olbermann's Countdown, broadcast on September 20, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Dingell attacks Bush on child health care program September 20, 2007 By TODD SPANGLER FREE PRESS WASHINGTON STAFF WASHINGTON – As President George W. Bush accused Democrats in Congress of using a health insurance program for children to score political points, Rep. John Dingell, a Dearborn Democrat who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, hurled the claim back at the president. “It’s time for this administration to stop using our kids as a political pawn and start working with Congress to protect the health of American’s children.” Dingell said in a prepared statement. AdvertisementThe debate between Democrats and the White House is over the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which funds programs in Michigan and elsewhere. It is set to expire at the end of the month.Democrats have proposed an expansion in the program worth about $35 million – far more than the $5 million wanted by the White House, which has accused the majority Democrats of trying to use the program to expand coverage far beyond its original intent, providing insurance to more adults and middle-class families.Calling that plan “a federalization of health care,” Bush called for a plan that, for now, extends the program as is, so the two sides can continue to work toward a resolution. The president has threatened to veto the Democrats’ proposal.Dingell, the longest-serving member of the House, said Bush is “actively working to undermine support” for the program.“The president has repeated described CHIP as a ‘government-run health care program,’ in spite of the fact that coverage under CHIP is overwhelmingly provided through private plans. This public-private partnership has worked for 10 years and congressional leaders intend to ensure it continues.”In Michigan, the S-CHIP program called MIchild provides coverage to children whose families make too much to receive Medicaid but whose incomes are less than twice the federal poverty level. For a family of three, the income level is $34,340 to qualify for S-CHIP. As of this past January, there were 31,588 Michigan children in S-CHIP.The White House and some congressional Republicans have complained about state waivers which allow some S-CHIP funding to go to adults and children whose families have higher incomes, too. Michigan is among those offering basic outpatient coverage for childless adults, though they must have incomes at or below 35% of the poverty level – about $3,600 a year – to qualify.About 62,000 adults in Michigan receive the benefits under the S-CHIP program.
Conyers to hold congressional hearings on Jena case September 20, 2007 By TODD SPANGLER FREE PRESS WASHINGTON STAFF WASHINGTON – House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers today said he plans to hold hearings in Congress on the case of six black teenagers in Jena, La., who were initially charged with attempted murder in the beating of a schoolmate who is white. The statement by Conyers, a Detroit Democrat who is African American, came on a day when thousands of people descended on the tiny Louisiana town to protest the charges and a rally was held in Washington in support of the students now being referred to as the “Jena Six.” AdvertisementConyers said he would also hold a forum on the incident next week. In a statement, he said, “in 2007, there should not even be allegations of unequal justice based on race or any other factors. This case brings to light what could be a national trend and the Judiciary Committee should explore that.” Conyers said he would hold the forum next week during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual legislative conference in Washington, planning it for 3 p.m. next Friday at the Washington Convention Center.
Clinton Supporter Attacks Giuliani’s Marital Woes By Katharine Q. Seelye Watch the mild-mannered Tom Vilsack steamroll over Rudy Giuliani in this video from New York 1, the cable news channel. Most New Yorkers won’t recognize Mr. Vilsack. He’s the former governor of Iowa and a Democrat; he’s also a major supporter of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for president, and some say, would like to be considered a vice presidential running mate. Mr. Vilsack shows here what he can do in the attack-dog department. Watch how this unfolds. “There’s a lot that the rest of the country is going to get to know about Mayor Giuliani that the folks in New York City know,” Mr. Vilsack told the New York news channel in an interview last night. “Such as?” asked his interviewer. “I can’t even get into the number of marriages and the fact that his children _ the relationship he has with his children _ and what kind of circumstance New York was in before September the 11th and whether or not he could have even been re-elected as mayor prior to September the 11th,” Mr. Vilsack said. “There are lots of issues involving Mayor Giuliani and I’m sure if he becomes the nominee we’ll be able to see those.” Did the Clinton machine authorize this attack on Mr. Giuliani’s marital life or was Mr. Vilsack freelancing? On the one hand, why bother? Mr. Giuliani’s Republican opponents have been doing a fine job on that score already. And, raising Mr. Giuliani’s personal life could make Mrs. Clinton’s marriage fair game. On the other hand, her marital problems — unlike Mr. Giuliani’s — tend to evoke sympathy from voters. No comment yet from the Clinton camp. Meanwhile, the Giuliani camp says: “It’s not surprising the Clinton campaign is going negative and personal so early. The fact is the rest of the country is getting to know what New Yorkers already do _ Rudy Giuliani tackled the impossible and turned around the ‘ungovernable’ city, cutting taxes, reducing crime and moving people off welfare and into work.” Update: Radio Iowa is reporting that Senator Clinton was just asked about Mr. Vilsack’s comments during a conference call, and more or less declined to discuss the matter. Here’s the word from O. Kay Henderson, the station’s news director: Ms. Henderson asks: “Senator Clinton, I just saw your interview on CNN, in which you said you’re trying to focus on a positive agenda. Have you told Governor Vilsack privately that you don’t appreciate his negative comments that were made in New York on that television station yesterday in regards to Mr. Giuliani?” Mrs. Clinton replies: “I think he’s more than capable of speaking for himself.” Mrs. Clinton will get the chance to elaborate, if she wants to, this Sunday, when she is scheduled to appear on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.
McCain campaign is 'done for,' insider says By Ralph Z. HallowSeptember 19, 2007 Sen. John McCain's campaign has raised only $3.7 million to date for the third quarter, an influential friend of the Arizona Republican has told The Washington Times."The hope was to reach $4.5 million, about a third of what was raised in the 'disastrous' second quarter," the McCain supporter told Ralph Z. Hallow, who will report the story in Friday's editions of The Times.Speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the senator, the friend said: "Those are gross numbers, not net. Plus the campaign is carrying $2.5 to $3 million in debt. [He's] done for."But Jill Hazelbaker, press secretary for the McCain campaign, said her boss "is up in at least five new national polls by two to nine points. Pollsters and experts agree that McCain is clearly gaining traction." Ms. Hazelbaker also denied that money is a vital issue for Mr. McCain.Mr. McCain's problems erupted in July, when two top advisers and the entire press staff left the campaign. At the time, campaign reported that it already had spent most of the $24 million it had raised in the previous quarter.
'Thousands protest racial injustice in US South' Thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of a small Louisiana town Thursday protesting the racial injustice of stiff criminal charges lodged against a group of black students who beat up a white student in a school fight. The fight followed months of racial tensions after a black student tried to cross the schoolyard's invisible color line and sit under the "white tree" and was met the next morning by nooses hanging from the tree. Several fights broke out among students and a fire was set in the school after the superindentant refused to expel the three white students who hung the nooses, long a symbol of anti-black violence in the south. In most of the cases, the white students escaped criminal charges, but six black students, who became known as the Jena Six, were charged with attempted murder after fight. While those charges were eventually reduced, the students still face stiff penalties. Protestors accused the local district attorney of racism for failing to meet out equal punishment to the white students who started fights with their black peers. "It's not equal," said Tina Jones, the mother of one of the "Jena Six." "The black people get the harsher extent of the law whereas white people get a slap on the wrist," she told CNN. "I hope the DA (district attorney) will wake up and realize that he's doing the wrong thing and to release these kids and let them go." LaSalle Parish district attorney Reed Walters insisted that the case "is not and never has been about race." With the white victim of the school beating, Justin Barker, standing silently behind him, Walters held a news conference on the eve of the protest and insisted that his only motivation was "finding justice for an innocent victim and holding people accountable for their actions."
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Debate No-Shows Worry GOP Leaders Candidates Are Urged to Attend Forums Sponsored by Minorities By Perry Bacon Jr.Washington Post Staff WriterWednesday, September 19, 2007; A01 Key Republican leaders are encouraging the party's presidential candidates to rethink their decision to skip presidential debates focusing on issues important to minorities, fearing a backlash that could further erode the party's standing with black and Latino voters. The leading contenders for the Republican nomination have indicated they will not attend the "All American Presidential Forum" organized by black talk show host Tavis Smiley, scheduled for Sept. 27 at Morgan State University in Baltimore and airing on PBS. Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.) and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) all cited scheduling conflicts in forgoing the debate. The top Democratic contenders attended a similar event in June at Howard University. "We sound like we don't want immigration; we sound like we don't want black people to vote for us," said former congressman Jack Kemp (N.Y.), who was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1996. "What are we going to do -- meet in a country club in the suburbs one day? If we're going to be competitive with people of color, we've got to ask them for their vote." Making matters worse, some Republicans believe, is that the decision to bypass the Morgan State forum comes after all top GOP candidates save McCain declined invitations this month to a debate on Univision, the most-watched Hispanic television network in the United States. The event was eventually postponed. "For Republicans to consistently refuse to engage in front of an African American or Latino audience is an enormous error," said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), who has not yet ruled out a White House run himself. "I hope they will reverse their decision and change their schedules. I see no excuse -- this thing has been planned for months, these candidates have known about it for months. It's just fundamentally wrong. Any of them who give you that scheduling-conflict answer are disingenuous. That's baloney." Former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman urged candidates to "reconsider this opportunity to lay out their vision and other opportunities in the future." "Every one of these candidates I've talked to is sincerely committed to offering real choices to African American and Hispanic voters, and in my opinion have records that will appeal to many of these voters," he added. Mehlman, a longtime aide to President Bush, aggressively courted the minority vote as RNC chairman in 2005-06. He recruited black candidates to run for office as Republicans and condemned electoral tactics that showed hints of race-baiting. Mehlman's successor at the RNC was Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.), a backer of legislation that would allow illegal immigrants now in the country to stay and eventually become citizens. Except for McCain, the top GOP candidates have distanced themselves from that proposal, which Kemp worries will become another strike against the GOP with Hispanics. Bush received 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004, but the Republican base remains inflamed about illegal immigration, leading the candidates to focus on border-control proposals. In passing on invitations to the Morgan State forum, the Republicans cited hectic schedules, noting in particular that September is a critical month for fundraising after a traditional summer slowdown. With fundraising closely scrutinized as a measure of their strength, all are eager to report a showing that reflects enthusiasm for their candidacies. Democrats have been invited to so many debates and forums that the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) was moved last month to send out a memo saying he would begin declining invitations to them. Republicans have confronted a somewhat more manageable schedule. Interest groups important to the party have held fewer forums, and the leading candidates have still felt they could skip some. Several Republicans have so far declined to participate in a forum sponsored by the Web site YouTube that would be broadcast on CNN. Earlier this week, the top contenders skipped a "values voters" forum organized by conservative activists in Florida. "We consider every debate invitation equally as they relate to the schedule," said Kevin Madden, a Romney spokesman. "Unfortunately, our schedule considerations for the month of September were such that we had to decline several debate invitations and candidate forums from different groups around the country, including Wharton Business School and CNN." But while the GOP campaigns have generally offered no public rationale other than timing for missing the forums, an adviser to one suggested they had little to gain from attending an event such as Smiley's. "What's the win?" said the adviser, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. "Why would [the candidates] go into a crowd where they're probably going to be booed?" Giuliani, Romney and McCain also declined to appear at events sponsored by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and the National Urban League, which Smiley said suggests a pattern of ignoring minority voters. He said debate organizers will set up lecterns showing the names of the absent candidates. "When you reject every black invitation and every brown invitation you receive, is that a scheduling issue or is it a pattern?" he asked. "I don't believe anybody should be elected president of the United States if they think along the way they can ignore people of color. That's just not the America we live in." MLC comment: I wonder what would be the spin Amy Holmes, Armstrong Williams, Larry Elders, Mike Steele and other "black" conservatives will have on this story?
via Democratic Underground/ NYtimes Source: NY TimesDan Rather, whose career at CBS News ground to an inglorious end 15 months ago over his role in an unsubstantiated report questioning President Bush’s Vietnam-era National Guard service, filed a $70 million lawsuit this afternoon against the network, its corporate parent and three of his former superiors. Mr. Rather, 75, asserts that the network violated his contract by giving him insufficient airtime on “60 Minutes” after forcing him to step down as anchor of the “CBS Evening News” in March 2005. He also contends that the network committed fraud by commissioning a “biased” and incomplete investigation of the flawed Guard broadcast and, in the process, “seriously damaged his reputation.” As plaintiffs, the suit names CBS and its chief executive, Leslie Moonves; Viacom and its chief executive, Sumner Redstone; and Andrew Heyward, the former president of CBS News.In the suit, filed this afternoon in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, Mr. Rather charges that CBS and its executives made him “a scapegoat” in an attempt “to pacify the White House,” though the formal complaint presents virtually no direct evidence to that effect. To buttress this claim, Mr. Rather quotes the executive who oversaw his regular segment on CBS Radio, telling Mr. Rather in November 2004 that he was losing that slot, effective immediately, because of “pressure from ‘the right wing.’ ” He also continues to take vehement issue with the appointment by CBS of Richard Thornburgh, an attorney general in the administration of the elder President Bush, as one of the two outside panelists given the job of reviewing how the disputed broadcast had been prepared.
Neck Deep: The Real 9/11 Scandal By Robert, Sam and Nat Parry September 11, 2007 Editor’s Note: As George W. Bush tries to squeeze 16 more months of political advantage from America’s 9/11 memories, it is worth recalling how different history might have been had the Bush administration heeded intelligence warnings in the summer of 2001. Bush’s supporters have worked mightily to foist off blame for the attacks on the Clinton administration, but the truth is that the key developments in the emergence of Osama bin Laden and his terrorist band date back to the Reagan-Bush years of the 1980s – and the missed opportunities to stop the attacks fell heavily on George W. Bush’s watch. That reality is recalled in this excerpt from the new book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush: During the lazy summer of 2001, relatively few Americans had even heard of al-Qaeda, which in Arabic means “the base.” This organization of Islamic extremists had taken shape during the CIA-supported war against the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan in the 1980s. In the years of the late Cold War, CIA Director William J. Casey and other anti-Soviet hard-liners viewed Islamic fundamentalism as a tool to pry historically Muslim territories in the southern Soviet Union away from Moscow and its atheistic communist government. So, besides arming a multinational force of Islamists to fight in Afghanistan, the CIA printed thousands of copies of the Koran and smuggled them into the Soviet Union. In another trade-off for the Afghan war, the CIA looked the other way while Pakistan was developing its nuclear bomb. The CIA wanted nothing to interfere with the vital cooperation that Pakistani intelligence was providing in funneling weapons to the anti-Soviet Afghan rebels and their Islamic allies, including bin Laden. But after the Soviets were driven from Afghanistan in 1989, many of the CIA-trained Islamist guerrillas turned their fury against other infidels encroaching on Muslim lands. The most obvious intruder was their old patron, the United States. Bin Laden, the scion of a wealthy Saudi family which controlled much of the construction in the oil-rich kingdom, disdained the Saudi princes for their decadent ways and their reliance on the Americans for their security. The acetic and religious bin Laden grew more alienated from the Saudi power structure in 1990 when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Bin Laden despised Hussein as a secular leader of an Arab country and wanted him driven from Kuwait, but bin Laden was disgusted at the thought of non-Muslims setting up military bases near Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia. He volunteered to raise an Islamic army of mujahedeen to push Hussein out of Kuwait. But the Saudi royals threw in their lot with the Americans, the British and a multinational force that succeeded in routing the Iraqi army in early 1991. But, just as bin Laden had feared, the Americans did not dismantle their military bases in Saudi Arabia. They made them more permanent. In the early 1990s, bin Laden moved his fledgling al-Qaeda organization to Sudan and built up an array of interrelated businesses as a framework for his political activities. He reached out to Islamic extremists from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Oman, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Somalia and Eritrea. Many were exiles from losing battles against the power structures in their home countries. During this transition period, bin Laden intensified his anti-American rhetoric and issued a fatwa – or religious order – in 1992 against U.S. “occupation” of Islamic lands. U.S. intelligence began to suspect that al-Qaeda was responsible for scattered attacks against U.S. targets in the Middle East and East Africa. Escalation By 1996, pressure from the United States and other countries persuaded the Sudanese government to expel bin Laden and his organization. Bin Laden left Sudan on May 19, 1996, and returned to his old sanctuary in Afghanistan. Though in a weakened position, bin Laden began reviving al-Qaeda in the mountains of Afghanistan, with the protection of the Pakistani intelligence services and the fundamentalist Taliban government in Kabul. Bin Laden rebuilt his financial structure, set up training camps and forged alliances with other extremist organizations, such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad led by exile Ayman al-Zawahiri. On Feb. 23, 1998, a resurgent bin Laden issued another fatwa against the United States, specifically authorizing his followers to kill Americans whether they were civilian or military. Five months later, on Aug. 7, 1998, al-Qaeda militants struck at the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The bombing of the Nairobi embassy killed 12 Americans and 201 others. In Dar es Salaam, 11 people died. Bin Laden declared publicly that if inciting attacks intended to drive Americans and Jews from the Islamic holy lands is a crime, “let history be a witness that I am a criminal.” After the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, President Bill Clinton ordered heightened attention on bin Laden and al-Qaeda, looking for ways of getting the terrorist leader expelled from Afghanistan or killed. On Aug. 20, 1998, the United States launched a missile strike against bin Laden’s Afghan base, killing about two dozen people but missing bin Laden, who was believed to have left the compound a few hours earlier. Besides failing to kill bin Laden, Clinton earned the derision of Republicans and many Washington pundits, who accused him of a “wag-the-dog” attempt to distract attention from the scandal over his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky. Millennium Plot In the months that followed, as the U.S. government weighed additional countermoves, bin Laden’s operatives prepared for another strike inside the United States, this one to coincide with the Millennium celebrations at the end of 1999. An intelligence report from the National Intelligence Council, which advises the President on emerging threats, warned that al-Qaeda should be expected to “retaliate in a spectacular way” for the 1998 cruise missile attack on Afghanistan. Tipped by Jordanian intelligence on al-Qaeda’s plans, the Clinton administration ordered tightened security and got lucky when alert border guards at Port Angeles, Washington, apprehended Ahmed Rassam, who was on his way to Los Angeles to plant bombs at the international airport. At the height of Campaign 2000, al-Qaeda took aim at another U.S. target, the destroyer USS Cole, as it docked in the port of Aden. On Oct. 12, 2000, al-Qaeda operatives piloted a small boat laden with explosives against the Cole’s hull, blasting a hole that killed 17 crew members and wounded another 40. Back in Afghanistan, bin Laden anticipated – and desired – a retaliatory strike. He hoped to lure the United States deeper into a direct conflict with al-Qaeda, which would enhance his group’s reputation and – assuming a clumsy U.S. response – would radicalize the region’s Muslim populations. Bin Laden evacuated al-Qaeda’s compound at the Kandahar airport and fled into the desert near Kabul and then to hideouts in Khowst and Jalalabad before returning to Kandahar where he alternated sleeping among a half dozen residences. But lacking hard evidence proving who was behind the Cole bombing, Clinton didn’t order a retaliatory strike. Only during the transition to the Bush presidency did U.S. intelligence reach a conclusion that the attack was “a full-fledged al-Qaeda operation” under the direct supervision of bin Laden. However, Clinton left a decision on what do next up to the incoming administration – and it didn’t agree with Clinton’s assessment that al-Qaeda ranked at the top of the U.S. threat list. From his opening days in office, Bush rebuffed recommendations from almost anyone who shared Clinton’s anxiety about terrorism. On Jan. 31, 2001, just 11 days after Bush’s Inauguration, a bipartisan terrorism commission headed by former Senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman unveiled its final report, bluntly warning that urgent steps were needed to prevent a terrorist attack on U.S. cities. “States, terrorists and other disaffected groups will acquire weapons of mass destruction, and some will use them,” the report said. “Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers.” Hart specifically noted that the nation was vulnerable to “a weapon of mass destruction in a high-rise building.” The 9/11 Commission later wrote, “in February 2001, a source reported that an individual whom he identified as the big instructor (probably a reference to bin Laden) complained frequently that the United States had not yet attacked. According to the source, bin Laden wanted the United States to attack, and if it did not he would launch something bigger.” By then, Muhamed Atta and other al-Qaeda operatives were moving into position for their next deadly operation. From safe houses in California and Florida, they enrolled in American flight schools and took lessons on how to fly commercial jetliners. When congressional hearings on the Hart-Rudman findings were set for early May 2001, the Bush administration intervened to stop them. The presumed reasoning was that the Bush administration didn’t have much to show either in terms of accomplishments or plans of its own. Instead of embracing the Hart-Rudman findings and getting to work on the recommendations, Bush set up a White House committee, headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, to examine the issue again and submit a report in fall 2001. “The administration actually slowed down response to Hart-Rudman when momentum was building in the spring,” said former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Alarm Bells By late spring 2001, other alarm bells were ringing, frequently and loudly. Credible evidence of an impending attack began pouring in to U.S. intelligence agencies. “It all came together in the third week of June,” said Richard Clarke, who was the White House coordinator for counterterrorism. “The CIA’s view was that a major terrorist attack was coming in the next several weeks.” In late June, CIA Director George Tenet was reported “nearly frantic” about the likelihood of an al-Qaeda attack. He was described as running around “with his hair on fire” because the warning system was “blinking red.” On June 28, a written intelligence summary to Bush’s national security adviser Condoleezza Rice warned that “it is highly likely that a significant al-Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks.” On July 5, 2001, at a meeting in the White House Situation Room, counterterrorism chief Clarke told officials from a dozen federal agencies that “something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it’s going to happen soon.” But instead of sparking an intensified administration reaction to the danger, the flickering light of White House interest in the terror threat continued to sputter. By July 10, senior CIA counterterrorism officials, including Cofer Black, had collected a body of intelligence that they presented to Director Tenet. “The briefing [Black] gave me literally made my hair stand on end,” Tenet wrote in his memoir, At the Center of the Storm. “When he was through, I picked up the big white secure phone on the left side of my desk – the one with a direct line to Condi Rice – and told her that I needed to see her immediately to provide an update on the al-Qa’ida threat.” After reaching the White House, a CIA briefer, identified in Tenet’s book only as Rich B., started his presentation by saying: “There will be a significant terrorist attack in the coming weeks or months!” Rich B. then displayed a chart showing “seven specific pieces of intelligence gathered over the past 24 hours, all of them predicting an imminent attack,” Tenet wrote. The briefer presented another chart with “the more chilling statements we had in our possession through intelligence.” These comments included a mid-June statement by Osama bin Laden to trainees about an attack in the near future; talk about decisive acts and a “big event”; and fresh intelligence about predictions of “a stunning turn of events in the weeks ahead,” Tenet wrote. Rich B. told Rice that the attack will be “spectacular” and designed to inflict heavy casualties against U.S. targets. “Attack preparations have been made,” Rich B. said about al-Qaeda’s plans. “Multiple and simultaneous attacks are possible, and they will occur with little or no warning.” When Rice asked what needed to be done, the CIA’s Black responded, “This country needs to go on a war footing now.” The CIA officials sought approval for broad covert-action authority that had been languishing since March, Tenet wrote. Despite the July 10 briefing, other senior Bush administration officials continued to pooh-pooh the seriousness of the al-Qaeda threat. Two leading neoconservatives at the Pentagon – Stephen Cambone and Paul Wolfowitz – suggested that the CIA might be falling for a disinformation campaign, Tenet recalled. But the evidence of an impending attack continued to pour in. At one CIA meeting in late July, Tenet wrote that Rich B. told senior officials bluntly, “they’re coming here,” a declaration that was followed by stunned silence. Stem Cells Through the sweltering heat of July, Bush turned his attention to an issue dear to the hearts of his right-wing base, the use of human embryos in stem-cell research. Medical scientists felt stem cells promised potential cures for debilitating and life-threatening injuries and illnesses, from spinal damage to Alzheimer’s disease. Yet, despite this promise, the Christian Right objected on moral grounds to the extraction of cells from embryos, even if they were destined for destruction as waste at fertility clinics. Bush also was eyeing a month-long vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. While Atta and his team made final preparations, the U.S. press corps also missed the drama playing out inside the U.S. intelligence agencies. The hot stories that steamy summer were shark attacks and the mystery of a missing Capitol Hill intern Chandra Levy, who’d had an affair with Representative Gary Condit, a California Democrat. The news media pretended that its obsession with Levy’s disappearance was a heartfelt concern to help her parents find their missing daughter; the sexual gossip about Levy and Condit proved to be a fortuitous byproduct. Yet, as cable news played the Chandra Levy case 24/7, a far more significant life-or-death drama was playing out inside the FBI and CIA. At the FBI’s Phoenix field office, FBI agent Kenneth Williams noted the curious fact that suspected followers of bin Laden were learning to fly airplanes at schools inside the United States. Citing “an inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest” attending American flight schools, Williams sent a July 10, 2001, memo to FBI headquarters warning of the “possibility of a coordinated effort by Usama Bin Laden” to send student pilots to the United States. But the memo produced no follow-up. National FBI officials seemed paralyzed at the thought of taking proactive measures. Instead they concentrated on what to do after an anticipated terror attack. Then-acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard later told the 9/11 Commission that he discussed the intelligence threat reports with FBI special agents from around the country in a conference call on July 19, 2001. But Pickard said the focus was on having “evidence response teams” ready to respond quickly in the event of an attack. CIA officials encountered similar foot-dragging at the White House. At least two officials in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center were so apoplectic about the blasé reactions from the Bush administration that they considered resigning and going public with their concerns. Instead, the CIA hierarchy made one more stab at startling Bush into action. Blunt Warning On Aug. 6, 2001, the CIA dispatched senior analysts to brief Bush near the beginning of his month-long vacation at his Crawford ranch. They carried a highly classified report with the blunt title “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” This Presidential Daily Brief summarized the history of bin Laden’s interest in launching attacks inside the United States and ended with a carefully phrased warning about recent intelligence threat data: “FBI information … indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York. The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Ladin-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives.” Bush was not pleased by the CIA’s intrusion on his vacation nor with the report’s lack of specific targets and dates. He glared at the CIA briefer and snapped, “All right, you’ve covered your ass,” according to an account in author Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine, which relied heavily on senior CIA officials. Putting the CIA’s warning in the back of his mind and ordering no special response, Bush returned to a vacation of fishing, clearing brush and working on a speech about stem-cell research. Yet, inside the FBI as the month wore on, there were more warnings that went unheeded. FBI agents in Minneapolis arrested Zacarias Moussaoui in August because of his suspicious behavior in trying to learn to fly commercial jetliners when he lacked even rudimentary skills. FBI agent Harry Samit, who interrogated Moussaoui, sent 70 warnings to his superiors about suspicions that the al-Qaeda operative had been taking flight training in Minnesota because he was planning to hijack a plane for a terrorist operation. But FBI officials in Washington showed “criminal negligence” in blocking requests for a search warrant on Moussaoui’s computer or taking other preventive action, Samit testified more than four years later at Moussaoui’s criminal trial. Another big part of the problem was the lack of urgency at the top. Counterterrorism coordinator Clarke said the 9/11 attacks might have been averted if Bush had shown some initiative in “shaking the trees” by having high-level officials from the FBI, CIA, Customs and other federal agencies go back to their bureaucracies and demand any information about the terrorist threat. If they had, they might well have found the memos from the FBI agents in Arizona and Minnesota. Clarke contrasted President Clinton’s urgency over the intelligence warnings that preceded the Millennium events with the lackadaisical approach of Bush and his national security team. “In December 1999, we received intelligence reports that there were going to be major al-Qaeda attacks,” Clarke said in an interview. “President Clinton asked his national security adviser Sandy Berger to hold daily meetings with the attorney general, the FBI director, the CIA director and stop the attacks. “Every day they went back from the White House to the FBI, to the Justice Department, to the CIA and they shook the trees to find out if there was any information. You know, when you know the United States is going to be attacked, the top people in the United States government ought to be working hands-on to prevent it and working together. “Now, contrast that with what happened in the summer of 2001, when we even had more clear indications that there was going to be an attack. Did the President ask for daily meetings of his team to try to stop the attack? Did Condi Rice hold meetings of her counterparts to try to stop the attack? No.” In his book, Against All Enemies, Clarke offered other examples of pre-9/11 mistakes by the Bush administration, including a downgrading in importance of the counterterrorism office, a shifting of budget priorities, an obsession with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and an emphasis on conservative ideological issues, such as Reagan’s missile defense program. A more hierarchical White House structure also insulated Bush from direct contact with mid-level national security officials who had specialized on the al-Qaeda issue. Possible Prevention The chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission – New Jersey’s former Republican Governor Thomas Kean and former Democratic Indiana Representative Lee Hamilton, respectively – agreed that the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented. “The whole story might have been different,” Kean said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on April 4, 2004. Kean cited a string of law-enforcement blunders including the “lack of coordination within the FBI” and the FBI’s failure to understand the significance of Moussaoui’s arrest in August while training to fly passenger jets. Yet, as the clock ticked down to 9/11, the Bush administration continued to have other priorities. On Aug. 9, Bush gave a nationally televised speech on stem cells, delivering his judgment permitting federal funding for research on 60 preexisting stem-cell lines, but barring government support for work on any other lines of stem cells that would be derived from human embryos. Scientists complained that the existing lines were too tainted with mouse cells and too limited to be of much value. But the national news media mostly hailed Bush’s split decision as “Solomon-like” and proof that he had greater gravitas than his critics would acknowledge. CIA Director Tenet said he made one last push to focus Bush on the impending terrorism crisis, but the encounter veered off into meaningless small talk. “A few weeks after the August 6 PDB was delivered, I followed it to Crawford to make sure the President stayed current on events,” Tenet wrote in his memoir. “This was my first visit to the ranch. I remember the President graciously driving me around the spread in his pickup and my trying to make small talk about the flora and the fauna, none of which were native to Queens,” where Tenet had grown up. Bush and his senior advisers continued their hostility toward what they viewed as the old Clinton phobia about terrorism and this little-known group called al-Qaeda. On Sept. 6, 2001, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld threatened a presidential veto of a proposal by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, seeking to transfer money from strategic missile defense to counterterrorism. Also on Sept. 6, former Sen. Hart was still trying to galvanize the Bush administration into showing some urgency about the terrorist threat. Hart met with Condoleezza Rice and urged the White House to move faster. Rice agreed to pass on Hart’s concerns to higher-ups.
GOP opposes bill regulating combat tours By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer 53 minutes ago Democratic legislation to regulate troops' combat tours in Iraq ran into stiff resistance in the Senate Wednesday from Republicans who said the military, not Congress, should manage deployments. The proposal by Sen. Jim Webb, a former Navy secretary and Vietnam veteran, would require that troops be allowed as much time at home as they spend deployed. Currently, Army soldiers spend about 15 months in combat and 12 months home. One of several Democratic proposals intended to challenge President Bush on the Iraq war, Webb's bill was seen as having the best shot at achieving the 60 votes needed to advance. The bill attracted three dozen co-sponsors, including Republicans Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Gordon Smith of Oregon. "You cannot continue to load on to 1 percent of our society all the burdens, all the sacrifices as we are doing. It's wrong," Hagel told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference. But other Republicans said the bill would micromanage the military and potentially force a withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee and a Vietnam veteran, called the Webb bill a "backdoor method" of forcing troop withdrawals from Iraq, which could spark chaos and genocide in the region. "And we will be back," said McCain, R-Ariz. Republican leaders were expected to offer an alternative that would state the U.S. goal of keeping troops home longer, but not restrict deployments. The nonbinding alternative would likely peel off GOP support and dim the prospects of Webb's bill. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said he would oppose Webb's proposal, after voting for it last July along with 55 other senators, because of recent discussions with senior military officials. Warner said the officers told him they want to increase rest between combat tours but that it couldn't happen as soon as Webb's legislation would require without causing major problems. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he would recommend that President Bush veto Webb's legislation if it is passed. The bill could force the military to extend tours, rely more heavily on reservists, or not replace units right away, even if they are needed, Gates said. Webb, D-Va., and his supporters say the bill provides flexibility to avoid those pitfalls, including a presidential waiver if Bush can certify to Congress that ignoring the limitation was necessary to national security. Webb amended the bill, after consultation with Gates, to exempt special operations forces and give the military 120 days to comply.