Monday, December 29, 2008

CBS newsman's $70m lawsuit likely to deal Bush legacy a new blow

$70m lawsuit likely to deal Bush legacy a new blow

As George W Bush prepares to leave the White House, at least one unpleasant episode from his unpopular presidency is threatening to follow him into retirement.

A $70m lawsuit filed by Dan Rather, the veteran former newsreader for CBS Evening News, against his old network is reopening the debate over alleged favourable treatment that Bush received when he served in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam war. Bush had hoped that this controversy had been dealt with once and for all during the 2004 election.

Eight weeks before the 2004 presidential poll, Rather broadcast a story based on newly discovered documents which appeared to show that Bush, whose service in the Texas Air National Guard ensured that he did not have to fight in Vietnam, had barely turned up even for basic duty. After an outcry from the White House and conservative bloggers who claimed that the report had been based on falsified documents, CBS retracted the story, saying that the documents' authenticity could not be verified. Rather, who had been with CBS for decades and was one of the most familiar faces in American journalism, was fired by the network the day after the 2004 election.

He claims breach of contract against CBS. He has already spent $2m on his case, which is likely to go to court early next year. Rather contends not only that his report was true - "What the documents stated has never been denied, by the president or anyone around him," he says - but that CBS succumbed to political pressure from conservatives to get the report discredited and to have him fired. He also claims that a panel set up by CBS to investigate the story was packed with conservatives in an effort to placate the White House. Part of the reason for that, he suggests, was that Viacom, a sister company of CBS, knew that it would have important broadcasting regulatory issues to deal with during Bush's second term.

Among those CBS considered for the panel to investigate Rather's report were far-right broadcasters Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

"CBS broke with long-standing tradition at CBS News and elsewhere of standing up to political pressure," says Rather. "And, there's no joy in saying it, they caved ... in an effort to placate their regulators in Washington."

Rather's lawsuit makes other serious allegations about CBS succumbing to political pressure in an attempt to suppress important news stories. In particular, he says that his bosses at CBS tried to stop him reporting evidence of torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. According to Rather's lawsuit, "for weeks they refused to grant permission to air the story" and "continued to raise the goalposts, insisting on additional substantiation". Rather also claims that General Richard Meyers, then head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military official in the US, called him at home and asked him not to broadcast the story, saying that it would "endanger national security".

Rather says that CBS only agreed to allow him to broadcast the story when it found out that Seymour Hersh would be writing about it in the New Yorker magazine. Even then, Rather claims, CBS tried to bury it. "CBS imposed the unusual restrictions that the story would be aired only once, that it would not be preceded by on-air promotion, and that it would not be referenced on the CBS Evening News," he says.

The charges outlined in Rather's lawsuit will cast a further shadow over the Bush legacy. He recently expressed regret for the "failed intelligence" which led to the invasion of Iraq and has received heavy criticism over the scale and depth of the economic downturn in the United States.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bush's shoe attacker has broken arm, ribs: brother

Bush's shoe attacker has broken arm, ribs: brother

Published: Tuesday December 16, 2008

The Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at US President George W. Bush has a broken arm and ribs after being struck by Iraqi security agents, his brother told AFP on Tuesday.

Durgham Zaidi was unable to say whether his brother Muntazer had sustained the injuries while being overpowered during Sunday's protest against Bush's visit to Baghdad or while in custody later.

He said he had been told that his brother was being held by Iraqi forces in the heavily fortified Green Zone compound in central Baghdad where the US embassy and most government offices are housed.

"He has got a broken arm and ribs, and cuts to his eye and arm," said Durgham.

"He is being held by forces under the command of Muwaffaq al-Rubaie," Iraq's national security adviser, he added.

Zaidi, 29, a journalist for private Iraqi television channel Al-Baghdadia, was swiftly overpowered by Iraqi security forces after he threw the shoes at Bush in a gesture seen as the supreme mark of disrespect in the Muslim world.

An AFP journalist said that blood was visible on the ground as he was led away into custody although it was unclear if it was his.

Bush, who was on a swansong visit to the battleground that came to dominate his eight-year presidency, ducked when the shoes were thrown and later made light of the incident.

But Zaidi's action won him widespread plaudits in the Arab world where Bush's policies have drawn broad hostility.

The Lebanese television channel NTV, known for its opposition to Washington, went as far as offering a job to the journalist.

In its evening news bulletin on Monday, it said that if he takes the job, he will be paid "from the moment the first shoe was thrown".

A manager at the channel told AFP that it had made its offer known to Zaidi and was ready to post bail on his behalf.

An Iraqi lawyer said Zaidi risks a minimum of two years in prison if he is successfully prosecuted for insulting a visiting head of state.

In Gaza, around 20 Palestinian gunmen from the Popular Resistance Committees, a hardline militant group that has been behind a spate of rocket attacks on Israel in recent weeks, staged a demonstration in support of Zaidi.

Wearing fatigues and brandishing Kalashnikov assault rifles, they stamped on photographs of the US president and held banners in support of the journalist.

Egyptian independent daily Al-Badeel carried a frontpage caricature of the US flag with the sole of a shoe replacing the stars in the top corner.

Even government-owned newspapers in Cairo praised Zaidi's actions. "Pelting the American president with shoes was the best way for expressing what Iraqis and Arabs feel toward Bush," wrote Al-Gomhuria editor Mohammad Ali Ibrahim.

In Iraq, press comment was divided.

The pro-government Al-Sabah newspaper expressed concern about the potential impact on press freedom of what it called Zaidi's "abnormal individual behaviour."

But the independent Al-Dustur newspaper hailed the journalist as the "only Iraqi whose patriotic feelings made him express his opinion in this way."

"It is not a declaration by the Iraqi media only, but for all Iraqis who have suffered over the years and we demand that he not be handed over to US forces," the paper said.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cheney admits authorizing detainee's torture

Cheney admits authorizing detainee's torture

Outgoing VP says Guantanamo prison should stay open until end of terror war, but has no idea when that might be.

Monday, outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney made a startling statement on a nation-wide, televised broadcast.

When asked by ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl whether he approved of interrogation tactics used against a so-called "high value prisoner" at the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison, Mr. Cheney, in a break from his history of being press-shy, admitted to giving official sanctioning of torture.

"I supported it," he said regarding the practice known as "water-boarding," a form of simulated drowning. After World War II, Japanese soldiers were tried and convicted of war crimes in US courts for water-boarding, a practice which the outgoing Bush administration attempted to enshrine in policy.

"I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do," Cheney said. "And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it."

He added: "It's been a remarkably successful effort, and I think the results speak for themselves."

ABC asked him if in hindsight he thought the tactics went too far. "I don't," he said.

The prisoner in question, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who the Bush administration alleges to have planned the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is one of Guantanamo's "high value targets" thus far charged with war crimes.

Former military interrogator Travis Hall disagrees.

"Proponents of Guantanamo underestimate what a powerful a propaganda tool Guantanamo has become for terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, despite several Department of Defense studies documenting the propaganda value of detention centers," he said in a column for Opposing Views.

"For example, West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center has monitored numerous Al Qaeda references to Guantanamo in its recruitment propaganda materials," continued Hall. "Improvements to Guantanamo’s administration of judicial mechanisms will not make its way into Al Qaeda propaganda. Nothing short of closing Guantanamo will remove this arrow from its quiver."

President-elect Barack Obama has promised to close the prison and pull US forces out of Iraq. Cheney, however, has a different timeline for when Guantanamo Bay prison may be "responsibly" retired.

"Well, I think that that would come with the end of the war on terror," he told ABC.

Problematic to his assertion: Mr. Bush's "war on terror" is undefinable and unending by it's very nature, and Cheney seems to recognize this as fact.

Asked when his administration's terror war will end, he jostled, "Well, nobody knows. Nobody can specify that."

This video is from ABC's World News, broadcast Dec. 15, 2008.

It's not about's about us: Why we must prosecute Bush and his administration for war crimes

It's not about's about us: Why we must prosecute Bush and his administration for war crimes

During the rush to get the Nuremberg Tribunals underway, the Soviet delegation wanted the tribunal’s historic decisions to have legitimacy only for the Nazis. U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Robert Jackson, serving as the chief prosecutor for the Allies, strong-armed the Soviets until the very beginning of the tribunal before changing their mind.

In his opening statement Jackson very purposely stipulated, "…Let me make clear that while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve a useful purpose it must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment."

Can there be a better reason for prosecuting George Bush and his administration for war crimes than those words from the chief prosecutor of the Nazis, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, with the full support of the U.S. government? Robert Jackson’s words and the values this nation claims to stand for provide sufficient moral basis for putting Bush and Cheney, their underlings who implemented their policies and the perverted legal minds who justified them all in the dock. If those are not sufficient reasons, there is a long list of binding law and treaties – written in black and white in surprisingly plain English.

Bush imagined, and his attorneys advised, that he could simply wave aside these laws with "they don’t apply." Imagine how a judge would treat even a simple traffic court defendant who brazenly stated the law was only a quaint notion, just "words on paper?"

Masses of people and an embarrassingly small number of their elected representatives in this country read the law for themselves and demanded otherwise, only to be silenced by the Guardians of Reality in the corporate news media.

But it’s all there, where it has been for 220 years, the Constitution’s "supremacy clause," Article II, section 4, and in the War Crimes Act of 1996 (18USC §2441). They provide the authority to make additional treaties legally binding – no matter how much former White House lawyers David Addington and John Yoo may object.

Those additional treaties include among others, the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg rulings, the Laws and Customs of War on Land and UN General Assembly Resolution 3314. To give just a snapshot of how serious these laws are, consider this portion of 18 USC 2441 which defines a war crime as "…a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party…" The guilty can be "...fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death."

Here, Justice Jackson answers another question about war crimes – who bears the greater responsibility: those who committed barbaric acts in the field or those who created the conditions for barbarism?

The case as presented by the United States will be concerned with the brains and authority back of all the crimes. These defendants were men of a station and rank which does not soil its own hands with blood. They were men who knew how to use lesser folk as tools. We want to reach the planners and designers, the inciters and leaders without whose evil architecture the world would not have been for so long scourged with the violence and lawlessness, and wracked with the agonies and convulsions, of this terrible war.

And yet it is not just because Bush violated the Constitution and federal law that he and his lieutenants must be prosecuted.

At Nuremberg, the foremost crime identified was starting a "war of aggression," later codified by U.N. Resolution 3314, Art. 5, as "a crime against international peace." Launching a war of aggression, as Hitler did against Poland, is considered so monstrous that the nation responsible can then be charged with "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity," spelled out in detail in the Geneva Conventions. As Tom Paine said long before the U.N. formalized the definition of aggression, "He who is the author of a war lets loose the whole contagion of Hell and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death."

A small sampling of the contagion of Hell let loose by Bush includes illegally invading a sovereign state, using banned weapons such as white phosphorous and napalm, bombing hospitals and civilian infrastructure, withholding aid and medical supplies, terrorizing and knowingly killing civilians, torturing prisoners, killing a million people and displacing four million more in Iraq alone.

Following World War II, humanity resolved that wars do more than spark a series of loathsome, individual crimes. Leaders responsible for a war actually commit crimes against the entirety of humanity. They inflict harm on every human being, something that must be put right before humanity can be restored.

There is a final reason why we must prosecute Bush and Co. It is not what some argue, although they point to a serious danger: that Bush trashed the law and usurped powers, encouraging future presidents to expand where he left off. Such reasons are about George Bush and those who hold the office after him, but in the final analysis this is about us.

We are complicit in the horrors of this administration. We can claim neither ignorance nor innocence. We are complicit by the very fact that we are citizens of the United States, more so because we paid for the war, and even more so for this reason. Listen to a village sheik I met in Iraq describe it better than I ever could.

I met this man in a small farming village one afternoon in early 2004. He described how he and a dozen others were swept up in a raid by the U.S. Army and detained on a bare patch of ground surrounded by concertina wire. They had no shelter and but six blankets. They dug a hole with their hands for a toilet. They had to beg for water until one time it rained for three days straight and they remained on that open ground. He somehow found the graciousness to say he understood there was a difference between the American people and our government. Then through his tears he added, "But you say you live in a democracy. How can this be happening to us?"

Do we? Whether or not we bring our own government officials to justice for their crimes will determine the answer.

Mike Ferner is a freelance writer and former Toledo city councilman. His book, "Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran For Peace Reports from Iraq" is just out from Praeger Publishers.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Day to `call in gay' finds few willing to strike

Day to `call in gay' finds few willing to strike

SAN FRANCISCO – A daylong work stoppage during which employees were encouraged to "call in gay" to express support for same-sex marriage drew spotty participation nationwide Wednesday, with some gay rights activists praising the concept but questioning its effect.

In San Francisco's gay Castro district, residents and merchants said they endorsed the message behind "Day Without a Gay" but didn't think a work stoppage was practical given the poor economy and the strike's organization.

"If we are going to make a huge impact and not be laughed at, then we have to take the time and make the time to communicate with all the parties. We could have shut down a lot of the hotels," said David Lang, a gymnastics coach. "In theory it's a great idea, but it's being done wrong and now that it's been done wrong, I don't think it will be done again."

The protest, which a gay couple from West Hollywood organized through the Internet, was designed to demonstrate the economic clout of same-sex marriage supporters following the passage of voter-approved gay marriage bans in California, Arizona and Florida last month.

Participants were asked to refrain from spending money or at least to patronize gay-friendly businesses for the day.

Paul Ellis, 51, a manager at Cliff's Variety hardware store, said he didn't want his employer to bear the burden of his support.

"My employers have always been there in every possible way," he said. "I didn't feel comfortable discomfiting them when they have gone out of their way to be there for me."

Out and Equal Workplace Advocates, a San Francisco-based nonprofit group that promotes equality for gay and lesbian employees, suggested that same-sex marriage supporters could send an effective message beyond Wednesday by openly discussing the issue at their workplaces.

"When people go into the voting booth and vote against (gay) rights, they often have no idea they are voting against the person sitting next to them in the next cubicle or office," said Selisse Berry, Out and Equal's executive director.

Berry noted that only 20 states have laws to protect workers from being fired for being homosexual, making lesbians and gays reluctant to reveal themselves to co-workers in most jurisdictions.

"Constantly lying about our weekends at the water cooler or changing pronouns, that takes up so much energy that we could be putting into our jobs," she said.

Participants who opted to take the day off from their jobs were encouraged to perform community service, and charitable organizations across the country said volunteers showed up.

"Visibility is really important for the gay community, so after a lot of thought I decided I would come out and be visible with my colleagues at work and use the time working for the community," said Carrie Lewis, 36, a University of California health researcher who spent the day working at the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center.

Backers of "Day Without a Gay" organized evening rallies in San Francisco; Austin, Texas; Logan, Utah; and other cities so supporters could gather to discuss the next steps. Rallies also were held earlier Wednesday in Chicago and on several college campuses in California.

"The movement that fought for equality and succeeded in electing Obama president is really looking to make progressive gains now," said Mark Airgood, who used a personal day to take off from his job as a middle school teacher in Berkeley. "I think we really can, and I think this is an important day for that."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jon Stewart 'slays the homophobic Huckabee'

Blogger: Jon Stewart 'slays the homophobic Huckabee'

When former Arkansas governor and conservative Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee appeared on The Daily Show on Tuesday, Jon Stewart pressed him hard on the issue of gay marriage, knocking down one false argument after another.

As blogger Pam Spaulding at Pam's House Blend commented appreciatively, "Jon Stewart asked serious questions any hard-hitting progressive journalist or political commentator with a talk show is perfectly capable of asking. He made Huckabee explain his positions on LGBT rights and connects it to the messages in his new book about the merits of social conservatism that he's hawking."

"Please watch the whole interview," Spaulding adds. "It literally made me weep because Stewart gets it. This is a human rights issue."

Stewart began the interview by suggesting to Huckabee that there's "one thing I guess I don't understand about social conservatives. ... You write that marriage is the bedrock of our society. Why would you not want couples to buy into the stability of marriage?"

"Marriage still means one man, one woman, life relationship," Huckabee replied. "The only way we can create the next generation is through a male-female relationship. In 5000 years of recorded human history, that's what marriage has meant."

However, Stewart wouldn't let Huckabee get away with that assertion. He pointed out that Huckabee was taking things "back to the Old Testament -- where polygamy was the norm. ... Marriage has evolved greatly over those 5000 years from a property arrangement, polygamy. We've redefined it constantly."

"It seems like a fundamental human right," Stewart said of marriage. "You write in your book that all people are created equal, and yet for gay people you believe that it is corrosive to society to allow them to have the privileges that all humans enjoy."

Stewart then increasingly backed Huckabee into a corner, where in his attempts to avoid admitting that marriage is a fundamental right, Huckabee was left arguing that it is merely a legal arrangement that the government can define as it sees fit. He concluded weakly that "those who support the idea of same-sex marriage have a lot of work to do to convince the rest of us."

"It's a travesty that people have forced someone who is gay to have to make their case that they deserve the same basic rights," was Stewart's response.

This video is from Comedy Central's The Daily Show, broadcast Dec. 9, 2008.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Texas DA reveals evidence against Cheney

Hopes media won't 'let it die'

Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra spoke to two Texas television stations Wednesday night regarding his investigation of injustice within the prison systems which led to the indictment by a Texas grand jury of Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, along with other officials.

Cheney's stake in the Vanguard Group, which holds interests in the private prison companies that run the detention centers, was cited in the indictment. Cheney is accused of a conflict of interest and "at least misdemeanor assaults" on detainees through his ownership interest.

Gonzales is accused of using his position during his time as Attorney General to block an investigation into abuses at the detention centers, located in south Texas.

Democratic state Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. is also named in the indictment, Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra said. Lucio's attorney, Michael R. Cowen, called Guerra a "one-man circus." "In the March 2008 Democratic Primary," he added, "70 percent of the Willacy County voters elected to remove Juan Guerra...Now, with only a few weeks left in his term, Mr. Guerra has again chosen to misuse his position in an attempt to seek revenge on those who he sees as political enemies."

Guerra told KVEO 23, an NBC affiliate in Texas, that "elected officials were embedded into the prison business and that it goes all the way to the top."

"Now that these indictments have seen the light of day, Guerra says, it's important they are not quashed," the station reported.

"I'm going to try and do what I can do," Guerra told KVEO. "Impose it to you guys, and educate you guys, so you don't let it die."

On ABC affiliate KRGV Newschannel 5, Guerra showed "records that he says could be used to prove Dick Cheney is guilty of criminal activity."

"Greed will get you discovered and arrested every time, and that's what happened to Cheney," Guerra said.

Excerpts from KRGV's report:


Guerra says he went through Cheney's financial records and the prison companies' financial records and found the connection. The three top prison companies Guerra researched were Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group and Cornell. Those three have the Vanguard Group in common, which is an investment company that puts money into all three prison companies.

"We knew Vanguard was the key," said Guerra.

Guerra showed us the Vice President's financial disclosure from last year and it shows he owned shares in the Vanguard Group. Guerra estimates Cheney has $85 million invested in Vanguard and in turn, into the prison companies.

"The problem you have is he now has a direct interest," said Guerra. And according to Guerra, it's a direct interest in making sure the prison companies stay in business.




Tuesday, November 25, 2008

No more Mr. Nice Gay

No more Mr. Nice Gay

Nice op ed piece in today's Washington Post about the fallout from Prop 8. The writer talks about hearing a local bus driver in Santa Monica refer to gay demonstrators as "sodomites.'
I realized that in a post-Proposition 8 world, it is not okay for me to enable anyone's bigotry with my silence. If he had said the "n" word or the "k" word or something else offensive regarding someone's race, gender or religion, there would have been no question about whether to report him. But gay men and lesbians are no longer willing to be doormats. It is no longer acceptable for people to say bigoted and hateful things about gays or anyone else in front of me. This behavior has to stop now.

If the bigots thought they would slap down gay men and lesbians by passing Proposition 8, or if they thought it would end the gay civil rights movement, they were mistaken. I haven't seen the gay community this galvanized in a long time. The passage of Proposition 8 might be this generation's "Stonewall," the 1969 riot that began after an unprovoked police raid on a gay bar in Greenwich Village and that marked the start of the gay rights movement. If we can somehow harness the energy unleashed by California's Proposition 8 vote, we can achieve tremendous gains for us and for future generations of gay men and lesbians.

One of the most gratifying aspects of attending "No on 8" rallies was the number of straight demonstrators who showed up -- people who see this not just as an issue for gay men and lesbians but as a matter of everyone's civil rights.
He's right, we need to somehow harness the energy unleashed by Prop 8, but it's not happening, or at least isn't happening well. The protests around the country are great, tremendous, brilliant even, and amazing in their number.


What comes after the protests? Postcard campaigns won't cut it. Nor will having a day without gays. We need a real campaign, a real war, real strategies - mean, nasty, vicious and, above all else, effective strategies targeted at achieving a concrete goal that moves our movement, moves our rights, forward. This is why I've talked endlessly about the role the Mormons had in making Prop 8 a reality. They are willing to be hate's banker, and we need to make sure that their moral bankruptcy becomes a fiscal one as well. Whether that means targeting key Mormon donors, targeting the entire state of Utah, or finding another means to make the price far too high for anyone willing to finance hate.

I'm not sure what the answer is. But we need one. We are a people without leadership at the moment. The California groups who got us into this mess seem downright terrified that gay people are finally rising up and demanding their rights, and the national groups, rightfully, to a degree, are butting out of what is California's own business (for all the criticism of HRC, are they really supposed to parachute into the middle of California and, Al Haig style, declare "we're in charge"?)

Gay people want change. But politics, like war, best achieves its goals when someone with experience and vision is at the helm. And for whatever reason, no one is stepping up.

John Aravosis (DC)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Prop 8 Protest

This is real footage from the protest rally (not from mainstream media) that I took at the rally. It runs 30:10 and lots of goodies inside.
11/12/08 - New York City protest rally at the Mormon Temple at 65th Street and Columbus Avenue. Thousands show up for grass roots rally in protest of California Proposition 8 vote. Interviews with Ann Northrop, Brendan Fey, Whoopi Goldberg, Judy Gold, etc.

How can we afford not to focus on health care? We can't.

How can we afford not to focus on health care? We can't.
Yesterday, Ted Kennedy returned to Capitol Hill and that means health care will be on the agenda:
The brief appearance by Kennedy, who made a surprise return in July to vote on a Medicare bill, represented an opportunity for him to show colleagues that he remains energetic and engaged, and that he intends to reclaim his committee post in January and take charge of the Obama health-care agenda. Some Democrats had speculated that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) would attempt to assume the chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) rolled out his own health-care bill days after Obama was elected, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also expects to be a leading participant in the effort to establish universal health care.

Kennedy has a head start on them all. Despite his illness, he directed his staff months ago to begin work on legislation that would vastly expand health coverage, a career-long goal of his.
Take charge, Ted.

And to push the health care agenda, Health Care for America Now (HCAN), which has been a wonderful supporter of the blogosphere through their advertising, has a new ad:

BREAKING: Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens loses re-election bid

BREAKING: Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens loses re-election bid
We're up to 58 seats in the Senate. Not that it really matters, they'll still cave when it counts. But still... AP:
Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens has lost his bid for a seventh term. The longest-serving Republican in the history of the Senate trailed Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich by 3,724 votes after Tuesday's count. That's an insurmountable lead with only about 2,500 overseas ballots left to be counted.

Stevens, who turned 85 Tuesday, also revealed that he will not ask President George W. Bush to give him a pardon for his seven felony convictions.

Cheney, Gonzales indicted

Cheney, Gonzales indicted

A Texas grand jury has indicted outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on charges related to alleged abuse of prisoners in Willacy County federal detention facilities, CNN reported.

"The vice president has not received an indictment," Cheney spokeswoman Megan Mitchell countered to CNN.

Cheney's stake in the Vanguard Group, which holds interests in the private prison companies that run the detention centers, was cited in the indictment. Cheney is accused of a conflict of interest and "at least misdemeanor assaults" on detainees through his ownership interest.

Gonzales is accused of using his position during his time as Attorney General to block an investigation into abuses at the detention centers, located in south Texas.

Democratic state Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. is also named in the indictment, Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra said. Lucio's attorney, Michael R. Cowen, called Guerra a "one-man circus." "In the March 2008 Democratic Primary," he added, "70 percent of the Willacy County voters elected to remove Juan Guerra...Now, with only a few weeks left in his term, Mr. Guerra has again chosen to misuse his position in an attempt to seek revenge on those who he sees as political enemies."

Email spam drops by 75% after just one website is closed

Email spam drops by 75% after just one website is closed


Cyber-criminal gangs bombard computers with unsolicited emails

Online junk mail has been slashed by 75 per cent after a company believed to host some of the world's largest internet spam gangs was shut down.

Two major internet service providers (ISPs) cut off internet access to the company on Tuesday. Carole Theriault, of internet security firm Sophos called it an 'unprecedented' move.

It is believed the California-based company had a client list that included some of the world's largest cyber-criminal gangs who bombarded computers with unwanted messages.

Online security firms estimated that spam rates fell up to 75 per cent shortly after the company's servers were disconnected.

Although the levels have picked up again, the drop is being seen as strong evidence that a significant slice of the world's spam was coming from McColo.

'McColo Corp had a number of criminal organisations they were turning a blind eye to,' Jason Steer, product manager at IronPort, told

'It was responsible for spam but lots as other things as well, even down to the level of child pornography.'

However, Steer does not believe that the shutdown will affect spam in the long term, saying that spammers will find other outlets.

Spam accounts for about 90 per cent of all e-mails send to computers around the world. U.S researchers recently found that spammers could turn a healthy profit despite only getting one response for every 12.5million emails they send.

The McColo web page is currently down, but the company can go online again if they find another willing ISP.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Action Alert

Message from Richard D. Burns

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, 208 West 13th Street, New York, NY 10011, 212-620-7310,

Join us to protest the passage of Prop 8 in California
on Wednesday, November 12

ImageMessage from the Center's Executive Director,
Richard D. Burns

As you know, on November 4 the state of California passed a constitutional amendment reversing a State Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that legalized same-sex marriage...and huge and numerous protests have sprung up, certainly in California, but also nationwide. There are two scheduled in NYC this week. One is at the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) Temple on Wednesday, November 12, beginning at 6 p.m.:

Protest at the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) Temple in Manhattan
125 Columbus Avenue at 65th Street (Map)
Wednesday, November 12
6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The other is at City Hall on Saturday, November 15, beginning at 1:30 p.m. By all accounts, these protests were initiated by and have mobilized thousands of people via social networking sites and other online tools. It speaks to the enormity of the principle at issue -- all civil and human rights for all people -- to the tremendous creativity, fire and power of grassroots organizing and to the value of the individual voice inspired by the collective good. Let us hold fast to and build upon the hope with which we entered November 4, and move now into acting: building upon these inspired protests, let us agitate, write, speak out, strategize, pool our resources, think, vote and use all other means we can think of to demand peace, safety and equity for all of us.

Please join us tomorrow night to protest at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to end discrimination against LGBT people!

Thank you,
Richard D. Burns
Executive Director, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center

The Center is actively promoting and supporting both protests. We have created a resource page ( for people to reference for up-to-the-minute information, including protest site addresses and maps, which we will update continually.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

How McCain Could Win

How McCain Could Win

by: Greg Palast, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Two Obama canvassers prepare their pitch before knocking on registered Republicans' doors in Arvada, Colorado. (Photo: Kevin Moloney / The New York Times)

It's November 5 and the nation is in shock. Media blame it on the "Bradley effect": Americans supposedly turned into Klansmen inside the voting booth, and Barack Obama turned up with 6 million votes less than calculated from the exit polls. Florida came in for McCain and so did Indiana. Colorado, despite the Democrats' Rocky Mountain high after the Denver convention, stayed surprisingly Red. New Mexico, a state where Anglos are a minority, went McCain by 300 votes, as did Virginia.

That's the nightmare. Here's the cold reality.

Swing state Colorado. Before this election, two Republican secretaries of state purged 19.4 percent of the entire voter roll. One in five voters. Pfft!

Swing state New Mexico. One in nine voters in this year's Democratic caucus found their names missing from the state-provided voter registries. And not just any voters. County by county, the number of voters disappeared was in direct proportion to the nonwhite population. Gore won the state by 366 votes; Kerry lost it by only 5,900. Despite reassurances that all has been fixed for Tuesday, Democrats lost from the list in February told me they're still "disappeared" from the lists this week.

Swing state Indiana. In this year's primary, ten nuns were turned away from the polls because of the state's new voter ID law. They had drivers' licenses, but being in their 80s and 90s, they'd let their licenses expire. Cute. But what isn't cute is this: 566,000 registered voters in that state don't have the ID required to vote. Most are racial minorities, the very elderly and first-time voters; that is, Obama voters. Twenty-three other states have new, vote-snatching ID requirements.

Swing state Florida. Despite a lawsuit battle waged by the Brennan Center for Justice, the state's Republican apparatchiks are attempting to block the votes of 85,000 new registrants, forcing them to pass through a new "verification" process. Funny thing: verification applies only to those who signed up in voter drives (mostly black), but not to voters registering at motor vehicle offices (mostly white).

And so on through swing states controlled by Republican secretaries of state.

The Ugly Secret

Here's an ugly little secret about American democracy: We don't count all the votes. In 2004, based on the data from the US Elections Assistance Commission, 3,006,080 votes were not counted: "spoiled," unreadable and blank ballots; "provisional" ballots rejected; mail-in ballots disqualified.

This Tuesday, it will be worse. Much worse.

That's what I found while traveling the nation over the last year for BBC Television and Rolling Stone Magazine, working with voting rights attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. This we guarantee: there will be far more votes disappeared by Tuesday night than the three million lost in 2004. A six-million vote swipe, quite likely, shifts 4 percent of the ballots, within the margin of error of the tightest polls.

Begin with this harsh statistic: since the last election, more than ten million voters have been purged from the nation's vote registries. And that's just the start of the steal.

If the noncount were random, it wouldn't matter. But it's not random. A US Civil Rights Commission analysis shows that the chance a black voter's ballot will "spoil" or be blank is 900 percent higher than a white voter's.

Does that mean the election's stolen and you should forget voting and just go back to bed for four years? Hell, no. It means you vote and vote smart, learn how to pry their filthy little hands off your ballot (there's a link at the end).

How to Steal an Election in Five Easy Steps

Here's how they can pull off the steal. Take out your calculator and add it up.

Step One: The "Dumpster" Vote - Purge Voters, Provisional Ballots

Ten million voters purged? What the hell is going on here? Why are we removing millions from the voter rolls?

The answer is the GOP's secret weapon, the Help America Vote Act, signed by George Bush in 2002. When Bush tells us he's going to help us vote, look out. But Democrats didn't. They signed on to the GOP bill, believing this "reform" law would prevent "another Florida." Instead, "Help America Vote" Floridated the entire nation.

Here's how: Help America Vote empowered secretaries of state to remove fraudulent and suspicious voters from the voter registries. It was the trick used by Katherine Harris in Florida in 2000 when she purged "felon" voters. Except they weren't felons. And now her GOP confrères are doing it in dozens of states, calling folks felon voters, "inactive" voters, suspect voters, whatever.

Take Colorado. The GOP didn't exactly trumpet it's erasing 19.4 percent of voters' names. It was, as detectives say, "hidden in plain sight," buried deep inside a US Elections Assistance Commission administrative report, among tables of mind-numbing stats through which I was trawling some months ago. (I used to teach statistics at Indiana University, so I enjoy reading matrices like others enjoy novels.)

For BBC TV and Rolling Stone, I asked the current Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman, "Why all the purging?" No answer, not a word, stonewalled even when I flew into Denver and stood outside his door. He was, I guess, too busy preparing to count his own votes as Republican candidate for Congress.

So, where are the Democrats? That's the really scary part. I spoke with Paul Hultin, appointed by Colorado's Democratic governor to the state's Election Reform Commission. Hultin's a terrific attorney. He knows, and says, that Help America Vote was a law "born in corruption," but he's spent his time on Colorado's voting machines, which he knows are busted. He's the Democrats' expert, and he didn't know that a fifth of his state's voters had vanished from the voter rolls.

Well, don't worry. Hultin's official committee will be holding hearings on the voting debacle in Colorado ... on November 19.

Then there's New Mexico, with those one in nine Democrats missing. I spoke with San Miguel County elections supervisor, Democrat Pecos Paul Maez, who was none too happy that 20 percent of his voters, the majority poor and Hispanic, were not on the voter rolls, especially because he was one of the missing. He blamed the state for using a suspect contractor to tag names for the Big Purge, as required by the Help America Vote Act. The contractor that conducted the New Mexico purge, Electronic Systems and Software (ES&S), was founded by Republican Senator Chuck Hagel.

The company and state choose the purging "algorithms," those mathematical formulae that, depending on how you tweak them, can go through a voter roll like a hot knife through cream cheese.

So, what happens to the purged voters? They're told to scram when they arrive to vote or, if they squawk, they get a "provisional" ballot on which they can pretend to vote.

Now, here are the facts about provisionals: they don't get counted. And there are lots of them. The great unreported story of the 2004 election was that there were more than three million voters shunted to provisional ballots. Over a million (1,090,000) were never counted, just chucked in the dumpster. That's what caused Kerry to lose New Mexico, Iowa and Ohio. This time, because of Help America Vote and a Republican campaign to challenge voters, the number of provisionals will rise, as will rejections.

Whatever keeps you from getting a real ballot - purged name, for example - keeps you from having the provisional counted as well. That's because Democrats won the right of every voter to get a provisional ballot, but not the right to have that ballot counted. And how many will go uncounted? Double the 1.1 million loss in 2004 - not just because of the GOP's purge-mania, but because of a vicious little codicil in Help America Vote that went into effect since the last election ...

Step Two: "Verification" (and Elimination) of New Voters

For the first time in US history, new voters will face special new obstacles to voting. When we say "new" voters, let's be clear - we mean Obama voters. A Wall Street Journal poll shows new voters prefer Obama by an eye-popping three to one (69 percent to 20 percent).

So, the Republican game plan is simple: don't let new voters vote. There are three steps to this block-and-steal tactic. First, under the new law, states can deny new voters registration on the grounds their names can't be verified against government data files. Sounds reasonable, but it's not, because we don't have Soviet-style citizenship files in the US. The Social Security Administration is rejecting nearly half of the names submitted because there is no multi-state compatible tracking system. Of course, the Republicans know that.

New voter verification losses are huge. In California, a Republican secretary of state rejected 42 percent of new registrations, a trick discovered by his Democratic successor, Debra Bowen. She told me most of the rejected vote applicants had Hispanic, Vietnamese, Islamic and other "odd" names - odd, that is, for Republicans.

It used to be that you filled out a registration card and, bingo, you were registered. Not any more. That's also what happened in Florida to the 85,000 new registrants. They were victims of strict "matching" algorithms. Other states are also playing the "match" game. The result is voters will find themselves simply missing (or in some states, required to show extra ID - another horror show we'll discuss below). But don't worry, a of couple million new voters will get provisional ballots. That way, they can practice filling out their ballots for the day when democracy returns to America.

Step Three: New ID Laws

Karl Rove said, "I go to the grocery store and I wanna cash a check to pay for my groceries I gotta show a little bit of ID. Why should it not be reasonable ... at the voting place they ought to be able to prove who they are by showing some form of ID." And so, while buying his Pampers, Rove came up with a game-winner for the GOP.

Karl, let me answer your question. The reason, according to several studies by the Bush administration itself, is that lots of folks don't have government ID. Some are nuns, some are poor, lots are brown or old. I was on Fox TV with Lady Rothschild a couple of weeks ago. The lady, a McCain supporter, approved of the ID requirement - and was truly surprised to find out that some poorer Americans don't have passports. "Why don't they?" her Fox-mates asked, incredulous. Well, not every barrio kid has just returned from his estate outside London.

Rove knows that. He certainly knows that, for example, Professor Matthew Barreto of the University of Washington found that 10 percent of white voters in Indiana don't have the needed ID. And, for blacks, it's about double - 19 percent lack the ID required to vote. New ID laws will add to the turn-aways, provisionals and rejecteds on Tuesday by at least two million - and that's way conservative, assuming the new laws in swing states are only one-fourth as restrictive as Indiana's.

Step Four: Spoiling Ballots

Your chad gets hung. The touch screen doesn't like your touch. Or, your paper ballot had that extra mark that made the machine spit out your ballot like day-old beer with a cigarette floating in it.

In the last election, 1,389,231 ballots were zeroed-out, "spoiled," because the machines lost them, couldn't read them, mangled them or simply didn't register them. But it's not random, not by a long shot. In New Mexico in 2004, I found that 89 percent of blank and spoiled ballots were cast in minority precincts - a sum of uncounted ballots way over the Republican "victory" margin in that state.

Another study shows that Hispanics' vote choices are six times as likely to fail to be recorded when they vote on computers versus paper ballots.

In the primaries and in 2006, the "spoilage" and blank ("undervote") totals were horrific. There is every reason to believe the "spoilage" total will be as high as in the 2004 election. That is, no less than one million votes, overwhelmingly in minority districts, will just vanish. ("Spoilage" is not the same as vote tampering. There is the concern that "black-box" computers will switch your vote via an evil software hack job. That's another matter completely - and more votes lost if it happens, a sum I'm not including here.)

Step Five: Rejecting Mail-In Ballots

You've mailed in your ballot. Last time around, over half a million mail-in ballots were junked: everything from postage due to not liking your signature to a circle checked, not filled in. Mailing in a ballot is playing Russian roulette with it. About a tenth get junked.

This time, the GOP has a new game for trashing your absentee vote. In states like Florida, some FTFs (First-Time Federal voters) will have to include a photocopy of their ID in with the absentee ballot. Bet you didn't know that. They're counting on you not knowing that. In Florida, for example, you have to place the ID photocopy outside the inner envelope, but inside the outer envelope - Got that? - or your vote is toast. I've spoken to one student voter, who lost his vote for failing to use the two envelopes - though he only received one. (Have a mail-in ballot in hand? Then, for God's sake, walk it in to the polling place or local board of elections. Sign, seal and deliver it in person.)

You may get it right, but historic data suggest that, when combining the FTF games with the usual mail-in cock-ups, Obama will lose another million votes to mail-in disqualifications.

Exit Polls and Exit Stratagems

These millions of uncounted ballots - spoiled ballots, provisional ballots rejected, absentee ballots disqualified - fully explain the difference between exit polls (which, for example, gave Kerry Ohio in 2004 and Gore a win in Florida in 2000) and the official count. Exit pollsters ask, "Who did you vote for?" They never ask, and can't know, "Did your vote count?"

How would they get away with it? Well, they begin explaining away how the "pollsters" get it wrong, how pollsters didn't figure the "Bradley Effect" of lying, racist voters. They'll tell us the new, young and Black Obamaniacs gave money, went to rallies - but never bothered to vote. But the real reason will never be whispered: They cast votes that just weren't counted.

Will the election be stolen on Tuesday? No, it's already been stolen. That is, several million voters are doomed to lose their ballots; most won't even know it. Overwhelmingly, they are the poor, minorities, new voters - Obama voters. Does that mean McCain's got it in the bag and you're helpless? Not at all.

Don't Steal Your Own Vote

In 2004, I and other investigators wrote, long before Election Day, "Ohio's stolen." We were deadly right.

It's happening again. For six years, the Democratic Party has been snoozing through a quiet, brilliantly executed Republican operation to block, stop and purge voters by the millions. As New Mexico voting rights attorney John Boyd put it, "I don't think the Democrats get it. All these new rules and games are turning voting into an obstacle course that could flip the vote to the GOP in half a dozen states."

Karl Rove once said, "We have elections like those run in countries where the guys in charge are, you know, colonels in mirrored glasses." He wasn't complaining; he was boasting.

I know that the Obama campaign is not happy that I bring up the issue of a possible theft of the election. They fear voters will be "discouraged" by the possibility that the election is fixed.

Well, frankly, if you're too bummed out by this recitation of facts and statistics to vote, then maybe you don't deserve to vote, or to drive or to reproduce. Did Martin Luther King say, "I have a dream ... so I'm going back to sleep"?

Votes can't be saved by "hope" alone. There are simple ways to protect your own vote, from walking in your "mail-in" to refusing a provisional ballot. (You can download the list at, written with Bobby Kennedy, a professor of law.)

It comes down to this: Can the margin of trickery, vote suppression and ballot destruction - three to six million votes - be overcome? Yes. Because they can't steal all the votes all the time. Two days before the election, John McCain is down by only 4 percent in some polls. But these are polls of "likely" voters. They exclude first-time and many low-income voters.

So, the answer to vote suppression is for something unlikely to happen - for the "unlikely" voters to simply overwhelm the statistical assumption of their laziness. As I'm sure Mr. Obama, a professor of constitutional law, could tell you: the best legal response to systematic vote suppression is to get off yo' ass!


Greg Palast is the co-author of "Block the Vote," in this month's Rolling Stone Magazine, with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Palast and Kennedy are also co-authors of the investigative comic book, "Steal Back Your Vote." Palast, who reports on election fraud for BBC Television, is a Nation Institute/Puffin Foundation fellow for investigative reporting. Prior to his becoming a journalist, Palast was a forensic economist, fraud investigator and taught economics and statistics at Indiana University.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

You're No Maverick

Original Mavericks To McCain: "You're No Maverick"

Brave New Films talks to the actual original Mavericks, who aren't too fond of John McCain using their name:

Fontaine Maverick, great-great-granddaughter of Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-1870) explains the origin of the expression -- and why it shouldn't apply to the Republican candidate:

Samuel Maverick was a Texas cattleman, land baron and politician, so influential that he was one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Fiercely independent and equally liberal. Sam became well known for what he didn't do, however. It seems, according to Fontaine, that he had taken some cattle in lieu of a debt he was owed. He let them roam on an island off of Texas, and for whatever reason, didn't brand them. So, any unbranded cattle became known as Maverick's. Now, this more than likely wasn't an act of revolt. No one knows for sure, but Maverick really wasn't much of a cattleman. He was also shrewd, later on in life if cattle weren't branded, he would often claim them.

Sam was also very spirited and free minded. It was because of this that in 1867 the term Maverick was first cited as being used to describe someone with an independent streak, someone not branded.


"Mavericks believe everybody has a right to be in America so long as they obey the law," Fontaine told me. "Grandfather Maury was no coward. He chased the Klan right out of San Antonio once, stood up to the mob... Maury was burned in effigy in San Antonio, for his defense of members of the Communist Party's right to assemble, for his defense of the Hispanic community, support for those who didn't have a voice. "


"My brother called me from California last week during the VP debate and told me if they said the world Maverick one more time, he was going to shoot the TV. Of course, he doesn't have a gun, but, you get the point. My mother was just quoted in the New York Times about how we feel McCain is branded, Palin is branded, they are Republicans, and true Mavericks carry no brand. It's driving our family crazy, upsetting us and the legacy of my family, and we really with the campaign would stop misusing the word and the phrase.

"John McCain on a few occasions has shown that he can go against his party, but how hard is that when his party has been wrong on so many things as we now see," she continued. "But he has a brand. And Palin, I'm not sure she even knows the history of the word of or my family, but one thing is clear to all of my family, she truly is not a Maverick."

McCain Did Not Disclose Keating Business Deal To Investigators

McCain Did Not Disclose Keating Business Deal To Investigators

The New Republic published an explosive story Saturday evening detailing how John McCain, in all likelihood, leaked information to investigators of the Keating Five scandal that was designed to help his image at the expense of the other four Senators involved.

If the allegation is true -- and TNR makes a healthy case as to its veracity -- it would mean that McCain violated Senate rules and could have been expelled from that body.

"All five senators -- including McCain -- had testified under oath and under the U.S. penal code that the leaks did not come from their camps," Sahil Mahtani reports. "The leaks were also prohibited by rules of the Senate Ethics Committee; according to the rules of the Senate, anyone caught leaking such information could face expulsion from the body."

But this is not be the only instance in which McCain defied the rules of the Senate when seeking to absolve himself of any wronging in the Keating affair. Public records in Arizona reveal that the Senator was also dishonest in discussing the extent of financial transactions he and his family had with the disgraced Savings and Loans chief.

In a three-and-a-half hour interview with investigators on February 13, 1990, McCain told the Ethics Committee that "other than the Fountain Square project [a property deal in which Keating and McCain's family were jointly invested] there were no other financial dealings between him or his family and ACC [American Continental Corporation]."

This, it seems, was not true.

In 1983, the company owned by the McCain family -- specifically his wife Cindy and father-in-law Jim Hensley -- bought a property in Mesa, Arizona, owned by ACC, only to sell it back two months later.

According to property records (pdf), on May 26 of that year, Keating's ACC "conveyed" Lot 188 of Laguna Shores Unit 8 to the Hensley/McCain's Western Leasing Company for the price of $75,000. On July 21, 1983, Western Leasing Company sold the lot right back to ACC for the same exact price.

There is no explanation on the records as to why the unusual property exchange took place. McCain did not report it on his personal financial disclosure form that year, which required senators to list "any interest in property held during calendar year 1983 in a trade or business or for investment or the production of income, which had a fair market value exceeding $1,000 as of the end of the year." Though, a Democratic lawyer familiar with ethics disclosures notes that if he didn't "have a personal ownership interest in the property it would not have to be reported." McCain did list his shares in Western Leasing.

Keating would go on to build a residence on that lot just two months after purchasing it back from Western Leasing. Theoretically, he could have benefited from having that property off the books for the two-month period it was owned by Western Leasing. Though, more than anything else, the transaction demonstrates just how close he and the McCain/Hensleys were.

Taken as a whole, the revelation presents another curious chapter in McCain's conduct during the Keating affair. The Senator, along with four of his colleagues, was accused in 1987 of improperly intervening on behalf of Keating, who was being targeted at the time by regulators. McCain had a close relationship with the Savings and Loan chair, having taken free flights (which he later reimbursed) and received $166,000 in campaign contributions from 1982 through 1986. The two had exchanged notes of friendship as well. After McCain wrote a note apologizing to Keating for listing him as a member of his campaign finance committee - a snub of a post for the long-time donor - Keating replied by writing: "John, don't be silly. You can call me anything...I'm yours until death do us part."

By and large, however, McCain's biography has been as helped as hindered by the whole affair. While he was reprimanded for showing "poor judgment" by the ethics committee (though cleared of legal impropriety), the Arizona Republican used the incident to launch a career as a good-government crusader.

The image makeover has been challenged at various times during this campaign. Revelations that McCain may have misled investigators about the extent of his interactions with Keating as well as reports of his allies leaking favorable information to the press could provide further fodder for those critics.

The McCain campaign did not immediately return request for comment.

Republicans Ramp Up Negative Attacks As Election Day Nears

The Stench Run: Republicans Ramp Up Negative Attacks As Election Day Nears

With Election Day looming and the polls suggesting John McCain faces a daunting challenge, the GOP and the McCain campaign have ramped up their negative attacks on Barack Obama. Just to start, McCain attacked Obama's patriotism and Republicans made much hay out of a video that purportedly shows Obama attending a party where Palestinian, and Columbia University Professor, Rashid Khalidi was also a guest. Below is a round up of some of McCain's and the GOP's 11th hour attacks.

McCain Attacks Obama's Patriotism: McCain seized on - and took out of context - remarks made by Obama today to question the Democrat's patriotism:

John McCain unveiled a new attack on Barack Obama's patriotism Saturday, jumping all over - and taking out of context - remarks made yesterday in which the Democratic nominee said the Iowa Caucuses vindicated his faith in the American public.

Campaigning in Springfield, Virginia, McCain told the crowd that he had always had faith in his country and - dinging his opponent - claimed that the United States "has never had to prove anything to me..."

...Past statements aside, if one actually takes a look at what Obama said, and what he has said before, it is hard to interpret in anyway that he doubted the United States. Just look at the sentences before his "faith" remark, in which he lavishly praises the American people, who he "knew" were "decent" and "generous."

GOP Flier: Obama More A Friend To Criminals Than Cops: HuffPost's Sam Stein reports on a GOP flier circulating in Virginia that accuses Obama of being more of a friend to criminals than to cops:

The pamphlet, flagged by a recipient in the state and a new version of one previously reported in several other states, includes a photo of a quiet suburban neighborhood and young children playing on in a classroom - the implicit message being, Obama will make you and your family less safe.

"Protecting your family comes first," reads the front.

"A record of being soft on crime," reads the back. "Barack Obama has consistently opposed tougher penalties for criminals - including major offenses - allowing criminals to remain on the streets."

GOP Mailer In Pennsylvania Suggests Electing Obama Could Lead To Second Holocaust: Talking Points Memo flags another GOP flier that is particularly nasty:

A reader sends in a nasty mailer that just hit Philadelphia-area in-boxes, blasted out by a GOP group called the Republican Jewish Coalition, suggesting that a vote for Barack Obama could lead to another "tragic outcome" for the Jewish people.

"Concerned about Barack Obama? You should be," the mailer warns. "History has shown that a naive and weak foreign policy has resulted in tragic outcomes for the Jewish people."

The mailer helpfully notes that the image is a pic of Obama speaking in Germany.

House GOP Leader Calls Obama "Chicken Shit": House Minority leader John Boehner shockingly used an expletive to describe Obama for his "present" votes in the Illinois State Senate:

House minority leader John Boehner's spokesman confirms the accuracy of this quote, from an Ohio student newspaper:

"Now, listen, I've voted 'present' two or three times in my entire 25-year political career, where there might have been a conflict of interest and I didn't feel like I should vote," Boehner said. "In Congress, we have a red button, a green button and a yellow button, alright. Green means 'yes,' red means 'no,' and yellow means you're a chicken s***.

"And the last thing we need in the White House, in the oval office, behind that big desk, is some chicken who wants to push this yellow button."

Regional McCain Manager Denies Obama's Citizenship: Tim McClellan, a regional manager in Florida for the McCain campaign, isn't sold on the idea of Obama as an American citizen:

The most surprising statement was something we've been hearing from McCain supporters but not from anyone actually on the McCain or RNC payroll. "I have strong concerns that Obama is not a citizen. I suspect the U.S. Supreme Court will prove that Obama's not a citizen," Tim continued. "Did he go to Indonesia and become an Indonesian citizen, and if so, did he take steps to regain his (U.S.) citizenship? There's no seal on his birth certificate and the font is wrong."

Conservative Group To Run Rev. Wright Ads Through Election Day: National Republican Trust PAC has a major ad buy on national networks to run anti-Wright attacks:

Get ready for a deluge of Wright rantings.

The National Republican Trust PAC, which has been airing an ad attacking Barack Obama's association with Reverend Wright in three battleground states, has now put down for a national buy on five networks that will last from now through election day, a consultant with the group confirms to me.

The ad will run nationally on Fox, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC for the next five days, the consultant, Rick Wilson, says -- "all the way until election day."

The ad, which you can watch here, features the now-infamous footage of Wright's livelier sermons, and intones that Obama "never complained" about Wright "until he ran for President," adding that Obama is "too radical, too risky."

Obama Campaign Manager Questions Timing Of Aunt Story: David Axelrod is suspicious of the timing of the story about Obama's aunt living in the country illegally:

Speaking to reporters today, Obama chief strategist David Axelrod addressed reports that Zeituni Onyango, the half-sister of Obama's Kenyan father, has been living illegally in the United States for four years. Axelrod expressed some skepticism about the timing of the news, which first broke in the Times of London and was confirmed by the Associated Press in the waning days of the presidential race.

"The campaign issued a statement on that," Axelrod told reporters, "And I don't have anything more to add to it, other than I think people are suspicious about stories that surface in the last 72 hours of a national campaign.

"I think that they're going to take that," he added, "They're going to put it in that context."

In a statement earlier today, the campaign said that "Sen. Obama has no knowledge of her status but obviously believes that any and all appropriate laws should be followed."

More GOP Mailers Hitting The Streets: A new GOP flier hits Obama on lobbyists, taxes and socialism:

The anti-Obama mail keeps piling up. A reader forwarded a set of pieces that go after the Illinois Democrat for not, really, being a thorn in the side of lobbyists and for planning to raise taxes alongside his liberal allies in Congress,

The first piece accuses Obama of funneling the "hard-earned money of America's taxpayers to pay his friends and family with political favors."

As evidence the literature cites the Senator's relationship with Tony Rezko - the indicted Chicago insider - and two earmarks that Obama helped bring to Illinois; projects that, tangentially, were connected to his wife or a political supporter. It is, in short, thin gruel.

McCain Campaign Demands LA Times Rlease Khalidi Video: The McCain campaign sought to portray Obama as an extremist after learning that the LA Times has video of Obama attending the same party as Rashid Khalidi. HuffPost's Seth Colter Walls discovers that this guilt-by-association game will be difficult for McCain to pull off:

In regards to Khalidi, however, the guilt-by-association game burns John McCain as well.

During the 1990s, while he served as chairman of the International Republican Institute (IRI), McCain distributed several grants to the Palestinian research center co-founded by Khalidi, including one worth half a million dollars.

A 1998 tax filing for the McCain-led group shows a $448,873 grant to Khalidi's Center for Palestine Research and Studies for work in the West Bank. (See grant number 5180, "West Bank: CPRS" on page 14 of this PDF.)

The relationship extends back as far as 1993, when John McCain joined IRI as chairman in January. Foreign Affairs noted in September of that year that IRI had helped fund several extensive studies in Palestine run by Khalidi's group, including over 30 public opinion polls and a study of "sociopolitical attitudes."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gergen: Reagan administration enacted 'redistribution' of wealth

Gergen: Reagan administration enacted 'redistribution' of wealth
David Edwards and Muriel Kane

Senator John McCain has been attempting to appeal to voters lately by attacking Barack Obama over his plans to reduce taxes for the middle class while increasing them on the wealthiest Americans.

Political analyst David Gergen believes the Democrats ought to fight back harder than they have against these claims that Obama is a "socialist" and suggests they start by pointing out that the most esteemed Republican presidents, such as Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, were also supporters of what McCain decries as "income redistribution."

In a speech set for Monday, McCain asserts, "Senator Obama is running to be Redistributionist in Chief. I'm running to be Commander in Chief. Senator Obama is running to spread the wealth. I'm running to create more wealth. Senator Obama is running to punish the successful. I'm running to make everyone successful."

When asked by CNN's Anderson Cooper whether McCain's attacks are working, Gergen replied, "They may be making some modest progress with it. We do see some evidence of McCain coming up a point or two here and there. I don't think it's anywhere near close enough to win an election."

However, Gergen added that "more importantly, I don't think the Democrats have really answered it appropriately."

Gergen suggested that the Democrats should invoke the example of Teddy Roosevelt, who was both a Republican and one of the greatest advocates of progressive taxation in the years immediately preceding the enactment of the current income tax.

Gergen also noted that the Reagan administration was responsible for enacting the Earned Income Tax Credit, an extremely successful redistribution program which returns money to the working poor.

"Sometimes they get so carried away that they don't realize the realities of what we've been going through," Gergen added. Apparently referring to McCain's promises to "create more wealth," he explained that "the wealth over the last 30 years has been redistributed -- it's been redistributed upwards. As we grow, the top one percent's getting a disproportionate share."

"Everything McCain does seems scattershot," concluded correspondent John King. "You needed to start a long time ago and build your case, not just throw these things out."

CNN has a complete transcript here.

This video is from CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, broadcast October 27, 2008.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Barack Obama delivers his closing argument in Canton, OH

Barack Obama delivers his closing argument in Canton, OH

Obama closes in Ohio
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Senator Obama in Canton, OH, today speaking about what's at stake in this election and why we can't afford four more years of the same old politics that pits Democrats against Republicans, rich against poor, black against white.

In one week, we can choose an economy that rewards work and creates new jobs and fuels prosperity from the bottom-up.

In one week, we can choose to invest in health care for our families, and education for our kids, and renewable energy for our future.

In one week, we can choose hope over fear, unity over division, the promise of change over the power of the status quo.

In one week, we can come together as one nation, and one people, and once more choose our better history.

That’s what’s at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for. And if in this last week, you will knock on some doors for me, and make some calls for me, and talk to your neighbors, and convince your friends; if you will stand with me, and fight with me, and give me your vote, then I promise you this – we will not just win Ohio, we will not just win this election, but together, we will change this country andwe will change the world.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008


CD: Palin Against Fruitfly Research
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Oh, the gaffe-a-minute, never-vet-any-campaign-speech joy of the McCain campaign. Sarah Palin debuted both a new set of glasses and a new talking point about the way that the McCain/Palin administration will be smarter about the way government funds important programs:

Where does a lot of that earmark money end up anyway? [snip] You've heard about some of these pet projects they really don't make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.

Apparently, Palin isn't aware of the kind of research done with fruit flies. Pharyngula:

This idiot woman, this blind, shortsighted ignoramus, this pretentious clod, mocks basic research and the international research community. You damn well better believe that there is research going on in animal models — what does she expect, that scientists should mutagenize human mothers and chop up baby brains for this work? — and countries like France and Germany and England and Canada and China and India and others are all respected participants in these efforts.

Yes, scientists work on fruit flies. Some of the most powerful tools in genetics and molecular biology are available in fruit flies, and these are animals that are particularly amenable to experimentation. Molecular genetics has revealed that humans share key molecules, the basic developmental toolkit, with all other animals, thanks to our shared evolutionary heritage (something else the wackaloon from Wasilla denies), and that we can use these other organisms to probe the fundamental mechanisms that underlie core processes in the formation of the nervous system — precisely the phenomena Palin claims are so important.

In fact, irony of all ironies, fruit fly research has actually aided in understanding a genetic component or predisposition towards autism.