Friday, February 29, 2008

Do your job or resign

Did anyone NOT see this coming after another Democratic Congressional Leadership very special “sternly worded letter” to Mukasey (a man that would never have been Attorney General if Chuck Schumer and Diane Feinstein had any sense of dignity) about subpoenas being ignored by Miers and Rove?

Did anyone NOT think that the House Democrats would ultimately waver for a possible cave on telecom immunity after Reid let Rockefeller’s telecom immunity bill pass the Senate, despite the fact that nearly 60% of people are against telecom immunity?

Did anyone NOT think that the RNC would decide to just stop looking for the emails that were erased on purpose, despite the fact that they were ORDERED to be turned over to Congress?

And while we are at it, does anyone think that a republican Congress would have at least pursued inherent contempt against Rove and Miers if they were Democrats? Or that Mukasey would have been confirmed (hint, think Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood and the horrific crime of an undocumented household worker)? Or that impeachment charges against Mukasey would not be pursued for blowing off Congress about waterboarding, illegal wiretapping or ignoring subpoenas?

Is Congress dead?

Back in 2006, the cry was “we can’t do anything because we don’t have a majority”. Then, “we don’t have 60 votes in the Senate” was the cry. And then “we don’t have a veto proof majority” was the cry. And now, there isn’t even an attempt to do anything constructive until 2009 - with the hope and assumption that a Democrat will be in the White House.

Way to do your jobs, Congressional Democratic majorities and leadership.

Does Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and others in leadership positions realize the following:

  • If McCain becomes President, he will ignore Congress much the same way as Bush has.

  • If and when the republicans are back in the majority, they will NOT hesitate to use whatever tools they have at their disposal to neuter a Democratic President or a Democratic Congressional minority.

  • That they are setting a horrific and dangerous precedent by letting all of these criminal actions slide in the name of “hoping for a bigger majority in the future”.

  • That they are aiding and abetting all of this lawbreaking - complicit in the actions of Mukasey, Gonzales and Ashcroft as well as Rove, Bush, Rice, Cheney, Goodling, Rumsfeld and all others who have lied under oath, and

  • That they are breaking their oath to uphold the Constitution as well as their promise to those who they are supposed to serve, and

At this point, there are three options. Pursue impeachment, pursue inherent contempt or effectively render Congress as meaningless. If they do not take option one or option two, then they might as well resign and let those who are actually interested in the Constitution do their jobs for them.

This is a disgrace - how anyone in any leadership position can’t see (or thinks it is a good idea to ignore) the consequences of their inactions is beyond me. And if the reasoning is, as my good friend thereisnospoon says, “cynical manipulation” for political gain, then how is that different from the “party before country” that we have seen from the republican party?

To bank on enough people not knowing all that is being done (or being allowed to be done) in the hopes of convincing enough people to put more Democrats in Congress so they can get bigger majorities is the height of disingenuousness. It is self serving and renders any argument of what the Bush administration is or isn’t doing moot.

Congress has the power. It has the power of the purse to stop spending over $200,000 EVERY MINUTE in Iraq. It has the power to pursue inherent contempt (as Kagro X has pointed out so very well). It has the power of oversight, and to impeach.

Leadership has made a calculated decision to not use any of those powers, and to let tens of billions be wasted, hundreds of US troops lives be lost, thousands of US troops lives be forever altered, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people’s lives ruined, to let laws be broken with impunity; all in the name of “if you just give us more power, it won’t be that way anymore”.

To that I say, bullshit.

You have a job. You have been given tools to perform that job. Use them or let someone else who actually cares about this country and the Constitution use them.

But don’t piss on my head and tell me it’s raining and I should buy an umbrella from you too.

"Some people say" that John McCain has brain damage

Why isn’t that question being asked? I mean, if there can be thinly veiled “observations” that are regurgitated, despite the fact that these “observations” come from the most nasty, insane, vile of wingnuts and are lapped up and repeated about either Obama or Clinton, then why not the flip side?

After all, the lazy journalism was trotted out by noted airhead Katie Couric to John and Elizabeth Edwards in the most tasteless manner. It seems as though the $250 million that Freedoms Watch will have in their wallet will lead to more “some say that Obama has terrorist ties” or that “there is a criticism that Clinton is too shrill” or whatever other horseshit can be conjured up to only seem a bit racist but not too racist.

So why not McCain? After all, it was his own party that questioned whether he was “a little off” from his time as a POW. And if you have seen how he just blows up at people who disagree with him, one can certainly be led to believe that the title of Senator Hothead and his erratic behavior can be a result of PTSD or just plain “losing it”.

There have been whispers about McCain’s sanity, and I think that it would behoove him to have to answer those who question it. Why not ask him outright whether he has suffered PTSD? Was it his mental lapses that led his wife to a life of stealing painkillers from a charity?

People want to know this. And I think that if people really don’t get these questions answered satisfactorily, then it could hurt his chances substantially in November. After all, if there are blocks of voters who want to make sure that their President is, in fact of sound mind, then shouldn’t this be a fair question?

Will McCain answer those who are wondering if he has early onset of Alzheimer’s? After all, his hands were a bit shaky when he was campaigning in Michigan and he is quite lethargic when he isn’t suddenly berating them for the crime of asking him questions about things that he said or his connections to lobbyists and criminals like Jack Abramoff.

There are also those who wonder whether he is too old to actually understand the complexities of the global economics and delicate foreign policy nuances that only someone with a clear head and “all of their marbles” would understand. Is America ready for someone who may have been hit on the head one too many times? Can we be sure that McCain won’t have flashbacks while in office?

I know that the people who are wondering if the republican frontrunner for the Presidential nomination actually did suffer brain damage – either while a POW or over the years since then. After all, the mind does tend to slip a bit over time, and the office of President is certainly an office that requires one to not be, as McCain’s own party said, “a little off”.

I mean, McCain owes it to us to answer these questions. After all, it is on the minds of “many people”.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

McCain's voting record summary - how he REALLY supports the troops

Since everyone is at least a bit familiar with John McCain’s record when it comes to strolling through a market in Baghdad with hundreds of his closest guards, or how he wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years (except when he flip flops on that).

But not that many really, truly know just how horrific his voting record is when it comes to the troops. And it is pretty consistent – whether it is for armor and equipment, for veteran’s health care, for adequate troop rest or anything that actually, you know, supports our troops.

This is chock full of links to the roll call votes, and the roll call votes have links to the actual underlying bills and amendments. I present this so that there is support and things that can be rattled off when saying that McCain is not a friend of the military. Feel free to use it as you want, but this can be tied into the “Double Talk Express”. But here is a very quick statement - John McCain skipped close to a dozen votes on Iraq, and on at least another 10 occasions, he voted against arming and equipping the troops, providing adequate rest for the troops between deployments and for health care or other benefits for veterans.

In mid 2007, Senator Reid noted that McCain missed 10 of the past 14 votes on Iraq. However, here is a summary of a dozen votes (two that he missed and ten that he voted against) with respect to Iraq, funding for veterans or for troops, including equipment and armor. I have also included other snippets related to the time period when the vote occurred.

September 2007: McCain voted against the Webb amendment calling for adequate troop rest between deployments. At the time, nearly 65% of people polled in a CNN poll indicted that “things are going either moderately badly or very badly in Iraq.

July 2007: McCain voted against a plan to drawdown troop levels in Iraq. At the time, an ABC poll found that 63% thought the invasion was not worth it, and a CBS News poll found that 72% of respondents wanted troops out within 2 years.

March 2007: McCain was too busy to vote on a bill that would require the start of a drawdown in troop levels within 120 days with a goal of withdrawing nearly all combat troops within one year. Around this time, an NBC News poll found that 55% of respondents indicated that the US goal of achieving victory in Iraq is not possible. This number has not moved significantly since then.

February 2007: For such a strong supporter of the escalation, McCain didn’t even bother to show up and vote against a resolution condemning it. However, at the time a CNN poll found that only 16% of respondents wanted to send more troops to Iraq (that number has since declined to around 10%), while 60% said that some or all should be withdrawn. This number has since gone up to around 70%.

June 2006: McCain voted against a resolution that Bush start withdrawing troops but with no timeline to do so.

May 2006: McCain voted against an amendment that would provide $20 million to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for health care facilities.

April 2006: McCain was one of only 13 Senators to vote against $430,000,000 for the Department of Veteran Affairs for Medical Services for outpatient care and treatment for veterans.

March 2006: McCain voted against increasing Veterans medical services funding by $1.5 billion in FY 2007 to be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes.

March 2004: McCain once again voted for abusive tax loopholes over veterans when he voted against creating a reserve fund to allow for an increase in Veterans' medical care by $1.8 billion by eliminating abusive tax loopholes. Jeez, McCain really loves those tax loopholes for corporations, since he voted for them over our veterans' needs.

October 2003: McCain voted to table an amendment by Senator Dodd that called for an additional $322,000,000 for safety equipment for United States forces in Iraq and to reduce the amount provided for reconstruction in Iraq by $322,000,000.

April 2003: McCain urged other Senate members to table a vote (which never passed) to provide more than $1 billion for National Guard and Reserve equipment in Iraq related to a shortage of helmets, tents, bullet-proof inserts, and tactical vests.

August 2001: McCain voted against increasing the amount available for medical care for veterans by $650,000,000. To his credit, he also voted against the 2001 Bush tax cuts, which he now supports making permanent, despite the dire financial condition this country is in, and despite the fact that he indicated in 2001 that these tax cuts unfairly benefited the very wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

So there it is. John McCain is yet another republican former military veteran who likes to talk a big game when it comes to having the support of the military. Yet, time and time again, he has gone out of his way to vote against the needs of those who are serving in our military. If he can’t even see his way to actually doing what the troops want, or what the veterans need, and he doesn’t have the support of veterans, then how can he be a credible commander in chief?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Psssst...THIS is who we should be fighting

With today being a perfect example of the knee jerk hysteria over what Clinton’s campaign may or may not have done (or said, or not said), I figured that it would be nice to point out who we should be directing our attention and focus at.

And no, I am not going to say we should be directing it at John McCain, even though I have written close to a dozen diaries about him over the past 2 weeks.

No, what I mean is that we should remember things like this:

But once in a while, these silly online reader “polls” matter, if only to highlight the flaws of modern journalism. Ben Smith noted this question at yesterday:

“Does Barack Obama show the proper patriotism for someone who wants to be president of the United States?”

As Ben noted, accurately, “I’ve got to say, I’ve never seen a reader poll like this on a mainstream media website (or, to be honest, a right-wing blog).”

We are not just fighting John McCain and the RNC. We are not just fighting against groups like Freedom’s Watch and their reported $250 million in backing to smear either Obama or Clinton (and whoever else that $250 million can smear).

We are fighting against the corporate media. Again.

We are fighting against bullshit nonsense distractions like this:

"Something much more important," began Alisyn Camerota, "which is the clothing schedule for Hillary Clinton and what she wears for her Garanimals -- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday."

It seems that the reporters on Clinton's plane put up a gag memo listing Clinton's pantsuit rotation, which drew a laugh from the candidate. "'If it's Monday, she should be wearing electric blue,'" quoted Steve Doocy. "And look at this! There she is on a Monday, wearing electric blue."

"Tuesday is autumn brown," Doocy went on. "And there she is on a sample Tuesday, fresh out of the Sears catalog."

The Fox hosts then noted that the yellow pants suit with black trim which Clinton wore this weekend was a perfect match for the "caution" tape on the overhead luggage compartment of her plane.

Big f’ing deal, you might say. After all, it is from Fox News. OK, fair enough (even though this place was in a tizzy earlier because of something on Drudge). So what about this little nugget:
Top Republican strategists are working on plans to protect the GOP from charges of racism or sexism in the general election, as they prepare for a presidential campaign against the first ever African-American or female Democratic nominee.

The Republican National Committee has commissioned polling and focus groups to determine the boundaries of attacking a minority or female candidate, according to people involved. The secretive effort underscores the enormous risk senior GOP operatives see for a party often criticized for its insensitivity to minorities in campaigns dating back to the 1960s.

I’ll repeat the salient part of this for you. The RNC has invested quite a bit of money to see just how racist or sexist they can be before there is too much of a backlash. This is what we need to be aware of. THIS is what we need to watch for and fight against.

Want more? OK - here is the “Obama isn’t enough of a patriot" story being repeated over at ABC News:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., defended himself from charges by conservatives that he isn't sufficiently patriotic, a theme developing in the Republican world that could tarnish the Democrat in the general election.

And there is BOTH the NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News repeating false accusations and charges by McCain against Obama without offering up any criticism of McCain’s false statements and distortions. There is Chris Matthews apologizing for the Obama/Osama “mistake”, and Matthews making sexist comments about Clinton (among other women at other times).

Or you can even look no further than yesterday’s episode of the McLaughin Group for more of the same crap levied, this time against Michelle Obama:

During the February 24 edition of the syndicated program The McLaughlin Group, referring to Michelle Obama, host John McLaughlin asked Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page: "Do you think Michelle -- do you think she leaves the impression -- not mine, but I've heard this -- that she has a chip on her shoulder?" Page responded: "I think that's BS. You know, people say that she's got a chip on her shoulder. That's like, well, she's been the B-word, which is a classic, you know, epithet against women whenever they sound aggressive or they really state their mind. ... Maybe I know her too well. She doesn't have a chip on her shoulder." McLaughlin then asked: "You don't think she's a black militant?"

Excuse me but are you fucking for real? Calling her a black militant??? And this after O’Reilly’s lynching comments.

And just so there is no threat of bias by me here, I’ll give you another one about Clinton:

On the February 22 edition of MSBNC Live, Dan Hill, author of Emotionomics: Winning Hearts and Minds (Adams Business & Professional Publishing, 2007), claimed that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is "often showing what I would call almost a 'crocodile smile.' It's a bit of a smirk. It's also a very tight expression." NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander replied: " 'Crocodile smile,' we will add that to our lexicon. Dan Hill, a facial decoding expert." Hill also claimed that during the February 21 Democratic presidential debate Clinton "had a true smile, which for Hillary Clinton, is about as rare as a lunar eclipse, I have to tell you."

Fake smiles, fake emotions. Dissecting her pantsuits or whether she (gasp) has cleavage.

But let’s go around forgetting that BOTH Clinton and Obama have been unfairly targeted on a consistent basis. Let’s forget the ridiculous crush that the media has on McCain. Let’s forget who we are fighting against, and who is fighting against us.

Hell, with everything stacked against us the way that it is, it is amazing that both Obama and Clinton have held up so well when it comes time to actually cast votes.

Let’s stay focused on getting one of them to the White House. And if there are things that are done by one campaign, let’s not make it out to be the biggest issue of the week. After all, there are still bombs going off in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. There are 35,000 families in FEMA trailers that have toxic fumes. There are many more important things going on with both Clinton’s and Obama’s campaigns then the “OMG!!!! Look what he/she said/didn’t say or did/didn’t do".

McCain's matching funds problem: more than just the bank loan

I haven’t seen this discussed much, but there is something that Matt Browner Hamlin pointed out earlier today that brings John McCain’s use of the public financing provisions to a whole new level (at least it would seem that way).

You see, McCain didn’t just “sort of pledge” it as collateral for a bank loan. He also used it to shortcut his way onto the Ohio ballot. So, to me (and I am just a dumb blogger), it would seem that either he is locked into the public financing or he can be ineligible for the Ohio republican primary and taken off the ballot. Now, since he pretty much has the nomination close to sewn up, it would seem to be smart politics to make himself ineligible for the Ohio primary. But the bigger picture here is the shenanigans that McCain is going through with respect to the matching funds in order to give himself either an advantage or stay in the race, and he is using campaign finance laws - the same laws that he claims to champion - in order to do so.

So much for his credibility, integrity and reputation as a “reformer”.

The background is laid out in a post by Brad Smith, who is only a former republican FEC Commissioner. A good portion of the post is the background on McCain opting in, then out, then in (sort of, so he says) again to the federal matching funds program. And while much of this focuses on the loans that McCain took out, there is a juicy nugget about how McCain used the FEC matching funds certification in order to automatically qualify for the Ohio ballot (emphasis mine):

Senator McCain used his FEC certification for at least one other purpose. Qualifying for the presidential primary ballot in Ohio is a complex process, requiring a candidate to gather over 100 signatures in each of the state’s 18 districts, using separate petitions for each county within the district, which must be filed with local election boards around the state. Additionally, the candidate must gather still more signatures statewide, all under some very complicated rules and local interpretations. Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and most of the presidential campaigns went through this process, at considerable time and expense. With a filing date of January 3, this was done by these campaigns at precisely the moment McCain was desperately borrowing to keep his campaign afloat, lacking money and resources to organize and gather signatures to be placed on the Ohio ballot.

But Ohio has an alternative means of getting on the ballot – you can simply present your FEC matching funds authorization to the Secretary of State, and go straight to the ballot, without petitioning. And this is what Senator McCain did. Does this amount to use of the matching funds certification locking Senator McCain into the system (not to mention a possible fraud on the state of Ohio)? Again, it is an interesting legal question to which I don’t know the answer, but it is not one that the McCain campaign – or more importantly, the FEC – can simply brush aside.

I want to call your attention to a couple of points in this. For starters, nearly all of the other campaigns went to great lengths and incurred significant costs to go through a rigorous process in order to get on the ballot. As Jonathan Singer at MyDD points out, this cost Dean approximately $2 - $3 million in 2004. And at the time, McCain was borrowing $3 - $5 million.

This republican former FEC Commissioner wondered in writing whether John McCain was potentially committing election fraud on the state of Ohio in order to get on the ballot.

These are the lengths that John McCain would go to in order to gain power and continue the failed policies of the Bush administration. He is willing to come as close to violating campaign finance law (which is ironically the “reform” he champions the most) or maybe even violate campaign finance law.

At least Howard Dean is on it and calling McCain on his violations:

Dean told reporters McCain has already used the prospect of nearly $6 million in federal matching funds -- which he now says he won't claim -- as collateral for a January campaign loan and to obtain automatic ballot access in every state.

Dean said he was filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission to block McCain from quitting the public financing system, which imposes a spending cap on candidates.

Good for Dean. And good that this story is getting a bit more attention - in the manner and from the angle that it deserves. Mr. “double talk” is making a mockery of campaign finance laws, if not outright breaking them.

I’d bet that Ohio is not the only state where he did this. And I am convinced that this is the type of scandal that will do more damage to McCain as a credible and honest candidate than pretty much anything else. This goes directly towards his biggest perceived strength.

The combination of this, the McLobbyist scandal and his well deserved name of Senator Hothead should be a deadly trifecta for his chances in November.

Friday, February 22, 2008

John McLobbyist and the company he keeps

As the right wing extremists continue to try and paint this McCain lobbyist story as about sex when it is clear that even the Washington Post realizes that it is about the “anti-lobbyist’s” surrounding himself with lobbyists.

Meaning his trustworthyness, his double talk, his lack of character, his lack of, well, credibility.

This is the story. This what John McLobbyist is all about. As Red Wind says, he has the “straightest talk that money can buy. But it is more than just lobbyists.

The recent news about Rick Renzi, Arizona Congressman being indicted on land deals and other charges is telling on a few levels. You see, Renzi was, up until around noon today, a member of John McCain’s campaign leadership team (a co-chair, nonetheless). Interestingly, it appears as though Renzi either resigned from the leadership team or was booted from the leadership team right around the time his indictment was announced because Renzi’s name is no longer listed on McLobbyist’s website.

But what about the lobbyists and special interests that he “never did a favor for or gave preferential treatment to”? Of course, there was the matter of Charles Keating and McLobbyist’s (not to mention Cindy McLobbyist’s) special relationship with him. There is also the little matter of McCain gave a deposition where he admitted to giving preferential treatment to a lobbyist

Just hours after the Times's story was posted, the McCain campaign issued a point-by-point response that depicted the letters as routine correspondence handled by his staff—and insisted that McCain had never even spoken with anybody from Paxson or Alcalde & Fay about the matter. "No representative of Paxson or Alcalde & Fay personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC," the campaign said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.

But that flat claim seems to be contradicted by an impeccable source: McCain himself. "I was contacted by Mr. Paxson on this issue," McCain said in the Sept. 25, 2002, deposition obtained by NEWSWEEK. "He wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business. I believe that Mr. Paxson had a legitimate complaint."

And there is Rick Davis, lobbyist and campaign manager as well as McLobbyist’s chief political advisor, Charles Black, Jr. However, Black and Davis aren’t just any lobbyist though. According to the WaPo article:

But when McCain huddled with his closest advisers at his rustic Arizona cabin last weekend to map out his presidential campaign, virtually every one was part of the Washington lobbying culture he has long decried. His campaign manager, Rick Davis, co-founded a lobbying firm whose clients have included Verizon and SBC Telecommunications. His chief political adviser, Charles R. Black Jr., is chairman of one of Washington's lobbying powerhouses, BKSH and Associates, which has represented AT&T, Alcoa, JPMorgan and U.S. Airways.

Senior advisers Steve Schmidt and Mark McKinnon work for firms that have lobbied for Land O' Lakes, UST Public Affairs, Dell and Fannie Mae.

A real good summary is in by Joe Conason, which also outlines the phoniness that is the “reformer” meme. In fact, McLobbyist’s campaign team has the most lobbyists on its staff, and he has always surrounded himself with lobbyists. This is leadership? This is “change”? Is this the kind of experience that McLobbyist is going to bring to his administration? After Cheney’s secret energy team including corporate interests, do we really need telecommunication lobbyists and other corporate lobbyists dominating the policy direction in this country? Do we want someone who has taken over $100,000 from Charles Keating, written letters on behalf of lobbyists after receiving over $20,000 in contributions and surrounding himself with indicted criminals, corporate interests and lobbyists who are looking to line their pockets instead of helping Americans?

Many of you know the old saying about how you can tell a person’s character by the company they keep. Based on who has supported John McLobbyist throughout his Congressional career, as well as the people who make up the inner circle of his campaign, not to mention the ones who he relies on for advice, it is very easy to tell what his character is.

This is not a man who cares about this country. Rather, it is more evidence in a long string of evidence which begins with leaving his first wife after she raised his children for an heiress, runs through the same people who finance his campaigns and advise him.

It is a man who cares only about himself, and about those who pay his way.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Focus, people. "It's the credibility, stupid"

No, I’m not calling you stupid.

But there will be a lot of different permutations and lots of spin coming from this story which seems to have fallen from above and into our laps. And there will be a lot of attempts to detract from the various pieces (sex scandal, lobbyist favors, etc.) and focus on “the NY Times is lying” or other things that are not really the meat of this story.

And yes, there are already different angles here, but this is the general way that the “counter attack” will be played out. Don’t address the issue, attack the messenger. Classic ad hominem attack and was used to bury the Bush National Guard story by making it about CBS and Dan Rather instead of actually addressing the substance of the story.

Mark my words – this will be used by McCain and his camp, if it already hasn’t started. And the ONLY response is to shoot down the ad hominem attack and focus on the real story – the story of John McCain’s lack of credibility and believability.

The New York Times is not the story here. Hell, the “sex” part is even tangential to this story, but it will keep it in the media. It is John McCain and his credibility that is the story.

Mr. “straight talk” denies that his aides ever intervened in this relationship. His aides state unequivocally that they did intervene. He says that he “never did a favor for a lobbyist or a special interest”. Besides the very obvious Charles Keating, there is the curious case of Paxson Communications, which raised questions from the FCC Chairman:

The stories also allege that McCain wrote letters and pushed legislation involving television station ownership that would have benefited Iseman's clients.

In late 1999, McCain twice wrote letters to the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of Florida-based Paxson Communications - which had paid Iseman as its lobbyist - urging quick consideration of a proposal to buy a television station license in Pittsburgh. At the time, Paxson's chief executive, Lowell W. "Bud" Paxson, also was a major contributor to McCain's 2000 presidential campaign.

McCain did not urge the FCC commissioners to approve the proposal, but he asked for speedy consideration of the deal, which was pending from two years earlier. In an unusual response, then-FCC Chairman William Kennard complained that McCain's request "comes at a sensitive time in the deliberative process" and "could have procedural and substantive impacts on the commission's deliberations and, thus, on the due process rights of the parties."

McCain wrote the letters after he received more than $20,000 in contributions from Paxson executives and lobbyists. Paxson also lent McCain his company's jet at least four times during 1999 for campaign travel.

I know that this is potentially a very tasty story. But in this early time in the story’s cycle, it is the time for us to set the narrative, as opposed to having the narrative set for us. We should be going on and staying on offense. This is a perfect time for keep Senator Hothead on his heels and get our “macaca moment”.

If he is portrayed as not credible and not likeable, then he is done. The “100 years in Iraq”, the Katrina birthday cake picture, the Bush bear hug picture, the “bomb bomb bomb Iran” sing along – all of that will be more support as opposed to the foundation for taking McCain down.

We made the mistake in 2004 by not being aggressive enough on the Dan Rather pushback. We can NOT afford to make the same mistake again now. This is about McCain’s character. It is about his judgment. It is about his being believable.

It is NOT about the NY Times, whether he did have an affair or not – it is about his moral values and his bad decision making. And if we push hard enough here, we may very well watch him explode and his campaign implode.

Eyes on the prize – we have been handed a colossal gift – let’s make the best use of it. This is a story that is indicative of the type of person John McCain is. It is an example of a bigger problem that is part of McCain’s core.

Let’s do everything we can to keep that as the story. Not the New York Times and not even the sex allegations.

John McCain, Charles Keating and the $2.3 billion taxpayer bailout

When it comes to having good judgment, John McCain certainly has had his lapses. Whether it was his tremendous leadership during Hurricane Katrina or it is his flip flop and double talk with respect to his own campaign finances, or whether it is his pandering to the very people that he railed against and who sold him down the river a few years back or whether it is losing his temper to his own republican colleagues in the Senate, the list is long.

But the most notable is the background behind McCain’s “transformation” on campaign finance reform – his relationship with Charles Keating, his wife’s relationship with Keating, the financial entanglement between the McCains and Keating and the $2.3 billion that We the People paid to bailout Lincoln Savings & Loan as a result.

Yes, this is old news, but when you talk about more than $100,000 in contributions by Keating to McCain’s campaigns in the 80’s, as well as close to $400,000 in money invested by Cindy McCain and her father in a business venture with Charles Keating and multiple personal trips at Keating’s expense and on his company’s airplane as well as money being siphoned to political campaigns, well, it is worth rehashing.

No wonder Cindy McCain is proud of America – look at what it does for people that have her money and connections.

Brief Background

During the Savings and Loan crisis in the 1980s, one institution, the Lincoln Savings & Loan was owned by American Continental Corporation – which was run by Charles Keating. Due to “bad loans”, it became insolvent. When Keating made some shady deals regarding selling real estate investments that caught the eye of federal investigators, he asked McCain and 4 other Senators (hence the “Keating 5”) to whom he made donations for some political cover (read: quash the investigation).

According to

At Keating's behest, four senators--McCain and Democrats Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, Alan Cranston of California, and John Glenn of Ohio--met with Ed Gray, chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, on April 2. Those four senators and Sen. Don Riegle, D-Mich., attended a second meeting at Keating's behest on April 9 with bank regulators in San Francisco.

Regulators did not seize Lincoln Savings and Loan until two years later. The Lincoln bailout cost taxpayers $2.6 billion, making it the biggest of the S&L scandals. In addition, 17,000 Lincoln investors lost $190 million.

McCain and the other four Senators wanted the investigation into Keating to end and tried to prematurely shut it down. Eventually, Keating was convicted, served in prison before his sentence was overturned and he was charged with additional crimes, for which his sentence was “time served” of four years.

Financial relationship between John and Cindy McCain and Charles Keating

So here is where Ms. “Proud to be an America” McCain and the “straight talker” himself come in. McCain likes to claim that Keating was “just a constituent” that he was helping out, but if you look even the smallest bit below the surface, you will find how much “straight talk” there is there. Recall that this scandal was in the mid to late 1980s, with the investigation into Lincoln starting in 1987. Coincidentally, 1987 was the first year McCain was in the Senate, after two terms in the House.

Let’s start with John’s campaign donations from his “constituent”. Among the Keating 5, McCain received the most in contributions – around $112,000 between 1982 and 1987. But it wasn’t just the campaign contributions that McCain received. Again, from the Slate article:

After McCain's election to the House in 1982, he and his family made at least nine trips at Keating's expense, three of which were to Keating's Bahamas retreat. McCain did not disclose the trips (as he was required to under House rules) until the scandal broke in 1989. At that point, he paid Keating $13,433 for the flights.

Not only the contributions. Not only the multiple trips on Keating’s expense (well, really the taxpayers, since it was the taxpayers who bailed him out). But breaking House rules by not disclosing this until after he ran interference for Keating and the scandal broke.

How’s that for straight talk?

But this all pales in comparison to what pill popper and thief Cindy’s relationship was with Keating. As reported by the Arizona Republic, right around the time that the scandal was heating up (but before the investigations began), Ms. “I’m proud of America because I not only had my own illegal activities with pain killers covered up but also got financially involved with a felon and got away with it” had a serious financial tie to Keating:

On Oct. 8, 1989, The Republic revealed that McCain's wife and her father had invested $359,100 in a Keating shopping center in April 1986, a year before McCain met with the regulators.


When the story broke, McCain did nothing to help himself. When reporters first called him, he was furious. Caught out in the open, the former fighter pilot let go with a barrage of cover fire. Sen. Hothead came out in all his glory.

''You're a liar,''' McCain snapped Sept. 29 when a Republic reporter asked him about business ties between his wife and Keating.

''That's the spouse's involvement, you idiot,'' McCain said later in the same conversation. ''You do understand English, don't you?''

He also belittled the reporters when they asked about his wife's ties to Keating.

But the reporter wasn’t the liar. Senator Hothead was the liar. And his actions to cover up and obstruct justice resulted in a huge cost to the American taxpayers while his friend, campaign contributor, “constituent” stole money and bilked investors.

I wonder how much less this would have cost We the People had Mr. straight-talking-campaign-finance-reformer-“maverick” not intervened and obstructed justice for his buddy.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Listen to Mark Schauer, Michigan State Senator and the next Congressman from MI-7 LIVE at 1PM

Some of you may have heard of Mark Schauer, although if you live outside of Michigan (like me), chances are that if you have heard of him, you don’t know enough about him - because there is a lot of good things to know.

If you are looking to take a brief break from the Presidential candidate wars, you can hear thereisnospoon and I interview Mark today at 1PM Eastern/10AM Pacific on our BlogTalkRadio show.

Mark’s website is here, and you can find out why he has a lot to offer the people of his district as a Congressman, what he plans to do differently in Washington as he is doing now in Michigan, the issues facing his district, and his other thoughts on how he will serve his constituents if you listen to him in his own words at 1PM Eastern today.

Mark is running against freshman incumbent and right wing extremist Tim Walberg, who is close to on par with my very own wingnut Congressman, Scott Garrett.

You can hear (and see) Mark respond to the most recent Michigan Governor’s State of the State address by clicking here.

Mark is a great candidate for a number of reasons. His fundraising numbers are stellar (he has raised around $500,000 so far). He wants to help create jobs for the people of his district. His opponent is a freshman who is out of step with America’s values. Here is some background on Mark from his State Senate website:

Mark Schauer, a resident of Battle Creek, currently serves as the Senate Democratic Leader. He also serves as the Democratic Vice Chair for the Senate Government Operations and Reform Committee and as a member of the Campaigns and Election Oversight Committee. Before being elected to the State Senate, he served three terms in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Prior to serving in the State House, he was a Battle Creek City Commissioner. Sen. Schauer also previously served as the Coordinator for the Calhoun County Human Services Coordinating Council; Executive Director of the Community Action Agency of South Central Michigan; and as Urban Planner for the Calhoun County Planning Department.

As a state legislator for nearly 10 years, Mark has been a consistent advocate for quality and safe schools, early childhood development and investing in prevention, job training and economic development, and access to health care. He has also worked hard to provide neighborhood and community safety through community-oriented policing, to protect consumers and small businesses, and to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.

His community involvement includes Food Bank of South Central Michigan; Habitat for Humanity; Urban League of Battle Creek; Chambers of Commerce; and Lifespan and Kids 'n' Stuff board of directors.

Here is his position on healthcare:
Washington needs to admit we have a health care crisis. I would always put the need to ensure and expand health care insurance coverage for children ahead of party politics or ideology. In fact, I helped lead an effort here in Michigan to push for a strong federal children's health insurance program, sponsoring an initiative in the State Senate and traveling throughout the state to set the record straight about this important measure. In Congress, I would work in a bipartisan way with my colleagues to preserve this critical initiative. We must diligently pursue policies that allow greater access to coverage and drive down the skyrocketing cost of care.

And this is what he has already done in the State Senate with respect to jobs:
In the state Senate, I have worked to bring business and labor together to protect and expand jobs in our area. I've worked with Michigan companies like Kellogg's, Duncan Aviation, Michigan International Speedway, Sparton Corporation, Eaton Aerospace and others, helping them to stay in Michigan and grow their businesses. And I have always supported Michigan workers – voting for an increase in the minimum wage, fighting to protect the earned inco me tax credit tha t helps low-income workers, and teaming up with former Congressman Joe Schwarz to save the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base.

Mark is certainly someone that we want to have on our side in Congress. Mark is someone who will fight for what is best for the people of his District - not the corporate influences that have infiltrated many levels of the Federal Government. And of course, he will be a tremendous asset in Congress - a major step up from the current Representative of Michigan’s 7th district.

If you want to help change Congress and have them start working on the priorities of Americans as opposed to corporate interests, the why not contribute to his campaign?


I recently posted a diary announcing a series of BlogTalkRadio interviews with Democratic Congressional candidates as furthering the majorities in Congress, especially with progressives, is a sure fire way to help our cause. Not only do I think this is a great opportunity to hear these candidates in their own words talking about their district, their campaign and the issues they hold dear, but also to keep some focus on Congress, because without more progressives in Congress who are willing to stand up and fight for the ideals that we discuss here daily, it really won’t matter if Clinton, Obama, Romney or McCain is in the White House because a progressive agenda would not even begin to be seriously discussed, nor would a right wing agenda be able to be thwarted.

Prior interviews in this series are below:

We also have commitments from a few others, but no dates set. We will keep you posted, and if there are any folks out there who work on a campaign, or know someone who is either a candidate or works on a campaign who may be interested, we would love to hear from you.

I hope you can listen live, and if not, we will be posting the interview at Heading Left, which is BlogTalkRadio’s official website for progressive internet radio and podcasts.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Important developments in Iran that you may not have heard about

There are some big things going on in Iran lately, and they don’t all involve ticking time bombs being set and sent over to Iraq, secret deals to help its enemies hop onto planes headed for the US so they can follow our troops home, pranks with short wave radio that are “proof” of instigating war in the Strait of Hormuz or selling nuclear secrets to Palestinian “terrorists” that can be used to wipe Israel off the map.

Now, all of the news is not great, as some of it will no doubt be used to trumpet the need to bomb Iran now, but that is really par for the course, regardless of what news comes out of Iran. But there have been a number of developments lately that will be ignored for the most part (or when not totally ignored, buried as a small column on page 24), mainly because it doesn’t fit the frame of evil brown people threatening to kill everyone so we have to kill them all first.

A few of these new developments are further indication of the weakening power and waning influence of President Ahmadinejad and his hard line supporters. Next month is the Parliamentary Elections in Iran (and for those who forgot, Ahmadinejad’s preferred choices in the 2006 elections were crushed and it was a telling sign of his declining influence), and there is a bit of interesting news about the March 2008 elections:

Iran's former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani on Friday warned against military intervention in next month's parliamentary elections.

'It is one of the main principles of the Islamic Republic system that the military should not interfere in any elections. There is however a cycle which cannot be considered as natural and which could cause major damages to the pillars of our system,' Rafsanjani said at the Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran.

Short version: An influential former Iranian President is warning the military (fierce supporters of Ahmadinejad) to stay the hell out of the election process, even though the Commander of the Revolutionary Guard said it was “the divine duty” for the military members to vote for hard line conservatives. But this wasn’t the only problem with the elections - seems like other hard liners in the interior ministry have disqualified hundreds of moderate candidates, but they are threatening to boycott the elections. The ultimate decision will fall to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who isn’t really sympathetic to “reform”, so we will see how this all plays out. But it is worth pointing out that already, 300 of the candidates have been reinstated.

Even with all of this (and in yet another similarity to what is going on here in the US), the conservatives who are running are distancing themselves from Ahmadinejad due to the horrific job he has done with the economy and for not keeping inflation to a manageable level - further evidence of what Iran’s political situation is becoming.

And in another similarity with the United States political system (although there is a key difference here), an attempted power grab by Ahmadinejad was rebuffed by the Guardian Council (the Council who oversees the President’s power) for the second time in under a month:

Iran's constitutional watchdog on Saturday opposed an attempt by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to expand his administration's power, saying the move "lacks legal justification."

The decision by the Guardian Council was the second major rebuke in less than a month for the hardline president, whose popularity has plummeted recently in the face of Iran's ailing economy.

Last month, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rebuffed Ahmadinejad and ordered him to implement a law supplying natural gas to remote villages after he initially refused to do so.

Wow - a country where the opposition governing body actually tells its unpopular President that, no, he can’t overstep boundaries, expand his power or ignore laws that are passed. And no, his supporters can’t bully and strong arm elections. What a novel idea. How, um....what is the word? Oh yeah, Democratic. What a nice level of....gee, what do I want to say here? Ahhhhhh, yes....oversight and accountability.

I did mention that all the news wasn’t positive, and there is the news that the IAEA just announced that small amounts of uranium gas were being used in a small number of centrifuges. While this will probably be the only thing we will hear about with respect to Iran, it should be noted that:

The diplomats emphasized that the centrifuges were working with minute amounts of uranium gas. One diplomat said Tehran has set up only 10 of the machines -- far too few to make enriched uranium in the quantities needed for an industrial-scale energy or weapons program.

So, even if this is true, and even if it is alarming (and frankly, I don’t know enough to know whether it is alarming or not), it is not nearly at a “critical” point. I also mention this because there has been some recent behind the scenes maneuvering as far as restarting talks between the US and Iran. There were some high level basic talks going on, but now (even without the news about the centrifuges) it seems as though they may not go anywhere until next year, when there is a new administration.

We can only hope that next year isn’t too late, and that the new administration won’t be John McCain, as we all know what his thoughts are on how to deal with Iran.

Garrett smacks families in the face on stimulus package. Twice.

If it wasn’t enough that Scott Garrett wanted to screw over American taxpayers and families by being one of only 34 Reps. to vote against the Economic Stimulus Package that Bush signed last week, you can look at the stimulus package that he introduced himself as an alternative to see exactly where the fifth district’s Congressman’s priorities really lie.

Granted, the economic stimulus package that overwhelmingly passed both Houses of Congress and was signed into law by Bush was far from perfect. I made no bones about my feelings regarding the tax rebates being a farce as they didn’t help families in the long or medium term, barely helped them in the short term, don’t address the needs of families or the root of this country’s economic woes (hint and note to Mr. Garrett - it isn’t that corporations need more tax cuts) and will likely go right back to the credit card companies, the oil companies, the banks, or the utility companies, therefore mainly helping those who are creating the economic problems in the first place.

And actually, on a part of that point, I agree with what Garrett said:

"An increased one-time payment does not bring about real economic growth or security to American families,”

The problem here is that real economic growth - real meaningful economic growth that would help American families, and families of this district who struggle with the higher gas prices (especially in counties other than Bergen), higher heating bills, and higher prices for other basic necessities would focus on helping those families in this time of need, as well as help them in the longer term. Things like extending unemployment benefits. Things like giving rebates to all people who are below a certain income level, recognizing that the lowest income earners need the most help. Things like addressing the AMT in a responsible manner - something that increasingly is hitting middle class and upper middle class in the district.

But no. Garrett can’t even have a thought or a plan that looks out for his constituents. Unless, his constituents are corporations.

One of the main reasons that he voted against the stimulus bill is that it would help the lowest of income earners. The ones who need all of the help they can get to help pay for rising gas costs. For higher food prices. For medication that is necessary. For heat. I guess because these individuals’ primary source of income is social security benefits (meaning the elderly and lowest income earners), which allows them to not have any income tax liability, they shouldn’t receive a rebate.

And to Garrett, if these people would get a rebate, that is not fair, so then he feels that nobody should get a rebate. Garrett didn’t vote against the stimulus package because it didn’t go far enough. He voted against it because he felt it would help TOO MANY people - and damn those lowest of income earners who clearly don’t need the measly rebate that they will be getting in the first place.

So what does Garrett think would be a good way to stimulate the economy and help American families - families in his district? Well, we know exactly what he thinks, as he sponsored his own economic stimulus package. A stimulus package, that if Garrett got to design it himself, would be precisely the kind that would help those who Garrett personally thought would (1) need it the most and (2) be able to help his constituents the most.

Or at least you would think so.

Garrett’s idea of a “real” stimulus package would not include rebates to American families. And on that, I may actually agree to an extent. But that is the only thing that I can say I even remotely agree with Garrett on.

While I would think that some stimulus package that would help American families would include an extension of unemployment benefits, possibly tax credits or a rate reduction for many families, extension of food stamps in certain instances, reduced costs for heat for certain income levels, possibly incentives for certain businesses to increase wages or hiring - you know, things that help families now and also help them in the future, as well as helping certain business grow and keep people employed.

Garrett’s ideas? ALL CORPORATE TAX BREAKS. For American families and families in his district? Zero. For low income earners? Nothing. For those out of work? Zip.

What Garrett thinks is good for the families in his district are none of the above. His “hand picked” selections on how to help families includes the following:

  • Reducing corporate tax rates from 35% to 15% on CORPORATE capital gains;

  • Capping the amount of AMT that corporations can pay;

  • Reducing overall corporate tax rates from 35% to 25%

  • Repealing certain limits on taking bigger immediate deductions on most business equipment, thereby allowing corporations bigger and quicker deductions and reductions to their income; and

  • Changing the rules on certain corporate assets for calculating gains and losses (no doubt this will substantially help corporations reduce their income tax burden.

Actually, that’s the extent of Garrett’s proposal. More corporate giveaways. More tax breaks for corporate entities. Nothing to do with hiring, increasing wages. Nothing for low income families. Nothing for families at all.

If you didn’t know how little Garrett cared about the people of his district and their needs, you can look at his vote on the economic stimulus package. Or you can look at why he voted against giving thousands of families in his district a little extra cash, even though the bill has some major flaws. Or, if you still aren’t convinced, you can look at how Garrett REALLY thinks his district and this country can be helped in these tough economic times.

You’ll be stunned. But not because this is out of character for Garrett. More so because even for an extremist like Garrett, it shows utter contempt for the people he was elected to represent.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Torture is on the table. Why, again, is impeachment not?

OK, so this is what pisses me off.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey (thanks for that one, Schumer and Feinstein) says that waterboarding would be torture if it were done to him. And Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell says that waterboarding (you remember, something that the Attorney General would say is torture if done to him) would require the president’s consent and legal approval from the attorney general. Oh yeah, CIA Director Michael Hayden said that waterboarding (again, something that the Attorney General not only would say is torture if done to him, but also something that both he and the president would have to personally sign off on in order for the CIA to engage in such acts) was actually done to three detainees while in US captivity.

By the way, all of those statements were made before a Senate committee and presumably none of the three individuals were lying when they made those statements.

But wait, there’s still more here.

The United States Senate voted to ban waterboarding, even though it should be pointed out that republican presidential candidate John McCain voted for more waterboarding, therefore supporting something that the Attorney General said would be torture if done to him.. And we all know that torture is something that is explicitly illegal, even though one of our own “radically extremist activist” Supreme Court Justices thinks that torture is justified at times.

And to top it all off, Mister Bush will veto a bill that calls waterboarding (something that the Attorney General said would be illegal if done to him) illegal. So, not only is the current president breaking the law by ordering torture in the first place, but wants to use the evidence obtained through illegal torture in a death penalty case against detainees. As for that evidence obtained through illegal torture? Well, the little problem is that the CIA destroyed the tapes of the torture and confessions because, well, they knew it was illegal and they wanted to protect the agents who conducted the torture.

I’ll also take this time to point out once again that the republican frontrunner for the Presidential nomination, John McCain, also voted to support torture.

Of all of the things that this administration and its enablers have done that are impeachable events (Downing Street Minutes, FISA, US Attorney firings, caging, election stealing, a dereliction of duty (Katrina, 9/11, “who would have thought that....”, etc.) or even bordering on treasonous (CIA leak investigation, manufactured evidence on Iraq and Iran), torture hits the hardest.

It cuts to the core - right through the heart of what makes a democracy a, well, democracy. It is the difference between civility and barbarianism. It is the line that should never be crossed. It shows an utter disgust and contempt for humanity. It puts our troops at risk. Enemy fighters will think twice before surrendering due to the choice of death or torture. And it puts our soldiers at risk for being tortured if captured since our government does it.

Have I mentioned that not only does our current president support torture, but so does John McCain, the presumptive republican nominee for President?

If I was told 8 years ago that the legitimacy of torture would become part of the discourse in this country, I would have laughed out loud. But now, not only is the legitimacy of torture part of the discourse in this country, it is also something that the president ordered, the CIA engaged in, and the United States Senate has actually taken the time to debate and vote on.

Anyone who can justify torture has no business participating in a civil society. Yet we have people in the highest levels of government - in Congress, on the Supreme Court and in the White House - who not only justify torture, but have taken great pains and have gone to great lengths to blur the lines just enough (how, I still don’t know), authorize torture, engage in torture, destroy evidence of and evidence obtained by torture, cover up the destruction of evidence, seek a death penalty based at least in part on this evidence, and declare it “legal” because it isn’t explicitly and specifically denoted as “illegal” (or veto a law that would call it illegal, which is like making a law that circles have to be round).

All of this has happened, is happening and is continuing to happen as we find out more of the sordid details. It is indicative of and an exhibit of the worst traits in humans. It is despicable, inexcusable, subhuman.

It is illegal.

Tell me again why impeachment is off the table and what message allowing this to go unpunished sends to Americans, to the world community and to the most basic level of human decency?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The slippery slope of evidence obtained by torture

The decision to pursue the death penalty against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and a number of other suspects creates a situation that no doubt was thought through by the Bush administration more than whether to actually use torture against these people in the first place. I haven’t seen this angle discussed too much in depth but if it has, please forgive me.

Regardless of whether anyone thinks that the death penalty is a just punishment, is “cruel and inhuman”, or just plain doesn’t agree with it, I want to at least (for now) leave that out of this post. If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (“KSM” to make it easier for me) is guilty of masterminding the 9/11 attacks, or if he is guilty of any other crimes that can be proven, then he should receive the justice that he deserves. This is not about whether he should or should not pay for his crimes.

I don’t think there are many people who would say that he does not deserve punishment (whatever the maximum punishment that can be meted out would be) for planning these attacks. But, and here is the rub – the fact that his trial will be largely based on evidence that is obtained by torture will forever cloud his trial – if not in the eyes of Americans then most certainly in the eyes of the world .

Thus, the second part of this conundrum – the argument that “liberals would rather let an evil terrorist mastermind go free than receive justice for his role in killing thousands of Americans” which no doubt would be trotted out. But this is, to me, something that was done purposely.

To have as many legal memos that talk about torture being justified, about “enemy combatants” being outside the Geneva Conventions, the “interrogation techniques” that were personally approved by Rumsfeld, the debate going on among those who support torture and the rest of the civilized world about whether waterboarding is “technically” torture, the news that Bush personally ordered waterboarding – all of this was done to make sure that KSM could be prosecuted for his role and actions, even if the only way that the CIA can get information out of him is by torturing him.

Or because Mister Bush is a sadist. But either way, there was a long discussion and debate on a number of occasions that would have Mukasey waffle on whether waterboarding is illegal even though he said that it would be torture if it was done to him and that torture is illegal. Or that would have Scalia, a number of republican Senators (including John McCain) vote against outlawing waterboarding. Or that would have waterboarding ONLY used if Bush himself ordered it.

The end result of all of this is a situation where someone whose actions (if true) nobody can defend, and is the most unsympathetic figure outside of Osama bin Laden in the eyes of Americans is now at the center of yet another fork in the road for this country.

Choose option 1 and we have a precedent whereby evidence can be obtained by torture and used as primary evidence in a prosecution that could carry the death penalty as a punishment. Option 1 also further reduces America’s reputation in the global community.

Choose option 2 and we have a situation where someone that very well may have had a huge hand in the biggest attack on American soil can not be prosecuted because the primary evidence against him was obtained via torture. Or that the prosecution is tainted because of the evidence obtained by torture, and is not viewed as legitimate to the vast majority of the world (and many in this country). Option 2 also results in the “why do you hate America” nonsense that detracts from the fact that (1) that is total crap and a distraction from reality, (2) one of the chief architects of the 9/11 attacks either goes free or is prosecuted in what will be known as a kangaroo court proceeding and most importantly, (3) this is all due to willful and premeditated acts by the highest levels of the US government.

The road chosen will go a long way towards either repairing our reputation in the world or reinforcing that we do not care about the rule of law that this administration preaches about. Unfortunately, we as a country have been put in this position (once again) by our own government, and these people will look to point fingers instead of actually thinking of the ramification of their actions.

And I am sure that many people will say (as I have heard before) that it really doesn’t matter that he is tortured if he was actually guilty. But that isn’t the point. If he was actually guilty, then he shouldn’t have to be tortured in order to be prosecuted.

Once again, Mister Bush and his cohorts have put this country in a horrible position with two bad choices. This time, the ramifications are the justification for torture and the use of it to obtain evidence for a prosecution.

That is a door that should never have been opened. Thanks, once again, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, John Yoo, John McCain, Michael Mukasey and everyone else who allowed and enabled this country to reach yet another new low.

I'm sorry, Senator Schumer, but...

Please don’t take this the wrong way, Senator Schumer. I lived in New York for the first 35 years of my life before moving to New Jersey in 2006. You were my Senator for a good number of years and you were a damn fine Senator. As are a good number of your colleagues.

Generally speaking.

Many of us, myself included, know the value of “more Democrats in Congress”, and I have personally been preaching the value of getting involved with Congressional races, some of whom we have had the opportunity to hear talk about in their own words how they will help make Congress more progressive.

You are absolutely right that winning the Presidency isn’t enough. And you make mention Jon Tester, Jim Webb and Sherrod Brown – three people who we are (by and large) very proud to call our Senators. Three people that we here in the netroots put a large portion of our time, energy and money towards helping win very important seats in the Senate – replacing three very odious republican Senators.

We worked so very hard in November 2006 to help elect Democrats. To get BOTH houses of Congress to Democratic majorities for the first time in well over a decade. And promises were made to us by yourself, by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and many others in leadership positions.

Promises were made to America.

And almost immediately after we helped elect a Democratic majority in Congress, the promises were broken with a huge slap in our collective faces. Impeachment was suddenly "off the table" before the table was even set for the first time.

We were told that “there’s a new Congress in town”. We were told that there there would be a new direction on Iraq. We voted for, and convinced many others to vote for Democratic majorities so we could see accountability for Bush administration misconduct, thereby not setting a precedent of law breaking going unpunished - especially for politically calculated reasons.

You see, yesterday’s FISA vote in the Senate was just the latest in a long string of disappointments that we have been on the receiving end of from actions by Congressional leadership.

Even you, Senator, must have known about the dangerous precedent that you helped set when you allowed Michael Mukasey to be appointed as Attorney General despite his disgusting stance on torture. Quite ironic how far the bar has moved since Kimba Wood and Zoe Baird’s nominations were withdrawn over household employment taxes.

And now, we have a precedent of torturing individuals with no accountability, as well as the ability for evidence obtained via torture to be admissible for a death penalty sentence. Granted, if Khalid Sheik Mohammed is responsible for masterminding the 9/11 attacks, then he should get whatever justice is due. But to have this tainted by allowing for torture, let alone evidence obtained through torture is something that your decision to let Mukasey’s nomination through to the Senate floor helped accomplish.

So, I do apologize, Senator, if I am a bit disturbed by your post, even as I do give you major credit for coming here and asking our opinion. Your diary says the following:

Whether it's President Obama or President Clinton, they are going to need a Democratic Senate that can pass, instead of obstruct, a progressive agenda.

This is a two way street. We will continue to support your efforts to recruit more progressives for the Senate, just as we will continue efforts to recruit more progressives for the House. But we expect something in return – after all, you are supposed to be elected by US to serve US.

Allowing for retroactive immunity in a FISA bill that had no business even being brought to the floor is not progressive. Folding to Mister Bush on Iraq over and over and over when the vast majority of the country is on your side is not progressive. Sending a big “F-You” to on the Senate floor is not progressive. Allowing extremist appointment after extremist appointment by Bush is not progressive. Caving to an unpopular President and an even less popular Congressional minority is not progressive. Allowing non-progressives to continuously set the tone of the debate is not progressive.

I, personally, will be working my butt off to get my Representative, Scott Garrett, out of Congress. I will donate my time, effort and money to the Democratic challenger. Scott Garrett is one of the worst enemies of the progressive movement, yet I don’t know that your counterpart in the House has any intent of helping to remove this ultra right wing extremist.

And I sincerely hope that we can recruit more progressives for the Senate, and win more seats. However, we also expect more from the lion’s share of the current Democratic Senators – on the very issues that we were promised results on. Blaming republican obstruction is part of it - but we know better. There is much more that you and your colleagues could have (and still can) accomplish if you were to keep your promises made to us back in 2006.

You can do better. We did our part for you. Now it is time that you and your colleagues really do what you promised us. If I can't trust the DSCC and who it represents to keep up your end of the deal, then you'll have to excuse me while I work for and donate money to true progressives.

No hard feelings, though...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Important stuff on Iraq

Since pretty much every diary here is another twist on something that has happened to or been said by or about Obama or Clinton, things like a number of bombings and attacks by al-Qaeda in Iraq (or “al-Qaeda in IraqTM”) has taken place over the past couple of days.

While all eyes here are on the primaries tomorrow and every conceivable poll that may or may not prove something that we will ultimately find out in a few days or weeks, yet another soldier from Fort Carson who has no business doing anything other than getting treatment for his bipolar, paranoia and homicidal tendencies is being sent back to a war zone. this is the latest of close to 80 similar soldiers in the past year.

So, while we all talk about how much Obama will win tomorrow or whether Hillary will still hold on to her superdelegates or whose campaign raised more money this past day, think about the fact that parts of northern Iraq are without power, and that the “surge working” has now led to battles in Mosul and close to 130 dead with many more injured from suicide bombings:

Al-Qaida's resiliency began showing itself Feb. 1, when two women with Down syndrome were strapped with explosives then detonated by remote control just minutes apart in two Baghdad pet markets. The final death toll was 99.

In the meantime there have been a series of hit-and-run bomb attacks countrywide, with most of the victims being Sunni tribesmen who have turned against al-Qaida and are now fighting alongside American and Iraqi soldiers.

It happened again Monday when twin car bombs targeted a meeting of U.S.-allied Sunni tribal leaders in Baghdad, killing as many as 22 civilians and wounding 42, according to police and hospital officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to disclose the information.

Now, I don’t think that EITHER Obama or Clinton would stand for this – certainly not nearly as much as Senator Hothead who would love nothing more than to be in Iraq for 100 years. And when you talk about the only possible measure by which the escalation was working – a decrease in violence – then remember that it is McCain that has to explain how violence has increased substantially where there hasn’t been sectarian cleansing, along with no political progress whatsoever.

And lest anyone, ESPECIALLY the right wing noise machine and the talking meatsticks who salivate over the chance to suck up to McCain, talk about how much progress there is and what the future holds, let them answer the following (emphasis mine):

Electricity Minister Karim Waheed told The Associated Press the power wouldn't be back to normal in the north of the country for at least a week.

A truck bomb Sunday also took out a key generating plant in Mosul, he said.

"If there is no security or political stability, there is no way I can promise the Iraqi people that the electricity sector will improve in the coming years," Waheed said.

So no security, no political stability, no military solution according to General Petraeus, no improvement in basic necessities such as electricity for years. How will maintaining 150,000 troops in the midst of this help the situation, or protect America?

While everyone talks about why Obama is more electable or that Clinton’s camp is not in as much trouble as it may seem, would either of them send mentally unstable troops who have been taken out of duty BACK to Iraq or Afghanistan? Of course not. But Bush is doing just that. And McCain’s “100 years in Iraq” or “bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran” rhetoric would not only continue to do just that, but would do it on a much longer and grander scale.

What would we see under a third Bush term, which is what we should be calling a McCain administration?

Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, was outraged.

“If he’s an inpatient in a hospital, they should have never taken him out. The chain of command needs to be held accountable for this. Washington needs to get involved at the Pentagon to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“First, we had the planeload of wounded, injured and ill being forced back to the war zone. And now we have soldiers forcibly removed from mental hospitals. The level of outrage is off the Richter scale.”

Is McCain going to order a draft to fight these neverending wars? Or will he continue to send injured, ill and mentally unstable soldiers into war zones – soldiers whose active service should long since have ended for them to get the mental, emotional or physical rehabilitation and treatment they deserve?

And just as another reminder that bin Laden or anyone else is NOT watching our elections to see who wins. But they ARE continuing to attack our troops, plot to attack our troops as well as civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. None of which has anything to do with Obama or Clinton – and everything to do with the failed policies of Bush and the more than tacit approval of McCain.

This is too important not to mention, and, yes, more important than slicing and dicing everything that is said or not said in this primary season. One party’s candidate, regardless of how flawed we think he or she is, will not let this stand or continue. And the other party’s candidate will embrace a continuation of these disgusting events and acts.

And THAT has gone missed way too much around here.

Barry Welsh (IN-6) LIVE on BlogTalkRadio Sunday at 2PM Eastern

Some of you may not have heard of Mike Pence - a Congressman who thinks he would make a good VP candidate for McCain. Of course, if I said to you that Mike Pence was the man who accompanied John McCain on the intimate Baghdad market stroll with hundreds of their closest military friends, then you would probably remember who his is, and how out of step he is with reality.

Luckily, long term Daily Kos community member Barry Welsh is running against him for Indiana’s 6th Congressional seat. In 2006, despite a late entry into the race, a red state and a red district and only around $50,000 in funding, Barry put a scare into Pence. But this time around, Barry has gotten more funding, more experience and is looking to knock Pence into retirement.

We had the chance to interview Barry a few times in the past, first at last summer’s Yearly Kos, and he is as nice as he is passionate when it comes to American values and progressive ideals.

And we have the opportunity to interview Barry again today on our BlogTalkRadio show at 2PM Eastern/1PM Central/11AM Pacific. The link to the interview is here, and Barry’s website is here.

Here is a bit of background about Barry’s Pledge to his District (from his campaign website):

My pledge to the citizens of Indiana's 6th District

I pledge that I will always remember that The American Dream is not just about economics; it is also about ethics. We must all remember that The American Dream is about prosperity, but is also about rights, laws, and freedom.

I pledge to propose an increase in the minimum wage of $1.00 in the first year, and .50 in the next year. Americans deserve a living wage. The workers of America have been taken advantage of for too long. Adjusted for inflation, the current minimum wage is 26% lower today than it was in 1979. It is time that average people get the same representation in Washington that only the wealthy are now enjoying. I pledge to be that representative.

I pledge that I will fight to put America back to work. I will author legislation that immediately rescinds NAFTA and CAFTA. We must not allow any more jobs to leave our shores. We can make more than just debt in America, and we should! I want Made in America to mean what it used to mean and what it should mean ... the best!

I pledge that I will never privatize Social Security. With pension scandals like IPALCO, ENRON, and WORLDCOM, and with corporations threatening, and dissolving retirement plans, it is imperative that we guarantee the safety net of Social Security, which was put in place after a great crash of the stock market. The solvency of the Social Security System can be guaranteed simply by raising the cap from the current $90,000.00 maximum and insuring that no moneys are diverted from the Social Security Trust. I pledge to support such a plan.

I pledge to begin a graduated redeployment of our troops out of Iraq, beginning with the National Guard and Reserve. This will allow the re-intensification of the real war on terror, focusing on the search for Osama Bin Laden and stateless terrorists. I pledge my continued support of the strongest and best Military force in the world. Their benefits should never be cut, and they should never go into battle under-equipped or without absolute just cause.

I pledge to fight corruption. I will author and/or support legislation that limits the amount of money a Federal campaign can spend per election cycle. Trying to limit campaign financing has not worked, so we must limit spending and create fair, equal, and honest elections. We must also tether the influence of money channeled through lobbyists. I will author legislation stating that former Senators and Representatives, spouses, direct family members and staff members will have the choice of their pension and benefits, or a job lobbying after they leave office, and can have either, but not both. They may have other employment, but may not be a registered lobbyist. Logs of all meetings between Senators, Representatives, senior staff, and lobbyists must be of public record and limited in number per year.

I pledge to work for real solutions to move America away from dependency on oil in the next ten years. Televisions, computers, and cell phones, have all evolved rapidly over the past ten years. If we honestly applied our ingenuity to our transportation and energy problems, as we have our entertainment and diversionary pursuits, we could become the leader in exporting alternative energy technology and become oil-independent in the next decade. This would revitalize our economy, and guarantee our homeland security by removing dependence on foreign oil.

I pledge to work for affordable, single payer, universal healthcare. Health insurance, like Social Security Insurance, should be a right of all Americans. Medical care should not be a privilege for the rich, but rather a human right, and a moral value.


I recently posted a diary announcing a series of BlogTalkRadio interviews with Democratic Congressional candidates as furthering the majorities in Congress, especially with progressives, is a sure fire way to help our cause. Not only do I think this is a great opportunity to hear these candidates in their own words talking about their district, their campaign and the issues they hold dear, but also to keep some focus on Congress, because without more progressives in Congress who are willing to stand up and fight for the ideals that we discuss here daily, it really won?t matter if Clinton, Obama, Romney or McCain is in the White House because a progressive agenda would not even begin to be seriously discussed, nor would a right wing agenda be able to be thwarted.

Prior and upcoming interviews in this series are below:

Upcoming interviews are as follows:

  • Charlie Brown (CA-4): Tuesday February 12 at 8PM Eastern.

We also have commitments from a couple of others, but no dates set. We will keep you posted, and if there are any folks out there who work on a campaign, or know someone who is either a candidate or works on a campaign who may be interested, we would love to hear from you.

I hope you can listen live, and if not, we will be posting the interview at Heading Left, which is BlogTalkRadio’s official website for progressive internet radio and podcasts.

Hothead. Stubborn. Erratic. Bully. John McCain.

A lot of people, republicans and Democrats and independents, are talking about their opinion of presumptive republican Presidential nominee John McCain. We hear he is too conservative, not conservative enough, pragmatic about Iraq or a war hawk who wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years. We hear about his positions - that some are too similar to Clinton or that he is more experienced than Obama. But the reality of it is that none of this matters in how we should be talking about McCain and why he should absolutely not be the next President of the United States.

Here is an example - I have a very good friend who I have known since I was 8. He is a self identified “republican libertarian”, one who is conservative with money and somewhat liberal on many social issues. He contributes to the republican party, and generally votes that way. Last night, he was telling me about his views, and how he thinks that John McCain represents them. After telling him that McCain is by no means a libertarian, I realized that he is one of millions of people that know a little bit about McCain and probably thinks he is middle of the road enough on most things (I bet he says the same thing about Lieberman too) and will not be convinced to not vote for McCain based on issues.

Sure, I can tell him about his stances on a number of things, and I can try to convince him that Clinton would be very similar on certain issues that appeal to him about McCain, or that both she and Obama will certainly not do the things that will be said about them by the right wing smear machine, and will also be able to accomplish the same socially liberal things that my friend wants without the horrific right wing out of touch warmongering side that McCain brings. But that won’t work - the fact is, despite all of the evidence that is out there and that I can throw back at him about McCain, I have to change the way he feels about McCain as someone who should be the leader of this country (and I would throw in “in a post 9/11 world” with just a bit of sarcasm).

Another point was made when I was talking to my good friend thereisnospoon the other day. Since the Democratic nomination is far from resolved, spoon pointed out that McCain would run to the right of Obama, and would try to make himself similar enough to Clinton so that he could win independent votes. So, at this point, without a nominee, it would be a guess as to how we would want to attack McCain specifically on his positions, although there are many many things to attack him on, issuewise.

So where am I going with this? My point here is that George W. Bush was “they guy you wanted to have a beer with”, and both Reagan and Clinton were very likable and appealed to people on a personal level. We have a tremendous opportunity to do just the opposite with McCain and brand him as someone who is neither trustworthy nor likable, and can take away much of the sympathy factor based on his war prisoner status without even mentioning his being a war prisoner. What makes this even better is that we can use the words of his own republican party colleagues, also without even making mention of his being too conservative or his positions on issues.

If we can brand McCain as “Senator Hothead”, or as “erratic”, someone who holds grudges or who is “stubborn” - those are all things that have been said about him by republicans - many who are in Congress. Of course, those are similar qualities of a certain current resident of the White House, and look at what a hotheaded, erratic, grudge holding stubborn bully who makes snap decisions has done for this country over the past 7 years.

Just under 2 weeks ago, Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) said the following about McCain:

"The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine," Cochran said about McCain by phone. "He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."

Do we really want someone in the position of dealing with the increasing disaster in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan who loses his temper? Do we want a Commander in Chief who, as Senator Charles Grassley knows from personal experience, will hold a grudge and won’t talk to you for two years? Yet, that is precisely what republican Senators are saying about McCain’s character and judgment.

And who can forget that back in 2000 on the campaign trail, McCain’s sanity was and judgment was questioned by his own party. Granted, these were dirty tricks by Karl Rove in support of Bush, but they were uttered by people associated with the President and there were very few high level officials in the republican party who spoke out against this, refuted it or denounced it.

Do you think that many people know that McCain shoved a 90 year old on the Senate floor? Yes, as so wonderfully provided by Mitt Romney’s campaign, in a “scuffle” on the Senate floor in 1995:

In January 1995, McCain was midway through an opening statement at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing when chairman Strom Thurmond asked, 'Is the senator about through?' McCain glared at Thurmond, thanked him for his 'courtesy' (translation: buzz off), and continued on. McCain later confronted Thurmond on the Senate floor. A scuffle ensued, and the two didn't part friends." (Harry Jaffe, "Senator Hothead," The Washingtonian, 2/97)

Lastly (at least for now), there is the Double Talk Express - a man who can pander with the best of them and betray the so called values that make him a so called “maverick”. The Real McCain highlights many of these instances that we can pull out of our pockets to show just how untrustworthy McCain really is.

Attacking McCain will be easy. I didn’t even touch on his age or health yet, but will probably do so at some point in the near future. The point here is that people think of McCain as “reasonable” or “moderate” and they can pick out a couple of instances that back up their views. He certainly would qualify as more reasonable or moderate than say, Mike Huckabee or Sam Brownback or Duncan Hunter on some issues. But to really get past that - we can’t fall into the trap of debating McCain on McCain’s turf. We have to hit where it will do the most damage - and that is his likability and fitness to be Commander in Chief.

If his own party is scared of him, thinks he is erratic and a bully and a hothead, and doesn’t think he is reasonable, what does that say? This is from a party that has taken radically extreme positions on everything and think that he can’t even have the good judgment to think things through.

If his own party can’t trust him to be rational, then does America want that in someone as a leader with vision when there is so much that is on the verge of disaster?