Monday, March 31, 2008

Andrew Sullivan: Hillary C. Flings the Dirt but it’s Sticking to Her

This scorching critique comes from blogger Andrew Sullivan:

Hillary Clinton started throwing some stink bombs at Obama months ago; then, after New Hampshire, she threw the kitchen sink; and in the past week, as cable news threw the boiler, she gave it an extra push.

“I wouldn’t have Jeremiah Wright [Obama’s preacher friend who made embarrassing/incendiary comments] as a pastor,” she told Richard Scaife in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which just happens to be in Pennsylvania, which just happens to be the next primary state.

Clinton wins even more chutzpah points when you recall who Scaife is. He is the far-right media magnate who made a fortune in the 1990s running the most irresponsible antiClinton stories in The American Spectator, who broke Troopergate, who promoted the notion that Clinton had her best friend Vince Foster murdered and fanned the idea that Bill Clinton was a drug dealer. Still, Clinton managed to sit down with him and discuss the real enemy: Obama. Machiavelli would understand, although one has to think he would be a teensy bit more subtle about it.

[...]This is now Clinton’s best hope of beating Obama. The woman who has a great and admirable record on racial issues, whose husband was described as the country’s “first black president”, the candidate with the strongest Hispanic support . . . now needs the votes of older conservative whites, who are uncomfortable with the idea of a black president and suspicious of Latino immigration.

This might explain why Obama's lead continues to grow:
Barack Obama now has a 10-percentage point lead over Hillary Clinton in a national tracking poll conducted by Gallup, the largest lead he has posted in the poll this year.

Gallup reported Obama now leads among Democrats 52 percent against 42 percent for Hillary Clinton, the third day in a row he has held a statistically significant lead against Clinton in the poll.

The movement in the national poll follows a week in which Clinton was widely lampooned for exaggerated accounts she gave of a visit to Bosnia in which she claimed she ran for cover under sniper fire. After the pilot of her plane and reporters who were on the trip with her disputed the account, she conceded she her account was a "mistake" and chalked the incident up to campaign-trail fatigure. But the exaggeration rapidly became fodder for late-night comics and video spoofs on the Internet.

Food Stamp Use Is at Record Pace

While the establishment quibble over whether we are in a recession, Main St. certainly feels like things are going badly. And it's only going to get worse:

Driven by a painful mix of layoffs and rising food and fuel prices, the number of Americans receiving food stamps is projected to reach 28 million in the coming year, the highest level since the aid program began in the 1960s.

The number of recipients, who must have near-poverty incomes to qualify for benefits averaging $100 a month per family member, has fluctuated over the years along with economic conditions, eligibility rules, enlistment drives and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, which led to a spike in the South.

But recent rises in many states appear to be resulting mainly from the economic slowdown, officials and experts say, as well as inflation in prices of basic goods that leave more families feeling pinched. Citing expected growth in unemployment, the Congressional Budget Office this month projected a continued increase in the monthly number of recipients in the next fiscal year, starting Oct. 1 — to 28 million, up from 27.8 million in 2008, and 26.5 million in 2007.

The percentage of Americans receiving food stamps was higher after a recession in the 1990s, but actual numbers are expected to be higher this year.

Federal benefit costs are projected to rise to $36 billion in the 2009 fiscal year from $34 billion this year.

“People sign up for food stamps when they lose their jobs, or their wages go down because their hours are cut,” said Stacy Dean, director of food stamp policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, who noted that 14 states saw their rolls reach record numbers by last December.

One example is Michigan, where one in eight residents now receives food stamps. “Our caseload has more than doubled since 2000, and we’re at an all-time record level,” said Maureen Sorbet, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Human Services.

The climb in food stamp recipients there has been relentless, through economic upturns and downturns, reflecting a steady loss of industrial jobs that has pushed recipient levels to new highs in Ohio and Illinois as well.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Victim of Horrific U.S. Government Torture on 60 Minutes

This story is the most shocking example of the American governments abuse of human rights I've ever heard. It is absolutely disgusting. All Americans should feel shame at what happened to this man. Do we really live in a free society? How could we allow this to go on? We must vow not to allow this to happen again:

The reason Kurnaz was singled out may always be a mystery. But at the time, the U.S. was paying bounties for suspicious foreigners. Kurnaz, who'd been rambling across Pakistan with Islamic pilgrims, seemed to fit the bill. Kurnaz says that he was told that U.S. intelligence paid $3,000 for him. He ended up bound and shackled on an American military plane.

"I was sure soon as they would find out I'm not a terrorist, they will apologize for it and let me go back home," he says.

But the plane flew him out of Pakistan and to a U.S. base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he was mixed with prisoners fresh off the battlefield. His new identity was "number 53." He was kept in an outdoor pen, in sub-freezing weather and interrogated daily.

[...]Docke says the police report was sent to the Americans. And Kurnaz claims his interrogations at Kandahar turned to torture. He told 60 Minutes that American troops held his head underwater.

"They used to beat me when my head is underwater. They beat me into my stomach and everything," he says.

"They were hitting you in the stomach while you're head was underwater so that you'd have to take a breath?" Pelley asks,

"Right. I had to drink. I had to…how you say it?" Kurnaz replies.

"Inhale. Inhale the water," Pelley says.

"I had to inhale the water. Right," Kurnaz says.

Kurnaz says the Americans used a device to shock him with electricity that made his body go numb. And he says he was hoisted up on chains suspended by his arms from the ceiling of an aircraft hangar for five days.

"Every five or six hours they came and pulled me back down. And the doctor came to watch if I can still survive to not. He looked into my eyes. He checked my heart. And when he said okay, then they pulled me back up," Kurnaz says.

"The point of the doctor's visit was not to treat you. It was to see if you could take another six hours hanging from the ceiling?" Pelley asks.

"Right," Kurnaz says.

[...]He says it went on year after year, always the same questions about al Qaeda, and the endless effort to break his will. He heard nothing from the outside and wondered whether anyone knew that he was there.

Then, in 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Guantanamo prisoners did have the right to lawyers. And to his complete surprise, one day Kurnaz was told he had a visitor. It was Baher Azmy, an American lawyer.

"He was chained to a bolt in the floor around his ankle," Azmy says, recalling his first meeting with Kurnaz. "And had an absolutely enormous beard that had marked the years that he was in detention. He looked like someone who had been shipwrecked, which, of course, in a sense, he really was."

Azmy is a professor at the Seton Hall Law School. He dug into the case and found that the military seemed to have invented some of the charges. Military prosecutors said one of Kurnaz’s friends was a suicide bomber, but the friend turned up alive and well in Germany.

Read the entire article/transcript

CIA Director Hayden on Meet The Press: Transcript

Read the entire transcript of CIA Director, Gen.Michael Hayden, appearance this week on Meet The Press. Here are some excerpts:

MR. RUSSERT: I want to go back to '07 when Bob Woodward wrote a piece in The Washington Post about comments you made to the Iraqi Study Group, and have a chance to talk about that regarding Iraq.

"On the morning of November 13, 2006, members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group gathered ... in the ... Roosevelt Room of the White House. CIA Director Michael Hayden ... said, `the inability of the [Iraqi] government to govern seems irreversible,' adding that he could not `point to any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around,' according to written records of his briefing and the recollections of six participants.

"`The government is unable to govern,' Hayden concluded. `We have spent a lot of energy and treasure creating a government that is balance, and it cannot function.'"

Is that an accurate assessment of what you said?

GEN. HAYDEN: It's an incomplete assessment of, of what I said. What, what I said was inability to govern or turn this around in the short term is, is what I precisely said. And then I, I tried to use a sports metaphor. I talked about running a marathon, and what I, what I said to the, to the group there is I'd run a marathon in Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh's pretty hilly, as you know, and at about mile 21 there's a two-mile downhill stretch. And as you get down to the bottom of that hill, it's only three miles to the finish and you run three miles before church on Sunday. So I knew if I got to mile 22, there was a natural break that would begin to turn things into my favor. What I was saying to the commission was, there were no longer any natural breaks lying ahead of us that would turn things in our favor. It had to be done with just slogging through hard work. There were no upcoming elections, for example, no upcoming changes in the political structure that would be natural breaks. That's what I was trying to say to the committee.

Doublespeak on waterboarding:
[Russert]Do you believe that waterboarding's torture?

GEN. HAYDEN: What's more important is what the Department of Justice believes, and, frankly, the question of waterboarding, I've, I tried to point this out in as many ways as I can publicly, is an uninteresting question for the Central Intelligence Agency. We have not--and I, I made this public last month--we have not waterboarded anyone in now over five years, and only three people have been waterboarded in in the life of the CIA's interrogation program.

The issue with the Army Field Manual is not the false dichotomy that, that some people want to create, that on the one hand you've got the Army field manual and on the other hand you've got the licensing of torture. That, that's not the choice at all. The Army has listed--and by the way, the real debate, the real impact for us isn't on the list of things you've forbidden. That's fairly uninteresting to us. What's critical for the Army Field Manual, were it to be applied to CIA, is what's authorized and limiting the CIA only to what's authorized. No one claims that that list of authorized techniques in the Army Field Manual exhausts the universe of lawful interrogation techniques that the republic can draw on to defend itself. And so the issue for us is, is, is not torture or licensing torture or licensing waterboarding. And to the best of my ability I've made it very clear that we don't do that. But to limit us to what America's Army thinks they can train young soldiers to do under minimal supervision against lawful combatants in a transient battlefield situation, when our circumstances are completely different, means we're undercutting our ability to defend the nation.

Tibetan Protestors Attack Chinese Embassy

Alive and kicking:

A group of 200 Tibetan exiles and Buddhist monks tried to storm the Chinese Embassy visa office in Nepal's capital on Sunday but police beat them back with bamboo batons.

At least 130 protesters were arrested and some of the demonstrators and policemen were injured in the scuffle.

The protesters reached the metal gate of the fortified compound and were kicking and trying to push it open when police armed with bamboo batons rushed to the scene and began beating them.

"Stop the killing, stop the killing," the protesters chanted as they charged toward the office gate.

Tibetans have protested in front of the Chinese Embassy visa office in the heart of Katmandu in the past, but it was the first time they had reached the gate and tried to push through.

Sunday's protest was the latest by Tibetan monks and refugees in Katmandu against Chinese authorities' crackdown on recent demonstrations in Tibet.

Police officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing policy, said those arrested were being held in several detention centers and would likely be freed later within hours without facing any charges.

Nepal has said it would not allow protests against any "friendly nation," including China.

International rights groups, like New York-based Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations have repeatedly criticized Nepal's handling of the Tibetan protests and beating of the protesters.

Nepal has not issued any statement on China's crackdown in Tibet.

Chinese state media accused the Dalai Lama on Sunday of closing the door to talks over Tibet's future, an apparent response to rising international calls for Beijing to negotiate with Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader.

In a lengthy article, Xinhua News Agency cited past actions and statements attributed to the 72-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner that it said contradicted or undermined his calls for negotiations.

"It was the Dalai Lama clique that closed the door of dialogue," Xinhua said, using China's standard term for the Tibetan government-in-exile.

The statement came a day before the arrival in Beijing of the Olympic torch, which has become a magnet for Tibetan activists and other groups seeking to use the August Games to draw attention to their cause.

China has accused the Dalai Lama of orchestrating protests in Tibet's regional capital Lhasa and other heavily Tibetan areas that started peacefully among Buddhist monks, but turned deadly on March 14. Beijing says 22 people were killed in Lhasa, while Tibetan exiles put the overall death toll at 140.

Obama Wants to Return to Foreign Policy of the Past

I'm not sure that's such a great idea. JFK has his Bay of Pigs. Reagan sold weapons to Iran, broke the law in fighting the Sandanistas, and allowed Jihadists to murder Americans in the Middle East. Bush Sr. invaded Panama to overthrow a thug who had been the CIA payroll. Obama has craft a new foreign policy that would make America strong not compromise us morally:

Sen. Barack Obama said Friday he would return the country to the more "traditional" foreign policy efforts of past presidents, such as George H.W. Bush, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

At a town hall event at a local high school gymnasium, Obama praised George H.W. Bush - father of the president - for the way he handled the Persian Gulf War: with a large coalition and carefully defined objectives.

Obama began a six-day bus tour through Pennsylvania, the largest remaining primary prize in the contest with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Sen. John McCain is the Republican nominee-in-waiting.

"The truth is that my foreign policy is actually a return to the traditional bipartisan realistic policy of George Bush's father, of John F. Kennedy, of, in some ways, Ronald Reagan, and it is George Bush that's been naive and it's people like John McCain and, unfortunately, some Democrats that have facilitated him acting in these naive ways that have caused us so much damage in our reputation around the world," he said.

Obama faced criticism in January from Clinton and then-challenger John Edwards for saying Reagan had changed the trajectory of American politics - and that Republicans had been the party of ideas for the last decade or more.

In one of the more heated moments of the Democratic debates, Clinton challenged him directly on the topic, saying those GOP ideas were "bad for America, and I was fighting against those ideas."

In his speech Friday night, the Illinois senator charged that Clinton, for all her criticism of the current President Bush, has too often gone along with his decisions.

"I do think that Sen. Clinton would understand that George Bush's policies have failed, but in many ways she has been captive to the same politics that led her to vote for authorizing the war in Iraq," he said. "Since 9/11 the conventional wisdom has been that you've got to look tough on foreign policy by voting and acting like the Republicans, and I disagree with that."

His views on other issues can also be considered typical politician-speak. Obama is an honorable man but being part of a corrupt two-party system forces even the best of the best to compromise their principles:
No sooner had we issued Elizabeth Green's dispatch under the headline "Obama Open to Private School Vouchers" than his campaign was scrambling to undo the potential damage with the Democratic primary electorate. On February 20, his campaign issued a statement headlined, "Response to Misleading Reports Concerning Senator Obama's Position on Vouchers" that said, "Senator Obama has always been a critic of vouchers." The statement went on, "Throughout his career, he has voted against voucher proposals and voiced concern for siphoning off resources from our public schools." It noted that Mr. Obama's education agenda "does not include vouchers, in any shape or form."

Clarifying statement aside, there is no taking away what Mr. Obama actually said in the interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentininal that was the subject of Ms. Green's dispatch. "If there was any argument for vouchers, it was 'Alright, let's see if this experiment works,' and if it does, then whatever my preconceptions, my attitude is you do what works for the kids," the senator said. "I will not allow my predispositions to stand in the way of making sure that our kids can learn. We're losing several generations of kids and something has to be done."

Parents of schoolchildren, in sharp contradistinction to teachers' unions, will prefer Senator Obama's initial statement to the clarification issued by his campaign. The initial statement was change you can believe in. The follow-up message was the same old interest-group Democratic Party politics as usual. It was plainly designed to assuage the teachers' unions, who are the enemies of change. If Mr. Obama really gets into the education issue, he is going to realize that no position that includes accountability for schools or teachers is going to satisfy that interest group.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

British Filmmakers Expose Terrible Oppression in Tibet

The truth is coming out. Will the world listen:

British filmmakers have emerged from three months undercover in Tibet to release a terrifying portrayal of Chinese repression, including shootings, torture and the brutal sterilisation of women left maimed by crude operations.

Their film, to be shown tomorrow night as part of Channel 4's Dispatches series, was made before the recent outbreak of anti-Chinese rioting in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

But with hundreds of jailed Tibetan protesters now in fear for their lives, the harrowing footage will add to the storm of condemnation gathering ahead of the Beijing Olympics this year.

The documentary's investigation began with the notorious 2006 shootings on the Nangpa La pass, when unarmed Tibetans trying to leave the country were gunned down by Chinese border guards.

Two Tibetans were killed and 32 detained, interrogated and then sent to a labour camp 150 miles from Lhasa.

The experiences of one of those held, Jamyang Samten, now 16, gives a clue to the fate of Tibetan protesters now in the hands of the Chinese police.

He told the programme makers he was given electric shocks with a cattle prod, chained to a wall and hit in the stomach by a guard wearing a metal glove.

If he made a minor mistake in his interrogation, he would be beaten with a chain.

"The way the Chinese tortured was terrifying," he said.

"They beat us using their full strength. Sometimes they forced us to take off our clothes. We were locked up in a room with our arms and legs handcuffed and they beat us. The chain injured the surface but not the inside of the body.

"If they hit us with the electric baton, our entire body trembled and gradually we were unable to speak."

At least one major Western politician has shown the decency and courage to take a stand against the brutal oppression of the Tibetans by China:
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, yesterday became the first world leader to decide not to attend the Olympics in Beijing.

As pressure built for concerted western protests to China over the crackdown in Tibet, EU leaders prepared to discuss the crisis for the first time today, amid a rift over whether to boycott the Olympics.

The disclosure that Germany is to stay away from the games' opening ceremonies in August could encourage President Nicolas Sarkozy of France to join in a gesture of defiance and complicate Gordon Brown's determination to attend the Olympics.

Donald Tusk, Poland's prime minister, became the first EU head of government to announce a boycott on Thursday and he was promptly joined by President Václav Klaus of the Czech Republic, who had previously promised to travel to Beijing.

"The presence of politicians at the inauguration of the Olympics seems inappropriate," Tusk said. "I do not intend to take part."

Gov. Rendell Remarks: More Clinton Surrogate Race-Baiting

Once again a Clinton supporter and surrogate makes a racially insensitive remark. This has become standard operating procedure for the Clinton mafia. This is a CNN 360 show transcript:


GOV. ED RENDELL, (D) PA: It wasn't intended to be racial. Anybody who knows my record as governor knows I've been probably the most inclusive governor we've ever had.


COOPER: Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell explaining some of the controversial remarks he made about Barack Obama. Critics have since been calling his words everything from politically motivated to racist, some people have said. The governor isn't quite backing down.

360's Randi Kaye met with him in Philadelphia.

Tonight she's up close with Governor Ed Rendell.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's blunt, brutally honest.

RENDELL: People know I don't B.S. them.

KAYE: And hardly bashful regarding his recent comments about Barack Obama.

RENDELL: The next president of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

KAYE: In a meeting with the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's" editorial board last month, Pennsylvania's Governor Ed Rendell, who has endorsed Hillary Clinton said, "You've got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate." Yes, he went there.

RENDELL: I wasn't trying to influence the campaign, I was in a room with six guys -- I don't think it even had any windows and they asked me to handicap the race.

KAYE (on camera): The governor's remarks sent a chill through Pennsylvania's African-American community. Here in Philadelphia, the head of the NAACP called it callous and insensitive. Others have suggested it was politically motivated, even racist.

RENDELL: It wasn't intended to be racial.

KAYE: You don't regret your comments at all about Barack Obama and white voters.

RENDELL: Do I think there was anything wrong with it? Absolutely not. I told the truth, and we've got to be able to speak the truth about race without someone pointing their finger and saying, you're racist.

KAYE: Rendell calls Obama a formidable candidate who has done a great job of putting the race issue behind him. He blames the media for, his words here, "obsessing about this stuff."

Just five days after the "Post Gazette" published Rendell's comments, it printed a follow up article that seems to defend Rendell.

"Mr. Rendell didn't dump or strategically plant his opinion about race in our paper on behalf of the Clinton campaign. He appeared passive but not indifferent to or malicious about our state's backwardness."

Barack Obama agreed with the governor saying, "I think there will be people who don't vote for me because of race. There will be people who don't vote for me because I got big ears." But Obama didn't let Rendell off the hook. He also said, "Governor Rendell is a savvy politician, and I think he wants to project strength for Senator Clinton."

This is not the first time Governor Rendell injected race into a race. When he ran for governor in 2006, his opponent was former TV host Lynn Swann, an African-American. After his victory, Rendell said he believed the margin would have been closer, had Swann been white. Swann told us he thought Rendell's most recent comments about Obama were a subtle form of racism. If Clinton doesn't win the nomination, Rendell says he will support Obama. He's given him his word.

Iraqi Shiite Militias Kill off The "Surge"

The surge was always dependent upon the self-imposed ceasefire by the Shiite militias. Now they are fighting again and U.S. forces won't be able to stop it. Not only that but the so-called safe haven, Green Zone, is under repeated fire. It is reminiscent of Saigon before the fall to the Communists:

The death toll rose above 130 after days of fighting in Baghdad where U.S. forces have been drawn deeper into an Iraqi government crackdown on militants loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

U.S. forces said they had killed 48 militants in air strikes and gun battles across the capital on Friday.

A top Sadr aide said Sadr's representatives had met Iraq's highest Shi'ite religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in an effort to end the violence. The Sadr aide, Salah al-Ubaidi, said Sistani called for a peaceful solution.

At least 133 bodies and 647 wounded have been brought to five hospitals in the eastern half of Baghdad over the past five days of clashes, the head of the health directorate for eastern Baghdad, Ali Bustan, said on Saturday.

Health workers say hospitals are overflowing and understaffed in the Sadr City slum, a vast stronghold of Sadr's followers, and a ring of Iraqi and U.S. forces around the area makes it impossible to evacuate the wounded.

More than 300 people have been reported killed and many hundreds wounded in the five days of fighting across southern Iraq and Baghdad since Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched a crackdown on Sadr's followers in the southern city of Basra.

In Basra, Mehdi Army fighters controlled the streets, manning checkpoints and openly brandishing rifles, machine guns and rocket launchers.

Of course Bush views the dramatic increase in violence as a good thing. Up is down, in is out. Could he possibly be that deluded:
Washington says the crackdown is a sign the Iraqi government is serious about imposing its will and capable of acting on its own. But government forces have failed to drive Sadr's fighters from the streets.

U.S. forces described a number of gun battles in Baghdad including one in which they said they killed 10 gunmen who attacked a joint U.S.-Iraqi security station. The Americans have used helicopter gunships and artillery.

Mortar bombs and rockets have caused havoc in the capital all week. Strikes on the fortified Green Zone government and diplomatic compound forced the U.S. embassy to order staff to wear helmets and body armor.

A curfew is in place in Baghdad, closing shops, businesses and schools. Residents are confined to their homes in areas where there has been fighting.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Alleged Saddam Spy Says He Met With First Lady Clinton

This story if true could finish off Hillary:

A Michigan man facing federal criminal charges of illegally working for Saddam Hussein's Iraqi Intelligence Service says he met with Hillary Clinton at the White House in May 1996.

In a 1997 interview with this reporter, Muthanna Hanooti said that at the meeting, Mrs. Clinton was "very receptive" to his request for an easing of the American sanctions on Iraq that were in place at the time. He said Mrs. Clinton "passed a message to the State Department" about the need to implement the oil-for-food deal, which was intended to allow Saddam to sell billions of dollars' worth of oil to pay for food for Iraqi citizens.

Back in 1997, a spokesman for the first lady referred inquiries about the meeting to the National Security Council. At the time, a spokesman for the National Security Council, Eric Rubin, responded by saying that President Clinton, not the first lady, sets foreign policy.

Asked whether Senator Clinton recalls the meeting or whether the presidential campaign had any further comment on the meeting in light of Mr. Hanooti's indictment, the Clinton presidential campaign yesterday offered no formal response.

[...]But to reporters on the foreign policy beat in Washington at the time and to those active in the Iraqi opposition to Saddam, it was clear whose agenda was being advanced. The news article in 1997, published in the Forward, that described Mrs. Clinton's involvement with Mr. Hanooti began: "The American-led blockade of Iraq is crumbling, following an intensive, domestic lobbying effort that has involved Rep. David Bonior and Senator Abraham — and, according to some sources, Hillary Rodham Clinton."

More on Hillary's so-called experience:
Hillary Rodham Clinton cites her role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland as one of the top foreign policy credentials of her presidential bid.

Her critics point to an empty, wind-swept Belfast park - which Clinton a decade ago proclaimed would become Northern Ireland's first Catholic-Protestant playground - as evidence that her contribution as peacemaker was more symbolic than substantive.

"She was in charge of christening this wee corner (of the park) as some kind of peace playground. It never made any sense then, and there's nothing there today," said Brian Feeney, a Belfast political analyst, author and teacher. "Everything she did was for the optics."

Critics say the playground-that-never-was illustrates the wider lack of accomplishment from Clinton's half-dozen visits to Northern Ireland - that they emphasized speechmaking, chiefly to women's groups, leaving no lasting mark.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Obama NY Speech on the Economy Transcript 3-27-08

Read the entire transcript of Barack Obama's New York speech on the economy given today. Below is an excerpt of that speech:

But the American experiment has worked in large part because we guided the market's invisible hand with a higher principle. A free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it. That's why we've put in place rules of the road: to make competition fair and open, and honest. We've done this not to stifle but rather to advance prosperity and liberty. As I said at Nasdaq last September, the core of our economic success is the fundamental truth that each American does better when all Americans do better; that the well-being of American business (OOTC:ARBU) , its capital markets and its American people are aligned. I think that all of us here today would acknowledge that we've lost some of that sense of shared prosperity. Now, this loss has not happened by accident. It's because of decisions made in board rooms, on trading floors and in Washington. Under Republican and Democratic administrations, we've failed to guard against practices that all too often rewarded financial manipulation instead of productivity and sound business practice. We let the special interests put their thumbs on the economic scales. The result has been a distorted market that creates bubbles instead of steady, sustainable growth; a market that favors Wall Street over Main Street, but ends up hurting both. Nor is this trend new. The concentrations of economic power and the failures of our political system to protect the American economy and American consumers from its worst excesses have been a staple of our past: most famously in the 1920s, when such excesses ultimately plunged the country into the Great Depression. That is when government stepped in to create a series of regulatory structures, from FDIC to the Glass-Steagall Act, to serve as a corrective, to protect the American people and American business.

John McCain Speech Transcript on Foreign Policy 3-26-08

Read the entire transcript of McCain's speech on foreign policy given yesterday. Here are some excerpts below:

  • I am an idealist, and I believe it is possible in our time to make the world we live in another, better, more peaceful place, where our interests and those of our allies are more secure, and American ideals that are transforming the world, the principles of free people and free markets, advance even farther than they have. But I am, from hard experience and the judgment it informs, a realistic idealist. I know we must work very hard and very creatively to build new foundations for a stable and enduring peace.
  • The developments of science and technology have brought us untold prosperity, eradicated disease, and reduced the suffering of millions. We have a chance in our lifetime to raise the world to a new standard of human existence. Yet these same technologies have produced grave new risks, arming a few zealots with the ability to murder millions of innocents, and producing a global industrialization that can in time threaten our planet.
  • To meet this challenge requires understanding the world we live in, and the central role the United States must play in shaping it for the future. The United States must lead in the 21st century, just as in Truman's day. But leadership today means something different than it did in the years after World War II, when Europe and the other democracies were still recovering from the devastation of war and the United States was the only democratic superpower. Today we are not alone. There is the powerful collective voice of the European Union, and there are the great nations of India and Japan, Australia and Brazil, South Korea and South Africa, Turkey and Israel, to name just a few of the leading democracies. There are also the increasingly powerful nations of China and Russia that wield great influence in the international system.
  • America must be a model citizen if we want others to look to us as a model. How we behave at home affects how we are perceived abroad. We must fight the terrorists and at the same time defend the rights that are the foundation of our society. We can't torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured. I believe we should close Guantanamo and work with our allies to forge a new international understanding on the disposition of dangerous detainees under our control.
  • Relations with our southern neighbors must be governed by mutual respect, not by an imperial impulse or by anti-American demagoguery. The promise of North, Central, and South American life is too great for that. I believe the Americas can and must be the model for a new 21st century relationship between North and South. Ours can be the first completely democratic hemisphere, where trade is free across all borders, where the rule of law and the power of free markets advance the security and prosperity of all.
  • China and the United States are not destined to be adversaries. We have numerous overlapping interests and hope to see our relationship evolve in a manner that benefits both countries and, in turn, the Asia-Pacific region and the world. But until China moves toward political liberalization, our relationship will be based on periodically shared interests rather than the bedrock of shared values.
  • We learned through the tragic experience of September 11 that passive defense alone cannot protect us. We must protect our borders. But we must also have an aggressive strategy of confronting and rooting out the terrorists wherever they seek to operate, and deny them bases in failed or failing states. Today al Qaeda and other terrorist networks operate across the globe, seeking out opportunities in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa, and in the Middle East.

Hillary Clinton's Positive Ratings Hit New Low

How can you argue that you will win in the Fall if your positive ratings keep dropping? That is the case with Hillary Clinton. All her lies and attacks on Obama are guaranteeing she will not win against John McCain in a general election:

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's positive rating has dropped to a new low of 37 percent in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released on Wednesday.

According to the poll, the New York senator's positive rating slid 8 percentage points in two weeks and she had a negative rating of 48 percent in a week where she admitted making a mistake in claiming she had come under sniper fire during a 1996 trip to Bosnia.

Clinton's Democratic rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, also saw a slight dip in his positive rating, to 49 percent from 51 percent, the poll found.

[...]The survey was taken after Obama gave a speech last week on race in America and rejected racially charged remarks by his pastor in Chicago of two decades, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

NBC said 32 percent of respondents said Obama "sufficiently addressed the issue" and 26 percent said he needed to say more about the Wright controversy.

More than half of those surveyed -- 55 percent -- said they were "disturbed" by the videos of Wright that were widely circulated on television and the Internet, the poll found.

In head-to-head matchups, Obama and Clinton were even at 45 percent. In general election matchups, Obama led McCain by 44 percent to 42 percent and McCain led Clinton by 46 percent to 44 percent.

When asked which candidate could unite the country if elected, 60 percent said Obama, 58 percent said McCain and 46 percent said Clinton.

I wonder if those numbers have anything to do with her habit of lying, like her husband:
This is the woman who insisted for more than a decade that she was named after the late, great mountain-climber Sir Edmund Hillary — never mind that she was born six years before he scaled Mt.
Everest in 1953.

This is the woman who told "Dateline NBC" that daughter Chelsea was on a jog in New York City when the jihadists struck on 9/11 — never mind that Chelsea later wrote a magazine essay revealing that she watched the attacks on television from a friend's apartment.

This is the woman who claimed to have "helped start" the federal Children's Health Insurance Program — never mind that the program's original sponsors noted that Sen. Clinton fought the initial bill and had no role in writing the legislation.

This is the woman (echoed by her husband and daughter) who bragged that she was the "first" to call the disaster in Darfur "genocide" — never mind that several other senators had done so in 2004, while her first press statement referring to Darfur as "genocide" wasn't until March 2006.

This is the woman who claimed to have organized "instrumental" meetings in Belfast and baldly asserted that she "helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland" — never mind that key negotiators dismissed her as "totally invisible," "cheerleading" and "a wee bit silly."

So Hillary and her supporters have now taken to lashing out against the Speaker of the House for looking out for the Democratic Party--unlike Ms.Clinton:
Top fundraisers for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign upbraided House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) yesterday for suggesting that Democratic superdelegates should back the candidate with the most pledged delegates and urged her to respect the right of those delegates to back whomever they choose at the end of the primary season.

The criticism represented the latest effort by Clinton's campaign and its allies to beat back talk that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has amassed enough of a lead in pledged delegates that she will not be able to overtake him, and arguments that a continuation of the conflict between the two candidates will hurt the party in November.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Selling out of America: U.S. Passports Outsourced

Here is the transcript of a CNN Situation Room's report on the outsourcing of U.S. passports. This the latest outrage by a government that is participating in the selling out of our country:

They're designed to deter terrorists and keep America's borders secure -- U.S. passports embedded with brand new high tech computer chips. But several foreign companies have a -- now have a hand in making them and this outsourcing, meant to actually save money, is raising new concerns about your security.

Let's go to CNN's our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee. She's been looking into this story.

It's raising a lot of eyebrows, a lot of concerns -- Zain, what are you learning?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there are fears that the high tech push on passports could mean lower security standards.


VERJEE (voice-over): Your passport used to be made in America, but because of 9/11, all passports now must be fitted with electronic chips -- harder for terrorists to fake. Turns out, though, that in trying to make passports more secure, the U.S. is outsourcing the job to foreign companies.

MICHAEL CUTLER, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: It's another reason not to sleep tonight. VERJEE: Security experts fear blank chips could be stolen or tampered with.

CUTLER: If bad guys got a hold of those blanks and then properly filled them out and processed them and you had corruption involved, then what you really have are the keys to the kingdom sitting in a foreign country.

VERJEE: The Government Printing Office says U.S. companies don't have the state-of-the-art technology, so it gets European companies to make computer chips, in Singapore and Taipei, that are then sent to Thailand and inserted into passport covers, along with a wireless antenna. Those blank covers and blank chips go back to the U.S., where your data and photo are added.

Congress is sounding alarm bells. In a letter to the GPO inspector general, Congressman John Dingell is demanding to know whether that poses "... a significant national security threat and raises questions about the integrity of the entire e-passport program." SmartTrac, the Dutch-based company producing U.S. passports in Thailand says its facility is secure and built according to U.S. standards and each passport chip is tracked.

In a statement, the GPO says, "The materials are moved via a secure transportation means, including armored vehicles."

The State Department says there's no reason to be concerned.

PATRICK KENNEDY, UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE: When they arrive in the United States, all you have in front of you is a blue piece of plastic that is the standard size of anyone's passport in the entire world and a chip that has nothing on it and it could be the same equivalent as a CD-ROM that you could buy, as I said, anywhere.


VERJEE: Just a short while ago, CNN obtained a statement from Benny Thompson, the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, who calls outsourcing passports just plain irresponsible, saying that his committee is going to look into whether U.S. technologies are just being overlooked -- Wolf.

BLITZER: One quick question I'm sure a lot of our viewers jump out -- and you referred to it in your piece, Zain. You mean to say there's no company in the United States of America that can manufacture a passport complete with the new high tech chip?

VERJEE: That's what the State Department, as well as the GPO, told us. What we learned also, Wolf, was SmartTrac -- that's that Dutch company in Thailand -- is saying that it's going to build a new production facility here in the U.S., in Minnesota.

They're saying that it should be up and running by the summer. But of course there's a lot of outrage about this, many saying U.S. companies should have this kind of technology and this is something that the Committee on Homeland Security is going to be looking into. BLITZER: Pretty shocking. It's hard to believe that there's no company in the United States who can do this.

Hillary Clinton is Really Under Fire Now

Hillary lied about being in danger while visiting Bosnia. But she's really under fire now. The Clintons just can't stop lying:

Hillary Clinton has finally admitted that she "misspoke" when claiming that she came "under sniper fire" in Bosnia during a March 1996 visit to U.S. troops enforcing the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement. At first, the Clinton campaign maintained that the "misstatement" was limited to one occasion on March 17 when she talked about running across the tarmac "with our heads down." In an interview yesterday with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the senator from New York attributed the mistake to her "sleep-deprived" condition.

A review of the record shows that she provided embellished stories of her visit to Bosnia on at least two previous occasions, while campaigning in Iowa in December and in Texas in February. By the end of the day, Clinton was making a joke of her ordeal: "I made a mistake. That happens. It proves I'm human, which, you know, for some people is a revelation."


While Bosnia may have still been considered a "potential war zone" in March 1996, there were no open hostilities. NATO troops were patrolling the area in force, engaged in tasks such as clearing mines and blowing up old ammunition dumps. According to Adrian Pandurevic of Associated Press TV, "there were no armed groups roaming Bosnia, or any significant threat," and "the former front lines had been bulldozed." He described claims of "sniper fire" in and around the Tuzla air base as "simply ridiculous."

Quick, change the subject. By the way, why didn't you leave Bill Clinton when he was cheating on you all these years. Don't you and Bill have a loveless, cynical arrangement:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday said she would have left church had her pastor talked about the United States the way rival Sen. Barack Obama's did.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton shot back: "It's disappointing to see Hillary Clinton's campaign sink to this low in a transparent effort to distract attention [from the Bosnia flap]."

Even Conservatives, like David Brooks, are calling for Hillary to step down before she harms the chances of Democrats winning the White House in the fall:
Hillary Clinton may not realize it yet, but she's just endured one of the worst weeks of her campaign.
First, Barack Obama weathered the Rev. Jeremiah Wright affair without serious damage to his nomination prospects. Obama still holds a tiny lead among Democrats nationally in the Gallup tracking poll, just as he did before this whole affair blew up.
Second, Obama's lawyers successfully prevented re-votes in Florida and Michigan. That means it would be virtually impossible for Clinton to take a lead in either elected delegates or total primary votes.
Third, as Noam Scheiber of The New Republic has reported, most superdelegates have accepted Nancy Pelosi's judgment that the winner of the elected delegates should get the nomination. Instead of lining up behind Clinton, they're drifting away. Her lead among them has shrunk by about 60 in the past month, according to Avi Zenilman of

In short, Hillary Clinton's presidential prospects continue to dim. The door is closing. Night is coming. The end, however, is not near.

Last week, an important Clinton adviser told Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen (also of Politico) that Clinton had no more than a 10 percent chance of getting the nomination. Now, she's probably down to a 5 percent chance. Five percent.
Let's take a look at what she's going to put her partythrough for the sake of that 5 percent chance: The Democratic Party is probably going to have to endure another three months of daily sniping. For another three months, we'll have the Carvilles likening the Obamaites to Judas and former generals accusing Clintonites of McCarthyism. For three months, we'll have the daily round of resume padding and sulfurous conference calls. We'll have campaign aides blurting ''blue dress'' and only-because-he's-black references as they let slip their private contempt.

There could be a movement in the works by the Democratic hierarchy to end the campaign and chose a nominee before the convention:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says the Democratic presidential nomination will be decided before the August convention.

“It will be done,” Reid said of the ongoing nomination battle in an interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal last week.

As the intense fight between Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) heads into the spring, some party insiders are nervous the protracted battle will help Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Billionaire Zuckerman: We are Headed for a Deep Recession

Mort Zuckerman is a real estate mogul and publisher. So he knows a little bit about the economy. He describes a very serious state of the economy. We need to worry. This is going to affect you.

Tibet Unrest Continues Despite China Crackdown

The press is starting ignore the Tibet resistance because of the lack of videos. That doesn't mean that the Chinese military have squashed the rebellion:

A mob wielding stones and knives killed a police officer in a Tibetan part of Western China, state media said on Tuesday, a sign of ongoing unrest despite a massive influx of police and troops.

The latest news of unrest comes after protesters seeking to put pressure on China tried to disrupt the Beijing Olympic torch lighting ceremony in Greece.

In Tibet's capital Lhasa, meanwhile, 13 people were arrested for a monk-led protest on March 10, the first announcement of consequences for those involved in that largely peaceful march.

The march came on the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese Communist rule, days before rioting and looting that authorities say killed at least 19 people shook Lhasa.

China's assertion that protests have since faded after a massive influx of troops across Tibet and nearby areas was shaken when state media announced the death of the police officer in a fresh riot.

The Chinese rulers know that the key to making this problem go away is limiting the international press' access to the unrest in Tibet. If isn't reported then it isn't happening:
China will allow over 10 foreign reporters to visit Lhasa from Wednesday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday, after facing international pressure to give the media access to the area hit by deadly rioting earlier this month.

"During their stay in Lhasa, the sponsoring authority will arrange visits to areas that were struck by rioters' destruction and interviews with concerned parties and victims," Qin Gang said at a regular press conference.

Foreign governments have pressed China to give foreign media access to Tibet, after it was struck by violence earlier this month.

China had so far not allowed foreign reporters to visit Tibet to report on the riots, citing physical danger as one of the reasons. International journalists who had been in Tibet at the time had left at the insistence of the Chinese authorities.

When asked about the reason behind the limited number of reporters to be allowed on the trip to Tibet and the standard of their selection, Qin only said, "We cannot satisfy every single media and reporters' wishes."

The protesters know that they must keep up their disrupting of the Olympic festivities in order keep their cause in the minds of the world. The Olympics are a big deal for the Chinese. If pro-Tibetan activists disrupt the torch relay it will be an embarrassment to the Chinese authorities:
The prospect of demonstrations throughout the 85,000-mile Olympic torch relay route leading to the Beijing games loomed Tuesday, a day after protesters of China's human rights policies disrupted the solemn flame-lighting ceremony.

Forecasts of clouds and rain had been considered the main threat to the pomp-filled torch-lighting. But it was the protesters who turned the joyful bow to the Olympics' roots into a political statement about China's crackdown in Tibet and other rights issues.

Three men advocating press freedom evaded massive security and ran onto the field at the ceremony in Ancient Olympia before they were seized by police. Minutes later, a Tibetan woman covered in fake blood briefly blocked the path of the torch relay.

[...] Protests are bound to follow the torch throughout its 136-day route across five continents and 20 countries. China pledged strict security measures to ensure its segment of the relay won't be marred by protests.

Tibetan activists have already said they plan to demonstrate elsewhere on the route.

"Later we will do protests in London and Paris," said Tenzin Dorjee, a member of Students for a Free Tibet who protested in Ancient Olympia.

Protests of China's rule turned violent March 14 in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, sparking waves of unrest in surrounding provinces. China reported a death toll of 22 from the violence, but Tibet's exiled government says about 140 Tibetans were killed. Nineteen died in subsequent violence in Gansu province, it said.

A rising chorus of international criticism and floated calls for a boycott have unnerved the Chinese leadership, which has turned up efforts to put its own version of the unrest before the international public. China has blamed the riots on followers of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.

Cease-fire in Iraq Unravels as Death Toll Mounts

Chaos is returning to Iraq:

A cease-fire critical to the improved security situation in Iraq appeared to unravel Monday when a militia loyal to radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr began shutting down neighborhoods in west Baghdad and issuing demands of the central government.

Simultaneously, in the strategic southern port city of Basra, where Sadr's Mahdi militia is in control, the Iraqi government launched a crackdown in the face of warnings by Sadr's followers that they'll fight government forces if any Sadrists are detained. By 1 a.m. Arab satellite news channels reported clashes between the Mahdi Army and police in Basra.

The freeze on offensive activity by Sadr's Mahdi Army has been a major factor behind the recent drop in violence in Iraq , and there were fears that the confrontation that's erupted in Baghdad and Basra could end the lull in attacks, assassinations, kidnappings and bombings.

[...]On Sunday, a barrage of at least 17 rockets hit the heavily fortified Green Zone and surrounding neighborhoods, where both the U.S. and Iraqi government headquarters are housed, according to police. Most of them were launched from the outskirts of Sadr City and Bayaa, both Mahdi Army-controlled neighborhoods.

On Monday, the Sadrists all but shut down the neighborhoods they control on the west bank of Baghdad . Gunmen went to stores and ordered them to close as militiamen stood in the streets. Mosques used their loudspeakers to urge people to come forward and join the protest.

Fliers were distributed with the Sadrists' three demands of the Iraqi government: to release detainees, stop targeting Sadrist members and apologize to the families and the tribal sheiks of the men.

The Iraqi security forces issued a statement promising to deal with those who terrorized shopkeepers and students.

[...]As the troop presence has shifted, so has the violence. For the first time since January, a majority of U.S. troops were killed in Baghdad , not in outlying northern provinces. Indeed, the U.S. military reached the death of its 4,000th soldier in Iraq on Sunday, when four U.S. soldiers were killed in southern Baghdad .

So far, this month, 27 soldiers have been killed in Iraq . Of those, 16, or 59 percent, died in Baghdad . In January, 25 percent of U.S. deaths happened in Baghdad , or 10 of 40.

Civilian casualties in Baghdad are also on the rise, according to a McClatchy count. After a record low through November, when at least 76 people were killed and 306 were injured, the deaths began to rise. In December, it crept up to 88 people killed, in January 100 and in February 172. As of March 24 , at least 149 people were killed and 448 were injured.

Monday, March 24, 2008

4,000 Dead in Iraq, No Closer to Victory

Are we closer to victory? We are being told we are. But things could be returning to the bad ole days:

Tensions are simmering again in once bloody Anbar province, Washington's prize good news story for security in Iraq.

Along the main road through Anbar's second city of Falluja, a former insurgent stronghold and scene of fierce battles with U.S. forces in 2004, markets and car workshops are re-opening for business.

But many say that growing anger at a lack of jobs, basic services and political progress threatens to shatter peace in the western province, which makes up about a third of Iraq.

"The situation till now is still not certain in Anbar, and the peace is only relative to before. Calm always comes before a storm," Sunni tribal leader Sheikh Yaseen al-Badrani said.

The U.S. military said in January it could transfer security responsibility for Anbar to Iraqi forces as early as this month, but now it is more cautious.

In an interview with Reuters, Major-General John Kelly, commander of U.S. forces in Anbar, would give no time-frame, saying only that the handover would take place soon.

Sunni tribal leaders, credited with cutting violence in Anbar by ordering their men to turn on Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, are growing increasingly impatient with politicians.

"We thought that when security was established in Anbar, then the situation would turn to development and reconstruction, but we're surprised to see neglect from the government," said Kamal Nouri, a member of Anbar's tribal council.

The Sunni tribal leaders' thousands of followers, who once formed the backbone of a Sunni Arab insurgency against U.S. and Iraqi forces, are demanding to be drafted into Iraq's army and police force, or given other decent jobs.

"Where is the prime minister? Does he know what we have to do to earn a living to feed our families? Call this a job? The government has failed," said Salam Faraj, a petrol pump worker.

[...]Crucial to the turnaround in security in Anbar are the 4,000 members of the Awakening Councils, or Sahwa, a mostly Sunni movement dedicated to fighting al Qaeda. Many members were former insurgents.

The councils are headed by tribal leaders, who started the now nationwide movement in Anbar province because they were disgusted by al Qaeda's indiscriminate attacks and harsh interpretation of Islam.

At a police graduation ceremony in Falluja, trainers in close contact with the Sahwa said they were battling to keep the men at their posts.

The U.S. military pays Sahwa members $300 a month to patrol their neighbourhoods and man checkpoints. Many want to join the army and police, where the pay is better.

"If the Sahwa is not included in the security forces, there will be tensions. They fought the terrorists with us, and many of them were killed," police trainer Ahmed Marthy said.

"Some have quit, but we keep asking them to wait ... if this continues, we're really afraid tragedies will return," he added.

And if you think a McCain presidency would bring us victory just read this article:
Last week we finally got a clue as to why John McCain has been slavishly supporting the Bush administration policy on Iraq for all these years: He doesn't have a clue what it is.

That became obvious during a press conference in Jordan Tues day. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who had just come from Iraq, stated that "Al Qaeda is going back into Iran and is receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran."

This prompted his fellow senator and fellow neoconservative Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to whisper something in his ear. McCain promptly corrected himself. But the damage was done, forcing him to issue this elaboration later in the week.

"I corrected my comment immediately. To think that I would have some lack of knowledge about Sunni and Shiite after my eighth visit and my deep involvement in this issue is a bit ludicrous."

Ludicrous? No, It's true. What McCain's critics failed to note was that this gaffe fit within a pattern of gaffes that show not just a lack of knowledge but astounding ignorance. Consider this comment a few weeks earlier about al Qaeda's prospects in Iraq in the event of an American withdrawal: "My friends, if we left, they wouldn't be establishing a base," McCain said. "They'd be taking a country."

No, they wouldn't. The Sunni radical group al Qaeda is a minority within a minority in Shi'a-dominated Iraq. The real threat is from such radical groups as the Iranian- based Dawa Party and from that other Iranian-born group that until recently called itself the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

But we don't have to worry about Dawa and SCIRI taking over after we leave. They already run Iraq. The real tragedy of the Iraq War is that Iraq is now firmly in the hands of Iranian-allied Shi'a groups and will remain so no matter what we do.

China Jails man who Urged Rights over Olympics

Yang Chunlin will be forgotten eventhough he is a hero. He put his life in jeopardy in the interest of basic civil and human rights. Tragically the world will ignore his message in favor of the lure of China's Olympic propaganda show. We're even ignoring the fact that this country's economic leadership is poisoning the world's goods, massacring the freedom seekers in Tibet, and jailing people just expressing their sincere views, like with Chunlin. We must follow his example by boycotting the Chinese Olympic games this summer. Just as we should have boycotted the 1936 Berlin Olympic games:

Chinese dissident Yang Chunlin, who called for human rights to take precedence over the Olympic Games, has been sentenced to five years in jail on charges of inciting subversion, his family and lawyer said on Monday.

The unemployed factory worker from the northeastern city of Jiamusi in Heilongjiang province went on trial in February after he helped nearby villagers issue a petition about disputed land last year that declared: "We don't want the Olympics, we want human rights."

Yang's sister, Yang Chunping, said on Monday the reason he was jailed was because of essays he posted online that were critical of China's parliament, the ruling Communist Party and Communism in general.

"He said he's not guilty, and he was just exercising his freedom of speech and publication. But because courts lack legitimacy he said there was no use in appealing," she said.

Lawyer Li Fangping confirmed the sentence but said Yang Chunlin maintained his innocence.

"He believes that he's innocent," Li said. "After the official verdict is given to us, he'll have 10 days to decide what to do. So, we hope we can sit down with him so he can make a serious decision whether to appeal or not."

The petition touched a nerve in the Communist-run country that has been going all out to prepare for the Games. China's leadership is hoping the Games, which start in Beijing on August 8 will showcase the country's economic prosperity and social unity.

Prosecutors had said the petition stained China's international image and amounted to subversion.

Already some have taken the lead. Show the world that some of us haven't been bought off:
Rights activists and Tibetan protesters breached tight security to staged anti-Chinese demonstrations Monday at the lighting of the Olympic flame for the Beijing Games.

Three members of the Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reports Without Borders -- RSF) group unfurled a flag calling for a boycott of the Beijing Games during the ceremony.

Afterwards, about 10 Tibetan activists covered in red paint to simulate blood marched out of a hotel in Olympia and lay in the town's main street, shouting slogans against Chinese rule in Tibet.

Police detained the three RSF members, including its chief Robert Menard, and some of the Tibetan activists.

Menard and two other members of RSF staged their protest as the chief Chinese Olympics organiser, Liu Qi, made a speech before the flame was lit at the ancient Greek temple of Olympia.

One man unfurled a flag declaring "Boycott the country that tramples on human rights." Another tried to grab the microphone from Liu and shouted "freedom, freedom" at the official stand where International Olympic Committee chairman Jacques Rogge and other dignitaries were sat.

Security officers quickly dragged all three away.

"I think it's always sad when there are protests, but they were not violent and that's the most important thing," Rogge told reporters after the incident.

Greek police had imposed heavy security around the site, which included armed police watching down from nearby hills. Chinese intelligence was also involved in the security operation.

Several thousand people were at the ceremony but all were meant to have special accreditation.

Greek and Chinese state television quickly cut their live broadcasts to an image away from the protesters when the incident started.

RSF has made calls for international heads of state to boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games on August 8.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Turnaround For Obama In Gallup Tracking Poll

The storm is over. Once again Obama bounces back from negative publicity and attacks. I wonder if the superdelegates are noticing:

After being as much as 7 points behind Hillary Clinton earlier in the week, Barack Obama has now edged past her, 48 percent to 45 percent, according to today's Gallup daily tracking poll conducted March 19-21. Although the difference matches the 3 percent margin of error, today's result does mark a turnaround from Obama who had been hurt in recent weeks by questions about his experience and the controversy over his ex-pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Gallup said: "Obama's campaign clearly suffered in recent days from negative press, mostly centering around his association with the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Perhaps as a result, Clinton moved into the lead in Gallup's Wednesday release, covering March 16-18 polling. But Obama has now edged back ahead of Clinton due to a strong showing for him in Friday night's polling, perhaps in response to the endorsement he received from well-respected New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a former rival for the nomination."

In its general election match-ups, Gallup said both Democrats inched closer to McCain in its March 17-21 polling, with McCain ahead of Obama by 46 percent to 44 percent and Obama by 47 percent to 45 percent. The margin of error is 2 points.

If Hillary can't win her home State, she doesn't have a chance at becoming President. The superdelegates might want to look at that as well:
Hillary Clinton trails John McCain in a general election match-up in her home state of Arkansas and Barack Obama is not even close, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll conducted March 18. McCain leads Clinton 50 percent to 43 percent and Obama by 59 percent to 30 percent. The margin of error is 4.5 percent. McCain far outpaces Clinton in favorability ratings, among voters by 66 percent to 50 percent. The economy is regarded as the top issue, with 48 percent of voters citing it, and among them, just 14 percent rate the economy good or excellent.

Rasmussen yesterday released a poll on Georgia conducted March 20 showing McCain leading Obama 53 percent to 40 percent and Clinton 54 percent to 34 percent. Georgia voters also named the economy as the most important issue (45 percent) and only 15 percent said the economy was good or excellent.

Nationally, the number of Americans who rate the economy good or excellent stands at 17 percent, according to today's Gallup daiy tracking poll.

Despite a bad week for Obama it could've been worse:
Barack Obama refers to the past couple of weeks as a tough, turbulent stretch.

And why not?

His foreign policy adviser quit for calling Democratic presidential rival Hillary Rodham Clinton a "monster." Then he had to distance himself from his longtime pastor's fiery statements, a controversy that threatened his image as a uniter. He trails in polls in the upcoming Pennsylvania primary. Obama also watched his lead wither in national opinion surveys.

"There's no doubt we had a turbulent couple of weeks but we've had turbulent weeks in the past," Obama told reporters Friday. "... It's not going to be a smooth straight line. There's times when the campaign is going well and there's times the campaign is not going well."

But as bad weeks go, things certainly could have been worse.

Obama received generally favorable reviews for his somber speech on the nation's racial divide, though it didn't completely silence the criticism over his former pastor's rhetoric. Then Florida and Michigan indicated they would not hold new primaries to replace the contests that favored Clinton but violated party rules. Campaign finance reports showed him far ahead in the money race. And finally, he picked up the much sought-after endorsement of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson — one Clinton also had coveted.

Most importantly, as the Illinois senator prepares to takes a break from campaigning for a brief family vacation, he retains a nearly insurmountable lead in pledged delegates and is winning the nationwide popular vote.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Obama Adviser Faults Bill Clinton Speech

The latest Clinton tactic is to paint Obama as unpatriotic. The reality is that they are no more unpatriotic people than the Clintons:

Former President Clinton is using divisive tactics and unfairly trying to question Barack Obama's patriotism, a retired general who has a prominent role in the Democrat's campaign said Saturday.

Merrill "Tony" McPeak said he was astonished and disappointed by recent comments Bill Clinton made while speculating about a general election between Obama's Democratic rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Republican John McCain.

Standing next to Obama on stage at a campaign stop in southern Oregon, the retired Air Force chief of staff repeated Bill Clinton's comments aloud to a silent audience.

The former president told a group of veterans Friday in Charlotte, N.C.: "I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country. And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics."

McPeak, a co-chairman of Obama's campaign, then said to his Oregon audience: "As one who for 37 years proudly wore the uniform of our country, I'm saddened to see a president employ these tactics. He of all people should know better because he was the target of exactly the same kind of tactics."

That apparently was a reference to Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, when he was accused of dodging the Vietnam War draft.

For his part, Obama is right to question the truthfulness of an opponent that lies like she breathes:
Barack Obama's campaign, on the defensive for the past week, yesterday launched its most pointed assault yet on the character of rival Hillary Clinton, accusing her of routinely misleading voters for political gain.
more stories like this

Obama's campaign, in a memo and conference call with reporters, asserted that Clinton had been untruthful about her foreign policy resume, her position on the North American Free Trade Agreement, her involvement in the 1993 passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, and her views on the renegade primaries in Michigan and Florida.

Clinton's campaign responded swiftly that Obama was in "political hot water given the news stories of the last few weeks and is desperate to change the subject." The Illinois senator has been dogged in recent days by his long association with a controversial Chicago pastor and tried to defuse the issue with a widely viewed speech Tuesday on race relations.

Obama's attack, the latest salvo in the two senators' increasingly acrimonious nomination fight, rounded up a number of earlier criticisms into a broad critique of Clinton's trustworthiness and her prospects in the fall against Senator John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee.

"The American people are simply not going to elect someone they think is not being honest and trustworthy," said Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, pointing to what he called a "character gap" revealed in a new Gallup poll, which found that 53 percent of voters do not perceive Clinton as "honest and trustworthy," while more than 60 percent believe both Obama and McCain are.

"She would be a deeply flawed nominee," Plouffe said.

Paul Krugman: Partying Like It’s 1929

Paul Krugman is an economist. He also knows his history and what happens when you ignore it. I know my history. But America has forgotten. Just as we forgot about Vietnam, and are repeating the same mistake in Iraq, so are we repeating the mistakes of the 1920s:

But what we should be asking is: How did we get here?

Why does the financial system need salvation?

Why do mild-mannered economists have to become superheroes?

The answer, at a fundamental level, is that we’re paying the price for willful amnesia. We chose to forget what happened in the 1930s — and having refused to learn from history, we’re repeating it.

Contrary to popular belief, the stock market crash of 1929 wasn’t the defining moment of the Great Depression. What turned an ordinary recession into a civilization-threatening slump was the wave of bank runs that swept across America in 1930 and 1931.

This banking crisis of the 1930s showed that unregulated, unsupervised financial markets can all too easily suffer catastrophic failure.

As the decades passed, however, that lesson was forgotten — and now we’re relearning it, the hard way.

But the root of the problem is debt. We are drowning in debt. For a long time that debt was profitable for the lenders. But the free ride is over. An economic system that runs on debt is one headed for disaster. We have a disaster on our hands:
If the subprime mortgage mess has taught us anything, it is that we are leverage addicts. Nearly all of us are -- from Northern Virginia, where we bought big houses with no money down, to Wall Street, where traders borrowed cash to make bigger bets on the housing market.

Seeing Zero Percent Interest Until Next Year! on envelopes causes us to tear them open, find the Web address, enter some information and send new credit cards hurtling toward our mailboxes. Financing cars for three years is so passe; we finance them for six or seven. And now we buy -- or used to buy -- houses with pick-your-payment mortgages. We are leveraged from here to China. U.S. consumers spend more than 14 percent of their after-tax income just to stay current on household debt.

The question worth asking now is: Why do we love leverage so much that it hurts?

The simple answer, according to personal finance experts, is that we want more -- more money, more house, more car, just more, more, more. We often think we deserve more. Leverage gets us more. With historically low interest rates, leverage is the easiest and quickest tool to get more stuff.

The problem is that too much leverage has a downside that is easy to overlook. When everyone else is using leverage so successfully to get more, do we wonder what will happen if interest rates go up? Not so much.

Cheney, Saudis Discuss Oil, Security

You can bet that none of those discussions have anything to do with anything that is good for the American people. More like keeping oil prices high and starting more wars:

Vice President Dick Cheney wrapped up his visit to Saudi Arabia on Saturday after private talks with King Abdullah on stabilizing the volatile energy market.

It was not immediately clear whether Cheney asked the Saudi leader to increase oil production to hold down rising gasoline prices.

Cheney spent a little more than an hour in discussions Friday with the king at his horse farm on the outskirts of Riyadh. The vice president also spent one-half hour with the petroleum minister before a 3 1/2 hour dinner with the king. They discussed Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Mideast peace process and the energy markets.

Later Saturday, Cheney planned to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem. The vice president's schedule for Easter Sunday included a church service and talks in the West Bank with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Democrats Call for HUD Chief's Resignation

This has to be the most corrupt department in the White House. Stories of pervasive corruption in HUD has gone back to the Reagan days. Time to abolish this agency:

Two Democratic senators said Friday that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson, buffeted by allegations of cronyism and favoritism, should resign.

Sens. Patty Murray of Washington state and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut said that Jackson's problems represented a "worsening distraction" at HUD at a time when the nation needs a credible housing secretary who is beyond suspicion.

"It is time for Secretary Jackson to go," Murray said.

Murray chairs a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on housing, while Dodd is chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. The pair sent a letter to President Bush urging him to request Jackson's resignation.

Jackson has refused to answer questions about his role in a Philadelphia redevelopment deal. The city's housing authority has filed a lawsuit charging that Jackson tried to punish the agency for nixing a deal involving music-producer-turned-developer Kenny Gamble, a friend of Jackson.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Barack Obama Larry King Interview Transcript 3-20-08

Read the entire Larry King transcript of Obama's interview yesterday:

KING: All right, let's get first to the news of the day. Michigan apparently is not going to recount its already-held primary. Florida apparently is not going to do it. What's your solution to this?

OBAMA: Well, you know, we're going to abide by whatever rules the Democratic National Committee puts forward, as we've done from the start. You know, we were told it wasn't going to count and so we didn't campaign there. In fact, my name wasn't on the ballot in Michigan.

But I think it's important to make sure that the people of Michigan, the people of Florida, that their delegates are seated. And so, you know, we're committed to making sure that that happens in a fair and equitable way. And I'm confident that they will be participating fully in the Democratic convention. And I'm looking forward to hopefully campaigning there as the nominee.

On the Iraq War:
KING: All right. He's saying that al Qaeda will run rampant under your plan and plans to withdraw.

How do you respond?

OBAMA: Look, the -- you heard, I think, the other day, Senator McCain confuse al Qaeda with Shia radical militias inside of Iraq. The president makes the same error. He keeps on conflating al Qaeda with all that's going on inside of Iraq. In fact, Iraq is a majority Shia country that is violently opposed to al Qaeda. The Sunnis inside of Iraq are now opposed to al Qaeda.

There's no doubt that al Qaeda would try to get another foothold in there. But to the extent that we've brought Sunnis in and got them to buy into the central government, we can start making some progress.

In fact, that's part of the reason that violence is down. Not only have our troops performed magnificently and done everything we've asked them to do, but you've also got Sunni tribal leaders who have rejected al Qaeda and, in fact, are trying to cooperate. So the notion that al Qaeda would run roughshod over Iraq is just not correct. In contrast, you do have safe havens for al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That we know. We know for certain. The Taliban has strengthened itself. They're using the funds from the heroin trade in that region to help finance much of what they're doing. And we're seeing more suicide bombs, more violent attacks. It's starting to creep into the rest of Pakistan.

We know that's where the people who killed 3,000 Americans are located. And we have not been focused on that because of our obsession with Iraq.

So my argument about withdrawing out of Iraq is not because I don't think that we can sustain this current burden indefinitely -- although, the fact is that will break the bank eventually. We can't keep on spending $200 billion a year or $150 billion a year in Iraq.

It's not just because it is straining our military and military families in extraordinary ways. It's also because it's not the best strategy to deal with terrorism, which should have been our focus from the start and has unfortunately been diverted into an effort in Iraq that has been counterproductive to that effort.

Governor Bill Richardson Endorses Barack Obama

Big endorsement and a slap at Hillary. Richardson was part of President Clinton's administration. In theory the New Mexico Governor should help Obama with Hispanic voters:

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who sought to become the nation’s first Hispanic president this year, plans to endorse Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination on Friday at a campaign event in Oregon, according to an Obama adviser.

Mr. Richardson, a former congressman and energy secretary in the Clinton administration, dropped out of the Democratic race in January after finishing behind Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the first nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Since then, both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have aggressively courted Mr. Richardson for his endorsement. Mrs. Clinton had also deployed her husband, and Mr. Richardson’s former boss, to seek the governor’s political support; former President Bill Clinton watched the Super Bowl in February with Mr. Richardson, and both Clintons had spent time on the phone trying to persuade him to back her candidacy.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

CNN: Bribes Not Surge Reduced Violence in Iraq?

This report makes a credible argument that cash did more to dramatically reduce violence in Iraq than the surge. We bought-off many in the insurgency. But for how long.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

First Lady Records Show Clinton Promoted NAFTA

So now we know for a fact that Hillary Clinton lied when she says she opposed NAFTA:

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton now argues that the North American Free Trade Agreement needs to be renegotiated, but newly released records showed on Wednesday she promoted its passage.

The press keeps forgetting to mention those documents were released because she was forced to do so because of a lawsuit:
The National Archives and the Clinton presidential library jointly released more than 11,000 pages of Clinton's daily schedule as first lady from 1993 to 2001.

The release came in response to charges that she is overly secretive, and also allowed her campaign to promote her argument that she gained valuable White House experience during her years as first lady.

[...]The documents clearly indicated that Clinton had a powerful role at the White House, frequently meeting foreign leaders and presiding over meetings.

The NAFTA agreement, linking trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico, was considered a major accomplishment by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

But now many Americans blame the agreement for the loss of thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

NAFTA has become such an issue on the Democratic presidential campaign trail that both Clinton and rival Barack Obama have vowed to renegotiate it.

The former first lady's records showed first lady Clinton worked on behalf of the accord.

Among the thousands of details of daily life for Clinton, there was a November 10, 1993, entry -- a "NAFTA Briefing drop-by," in Room 450 of the executive office building next door to the White House, closed to the news media.

Approximately 120 people were expected to attend the briefing, and Clinton was to be introduced by White House aide Alexis Herman for brief remarks concluding the program.

Dick Cheney: I Don't Care What the People Think About the War

It was a shocking display of contempt for the American people. Then again what would you expect from George Bush's VP? Both have been totally indifferent to the will of the American people since they set foot in the White House in 2001. Nonetheless it is shocking to hear it from the mouth of the Vice President:

Five years after the start of the war in Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney offered a positive assessment of the war today and called last year's troop surge a "major success."

"On the security front, I think there's a general consensus that we've made major progress, that the surge has worked. That's been a major success," Cheney told ABC News' Martha Raddatz.

When asked about how that jibes with recent polls that show about two-thirds of Americans say the fight in Iraq is not worth it, Cheney replied, "So?"

"You don't care what the American people think?" Raddatz asked the vice president.

"You can't be blown off course by polls," said Cheney, who is currently on a tour of the Middle East. "This president is very courageous and determined to go the course. There has been a huge fundamental change and transformation for the better. That's a huge accomplishment."

Hillary Clinton Forced to Release First Lady Records

We've forgotten about Hillary's stonewalling with all the press coverage over the Obama-Wright scandal. I guess the press fell for the Clinton propaganda that they were soft on Obama. Now they've decided to go overboard. What happened to the Ferraro scandal? It disappeared a day later. What a gift for Hillary. And what about McCain's hate-preacher? Is it any less scandalous? We need to get back to why the Clinton's continue to stonewall on the releasing of information. Unfortunately because of the Obama scandalmania we won't hear too much today about why it took a lawsuit to get Hillary to release her records from her White House days:

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's activities while U.S. first lady will be made public on Wednesday, the National Archives said on Tuesday, in response to legal pressure by a watchdog group.

The records, some 11,000 pages in all, document nearly all of the meetings, trips, speaking engagements and social activities Clinton engaged in while her husband, Bill Clinton, served as president between 1993 and 2001, the National Archives said.

The records are being released in response to a lawsuit by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal watchdog group.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Poll: 64% Say Iraq War "Not Worth It"

At this point it is clear the American people will never support the Iraq War. Surge or no surge. In fact, as things continue to worsen with the war, again, those polls will worsen. What makes it worse is that the hundreds of billions spent on the Iraq War has accomplished nothing. Just ask the Iraqi people:

Today 29 percent of Americans say the results of the war were worth it; 64 percent say they were not.

In August 2003, less than six months after the beginning of the war, Americans were divided as the whether or not the results of the war were worth it. Opinion reached a low point in March 2006 - when only one in four Americans said the war was worth the costs.

Support today breaks heavily along partisan lines. Sixty-two percent of Republicans say the results of the war with Iraq were worth the costs, while only 10 percent of Democrats and 25 percent of Independents agree. In fact, belief among Republicans that the war was worth it has risen 11 points since March 2006, while support among Democrats and Independents has remained largely the same.

Not only is the war not worth it but it's hurting the economy:
More than 7 out of 10 Americans think government spending on the war in Iraq is partly responsible for the economic troubles in the United States, according to results of a recent poll.

In the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted last weekend, 71 percent said they think U.S. spending in Iraq is a reason for the nation's poor economy. Twenty-eight percent said they didn't think so.

The weekend poll, timed to coincide with the Iraq war's fifth anniversary, also showed little U.S. support for the conflict. Fewer than one in three respondents -- 32 percent -- said they support the war, while 66 percent said they oppose it.

Sixty-one percent of those polled said the next president should remove most U.S. troops from Iraq "within a few months of taking office."

Only 36 percent of those polled said the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over -- down from 68 percent in March 2003, when the war began.

Obama Philadelphia Speech Transcript 3-18-08

Read the full transcript . Here are some excerpts:

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

[...]Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

[...]I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.