Friday, November 30, 2007

Reflections on the Debate (St. Petersburg)- No. 10

Does any Repub believe in the pro-life cause? Or is this just political correctness, Republican style?

At their presidential debate of 11/18/07 sponsored by CNN/YouTube, Ron Paul and Fred Thompson fielded the following questions from a woman from Texas named Journey:

In the event that abortion becomes illegal and a woman obtains an abortion anyway, what should she be charged with, and what should her punishment be? What about the doctor who performs the abortion?

Paul responded in part "but I really think it's the person who commits the crime. And I think that is the abortionist." Thompson similarly stated "it goes to the doctor performing the abortion, not the girl, or the young girl, or her parents, whoever it might be."

Unfortunately, host Anderson Cooper did not ask the other candidates if they agreed with the two respondents that an individual initiating, pursuing, and paying for, the murder of another individual (which would be the case if abortion were prohibited) should not in any circumstance be charged with a crime. (I suspect all would concur.) No Repub (or any other politician or public official of whom I'm aware) has questioned the legitimacy of the contract killing he or she would be condoning.... which is a strange position for an operation which used to pretend (and still does, to a lesser extent) that it is the "law and order" party.
Reflections on the Debate (St. Petersburg)- No. 9

A question from Steve Nielson of Denver, Colorado at the CNN/YouTube debate of Republican Presidential aspirants on 11/28/07 elicited a good, and honest, answer from U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo, coincidentally, from Nielson's home state. Tancredo responded to a remark by from Mike Huckabee in which the former Governor seemed to advocate pumping billions more dollars into the space program, and then made a joke about Hillary Clinton (you can guess what it was). The question, and Tancredo's response (which followed Huckabee's), were:

JFK's vision put a man on the moon from a nonexistent space program in about seven years. The new vision for space exploration has provided about 15 years for that same feat.

Meanwhile, Congress is pulling funding for human-to-Mars research altogether.

Is there a candidate amongst you willing to take a pledge on behalf of the Mars Society of sending an American to the surface of Mars by 2020? If not, what is your vision for human space exploration?

Tancredo: The question is a serious one and it deserves a serious answer, and that is this: Look, we've been -- how many times up here, how many questions have dealt with the issue of deficit spending, the debt out of control? And yet, we have somebody saying, "But would you spend more money on going to Mars?"

And the suggestion that we need to spend more money on space exploration. This is it, folks. That's why we have such incredible problems with our debt, because everybody's trying to be everything to all people.

We can't afford some things, and by the way, going to Mars is one of them.

Everybody trying to be all things to all people. Like pursuing an ill-conceived and misguided war, refusing to veto spending bills (unless they're to enhance children's health), and all the while cutting income taxes for millionaires, Halliburton, and other mega-corporations. Anyone know a President like that?
Reflections on the Debate (St. Petersburg)- No. 8

This is a slight, but only slight, deviation from discussion of the 11/28/07 Repub Presidential debate itself, in which John McCain said:

It was American public opinion that forced us to lose that (i.e., Vietnam) conflict.

Now if McCain somehow is nominated, he will recycle that remark to wrap himself in the American flag in an effort to make his Democratic opponent(s) appear unpatriotic. It would serve no purpose to rehash history and demonstrate how inaccurate (or at least misleading) the statement is.

However, the Arizonan's comment does reflect a characteristic lack of faith in the American people, perhaps unsurprising in a man who (justifiably) views himself as an American war hero of singular sacrifice, if not accomplishment. Two years ago, while watching a report on illegal immigration, I saw Senator McCain make a couple of animated responses which the blogsite would report as....

Some time ago, Senator John McCain displayed a contempt for American workers similar to that displayed by Cohen & Grigsby when he told an audience of union workers that his amnesty for illegal aliens was necessary because the country needs illegal immigrants to do the jobs Americans won’t.

“Pay us a decent wage,” someone shouted.

“You can’t do it, my friends” Sen. McCain responded, and he offered $50 per hour to anyone in the crowd who would go to Arizona and pick lettuce.

Such a man believes the American people are lazy (or at least not as industrious as a United States Senator) and cowardly enough not to see a war through to its end. This is not a good perspective to take into a general election and if the Democratic nominee pursues it, might elicit that famous, and damaging, McCain temper.
Reflections on the Debate (St. Petersburg)- No. 7

The following question, and John McCain's response, indicate both the base of support (such as it is) for the Arizona Senator's bid for the Republican nomination, and his periodic foray into pandering. From the 11/18/07 CNN/YouTube debate:

Hello. My name is Buzz Brockway from Lawrenceville, Georgia. All the talk about the war in Iraq centers around how quickly we can get out. I think that's the wrong question. We need to make a permanent or long-term military commitment to the region.

By staying in Iraq, we provide long-term stability to the region, we provide support for our allies, and we act as a deterrent to the trouble-makers in the region. Which presidential candidate will make a permanent of long-term military commitment to the people of Iraq?

And John McCain's effective, though disingenuous, response:

Well, let me remind you, Congressman, we never lost a battle in Vietnam. It was American public opinion that forced us to lose that conflict.


I think it's important for all Americans to understand the fundamental difference. After we left Vietnam, they didn't want to follow us home. They wanted to build their own workers' paradise. If you read Zarqawi, if you read bin Laden, if you read Zawahiri, read what they say. They want to follow us home. They want Iraq to be a base for Al Qaeda to launch attacks against the United States. Their ultimate destination is not Iraq.

Their ultimate destination is New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Phoenix, Arizona. This is a transcendent challenge of our time.

(Audience booing)

McCain: I believe that we can meet it and we will defeat it.

The Senator's response is essentially "we're fighting them there, so we don't have to fight them here" (in New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Phoenix, Arizona; I suppose he forgot Manchester, New Hampshire and Orlando.) And note the twisted logic: it's not what happened in Vietnam ("after we left Vietnam, they didn't want to follow us home"); therefore, it is what will happen in Iraq. Curious, too, that McCain believes our enemies ("read what they say") rather than Western intelligence.

But more appalling is McCain's resort to waiving the "bloody shirt." Vietnam wasn't the wrong war, or fought ineffectively, or a sacrifice of American blood and treasure that we couldn't sustain as a democracy- oh, no, it was those liberals, American public opinion, "that forced us to lose that conflict." It's clearly a way, if Persian Gulf War II ends badly, not to acknowledge mistaken judgement but instead to blame it on the liberal Democrats, who opposed, or at least were skeptical, about the war.

But on a lighter note. What of the booing after McCain referred to "the transcendent challenge of our time?" Did the Repub audience fail to understand McCain? Did it forget when it was supposed to cheer, and boo? Did the audience lose sight of the cue cards?
Reflections on the Debate (St. Petersburg)- No. 6

It was truly an "ouch" moment. Asked about waterboarding and torture at the Repub Presidential debate on November 18, 2007, Mitt Romney and John McCain debated each other. Rather, they fought each other, and after two rounds, Romney was on the canvas. If you didn't see the debate, you owe it to yourself to read the entire exchange on the subject to get at least some idea of the humiliation Romney brought on himself by stubbornly refusing to condemn waterboarding.

Hello, gentlemen. I'm Andrew, and I'm a college student from Seattle, Washington.

Recently, Senator McCain has come out strongly against using waterboarding as an instrument of interrogation.

My question for the rest of you is, considering that Mr. McCain is the only one with any firsthand knowledge on the subject, how can those of you sharing the stage with him disagree with his position?

Cooper: Governor Romney?

Romney: Well, he certainly is an expert and I certainly would want to get his counsel on a matter of this nature, but I do not believe that as a presidential candidate, it is wise for us to describe precisely what techniques we will use in interrogating people.

I oppose torture. I would not be in favor of torture in any way, shape or form.

Cooper: Is waterboarding torture?

Romney: And as I just said, as a presidential candidate, I don't think it's wise for us to describe specifically which measures we would and would not use.

And that is something which I would want to receive the counsel not only of Senator McCain, but of a lot of other people.

And there are people who, for many, many years get the information we need to make sure that we protect our country.

And, by the way, I want to make sure these folks are kept at Guantanamo. I don't want the people that are carrying out attacks on this country to be brought into our jail system and be given legal representation in this country. I want to make sure that what happened ...


... to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed happens to other people who are terrorists. He was captured. He was the so-called mastermind of the 9/11 tragedy. And he turned to his captors and he said, "I'll see you in New York with my lawyers." I presume ACLU lawyers.


Well, that's not what happened. He went to Guantanamo and he met G.I.s and CIA interrogators. And that's just exactly how it ought to be.


Cooper: Senator McCain?


(Unknown): There were reports Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded.

McCain: Well, governor, I'm astonished that you haven't found out what waterboarding is.

Romney: I know what waterboarding is, Senator.

McCain: Then I am astonished that you would think such a -- such a torture would be inflicted on anyone in our -- who we are held captive and anyone could believe that that's not torture. It's in violation of the Geneva Convention. It's in violation of existing law...


And, governor, let me tell you, if we're going to get the high ground in this world and we're going to be the America that we have cherished and loved for more than 200 years. We're not going to torture people.

We're not going to do what Pol Pot did. We're not going to do what's being done to Burmese monks as we speak. I suggest that you talk to retired military officers and active duty military officers like Colin Powell and others, and how in the world anybody could think that that kind of thing could be inflicted by Americans on people who are held in our custody is absolutely beyond me.

Cooper: Governor Romney, 30 seconds to respond.


Romney: Senator McCain, I appreciate your strong response, and you have the credentials upon which to make that response. I did not say and I do not say that I'm in favor of torture.

I am not. I'm not going to specify the specific means of what is and what is not torture so that the people that we capture will know what things we're able to do and what things we're not able to do. And I get that advice from Cofer Black, who is a person who was responsible for counterterrorism in the CIA for some 35 years.

I get that advice by talking to former generals in our military...

Cooper: Time.

Romney: ... and I don't believe it's appropriate for me, as a presidential candidate, to lay out all the issues one by one...

Cooper: Time.

Romney: ... get questioned one by one: Is this torture, is that torture?

Cooper: Senator McCain...

Romney: And so, that's something which I'm going to take your and other people's counsel on.

Cooper: Senator McCain, 30 seconds to respond.

McCain: Well, then you would have to advocate that we withdraw from the Geneva Conventions, which were for the treatment of people who were held prisoners, whether they be illegal combatants or regular prisoners of war. Because it's clear the definition of torture. It's in violation of laws we have passed.

And again, I would hope that we would understand, my friends, that life is not "24" and Jack Bauer.

Life is interrogation techniques which are humane and yet effective. And I just came back from visiting a prison in Iraq. The Army general there said that techniques under the Army Field Manual are working and working effectively, and he didn't think they need to do anything else.

My friends, this is what America is all about. This is a defining issue and, clearly, we should be able, if we want to be commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, to take a definite and positive position on, and that is, we will never allow torture to take place in the United States of America.


>Not only dressed down, but by someone who in his answer he referred to as "an expert" whose "counsel" he would seek, and of whom he says "I appreciate your strong response, and you have the credentials upon which to make that response." If Romney hopes to ameliorate McCain's obvious antipathy toward him, it appears that treating the Arizona Senator with extreme respect and ascribing virtue to him may not be the way to go.
Reflections on the Debate (St. Petersburg)- No. 5

And if a Southern Baptist Convention minister (Mike Huckabee) knew how to answer a question about Scripture at the Repub Presidential Debate on 11/18/07, clearly Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani did not. The question:

I am Joseph. I am from Dallas, Texas, and how you answer this question will tell us everything we need to know about you. Do you believe every word of this book? Specifically, this book that I am holding in my hand, do you believe this book?

Giuliani's response:

OK. The reality is, I believe it, but I don't believe it's necessarily literally true in every single- I think there are parts of the Bible that are interpretive. I think there are parts of the Bible that are allegorical. I think there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be interpreted in a modern context.

So, yes, I believe it. I think it's the great book ever written. I read it frequently. I read it very frequently when I've gone through the bigger crises in my life, and I find great wisdom in it, and it does define to a very large extent my faith. But I don't believe every single thing in the literal sense of Jonah being in the belly of the whale, or, you know, there are some things in it that I think were put there as allegorical

Perhaps it's unfair to point it out, but Giuliani seemed uncomfortable when responding to this question- perhaps because few people are going to believe that he "read(s) it very frequently." And it's unnecessary to say "I don't believe it's necessarily literally true" when he is (wisely) noting that parts are allegorical- though I don't believe the ardent Christian voter believes the story about Jonah and the whale is the clearest example of allegory.

Still, Giuliani's answer was superior to Romney's response:

I believe the Bible is the word of God, absolutely. And I try...


... I try to live by it as well as I can, but I miss in a lot of ways. But it's a guide for my life and for hundreds of millions, billions of people around the world. I believe in the Bible.

Cooper: Does that mean you believe every word?

Romney: You know -- yes, I believe it's the word of God, the Bible is the word of God.

The Bible is the word of God. I mean, I might interpret the word differently than you interpret the word, but I read the Bible and I believe the Bible is the word of God. I don't disagree with the Bible. I try to live by it.
If Giuliani's answer can be summarized as "it's great, though not always to be taken literally," Romney allowed himself to be cornered into having to vouch for the literal nature of the Bible. Asked "does that mean you believe every word, he stated- after obvious hesitation and uncertainty- for the 2nd and 3rd times "the Bible is the word of God." Then he clumsily failed to avoid saying that he believes every word, which both Huckabee and Giuliani avoided claiming. The key for the office-seeker, of course, is to state that he or she is a person "of faith," believes deeply in a loving God, and neglect stating overtly whether the Bible is to be taken literally. If Huckabee's response was brilliant, and Giuliani's barely adequate, Romney's was abysmal.
Reflections on the Debate (St. Petersburg)- No. 4

In what appeared to be a unanimous decision, former Governor Mike Huckabee of Hope, Arkansas was declared the "winner" of the Repub Presidential debate presented by CNN/YouTube on November 18, 2007. In making this judgement, analysts most often pointed to Huckabee's response to this question:

I am Joseph. I am from Dallas, Texas, and how you answer this question will tell us everything we need to know about you. Do you believe every word of this book? Specifically, this book that I am holding in my hand, do you believe this book?

Huckabee's response was the most brilliant I've heard to any question in any of either the Repub or Democratic Presidential debates this season:

Sure. I believe the Bible is exactly what it is. It's the word of revelation to us from God himself.


And the fact is that when people ask do we believe all of it, you either believe it or you don't believe it. But in the greater sense, I think what the question tried to make us feel like was that, well, if you believe the part that says "Go and pluck out your eye," well, none of us believe that we ought to go pluck out our eye. That obviously is allegorical.

But the Bible has some messages that nobody really can confuse and really not left up to interpretation. "Love your neighbor as yourself."

And as much as you've done it to the least of these brethren, you've done it unto me. Until we get those simple, real easy things right, I'm not sure we ought to spend a whole lot of time fighting over the other parts that are a little bit complicated.

And as the only person here on the stage with a theology degree, there are parts of it I don't fully comprehend and understand, because the Bible is a revelation of an infinite god, and no finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their god is too small.

It was, strategically at least, so extraordinary that I need to break it down point-by-point:

1) Sure, I believe the Bible is exactly what it is. (This can't offend anyone- everything is exactly what it is- yet, it is comes off as classic Republican certitude.)
2) It's the word of revelation to us from God himself. (Believers are confident, perhaps above all, that the Bible is the revealed word of God.... and this generally doesn't offend non-believers, who are more concerned that the Bible is not taken to be the literal word of God.)
3) The part that says "Go and pluck out your eye, well, none of us believe that we ought to go pluck out our eye. That obviously is allegorical. (In implying that the Bible is not always to be interpreted literally, Huckabee has avoided being stigmatized, as have some skeptics of Darwinian evolution, as an air-headed rube. Still, believers can't be offended- it suggests that God has used an effective literary device to get his message across.)
4) But the Bible has some messages that nobody really can confuse and really not left up to interpretation. "Love your neighbor as yourself." (a.Here he takes a stand in favor of Scriptures- nobody really can confuse and really not left up to interpretation- and again expresses Repub certitude. b.And non-believers? It's perhaps the favorite line from Scripture of non-believers- as in, you guys ought to love me, too, even though I don't agree with you- and love the poor, the sickly, and minorities while you're at it.)
5) And as much as we've done it to the least of these brethren, you've done it unto me. (See 4b.)
6) Until we get those simple, real easy things right, I'm not sure we ought to spend a whole lot of time fighting over the other parts that are a little bit complicated. (To the Christian right: This is simple and easy- not like all the detailed, complex stuff you hear out of those pointy-headed intellectuals and scientists. To non-believers: "Let's not spend a whole lot of time fighting"- I'm not going to knock you over the head with this God-stuff, and you're free to believe what you want.)
7) And as the only person here on the stage with a theology degree.... (I know what I'm talking about- the rest of you guys don't. And by the way, don't think that just because I'm a Christian that I'm not educated.)
8) There are parts of it I don't fully comprehend and understand. (But I'm humble- in the manner of Jesus Christ, my Lord.)
9) No finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their god is too small. (And our God, the Judaeo-Christian god, is not small- as for the god of the Muslims, well....)

Commentators have remarked that Huckabee, as a Baptist (specifically, Southern Baptist Convention) minister, should have scored big with this question. But it was an answer of substance as well as, politically, far more than effective than a potential primary (or caucus) voter could have expected from anyone.
Reflections on the Debate (St. Petersburg)- No. 3

As indicates, former Senator/lobbyist/actor Fred Thompson is well behind Rudolph Giuliani nationally among Repub voters and is not in first place in any state polled. Still, there must have been a reason, and was, that before entering the race, he was believed to be a formidable contender. If a couple of responses from the 11/18/07 CNN/YouTube Presidential debate are an indication, Thompson still is a threat. Here is a question from apparent gun enthusiast Eric Bentson of Phoenix, Arizona:

Any of you all want to tell us about your gun collection, roughly how many you own, what your favorite make, model and caliber is, if any of them require a tax stamp?

Take a look at Thompson's response, remembering that this is a Republican debate in front of (presumably conservative) Republican heavy hitters, by a candidate appealing to the activist, Repub primary voter:

I own a couple of guns, but I'm not going to tell you what they are or where they are.

Laughter followed, but it was not the laughter of derision, but of support. Exactly what a Repub interested in the issue of guns/gun control himself (or herself) would have liked to have replied to such a query (Think tough guy with a touch of paranoia about government agents.)

Then, CNN presented:

Nick Anderson as Dick Cheney cartoon character: Yes. Will you grant your vice president as much power and influence as I've had?

And remember, before you answer, I'm watching you.

And Thompson's (initial) response:

First of all, I'm greatly relieved. For a second there, I thought that was me.

Greeted by inevitable laughter, it was a humurous, self-deprecating response. Only problem- it almost was true. Arguably, Fred Thompson never has looked as bad as he has during this campaign. Previously, he gave the appearance of being an old and wise grandfather. Now he just looks old.
Reflections on the Debate (St. Petersburg)- No. 3

Grover Norquist, head of the Americans for the Truly Wealthy, AKA Americans for Tax Reform, asked this question at the 11/28/07 Repub Presidential debate:

President Bush made a commitment when he ran for president in 2000 an 2004 that he would oppose and veto any tax increase that Congress sent him. My question to each of the candidates is: Would you promise to the people watching this right now, that you will oppose and veto any efforts to raise taxes as long as you're president?

In full pander mode, Tancredo, Huckabee, Romney, and Giuliani all said they would. Thompson, McCain, Paul (the libertarian!) refused to take this foolish pledge. Even the arch right-winger Duncan Hunter refused. Imagine this: no matter the economic health of the country; no matter whether we are involved in a foreign war; no matter the possibility of a natural disaster or terrorist attack- four Repub contenders, three of whom are considered serious contenders by the media, have pledged not to raise taxes for (at least) four years. Completely, thoroughly, irresponsible.
Reflections on the Debate (St. Petersburg)- No. 1

One of the best questions at the CNN/YouTube Repub Presidential debate on November 28, 2007 came from 18-year old college student Sarah Ledarach, who asked:

Often, I've heard both politicians and voters express their concern with providing a better future for their children. A concern of my generation is the trillions of dollars of national debt and what kind of responsibility we will have for that in the future.

My question for you all is, if elected, what measures will you take to tackle the national debt and control spending?

Interesting responses were elicited. John McCain said that he opposed expansion of the SCHIP because it would have been funded by an increase in tobacco taxes, though his legendary courage did not inspire him to suggest that he would have supported childrens' health if it were paid through general revenues which, I suppose, would be dangerous in Repub primaries.

Mitt Romney advocated a cap on non-military discretionary spending, presumably to shield the Pentagon from the sacrifice other Americans would have to make.
And Rudolph Giuliani actually proposed "not to rehire half of the civilian employees that will retire in the next 10 years. That is 42 percent of the federal workforce that will retire in the next 10 years. Don't rehire half of them."

A responsive government- one which will be gutted by a 21% reduction in its workforce. More Americans thrown out of work- unless they are fortunate enough to be employed by the military which will not be asked to sacrifice along with other Americans.

But Giuliani argues "every business has done it." Does that include Halliburton? Other businessess with military contracts? Not likely. But that's evidently the Republican formula. Shield the Pentagon from scrutiny. Everyone else is fair game.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Wisdom of a Ten Year Old

The Repub Party has just cut its first general election commercial, in the event that Barack Obama is nominated. Or at least knows what it will look like. On November 19, 2007 the Illinois Senator exclaimed "probably the strongest experience I have in foreign relations is the fact I spent four years overseas when I was a child in Southeast Asia."

Hillary Clinton promptly, and rightly, jumped on the comment which suggested that the foreign policy judgement of a ten-year-old is sufficient in a President in a "post 9/11 world," as the ad may term it. The following day, the Illinois Senator(whose father was Kenyan and who lived in Indonesia from the ages of 6 to 10) explained his remark, but the criticism by the New York Senator will pale in comparison to the assault the Repub Party would launch next autumn. And the elitism implied in the idea that living, or even traveling, abroad, would provide ample fodder for a Repub Party that delights in painting the opposition as unpatriotic or un-American.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Right on Pakistan

A little belated credit is due Barack Obama. I wrote at the time that I thought the Illinois Senator was correct, but the passage of (a few months) time has made him seem almost prescient. In a Democratic Presidential debate a few months ago, a- the- point of controversy was the effort of Obama to defend a statement he had made on August 1, 2007. From Reuters on that date:

Obama said if elected in November 2008 he would be willing to attack inside Pakistan with or without approval from the Pakistani government, a move that would likely cause anxiety in the already troubled region.

"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will," Obama said.

The reaction? As Fox News reported, from Chris Dodd, opposition: "Frankly, I am not sure what Barack is calling for in his speech this morning. But it is dangerous and irresponsible to leave even the impression the United States would needlessly and publicly provoke a nuclear power." From Bill Richardson, opposition: "My international experience tells me that we should address this problem with tough diplomacy with General Musharraf first, leaving the military as a last resort. It is important to reach out to moderate Muslim states and allies to ensure we do not unnecessarily inflame the Muslim world," said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, another 2008 Democratic presidential candidate.

ABC News reported two other candidates, both Senators, criticized Obama's comments: "I am concerned about talking about it," she (Clinton) said. "I think everyone agrees that our goal should be to capture or kill bin Laden and his lieutenants but how we do it should not be telegraphed and discussed for obvious reasons." On NPR's "Diane Rehm Show," Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Obama "naïve" and implied he wasn't experienced enough for the presidency. "Having talking points on foreign policy doesn't get you there," Biden said of Obama. (Note: Biden said also that he had recently wrotten a law conditioning aid to Pakistan on cooperation with the U.S.A. on fighting terrorists but that he first notified President Musharraf and Secretary of State Rice of his intent.)

And qualified support from former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, (who) said he would not hesitate to use force against extremists but said, "I believe we must first use maximum diplomatic and economic pressure on states like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to take all necessary actions to stop al Qaeda."

And since then: General Musharaff attempts to fire the chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court, spurring political turmoil; Benazhir Bhutto returns to the adulation of multitudes of Pakistanis and is put under house arrest; Musharraf imposes military rule.

So with the return from exile of Bhutto and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, it appears unnecessary or unwise for the Bush Administration to have placed its on the head of state and military strongman Musharraf.

So if Obama was right, with (qualified) support from that "peacenik" Edwards, and Biden seems to know something about the region, what about the guys in power: "Our approach to Pakistan is one that not only respects the sovereignty of Pakistan as a sovereign government, but is also designed to work in a way where we are working in cooperation with the local government," then-White House spokesman Tony Snow said. Let me translate: "We think Musharraf is just fine. But we don't want to criticize a Democratic candidate too much, lest we dilute our message that only we will keep you safe in a post-9/11 world because the Mommy Party wants to coddle terrorists- and, of course, not support the troops."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Conservative, Not Neo-Conservative

One of the most significant urban myths in American public affairs is that of the control of foreign policy, specifically in regard to Iraq, by neoconservatives. Besides being largely untrue (more on this at a later date), this theory has a potentially ugly implication. Notwithstanding his own religious background, Joshua Micah Marshall fell victim to this line of self-deception today, in the usually reliable TalkingPointsMemo. At the end of a blog exploring the issue of intelligence quotients, Marshall writes:

And as long as it's just free inquiry we're interested in, can we move ahead with that study into the Jewish propensity to dominate host nations and guile them into hopeless wars for their own enrichment? Or at least suss out the implications if the theory turns out to be true?

If I misundersand Marshall's meaning, I apologize. But it seems to me that to Marshall, a critic of Israel, the Iraq war, and neoconservatives, 1)host nations= United States of America; 2)hopeless wars= Gulf War II; 3)their own enrichment= what?

Let's go over the data: 1)Colin Powell, then Secretary of State: Episcopalian; 2)Condoleeza Rice, then National Security Advisor, now Secretary of State: Presbyterian Church, USA; 3)Dick Cheney, Vice President: United Methodist Church; 4) George W. Bush, President: United Methodist Church. (I leave out Donald Rumsfeld, who has told Chris Matthews that President Bush never asked him if he would support an invasion of Iraq).

The four officials most responsible for our invasion of Iraq, and none of them Jewish. I'm not accusing Joshua Micah Marshall or others of like mind of anti-Semitism. It's just that anti-Zionist bias has a "propensity" to cloud the "host's" judgement.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Republican Media- No. 11

Dick Cheney should not be Vice-President. Oh, I don't mean because of arguably being the mastermind behind Gulf War II, holding meetings of the energy task force in private with the names of the (energy industry) participants kept secret, or conspiring with his chief of staff to reveal the name of a covert CIA agent and thus endanger her life, the life of other CIA agents, and the investigation of weapons of mass destruction. The electors of the state of Texas in 2000 unconstitutionally cast their ballots for Cheney as Vice-President and George W. Bush as President.

Presidential electors cast their votes not for a ticket, but separately for President and Vice-President. The 12th Amendment of the United States Constitution reads in part "the Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves." Each elector in Texas cast his/her Presidential vote for Bush and Veep vote for Cheney who, in a clear effort at subterfuge, changed his voter registration in June, 2000, shortly before being named Bush's running mate, from Texas to his old state of Wyoming.

A couple of problems: one of the requirements for voter registration in Wyoming is "be(ing) an actual and physically bona fide resident of Wyoming living in the state for one year before becoming a resident." According to as of 6/02, the Vice-President's driver's license (and his wife's) listed his address as 500 N. Akerd Street in Dallas, where he worked at Halliburton. He sold his mansion in the Dallas suburb of Highland Park on November 30, 2002 to a major Repub donor, who herself owns a mansion in Highland Park. And according to, Cheney had claimed his homestead tax exemption on the home in Highland Park, thereby acknowledging it as his main home.

Residence in Texas. Driver's license in Texas. Voter's registration (apparently illegally) in Wyoming. But wait- the Constitution does not say voter but inhabitant. (At least two appeals contesting the elevation of Cheney to Vice-President were filed but obviously to no avail.) Therefore, had the U.S. Constituion not been ignored (apparently a harbinger of things to come), either Bush or Cheney would not have been elected.

It's tempting to say a Bush-Lieberman Administration would have been no different. However, it's likely that the coupling of Bush and a toady would have been dramatically different than having a Vice-President of extraordinary influence these seven years. And it might have been different had the media in 2000, witnessing the nomination as Vice-President of the man who led the search for a Vice-Presidential nominee, actually noted that the two men heading the ticket lived in the same state. But that would have been too much to ask of a media intimidated by the Grand Old Party.
Leaving Nothing To Chance

The New York Times reported on November 22, 2007 of the curious case of Paul Singer, 55-year old founder of the hedge fund Elliott Associates, who was one of the earliest fund-raisers for Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani, and then a policy adviser to Rudolph. In 1996, according to The Times, "he paid $11.4 million for $20million worth of discounted, government-backed Peruvian bank debt" and, after court challenges, ended up with $58 million. Bono, the International Monetary Fund (which termed Elliott a "vulture company"), and others have criticized similar transactions for strong-arming debt-strapped nations to divert money from social and economic needs to repay investors. Not surprisingly, Elliott considers himself a conservative libertarian and has contributed to various conservative causes including the Club for Growth (which has attacked former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee for raising taxes, aiding education, and other acts considered obscene by the economic right).

And $175,000 to the corporation Take Initiative America- California, which in turn donated the money to Californians for Equal Representation.

"Californians for Equal Representation"- sounds so benign. In fact, it is the group bankrolling the Repub initiative to place on the California ballot a referendum changing the apportionment of that state's 55 electoral votes from winner-take-all to the winner of the vote in the particular congressional district. In any Presidential election not a GOP landslide (in which case the issue is moot), California would go Democratic, but the Times estimates that a revised system could bring the Repub nominee as many as 20 electoral votes. (I have no idea what methodology the paper used; I suspect significantly more could be won by the GOP while losing the overall state vote.)

And the effort appears rather transparent when, as TalkingPointsMemo indicates, four other individuals (Anne Dunsmorth, Charles "Chep" Hurth III, Jonathan Wilcox, James Lacy) currently or formerly, directly or indirectly, involved with the Rudolph campaign are enmeshed in this Repub-led effort to steal the 2008 election.

Does this sound vaguely familiar? No doubt more Californians in November, 2004 went to the polls intending to vote for Gore-Lieberman than for Bush-Cheney. And it's likely that George W. Bush, who lost the popular vote nationwide to Al Gore, actually received fewer votes in Floria than the Vice-President. quotes The Washington Post as commenting Gore "'did at one point call on Bush to join him in asking for a statewide recount' and accepting the results without further legal challenge, but that Bush rejected the proposal as 'a public relations gesture.'" Most likely, if, as the Gore campaign advocated, there had been a recount in the four contested counties, Bush would have won; a recount of only the "undervotes", Bush would have won; a recount of the entire state, Gore would have won.

In 2004, as Robert Kennedy Jr. noted in here, a fair election in Ohio would have awarded that state's electoral votes, and hence the election, to Senator John Kerry.

So what should a host of the next Democratic debate, eager to ask a question which would yield revealing and significant answers (and yet as usual, leaning over backwards so as not to seem in any way, to any degree, pro-Democratic) ask the candidates? How about: Many Democrats believe that the Presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 were stolen, respectively, in Florida and Ohio. Now there is a campaign to change the law in California, a Democratic state, to award its presidential electors on a proportional basis, which could deal a death blow to the Democratic nominee. What steps would you take on election day to ensure an election whose outcome no Democrat would fail to recognize as legitimate?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Six police officers shot in the last seven weeks in Philadelphia. 339 homicides this year through October in that city. A popular governor surrounded by a dozen uniformed police officers.

That was the setting as (Democratic) governor Edward G. Rendell testified before the 29-member Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee yesterday in favor of gun control. However, the committee rejected a bill which would have limited most handgun purchases to one a month, and legislation which would have empowered local governments to enact gun control laws. A bill requiring owners to report lost or stolen guns promptly was tabled.

That's right. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania are not convinced that an owner of a firearm need inform police if his or her weapon is stolen. The committee did vote to create a mandatory minimum prison sentence of twenty years for anyone who fires a weapon at a police officer. Legislators took a forthright stand in favor of punishment of crime (and only if directed against a cop) and against prevention of crime.

Confronted in the Capitol in Harrisburg by a gun control advocate, the chief Pennsylvania lobbyist for the National Rifle Association argued for the "right" to purchase an unlimited number of guns: "Would you say it's reasonable for your right to public assembly to be restricted?"

Oh, yeah. A bunch of guys I know are going to march into our local police station to demand gun control or bicycle patrols downtown. Or into the county courthouse to demand an end to capital punishment or establishment of mandatory minimum sentences for drug possession. Or into church services on Sunday to demand reinstatement of public school prayer, taxation of of religious institutions or an end to grants to faith-based organizations. So unreasonable to restrict the right to public assembly. Freedom is license, of course. Just ask the NRA.
The Republican Media- No. 10

There is a reason that I refer to the mainstream media as "The Republican Media" and not, incidentally, as "the conservative media.", a very good, well known liberal blog, posted yesterday an item entitled "Murdered Gay Men's Parents Submit Question for CNN/YouTube GOP Debate" with the accompanying video. The following question was submitted by the victim's parents:

We're Lynn and Pat Mulder of Auburndale, Florida. Our son Ryan was murdered in March because he was gay. We would like to ask the presidential candidates how will they work to promote the value of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families.

This is not a conservative posting- having the parents of a murdered child ask a question about family values can only elicit sympathy for the family and, not as reliably, the cause. One must wonder, however, why a question preceding a Repub debate would be publicized by a (liberal) blog or be disseminated by the network co-hosting the outing. (As a student, I loved those tests, far too infrequent, in which the questions were given to us before the examination.) I can only imagine the responses, written in advance for the candidates by their campaigns, which will be produced. The necessary elements would include, but not be limited to: compassion for the parents; outrage over crime, especially of a violent nature, and support for all victims of crime; plea for tolerance of those whom we be different than we are; a reminder that prejudice is not something the candidate, or God, supports. (I think the latter point is something which Mike Huckabee, an ordained minister, can more credibly address and is a little more likely to do so.)

The responses will differ in some manner from Repub to Repub, but we do know that with the question given in advance, each answer will be effective and uncontroversial. And one more thing: have the campaigns been informed of every question?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Reflections on the Debate (Las Vegas)- No. 6

At the Democratic Presidential debate on 11/15/07, Senator Clinton claimed "well, Wolf, I've just been personally attacked again." This was in response to this lengthy statement of former Senator Edwards:

Well, can I say first, nobody on this stage is perfect, and that certainly includes me. (Cross talk.) And I don't claim perfection, far from it.

What I would say is that the issue is whether we can have a president that can restore trust for the American people in the president of the United States. (Applause.) Because I think this president has destroyed that trust, and I think there are fair questions to be asked of all of us, including Senator Clinton.

Senator Clinton says she will end the war. She also says she will continue to keep combat troops in Iraq and continue combat missions in Iraq. She says she will turn up the heat on George Bush and the Republicans. But when the crucial vote came on stopping Bush, Cheney and the neocons on Iran, she voted with Bush and Cheney. (Applause)

On the issue of Social Security, she said, standing beside me on the stage, that she would not do anything about the cap on Social Security taxes. And she has said privately to people, because it's been reported in the press, that, in fact, she would consider raising that cap. And the most important issue is, she says she will bring change to Washington while she continues to defend a system that does not work, that is broken, that is rigged and is corrupt, corrupted against the interest of most Americans and corrupted -- (cheers, applause)

Let's see. These points were made: 1)None of us is perfect; 2)Each of us can be questioned as to whether we will restore the trust of the American people; 3)Clinton has voted with the Administration on Iran; 4)Clinton has advocated two contradictory things about Social Security taxes; 5)Clinton defends a system that is rigged, "corrupted against the interest of most Americans." These charges are substantive, not personal.

As a Democrat who would like to see the Presidency taken back from the Repubs next year, I hope Mrs. Clinton cried "foul" only for political advantage. If she really believed this was a "personal attack," she is hardly ready to face the attacks that will in fact be personal, next autumn, assuming she is nominated.
Reflections on the Debate (Las Vegas)- No.5

At the Democratic Presidential debate this week sponsored by CNN, Hillary Clinton, arguably, asserted that Barack Obama's health care plan would leave millions of Americans uninsured. She cleverly stated "his plan would leave 15 million Americans out. That's about the population of Nevada, Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire."

For those who are interested (and for those who aren't), here is the population of these earliest of primary/caucus states as of July, 2005, according to a)Iowa, 2,966,334; b)Nevada, 2,414,807; c)New Hampshire, 1,309,94; d)South Carolina, 4,255,083. The total as of 7/05: 10,946,164. Ironically (even considering population growth in the latter three states since then), that is fewer than fifteen million. Still, it effectively drove Clinton's (debatable) point home to the Nevada audience, as well as primary goers/caucus attendees in the other states.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Reflections on the Debate (Las Vegas)- No. 7

When a minor uproar ensued after news that a staffer to Senator Clinton had planted a question with a Grinell College student during a recent campaign stop in central Iowa, I thought the story was overdone, completely inconsequential. And when John Edwards website turned up with a "'Plants for Hillary' Takes Roots Today" item, I thought it was over the top.

I was wrong. At the Democratic Presidential debate on November 15, in response to a question about candidates changing their minds on issues, Edwards said in part:

That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying there's a difference between that and saying exact -- saying two contrary things at exactly the same time. I mean, for example, just over the course of the last week, Senator Clinton said in Washington that she would vote for the Peru trade deal -- (boos) -- and she said in Iowa, talking to union members, that she wanted a moratorium on trade deals.

Boos over a trade deal with Peru. (And laughter at Obama during his response to a question about drivers licenses for illegal immigrants.) Not exactly predictable. But predictable if Clinton partisans at the debate were coached on how to react to the various candidates depending upon their statements. As of this writing, no one knows for sure whether there was mere coaching, or if the debate was somehow rigged. Clearly, the media need to ask questions about what occurred at this debate-no, spectacle- to determine how the campaign prepared and whether CNN was aware of the plans.

A debate should be among candidates. The audience should not be participants. If the brass at CNN was unaware of the possibility their event would be hijacked, it became painfully obvious at the outset. The failure of moderator Wolf Blitzer to enjoin audience participation was appalling and a professional blight upon the reputation of the network.

Repub partisans frequently referred to CNN during the administration of Clinton 42 as the "Clinton News Network." CNN was not, is not, and will not, be as much in the pocket of a political party as one of the other cable networks, but its failure to control the debate served the interests of one particular candidate.
Reflections on the Debate (Las Vegas)- no. 3

Is John Roberts of CNN intentionally or unintentionally promoting Repub talking points? You will remember the commercial during the 2004 Presidential election campaign ridiculing Democratic nominee Kerry for allegedly "being against before he was for" the Iraq war and how it became arguably the signature Repub talking point of that campaign. During the Democratic Presidential debate of 11/15/07, Roberts unhelpfully stated that John Edwards had accused Senator Clinton of "flip-flopping" and, more pejoratively, told Edwards "you have changed your position on several issues. You were for the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository before you were against it. You were for the Iraq war before you were against it." Sounds like the old Repub commercial. Disgraceful.
Reflections on the Debate (Las Vegas)- no. 2

The hot issue at the last (Philadelphia) Democratic debate and, not coincidentally, at this debate on November 15, was whether an illegal immigrant should be eligible for a driver's license. It should have occurred to me when John Edwards said that the license ought to be available, but only as part of "comprehensive immigration reform." Finally it occurred to me when Dennis Kucinich ultimately responded "you give people a path to legalization, and then they can be legal and have their driver's license. That's the way to work it. That's the way to work it."

Now why wouldn't a supporter of illegal immigration ("I take issue with your description of people being illegal immigrants. There aren't any illegal human beings;that's number one. Number two, they're undocumented") unequivocally support giving a driver's license to an illegal immigrant? Because it's a state, not federal, prerogative. That is the only context in which Senator Clinton's response (supporting Governor Spitzer, who until he reversed his decision had proposed the policy) at the Philadelphia debate made any sense. (Of course, that wasn't her thinking or reasoning.) Perhaps Barack Obama or Bill Richardson could have figured that out instead of supporting a misguided, unpopular idea. Or if any of the candidates had told Wolf Blitzer that he instead could have asked about illegal immigration in a more relevant matter- say in terms of a border fence, employer sanctions, or the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

There would have been another benefit to asking a new, rather than recylced, question about illegal immigration: Hillary Clinton wouldn't have been prepared with her insincere, yet effective, response: "no."
Reflections on the Debate (Las Vegas)- no. 1

In response to the first question at last night's Democratic Presidential debate hosted by Wolf Blitzer of CNN, Hillary Clinton employed, as she frequently does, the phrase "for 35 years." In this case, "I think the American people know where I've stood for 35 years."

Where was Hillary Clinton in 1972? I know that was sometime after she was a "Goldwater Girl" and sometime before she botched health care reform, but where was she then? And what did she stand for at the time?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Call it conservative political correctness, hypocrisy, or deception.

On the heels of the endorsement by the National Right to Life Committee of Fred Thompson for the Repub nomination for President, Chris Matthews interviewed its executive director, David O'Steen. Here is the transcript (with the relevant question in italics):

On the heels of Senator Brownback‘s endorsement of John McCain and Pat Robertson‘s support of Rudy Giuliani, the National Right to Life Committee officially today threw its weight behind Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson. Can Thompson be the candidate for the pro-life movement and social conservatives generally?

David O‘Steen is the executive director of the National Right to Life Committee.

Thank you, sir.

Why did you pick Fred Thompson, rather than John McCain, who is a real lifelong pro-lifer?


Well, we examined three things, the candidate‘s position, the candidate‘s record, and their electability.

And, quite frankly, Senator Thompson scored on all three. He has got a strong pro-life stand on the issues. He‘s committed to appointing the kind of judges that would reverse Roe v. Wade, judges that will interpret the Constitution according to their text.

He‘s voted right down the line on the issues, including—and his stand on embryonic stem cell research is very pro-life. He opposes the kind of research that would require killing human embryos and supports the kind of research that is producing cures now and wouldn‘t harm anyone. And he‘s got a record...

MATTHEWS: Well, how do you stand—but what about his opposition—he was doing—he said this on “Meet the Press” recently, very recently—that he opposes passing a constitutional amendment, amending the Constitution to basically outlaw—let‘s take a look at what he said about the amendment to ban abortion.


TIM RUSSERT, NBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Could you run as a candidate on that platform, promising a human life amendment banning all abortions?


RUSSERT: You would not?


I have always—and that‘s been my position the entire time I have been in politics. I thought Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided. I think this platform originally came out as a response particularly to Roe vs. Wade because of that.

Before Roe vs. Wade, states made those decisions. I think people ought to be free at state and local levels to make decisions that even Fred Thompson disagrees with. To have an amendment compelling, going back even further than pre-Roe vs. Wade, to have a constitutional amendment to do that, I do think would be the way to go.


MATTHEWS: But doesn‘t—Mr. O‘Steen, doesn‘t a right-to-lifer believe in outlawing abortion, period, not leaving it up to the states, like states‘ rights?

O‘STEEN: Well, of course, what—first, let me—I will point out, Fred Thompson has clarified it. He wouldn‘t try to change the Republican platform.

But no one can promise a human life amendment in the next term of—the next presidential term. It would take a change of 25 to 30 votes in the United States Senate. And that‘s not going to happen.

The human life amendment has been a goal of the right-to-life amendment, but it‘s a tool. It‘s a tool to protect unborn children. What we‘re trying to really do is protect unborn children.


O‘STEEN: And that‘s going to be done first by reversing Roe v. Wade, by getting the kind of judges that Fred Thompson will appoint. Now, having...

MATTHEWS: What is your ultimate goal? Your ultimate goal, though, as a right-to-life organization is to outlaw abortion in America, isn‘t it?

O‘STEEN: Our ultimate goal is to pass laws to protect unborn children.

But, remember, with a human life amendment or reversing through the court, it‘s going to take enabling state legislation.

You know, Fred Thompson voted in the Senate against a resolution praising Roe vs. Wade. He voted against a sense of the Senate resolution. His support to overturn Roe vs. Wade is clear. He‘s been there. He knows that life begins at conception. He has stated that. He opposes abortion.

Remember, also, he‘s a conservative. He‘s a federalist. And, of course, we have a federal system of government. And, when he states that people in the states and people, through their legislatures, can pass laws he disagrees with—and notice he said he disagrees with—that‘s just our system of government. But he‘s a pro-lifer. He wants to see pro-life laws passed. And he worked hard in the Senate...

MATTHEWS: What about—what about Romney? Romney says he‘s a pro-lifer. McCain is a pro-lifer.

Let me ask you about Romney, who is—who is doing so well in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. He may well be the early front-runner when we start actually voting in this country. Would you support him if he were to win the nomination?

O‘STEEN: I don‘t want to get into hypotheticals, because I believe Fred Thompson will win the nomination.

But let me say this about the early states. And Fred Thompson is positioned well to win in states like South Carolina and Nevada. With the compressed primary schedule and essentially a mini national primary February 5, it‘s not clear how—how those early states are going to play in this.



MATTHEWS: I have always wondered something about...


MATTHEWS: I have always wondered something about the pro-life movement. If—if you believe that killing—well, killing a fetus or killing an unborn child is—is murder, why don‘t you bring murder charge or seek a murder penalty against a woman who has an abortion? Why do you let her off, if you really believe it‘s murder?

O‘STEEN: We have never sought criminal penalties against a woman.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

O‘STEEN: There haven‘t been criminal penalties against a woman.

MATTHEWS: Well, why not?

O‘STEEN: Well, you don‘t know the circumstances and how she‘s been forced into this. And that‘s...

MATTHEWS: Forced into it?


O‘STEEN: ... to be effective.

We‘re out—we‘re not out—we‘re out to try to protect unborn children.


MATTHEWS: See, this is where the hypocrisy comes in, sir. If it‘s wrong to have an abortion, why don‘t you criminalize it?


O‘STEEN: I don‘t think that‘s the way you‘re going to protect unborn children.


MATTHEWS: But, if you say it‘s murder, why don‘t you act on that?

O‘STEEN: I think civil—I think civil penalties, aiming at the doctors, taking away their financial incentives. We‘re after what works to protect unborn children. And that‘s the goal.

MATTHEWS: But the problem with all the states‘ rights is, you just go to the next state. And, if you outlaw it in America, you just go to Canada or Mexico or Dominican Republic.

Unless you penalize the person who has an abortion, I don‘t see how you actually stop somebody from having one.

O‘STEEN: Well, I—I‘m not—we have never sought criminal penalties against a woman.

I think it‘s much—far more effective to take away the financial incentive of the abortion doctors that are doing this for profit and for money. And we are—and our goal, remember, is to protect unborn children and to do what will work.

And it is a fact we have a federal system of government, yes.


O‘STEEN: Yes, we‘re going to work for laws in all of the states. And we will overturn Roe v. Wade. And Fred Thompson would help do that.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe that abortion is murder?

O‘STEEN: I believe it‘s the killing of a human being. Murder is a technical term. And right now, unfortunately, it‘s legal. But it‘s the killing of a human being.

MATTHEWS: But you do believe it‘s murder?

O‘STEEN: I believe it‘s the killing of a human being, that‘s the term.

MATTHEWS: It just seems like you make a basic political judgment that would blame the doctor, when, in fact, these doctors don‘t go door to door offering people abortion services. The person who wants the abortion goes to a doctor and has the procedure done by the doctor. Yet you put the onus on the doctor. It just seems to be the strangest way to enforce a law.

O‘STEEN: Remember, that‘s where the financial incentive is, and the physician knows what they‘re doing. How many women have been told this is a blob of tissue? This isn‘t really a human life? How are they pressured by men that want to escape their responsibilities, perhaps? What about a young girl that‘s been impregnated by a male, where it‘s a case of statutory rape?

But the abortion doctor knows exactly what they‘re doing. They‘re taking a human life. And you will see Roe v. Wade reversed and you‘ll see respect for human life restored. And Fred Thompson will help do that.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much for coming on this show, David O‘Steen of the National Right to Life Committee. Up next, Rudy Giuliani is still leading in the big states. But who is in the best position to catch him? The round table is coming up next. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC

Matthews asks why the pro-life movement does not seek prosecution of the woman if abortion is considered murder. O'Steen ultimately replies it's "far more effective to take away the financial incentive of the abortion doctors that are doing this for profit and for money." But, as Matthews notes, "these doctors don't go door to door offering abortion services. The person who wants the abortion goes to a doctor and has the procedure done by a doctor." Yet O'Steen, and some other anti-abortion rights activists want to exonerate the individual offering payment for (what has been deemed) murder and deter the doctor (which, ironically, would reduce the supply of providers, thereby increasing the asking price and the profit of the doctor providing the service).

It may be political correctness, a victim mentality the right often claims to be offended by, or a soft-on-crime impulse. Perhaps it's deceit, members of the movement really believing that abortion is not killing, hence no need to prosecute the person offering a contract. Or perhaps, as Matthews says, "this is where the hypocrisy comes in, sir."
Quote of the Week

"(Treasury) Secretary (Henry) Paulson has given China the same old speech yet again, urging it to reform without laying out the specifics of what is required. Right now, China subsidizes its exports to the United States, the Americans do nothing, so why should the Chinese change? We're practicing a policy of appeasement towards China."

-Henry Morici, University of Maryland, as shown on Lou Dobbs Tonight, 11/12/07

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

No Edward R. Murrow, Cronkite, or even Russert, Wolf Blitzer nevertheless deserves some credit. On Sunday's (11/11/07) edition of CNN's Late Edition, Blitzer interviewed John Bolton, former Ambassador to the United Nations in this Administration.

BLITZER: Because a lot of experts, including the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, say there's no military solution to this, there's only a diplomatic solution. He was here on "Late Edition" two weeks ago and he told me this. Listen.


MOHAMED ELBARADEI, IAEA DIRECTOR GENERAL: I'm very much concerned about confrontation -- building confrontation, Wolf, because that would lead absolutely to a disaster. I see no military solution. The only durable solution is through negotiation and an inspection.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Now, he says there can be a solution through negotiation and inspection. But what you're saying is the Iranians, under this current regime, have no intention of giving up their nuclear program under any circumstances.

BOLTON: Mohamed ElBaradei is an apologist for Iran. He has taken positions in flat violation of three Security Council resolutions, and he needs to learn that he works for the member governments of his agency, not the other way around.
BLITZER: But he got a second term. They voted. Despite the Bush administration's opposition, he was reelected to a second term.

BOLTON: He got a third term, actually, which is even worse.

BLITZER: Third, and so there -- he does have the confidence of some people.

BOLTON: I don't think we were effective in our campaign to oppose him. I don't think that he did nearly what we should have done, and I think we are paying the price now and will pay it into the future.

BLITZER: But, you know, in fairness to Mohamed ElBaradei, before the war in Iraq, when Condoleezza Rice and the president were speaking about mushroom clouds of Saddam Hussein and a revived nuclear weapons program that he may be undertaking, he was saying there was absolutely no such evidence. He was poo-pooing it, saying the Bush administration was overly alarming and there was no nuclear weapons program that Hussein had revived. He was right on that one.

BOLTON: Even a stopclock is right twice a day. Look, Saddam Hussein kept together over 1,000 nuclear scientists and technicians that he called his nuclear mujahadeen. There may not have been centrifuge cascades spinning, but Saddam had the intellectual capability to put that program right back together.

BLITZER: But that was an important issue, trying to justify the war, the mushroom clouds, the fear, the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud, and that's not just a little issue that he was right on. He was right on a major, major justification for going to war.

BOLTON: I'm not aware there was any disagreement with the Bush administration that Saddam did not have the physical capacity in his nuclear program, but he did have the intention and he had the record of having pursued them in the past.

BLITZER: He also said this about the early September Israeli airstrike on some sort of suspicious facility in Syria that reports have suggested was some sort of North Korean nuclear reactor facility that they were building to develop centrifuges in Syria. Listen to what ElBaradei said to me on this program two weeks ago.


ELBARADEI: To bomb first and then ask questions later, I think undermines the system it and doesn't lead to any solution to any suspicion, because we are the eyes and ears of the international community. It's only the agencies and the inspectors who can go and verify the information.


BLITZER: He said if the Israelis were concerned, they should have gone to the IAEA and made their case and then the inspectors, presumably, could have gone in since Syria is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

BOLTON: In you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. The notion that Israel or the United States would put their national security in the IAEA's hands is just delusional. And let me make one important point.

Eyes and ears of the international community? Look, the IAEA functionally gets most of its sensitive information from foreign intelligence services including our own, and that's why it's more properly called the U.N.'s nuclear watchpuppy.

BLITZER: So you don't believe, obviously, this guy, anything he's basically saying?

BOLTON: I think he's actually undermining the credibility of the IAEA by his overly politicized role in the Iran crisis.

In response to Bolton, who referred to Nobel Peace Prize winner ElBaradei as an "apologist for Iran," Blitzer noted that while Condoleeza Rice and George W. Bush were painting a picture of a "mushroom cloud," ElBaradei was saying that the International Atomic Energy Agency, of which he was, and is, Director General, had found no evidence of an ongoing nuclear program. That's right, folks- no weapons of mass destruction. (To refer to chemical and biological weapons as "weapons of mass destruction" is to trivialize the awesome destructive capabilities of nuclear weapons.) Here is the relevant part of the IAEA report of March 7, 2003:

There is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites.
There is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import uranium since 1990.
There is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminium tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment. Moreover, even had Iraq pursued such a plan, it would have encountered practical difficulties in manufacturing centrifuges out of the aluminium tubes in question.
Although we are still reviewing issues related to magnets and magnet production, there is no indication to date that Iraq imported magnets for use in a centrifuge enrichment programme.

And the conclusion: "After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq."

So when yet another apologist for the Persian Gulf policy of George W. Bush (Nobel Peace Prizes won: 0) assures us, blithely, that "no one" before the war questioned the assumption that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, remember that he, or she, is lying. (And that is without reference to UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter, who asserted there was no hard evidence of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.) And another thing, Mr. Bolton: There is no need to compare President Bush unfavorably with a stopped clock.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The "power to the powerful," borrow-and-spend, party never fails to disappoint. As the New York Times reports, the Alternative Minimum Tax "was created in 1969 to ensure no one, typically the wealthy, could avoid paying all taxes because of various tax deductions. But never indexed for inflation, the tax hit approximately four million upper-middle class taxpayers this past year and with no change, would rope in an estimated 20-25 million taxpayers this year.

So House Democrats, while not yet acting on the proposal of Representative Charles Rangel (D.- N.Y.) to elimnate the AMT, proposed a rules change to abort the expanded sweep of the tax. This would cost the Treasury roughlt $80 billion, and House Democratic rules require that any tax cut or spending increase be offset to forestall an increased budget deficit. The bill, therefore, included an offsetting tax increase, on private equity managers.

The bill carried the House, 216 to 93. That would be 216 Democrats. Yes, howling about the impact upon the wealthy, no Repub voted for it and the White House warns of a veto if it passes the Senate.

Additionally, reports the Times, the White House also said language in the bill to terminate an IRS program farming out delinquency cases to private debt collectors would subject it to a veto.

Privatization and increased taxation. How many ways can the Repub Party tell the middle class to go to hell? Stay tuned.
Not just offensive, but also ironic. As the New York Daily News reported on 11/9/07 of the junior Senator from Illinois:

"I think there's no doubt that we represent the kind of change that Sen. Clinton can't deliver on, and part of it is generational," Obama, 46, said on Fox News. "Sen. Clinton and others, they've been fighting some of the same fights since the '60s, and it makes it very difficult for them to bring the country together to get things done."

Inevitably and justifiably, there was prompt criticism of the statement. The newspaper reported:

Obama's older competitors agreed. "We think Iowa caucusgoers would reject the notion that anyone over the age of 50 should be disqualified from serving in elected office," said Phil Singer, a spokesman for the 60-year-old Clinton.

"It is an odd thing to say for someone who is looking for votes in a state where the average caucusgoer is in his or her 60s," said Hari Sevugan, an aide to silver-haired candidate Christopher Dodd.

Obama's remarks are not only offensive to people not fortunate enough to be as young as Obama, but bear a certain irony. "Never trust anyone over 30" became a (exagerrated) caricature of the 1960's. Now here the Senator comes along, simultaneously criticizing the 60's- and those unfortunate not to be as young as he. A two-fer, in a way.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Breaking News: Obama attacks Dr. King!

Oh, not directly, of course. The Washington Times reports on the Illinois Senator's controversial remark made to GOP TV on November 7,2007:

"I think there is no doubt that we represent the kind of change that Senator Clinton can't deliver on, and part of it is generational," Mr. Obama told Fox News yesterday about the difference between himself and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. "I mean, Senator Clinton and others, they've been fighting some of the same fights since the '60s, and it makes it very difficult for them to bring the country together to get things done."

Those silly, trivial fights of the '60s. The dangers of nuclear proliferation. Women's rights. Civil rights. Making "it very difficult... to bring the country together," Senator Obama argues.

Obama might do better to hear, and understand, the words of Tom Brokaw, who noted "that Barack Obama is able to run for President of the United States in large part because of the 1960's."
Quote of the Week

"While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies."

-House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D.-Cal.) after hearing from Yahoo Incorporated's chief executive officer Jerry Yang and its general counsel, Michael Callahan. (Yahoo upon request had provided the government of mainland China information about the online activities of journalist Shi Tao, who was then jailed for ten years for engaging in pro-democracy efforts.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Republican Media- No. 9

David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register appeared this morning on in a contiuation of MSNBC's "Super Tuesday" programming and made a remark that has been repeated, in slightly different words, throughout the media throughout this campaign. the generally objective Yepsen, who has a sterling reputation for knowledge of Iowa politics and is the source most sought after every four years to give his take on the caucus there, said of Rudolph Giuliani's alleged national security credentials: "He has a great portfolio on that."

Great portfolio? Is this the Rudolph Giuliani who established emergency management headquarters at the site most vulnerable to terrorist attack because he and his girlfriend could walk there from Gracie Mansion? Or the Rudolph who over several years failed to provide workable radios for the New York firemen, helping lead to many of their deaths on September 11, 2001? Or perhaps the Rudolph whose actions, according to the International Association of Firefighters "meant that firefighters and citizens who perished would either remain buried at Ground Zero forever, with no closure for families, or be removed like garbage and deposited at the Fresh Kills Landfill (while) hundreds remained entombed in Ground Zero when Giuliani gave up on them?"

Giuliani is no dark horse candidate and Yepsen is no Fox News flack. Rudolph is the leading Repub candidate in nationwide polls and the media's continuing assertions that the former mayor is somehow experienced in foreign policy amount to free and effective advertising.
Specter, Schumer Cave

The Huffington Post reports that Attorney General nominee Michael B. Mukasey was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee today by a vote of 11 to 8, with Charles Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein of California breaking ranks with their Democratic colleagues. This virtually assures approval by the full Senate, though Democrats could filibuster, which of course they won't.

Approval came only after Senators Schumer and Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, the ranking Repub, each had a chat with Mukasey. In what would have been a bizarre event- were it not the Bush White House, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in today's edition, prior to the vote

"A ranking White House official didn't ask, but told me that there was a question as to whether I would be breaching classified information by telling another committee member who had not been read into the program what the program was," Specter said. "How do you like that kettle of fish? And they expect us to pass on Mukasey?"
Specter, who was briefed on the interrogation program along with the committee chairman, Patrick J. Leahy (D., Vt.), said he took the warning as a threat.
"They didn't say I 'would be,' but they said I 'could be' and once they said I could be, you know damn well I wouldn't do it," the senator said. (A White House spokesman denied even subtlely threatening Specter.)

So in yet another of Arlen Specter's characteristic profiles of courage, he was threatened, then caved.

No matter. Senator Schumer, who had recommended the former federal district judge, who apparently can't decide whether waterboarding constitutes torture, decided to vote for Mukasey after speaking to him last week. Specter was allegedly reassured by the candidate after talking to him yesterday, November 5. Two questions occur: does a member of Congress ever vote against a nominee after speaking personally to him/her? And if not, is the conversation much more than a charade- an opportunity to rationalize a vote in favor of a controversial nominee?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Our Buddy Musharraf

Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf may have declared a state of emergency throughout Pakistan and, as notes, "suspended the constitution, blacked out domestic TV news broadcasts and arrested lawyers, human rights advocates and opposition political party figures." The U.S. government may be paying him approximately $80 million a month, approximately $1 billion a year, approximately $5.6 billion since payments began in October, 2001. And perhaps Musharraf inked a deal with militants in North Waziristan in northwestern Pakistan, the center of al Qaeda operations, assuring the extremists that his army would no longer conduct operations against them. And suppose Abdul Abdeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, had transferred nuclear technology to libya, Iran, and North Korea (two-thirds of the "axis of evil") from the late 1980's to the late 1990's, was caught, confessed, and pardoned in 2004 by Musharraf, supported by George W. Bush's State Department.

Now suppose all this happened and the President of the United States of America, father of Gulf War II and the man who "looked (Vladimir Putin) in the eye" and "found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy" lectures the American people "Pervez Musharraf has been a strong fighter against extremists and radicals."

This is southcentral Asia, where India and Pakistan face each other across a nuclear chasm. And this could be a nightmare, but instead is the latest indication of the horror Antonin Scalia and four other judge/politicans visited upon our country when they decided seven years ago that the votes of south Floridians were not worthy of being counted.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Reflections on the Debate (Philadelphia)- no. 5

These guys are dangerous. Maybe Barack Obama was a community organizer. It's beginning to appear that the target audience for not only John Edwards but also Barack Obama is Main Street, not Wall Street. Here are a few examples from these fellows from the 10/31/07 Presidential debate in Philadelphia, Pa.

In response to a question about oil prices, John Edwards said in part "well, what we can do in the short term—and I will do as president—is ensure that my Justice Department investigates what these oil companies who are vertically integrated, you know, from refinery to pump, are doing." Asked about the Alternative Minimum Tax, Senator Obama got a little off the subject, but rightly maintained "I want to make sure that seniors who are making less than $50,000, that they get some relief in terms of the taxes on their Social Security. Those kinds of progressive tax steps, while closing loopholes and rolling back the Bush tax cuts to the top 1 percent, simply restores some fairness and a sense that we’re all in this together, as opposed to each of us being in it on our own."

And after criticizing lobbyinsts for hedge funds, Edwards noted "we decided to try to keep the country safer by inspecting containers that come into this country. And who lobbied against it? The biggest company in America: Wal-Mart. We’ve had trade deals that have cost us millions of jobs, and what did America get in return? We got millions of dangerous Chinese toys."

Cutting taxes for those (elderly) earning little, questioning individualism ("as opposed to each of us being in it on our own") at the expense of community, criticizing a corporate behemoth, and questioning our trade policy that aids the mainland Chinese at the expense of consumers and workers. Dangerous ideas. Senator Clinton will not embrace them. The media will be skeptical of them. And the Repubs will be horrified.
Quote of the Week

"You probably couldn't find one middle-class Canadian who would trade our system for yours."

- Steve Paikin, author of "The New Game- How Hockey Saved Itself," responding to guest host David Shuster about health care on MSNBC's "Tucker," on 10/31/07
Reflections on the Debate (Philadelphia)- no. 4

Thanks to Tim Russert's questioning at the Democratic debate on 10/31/07 at Drexel University, we now have a fairly good idea what the three leading candidates for the Democratic nomination for President believe about one of the most viable options for reforming Social Security. Asked about raising the cap from $97,500, Senator Clinton stated

So when somebody asks me, would something like this be considered, well, anything could be considered when we get to a bipartisan commission. But personally, I am not going to be advocating any specific fix until I am seriously approaching fiscal responsibility.

Thus, the frontrunner's response: maybe, assuming I get political cover. Later in the same discussion, Senator Obama explained:

So what I’ve said, and I know some others on this stage have said, is that among the options that are available, the best one is to lift the cap on the payroll tax, potentially exempting folks in the middle— middle class folks— but making sure that the wealthy are paying more of their fair share—a little bit more.

Thus, the response from the guy in second place: sounds like a good idea.

We already had heard from the guy in third place. Edwards has advocated the approach Obama describes as "exempting folks in the middle- middle class folks." To be sure, individuals earning more than $97,500 annually are in most states upper middle class, but there may be some policy value exempting those earning say, $150,000 a year, aside from the obvious advantage of political viability. And of course, the idea that someone accruing a half million, or a million, dollars a year should have to pay more to help the elderly in itself is anathema to most professional Repubs, who by their support for a cap demonstrate a belief that wages earned by middle class workers are somehow tainted.

Why This Comment?

Who's he talking about? Joe Scarborough wisely and very courageously asserts .... Again, a good question to ask about what he said in a...