Archive for August 15th, 2008

By- Suzie-Q @ 8:00 PM MST

McCain campaign re-defines ‘lockstep’

Crooks and Liars: By: Steve Benen on Friday, August 15th, 2008 at 4:07 PM – PDT

The Obama campaign unveiled a solid new ad recently, which, among other things, goes after McCain for having voted with George W. Bush 95% of the time last year.

Soon after, the McCain campaign responded by — I kid you not — telling reporters, “In the Senate, Barack Obama has voted in lockstep with President George W. Bush nearly half the time.”

I generally find McCain campaign talking points more annoying than amusing, but this is hysterical. Let’s consider some of the reasons this is an unusually dumb thing to say:

1. If the McCain campaign wants to make the presidential race about which candidate voted with Bush more, McCain might as well deliver his concession speech now.

2. “Nearly half” is not “in lockstep.” Many Bush administration pronouncements are not controversial, so every senator is going to vote with the White House line at least some of the time.

3. The McCain gang certainly knew this criticism was coming, and had plenty of time to prepare. This is the best they could come up with.

4. The McCain campaign argues that Obama is the Senate’s biggest liberal. The McCain campaign argues that Obama has “voted in lockstep” with Bush. Oddly enough, they’re making both arguments at the same time.

Go ahead, Tucker Bounds, tell us another one.

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Humanity’s Dead End

By- Suzie-Q @ 6:35 PM MST

The Delusion Revolution: We’re on the Road to Extinction and in Denial

By Robert Jensen, AlterNet. Posted August 15, 2008

Our current way of life is unsustainable. We are the first species that will have to self-consciously impose limits on ourselves if we are to survive.

A version of this essay was delivered to the Interfaith Summer Institute for Justice, Peace, and Social Movements at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver on Aug. 11, 2008. Audio files of the talk and discussion are available online from the Radio Ecoshock Show.

“The old future’s gone,” John Gorka sings. “We can’t get to there from here.”

That insight from Gorka, one of my favorite singer/songwriters chronicling the complexity of our times, deserves serious reflection. Tonight I want to argue that the way in which we humans have long imagined the future must be rethought, as the scope and depth of the cascading crises we face become painfully clearer day by day.

Put simply: We’re in trouble, on all fronts, and the trouble is wider and deeper than most of us have been willing to acknowledge. We should struggle to build a road on which we can walk through those troubles — if such a road is possible — but I doubt it’s going to look like any path we had previously envisioned, nor is it likely to lead anywhere close to where most of us thought we were going.

Whatever our individual conception of the future, we all should re-evaluate the assumptions on which those conceptions have been based. This is a moment in which we should abandon any political certainties to which we may want to cling. Given humans’ failure to predict the place we find ourselves today, I don’t think that’s such a radical statement. As we stand at the edge of the end of the ability of the ecosystem in which we live to sustain human life as we know it, what kind of hubris would it take to make claims that we can know the future?

It takes the hubris of folks such as biologist Richard Dawkins, who once wrote that “our brains … are big enough to see into the future and plot long-term consequences.” Such a statement is a reminder that human egos are typically larger than brains, which emphasizes the dramatic need for a drastic humility.

I read that essay by Dawkins after hearing the sentence quoted by Wes Jackson, an important contemporary scientist and philosopher working at the Land Institute. Jackson’s work has most helped me recognize an obvious and important truth that is too often ignored: For all our cleverness, we human beings are far more ignorant than knowledgeable. Human accomplishments — skyscrapers, the Internet, the mapping of the human genome — seduce us into believing the illusion that we can control a world that is complex beyond our ability to understand. Jackson suggests that we would be wise to recognize this and commit to “an ignorance-based worldview” that would anchor us in the intellectual humility we will need if we are to survive the often toxic effects of our own cleverness.

Let’s review a few of the clever political and theological claims made about the future. Are there any folks here who accept the neoliberal claim that the triumph of so-called “free market” capitalism in electoral democracies is the “end of history” and that there is left for us only tweaking that system to solve any remaining problems? Would anyone like to defend the idea that “scientific socialism” not only explains history but can lay out before us the blueprint for a glorious future? Would someone like to offer an explanation of how the pending return of the messiah is going to secure for believers first-class tickets to the New Jerusalem?


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Evening Jukebox… INTO THE NIGHT

By- Suzie-Q @ 6:30 PM MST


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VA Blocks Voter Registration at Vets’ Hospitals

By- Paul Rieckhoff @ 8:52 PM EDT

When it comes to making profoundly stupid bureaucratic decisions, the Department of Veterans Affairs is often in a class by itself. When VA bureaucrats aren’t losing laptops with millions of veterans’ personal data or forgetting to include Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in their budget calculations, they are giving themselves obscene raises. For all the hard working doctors and nurses in VA hospitals and clinics across the country, it’s a real shame that some top level VA officials are dragging the VA name through the mud.

Today we have one more bureaucratic blunder to add to the list. The VA has banned voter registration at veterans’ nursing homes and homeless shelters. The irony is almost too great. Disabled veterans, who have made such tremendous sacrifices in defense of democracy, are now being denied assistance in voting.

The VA is claiming that voter registration drives are partisan, and would interfere with the functioning of their facilities. But hundreds of nonpartisan organizations regularly participate in voter registration drives -everyone from the League of Women Voters to the Elks Club. Helping people vote is a civic duty, not a partisan activity.

And if voter registration drives interfere with an institution’s functioning, someone should tell the Texas Hospital Association and the American Medical Student Association, both of whom run voter registration campaigns at hospitals and clinics. The “Rx: Vote Campaign,” run by the National Physicians Alliance, argues:

“Without exercising the right to vote, patients and those who care for them lack the power to improve the health of their communities. As a result, patients’ health, and the health of our democracy, suffer. The nation’s community health centers, clinics, and hospitals have a unique ability and responsibility to empower patients to participate in the democratic process.”

If doctors believe voter registration drives can and should be happening at their hospitals, why can’t the VA accept voter registration at their facilities?

The VA doesn’t have a leg to stand on morally or legally. But if the VA refuses to budge, Congress will have to act quickly to overrule the VA, before veterans start missing their states’ voter registration deadlines.

It should not take an act of Congress for the VA to admit they made a mistake. But until they do, hospitalized veterans like Martin O’Nieal, “a 92-year-old man who lost a leg while fighting the Nazis in the mountains of Northern Italy,” will have to struggle to exercise the very rights they helped defend on the field of battle.

How can you help protect the voting rights of our veterans? Keep an eye on IAVA.org. In the meantime, make sure that you are registered to vote. It only takes a second.

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GEF @ 6:38 PM ET

Falling Dominoes

It’s extremely clear that World Governments are lying about the size of the US financial mess.. – GEF

Spanish government cuts short holiday as economy collapses

Spain’s cabinet ministers took the unprecedented step of interrupting their summer holidays to hold an emergency meeting on the nation’s deepening economic crisis.

By Fiona Govan, Madrid Correspondent

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, sought to address the “stagnation and slowdown” of the economy when he announced a package of 24 measures designed to lessen their effect.

Spain is among the European countries that, like Britain, have been hardest hit by the kock on effects of the economic downturn and credit crunch in the United States.

Mr Zapatero made the rare move of convening his cabinet during August, when Spaniards traditionally take their annual leave and Madridrelos escape the stifling summer heat of the capital. He called the meeting to approve a raft of measures that include the elimination of inheritance tax and the injection of finance into state housing projects.

The move came a day after figures showed that second quarter growth dropped to 0.1 per cent, its lowest level since 1993 when Spain emerged from its last recession and housing crisis.

“We face a situation of economic stagnation and a steep slowdown,” Mr Zapatero said after chairing the cabinet meeting and after cutting short his family holiday in the remote Doñana national park. “The government is working to make sure that the economy recovers as soon as possible.”

The cabinet approved the provision of a 20 billion euro (£15.9 billion) finance package in a bid to stimulate the economy and avoid a looming recession.
The package also aims to simplify environmental plans for public works and cuts red tape for small and medium-sized businesses. It will also boost railroad infrastructure, launch a partial privatisation of the airport system and allow longer opening hours for retailers.
The Spanish government’s new measures are in addition to an 18 billion euro spending plan announced in April aimed at reviving the economy.

But the conservative opposition have accused Zapatero, who was re-elected to a second term in March, of being too slow to take action on the economy and branded the government’s extraordinary cabinet meeting as nothing more than a publicity stunt.

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Sudhan @23:50 CET

by Ted Rall | Smirking Chimp, August 15, 2008

NEW YORK–Unless something happens, John McCain will win.

Of course, “unless something happens” is the biggest qualifier in the world, more than adequate to CYA me should Obama prevail. It’s politics. There are almost three months. Odds are something will happen.

Still, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Obama’s electoral handicaps–his racial identification and short resume–should have easily been eclipsed by Bush’s–er, McCain’s well-stocked aviary of albatrosses. McCain was and remains short of money. His campaign organization is a mess. Republican bosses are unenthusiastic, both about his prospects and about the direction he would take his party should he win. He has aligned himself with the most unpopular aspect of the wildly unpopular outgoing administration, the Iraq War. At a time when economically insecure voters are staring down the barrel of a recession-cum-depression, McCain promises more of the same–no help is on the way. And he’s old. Sooo painfully I-don’t-use-the-Internet old.

What is it that has the politerati betting on a McCain Administration? Historical precedent. During most presidential election years, Republicans tend to surge in the last few months of the campaign. For a Democrat to win in November, he must have a comfortable lead in the polls at this stage in the game.

The classic example is 1976, Jimmy Carter led incumbent Gerald Ford by 33 percentage points. Ford was hobbled by Watergate, a recession, and his pardon of Nixon, as well as his dismal performance in the debates, where he claimed that the Soviet Union wasn’t dominating eastern Europe. Nevertheless, Ford closed the lead, losing to Carter by just two points. This follows the pattern, albeit by a wider margin than in most elections.

In recent years, the countervailing example is the 1992 contest between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, the incumbent. After the Democratic National Convention in August, Clinton was only ahead of Bush by a few points. Clinton won, but only because independent Ross Perot, a businessman with libertarian leanings, attracted so many votes from registered Republicans.

Perot ran again in 1996, but was less of a factor. So the old pattern reasserted itself. Clinton led Bob Dole by roughly 20 percent in mid-August, but won by eight. Republicans always close the gap.

It happened again in 2000. In mid-August, Al Gore had an eight-point lead ahead of George W. Bush. Gore won the popular vote by 0.6 percent.

If you’re a Democrat, being ahead isn’t enough. In 2004 John Kerry was ahead in mid-August–but by just two points. Bush was an incumbent with potentially grave weaknesses–he hadn’t found Osama or Iraq’s supposed WMDs, and he was already losing the war–yet the pattern reasserted itself. Bush gained four points, prevailing in the popular vote by 2.4 percent. (I won’t comment on the electoral vote, aside from mentioning that it was stolen in the key state of Ohio.)

If Barack Obama ends up beating John McCain, he will have done so with the smallest August lead for a Democrat in memory–three points, within the statistical margin of error for tracking polls. A columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times argues that’s good news: “Out of the gate,” writes Carol Marin, “the thoroughbred who leads too early and by too great a margin is more often than not the vulnerable one, the one in danger of losing it all to the horse who strategically holds back, waits, and then thunders in the final furlongs to finish first.” Nice metaphor, but presidential campaigns aren’t horse races. They’re boxing matches. The last man standing wins.

Unless Obama starts swinging soon, he’s done for. Insiders are tut-tutting over Ohio, an important swing state this year. Given the decade-long recession and voter anger there–not to mention a significant African-American population–Obama ought to be kicking McCain six ways to Sunday. But the two candidates are neck and neck in fundraising. “For McCain to even be competitive is surprising to me,” says Chris Duncan, chairman of the political science department at the University of Dayton. “I don’t think it’s that he’s doing better than expected. I think it’s that Obama is doing worse than he would expect.”

Vincent Hutchings of the University of Michigan wonders if the Obama campaign is counting too much on young voters. “Is he generating enough enthusiasm to excite people who lack a formal education and are disproportionately young, and not likely to vote?” he asks.

As I argued in my 2004 polemic “Wake Up! You’re Liberal: How We Can Take America Back From the Right,” American voters feel besieged. At home, they see prices rising while their salaries get gnawed away by inflation. From a foreign affairs standpoint, they see a world full of terrorists and hostile rivals–Iran, North Korea, Russia, China–out to get them. As a psychologist would say, the fact that there isn’t much truth to this perception doesn’t make it less real.

Americans want their presidents to be a National Daddy–an ornery cuss willing to err on the side of kicking some innocent schlub’s ass to protect them.

Last time around, in 2004, John Kerry repeatedly turned the other jowl as Bush and his proxies pounded him with the now-notorious Swift Boat ads. Of course, whether Kerry’s Vietnam service rose to the level of heroism was debatable. What wasn’t was that Bush weaseled out of going at all. But Kerry never responded. If the guy won’t fight for himself, voters asked themselves, how will he fight for me?

Obama has already traveled too far down the Path of the Kerry, repeatedly voting for funding a war his entire candidacy is predicated upon opposing, not to mention government spying on U.S. citizens and, most recently, the embarrassingly cheesy spectacle of endorsing offshore oil drilling. I mean, really: Do any right-wing conservatives believe he really means any of this stuff?

If he is to make history by salvaging his campaign from its current neck-and-neck status with McCain, Obama will have to rally the Democrats’ liberal base by throwing them some red meat: immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, socialized medicine and a sweeping credit crisis bailout plan (all interest rates legally reset to prime) would be a start. He’ll also need to beat up McCain (fairly) for agreeing with Bush about just about everything–and pledge to hold the Bushies responsible for their crimes.

About author:
Ted Rall is the author of the new book “Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?,” an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America’s next big foreign policy challenge.

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By- Suzie-Q @ 1:30 PM MST

Ralph Reed

Ralph Reed

Dems hit McCain over Abramoff-tainted fundraiser

Raw Story- Nick Juliano
Published: Friday August 15, 2008

Waxman says McCain ‘abandoning his principles’

Despite a healthy fundraising haul last month, presidential candidate John McCain is still being severely outpaced in the money race by his Democratic opponent, and a fundraiser scheduled on the Republican’s behalf next week shows just how far he’s willing to go to catch up.

Democrats, though, aren’t letting McCain forget that the host of Monday’s funraiser — Christian Right leader Ralph Reed — was a key player in corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s money laundering and influence peddling schemes.

“Raising money with Ralph Reed shows that the John McCain who ran in 2000 would have a hard time considering voting for the John McCain we see today. Senator McCain has changed,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) during a conference call Friday. “He’s taking advice from Karl Rove and Karl Rove’s minions – and now he’s adopting Karl Rove and Dick Cheney anything goes style of low road politics.”

Critics are taking particular delight in the irony that McCain is now relying on a figure in a scandal that the Arizona Senator himself was instrumental in uncovering. As chairman of the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee, McCain and his staff uncovered myriad instances of Abramoff’s efforts to take advantage of tribal clients who retained him to lobby on behalf of casino interests.

“The John McCain who used to go out and try to root out this sort of corruption is now appearing to me to be a desperate candidate who will say anything and raise money anywhere with absolutely anyone to pay for a lot of the false and negative ads that we have seen,” said Waxman, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, which also has investigated the Abramoff scandal.

While Waxman said McCain deserves credit for his previous work on the Abramoff investigation, he accused the candidate of abandoning his principles in pursuit of political victory. According to standards McCain laid out for himself at the start of the campaign, Reed should be “completely disqualified” from participating in the campaign, Waxman said on the call, which was sponsored by the Democratic National Committee.

Reed, a former director of the Christian Coalition, interceded with President Bush and White House officials to help some of Abramoff’s clients, according to a House committee’s investigation in 2006. Reed’s public relations firm also received $4.2 million from Abramoff to mobilize Christian voters to fight the opening of casinos that could compete with Abramoff’s Indian tribe clients.

After being exposed as a player in the Abramoff scandal, Reed said he regretted his actions.

In an e-mail statement to the Associated Press this week, Reed said, “I take the long view of politics, which is that yesterday’s opponent can be tomorrow’s friend or ally.” He said he suppports the Arizona Republican but holds “no position, title or official role in the McCain campaign and am not seeking one.”

The DNC on Thursday released a Web ad criticizing McCain for the Reed fundraiser.

“Most people now see Ralph Reed as a tainted man, raising tainted money,” the ad intones. “John McCain sees him as a source of campaign cash.”

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Putin’s war enablers: Bush and Cheney

Sudhan @21:50 CET

Russia’s escalating war on Georgia reveals the consequences of the Bush administration’s long assault on the international rule of law.

By Juan Cole | Salon.com, August 14, 2008

George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin

Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Vladimir Putin (right) of Russia and George W. Bush arrive at a summit on the Black Sea, April 5, 2008.

The run-up to the current chaos in the Caucasus should look quite familiar: Russia acted unilaterally rather than going through the U.N. Security Council. It used massive force against a small, weak adversary. It called for regime change in a country that had defied Moscow. It championed a separatist movement as a way of asserting dominance in a region it coveted.

Indeed, despite George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s howls of outrage at Russian aggression in Georgia and the disputed province of South Ossetia, the Bush administration set a deep precedent for Moscow’s actions — with its own systematic assault on international law over the past seven years. Now, the administration’s condemnations of Russia ring hollow.

Bush said on Monday, responding to reports that Russia might attack the Georgian capital, “It now appears that an effort may be under way to depose [Georgia’s] duly elected government. Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century.” By Wednesday, with more Russian troops on the move and a negotiated cease-fire quickly unraveling, Bush stepped up the rhetoric, announcing a sizable humanitarian-aid mission to Georgia and dispatching Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region.

While U.S. leaders have tended to back Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, there are two sides to every dispute, and in the ethnically diverse Caucasus it may be more like a hundred sides. Abkhazia and Ossetia are claimed by Georgia, but they have their own distinctive languages, cultures and national aspirations. Both fought for independence in the early 1990s, without success, though neither was Georgia able to assert its full sovereignty over them, accepting Russian mediation and peacekeeping troops.

The separatist leaders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia now speak of Saakashvili in terms reminiscent of the way separatists in Darfur speak of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Sergei Bagapsh of Abkhazia and Eduard Kokoity of South Ossetia have come out against conducting any further talks with Georgia, calling instead for Saakashvili to be tried for war crimes. Kokoity told Interfax, “There can be no talks with the organizers of genocide.” The Russian press is full of talk of putting Saakashvili on trial for ordering attacks on Ossetian civilians.

Continued . . .

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Warren I. Cohen on China’s Charm Offensive

anthony @20:49 BST

Warren I. Cohen | TruthDig | Aug 15, 2008

The Olympics have gone to China, exposing the many contradictions within Chinese society and among international perceptions of the modern Chinese state. Newspapers and periodicals are filled with stories and photos of the magnificent new world-class architecture in Beijing and Shanghai. President George W. Bush and other world leaders attended the opening ceremonies. This is a moment of enormous pride for the Chinese people. Hundreds of thousands celebrated in Tiananmen Square in the summer of 2001 when the announcement came that Beijing had been awarded the 2008 games. The age of humiliation was over. China’s resurrection as a Great Power has been recognized and the past sins of the Beijing regime have been forgotten, at home and abroad. China’s status in the world has not been so high since the days of the Qianlong Emperor, back in the 18th century. The rule of the Chinese Communist Party has been validated.

But reports of the harassment, detention and arrest of dissidents all over China, apparently aimed at preventing unpleasant scenes that might detract from the glory of the games, are also filling the media. Contrary to promises made to the Olympic Committee, the Chinese government does not appear to be making a serious effort to demonstrate its respect for human rights. The recent abuses provide additional evidence of continuing repression in China. What’s going on? What kind of country is China becoming?

For my generation of students of modern China, the defining moment came on June 4, 1989, when the People’s Liberation Army massacred hundreds of the people in the vicinity of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Conceivably thousands more were killed elsewhere across the country—all for the crime of protesting against their government’s arbitrary use and abuse of power. For me, that stain will remain at least until the Chinese government admits what it did and apologizes to the families of the victims and to the citizens of China. I don’t expect to live to see that day. And most of my Chinese friends, including some who participated in the protest movement, tell me that it’s time to move on—as they have. I’ve discovered that many, probably most, Chinese college students are unaware of what happened in 1989, that the government has suppressed that memory, as it has memories of many of the horrors that the Chinese Communist Party has inflicted on the Chinese people.


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‘Meet The Bloggers’- August 15, 2008

By- Suzie-Q @ 11:15 AM MST

Watch ‘Meet the Bloggers.’

Think Progress-  By Faiz at 1:07 pm

‘Meet the Bloggers’ is a live weekly online show created by the Brave New Foundation. This week’s guests are Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Isaiah Poole from OurFuture.org, and Amanda Logan from the Center for American Progress. Logan will be discussing her Wonk Room post this week on the current state of the economy and the collapse of the middle class. Watch the show here.

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