Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Top 10 Conservative Idiots, No. 308

October 1, 2007 - Phony Outrage Edition

Rush Limbaugh and The Petraeus Cheerleading Squad (1) displayed some remarkable hypocrisy last week - not that anyone really noticed, of course. Meanwhile, George W. Bush (4,5,9) needs some help PRO-NOUN-SING FO-RIN words, Rudy Giuliani (6) comes up with a new reason to mention 9/11, and John McCain (10) panders to the idiot base.

PAUL KRUGMAN: Enron’s Second Coming?


In May 2005 NYSE Magazine featured an article titled “American Dream Builder” — a glowing profile of Angelo Mozilo, the chairman and C.E.O. of Countrywide Financial, the nation’s largest mortgage lender. The article portrayed Mr. Mozilo as a heckuva guy — a man from a humble background determined to help other people, especially members of minority groups, achieve the American dream of homeownership.

The article didn’t mention one of Mr. Mozilo’s other distinguishing characteristics: the extraordinary size of his paychecks. Last year Mr. Mozilo was paid $142 million, making him the seventh-highest-paid chief executive in America.

These days, of course, Mr. Mozilo doesn’t look like such a wonderful guy, after all. Instead, he’s starting to bring back memories of other people who used to be praised not just as great businessmen but as great human beings — people like Enron’s Ken Lay and WorldCom’s Bernie Ebbers.

So far, nobody has accused Mr. Mozilo of breaking the law. Still, what we’re learning from the housing mess is that the crisis of corporate governance, which made headlines in the early years of this decade, never went away.

At this point it appears that Mr. Mozilo achieved the rare feat of victimizing three distinct groups.

First were the borrowers. As The Times’s Gretchen Morgenson reported in August, Countrywide often led customers to “high-cost and sometimes unfavorable loans” that, among other things, generated “outsize fees to company affiliates providing services on the loans.”

Then there are the investors who bought those Countrywide mortgages directly or indirectly, in the form of financial instruments created by slicing and dicing claims on borrowers.

You can’t especially single out Countrywide for the failure of investors to realize how much risk they were taking on — that’s a failure with many fathers, including everyone from Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, which were far too free with their AAA ratings, to Alan Greenspan, who assured us that while there might be a bit of “froth,” there was no national housing bubble.

But Countrywide made more questionable loans than anyone else — and its postbubble behavior does stand out. As Ms. Morgenson reported in yesterday’s Times, Countrywide seems peculiarly unwilling to work out deals that might let borrowers hold on to their homes — even when such a deal, by avoiding the costs of foreclosure, would actually work to the benefit of both sides.

Why block mutually beneficial deals? As the article points out, Countrywide can make money from the fees it charges on foreclosures, while the losses from mortgages that could have been saved, but weren’t, are borne by others.

Last but not least, since it may be the key to the whole story, is the victimization of Countrywide’s own stockholders.

Last year Mr. Mozilo’s huge compensation drew a protest from a group of shareholders including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Pension Plan. But the worst was yet to come.

In late 2006, even as Countrywide began using shareholders’ money to buy back its own stock at more than $40 a share — it’s now worth only $19 — Mr. Mozilo was selling. Between November 2006 and August 2007 — that is, during the months before investors fully realized the extent to which his company would be hurt by the subprime mortgage crisis — he unloaded $138 million worth of Countrywide’s stock.

Again, unless the stock sales lead to insider-trading charges, there’s nothing in this story that involves illegality. Still, how can it be that so soon after Enron, WorldCom and other scandals rocked the business world, we’re once again hearing about executives cashing in just before their companies are revealed as less successful than advertised? The answer, of course, is that we never dealt properly with those scandals.

Here’s what I wrote back in May 2003:

“Last summer it seemed, briefly, as if the torrent of scandals — and the revelations about how closely some of our politicians were tied to scandal-ridden companies — would bring about a public backlash against corporate malfeasance. But then the topic largely vanished from the news, driven out by reports about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program and all that. And after the midterm elections, which put apologists for corporate insiders back in control of all the relevant Congressional committees, we might as well have had the sirens sound the all-clear.”

Sure enough, C.E.O. paychecks, which came partway back to earth in 2002, more than doubled between 2003 and 2006. And with those huge paychecks came renewed incentives for malfeasance. Once again, executives could become richer than Croesus by creating the illusion of success, even for a little while.

There is one big difference this time: the number of victims — misled borrowers, homeowners whose neighborhoods are being destroyed by foreclosures, investors who thought they were buying safe assets — is even larger.

ROGER COHEN: The Politics of Confidence


The unpopularity of George W. Bush has led many to believe global America-hating will ebb once he leaves office on Jan. 20, 2009. That’s a dangerous assumption.

It’s dangerous because the extent of American power will continue to invite resentment whoever is in the White House, and because America’s perception of the terrorist threat will still differ from that of its Asian and European allies. Asians are focused on growth, Europeans on integration: different priorities cause friction.

The Iraq-linked damage to U.S. credibility is too severe to be quickly undone. The net loss of Western influence over the world means the ability of Bush’s successor to shape events is diminished.

Still, the next U.S. leader will enjoy a honeymoon. To prolong it, several steps are essential. The most critical is a switch from the politics of anxiety to the politics of confidence.

Bush and Cheney never emerged from the 9/11 bunker. Their attack-dog snarl alienated a globe asked to step in line or step aside. The expectation of fealty must give way to the entertainment of dissent.

The next leader has to be curious. Presidential body language needs to say “I’m one of you.” Facebook engagement must supplant fearful estrangement.

Even a bit of curiosity reveals that kids from Toledo to Tokyo talk about the weather. The consensus on global warming is such that America’s refusal to lead the green debate has been disastrous.

Bush’s successor must confront one of this century’s central challenges: the transition to a low-carbon global economy. Developing countries, especially China, think we made the mess and should clean it up. Only the United States has the capacity to draw India and China into a post-Kyoto push for cleaner air with undiminished growth.

Climate is universal. So are many problems, like growing inequality. The world resembles a pool table: movement of one ball propels others. Yet the institutions to deal with it — the U.N. Security Council or G-8 — are antiquated.

“International institutions are designed for the world as it was rather than as it is,” says David Miliband, the British foreign secretary.

The 44th president should push to modernize them in ways that reflect the weight of China, India and Brazil, and economic progress in Africa. Proposing Japan for permanent membership of the U.N. Security Council is not enough.

The war on terror has been a divisive phrase. It has brought some successes — America has been kept safe — but has amalgamated jihadists bent on the West’s destruction with national movements like the Palestinian whose goal is distinct. Islam now sees America as enemy.

The next president can help move beyond polarization by speaking of counterterrorism rather than global wars, focusing on a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel, and coaxing the European Union to admit Turkey.

A decent medium-term outcome in Iraq demands regional diplomacy involving Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran. In the latter, nonproliferation must prevail. It has prevailed in the past — in South Africa, Libya, South America. It must be made to work in Iran. The alternative is an unacceptable Middle Eastern nuclear arms race.

Europe has influence in Tehran. There are now three leaders — Gordon Brown in Britain, Nicolas Sarkozy in France and Angela Merkel in Germany — with a genuine liking for America. None were involved in the Iraq acrimony.

The next president must work with them to squeeze the mullahs. Iran demands unity. So does the propagation of Western values: pluralism, rule of law, independent media, market economies.

Liberal democracy has taken a battering. A countermodel now exists: the authoritarian-capitalist, or Leninist-capitalist, systems of China and Russia. They have benefited from Iraq’s democracy-as-mayhem.

China is pushing no-strings-attached “harmony” in its quiet quest for natural resources and global influence. Petropower has upped Russian testosterone.

Both countries have a 19th-century view of the 21st century: sovereign great powers will dominate. To manage these ambitions, the next president must cultivate rather than trample on America’s global alliances.

Monk-power in Myanmar suggests that the magnetism of open societies is undimmed. Africa knows enough of despotism to doubt a China model. The American idea can still resonate. The coming leader must embody rather than impose it.

Pressure on the next administration to turn inward will be strong. Protectionism has appeal to a hard-pressed middle class. Retreat attracts a nation scarred by Bush’s radical and bungled overreach.

But the world will be much more dangerous without the responsible exercise of U.S. power in the name of barrier-breaking instead of barrier-building. The next president must sell that conviction.

Multilateralism without a global arbiter has been tried. It produced World War I and World War II.

You are invited to comment at my blog:

US to reward Iran for ending Iraq arms supply

The Telegraph (UK)

America is prepared to "reciprocate" if Iran halts shipments of arms to Iraq's Shia Muslim militias, General David Petraeus, the US commander in Baghdad has said.

Gen Petreaus revealed attacks by Iranian-backed groups may have declined following a meeting between Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August.

"Honestly, and I really mean this, all of us would really welcome the opportunity to see this, confirm it and even - in whatever way we could - to reciprocate," Gen Petraeus told the Los Angeles Times. "But it really is wait-and-see time right now."

American diplomats participated in ground-breaking negotiations with Iranian officials in Baghdad this summer but Gen Petraeus gave credit to Iraq's prime minister for sealing an apparent deal.

"The president of Iran pledged to Prime Minister Maliki during a recent meeting that he would stop the flow of weapons, the training, the funding and the directing of these militia extremists that have been such a huge problem really for Iraq," Gen Petraeus said.

The most obvious goodwill gesture open to Gen Petraeus is to release Iranian officials held by US forces and accused of being senior figures in Iran's Revolutionary Guards Qods Force, a secretive unit that directs support for overseas terrorists.

Iran last week announced the closure of its border with Iraq to protest the detention of Mahmudi Farhadi. Mr Farhadi was held on suspicion of meeting with militia commanders but Iran claims he is a well-known private businessman.

Five Iranian officials were detained at an Iranian-owned building in northern Iraq in January.

America accuses the Iranian regime of training, financing and supplying insurgent groups that have killed thousands of its troops, and untold numbers of civilians in Iraq.

US military officials in Baghdad have steadily upped public pressure on Iran by putting captured Iranian-made munitions on display.

Rear Admiral Mark Fox, a coalition spokesman, announced that "several" Misagh-1 Iranian-made missiles had been seized by US troops. It was the latest in a series of such revelations in the last two weeks.

He said: "We've said that we've found these things, we've seen them employed. That's significant in its own right."

An aide to Prime Minister Maliki appeared to confirm the Iraqi leader had secured concessions from Iran's hardline President Ahmadinejad.

"The prime minister has been saying recently that the Iranians have been giving him strong promises," the official said. "The results of these promises are starting to be felt as far as the trafficking of weapons is concerned."

Christian Conservatives Consider Third-Party Effort


Alarmed at the chance that the Republican party might pick Rudolph Giuliani as its presidential nominee despite his support for abortion rights, a coalition of influential Christian conservatives is threatening to back a third-party candidate in an attempt to stop him.

The group making the threat, which came together Saturday in Salt Lake City during a break-away gathering during a meeting of the secretive Council for National Policy, includes Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who is perhaps the most influential of the group, as well as Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, the direct mail pioneer Richard Viguerie and dozens of other politically-oriented conservative Christians, participants said. Almost everyone present expressed support for a written resolution that “if the Republican Party nominates a pro-abortion candidate we will consider running a third party candidate.”

The participants spoke on condition of anonymity because the both the Council for National Policy and the smaller meeting were secret, but they said members of the intend to publicize its resolution. These participants said the group chose the qualified term “consider” because they have not yet identified an alternative third party candidate, but the group was largely united in its plans to bolt the party if Mr. Giuliani became the candidate.

A revolt of Christian conservative leaders could be a significant setback to the Giuliani campaign because white evangelical Protestants make up a major portion of Republican primary voters. But the threat is risky for the credibility of the Christian conservative movement as well. Some of its usual grass-roots supporters could still choose to support even a pro-choice Republican like Mr. Giuliani, either because they dislike the Democratic nominee even more or because they are worried about war, terrorism and other issues.........

The religious right's political power ebbs

WASHINGTON — Palm Sunday two years ago was a glorious day for Christian conservatives.

A president who'd proclaimed Jesus his favorite philosopher was racing back from vacation to sign a bill rushed through a compliant Congress at their bidding — a last-minute gamble to keep alive a severely brain-damaged woman in Florida.

That, however, was the peak of the Christian conservatives' political power.

Today, their nearly three-decade-long ascendance in the Republican Party is over. Their loyalties and priorities are in flux, the organizations that gave them political muscle are in disarray, the high-profile preachers who led them to influence through the 1980s and 1990s are being replaced by a new generation that's less interested in their agenda and their hold on politics and the 2008 Republican presidential nomination is in doubt.

"Less than four years after declarations that the Religious Right had taken over the Republican Party, these social conservatives seem almost powerless to influence its nomination process," said W. James Antle III, an editor at the American Spectator magazine who's written extensively about religious conservatives.

"They have the numbers. They have the capability. What they don't have is unity or any institutional leverage."

The Religious Right never had absolute power in the Republican Party. It never got the Republican president and Republican Congress to pursue a constitutional amendment banning abortion, for example.

But it did have enormous clout in party politics and a big voice in policy, and it's lost much of both heading into 2008.

In the presidential campaign, for example, candidate Rudy Giuliani consistently leads national polls of likely Republican voters despite his support for abortion rights and gay rights, not to mention his three marriages.

Fred Thompson boasts of a strong voting record against abortion, yet he admitted recently that he doesn't go to church regularly and wouldn't support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage because he'd rather leave it to the states.

"He is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians," social conservative James Dobson said sarcastically in an e-mail to fellow conservatives. "Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me."

Yet Thompson's support as measured by polls nationally and in the early voting states apparently hasn't suffered.

And all of the top Republican candidates felt free to skip a values forum in Florida organized by some of the country's top social conservatives, including Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum and Don Wildmon of the American Family Association.

The candidates will appear at a similar values voters gathering in Washington, D.C., but the snub of such high-profile social conservatives in a politically important state such as Florida would have been unlikely in the 1980s or 1990s.

"None of these candidates are ignoring conservative Christians," said John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron, "but they're not giving them as much attention as occurred in past elections. … There is at least the perception that these voters don't have the influence they once had."

In church, the generation of politically active, high profile evangelists such as Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell is giving way to new preachers such as Joel Osteen and Rick Warren, who shun partisan politics or are willing to embrace Democrats.........

Blackwater guards fired unprovoked: Iraq police evidence

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Iraqi investigators have evidence that US private guards fired unprovoked on Iraqis in a deadly Baghdad shoot-out, a magazine said Sunday, citing a police report countering claims that they shot in self-defense.

A convoy of the Blackwater private security firm's vehicles "opened fire crazily and randomly, without any reason," Newsweek reported, quoting from the report which it said Iraq's national police have presented to US officials.

Evidence obtained from the police, including witness statements and video footage, contradicts Blackwater's account of the shooting in which 10 Iraqis were killed on September 16, it said in its Monday edition.

The firm insists its guards were shot at first and were threatened by a suspicious vehicle that refused to stop.

But Newsweek quoted officers including the lead Iraqi police investigator Faris Saadi Abdul, and the commander of the Iraqi National Police, Hussein Al-Awadi, as saying that the contractors fired without provocation.

A police video published online by the magazine showed the scene after the clash on Baghdad's Nisoor square: a smoking car with charred human remains and riddled with bullet holes, and spent gun cartridges scattered on the ground.

Iraqi police investigators also believe Blackwater fired on cars and civilians from helicopters overhead, it said, citing police documents and its own interviews with officers. The video shows a chopper similar to those used by Blackwater hovering near the scene.

Blackwater has denied its guards in the helicopters opened fire.........

Limbaugh Smears Iraq Vet

Run time: 00:49



Steelers @ Cardinals
September 30, 2007, 4:15 PM
Univ. Of Phoenix Stadium

Last week The Steelers ran all over the 49ers as they piled up 205 rushing yards in a 37-16 victory. ... Kurt Warner engineered a spirited comeback at Baltimore, but the Cardinals fell on Matt Stover's 46-yard field goal as time expired. More Steeler/Cardinal Info Here

Saturday, September 29, 2007

AP misrepresented context of Limbaugh "phony soldiers" comment

A September 28 Associated Press article about comments made by Rush Limbaugh on his September 26 radio show -- in which, as documented by Media Matters for America, he called service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq "phony soldiers" -- reported: "In a transcript of Thursday's show posted on his Web site, Limbaugh said the comment followed a discussion of Jesse Macbeth, who was sentenced to five months in prison earlier this month for collecting more than $10,00 [sic] in benefits to which he was not entitled." In fact, the "phony soldiers" comment did not "follow a discussion of Jesse Macbeth"; Limbaugh did not mention MacBeth on the September 26 radio show until 1 minute and 50 seconds after his "phony soldiers" comment, as Media Matters noted. Read more

FRANK RICH: Is Hillary Clinton the New Old Al Gore?


THE Democrats can’t lose the White House in 2008, can they?

Some 13 months before Election Day, the race’s dynamic seems immutable. Americans can’t wait to evict the unpopular president and end his disastrous war. As the campaign’s poll-tested phrasemaking constantly reminds us, voters crave change above all else. That means nearly any Democrat might do, even if the nominee isn’t the first woman, black or Hispanic to lead a major party’s ticket.

The Republican field of aging white guys, meanwhile, gets flakier by the day. The front-runner has taken to cooing to his third wife over a cellphone in the middle of campaign speeches. His hottest challenger, the new “new Reagan,” may have learned his lines for “Law & Order,” but clearly needs cue cards on the stump. In Florida, even the most rudimentary details of red-hot local issues (drilling in the Everglades, Terri Schiavo) eluded him. The party’s fund-raising is anemic. Its snubs of Hispanic and African-American voters kissed off essential swing states in the Sun Belt and moderate swing voters farther north.

So nothing can go wrong for the Democrats. Can it?

Of course it can, and not just because of the party’s perennial penchant for cutting off its nose to spite its face. (Witness the Democratic National Committee’s zeal in shutting down primary campaigning in Florida because the state moved up the primary’s date.) The biggest indicator of potential trouble ahead is that the already-codified Beltway narrative for the race so favors the Democrats. Given the track record of Washington’s conventional wisdom, that’s not good news. These are the same political pros who predicted that scandal would force an early end to the Clinton presidency and that “Mission Accomplished” augured victory in Iraq and long-lasting Republican rule.

The Beltway’s narrative has it not only that the Democrats are shoo-ins, but also that the likely standard-bearer, Hillary Clinton, is running what Zagat shorthand might describe as a “flawless campaign” that is “tightly disciplined” and “doesn’t make mistakes.” This scenario was made official last weekend, when Senator Clinton appeared on all five major Sunday morning talk shows — a publicity coup, as it unfortunately happens, that is known as a “full Ginsburg” because it was first achieved by William Ginsburg, Monica Lewinsky’s lawyer, in 1998.

Mrs. Clinton was in complete control. Forsaking TV studios for a perfectly lighted set at her home in Chappaqua, she came off like a sitting head of state. The punditocracy raved. We are repeatedly told that with Barack Obama still trailing by double digits in most polls, the only way Mrs. Clinton could lose her tight hold on the nomination and, presumably, the White House would be if she were bruised in Iowa (where both John Edwards and Senator Obama remain competitive) or derailed by unforeseeable events like a scandal or a domestic terror attack.

If you buy into the Washington logic that a flawless campaign is one that doesn’t make gaffes, never goes off-message and never makes news, then this analysis makes sense. The Clinton machine runs as smoothly and efficiently as a Rolls. And like a fine car, it is just as likely to lull its driver into complacent coasting and its passengers to sleep. What I saw on television last Sunday was the incipient second coming of the can’t-miss 2000 campaign of Al Gore.

That Mr. Gore, some may recall, was not the firebrand who emerged from defeat, speaking up early against the Iraq war and leading the international charge on global warming. It was instead the cautious Gore whose public persona changed from debate to debate and whose answers were often long-winded and equivocal (even about the Kansas Board of Education’s decision to ban the teaching of evolution). Incredibly, he minimized both his environmental passions and his own administration’s achievements throughout the campaign.

He, too, had initially been deemed a winner, the potential recipient of a landslide rather than a narrow popular-vote majority. The signs were nearly as good for Democrats then as they are now. The impeachment crusade had backfired on the Republicans in the 1998 midterms; the economy was booming; Mr. Gore’s opponent was seen as a lightweight who couldn’t match him in articulateness or his mastery of policy, let alone his eight years of Clinton White House experience.

Mrs. Clinton wouldn’t repeat Mr. Gore’s foolhardy mistake of running away from her popular husband and his record, even if she could. But almost every answer she gave last Sunday was a rambling and often tedious Gore-like filibuster. Like the former vice president, she often came across as a pontificator and an automaton — in contrast to the personable and humorous person she is known to be off-camera. And she seemed especially evasive when dealing with questions requiring human reflection instead of wonkery.

Reiterating that Mrs. Clinton had more firsthand White House experience than any other candidate, George Stephanopoulous asked her to name “something that you don’t know that only a president can know.” That’s hardly a tough or trick question, but rather than concede she isn’t all-knowing or depart from her script, the senator deflected it with another mini-speech.

Then there was that laugh. The Clinton campaign’s method for heeding the perennial complaints that its candidate comes across as too calculating and controlled is to periodically toss in a smidgen of what it deems personality. But these touches of intimacy seem even more calculating: the “Let’s chat” campaign rollout, the ostensibly freewheeling but tightly controlled Web “conversations,” the supposed vox populi referendum to choose a campaign song (which yielded a plain-vanilla Celine Dion clunker).

Now Mrs. Clinton is erupting in a laugh with all the spontaneity of an alarm clock buzzer. Mocking this tic last week, “The Daily Show” imagined a robotic voice inside the candidate’s head saying, “Humorous remark detected — prepare for laughter display.” However sincere, this humanizing touch seems as clumsily stage-managed as the Gores’ dramatic convention kiss.

None of this would matter if the only issue were Mrs. Clinton’s ability as a performer. Not every president can be Reagan or J.F.K. or, for that matter, Bill Clinton. But in her case, as in Mr. Gore’s in 2000, the performance too often dovetails with the biggest question about her as a leader: Is she so eager to be all things to all people, so reluctant to offend anyone, that we never will learn what she really thinks or how she will really act as president?

So far her post-first-lady record suggests a follower rather than a leader. She still can’t offer a credible explanation of why she gave President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq (or why she voted against the Levin amendment that would have put on some diplomatic brakes). That’s because her votes had more to do with hedging her political bets than with principle. Nor has she explained why it took her two years of the war going south to start speaking up against it. She was similarly tardy with her new health care plan, waiting to see what heat Mr. Edwards and Senator Obama took with theirs. She has lagged behind the Democratic curve on issues ranging from the profound (calling for an unequivocal ban on torture) to the trivial (formulating a response to the Petraeus ad).

As was proved again in Wednesday night’s debate, her opponents have not yet figured out how to seriously challenge her. Now the story line of her inevitable triumph is gathering force. At the same time, her campaign works relentlessly to shut down legitimate journalistic vetting of her record. In the latest example, reported last week on the murky backstage machinations by the Clinton camp before the magazine GQ killed an article by Joshua Green, whose 2006 Atlantic Monthly profile judged Mrs. Clinton a practitioner of “systematic caution” with “no big ideas.” The donors’ list and first lady archives at the Clinton presidential library remain far from transparent.

Senator Clinton may well be the Democrats’ most accomplished would-be president. But we won’t know for certain until she’s tested by events she can’t control. Had Bill Bradley roughed up Mr. Gore in 2000, it might have jolted him into running a smarter race against George W. Bush.

In this context it’s worth noting that Mr. Bush’s desperate lame-duck campaign to brand himself as a reincarnation of Harry Truman is not 100 percent ludicrous. A tiny part of the analogy could yet pan out. In 1948, Washington’s commentators and pollsters were convinced that Americans, tired of 15 years of Democratic rule, would vote in a Republican. Like today’s G.O.P., the Democrats back then were saddled with both an unloved incumbent president and open divisions in the party’s ranks on both its left and right flanks. Surely, the thinking went, the beleaguered Democrats couldn’t possibly vanquish a presidential candidate from New York known for his experience, competence, uncontroversial stands and above-the-fray demeanor.

You don’t want to push historical analogies too far, but it’s hard not to add that the campaign slogan of that sure winner, Thomas Dewey, had a certain 2008 ring to it: “It’s time for a change.”

MAUREEN DOWD: The Nepotism Tango



Maybe it’s fitting that a woman who first sashayed into the national consciousness with an equation — “two for the price of one” — may have her fate determined by the arithmetic of dynasty.

The town is divided into two camps: those who think that, after 16 years of Hillary pushing herself forward, the public will get worn out and reject her, and those who think that, after 16 years of Hillary pushing herself forward, the public will get worn down and give in to her.

In his new book, “The Evangelical President,” Bill Sammon interviewed President Bush and his senior aides about the ’08 election. Mr. Bush told the author that Hillary Clinton would beat Barack Obama, because she is “a formidable candidate” and better known — the better to raise money.

Despite all he has done to help Democrats, W. maintains that Republicans can hold the White House. But just in case the Clinton dynasty once more succeeds the Bush one, the Texas president has been sending the New York senator messages to “maintain some political wiggle room in your campaign rhetoric about Iraq,” as Mr. Sammon puts it.

Whoever gets the White House, W. contends, faced with the prospect of a vicious Middle East vacuum, will “begin to understand the need to continue to support the young democracy.”

(As Dana Perino noted on Friday, on a different topic, “The president does not have second thoughts.”)

Some of W.’s advisers were more cutting about Hillary in the Sammon book.

“This process is not going to serve her well,” one said, adding: “She’s going to be essentially saying, ‘Elect me president after I’ve spent the last 16 years in your face. And you didn’t like me much when I was there last. Give me eight more years so I can be a presence in your life for 24 years.’”

Others do not underestimate her relentlessness. As Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, once told me: “She’s never going to get out of our faces. ... She’s like some hellish housewife who has seen something that she really, really wants and won’t stop nagging you about it until finally you say, fine, take it, be the damn president, just leave me alone.”

That’s why Hillary is laughing a lot now, big belly laughs, in response to tough questions or comments, to soften her image as she confidently knocks her male opponents out of the way. From nag to wag.

An earlier generation had the entwined political dynasties of the Roosevelts and the Kennedys. Now, as Nancy Benac of The Associated Press wrote on Friday, 116 million Americans — nearly 40 percent of the nation — “have never lived when there wasn’t a Bush or a Clinton in the White House.”

The Clintons try and bat back the dynasty issue by presenting themselves as a meritocracy.

On Friday, Hillary pushed a level-playing-field theme when she proposed giving every baby born in America a $5,000 governmental “baby bond” that would blossom into college tuition or home down payments.

When asked by Tim Russert at the New Hampshire debate about the d-word, as Poppy Bush calls it, Hillary replied: “I’m running on my own. I’m going to the people on my own.”

Without nepotism, Hillary would be running for the president of Vassar. But then, without nepotism, W. would be pumping gas in Midland — and not out of the ground.

At the debate, Joe Biden took a rare poke at the former first lady and pointed out that all the “old stuff” might get in the way of passing legislation. “The special interests, with regard to Hillary,” he said, “they feed on this, you know, this Clinton-Bush thing.”

Obama, tiptoeing gingerly around Hillary, as usual, skittered away from a Russert query about whether his campaign theme of “turning the page” was a reference to the Bushes or the Clintons.

Conceding to Charlie Gibson last week that “dynasties are not good for America,” Bill said: “If you go out and you fight fair, and you win it on your own, that’s not a dynasty. ... You’re not going out to vote for me for a third term.”

Of course, Hillary is never on her own. From the beginning, her campaign has relied on her husband’s donors, network, strategies and strong-arming.

GQ killed a 7,000-word article about infighting in Hillaryland after Bill Clinton’s aide told the magazine that running the piece might imperil access to Bill. The incident, as Howie Kurtz wrote in The Washington Post, reflected pressure tactics that “may be practiced with unprecedented aggressiveness by the tightly controlled Clinton media operation.”

On Friday, Bill gave an interview to Al Hunt dissing Obama’s experience level — a brazen assist to his wife.

We can only hope that Laura Bush’s comments on the crisis in Burma don’t signal a sudden interest in politics. President Laura following President Hillary would be too much, especially with W. back as the second First Laddie.



Not long ago, the satirical newspaper The Onion ran a fake news story that began like this:

“At a well-attended rally in front of his new ground zero headquarters Monday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani officially announced his plan to run for president of 9/11. ‘My fellow citizens of 9/11, today I will make you a promise,’ said Giuliani during his 18-minute announcement speech in front of a charred and torn American flag. ‘As president of 9/11, I will usher in a bold new 9/11 for all.’ If elected, Giuliani would inherit the duties of current 9/11 President George W. Bush, including making grim facial expressions, seeing the world’s conflicts in terms of good and evil, and carrying a bullhorn at all state functions.”

Like all good satire, the story made me both laugh and cry, because it reflected something so true — how much, since 9/11, we’ve become “The United States of Fighting Terrorism.” Times columnists are not allowed to endorse candidates, but there’s no rule against saying who will not get my vote: I will not vote for any candidate running on 9/11. We don’t need another president of 9/11. We need a president for 9/12. I will only vote for the 9/12 candidate.

What does that mean? This: 9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 — mine included — has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.

It is not that I thought we had new enemies that day and now I don’t. Yes, in the wake of 9/11, we need new precautions, new barriers. But we also need our old habits and sense of openness. For me, the candidate of 9/12 is the one who will not only understand who our enemies are, but who we are.

Before 9/11, the world thought America’s slogan was: “Where anything is possible for anybody.” But that is not our global brand anymore. Our government has been exporting fear, not hope: “Give me your tired, your poor and your fingerprints.”

You may think Guantánamo Bay is a prison camp in Cuba for Al Qaeda terrorists. A lot of the world thinks it’s a place we send visitors who don’t give the right answers at immigration. I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans. Guantánamo Bay is the anti-Statue of Liberty.

Roger Dow, president of the Travel Industry Association, told me that the United States has lost millions of overseas visitors since 9/11 — even though the dollar is weak and America is on sale. “Only the U.S. is losing traveler volume among major countries, which is unheard of in today’s world,” Mr. Dow said.

Total business arrivals to the United States fell by 10 percent over the 2004-5 period alone, while the number of business visitors to Europe grew by 8 percent in that time. The travel industry’s recent Discover America Partnership study concluded that “the U.S. entry process has created a climate of fear and frustration that is turning away foreign business and leisure travelers and hurting America’s image abroad.” Those who don’t visit us, don’t know us.

I’d love to see us salvage something decent in Iraq that might help tilt the Middle East onto a more progressive pathway. That was and is necessary to improve our security. But sometimes the necessary is impossible — and we just can’t keep chasing that rainbow this way.

Look at our infrastructure. It’s not just the bridge that fell in my hometown, Minneapolis. Fly from Zurich’s ultramodern airport to La Guardia’s dump. It is like flying from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. I still can’t get uninterrupted cellphone service between my home in Bethesda and my office in D.C. But I recently bought a pocket cellphone at the Beijing airport and immediately called my wife in Bethesda — crystal clear.

I just attended the China clean car conference, where Chinese automakers were boasting that their 2008 cars will meet “Euro 4” — European Union — emissions standards. We used to be the gold standard. We aren’t anymore. Last July, Microsoft, fed up with American restrictions on importing brain talent, opened its newest software development center in Vancouver. That’s in Canada, folks. If Disney World can remain an open, welcoming place, with increased but invisible security, why can’t America?

We can’t afford to keep being this stupid! We have got to get our groove back. We need a president who will unite us around a common purpose, not a common enemy. Al Qaeda is about 9/11. We are about 9/12, we are about the Fourth of July — which is why I hope that anyone who runs on the 9/11 platform gets trounced.

Report: Countrywide CEO Cashed Out

CBS News

Countrywide Financial Corp. Chairman and CEO Angelo Mozilo cashed in $138 million in stock options over the last year, switching his trading plans as the mortgage company went into a tailspin, it was reported Saturday.

Between November 2006 and August, Mozilo changed the plans outlining how many of his shares would be sold monthly, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Mozilo unloaded 4.9 million Countrywide shares, most of which he bought through exercising options.

Hundreds of executives use similar trading plans, approved by federal regulators in 2000 as a way to defend against insider trading allegations. While not illegal, it is highly unusual for the plans to be changed so often in a short period, experts said.

"If a guy is changing his plan around, I would think that would send up a red flag. I wouldn't allow my clients to do it," said Thom F. Carroll, a financial planner with the Baltimore wealth management firm Carroll, Frank & Plotkin.

Leading indicators point down for GOP

WASHINGTON - It is gallows humor time for Republicans in Congress, where one lawmaker jokes that "there's talk about us going the way of the Whigs," the 19th century political party long extinct.

"That's not going to happen," Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., hastens to add, although a little more than a year before the 2008 election, the major leading political indicators still point downward for a party abruptly turned out of power in 2006.

Fundraising for Republican campaign organizations lags. That is strikingly so in the House, where the party committee spent more than it raised in each of the past two months, reported only $1.6 million in the bank at the end of August and a debt of nearly $4 million.

Democrats reported $22.1 million in the bank and a debt of slightly more than $3 million.

Candidate recruitment has been uneven, particularly in the Senate, where Republicans must defend 22 of the 34 seats on the ballot next year. Democrats boast top-tier challengers for GOP-held seats in Colorado, Virginia, New Hampshire, Maine, Minnesota and Oregon.

Republicans have yet to put forward a prominent challenger for any Democratic-held seat, although an announcement is expected soon in Louisiana.....


Polls, too, chart the decline of the Republicans.

A recent Gallup poll reported that 59 percent of those surveyed have an unfavorable impression of the Republican Party. By a margin of 47-42 percent, they said Democrats will do a better job of protecting against terrorism and military threats. Asked which party would better maintain prosperity, the majority preferred the Democrats, 54-34......

Bush approves $25m in N Korea aid


US President George W Bush has authorised $25m (£13m) in fuel aid to North Korea under an agreement aimed at ending the country's nuclear programme.

Under a February deal, the US and other participants at the six-party talks agreed to provide North Korea with aid. In return North Korea said it would shut down its main nuclear reactor - which it did in July - and eventually dismantle its entire nuclear programme.

Envoys are meeting in China to pin down details of the second part of the deal. The announcement by the US followed the first day of negotiations in Beijing between the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the US......

'The President Has Accepted Ethnic Cleansing'

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has consistently led the way in telling the story of what's really going on in Iraq and Iran. SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke to him about America's Hitler, Bush's Vietnam, and how the US press failed the First Amendment.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was just in New York (more...) for the United Nations General Assembly. Once again, he said that he is only interested in civilian nuclear power instead of atomic weapons. How much does the West really know about the nuclear program in Iran?

Seymour Hersh: A lot. And it's been underestimated how much the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) knows. If you follow what (IAEA head Mohamed) ElBaradei (more...) and the various reports have been saying, the Iranians have claimed to be enriching uranium to higher than a 4 percent purity, which is the amount you need to run a peaceful nuclear reactor. But the IAEA's best guess is that they are at 3.67 percent or something. The Iranians are not even doing what they claim to be doing. The IAEA has been saying all along that they've been making progress but basically, Iran is nowhere. Of course the US and Israel are going to say you have to look at the worst case scenario, but there isn't enough evidence to justify a bombing raid.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is this just another case of exaggerating the danger in preparation for an invasion like we saw in 2002 and 2003 prior to the Iraq War?

Hersh: We have this wonderful capacity in America to Hitlerize people. We had Hitler, and since Hitler we've had about 20 of them. Khrushchev and Mao and of course Stalin, and for a little while Gadhafi was our Hitler. And now we have this guy Ahmadinejad. The reality is, he's not nearly as powerful inside the country as we like to think he is. The Revolutionary Guards have direct control over the missile program and if there is a weapons program, they would be the ones running it. Not Ahmadinejad.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Where does this feeling of urgency that the US has with Iran come from?

Hersh: Pressure from the White House. That's just their game.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What interest does the White House have in moving us to the brink with Tehran?

Hersh: You have to ask yourself what interest we had 40 years ago for going to war in Vietnam. You'd think that in this country with so many smart people, that we can't possibly do the same dumb thing again. I have this theory in life that there is no learning. There is no learning curve. Everything is tabula rasa. Everybody has to discover things for themselves.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Even after Iraq? Aren't there strategic reasons for getting so deeply involved in the Middle East?

Hersh: Oh no. We're going to build democracy. The real thing in the mind of this president is he wants to reshape the Middle East and make it a model. He absolutely believes it. I always thought Henry Kissinger was a disaster because he lies like most people breathe and you can't have that in public life. But if it were Kissinger this time around, I'd actually be relieved because I'd know that the madness would be tied to some oil deal. But in this case, what you see is what you get. This guy believes he's doing God's work.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So what are the options in Iraq?

Hersh: There are two very clear options: Option A) Get everybody out by midnight tonight. Option B) Get everybody out by midnight tomorrow. The fuel that keeps the war going is us.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: A lot of people have been saying that the US presence there is a big part of the problem. Is anyone in the White House listening?

Hersh: No. The president is still talking about the "Surge" (eds. The "Surge" refers to President Bush's commitment of 20,000 additional troops to Iraq in the spring of 2007 in an attempt to improve security in the country.) as if it's going to unite the country. But the Surge was a con game of putting additional troops in there. We've basically Balkanized the place, building walls and walling off Sunnis from Shiites. And in Anbar Province, where there has been success, all of the Shiites are gone. They've simply split.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is that why there has been a drop in violence there?

Hersh: I think that's a much better reason than the fact that there are a couple more soldiers on the ground.

SPIEGEL ONLINE:So what are the lessons of the Surge (more...)? .......... --MORE--

New protests on Rangoon streets


Several hundred people have held protests in Burma's main city of Rangoon, despite three days of crackdowns on pro-democracy protests.

Protesters chanted slogans before being baton-charged by security forces, and at least two were severely beaten, eyewitnesses said.

In the central town of Pakokku hundreds of monks reportedly led a peaceful march of thousands of demonstrators.

The protests came as UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari arrived in Rangoon.

He was due to fly to the new Burmese capital, Naypyidaw, to hold key talks with the country's ruling generals......

Karzai: I'll Offer Taliban Place In Govt.

KABUL, Afghanistan - President Hamid Karzai offered Saturday to meet personally with Taliban leader Mullah Omar for peace talks and give the militants a high position in a government ministry as a way to end the rising insurgency in Afghanistan.

Reiterating a call for negotiations he has made with increasing frequency over the last several weeks, Karzai also said he was willing to meet with factional warlord leader and former Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

"If I find their address, there is no need for them to come to me, I'll personally go there and get in touch with them," Karzai said. "'Esteemed Mullah, sir, and esteemed Hekmatyar, sir, why are you destroying the country?'"

Karzai said he has contacts with Taliban militants through tribal elders but that there are no direct and open government communication channels with the fighters.

"If a group of Taliban or a number of Taliban come to me and say, 'President, we want a department in this or in that ministry or we want a position as deputy minister ... and we don't want to fight anymore ...' If there will be a demand and a request like that to me, I will accept it because I want conflicts and fighting to end in Afghanistan," Karzai said......

Amid uproar, Blackwater stops land deal

There's a new dimension to the fallout from the Sept. 16 shooting in Baghdad that left 11 Iraqis dead: Blackwater USA apparently has stopped all its expansion projects.

On Wednesday, the North Carolina private military contractor canceled a $5.5 million real estate deal to buy 1,800 acres of farmland near Fort Bragg, where the company was going to set up a training ground for soldiers and corporate executives.

The diplomatic and public relations damage from the shooting, combined with Tuesday's scheduled testimony at Congress by Blackwater Chairman Erik Prince, prompted Blackwater to put all new projects on hold, according to the president of a company that had a deal to sell the land to Blackwater.

"Blackwater said they had pulled all new projects off the table because of this shooting in Baghdad, and because they were preparing Prince for Congress," said Wayne Miller, president of Southern Produce Distributors. "It's a shame. This would have been good for the economy of North Carolina."

Southern Produce owns a huge tract of farmland and wetlands known as Barra Farm, near the Cape Fear River.

Miller said he was approached by Jim Reese, the president of a security company called TigerSwan, which has offices in Cary and Breckenridge, Colo. TigerSwan was founded by Reese and Brian Searcy, who are both veterans of Delta Force, the highly trained special forces unit based at Fort Bragg.

TigerSwan wanted to set up a training center near Fort Bragg with firing ranges, Miller said. TigerSwan planned to train soldiers from Fort Bragg, as well as corporate executives from Research Triangle Park and elsewhere.

According to its Web site, TigerSwan conducts training sessions in weapons, VIP protection, evasive driving, surveillance, urban warfare, self-defense, sniper and counter-sniper operations, convoy and motorcade protection, and assault planning. The company can also conduct counter-surveillance, security assessments, and planning and evaluation for protection against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction......

UN envoy heading for Burma talks


A UN special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, is due in Burma within hours for urgent talks on ending the military junta's crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

The streets of Rangoon were quiet on Saturday following three days of violence against the protesters.

Internet links, which the government cut to stem the flow of information about the protests, are reported to be working intermittently.

State newspapers declared peace and stability had been restored.

Mr Gambari is expected to urge a peaceful end to confrontation with pro-democracy activists.

He will arrive in Rangoon at 1520 local time (0850 GMT) before flying straight on to Burma's new capital Naypyidaw, a diplomatic source told Reuters news agency.

"He's the best hope we have. He is trusted on both sides," said Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo.

It was not clear which members of the government he would be allowed to meet, though the White House said he should be allowed to meet "anyone he wants to meet", including opposition figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi.......

Friday, September 28, 2007

GAIL COLLINS: Never Trust Anybody Over 49


Earlier this year at a campaign rally, Bill Clinton said that when he was at Yale, he told Hillary: “I have met all the most gifted people in our generation and you’re the best.”

Now, it’s always nice to hear a husband say he thinks his wife is tops. But I can’t get past the idea that while Bill Clinton was still in law school he believed he already knew every baby boomer worth knowing.

“I didn’t even know everybody in my dorm,” said a friend when I told him this story.

Obviously, Clinton wasn’t including Barack Obama, who was only about 12 at the time. Now, Obama’s campaign is the revenge of Gen XYZ — an inconvenient reminder to the 50- and 60-somethings that they’ve become part of the system they used to decry. His big rally this week in Greenwich Village was an event that Hillary could never have pulled off — politics as a dating scene. Thousands and thousands and thousands of mostly young people swarmed into Washington Square Park where they were warmed up by a 25-year-old Asian-American rapper named Jin, who announced that Obama was going to be getting “my first vote ever.”

To this crowd, Clinton is what you hope you won’t have to settle for at the end. Better than Bush, of course, but not a real agent for change. “There are competent people who will manage the system the way it is,” said Obama about you-know-who, and, of course, the crowd cheered that no, they wanted someone braver and better and maybe even ... younger.

The Democratic Party seems to be gradually acclimating itself to the idea that Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee. It’s a little like that frog in a beaker of water that Al Gore talks about in his global warming speech — the one who won’t notice he’s being boiled to death if you turn up the heat ever so gradually. Day by day, debate by debate, poll by poll, the sense of Hillary’s inevitability seems to be seeping in.

She thinks she’s got it nailed as long as she doesn’t make any mistakes, and that can be a trap. It is possible to be so careful that you drive everybody crazy, make them so itchy for adventure, for a noble mission instead of a winnable hand of poker, that they’ll be willing to undo all your hard work just to juice things up.

During the latest Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton was exactly that kind of candidate. When she was asked if she favored lifting the cap on Social Security taxes (currently only the first $97,500 in income is taxed), all she would say was that she wanted to “put fiscal responsibility first.”

As opposed to all the other people who want to put it last.

When the moderator, Tim Russert, asked whether she was completely ruling out the idea of lifting the cap, this is what Clinton had to say:

“Well, I take everything off the table until we move toward fiscal responsibility and before we have a bipartisan process. I don’t think I should be negotiating about what I would do as president. You know, I want to see what other people come to the table with.”

This is an excellent example of how to string together the maximum number of weasel words in one sentence. It was also pretty typical of Hillary’s entire evening. It’s one thing to refuse to answer a hypothetical question about whether there is any circumstance under which you might ever use nuclear weapons against Iran. It’s another to refuse to commit on who you’d root for if the Yankees played the Cubs in the World Series. No young person is going to fall in love with politics because of a candidate who says: “I would probably have to alternate sides.”

The Republican debates have become an ongoing suspense drama in which viewers try to guess which of these unlikely suspects will actually become a presidential nominee. The Democratic ones, meanwhile, are becoming less about the competition and more and more focused on how Hillary performs. That’s bad for the Clinton camp, since her strategy is all about not losing. She never gets caught in a disaster, but if you’re waiting for her to say something unexpected or pointed or forthcoming, you may have a long night.

In that last debate, the candidates were asked if they thought it was appropriate for a teacher to read young children a story about a handsome prince who marries a — handsome prince. Clinton started off by taking an all-purpose stand against divisiveness and ended with a plug for hate crimes legislation. In between, she said this: “With respect to your individual children, that is such a matter of parental discretion. I think that, obviously, it is better to try to work with your children, to help your children understand the many differences that are in the world and to really respect other people and the choices that other people make, and that goes far beyond sexual orientation.”

Now people, don’t you think the most gifted person of her generation could do better than this?

BOB HERBERT: A Trend Grows in Policing


One of the better trends to emerge in the U.S. over the past several years has been the move in many big cities toward more thoughtful ways of fighting crime — what I call enlightened policing.

There is a growing awareness in city after city that wielding a police department like a blunt instrument is counterproductive. If you want to bring crime down and keep it down, cops have to be smarter.

Ray Kelly, who’s been remarkably successful as police commissioner here in New York, has long embraced this approach. So has Bill Bratton, first in New York and now in Los Angeles. Dean Esserman is doing interesting things in Providence, R.I., and Garry McCarthy is trying to haul Newark, at long last, out of the dark ages of policing.

I’m hardly naïve about the existence of police abuse, whether in New York (where Mr. Kelly has had some dreadful lapses) or elsewhere. But there has been a definite move in many big cities away from thuggishness as the rule and toward more enlightened, more effective strategies.

Those who doubt that violent crime is still an enormous problem should consider the following:

Since Sept. 11, 2001, when the nation’s attention understandably turned to the threat of terrorism, nearly 100,000 people — men, women and children — have been murdered in the U.S.

Each year hundreds of thousands of criminals, having served their terms, are released into communities with very few jobs and almost no support services for ex-offenders. These are people with advanced degrees in criminality. In just the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, approximately 600,000 offenders will have been released.

The F.B.I. reported this week that violent crime rose in the U.S. in 2006 for the second year in a row. The more thoughtful members of local law enforcement already knew that from their own careful studies.

On Wednesday, dozens of police chiefs from around the country met in Chicago to assess the crime trends that have developed since the beginning of this year.

They are trying to understand why there has been a surge in homicides in big cities in Florida, and in Baltimore, Washington and Oakland, Calif., at the same time that there have been substantial decreases in places like Los Angeles, Houston, Minneapolis, Sacramento and Nashville.

In an echo of the now-famous Compstat system, their goal is to analyze national crime data with an eye toward developing preventive strategies and squelching emerging crime trends before they spin out of control. If Los Angeles is doing something that Baltimore could benefit from, that information should be shared.

This is not sexy stuff, and it doesn’t get a lot of public attention. But it saves lives.

The Chicago gathering was sponsored by the Police Executive Research Forum, an organization of top law enforcement officials from some of the largest departments and agencies in the country. The forum has been sounding the alarm for some time about the spike in violent crime, and correctly noted early on that the trend was not uniform.

“Some cities are showing dramatic increases and some are showing dramatic decreases,” said Chuck Wexler, the forum’s executive director. “We’re almost like epidemiologists. We’re trying to figure out why.”

Gangs and guns are huge problems. So are armed juveniles who have exhibited a startling willingness to kill over virtually any slight, or during street-corner holdups in which electronic devices like iPods and cellphones are prized items.

Some cities are suffering from a shortage of police officers (they’re expensive) and the withdrawal of federal support for anti-crime initiatives.

As crime increases, police officers become more engaged, which means they become more vulnerable. So far this year, 138 police officers have died in the line of duty, a 38 percent increase over the same period in 2006.

In the old days, the knee-jerk police reaction to a spike in crime was to respond with gratuitous (often murderous) violence. Los Angeles was a particularly brutal venue, and the brutality there yielded some particularly horrendous results.

L.A. is now in the early stages of a potentially historic decline in crime. Some of the police tactics are counterintuitive, if not heretical, from the perspective of the old-timers.

Earl Paysinger is Bill Bratton’s deputy in L.A. He told the gathering in Chicago that the decline in crime in his city was due in part to the department’s efforts to “reach out to communities that years ago we didn’t even talk to.” One of the payoffs, he said, is that now “people are more willing to call the police.”

Sometimes the right thing to do is also the most effective.

Senate Democratic Leaders To Call On Clear Channel To Renounce Limbaugh's Attack On Our Troops

Press Release of Senator Reid

Democrats Ask Colleagues to Join in Condemning 'Phony Soldiers' Comment

Friday, September 28, 2007

Washington, DC—Senate Democratic leaders will send the following letter early next week to Mark P. Mays, CEO of Clear Channel Communications, calling on him to publicly repudiate Rush Limbaugh’s characterization of troops who speak out against the Iraq war as “phony soldiers.” The leaders are waiting to send Clear Channel this letter in order to give their colleagues – including those who have recently spoken up against attacks on our troops’ patriotism – the opportunity to sign this letter and join in expressing outrage at Mr. Limbaugh’s indefensible comments.

Below is the text of the letter:

Mr. Mark P. Mays
CEO, Clear Channel Communications Inc.
200 East Basse Road
San Antonio, TX 78209

Dear Mr. Mays,

At the time we sign this letter, 3,801 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq, and another 27,936 have been wounded. 160,000 others awoke this morning on foreign sand, far from home, to face the danger and uncertainty of another day at war.

Although Americans of goodwill debate the merits of this war, we can all agree that those who serve with such great courage deserve our deepest respect and gratitude. That is why Rush Limbaugh’s recent characterization of troops who oppose the war as “phony soldiers” is such an outrage.

Our troops are fighting and dying to bring to others the freedoms that many take for granted. It is unconscionable that Mr. Limbaugh would criticize them for exercising the fundamentally American right to free speech. Mr. Limbaugh has made outrageous remarks before, but this affront to our soldiers is beyond the pale.

The military, like any community within the United States, includes members both for and against the war. Senior generals, such as General John Batiste and Paul Eaton, have come out against the war while others have publicly supported it. A December 2006 poll conducted by the Military Times found just 35 percent of service members approved of President Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq, compared to 42 percent who disapproved. From this figure alone, it is clear that Mr. Limbaugh’s insult is directed at thousands of American service members.

Active and retired members of our armed forces have a unique perspective on the war and offer a valuable contribution to our national debate. In August, seven soldiers wrote an op-ed expressing their concern with the current strategy in Iraq. Tragically, since then, two of those seven soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq.

Thousands of active troops and veterans were subjected to Mr. Limbaugh’s unpatriotic and indefensible comments on your broadcast. We trust you will agree that not a single one of our sons, daughters, neighbors and friends serving overseas is a “phony soldier.” We call on you to publicly repudiate these comments that call into question their service and sacrifice and to ask Mr. Limbaugh to apologize for his comments....

While US tied up in Iraq, China making big strides: US commander in Japan

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan: While the U.S. has been tied up fighting the war in Iraq, China has made huge gains toward modernizing its military and improving its equipment, and its air defenses are now nearly impenetrable to all but the newest of American fighters, the senior U.S. military official in Japan said.

Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, commander of the roughly 50,000 U.S. forces in Japan, Washington's biggest ally in Asia, said in an interview this week the Iraq war is reducing the availability of U.S. troops and equipment to meet other contingencies and eating up funds that might be used to replace or upgrade planes that are being pushed to their operational limits.

China, meanwhile, is rapidly filling the skies with newer, Russian-made Sukhoi Su-27 "Flankers" and Su-30s, along with the domestically built J-10, a state-of-the-art fighter that Beijing just rolled out in January. China has also improved its ballistic missile defenses and its ability to take the fight into space — as it proved by shooting down an old weather satellite at an orbital height similar to that used by the U.S. military.......

Media Matters for America, September 28, 2007

Limbaugh expands group of "phony soldiers" to include Vietnam veteran Murtha

On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh defended his statement characterizing service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as "phony soldiers" and expanded the group of "phony soldiers" to include Vietnam veteran Rep. John P. Murtha. Read more

Limbaugh selectively edited "phony soldiers" clip, claimed it was "the entire transcript"

In response to Media Matters' documentation of his recent description of service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as "phony soldiers," Rush Limbaugh claimed that he had not been talking "about the anti-war movement generally," but rather "about one soldier ... Jesse MacBeth." Limbaugh then purported to air the "entire" segment in question. In fact, the clip he aired omitted a full 1 minute and 35 seconds of discussion that occurred between Limbaugh's original "phony soldiers" comment and his subsequent reference to MacBeth. Read more

Like radio show, transcript on selectively edits his "phony soldiers" comments

Media Matters for America has previously noted how, during the September 28 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, in response to Media Matters' documentation of his recent characterization of service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as "phony soldiers," Rush Limbaugh selectively edited an audio clip of the September 26 exchange while calling it "the entire transcript" of the segment. Limbaugh claimed that "Media Matters had the transcript, but they selectively choose what they want to make their point. Here is, it runs about 3 minutes and 13 seconds, the entire transcript, in context, that led to this so-called controversy." Excised from the clip, however, was a full 1 minute and 35 seconds of discussion
that occurred between Limbaugh's original "phony soldiers" comment and his subsequent reference to "one soldier ... Jesse MacBeth." Read more

Limbaugh falsely recasts "phony soldiers" smear

Rush Limbaugh insisted that his September 26 remarks characterizing U.S. service members who support withdrawal from Iraq as "phony soldiers" had been taken out of context and that he was referring specifically to "one genuine, convicted, lying, fake soldier," Jesse MacBeth. But Limbaugh did not refer to MacBeth during his September 26 broadcast until 1 minute, 50 seconds after making his "phony soldiers" comment, and at no point on that show prior to making his "phony soldiers" comment did Limbaugh refer to any actual fake soldiers. Additionally, on September 28, Limbaugh misrepresented those comments. Read more

CNN's Sanchez noted O'Reilly falsehood about on-air complaints

On CNN's Out in the Open, Rick Sanchez said Bill O'Reilly "told me on the phone that nobody complained about the show that he had done on the air," referring to the radio show in which O'Reilly made controversial comments about race. Sanchez continued: "Guess what? Somebody did complain on the air to him directly." Sanchez then aired audio of a caller's complaint -- identified by Media Matters -- about O'Reilly's race-related comments during the same radio show. Read more

Rev. Jackson to O'Reilly: "[T]o underestimate the civility of blacks was insulting to many people"

During the September 27 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, the Rev. Jesse Jackson asked host Bill O'Reilly what he was "trying to say" during the September 19 broadcast of his radio show when he made controversial remarks about his visit to Sylvia's, a restaurant in Harlem. O'Reilly replied: "The hour was on how ... many whites fear blacks. And fear drives racism, as you know. Fear drives it. And I said to my audience, 'Look, this is a restaurant like any other restaurant,' but a lot of whites are afraid to go there." Jackson then told O'Reilly:
"What concerns me is that fear and ignorance, you know, lead to hatred and leads to violence, obviously. ... And so, to underestimate the civility of blacks was insulting to many people." O'Reilly countered: "Who underestimated the civility of blacks?" Read more

Limbaugh previously called Vietnam veteran Kerry "a fraud," "a total phony"

Rush Limbaugh's characterization of service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from
Iraq as "phony soldiers" was not the first time that he has labeled a military service member a "phony." On his June 27 radio show, Limbaugh said of Sen. John Kerry, whose Vietnam record was the subject of a smear campaign by the discredited Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth: "The guy's a fraud! He's a total phony, and people were able to see it!" Read more

Drudge Report, ABC highlight AP article that left out key data on Bush/Clinton "dynasty" issue

The Drudge Report and both highlighted an Associated Press article that cited an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that, the article said, "found that fully one-quarter of all Americans said that the prospect of having at least 24 straight years of a President Clinton or Bush would be a consideration in their vote for president in 2008." But the AP left out the data on other responses to the question -- that a majority of respondents, 54 percent, said it would "not be a consideration at all." Nor did the AP report that the poll also found that 42 percent of respondents "feel positive" that former President Bill Clinton is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) husband, while only 28 percent "feel negative" about it. Read more

Savage on "gay, fascist website" Media Matters, a "bunch of punk coward psychotics"

While discussing Bill O'Reilly's controversial comments about his visit to Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem, Michael Savage once again called Media Matters for America a "gay, fascist website." He added, "[T]hey attack me, O'Reilly, or whoever they can get their hands on that's a conservative because they think that we're anti-gay. They're psychotic. They're off their medication most of the time."Read more

Blackwater probe expands to 5 deadly incidents

WASHINGTON - The United States and Iraq are focusing on five incidents where Blackwater USA guards killed civilians in Iraq this year as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ordered a high-level review board to Baghdad, U.S. officials said.

The United States has not made conclusive findings about the five incidents, including the Sept. 16 deaths of at least 11 Iraqis, and a State Department official said Friday that investigators are not aware of any others.

The five, plus another incident that apparently didn't result in any killings, were previously identified by Iraqi authorities. For now, those incidents are at the core of the review ordered by Rice last week, a State Department official said.

Separately, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has sent a fact-finding team of his own to Baghdad to investigate conditions involving private contractors working for the Pentagon and to consult with military officers there...

Rangoon: Army Mutiny Reported

The First Post

"Reports from Rangoon suggest soldiers are mutinying. It is unclear the numbers involved. Reports cite heavy shooting in the former Burmese capital.

The organisation Helfen ohne Grenzen (Help without Frontiers) is reporting that "Soldiers from the 66th LID (Light Infantry Divison) have turned their weapons against other government troops and possibly police in North Okkalappa township in Rangoon and are defending the protesters. At present unsure how many soldiers involved."

Military sources in Rangoon are claiming that the regime's number two, General Maung Aye (right), has staged a coup against Than Shwe, and that his troops are now guarding Aung San Suu Kyi's home. A meeting between him and Suu Kyi is expected. Maung Aye is army commander-in-chief and a renowned pragmatist.

Our diplomatic sources are also telling us that Aung San Suu Kyi has been moved to a police academy compound outside Rangoon, where she is expected to meet Maung Aye. As yet, though, we have no independent confirmation of this development"

Friday's Sex News (09-28-07)

Size matters for spiderman (2007-09-28)
Researchers have discovered that some virgin spiders will risk a larger first mate, but subsequently switch to smaller ones

Sexy podcasters use pseudonyms (2007-09-28)
The Sex is Fun postcasts have reached 3 million downloads, but while it is open about sex, the postcasters do not use their real names [

I want an orgasm too (2007-09-28)
Advice is given to a woman who hasn't had an orgasm with her boyfriend

The problem of sleeping with friends (2007-09-28)
Josey Vogels investigates the problems of when friends have sex

Sharon Stone's non-nude body double (2007-09-28)
Clair Chrysler is a grandmother that plays Sharon Stone's body double, but she doesn't go nude.

'If my sister's so hot, why am I not attracted to her?' (2007-09-28)
If my sister's so hot, why am I not attracted to her? Here's why: Familiarity breeds contempt -- a saying I've only ever attributed to my fallout with Lynne Cheney but that can also apply here.

the Moves: 5 new sex positions to get her there in record time (2007-09-28)
The moves to get her there in record time Matt Bean MIX IT UP Exploring your sexuality can be a dead end if you don't keep one destination in mind: her happiness.

the Words: What to say to get her to do anything you want (2007-09-28)
Say it with seduction using this passion-packed phrase book The Situation: You're asking her out for the first time.

Accent (2007-09-28)
Excess of safe sex messages neither valuable of viable Rachael Parker Issue date: 9/28/07 Section: Accent If we've heard it once, we've heard it a million times: Practice safe sex! It's a solid policy, but I'm ...

Getting Lucky? (2007-09-28)
Let's talk about sex, and lots of it, with Emily Morse of hit radio show Sex with Emily .

What is Penile Yeast Infections? (2007-09-28)
Male yeast infections, or better yet penile yeast infections, are not uncommon although they are not common either.

Male Yeast Infection Symptoms (2007-09-28)
Although male yeast infection isn't all that common it can happen and in these cases the male yeast infection symptoms are generally the same as vaginal yeast infection symptoms.

Things to Know about Male Yeast Infection (2007-09-28)
If your sexual partner has a yeast infection then there's a good chance that you could also get the yeast infection from them.

Yeast Infection Guide - Cause of Yeast Infections (2007-09-28)
Yeast infections are a very common and most women, about 70% of them, will get a yeast infection at least once in their lifetimes.

Bacterial Vaginosis and Women (2007-09-28)
If you've never suffered from bacterial vaginosis then it might be difficult to comprehend just how painful and distressing it can be.