Monday, March 31, 2008

"Hillary Clinton was under Sniper Fire"

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Media Matters Daily Summary 03-31-08

Charlie Rose falsely asserted McCain "call[ed] for the firing of Secretary Rumsfeld"
During an interview with Sen. Chuck Hagel, Charlie Rose falsely asserted that Sen. John McCain "early on call[ed] for the firing of Secretary Rumsfeld." In fact, while McCain expressed "no confidence" in Rumsfeld in 2004, he did not call for him to be fired; he said the decision about whether Rumsfeld should leave was the president's. Read More

ABC's Tapper distorted Clinton's comments on NAFTA
In a blog post, ABC's Jake Tapper wrote, "Campaigning in Indiana on Friday, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, claimed to have been a 16-year vocal opponent of NAFTA." But in the very comments Tapper cited, Clinton did not assert that she had "been a 16-year vocal opponent of NAFTA"; rather, she said she "spoke out" against NAFTA starting in 1992. Read More

Ignoring his last presidential campaign, CBS' Higgins claimed McCain "didn't speak about" time as Vietnam POW until now
CBS News' Andante Higgins reported in a blog post that "[o]ne of [Sen. John] McCain's claims to fame is his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, something he didn't like to discuss a lot before this campaign," adding, "Perhaps he didn't speak about it sooner because he learned from his father not to." In fact, McCain and his campaign repeatedly invoked his experience as a POW during his failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000. Read More

WSJ editorial falsely claimed "Senate Intelligence Committee found" that Wilson "had lied" about Niger trip and that his report "produced no information of any intelligence value"
A Wall Street Journal editorial falsely asserted that "the Senate Intelligence Committee found" former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV "had lied in claiming his wife [former CIA agent Valerie Plame] had played no role in sending him to Niger." In fact, the full committee did not conclude that Plame had suggested the mission. Further, multiple news reports have quoted unnamed intelligence officials who refuted the notion that Plame authorized, or even suggested, Wilson's trip. Read More

On NewsHour, Shields and Brooks ignored "aging movie actress," other statements in stressing McCain's purported "places of disagreement" with Bush's foreign policy
On The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Mark Shields asserted that Sen. John McCain "emphasized a lot of places of disagreement" with President Bush during his March 26 foreign policy speech, including "the sense of communality and collegiality among nations, reaching to the allies." But neither Shields nor the others in the discussion noted any of the highly critical statements McCain made about U.S. allies who opposed the Iraq war. Read More

Scarborough on Obama's "dainty" bowling performance: "Americans want their president, if it's a man, to be a real man"
On Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist repeatedly mocked Sen. Barack Obama's bowling performance -- which Scarborough called "dainty" -- at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania. Deriding Obama's score, Scarborough said: "You know Willie, the thing is, Americans want their president, if it's a man, to be a real man." He added, "You get 150, you're a man, or a good woman," to which Geist replied, "Out of my president, I want a 150, at least." After guest Harold Ford Jr. said that Obama's bowling showed a "humble" and "human" side to him, Scarborough replied, "A very human side? A prissy side." Read More

Dobbs claimed there "isn't much difference" among the three candidates, except on Iraq
CNN's Lou Dobbs claimed that, "with the exception of Iraq, there isn't much difference among" Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. In fact, on health care, Obama and Clinton have both proposed plans to expand coverage, which McCain has denounced. Obama and Clinton also both support comprehensive immigration reform; McCain abandoned his previous support for comprehensive immigration legislation during his campaign for the Republican nomination. Read More

Media report McCain's recent efforts to tout his military record, but not that he told Kerry not to do so in '04
Several media outlets reported on Sen. John McCain's recent efforts to highlight his Vietnam War experience as part of his presidential campaign without noting that, in 2004, he reportedly told Sen. John Kerry that Kerry should not use his Vietnam war record during his campaign, or that McCain falsely asserted in 2004 that he "didn't talk about" his own service during his 2000 presidential campaign "because," he said, "I didn't need to." Read More

Limbaugh's purported translation of Obama statement on Clinton: "I don't know why the B-I-itch is staying in"
On his radio program, after airing comments by Sen. Barack Obama, in which he stated, "Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants," Rush Limbaugh said: "Can I translate that for you? 'I don't know why the B-I-itch is staying in. I feel like a damn hostage here. But I can't say it because she's a woman. And if I say that, they're going to jump down in my throat for being a sexist.'" Read More

Matthews claimed McCain "has campaigned brilliantly against Bush" -- but not according to McCain
On NBC's Today, Chris Matthews asserted that Sen. John McCain "has campaigned brilliantly against Bush," adding, "He won this by basically running against the Bush administration." But when President Bush endorsed him on March 5, McCain said, "All I can say is that on the fundamentals and the principles of our Republican Party and most of the specifics of our shared conservative philosophy, Bush and I are in agreement." Read More

Kurtz falsely claimed that "[u]nlike in 2000," McCain is "now us[ing]" POW experience "in some of his TV advertising"
During a online discussion, Howard Kurtz falsely claimed that Sen. John McCain did not use his military service in television advertising during his failed 2000 presidential campaign. In fact, Kurtz's own reporting during the 2000 Republican presidential primary campaign contradicts his statement. Read More

NBC's Mitchell falsely suggested Obama was discussing abortion when he made "punished with a baby" comment
On MSNBC Live, NBC News' Andrea Mitchell falsely suggested that Sen. Barack Obama was discussing abortion when he said of his two daughters at a March 29 campaign event: "I don't want them punished with a baby." In fact, as CNN reported, Obama's comments were in response to "a question about how his administration, if he's elected, would deal with the issue of HIV and AIDS and also sexually transmitted diseases with young girls." Read More

NY Times reported McCain's "reluctan[ce]" to support "bailout for greedy lenders and reckless buyers" -- but he reportedly approved of Bear Stearns aid
A March 30 New York Times article about the debate over government aid for homeowners facing foreclosure contrasted "Democrats emboldened by the Federal Reserve's intervention in the collapse of Bear Stearns [who] are demanding help for 'everyday Americans,' " with "Republicans including Senator John McCain, the party's presumptive nominee, [who] are urging restraint, reluctant to commit taxpayer funds to what they say is simply a bailout." The article did not mention that McCain reportedly agreed with the Fed's decision to step in to avert the collapse of the investment bank Bear Stearns. Read More

Touting report on Clinton aide's connection to subprime lender, Fox News ignored report on McCain's aides' lobbying for "notorious lender"
On Fox News' The Live Desk, Martha MacCallum, discussing with correspondent Major Garrett a report about Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, Maggie Williams, stated that Williams "sat on the board of one of the nation's once-largest and now bankrupt mortgage lenders, Delta Financial." However, neither Garrett nor MacCallum mentioned Sen. John McCain's reported ties to the mortgage industry. Read More

Dobbs: "What we have is a problem of talking about race without fearing recrimination and distortion"
On CNN's The Situation Room, Lou Dobbs criticized Condoleezza Rice's statement on race, saying, "I think it's really unfortunate that Secretary of State Rice believes as she does. The fact is most Americans don't have a problem talking about race. What we have is a problem of talking about race without fearing recrimination and distortion and someone using whatever comments are made for their own purposes -- usually political purposes." Read More

Fox News' Doocy distorted Dean's comments about McCain
Fox News' Steve Doocy asserted that Sen. John McCain "has not really talked much about his time in the Hanoi Hilton for five years, and what happened to him, and they are including some of that archival stuff in a [campaign] video. And now, Howard Dean says that that is 'blatant opportunism.' " In fact, Dean said: "John McCain can try to reintroduce himself to the country, but he can't change the fact that he cast aside his principles to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with President Bush for the last seven years. While we honor McCain's military service, the fact is Americans want a real leader who offers real solutions, not a blatant opportunist who doesn't understand the economy and is promising to keep our troops in Iraq for 100 years." Read More

Matthews on Obama: "[T]his gets very ethnic, but the fact that he's good at basketball doesn't surprise anybody"
On Hardball, discussing Sen. Barack Obama's bowling performance at a campaign stop, Chris Matthews said to MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard, "You know, Michelle -- and this gets very ethnic, but the fact that he's good at basketball doesn't surprise anybody, but the fact that he's that terrible at bowling does make you wonder." While showing the video of Obama's bowling, Matthews asserted, "[I]t isn't the most macho form there." Read More

John McCain: Strategy for Victory in Iraq - Add More Troops

Quote from on Iraq.

Bolster Troops on the Ground

A greater military commitment now is necessary if we are to achieve long-term success in Iraq. John McCain agrees with retired Army General Jack Keane that there are simply not enough American forces in Iraq. More troops are necessary to clear and hold insurgent strongholds; to provide security for rebuilding local institutions and economies; to halt sectarian violence in Baghdad and disarm Sunni and Shia militias; to dismantle al Qaeda; to train the Iraqi Army; and to embed American personnel in Iraqi police units. Accomplishing each of these goals will require more troops and is a crucial prerequisite for needed economic and political development in the country. America’s ultimate strategy is to give Iraqis the capabilities to govern and secure their own country.

Embarrassed U.S. Starts to Disown Basra Operation

WASHINGTON (IPS) - As it became clear last week that the "Operation Knights Assault" in Basra was in serious trouble, the George W. Bush administration began to claim in off-the-record statements to journalists that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had launched the operation without consulting Washington.

The effort to disclaim U.S. responsibility for the operation is an indication that it was viewed as a major embarrassment just as top commander Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are about to testify before Congress.

Behind this furious backpedaling is a major Bush administration miscalculation about Moqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army, which the administration believed was no longer capable of a coordinated military operation. It is now apparent that Sadr and the Mahdi Army were holding back because they were still in the process of retraining and reorganisation, not because Sadr had given up the military option or had lost control of the Mahdi Army.

The process of the administration distancing itself from the Basra operation began on Mar. 27, when the Washington Post reported that administration officials, speaking anonymously, said that al-Maliki had "decided to launch the offensive without consulting his U.S. allies..." One official claimed, "e can't quite decipher" what is going on, adding that it was a question of "who's got the best conspiracy" theory about why al-Maliki acted when he did.

On Mar. 30, the New York Times reported from Baghdad that "few observers in Iraq seem to believe that al-Maliki intended such a bold stroke," and that "many say the notoriously cautious politician stumbled into a major assault".

The Times quoted a "senior Western official in Baghdad" -- the term usually used for the ambassador or senior military commander -- as saying, "Maliki miscalculated," adding, "From all I hear, al-Maliki's trip was not intended to be the start of major combat operations right there, but a show of force."........

Davis warns against Siegelman testifying to Congress

WASHINGTON - Democratic Rep. Artur Davis of Birmingham warned House Democrats Monday against calling Don Siegelman to testify before Congress, saying Republicans would use the occasion to try to embarrass the former Alabama governor. In a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., Davis said it would be "extremely unwise" to open Siegelman up to fresh attacks and could jeopardize his appeal.

Davis said the appearance would probably turn into a partisan debate over Siegelman's guilt or innocence and shift attention from the committee's true goal of determining whether Republican politics influenced his prosecution on corruption charges. "I fear that we will undermine what we value most if we divert this committee into a fact-finding quest into what Don Siegelman did or did not do," Davis wrote.

A former federal prosecutor, Davis is a member of the Judiciary Committee who has worked closely with Conyers and other Democrats to focus attention on Siegelman's case. But Davis said he was not told of the committee's decision last week to seek Siegelman's testimony and would have advised against it, even before the former governor was released from prison Friday while he appeals his case.

Nouri al-Maliki humiliated as gamble to crush Shia militias fail

Times UK

The soldiers guarding the entrance to Sadr City were jumpy, despite a ceasefire announced by al-Mahdi Army Shia militia. And with good reason: a huge boom rolled across the militia stronghold as a roadside bomb struck a passing vehicle. American armoured vehicles sped off to the aid of stricken comrades.

Overnight al-Mahdi Army has melted back into the population in Baghdad and Basra after its leader, the antiAmerican cleric Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr, ordered it to stop fighting government forces. In Sadr City and other militia strongholds they do not need to be seen. Their presence is felt everywhere.

Walking across the lines separating the US and government forces from the barbed wire sealing off Sadr City, an Iraqi army major muttered: “You’re going in without guards? You’ll be kidnapped for sure.” The Sadr Office had, however, arranged an escort for visiting journalists: a police car with three officers. “Don’t worry,” the driver reassured his passengers. “We know where all the IEDs are.”

The police in areas controlled by al-Mahdi Army work closely with the militia and would never dream of interfering in its fights with the Government that pays their salaries.

Thousands of police officers who refused to fight Sadr are given the sack


Interior Minister Jawad Boulani has ordered the dismissal of thousands of police members and officers who allegedly refused orders to take part in the fight against the militiamen of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The decision covers most of the police force in the predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and also several cities in the southern Iraq including Basra where most of the recent fighting took place.


Thousands of police officers were reported to have refused fighting the militiamen and at least two army regiments joined them with their weapons in Baghdad.

More troops were said to have sided with the militiamen in Basra.

The move to sack police and army personnel sympathizing with Sadr is a risky step as it might derail the already fragile ceasefire.

Some Republicans Emerge To Endorse Barack Obama

WASHINGTONWith an eye to the general election and the Pennsylvania primary, some Republicans who oppose President Bush's war policy are endorsing Senator Obama.

Call them the Obamacans: They are against continuing the Iraq war and reject what they see as Mr. Bush's unconstitutional buildup of executive power. While the conservative Republican base rejected Senator McCain in the early primaries for his push for bipartisan campaign finance regulation and amnesty for illegal immigrants, the Arizona senator's hawkish support for the Iraq war has alienated what was once his national constituency, anti-Bush Republicans.

The Obamacans include a former senator of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee; a former senior Justice Department official under President Reagan and senior legal adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, Douglas Kmiec, and a granddaughter of President Eisenhower, Susan Eisenhower. The group one day may include Senator Hagel, a Republican of Nebraska, who has co-sponsored Iraq withdrawal legislation with leading Democrats. Asked yesterday on CNN whether he would endorse his party's presumptive nominee, Mr. Hagel said he would base his support on the candidates' positions on withdrawing from Iraq.

The Illinois senator's appeal to anti-war Republicans likely will affect the outcome of the upcoming primaries, especially Pennsylvania, where conservatives are being urged by radio host Rush Limbaugh to vote tactically for Senator Clinton in an effort to prolong the fight for the Democratic nomination.

Of the 140,000 Pennsylvania Republicans and independents who switched registration in the last year to Democrat, the majority are Obama voters, the director of the Franklin and Marshall College poll, G. Terry Madonna, said. Registration for the state's closed April 22 primary ended March 24. "If 2 million people vote in Pennsylvania, which would be a huge number, I think Obama gets 85,000 to 90,000 switchers," Mr. Madonna said. "That's 3 or 4 or 5%, which is a big deal.".............

Baghdad Green Zone hit by mortars

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A mortar barrage hit Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses Iraq's government and the U.S. embassy, police said, a day after Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his fighters to stand down. The Green Zone has come under intense mortar and rocket attack over the past week as Mehdi Army fighters loyal to Sadr have battled Iraqi and U.S. security forces in the capital and in southern Iraq.

On Sunday Sadr ordered the Mehdi Army to stop fighting Iraqi security forces and to withdraw from the streets. But the cleric has previously acknowledged there are rogue elements within the militia that have disobeyed a truce he first called last year.......

Bush housing secretary expected to resign

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Alphonso Jackson, the Bush administration's secretary of Housing and Urban Development who has drawn criticism from members of Congress for alleged cronyism and favoritism, is expected to announce his resignation Monday, according to a media report.

A HUD spokeswoman declined Sunday to confirm the report or comment, The Wall Street Journal reported in its online edition. The Journal cited unnamed people familiar with the matter in its report on the impending resignation. See Wall Street Journal story. Subscription required

Jackson's departure will deal a blow to the Bush administration's efforts to tackle housing and mortgage problems, the Journal said.
Earlier this month, two Democratic senators, Patty Murray of Washington state and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, sent a letter to President Bush urging him to request Jackson's resignation, according to the report.

Jackson's problems stem from his refusal to answer questions about his role in a Philadelphia redevelopment deal, according to the report, which added that Philadelphia's housing authority has filed a lawsuit alleging Jackson tried to punish the agency for nixing a deal involving a friend. The friend, identified by the Journal as Kenny Gamble, is a music producer turned developer.

Separately, a report by HUD's inspector general found what it called "some problematic instances'' involving HUD contracts and grants, including Jackson's opposition to money for a contractor whose executives donated exclusively to Democratic candidates, the Journal said.

Jackson has consistently denied any wrongdoing, the Journal reported


New York Post

SARAJEVO, Bosnia - The Bosnian girl who famously read a poem to Hillary Rodham Clinton during her 1996 visit to the war-torn country is shocked - and her countrymen infuriated - that the former first lady claimed to have dodged sniper fire that day.

Emina Bicakcic, now 20 and studying to become a doctor, told The Post she stood on the tarmac at the air base in Tuzla, greeted Clinton and even had time to share the lines of verse she'd written - all without fear of attack from an unseen enemy.

"I was surprised when I heard this," Bicakcic said, referring to Clinton's assertion that she braved snipers upon landing, ducking and sprinting to military vehicles.

Other Bosnians said they had one of two reactions to Clinton's debunked action-hero account of her visit: laughter or anger.

"It's an exaggeration," said former acting President Ejup Ganic, who was present during Clinton's visit. "No one was firing. There were no shots fired."

Sema Markovic, 22, a student, said she has long respected Hillary as a strong leader but was angered by her remarks.

"It is an ugly thing for a politician to tell lies,' she said. "We had problems for years, and I don't like when someone lies about them. It makes us look bad."......

Gaddafi says Arabs should not alienate Iran

DAMASCUS, (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi urged fellow Arab leaders on Saturday to improve ties with non-Arab Iran, saying it was not in their interest to antagonise the Islamic republic.

"You have no escape from Iran. It is a neighbour and Muslim brother and it is not in your interest to be its enemy. We have no interest at all in turning Iran against us," Gaddafi told an Arab summit meeting in Damascus.

A strengthening alliance between host Syria and Iran have deepened divisions in the run up to the summit, which is being attended by Iran's foreign minister but shunned by pro-U.S. Arab leaders, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Tensions have also heightened in the region over Iran's nuclear row with the West and Tehran's alleged interference in Iraq and its backing of Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah group in its standoff with the pro-Western Lebanese government.

Gaddafi said Iran and the Arab world had historic relations that could not be ignored, with a sizeable Iranian minority in Gulf Arab countries.

He said the United Arab Emirates should seek international arbitration to solve a dispute with Iran over three Gulf islands which Tehran controls but are claimed by the UAE.

"Solve the issue peacefully," Gaddafi said. "Are these islands the only thing we have lost? Arab dignity, Arab future and past have been lost."

President George W. Bush tried to shore up Gulf Arab support against Iran during a visit to the region in January. But Gulf states, which share a strategic waterway crucial to world oil flows with Iran, expressed little public backing to Bush's call......

Clay tablet holds clue to asteroid mystery

The Telegraph

British scientists have deciphered a mysterious ancient clay tablet and believe they have solved a riddle over a giant asteroid impact more than 5,000 years ago.

Geologists have long puzzled over the shape of the land close to the town of Köfels in the Austrian Alps, but were unable to prove it had been caused by an asteroid.

Now researchers say their translation of symbols on a star map from an ancient civilisation includes notes on a mile-wide asteroid that later hit Earth - which could have caused tens of thousands of deaths.

The circular clay tablet was discovered 150 years ago by Sir Austen Henry Layard, a leading Victorian archaeologist, in the remains of the royal palace at Nineveh, capital of ancient Assyria, in what is now Iraq.

The tablet, on display at the British Museum, shows drawings of constellations and pictogram-based text known as cuneiform - used by the Sumerians, the earliest known civilisation in the world.

A historian from Azerbaijan, who believes humans originally came to Earth from another planet, has interpreted it as a description of the arrival of a spaceship. More mainstream academics have failed to decipher its meaning.

Now Alan Bond, the managing director of a space propulsion company, Reaction Engines, and Mark Hempsell, a senior lecturer in astronautics at Bristol University, have cracked the cuneiform code and used a computer programme that can reconstruct the night sky thousands of years ago to provide a new explanation.

They believe their calculations prove the tablet - a copy made by an Assyrian scribe around 700 BC - is a Sumerian astronomer's notebook recording events in the sky on June 29, 3123 BC.

The pair say its symbols include a note of the trajectory of a large object travelling across the constellation of Pisces which, to within one degree, is consistent with an impact at Köfels.

Mr Hempsell said: "All previous work has drawn a blank on what the tablet is about.

"It is such a big jigsaw and the pieces we have found fit together so well that I think we have a definitive proof."

The Köfels site was originally interpreted as an asteroid impact, however the lack of an obvious impact crater led modern geologists to believe it to be simply a giant landslide.

However, the Bond-Hempsell theory, outlined in their book published today, A Sumerian Observation of the Köfels Impact Event, suggests that the asteroid left no crater because it clipped a mountain and turned into a fireball.

Mr Hempsell said: "The ground heating, though very short, would be enough to ignite any flammable material, including human hair and clothes.

"It is probable more people died under the plume than in the Alps due to the impact blast."

He added that extreme changes caused to rock and other substances at the site had previously led to the Köfels impact being erroneously dated to around 8,000 years ago.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Trail of unpaid bills casts doubt on Hillary Clinton's finances

The Times

Hillary Clinton’s determination to remain in the presidential race may spell bad news for small businesses in the states that have yet to vote.

Staff have left a trail of unpaid bills and trashed offices across America in the past three months, raising fresh doubts about the viability of her run for the Democratic nomination. A property manager who let rooms to the campaign last summer in Clinton, Iowa, said that he found rubbish, rotting food, holes drilled in the walls and permanent stains on the carpet. He did not receive unpaid rent until last month — but kept the $500 (£250) deposit to cover clean-up expenses.

In Portsmouth, New Hampshire, landlord Terry Bennett went to the media to complain about late payment from Clinton campaign tenants who, he said, “left enough trash for a small army” — but no rent. When he eventually got his cheque, he donated it to Barack Obama.

Ohio event management companies owed money by Mrs Clinton were quoted yesterday warning others to ask for money up front. Jim Phillips, the owner of Show Tyme Exhibits, said that he needed a $607 invoice settled. “I’m a small guy,” he said. “I could use that.”

The delayed payments may reflect her straitened circumstances after the most expensive battle for the Democratic nomination in history, in which she has recently been heavily outspent on advertising by Mr Obama.

Bill Clinton, in a weekend e-mail to supporters, underlined the urgent need for money before the end of March. “Our opponents and the media will scrutinise our fundraising reports and look for any sign of weakness,” he said.

Although February was her best month yet in fundraising, documents filed last week with the Federal Elections Commission show that at the end of that month Mrs Clinton’s total of $38 million in the bank was mostly money that can be spent only if she wins the nomination.

The website reported that if she had paid off the $8.7 million in unpaid bills and not loaned her campaign $5 million, she would have had less than $2 million available for this month. Mr Obama would still have had $31 million cash-in-hand even if he had paid off the $625,000 owed to creditors.

Mrs Clinton’s biggest debts are to her pollsters, strategists and advertising consultants. She also has hundreds of outstanding bills for catering, security, printing and hiring venues. By the end of February, her campaign had not, for instance, reimbursed the Hy-Vee chain for making thousands of sandwiches on the night of the Iowa caucuses.

PAUL KRUGMAN: The Dilbert Strategy


Anyone who has worked in a large organization — or, for that matter, reads the comic strip “Dilbert” — is familiar with the “org chart” strategy. To hide their lack of any actual ideas about what to do, managers sometimes make a big show of rearranging the boxes and lines that say who reports to whom.

You now understand the principle behind the Bush administration’s new proposal for financial reform, which will be formally announced today: it’s all about creating the appearance of responding to the current crisis, without actually doing anything substantive.

The financial events of the last seven months, and especially the past few weeks, have convinced all but a few diehards that the U.S. financial system needs major reform. Otherwise, we’ll lurch from crisis to crisis — and the crises will get bigger and bigger.

The rescue of Bear Stearns, in particular, was a paradigm-changing event.

Traditional, deposit-taking banks have been regulated since the 1930s, because the experience of the Great Depression showed how bank failures can threaten the whole economy. Supposedly, however, “non-depository” institutions like Bear didn’t have to be regulated, because “market discipline” would ensure that they were run responsibly.

When push came to shove, however, the Federal Reserve didn’t dare let market discipline run its course. Instead, it rushed to Bear’s rescue, risking billions of taxpayer dollars, because it feared that the collapse of a major financial institution would endanger the financial system as a whole.

And if financial players like Bear are going to receive the kind of rescue previously limited to deposit-taking banks, the implication seems obvious: they should be regulated like banks, too.

The Bush administration, however, has spent the last seven years trying to do away with government oversight of the financial industry. In fact, the new plan was originally conceived of as “promoting a competitive financial services sector leading the world and supporting continued economic innovation.” That’s banker-speak for getting rid of regulations that annoy big financial operators.

To reverse course now, and seek expanded regulation, the administration would have to back down on its free-market ideology — and it would also have to face up to the fact that it was wrong. And this administration never, ever, admits that it made a mistake.

Thus, in a draft of a speech to be delivered on Monday, Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, declares, “I do not believe it is fair or accurate to blame our regulatory structure for the current turmoil.”

And sure enough, according to the executive summary of the new administration plan, regulation will be limited to institutions that receive explicit federal guarantees — that is, institutions that are already regulated, and have not been the source of today’s problems. As for the rest, it blithely declares that “market discipline is the most effective tool to limit systemic risk.”

The administration, then, has learned nothing from the current crisis. Yet it needs, as a political matter, to pretend to be doing something.

So the Treasury has, with great fanfare, announced — you know what’s coming — its support for a rearrangement of the boxes on the org chart. OCC, OTS, and CFTC are out; PFRA and CBRA are in. Whatever.

Will rearranging these boxes make any difference? I’ve been disappointed to see some news outlets report as fact the administration’s cover story — the claim that lack of coordination among regulatory agencies was an important factor in our current problems.

The truth is that that’s not at all what happened. The various regulators actually did quite well at acting in a coordinated fashion. Unfortunately, they coordinated in the wrong direction.

For example, there was a 2003 photo-op in which officials from multiple agencies used pruning shears and chainsaws to chop up stacks of banking regulations. The occasion symbolized the shared determination of Bush appointees to suspend adult supervision just as the financial industry was starting to run wild.

Oh, and the Bush administration actively blocked state governments when they tried to protect families against predatory lending.

So, will the administration’s plan succeed? I’m not asking whether it will succeed in preventing future financial crises — that’s not its purpose. The question, instead, is whether it will succeed in confusing the issue sufficiently to stand in the way of real reform.

Let’s hope not. As I said, America’s financial crises have been getting bigger. A decade ago, the market disruption that followed the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management was considered a major, scary event; but compared with the current earthquake, the L.T.C.M. crisis was a minor tremor.

If we don’t reform the system this time, the next crisis could well be even bigger. And I, for one, really don’t want to live through a replay of the 1930s.

Media Matters Daily Summary 03-30-08

Ignoring McCain's reversal, Stephanopoulos let Lieberman claim McCain "was much more forward-leaning on immigration reform" than Clinton, Obama
On ABC's This Week, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman claimed that Sen. John McCain "actually stepped out and was much more forward-leaning on immigration reform than Barack Obama was -- Senator Clinton wasn't involved in those negotiations." Host George Stephanopoulos did not point out that McCain abandoned his previous support for comprehensive immigration legislation during his campaign for the Republican nomination. Read More

Despite McCain's moves to placate GOP base, Fox News Sunday's Wallace wondered how Dean could call McCain an "opportunist"

Discussing Howard Dean's assertion that Sen. John McCain is a "blatant opportunist," on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace stated, "I think you can call John McCain a lot of things. Opportunist?" Bill Kristol responded that polls on the Iraq war show "that most people would like to be told, 'Hey, we can get out of there soon, no problem, no damage,' " and added: "I think the opportunist line is just ludicrous." The Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman asserted: "McCain actually revels in saying the thing that you don't want to hear. And he says it first." No member of the Fox News Sunday panel mentioned that McCain has reversed his positions on issues such as taxes, immigration, and his view of the religious right to align himself more closely with the base of his party. Read More

Brooks, Broder praised McCain's rebuke of Bush-style unilateralism, but didn't mention McCain's past comments attacking allies who opposed Iraq war
The New York Times' David Brooks asserted that Sen. John McCain's March 26 foreign policy speech "was so important because he broke with Bush on several ways" and described one of those ways as, "Should the U.S. go it alone on certain issues? He said no, we are -- we need a strong America, but in the community of nations. And he detailed that." Similarly, The Washington Post's David Broder wrote that McCain "outlin[ed] a vastly different approach from President Bush's" in the speech, in part by offering a "repudiation of unilateralism." Yet neither Brooks nor Broder accounted for any of the statements McCain made during the run-up to the Iraq war about France, Germany, and Belgium, which revealed a very different attitude to U.S. allies. Read More

The Top 10 Conservative Idiots, No. 331

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March 31, 2008 - The Surge Is Sucking Edition

This week George W. Bush (1,2) gives up all pretense that he has any clue what's going on in Iraq, John McCain (3,4,5) agrees with Osama bin Laden, and Dick Cheney (6) shrugs off 4,000 dead U.S. troops. Elsewhere, Virginia Foxx (9) wants you to be afraid, and Michelle Bachmann (10) is in bed with, er, big light bulb.

Army Confirms Remains Those Of Missing Tri-State Soldier

BATAVIA, Ohio -- The father of a soldier listed as missing-captured in Iraq since 2004 said the military has informed him that his son's remains were found in Iraq.

Keith Maupin said an Army general told him Sunday that DNA was used to identify his son.

Sgt. Matt Maupin was a 20-year-old private first class when he was captured April 9, 2004, when his fuel convoy, part of the 724th Transportation Company, was ambushed west of Baghdad.

A week later, the Arab television network Al-Jazeera aired a videotape showing Maupin sitting on the floor surrounded by five masked men holding automatic rifles.

That June, Al-Jazeera aired another tape purporting to show a U.S. soldier being shot.

But the dark and grainy tape showed only the back of the victim's head and not the actual shooting.

The Maupin family refused to believe it was their son, and the Army had listed him as missing-captured.

Iranians help reach Iraq cease-fire

BAGHDAD — Iranian officials helped broker a cease-fire agreement Sunday between Iraq's government and radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, according to Iraqi lawmakers.

The deal could help defuse a wave of violence that had threatened recent security progress in Iraq. It also may signal the growing regional influence of Iran, a country the Bush administration accuses of providing support to terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere.

Al-Sadr ordered his forces off the streets of Iraq on Sunday. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki hailed al-Sadr's action as "a step in the right direction." It was unclear whether the deal would completely end six days of clashes between U.S.-backed Iraqi forces and Shiite militias, including al-Sadr's.

Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni lawmaker who oversaw mediation in Baghdad, said representatives from al-Maliki's Dawa Party and another Shiite party traveled to Iran to finalize talks with al-Sadr.


Iraqi cleric calls off militias


Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr has ordered his fighters off the streets of Basra and other cities in an effort to end clashes with security forces.

He said in a statement that his movement wanted the Iraqi people to stop the bloodshed and maintain the nation's independence and stability.

The government, which had set a deadline to hand over weapons in return for cash, called the move "positive".

The fighting has claimed more than 240 lives across the country since Tuesday.

In Baghdad, the city's military command has extended a round-the-clock curfew for an indefinite period. The curfew had been due to end on Sunday morning.........

Obama win appears big in Texas delegate battle


Barrack Obama appeared to have scored a clear victory over Hillary Clinton on Saturday in the second step of Texas' multi-tiered process for selecting its delegates to the Democratic National Convention. With results available from about half of the district conventions held statewide, the Associated Press reported that Obama had won 59 percent of the delegates headed to the state party's June convention to Clinton’s 41 percent. That translates into 1,858 delegates for Obama and 1,270 for Clinton.

That result made it likely that when the delegate selection process is finally completed, Obama will have more Texas delegates to the national convention than Clinton, despite Clinton's having won the March 4 primary vote 51 to 47 percent. Under Texas' delegate selection process, 67 of its 206 delegates are selected by the June state party convention.

Tens of thousands of Texas Democrats turned out for Saturday's district conventions in a chaotic day in which many of the meetings in Texas' large cities lasted late into the night. Some delegates — confused and frustrated by hours-long delays, disorder and disorganization — gave up on the process and left, still not sure if their vote counted. “Please move a bit faster,” urged delegate Whitney Larkins, who attended the largest senatorial district in Fort Worth gathered at the Will Rogers Coliseum. “Have some consideration. Think about those of us who took time out of our lives to participate in this.”........

Staff Alleges Abuses by Top Iraq Auditor - Employees Tell Grand Jury, FBI of Mismanagement in Inspector General's Office

Washington Post

Federal investigators called at least nine current and former employees of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction before a grand jury in Richmond on March 18, and the FBI has summoned others for questioning this week, marking a new phase in the probe of allegations against SIGIR chief Stuart W. Bowen Jr., according to witnesses and other sources familiar with the investigation.

The FBI and U.S. attorneys have been investigating whether Bowen and his top deputy, Ginger Cruz, improperly accessed staff e-mails in violation of federal law. Current and former SIGIR employees interviewed by the FBI and questioned before the grand jury have complained of mismanagement and abuse of authority, including retaliatory firing of staff members.

On the basis of the grand jury questioning and testimony, several witnesses said they believe that the government has strong evidence against Bowen, a former White House associate counsel who heads the lead U.S. agency in charge of tracking fraud, waste and abuse of more than $21 billion in funds for Iraq reconstruction. "Based on what I saw, they should have a good case," said one key witness who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing........

Mahdi Army Now Cruising around in American-Issued Humvees

by Brandon Friedman

With gunfire and explosions echoing round him, Lt Hamid Abbas of the Iraqi Army was letting no car pass unchallenged at his makeshift roadblock on the outskirts of a Basra slum.

His closest scrutiny, however, was reserved not for the few civilian motorists daring to venture on to the streets, but for other Iraqi army vehicles.

"Some of our soldiers have refused to fight the Mehdi Army and have instead handed their vehicles and weapons to them," he said, looking disgusted. "Now we are having to check every Iraqi army patrol that passes through to ensure they are genuine soldiers."

The scene on the other side of the battlefield proved his suspicions right. Dug in behind a wall was a squad of Mehdi Army fighters, the Shia militiamen Lt Abbas and 15,000 other Iraqi soldiers have been sent to quell.

Sure enough, one was driving an American-issue Iraqi army Humvee - one of seven, said the squad's leader, Haji Ali, handed to them by sympathisers within the Iraqi army.......

McCain guru linked to Subprime Crisis


The general co-chairman of John McCain’s presidential campaign, former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), led the charge in 1999 to repeal a Depression-era banking regulation law that Democrat Barack Obama claimed on Thursday contributed significantly to today’s economic turmoil.

“A regulatory structure set up for banks in the 1930s needed to change because the nature of business had changed,” the Illinois senator running for president said in a New York economic speech. “But by the time was repealed in 1999, the $300 million lobbying effort that drove deregulation was more about facilitating mergers than creating an efficient regulatory framework.”

Gramm’s role in the swift and dramatic recent restructuring of the nation’s investment houses and practices didn’t stop there.

A year after the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act repealed the old regulations, Swiss Bank UBS gobbled up brokerage house Paine Weber. Two years later, Gramm settled in as a vice chairman of UBS’s new investment banking arm.........

As Clinton Talks Housing Crisis, Campaign Manager Serves on Board of Bankrupt Lender

WASHINGTON While Hillary Clinton campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination in neighborhoods where many have lost their homes in unscrupulous lending schemes, her campaign manager, Margaret "Maggie" Williams, sits on the board of one of the nation's once-largest and now-bankrupt sub-prime mortgage lenders.

Williams joined the board of directors at New York-based Delta Financial Corporation in 2000, one month after a federal settlement was reached with Delta Financial over discriminatory lending practices........

Saturday, March 29, 2008

FRANK RICH: Hillary’s St. Patrick’s Day Massacre


MOST politicians lie. Most people over 50, as I know all too well, misremember things. So here is the one compelling mystery still unresolved about Hillary Clinton’s Bosnia fairy tale: Why did she keep repeating this whopper for nearly three months, well after it had been publicly debunked by journalists and eyewitnesses?

In January, after Senator Clinton first inserted the threat of “sniper fire” into her stump speech, Elizabeth Sullivan of The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote that the story couldn’t be true because by the time of the first lady’s visit in March 1996, “the war was over.” Meredith Vieira asked Mrs. Clinton on the “Today” show why, if she was on the front lines, she took along a U.S.O. performer like Sinbad. Earlier this month, a week before Mrs. Clinton fatefully rearmed those snipers one time too many, Sinbad himself spoke up to The Washington Post: “I think the only ‘red phone’ moment was: Do we eat here or at the next place?”

Yet Mrs. Clinton was undeterred. She dismissed Sinbad as a “comedian” and recycled her fiction once more on St. Patrick’s Day. When Michael Dobbs fact-checked it for The Post last weekend and proclaimed it worthy of “four Pinocchios,” her campaign pushed back. The Clinton camp enforcer Howard Wolfson phoned in to “Morning Joe” on MSNBC Monday and truculently quoted a sheaf of news stories that he said supported her account. Only later that day, a full week after her speech, did he start to retreat, suggesting it was “possible” she “misspoke” in the “most recent instance” of her retelling of her excellent Bosnia adventure.

Since Mrs. Clinton had told a similar story in previous instances, this was misleading at best. It was also dishonest to characterize what she had done as misspeaking — or as a result of sleep deprivation, as the candidate herself would soon assert. The Bosnia anecdote was part of her prepared remarks, scripted and vetted with her staff. Not that it mattered anymore. The self-inflicted damage had been done. The debate about Barack Obama’s relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was almost smothered in the rubble of Mrs. Clinton’s Bosnian bridge too far.

Which brings us back to our question: Why would so smart a candidate play political Russian roulette with virtually all the bullet chambers loaded?

Sometimes only a shrink can decipher why some politicians persist in flagrantly taking giant risks, all but daring others to catch them in the act (see: Spitzer, Eliot). Carl Bernstein, a sometimes admiring Hillary Clinton biographer, has called the Bosnia debacle “a watershed event” for her campaign because it revives her long history of balancing good works with “ ‘misstatements’ and elisions,” from the health-care task force fiasco onward.

But this event may be a watershed for two other reasons that have implications beyond Mrs. Clinton’s character and candidacy, spilling over into the 2008 campaign as a whole. It reveals both the continued salience of that supposedly receding issue, the Iraq war, and the accelerating power of viral politics, as exemplified by YouTube, to override the retail politics still venerated by the Beltway establishment.

What’s been lost in the furor over Mrs. Clinton’s Bosnia fairy tale is that her disastrous last recycling of it, the one that blew up in her face, kicked off her major address on the war, timed to its fifth anniversary. Still unable to escape the stain of the single most damaging stand in her public career, she felt compelled to cloak herself, however fictionally, in an American humanitarian intervention that is not synonymous with quagmire.

Perhaps she thought that by taking the huge gamble of misspeaking one more time about her narrow escape on the tarmac at Tulza, she could compensate for misvoting on Iraq. Instead, her fictionalized derring-do may have stirred national trace memories of two of the signature propaganda stunts of the war: the Rambo myth the Pentagon concocted for Pvt. Jessica Lynch and President Bush’s flyboy antics on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln during “Mission Accomplished.”

That Mrs. Clinton’s campaign kept insisting her Bosnia tale was the truth two days after The Post exposed it as utter fiction also shows the political perils of 20th-century analog arrogance in a digital age. Incredible as it seems, the professionals around Mrs. Clinton — though surely knowing her story was false — thought she could tough it out. They ignored the likelihood that a television network would broadcast the inevitable press pool video of a first lady’s foreign trip — as the CBS Evening News did on Monday night — and that this smoking gun would then become an unstoppable assault weapon once harnessed to the Web.

The Drudge Report’s link to the YouTube iteration of the CBS News piece transformed it into a cultural phenomenon reaching far beyond a third-place network news program’s nightly audience. It had more YouTube views than the inflammatory Wright sermons, more than even the promotional video of Britney Spears making her latest “comeback” on a TV sitcom. It was as this digital avalanche crashed down that Mrs. Clinton, backed into a corner, started offering the alibi of “sleep deprivation” and then tried to reignite the racial fires around Mr. Wright.

The Clinton campaign’s cluelessness about the Web has been apparent from the start, and not just in its lagging fund-raising. Witness the canned Hillary Web “chats” and “Hillcasts,” the soupy Web contest to choose a campaign song (the winner, an Air Canada advertising jingle sung by Celine Dion, was quickly dumped), and the little-watched electronic national town-hall meeting on the eve of Super Tuesday. Web surfers have rejected these stunts as the old-school infomercials they so blatantly are.

Senator Obama, for all his campaign’s Internet prowess, made his own media mistake by not getting ahead of the inevitable emergence of commercially available Wright videos on both cable TV and the Web. But he got lucky. YouTube videos of a candidate in full tilt or full humiliation, we’re learning, can outdraw videos of a candidate’s fire-breathing pastor. Both the CBS News piece on Mrs. Clinton in Bosnia and the full video of Mr. Obama’s speech on race have drawn more views than the most popular clips of a raging Mr. Wright.

But the political power of the Bosnia incident speaks at least as much to the passions aroused by the war as to the media dynamics of the Web. For all the economic anxiety roiling Americans, they have not forgotten Iraq. The anger can rise again in a flash when stoked by events on the ground or politicians at home, as it has throughout the rites surrounding the fifth anniversary of the invasion and 4,000th American combat death. This will keep happening as it becomes more apparent that the surge is a stalemate, bringing neither lower troop levels nor anything more than a fragile temporary stability to Iraq. John McCain’s apparent obliviousness to this fact remains a boon to the Democrats.

The war is certainly a bigger issue in 2008 than race. Yet it remains a persistent Beltway refrain that race will hinder Mr. Obama at every turn, no matter how often reality contradicts the thesis. Whites wouldn’t vote for a black man in states like Iowa and New Hampshire; whites wouldn’t vote for blacks in South Carolina; blacks wouldn’t vote for a black man who wasn’t black enough. The newest incessantly repeated scenario has it that Mr. Obama’s fate now all depends on a stereotypical white blue-collar male voter in the apotheosized rust belt town of Deer Hunter, Pa.

Well, Mr. Obama isn’t going to win every white vote. But two big national polls late last week, both conducted since he addressed the Wright controversy, found scant change in Mr. Obama’s support. In The Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, his white support was slightly up. As the pollster Peter Hart put it, this result was “a myth buster.” The noisy race wars have failed to stop Mr. Obama just as immigration hysteria didn’t defeat Senator McCain, the one candidate in his party who refused to pander to the Lou Dobbs brigades.

The myth that’s been busted is one that Mr. Obama talked about in his speech — the perennial given that American racial relations are doomed to stew eternally in the Jim Crow poisons that forged generations like Mr. Wright’s. Yet if you sampled much political commentary of the past two weeks, you’d think it’s still 1968, or at least 1988. The default assumptions are that the number of racists in America remains fixed, no matter what the generational turnover, and that the Wright videos will terrorize white folks just as the Willie Horton ads did when the G.O.P. took out Michael Dukakis.

But politically and culturally we’re not in the 1980s — or pre-YouTube 2004 — anymore. An unending war abroad is upstaging the old domestic racial ghosts. A new bottom-up media culture is challenging any candidate’s control of a message.

The 2008 campaign is, unsurprisingly enough, mostly of a piece with 2006, when Iraq cost Republicans the Congress. In that year’s signature race, a popular Senate incumbent, George Allen, was defeated by a war opponent in the former Confederate bastion of Virginia after being caught race-baiting in a video posted on the Web. Last week Mrs. Clinton learned the hard way that Iraq, racial gamesmanship and viral video can destroy a Democrat, too.

MAUREEN DOWD: Surrender Already, Dorothy


It’s all about the magic, really.

And whether we can take a flier on this skinny guy with the strange name and braided ancestry to help us get it back.

Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister of France and a strong supporter of the United States, recently observed that President Bush has done such a number on our image in the world that no one will be able to restore the luster.

“I think the magic is over,” he said.

Pas si vite, mon vieux. In terms of style, the Obamas could give Carla Bruni-Sarkozy a run for her euros. And at least Obama is not in a fantasy world on Iraq, as W. and John McCain are, insisting it’s improving while we see it exploding.

Many voters decided last week to stick with Obama despite his less-than-convincing explanations about the Rev. Wright — even as many soured on Hillary, casting her as Lady Voldemort.

Democrats are coming around to the point Jay Rockefeller made 10 days ago after introducing Obama in West Virginia: “Democrats always make a mistake by nominating people who know everything on earth there is to know about public policy. I introduced both Al Gore and John Kerry at their rallies. They knew all the policies, but people didn’t connect with them. You don’t get elected president if people don’t like you.”

Despite Bill Clinton’s saying it was “a bunch of bull” that his wife should drop out, Democrats are trying to sneak up on Hillary, throw a burlap sack over her head, carry her off the field and stick her in a Saddam spider hole until after the Denver convention.

One Obama adviser moaned that the race was “beginning to feel like a hostage crisis” and would probably go on for another month to six weeks. And Obama said that the “God, when will this be over?” primary season was like “a good movie that lasted about a half an hour too long.”

Hillary sunnily riposted that she likes long movies. Her favorite as a girl was “The Wizard of Oz,” so surely she spots the “Surrender Dorothy” sign in the sky and the bad portent of the ladies of “The View” burbling to Obama about how sexy he is.

But who knows? Obama and Bob Casey talking March Madness to the patrons of Sharky’s sports cafe in Latrobe, Pa., on Friday night seemed demographically clever. But it is always when Hillary is pushed back by the boys that women help hoist her up.

Obama, like the preternaturally gifted young heroes in mythical tales, is still learning to channel his force. He can ensorcell when he has to, and he has viral appeal. Who else could alchemize a nuanced 40-minute speech on race into must-see YouTube viewing for 20-year-olds?

But at several crucial points in the last year, he held back when he should have poured on, leaving his nemesis around to damage him further.

Obama has social engineering plans as ambitious, in their own way, as the Bush administration’s failed social engineering plans to change the psyche of America and the Middle East.

“I think the president needs to use the bully pulpit to change our culture,” he said Thursday, talking energy at a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser in Manhattan. “We are a wasteful culture. It’s always been that way because of our history. We do everything big.”

He wants to make government “cool” again. He wants to banish the red-blue culture of conflict on TV and in Washington. And he wants to make the country healthier, thinner and smarter. “I want our students learning art and music and science and poetry,” he says, in a crowd-pleasing line.

Using his preacher voice, he urged a black audience in Beaumont, Tex., to be better parents, to put away chips and cold Popeyes for breakfast, and to turn off the TV and video games. “Buy a little desk or put that child at the kitchen table,” he instructed. “Watch them do their homework.”

It’s not certain that Obama could bring about an American renaissance. As the L.A. entertainment lawyer Nancy McCullough, who was on the Harvard Law Review with Obama, told Vanity Fair’s Todd Purdum, he tended to wallow in words. She said he was so intent on letting everyone have a say that “I actually would have been happier for him to say sometimes, ‘This is how we’re doing this, and shut up!’ ”

The pollster Peter Hart says the central questions are: “Is Hillary honest?” and “Is Obama safe?”

Her foreign affairs plumping-up has hurt her, while his exotic and unorthodox narrative stirs doubt.

“If I were to produce a spot for Obama,” Hart said, “I would take 100 photographs of everything that he does with his children and wife — that could range from Halloween to a picnic to everything we identify with as part of American life — so people could say, ‘I relate to that, I understand it.’ ”

But, for now, Obama might want to leave the Trinity church photos out of the montage.

Pentagon agency confuses Iran with Iraq in official history

Raw Story

US intelligence agency confuses Iran with Iraq in report about Israeli strike

"George W. Bush is not stupid," Jon Stewart told a crowd in 2005. "He invaded Iraq. They didn't have weapons of mass destruction or ties to Al Qaeda ... but Iran does. So he was only one letter off and that should be credited"

The Agency that brought you bogus intelligence on the Iraq war -- a Defense Intelligence Agency operative who knew that a key US intelligence source was unreliable sat in on meetings with then-Secretary of State Colin Powell when he incorporated claims about mobile Iraqi weapons labs into his portfolio -- now brings you the Iran that is actually Iraq.

In a brief official history of their own agency, posted on their website (pdf here), the DIA confused Iran and Iraq.

Noting "world crises" in the 1980s, the agency's report cites “an Israeli F-16 raid to destroy an Iranian nuclear reactor.”

The discrepancy was first caught by the Federation of American Scientists' Steven Aftergood, who writes the blog Secrecy News.

In fact, Israel attacked an Iraqi nuclear reactor -- Osirak -- in 1981. Israel has not attacked Iranian nuclear sites -- or at least, not yet.

“The description appears to match Israel’s raid on Iraq’s nuclear reactor” in 1981, Israeli scholar Gideon Remez told Aftergood on his blog. “Today’s preoccupation with Iran’s nuclear program seems to have been projected onto the events of 27 years ago.”

“If that is indeed the case, I’d recommend a correction,” he added.

The Defense Intelligence Agency, which authored the report, could not be reached for comment...........

Robotic phone calls lead Democratic delegates astray

Some receive false claims that conventions have been cancelled

AUSTIN — The Texas Democratic Party on Friday urged delegates to today's senatorial district and county conventions to ignore e-mails and robotic phone calls telling them that the conventions have either been canceled or had their times changed.

The conventions are a crucial turning point in Texas as the presidential campaigns of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama fight for 67 nominating convention delegates who will be chosen through the Texas caucus process.

While Obama appeared to come out of the caucuses with a 37-30 lead, the number can change based on how many supporters for each candidate show up for today's local conventions.

That prompted Democratic Chairman Boyd Richie to put out an alert after receiving reports that delegates were being given misinformation about the conventions. Richie said all the conventions are going to occur as scheduled.

"We have received reports from delegates who have received e-mails saying that conventions have been canceled," Richie said. "We have also received unconfirmed reports that someone is placing robo-calls claiming to be from the Texas Democratic Party suggesting that county or district conventions have been cancelled."

The e-mails, at least, appear to be a self-inflicted wound by Clinton's campaign. Convention delegates who had signed up for Clinton event notices on her Web site late Thursday received notices that their local convention had been canceled. The error occurred when the campaign deleted entries for conventions that had changed times or locations, said Texas field director Mike Trujillo......

Friday, March 28, 2008

Media Matters Daily Summary 03-28-08

Fox News ran with debunked Wash. Times column questioning legality of Elton John concert for Clinton
Fox News' Megyn Kelly echoed a Washington Times column that questioned the legality of an Elton John concert for Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign, even after the Clinton campaign posted a statement from FEC spokesman Bob Biersack saying he does not believe there is "anything unlawful about Elton John performing in a concert to raise money for a US presidential candidate." Additionally, Lis Wiehl falsely claimed that a 1981 FEC advisory opinion stated that "you couldn't volunteer any time if you're a foreign national." Read More

Morning Joe allowed McCain adviser to falsely assert Clinton and Obama are "talking about raising taxes across the board"
On Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough, Willie Geist, and NBC News' Savannah Guthrie did not challenge senior McCain adviser Steve Schmidt's false assertion that "[w]ith regard to the economy," Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are "talking about raising taxes across the board." In fact, Obama and Clinton have proposed tax cuts -- not tax increases -- for the poor and the middle class. Read More

Blitzer skips opportunity to press Hagel on his criticism of McCain's foreign policy
In an interview on CNN's American Morning, Sen. Chuck Hagel said: "John [McCain] and I have some pretty fundamental differences on Iraq, on foreign policy." But in a later interview, Wolf Blitzer skipped the opportunity to press Hagel to elaborate on those "fundamental differences," or to give his assessment, in light of those differences, of the impact of a McCain presidency on the nation. Read More

Casting McCain as opponent of fed intervention in mortgage crisis, Blitzer ignored his approval of Bear Stearns aid
CNN's Wolf Blitzer highlighted Sen. John McCain's assertion that he has "always been committed to the principle that it's not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they're big banks or small borrowers," but did not mention that McCain reportedly said he didn't think the Federal Reserve "went too far in helping" investment bank Bear Stearns avoid bankruptcy. Read More

Wash. Post claimed McCain "most aggressive" of the three major candidates in "identifying ways to reduce spending," ignoring cost of Iraq policy
A Washington Post article claimed that "[o]f the three candidates, budget analysts said [Sen. John] McCain has been most aggressive at identifying ways to reduce spending." While the article noted that "McCain's proposals come nowhere near generating the sums necessary to meet the costs," it did not note that, in addition to his proposals to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, those "costs" include the war in Iraq, for which, unlike Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, McCain does not support a timetable for withdrawal. Read More

NPR's Naylor suggested McCain is opposed to government "bail[] out," did not note his approval of Bear Stearns deal
In a report on congressional action in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis, National Public Radio's Brian Naylor uncritically reported McCain's statement that it's not the government's job to "bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers." Naylor did not note that McCain reportedly agreed with the Federal Reserve's decision to extend a $30 billion line of credit to facilitate the acquisition of Bear Stearns by JP Morgan Chase. Read More

In reporting on McCain's stated opposition to government "bail out" of "big banks," Wash. Post, NY Times failed to note his approval of Bear Stearns aid
The Washington Post and The New York Times reported that Sen. John McCain, in the words of Times reporters Michael Powell and Jeff Zeleny, "argued this week against a vigorous federal intervention to address the [housing] crisis, saying Washington should not bail out banks and homeowners who in his view had knowingly taken on risky mortgages." However, neither article noted that McCain reportedly expressed support for the Federal Reserve's decision to extend a $30 billion line of credit to facilitate the acquisition of Bear Stearns by JP Morgan Chase. Read More

CNN, LA Times uncritically reported McCain's false claim that Obama and Clinton proposed "a multibillion-dollar bailout for big banks and speculators"
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux and an article in the Los Angeles Times both uncritically quoted Sen. John McCain's statement regarding possible responses to the home mortgage crisis: "What is not necessary is a multibillion-dollar bailout for big banks and speculators, as Senators Clinton and Obama have proposed." In fact, neither Clinton nor Obama has proposed "a multibillion-dollar bailout" for "speculators." Moreover, neither Malveaux nor the Times noted that McCain recently expressed support for the Federal Reserve's decision to extend a $30 billion line of credit to facilitate the acquisition of the near-bankrupt investment bank Bear Stearns by JP Morgan Chase. Read More

Limbaugh falsely claimed that Obama has "never reached across the aisle as a senator in legislation"
Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed that Sen. Barack Obama has "never reached across the aisle as a senator in legislation." In fact, Obama was a key co-sponsor of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. In a press release upon Senate passage of the bill, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn himself referred to the legislation as the "Coburn-Obama Bill." Obama has also worked with Republicans on other bills. Read More

Marc Rudov on O'Reilly Factor: "Men are depressed ... because men are allowing women to take over the world"
Author Marc Rudov asserted on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor that "[m]en are depressed, and it's their own fault, because men are allowing women to take over the world." He also told guest host Laura Ingraham: "I don't have a problem with women, Laura. I have a problem with little girls occupying adult female bodies. And any women who feel entitled to wining and dining and jewelry and free vacations are not adults." Read More

Media run with anonymous claim that Clinton win "will require exercising the 'Tonya Harding' option"
After ABC's Jake Tapper quoted "an anonymous Democratic Party official" saying that Hillary Clinton's "securing the nomination is certainly possible -- but it will require exercising the 'Tonya Harding option,' " numerous media figures have repeated the "Tonya Harding option" analogy in reference to the Clinton campaign -- some going so far as to assert that it is a specific strategy adopted by the campaign. Read More

Rice hails Obama race speech as "important" for U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sometimes touted as a contender for the Republican vice-presidential slot, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has aired her thoughts on race in the United States, a prominent issue in the presidential election campaign.

Rice, the top ranking African-American in President George W. Bush's cabinet, told The Washington Times she had watched Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama's major speech on race last week.

"I think it was important that he (Obama) gave it for a whole host of reasons," said Rice in a transcript of the interview released by the State Department on Friday.

Obama would be the first black U.S. president if he wins the Democratic nomination and beats Republican candidate John McCain in the November election to succeed Bush.

Obama's speech -- which he gave after a storm of criticism over racially charged sermons by the black pastor of his church -- spoke of a racial stalemate in the United States and a need to heal racial wounds.

While saying repeatedly she did not want to talk about the election campaign -- "I don't do politics" -- and also reiterating her lack of interest in the vice presidential slot, Rice said the United States had a hard time dealing with racial issues.

"There is a paradox for this country and a contradiction of this country and we still haven't resolved it," she said in a detailed reply to questions about Obama and race issues as a whole before next week's 40th anniversary of the slaying of civil rights leader Marin Luther King.

"But what I would like understood as a black American is that black Americans loved and had faith in this country even when this country didn't love and have faith in them, and that's our legacy."

Rice said her own father, grandmother and great-grandmother had endured "terrible humiliations" growing up in the segregated south and yet they still loved America.....

The Torture Team

Harper's Magazine

On January 28, 2008, the Committee Against Torture adopted General Comment 2 (CAT/C/GC/2), an important and persuasive reaffirmation of basic values of the Convention Against Torture, starting with one that lies at its heart: the universality principle. The Committee’s work on this document is admirable. But the circumstances that made it necessary were distressing. The United States, a nation which played a vital role in advocating the Convention, and indeed much of the edifice of international human rights, adopted a series of policies that reflected persistent gross breaches of the Convention—particularly with respect to the operation of a concentration camp in Guantánamo, and other prison operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as “black sites” maintained by U.S. intelligence operatives around the world. When called to account for its misconduct by the global community, the Bush Administration responded by making a series of grotesque arguments which were designed to convert the Convention into a trivial bagatelle with no obvious application or relevance. This assault was led by John Bellinger, the current legal adviser in the Department of State.

Professors Kälin and Satterthwaite have reviewed the position that the United States took with respect to its obligations under the Convention Against Torture that led the expert committee to issue General Comment 2. Professor Kälin reviewed the basic argument that human rights law does not apply in the context of the war on terror, because that war is governed by the law of armed conflict as a lex specialis. He also reviewed the claim that the Convention should not be applied extraterritorially. Professor Satterthwaite covered much the same ground, and added to this a very persuasive discussion of the practice of extraordinary rendition and the violation of the policy of non-refoulement–that is, return of persons to custodians who would more likely than not torture them–that it presents. I could review these arguments once more, but that would serve little purpose. In fact, I fully embrace the analysis that my predecessors on the podium have presented.

Is it really appropriate to honor the Bush Administration’s posture with so much learned analysis? I don’t think so. In fact, the Bush Administrations arguments do not meet a test of facial plausibility—as Meg Satterthwaite said, they are riddled with contradictions, irreconcilable with the actual text of the Convention, and for the most part just plain incoherent. So it makes sense to ask, “What were they thinking?” The preposterous positions taken by the United States team during the country review process in Geneva were not driven by anything like a careful study of law. To the contrary, they were a frontal assault on well-established, fundamental U.S. policies that date back to the Revolutionary War (General Washington prohibition of torture in 1777) and the Civil War (Abraham Lincoln’s prohibition of torture in General Orders No. 100 from 1863). The posture taken by the Bush Administration was clearly a product of reverse engineering for purposes of protecting not the national interests of the United States, but the personal exposure of a group of individuals who decided to foment a policy of torture...........

Bush aide resigns for alleged misuse of USAID grant money

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says an aide to President Bush has resigned because of the alleged misuse of grant money from U.S. Agency for International Development.

Presidential spokesman Scott Stanzel says the former aide, Felipe Sixto, had been a special assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs. Stanzel said Sixto was promoted to that position on March 1 and that he came forward on March 20 to tell his superiors about the alleged wrongdoing.

Stanzel said it involved improprieties involving the use of grant money and Sixto's former employer, the Center for a Free Cuba. Stanzel says the matter has been turned over to the Justice Department.

5 Ex-Secretaries of State: Close Guantanamo Bay camp, open talks with Iran

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - Five former U.S. secretaries of state are urging the next presidential administration to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and open a dialogue with Iran. Each says closing the facility in Cuba would bolster America's image abroad. Regarding Iran, they say it's important to maintain contact with adversaries and allies alike.

The former chiefs of American diplomacy reached a consensus on the two issues at a conference in Athens, Georgia, aimed at giving the next president some bipartisan foreign policy advice.

The former officials are Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright, and worked for Democratic and Republican administrations.

Accused Saddam Agent Says He Met With Hillary at White House

The New York Sun

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

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

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

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