Friday, February 29, 2008

E-mail smear taxes Obama campaign

COLUMBIA, S.C. –For over a year, largely out of the media glare, Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign has been fighting a determined, low-intensity conflict against the viral e-mail that forwards the myth that Obama is a crypto-Muslim Manchurian candidate.

Among the campaign’s first hires in January 2007 were two opposition researchers who didn't begin with the traditional round of research into their boss's past, or his rivals' records. Instead, they were immediately assigned to debunk the widely circulated anonymous set of e-mails.

"We've been bird-dogging it from the beginning," said Devorah Adler, Obama's research director. "The first research document that I put together was a response to the 'Who is Barack Obama?' e-mail."

The e-mails aren’t a well-funded, faux-grassroots smear like the attacks on John Kerry's war record.

Instead, most observers believe, it's a largely organic expression of a dark place in the American consciousness. And the campaign is aware it is operating in a changed media landscape in which a powerful, false idea can spread deep into the American psyche, almost entirely under the radar of the mainstream media and with no authoritative broadcast voice to put it to rest.

Obama's aides have found their way, piecemeal, through this uncharted territory. The campaign has developed a sophisticated set of responses that have required the assistance of virtually every part of the campaign. The effort kicked into high gear in mid-November when Adler's deputy, Shauna Daly, posted on the campaign website a detailed dossier debunking the claims. The campaign's national faith director, Joshua DuBois, meanwhile, gathered testimonials from religious leaders on the candidate's Christian faith. The campaign's web team developed a special Internet form for supporters to send out their own mass e-mails.

The campaign has distributed talking points refuting the claims to its army of organizers, created video testimonials from fellow parishioners at his church and sent mailings touting Obama's Christianity.

The success or failure of their efforts may be a test of Obama's oft-stated faith in the American electorate.

"The American people are I think smarter than folks give them credit for," he said in response to a question about the viral e-mail at a Jan. 15, 2008, MSNBC debate in Las Vegas.

Still, Obama has begun incorporating his response to attacks on his religion into his stump speech in South Carolina, offering an animated defense of his faith at every stop.

He paces the stage with a microphone. He feigns disbelief. His tone is cheeky and defiant.

"People have been sending out e-mails saying I'm a Muslim," Obama said Thursday in Beaufort. "I am a member of Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street on the South Side of Chicago. We worship an awesome God."

The roar in the gymnasium was deafening, reaching a decibel level matched only by the squealing response to his introduction.

"I have been a member of the same church – the same Christian church – for almost 20 years," he says. "My wife and I were married in that church. Our children were dedicated in that church. I was sworn in [to the Senate] on the family Bible."

No mainstream observer, right or left, questions Obama's story of his faith. The whisper campaign has its origin, according to a report in The Nation, in an August 2004 press release from an obscure conservative publicist. Another little-known conservative author – who had also speculated that John McCain was a KGB agent – regurgitated the charges in December of 2006, and from there they rapidly made their way into the widely circulated e-mails.

Most of his aides, like most observers, don't think the e-mails are – or could be – subject to political control.

"I don't have any suspicion that it's the Clintons or their allies," said Obama's deputy campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand.

Obama himself, though, has hinted that he isn't so sure the e-mails don't have political roots, though he's never suggested Clinton is behind them.

Though his public stance has typically been a combination of sorrow and amusement at the proliferation of the slander, he displayed a touch of anger in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network this month.

"We have no way of tracing where these e-mails come from, but what I know is they come in waves, and they somehow appear magically wherever the next primary or caucus is, although they're also being distributed all across the country. But the volume increases as we get closer to particular elections," he said. "That indicates to me that this is something that is being used to try to raise doubts or suspicions about my candidacy."

The campaign's first public test in regards to the e-mail came on Jan. 17, 2007, not long after the researchers were first hired, when Insight Magazine, followed by Fox News, reported, falsely, that Obama had attended a radical Islamic madrassa as a child in Indonesia.

The researchers were immediately on the phone to Jakarta, scrambling for details and coping with a 12-hour time difference.

Media Matters Daily Summary 02-29-08

AP, Cafferty noted Clinton has yet to release tax returns, but did not mention McCain's failure to do so
In reports on the fact that Sen. Hillary Clinton has yet to release her tax returns and White House records, the Associated Press and CNN's Jack Cafferty did not mention that Sen. John McCain has yet to release his filings and has reportedly made no pledge to do so. Read More

MSNBC military analyst Jacobs misquoted Obama, asserted: "Obama doesn't know what he's talking about"
Discussing a comment Sen. Barack Obama made about Al Qaeda in Iraq during the February 26 Democratic presidential debate, MSNBC military analyst Jack Jacobs misquoted Obama and also stated: "Obama doesn't know what he's talking about. ... I think it would be useful if he found out what was actually going on." Read More

Radio host McCullough reacted to Obama LGBT statement with blog headline "Obama: Hey Homos, I'm Your Dude!"
On his blog, Kevin McCullough posted an entry about Sen. Barack Obama's statement on "bring[ing] about real change for all LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual] Americans" under the headline "Obama: Hey Homos, I'm Your Dude!" Read More

Fox's Emanuel conflated PAA with FISA to suggest Dem leaders "playing a high-stakes game" with Americans' safety
Like his Fox News colleague Steve Centanni, Mike Emanuel conflated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act with the Protect America Act, asking President Bush at a recent news conference, "[D]o you worry that perhaps some House Democratic leaders are playing a high-stakes game of 'wait and see' in terms of if we get attacked, we all lose, if we don't get attacked, then maybe that makes the case that you don't need all the powers in FISA?" Read More

On Fox, "confused" Hill falsely claimed "the law that lets" U.S. officials "listen in to phone calls from overseas by known terrorists expired two weeks ago"
On Fox News' America's Pulse, E.D. Hill falsely asserted, "[T]he law that lets them [U.S. intelligence agencies] listen in to phone calls from overseas by known terrorists expired two weeks ago." In fact, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) did not expire; what expired were revisions to FISA under the Protect America Act, which, among other things, expanded the government's authority to eavesdrop on Americans' domestic-to-foreign communications without a warrant. Read More

Hannity repeatedly distorts passage in Michelle Obama's senior thesis to suggest alumni views on race are her own
In recent broadcasts of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity has repeatedly distorted a passage from Michelle Obama's 1985 Princeton senior thesis to suggest that Obama was asserting her own views when she wrote that "[i]t is possible that Black individuals either chose to or felt pressure to come together with other Blacks on campus because of the belief that Blacks must join in solidarity to combat a White oppressor." Read More

MSNBC's Witt asked Huckabee about Hagee's endorsement of McCain, but did not report Hagee's controversial comments
In an interview with Mike Huckabee, MSNBC's Alex Witt identified televangelist John Hagee, who has endorsed Sen. John McCain for president, only as an "evangelist" who is "based in San Antonio," and did not note Hagee's numerous controversial statements on such topics as homosexuality, Islam, Catholicism, and women. Read More

CNN's John King ignored McCain's "pander" on immigration
After citing "illegal immigration" as "the issue with which John McCain is weakest among conservatives," CNN's John King said that members of McCain's presidential campaign "say they will not pander to the talk radio community and that if there is there's backlash from that community, maybe independents will say this guy truly is a maverick, he truly is independent." But King did not note that McCain has reversed his position on immigration to more closely conform to the views of the GOP base. Read More

NBC News blog muses over underreporting of McCain loan issue; writers might start with their own network
A post on the blog First Read stated: "We've noticed today the [Sen. John] McCain/FEC stories -- that McCain very well might have to abide by spending limits before the GOP convention -- are starting to roll in. But why is this only now starting to get more traction, compared with all the stories about [Sen. Barack] Obama waffling on his pledge to accept public funds in the general?" Their question could be asked of Nightly News, which aired a report by Kelly O'Donnell that discussed McCain's criticism of Obama over public financing, but has yet to mention that McCain obtained a loan that involved public financing. Read More

NY Times uncritically reported that Bush said he was "focused elsewhere, like on gasoline prices" after he admitted he "hadn't heard" that gas could rise to $4 per gallon
In an article about President Bush's February 28 press conference, The New York Times uncritically quoted Bush saying the following in response to a question about the source of funding for his presidential library: "I, frankly, have been focused elsewhere, like on gasoline prices and, you know, my trip to Africa, and haven't seen the fund-raising strategy yet." The Times did not mention that earlier in the press conference, Bush said he "hadn't heard" that gas prices might rise to $4 gallon. Read More

NY Times and AP jumped on story of Catholic League's Donohue's criticism of Edwards, but mum on his criticism of McCain
Despite reporting in early 2007 Bill Donohue's criticism of John Edwards' presidential campaign for hiring two bloggers who Donohue said are "anti-Catholic, vulgar, trash-talking bigots," neither The New York Times nor the Associated Press has reported that Donohue blasted Sen. John McCain for accepting the endorsement of televangelist John Hagee. In a statement, Donohue described Hagee as a "bigot," and said McCain should "retract his embrace of Hagee." Read More

Garrett claimed Obama "denounced ... but would not reject" "Farrakhan's previous anti-Semitic remarks" but didn't report that Obama called them "unacceptable and reprehensible"
Fox News' Major Garrett asserted that, in a debate, Sen. Barack Obama "said he denounced [Nation of Islam leader Louis] Farrakhan's previous anti-Semitic remarks but would not reject them." But Garrett did not air or mention Obama's response to moderator Tim Russert's initial question about Farrakhan, in which he said, "I have been very clear in my denunciation of Minister Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments. I think that they are unacceptable and reprehensible." Read More

Limbaugh falsely claimed Obama's statement on Al Qaeda in Iraq is "manifestly not true"
Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed that a statement by Sen. Barack Obama that "[t]here was no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iraq until [President] George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq" is "manifestly not true." In fact, the 9-11 Commission found "no evidence" that contacts between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Al Qaeda "developed into a collaborative operational relationship" before the invasion. Read More

Politico quoted McCain mocking Obama, neglected Obama's direct rebuttal
In a report on an exchange between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama, in which McCain falsely suggested that Obama said that Al Qaeda was not currently in Iraq, the Politico left out part of Obama's response proving that McCain's suggestion was false. Read More

NY Times' Nagourney uncritically repeated Farrakhan, "most liberal" attacks on Obama
A New York Times article about possible attacks against Sen. Barack Obama in the general election reported that Sen. John McCain's aides said "their first line of attack would be to portray [Obama] as a liberal, and they have already begun pointing to a rating in The National Journal, based on his votes, of Mr. Obama as the most liberal member of the Senate." But among the "liberal" positions Obama took to earn the distinction of "most liberal senator in 2007" were his votes to implement the bipartisan 9-11 Commission's homeland security recommendations, provide more children with health insurance, expand federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, and maintain a federal minimum wage. Read More

Savage: "[W]hy are there no queries being provoked about Saddam Hussein -- I mean, Barack Hussein Obama?"
Michael Savage repeatedly referred to Sen. Barack Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama" and asked, "[W]hy are there no queries being provoked by Saddam Hussein -- I mean, Barack Hussein Obama?" Savage continued: "If, after all, the arch-enemy of Iraq, his name was Saddam Hussein, isn't it logical that us stupid Americans would like to know why the man who would be president has a name that's similar to our -- to our enemy in Iraq, Hussein?" Read More

CBS' Reynolds left out key info undermining his assertions about Obama's response to Farrakhan, his church, and his patriotism
In his report on "who" Sen. Barack Obama "really is" during the February 28 edition of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, CBS correspondent Dean Reynolds left out information undermining or rebutting several of the assertions he made regarding Obama's denouncement of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Obama's church, and Obama's patriotism. Read More

O'Reilly: No escaping "the similarities between what Hitler ... did back then and the hate-filled blogs, what they're doing"
On The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly responded to a viewer's letter -- criticizing O'Reilly for a "lapse of judgment" regarding his statement that he did not "see any difference between [Huffington Post founder Arianna] Huffington and the Nazis" -- by defending the statement. O'Reilly said: "If you look back at what happened in Germany, you cannot escape the similarities between what Hitler and his cutthroats did back then and the hate-filled blogs, what they're doing now." Read More

"Offended" Buchanan stands up for "white males," claiming only "white males" died at Gettysburg, Normandy
After MSNBC's Tucker Carlson noted that Howard Dean reportedly said that the Democratic presidential field "looks like America," while the Republican field, made up of white males, "looks like the 1950s and talks like the 1850s," Pat Buchanan reported being "offended" by Dean's remarks and said: "[W]hat did white males do? OK, they were the only guys signing the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, all the dead at Gettysburg, all the dead at Normandy." In fact, "nearly 2,000" African-Americans took part in the Normandy invasion, at least some of whom apparently died as a result, and at least one woman and one African-American were reportedly killed in the the Gettysburg campaign. Read More

White House blocks inquiry into construction of $736m embassy in Iraq

The Bush administration is blocking an inquiry into the delay-plagued construction of the $736m US embassy in Baghdad, a senior Democrat in Congress said today.

Henry Waxman, who is chairman of the oversight committee in the House of Representatives, asked US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice today to explain why her department certified the embassy as "substantially completed" in December despite inspections that reveal continued deficiencies in the facility's water, fire alarm and kitchen systems.

The Baghdad embassy, which stands to become the largest US diplomatic facility in the world, had an original opening date of mid-2007. But the project stalled amid ballooning cost estimates as well as charges of corruption and shoddy work by the private contracting company overseeing the project.

In addition, two US state department employees who worked on the embassy project are now under criminal investigation. Waxman urged Rice to release subpoenaed documents related to the Baghdad embassy project next week or risk being forced to do so.

"It appears that the state department is concealing from Congress basic information about the status of the embassy project and the activities of the individuals and contractors involved," Waxman wrote to Rice. "This continued intransigence is inappropriate."

The private construction company, First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting, declined repeatedly to provide safety inspectors with reports on fire protection systems at the embassy, according to reports released by Waxman. First Kuwaiti, based in Kuwait, remains the target of a separate US criminal probe into allegations of labour trafficking.

Democratic turnout in early Texas voting worries GOP

FORT WORTH Early voting for Texas’ March 4th primary ended Friday with turnout numbers that shattered all previous records.

The vast majority of those ballots were cast in the Democratic primary, a turnout that gave Republican officials pause in this traditionally "red" state.

A final tally wasn’t immediately available Friday afternoon, but as of Wednesday, about 805,000 people had voted in the state’s 15 biggest counties, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s web site. More than 600,000 of those voters are participating in the Democratic primary.

The numbers far outpace the early turnout in primaries in recent years. In 2000, about 315,000 voters cast early primary ballots in the 15 largest counties. Less than 300,000 cast early ballots in the 2002 and 2004 primaries.

In Tarrant County, approximately 2,100 votes were being cast per hour on Friday, according to Tarrant County Elections Administrator Steve Raborn. In contrast, only 3,300 people voted in the county on the entire last day of early voting in 2004.

“We have never seen this kind of early voting turnout in a Primary Election,” Raborn said.........

Bush to veto anti-torture bill next week


Congress recently passed the Intelligence Authorization Act, which contained a provision creating a single interrogation standard for the U.S. government that bans the use of waterboarding. CQ reports that President Bush will veto the bill next week:

“The president’s expected to veto it next week,” said Emily Lawrimore, a spokeswoman for the White House. “We received it today.”

Although the exact date for the veto is unclear, the president likely will not act until after Tuesday’s primaries, since numerous lawmakers will not be on Capitol Hill then.

The Gavel has House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) statement urging Bush to sign the legislation.

White House Aide Quits After Admitting Plagiarism

Served As Bush's Middleman With Conservatives, Christian Groups

WASHINGTON (AP) ― A White House official who served as President Bush's middleman with conservatives and Christian groups handed in his resignation Friday after admitting to plagiarism. Twenty columns he wrote for an Indiana newspaper were determined to have material copied from other sources without attribution.

Timothy Goeglein, who has worked for Bush since 2001, acknowledged that he lifted material from a Dartmouth College publication and presented it as his own work in a column about education for The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, Ind.

The White House said Goeglein has apologized for not upholding the standards expected by the president. A White House statement says the president was disappointed to learn of the matter and was saddened for Goeglein and his family. It said Bush has long appreciated his service and knows him to be a good person who is committed to his country.

McCain seeks distance from pastor

Yahoo News

John McCain is refusing to renounce the endorsement of a prominent Texas televangelist who Democrats say peddles anti-Catholic and other intolerant speech.

Instead, the Republican presidential candidate issued a statement Friday afternoon saying he had unspecified disagreements with the San Antonio megachurch leader, John Hagee. Hagee endorsed him at a news conference Wednesday in San Antonio.

"However, in no way did I intend for his endorsement to suggest that I in turn agree with all of Pastor Hagee's views, which I obviously do not," McCain said in the statement.

His campaign issued the statement after two days of criticism from the Democratic National Committee, the Catholic League and Catholics United.

Democrats quoted Hagee as saying the Catholic Church conspired with Nazis against the Jews and that Hurricane Katrina was God's retribution for homosexual sin, and they recited his demeaning comments about women and flip remarks about slavery.

"Hagee's hate speech has no place in public discourse, and McCain's embrace of this figure raises serious questions about John McCain's character and his willingness to do anything to win," said Tom McMahon, executive director of the Democratic National Committee.

McCain was pressed on the issue Friday morning in Round Rock, Texas. Hagee "supports what I stand for and believe in," McCain said.

"When he endorses me, that does not mean that I endorse everything that he stands for and believes in," McCain said. "I don't have to agree with everyone who endorses my campaign."

He added that he was "proud" of Hagee's spiritual leadership of his congregation at the 17,000-member Cornerstone Church.

The Catholic League and Catholics United called on McCain to reject the endorsement.

"By publicly addressing this issue, you will reaffirm to the American public and to Catholics that intolerance and bigotry have no place in American presidential campaigns," Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United, wrote McCain in a letter sent Thursday..........

Aurora Borealis

An Aurora Borealis spins above the Talkeetna Range and a hay field on Farm Loop Road near Palmer, Alaska, on Friday, Feb. 29, 2008. The center of the circular corona, usually near Earth's north pole sometimes fluctuates further south and can be seen from a lower latitude as in this instance.
(AP Photo/Bob Martinson)

Chevron happy in Venezuela, says it's there for the 'long term'

HOUSTON (MarketWatch) -- Chevron Corp. (CVX:CVX CVX, , ) sees its oil business with Venezuela as a "long-term" relationship, a top executive of the oil giant said Thursday, adding that Chevron plans to comply with new contractual terms for its projects in the Orinoco Belt.

"We will continue to follow our contract to the government of Venezuela and PdVSA," Ali Moshiri, president for Chevron Africa and Latin America Exploration and Production, told Dow Jones Newswires. "We are in Venezuela for the long term."

Chevron was the only U.S. oil major that accepted the new contractual terms imposed last year by the government of President Hugo Chavez on international oil companies operating in the Orinoco River basin, which produces abundant but low-quality crude.

The changes gave majority ownership to Venezuela's national oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PdVSA.
Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and ConocoPhillips (COP) abandoned their projects in June after rejecting the new contractual terms. Both are now seeking compensation through international arbitration.

Credit turmoil losses set to top $600-billion

LONDONLosses from the global credit market crisis will likely top $600-billion (U.S.), with banks and brokers responsible for more than half of that, UBS said in a note published on Friday.

“Our global banks team estimates total industry losses in this financial crisis should reach north of $600-billion, of which listed banks and brokers should account for ‘only' $350-billion,” said Geraud Charpin, a credit strategist at UBS in a note entitled: “Wide Spreads — Here To Stay.”

Some $160-billion of that $350-billion has already been written off, the note said.

American International Group Inc. on Thursday posted the biggest quarterly loss in its 89-year history — $5.29-billion — and missed Wall Street forecasts after being hurt by a writedown of securities exposed to bad mortgage investments.

“AIG's $15-billion writedown is the clearest indication banks are not the only ones to suffer potential losses,” Mr. Charpin said.

Fears of writedowns have battered equity and credit markets, with rumours of fresh problems emerging almost daily.

As a result, financial credit spreads have sharply underperformed corporate peers and are now at levels where they are pricing in widespread defaults, according to Deutsche Bank.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Thursday warned some small U.S. banks might go under during the current stress, which has been prompted by housing market problems, but that the country's banking system remained solid.

Despite Claims That America Is ‘Open To Attack,’ GOP Rejects Yet Another PAA Extension


Two weeks ago, the hastily-passed Protect America Act (PAA) expired after the Bush administration and its supporters refused to support a 21-day extension of the law. Since then, President Bush and his allies in Congress have engaged in a fear campaign to pressure the House into passing a Senate-approved update of the PAA that includes retroactive immunity for telecoms.

President Bush continued the fear-mongering in his press conference yesterday, bellowing that “no renewal of…the Protect America Act is dangerous for the security of the country, just dangerous.”

Challenging Bush and the GOP to hold true to their rhetoric, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced a bill today to extend the PAA for 30 days while negotiations between the House and Senate proceed:

As we move forward, there is no reason not to extend the Protect America Act to ensure that there are no gaps in our intelligence gathering capabilities. Even Admiral McConnell, the Director of national Intelligence, has testified that such an extension would be valuable. But the President threatens to veto an extension, and our Republican colleagues continue, inexplicably, to oppose it.

Predictably, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) objected to Reid’s unanimous consent, effectively rejecting the extension.

Despite their claims that “America is at risk” without the Protect America Act, the White House and congressional conservatives have been unwilling to take actions that would lead to its extension. As Reid noted today, the House and Senate have been working since the passage of the Senate bill to reconcile difference between the two chambers, but “Republicans have instructed their staff not to participate in these negotiations.”

If Bush and his congressional cronies truly believed that America is “open to attack” without the PAA, they’d support a temporary extension and engage in good faith negotiations. Since they haven’t, it’s clear they’re more interested in playing political games than working to protect Americans.

Rep. Brown-Waite(R-Fla.): Puerto Ricans should ''cool off''

Tampa, Florida —- Red, white, and blue was on parade in downtown Brooksville on Thursday morning. Only this was the Puerto Rican flag making a statement.

A small but vocal group of Democratic voters from central Florida, most of them Puerto Rican, protested against Republican Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite for recently labeling Puerto Ricans as “foreign citizens,” and saying they should not be eligible for tax rebates, even though they are Americans by law.

That was just the beginning, her controversial remarks continued when she issued a press release this morning suggesting that Puerto Ricans “cool off” by visiting the Weeki Wachi water park.

“For Representative Brown-Waite to issue a statement suggesting that Puerto Ricans, after this effort, go cool off in Weeki Wachi is ludicrous, disrespectful, and as a result of that she probably won't be re-elected” said one of the protestors through a bullhorn.

Luis Lopez, of Tampa's 1300 AM Spanish talk show, “Buenos Dias” agrees. He is one of more than 300,000 Puerto Ricans who call Central Florida home and plan to vote in the November elections.

“This lady has just hurt the pride of Puerto Ricans who love this country and have fought for it and given their lives.”

Rudd to sign anti-torture treaty

The Australian

AUSTRALIA is set to ratify the international treaty against torture that was snubbed by the former Howard government.
The Rudd Government is also reportedly considering introducing laws to make torture an offence for the first time under the Commonwealth Criminal Code.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland has told Fairfax newspapers the government intended to ratify the UN's Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

"Labor is committed to ratifying the optional protocol on torture, and we will soon be consulting the states and territories as to how that can be achieved,'' Mr McClelland said.

Statements By Pastor Who Endorsed McCain Drawing Scrutiny

CBS NEWS - On Wednesday, John McCain received the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee, the evangelical Texas mega-church leader.

The endorsement could help McCain shore up support amongst conservatives in a state where Mike Huckabee has been running relatively strongly. Huckabee complained about Hagee's decision to back McCain, saying, “I felt that it was totally out of character for what I knew he believed. Or at least I thought he did.”

But what Hagee believes could turn out to be a problem for McCain, if the reaction over the past few days is any indication. As CBS News' Dante Higgins points out, Catholic leaders asked McCain to distance himself from Hagee over anti-Catholic comments such as calling the Catholic Church "The Great Whore."

McCain responded to a question on the issue today by saying that while he is "very proud of the Pastor John Hagee’s spiritual leadership to thousands of people and I am proud of his commitment to the independence and the freedom of the state of Israel," it "does not mean that I support or endorse or agree with some of the things that Pastor John Hagee might have said or positions that he may have taken on other issues."

And there are, it turns out, a fair share of "other issues" to worry about. Bloggers such as Salon's Glenn Greenwald have been pouring through Hagee's record and uncovering controversial statements on a whole range of issues. The pastor made this comment in an interview with NPR:

"All hurricanes are acts of God, because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that.

The newspaper carried the story in our local area, that was not carried nationally, that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it would was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other gay pride parades.

So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing."

Hagee also said, in the same interview, "Islam in general -- those who live by the Koran have a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews."

And the pastor suggested in a book called "Jerusalem Countdown" that, as Sarah Posner puts it, "military confrontation with Iran is foretold in the Bible as a necessary precondition for the Second Coming."

Liberal bloggers are uncovering other controvertial past postions as well, including a fundraiser that included an appeal to "Make plans to come and go home with a slave."

All of this has critics wondering: Why has Barack Obama been asked to repudiate the backing of Louis Farrakhan when McCain has thus far not faced similar pressures?

"This is no worse than some of the inflammatory comments Farakkhan has dropped over the years," wrote The New Republic's Dayo Olopade after listing some of Hagee's quotes. "But given a minor toasting (as oposed to the full-panini-press Barack Obama got on Tuesday evening) on Hagee's comments, McCain said, 'all I can tell you is that I am very proud to have Pastor John Hagee's support.' Not a rejection or denouncement in sight."

Waxman: Baghdad embassy seeing ‘critical’ problems


The U.S. embassy in Baghdad remains plagued by”major deficiencies in the infrastructure,” according to a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from the House Oversight Committee. The finding raises “questions” about the State Department’s December decision to certify that the embassy compound was “substantially complete.” Waxman plans to subpoena Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte if the department does not provide documents related to the embassy’s construction.

Report: Employee Lawsuit Alleges Company Used Waterboarding to Motivate Workers

FOX NEWS - A supervisor at a motivational coaching business in Utah allegedly used waterboarding on a member of his sales team to motivate staff, according to a lawsuit filed by an employee, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Chad Hudgens, a former salesman for Prosper, Inc., in Provo, Utah, alleges his manager, Joshua Christopherson, asked him to lie on a hill before he poured water from a gallon jug into Hudgens' mouth and nostrils as other sales staff held him down, the paper reports.

"At the conclusion of his abusive demonstration, Christopherson told the team that he wanted them to work as hard on making sales as Chad had worked to breathe while he was being waterboarded," the paper said the suit alleges.

The lawsuit was filed in January. Company President Dave Ellis told the Salt Lake Tribune that the allegations were "sensationalized" and uncorroborated by co-workers regarding the May incident. "They just roll their eyes and say, 'This is ridiculous. ... That's not how it went down,'" Ellis told the paper.

Hudgens' suit claims the manager "intentionally engaged in physically and emotionally abusive conduct" to punish workers who did not meet company performance goals, the paper said.

White House presidential aide accused of plagiarism

WASHINGTON - The White House says it is disappointed in a presidential aide who has been accused of plagiarism and that his behavior is unacceptable.

The charges were leveled against Timothy Goeglein about a column he wrote for The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Parts of his column were nearly identical to an essay that appeared in a Dartmouth College publication. Goeglein has said his actions were wrong and that there are no excuses for what he did.

White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore says his behavior is "not acceptable" and tha that White House is disappointed in his actions. She said officials were looking into allegations of other instances of plagiarism by Goeglein. He has worked at the White House since 2001.

Friday's Sex News 02-29-08

  • Take your time having sex

    In this modern hectic world, we find less time to have sex. Here are some ideas to help you slow down and enjoy

  • I tell my mum everything

    Advice is given to a women who talks to her mother, a nurse, about her sex life with husband

  • Britain's prostitution laws

    Technically, prostitution in Britain is not illegal, but there are arguments for and against legislation

  • Sex tapes help pandas

    Female pandas are interested in sex for only two or three days a year, so zoos use sex tapes to get them into the mood

  • Japanese clubs shops offer choice

    Japanese sex clubs are perhaps like nowhere else, where three women give a two minute blow-job sampler

  • Boys want love, not sex

    New research suggests that teen boys want a loving relationship with a girl, rather than just sex [More]

  • Welcome to the megagasm

    Annie Sprinkle explains the "megagasm", an intense, full-body experience which feels like being "breathed by the Universe"

  • Paris opens sex exhibit for kids

    Parents in Paris can now take their youngsters to a new sex exhibit aimed at 9-14 year-olds, which includes a "love-o-meter" and "pubermatic" [Web site]

  • The new G-shot parties

    Women in Los Angeles have been going to g-shot parties for a medical procedure which is claimed to boost your sex life, but has never been approved

  • Porn stars: what they do off screen

    The Naughty American interviews Gia Paloma, and discovers how she does in her spare time, how she got into porn, and how she acquired her porn name

  • Mills in sexiest 100 list

    Heather Mill who is divorcing Paul McCartney has been ranked 95th by FHM readers in a poll of the Sexiest Women in the World

  • Wedding couple marry naked

    A number of couples are getting married in their birthday suits, with some nude resorts hosting up to 25 such weddings, last year alone

  • Portman: I may go nude again

    Actress Natalie Portman who claimed she would never go naked on screen again, has changed her mind More Natalie Portman Nude

  • Mapplethorpe photos OK in Japan

    Since a 2003 Tokyo High Court ruled that a book of photos by Robert Mapplethorpe were indecent, the Supreme Court has overturned the ruling stating that they do not violate obscenity law

  • Store model strips naked

    Visitors to Selfridges in London may have been surprised to see a window model strip naked to promote Agent Provocateur

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Leavitt threatened with contempt citation

WASHINGTON - Republican lawmakers said they would support a contempt citation against President Bush's health secretary if he didn't provide information in an investigation into the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, testifying at a House panel Thursday, said he would work to resolve the demand by the letter's stated deadline of today. The letter, requesting documents and interviews with certain FDA employees, was signed by top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee as well as Republican Reps. Joe Barton of Texas and John Shimkus of Illinois.

The committee's oversight subcommittee is investigating whether FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach gave misleading testimony on Sanofi-Aventis SA's antibiotic Ketek during a committee hearing in March. Ketek has been linked to fatal side effects. In a Feb. 11 letter to the House panel, Leavitt, a former Utah governor, didn't comply with a subpoena requesting briefing papers used to prepare von Eschenbach for his testimony.

"We're going to respond and have discussions over the next few days," Leavitt said in an interview during a break in the hearing Thursday. "I feel optimistic."

Story continues below Lawmakers of both parties warned in their letter, dated Wednesday, that they would back a contempt citation against Leavitt unless he produced the briefing papers or allowed the lawmakers to see the documents and interview FDA staff.

Leavitt, in his Feb. 11 letter, cited a possible "chilling effect" as reason for withholding the documents, according to the committee's letter, distributed to the press at the hearing. This isn't a legitimate reason for ignoring the subpoena, the committee said in its written response.........

U.S. president's brother visits Paraguay president as guest of Sun Myung Moon-founded group

AP- Neil Bush, younger brother of U.S. President George W. Bush, called on Paraguay's president as the guest of a business federation founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

A presidential press office source, who spoke on condition of not being named, confirmed the younger Bush met President Nicanor Duarte on Thursday along with a delegation from the Universal Peace Federation, a group associated with Moon.

Duarte himself had no statement on the meeting.

Antonio Betancourt, a spokesman for the federation, said that Bush visited Duarte and later met with an opposition congressional leader, Sen. Miguel Abdon Saguier, and that both expressed interest in the Bush family and discussed local matters.

Betancourt said Bush later attended a leadership seminar sponsored by the federation.

The federation's Web site says it is trying to promote peace in the Middle East, South Asia and other regions, as well as proposing an 50-mile, $200 billion tunnel linking Siberia and Alaska.

A leading Paraguayan newspaper, ABC Color, reported Friday that Bush spoke at the leadership seminar about instilling a “culture of service” and better uniting individuals and organizations behind objectives that serve peace and the common good.

It said the seminar, held at an Asuncion hotel, was entitled “Toward a New Paradigm of Leadership and Government in Times of World Crisis.”

Gunmen kidnap Iraqi Chaldean Catholic archbishop

MOSUL, Iraq, Feb 29 (Reuters) - Gunmen kidnapped the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul on Friday from the northern Iraqi city and killed his driver and two companions, police said.

"He was kidnapped in the al-Nour district in eastern Mosul when he left a church. Gunmen opened fire on the car, killed the other three and kidnapped the archbishop," a Mosul police official said.

Man critical after ricin find in Vegas

LAS VEGAS - Police say a man is in critical condition after the deadly toxin ricin was found in his Las Vegas motel room. Las Vegas police Lt. Lewis Roberts says the man has been in a coma since he was found in his room at the Extended Stay America Motel on Thursday.

He's one of seven people hospitalized after the ricin was discovered. Police have said most were examined as a precaution.

Roberts says police don't think foul play is involved, and the FBI says the case doesn't appear to be terrorism-related. But authorities aren't sure why the man had a vial of powdered ricin in his room.

Ricin is made from processing castor beans, and can be extremely lethal.

ThinkFast: February 29, 2008


After months of a consensual international media blackout, Matt Drudge revealed that Prince Harry has been “in Afghanistan for more than two months” — “to the fury of the Ministry of Defence and condemnation from the head of the British Army.” Harry is now being sent back to Britain.

Senate Republicans “blocked consideration of a bill designed to prop up the struggling housing industry” yesterday. The bill would have provided billions of dollars to local communities and changed bankruptcy laws to help low-income homeowners — against which the “mortgage industry has waged a stiff lobbying campaign.”

President Bush said Thursday the economy is not headed for recession. “I don’t think we’re headed to a recession, but no question we’re in a slowdown,” he said.

“For the first time in the nation’s history, more than one in 100 American adults are behind bars,” according to a new report. This statistic includes one in 15 adult black men and one in 36 adult Hispanic men.

The EPA has dismissed toxicologist Deborah Rice from her post on a federal panel examining “the dangers of a flame retardant” in August” after the American Chemistry Council “complained to a top-ranking EPA official.” “In a May letter to an assistant administrator at the EPA,” a vice president of the American Chemistry Council called Rice “a fervent advocate.”

“The Bush administration’s continued backing of President Pervez Musharraf, despite the overwhelming rejection of his party by voters this month, is fueling a new level of frustration.” Bush supports Musharraf for “all of the work that he’s done to help us in counterterrorism,” the White House said.

“Taking note of the debate over the Iraq war in the presidential race,” Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Michael Mullen “told Pentagon officials in a town hall meeting Thursday that the military must be prepared to change policy and carry out the wishes of the next president.”

Attempting to “clear up questions about how an Alabama television station lost its signal” during 60 Minutes on Sunday, “the management of the station, WHNT-TV, issued a statement Thursday citing equipment failure. The station claimed “that after a review, it had concluded that the blackout was related to a similar interruption during a basketball game the day before.”

And finally: Earlier this week, Politico reported that Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney is working on a documentary about Jack Abramoff, tentatively titled Casino Jack and the United States of Money. Today, the Washington Post notes that director George Hickenlooper is also making an Abramoff flick. Hickenlooper’s dream picks to play the former lobbyist? Jeremy Piven, Sean Penn and Steve Carell. “He’s a good dramatic actor and the resemblance is striking,” said Hickenlooper of Carell.

Republican Jack Kingston

This idiot appeared on Bill Maher's show a week ago saying Obama was not patriotic because he doesn't wear a flag lapel pin.

Wednesday night he went on MSNBC....

Turkish Troops Pull Out of Iraq

CUKURCA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkey's military said Friday it has ended a ground offensive against Kurdish rebels in Iraq, but said that foreign influence did not play a role in its decision.

At least 200 trucks carrying Turkish troops were seen leaving the Iraqi border area and heading into Turkey's interior.

The move came a day after Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Turkish leaders during a visit in Ankara that they should end the offensive as soon as possible. In Washington, President Bush made a similar point Thursday, saying Turkey needed to move quickly and get out.

"Both the start and end dates of the operation were decided by us solely based on military reasoning and necessities," the military said in a statement. "Any influence, either foreign on domestic, on this decision by the Turkish Armed Forces is out of question."

Turkey launched the incursion into northern Iraq more than a week ago against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a group fighting for the autonomy of predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey. The rebels have carried out attacks in Turkey from bases in Kurdish Iraq.

It was the first major, confirmed incursion in Iraq by Turkey in almost a decade.

In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Friday that "it was a targeted and relatively short operation."

"But I would certainly expect that in the future, that unless the PKK gives up terrorism, that we're going to have to continue to work with the Turks and the Iraqis to go after them," Johndroe said.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Media Matters Daily Summary 02-28-08

O'Reilly: "I don't see any difference between Huffington and the Nazis," KKK
While discussing comments posted to an item on The Huffington Post, Bill O'Reilly said of the website's founder, "Arianna Huffington, I have no respect for that woman. I think that she is hurting the country." O'Reilly asked: "[W]hat's the difference between the Ku Klux Klan and Arianna Huffington?" and later stated: "I don't see any difference between Huffington and the Nazis." O'Reilly frequently attacks those with whom he disagrees, comparing them to the Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan. Read More

Russert continues pattern of misrepresenting facts in debate questions for Clinton
During the February 26 Democratic presidential debate, Tim Russert continued a pattern of asking Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton questions that include false assertions of fact while suggesting that she is being inconsistent or not being forthcoming. Read More

Fox News' Centanni conflated the PAA with FISA
On America's Newsroom, Fox News' Steve Centanni conflated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act with the Protect America Act, asserting that President Bush is "urging Congress, pushing Congress, to pass the extension of FISA, or what he calls the Protect America Act." In fact, the 1978 FISA law established the federal government's underlying statutory authority to eavesdrop on the communications of suspected terrorists, while the PAA, among other things, expanded the government's authority to eavesdrop on Americans' domestic-to-foreign communications without a warrant. Read More

ABC's Moran asserted some Obama "friends" said his house purchase "looks like a sweetheart deal," but quoted no one saying that
On Nightline, Terry Moran reported, "The Obamas got the home [their house in Chicago] for $300,000 below the original asking price. To critics and even some friends, it looks like a sweetheart deal." Moran later added that Obama's campaign "insists that the Obamas' purchase and the Rezko purchase were not contingent on each other and were made at fair-market prices." But Moran cited no one saying the home purchase "looks like a sweetheart deal" and did not note that, according to Bloomberg News, "[t]he couple who sold Barack Obama his Chicago home said the Illinois senator's $1.65 million bid 'was the best offer' and they didn't cut their asking price because a campaign donor bought their adjacent land, according to e-mails between Obama's presidential campaign and the seller." Read More

WSJ uncritically reported McCain attack on Obama over public financing, ignored his loan
In reporting that Sen. John McCain "committed to public financing" and "slammed Mr. [Barack] Obama for hedging on his pledge to accept public financing in the general election," the Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler did not report that McCain is trying to opt out of the public financing system for his primary campaign, yet may not be able to do so because he obtained a loan in late 2007 that could have required him to remain an active candidate, whether or not he had any chance of winning, and apply for federal matching funds to repay the loan. Read More

Fox News' Powers asserted, "I would have just immediately denounced" Farrakhan -- but Obama did
While discussing Sen. Barack Obama's answers to Tim Russert's questions about Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan at the February 26 Democratic presidential debate, Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers said: "If I was him, I would have just immediately denounced him." In fact, Obama did denounce Farrakhan's comments during the debate. Read More

CNN's John King again failed to note that Cunningham has a history of referring to Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama"
CNN's John King, reporting on the controversy created by radio host Bill Cunningham's comments about Barack Obama at a John McCain campaign event, again left out Cunningham's history of similar remarks. Read More

Wash. Post's Milloy mischaracterized Bill Clinton's "fairy tale" comment
The Washington Post's Courtland Milloy mischaracterized a comment by former President Bill Clinton to suggest that Clinton dismissed Sen. Barack Obama's presidential candidacy as a "fairy tale." In fact, in the comment Milloy cited -- "Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen" -- Clinton was referring to Obama's statements about his position on the Iraq war. Read More

Misrepresenting debate question, Wash. Post said Obama "did not directly answer" a question about his pastor and Farrakhan
The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman reported that during the Democratic presidential debate, Sen. Barack Obama "disavowed an endorsement from [Nation of Islam leader Louis] Farrakhan but did not directly answer a question about [Obama's pastor, Rev. Jeremiah] Wright once having said that Farrakhan 'epitomizes greatness.' " In fact, the debate question Weisman referenced was not specifically about Wright's reported remarks on Farrakhan. Read More

Media reporting on McCain-Obama dispute over Iraq ignore previous McCain statements on Iraq as a potential "base for Al Qaeda"
Numerous media outlets have reported Sen. John McCain's criticism of Sen. Barack Obama's recent comments about Iraq and Al Qaeda, but they have neglected to report that McCain himself has made comments similar to those he criticized. Read More

Wash. Times falsely claimed Obama "urg[ed] the Bush administration to conduct air strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan without its approval"
A Washington Times article distorted Sen. Barack Obama's comments about targeting terrorists in Pakistan, falsely claiming that Obama "urg[ed] the Bush administration to conduct air strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan without its approval." Read More

NY Times again ignored its own reporting on McCain public funds waffling
The New York Times reported that "the McCain campaign stepped up its criticism" of Sen. Barack Obama over whether Obama will accept public financing for the general election if Sen. John McCain does the same. But the article did not mention the Times' own previous reporting that McCain has waffled about whether he would accept public financing in the general election. Read More

Scarborough, Brzezinski defended MSNBC from charges of "sexism" in political coverage
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough again defended Chris Matthews' controversial comments about Sen. Hillary Clinton, saying, "[W]hat Chris Matthews said is the same thing Maureen Dowd has been saying since 1998. ... Maybe he said it more bluntly, but to say, that's sexism?" Additionally, co-host Mika Brzezinski called criticism of MSNBC as sexist "unfair." Read More

Limbaugh defended Cunningham's use of Obama's middle name
On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh defended Bill Cunningham's comments at a rally for Sen. John McCain in which Cunningham repeatedly referred to Sen. Barack Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama." Limbaugh reacted to the incident, saying, "Now, may I ask a simple question? Is that his name? It is. So why can't it be used?" Read More

Will MSNBC devote as much coverage to McCain's embrace of Hagee's support as it did to Obama's rejection of Farrakhan?
On February 27, MSNBC devoted significant coverage to an exchange from the most recent Democratic presidential debate in which NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert repeatedly questioned Sen. Barack Obama about praise he received from controversial minister Louis Farrakhan, whose statements Obama has denounced. The same day, Pastor John Hagee -- who has made controversial comments about homosexuality, Islam, Catholicism, and women -- endorsed Sen. John McCain, who embraced Hagee's support. Hagee's endorsement and McCain's response to it raise the question of whether MSNBC will report on them as extensively as it did on Farrakhan's praise. Read More

McCain Endorsement Angers Catholic League President

HOUSTON -- The president of the Catholic League today blasted Sen. John McCain for accepting the endorsement of Texas evangelicalist John Hagee, calling the controversial pastor a bigot who has "waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church."

Hagee, who is known for his crusading support of Israel, backed McCain's presidential bid Wednesday, standing next to the senator at a hotel in San Antonio and calling McCain "a man of principle."

But Catholic League President Bill Donohue said in a statement today that Hagee has written extensively in negative ways about the Catholic Church, "calling it 'The Great Whore,' an 'apostate church,' the 'anti-Christ,' and a 'false cult system.'"

McCain Unpatriotic Refuses to Wear a U.S. Flag Pin

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Wear the Pin, F*CKING COMMIE!!!

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Illinois House panel approves lowering state minimum voting age to 17

An Illinois House panel has approved lowering Illinois' minimum voting age to 17 for both state primary and general elections.

The vote was 5 to 3 to make Illinois the first state in the country to lower its voting age without restrictions.

"Senator Obama's historic campaign for President has energized youth like no other in decades." Democratic Representative Lou Lang of Skokie said. "We should leverage current youth interest in politics and help build a foundation for their long-term participation in elections."

The amendment is assigned to the House Elections and Campaign Reform Committee for hearing.

Fact Check: Obama Denies Report on Trade

AUSTIN, Texas - The Canadian embassy and Barack Obama's campaign are denying a report that the presidential candidate's criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement is just campaign rhetoric that he doesn't really believe.


Canadian television network CTV cited anonymous sources who said a senior Obama adviser called Canadian ambassador Michael Wilson within the last month to warn him that Obama would criticize the agreement, but it was just the typical words uttered on the campaign trail.


Canada supports NAFTA, a trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico that is the largest trading partnership in the world. But it's widely opposed in Ohio, where jobs have been lost since the deal was implemented and where Obama and rival Hillary Rodham Clinton are trying to win a primary Tuesday.

Roy Norton, a minister at the Canadian embassy, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that Wilson and other embassy officials have expressed their support for NAFTA and their positions on other issues to officials from the three leading presidential campaigns - Obama, Clinton and likely Republican nominee John McCain.

But he said at no time has anyone from the Obama campaign told anyone at the embassy that his position on NAFTA is just for show. "It didn't happen," Horton said......

USDA Shuts Down Congressional Audit

WASHINGTON, (AP) -- The Agriculture Department abruptly ordered congressional auditors to leave its headquarters and told its employees not to cooperate with them.

"You are hereby instructed not to meet with any member of the (Government Accountability Office) today, or until this matter is resolved," Michael Watts, a top USDA attorney, wrote to employees Wednesday in an e-mail obtained by The Associated Press.

The auditors were seeking information for an ongoing audit on Agriculture's office of civil rights and its handling of discrimination complaints. Specifically, they were investigating allegations that the department had previously provided false information for the audit.

J. Michael Kelly, Agriculture's deputy general counsel, said the GAO investigators called the department Wednesday morning to say they were on their way to its headquarters and wanted to speak with a handful of specific employees.

The auditors refused to allow USDA lawyers to be present for the interviews, and after allowing one employee to talk, department officials stopped the interviews and told the investigators to leave the building, Kelly said.

White House Smears Nobel Economist: ‘Lacks Courage’ For Ignoring ‘Cost Of Failure’ In Iraq


In a new book titled The Three Trillion Dollar War, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes argue that President Bush massively understated the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Combined with interest on debt, future borrowing, cost of continued military presence, and veterans health care, they estimate a potential cost of up to $5 to $7 trillion.

Unwilling to accept what Stiglitz calls a “very conservative” $3 trillion projection, the White House is smearing Stiglitz — President Clinton’s top economic adviser — saying he “lacks courage“:

People like Joe Stiglitz lack the courage to consider the cost of doing nothing and the cost of failure. One can’t even begin to put a price tag on the cost to this nation of the attacks of 9/11,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto, conceding that the costs of the war on terrorism are high while questioning the premise of Stiglitz’s research.

In recent interviews, Stiglitz said Bush’s war accounting practices “are so shoddy that they would land any public firm before the Securities and Exchange Commission for engaging in deceptive practices.” “We had to use the Freedom of Information Act to uncover things that we never would have known,” he said.

The White House has a sensitive spot for assessments of the wars’ costs. In October, the CBO conservatively said the wars may cost $2 trillion over the next decade. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino retorted that the CBO’s estimate was “pure speculation” and “wildly premature.” When the Joint Economic Committee said the “hidden” costs of the wars totaled $1.5 trillion, OMB Chairman Jim Nussle derided it as “clearly partisan.”

While the White House says it is “not worried” about the price tag of war, they should be. The war costs are the “hidden cause of the current credit crunch” and housing crisis, Stiglitz’s book argues.

UPDATE: In a hearing with Stiglitz today, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said he is “tremendously disappointed” in the White House’s attack:

I was also tremendously disappointed to read in the paper today that the White House has disparaged Prof. Stiglitz and the work he has done. It is the height of hypocrisy for an administration that has been so secretive, so unwilling to face the truth and the true costs of their policies and this war to disparage the courage and conviction of someone like Professor Stiglitz.

Turkey Adopts Bush’s Rhetoric, Says Troops Will Stay In Northern Iraq ‘As Long As Necessary’


Throughout the Iraq war, President Bush has consistently rejected calls for setting a timetable for withdrawal, insisting that to do so would be “conceding too much to the enemy.” Responding to reporters’ questions in 2006, Bush stated:

This notion about, you know, fixed timetable of withdrawal, in my judgment, is a — means defeat. You can’t leave until the job is done. Our mission is to get the job done as quickly as possible.

Similarly, in a 2005 interview with al-Arabiya television, Bush said:

I think it’s very important for the Iraqi citizens to know what I’ve been telling the American citizens, and that is, is that we will stay as long as is necessary to help the Iraqis secure their country.

Yesterday, Turkish officials showed that they had observed and learned from the Bush administration’s position on timetables and deadlines.

Responding to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ admonition that Turkey’s ground offensive in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq “should be as short and precisely targeted as possible,” the Turkish government responded by mimicking White House talking points on Iraq:

– “Turkey will remain in northern Iraq as long as necessary. … There is no need for us to stay there after we finish (off) the terrorist infrastructure… We have no intention to interfere in (Iraqi) domestic politics, no intention to occupy any area.” [Defense Minister Vecdi Gonu]

– “A short time is a relative term. Sometimes this can mean one day and sometimes one year.” [Army chief Yasar Buyukanit]

The Bush administration may not be exporting democracy, but it is exporting misguided talking points.


Obama Gives McCain a History Lesson on Al Qaeda in Iraq

If McCain wants to mock Obama, perhaps he should pick a topic in which a) Obama is mistaken; and b) McCain knows what he's talking about.

McCain in A Glass House

Washington Post columnist George F. Will bitch slaps John McCain

“Well, you know who’s thrilled that Nader is back in the race? John McCain. He’s not the oldest guy anymore.” –Jay Leno

“But seriously how about that John McCain? John McCain looks like a guy whose head you can barely see over the steering wheel. … John McCain looks like the guy who thinks the nurses are stealing his stuff. ‘Dad, why would they take your socks? It doesn’t make sense.’” –David Letterman

“The New York Times printed a story that said … in John McCain’s last campaign in 2000, he was apparently acting so sprung on a lobbyist lady that his staff had to cockblock the senior citizen from Arizona from sweeping this chick right off her feet and onto his motorized shopping cart. … John McCain’s pick-up line is, ‘Did you know that 150 is the new 130?’” –Bill Maher

“I like that John McCain. He looks like a guy who gets tickets for mowing under the influence. He looks like a guy with a collection of movies he bought at the car wash. He looks like a guy on the beach with a metal detector. He looks like the guy who is still confused by the phone answering machine: ‘Hello, is that - hello, is that you? Larry, Larry, hello?’ He looks like the guy who calls his grandson when he screws up the remote: ‘Well, now all the shows are in Spanish. What am I going to do, hello?’” –David Letterman


FBI documents contradict 9/11 Commission report


Hijacker had post-9/11 flights scheduled, files say

Newly-released records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request contradict the 9/11 Commission’s report on the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and raise fresh questions about the role of Saudi government officials in connection to the hijackers.

The nearly 300 pages of a Federal Bureau of Investigation timeline used by the 9/11 Commission as the basis for many of its findings were acquired through a FOIA request filed by Kevin Fenton, a 26 year old translator from the Czech Republic. The FBI released the 298-page “hijacker timeline” Feb. 4.

The FBI timeline reveals that alleged hijacker Hamza Al-Ghamdi, who was aboard the United Airlines flight which crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, had booked a future flight to San Francisco. He also had a ticket for a trip from Casablanca to Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

Though referenced repeatedly in the footnotes of the final 9/11 Commission report, the timeline has not previously been made available to the public.

The FBI timeline is dated Nov. 14, 2003 but appears to have been put together earlier (since the last date mentioned in the document is Oct. 22, 2001) and was provided to the 9/11 Commission during its 2003 investigation. The final Commission report cites the FBI timeline 52 times...............

GOP ‘Griping’ That They Haven’t Seen ‘The Financial Gravy Train’ From Telecoms


In the fight over retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies who participated in the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program after 9/11, a popular right-wing meme has been that “the real reason Democrats oppose immunity” is because they are allegedly beholden to trial lawyers who “want to push massive class action suits against the telecom companies.” Even though the claim is false, the theme has been echoed by the entire conservative infrastructure.

Robert Novak pushed it in his Washington Post column while Rush Limbaugh aired the charge on his radio show. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) alleged it on the Senate floor and White House Press Secretary Dana Perino made the claim on Fox News.

President Bush made the same unfounded claims in his press conference today, speculating that “class action plaintiffs attorneys” see “a financial gravy train” in “trying to sue” telecommunications companies.

If anyone is looking for a “financial gravy train,” it’s conservatives. Roll Call reports that congressional conservatives are “grumbling” and “griping” that their efforts to protect telecoms haven’t yielded more contributions from the industry:

With the House Democrats’ refusal to grant retroactive immunity to phone companies — stalling the rewrite of the warrantless wiretapping program — GOP leadership aides are grumbling that their party isn’t getting more political money from the telecommunications industry. […]

In a reflection of the sensitivity of the subject matter, and an apparent recognition that they would undermine their own messaging by appearing to be motivated by fundraising concerns, Republicans on and off Capitol Hill declined to comment on the record. […]

“There’s no question that from time to time staff, and maybe some Members, say to fellow travelers: ‘Are you giving us some air cover? Are you helping us help you?’”

Despite GOP complaints that their efforts to grant retroactive immunity for the industry aren’t being financially rewarded, three out of the four major phone companies “still give a majority to Republicans,” though “by slimmer margins than in years past.”