Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Palin Was Right! Satellite Photo Shows Putin Rearing His Head Over U.S. Air Space

"It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America. Where do they go? It's Alaska..."-Sarah Palin

Why did the elite liberal media mock Sarah Palin when she spoke about Putin rearing his head over U.S. air space? Here's satellite proof of Putin's menacing presence. Thank goodness the governor of Alaska and her aides are aware of this threat to our national security.

McCain Miraculously Transformed Into High Priest Of Regulation

Brave New Films chronicles John McCain's new economic outlook following financial industry turmoil brought about by the deregulation he has championed for years.

After repeating ad infinitum that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" and that deregulation results in economic growth, McCain has suddenly become a populist. "Under my reforms, the American people will be protected by comprehensive regulations," he said at a campaign rally. "Too many firms on Wall Street have been able to count on casual oversight by regulatory agencies in government."

Protecting the American people from Wall Street? More oversight by government regulatory agencies? Why, that's liberal Democratic talk!

Amazing, McCain's revelations as his poll numbers tumble like the Dow.

After Palin Supports Obama On Pakistan, She And The Straight Talker Issue Denials

She said what she said.

In a pizzeria, Sarah Palin agreed with a questioner's contention that the U.S. may have to conduct cross border raids between Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight terrorists. The exchange, as shown in Keith Olbermann's "Countdown" (9/29/08):

Q.: So we do cross the border, like from Afghanistan to Pakistan, you think?

Palin: If that's what we have to do to stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should.

By making this statement, Palin endorsed the policy of a presidential candidate. The only problem for her is that the candidate is Barack Obama.

McCain has criticized Obama for this position, most recently in the first presidential debate.

In an interview with Katie Couric, McCain tried to weasel away Palin's answer: "I understand, this day and age, 'gotcha journalism.' Is that a pizza place? In a conversation with someone who, you didn't hear the question very well, you don't know the context of the conversation, grab a phrase. Governor Palin and I agree that you don't announce that you're going to attack another country." (Actually, in her interview with Charlie Gibson, Palin raised the prospect of going to war with Russia to protect Georgia if the latter joined NATO.)

After McCain used the "gotcha" expression again, Couric pointed out that Palin wasn't talking to a journalist: "It wasn't a 'gotcha,' she was talking to a voter." McCain then stated, "She was in a conversation with a group of people and talking back and forth..."

Palin jumped in to expand upon the straight talker's illuminating explanations.

"In the context, this was a voter," she stated "a constituent hollerin' out a question from across an area, asking 'what are you going to do about Pakistan, you better have an answer to Pakistan.' I said, 'We're going to do what we have to do to protect the United States..."

How many sentences do McCain and Palin need to distort on a simple question and answer exchange with a voter?

One more thing: why is McCain sitting there defending Palin? Can't his vice presidential pick handle an interview with Katie Couric on foreign affairs?

Palin Champions Brutal Aerial Hunting Of Wolves

The video above by the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, which has endorsed Obama-Biden, depicts Sarah Palin's support for the aerial hunting of wolves. This barbaric practice was described by the Huffington Post in an article, "Sarah Palin Supported Aerial Hunting" (9/11/08):

The wolf is an intelligent, handsome creature and, for many visitors to Alaska, an integral part of the state's wild appeal. Wolves live in complex social structures, mate for life and don't attack humans -- it's easy to see in them the family resemblance to mankind's best friend.

That's what makes it so painful to look at the video of an aerial wolfhunt in Alaska that has been circulating since Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was nominated as Sen. John McCain's running mate on the Republican ticket.

In a program begun by ex-Gov. Frank Murkowski, and intensified by Palin, Alaska has sponsored the aerial hunting of more than 800 wolves since 2002 -- out of a state population of perhaps 9,000. Pilots chase the wolves through the deep snow, sometimes for miles, until the exhausted animals have slowed enough to be blown away with shotguns. Then the plane lands and finishes the job, unless the wounded wolf has managed to crawl into the deep woods to bleed to death in solitude.

Palin, who won office with the support of powerful hunting groups, has intensified the "cull." She pushed to offer a bounty to hunters who brought in a left wolf paw (lopped off with a chain saw) and extended the kill order to grizzly and black bears -- including sows and their cubs. Before a state court ruled the practice illegal, she offered a bounty of $150 for every slain wolf.

Hunting groups support the program, arguing that it increases the availability of game for poor Alaskans, and the sporting chances of hunters like Sarah and Todd Palin themselves, who have their sights set on moose. But wildlife viewing brings far more tourist dollars to the state, where only 11 percent of the population hunts.

The wolf is an intelligent, handsome creature and, for many visitors to Alaska, an integral part of the state's wild appeal. Wolves live in complex social structures, mate for life and don't attack humans -- it's easy to see in them the family resemblance to mankind's best friend.

That's what makes it so painful to look at the video of an aerial wolfhunt in Alaska that has been circulating since Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was nominated as Sen. John McCain's running mate on the Republican ticket.

In a program begun by ex-Gov. Frank Murkowski, and intensified by Palin, Alaska has sponsored the aerial hunting of more than 800 wolves since 2002 -- out of a state population of perhaps 9,000. Pilots chase the wolves through the deep snow, sometimes for miles, until the exhausted animals have slowed enough to be blown away with shotguns. Then the plane lands and finishes the job, unless the wounded wolf has managed to crawl into the deep woods to bleed to death in solitude.

Palin, who won office with the support of powerful hunting groups, has intensified the "cull." She pushed to offer a bounty to hunters who brought in a left wolf paw (lopped off with a chain saw) and extended the kill order to grizzly and black bears -- including sows and their cubs. Before a state court ruled the practice illegal, she offered a bounty of $150 for every slain wolf.

Hunting groups support the program, arguing that it increases the availability of game for poor Alaskans, and the sporting chances of hunters like Sarah and Todd Palin themselves, who have their sights set on moose. But wildlife viewing brings far more tourist dollars to the state, where only 11 percent of the population hunts.

As John Toppenberg of the Alaskan Wildlife Alliance puts it, the 60,000 square miles where the cull takes place are mainly used by “fat-ass trophy hunters on all-terrain vehicles, not Native peoples who need them for subsistence, with rare exceptions.”

To read the entire story, click here.

Palin has also set her sights on removing the polar bear from the endangered species list (see my post, "For Sarah Palin, Big Oil Trumps Polar Bear's Survival," August 30, 2008). In that case also, money is a big motivator for Palin to treat other species cruelly.

To support the Defenders of Wildlife, click here.

New Yorker Cover: Palin Keeps Watch On Russia

New Yorker cover pokes fun at Sarah Palin's repeated contention that Alaska's proximity to Russia gives her foreign policy experience. She can just make it out in the distance. From the way Palin responded in her interviews with Katie Couric, however, her perspective doesn't extend too far beyond Wasilla.

Rove, Bolten, Miers–Even Todd Palin–Refuse To Testify

Regarding the photo above: I can dream, can't I?

The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Karl Rove in contempt in July for refusing to testify about the United States attorneys scandal. That affair involved the firing of eight Justice Department attorneys for politically motivated reasons, when the department was under the control of former attorney general Alberto Gonzalez.

Full Committee Chairman John Conyers said, "Mr. Rove has refused even to appear before the Committee and assert whatever privileges that he believes may apply to his testimony, relying on excessively broad and legally insufficient claims of 'absolute immunity' - never recognized by any court - in declining to appear."

Mr. Rove isn't the only current or former Bush administration operative to have made this refusal. Joshua Bolten, White House Chief of Staff, and Harriet Miers, former White House counsel, have also refused to cooperate with Congressional subpoenas on the matter. The House held them in contempt last July and is fighting a legal battle to force them to testify.

The refusal of all three to cooperate is in line with an administration whose contempt for the law and the Constitution is well established, from the president's unprecedented use of signing statements to the employment of warrantless wiretaps (conveniently made legal in retrospect) to the attempt to deny habeas corpus rights and more.

Not to be outdone, even Todd Palin has defied a subpoena calling on him to testify before the Alaska Legislature in the case involving whether his wife, Governor Sarah Palin, fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan in July because of his refusal to fire state trooper Mike Wooten. Wooten went through a nasty divorce with Sarah Palin's sister.

Democratic Senator Bill Wielechowski of Anchorage said that the McCain campaign "is doing everything they can to delay" the investigation.

The Anchorage Daily News reported on September 18th, "McCain-Palin presidential campaign spokesman Ed O'Callaghan announced today that Todd Palin would not appear, because he no longer believes the Legislature's investigation is legitimate."

Suppose you or I refused to testify in a court of law due to the "belief" that the proceedings are illegitimate?

Todd Palin apparently has the support of the McCain-Palin campaign. They're right in line with the Bush administration's contempt for the law. More evidence of the determination of these two "mavericks" to clean up Washington.

Speaker Pelosi Hurts Republicans' Feelings, So No Bailout Deal

What did that mean Speaker Nancy Pelosi say to the Republicans to make them grab their football and run away from the bailout resolution? Here's the opening of her speech on September 29:

Madam speaker, when was the last time anyone ever asked you for $700 billion? It’s a staggering figure. And many questions have arisen from that request. And we have been hearing, I think, a very informed debate on all sides — of — of this issue here today. I’m proud of the debate.

$700 billion. A staggering number. But only a part of the cost of the failed Bush economic policies to our country. Policies that were built on budget recklessness. When President Bush took office, he inherited President Clinton’s surpluses — four years in a row, budget surpluses, on a trajectory of $5.6 trillion in surplus. And with his reckless economic policies, within two years, he had turned that around.

Among the sensitive and brooding GOP representatives were House Leader John Boehner, who said, "I do believe that we could have gotten there today had it not been for this partisan speech that the speaker gave on the floor of the House. ...the speaker had to give a partisan voice that poisoned our conference; caused a number of members, who we thought we could get, to go south."

Who knew that the Republicans could be so hurt by partisanship?

So at a time of fiscal crisis, this is what causes the Republicans to fall 12 short of the votes needed to pass the bailout resolution? Democratic Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts offered a way to wipe away their tears: "I'll make an offer: give me those 12 people's names, and I will go talk uncharacteristically nicely to them and tell them what wonderful people they are and maybe they'll now think about the country."

McCain Criticizes Obama For Phoning It In...Then Phones It In

Referring to Barack Obama, John McCain said at a rally on September 29, 2008, "I'll never be a president that sits on the sidelines when this country faces a crisis. I'll never do that. I know many of you noticed, it's not my style to simply phone it in."

So what did he do about the financial crisis on that same day? "...having come back to Washington, he chose not to actually go to Capitol Hill today. Instead, Senator McCain worked the phones from his campaign headquarters. Aides say he made 17 phone calls by 5:00 or 6:00."

This is from the same candidate who said he wouldn't debate until a bailout resolution was adopted. The only thing one can count on from the McCain campaign is continuous grandstanding.

Freddie Mac Gave McCain Campaign Manager Rick Davis $15,000 A Month For Doing Nothing

John McCain, who contends that he wants to root out corruption in Washington, including the malign influence of lobbyists, has one problem: his campaign manager Rick Davis' firm, Davis Manafort, received $15,000 a month from Freddie Mac between 2006 and August 2008.

According to Newsweek in "A Freddie Mac Money Trail Catches Up With McCain" (9/27/08), Davis not only received the money from the mortgage giant currently under governmental stewardship, but he received it for doing almost nothing: "Aside from attending a few breakfasts and a political-action committee meeting with Democratic strategist Paul Begala (another Freddie consultant), Davis did 'zero' for the housing firm..."

$15,000 a month mostly for eating breakfast? Why did the Freddie, which "had no dealings with the lobbying firm beyond paying monthly invoices," agree to such an arrangement? According to the article, "...because of Davis's close relationship with McCain...which led top executives to conclude 'you couldn't say no.' "

So much for the McCain-Palin pledge to reform the way things are done in Washington, including influence peddling. As David Letterman said after McCain's cancelled appearance on his show supposedly due to the campaign suspension, "Ladies and gentlemen, that's starting to smell..."

In the video above, Rachel Maddow enlists Michael Isikoff of Newsweek and Rosa Brooks of the Los Angeles Times to examine the relationship between Rick Davis and Freddie Mac. The Young Turks radio show provides further commentary on Freddie Mac's "buying access to Senator McCain" through Davis:

Monday, September 29, 2008

Krugman On McCain's Erratic Judgment And Temperament

In a post dated September 27, I quoted conservative columnist George Will on his doubts about whether John McCain is temperamentally suited to be president. From across the political spectrum, Paul Krugman, in his column "The 3 A.M. Call" (9/28/08), also expresses dismay at McCain's erratic behavior during the financial crisis. From Krugman's column:

The real revelation of the last few weeks...has been just how erratic Mr. McCain’s views on economics are. At any given moment, he seems to have very strong opinions — but a few days later, he goes off in a completely different direction.

Thus on Sept. 15 he declared — for at least the 18th time this year — that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong.” This was the day after Lehman failed and Merrill Lynch was taken over, and the financial crisis entered a new, even more dangerous stage.

But three days later he declared that America’s financial markets have become a “casino,” and said that he’d fire the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission — which, by the way, isn’t in the president’s power.

And then he found a new set of villains — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored lenders. (Despite some real scandals at Fannie and Freddie, they played little role in causing the crisis: most of the really bad lending came from private loan originators.) And he moralistically accused other politicians, including Mr. Obama, of being under Fannie’s and Freddie’s financial influence; it turns out that a firm owned by his own campaign manager was being paid by Freddie until just last month.

Then Mr. Paulson released his plan, and Mr. McCain weighed vehemently into the debate. But he admitted, several days after the Paulson plan was released, that he hadn’t actually read the plan, which was only three pages long.

O.K., I think you get the picture.

The modern economy, it turns out, is a dangerous place — and it’s not the kind of danger you can deal with by talking tough and denouncing evildoers. Does Mr. McCain have the judgment and temperament to deal with that part of the job he seeks?

The answer to Krugman's question is clearly and unequivocally no. As I concluded following the George Will piece, the domestic and foreign turmoil we face demands the steadiness of Barack Obama.

Olmert Advocates Withdrawal From West Bank, Reappraises Other Israeli Policies

Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke more frankly than ever about needed changes in his country's policies, as reported in a New York Times article "Olmert Says Israel Should Pull Out Of The West Bank" (9/29/08). Excerpts follow:

West Bank: “We face the need to decide but are not willing to tell ourselves, yes, this is what we have to do. We have to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, the meaning of which is that in practice we will withdraw from almost all the territories, if not all the territories. We will leave a percentage of these territories in our hands, but will have to give the Palestinians a similar percentage, because without that there will be no peace.”

Jerusalem: “I am the first who wanted to enforce Israeli sovereignty on the entire city. I admit it. I am not trying to justify retroactively what I did for 35 years. For a large portion of these years, I was unwilling to look at reality in all its depth.” He said that maintaining sovereignty over an undivided Jerusalem, Israel’s official policy, would involve bringing 270,000 Palestinians inside Israel’s security barrier. It would mean a continuing risk of terrorist attacks against civilians like those carried out this year by Jerusalem Palestinian residents with front-end loaders.

Military strategy: “With [traditional Israeli defense strategists], it is all about tanks and land and controlling territories and controlled territories and this hilltop and that hilltop. All these things are worthless. Who thinks seriously that if we sit on another hilltop, on another hundred meters, that this is what will make the difference for the State of Israel’s basic security?”

Iran: He...dismissed as “megalomania” any thought that Israel would or should attack Iran on its own to stop it from developing nuclear weapons, saying the international community and not Israel alone was charged with handling the issue. ...Israel would act within the international system, adding: “Part of our megalomania and our loss of proportions is the things that are said here about Iran. We are a country that has lost a sense of proportion about itself.”

Syria: Israel had to be prepared to give up the Golan Heights but...in turn Damascus knew it had to change the nature of its relationship with Iran and its support for Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia.

Olmert acknowledged the groundbreaking nature of his comments: “What I am saying to you now has not been said by any Israeli leader before me. The time has come to say these things.”

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, is a time of renewal. Olmert's comments are a renewal of sorts: a reappraisal of traditional Israeli policies, coming from a politician who once leaned to to the right. It is to be hoped that the next Israeli Prime Minister shares Olmert's realistic perspectives.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Obama Supporters: Feeling Complacent? Watch This McCain Victory Horror Film

Feeling pretty good about the positive response to Barack Obama's debate performance and his slight lead in the polls? Don't get complacent. This election will go down to the wire. I also don't trust the polls. 

Obama's candidacy is certainly an indication of racial progress in America. But we haven't completely eradicated racism. I'm convinced that there are many people who say that they're ready to vote for Obama. They may even believe it when they say it. But when they get into the privacy of that voting booth, they just won't be able to pull the lever for a black man (see article, "Race May Cost Obama The Election, Poll Says," HeraldNet, 9/20/08). For that reason, we need every vote we can get. We also need to do what we can individually to put Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the White House.

The video above, which I found at the progressive blog Oliver Willis, is a 47-second horror film for Obama supporters. It offers a realistic depiction of a McCain victory. We know what that means: a president who represents a third term for George W. Bush and a vice president who's clueless on world affairs and is a right-wing religious extremist (and, most horrifying of all, is a heartbeat away from the presidency).

As the video concludes, "It doesn't have to be that way." With the election a little over a month away, now is the time to kick into gear your support for Obama. Following Oliver Willis's suggestions:

To register to vote, click here.

To contribute to Obama-Biden, click here.

To reach out to voters in your community, click here.

Feel free to email this post to as many people as possible with your own comments urging recipients to get active for Barack Obama.

SNL's Palin-Couric Interview: Art Imitates Life...Very Closely

Watch Tina Fey's masterful parody of Sarah Palin being interviewed by CNN's Katie Couric, played by Amy Poehler, on Saturday Night Live. Then take another look at posts below (titles abbreviated: "Jack Cafferty," 9/27; "Proximity To Russia," 9/25; "Palin Will Find Ya", 9/25) containing actual interview statements by Palin herself. I think you'll conclude that the line between art and life is very thin in the case of this vice presidential candidate. Palin's statements are simply that absurd.

Paul McCartney Brings Message Of Peace To Israel And Palestine

In 1965, when Israel was more puritanical and insular and less westernized, a ministerial committee, fearing The Beatles' corrupting influence on the nation's youth, refused to let the group play there. Forty-three years later, Paul McCartney played a concert in Tel Aviv on September 25th, defying death threats from Islamic militants who wanted him to cancel the performance.

The visuals aren't always great in the video above, but the audio gives us lively versions of "A Day In The Life" and "Give Peace A Chance" that clearly moved the audience.

McCartney also visited Palestine, where he lit a candle for peace at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and went to a music school. Despite the threats and the attempts to politicize his visit–inevitable in the Middle East–McCartney had a positive message for Israelis and Palestinians, as he explains in the following video:

Shea Stadium, 1964-2008: Thanks For The Memories

I went with my family to Shea Stadium to watch the last game to be held in the ballpark. The game against the Marlins ended in a loss, spoiling the Mets' playoff chances. Mets fans don't have much faith in the bullpen and, true to form, they gave up two home runs to the Marlins that made the difference in the game.

Regardless of the loss, everyone enjoyed the stadium closing ceremony afterwards, with a procession of stars from throughout the years: Tom Seaver, Yogi Berra, Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez, Mike Piazza, Willie Mays, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Jesse Orosco, Ron Darling and many more. There were films showing team highlights, including the 1969 and 1986 World Series championships. 

I have many cherished memories of games watched from the nose-bleed section: Lenny Dykstra's walk-off homer in the National League Championship Series game three against the Houston Astros, October 11, 1986; Mike Piazza hitting a double in his first game; watching The Mets sweep the damn Yankees in the final game of a 2004 interleague subway series. (I understand that that team also will be playing in a new stadium. New York fans are partisan.)

Shea was built at a time when concentric, flying saucer-shaped stadiums were in vogue. Now the retro look is in, as we can see in the Baltimore Orioles' Camden Yards. I look forward to next year in the new Citi Field (if it had to have a corporate sponsor name, I suppose that's the best we could get), a replica of Ebbets Field, fabled park of one of the Mets' National League forbears, the Brooklyn Dodgers. As for the Mets' being knocked out of the post season, I'll fall back on that old baseball adage, "Wait till next year."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

First Debate: Obama Delivers On McCain's Home Turf

I know that the presidential debate last night started with the economy and then moved to international affairs. I'm going to comment on the latter first, because I saw it as more decisive. 

Perception is critical in politics, and John McCain was perceived prior to the debate to be the stronger of the two on foreign policy. His task therefore was to dominate and perhaps even deliver a knockout punch. Obama's task was to hold his own and come across as well-versed on the world's hot spots and as a viable commander in chief.

On their respective tasks, McCain did not succeed while Obama did. 

Was McCain more on the attack? Did he refer more to his experience while calling his opponent naive? Did Obama state that he agreed with McCain several times? Absolutely–but no matter. Obama not only held his own, but was able to launch his own effective attacks.

On Iraq, for example, McCain only wanted to talk about the current situation. Obama was more than willing to do so, but he also wanted to put the conflict in its historic context in terms of the mistaken assumptions that led to this conflict. In the following video, Obama pointed out how McCain was wrong on several counts:

There were two areas, though, in which Obama missed opportunities. First, when McCain said that we're fighting terrorists in Iraq, Obama should have said, as he did in the past, that they arrived in the country as a result of the war. Second, I was especially disappointed that Obama did not respond critically to McCain's statement that he will take care of the veterans. The perception is that since McCain is a veteran, he takes care of veterans' interests. Obama had a great opportunity to set the record straight before millions of viewers.

The fact is that McCain has a terrible record on veterans affairs. Over the past year he joined George Bush in opposing the Webb Amendment, which would expand benefits for veterans to help them pay tuition and other benefits at four-year public universities. McCain opposed it because he wants to keep more veterans in uniforms, not in classrooms. How else, if McCain is elected, can he keep soldiers on a treadmill of deployment to Iraq? (To find out more about McCain's non-support of veterans, click here to see what Veterans For Common Sense has to say.)

Regardless of these two missed opportunities, Obama acquitted himself well on foreign affairs, supposedly McCain's home turf.

On economic matters, what is McCain to say? The bottom line is that he wants to extend the regressive tax code of the Bush years. In the following clip, Obama points out McCain's additional tax cuts to oil companies, despite the cuts they've already had and their record-breaking profits over the past several years:

Now that the first debate is over, I'm especially looking forward to more on domestic affairs, especially during a time of financial turmoil. Obama must continually hammer McCain on how his support for deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy has done our economy immense harm.

West Bank Settlers Show Increasing Lawlessness

Two recent articles point to increasing lawlessness and militancy among West Bank settlers.

"After 'Pogrom,' Israel Debates Who Controls Settler Violence" from The Forward (9/12/08), focuses on increasing settler rampages and confusion over who is responsible for restraining them. In one incident, while settlers from the settlement Yitzhar, south of Nablus, were furious over the heinous attack by a Palestinian upon a child, they took the law into their own hands and employed indiscriminate violence. From the article:

A weekend of violence in the West Bank, igniting what Prime Minister Ehud Olmert likened to an anti-Palestinian “pogrom,” has touched off a public uproar over the state of law enforcement in the territories and the proper role of Israel’s security forces.

On Saturday morning, September 13, a series of confrontations began when a Palestinian man entered the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar, south of Nablus. He torched a Jewish home that was unoccupied at the time and then stabbed a 9-year-old child. Settlers responded by storming the nearby Arab village where the attacker was presumed to live, reportedly stoning cars and windows and firing at passers-by, several of whom were wounded. A villager captured the rampage on a video that showed Israeli troops looking on without intervening.

The images of Israeli forces failing to protect Palestinians touched off a national debate over settler violence and over the responses by Israeli police and military. Both security services initially disclaimed responsibility and blamed each other for what Olmert likened to a “pogrom.”

“There will be no pogroms against non-Jewish residents in the State of Israel,” Olmert declared at a September 14 Cabinet meeting.

At a stormy meeting of the Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee on September 15, committee chair Ophir Pines-Paz of Labor said that the West Bank has become “like the Wild West.”

“The picture is one of anarchy,” the lawmaker said.

"Radical Settlers Take On Israel," New York Times (9/25/08), recounts the light wounding of Hebrew University Professor Zeev Sternhell, noted historian and critic of the settlements, following a pipe bomb attack, and nearby leaflets threatening the lives of Peace Now members. The article also points out the settlers' adherence to collective punishment for the Palestinians and defiance toward the Israeli army and state. Excerpts:

...the bombing may be the latest sign that elements of Israel’s settler movement are resorting to extremist tactics to protect their homes in the occupied West Bank against not only Palestinians, but also Jews who some settlers argue are betraying them. Radical settlers say they are determined to show that their settlements and outposts cannot be dismantled, either by law or by force.

There have been bouts of settler violence for years, notably during the transfer of Gaza to the Palestinians in 2005. Now, though, the militants seem to have spawned a broader, more defined strategy of resistance designed to intimidate the state.

This aggressive doctrine, according to Akiva HaCohen, 24, who is considered to be one of its architects, calls on settlers and their supporters to respond “whenever, wherever and however” they wish to any attempt by the Israeli Army or the police to lay a finger on property in illegally built outposts scheduled by the government for removal. In settler circles the policy is called “price tag” or “mutual concern.”

Besides exacting a price for army and police actions, the policy also encourages settlers to avenge Palestinian acts of violence by taking the law into their own hands — an approach that has the potential to set the tinderbox of the West Bank ablaze.

Hard-core right-wing settlers have responded to limited army operations in recent weeks by blocking roads, rioting spontaneously, throwing stones at Palestinian vehicles and burning Palestinian orchards and fields all over the West Bank, a territory that Israel has occupied since 1967. They have also vandalized Israeli Army positions, equipment and cars.

One settler, Ephraim Ben Schohat, affirmed that collective punishment is more important than apprehending a suspect: “To us, deterrence is more important than catching the specific terrorist. We’re fighting against a nation.”

Another young settler stated that religious dictates supersede the law, stating that people "have to decide whether they are on the side of the Torah or the state.”

Israel's seeming reluctance to dismantle all militant outposts and the increasing religious extremism among settlers are indicators of continued turmoil in the West Bank.

Conservative Columnist George Will Questions McCain's Suitability For Presidency

Following John McCain's statement that he would fire Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, due to turmoil in the financial industry, conservative columnist George Will questioned whether he had the temperament to be president in his column, "McCain Loses His Head" (9/23/08). Will also states that the faults he perceives in Obama can be "corrected," while doubting that McCain's temperament can "be fixed."

From the column:

Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.

Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated. This childish reflex provoked the Wall Street Journal to editorialize that "McCain untethered" -- disconnected from knowledge and principle -- had made a "false and deeply unfair" attack on Cox that was "unpresidential" and demonstrated that McCain "doesn't understand what's happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does."

To read the Journal's details about the depths of McCain's shallowness on the subject of Cox's chairmanship, see "McCain's Scapegoat" (Sept. 19). Then consider McCain's characteristic accusation that Cox "has betrayed the public's trust."

...McCain's smear -- that Cox "betrayed the public's trust" -- is a harbinger of a McCain presidency. For McCain, politics is always operatic, pitting people who agree with him against those who are "corrupt" or "betray the public's trust," two categories that seem to be exhaustive -- there are no other people...

...Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

To read the entire column, click here.

McCain, by the way, is ill-informed about the relation between the president and the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, an independent regulatory agency whose chairman can't be fired by the president.

McCain's erratic temperament is also evident in his rash pick of the radically unqualified Sarah Palin as a running mate and his pointless "campaign suspension" stunt. Those looking for a steady temperament in a prospective president would be well advised to support Barack Obama.

Conservative Columnist Kathleen Parker Refers To Palin's "BS" And Asks Her To "Bow Out"

You know that the Sarah Palin fad must be wearing thin when conservative columnist Kathleen Parker proclaims her a candidate "Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League" and asks her to resign her candidacy to "save McCain, her party and the country she loves."

Excerpts from Parker's column, "Sarah Palin Should Bow Out" (9/26/08):

Palin's recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.

No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I've been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I've also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.

Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage and there's not much content there. 

...If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.

If Palin were a man, we'd all be guffawing, just as we do every time Joe Biden tickles the back of his throat with his toes. But because she's a woman -- and the first ever on a Republican presidential ticket -- we are reluctant to say what is painfully true.

What to do?

McCain can't repudiate his choice for running mate. He not only risks the wrath of the GOP's unforgiving base, but he invites others to second-guess his executive decision-making ability. Barack Obama faces the same problem with Biden.

Only Palin can save McCain, her party and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.

Do it for your country.

To read the entire column, click here.

Jack Cafferty: Palin Interview With Couric "Scary" And "Pathetic"

Contrary to Campbell Brown's assertion that the McCain camp is shielding Sarah Palin from the press due to sexism, Jack Cafferty of CNN let us know that it was due to realism on the campaign's part.

Cafferty proceeded to play another incoherent Palin response to Katie Couric, in an interview that is now assuming legendary status.

Don't expect me to disentangle the threads of Palin's response to a question about the bailout package. I'd burn too many brain cells in the attempt. You'll have to listen to her response above to believe it.

After the video, Cafferty paused and asked, "Did you get that?"

Cafferty then said, "If John McCain wins, this woman will be one 72-year-old's heartbeat away from being President of the United States. And if that doesn't scare the hell out of you, it should." He invited viewers to post a comment on whether Palin is qualified to be vice president. To read some of the overwhelmingly negative responses, click here.

Cafferty concluded, "I'm 65 and have been covering politics...for a long time. That is one of the most pathetic pieces of tape I've ever seen from someone aspiring to one of the highest offices in this country." Wolf Blitzer made a weaselly attempt to soft-pedal Palin's nonsensical response, but Cafferty was having none of it. He told Blitzer not to "make excuses."

Anyone who isn't frightened by the prospect of a Palin presidency by now is as clueless as she is.

Friday, September 26, 2008

What Was The Point Of McCain's Dramatic Escapade In DC?

So in the end, what was John McCain's dramatic escapade in Washington all about?

Striking a blow against literacy, on Tuesday he said that he hadn't "had a chance to see the [Paulson] bailout proposal in writing." 

A three-page document. Couldn't he have gotten one of his aides to get him a copy?

The admission, made without a hint of embarrassment, is shown in the video above. It comes after he pontificated about "oversight." Not having read it, he couldn't say whether he'd "vote for it as it's presently constructed."

Wouldn't you think that he'd read this document immediately, if this were an issue that warranted suspending his campaign?

His "suspension," by the way, had nothing to do with stopping his campaign ads, shutting down online contributions or directing his spokespersons across the country to stop the campaign spin. In fact, they even had a talking points memo about how to spin the campaign suspension. Rather paradoxical, isn't it? 

So what did McCain do to show the country his leadership skills? Did he emerge from the economic conferences with a resolution in hand?


At the White House meeting, McCain sat silently for 40 minutes. Meeting participants said he was vague in his opinions. Later, he said that the bipartisan plan was a first step to a resolution. He had little to say pro or con about Republican objections. He expressed hopes that all would succeed.

Then, after originally stating that he wouldn't debate until an economic plan was set in Washington, he blinked. There was no resolution. He headed to Mississippi for the first debate with Barack Obama.

Now the question is, what's the next McCain campaign gimmick?

Todd, Maddow, Letterman: Polls Drive McCain's Cynical Campaign Suspension

New polls show that more respondents trust Obama than McCain on the economy. McCain suspends campaign.

Is there a connection here? 

Just as he made the ill-advised pick of Palin to shake up his campaign, the suspension is the latest McCain gimmick to boost his ratings. Chuck Todd of NBC lays bare McCain's cynical ploy, asking, "Why does JohnMcCain want to call a time-out right now and sort of suspend the campaign? Well, he was getting clobbered on the economy."

Rachel Maddow offers a survey of McCain's "dramatic" campaign moves and reaches the same conclusion. In addition, she speaks of a McCain campaign talking points memo about how to campaign about suspending the campaign, mistakenly emailed to reporters:

David Letterman, disappointed about McCain's bailing out on his show, asked, "Are we suspending it because there's an economic crisis or because the poll numbers are sliding?" Letterman also pointed out that contrary to assertions that McCain was "racing back to Washington" due to the economic crisis, he was still in New York being interview at CBS News:

Letterman stated about McCain's newest stunt, "Ladies and gentlemen, that's starting to smell ...This just gets uglier and uglier." Can't argue with that.

Campbell Brown, Palin Is Shielded Because Of Realism, Not Sexism

Campbell Brown has "had enough" of the McCain campaign's "sexist treatment of Sarah Palin."

"She was here in New York City today, meeting with world leaders at the U.N." Brown stated. "And what did the McCain campaign do? They tried to ban reporters from those meetings. And they did ban reporters from asking Governor Palin any questions."

Brown challenged the McCain campaign, "Allow her to show her stuff. Allow her to face down those pesky reporters... Let her have a real news conference with real questions."

Brown is a journalist who naturally wants easy access to Palin. She's not, however, a campaign strategist. If she were, she'd understand that sexism has nothing to do with shielding Palin from reporters. Realism does.

Palin knows nothing about the world beyond Wasilla. It's more than a question of experience. It's also a question of intellectual curiosity. She doesn't seem to have thought or read much about the rest of the globe. She didn't even have a passport before July 2007. 

It's entirely logical for the McCain campaign to shield Palin from the press, even if they're implicitly admitting that she's an issue-challenged lightweight. Think about her recent interviews with Charles Gibson and Katie Couric. Every time she "shows her stuff" to a reporter, it's a disaster–with the exception of Sean Hannity, a Fox operative who naturally conducted softball practice with her.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Palin Still Insists That Proximity To Russia Equals Foreign Policy Experience

She's at it again.

The McCain campaign's assertion that Alaska's proximity to Russia implies foreign policy experience for Sarah Palin has been subject to widespread ridicule. The vice presidential candidate acknowledges as much in her latest interview with Katie Couric of CBS on September 25, 2008.

Yet after stammering as to why the ridicule exists, Palin manages to blurt, "The media." I see. If not for media "mockery," the entire country would find the proximity argument eminently logical.

Couric must have applied all of her professional restraint when she asked, "Explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials."

Yes, do explain. It is a concept that many of us are finding hard to grasp.

Palin offered her most detailed explanation yet: "It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America. Where do they go? It's Alaska, it's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state."

So when Putin rears his head in U.S. air space, you can feel secure because Palin is there, sending "those out." Got it?

McCain's Latest Stunt Is A Campaign Stopper

The latest Washington Post poll presents good news for Barack Obama: "More voters trust Obama to deal with the economy, and he currently has a big edge as the candidate who is more in tune with the economic problems Americans now face. He also has a double-digit advantage on handling the current problems on Wall Street, and as a result, there has been a rise in his overall support. The poll found that, among likely voters, Obama now leads McCain by 52 percent to 43 percent."

These results probably have a great deal to do with the McCain campaign's latest stunt: the decision to suspend the campaign and postpone the debate scheduled for Friday.

In the video above, Obama states, "I believe that we should continue to have the debate; I think that it makes sense for us to present ourselves before the American people to talk about the nature of the problems we're having in our financial system, to talk about how it relates to our global standing in the world, what implications it has for our national security.."

Obama has also stated, "It is going to be part of the president's job to deal with more than one thing at once. It's more important than ever to present ourselves to the American people."

Of course, McCain knows that the American people need to hear in detail how the candidates will handle the economy and that the presidency is a multi-tasking job. He also knows that they can get in their planes and travel from Mississippi to Washington quickly if need be.

McCain's campaign suspension must be seen as just another gimmick. He wants to appear as the man of action, the man who puts country first. This transparent ploy will not cover up the fact that he is among those whose push for market deregulation is exactly what led to the current financial turmoil. McCain's grandstanding will solve nothing, nor will it assure the American people that he should be trusted as a steward of the economy.

Palin Will Find Ya Examples Of McCain's Deregulation Record

John McCain has consistently referred to himself as a deregulator who has never wanted much government oversight of the financial industry. He believed in the Republican line that market forces will regulate themselves.

That hands-off policy has really worked out well, hasn't it?

Now that deregulation is the order of the day, Katie Couric, in an interview with Sarah Palin (9/24/08), repeatedly asked for examples of McCain's support for federal financial controls:

Couric: I'm just going to ask you one more time, not to belabor the point: specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation.

Palin: I'll try to find ya some and I'll bring 'em to ya.

Add this to the "Bush doctrine" as another subject that Palin has to review with her tutors.

I guess there's not much gravitas to this vice presidential candidate's manner. We'll see if her perkiness is a winning substitute.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Witch Hunter Blessed Palin As She Ran For Governor

"Curiousier and curiouser," as it was written in "Alice in Wonderland." So now it's Sarah Palin and a blessing from a witch hunter. Just another revelation in the campaign.

The Times Online of the UK, in an article "Palin Linked Electoral Success to Prayer of Kenyan Witchhunter" (9/16/08), reports that Pastor Thomas Muthee, "...whose prayer Sarah Palin says helped her to become governor of Alaska founded his ministry with a witch hunt against a Kenyan woman who he accused of causing car accidents through demonic spells."

In Kiambu, Kenya, Pastor Muthee identified a local woman named Mama Jane, who ran a fortune-telling center, as a source of witchcraft responsible for the car accidents. After he did so, the townspeople began to demand that she be stoned, police raided her home, killed her "demonic" pet python and questioned her. She eventually left town. In his sermons, Pastor Muthee called this witch hunt "spiritual warfare."

It was Pastor Muthee who laid hands on Palin and prayed for her, asking in part, "In the name of Jesus, every form of witchcraft is what you rebuke in the name of Jesus."

This past June, according to Keith Olbermann's "Countdown" (9/24/08), shown above, Palin praised the pastor and recounted his blessing: "He said, 'Lord, make a way and let her do this next step,' and that was exactly what happened. So, again, very, very powerful coming from this church. So that was awesome about Pastor Muthee." 

Shannyn Moore, Alaska radio journalist, told Olbermann that Palin's church in Wasilla "...embraced him. They knew what this pastor's record was. He ran on the fact that he had chased a witch out of a town and that he was able to do this sort of spiritual warfare, which is something they talk about a lot at this church..."

As the nation confronts economic turmoil and the war in Iraq continues, it's reassuring to know that we have a potential vice president who has been protected from witchcraft.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Voices Call For Caution Before $700 Billion To Bail Out Profligate Financial Industry

I've read several calls for caution before taxpayers are asked to fork over $700 billion for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to bail out the high-rolling financial industry.

Among them are The New York Times editorial "Trust Me" (9/23/08), which points out typical Bush administration tactics to ram through highly expensive undertakings that lack due consideration and that employ scare tactics.

Does that sound like the run-up to a certain foreign invasion and occupation?

The Bush administration's modus operandi is all too familiar: "We’ve seen this kind of over-reaching from the Bush administration before. It has usurped far too many powers under a banner of urgency — think wiretapping — and abused those powers. Now, Congress and the American people are being told that unless they quickly approve sweeping executive powers for the bailout, capitalism may collapse. Even if this administration weren’t so untrustworthy, rushing ahead would be a bad idea."

In addition, in dealing with a crisis that is a direct result of deregulation, Paulson himself wants to operate without oversight: "The proposal, which is now being negotiated with Congressional leaders, would give the Treasury secretary the authority to buy any assets from any financial institution at any price that he deemed necessary to provide stability to the financial markets. And it asserts that neither the courts nor any administrative agency would be allowed to question or review those decisions."

The Times proposes requiring firms that sell assets to the Treasury to give the government stock, modifying mortgages under bankruptcy court protection and establishing an oversight board of federal officials and other experts.

Bob Herbert, in his column "A Second Opinion?" (9/23/08), cautions against the hasty use of taxpayer money to rescue an extravagant Wall Street:

"I agree with the economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, that while the government needs to move with dispatch, there is also a need to make sure that taxpayers’ money is used only where “absolutely necessary.”

"Lobbyists, bankers and Wall Street types are already hopping up and down like over-excited children, ready to burst into the government’s $700 billion piñata. This widespread eagerness is itself an indication that there is something too sweet about the Paulson plan.

"This is not supposed to be a good deal for business. “The idea is that you’re coming here because you would be going bankrupt otherwise,” said Mr. Baker. “You’re coming here because you have no alternative. You’re getting a bad deal, but it’s better than going out of business. That’s how it should be structured.”

In an indication that the sense of caution is being urged across the ideological divide, Allan H. Meltzer, former economic adviser to President Reagan, said, "This is scare tactics to try to do something that's in the private but not the public interest."

The Campaign for America's Future, a group that serves as a progressive counterweight to the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in the Democratic Party, proposed "The Bailout: A Call For Common Sense," with proposals for public oversight; market regulation; revitalizing the economy through investing in energy, conservation, education, infrastructure and more; canceling stock option programs for companies that apply for relief and limiting CEO compensation until taxpayer assistance is repaid, and helping people who were victims of predatory lenders stay in their homes. To read the full petition, click here.

The Campaign has issued a petition to be issued to Congress that calls for resisting the $700 billion blank check and demanding the conditions outlined above as part of a resolution. To read and sign the petition, click here.

The cartoon above is by Patrick Chappatte of The International Herald Tribune, 3/19/08

Troy Davis Update

Following up on my post yesterday on the Troy Davis case, I'm pleased to see that the Supreme Court issued a stay of execution shortly before he was to be put to death by lethal injection. The justices will decide on Monday whether to hear Davis's appeal of the ruling by the Supreme Court of Georgia, which rejected his bid for a new trial or a hearing to present new evidence in court.

With seven out of nine witnesses recanting, no physical evidence against Davis and no weapon found, it seems to me that he has strong grounds for an appeal to be granted. In addition, one of the witnesses who did not recant is an alternative suspect, according to the defense.

With appreciation to those who took part in the email petition specified in my post below.

Sign Urgent Petition Of Clemency For Troy Davis, Scheduled To Be Executed, 9/23, 7:00 PM

I just received an email from Amnesty International on the planned execution of Troy Davis (left) on Tuesday, September 23, 7:00 PM, in a prison in Jackson, Georgia, "despite the fact that serious questions remain regarding his guilt."

Amnesty International includes the following background statement at its Web site:

Restrictions on Federal appeals have prevented Troy Anthony Davis from having a hearing in federal court on the reliability of the witness testimony used against him, despite the fact that most of the witnesses have since recanted, many alleging they were pressured or coerced by police. Troy Davis remains on Georgia death row, and may be scheduled for execution in the near future.

Troy Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail at a Burger King in Savannah, Georgia; a murder he maintains he did not commit. There was no physical evidence against him and the weapon used in the crime was never found. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even at the time of the trial. Since then, all but two of the state's non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony. Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis.

One of the two witnesses who has not recanted his testimony is Sylvester "Red" Coles – the principle alternative suspect, according to the defense, against whom there is new evidence implicating him as the gunman. Nine individuals have signed affidavits implicating Sylvester Coles.

For more information from Amnesty's site, including relevant links, click here.

Bob Herbert wrote an excellent column on the Troy Davis case, "What's the Rush?" (9/19/08). He also states that seven of the nine witnesses have since recanted their stories and that William Sessions, former F.B.I. director, "said that a closer look at the case is warranted." To read the column, click here.

I implore you right now to click on the following link to send an email to the Georgia State Board of Pardons & Paroles urging clemency for Troy Davis:

Amnesty International USA Online Action Center

Monday, September 22, 2008

Palin Uses Hotline To God To Justify Unjust War

It must be wonderful to feel that one's political positions come from a hotline to God. Apparently that's the way Sarah Palin feels, as she spoke, as shown in the video above, at a church gathering in June 2008 about building an Alaskan natural gas pipeline and the war in Iraq.

Everyone, of course, would agree with her hopes that our soldiers remain safe. That's a far cry, though, from stating that this unnecessary war is "a task that is from God" or part of "God's plan." One is reminded of George Bush's statement that "God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq." 

Were those who were blown to bits during the "shock and awe" bombing of Baghdad, those who were the victims of ethnic cleansing between Sunni and Shiite, those who were blasted by roadside bombs, those who were terribly maimed and disfigured, those suffering psychological torment, all part of a plan hatched by God? Did God want us to make false connections between Iraq, 9/11 and WMD? (As Palin recently did; see my post of 9/13, "Palin Revives False Association Between War In Iraq And 9/11 Attacks.")

How easy to rush off to war for misbegotten motives and then claim that it was God's doing. Such thinking is extremely dangerous, as it can be used to justify anything.

Joan Baez's rendition of Bob Dylan's "With God On Our Side," performed in 1966 in Stockholm, speaks to this age-old tactic. As the song puts it, "And you never ask questions when God's on your side":

Biden Calls On The Rich To Pay Their Fair Share, While Palin Distorts His Message

Joe Biden recently made a pitch at a campaign rally for progressive taxation by affirming that the wealthiest Americans should pay their fair share once again. This comes after eight years of Bush administration tax cuts that have disproportionately favored the rich. 

These cuts have come at a time when we are running a deficit, conducting two wars and are deeply in debt to Asian banks. In addition, we're now bailing out Wall Street as a result of misguided deregulation policies. Can we afford all this? How do we justify continued tax cuts for the most affluent and major corporations, including those that ship American jobs overseas? Of course, these policies are favored by John McCain.

When told at a campaign rally that those earning over $250,000 were concerned about paying higher taxes, as seen in the video above, Biden correctly said that they should "be patriotic." Indeed, those who have the most discretionary income and who benefit the most from our economic system should pay their fair, higher share. Mention this to a Republican and you'll be accused of conducting "class warfare"–as if fighting against the minimum wage, weakening organized labor, resisting universal health care and establishing regressive tax policies, all hallmarks of the past eight years, aren't class warfare.

In the following video, Biden said that he and Barack Obama "want to take money and put it back in the pocket of middle class people." One must also bear in mind that Obama's tax cut, GOP mythology to the contrary, does benefit the middle class more than McCain's (see my post, 9/18/08). 

You'd never know all this from listening to Sarah Palin, who follows Biden in the video, with her simplistic, blanket assertions that the Obama campaign simply wants to "raise taxes." Once again, she stands for a campaign that is hoodwinking the public:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

McCain Puts The Kibosh On Palin's "Stump The Candidate" Audience Challenge

At a town hall meeting on September 17th in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Sarah Palin sought to reassure a questioner about her "perceived lack of foreign policy experience."

Seeking to substitute enthusiasm and perkiness for thought and experience, Palin stated, "But as for foreign policy, you know, I think I am prepared and I know that on January 20th, if we are so blessed to be sworn into office as your president and vice president, certainly we'll be ready, I'll be ready. I have that confidence, I have that readiness..."

Palin was so confident, in fact, that she challenged the audience to test her knowledge: "...if you want specifics with specific policies or countries, go ahead, and you can ask me and you can play stump the candidate if you want to."

A bold challenge indeed. The only problem was that the audience never had the chance to ask even one question. As Dana Bash of CNN put it in the video above, "What about 'stump the candidate'? We want to see that. That didn't happen. She stopped talking at that point and John McCain jumped in and started talking about some of the points in her resume..."

Smart move on McCain's part. He wasn't taking any chances on Palin's giving "stump the candidate" a whirl. 

Not that McCain–who referred to the non-existent Iraq/Pakistan border, confused Somalia for Sudan, referred to “President Putin of Germany,” twice mistook Sunnis for Shiites in Iraq and referred several times to Czechoslovakia, a nation that no longer exists–is a foreign policy whiz either.

Regardless, one understands McCain's concern. For all he knows, the nefarious Charles Gibson may have been in the audience. During her interview with Gibson, Palin was flummoxed over his question about the Bush doctrine. By now Palin's intro to international affairs tutors must have coached her on that fine point. But who knows, the crafty Gibson may have been ready to ambush her with a question about relations with, say, Venezuela.

The McCain campaign has made much of the fact that Alaska is near Russia, thus giving Palin foreign policy experience. She recently presented ABC News with a startling geopolitical insight: "They're our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska" 

Venezuela, though, is nowhere near Alaska, which would make any inquiry about it another trick question for Palin. It may have been construed as more evidence that, as McCain campaign manager Rick Davis put it, reporters are not treating Palin with "respect and deference."

McCain also might have been worried that Chuck Hagel  was in the audience. The Republican Senator from Nebraska is fed up with claims for Palin's international expertise based on the Russian proximity argument and said that it was a "stretch" to say that she's qualified to lead the country if McCain could not.

"I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense about, 'I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore I know something about Russia,'" Hagel said. "That kind of thing is insulting to the American people."

Though it's not shown on this particular video, Palin's repeated assurances that she's "ready" and "confident" were good enough for the audience, which erupted into cheers. The vibes were good, so why take the chance on being stumped?

Two Takes On McCain's Dishonest Attack Ads

The satirical campaign ads on the Saturday Night Live skit above are no more credible than the real messages that John McCain has approved. When Karl Rove, Republican master of deception, says that McCain went "too far" in some of his ads, you know you've got a problem.

Here's a video survey from Brave New Pac of McCain campaign ads, all of which distort Barack Obama's record:

Hannity Lobs Softball Questions At Palin In Fox Infomercial Disguised As Interview

This was no interview with Charlie Gibson. No sneaky questions about the Bush doctrine of preemptive war–as if someone who may be a heartbeat away from the presidency should know one of the major rationalizations that led to our reckless military adventure in Iraq.

This time, Sarah Palin was talking over the past week to Sean Hannity of Fox. She was relaxed and smiling, and who could blame her? Palin knew that she was in friendly territory. In effect, she was talking to a one of her campaign's media representatives. Playing his part, Hannity conducted an infomercial disguised as an interview. 

In the following video from Think Progress, watch how Palin never answers whether she at first supported the bridge to nowhere–which she indeed did. Palin skips right to her eventual opposition, a politically motivated response to what became a symbol of congressional pork:

Next, Hannity lets Palin rattle on about the meaning of McCain's mantra, "The fundamentals of our economy are strong." She repeats the campaign's desperate equation of "the fundamentals" with American workers, with its implication that those who don't believe in the fundamentals also don't believe in the workers. Yet along with its strong fundamentals, the economy is also called "a mess." Cognitive dissonance, anyone? 

Finally, there's more empty rhetoric about McCain's commitment to reforming Wall Street, as if he weren't a longtime advocate of market deregulation. To make matters worse, Palin both uses the word "verbiage" incorrectly and mispronounces it. I know it's elitist of me to be irritated by such a fine linguistic points, along with her Bush-like pronunciation elsewhere of "noo-cular." Let's listen:

Of course, Palin couldn't speak about McCain without mentioning the word "maverick" in reference to a candidate who voted with Bush over 90% of the time. Palin's proof that the term fits comes, of course, from McCain's choosing her as his running mate. The fact that his choice of Palin, as opposed to his buddies Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge, represented a complete concession to the American Taliban, i.e., the religious right, is naturally not mentioned:

Finally, an individual with the user name of "AdamAnger" contributed the following video which, with the inexplicable soundtrack of Bessie Smith's "My Man Treats Me Like A Dog" (unfair, since Hannity treated Palin as if she were a valid vice-presidential candidate) shows clips of Hannity's questions. 

Hannity's purpose is clearly revealed: to insert his anti-Obama talking points and lob softball questions at Palin. He refers to "Obama using what happened on Wall Street for political gain," questions the Democratic candidate's political donations, enumerates for Palin her "reform" agenda and refers to her "maverick" status, speaks about the Obama-Biden "attacks" (as opposed to the McCain camp's straightforward references to "lipstick on a pig") and asserts that Americans are receiving false information on drilling in Anwar. We'll close with this demonstration of Fox journalism and objectivity at their finest:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

House Ignores Law Enforcement, Caves To The NRA And Guts DC Gun Control

With dismay, I've been following the NRA and its supporters' progress in recklessly loosening gun control in Washington, D.C. Not content with the 5-4 Supreme Court decision that struck down the ban on keeping handguns in the home, the gun lobby is pursuing a law that, according to city and federal officials, will make it harder to protect federal workers, residents and the president ("House Panel Hears Testimony on Bill to Ease Gun Laws in Capital," New York Times, 9/9/08).

This radical law "would repeal the local ban on semiautomatic pistols and rifles, and eliminate the gun-registration requirements. It would also allow city residents to buy guns in Virginia and Maryland."

As always, law enforcement officials are left to worry about the consequences of such ill-considered laws, not the gun zealots. Cathy Lanier, chief of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, said that the law would make the city more dangerous for its residents and those who work there. 

At a hearing of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, she said, “Imagine how difficult it will be for law enforcement to safeguard the public, not to mention the president at the inaugural parade. In attempted and successful assassinations around the world, the first step in attacking a motorcade is frequently to take out the security detail with semiautomatic and automatic firearms.”

Karen Lightfoot, oversight committee spokeswoman, stated that law enforcement officials testified that the bill would legalize carrying loaded semi-automatic rifles.

But why listen to law enforcement? What do those pacifists know about keeping the city safe?

On the same day, the Times also published an editorial, "Meaner Streets in Washington," which stated:

Congress is considering a reckless piece of legislation that would eviscerate gun controls in the District of Columbia, ignoring the democratic rights of the residents of the nation’s capital and making it harder for the police to protect streets traveled by ordinary people, lawmakers, judges, diplomats and dignitaries.

...This extreme bill goes way beyond what the high court required. Among other things, it would repeal a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and eliminate firearm registration requirements, even for such things as sniper rifles and small, easily concealed semiautomatic handguns. Under the lunatic logic of this bill, made to order for the gun lobby, such rifles could be toted around on the street fully loaded.

The video above, "Gun Crazy," by Mark Fiore, warns about the consequences of not requiring firearms registration.

In its latest editorial, "Gun Lobby First" (9/18/08), the Times delivers the unfortunate news: "The House stampeded past serious public safety concerns and the democratic rights of residents of the District of Columbia on Wednesday to approve a bill that would gut sensible gun controls in the nation’s capital."

Eighty-five Democrats from communities opposed to gun control joined almost all Republicans in kow-towing to the gun lobby despite the opposition of the Police Department. It's not hard to see why the police are opposed; the bill is an enemy to law enforcement and community safety:

In response to the court, the district has lifted its ban on semiautomatic guns. The House bill goes a reckless step further to allow large-capacity ammunition clips that give those weapons extraordinary firepower. It also would end the district’s gun registration system, which aids the police in tracking down violent criminals. Other provisions would remove age restrictions on possessing rifles and shotguns and carve an exception to federal anti-trafficking laws by allowing district residents to cross state lines to purchase handguns in neighboring Maryland and Virginia.

...It tramples on the district’s right to govern itself and makes it harder for the police to protect streets traveled by local residents, government officials, diplomats and dignitaries. Voters also should remember this vote when their elected representatives piously declare their devotion to curbing the influence of rich lobbyists.

California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein vowed to block the bill in the Senate. May her efforts on behalf of both those who safeguard the city and its citizens succeed.