Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gubernatorial Hopeful Paladino To Journalist: "I'll Take You Out, Buddy!"

Carl Paladino, New York Republican gubernatorial candidate who bases his campaign on his being "mad as hell," got into a heated confrontation with New York Post editor Fred Dicker. Dicker asked Paladino about the evidence for his accusation that his opponent, Democratic Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, had an affair. Paladino fumed that Dicker has sent photographers after his out-of-wedlock daughter. Finally, the man who would be governor threatened, "You send another goon to my daughter's house and I'll take you out, buddy!" Is this what former New York officials D'Amato, Koch and McCall meant when they wrote in "An Open Letter to New Yorkers" that Paladino is "unfit to serve as governor"? Watch:

Anti-Health Reform Candidate Sharron Angle And Husband Are On Government Health Plan

Nevada Republican senatorial candidate Sharron Angle has stated, "We need to phase Medicare and Social Security out." She has signed the Club for Growth's Repeal-It Pledge to get rid of "the federal health care takeover." Angle has stated that the Second Amendment “was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government,” warning, “if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies."

Why Angle wants to join a government she despises is anyone's guess. In any event, one would suppose that she would want nothing to do with "big government" programs and benefits. After all, she wants to strip the safety net away from the rest of us. Strange, then, to discover that Angle has no job of her own and is living off the federal pension of her husband Ted Angle, who worked for the Bureau of Land Management for 25 years. Even more odd is the fact that she and her husband are receiving government-provided health care:

Angle’s campaign acknowledged to Nevada journalist Jon Ralston Monday that both the candidate and her husband receive health care from the federal government. Spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said in a statement: “Mr. Ted Angle receives his pension through the (federal) Civil Service Retirement System. While it is not supplemented by the federal government, current civil servants pay into the program to pay the schedule of those already retired – much like how the Social Security Program works today. Mr. Angle does not qualify – nor does he receive Social Security benefits. His health insurance plan (the Federal Employee Health Program), which also covers Sharron, is a continuation of what he was receiving while he worked for the federal government.”

Growing Number Of G.O.P. Candidates Against Abortion In Cases Of Rape, Incest

Amanda Terkel of The Huffington Post reports that a growing number of Republican candidates oppose abortion even in cases of rape or incest:

RNC [the Republican National Coalition] for Life has endorsed 63 House candidates who are "pro-life without discrimination" and heading into the general election. [Coalition representative Diane] Edmondson pointed to Bill Flores (TX-17), Stephen Broden (TX-30), Rocky Raczkowski (MI-9) and Sandy Adams (FL-24) as especially exciting candidates to watch. Incumbents endorsed by RNC for Life include Michele Bachmann (MN-6), Jean Schmidt (OH-2) and Duncan Hunter (CA-52).

The candidates getting the most attention, however, are on the Senate side: Sharron Angle (Nev.), Ken Buck (Colo.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Joe Miller (Alaska), Christine O'Donnell (Del.) and Rand Paul (Ky.). All of them oppose abortion even in cases of rape and incest.

Angle received significant national attention in July when she advised young rape victims to make "a lemon situation into lemonade" -- the "lemon situation" being the rape and the "lemonade" being giving birth to, and raising, the child. Buck has said, "I don't believe in the exceptions of rape or incest" and backs a constitutional ban on abortion. The progressive group Campaign for a Strong Colorado held a press conference on Tuesday with rape and incest survivors who oppose Buck's stance. "Ken Buck is in a luxurious position of not seeming to care of the permanent impact of rape can have on a woman's life," said one rape survivor at the event.

Even several high-profile gubernatorial candidates such as Carl Paladino (N.Y.), Bill Brady (Ill.) and Nathan Deal (Ga.) hold these views.

NARAL Pro-Choice New York has released a video criticizing Carl Paladino's position on criminalizing women, including rape and incest victims, who have abortions. Watch:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Democrats Show "Profiles In Timidity" On Bush Tax Cuts For Wealthy

Robert Reich, in a commentary recently excerpted here, expresses frustration over the Democrats' failure to hold a vote on ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. That would have forced the Republicans to filibuster, holding up middle class tax cuts and making it clear that the G.O.P. is ready to add billions to the debt. Reich states that the Democrats gave up "a defining issue" and asks, "When will they ever learn?"

In an editorial, "Profiles in Timidity," the New York Times similarly takes the Democrats to task for not taking a stand and sharply defining themselves against the Republicans. While the president made it clear that he was opposed to shoveling more cash at the wealthiest, his party hemmed and hawed and did nothing. Democrats in conservative districts, fearful of burdening millionaires and billionaires, aren't going to impress anyone. From the editorial:

We are starting to wonder whether Congressional Democrats lack the courage of their convictions, or simply lack convictions.

Last week, Senate Democrats did not even bother to schedule a debate, let alone a vote, on the expiring Bush tax cuts. This week, House Democrats appear poised to follow suit. The idea is to spare incumbents from having to vote before Nov. 2 on whether to let the rich go on paying less taxes than the nation needs them to pay.

This particular failure to act was not about Republican obstructionism, of which there has been plenty. This was about Democrats failing to seize an opportunity to do the right thing and at the same time draw a sharp distinction between themselves and the Republicans.

President Obama has been steadfast — and basically correct — in calling to extend the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of taxpayers and to let them expire for the top 2 percent. But by postponing a vote on the cuts, Democrats are increasing the likelihood of an eventual cave-in to Republicans, who are pushing for an extension of all the tax cuts, including the high-end ones.

We presume that Democrats, especially those in more conservative districts, are doing this in response to the anti-Washington insurgency on the right. But it’s hard to imagine that conservative voters will confuse them for Republicans, and punting on the tax cuts won’t score them any points with the Democratic base.

As the politics of the tax-cut fight move to center stage, far more important issues are being pushed into the background. Letting the high-end tax cuts expire, for instance, is a crucial step in the long process of reducing the federal budget deficit. Extending them will add $700 billion more to the debt over the next decade than under the Obama administration’s tax proposal — and for what? To bolster the weak economy, the money would be better spent in any of several more demonstrably effective ways, like payroll tax cuts, infrastructure spending or state aid to hire more teachers and police.

Mexican Anti-Abortion Laws Endanger Women's Health And Legal Status

The Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization have issued studies stating that outlawing abortion doesn't make it less frequent; the ban just makes abortion less safe. Mexican states that are cracking down on the procedure, in response to Mexico City's legalization of abortion, have endangered women's health and subjected them to legal harrassment and suspicion–including women who have pregnancy complications:

The woman came into the hospital, bleeding, scared and barely out of her teens. But before anyone would treat her, the authorities had to be called.

Doctors believed that she had had an illegal abortion, so first, a man from the prosecutor’s office had to arrive and ask her about her sexual history. Then, after she was treated but still groggy from the anesthesia, another investigator showed up and took her statement.

The investigation is still open two months later. Prosecutors are seeking medical records to determine whether they will charge the young woman, who asked that her name not be used, as well as the person they suspect helped her.

Here in the state of Guanajuato, where Roman Catholic conservatives have controlled government for more than 15 years, it is standard procedure to investigate suspected cases of abortion. But Guanajuato is no anomaly, women’s rights advocates and some health officials say, since a broad move to enforce antiabortion laws has gained momentum in other parts of Mexico.

...The enforcement of the antiabortion law here in Guanajuato has created what critics call a climate in which any pregnancy that does not end with a healthy baby raises suspicions about the mother.

The fear of being investigated means that even some women who want to be pregnant but have complications or lose the baby “have to think twice about going to a hospital,” said Nadine Goodman, who runs a school for midwives in the Guanajuato town of San Miguel de Allende.

Dr. Luis Alberto Villanueva, adjunct director of maternal health for Mexico’s Health Ministry, said he was concerned that antiabortion enforcement could scare many women around the country away from seeking health care.

“The intentional search for ‘proof’ in women with bleeding in the first half of pregnancy diverts health workers from their task,” he said, “and drives women away from medical facilities, even at the risk of placing them in conditions of high risk to their health or their life.” He added that poor women, who rely most on public hospitals, were particularly vulnerable.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned in the U.S., will American women be subject to these adverse health and legal consequences?

Study Links Lax State Gun Control To Gun Trafficking In Surrounding States

Pro-gun forces discount the effect of gun control laws in reducing crime. A recent study challenged that position, linking states that have lax gun control laws with trafficking in guns that are used to commit crimes in surrounding states. The study also suggests that a state's comparatively stronger gun control laws are weakened by states that are more permissive:

A study due to be released this week by a coalition called Mayors Against Illegal Guns uses previously unavailable federal gun data to identify what it says are the states that most often export guns used in crimes across state lines. It concludes that the 10 worst offenders per capita, led by Mississippi, West Virginia and Kentucky, supplied nearly half the 43,000 guns traced to crime scenes in other states last year.

The study also seeks to draw a link between gun trafficking and gun control laws by analyzing gun restrictions in all 50 states in areas like background checks for gun purchases, policies on concealed weapons permits and state inspections of gun dealers. It finds that, across the board, those states with less restrictive gun laws exported guns used in crimes at significantly higher rates than states with more stringent laws. An advance copy of the study was provided to The New York Times.

...The mayors plan to use the new trafficking data to push for more stringent gun restrictions at the state and federal levels. Among the targets, coalition officials said, will be closing the so-called gun show loophole. The loophole allows people to buy firearms at gun shows without going through the usual background checks that weed out felons and other banned buyers.

...“What this does is help refute some of the statements that people make on the pro-gun side in saying that tougher gun laws are unconnected to reducing crime,” [James Alan Fox, a criminology professor at Northeastern University who was not involved in preparing the study] said.

“A state’s gun laws are only as good as the weakest link in the national chain,” Professor Fox said. “A state with weaker gun laws becomes a supplier for states with stronger laws.”

Indeed, the authors of the mayors’ study, which was prepared largely out of [New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg’s office, said the findings suggested that gun traffickers had sought out states with less restrictive gun-purchase laws.

Chart: Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Monday, September 27, 2010

SNL Spoofs Christine O'Donnell's Noteworthy Past

The season premiere of "Saturday Night Live" opened with a spoof about Delaware Republican senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell, focusing on her position against masturbation, past interest in witchcraft and contention that "American scientific companies are coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains." Kristen Wiig plays O'Donnell and Jason Sudeikis and Bill Hader play campaign consultants trying to find out if anything else  in the candidate's past might be subject to controversy. Watch:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Robinson, Krugman: GOP's "Pledge To America" Doesn't Add Up

Eugene Robinson and Paul Krugman agree about the Republicans' midterm election agenda, the "Pledge to America": the numbers do not add up. The GOP's call for cutting the deficit and making the Bush tax cuts permanent–including extending the cuts for the wealthy–is nonsensical. Robinson (left) makes this point in "The GOP's Hooey to America":

...Perhaps the biggest [measure that would make the deficit grow] is not just extending the tax cuts, but making them permanent. Over the next decade, this measure would add an estimated $4 trillion to the deficit. The Republicans' notion that cutting the federal budget will somehow make up the difference is laughable. The pledge exempts defense, entitlements and debt service -- the biggest components of the federal budget -- and focuses on "discretionary" spending, which Republicans would cut by "at least $100 billion in the first year alone." Yeah, right.

Sucking that much money out of discretionary programs would require draconian cuts in programs, such as education grants, that both red states and blue states have come to depend on. It won't happen. And even if it did, the impact on the deficit would pale in comparison to that of the tax cuts.

Krugman (left) also focuses on the Republicans' math problems in "Downhill With the G.O.P":

On Thursday, House Republicans released their “Pledge to America,” supposedly outlining their policy agenda. In essence, what they say is, “Deficits are a terrible thing. Let’s make them much bigger.” The document repeatedly condemns federal debt — 16 times, by my count. But the main substantive policy proposal is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which independent estimates say would add about $3.7 trillion to the debt over the next decade — about $700 billion more than the Obama administration’s tax proposals.

True, the document talks about the need to cut spending. But as far as I can see, there’s only one specific cut proposed — canceling the rest of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Republicans claim (implausibly) would save $16 billion. That’s less than half of 1 percent of the budget cost of those tax cuts. As for the rest, everything must be cut, in ways not specified — “except for common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops.” In other words, Social Security, Medicare and the defense budget are off-limits.

So what’s left? Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won’t cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: “No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.”

Robert Reich: "Democrats Punt" By Delaying Vote On Bush Tax Cuts For Wealthy

According to an August 27-30 USA Today/Gallup Poll, the majority of Americans favor letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire. Democrats had the opportunity to stand against what the majority of citizens are also against. Had the Republicans filibustered, Democrats could have stated that the GOP is holding up the extension of middle class tax cuts for the sake of the rich. Leave it to the Democrats, though, to blow this potential campaign issue with their usual excessive caution:

Senate Democrats said Thursday that they would postpone a highly contentious floor fight over what to do about the expiring Bush-era tax cuts until after the November elections, a decision that spares some politically vulnerable incumbents from casting a potentially difficult vote to let taxes rise for the rich.

Democrats said they would still fight to end the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans when they return for a lame-duck session. But the delay increases the likelihood of a compromise with Republicans who have insisted that the lower rates continue for everyone, at least temporarily, given the weak economy.

It also raised a political risk for Democrats that they would be seen as wavering on one of President Obama’s signature campaign promises and abandoning a fight that could have mobilized the party’s base ahead of the elections.

Robert Reich (above) has it right in his commentary, "The Super Rich Get Richer, Everyone Else Gets Poorer, and the Democrats Punt":

The super-rich got even wealthier this year, and yet most of them are paying even fewer taxes to support the eduction, job training, and job creation of the rest of us. According to Forbes magazine’s annual survey, just released, the combined net worth of the 400 richest Americans climbed 8% this year, to $1.37 trillion. Wealth rose for 217 members of the list, while 85 saw a decline.

...The rest of America got poorer, of course. The number in poverty rose to a post-war high. The median wage continues to deteriorate. And some 20 million Americans don’t have work.

Only twice before in American history has so much been held by so few, and the gap between them and the great majority been a chasm — the late 1920s, and the era of the robber barons in the 1880s.

And yet the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which conferred almost all their benefits on the rich, continue.

Democrats have decided to delay voting on whether to extend them for the top 2 percent of Americans or for the bottom 98 percent until after the mid-term elections.

Democrats have thereby given up a defining issue that could have enabled them to show the big story of the last three decades — the accumulation of almost all the gain from economic growth at the top — and to make a start at reversing it.

When will they ever learn?

Jon Stewart And Steven Colbert Announce Competing DC Rallies, Oct. 30

Comedy Central hosts Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert have announced competing rallies to take place in Washington, D.C., on October 30, 2010, both in response to Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally.

At his "Rally To Restore Sanity" site, Stewart stated, "We're looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn't be the only ones that get heard; and who believe that the only time it's appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler. Or Charlie Chaplin in certain roles." Stewart announced the rally with Colbert's appearance:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

At his "March To Keep Fear Alive" site, Colbert declared, "America, the Greatest Country God ever gave Man, was built on three bedrock principles: Freedom. Liberty. And Fear -- that someone might take our Freedom and Liberty. But now, there are dark, optimistic forces trying to take away our Fear -- forces with salt and pepper hair and way more Emmys than they need. They want to replace our Fear with reason. But never forget -- "Reason" is just one letter away from "Treason." Coincidence? Reasonable people would say it is, but America can't afford to take that chance." Colbert announced the rally with Stewart's appearance:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
March to Keep Fear Alive Media Coverage
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

Jon Stewart: Republicans' "Fresh New Ideas Sound Like Old Ideas"

After his party presented its midterm election agenda, the "Pledge to America," Republican House minority leader John Boehner (OH) stated, "We're not going to be any different than what we've been." Boehner was referring to social issues, but he might as well have been speaking about his party's continued loyalty to failed Bush-era economic policies. As President Obama put it, they want "the next two years to look like the eight years before I took office."Jon Stewart finds that the Republicans' "fresh new ideas sound exactly like your old ideas." Watch:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Postcards From the Pledge
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

GOP Lawmakers Parrot Talking Points

Why do the Republicans need to make separate speeches when so many of them say the same thing verbatim? They ought to have one person deliver the talking points that come directly from (here's one repeated line). Ben Craw of the Huffington Post put together this video montage of GOP lawmakers parroting each other:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Keith Jarrett Trio Performs "Autumn Leaves"

Let’s welcome in the season with this performance of “Autumn Leaves” by the Keith Jarrett Trio, consisting of Jarrett, piano; Gary Peacock, bass, and Jack DeJohnette, drums. These three masters have long been renowned for their improvisatory explorations of jazz standards that are both lyrical and swinging. 

O'Donnell Disputes Darwin: "Why Aren't Monkeys Still Evolving Into Humans?"

Bill Maher is showing a video of Christine O'Donnell, Tea Party favorite and Delaware Republican senatorial candidate, every week until she returns to his show. The latest shows O'Donnell presenting a novel argument against evolution on "Politically Incorrect"in 1998. Watch:

O’Donnell: You know what, evolution is a myth. And even Darwin himself –

Maher: Evolution is a myth?!? Have you ever looked at a monkey!

O’Donnell: Well then, why they — why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans? (h/t Think Progress)

Maher professed amazement that this is "someone that could be in the Senate."

GOP Candidate John Raese: "I Made My Money The Old Fashioned Way: I Inherited It"

Speaking to conservative talk radio host Matt Lewis, West Virginia Republican senatorial candidate John Raese spoke about how he made his fortune. Listen:

Lewis: Tell us a little bit about you and your business experience and how you got here.

Raese: I made my money the old-fashioned way: I inherited it. I think that’s a great thing to do. I hope more people in this country have that opportunity as soon as we abolish inheritance tax in this country, which is a key part of my program.

Raese refers to a long cherished goal of the G.O.P., to eliminate the estate tax. The Republicans, who claim to be deficit hawks, already want to retain the Bush tax cuts for the rich at a cost of $700 billion over the next decade. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the 2009 deductions in the estate tax have already been costly; the 2010 proposals would only be more so–and would benefit a minuscule sector of the population:

President Obama has proposed making the 2009 estate tax rules permanent. ...The cost of the President’s proposal would be large: $253 billion over the next decade.

...Over the ten-year budget window, the proposal would cost about $130 billion more than making the 2009 rules permanent — and about $380 billion more than allowing the tax to return to its level under the pre-2001 law, based on estimates from the Joint Committee on Taxation. All of the approximately $130 billion in tax-cut benefits would go to the wealthiest one-quarter of 1 percent of estates (i.e., the largest one out of every 400 estates).

The Republicans' position is no surprise; why, however, is the president proposing to make the 2009 estate tax rules permanent instead of advocating their elimination, as he has with the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy?

GOP Candidate O'Donnell Pledged To "Stop The Whole Country From Having Sex"

Delaware Republican senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell is already famous for wanting people to stop touching themselves; it's only to be expected that she also wants people to stop touching each other. Greg Sargent of The Plum Line introduced a video from 2003 in which O'Donnell, speaking on MSNBC's "Scarborough Country" as a representative of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (which she later sued for gender discrimination), debated Eric Nies of the Moment of Hope Foundation about whether youngsters should be counseled on safe sex. Watch:

Nies: I tell them to have safe sex. I tell them to be careful. You have to wear a condom. You have to protect yourself when you're going to have sex, because they're having it anyway. There's nothing that you or me can do about it.

O'Donnell: The sad reality is -- yes, there is something you can do about it. And the sad reality, to tell them slap on a condom is not --

Nies: You're going to stop the whole country from having sex?

O'Donnell: Yeah. Yeah!

Nies: You're living on a prayer if you think that's going to happen.

O'Donnell: That's not true. I'm a young woman in my thirties and I remain chaste. Come on. It's unrealistic to think they're just gonna do it anyway.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Democrats Should Campaign On New Health Care Protections

A number of new rules went into effect on Thursday under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including the following:

Starting now, insurance companies will no longer be permitted to exclude children because of pre-existing health conditions, which the White House said could enable 72,000 uninsured to gain coverage. Insurers also will be prohibited from imposing lifetime limits on benefits.

The law will now forbid insurers to drop sick and costly customers after discovering technical mistakes on applications. It requires that they offer coverage to children under 26 on their parents’ policies.

It establishes a menu of preventive procedures, like colonoscopies, mammograms and immunizations, that must be covered without co-payments. And it allows consumers who join a new plan to keep their own doctors and to appeal insurance company reimbursement decisions to a third party.

No barring of kids due to pre-existing conditions, no lifetime caps, no technical trickery, children on their parents' policy until age 26, preventive procedures, appealing reimbursement decisions. Terrible, isn't it? According to the Republicans and Fox News, you've lost your freedom and live in a doctrinaire socialist state.

The above are the reforms that the Republicans want to roll back or repeal. The Democrats should campaign from now until the November elections on what Americans have gained through this major legislative accomplishment–and what they stand to lose if the GOP takes over the House or Senate. Are the Democrats smart enough to do that?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sen. Al Franken: "It's Time To End 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' "

Following a Republican unanimous vote to block debate over repealing "don't ask, don't tell," Senator Al Franken (D-MN) choked up during a speech in which he recalled his trips to entertain troops and expressed bewilderment over a policy that discriminates against gay members of the military:

From Senator Franken's complete statement:

All gay and lesbian service members want is to be able to serve. Instead, people are getting kicked out of the military - people who don't need any kind of conduct waiver, people who don't need standards lowered for them in order to serve. People who are patriotic and courageous, and who have vital, irreplaceable skills.

What's more, the evidence is clear from other countries that have allowed gay and lesbian citizens to serve openly in their militaries. That evidence says that this will not be a problem. Ask the Israelis. Ask the Canadians. Ask the British. They've all successfully implemented open service.

But it's not only that the military is ready for this change. Don't Ask Don't Tell is costly for our military. Thousands of willing and capable Americans with needed skills have been kicked out of the military because of this foolish policy and this policy alone. These are soldiers and airmen and sailors who we've invested time and training in. We really can't afford to lose dedicated personnel with critical skills when we're engaged in two wars.

..."Don't Ask Don't Tell" makes no sense. It's foolish, it's unjust, and we must end it. The country is ready, the military is ready, and it's the right thing to do. I urge all of my colleagues to stand for equality and common sense, and to stand up for our troops. It's long past time to end Don't Ask Don't Tell. We will be proud that we did.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Obama's Wars" Exposes Administration Divisions Over Afghanistan Surge

"Obama's Wars," a new book by journalist Bob Woodward (left), exposes the divisions within the administration over escalating the war in Afghanistan:

...“Obama’s Wars”...depicts an administration deeply torn over the war in Afghanistan even as the president agreed to triple troop levels there amid suspicion that he was being boxed in by the military. Mr. Obama’s top White House adviser on Afghanistan and his special envoy for the region are described as believing the strategy will not work.

The president concluded from the start that “I have two years with the public on this” and pressed advisers for ways to avoid a big escalation, the book says. “I want an exit strategy,” he implored at one meeting. Privately, he told Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to push his alternative strategy opposing a big troop buildup in meetings, and while Mr. Obama ultimately rejected it, he set a withdrawal timetable because, “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”

But Mr. Biden is not the only one who harbors doubts about the strategy’s chances for success. Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the president’s Afghanistan adviser, is described as believing that the president’s review did not “add up” to the decision he made. Richard C. Holbrooke, the president’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is quoted saying of the strategy that “it can’t work.”

The toughest critics of the surge were three generals in civilian posts:

The Woodward book...consistently shows the three officers - retired Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, retired Gen. James L. Jones and Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute - embroiled in heated disputes with the brass.

...In early November 2009, Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul, drafted a cable that was sharply critical of the military's counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, saying it was likely to both "increase Afghan dependency" on the United States and force the U.S. government to incur "vastly increased costs."

Jones, Obama's national security adviser, similarly was able to use his contacts in the Pentagon and knowledge of how the military's vast bureaucracy functions to question the Pentagon's requests for forces.

Woodward's book is appearing at a time when a helicopter crash that killed nine NATO members made 2010 the deadliest year of the war for coalition forces since its beginning in 2001. According to, a Web site that tracks military casualties, there have been 532 deaths this year (as of this writing).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Krugman: The Angry Rich At The Barricades Over Modest Tax Increase

Paul Krugman observes that many among the wealthiest are indignant at the prospect that the Bush tax cuts will not be extended for them. Of course, the Republicans and conservative Democrats are fighting against letting the top tax rates revert to Clinton-era levels. If they win, we will accrue $700 billion more debt over the next decade. Those who take this position also consider themselves deficit hawks. How do they smooth over this contradiction? Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell denies that we pay for tax cuts and states that raising taxes on the top two brackets will "affect 50 percent of small business income." According to the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation, it will affect less than 3 percent. Further, according to Moody's Analytics, the rich are more likely to save their tax cuts than stimulate the economy. Naturally, the vast majority will have to make sacrifices so that millionaires and billionaires will not suffer a modest tax increase, as Krugman notes in "The Angry Rich":

...among the undeniably rich, a belligerent sense of entitlement has taken hold: it’s their money, and they have the right to keep it. “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes — but that was a long time ago.

The spectacle of high-income Americans, the world’s luckiest people, wallowing in self-pity and self-righteousness would be funny, except for one thing: they may well get their way. Never mind the $700 billion price tag for extending the high-end tax breaks: virtually all Republicans and some Democrats are rushing to the aid of the oppressed affluent.

You see, the rich are different from you and me: they have more influence. It’s partly a matter of campaign contributions, but it’s also a matter of social pressure, since politicians spend a lot of time hanging out with the wealthy. So when the rich face the prospect of paying an extra 3 or 4 percent of their income in taxes, politicians feel their pain — feel it much more acutely, it’s clear, than they feel the pain of families who are losing their jobs, their houses, and their hopes.

And when the tax fight is over, one way or another, you can be sure that the people currently defending the incomes of the elite will go back to demanding cuts in Social Security and aid to the unemployed. America must make hard choices, they’ll say; we all have to be willing to make sacrifices.

But when they say “we,” they mean “you.” Sacrifice is for the little people.

Bill Maher Reviews Past Summer's "Amazing Advances In The Field Of Racism"

Bill Maher reviews this past summer’s “amazing advances in the field of racism,” including Andrew Breitbart’s video editing of Shirley Sherrod’s speech to make her look like a reverse racist; Dr. Laura Schelsinger’s multiple use of the N-word; Sarah Palin’s urging Schlesinger to “reload”: Glenn Beck’s false claim to be the heir to Martin Luther King Jr.; the surge of Islamophobia, including the uproar over the Islamic center near ground zero; and Pastor Terry Jones's threat to burn Korans. Watch:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gary Bauer Equates Fighting 9/11 Hijackers With Voting In November

Gary Bauer, president of the right-wing group American Values and former member of the Reagan administration, spoke at the Value Voters Summit on Friday in Washington, D.C. Bauer made it clear that voters with values can only vote for conservatives; in fact, he made an analogy between those who fought the 9/11 hijackers on United Airlines Flight 93 and "fighting back" by voting in November:

Bauer: From the cell phone calls that were made and the tapes that we have [from 9/11], we know that those passengers went to the back of the plane. Being good Americans, they started a debate. "Well," some of them said, "we need to get back to our seats. We can't do anything about this. You don't fight hijackers. The plane will land. And then there will be negotiations. We'll get out of here." Other people said, "No, no, the country is under attack. We've got to fight." And you know what they did? Nobody won the debate! So somebody said, "Let's vote."

That's what we're going to do in 45 days, right? We're going to vote. If you get up that morning and you're tired, you're sick, it's raining -- remember these Americans on the plane. They voted to fight back. So they made weapons with whatever they can -- leftover utensils from breakfast. The flight attendant was still alive; she boiled the water for the coffee. That was going to be her weapon. They took the drink cart, used it as a battering ram. They ran down the aisle of that plane, throwing the water, fighting as hard as they could, into the teeth of men armed with box cutters!

They brought that plane down. They spared this country more pain, more sorrow, more deaths. God bless them! Don't forget them!
(h/t Huffington Post)

Anti-O'Donnell Button Treats Touchy Subject

Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell, who won the Republican senatorial primary in Delaware, is an extreme social conservative and former abstinence counselor who spoke out against masturbation. This anti-O'Donnell button registers opposition to her stance and to the candidate:

Google And Verizon Threaten Net Neutrality

Net neutrality is critical to everyone who uses the Internet and wants to preserve the free exchange of ideas–and equal access to them. Google and Verizon want the right to demand that content providers pay for fast, smooth access to their web sites. While major corporations will be able do so, smaller companies, non-profits or individuals who can't afford to will be left in the slow lanes. It's bad enough that the Supreme Court has rejected corporate campaign spending limits. The loss of net neutrality is one more step in the weakening of democracy in favor of those who have the cash to drown out other voices. In an editorial, "For Digital Democracy," The Nation warns against this threat:

Google and Verizon want the FCC and Congress to allow media giants to transform wireless communications into a digital version of a bad cable TV package. Instead of a free and open Internet that will take Americans where they want to go—thanks to the longstanding neutrality principle, which guarantees equal access to all websites and applications—the Google-Verizon deal would permit Internet service providers to speed up access to some content while leaving the rest behind. Such "pay for priority" would allow big business to buy speed, quality and other advantages—which would not be merely commercial. Now that the Supreme Court has afforded corporations electioneering rights equal to those of citizens, decisions about how we communicate have a profound political component to them.

Imagine if BP could pay to have its messaging dominate digital discussion about the best policies for regulating offshore drilling and carbon emissions—to such an extent that searches for information about "clean energy" would steer straight to corporate spin... With Google in the game, the threat expands exponentially. If its deal with Verizon is allowed, the coalition of consumer, civil rights and advocacy groups argues, "it would divide the information superhighway, creating new private fast lanes for the big players while leaving the little guy stranded on a winding dirt road"...

...That scenario could strangle the Internet's civic and democratic promise while supercharging corporate dominance of the digital discourse about our nation's future. But it doesn't have to happen. The most wired members of Congress, led by Democrats like Edward Markey and Anna Eshoo, have urged the FCC to reassert its authority—by altering flawed Bush-era classifications that narrowed regulator options—and define broadband as a telecommunications service.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Clapton And Dr. John Go To St. James Infirmary

Eric Clapton, on lead guitar, and Dr. John, on piano, combine their formidable blues chops in this performance of "St. James Infirmary." I dedicate this to my good friend Michael "The Molar Maven" Mand, a fan of both artists who has a radio show also named "St. James Infirmary." I recommend that you listen to his lively mix of music and commentary at his web site, where the weekly shows are preserved.

Friday, September 17, 2010

"Lebanon" Film Review: Chaos And Carnage From The Perspective Of A Tank Scope

Most of “Lebanon,” set during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, takes place in a dank, dirty tank occupied by four soldiers: Shmulik, the gunner; Yigal, the driver; Hertzel, the intermittently cooperative soldier, and Assi, the superior officer. The tank both protects and imprisons the soldiers, as it has a constricting effect on the audience. This autobiographical film, directed by Samuel Maoz, who was in a tank during the war, is claustrophobic, harrowing and remarkable.

The ultimate aims of the conflict are beside the point; the focus is on trying to survive and maintain one’s sanity. At one point, Shmulik freezes when he should have fired, with disastrous results; at another, Assi is clearly cracking up. Much of the action is shot from the cross hairs of the scope as it mechanically surveys the carnage of soldiers, civilians and animals caught in the crossfire. The radio is often difficult to understand; the men at one point lose their geographical bearings; the tank is unreliable. Visitors to the tank afford no relief: a dead soldier; a Syrian prisoner; a Christian Phalangist ally who yearns to get his hands on the prisoner; an officer named Jamil, who tries to impose a sense of order on a chaotic situation.

Nothing is resolved, and perhaps that is reflective of a war that became more controversial within Israel itself the longer it lasted. Like the outstanding animated Israeli film "Waltz With Bashir," “Lebanon” goes as far as possible in presenting the anxiety, brutality and absurdity of war, especially from the perspective of young soldiers.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Maddow: Christine O'Donnell Opposed To Women In The Military, Coed Education

Rachel Maddow reveals interesting facts about Christine O’Donnell, Tea Party favorite who won the Republican senatorial primary in Delaware: O’Donnell is opposed to women in the military; contends that condoms don’t stop the spread of HIV; believes that sex education spreads pornography; is opposed to the "radical agenda" of coed education; is against masturbation; and believes that gays can be “cured.” In addition, O’Donnell has run for the senate three times; during that time, she has not had a job. O'Donnell has been accused of living on campaign donations. Watch:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Inquiring Minds Want To Know: Why Does Paladino Send Racist, Pornographic Emails?

New York Gubernatorial candidate and Tea Party choice Carl Paladino defeated Rick Lazio, who was backed by the Republican party, in a surprise primary result. Paladino is known for his outrageous views and offensive emails. In his victory speech, this Buffalo multimillionaire conservative spoke like a Bolshevik, demonstrating the absurdity of right-wing "populism":

The result was a potentially destabilizing blow for New York Republicans. It put at the top of the party’s ticket a volatile newcomer who has forwarded e-mails to friends containing racist jokes and pornographic images, espoused turning prisons into dormitories where welfare recipients could be given classes on hygiene, and defended an ally’s comparison of the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, who is Jewish, to “an Antichrist or a Hitler.”

...“We are mad as hell,” Mr. Paladino said in a halting but exuberant victory speech in Buffalo shortly after 11 p.m. “New Yorkers are fed up. Tonight the ruling class knows. They have seen it now. There is a people’s revolution. The people have had enough.” tried to speak to Paladino about his emails. If, after all, Paladino wants to represent all of New York, the citizens have a right to know why he finds it amusing to forward disgusting materials. Note how the candidate disingenuously claims that he doesn’t know which emails are referred to and evades and distorts the issue, contending that the very act of questioning him is a “smear”:

Pro-Tea Party, Anti-Masturbation Candidate Christine O'Donnell Wins GOP Senate Primary

Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell, endorsed by Sarah Palin, defeated Republican establishment candidate Michael N. Castle in the Delaware race for Senate nomination. O'Donnell's victory has divided Republicans, many of whom doubt that the far-right candidate can win in November:

In Delaware, Mr. Castle, a moderate who served two terms as governor and had been reliably winning elections for the last four decades, became the latest establishment Republican casualty. Republican leaders, who had actively opposed Ms. O’Donnell, said the outcome complicated the party’s chances of winning control of the Senate.

...Ms. O’Donnell, a former abstinence counselor who had failed in previous attempts to run for office in Delaware, won the endorsement of Sarah Palin, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina and other leaders of the party’s conservative wing.

Her success touched off a new round of recriminations among Republicans over the direction of their party, raising the question of whether there was still room for moderates and whether the drive for ideological purity would cost the party victories in November. The state and national Republican Party had mounted an aggressive campaign to defeat Ms. O’Donnell...

...“There’s just a lot of nutty things she’s been saying that just simply don’t add up,” Karl Rove, the Republican strategist, said in a television interview on Fox News. “...In my opinion, this is not a race we’re going to be able to win.”

O'Donnell's work as "a former abstinence counselor" and Rove's reference to her saying "nutty things" bring to mind her extreme views on sexuality. Rachel Maddow showed footage of O'Donnell's 1996 comments against masturbation on MTV's "Sex in the 90s" show (h/t Talking Points Memo). Watch:

Moody's Analytics: Wealthy Americans Save Rather Than Spend Tax Cuts

What do the top 2 percent of earners do with their tax cuts? Stimulate the economy, create jobs, let the money trickle down to the rest of us? Republicans who insist that we go $700 billion more into debt over the next decade to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich will not like the findings from Moody's Analytics:

Give the wealthiest Americans a tax cut and history suggests they will save the money rather than spend it.

Tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush were followed by increases in the saving rate among the rich, according to data from Moody’s Analytics Inc. When taxes were raised under Bill Clinton, the saving rate fell.

The findings may weaken arguments by Republicans and some Democrats in Congress who say allowing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to lapse will prompt them to reduce their spending, harming the economy. President Barack Obama wants to extend the cuts for individuals earning less than $200,000 and couples earning less than $250,000 while ending them for those who earn more.

“I would tend to wonder how much the tax cut actually influences spending behavior,” said Chris Cornell, an economist who mined government reports back to 1989 for West Chester, Pennsylvania-based Moody’s Analytics. “Spending by the top 5 percent of households seems much more closely tied to business- cycle issues than it does to tax-cut issues.”

The Moody’s research covering couples earning more than $210,000 found that spending by the wealthy is more likely to be influenced by the ups and downs of the stock market than changes in income-tax rates.

Stock-market performance is the “primary factor that is driving the savings of the top 5 percent of households,” said Mustafa Akcay, economist and co-researcher of the savings data.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Case Of Maj. Margaret Witt Shows It's Time To End "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

The case of Major Margaret Witt, who is suing the military due to her discharge under "don't ask, don't tell," demonstrates everything that is wrong with the policy:

For 17 years, Maj. Margaret Witt rose steadily through the Air Force and Air Force Reserves, winning plaudits from colleagues, strong performance reviews from superiors and service medals from the department. A flight nurse, she treated wounded troops during Desert Storm and was featured in Air Force promotional materials for years.

Major Witt is also a lesbian.

To hide her sexual orientation, she skipped military functions where dates were invited. She dodged questions about her personal life. And she avoided inviting colleagues home, lest some possession — a book, a photograph — might tip them off.

“You can’t be honest,” Major Witt, 46, said in a recent interview. “I didn’t want to answer questions, even to say what my weekend plans were.”

Her efforts to maintain a low profile ended in 2004, when the jilted husband of a woman Major Witt had started to date sent a note to the Air Force disclosing her orientation. After an investigation and hearing, the Air Force discharged her in 2007 under the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

...Major Witt’s lawyers say former colleagues will testify that she was an effective leader and that her discharge, not her presence, hurt morale in her Reserves unit, the 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. Several of the witnesses say they suspected she was a lesbian but did not mind serving alongside her.

Here, then, is an outstanding officer who treated wounded soldiers, yet is being dismissed. The policy promotes dishonesty about one's identity. In addition, even if one "doesn't tell," one is still subject to personal vendettas. Finally, the policy is based on the dubious notion that being gay hurts military morale.

One is reminded of Lieutenant Dan Choi, an Arabic linguist and Iraq veteran dismissed for being gay. Does it make sense to discharge dedicated and talented members of the military due to their sexual orientation? It's time to end "don't ask, don't tell."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Gingrich: Obama's Behavior Is "Kenyan, Anti-Colonial"

Newt Gingrich is filled with praise about the psychological gibberish espoused by Dinesh D'Souza in Forbes Magazine purporting to explain "How Obama Thinks." Obama is apparently acting out the frustrated, anti-colonial dreams of his father:

...our President is trapped in his father's time machine. Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son. ...America today is governed by a ghost.

In an interview with National Review Online, Gingrich praised D'Souza's article for plumbing the psyche of our heretofore incomprehensible president:

Gingrich says that D’Souza has made a “stunning insight” into Obama’s behavior — the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.”

“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich asks. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”

“This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president,” Gingrich tells us.

Gingrich is spreading the same tripe as the birthers. Instead of contending that Obama is a Kenyan, he states that the president exhibits "Kenyan behavior." It is no coincidence that the first black president is cast as an alien, an "other," "outside our comprehension." It entirely fits that an African nation is associated with this race-baiting theme.

DNC press secretary Hari Sevugan points out that it is Gingrich and his party that out of touch, "With a worldview shaped by the most radical and fringe elements of the Republican Party, which are more dominant with each passing day."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Glenn Beck's Legions: Voices Of Those "Restoring Honor" To America

New Left Media interviewed participants at Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally. Points made include: We're taking back America; we’re in danger of becoming communist or socialist; no other country is a bastion of hope; Beck never said Obama is a racist; Obama is willfully destroying the country; Obama is not a legalized citizen and is “Muslim at heart”; we’re not allowed to pray at monuments; we're losing our freedoms; the Islamic center at ground zero will be a "victory monument"; we’re in danger of becoming another Mecca; 9/11 taught all one needs to know about Islam; and the families of “anchor babies" immediately become citizens. Watch:

Fox's Sean Hannity Deceptively Edits Obama Labor Day Speech

Howard Kurtz of CNN pointed out the deceptive editing of President Obama's Labor Day speech on the part of Fox's Sean Hannity. Hannity used a clip in which Obama stated, “Taxes are scheduled to go up substantially next year for everybody.” Hannity, however, didn’t play Obama’s complete statement: “Under the tax plan passed by the last administration, taxes are scheduled to go up substantially next year for everybody. By the way, this was by design.” Watch:

Kurtz: So Hannity's careful editing just happens to leave out Obama's explanation that the Bush administration had arranged for the tax cuts to expire in 2010, not to mention that Obama wants to extend the tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans while ending them for the wealthiest taxpayers. Isn't that kind of editing -- what's the word -- deceptive? A tip of the hat to "The Daily Show" for catching that one. (h/t Crooks and Liars)

Regarding the Daily Show, Jon Stewart took the Hannity edit as an example of Fox's practice of "shap[ing] the news toward your desired electoral goal."

Potential House Speaker Boehner Represents Corporate Agenda

If the Republicans take over the House in November, the speaker will be one who is exceptionally tied to corporate lobbyists–and, through them, opposed to environmental and consumer protection, financial regulation and labor rights. He is also notorious for his "Hell no, you can't!" speech during the health care debate. I'm referring to Representative John Boehner of Ohio, who convened over 100 industry lobbyists and conservative activists to attempt thwarting the financial regulatory overhaul. Other aspects of his record:

Mr. Boehner won some of his first national headlines in 1996 after he was caught handing out checks from tobacco lobbyists to fellow Republicans on the House floor...

...While many lawmakers in each party have networks of donors, lobbyists and former aides who now represent corporate interests, Mr. Boehner’s ties seem especially deep. His clique of friends and current and former staff members even has a nickname on Capitol Hill, Boehner Land.

...One lobbyist in the club — after lauding each staff member in Mr. Boehner’s office that he routinely calls to ask for help — ticked off the list of recent issues for which he had sought the lawmaker’s backing: combating fee increases for the oil industry, fighting a proposed cap on debit card fees, protecting tax breaks for hedge fund executives and opposing a cap on greenhouse gas emissions. Mr. Boehner’s office said these were positions he already agreed with.

...In addition [to at 45 flights provided by companies including R.J. Reynolds], over the last decade he has taken 41 other trips paid for by corporate sponsors or industry groups, often to popular golf spots. That makes him one of the top House beneficiaries of such travel, which has recently been curbed as a result of changes in ethics rules.

Mr. Boehner continues to travel to golf destinations on a corporate-subsidized tab, though now it is paid for through his political action committee, the Freedom Project. In the last 18 months, it has spent at least $67,000 at the Ritz-Carlton Naples in Florida, at least $20,000 at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va., and at least $29,000 at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, federal records show, for fund-raising events.

Why Must The Media Give Crackpot Pastor Terry Jones More Publicity?

Dallas social media consultant Giovanni Gallucci said about Pastor Terry Jones, leader of a minuscule church in Gainsville, Florida, who cancelled plans to burn Korans: "It’s a case point of this guy using the traditional news to have something go viral. …This is nothing more than a publicity stunt—someone waving their arms saying, 'Hey, look at me! Look at me!' And guess what, we did."

Yes, this crackpot made himself into an international celebrity through media publicity. What's worse is that after he called off his stunt, the media is still giving him a forum, as did host Carl Quintanilla on the Today Show:

Jones states, "We have come here with the hopes of speaking with the iman [sic]. We feel that we have somewhat of a common denominator in the fact that most people do not want the mosque near ground zero, and I assume all Moslems do not want us to burn the Koran.” Is there any "common denominator" between burning a book holy to billions and building an Islamic center with prayer spaces for Muslims, Christians and Jews and a multi-faith memorial dedicated to 9/11 victims?

The pastor has a sense of accomplishment: “One of our reasons was to show, to expose that there is an element of Islam that is very dangerous and very radical." That was made obvious on 9/11; we did not need the pastor's inflammatory antics to prove it. In addition, the fact that this element exists is no justification for offending every member of the religion.

The pastor compares himself to Abraham, who was "also called to do something crazy," implying that God asked for the burning of Korans. Evidently God then decided otherwise: "We were obedient, we feel that God is telling us to stop, and we also hope that with us making this first gesture, not burning the Koran…maybe that will open up a door to be able to talk to the iman [sic] about the ground zero mosque.” Besides God, world and national leaders and his own community were against Jones's plans. In any event, the pastor wants credit for no longer doing what he shouldn't have threatened in the first place.

Carl Quintanilla asks, “We’ve been criticized in the media, perhaps fairly, that we gave you a microphone and made you basically an international name... Was it for publicity?" Yes, Carl, publicity was a prime factor. More to the point, now that Pastor Jones, the subject of 4,102 news stories linked to Google news, has called off his stunt, why must the media continue to give this ignorant and divisive individual a microphone? Is it for ratings?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Just Before 9/11, President Obama Delivers A Message Of Religious Freedom And Tolerance

President Obama, in answer to a reporter's question yesterday about the Islamic center near ground zero, delivered a much-needed message reflecting the American values of religious freedom, tolerance and diversity:

President Obama: I think I've been pretty clear on my position here. And that is, is that this country stands for the proposition that all men and women are created equal, that they have certain inalienable rights; one of those inalienable rights is to practice their religion freely. And what that means is that if you could build a church on a site, you could build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a Hindu temple on a site, then you should be able to build a mosque on the site.

We are not at war against Islam. We are at war against terrorist organizations that have distorted Islam or falsely used the banner of Islam to engage in their destructive acts. And we've got to be clear about that. We've got to be clear about that because ... if we're going to successfully reduce the terrorist threat, then we need all the allies we can get. The folks who are most interested in a war between the United States or the West and Islam are al Qaeda. That's what they've been banking on.

And fortunately, the overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world are peace-loving, are interested in the same things that you and I are interested in: how do I make sure I can get a good job, how can I make sure that my kids get a decent education, how can I make sure I'm safe, how can I improve my lot in life. And so they have rejected this violent ideology for the most part, overwhelmingly.

And so from a national security interest, we want to be clear about who the enemy is here. It's a handful, a tiny minority of people who are engaging in horrific acts -- and have killed Muslims more than anybody else.

The other reason it's important for us to remember that is because we've got millions of Muslim-Americans, our fellow citizens, in this country. They're going to school with our kids. They're our neighbors. They're our friends. They're our coworkers. And, you know, when we start acting as if their religion is somehow offensive, what are we saying to them?

I've got Muslims who are fighting in Afghanistan, in the uniform of the United States armed services. They're out there putting their lives on the line for us, and we've got to make sure that we are crystal clear for our sakes and their sakes: They are Americans. And we honor their service. And part of honoring their service is making sure that they understand that we don't differentiate between 'them' and 'us.' It's just 'us.'