Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Citizen McCain

Judge tosses former NY gossip columnist lawsuit

The New York Times building is struck by lightning in New York June 10, 2008.

NEW YORK - A judge has dismissed New York Post gossip columnist Jared Paul Stern's defamation lawsuit against the Daily News, supermarket mogul Ron Burkle, and Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Stern denied Burkle's claim that he'd demanded money to squelch negative news. The Clintons are friends of Burkle, and the former president complained about Stern's Page Six column. The Daily News reported on the fracas involving its rival.

Stern's lawsuit, filed in March 2007, accused Burkle and the Clintons of trying to defame and discredit him. He claimed the Daily News — along with a publicist and a former Secret Service investigator — conspired with them.

State Supreme Court Justice Walter Tolub said Tuesday that Stern didn't prove his case.

Stern and his lawyer didn't return a call and e-mail Tuesday.

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George Carlin to receive Mark Twain humor prize

WASHINGTON - George Carlin will be awarded the 11th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced Tuesday that Carlin will be honored for his 50-year career as a Grammy-winning standup comedian, writer and actor. The center will salute Carlin at a tribute performance by former colleagues November 10th, which will be broadcast later on PBS.

Kennedy Center Chairman Stephen Schwarzman says Carlin makes people laugh but also makes them think.

Carlin, 71, has released 22 solo albums and three best-selling books. He starred a variety of TV and movie roles and is famous for his "Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV" routine.

Last year the Kennedy Center honored Billy Crystal with the Mark Twain prize. Other past recipients include Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Simon and Steve Martin.

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Increasing Signs of GOP Desperation

An Anthology of the Best Political Opinion and Commentary
From the Progressive Internet --

By Bernard Weiner, Co-Editor

Given how low the Republicans have fallen in popularity in the past several years -- mainly because of the dire economy, the endemic corruption, the never-ending war in Iraq, the extremist snooping on ordinary Americans, a government that doesn't function well in emergencies, torture as state policy, etc. -- given all that, one would think that the GOP higher-ups would realize that John McCain is heading for an ignominious defeat unless some major policy shifts in the party move it back closer to the middle.

But, no, almost as if they have an uncontrollable death-wish, the Republicans remain locked into a self-destructive separation from the popular will. Either that or they simply are incapable of thinking straight after eight years of sensory-deprivation in the dark CheneyBush spin chamber.

The public in general has moved ahead of the politicians in so many areas: opposing the endless Iraq occupation, tolerant of same-sex relationships, eager to move beyond divisive race politics, desirous of effective regulation of food and product safety, even more supportive of Social Security and Medicare, open to major health-care reform, etc. Yet those in charge of the Republican Party continue to hitch their wagon to the old extremist shibboleths that play well mainly to the fundamentalist and Old South base, which by this time is barely 25% of the electorate.

This status-quo tropism in the GOP may be great for Democrats in the November election, but may be horrifically bad for the body politic in general, keeping in play the worst sorts of divisive, hate-filled rhetoric both for the presidential campaign and the next four years in Congress.

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Jean Schmidt Refuses To Retract False Claim That China Is ‘Drilling Off The Coast Of Florida’

by thinkprogress

On June 5, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) took to the House floor and criticized Congress for refusing to lift the ban on offshore oil drilling. To strengthen her point, she claimed that even China and Cuba are drilling off Florida’s coast:

This very day, there is indeed the drilling activity off of our country’s coast. Not by our U.S. companies; that would be illegal. Instead, the Chinese are drilling off the coast of Florida, with their new energy partner, Cuba. This Congress has failed to act time and time again. Our oil resources along our coastlines and in Alaska remain untapped in the name of environmentalism.

Watch it:

Schmidt’s allegation is false. China is not drilling off the coast of Florida. Even Vice President Cheney, who also made the claim last week, put out a statement on Thursday admitting that he was wrong:

It is our understanding that, although Cuba has leased out exploration blocks 60 miles off the coast of southern Florida, which is closer than American firms are allowed to operate in that area, no Chinese firm is drilling there.

Conservative columnist George Will, who also made the claim in his June 5 column, today wrote a correction, stating, “[N]o Chinese company has been involved in Cuba’s oil exploration that close to the United States.”

Schmidt and other conservatives are refusing to back down, however. When asked whether she plans to issue a retraction, one of her spokesmen simply replied, “We will have a discussion.” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA), who also made the false claim, have gone further and defended their statements.

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Meet “Prominent” McCain Supporter Philip “Icky” Frye

by wonkette

Philip \

Over the weekend, John McCain’s campaign issued the following press release:

U.S. Senator John McCain’s campaign today announced a group of prominent Democratic and unaffiliated leaders and activists who have joined “Citizens for McCain,” a new grassroots effort headed by Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) to rally Americans of all political parties to support John McCain’s candidacy.

First, an aside: Can an effort that is headed by a United States Senator and former Vice Presidential candidate be said to be “grassroots?” More to the point, can an effort that is lead by a presidential candidate’s own campaign be said to be a grassroots effort on behalf of that candidate? Methinks not. As Wikipedia tells us:

A grassroots movement (often referenced in the context of a political movement) is one driven by the constituents of a community. The term implies that the creation of the movement and the group supporting it is natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures.

Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain are the very definition of “traditional power structures.” Nice try, boys.

Now for the good stuff. The last person on the list of thirty “prominent Democratic and unaffiliated leaders and activists” released on Saturday is former West Virginia gubernatorial candidate Philip Frye. That is, Philip “Icky” Frye. If you’re from West Virginia, you’re already laughing. If you’re not, let me explain.

Calling Icky Frye a former West Virginia gubernatorial candidate is like calling Gary Coleman a former California gubernatorial candidate. He ran as a joke. He ran for attention. He ran because the incumbent governor, Bob Wise, had been sleeping with his wife. He ran as revenge.

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42 days? Try 18 months

Until the end of the second world war Europe was a continent of emigrants. Millions left for the Americas: some to colonise, others to escape hunger, financial crises, persecution, ethnic cleansing, war or totalitarian governments.

European citizens arrived in Latin and North America en masse, without visas or conditions imposed on them by the authorities. They were simply welcomed, and continue to be in Latin America. They came to exploit the natural wealth and to transfer it to Europe, with a high cost for the native population. Yet the people, property and rights of the migrants were always respected.

Contrast the European "return directive", to be voted on in the European parliament this week. It imposes harsh terms for detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants, regardless of the time they have spent in European countries, their work situation, their family ties or their achievements in integrating themselves into local society.

The EU is now the main destination for migrants around the world, because of its positive image of space, prosperity and public freedom. The great majority of migrants contribute to, rather than exploit, this prosperity.

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Supreme Court to rule on whether Ashcroft can be sued

A Pakistani man who was arrested after the Sept. 11 attacks says he was illegally detained and beaten. The justices will examine whether high-ranking officials are immune from such lawsuits.
By David G. Savage
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court came to the aid of former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft on Monday by agreeing to hear his claim that he and other high-level Bush administration officials are shielded from being sued by immigrants who say they were rounded up, abused and beaten after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The court's move stops for now a lawsuit by a Pakistani man who was held for nearly six months in solitary confinement in New York.

The justices voted to decide whether the president's top appointees are immune from lawsuits growing out of their response to "an unprecedented national security crisis."

After the Sept. 11 attacks, hundreds of immigrants, nearly all of them Muslim men, were taken into custody and questioned. Officials feared then that the Al Qaeda terrorist network could have "sleeper cells" in the United States, and that these operatives might have been planning more attacks.

As the head of the Justice Department, Ashcroft ordered the FBI to move aggressively and to use all available legal means to question suspects and gather intelligence.

The government held most of the immigrants on charges that they had violated immigration laws by, for example, overstaying their visas.

Javaid Iqbal, the plaintiff who sued Ashcroft, was arrested at his Long Island home on Nov. 2, 2001. Two months later, he was put in solitary confinement.

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Shortly before the fall of Rome

Investigation Advances For U.S. Attorneys Scandal

By Evan Perez

WASHINGTON -- Justice Department lawyers have filed a grand-jury referral stemming from the 2006 U.S. attorneys scandal, according to people familiar with the probe, a move indicating that the yearlong investigation may be entering a new phase.

The grand-jury referral, the first time the probe has moved beyond the investigative phase, relates to allegations of political meddling in the Justice Department's civil-rights division, these people say. Specifically, it focuses on possible perjury by Bradley Schlozman, who served a year as interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo.

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Full Metal McCain

Haunted by the ghosts of Vietnam, the one-time maverick has transformed himself into just another liberal-bashing fearmonger

Evening, June 3rd, in a muggy, dragonfly-beswarmed place called the Pontchartrain Center, just outside New Orleans. Half a continent away, amid yet another legacy-smashing fusillade of unsolicited invective from Bill Clinton, the excruciating Obama-Hillary mess is finally wrapping up, in a pair of anticlimactic primaries somewhere over the darkened plains of Montana and South Dakota. But here in the Big Easy, John McCain has chosen this moment to mount his first general-election attack against the Great Satanic Liberal Enemy — who, as luck would have it, turns out to be a Negro intellectual from Harvard who's never served in the military. And this is supposed to be a bad year for Republicans?

You'd never know it from listening to McCain, whose kickoff speech is the same election-year diatribe that Republicans have been giving for decades, one long broadside against those goddamned overgrown Sixties weenie liberals who hate the flag, love the bomb-tossing enemies of America and are bent on the twin goals of ending the system of free enterprise and placing every aspect of our lives under government control. McCain pegs Obama as a man who wants to take America "backward," to the failed ideas of the Sixties. "I'm surprised that a young man has bought into so many failed ideas!" he says, to furious applause. Then, spitting out a forced, ugly laugh that he must have practiced many (but not enough) times in the bathroom mirror of the Straight Talk Express, he adds, "That's not change we can believe in!"

The choice of New Orleans as a launching pad for McCain's national campaign is the kind of leadenly obvious move that people who do politics for a living are pleased to call "sound strategy": For a candidate supposedly desperate to avoid carrying the Bush label into November, this disaster-stricken city is about the only place in the country that offers a striking visual image of a Bush policy that McCain has actually criticized. So the candidate dragged himself onstage here, ostensibly to perform the dreary business of "distancing himself" from Bush by once again criticizing the president's response to Katrina. The Bush-bashing money quote — "Americans have a right to expect basic competence from their government!" — was featured prominently in media accounts.

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Afghanistan: Kandahar braces for Taliban attack as thousands flee

byMark Tran
An Afghan soldier keeps watch as families who flee villages are being searched in the Arghandab district of Kandahar

An Afghan soldier keeps watch as families who flee villages are being searched in the Arghandab district of Kandahar. Photograph: Reuters

More than 4,000 people have fled villages near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan after Taliban forces destroyed bridges and laid mines in a major show of force.

In anticipation of a Taliban attack, the Afghan army today flew four planeloads of soldiers to Kandahar from the capital, Kabul. Canadian forces have also moved in to the region.

Taliban operations on the outskirts of Kandahar marked the latest display of strength by the militants despite a record number of US and Nato troops in the country.

The Taliban push into Arghandab district - 10 miles north-west of Kandahar – came three days after a coordinated Taliban attack on Kandahar's prison that freed 400 insurgent fighters. The lush region filled with grape and pomegranate groves was never conquered when Soviet forces occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Thousands have fled the area, said Sardar Muhammad, a police officer manning a checkpoint on the east side of the Arghandab river. Police stopped and searched every person passing on the road. On the west side of the river, hundreds of Taliban controlled around nine or 10 villages, Muhammad said.

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George Takei and Brad Altman first to get marriage license in West Hollywood

Barbara Kingsolver “Your Money or Your Life”

Commencement address at Duke University

Durham, North Carolina, USA
May 11, 2008

Barbara Kingsolver is the author of twelve books, including The Bean Trees and The Poisonwood Bible.


The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. The most you can do is live inside that hope, running down its hallways, touching the walls on both sides.

Let me begin that way: with an invocation of your own best hopes, thrown like a handful of rice over this celebration. Congratulations, graduates. Congratulations, parents, on the best Mother’s Day gift ever. Better than all those burnt-toast breakfasts: these, your children grown tall and competent, educated to within an inch of their lives.

"You could invent a new kind of Success that includes children's poetry, butterfly migrations, butterfly kisses, the Grand Canyon, eternity. If somebody says "Your money or your life," you could say: Life. And mean it. You'll see things collapse in your time, the big houses, the empires of glass. The new green things that sprout up through the wreck -- those will be yours."

What can I say to people who know almost everything? There was a time when I surely knew, because I’d just graduated from college myself, after writing down the sum of all human knowledge on exams and research papers. But that great pedagogical swilling-out must have depleted my reserves, because decades have passed and now I can’t believe how much I don’t know. Looking back, I can discern a kind of gaseous exchange in which I exuded cleverness and gradually absorbed better judgment. Wisdom is like frequent-flyer miles and scar tissue; if it does accumulate, that happens by accident while you’re trying to do something else. And wisdom is what people will start wanting from you, after your last exam. I know it’s true for writers -– when people love a book, whatever they say about it, what they really mean is: it was wise. It helped explain their pickle. My favorites are the canny old codgers: Neruda, Garcia Marquez, Doris Lessing. Honestly, it is harrowing for me to try to teach 20-year-old students, who earnestly want to improve their writing. The best I can think to tell them is: Quit smoking, and observe posted speed limits. This will improve your odds of getting old enough to be wise.

If I stopped there, you might have heard my best offer. But I am charged with postponing your diploma for about 15 more minutes, so I’ll proceed, with a caveat. The wisdom of each generation is necessarily new. This tends to dawn on us in revelatory moments, brought to us by our children. For example: My younger daughter is eleven. Every morning, she and I walk down the lane from our farm to the place where she meets the school bus. It’s the best part of my day. We have great conversations. But a few weeks ago as we stood waiting in the dawn’s early light, Lily was quietly looking me over, and finally said: “Mom, just so you know, the only reason I’m letting you wear that outfit is because of your age.” The alleged outfit will not be described here; whatever you’re imagining will perfectly suffice. (Especially if you’re picturing “Project Runway” meets “Working with Livestock.”) Now, I believe parents should uphold respect for adult authority, so I did what I had to do. I hid behind the barn when the bus came.

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Fight the smears

SMEAR: Michelle Obama Says “Whitey” On a Tape

LIE: Rush Limbaugh says a tape exists of Michelle Obama using the word “whitey” from the pulpit of Trinity United

LIE: Blogger Larry Johnson writes “New and dramatic developments. This is a heads up. I'll post the news Monday morning by 0900 hours.”

LIE: Proven GOP sleazemeister Roger Stone says he has “credible evidence that some indelible record exists” of a tape of Michelle Obama using the term “whitey.”

LIE: Blogger: “Tape was filmed between June 26th - July 1st 2004 in Chicago, IL at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Conference at Trinity United Church: specifically the Women's Event.”

SMEAR: Barack Obama's birth certificate

LIE: Barack Obama is hiding his birth certificate

How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic

Below is a complete listing of the articles in "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic," a series by Coby Beck containing responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming. There are four separate taxonomies; arguments are divided by:
Individual articles will appear under multiple headings and may even appear in multiple subcategories in the same heading.

Stages of Denial

  1. There's nothing happening
    1. Inadequate evidence
    2. Contradictory evidence
    3. No consensus
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by Barry Crimmins


Had I met Tim Russert, we'd have talked about sports, upstate New York and maybe some rock concerts we both attended back in the day. Russert seemed an amiable, affable fellow. He was clearly a man who valued being liked. That's why he'd have been as cordial as possible as he fled from me as soon as I changed the subject to Daniel Patrick Moynihan and benign neglect or the police/prison industrial state or the plight of workers everywhere or genuine green activism or the putrid stench of corporatism that permeates the mainstream media and the politicians upon whom journalists are supposed to be reporting.

Tim Russert stayed busy, frenetically directing our attention toward every diversionary flare fired skyward by the murky figures who truly command and control this nation. In a world of amazing stories, all he covered were horse-race politics, scandals du jour and of course, the passing of "national figures." By doing this he showed himself to be worthy of full membership in the Gladhand Social Club that is Washington D.C. When he passed, he was commemorated with the kind of fanfare reserved for the exclusive crowd that sits so close to the action that it can't ever be relied upon for decent perspective.

crimmins 1022

The media wags that survive Russert are incapable of seeing the absurdity of their overkill of his death. An hour into the maudlin, endless "tribute" to Russert, I found myself relieved that his wife and son were in Italy and beyond viewing range of a shameless parade of electronic narcissists. The surviving talking heads busily inflated their deceased colleague beyond any recognizable proportion. They had more than enough hot air for the task.

As floodwaters rose, wars raged and the economy nose-dived, the MSNBC on-camera wake went on and on and on with nary a mention of the rest of the world. After a few hours, it became rather clear that there wasn't a lot to say about the man except that he was well thought of by friends and co-workers; he enjoyed his life; and he prepared questions that he then asked of the power elite -- who looked upon him as if he were one of them

Again and again we heard about the "likable" Russert. Well excuse me, but I want my journalists to be disliked by at least some people. I want them to be despised by those whose scams they exposed, whose misdeeds they brought to light. As the televised condolences continued, even Dick Cheney spoke well of Tim Russert. It did not color the late TV host in glory.

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Death Rattle

School has child taken away because "psychic" claimed she was abused


The administration at Terry Fox Elementary in Barrie Ontario called Children's Aid on Colleen Leduc and accused her of allowing her autistic daughter to be sexually assaulted. They based the accusation on something a "psychic" told the special ed worker who worked with the kid.
"The teacher looked and me and said: 'We have to tell you something. The educational assistant who works with Victoria went to see a psychic last night, and the psychic asked the educational assistant at that particular time if she works with a little girl by the name of "V." And she said 'yes, I do.' And she said, 'well, you need to know that that child is being sexually abused by a man between the ages of 23 and 26.'"

Victoria, who is non-verbal, had also been exhibiting sexualized behaviour in class, actions which are known to be typical of autistic behavior. (See other typical actions here) That lead authorities to suspect she had a bladder infection that may have somehow been related to the 'attack.'

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Targeting Steny Hoyer for his contempt for the rule of law

by Glenn Greenwald

It is now definitively clear that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is the driving force behind a bill -- written by GOP Sen. Kit Bond -- to vest the President with vast new warrantless eavesdropping powers and to vest lawbreaking telecoms with amnesty. Even as his office dishonestly denies that he is doing so, still more reports yesterday -- this one from the NYT and this one from Roll Call (sub req'd) -- confirm that a so-called "compromise" is being spearheaded by Hoyer and the House Democratic leadership. The ACLU and EFF held a joint call today to denounce Hoyer's "compromise" as nothing more than disguised guaranteed immunity for telecoms and, further, because "the proposed deal could be used to authorize dragnet surveillance of Americans' communications in violation of the Fourth Amendment."

As a result, there is a major new campaign beginning today aimed at Hoyer and a handful of other key members of Congress who enable telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping. In order to raise as much money as possible for this campaign -- far more than the $85,000 raised (and still being spent) in Chris Carney's district as a result of his support for warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty -- we are working to create an alliance with numerous organizations and factions across the ideological spectrum which oppose civil liberties erosions, as well as with as many blogs as possible (modeled vaguely after the ideologically diverse alliance that has arisen in Britain in opposition to the sprawling, lawless surveillance state).

We hope to announce details about the participating individuals and groups very shortly. But given the time pressures, it's vital to be able to have as many resources as possible, as quickly as possible, for this campaign. The more money raised, the greater the disruptive impact will be.

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Habeas corpus


By Sherwood Ross

A conference to plan the prosecution of President Bush and other high administration officials for war crimes will be held September 13-14 at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover .

"This is not intended to be a mere discussion of violations of law that have occurred," said convener Lawrence Velvel, dean and cofounder of the school. "It is, rather, intended to be a planning conference at which plans will be laid and necessary organizational structures set up, to pursue the guilty as long as necessary and, if need be, to the ends of the Earth."

"We must try to hold Bush administration leaders accountable in courts of justice," Velvel said. "And we must insist on appropriate punishments, including, if guilt is found, the hangings visited upon top German and Japanese war-criminals in the 1940s."

Velvel said past practice has been to allow U.S. officials responsible for war crimes in Viet Nam and elsewhere to enjoy immunity from prosecution upon leaving office. "President Johnson retired to his Texas ranch and his Defense Secretary Robert McNamara was named to head the World Bank; Richard Nixon retired to San Clemente and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was allowed to grow richer and richer," Velvel said.

He noted in the years since the prosecution and punishment of German and Japanese leaders after World War Two those nation's leaders changed their countries' aggressor cultures. One cannot discount contributory cause and effect here, he said.

"For Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and John Yoo to spend years in jail or go to the gallows for their crimes would be a powerful lesson to future American leaders," Velvel said.

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Third term

Was The Media Unfair To Hillary? Here's Our Rundown.

By Greg Sargent

Just what you all have been waiting for: Our long and detailed rundown on the coverage of Hillary during 2008.

This is being endlessly debated right now on television and elsewhere: Was the media biased in favor of Obama and against Hillary? But that's the wrong question, because it's a question about the motives of the press, rather than about the actual coverage.

What we should be asking is this: Was the media's coverage unfair in its treatment of Hillary? Was it more unfair to Hillary than to Obama?

The debate on this stuff has been downright surreal. On Friday, for instance, The New York Times ran a long piece interviewing members of the press on whether they had treated her fairly -- because we are the most objective judges of our own conduct, of course. You'll be surprised to hear that many of these media figures pronounced their own conduct impeccable.

Here's another way to approach this: Let's take a look at the coverage itself.

I've compiled a long list of episodes after the jump where media figures indulged in bogus, unfair, or outright misleading coverage of the New York Senator. While this puts me at risk of being declared the "worst person in the world" by Keith Olbermann, I submit that it's a useful exercise, on the theory that a debate about the coverage should include a discussion of the actual coverage.

Do my examples prove that the media was unfair to her as a whole or worse to her than to Obama? Not really. But taken together, they amount to a startling parade of media buffoonery and mendacity that should have been unacceptable to any reasonable observer -- even ones who supported one of her rivals.

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It's election season