Friday, October 31, 2008

Sam "JTP" Wurzelbacher Gets in on the Myth-Jacking Act

From Jason Linkins on HuffPo

So, Joe The Plumber was out on the trail with John McCain today, apparently giving the thumbs up to someone in the crowd who felt that an Obama Presidency would bring about the end of Israel. From Raw Story:
The Ohio plumber, who has no license and is actually named Samuel Wurzelbacher, spoke at a McCain campaign event in Columbus Monday. A McCain supporter asked if "a vote for Obama is a vote for the death of Israel." JTP hardly batted an eye.

"I'll go ahead and agree with you on that," Wurzelbacher said.

It's all a part of Joe the Plumber's "Maybe I'm A Foreign Policy Expert, But Anyway, You Should Go Out And Get Your Own Opinions On Things Instead Of Listening To Mine, Even Though I'm Going To Keep Opining If You Give Me Half A Chance, And Anyway, I Don't Even Really Know What John McCain's Position Is On Anything Anyway, And Probably I Should Be Snaking A Sink Trap Or Something, Instead Of Dragging Myself All Over The Country Making Statements Which I Then Sort Of Disavow A Few Minutes Later Anyway, Who Knows?" Tour of 2008!

Honestly, it's like the 24 Hour News has finally reached the 25th Hour or something.

Anyway, five minutes with Joe The Plumber had Shepard Smith so frustrated that the Fox anchor felt compelled to issue a disclaimer, immediately following the segment, pushing back on any notion that Obama would mean the "death of Israel," saying: "I just want to make this 100 percent perfectly clear -- Barack Obama has said repeatedly and demonstrated repeatedly that Israel will always be a friend of the United States, no matter what happens once he becomes President of the United States. His words." Smith later added, "The rest of it -- man...some things -- it just gets frightening sometimes. We'll be right back." I haven't seen Shep this broken up about the state of the world since Katrina.

Meanwhile, let's remember that after a year of trying to figure out what their campaign is about, the McCain camp has basically pinned all their hopes to the avatar of Joe The Plumber, a random dude who says, "I know just enough about foreign policy to probably be dangerous...I have no idea where John McCain's position is...I honestly want people to go out and find their own reasons. I tell people not to listen to everyone else's opinion. I'm not going to have them start listening to mine." His words. Such as they are.


SMITH: Do you think John McCain agrees with you?

PLUMBER: No, that is just my personal opinion that I've come up with by looking into different facts and what I think. That is what my message has been about. I haven't been telling people to go out and vote. Listen, you don't want my opinion on foreign policy. I know just enough about foreign policy to probably be dangerous.

SMITH: That is what I was wondering. I wonder if you think it is dangerous at all for people to say that a vote for Barack Obama is the same as a vote for Israel, if you think that is dangerous for people to start believing. What happens if the polls are right and he becomes President of the United States and people start thinking that this means the death of Israel. Are you worried about what people might do if they actually believe something like that?

PLUMBER: That goes back to what I just got done saying. Some people believe it wholeheartedly. This gentleman I spoke to is Middle America. is very important to him -- important to me, but especially important to this gentleman. He is Middle America and he was able to get on there and make his point, and I agreed with him. I have no idea where John McCain's position is on that. John McCain is his own person, just like I am.

SMITH: Do you think a lot of that has to do with some hateful things that spread all over the internet? After all, Barack Obama has said repeatedly time after time that there is nothing more important that the United States friendship with Israel-- and the United States will back up Israel every moment of every day if and when he becomes President of the United States. He could not have been clearer about it in his positions in speeches, and I just wonder what it is that makes you think he is lying about that.

PLUMBER: [illegible] Actions...I have heard words. I hear words from politicians all the time, but actions [crosstalk] the action that I see is offering to meet with certain enemies of the United States on no uncertain terms --

SMITH: Meeting with Ahmadinejad? That is what the campaign said. Let's put the statement on the screen. This is what the McCain campaign released after you said that at the campaign event today. So that is what they put out. "While he's clearly his own man, so far Joe has offered some penetrating and clear analysis that cuts to the core of many of the concerns that people have with Barack Obama's statements and policies. Whether it is Obama's willingness to sit down unconditionally with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or his plans to redistribute the paychecks of hardworking Americans, there is good reason to question the judgement that Obama would bring to the Oval Office." So that's what they put out, so I guess the fact that he has said it he would meet with Ahmadinejad is something that you have taken to believe would be the death of Israel?

PLUMBER: It definitely does not help the situation. I'm not trying to be dancing around this. I honestly want people to go out and find their own reasons. I tell people not to listen to everyone else's opinion. I'm not going to have them start listening to mine. Go out and get informed.

SMITH: Joe Wurzelbacher on the line with us after a GOP stop, a number of them today.

I just want to make this 100 percent perfectly clear -- Barack Obama has said and demonstrated repeatedly that Israel will always be a friend of the United States, no matter what happens once he becomes President of the United States. His words. The rest of it -- man...some things--it just gets frightening sometimes. We'll be right back

[Full Article]

RJ Eskow Sums Up What I've Been Trying to Say

From RJ Eskow on HuffPo comes the finest single summary of what I've been saying all this time.

In the end, the decision couldn't be clearer. This is more than just a choice between parties, or ideologies, or policy positions. It's a choice between philosophies and worldviews. It's a choice grounded in moral psychology. We will choose between different portions of our own brains, between our baser instincts and what used to be called "the angels of our better nature."

In the end, this election is a referendum on trusting the electorate. It's a referendum on democracy itself.

One candidate represents collaboration, optimism... and yes, "change." The other represents fear and greed, and his campaign reflects the lower-order impulses that have guided his party and given it success. They've triggered fear in us so effectively for so long that they can't believe it's not working this time. They're still frantically sending memo after memo to our lizard brains: Khalidi, Ayers, redistribution... be afraid! And the more this old strategem fails, the harder they try.

Now they're trying to make us afraid of ourselves. That's what the ACORN con is all about. That's why McCain called it "one of the greatest frauds in voter history" and suggested that its "destroying the fabric of democracy." Sure, it's a calculated diversion, an attempt to delegitimize any Democratic victory and encourage resistance. But it also reflects a fundamental belief, one held deep in the heart of the powerful elite McCain represents:

Be afraid of the voters... voters are unpredictable... voters might do anything. We can't let that happen.

You probably remember Rumsfeld's line: "Democracy is messy." But you may not remember when he said it. It was in response to widespread looting of banks, offices, and museums. That says a lot. To this crowd, "democracy" is a violent mob. Representative government is an unpleasant necessity, not a value or an ideal. The rest of us think "war is too important to be left to the generals." They think self-government is too important to be left to the voters.

To some extent this is nothing more than greed and lust for power, the misuse of conservatism as a cover for naked self-interest. But it also reflects a difference in political philosophy that goes back to Locke and Hobbes. Their equation of democracy with mob rule, so clearly mirrored in Rumsfeld's comment, helps explain why they feel morally entitled to lie, cheat, and steal votes. To them, voters aren't reflections of a democratic ideal. They're suspects, threats, enemies. They're the Iraqi mob looting the Museum of Antiquities.

That's why they've condemned Obama's donors, too -- all 30 million of them. Somebody might have used a phony credit card! Never mind the lobbyists that crowd McCain/Palin's campaign staff, or McCain's apparent violation of his own "reform" laws during the primary. Lobbyists and big-money contributors are "us." But grassroots donors are the unruly mob the candidate will have to please if he's elected. That makes them 30 million "cronies," to go along with that list of 100 million suspects.

Voters are guilty until proven innocent. That's why they hate voter-registration organizations like ACORN. To them, minorities are nothing more than an especially untrustworthy subset of an unsavory crowd. The lines at the polls might as well be a perp walk.

The only thing that makes a citizen more of a threat than voting is "voting while black." That's why they can sleep at night after creating long waiting lines at "separate but equal" polling places in states like Ohio, despite the fact that what they're doing is no different from what was done under Jim Crow segregation. That's why they can live with themselves after creating photo ID requirements in Florida that disproportionately exclude minority voters (who are less likely to drive and therefore to have a driver's license.)

It's also why we fight. Don't let up. Vote. Help others vote. Bring camcorders, cell phones, and cameras to your polling place for some election "sousveillance" (surveillance from below.) Document the intrusions. You can sign up here to help track problems, or you can participate in the Election Protection Wiki described here. And work hard over the next few days to get out the vote.

Democracy isn't a subversive activity. It's our way of life, our highest ideal. They will try to overrule the will of the people on Nov. 4. Don't let them.

Democracy. It's the "real America."

RJ Eskow blogs when he can at:

A Night Light
The Sentinel Effect: Healthcare Blog

Dole Didn't Learn the First Time?

From Rachel Weiner on HuffPo

Undeterred by media criticism, a drop in polls, and a defamation lawsuit, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) has released a second ad linking her opponent Kay Hagan to a group called "Godless Americans." The ad says Hagan's personal faith (which the Democrat defended in her own response ad) is "not the question."

McCain's "New" Message

From Rev. Jim Wallis at HuffPo

Be Not Afraid

In the final days of this election campaign, a new message has emerged. For the entire political year, the overriding theme has been change--with each candidate competing to be the real champion for a new direction. With 80 percent of Americans unhappy with our country's current direction, it seemed that no other theme could break through.

A new message has, and it is this: "Be Afraid-- Be Very Afraid." Most of that fear is directed at Barack Obama, the leading candidate with just days to go before November 4. Instead of being content to offer a competing policy vision to Obama's, the Right has now focused on the man himself in an attempt to stir the fears of the electorate that "he" is not really like "them." "Do we really know who Barack Obama is?" has been the refrain of partisan peddlers. A parallel and ugly national innuendo campaign stokes the fear. Is he a Muslim? An Arab? A pal of terrorists? Or maybe even a closet Socialist? Where did he grow up? Why such a funny middle name? Doesn't his support come from those parts of the country (and those people) that deep down inside are anti-American? And, of course, what has quickly become a campaign classic--guilt by association.
[Full article]

The Circular Logic of Brawler McCain

From Max Bergman at HuffPo

McCain's Circular Logic Firing Squad

Trying to argue against statements from the McCain campaign is like entering a circular-logic firing squad. Since on any given issue, they aggressively adopt both sides of the argument and position themselves where it is most expedient (ex. immigration, strikes inside of sovereign countries, talking to adversaries, the Future Combat Systems, etc.).

The most recent example of this is defense spending. The McCain campaign emailed out a statement today attacking Obama for associating with Barney Frank who is for cutting defense spending by 25 percent. Randy Scheunemann in the statement seemed very outraged and demanded clarification on Obama's position - which happens to be pretty clear. Obama is going to cut some weapons programs that have been proven to be ineffective, but which likely costs nowhere near 25 percent. The rub is that there is little difference between McCain and Obama on this issue.

(Warning: you are about to enter the circular logic firing squad.)

McCain has long said he would cut defense spending, this is a position he maintains today. Obama has also said he will cut defense spending. But McCain opposses Obama and therefore attacks Obama today for having the same position that he has. So it is not that McCain was for cutting defense spending before he was against it. It is that McCain is simulataneously both for and against cutting defense spending. So to paraphrase his position: McCain is for cutting spending, but McCain is against Obama cutting defense spending, so when Obama is for cutting, McCain is for increasing (except he's still for cutting). Clear

[Full article]

Palin Only "Adequate"

From Nico Pitney and Sam Stein at HuffPo

Eagleburger Blisters Palin: "Of Course" She's Not Ready

A former Republican Secretary of State and one of John McCain's most prominent supporters offered a stunningly frank and remarkably bleak assessment of Sarah Palin's capacity to handle the presidency should such a scenario arise.

Lawrence Eagleburger, who served as Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush and whose endorsement is often trumpeted by McCain, said on Thursday that the Alaska governor is not only unprepared to take over the job on a moment's notice but, even after some time in office, would only amount to an "adequate" commander in chief.

"And I devoutly hope that [she] would never be tested," he added for good measure -- referring both to Palin's policy dexterity and the idea of McCain not making it through his time in office. (Listen to audio below.)

The remarks took place during an interview on National Public Radio that was, ironically, billed as "making the case" for a McCain presidency. Asked by the host whether Palin could step in during a time of crisis, Eagleburger reverted to sarcasm before leveling the harsh blow.

"It is a very good question," he said, pausing a few seconds, then adding with a chuckle: "I'm being facetious here. Look, of course not."

Eagleburger explained: "I don't think at the moment she is prepared to take over the reigns of the presidency. I can name for you any number of other vice presidents who were not particularly up to it either. So the question, I think, is can she learn and would she be tough enough under the circumstances if she were asked to become president, heaven forbid that that ever takes place?

"Give her some time in the office and I think the answer would be, she will be [pause] adequate. I can't say that she would be a genius in the job. But I think she would be enough to get us through a four year... well I hope not... get us through whatever period of time was necessary. And I devoutly hope that it would never be tested."

The indictment of Palin was all the more biting because both she and McCain have held Eagleburger up repeatedly during the past several weeks as evidence that the Republican ticket has firm standing and support within foreign policy circles. (In fact, McCain conferred with Eagleburger by phone just this week, on matters pertaining to national security.)In a recent co-interview on NBC, Brian Williams asked McCain and Palin "about what must have been a hurtful Sunday for you," referring to Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama and specifically to the "heart of his quote" -- Powell's claim that Palin is not "ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of vice president."

"Obviously General Powell does not know Governor Palin's record," McCain responded. "All I can say is, I see all these attacks on Governor Palin. I don't live in a bubble. But those people obviously are either not paying attention to, or don't care about the record of the most popular governor in the United States of America."

Palin interjected, citing the "five former secretaries of states" that have endorsed their campaign and see in their candidacy "the ability to win the wars and to keep our nation safe and on course."

Days later, the Arizona Senator again touted the Eagleburger endorsement during a spot on CNN. During that interview, McCain tried to downplay the significance of Colin Powell's criticisms of Palin by noting that Powell had never taken the time to understand her political gravitas.

"I especially disagreed when he said the comments that he made about Governor Palin," McCain said. "And I hope that sometime General Powell will take time out of his busy schedule to meet with her. I know she'd be pleased to meet with him."

Perhaps Eagelburger, too, should sit in on that meeting.

Listen to audio of Eagleburger on Palin:

Brawler McCain is Blowin' in the Idiot Wind

Originally published Friday, October 31 in the Washington Post

An 'Idiot Wind'

With the presidential campaign clock ticking down, Sen. John McCain has suddenly discovered a new boogeyman to link to Sen. Barack Obama: a sometimes controversial but widely respected Middle East scholar named Rashid Khalidi. In the past couple of days, Mr. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, have likened Mr. Khalidi, the director of a Middle East institute at Columbia University, to neo-Nazis; called him "a PLO spokesman"; and suggested that the Los Angeles Times is hiding something sinister by refusing to release a videotape of a 2003 dinner in honor of Mr. Khalidi at which Mr. Obama spoke. Mr. McCain even threw former Weatherman Bill Ayers into the mix, suggesting that the tape might reveal that Mr. Ayers -- a terrorist-turned-professor who also has been an Obama acquaintance -- was at the dinner.

For the record, Mr. Khalidi is an American born in New York who graduated from Yale a couple of years after George W. Bush. For much of his long academic career, he taught at the University of Chicago, where he and his wife became friends with Barack and Michelle Obama. In the early 1990s, he worked as an adviser to the Palestinian delegation at peace talks in Madrid and Washington sponsored by the first Bush administration. We don't agree with a lot of what Mr. Khalidi has had to say about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the years, and Mr. Obama has made clear that he doesn't, either. But to compare the professor to neo-Nazis -- or even to Mr. Ayers -- is a vile smear.

Perhaps unsurprising for a member of academia, Mr. Khalidi holds complex views. In an article published this year in the Nation magazine, he scathingly denounced Israeli practices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and U.S. Middle East policy but also condemned Palestinians for failing to embrace a nonviolent strategy. He said that the two-state solution favored by the Bush administration (and Mr. Obama) was "deeply flawed" but conceded there were also "flaws in the alternatives." Listening to Mr. Khalidi can be challenging -- as Mr. Obama put it in the dinner toast recorded on the 2003 tape and reported by the Times in a detailed account of the event last April, he "offers constant reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases."

It's fair to question why Mr. Obama felt as comfortable as he apparently did during his Chicago days in the company of men whose views diverge sharply from what the presidential candidate espouses. Our sense is that Mr. Obama is a man of considerable intellectual curiosity who can hear out a smart, if militant, advocate for the Palestinians without compromising his own position. To suggest, as Mr. McCain has, that there is something reprehensible about associating with Mr. Khalidi is itself condemnable -- especially during a campaign in which Arab ancestry has been the subject of insults. To further argue that the Times, which obtained the tape from a source in exchange for a promise not to publicly release it, is trying to hide something is simply ludicrous, as Mr. McCain surely knows.

Which reminds us: We did ask Mr. Khalidi whether he wanted to respond to the campaign charges against him. He answered, via e-mail, that "I will stick to my policy of letting this idiot wind blow over." That's good advice for anyone still listening to the McCain campaign's increasingly reckless ad hominem attacks. Sadly, that wind is likely to keep blowing for four more days.

I had no idea that's a Dylan quote. Greg Mitchell has a great article on HuffPo. The confession of an idiot poet follows.
It's always been one of my favorite mid-period Dylan songs (from Blood on the Tracks, for you youngsters), so it was good to see it getting thrust into the final days of the election campaign. I speak of "Idiot Wind' from the mid-1970s. It opens, "Someone's got it in for me/They're planting stories in the press/Whoever it is I wish they'd cut it out quick/But when they will I can only guess."

The Washington Post, preparing a lacerating editorial attack against John McCain for his dirty campaign tactics, asked the latest GOP bogeyman, the Palestinian professor/scholar (and Obama acquaintance) Rashid Khalidi, what he thinks of the current uproar. He wrote back briefly, "I will stick to my policy of letting this idiot wind blow over."

The Post then put "Idiot Wind" in its headline.

Indeed, I think when the dust settles, so to speak, next week, perhaps the phrase"Idiot Wind" will endure as the lasting depiction of the McCain-Palin campaign. We don't need a Weatherman, such as Bill Ayers, to know which way the wind blows. He's bringing it all Barack home.

The refrain of Dylan's "Idiot Wind" captures the tone of the McCain-Palin campaign perfectly:

Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull,
From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
You're an idiot, babe.
It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

And then there's this:

You hurt the ones that I love best and cover up the truth with lies.
One day you'll be in the ditch, flies buzzin around your eyes,
Blood on your saddle.


I noticed at the ceremony, your corrupt ways had finally made you blind
I can't remember your face anymore, your mouth has changed,
Your eyes don't look into mine.

And finally:

I've been double-crossed now for the very last time and now I'm finally free,

Greg Mitchell is editor of Editor & Publisher and its popular new blog, The E&P Pub. His most recent book, on Iraq and the media, is "So Wrong for So Long.' During the 1970s he was executive editor at the legendary Crawdaddy magazine.

knowBuddhaU See Profile I'm a Fan of knowBuddhaU permalink

Beautiful! Thanks.

I have a confession: I'm a poet who don't know squat about Dylan. Worse, I can't stand his voice (except for Subterranean Homesick Blues, and Everybody Must Get Stoned).

Am I banished to Palin's America now?

Posted 10:16 PM on 10/31/2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Joe the Rat Abandons Ship, Snubs the Skipper

From Sam Stein on HuffPo:

The most cringe-worthy political moment of the day, so far, came when Sen. John McCain called out for his new buddy Joe the Plumber to stand up at a rally in Ohio, only to be greeted with confused silence. Joe the Plumber wasn't there.

But that rally featured another embarrassing moment, one that illustrates a far more troubling dynamic for the Republican ticket. The McCain campaign actually had to bus in school kids from the surrounding area in order to fill the event. As reported by MSNBC:

A local school district official confirmed after the event that of the 6,000 people estimated by the fire marshal to be in attendance this morning, more than 4,000 were bused in from schools in the area. The entire 2,500-student Defiance School District was in attendance, the official said, in addition to at least three other schools from neighboring districts, one of which sent 14 buses.

This happened -- as if a reminder were needed -- less than a week out from the election, when the heat of the campaign should be drawing record crowds.

More Evidence of Myth-Jacking by the McCain Camp

From Jason Linkiins on HuffPo, more evidence of myth-jacking by the McCain camp.

Oh, dear. Michael Goldfarb, who's clearly better off blogging about ABBA and criticizing people for playing Dungeons and Dragons, just pooped his pants on national television. The McCain campaign is making a last ditch effort to make SCARY MUSLIM NOISES at Barack Obama, and since Goldfarb doesn't have any sort of reputation worth salvaging, it figures that he'd be doing duty here.

But CNN's Rick Sanchez calls Goldfarb out for the hypocrisy of hyping a sinister connection between Obama and a guy that McCain funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to, and from there, Goldfarb goes right off the rails, refusing to answer Sanchez's questions with anything other than intimations. Repeatedly asked to name a second anti-Semite that Obama allegedly "pals around with," Goldfarb does nothing but issue hollow, Page Six-style intimations.

What a gutless wonder. And here I'd been led to believe that this campaign took its cues from some kind of war hero.


SANCHEZ: Now, is the -- I need to parse this out as best I can from you, Michael. The fact that John McCain's organization gave $448,000 to this group that was founded by Mr. Khalidi, is there no reason for some to be critical of as well just as some might be critical of Barack Obama for being at a meeting with some girl read a poem for example?

GOLDFARB: Look. You are missing the point again, Rick. The point is that Barack Obama has a long track record of being around anti-Semitic and anti-Israel and anti-American rhetoric.

SANCHEZ: Can you name one other person besides Khalidi who he hangs around that is anti-Semitic?

GOLDFARB: Yes, he pals around with William Ayers.

SANCHEZ: No, no, the question I asked you is that can you name one other person who he hangs around with who is anti-Semitic? Because that is what you said.

GOLDFARB: Look, we know there are people who Barack Obama has been in hot water--

SANCHEZ: Michael, I asked you the name one person. One.


SANCHEZ: You said he hangs around with people who are anti-Semitic. Okay. Khalidi and name other people that we all know about?

GOLDFARB: And rick, we both know who number two is.

SANCHEZ: Who? Would you tell us?

GOLDFARB: No, Rick, I think we all know who we are talking about here.

SANCHEZ: Somebody who is anti-Semitic that he hangs around with.

GOLDFARB: I think we all know who we are talking about.

SANCHEZ: Say it.

GOLDFARB: I think we all know who we're talking about, rick.

SANCHEZ: Well, you say that his policies differ from Barack Obama and many other people, and either way, we have the leave it at that.

McCain Undercuts His Own Campaign

Eugene Jarecki was right, and here's the latest evidence from HuffPo.

In an interview with Larry King that aired last night, John McCain admitted that he doesn't think Barack Obama is a socialist, which runs counter to most of his campaign rhetoric for the past week. The admission is reminiscent of when McCain, after days of hammering Obama about a supposedly sexist remark, finally conceded that Obama probably wasn't calling Sarah Palin a pig when referencing "lipstick on a pig" at a campaign speech. Video below, with transcript:

Transcript, via CNN:

KING: You don't believe Barack Obama is a socialist, do you?

MCCAIN: No. But, I do believe -- I do believe that he's been in the far left of American politics. He has stated time after time that he believes in "spreading the wealth around." He's talked about courts that would redistribute the wealth.

He has a record of voting against tax cuts and for tax increases. And I don't think there's any doubt that he would increase spending and he would, sooner or later, we would be increasing taxes. There is no doubt in my mind that that's what his record -- 94 times he voted to cut taxes -- against tax cuts and for tax increases. He voted for -- and that's what matters. Not rhetoric. To raise taxes on individuals making $42,000 a year.

KING: Concerning spreading the wealth, isn't the graduated income tax spreading the wealth? If you and I paid more so that Jimmy can get some for him, or pay for a welfare recipient, that's spreading the wealth.

MCCAIN: Well, that's spreading the wealth in the respect that we do have a graduated income tax. That's a far cry from taking from one group of Americans and giving to another. I mean, that's dramatically different.

Sen. Obama clearly has talked about for years, redistributive policies. And that's not the way we create wealth in America. That's not the way we grow our economy. That's not the way we create jobs.

And when small business people see that half of their income, half of the income of small businesses is going to be taxed by Sen, Obama, then they're very upset with it.

KING: He says, it's only the personal income tax. If you run a store, if you make $250,000 or more, as a personal income, not a business income, that's where he's (INAUDIBLE).

MCCAIN: And that's where his folks just reduced it to $200,000. And then Sen. Biden yesterday said $150,000. And the fact is that if Joe the Plumber is able to buy the business that he works in, the guy that he buys it from is going to see an increase in capital gains taxes. They're going to see an increase in payroll taxes. They're going to see -- if he reaches a certain level, an increase in his income taxes. And that's what got people concerned. That's what's got Joe the Plumber upset. He wants to redistribute the money.

KING: Doesn't taxes pay for services?

MCCAIN: Taxes pay for services.


MCCAIN: But, do we want -- taxes pay to keep our government secure. To help those who can't help themselves. And other functions of government, which, by the way, expanded by some 40 percent in the last eight years and gave us a $10 trillion debt --

KING: Under Bush.

MCCAIN: And to the last two years, under Democrat majorities in the House and Senate.

But, that's the job of government. But it is not the job of government that I believe in, that would take a group of Americans who have some money and say, we're taking your money, and we're giving it to others. This 95 percent tax cut he's talking about for 95 percent of Americans -- 40 percent of Americans pay no income tax. So he is just going to give them some money. Where is he going to get it? He is increasing taxes for other groups of Americans. That's his plan.

KING: What are you going to do?

MCCAIN: I'm going to keep taxes low. I'm going to ...

KING: Where they are?

MCCAIN: Sure. Absolutely

What's up with all the McCain Newbies?

Back when the Palin pick was announced, a certain fearless Greek woman called it:

"Picking Sarah Palin was clearly a Hail Mary pass. But the McCain campaign is tapping into an archetype that resonates deep in the human psyche. That of the unknown innocent plucked from obscurity and magnificently rising to the challenge."

Where the hell is Whidbey Island?

Jim Ridgeway has been one of my favorite journalists since the 80s. I live on the island he mentions, where Robert Matthews was bombed out of a house on Smuggler's Cove Road.

He's one of my heroes, yet now I have to correct him.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Jim Ridgeway, what happened to David Lane and also to Robert Jay Mathews, who was another key leader of these right-wing groups back in the ’80s?

JAMES RIDGEWAY: Well, Lane was arrested in the ’80s and sentenced to jail for 190 years. He was involved in the murder of Alan Berg, the Denver talk show host. Bob Mathews, who was a leader of The Order, was hunted down by the FBI and shot and killed—or bombed out, actually, on Whidbey Island off the coast of Washington state.

Not really. We're in Puget Sound, north of Seattle, not off the coast.

"The Straight Talk Express is actually just political stagecraft of the most cynical and cutthroat kind."

Eugene Jarecki has just posted an article on HuffPo that is far above and beyond anything I've yet to read on the benighted senator from Arizona. My comments follow.

Now I'm not one to kick a man when he's down, nor even to hit him when he's wobbly. But watching John McCain's poll numbers stay strangely resilient despite the virtual disintegration of his campaign, I feel compelled to share a cautionary tale of my own firsthand experience with the Straight-Talk Express. That hell-bent freight train rolled over me a couple years ago and I haven't felt the same since. Back then, I was something of a McCain admirer. Today, I have a different story to tell - one that helps explain the tortuous path the McCain camp has taken in recent weeks through the scorched earth of a deteriorating candidacy. This path, one could say, is prelude; what I've learned watching McCain seek the White House should give anyone pause about the prospect of him occupying it.

So here's what happened. John McCain was featured prominently in my documentary film Why We Fight, which premiered at Sundance in 2005. In pre-screenings of the film across the country before its theatrical release, John McCain wowed audiences with his outspoken words onscreen. On the subject of misguided U.S. foreign policy, he said "Where the debate and controversy begins is how far does the United States go and when does it go from a force for good to a force of imperialism?" About defense industry corruption, he declared, "President Eisenhower's concern about the military-industrial complex -- his words have unfortunately come true." In specific, McCain criticized not only the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war but even the contracting and billing practices of Halliburton.

In November '05, as the theatrical release of Why We Fight approached, I visited Washington for a follow-up with the Senator, both as a courtesy and hoping he might appear at the film's premiere. I arrived early for my appointment, and his receptionist pointed me to a seat on the couch. She was busy fielding a torrent of calls. "Senator McCain's office, please hold," she said repeatedly. "The office of Senator McCain, please hold...."

On a TV flickering silently, the Senate was in a frenzied session on the administration's handling of pre-war intel on Iraq. Watching the charade of partisan posturing onscreen, I wondered if Americans outside the Beltway even cared at all. The calls coming in to the receptionist suggested they did. From her responses, the callers seemed concerned with a wide array of subjects facing the Senator. "The Senator is unavailable at the moment," she would say. "May I pass on a message? Yes he is familiar with that issue. You say you support it? Yes? I will pass that on to the Senator. Thank you for calling." Some version of this conversation recurred ten times in the first 15 minutes I was there.

During a lull, I approached the receptionist and asked her how many such calls she fields each day. "Oh hundreds," she smiled. "Is there a system for passing all this on to the Senator?" I asked. "Oh yes," she replied, brandishing a steno pad with an immaculate handwritten tally of the views expressed. "I share this with him at the end of the day." Impressed and inspired, I returned to the visitor's couch. For a moment, Washington seemed to be working for America.

As I waited, though, I noted a conversation taking place on the opposite side of the waiting room. There at a conference table was a group of businessmen meeting with two of the Senator's staffers. I hid myself in a magazine and pretended not to listen. From what I could gather, the businessmen represented a defense interest seeking the Senator's support for some system produced by their firm. It was pretty ironic. There I was, having made a film that investigates military-industrial-congressional corruption, and after less than an hour in Washington I was already witnessing in microcosm the tension of forces acting on public policy. On my right, the voices of Eisenhower's "alert and knowledgeable citizenry" seeking their Senator's ear through his receptionist's headset. On my left, representatives of the military-industrial sector, seeking with quiet confidence to influence the Senator on a matter of mutual interest.

A balanced picture? How could it be, really? Given the grotesque costs of elections and the need for members of Congress to bring home jobs, the most important people for any politician, Republican or Democrat, are those whose companies create jobs and generate contributions. And for the most part, that's not you and me. Most Americans don't meet their politicians. Half the country doesn't vote. Ninety-six percent don't write campaign checks.

I didn't see the Senator that day but met instead with his Chief of Staff Mark Salter. I explained to Mr. Salter that Senator McCain's outspoken onscreen remarks were proving popular with audiences weary of the status quo. I told him I wanted to arrange events to inspire public discourse and hoped the Senator might appear. Salter had bigger fish to fry, thanked me perfunctorily for my visit, and that was that.

But I could never have anticipated what happened next. The film was released nationally in January 2006. A few days later, I got a call from an agitated Mark Salter. He didn't recall my visit, hadn't seen the film, and after a panicked battery of questions, demanded I send him acopy. As promised during our November meeting, I had already sent him an advance copy, which I pointed out was already in his office. He asked me to hold, presumably confirmed this, then came back on the line to say he'd get back to me.

When next I heard from Salter, panic had grown to fury. He said the Senator's critical comments about the dangers of preemption and of American imperialism could give the mistaken impression McCain was opposed to the Iraq war and the Bush Administration broadly. But the moment in the film that was his greatest concern was when, responding to a question about the controversial awarding of no-bid contracts to Halliburton, McCain concedes, "It looks bad. It looks bad. And apparently, Halliburton more than once has overcharged the federal government. That's wrong." When pressed on how he would tackle this problem, McCain boldly declares, "I would have a public investigation of what they've done."

At that moment in the film, a phone rings off-screen and Senator McCain is advised by a staffer that Vice-President Cheney is calling. With a nervous laugh, the Senator excuses himself. "The vice-president's on the phone," he stammers, rising and scrambling off-screen, leaving the camera rolling on his empty chair. Different people see this scene differently. Some see McCain's sudden departure as perfectly normal. He's a high-ranking Senator, and the Vice-President is calling. Others see McCain's departure as evidence of a too-close relationship with Cheney. They note a certain embarrassment in McCain's body language. To yet a smaller, third group, McCain's reaction underscores Dick Cheney's omnipotence in Washington. Given the Administration's penchant for wiretapping, one viewer laughingly told me he thought perhaps "Cheney had decided the interview had gone on long enough."

Jokes aside, when McCain's office voiced their concern about this moment, I expected, if
anything, they might fear the suggestion of uncomfortably close ties between McCain and Cheney. When Salter instead declared to me that I was "making it look like John McCain was critical of the Vice-President," and that "Vice-President Cheney has nothing to do with Halliburton," I realized that what he was objecting to was not that McCain might appeared too close to Cheney but rather not close enough. Mr. Salter demanded that I send him a transcript of the Senator's interview, not just the parts that appear in the film. Since none of the film's more than twenty other interviewees had been provided such a thing, and since I valued the film's independence from political pressure, I told Mr. Salter I would seek advice from other journalists and get back to him.

Salter next resorted to threats, saying that, unless I complied, he would smear my name in the media and exert pressure on the film's principal funder never to work with me again. I said I thought the BBC would be unlikely to welcome such pressure from an irate chief of staff to a senator. Salter then changed gears, appealing to my sense of fairness. "When Senator McCain sat down to talk to you," he explained, "he thought he was talking to a television crew from the BBC." I said that that was true, but that the film had then gone on to win Sundance and secure a theatrical release. But then something troubling about his remark dawned on me.

"If you don't mind my asking," I said, "are you suggesting there are things Senator McCain will say to a British audience that he isn't comfortable saying to the American people?"Needless to say, this didn't help matters. But I wasn't trying to be snide. My question was just the logical extension of what Salter had intimated. But it clearly touched a nerve. He became enraged and, after hanging up, sought to make good on his threat to tarnish my name and career.

On February 8, 2006, in an article in Roll Call entitled "An Angry Star is Born," Mary Ann Akers wrote, "Attention, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.): You're not the only punching bag for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). The 2008 presidential hopeful is also really mad at the producer of theSundance Film Festival award-winning film 'Why We Fight''...McCain -- and especially his chief of staff -- think the movie producer intentionally twisted McCain's few lines in the film so that he comes off as critical of Vice-President Cheney."

The article goes on to quote Mr. Salter as calling me a "slippery son of a gun" and accusing me of "'doing manipulative editing' to make it look like McCain is questioning Cheney's involvement in the awarding of contracts to Halliburton..." Salter then offered Roll Call the same peculiar argument he gave me about British television. "McCain thought he was doing an interview on Iraq with the BBC," Salter told Roll Call, "'turns out to be a theatrically released film in the United States.'" Salter then underscored McCain's fondness for Cheney, lest the film leave anyone with the impression that he was in any way critical of the Vice-President. The Senator, the article quoted Salter to say, has "complete respect for Mr. Cheney's integrity."

Salter also kept his promise to inform the BBC about my alleged misconduct. He contacted them, after which they called me, nonplussed and a bit bemused at the strange culture of Washington. Ultimately, the episode came and went, and the McCain camp's efforts against me subsided. Looking back, of course, it was all about damage control to ensure that the Senator's presidential ambitions not be imperiled by a film in which he could be seen as critical of the Bush Administration. They hoped to distance McCain from his own words, which was pointedly disheartening for me, as I had seen so many audiences be so moved by them.

But the larger moral of my story became clear in recent weeks as the McCain camp entered a pattern of spiraling electoral thuggery that bears all the markings of the behavior I experienced. First came McCain's petulant withdrawal from Larry King, compounded by the vitriol Sarah Palin directed at the mainstream press at the Convention. But as the McCain candidacy unraveled over the weeks that followed, with his own staffers coming to call Palin a "Diva" and a "whack job"and both sides sowing the seeds for a post-election blame game, the strategy of shooting the messenger has proven to be just another bizarre flare-up in the fog of a turbulent campaign. Arguably, when your opponent can outspend you 4 to 1 on advertising, offending the free-of-charge mainstream press, which John McCain once called "my base," might not be the best idea. So why did they do it? Why all the fuss and desperation? Where does the palpable insecurity within the McCain camp come from? And what does it tell us?

The superficial answer to these questions lies in my own experience as a precursor to what I have seen play out in the campaign. In her strident debut, Palin played the straight-talk card in describing McCain. "Wherever he goes and whoever is listening, John McCain is the same man!" she declared. Like so many of the talking points she was given, one can assume these words were carefully crafted to unmake a prevailing impression the McCain team perceives as a liability. This time, it was the fact that McCain is widely perceived as politically slippery - a politician who says different things to different people. For me, witnessing the John McCain who courageously appeared in my film and the later McCain whose staff went after me for sharing his thoughts with the American public, I've seen firsthand how the Straight-Talk Express really works.

Basically, the train tends to veer off its rails whenever its "maverick" conductor goes off-script, pandering to one desired constituency in a way that alienates another. His handlers in the caboose are then left scrambling to undo impressions they fear will come back to haunt them. When the train gets out of control, taking their campaign someplace they didn't mean to go, they try to backtrack at all cost. So whether this means dissing David Letterman or bullying a lowly filmmaker like me, no contortion is so great that they won't indulge it if it helps the train reach Pennsylvania Avenue. Now, I don't really expect straight talk from politicians, but when a politician makes "straight talk" his claim to fame, he actually gets my hopes up. In McCain's case, I learned the hard way that the Straight Talk Express is actually just political stagecraft of the most cynical and cutthroat kind.

But on a deeper level, I sense that all the problems of managing McCain's public image are ultimately a reflection of a profound division in McCain's own soul as he runs for the presidency. His awkward manner, his sidekick's rogue behavior, his campaign's erratic relations with the press and public - all this radio static speaks volumes about the deeper insecurity and unresolved persona of the man himself - qualities so glaring no amount of lipstick or campaign theatrics can hide them.

The problem for McCain is that his career - and in particular his strained relations with the Bush camp -- does not offer a coherent, consistent message for a candidacy. Here is a man whose prevailing legacy is that he was a tortured American POW. And yet, in fear of losing the party base, he was forced to engage from day one in a slippery political dance on the most sensitive issue of his life, going some distance to apply the principles of his experience, yet not so far that he might be perceived as critical of the President. Thus, instead of becoming a vital reminder of how America can cannibalize her young people in a misbegotten war, McCain let his ambition for the White house ally him with an Administration on the wrong side of history, condoning the morally shameful enterprise they engineered in Iraq. By doing this, instead of helping America avoid repeating history, he became one willing to block out even his own memories and pretend, as he did in his speech about 2013, that there can ever be "victory with honor" in a war like that in Iraq. Deep down, McCain must know that after giving themselves to a war of lies, cynicism, and corruption, young people return home with less than they started out with. But instead of representing this wisdom and sparing another generation of young Americans the anguish he experienced, McCain sold them out in order that he might win the chance to occupy that same office from which he was once misguidedly commanded into harm's way.

With all due respect to the inner challenges McCain faces as he tries to reconcile the politician with the human being, what America most needs today -- alongside an unrelentingly engaged public - is deep, inspired, and coherent leadership, not a continuation of the personal insecurity, confused morality, and political opportunism that got us where are.

Eugene Jarecki's 2006 film "Why We Fight" won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival as well as a Peabody Award. This posting is an excerpt from his new book, The American Way of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril. It has just been released by Simon & Schuster/Free Press.

BRAVO! Excellent! Above and beyond anything I've yet to read on McCain, thank you so much, o brother my Bother Eugene.

Are you saying, he's an anti-hero? I'll do this in two posts.

The following post will be a selection from Joseph Campbell's 1945 classic, _The Hero with A Thousand Faces_. To be a real hero, it's not enough to suffer. You must also return with a boon that revitalizes your community.

Posted 11:02 AM on 10/30/2008

"The mythological hero, [starting] from his common day [life], is lured, carried away, or... voluntarily proceeds, to the threshold of adventure. There he encounters a shadow presence that guards the passage. The hero may defeat or conciliate this power and go alive into the kingdom of the dark (brother-battle, dragon-battle; offering, charm), or be slain by the opponent and descend in death (dismemberment, crucifixion). Beyond the threshold,... the hero journeys through a world of unfamiliar yet strangely intimate forces, some of which severely threaten him (tests), some of which give magical aid (helpers). When he arrives at the nadir of the mythological round, he undergoes a supreme ordeal and gains his reward. The triumph may be represented as the hero's sexual union with the goddess-mother of the world (sacred marriage), his recognition by the father-creator (father atonement), his own divinization (apotheosis), or again "if the powers have remained unfriendly to him" his theft of the boon he came to gain (bride-theft, fire-theft); intrinsically it is an expansion of consciousness and therewith of being (illumination, transfiguration, freedom). The final work is that of the return. If the powers have blessed the hero, he now sets forth under their protection (emissary); if not, he flees and is pursued (transformation flight, obstacle flight). At the return threshold the transcendental powers must remain behind; the hero re-emerges from the kingdom of dread (return, resurrection).

The boon that he brings restores the world (elixir)." This test McCain fails.

Posted 11:02 AM on 10/30/2008

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duh, so it is. I've been looking for a way to bring the heroic epic into this election. Thanks for the insight!
Posted 11:30 AM on 10/30/2008

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Is that Joseph Campbell? Nice connection.
Posted 11:27 AM on 10/30/2008

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Yes, it is. But I got the publication year wrong. D'oh!

First Edition, 1949 Second Edition, 1968

First Princeton/Bollingen Paperback Printing, 1972 Third Printing, 1973
[from which this selection is taken.]

Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 49-8590 ISBN 0-691-01784-0 (paperback edn.) ISBN 0-691-09743-7 (hardcover edn.)

Posted 11:39 AM on 10/30/2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

McCain's Last Minute Myth-Jacking

Sam Stein on Huffington Post

John McCain's campaign is making what appears to be a final, full-throated effort to paint Barack Obama as a sympathizer with the Muslim world. In the process they are putting out into the public domain as many images as possible of Obama's face cast over a map of the Middle East.

The latest salvo came Wednesday afternoon, when the Republican nominee released a web ad placing Obama's visage in front of an outline of Iran, and presenting aspects of the Senator's foreign policy alongside music traditionally associated with a Muslim call to prayer.

Understanding Palin's Political and Religious Views

Originally publishedOctober 29, 2008 on No Comment, Scott Horton's blog at

Best of the ’08 Campaign V: Northern exposure

By Scott Horton

Is Sarah Palin a “whack job”? Yesterday, Politico quoted an unnamed senior McCain advisor describing Palin in just those words. Yet there has been little reporting in the mainstream media that would sustain this characterization. As I reported a few days back for The Daily Beast,, one of the things that led Bill Kristol—Palin’s principal advocate—to push her as McCain’s vice president was the fact that she was unknown, a blank slate. She hailed from a small town in the most remote state in the Union. When the Palin nomination was announced, hundreds of journalists descended on Anchorage and its northern suburb of Wasilla. A handful of serious exposé pieces emerged in the process. But only one visitor up north came back with a bag of gold nuggets. His name is Max Blumenthal.

Over the past several years, Blumenthal’s work has focused on fringe groups on the right. He has excelled in covering political activism among evangelicals. His technique is simple: he confronts the subjects and lets them speak for themselves. His videos are generally under fifteen minutes and are somewhat haphazard, but Blumenthal invariably captures images and language that go unreported in the mainstream media–which prefers to allow religious-right figures to sell their snake oil unreported and off camera. In his trek to Alaska, Blumenthal focused on three aspects of Palin’s background—her relationship with two churches that played a central role in her political campaigns (first for mayor of Wasilla, then for governor of Alaska); her connections to a political separatist movement, the Alaska Independent Party; and her relations with minorities.

The materials Blumenthal harvested on his trip have had a real impact on the campaign. They include clips of services in the Wasilla Assembly of God, where Palin was baptized when she was twelve and which she attended until 2002, and the Wasilla Bible Church, which she attended after 2002. Although Palin launched her political career from a religious platform, mobilizing the religious communities with which she was affiliated, she has been quiet about her religious views throughout the campaign. The footage that Blumenthal secured and published allows an extraordinary glimpse into Palin’s inner sanctum. We see in some clips Palin delivering an address in which she equates religious missionary work with her political career. A series of vital political projects—ranging from the war in Iraq to a pipeline project—are described as being divinely ordained, and thus beyond discussion. In another clip, Bishop Thomas Muthee lays hands on Palin and prays, “Bring finances her way even for the campaign in the name of Jesus… Use her to turn this nation the other way around and to keep her safe from every form of witchcraft.” In another segment that Blumenthal recorded in the church, Muthee sermonizes about “the enemy,” using violent language. What these clips reveal is material to understanding Palin’s political and religious views. They suggest that the Wasilla congregation and Palin follow “dominionism,” a conviction that society must be governed exclusively by the law of God as set forth in the Bible. Biblical texts are to be construed and applied with a right-wing twist that reveals plenty of conservative social prejudices and little sensitivity to the original texts themselves. Moreover, dominionists share a millennial vision of the Rapture, coming great upheavals and political change leading to the creation of the Kingdom of God on earth. Dominionists do not embrace the separation of church and state, and tend to approach political issues from a highly dogmatic stance, often focused on particular charismatic individuals they see as ordained to govern. Indeed, dominionists widely embraced George W. Bush as an “anointed” leader whose decisions were beyond debate. They form a large chunk of the 20 percent rump group that continue to give Bush a positive performance evaluation. Blumenthal interviews one of Palin’s followers who equates her with Queen Esther, the biblical figure who bravely protected the Jews during the Babylonian Captivity.

Were it not for the determination and fearlessness of Max Blumenthal, we would now stand one week before the election largely ignorant of Palin’s Christianist political theology. His work was invaluable, but it has been under-exposed and -appreciated. Here is an essential library of Blumenthal’s work on Palin. Is Sarah Palin a “whack job”? Watch the clips, particularly those of her speaking in her own church, and call it for yourself.

“The Witch Hunter Anoints Sarah Palin”

“In the Land of Queen Esther: The YouTube Version”

“New Footage from Inside Palin’s Church”

Sarah Palin Discusses “Master’s Commissions”

“Did the Palin Administration Exclude Blacks?”

“Meet Sarah Palin’s Radical Right-Wing Pals”

Scott Horton Details Our New McCarthyism

Originally publishedOctober 29, 2008 on No Comment, Scott Horton's blog at

The New McCarthyism

By Scott Horton

The last weeks of every presidential campaign I can remember bring out the crazies. Candidates are reviled as “racists,” “Nazis,” “Communists,” and the like. But this year the process has gotten nuttier and more malicious than usual. Perhaps it is a sign of desperation, given that polling does not suggest a close campaign, and a party now long entrenched appears to be poised for a swift kick in the behind—for the second time running.

Still, I was amused at how absurd some of this is. The National Review is worth examining regularly these days–it has turned into something of a circular firing squad. I used to read and love it back in the heyday of William F. Buckley, Jr.’s editorship. It was home base for a certain rigorous, philosophically based conservatism that valued the classics. I search in vain through National Review today for any trace of the erudition and intellectual integrity that Buckley brought to the publication. And I suspect that Buckley himself was unhappy with the magazine’s course in his final years. Two years ago, I spoke at a conservative, religiously affiliated college in the South and discovered that my predecessor at the lectern, just the night before, had been Buckley. When I asked how his talk had gone, my faculty handler told me it had been a surprising experience. Buckley spoke at some length about the mistakes that the Bush Administration had made, starting with the Iraq War. When one student observed that his comments were rather at odds with the views that appeared in National Review, Buckley replied, “Yes. We have grown distant.”

In the current issue of National Review, Andrew McCarthy continues his campaign to link the Democratic nominee to various and sundry Hyde Park radicals. This time it is “PLO advisor turned University of Chicago professor Rashid Khalidi,” who now heads the Middle Eastern Studies Department at Columbia University. Khalidi, we learn, makes a habit of justifying and supporting the work of terrorists and is “a former mouthpiece for master terrorist Yasser Arafat.” And then we learn that this same Khalidi knows Obama and that his children even babysat for Obama’s kids!

This doesn’t sound much like the Rashid Khalidi I know. I’ve followed his career for many years, read his articles and books, listened to his presentations, and engaged him in discussions of politics, the arts, and history. In fact, as McCarthy’s piece ran, I was midway through an advance copy of Khalidi’s new book Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East. (I’ll be reviewing it next month–stay tuned.) Rashid Khalidi is an American academic of extraordinary ability and sharp insights. He is also deeply committed to stemming violence in the Middle East, promoting a culture that embraces human rights as a fundamental notion, and building democratic societies. In a sense, Khalidi’s formula for solving the Middle East crisis has not been radically different from George W. Bush’s: both believe in American values and approaches. However, whereas Bush believes these values can be introduced in the wake of bombs and at the barrel of a gun, Khalidi disagrees. He sees education and civic activism as the path to success, and he argues that pervasive military interventionism has historically undermined the Middle East and will continue to do so. Khalidi has also been one of the most articulate critics of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority—calling them repeatedly on their anti-democratic tendencies and their betrayals of their own principles. Khalidi is also a Palestinian American. There is no doubt in my mind that it is solely that last fact that informs McCarthy’s ignorant and malicious rants.

McCarthy states that Khalidi “founded” the Arab American Action Network (AAAN). In fact, he neither founded it nor has anything to do with it. But AAAN is not, as McCarthy suggests, a political organization. It is a social-services organization, largely funded by the state of Illinois and private foundations, that provides support for English-language training, citizenship classes, after-school and summer programs for schoolchildren, women’s shelters, and child care among Chicago’s sizable Arab community (and for others on the city’s impoverished South Side). Does McCarthy consider this sort of civic activism objectionable? Since it was advocated aggressively by President Bush–this is “compassionate conservativism” in action–such an objection would be interesting. Nor was Khalidi ever a spokesman for the PLO, though that was reported in an erroneous column by the New York Times’s Tom Friedman in 1982. That left me curious about the final and most dramatic accusation laid at Khalidi’s doorstep: that the Khalidis babysat for the Obamas. Was it true? I put the question to Khalidi. “No, it is not true,” came the crisp reply. Somehow that was exactly the answer I expected.

Of course, Khalidi has been involved in Palestinian causes. McCarthy ought to ask John McCain about that, because McCain and Khalidi appear to have some joint interests, and that fact speaks very well of both of them. Indeed, the McCain–Khalidi connections are more substantial than the phony Obama–Khalidi connections McCarthy gussies up for his article. The Republican party’s congressionally funded international-networking organization, the International Republican Institute–long and ably chaired by John McCain and headed by McCain’s close friend, the capable Lorne Craner–has taken an interest in West Bank matters. IRI funded an ambitious project, called the Palestine Center, that Khalidi helped to support. Khalidi served on the Center’s board of directors. The goal of that project, shared by Khalidi and McCain, was the promotion of civic consciousness and engagement and the development of democratic values in the West Bank. Of course, McCarthy is not interested in looking too closely into the facts, because they would not serve his shrill partisan objectives.

I have a suggestion for Andy McCarthy and his Hyde Park project. If he really digs down deep enough, he will come up with a Hyde Park figure who stood in constant close contact with Barack Obama and who, unlike Ayers and Khalidi, really did influence Obama’s thinking about law, government, and policy. He is to my way of thinking a genuine radical. His name is Richard Posner, and he appears to be the most frequently and positively cited judge and legal academic in… National Review.

"We imported fascism."

German rocket science wasn't the only thing we imported after WWII. Look at Milton Friedman's Chicago Boys and McCain's pal, Pinochet; at the "deliberate process of transferring" this ultra-right ideology to Latin America by violent regime change and economic shock therapy, and tell me that's not fascism.

Gore Vidal discusses it in this clip from

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lying is SOP in the US & UK

Originally published in October 27, 2008
The Diplomacy of Lying

By John Pilger

In 1992, Mark Higson, the Foreign Office official responsible for Iraq, appeared before the Scott inquiry into the scandal of arms sold illegally to Saddam Hussein. He described a "culture of lying" at the heart of British foreign policymaking. I asked him how frequently ministers and officials lied to parliament.

"It's systemic," he said. "The draft letters I wrote for various ministers were saying that nothing had changed, the embargo on the sale of arms to Iraq was the same."

"Was that true?" I asked.

"No, it wasn't true."

"And your superiors knew it wasn't true?"


"So how much truth did the public get?"

"The public got as much truth as we could squeeze out, given that we told downright lies."

From British involvement with the genocidal Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, to the supply of warplanes to the Indonesian dictator Suharto, knowing he was bombing civilians in East Timor, to the denial of vaccines and other humanitarian aid to the children of Iraq, my experience with the Foreign Office is that Higson was right and remains right.

As I write this, the dispossessed people of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean await the decision of the Law Lords, hoping for a repetition of four previous judgments that their brutal expulsion to make way for a U.S. military base was "outrageous," "illegal," and "repugnant." That they must endure yet another appeal is thanks to the Foreign Office – whose legal adviser in 1968, one Anthony Ivall Aust (pronounced "oarst" and since knighted), wrote a secret document headed "Maintaining the fiction." This advised the then Labor government to "argue" the "fiction" that the Chagossians were "only a floating population." Today, the depopulated main island, Diego Garcia, over which the Union Jack flies, serves the "war on terror" as an American interrogation and torture center.

When you bear this in mind, the U.S. presidential race becomes surreal. The beatification of President Barack Obama is already under way; for it is he who "challenges America to rise up [and] summon 'the better angels of our nature,'" says Rolling Stone magazine, reminiscent of the mating calls of Guardian writers to the "mystical" Blair. As ever, the Orwell Inversion Test is necessary. Obama claims that his vast campaign wealth comes from small individual donors, yet he has also received funds from some of the most notorious looters on Wall Street. Moreover, the "dove" and "candidate of change" has voted repeatedly to fund George W. Bush's rapacious wars, and now demands more war in Afghanistan while he threatens to bomb Pakistan.

Dismissing the popular democracies in Latin America as a "vacuum" to be filled by the United States, he has endorsed Colombia's "right to strike terrorists who seek safe havens across its borders." Translated, this means the "right" of the criminal regime in that country to invade its neighbors, notably uppity Venezuela, on Washington's behalf. The British human rights group Justice for Colombia has just published a study concerning Anglo-American backing for the Colombian regime of Álvaro Uribe, which is responsible for more than 90 percent of all cases of torture. The principal torturers, the "security forces," are trained by the Americans and the British. The Foreign Office replies that it is "improving the human rights record of the military and combating drug trafficking." The study finds not a shred of evidence to support this. Colombian officers with barbaric records, such as those implicated in the murder of a trade union leader, are welcomed to Britain for "seminars."

As in many parts of the world, the British role is that of subcontractor to Washington. The bloody "Plan Colombia" was the design of Bill Clinton, the last Democratic president and inspiration for Blair's and Brown's new Labor. Clinton's administration was at least as violent as Bush's – see UNICEF's report that 500,000 Iraqi children died as a result of the Anglo-American blockade in the 1990s.

The lesson learned is that no presidential candidate, least of all a Democrat awash with money from America's "banksters," as Franklin Roosevelt called them, can or will challenge a militarized system that controls and rewards him. Obama's job is to present a benign, even progressive face that will revive America's democratic pretensions, internationally and domestically, while ensuring nothing of substance changes.

Among ordinary Americans desperate for a secure life, his skin color may help him regain this unjustified "trust," even though it is of a similar hue to that of Colin Powell, who lied to the United Nations for Bush and now endorses Obama. As for the rest of us, is it not time we opened our eyes and exercised our right not to be lied to, yet again?

[Full article]

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Political Communicators Calling Out Brawler McCain


Statement Concerning Recent Discourse

of the McCain/Palin Campaign

October 23, 2008

This statement is signed by research faculty of communication programs from across the nation. We speak as concerned educators and scholars of communication but do not claim to speak for our home institutions.

We wish to express our great concern over unethical communication behavior that threatens to dominate the closing days of the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Both major campaigns have been criticized by fact-checking organizations for prevarications. We call on both campaigns to halt blatant misrepresentations of their opponent’s positions.

It would be misleading, however, to imply that since “both sides do it” there is no qualitative difference worth noting. In recent weeks, the Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin has engaged in such incendiary mendacity that we must speak out. The purposeful dissemination of messages that a communicator knows to be false and inflammatory is unethical. It is that simple.

Making decisions in a democracy requires an informed electorate. The health of our democracy and our ability to make a good decision about who should lead our nation require the very best in communication practices, not the worst.

Media investigations have debunked the notion that Senator Obama “worked closely” or “palled around” with “terrorist” Bill Ayers. Governor Palin cited a New York Times article that actually contradicts her claim by noting “the two men do not appear to have been close.” Nonetheless, the McCain/Palin ticket continues to repeat the canard, most recently with so-called “robocalls” in battleground states.[i]

The McCain/Palin ticket now describes the Obama/Biden tax plan with such terms as “socialist” and “welfare.” Such descriptions are false. Even if they were not, they would apply equally to the McCain/Palin tax proposals.[ii]

The repeated use of “Joe the Plumber” as a symbol by the McCain/Palin ticket is more deceptive than truthful. Despite the fact that media reports have revealed that the person is not a licensed plumber, owes back taxes, and his current personal income tax would decrease under the Obama tax plan, the McCain/Palin ticket continues to take Obama’s words to Joe out of context to repeat the false claim that Obama would raise taxes on the middle class and thus hurt the American Dream.[iii]

Such discourse is inflammatory as well as deceptive. Behind in the polls, the McCain/Palin campaign and its surrogates now appear intent on marking Obama as “other” to elicit racist fears. Senator McCain’s odd question “Who is Barack Obama?” is answered by Governor Palin’s assertion that Obama “is not a man who sees America as you and I do,” along with her comment “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic. . . pro-America areas of this great nation.”

We see an effort to color code the election as between an urban, African-American Obama falsely linked to terms like “terrorist,” “unpatriotic,” and “welfare” versus small town, white, “patriotic” Americans like the mythical Joe the Plumber. “Intended” or not, the message is getting through, as reports have emerged of ugly scenes at some Republican rallies and racists hanging Obama in effigy in Oregon and Ohio. In an echo of McCarthyism, Representative Michelle Bachmann has called for investigations into un-American members of Congress, pointing to Senator Obama as the prime suspect. Speaking to warm up the crowd before a McCain rally, Representative Robin Hayes continued the theme: “Folks, there’s a real America, and liberals hate real Americans that work, and accomplish, and achieve, and believe in God.” The official website of the Sacramento County Republican Party compared Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama to terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and urged people to “Waterboard Barack Obama.” The October newsletter of the Chaffey Community Republican Women in California depicts Obama on a food stamp surrounded by a watermelon, ribs, and a bucket of fried chicken. The McCain/Palin campaign has not repudiated such actions taken on its behalf, nor has it done enough to respond to reprehensible behavior at rallies.[iv]

The McCain/Palin campaign and its surrogates, of course, will deny explicit racism. But their purposeful repetition of inflammatory false statements is unethical and stokes the fires of racism.

The code of ethical conduct for the National Communication Association reads in part “We advocate truthfulness, accuracy, honesty, and reason as essential to the integrity of communication.”[v] We believe the integrity of political communication in our nation is being seriously threatened and we call on the McCain/Palin campaign to put a stop to such efforts immediately.

[List of Signatories and References cited]