Appalachian voters continue to resist Barack Obama’s charms, but Obama (D) is pulling ahead of John McCain (R) in statewide surveys in other potential swing states. Rasmussen Reports showed Democrats leading in states with 200 electoral votes while the GOP is leading in states with 189. When “leaner” states are added, the Dems lead 260-240 while states with 38 votes (Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire and Ohio) are rated tossups. Twelve states with 149 electoral votes are either a pure tossup or slightly leaning to one party or the other, Rasmussen noted. These are likely to be the early battleground states: Florida (27), Pennsylvania (21), Ohio (20), Michigan (17), Virginia (13), Missouri (11), Wisconsin (10), Colorado (9), Iowa (7), Nevada (5), New Mexico (5), and New Hampshire (4).

In Colorado, both Rasmussen and Survey USA showed Obama ahead 48% to 42% (5/19). In Nevada, McCain led Obama 46%-40% in a Rasmussen poll (5/20). In Iowa, Obama led 47%-38% in a Survey USA poll (5/21-22). In New Hampshire, Rasmussen showed Obama ahead 48-43 (5/21), a reversal from a 51-41 lead for McCain on 4/30. In Ohio, Survey USA showed Obama ahead by 9 points—48% to 39% (5/16-18). A Rasmussen poll (5/15) showed McCain nominally ahead 45-44 in Ohio. In Pennsylvania, Obama led McCain 45%-34% in a Rasmussen poll (5/21), 48-40 in an SUSA poll (5/16-18) and 46-40 in Quinnipiac (5/13-20). In Virginia, Obama led 49-42 in an SUSA poll (5/16-18). Polls by Quinnipiac (5/13-20) showed McCain leading in Florida 45-41 and Ohio 44-40. SUSA showed McCain leading in Missouri 48-45 (5/16-18).

Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos.com noted (5/23) that, based on averages of polls at Pollster.com, Obama would win 283-255. He would lose the “Kerry states” of Michigan and New Hampshire but win the “Bush states” of Iowa, Indiana, New Mexico, Colorado and Ohio. “If you give him a tiny 3-point ‘primary boost,’ he picks up Virginia and Michigan, for a 313-225 lead.”

“Now Indiana would be tough to hold, so I wouldn’t count on it,” Moulitsas wrote. But other states look competitive, such as Florida, New Hampshire, Missouri and even Mississippi if African American turnout outperforms and Obama can garner just 20% of the white vote.

DEMS COMING HOME IN CALIFORNIA. A recent Los Angeles Times/KTLA poll of registered voters (5/24) deflated Republican hopes of contesting California. Obama led McCain 47% to 40% in as Dems appeared to be gravitating toward the likely nominee. Obama ran against McCain better than Clinton did among groups that powered her victory in California, including Latinos, Catholics and those without college degrees. (Clinton also led McCain, by 43%-40%.) A Pollster.com average of recent California polls showed Obama ahead 51.3%-39.3%.

M’CAIN FLUNKS VETS SUPPORT. After the Senate voted 75-22 to accept Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-Va.) GI Bill as an amendment to a military spending bill (5/22), Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said he respected Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) service to the country, “But I can’t understand why he would line up behind the President in his opposition to this GI bill. I can’t believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans. I could not disagree with him and the President more on this issue. There are many issues that lend themselves to partisan posturing but giving our veterans the chance to go to college should not be one of them.”

In reply, McCain, who skipped the Senate vote to raise funds in California, said Obama took “cheap shots” and “easy advantage of an issue he has less than zero understanding of.” He added, “Unlike Sen. Obama, my admiration, respect and deep gratitude for America’s veterans is something more than a convenient campaign pledge. I think I have earned the right to make that claim.” McCain insisted that he had the support of “literally every veterans organization” in the country. “I believe that I have earned the right to speak out on veterans’ issues,” McCain said. “I don’t know if the American people will judge Sen. Obama as to whether he has military experience or not, but they may judge him as to whether he has experience and knowledge to make the judgment necessary to care for the veterans,” McCain said.

But ThinkProgress.org noted that McCain’s stance against the GI Bill puts him in opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the American Legion, and the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Instead of “high awards,” McCain received a grade of D from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America for his record of voting against veterans. (By contrast, Obama got a B+.) Disabled Veterans of America noted McCain’s dismal 20% voting record on veterans’ issues. (Obama had 80%.) Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) notes McCain “Voted Against Us” 15 times and “Voted For Us” only 8. (Obama voted for VVA 12 times, and against only once.)

At a Memorial Day ceremony in Albuquerque, N.M. (5/26), McCain said that Webb’s GI Bill would drive soldiers out of the armed services at a time when the country is trying to expand the size of the military. He predicted that Webb’s bill would reduce the military’s retention rate by 16%. “Encouraging people to choose to not become noncommissioned officers would hurt the military and our country very badly,” he said, according to the Washington Post.

A Congressional Budget Office report found that increased military recruits attracted by the benefits would entirely make up for the loss in retention.

Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq war veteran and director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said that enhancing the GI Bill is a solid investment in the country’s future. He cited a study that suggested that every dollar spent on the original GI Bill created a seven-fold return for the economy. “Funding the GI Bill as Senator Webb proposes it for one year would cost this country what it spends in Iraq in 36 hours,” he added, according to the Boston Globe.

STOP-LOSS’ PAYMENTS PROPOSED. Democrats proposed a bill to compensate those whose military service is involuntarily extended by President Bush’s use of “stop-loss.” The bill, S. 3060 sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), would pay $1,500 for each additional month of service. It would not only affect 4,000 soldiers now affected by stop-loss, but would retroactively apply to more than 58,000 veterans whose retirements were delayed because the services decided they were needed on active duty. The average stop-loss has forced service members to remain on active duty for an additional 6.6 months, Army Times reported (5/25). Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans, Veterans for America and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States support the bill.

GOP DOWNSIZES BUSH FUNDRAISERS. McCain’s campaign scaled back two fundraisers involving President Bush, including a 5/27 event that was moved from the Phoenix Convention Center to a private home after ticket sales, costing $1,000 to $25,000, lagged and organizers were concerned that anti-war protesters would outnumber Bush/McCain supporters, according ot the Phoenix Business Journal. A 5/28 event for McCain featuring Bush and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with tickets costing $500 to $10,000, was moved from Salt Lake City’s Grand America Hotel to a private home.

STEELWORKERS, MINE WORKERS ENDORSE OBAMA. Despite the thumping Obama took in West Virginia and Kentucky, the United Steelworkers and United Mine Workers of America have endorsed Obama. “Sen. Obama will implement the clear change in direction UMWA members—indeed, all American working people—must have if they are to once again move forward and have a true opportunity to realize the American dream,” UMWA President Cecil E. Roberts said (5/21). “After eight years of being pushed aside by an administration which neither respects nor values the contributions American working families make to our society, we are looking forward with great anticipation to a new era in our nation.” The statement doesn’t mention Hillary Clinton. “We looked at the positions of both Sen. Obama and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) when considering this endorsement,” Roberts said. “On issue after issue, it is clear that Sen. Obama will be on our side while Sen. McCain will not.”

The United Steelworkers endorsed Obama on 5/15. “Sen. Obama’s call for a significant change of direction amounts to far more than a compelling rallying cry. It is buttressed by his record of consistent support for workers, by his call for sweeping changes to our health care system, by his unflinching support for Employee Free Choice, and by his insistence that America’s trade policies must, first and foremost, serve the interests of America’s working families,” the Steelworkers stated.

  “Sen. Obama has shown his commitment to working families by proposing significant investments in the future of American manufacturing, in the revitalization of our nation’s infrastructure, and in 21st century clean energy technologies that will lead to significant growth in domestic jobs.  He is clearly the candidate who can best lead our nation out of the dark period of economic decline created by the Bush administration’s allegiance to Wall Street profiteering at the expense of worker prosperity.

  “We share Sen. Obama’s call for significant changes to these bankrupt policies, just as we earlier shared Sen. Edwards’  And all of us, including we hope Sen. Clinton for whom we have the utmost respect, must now do everything we can to ensure that Barack Obama is the next President of the United States. ....

“America’s workers cannot afford another four years of rehashed Bush administration policies, another four years in which the National Labor Relations Board shills for corporate misconduct, or another four years of a Secretary of the Treasury who considers it his ‘job’ to bail out Wall Street speculators at the expense of hard working families loosing their homes.

“Nor can those of us who are committed to changing the direction of the country afford any more racial profiling of an election, when either Democratic candidate would be far superior to Sen. McCain’s lock-step commitment to four more years of the broken Bush economy and the broken Bush foreign policies.

“We are proud and honored to join Senator Edwards in endorsing Senator Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States. We commit ourselves to working tirelessly for his election and for a new age of cooperation among Democrats, Independents and thoughtful Republicans alike in which working Americans are restored to a place of dignity in society and in the American economy.”

It looks like the Mine Workers and Steelworkers have their work cut out for them in making Obama palatable to Appalachian voters, as a Rasmussen poll of 500 likely voters in Kentucky (5/22) found McCain leading Obama by 25 points, 57%-32%. Clinton led McCain 51%-42%.

‘TOUGH TALK FROM MONEY MAN. Hillary Clinton’s top campaign fundraiser, businessman Hassan Nemazee, told Greg Sargent at TalkingPointsMemo.com (5/23) that there’s a risk that Hillary’s political and financial supporters won’t get behind Obama in time for him to win in November if she’s passed over for the veep spot.

GOP HIRES ‘OPPO’ MAN. The Republican National Committee has hired Tim Griffin, the former Karl Rove protege who was at the center of the US Attorney scandal, to dig into Barack Obama’s past and unearth info to damage his general election candidacy, Greg Sargent reported at TalkingPointsMemo.com (5/22). Griffin played a lead role in the GOP opposition research (“oppo”) operation during the 2004 campaign, unearthing info that damaged John Kerry’s presidential bid. “Griffin is basically going to consult for the Republican National Committee on working out Obama’s vulnerabilities,” a senior Republican told Sargent. “The hope is to do to Obama what folks successfully did with John Kerry.” Griffin tends to describe his own work in fairly bellicose terms. “We think of ourselves as the creators of ammunition in a war,” Griffin once said. “We make the bullets.”

BUSH FATIGUE. Even Texas Republicans such as US Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas are distancing themselves from President Bush, the Dallas Morning News reported (5/25). The president, Sessions told a group of eighth-graders visiting the Capitol last week from Akiba Academy in Dallas, “is doing everything he thinks is correct,” and yet “the American people are fed up.... we’ve lost the House and Senate, and everybody hates George Bush.” For the week ending 5/23, Rasmussen Reports found, 34% of American approved of the way Bush performed as president and 63% disapproved.

BARR’S BURR UNDER M’CAIN’S SADDLE. Bob Barr, former Georgia Republican congressman who broke with the GOP over its expansion of government power and spending, won the Libertarian Party nomination for president and could tap the million-plus who voted for Ron Paul in the GOP primaries. Barr is a critic of the Bush administration’s eavesdropping on US citizens, warrantless searches and suspension of habeas corpus and other executive power grabs. Barr also called for US troops to be brought home from Iraq and he has criticized McCain’s policy on Iran. When he announced his campaign, he disparaged McCain’s fiscal policy, saying “there are some legitimate questions that have been raised over whether Senator McCain is simply a Johnny-come-lately to the modest tax cuts.” Barr said he expects the party to be on the ballot in at least 48 states and perhaps all 50 if the party can qualify in West Virginia and Oklahoma. Don Devine, vice-chairman of the Washington-based American Conservative Union, told Bloomberg News the community is beginning to buzz about Barr, and he could win 3% to 4% of the vote in the general election. “I could see myself voting for him,’’ Devine said. “I could see a lot of other conservatives voting for him.’’ A poll by Rasmussen Reports in early May showed Barr getting 6% nationally and Ralph Nader getting 4%. (Obama led McCain 42-38 in the same poll.)

DEM FUNDRAISING STRAINS FEC COMPUTERS. Record-shattering fundraising by Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have resulted in campaign finance reports so massive that they’ve strained the capacity of the Federal Election Commission, good government groups, the media and even software applications to process and make sense of the data, The Politico reported (5/26). “A milestone of sorts was reached earlier this year, when Obama, the Illinois senator whose revolutionary online fundraising has overwhelmed Clinton, filed an electronic fundraising report so large it could not be processed by popular basic spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel 2003 and Lotus 1-2-3,” Kenneth P. Vogel wrote. Obama’s January fundraising report, detailing the $23 mln he raised and $41 mln he spent in the last three months of 2007, far exceeded 65,536 rows listing contributions, refunds, expenditures, debts, reimbursements and other details. It was the first report to confound basic database programs since 2001, when the Federal Election Commission began directly posting candidates’ fundraising reports online in an effort to make political money more accessible and transparent to voters. Clinton baffled the spreadsheets with her March report. (Newer, more powerful database applications, such as Microsoft Access or Microsoft Excel 2007, can handle the reports.) McCain’s reports can still be downloaded with the older spreadsheet software.

NEVER SAY DIE. Pat Paulsen, whose satiric run for the presidency in 1968 was a running gag on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, died in 1997, but that hasn’t stopped his political career. David Bianculli, who is doing a book on the Smothers Brothers show, notes at tvworthwatching.com that Paulsen’s widow and son have resurrected his name for the 2008 presidential campaign. Among the slogans, “Dead Man Running.” See paulsen.com.

DEMS SPEAK ON TRADE. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama believe that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has done more to hurt than to help the US economy, and agreed that NAFTA needs to be renegotiated, according to questionnaire responses released by the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign. In addition to voicing support for new labor and environmental standards in trade agreements, both Clinton and Obama expressed support for eliminating corporate tax breaks that act as an incentive for offshoring US jobs; eliminating trade provisions that grant foreign investors greater rights than US citizens; insisting that new trade agreements require imported products to meet US safety standards; and allowing developing countries to protect themselves from agricultural dumping.

Obama also expressed support for renegotiating existing trade agreements to allow for “Buy America” and “Buy Local” procurement policies, while Senator Clinton expressed support for prioritizing American global warming policies over existing trade agreement obligations.

National polling results released 5/1 by the Pew Research Center found broad agreement that free trade negatively affects wages, jobs and economic growth in America. “By greater than six-to-one, the public says free trade agreements result in job losses rather than in new jobs. More so, a greater majority of independent voters had a negative view of the impact of free trade than registered Democrats,” said Arthur Stamoulis, director of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign.

“The fact that so many independent voters are unhappy with the direction of US trade policy suggests that trade will continue to be a major election issue through November,” said Stamoulis.

Sen. John McCain refused to respond to the questionnaire. Rep. Ron Paul failed to answer the questions, but did provide a statement available on the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign’s website along with the full questionnaire responses of Clinton and Obama. See www.oregonfairtrade.org.

VOTERS AREN’T DONE PUNISHING GOP. The GOP lost 30 seats in 2006, costing them the majority, but analyst Charlie Cook wrote in the National Journal (5/24) that “Voters are clearly still very upset with Republicans and don’t seem to have finished venting their spleens. In a May 13-15 national survey of 1,014 likely voters by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg for the Democracy Corps, Democrats held a 14-point (54% to 40%) lead on the generic congressional ballot test. When told the likely nominees in a given district, voters still gave Democrats a 10-point advantage, 52% to 42%. These results are consistent with those from other national polls.”

Congress has a terrible job-approval rating, Cook noted, but this election isn’t about that, at least so far. Instead, he wrote, “things look awful for the GOP. Five Republican senators are retiring while zero Democratic senators are. On the House side, 27 Republicans are leaving voluntarily compared with just eight Democrats. Meanwhile, Democratic House and Senate campaign committees are out-raising their GOP counterparts by astounding margins, meaning that Democrats will be able to pump a ton of money into far more races than the Republicans will.”

He added, “The GOP’s three consecutive special-election losses in heavily Republican districts have been enough to terrify Republican lawmakers on the House side of the Capitol. The fact that eight GOP Senate incumbents are in danger while only one Democratic senator is in any jeopardy, and that former Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, has run 8 points ahead of appointed Republican Sen. Roger Wicker in back-to-back polls, should be enough to scare those Republican lawmakers on the Senate side as well.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has piled up a campaign war chest, has expanded its target list to include such normally impregnable districts as Louisiana’s 4th (Bush 59%), Wyoming’s at-large (Bush 69%), Missouri’s 9th (Bush 59%), New Mexico’s 2nd (Bush 58%) and Maryland’s 1st district (Bush 62%), according to the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza.

Democracy for America’s list of endorsed candidates includes Joe Garcia (D), who is challenging Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) in Florida 25; Darcy Burner challenging Rep. Dave Reichert (R) in Washington 8; Charlie Brown (D), a retired US Air Force lieutenant colonel came within 9,000 votes of upsetting eight-term incumbent Rep. John Doolittle (R) in 2006, will face a lesser-known Republican this year as Doolittle is giving up the California 4 seat in the midst of a corruption investigation; Eric Massa, a retired naval officer who served as special assistant to Gen. Wes Clark when he commanded the NATO forces, challenging Rep. Randy Kuhl (R) in upstate N.Y. 29; Ed Fallon, a progressive populist who is taking on Blue-Dog Democrat Leonard Boswell in Iowa 3; Larry Kissell, a teacher and former mill worker seeking to unseat Rep. Robin Hayes (R) in N.C. 8; and Roy Carter (D), who is challenging right-wing Rep. Virginia Fox (R) in N.C. 5.

Twenty-first Century Democrats has endorsed a list of progressive House candidates that includes Judy Baker in California 9; Kay Barnes in Missouri 9; Darcy Burner in Washington 8; Andre Carson in Indiana 7; Joan Fitz-Gerald in Colorado 2; Bill Foster in Illinois 14; Mary Jo Kilroy in Ohio 15; Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona 1; Nicholas Leibham in California 50; Ben Lujan in New Mexico 3; Chellie Pingree in Maine 1; Dan Seals in Illinois 10; Dennis Shulman in New Jersey 5; Mike Smith in Florida 8; Jackie Speier in California 12. It’s choices for the Senate include Tom Allen in Maine, Jeff Merkley in Oregon, Andrew Rice in Oklahoma and Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire.

NADER OPPOSES CORPORATE TURNPIKE. Ralph Nader said the the proposed corporatization of the Pennsylvania Turnpike is an unconscionable “long-term giveaway to big banks and foreign corporations.” Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell announced that a group led by Spanish infrastructure operator Abertis Infraestructuras SA and Citigroup Inc. won bidding for the 75-year lease of the turnpike with a cash offer of $12.8 billion.

“The public paid for the turnpike,” Nader said. “The public should maintain operational control. The turnpike is a commonwealth asset for motorists and workers.”

Nader added, “Gov. Rendell’s proposed deal is a license to print money for the big banks and foreign investors. It undercuts President Eisenhower’s dream for a national transportation infrastructure - publicly built and publicly controlled for public accountability and national defense. We cannot maintain a national highway network if key segments are leased to the highest bidder. Pennsylvania is taking a minuscule up-front payment in return for a large downstream private profit over three-quarters of a century (until 2083) to a foreign company which is being handed a captive customer base.

“This is the kind of deal that European imperialists used to impose on countries of the third world in past centuries. These days, $12.8 billion produces very little compared to the value of this commonwealth asset over 75 years. Just one bridge upgrade project in Washington, D.C. has just cost $2.5 billion. The Governor is proposing selling off a key public asset for short term gain. It’s a bad deal and the legislature should defeat it. There are far more details to be disclosed.”

Nader has been a persistent critic of the corporatization of the nation’s highways. In February 2007, he Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels criticizing his proposal to lease the 175-mile Indiana toll road to foreign corporations.

IRAQ SPENDING IGNORED RULES. A Pentagon audit of $8.2 bln in taxpayer money spent by the US Army on contractors in Iraq has found that almost none of the payments followed federal rules and contracts worth millions of dollars were paid for despite little or no record of what, if anything, was received, the New York Times reported (5/23). In one case, according to documents displayed by Pentagon auditors at a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a cash payment of $320.8 mln in Iraqi money was authorized on the basis of a single signature and the words “Iraqi Salary Payment” on an invoice. In another, $11.1 mln of taxpayer money was paid to IAP, an American contractor, on the basis of a voucher with no indication of what was delivered. “This report is further documentation of the fact that the United States had absolutely no preparation to use contracting on the scale that it needed either at the military or aid level in going to war in Iraq,” said Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. According to the report, the Army made 183,486 “commercial and miscellaneous payments” from April 2001 to June 2006 from field offices in Iraq, Kuwait and Egypt, for a total of $10.7 bln in taxpayer money. The auditors focused on $8.2 bln in so-called commercial payments to contractors—American, Iraqi and probably other foreign nationals—although the report does not give details on the roster of companies.

BUSH CLAIMS DICTATORIAL POWERS. Bush administration lawyers have told federal judges that the president can send the military into any US neighborhood, capture a citizen and hold him in prison without charge, indefinitely, Matt Apuzzo of the Associated Press noted May 23. Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a US resident, is being held in a South Carolina military brig, accused of being an al-Qaeda “sleeper agent” living in middle America. He was arrested in December 2001 and was indicted in early 2003 on charges of credit card fraud and lying to the FBI. But on June 23, 2003, Bush declared him an enemy combatant, which stripped him of the constitutional rights to retain a lawyer, to refuse to testify and to question government witnesses.

“The president is not a king and cannot lock people up forever in the United States based on his say-so,” said Jonathan Hafetz, a lawyer who represents al-Marri and other detainees, according to AP. “Today it’s Mr. al-Marri. Tomorrow it could be you, a member of your family, someone you know. Once you allow the president to lock people up for years or even life without trial, there’s no going back.”

Defenders of the suspension of civil rights during the “war on terror” note that Congress approved setting aside the relevant sections of the Bill of Rights—though the Bush administration believes that Constitutional restrictions can be set aside simply by Justice Department memo. A panel of the 4th Circuit US Court of Appeals, on a 2-1 vote, found that the president crossed the line and al-Marri must be returned to the civilian court system. The full appeals court is reviewing that decision. Government lawyers said the courts should give great deference to the president when the nation is at war, and the Republican Congress agreed.

AMERICANS DRIVE LESS. High gas prices apparently are causing Americans to drive less. The US Department of Transportation reported that 11 bln fewer vehicle miles were traveled in March 2008, down 4.3% from March 2007. It was the first time March travel fell since 1979.

PASTORS CHALLENG POLITICS BAN. Conservative legal advocates are recruiting pastors nationwide to defy an IRS ban on preaching about politicians. The Alliance Defense Fund, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., will ask the clergy to deliver a sermon about specific candidates Sept. 28, the Associated Press reported (5/9). If the action triggers an IRS investigation, the legal group will sue to overturn the federal rules, enacted in 1954, which allow churches to distribute voter guides, run voter registration drives, hold forums on public policy and invite politicians to speak at their congregations as long as they do not endorse a candidate and their political activity is not biased for or against a candidate, directly or indirectly. The Alliance Defense Fund said the regulations amount to an unconstitutional limit on free speech and government intrusion into religion. Some religious groups support keeping politics out of the pulpit. J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty in Washington, which advocates for religious freedom, said churches should be involved in public issues, but partisan activity can “compromise the essential calling to spread the Gospel.”

TERROR SUSPECT HONORED IN MIAMI. Luis Posada Carriles, an admitted terrorist wanted for crimes in Latin America, was honored by 500 fellow Cuban Americans at a sold-out gala in Miami on 5/2, the Los Angeles Times reported (5/7). Venezuela’s ambassador in Washington, Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, condemned the celebration of Posada as a mockery of justice and evidence of a Bush administration double standard in fighting terrorism. Posada, a naturalized Venezuelan citizen, is alleged to have masterminded the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976 on which all 73 on board were killed, including a youth fencing team returning from a tournament in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. Posada is also suspected of plotting a series of hotel bombings in Havana in the late 1990s, one of which killed an Italian tourist. Posada has boasted of his many attempts to kill Castro and has allegedly been involved in, according to court documents, “some of the most infamous events of 20th century Central American politics.” But the US government has never given Venezuela a formal answer to its 3-year-old request for extradition of Posada, despite a treaty providing for such cooperation that has been in effect since 1922, the ambassador said. Analysts speculate that the US government has dodged calls for prosecution of Posada for fear he would disclose details of CIA involvement in coups, assassination plots and scandals, including the Iran-Contra Affair.

From The Progressive Populist, June 15, 2008

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