While the White House and Republican congressional leaders have been pushing for more offshore drilling to relieve record fuel prices at the pump, new government data shows there is no domestic oil shortage as US oil companies are exporting American petroleum products at record levels. The US Energy Department reported exports of finished petroleum products, including gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel, soared to 1.592 mln barrels per day in May, up 31% from a year ago (Reuters, 7/30). Exports equaled about half the 3.2 mln barrels a day in petroleum products that the US imported during May. US oil companies shipped 183,000 barrels of gasoline a day out of the country, even as Americans saw prices at the pump steadily rise. US exports of diesel fuel reached 444,000 barrels a day in May, a record for any month and four times higher than a year ago.
Gas prices fell in July and early August along with US demand for energy, the Associated Press reported (7/30). Inventories of distillates, including heating oil and diesel, rose by 2.4 mln barrels, more than the 1.8 mln barrels expected, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
The Federal Highway Administration reported (7/28) that Americans drove 9.6 bln fewer miles in May than a year before, a drop of 3.7%. During the first five months of 2008, people drove 29.8 bln fewer miles than the same period in 2007, a cumulative drop of 2.4%. As motorists are driving less, the nationwide average gas price fell below $4 for the first time since 6/2, but many energy analysts believe the drop in gas prices to be temporary, since the reduced demand in the US will not offset growing demand in China, India and other developing nations.
Unfortunately, less miles driven and more efficient cars mean less revenue for the Highway Trust Fund as well as state highway funds that depend on fuel taxes that typically are levied by the gallon. US Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said the gas tax has a limited future in supporting our transportation system. By driving less and using more fuel-efficient vehicles, Americans are showing us that the highways of tomorrow cannot be supported solely by the federal gas tax, Peters said, according to the Washington Post. Peters favors more toll roads and public-private partnerships, among other solutions.
Meanwhile, ExxonMobil reported (7/31) that its second quarter profit rose 14%, to $11.68 bln, the highest-ever quarterly profit by an American company. It beat out Royal Dutch Shell, which reported $11.56 bln. Since 2001, gasoline prices have more than doubled and oil companies have made more than half a trillion dollars in profits, according to ThinkProgress.org (7/31). But instead of investing in renewable energy, or increasing production of existing oilfields, the oil companies are plowing most of their profits into stock buybacks, a windfall for their rich investors.
Also, Iraq and China are set to revive a $1.2 bln oil deal that was canceled after the 2003 US invasion, AP reported (8/11). It would be the first Saddam Hussein-era oil deal to be honored by the new regime.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED FOR BIN LADEN. ThinkProgress also noted (7/5) that in a 1998 interview, al-Qaeda organizer Osama bin Laden, who still apparently roams free in Pakistan, listed as one of his grievances against the US that Americans have stolen $36 tln from Muslims by purchasing oil at low prices. At that time, oil cost $11 a barrel. The real price of oil should be $144, bin Laden demanded then. The 9/11 terrorist attacks roiled the oil markets and doubled the price, but it took the Bush administration to invade Iraq, sink the nation into debt to pay for that war and consequently weaken the dollar to cause oil prices to soar astronomically. Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, oil cost $25 a barrel. In July, it finally reached bin Ladens target of $144.
TEAMSTERS GO GREEN. Teamsters President James Hoffa has reversed the 1.4-mln-member unions support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and embraced the partnership between labor and environmentalists. He said working Americans hard hit by rising gas prices and a collapsing economy need a comprehensive long-term program focused on exploring and developing alternative sources of energy as a solution to the crisis facing our country. We are not going to drill our way out of the energy problems we are facingnot here and not in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Hoffa told labor and environmental activists at an Oakland, Calif., summit on good jobs and clean air. We must find a long-term approach that breaks our dependence on foreign oil by investing in the development of alternate energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal power.
DRILLING SWITCH GREASES CONTRIBUTIONS. Campaign contributions from oil industry executives to Sen. John McCain rose dramatically in the last half of June, after McCain split with environmentalists and reversed his opposition to the federal ban on offshore drilling, the Washington Post reported (7/28). Oil and gas industry executives and employees donated $1.2 mln to McCain in Junethree-quarters of which came after his 6/16 speech calling for an end to the bancompared with $116,000 in March, $283,000 in April and $208,000 in May. The day after his June 16 speech calling for an end to the offshore ban, he reportedly raised $1.3 mln at a private luncheon in San Antonio.
Some of McCains contributors were unusualAlice Rocchio is an office manager with the New York headquarters of the Hess Corp. who lives in an apartment in Queens, N.Y., with her husband, Pasquale, an Amtrak foreman, Greg Gordon of McClatchy Newspapers reported (8/5). But despite their middle-class lifestyle, the couple has written $61,600 in checks to McCains presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee, most of it within days of McCains decision to endorse offshore drilling. They were the couples first donations to a federal campaign, but Alice Rocchio said she absolutely used her own money to make the donations.
Harry Sargeant III, a former naval officer and the owner of an oil-trading company that recently inked defense contracts potentially worth more than $1 bln, raised more than $100,000 for three presidential candidates from a collection of ordinary people, several of whom professed little interest in the outcome of the election, Matthew Mosk reported in the Washington Post (8/6). After helping to raise money for New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sargeant has become a major player in fundraising for McCain.
Some of the most prolific givers in Sargeants network live in modest homes in Southern Californias Inland Empire. Most had never given a political contribution before being contacted by Sargeant or his associates. Most said they have never voiced much interest in politics. And in several instances, they had never registered to vote. And yet, records show, some families have ponied up as much as $18,400 for various candidates between December and March, Mosk wrote.
Both Sargeant and the donors were vague when asked to explain how Sargeant persuaded them to give away so much money. I have a lot of Arab business partners. I do a lot of business in the Middle East. Ive got a lot of friends, Sargeant told Mosk. I ask my friends to support candidates that I think are worthy of supporting. They usually come through for me.
Listed California donors to McCain included a mechanic from D&D Auto Repair in Whittier, the manager of a Rite Aid Pharmacy (who is not registered to vote but also maxed out to Clinton and Giuliani in December), the owners of the Twilight Hookah Lounge in Fullerton and a supervisor at several Taco Bell restaurants in the Riverside area and his wife.
BIPARTISAN ADULTERY. Loud and bipartisan were the denunciations of John Edwards when he admitted (8/8) that he had a brief affair in 2006, as the National Enquirer had claimed. We dont defend Edwards reckless adultery, but we think that Republicans who celebrate the scandal should, in candor, note that John McCain was a serial adulterer in the 1970s after he returned from Vietnam in 1973 to find that his first wife, Carol, had been disfigured in a 1969 car wreck. McCain began courting his current wife, Cindy, a beer heiress and former beauty queen 18 years his junior, in 1979 while he was still living with Carol. He remarried five weeks after his divorce was finalized. And with the help of his new father-in-law, McCain won a seat in Congress in 1982 and he started his political ascent.
The Los Angeles Times reported (7/11) that McCain wrote in his 2002 memoir, Worth the Fighting For, that he separated from Carol before he began dating Hensley. But he wrote in his petition for divorce that he and his wife had cohabited until 1/7/1980or the first nine months of his relationship with Hensley. He suggested in his memoir that months passed between his divorce and remarriage, but the divorce was granted on 4/2/80 and he wed Hensley just five weeks later. McCain obtained an Arizona marriage license on 3/6/80, while still legally married to his first wife. McCain would not discuss with the Times the breakup of his first marriage.
Carol McCain told the London Daily Mail (6/8) she remains on good terms with her ex-husband. I have no bitterness, she said. But Ross Perot, who paid Carols medical bills while McCain was in Vietnam, told the Mail that both Carol McCain and the American people have been taken in by a man who is unusually slick and crueleven by the standards of modern politics. McCain is the classic opportunist. Hes always reaching for attention and glory, Perot said. After he came home, Carol walked with a limp. So he threw her over for a poster girl with big money from Arizona. And the rest is history.
Despite the inconsistencies in McCains accounting of the breakup of his first marriage, corporate media have been reluctant to get into it. MSNBCs David Gregory speculated (8/8) that Edwards disclosure of his extramarital affair would present problems for Barack Obama, without mentioning that it might blow back more on McCain. And while Edwards, in his interview with ABC News, said he had heard John McCain talk about the mistakes that he made in his past with respect to his first marriage, that remark was edited out of the video and transcript that ABC News posted online.
OTHER SCOOPS MISSED. The corporate media failed to follow up on the National Enquirers report (9/21/05) that George W. Bush had started drinking again after the Katrina catastrophe sent his popularity plummeting, Richard Blair noted at allspinzone.com (7/24). Blair also noted that Globe reported (1/9/08) that Laura Bush had left claw marks on the presidents face and the Bushes were headed for divorce because of his continued boozing, a story the Globe as well as the National Examiner had been following since 2006. And we arent even getting into the late, lamented Weekly World News exclusive reports on Bill and Hillary Clintons encounters with space aliens.
MCAIN NO STRANGER TO LOW ROAD. Amy Silverman of New Times in Phoenix recaps some of the lowlights of John McCains political career in an 8/7 article, Postmodern John McCain: The Presidential Candidate Some Arizonans Knowand Loathe. Its worth reading in full, but one story is illustrative: After the impeachment of Gov. Evan Mecham in 1988, Secretary of State Rose Mofford, a popular old-school Dem, was next in line to fill out the governors term. But McCain and his GOP friends wanted her out, so they continued a recall effort that originally was mounted to remove Mecham in case impeachment failed.
Eight days after she became governor, Mofford went to Washington to meet with the Arizona congressional delegation and testify before a Senate subcommittee on the Central Arizona Project, a bipartisan water development plan. The appearance was largely ceremonial and she was not briefed on federal water law. But Sen. James McClure, R-Idaho, peppered her with a series of questions on details of the water project that Mofford could not answer.
Coincidentally, Pat Murphy, then-publisher of the Arizona Republic, was also in Washington to meet with the delegation. He and his wife met McCain for lunch. Recounting that lunch, Murphy told Silverman, McCain said, almost with mischievous glee, that he had slipped some highly technical questions to [James McClure] to ask Moffordquestions she wouldnt be prepared to answer or expected to answer.
Flabbergasted, I asked McCain why would he want to sabotage Moffords testimony, when in fact the CAP was the nonpartisan pet of Republicans and Democratssuch as far-left [Mo] Udall and far-right [Barry] Goldwatersince its inception. His reply, as near as I remember, was, Ill embarrass a Democrat any time I get the chance.
The lunch continued in strained chit-chat. We then walked back to McCains office, where a few reporters, all of them from Arizona papers, as I recall, were waiting. One said there was a rumor McCain had tried to sabotage Moffords testimony, to which he said something like, Id never do anything like that.
Murphy said the incident crushed him and was the beginning of the end of his respect for and friendship with McCain.
There was a rumor McCain had a film crew tape the hearing so that the video could be used in the recall election. (The state Supreme Court stopped the recall effort.)
Mofford said she later got a call from McCain. He said, I didnt have anything to do with that. And I said, John, dont ever call me again.
GAPS IN ANTHRAX CASE. Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com has found some holes in the public evidence against anthrax researcher Bruce Ivins, who was accused by the Department of Justice of being the sole perpetrator of anthrax attacks against news organizations and two Democratic senators in 2001. Ivins died 7/29 of a Tylenol overdose after investigators signaled he would be indicted in the deaths of five people and the sickening of 17 more in the letter-borne attacks.
One of the most glaring gaps is the inability to place Ivins in Princeton, N.J., which more than three hours away by car from his office in Frederick, Md., in time to mail one of the anthrax letters with a Sept. 18 postmark. In a probable cause affidavit released by the FBI, a postal inspector said the window of opportunity for the mailing of the letters to the New York Post and NBCs Tom Brokaw was between 5 p.m. on Sept. 17 and noon Sept. 18, 2001. Ivins was at work the morning of Sept. 17 but took off for several hours before returning between 4 and 5 p.m. In theory, Ivins could have traveled to New Jersey the evening of Sept. 17, but the FBI apparently does not believe that occurred.
The FBIs total failure to point to a shred of evidence placing Ivins in New Jersey on either of the two days the anthrax letters were sent is a very conspicuous deficiency in its case, Greenwald wrote (8/10). Its possible that Ivins was able to travel to Princeton on two occasions in three weeks without leaving the slightest trace of having done so (not a credit card purchase, ATM withdrawal, unusual gas purchases, nothing), but that relies on a depiction of Ivins as a cunning and extremely foresightful criminal, an image squarely at odds with most of the FBIs circumstantial evidence that suggests Ivins was actually quite careless, even reckless, in how he perpetrated this crime (spending unusual amounts of time in his lab before the attacks despite knowing that there would be a paper trail; taking an administrative leave from work to go mail the anthrax letters rather than just doing it on the weekend when no paper trail of his absence would be created; using his own anthrax strain rather than any of the other strains to which he had access at Fort Detrick; keeping that strain in its same molecular form for years rather than altering it, etc.).
The former chief of Fort Detricks bacteriology division wrote a column in the New York Times (8/10) pointing out numerous deficiencies in the FBIs scientific assertions. He described properties of the high-grade anthrax sent to Sen. Daschle and then notes: It is extremely improbable that this type of preparation could ever have been produced at Fort Detrick, certainly not of the grade and quality found in that envelope.
Other microbiologists and evolutionary biologists have expressed doubt about the FBIs key molecular claims.
Greenwald concluded, There are so many people with motives far more substantial than Ivins to perpetrate an anthrax attack of this sort, and so many places other than Fort Detrick where this anthrax could have been produced (if it could have been produced by Ivins at Fort Detrick at all). An independent investigation by a body with meaningful subpoena power and an aggressive and respected investigator (and an accompanying law making it a felony to provide misleading information to, or to withhold information from, that body) is imperative. Is there anyone at this point who disagrees with that?
SENATE WELCOMES INDICTED STEVENS. One day after being indicted on charges of falsifying information on his financial disclosure forms, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) was welcomed warmly by his longtime Senate colleagues, Roll Call reported (7/30). Avoiding his usual route to the chamber, Stevens arrived through a back door to friendly greetings from Republicans and some Democrats. The embattled Alaskan lawmaker received numerous pats on the back and an arm bump from Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who is undergoing chemotherapy for a second bout of Hodgkins disease.
Markos Moulitsas noted (7/30), Nothing like taking bribes to earn the warm respect of his Senate colleagues. So what WOULD it take to get shunned in the Senate? Cavorting with call girls (and diapers) got David Vitter [R-La.) a standing ovation from his fellow Republicans. Getting booted out of the Democratic Party by his states Democrats got Joe Lieberman a standing ovation from Senate Dems.
So what would it take? Ask Larry Craig. Being gay is apparently the only cardinal sin of the United States Senate.
GOP OBSTRUCTIONISM LEAVES 240,000 IN LURCH. Republican senators upheld Sen. Tom Coburns filibuster of an omnibus bill covering 35 separate bills costing an estimated $10 bln covering health care, crime prevention, aid to victims of paralysis and other items. Among other things, it would have allocated $25 mln for research on spinal cord injuries, rehabilitation and measures to improve the quality of life for paralyzed Americans. The bill would have benefited 240,000 Americans, including 44,000 veterans, who suffer from spinal cord injuries or paralysis. Coburn said he would lift the hold if Congress reduced other spending to compensate for them, but Majority Leader Harry Reid noted that the bill, which passed the House on a voice vote with bipartisan support, only authorizes the programs; appropriations come later in the process.
OUR PEOPLE ARE NOT AFRAID. How did the United States used to regard terrorist attacks? Franklin Roosevelt said in his 9th State of the Union Address (1/6/1942): If any of our enemies, from Europe or from Asia, attempt long-range raids by suicide squadrons of bombing planes, they will do so only in the hope of terrorizing our people and disrupting our morale. Our people are not afraid of that. We know that we may have to pay a heavy price for freedom. We will pay this price with a will. Whatever the price, it is a thousand times worth it. No matter what our enemies, in their desperation, may attempt to do to us- we will say, as the people of London have said, We can take it. And whats more we can give it back and we will give it backwith compound interest.
Todd Gitlin, noting Roosevelts statement, commented at TalkingPointsMemo.com (7/24/08), And now, here is the same country a few generations on, up against a far, almost inexpressively punier enemy in jihadist Islamismbut today, by and large, we quiver and quaver. Political so-called leadership blusters on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and purveys fear on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. For eight years now, the country has found this moral cowardice acceptable. Its enough to make you believe that the nation is in a fever of individual self-seeking, a miasma of moral default, as long as its political leaders fear to say ringingly today that we are not afraid.
MAC CAMP NOT BOUND TO CANDIDATES STATEMENTS. The McCain campaign increasingly has found it necessarily to distance itself from the ramblings of Sen. John McCain. ThinkProgress.org noted (7/29) that on 7/27, when ABCs George Stephanopoulos asked John McCain about his plans to fix Social Security, McCain said repeatedly that everything has to be on the table regarding possible reformsincluding a payroll tax increase. The Club for Growth wrote McCain a letter calling the comments shocking because you have been adamant in your opposition to raising taxes under any circumstances. In fact, just last year McCain explicitly told the National Review that he refused to consider any sort of tax increase. In February he also told Stephanopoulos, No new taxes.
Trying to stymie the conservative blow-back over his bosss recent comments, McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds insisted to Fox News (7/29) that McCain hadnt really been speaking for the campaign. When Fox host Megyn Kelly insisted Bounds stop waffling and answer whether a tax increase was on the table, Bounds replied, No.
In the same interview with Stephanopoulos, McCain said he supported a ballot initiative in Arizona that seeks to amend the state constitution to ban affirmative action. McCains embrace of the initiative is a reversal of the stance he took in 1998 when he spoke out against a similar referendum to limit equal opportunity, calling it divisive. Spokesman Bounds struggled to explain his contradictory positions, saying that he did not have a firm enough grasp on the historical and relevant context of McCains remark in 1998 to push back on claims of flip-flopping. Later, McCains campaign refused to say it stood by McCains policy declaration.
On 7/24, after the Tax Policy Center released a report finding a $2.8 tln gap between McCains public economic proposals and his advisers private assurances, McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin told Slate that just because McCain says something publicly about a policy, that doesnt mean its official.
Ironically, while trying to distance McCain from his econ brain Phil Gramms nation of whiners comment, Holtz-Eakin declared that on policy issues, Senator McCain speaks for Senator McCain.
The campaign probably was not pleased when McCain recently told reporters he doesnt like early-morning events because hes not sharp after long campaign days. If I can sleep in to about 7:30 or 8, then it really helps me, he said. When I get up real early, like 5:30 or 6, then, you know, you dont go to bed until 10, 10:30 or 11 it seems to help me to get up a little later in the morning. ... I just get a little more tired. ... I think [my staff] can tell you, if I put in three or four 18-hour, 20-hour days in a row, then Im not sharp. Its just a fact. I can be sharp if I get a little more rest.
Barbara Morill noted at DailyKos.com (8/11): Yes, theres an image you want to project ... a president who wont be too sharp when that 3 a.m. call comes, and wont be up to speed without a solid eight hours.
The McCain campaigns frustration in dealing with the loose-lipped candidate reached the point where, the Washington Post reported (8/4), the campaign has limited press access, required reporters to clear questions with staff first and the New York Times reported (8/10) that campaign disciplinarian Steve Schmidt has tried to cut down McCains use of his cellphone and limit the people who have access to him in an effort to keep the candidate more focused.
SPY FOR THE NRA. Mary McFate was an advocate of environmental causes and a prominent activist within the gun control movement who served on the boards of anti-gun outfits, helped state groups coordinate their activities, lobbied in Washington for gun control legislation and regularly attended strategy and organizing meetings. Mary Lou Sapone, by contrast, was a self-described research consultant, who for decades has covertly infiltrated citizens groups for private security firms hired by corporations that are targeted by activist campaigns. For some time, Sapone also worked for the National Rifle Association. Mother Jones reported (7/30) that McFate and Sapone are the same person. This discovery has caused the leaders of gun violence prevention organizations to conclude that for years they have been penetratedat the highest levelsby the NRA or other pro-gun parties. It raises the question, says Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, of what did she find out and what did they want her to find out.
In a 2003 deposition, Tim Ward, a security consultant whose company worked for the NRA, identified Sapones contact at the NRA as Patrick OMalley. James Jay Baker, who was OMalleys boss at the NRAs Institute for Legislative Action through 2002, told Mother Jones, I dont have anything to say about any vendors at the NRA. Baker notes, We got information from whatever sources we can, but he maintains that he was not aware of any infiltration of the gun control movement. Baker, now managing director of Ogilvy Government Relations, a high-powered lobbying shop, is currently registered as a lobbyist for the NRA. He also has been listed as a member of John McCains kitchen cabinet.
HOSPITALS FACE HEALTH WORKER SHORTAGE. The US faces a shortage of health-care professionals, Mary Engel wrote in the Los Angeles Times (7/28). Most people have heard about the nationwide nursing shortage. But the country is also experiencing a shortage of trained workers in the allied health professionsrespiratory care practitioners, medical transcriptionists, radiographers and about 200 other occupations that make up about 60% of healthcare workers. As baby boomers who now make up much of the allied health workforce begin to retire, demand is expected to outstrip supply in at least nine of 15 occupations surveyed. Those with the highest projected need include pharmacy technicians, dental hygienists and physical therapist assistants. Despite decent pay for clinical laboratory scientistsmedian wage, $32.36 an hourCalifornia would have to produce 559% more graduates in that field alone in the next six years, the study found.
GOSS IMPROPRIETIES. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R) confounded ethics advocates when they named Porter Goss to co-chair the new Office of Congressional Ethics (7/24). Goss, a former rep who is close to Boehner, was forced out as CIA director after he and CIA then-Executive Director Dusty Foggo were connected to the Brent Wilkes/Duke Cunningham scandal.
NADER VOTERS PREFER MCAIN TO OBAMA. People who support Ralph Nader in public opinion surveys overwhelmingly prefer John McCain to Barack Obama, Chris Bowers noted at MyDD.com (7/23). Looking through the entire history of polls that ask both a two-person Obama vs. McCain trial heat, and also a four-way trial heat with Ralph Nader and Bob Barr, McCain is clearly hurt by the presence of both candidates in the campaign, Bowers noted. Including Nader and Barr in the poll has created an average pro-Obama shift of just over 2%. The explanation for this is probably quite simple, Bowers said. Most people who indicate they will support a third-party candidate in a poll dont actually end up voting for that third-party candidate. In this case, it so happens that many people who are not very happy with either candidate, but who prefer McCain to Obama, are indicating that they will vote for a third-party on a national trial heat.
GREENS OUTRANK GOP IN D.C. The D.C. Statehood Green Party called on the Washington Post and other news media to give the party fair coverage during the 2008 election season, claiming the Greens are the Districts Second Party in terms of electoral clout. Statehood Green candidates have received more votes than Republicans in recent general elections for partisan office, even when the two parties have run the same number of candidates. In 2006, the five Statehood Green candidates received a total of 47,421 votes, while the five Republican candidates received 32,658 votes. Paul Kane, the Posts congressional reporter, said the newspaper has no intention of covering the Green Party. Green presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney released a statement that This is what my running mate, Rosa Clemente, correctly calls a White-Out by the media of a political party that just nominated two women of color to lead their campaign for the White House. This censorship clearly reflects the fear of the established powers that equal time for the independent candidates might lead to their victory at the polls. In a supposed democracy, it is equivalent to rigging the election. (McKinney, Clemente and three of the four Statehood Green candidates are African Americans; Ms. Clemente is also Puerto Rican.)
Ballot status for alternative parties: Bob Barr will lead the Libertarian slate on at least 35 state ballots; McKinney leads the Greens and Chuck Baldwin leads the Constitution Party in at least 24 states; and Ralph Nader will appear on at least 19 state ballots. See ballot-access.org.
Also, antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan qualified for the ballot as an independent candidate for Congress, setting up a November challenge of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Republican Dana Walsh and Libertarian Philip Berg will join Pelosi and Sheehan on the 11/4 ballot, the San Francisco Chronicle reported (8/9).
JUDGE REJECTS BUSH EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE. US District Judge John D. Bates ruled (7/31) that former White House aides Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten must comply with subpoenas of the House Judiciary Committee investigating the firing of eight US attorneys who reportedly either aggressively prosecuted Republicans or refused to prosecute Democrats or otherwise advance GOP political interests. The judge (who was appointed by Bush) said the Bush administrations claim that the White House enjoys absolute immunity from congressional subpoenas was unprecedented and without any support in case law. The court also noted that Congress has the inherent authority to arrest and detain Executive Branch officials who refuse to comply with subpoenas. But Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com noted that Congress has shown no appetite for exercising that power, and short of something truly threatening like that, it is difficult to envision Bush officials being meaningfully forthcoming in any Congressional investigation.
OBAMA TOO SKINNY? Our nominee for most strained political issue to date: the *Wall Street Journal*s Amy Chozick wondered (8/1), In a nation in which 66% of the voting-age population is overweight and 32% is obese, could Sen. Obamas skinniness be a liability? Despite his visits to waffle houses, ice-cream parlors and greasy-spoon diners around the country, his slim physique just might have some Americans wondering whether he is truly like them. And yes, the article is serious, and goes on for more than 1,400 words.
HEALTH CARE IS HIGH PRIORITY. Americans are deeply dissatisfied with their healthcare choices, and want the 2008 presidential candidates to put healthcare reform high on their campaign agenda, according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the Commonwealth Fund (8/7). Investigators polled 1,004 adults and found that 82% of respondents believe that the US healthcare system is in need of a complete overhaul. About 32% of the respondents called for a completely rebuilt health system and another 50% thought it required fundamental changes. Meanwhile, MedPageToday.com noted that 81% of respondents who were insured all year, and 89% who were uninsured at some point during the year, called for fundamental change, or complete rebuilding.
NETROOTS DEMOGRAPHICS. A straw poll of 2,000 bloggers and activists at the Netroots Nation conference conducted by the Campaign for Americas Future (ourfuture.org) and Democracy Corps (democracycorps.com) found that 58% were male and 40% were female (2% unknown) and 68% post or contribute to a political blog. Ages were spread, with 27% aged 18-29; 23% 30-39; 22% 40-49; 22% 50-64; and only 2% 64-plus. Without the Internet, 68% said their political involvement would be less. Progressive was the biggest group, with 47%, edging out liberals, 40%; and moderates 12%. Nobody self-identified as conservative.
Their top issue was energy and global warming (19%), followed by the growing gap between rich and poor (17%), loss of constitutional rights (15%), the war in Iraq (11%), corruption and special interests running Washington (10%) and lack of affordable health care (9%).
The netroots are not impressed by Congress, with 68% saying it has done not too much and 12% saying it has accomplished nothing at all, though many blame the administration and Republicans in Congress for the inaction.
HATE MAIL TAKES NEW URGENCY. Chris Bowers of OpenLeft.com noted (7/28) that he receives threats of violence several dozen times a year. Still it seems mostly to be talk and macho posturing, since politically motivated violence against leftists in America does not appear common. But that was before the mass shooting at a Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., by a shotgun-wielding suspect who left two parishioners dead and seven wounded as well as a four-page letter in which the suspected gunman, James David Adkisson, wrote of his hatred of the liberal movement and identified himself as a Confederate.
David Niewert of Firedoglake.com noted (7/28) that right-wingers for years have used eliminationist rhetoric a out getting rid of liberals. Right-wingers love to joke about mowing down, rounding up, and otherwise wiping out all things liberal, Niewert wrote. Its become a standard feature of conservative-movement rhetoric. And whenever anyone calls them on it, they have a standard response: Aw, cmonits just a joke! One of the worst offenders is Ann Coulter, who in 2006 suggested that Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens should be poisoned. She also has wished that journalists were targeted by the military, urged Bill Clintons assassination as a topic of public discourse and wished that Tim McVeigh had driven his truck bomb up to the New York Times Building instead of the federal building in Oklahoma City.
From The Progressive Populist, Sept. 1, 2008
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