Friday, February 29, 2008

(CBS NEWS) FOR THE RECORD- Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama


Video URL


Meanwhile in the Middle East

From Reuters-
Feb. 29 - War of words alongside the escalating rocket attacks and air strikes between Israel and Gaza.

Hamas has raised the stakes in the confrontation by using Soviet-designed Grad missiles, more powerful and accurate than improvised Gazan Qassams, to strike deep into Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 people.

Benet Allen reports.

(Reuters) Obama and Young Voters

Feb. 29 - Barack Obama trounces Hillary Clinton among the young even though he's of the same baby boomer generation as Clinton.

Clinton appeals to non-college goers, who are far less likely to vote than the campus crowd Obama pulls in.

Fred Katayama reports.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Prosecution of Don Siegelman (CBS NEWS-60 Minutes)

Link to full report

More on Siegelman- From Alabama


Judge, conduct of Siegelman trial defended
Saturday, February 23, 2008
By Eddie Curran (Part I)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Eddie Curran is on leave from the Mobile Press-Register while writing a book on the Don Siegelman investigation, indictment and trial. The Independent's readers should be familiar with Eddie's articles about the former governor, most which were published in this newspaper and had a significant impact on the investigation and indictment of Siegelman.

This article seeks to defend Mark Fuller, the judge in the Siegelman trial, and in so doing, is very critical of columnist Scott Horton, who writes a blog for Harpers Magazine and is occasionally published in The Independent. Horton has been critical of the former "Newhouse" newspapers in Alabama, which includes the Press-Register, The Birmingham News and The Huntsville Times, for not reporting fairly on the Siegelman case. He has also criticized Curran, suggesting that his work relies heavily on the prosecutor's case.

The Independent has not published any criticisms of those newspapers, now operated under the corporate umbrella of Advance Publications, or any criticisms of Eddie Curran, a friend of the editor. Horton's writings are opinion columns and have been published in the opinion section of the newspaper. However, we have corroborated any facts reported in his articles, particularly those involving Judge Fuller's ownership in Doss Aviation, Doss of Alabama and Aureus International, their contracts with the Air Force, the FBI and the Department of Defense and Judge Fuller's 43.75% ownership, which is documented in federal court filings. Judge Fuller has not refuted this information. Eddie called and requested to write this article, which we publish without editing, and even though it is an opinion article, we start it on Page One.

I opened my mail the other day to find a one-sentence letter from a friend from Montgomery and someone, I might add, whose judgment I respect.


A River of Smarmy Campaign Tactics Flows From Obama

Once again, charges over misleading allegations are put on the back burner and met with a smarmy dismissive by spokespeople and even the candidate himself, Barack Obama. This time it's regarding loud allegations by Hillary Clinton over a pair of recent mailings by the Obama campaign in Ohio.

CNN reported that Obama said "There's nothing in that mailing that is inaccurate," adding that he was puzzled by the sudden scrutiny since the mailers had been around for days, if not weeks.

True, some of the campaign material which Clinton blasted as "right out of Karl Rove's playbook" had already been called into question by Clinton and others, but, as has been the case with much of this campaign, the media along with other players with platforms failed to take much notice.

One of the mailers says that "Hillary Clinton thought NAFTA was a 'boon' to the economy," going on to say that the New York Senator is "changing her tune" now that she's campaigning in the Buckeye State," of Ohio.

But as Sam Stein at the Huffington Post wrote in a piece on February 14, former Clinton officials and biographers like Carl Bernstein and Mickey Kantor had spoken in the media and elsewhere noting that Hillary had long held political and philosophical opposition to NAFTA, but being first lady, was unable to publicly oppose the legislation at that time it was enacted.

And, further, the quote "boon" was never verified. The other mailer, on the hot button, sensitive issue of healthcare coverage had drawn a loud condemnation from the Clinton campaign because of what it saw as a use of visual images that harkens back to the insurance industry sponsored 1993 ad campaign well known as the "Harry and Louise" commercials.

Whether or not the images of the kitchen table couple worrying over healthcare costs offers similarities to Harry and Louise is subjective to some, the text does engage in "misleading politicking 101."

According to, the mailer opens with the claim that "Hillary's health care plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it.

But says "the mailer leaves out any information on cost reduction any information on cost reduction measures and low income help that Clinton's plan offers, while it touts such measures found in his plan, some of which very closely mirror Clinton's."

Naturally, politicians in the heat of campaign are going to engage in slippery talk and a tendency to plant seeds of doubt aimed at potential voters that is often laden with fact challenged or questionable text and messages. But in the end, voters suffer because they are misled into believing messages that simply aren't true. And that's where the news people come in since its there job to expose that sort of material and behavior to readers, viewers and listeners for what it is, misleading.

But, as this campaign season has shown, over the past few weeks, they've done a pretty lame job and have according to those on the Clinton side, appeared almost biased.

In fact, some in the public forum have already spun Clinton's attack over the mailers a desperate candidate resorting to harsher tactics to save her campaign.

Well hooray for Clinton for putting on the political hot foot because she and plenty of her supporters recognize that this is a fight for her political life and potentially a fight for a Democratic victory come November. Maybe a little drama is necessary to capture the attention of those watching the cameras. And, hopefully, those watching the footage will realize, that in November, when allegations over tactics and other questions start hurling from Republicans, it will be necessary for them to be met with answers, and not dismissive and arrogant missives. For one, the American people don't like that sort of condescension.

Eventually, they figure out when they are being misled or hoodwinked.

So far, it's only Hillary who's been nailed to the cross by a host of pundits and columnists who obviously had long running axes to grind with the Clintons. Her laundry has been hung out on the line for the world to see. Interestingly, the other side has not even been to the cleaners.

It has become increasingly disturbing to watch a complacent media participate in the "what a feeling" drumbeat of the Obama campaign. Indeed, it is a powerful message of change, unity coupled with hope filled packed houses led by a media darling rock star of politics. But, what might be in order is more reality checking where purveyors of news may need to do some digging despite the danger that it may upset the flow of "smarmy and misleading" rhetoric flowing down this very popular river.

Albeit a cynical observation, the Obama campaign's message feels increasingly shallow and synthetic, where its advisors and its candidate are in fact, willing participants in the old school ways of dirty politics it likes to point to as "tired".

As "The Chicago Tribune" reported on February 10, regarding Obama's message that he is taking the moral high ground when it comes to taking money from lobbyist and special interests.

The "Tribune" report said "those who lobby for a living say it's not that simple, and even Obama's stance shows some flexibility. He won't take money from federal lobbyists but accepts money from employees of firms and corporations that lobby, and he uses lobbyists and other government relations professionals as advisers."

With the exception of scattered print reporting like this, there has been no real and aggressive vetting of the man who would be President, more, a sense of blind faith in a stated message of hope and change. But, what is this change he speaks of? Who or what anointed this campaign with scrutiny Teflon?

Unfortunately, an appealing and infectious message of change is not the key to unlocking the reality that is the megalithic prickly, interest driven world of Washington DC politics where give and take is necessary to seizing that stubborn bull by its horns.

More importantly for this important moment in the race to the White House, if change is what a candidate offers potential voters on the campaign trail, the candidate might ought to be a willing participant in what he preaches in his own campaign methods and tactics lest he be called out as less than real.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Don Siegelman and The Rove Connection (CBSNEWS)

Coming Sunday 2/24 at 7pm CBS
CBS) A Republican operative in Alabama says Karl Rove asked her to try to prove the state’s Democratic governor was unfaithful to his wife in an effort to thwart the highly successful politician’s re-election.

Rove’s attempt to smear Don Siegelman was part of a Republican campaign to ruin him that finally succeeded in imprisoning him, says the operative, Jill Simpson.

Simpson speaks to Scott Pelley in her first television interview, to be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

(Reuters) NY Times Scrutinized Over McCain Story

Feb. 21 - Following the story's publication, it is the New York Times -- and not John McCain -- that has appeared to face the toughest scrutiny.

The McCain campaign said the paper had engaged in what it called a "hit and run smear campaign."

Jon Decker reports. (REUTERS)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk (NEW YORK TIMES)

The Long Run (New York Times)
For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk
Published: February 21, 2008
John McCain’s relationship with a female lobbyist underscores a paradox: Even as he embraces high ethical standards, his confidence in his own integrity sometimes seems to blind him to potential conflicts of interest.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Is Barack Obama a True Agent of Change?

There is no doubt that Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama has clearly inspired millions of voters in what had become an arguably depressed electorate. His words have engaged many who might have otherwise watched the primary process from the sidelines those who were resigned to the belief that change is virtually impossible within America's current political landscape.

"If we don't inspire the country to believe again, then it doesn't matter how many policies and plans we have," said Obama on February 17, according to Bloomberg News.

True, words, even if some phrases are borrowed, have the ability to inspire the electorate. But it's the enacted policy that impacts and ultimately changes American lives. And when one takes a closer look at the nuts and bolts behind Senator Obama's message, there are troubling signs that the change Obama espouses might be nothing more than beautiful rhetoric.

You'd be preaching to the choir if you wanted to harp on the Clinton machine's flaws and scars and then, there's always her yes vote that giving President Bush military authorization before the invasion of Iraq.

But, the Clinton machine has been, and continues to be picked and cleaned dry by the press, its past, its campaign tactics, its relationships questioned, blasted and torn apart by conservative as well as liberal columnists, pundits and bloggers.

The Obama camp has yet to be fully vetted by the majority of a press that seems almost shy about interrupting what many have called a movement. Those that have done their homework and posed legitimate questions about policy, relationships and other issues have often been met with arrogant, evasive and dismissive shrugs and a fiercely protective network of supporters who shoot down critiques of the anointed beacon of change.

According to a February 17 "New York Times" article by Kate Zernike called "The Charisma Mandate," accounts of the Obama campaign's volunteer training sessions have a revivalist flavor where "volunteers are urged to avoid talking about policy to potential voters, and instead tell how they came to Mr. Obama."

But it would be naïve to think that sort of tactic will work in November and it would serve Democrat's interest if the contradictions and holes in the message were pointed out now, before the Republican attack machine brings out its own weapons of destruction and doubt.

Central to Obama's message of change are claims that he is free of lobbyist influence. But in fact, he has been, and still is being funded by some of the same types of corporate interests as Clinton and other candidates through big corporate donors known as bundlers.

In fact, he's received so much funding, an estimated $30 million per month, that his campaign appears to be backpedaling on a November pledge where he said if he was the Democratic nominee, he would aggressively pursue and agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.

"The Washington Post" said in a February 16 editorial that "this kind of backtracking and parsing is't what the millions of voters who have been inspired by Mr. Obama are looking for."

More telling, a November 2006 Harpers article "The Making of a Washington Machine" by Ken Silverstein quoted an anonymous Washington lobbyist who said, "big donors would not be helping out OBama if they didn't see him as a player."

"What's the dollar value of a starry eyed idealist?" the anonymous source said according to the Harpers article.

No one can say for certain what kind of role that big money contributions would make in a future Obama administration but they deserve full airing and warrant further questions that require answers, not evasive missives from the man who might be President.

A February 3, article by "The New York Times" reported that Exelon Corp, the nation's largest nuclear plant operator is one of Obama's largest campaign donors. According to the article, Exelon's support of Obama far exceeds money given to the other candidates.

The "Times" pointed out that Exelon chairman John W. Rowe has been an Obama donor and is also chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear power industry's largest lobbying group.

The article did not mention that Rowe, like several other powerful energy power players also sits on the influential, right wing and neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute's Board.

Alluding to the Exelon relationship, the Clinton campaign charged that Senator Obama had allowed the nuclear industry to water down a 2006 bill regulating nuclear plant safety. Her charges were met with evasiveness.

Obama spokesperson Bill Burton responded to the charges on CNN saying his campaign "doesn't need any lectures on special interests from the candidate who's taken more money from Washington lobbyists than any Republican running for president."

"Sen. Clinton may have said that attacks and distortions are the 'fun' and 'exciting' part of the campaign, but they're exactly what everyone else in America is tired of," Burton said according to CNN.

True enough, Americans are sick and tired of distortions. But unfortunately, much of the feel good rhetoric in the Obama camp has served as a convenient "distortion" for those hungry for a more forthcoming and critical examination of Obama.

For example, Senator Obama has touted his healthcare policy as part of his change we can all believe in since it would make healthcare available to everyone.

But, The Annenberg Political Fact Check, or said that Obama is being misleading when he says his healthcare proposal would "cover everyone." says Obama's plan would make coverage available to all, but experts that the organization consulted estimate that 15 to 26 million Americans would not take it up unless required to do so, which means, the new policy would still leave almost half the currently un-insured, still un-insured.

Another hot button topic close to any progressive's heart is how the future President will address the sub-prime mortgage crisis that has driven a recession that is still threatening world financial markets.

In his January 24 "The Nation" commentary titled "Subprime Obama" Max Fraser pointed out that predatory lenders "targeted the most vulnerable; black and latino borrowers have been twice as likely to receive sub-prime loans as whites: female homeowners, 30 percent more likely than male; black women five times more likely than white men.

But, Fraser noted that of the Democratic candidates, only Obama has not called for a moratorium and interest rate freeze. The article said "though he has been a proponent of mortgage fraud legislation in the Senate, he has remained silent on further financial regulations."

The "Nation" piece quoted Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute who said "Edwards and Clinton talk much more about regulation of the financial industry going forward, and to the extent that blame is placed, they tend to place it on lenders for steering people into loans they couldn't afford."

Senator Clinton has loudly gone after Obama on several occasions regarding his yes vote on the 2005 energy bill.

To his credit, Obama led efforts to ensure investments in renewable energy and has sponsored legislation to strip incentives from oil companies.
Still, according to an August 9, 2005 report from the "Washington Post", the final bill included around $85 billion in tax breaks and subsidies for most forms of energy.

Many charged that the policy was co-written by big oil corporations under the watch of Vice President Dick Cheney but it got a yes vote from Senator Obama.

Senator Obama has said his vote for the energy bill was reluctant.

But more telling, in the heat of campaign season 2008, when Exxon Mobil announced, at $40 billion once again the largest corporate profits ever reported by any United States corporation, it was Hillary Clinton who called for a corporate windfall profits tax on oil companies that would be reinvested into a strategic energy fund.

While the Obama campaign has called for the removal of oil company subsidies and other tax breaks, he has steered clear of a clearly populist and progressive proposal that would impose a windfall profits tax on big oil corporations.

But finally, although Obama toots the horn of change for all people, happily embracing all members of the Democratic base, just four years ago, an incident in San Francisco offered telling traits that Obama is first a politician, who in the end, is probably capable of crafting a message or image that is capable of suiting whomever he seeks to appeal to.

According to a February 5, 2008 "San Francisco Chronicle" article by C.W. Nevius, in 2004, then Illinois Senatorial Candidate Obama told former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, that "he would really appreciate if he didn't get his photo taken with my mayor," Gavin Newsome.

Newsome, San Francisco's current mayor, was then at the center of a national uproar over his decision to allow same sex marriage in San Francisco and according to the "Chronicle" report, Obama was worried about the image that would present to potential voters back in Illinois.

While things have certainly changed since then, and Obama has certainly championed LGBT individuals and issues, the incident doesn't speak well of Senator Obama as a real agent of change.

Instead, that incident along with other serious reporting beg the question, is Obama's message of change for real, or is it a carefully crafted political rhetoric that is in the business of selling an image.

NEWS UPDATE from AP 3/3/08- Political Positioning on NAFTA?
Associated Press ReportBarack Obama's senior economic policy adviser privately told Canadian officials to view the debate in Ohio over trade as "political positioning," according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press

Monday, February 18, 2008

HADITHA REVISITED- Necessary Viewing

Tuesday, February 19, 2008
9 P.M. (check local listings)
FRONTLINE cuts through the fog of war to reveal the untold story of what happened in Haditha, Iraq—where twenty-four of the town’s residents were killed by U.S. forces in what many in the media branded "Iraq’s My Lai." With accusations swirling that the Marines massacred Iraqi civilians "in cold blood," the Haditha incident has led to one of the largest criminal cases against U.S. troops in the Iraq war. But real questions have emerged about what really happened that day, and who is responsible. Through television interviews with Iraqi survivors and Marines accused of war crimes, FRONTLINE investigates this incident and what it can tell us about the harrowing moral and legal landscape the U.S. military faces in Iraq.

Watch online beginning 2/19/08

Drama On the Trail- Bill Clinton Tells it Like it Is

Saturday, February 16, 2008

(Washington Post-The Trail)Black Commenter, Criticizing Obama, Causes Firestorm

FROM Darryl Fears at "THE TRAIL" at "The Washington Post"Tavis Smiley, the bestselling author of the "Covenant With Black America," is in a world turned upside down. He said he's being "hammered," "barbecued," and is "catching hell" from black Americans for suggesting that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) made a major mistake by declining to speak at the State of the Black Union event that Smiley plans to host next week in New Orleans.

"There's all this talk of hater, sellout and traitor," Smiley said to me in a telephone interview. Smiley even mentioned getting death threats, but wouldn't elaborate. He said his office has been flooded with angry e-mails. "I have family in Indianapolis. They are harassing my momma, harassing my brother. It's getting to be crazy," Smiley said.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

On Siegelman Case: Corruption in a U.S. Attorney’s Office (Harpers)

excerpt: If we had to pick one state in the nation where these evil tendencies are most obviously on display, then certainly it is Alabama, home to the nation’s highest profile and most abusive political prosecution. A major television network will shortly be exposing a number of lurid details surrounding the Siegelman case which point to corruption inside of the Justice Department.From Scot Horton's "No Comment" at Harpers)

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Differences: Clinton, Obama and Health Insurance (New York Times-Krugman)

Clinton, Obama, Insurance
Published: February 4, 2008
The difference between the health care plans of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could well be the difference between achieving universal health coverage and falling far short.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Horror, Devastation and Heartbreak in the South (CBS coverage of Tornadoes)

Link to video report on deadly southern tornado outbreak:
***Please Remember the victims of this horrible event in your prayers, thoughts and or meditations***

On Exxon Mobil's Reported "Interest" in Developing Iraq's Oil Industry

Cody Lyon

A Wednesday report from Reuters is saying that Exxon Mobil is “interested in helping to develop Iraq’s huge oil reserves. According to the February 6 report, the company declined to comment on whether it has registered yet to compete for contracts there.

The “Reuters” report also says that spokesperson Len D’Eramo said in an emailed statement “if the Iraqi government decides it wants international oil companies to partner with them in developing their resources, Exxon Mobil would be interested in participating."

The report said that D’Eramo wrote in the email that Exxon “would pursue profitable business opportunities as they arise in Iraq, just as it would in other countries in which is permitted to operate.”

While it’s not surprising that oil companies have long been interested in “developing” the resources of oil rich nations, there is a bit of collective bewilderment and sad resignation at the fact that this monolith of energy production is admitting its interest in nightmare stricken Iraq just a few days after reporting the largest profits ever for a United States corporation. Add to that, if Exxon Mobil takes part in the rebuilding of Iraq’s infrastructure, its profits only stand to increase thanks to PSA’s in Iraq’s oil law, profits that will increase the company’s corporate windfalls.

But, will those increasing windfalls benefit everyday Americans in any way like lower gas prices or perhaps investment in cleaner energy or alternative fuel initiatives?

According to Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union, between January and May 2007, gasoline prices increased 80 cents, 60 cents of that going toward increased refining and marketing prices.

Some blame ongoing gas pump price increases on a lack of competition that allows the few large oil companies to exploit tight markets. Others say those prices were driven up by those same companies participating in “speculative” energy markets.

Regardless, there are a couple of easy to comprehend political issues that need to be addressed more openly and aggressively on the campaign trail. Democrats should be demanding that the US treasury re-coup billions of dollars in US tax subsidies to oil companies. A Senate measure to do just that, failed by one vote last year.

And then there’s a corporate windfall tax that so many seem to shudder at the very mention of.

We can only hope that candidates will spell out, and tout a corporate windfall profits tax. And, there’s always the hope that the additional tax money will be promised to fund clean or alternative energy initiatives under close government scrutiny.

As things stand, the Wednesday report from Reuters noting Exxon-Mobil’s interest in Iraq, seems to be at least part of the ugly crystal ball images some clearly saw back when the drumbeats for war for war began to roll.
Link to Iraq Oil Law story (2007)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Nature vs. Nurture: Research & Ideology Clash in Search for Roots of Homosexuality (EDGE)

Excerpt from my story at EDGE
Over the years, there have been countless theories and studies seeking to find some sort of biological or genetic factor that might play a role in determining sexual orientation. Debate over the validity of such studies and how they might impact the gay community in its quest for acceptance and greater equality has gone on for nearly just as long.

Some proponents of this sort of research hope the results reveal a scientifically conclusive genetic component in homosexuality whereby the hope is that social conservatives and other groups, especially those who call sexual orientation a "choice" might temper or silence some of their criticisms.


Monday, February 04, 2008


Cody Lyon

Vote because you can. Vote, because it matters and just so happens to be your right, some might say your duty, as an active citizen of these beautiful United States. Vote, because in the end, you'll respect yourself more if you participate in the process. Vote, since it could make a difference in some precincts where the tallies might be very close. Vote because almost every person in this country has relatives and ancestors who at one time in our nation's history, couldn't, simply because of their gender or race. Fortunately for all of us, they fought the hard fight, won the right, and now, we can all vote.

Vote because like working out, it makes you feel good and look better and you never know who you'll run into at the polls and perhaps you'll find someone like you, someone who actually cares.

Vote, and remember that in November, you'll need to vote again.

Vote,and keep in mind that whoever the person you support in this race will face a formidable candidate in November and that candidate will likely do whatever they can including the utilization of their party. The opposition party and its supporters will pull any number of tricks to de-rail your candidate. It will not be the kind exchange of ideas we've seen so far, the kissing of cousins, not the snip and snaps over issues or the mildly insulting rhetoric who said who and what did what, instead, rest assured, it could, most likely will, get very ugly, and who ever you vote for, must be strong enough to withstand sharp, well informed attacks as well as dirty tricks of those who engage in well funded swiftboat tactics. Your candidate must be able to use their intellect to respond with volleys of their own, that simply deflate the cheaper tactics we've seen in past general elections.

Regardless, hold on to vision, keep hope in your heart, believe in your system, realize that government can do good things for people and vote and vote and vote.

Go Vote with November in the back of your mind, then move it to the front and vote to win.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Ask Not What J.F.K. Can Do for Obama (New York Times- Frank Rich)

Ask Not What J.F.K. Can Do for Obama (NYT)
What has often been forgotten is that Barack Obamas weaknesses resemble John F. Kennedys at least as much as his strengths.
Link To Full Story

Friday, February 01, 2008

Exxon Mobil Profit Sets Record Again (New York Times)

Published: February 1, 2008 (NEW YORK TIMES)

Exxon Mobil delivered its strongest performance ever last year, earning a record $40.6 billion in net income because of surging oil prices, the company said Friday.

The figure, a 3 percent increase from the previous year, exceeded the company’s own record for profits at an American corporation, set in 2006, and is nearly twice what it earned in 2003.