The Essence of Politics

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bush misses seeing G.I.'s, White House food--By JAMES PRICHARD

Flying on Air Force One, eating meals prepared by the White House kitchen staff and drawing inspiration from his encounters with U.S. military personnel were among things former President George W. Bush missed since leaving office, he said Thursday.

The often-tearful meetings he had with relatives of fallen soldiers were "in some ways... very hard and in some ways, it was very uplifting," the Texas Republican said in a speech to The Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan at Lake Michigan College.

About eight people protested Bush's appearance outside the venue, carrying signs that called him a murderer and a traitor. The speech Thursday was one of the first made by the former president since leaving office in January.

Bush, the nation's 43rd president, spoke to 2,500 people about "the fog of war" that followed the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the economic downturn and his return to life as a regular citizen.

"It was a roller coaster of emotions, it really was," Bush said of the terror attacks. "I think about it now at times but I definitely thought about it every day as president."

He talked about the economy, blaming "a lack of responsible regulation" in the lending industry for the recession and said that the Federal National Mortgage Association, known as Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., or Freddie Mac, shouldn't have engaged in certain financial practices.

"I don't want to sound like a self-serving guy, but we did try to rein them in," Bush said.

He also said he believes he was right to depose Iraq president Saddam Hussein and that it may lead to the spread of democracy throughout the Middle East.

The audience, which gave Bush a warm welcome at his arrival, cheered when he said he wanted to be remembered as a president who "showed up in office with a set of principles and he was unwilling to sacrifice his soul for the sake of popularity."

Mark Brewer, chairman of the state Democratic Party, disagreed.

"I think it takes a lot of gall for him to come into Michigan without acknowledging the damage that his policies have done to the state," Brewer said. He did not offer any specifics.

Christie outspends rival, dodges query on adviser--By Beth DeFalco, Associated Press

Gubernatorial candidate Christopher J. Christie has raised nearly twice as much as his main rival heading into next week's Republican primary election.

Christie, the former U.S. attorney for New Jersey, has raised more than $2.2 million in contributions and has received $3.1 million in public matching funds.

By comparison, former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan has raised nearly $1.3 million for his campaign since last year and has received $1.5 million in matching money.

Reports released yesterday indicate that Christie has outspent Lonegan by about $450,000.

Democratic Gov. Corzine does not face serious primary competition, but has spent nearly $3 million on his re-election since January. Corzine is not accepting public money.

Also yesterday, Christie sidestepped questions about a close adviser's part-time political job that keeps him in the government pension system. It's the very situation Christie has labeled "pension abuse" and vowed to stop if elected governor.

Christie refused to say at a public event whether he would call on friend and fund-raiser John P. Inglesino to give up the pension credits he is earning as a $3,000-per-year political consultant for Republican Sen. Joe Pennacchio.

Christie said this week he had "no idea" that Inglesino, one of his closest campaign advisers and a friend for 15 years, remained in the government pension system because of a job with the state senator from Morris County, where Christie lives.

Inglesino, a corporate lawyer, began working for Pennacchio after losing re-election as a Morris County freeholder. Without the job, he would have been out of the pension system on Jan. 1, 2008, the day he was enrolled in the plan through Pennacchio.

McCain set to endorse Meg Whitman for governor

Former Republican presidential nominee John McCain will endorse former EBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman in her bid to replace Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California.

The endorsement is not considered a surprise, considering Whitman was a top advisor to McCain during the 2008 presidential campaign. McCain lost to Barack Obama.

According to the Whitman campaign, McCain will make the announcement at a town hall meeting in Tustin.

Whitman is expected to face Steve Poizner, the state insurance commissioner, for the Republican nomination.
-- Shelby Grad

Dodd to air first TV ad in 2010 re-election bid--By ANDREW MIGA

Embattled Sen. Christopher Dodd hopes to get a boost from President Obama as he airs the first TV ad in his 2010 re-election bid.

The 30-second spot set to air statewide in Connecticut on Friday features Obama praising the Democrat for his work crafting the new credit card reform bill that the president signed into law last week. Dodd chairs the Senate Banking Committee.

"I want to give a special shout-out to Chris Dodd, who has been a relentless fighter to get this done," Obama says. The president's comments were made at a Rose Garden signing ceremony for the bill last week.

Dodd's campaign is spending more than $100,000 for a week of air time. Dodd has $1.4 million in campaign cash and is expected to maintain a fundraising advantage over his rivals.

He faces the toughest re-election fight of his five terms in the Senate. A Quinnipiac University Poll released this week showed Dodd trailing former Republican congressman Rob Simmons 45-39 percent. Dodd is one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats facing re-election next year.

Obama won Connecticut in 2008 and remains popular in the state.

Terry McAuliffe blazes different Va. trail--By JONATHAN MARTIN

Brian Moran served for 20 years as a local prosecutor and in the Virginia House.
Creigh Deeds has been in the Virginia House and Senate for 17 years.

But they’re both being outpaced in most polls by a man who has never served a day in public office and, until a few months ago, had few ties to Virginia besides his mailing address.

What would have seemed implausible a year ago, maybe even laughable, doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore: Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and Clinton First Friend, as Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

That a son of Syracuse turned Washington operator might claim the party’s nomination in the June 9 primary speaks to the sea-change under way in Virginia.

The commonwealth’s political culture has long been accommodating to outsiders, but only those who first establish themselves by service and then by getting to know the tight-knit network of donors, lobbyists and consultants who dominate state politics.

Sen. Mark Warner, for example, overcame a Connecticut upbringing by directing former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder’s history-making 1989 gubernatorial campaign, running the state party and mounting a Senate bid before being elected governor in 2001.

But with transplants flooding not only northern Virginia but other population centers downstate — not to mention the ever-increasing role of money in politics — the time-honored path to statewide office seems to be fading into obsolescence.

It’s a trend that began three years ago when now-Sen. Jim Webb, who like McAuliffe had no previous ties to the Virginia political establishment, took on and defeated Sen. George Allen.

But McAuliffe’s astonishing ascent hasn’t just been a product of money and changing demographics, say Virginia Democrats. It’s been enabled by a golden silence from most of Virginia’s marquee Democratic names — the individuals who could have intervened to decisively sway the race if they had wanted to stop McAuliffe — and facilitated by what many Dems say privately has been lackluster opposition from two accomplished and well-regarded opponents.

These Democratic elites were initially torn between friends Moran and Deeds, then frozen by the entry of McAuliffe, who swooped in and overwhelmed the race with money, staff and chutzpah.

Much like Hillary Clinton with Barack Obama last year, Moran and Deeds haven’t concealed their exasperation at McAuliffe’s audacity — but they also haven’t done much to effectively channel their outrage.

Few expect their resentment will prevent the party from rallying around the eventual nominee, but any festering wounds at all could be enough to sink Democratic chances against likely GOP nominee Bob McDonnell, who leads all three Democrats in head-to-head matchups in the polls.

In what has been a mostly low-profile race, the candidates have a final opportunity to speak to a mass audience on Wednesday in a televised prime-time news special on the primary. WJLA-TV and Google/YouTube have teamed with POLITICO to produce an hour-long program on the choice facing Virginia Democrats. The program will feature interviews with all three Democrats, and include questions submitted from citizens via Google/YouTube. The deadline for submitting questions is Sunday evening.

The program will air on June 3 at 8 p.m. on WJLA (Channel 7), the ABC affiliate in Washington, as well as the ABC affiliates in Richmond (WRIC, Channel 8) and Lynchburg/Roanoke (WSET, Channel 13).

Wilder, who has been in his share of intra-party spats over the years and has not endorsed in this contest, warned that, “If McAuliffe gets the nomination, there will be a formation of Virginians For McDonnell,” a coalition of Democrats and establishment-oriented independents for the GOP nominee.

Wilder’s prediction is echoed in private by other senior Democrats who believe that Moran, especially, has again and again missed opportunities.

“There’s a growing sense about the Moran campaign that Brian is a very nice guy but he just kind of fell apart when Terry entered the race,” said one prominent Democrat who is a veteran of numerous campaigns.

“Brian, at every turn where he should have been demonstrating strength, has failed,” added Kristian Denny Todd, a Democratic consultant who is close to Webb.

Prompted by the former DNC chairman’s interest in the race, Moran quit the Legislature late last year in large part to free himself from the restrictions on raising money while the General Assembly is in session. But he now admits that, just days before the primary, he doesn’t have the money to get his name out.

Democrats say Moran’s most obvious line of attack against McAuliffe — that he’s entirely reliant on out-of-state money and is trying to buy the election — has been neutralized by his acceptance of cash from defense contractors close to his older brother, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

And the hope that some silver bullet of oppo or some blockbuster expose would land and disqualify McAuliffe from the race has, to date, not materialized.

McAuliffe may have been positioned to win even if Moran and Deeds had run flawless races, but at the very least they presented him with an opening.

Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), the Fairfax freshman who previously ran the commonwealth’s most populous county, credited McAuliffe for having a jobs message that is especially compelling in Virginia’s hardest-hit regions.

But Connolly, who is neutral in the race, also noted that McAuliffe has gained traction because “the other two have been running for the last three years and neither one of them had created a commanding lead.”

Tidewater-area Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), a longtime fixture in Richmond and then Washington, is also staying out of the primary. But he said many of his supporters are with McAuliffe — who he said is simply “running a much stronger grass roots campaign.”

“Brian and Creigh were looking at it like a marathon and then you had somebody came in and ran it like a very long sprint,” said Del. Jennifer McClellan, a young up-and-comer from Richmond who is also vice-chairwoman of the state party. “And Terry had energy and money to sustain it.”

“Neither Brian nor Creigh hit it the way Mark Warner did in 2001,” observed former Lt. Gov Don Beyer, alluding to the field-clearing effort the former governor put in leading up to his race.
Beyer, yet another party elder who is also staying out this year’s primary, noted that back then, before their rapid ascent, Democrats “were just turning anywhere for a savior. That’s not where we are now. We’re spoiled.”

It’s a commonly expressed sentiment this year — that after winning consecutive governor’s races, flipping both Senate seats and even turning Virginia blue on the presidential level for the first time in 44 years, the party has seemingly maxed out.

The primary has sparked little interest among voters other than party activists, and Democrats worry about what the means for the fall.

“It will be a tough race for any of the Democrats,” said Wilder of the race against McDonnell, who will be formally nominated this weekend.

For hearty Virginia Democrats who never saw a lot of national attention and then suddenly wound up playing a pivotal role in both nominating and electing the nation’s first black president, there is a sense of, "what else is there?"

“We’ve just come off this incredible, life-changing victory,” noted Beyer. “So there’s got to be a let-down. I can’t imagine that Virginia Democrats are as hungry now.”

And with Democrats in control in Washington and Richmond there is now far less to run against.
For that reason, strategists in both parties view the race as a test of whether the national momentum the party has enjoyed in the past two election cycles can be sustained now that they dominate Washington.

Recent state history suggests otherwise: Since 1976, the party that has won the White House has lost the Virginia governor's race the next year.

“The wind that was at our backs these last four years has died down a little,” said Connolly, lamenting the “very muted interest” in the primary. “Bush is gone and the heat on the war in Iraq has abated,” he said, citing two of the issues that helped power Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008.

And there was no heir apparent to term-limited Gov. Tim Kaine, though Moran, the former House Democratic Caucus Leader, and Deeds, who barely lost the attorney general’s race to McDonnell four years ago, had traveled extensively to lay down a marker.

Enter McAuliffe, who had demonstrated no interest in statewide politics until last August, when he began wooing the Virginia delegation to the Democratic National Convention.

He spent much of the fall in the state stumping for Obama, made his intentions formal soon after and then quickly took command of a race that his rivals expected would be fought between the two of them.

“He went up on TV in February and Brian and Creigh just didn’t have the money to do that,” said McClellan.

McAuliffe has won little affection and no endorsements from the state’s Democratic top officials — Kaine, both of Virginia’s Democratic senators, much of the House delegation and such high-profile figures as Wilder, Beyer, former Gov. Gerald Baliles and former Sen. Charles Robb have all stayed on the sidelines — but their silence has served more as a rebuke to the two establishment candidates who failed to make a case for them to weigh in.

Some are in positions now that make it difficult to engage in politics but Beyer, who in his case cited friendships with all three candidates, also said that others “kept their powder dry to see how the primary went.”

And, Todd said, when it became clear that Moran couldn’t keep pace financially and wasn’t doing damage to McAuliffe, many establishment types decided it was better to just wait for the winner.
“If their candidate loses, whoever is governor will never forget,” explained Wilder, with a laugh, of the reluctance to expend political capital for something that was far from a sure thing.

In McDonnell, the Republicans have a candidate with ties to the two most populous regions of the state — Northern Virginia and the Tidewater area — who is focusing on kitchen table issues and downplaying his Christian conservative roots. Wilder called him a “very attractive candidate.”

But Connolly said the “raw numbers” of people who have become reliable Democratic voters in the state offer the party a modest advantage, regardless of the outcome of the primary.
And, despite some of the baggage he carries because of his past business dealings, those same contacts and investments would better position McAuliffe to finance a competitive race than Moran or Deeds.

It may seem unlikely that a man called The Macker, a garrulous newcomer who revels especially in expounding on the renewable energy potential of chicken waste, would take the office once held by Harrisons, Randolphs, Lees and Byrds.

Then again, it has shocked many that he’s even gotten this far.

“I have to confess to you,” whispered Wilder. “During the Obama campaign last fall, somebody from the media asked me, ‘Well, what about McAuliffe?’ And I said, 'Who — and for what?'”

Alan Grayson to introduce Paid Vacation Act--By ERIKA LOVLEY

Rep. Alan Grayson was standing in the middle of Disney World when it hit him: What Americans really need is a week of paid vacation.

So on Thursday, the Florida Democrat will introduce the Paid Vacation Act — legislation that would be the first to make paid vacation time a requirement under federal law.

The bill would require companies with more than 100 employees to offer a week of paid vacation for both full-time and part-time employees after they’ve put in a year on the job. Three years after the effective date of the law, those same companies would be required to provide two weeks of paid vacation, and companies with 50 or more employees would have to provide one week.

The idea: More vacation will stimulate the economy through fewer sick days, better productivity and happier employees.

“There’s a reason why Disney World is the happiest place on Earth: The people who go there are on vacation,” said Grayson, a freshman who counts Orlando as part of his home district.

“Honestly, as much as I appreciate this job and as much as I enjoy it, the best days of my life are and always have been the days I’m on vacation.”

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, 28 million Americans — or about a quarter of the work force — don’t get any paid vacation. The center says that a lack of vacation causes stress and workplace burnout and that those evil twins cost the economy more than $300 billion each year.

One more if-you’re-reading-this-then-you’re-probably-not-on-vacation fact: The United States is dead last among 21 industrial countries when it comes to mandatory R&R.

France currently requires employers to provide 30 days of paid leave.

Not surprisingly, some in the travel industry are salivating over Grayson’s bill; Grayson spokesman Todd Jurkowski said the U.S. Tour Operators Association and the Adventure Travel Trade Association are both on board. Other tourism and labor groups are expected to sign on in the coming days.

The U.S. Travel Association has not yet endorsed the measure, but Senior Vice President Geoff Freeman says Congress does need to consider new ways to stimulate the vacation industry and travel economy.

So far, no group has come out in opposition of the bill. Nor has anyone announced opposition to roller coaster rides, cookouts on the beach or salt-water taffy on the boardwalk.

But with many Americans out of work and an economy in shambles, some say this may not be the best time to propose more time away from the office, especially on the boss’s dime.
The Society for Human Resource Management issued a statement Wednesday warning that “a one-size-fits-all, government-imposed mandate is not the answer.”

Because of the 50- and 100-employee thresholds, most small businesses wouldn’t be directly affected by the bill immediately. But the National Small Business Association warned of indirect consequences; companies might artificially hold their hiring at the 50-to-100-employee level to avoid the costs of paid vacation time.

The bill also could have a negative impact on manufacturers already bracing for higher costs that could be associated with the climate-change legislation working its way through the House.
One place where the bill wouldn’t have much of an effect: Capitol Hill.

Congressional staffers already get paid vacation, even if they don’t actually have time to take it. And members can take time off during recesses — as they will next week — albeit not as much as they once did.

While members once had much of the summer off, Congress will be in session this year virtually all of June and July. That leaves August, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) says that’s not really enough time to unwind.

“I’m off in the state for a full month catching up on all the things I’ve missed throughout the year, but you don’t have time for yourself,” she said. “You don’t have much time for your family. And after a while, you do start to get just tired.”

Grayson’s bill is part of a larger move by Democrats to improve employee and workplace standards. Earlier this month, Democrats introduced a bill that would make employers give mandatory sick time.

“The committee is looking at a number of proposals to help workers balance family responsibilities and work duties,” said House Education and Labor Committee spokesman Aaron Albright. “The fact is the United States is behind the rest of the world in ensuring that workplaces have paid leave policies. These policies not only benefit workers but also help the employers’ bottom line because of lower turnover and better job satisfaction.”

But in the workaholic world of Washington, not everyone is so impressed with the restorative — or stimulative — powers of time unplugged.

Asked Tuesday what he’d do with an extra week of paid vacation, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said: “I’d keep the cash and spend the week working on the farm, with my BlackBerry and office files.

Obama's Deeds Vindicate Bush--By Charles Krauthammer

"We were able to hold it off with George Bush. The idea that we might find ourselves fighting with the Obama administration over these powers is really stunning." -- Unnamed and dismayed human rights advocate, on legalizing indefinite detention of alleged terrorists, New York Times, May 21

WASHINGTON -- If hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, then the flip-flops on previously denounced anti-terror measures are the homage that Barack Obama pays to George Bush. Within 125 days, Obama has adopted with only minor modifications huge swaths of the entire, allegedly lawless Bush program.

The latest flip-flop is the restoration of military tribunals. During the 2008 campaign, Obama denounced them repeatedly, calling them an "enormous failure." Obama suspended them upon his swearing in. Now they're back.

Of course, Obama will never admit in word what he's doing in deed. As in his rhetorically brilliant national-security speech on Thursday claiming to have undone Bush's moral travesties, the military commissions flip-flop is accompanied by the usual Obama three-step: (a) excoriate the Bush policy, (b) ostentatiously unveil cosmetic changes, (c) adopt the Bush policy.

Cosmetic changes such as Obama's declaration that "we will give detainees greater latitude in selecting their own counsel." Laughable. High-toned liberal law firms are climbing over each other for the frisson of representing these miscreants in court.

What about disallowing evidence received under coercive interrogation? Hardly new, notes former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy. Under the existing rules, military judges have that authority, and exercised it under the Bush administration to dismiss charges against al-Qaeda operative Mohammed al-Qahtani on precisely those grounds.

On Guantanamo, it's Obama's fellow Democrats who have suddenly discovered the wisdom of Bush's choice. In open rebellion against Obama's pledge to shut it down, the Senate voted 90 to 6 to reject appropriating a single penny until the president explains where he intends to put the inmates. Sen. James Webb, the de facto Democratic authority on national defense, wants the closing to be put on hold. And on Tuesday, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, no Gitmo inmates on American soil -- not even in American jails.

That doesn't leave a lot of places. The home countries won't take them. Europe is recalcitrant. Saint Helena needs refurbishing. Elba didn't work out too well the first time. And Devil's Island is now a tourist destination. Gitmo is starting to look good again.

Observers of all political stripes are stunned by how much of the Bush national security agenda is being adopted by this new Democratic government. Victor Davis Hanson (National Review) offers a partial list: "The Patriot Act, wiretaps, e-mail intercepts, military tribunals, Predator drone attacks, Iraq (i.e. slowing the withdrawal), Afghanistan (i.e. the surge) -- and now Guantanamo."

Jack Goldsmith (The New Republic) adds: rendition -- turning over terrorists seized abroad to foreign countries; state secrets -- claiming them in court to quash legal proceedings on rendition and other erstwhile barbarisms; and the denial of habeas corpus -- to detainees in Afghanistan's Bagram prison, indistinguishable logically and morally from Guantanamo.

What does it all mean? Democratic hypocrisy and demagoguery? Sure, but in Washington, opportunism and cynicism are hardly news.

There is something much larger at play -- an undeniable, irresistible national interest that, in the end, beyond the cheap politics, asserts itself. The urgencies and necessities of the actual post-9/11 world, as opposed to the fanciful world of the opposition politician, present a rather narrow range of acceptable alternatives.

Among them: reviving the tradition of military tribunals, used historically by George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Winfield Scott, Abraham Lincoln, Arthur MacArthur and Franklin Roosevelt. And inventing Guantanamo -- accessible, secure, offshore and nicely symbolic (the tradition of island exile for those outside the pale of civilization is a venerable one) -- a quite brilliant choice for the placement of terrorists, some of whom, the Bush administration immediately understood, would have to be detained without trial in a war that could be endless.

The genius of democracy is that the rotation of power forces the opposition to come to its senses when it takes over. When the new guys, brought to power by popular will, then adopt the policies of the old guys, a national consensus is forged and a new legitimacy established.

That's happening before our eyes. The Bush policies in the war on terror won't have to await vindication by historians. Obama is doing it day by day. His denials mean nothing. Look at his deeds.

About Those 'Speculators' . . .

Pension funds also got whacked by Uncle Sam.

Remember how President Obama blamed Chrysler's bankruptcy filing last month on "a small group of speculators" who turned down Treasury's $2 billion final offer for their $6.9 billion in debt? Well, it turns out that hedge funds and other short sellers weren't the only secured creditors who got a raw deal from Uncle Sam.

Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock revealed this week that his state's police and teacher pension funds have lost millions of dollars in the Chrysler "restructuring." Indiana's State Police Fund and Major Moves Construction Fund, which finances roads and bridges, together lost more than $1 million. And the Teacher's Retirement Fund "suffered, at a minimum, a loss of $4.6 million due to the action of the Federal government," reports Mr. Mourdock.

Far from being speculators, these funds represent retired public employees, including cops and teachers. The funds paid a premium to buy "secured" status, only to discover that they were politically outranked by the United Auto Workers in the White House hierarchy.

"In the past, to be 'secured' meant an investor was 'first in line' in the event of a bankruptcy and 'non-secured' creditors would receive value after secured-creditors were paid," Mr. Mourdock says. "In the Chrysler bankruptcy, however, secured creditors received $.29 on the dollar even as non-secured creditors received higher values and ended up with a 55% ownership of the new company, which is fundamentally wrong and a dangerous precedent to the capital markets."

We've worried that the Chrysler sandbagging would discourage bond investment. And, sure enough, Mr. Mourdock says that from now on no funds under his control will invest in the secured debt of "General Motors, other manufacturing companies, or those insurance companies who have or will be receiving bailout funds." Given the recent actions by the feds, he adds, "the risk is too great for any prudent investor to accept."

This isn't political grandstanding. Public investment officials like Mr. Mourdock have a fiduciary duty to seek maximum returns for retirees. The question for all public officials responsible for investing pension money is whether they too should conclude that investing in U.S.-aided companies now carries so much political risk that it violates their legal obligations. Such are the wages of White House disdain for legal contracts.

A Martyr to Self-Righteousness--By Rich Lowry

Pelosi is sacrificing her credibility on the altar of moral vanity and rhetorical excess.

Next, Nancy Pelosi should find a way to work in the Bilderberg Group, the annual gathering of global elites that is a perennial obsession of conspiracy theorists. It’s the only thing missing from her wild tale of CIA misconduct that’s so implausible, she had trouble keeping it straight at her instantly notorious “I was misled” press conference.

For Pelosi’s account to be accurate, the CIA must have engaged in one of the most baroque and ineffectual conspiracies in the history of Washington. Remember: Pelosi claims that the CIA lied to her in a September 2002 classified briefing and told her that it hadn’t waterboarded high-level al-Qaeda detainee Abu Zubaydah. To support her version, Pelosi needs to stack implausibility on top of implausibility in a precarious Jenga tower of self-justification.

The CIA must have convinced Porter Goss, the Republican congressman (and subsequent CIA director) who was present at the 2002 briefing, to lie and pronounce himself “slack-jawed” at Pelosi’s account. It must have forged the “contemporaneous records” CIA director Leon Panetta, an Obama nominee, has cited that show Pelosi was told of the waterboarding. It must have either pulled the wool over Panetta’s eyes or enlisted his active engagement in a monstrous machinery of deception.

Even Oliver Stone wouldn’t touch this screenplay. And why would the CIA have lied to Pelosi in 2002? Even in her telling, the briefers informed her that the enhanced interrogation techniques had been found to be legal. So there was no wrongdoing to cover up. And even by Pelosi’s account, the CIA told one of her aides in a February 2003 briefing that it had used waterboarding, and the aide passed it along to her. It’s pointless to lie to the principal when a few months later you are going to funnel the information to her through a subordinate. In short, Pelosi has uncorked Washington’s least believable and most internally inconsistent denial since Bill Clinton wagged his finger over “that woman.”

Pelosi’s motivation for putting her reputation — and perhaps her speakership — on the line is more subtle than Clinton’s. She is sacrificing her credibility on the altar of moral vanity and rhetorical excess. She is trapped under the terrible freight of the word “torture,” the Left’s obligatory swearword for the Bush interrogation program. Torture is a war crime, and anyone complicit in it is a war criminal. It admits of no wiggle room. For Pelosi to acknowledge she knew of torture as far back as 2002 and did nothing to stop it is to condemn herself as an unindicted co-conspirator in George W. Bush’s crimes. Better to obfuscate and dodge, and remain adamant about a “truth commission,” even when she can’t tell the truth herself.

Pelosi’s inaction years ago speaks more eloquently than her denunciations of the Bush administration since. Even if she was uncomfortable with the use of waterboarding, she clearly didn’t consider it torture. If she had been told that the CIA was burning detainees with cigarettes, would she also have implicitly approved? Let’s hope not. But given the choice between forswearing the simplistic and morally self-gratifying attack on Bush as a torturer, and hurling herself on a pyre in front of the national press corps, Pelosi chose self-immolation.

Just as instructive is Pres. Barack Obama’s condemnation of waterboarding as torture, even as he opposes creating a truth commission and prosecuting the torturers. Understandably, the Left considers this a travesty. If waterboarding as we practiced it is torture, the men who did it are war criminals whose sadistic acts can’t be allowed to go unpunished. That Obama is taking a pass either makes him, on his own terms, a dastardly accomplice to war crimes after the fact, or shows that, despite his words, he doesn’t truly believe it rises to the level of torture.

Obama can paper over this logical inconsistency with smooth and well-chosen words. Nancy Pelosi is impaling herself on it.

Killing A Story: How It's Done

In today's New York Times, Public Editor Clark Hoyt reveals the result of his investigation into the charge that the paper killed a story during the 2008 Presidential campaign in order to help Barack Obama. Hoyt concludes that the claim is "nonsense."

ON March 17, a Republican lawyer, quoting a confidential source for a Times reporter, testified to Congress that the newspaper killed a story last fall because it would have been "a game-changer" in the presidential election.

The charge, amplified by Bill O'Reilly on Fox News in April and reverberating around the conservative blogosphere, is about the most damning allegation that can be made against a news organization. If true, it would mean that Times editors, whose job is to report the facts without fear or favor, were so lacking in integrity that they withheld an important story in order to influence the election.

But the facts as related by Hoyt don't rebut the charge; they support it.

Times reporter Stephanie Strom was looking into ACORN, and she had a source, a former ACORN employee named Anita Moncrief. Moncrief told Strom that she had evidence of "constant contact" between ACORN's Project Vote and both the Obama and Clinton campaigns:

On Sept. 7, Moncrief wrote to Strom that she had donor lists from the campaigns of Obama and Hillary Clinton and that there had been "constant contact" between the campaigns and Project Vote, an Acorn affiliate whose tax-exempt status forbids it to engage in partisan politics. Moncrief said she had withheld that information earlier but was disclosing it now that the conservative columnist Michelle Malkin was "all over it."

"I am sorry," she wrote, "but I believe in Obama and did not want to help the Republicans."

A key part of Moncrief's story was that the Obama campaign had furnished ACORN with lists of maxed-out donors so that ACORN could mine them for contributions. In fact, Moncrief provided the Times reporter, Strom, with such a list that ACORN allegedly obtained from the Obama campaign. Hoyt does not dispute that this story, if true, was evidence of violation of the campaign finance laws.

So why did the Times pull the plug on Strom's ongoing investigation? The story became public because a Republican lawyer named Heather Heidelbaugh testified, apparently based on information she got from Anita Moncrief, that the Times had been working on an Obama-ACORN story but that "Ms. Strom reported to Ms. Moncrief that her editors at The New York Times wanted her to kill the story because, and I quote, 'it was a game-changer.'" Hoyt undertakes to show that this charge was false.

He admits, though, that Strom's editor, Suzanne Daley, "called a halt to Strom's pursuit of the Obama angle." So the Times did kill the investigation and any further reporting. The only question is why. Hoyt uncritically accepts Daley's explanation:

"We had worked on that story for a while and had come up empty-handed," Daley said. "You have to cut bait after a while." She said she never thought of the story as a game-changer and never used that term with Strom.

But wait! Hoyt also relates that shortly before Daley pulled the plug, "Moncrief finally agreed to go on the record" and Strom had scheduled a meeting with her. It was when she called Moncrief to cancel the meeting that Strom allegedly told her that her bosses had killed the investigation to protect Obama. Obviously, if Strom was about to hit pay-dirt with an on-the-record witness, Daley's assertion that she killed the story because Strom "had come up empty-handed" is false.

Hoyt doesn't appear to notice the contradiction. He does, however, labor manfully to defend the Times. He goes to great lengths to refute the claim that Strom told Moncrief the Times killed the story because it was a "game-changer," as though that particular phrase had some talismanic significance. Yet, if you read Hoyt's column to the end, you find that in an email to Hoyt Moncrief attributed exactly that statement to Strom:

She said Strom told her "it was their policy not to print a game-changer for either side that close to the election."

Hoyt also argues that the story about Obama and ACORN would not have been a "game-changer" in that it would not have swung the election to John McCain. I agree. But since when is that the standard? Is Hoyt telling us that the Times' policy is only to print stories that have the potential to change the result of a Presidential election? Of course, if the story did have the potential to change the outcome of the election, that, too, would have been offered as a reason not to print it.

Hoyt also volunteers that Moncrief had a "credibility problem" because she had been fired by ACORN for putting private expenses on an ACORN credit card. So she is that classic newspaper source, a disgruntled former employee. Is Hoyt telling us that the Times doesn't run stories on the basis of leads from disgruntled former employees? Hah! If the paper followed that policy, it would lose out on its best exposes. And it bears repeating that Moncrief was attesting to first-hand information, not just passing along a rumor she had heard at ACORN. By her account, "it was her job to identify" maxed-out Obama donors who might contribute to ACORN's Project Vote.

Hoyt interviewed Strom, of course, but--rather remarkably--he does not reveal what Strom told him about her conversation with Daley in which Daley killed Strom's ongoing investigation. That's a rather significant omission, isn't it? Instead, Hoyt merely quotes Strom's observation that she did write a story on ACORN that appeared on October 22:

[B]efore they were to meet, Strom said, another source gave her an internal report detailing concerns about impermissible political activity by Acorn and its tax-exempt affiliates. The resulting article was published on Oct. 22.

That story is here. It addresses another topic entirely, the lack of any real distinction between ACORN and Project Vote. It does, however, address the Obama controversy, very briefly:

Republicans have tried to make an issue of Senator Barack Obama's ties to the group, which he represented in a lawsuit in 1995. The Obama campaign has denied any connection with Acorn's voter registration drives.

There you have it. That's the last word the Times' readers got on Obama's very likely illegal relationship with ACORN.

If the Times didn't kill the story for the reason illogically asserted by Daley--it hadn't panned out--then why did they kill it? Perhaps Stephanie Strom's email reply to Anita Moncrief, quoted by Hoyt, suggests an answer:

Am also onto the Obama connection, sadly. Would love the donor lists. As for helping the Repubs, they're already onto this like white on rice. SIGH!

For the New York Times, Republicans are simply the enemy. By October 2008, it was time to circle the wagons.

Steele critics: RNC chair finding mojo--By: Andy Barr

Not so long ago, after Michael Steele’s rocky start as Republican National Committee chairman, there were rumors of impending coups and evidence of deep dissatisfaction within the GOP ranks.

But after a shaky debut marked by a series of gaffes and a disappointing loss in a New York special congressional election, Steele is beginning to win over skeptical committee members and placate some of his toughest critics.

RNC members interviewed following this week’s regular meeting of state GOP chairmen said that Steele has finally found his footing in his new role and is consolidating support.

“[Steele] now understands what the job description is,” said Arizona Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen, who as recently as three weeks ago was accused by a Steele ally of “attempting to usurp the chairman’s authority.”

“He fully understands what his job is and is doing it.”

Pullen, who also serves as RNC treasurer, pushed through a committee resolution last month requiring that Steele get approval from the RNC executive committee for all expenditures over $100,000. But now, Pullen is praising Steele for “showing leadership and a vision of where to take the party.”

“It’s been a learning experience and he is definitely getting the swing of it now,” Pullen added, pointing to recent staff hires that have been “very solid.”

David Norcross, a national committeeman from New Jersey who supported Pullen’s resolution, said that while Steele “made the road as difficult for himself as he could, I think he has navigated it successfully.”

“He may be finding his sea legs,” Norcross added, before noting that “the questioning isn’t over, but it seems like he could get to where he needs to be.”

Steele was credited by many committee members for conducting a seamless party meeting — and one that sidestepped a potential controversy surrounding a resolution pushed by Norcross and other conservatives referring to Democrats as the “Democrat Socialist Party.”

The chairman, who opposed the measure, convinced the committee to adopt a watered down version of the resolution that instead called on Democrats to “stop pushing our country toward socialism.”

“Those tags are not helpful in my opinion,” Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster said of the original resolution. Webster pointed out that criticism of Steele from within the committee has “dissipated.”

Steele also won praise for a Tuesday speech to the committee in which he vowed to vigorously oppose President Barack Obama and insisted that “the Republican comeback has begun.”

“We are going to take the president head-on. The honeymoon is over. The two-party system is making a comeback, and that comeback starts today,” Steele said.

The speech, noted Mississippi national committeeman Henry Barbour, “was well received and encouraging.”

“He's hitting his stride,” Barbour said of Steele.

“He did an excellent job with the meeting, everything was organized and on time,” said Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere, who co-chaired former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell’s run against Steele in the RNC chairman’s race. “He gave an excellent speech.”

GOP Gov. Sarah Palin weighed in with a statement from Alaska.

"Today, we have a friend in RNC Chairman Michael Steele, and his bold and courageous speech defines his leadership goals that will guide us all through this most difficult time for our nation."

Steele’s standing has also benefited from the RNC’s solid recent fundraising performance — a critical determinant of a chairman’s success. The RNC raised more money than the Democratic National Committee in both March and April and reports a cash-on-hand advantage of $24.4 million to $9.1 million.

Steele “has now settled into the job, and that's a process that takes time for anyone,” said national committeeman Mark Hillman of Colorado, a former Blackwell supporter. “He's developed a good sense of what the chairman's job is and what it isn't.”

While Steele may be finding his groove, there are still pockets of resistance. Steele acknowledged as much in an interview with Fox News earlier in the week.

Asked about committee members who have worked to strip his authority, Steele responded: “They can contemplate all they want to, but the reality is if they want a figurehead chairman you can have a figurehead chairman, but it won't be Michael Steele.”

“Some of them were supposedly friends,” he said of his critics. “It's kind of eerie to see them standing on their knives bared.”

Villere, the Louisiana chairman, conceded there are still some hard feelings and relationships that need to be tended.

The sniping at Steele “is still going on,” he said, but there is a sense within the committee that “the man won the race and we have to give him a chance to govern.”

Indiana Republican Party Chairman Murray Clark, who hailed Steele’s victory in January as a “great day for our Republican Party,” said that despite some residual hostility, Steele is making considerable progress.

“I’m not naïve enough to think there isn’t still some of that lingering,” Clark said. “[Steele] readily admits to members of the RNC that he has made mistakes.”
“But now he is establishing an operation that people are comfortable with,” he said.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rush attacks Black folks. Will Republican leadership stand with him?

Rush Limbaugh goes off in racist rant about reparations

05-12-09 Ed Shultz - Rush Limbaugh goes off in racist rant about reparations

Okay I am posting this headline alone not because I agree with Color of Change on this or Rush Limbaugh but because the title quickly jumped out at me. Then as I looked at the other articles regarding the subject and listened to Limbaugh's actual words, I realized that people are speculating what Limbaugh meant and are hyper-extending the race problem in America.

Many of you might not agree with me but since President Barack Obama has been elected, I have seen a huge hyperinflation of racial cry’s over nearly everything that has to do with President Obama. I'm not saying that racism is not out there because it is on both sides of the aisle. I know some people might say Blacks can't be racists because we are a minority in this country but we can be discriminatory toward other races and people who are not black.

Nonetheless, all I want people to understand is that headlines like this and taking people words out of context or speculating what someone meant to say only further divides us as a people. Instead of us having a real race conversation in this country, we are having conversations such as this one where we take things out of context like we did with the cartoon of a monkey being shot and the caption saying “I guess we have to find someone else to write the next stimulus package.” Now I didn’t agree with the cartoon not because it was distasteful but it was not racist to me. Just like now, I don't agree with Limbaugh's words but he clearly made no reference to Black people but it can be interfered he was referring to black people but it can also be inferred he was referring to poor people who are the rightful owners of this country since it was built by the poor or Indians (Native Americans) who were here way before any other group of people. I know when reparations are mentioned, everyone automatically thinks of blacks because we are the only race in this country not to receive reparations but some might argue we got affirmative action which actually wasn't for us but for white woman who were treated unequally in the work place but we as blacks have benefitted from it to some degree.

Thus I just want all of us to not fall prey to headlines and quickly pass judgment as if Republicans are continuing to advocate for a racial divide while Democrats are tearing down race barriers. Don't believe this type of rhetorical or any headlines such as this one until you do your actual research. We must do our own research before believing the hype and passing judgment because there is clearly a racial hysteria in this country that wants us to stay divided by playing on our racial empathy.

We have got to do better as a people no matter what race, sex or religion you are. We have to look at everything from every angle before simply siding that's all I'm asking people. Let's do better and be better as we go forward.

Rush attacks Black folks. Will Republican leadership stand with him? From the
You won't believe Rush Limbaugh. He just accused President Obama of trying to intentionally wreck the economy, saying that Obama wants to put more people on welfare and food stamps, and implying that he wants to redistribute the country's wealth to Black people.1

This is not just an ugly attack on President Obama from Rush Limbaugh -- these are words from the man who is being held up as the face of the Republican Party. Virtually no Republican leaders have been willing to denounce his divisive rhetoric, or even disagree with him.2 Instead, they say he's an important part of their party, and a friend.

When Republican leaders refuse to denounce this kind of race-baiting from someone they call a leader, the message they send is that they embrace it. It's time to force Republican officials to say where they stand. Please take a moment to help us publicly confront them:

Here's what Rush said about President Obama's economic policies:
"The objective is unemployment. The objective is more food stamp benefits. The objective is more unemployment benefits. The objective is an expanding welfare state. And the objective is to take the nation's wealth and return to it to the nation's quote, "rightful owners." Think reparations. Think forced reparations here if you want to understand what actually is going on."3

It's a direct appeal to racial fear and paranoia, and it's deeply insulting to the President, to Black people, and to anyone who cares about the future of this country. We've seen this kind of thing from Rush before.4,5 But now, Republican politicians are refusing to denounce what he says, or even disagree with him. When they do, they usually take it back the next day, begging Rush to forgive them.6

Colin Powell is perhaps the only prominent Republican who has consistently stood up to Limbaugh and urged other Republicans to turn away from his divisive rhetoric. Powell recently said this: "I think what Rush does as an entertainer diminishes the party and intrudes or inserts into our public life a kind of nastiness that we would be better to do without."7

The response from Limbaugh and other Republicans? Rush repeated an old attack on Powell, accusing him of supporting Obama during the election solely based on race.8 Meanwhile, Dick Cheney took to the airwaves to attack Powell and make it clear that he stands with Rush Limbaugh when it comes to the future of the Republican Party.9

Rush speaks. Republicans in government do the work.
You might think Rush and Cheney merely represent the party's extremes, but that misses the larger context. The Republican Party has made it clear that they don't want Obama to succeed--even if it means further damage to the economy and to the lives of everyday Americans. It's evident in the 'no' votes Republican members of Congress cast against Obama's budget, the refusal of Republican governors to allow stimulus dollars to flow into their states, and their leadership's refusal to denounce the rhetoric coming from Rush and others. Rush has said clearly that he wants Obama to fail, and Republican elected officials have been clear in their actions.

Please join us in demanding that Republican leaders say publicly where they stand. Do they reject Rush Limbaugh's divisive fear-mongering, or do they stand with him? If they refuse to denounce what Rush said, they'll be making it perfectly clear what the Republican Party stands for. And we'll do our best to make sure the media tells the story.

-- James, Gabriel, William, Dani and the rest of the team May 26th, 2009

Help support our work. is powered by YOU--your energy and dollars. We take no money from lobbyists or corporations and our tiny staff ensures your contributions go a long way. You can contribute here:

1. "Rush Limbaugh: 'The Niggers Are Coming for Their Reparations!'" Jack and Jill Politics, 05-13-09

2. "The Man Who Ate the G.O.P." Vanity Fair, May 2009

3. See reference 1.

4. "Limbaugh on Obama: 'Halfrican American'," Media Matters, 01-24-07

5. The Today Show, NBC News, 05-21-07

6. "Forgive Me Rush, For I have Sinned," Talking Points Memo,

7. "Cheney backs Limbaugh over Powell on GOP future," Associated Press, 05-10-09

8. See reference 7.

9. See reference 7.

President Obama Announces Supreme Court Nominee

President Barack Obama announces his nominee for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, in a video message to Organizing for America.

President Obama on Memorial Day 2009

President Obama honors America's fallen servicemen and women at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia on May 25, 2009.

Analysis: US looking for Russians, Chinese to lead--By STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press Writer

The Obama administration has tough words for North Korea, but it's looking to China and Russia to do the heavy lifting to punish Pyongyang for its latest nuclear explosion.

Whether China is willing to pull away from its traditional ally is an open question given fears of raging instability that might erupt on their common border.

North Korea may have overplayed its attention-getting hand with its test of a nuclear weapon one day and the launch of offensive missiles the next. Or it may be moving its nuclear brinksmanship to a higher and more opaque level.

In either case, the Obama administration's reaction has been measured. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, said department spokesman Ian Kelly, had been in touch with her Russian counterpart to press for "a quick, unified response to North Korea's provocative action."

Russia, once a key backer of North Korea, condemned the test. Moscow's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, also the Security Council president, said the 15-member body would begin work "quickly" on a new resolution.

China said it "resolutely opposed" North Korea's test and urged Pyongyang to return to talks on ending its atomic programs.

While Russian objections to North Korean behavior were swift, direct and important symbolically, China holds the key.

Cross-border commerce and aid from China keep North Korea afloat economically. China is North Korea's biggest source of food imports, fuel aid and diplomatic support. Many of North Korea's international connections — from air transport to financial links — are also routed through China or Chinese-controlled territories.

But dramatically shaving its largesse, Beijing is believed to fear, could lead to nightmarish scenarios. One would see regime collapse and a breakdown of North Korea's million-man army, with members of the military armed with AK-47s roaming the Chinese countryside as bandits.

Complicating the multidimensional chess game, key U.S. allies in Asia — South Korea and Japan — see a fully fledged nuclear North Korea as an existential threat, in much the same way Israel views a nuclear-armed Iran in the Middle East.

North Korea's nuclear test forced the Pentagon to scrap much of its planning for a Saturday meeting in Singapore with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his Japanese and South Korean counterparts.

"Undoubtedly, the developments in North Korea over the weekend will be a focus of that conversation," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters.

Morrell said it was believed that the meeting would be the first discussion among the three nations' defense chiefs.

Regional analogies are ofttimes wanting, but in this case it would seem to hold, given that Iran's missile program is believed to be dependent on North Korea.

"There are those who say that whenever Iran conducts a missile test (as it did recently), the results benefit North Korea and vice versa," said John Park of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Those who watch North Korea broadly agree that the country's latest bout of saber-rattling, which started with a long-range missile test in April, grows from an ongoing leadership transition as factions jockey for position to take power from the ailing Kim Jong Il.

While Obama came to office offering to talk with the North Koreans about their nuclear program, the only answer has been belligerence — in the form of missile and nuclear tests. That would seem to make it clear that, at this point, Pyongyang does not feel the United States has anything to offer.

China does and North Korea, one of the most heavily sanctioned and isolated nations on the globe, knows it.

"The North must feel now that they have overplayed their hand, given the reaction of the Russians and Chinese," said Ved Nanda, a professor at the University of Denver.
But it is far from certain the Chinese will match their recent condemnation of the North with a decision to order a punishing curtailment of assistance.

To Park, the signs are China is "really taking a longer term view as a hedge against whomever emerges" to lead North Korea after Kim. "That way they really can avoid those things they really don't want to think about," he said, such as a collapse of the Pyongyang regime and the chaos that might entail — not to mention the possibility of a major shift in the regional balance of power.

While North Korea has made itself an even more difficult friend for China, the U.S. has few incentives that would make it more appetizing for Beijing to open a public rift with one of world's few remaining communist regimes, one that could create immeasurable problems inside China itself.

EDITOR'S NOTE — Steven R. Hurst reports from the White House and has covered international affairs for 30 years.

Is Sotomayor the First (or Second) Hispanic Pick for the Supreme Court?--by Vera H-C Chan

Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama's pick to fill David Souter's seat, could be the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court. That is, unless legal scholars get picky about defining one Benjamin Cardozo as Hispanic.

Legal-minded searchers haven't forgotten Justice Cardozo, who sat on the bench from 1932 to 1938. But his Portuguese heritage gives him the ethnicity asterisk: The Washington Post calls him the "disputed Justice Benjamin Cardozo" on the subject, although outlets like National Journal and The Wall Street Journal ask if Herbert Hoover beat Obama to the historic punch.

Hispanic civil rights organizations like The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and National Council of La Raza are calling Sotomayor "The One." Columnist Ruben Navarrette hedged his bets earlier this month by paying his respects to the "New Yorker of Portuguese heritage" and then calling for a fresh Latino face.

So does Cardozo deserve his place in identity-politics history? Let's look at his lineage, courtesy of his biographer: The Portuguese part of his Portuguese and Jewish ancestry is the stuff of "family legend," but without firm documentation. His forebears do boast names like Mendes, Gomez, Riveiro, and Navarro. Plus, they went a roundabout route via the Netherlands and merry ol' England before heading to the 13 colonies.

Of course, the whole "Hispanic" question itself can be a little messy: The Census outlines the term's definition, then gets a little vague on the matter by leaving people to self-identify. National Journal took a shot at defining the demographic when George W. Bush had to find someone to fit the black robes (No. 43 appointed John Roberts and Samuel Alito during his term).

Whatever Cardozo's heritage, at least his fascinating history gets a second look. According to Wikipedia, he was apparently so well-regarded that Justice Harlan Fiske Stone offered to resign to make room for him. And not only was he a Democratic appointed by a Republican president, but he was a twin. That ought to be a first.

As for Puerto Rican Sotomayor, the woman who grew up in a Bronx housing project gets to be the first Latina considered for the highest court in the land. That's almost better than her earlier title as the "Baseball Savior." Almost.

Analysis: NKorea's bomb test adds to atomic threat--By ROBERT BURNS, AP National Security Writer

North Korea's nuclear test makes it no likelier that the regime will actually launch a nuclear attack, but it adds a scary dimension to another threat: the defiant North as a facilitator of the atomic ambitions of others, potentially even terrorists.

It also presents another major security crisis for President Barack Obama, already saddled with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a nuclear problem with Iran.

Obama assured the president of South Korea and the prime minister of Japan that the U.S. remains committed to the defense of their nations, the White House said in a statement following Obama's calls to the leaders Monday night.

Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak "agreed that the test was a reckless violation of international law that compels action in response," the White House said. "They agreed to work closely together to seek and support a strong United Nations Security Council resolution with concrete measures to curtail North Korea's nuclear and missile activities."

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that North Korea had test-fired two short-range missiles Tuesday after test-firing three short-range missiles Monday.

It's far from clear what diplomatic or other action the world community will take. So far, nothing they've done has worked.

At an earlier juncture of the long-running struggle to put a lid on North Korea's nuclear ambitions, the administration of President Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s discussed with urgency the possibility of taking military action. That seems less likely now, with the North evidently nuclear-armed and the international community focused first on continuing the search for a nonmilitary solution.

Meeting in emergency session in New York, the U.N. Security Council on Monday condemned North Korea's nuclear test as a clear violation of a previous U.N. resolution banning such testing. The council said it would begin work immediately on a new legally binding resolution.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said Tuesday that the resolution "will have teeth in it, and I expect additional sanctions.

"The pressure will increase on North Korea economically and otherwise, and North Korea will recognize that its actions have only left it further isolated, and further debilitated," Rice said on CBS' "The Early Show."

The North's announcement that it conducted its second underground test of a nuclear device drew quick condemnation across the globe, including from its big neighbor and traditional ally, China. The Obama administration, which said the North's action invited stronger, unspecified international pressure, has consistently called for Korean denuclearization but seemed not to have anticipated a deepening nuclear crisis.

Just two weeks ago, the administration's special envoy for disarmament talks with North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, said during a visit to Asian capitals that "everyone is feeling relatively relaxed about where we are at this point in the process." If so, they are no longer.

North Korea conducted its first atomic test in 2006 and is thought to have enough plutonium to make at least a half-dozen nuclear bombs. It also is developing long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, in defiance of U.N. actions.

One of the first estimates of the size of Monday's nuclear explosion came from the Russian defense ministry, which put the yield at between 10 and 20 kilotons — comparable to the U.S. bombs that flattened Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in August 1945. But a senior U.S. administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it appeared the explosive yield was much smaller, perhaps a few kilotons. The official said more technical analysis would be done in coming days.

The administration official also disclosed that North Korea notified the State Department less than one hour before the explosion that it intended to conduct a nuclear test at an unspecified time. The U.S. then notified China, Russia, Japan and South Korea, the official said.

The United States could still try to resuscitate so-called six-party talks with the North as well as work with other members of the United Nations. North Korea has vowed not to resume participation in the six-party talks with the U.S., Japan, South Korea, China and Russia.

The Bush administration worked hard to get China, in particular, to press the North Koreans to denuclearize, and it seems likely that Obama will push equally hard with Beijing, which sided with the North Koreans against U.S. and United Nations forces during the 1950-53 Korean War. In recent years the Chinese have openly criticized the North Koreans for the nuclear arms program.

Two of the main worries about North Korea are left unsaid: Would it use a nuclear bomb to attack a neighbor or the United States? And might it continue an established pattern of selling nuclear wherewithal and missiles to foreign buyers?

Graham Allison, an assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton administration and now director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, said Monday that the international community regularly underestimates North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's willingness to do the unexpected.

"Could this guy believe he could sell a nuclear bomb to Osama bin Laden?" Allison asked in a phone interview. "Why not?"

EDITOR'S NOTE — Robert Burns has covered national security affairs for The Associated Press since 1990.

Judge approves release of Burris conversation--By MIKE ROBINSON, Associated Press Writer

The U.S. Senate Ethics Committee will be allowed to listen to a federal wiretap of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother having a phone conversation with U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, who has been under scrutiny over the circumstances of his appointment, a federal judge said Tuesday.

The conversation between Burris and the former governor's brother occurred while Blagojevich was still governor and before he named Burris to President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat.

Burris has been under intense scrutiny because of the circumstances of his appointment by the disgraced former governor and for changing his story multiple times about whether he promised anything in exchange for the appointment.

The Senate Ethics Committee has begun a preliminary investigation. The Sangamon County State's Attorney is determining whether perjury charges are warranted.

U.S. District Chief Judge James F. Holderman on Tuesday unsealed a government motion requesting permission to release to the ethics committee wiretap material gathered in the Blagojevich investigation.

The material consists of a conversation between Burris and the impeached governor's brother, businessman Robert Blagojevich, who headed the Friends of Rod Blagojevich campaign fund.

Rod Blagojevich is charged with scheming to trade or sell the seat and using the political muscle of his office to squeeze people for campaign money. Robert Blagojevich is under indictment along with his brother and a number of other members of the ousted governor's inner circle. Both brothers deny wrongdoing.

Holderman told attorneys for Robert Blagojevich, Burris and the government that "the material will be released to the Senate shortly."

Robert Blagojevich attorney Michael Ettinger and Burris attorney Timothy Wright did not object to the government's motion.

"I think that the senator has told the truth every time," Wright said. He acknowledged that his client had told the impeachment committee that he didn't volunteer to raise money for Blagojevich in exchange for the seat.

"And we think he has been perfectly consistent," Wright said.

Burris spokesman Jim O'Connor said the senator would cooperate and "welcomes this as a chance for more transparency and the opportunity for the full truth to come out."

The Sangamon County state's attorney's office said it had no comment on the status of its review of possible perjury charges against Burris.

Burris testified before the House Committee that impeached Blagojevich in January that he didn't promise anything in exchange for the Senate seat.

Blagojevich appointed Burris just before being kicked out of office.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., agreed to seat Burris if he gave a full accounting of his Blagojevich contacts to the Illinois House committee that was considering impeachment of the governor.

Burris gave the committee an affidavit denying any discussion with Blagojevich's aides before being offered the seat. But when he testified, Burris acknowledged talking to one of Blagojevich's friends and informal advisers about it.

Burris did not admit talking to anyone else and said he could not recall any other contacts.

Then, after he was sworn in, Burris released another affidavit acknowledging he had talked to several Blagojevich advisers about his interest in the seat. Soon after, talking to reporters, he said he had been asked to help raise campaign money for the governor and that he tried to find people willing to donate but failed.

Then he stopped answering questions, letting others speak on his behalf.

Durbin said it would be unfair to speculate about what's in the recorded conversation between Burris and Robert Blagojevich.

"Let's wait until the transcript is released, the tape is released. If there's a problem, let Sen. Burris address it," Durbin said at an unrelated news conference in Chicago.

Associated Press writers Deanna Bellandi in Chicago and Henry C. Jackson in Washington contributed to this report.

How Afghanistan's Little Tragedies Are Adding Up--By JASON MOTLAGH / HERAT

There are large-scale civilian deaths in Afghanistan that make headlines, and then there are the small incidents that are barely noticed at all. That was the fate of 12-year-old Benafsha Shaheem.

On May 3, she was traveling with family members from her village in western Farah province to a wedding party in the neighboring province of Herat. Packed into a white Toyota Corolla wagon, they neared the outskirts of the city of Herat when, according to a report compiled by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the vehicle was fired on by an Italian patrol convoy. Benafsha was seated in the middle of the backseat wearing a red dress, her relatives say. She was shot in the face and died instantly. Her mother was wounded in the chest. (See pictures of U.S. troops operating in Afghanistan's deadly Korengal Valley.)

Italian security forces based in Herat province said the vehicle was repeatedly warned to stop before it was fired on. Benafsha's uncle, Ahmad Wali, who was driving, says traffic was moving in both directions but that rain made visibility poor. Suddenly, he recalls, sparks flew in front as armored vehicles came into view. Glass was sprayed into his face.

Such incidents are not uncommon in Afghanistan today and parallel the situation in Iraq where similar shootings were instrumental in turning popular sentiment against the coalition forces led by the United States. In Afghanistan, as it was in Iraq, when civilians die, international forces say that a suspicious vehicle approached a checkpoint or convoy and failed to heed calls as well as possibly warning shots to stop. After those standard procedures are done, an "escalation of force" takes place.

Photos of the Shaheem family's vehicle show that multiple bullets passed through both the front and rear windshields. Afghan investigators point out that the incident took place in daylight, in moving traffic on a main road, and that most of the passengers were women. Given these facts, they say, it's hard to gauge why shots were fired. A coalition spokesman in Kabul said he was not free to discuss the shooting in more detail because of an ongoing probe.

Benafsha's death yielded just a few paragraphs in the day's wire reports, lost in the stream of bigger names and numbers. She was wrapped in a blanket inside a particle-board coffin and loaded into the trunk of the Toyota where her brother sat next to her remains for the long drive back. Within hours, another deadly U.S. air strike in Farah's Bala Boluk district would kill scores of civilians and reverberate from Kabul to Washington. Criticized around the world and beset by demonstrations in Afghanistan, the U.S. military continues to dispute the high death-toll estimates in Bola Boluk. But even so, it is low-key tragedies like Benafsha's that are adding up.
According to United Nations figures, of the 2,118 Afghan civilians killed in 2008 - an almost 40% increase versus the year before - coalition and Afghan forces accounted for 828, largely from errant air strikes and raids. Until the Bola Boluk incident, one of the worst tolls was exacted on celebrants of another wedding occasion in July in eastern Nangarhar province. Mistaken intelligence reports of an insurgent gathering prompted a U.S. air strike that left 47 people dead.

The Taliban is still to blame in most instances, using misinformation and human shields to intentionally draw civilian casualties and exploit the backlash to their advantage. Brigadier General Richard Blanchette, the coalition spokesman, says the stricter protocols have come into force down the chain of command to ensure operational decisions are fully vetted, with additional confirmation on the ground before air power is deployed. This means "taking more time" if necessary, he explains, or, if civilians are at risk, "just cancel it." While roadside incidents are trickier since they involve split-second judgment, there is a top-down emphasis on restraint. "We are spending an enormous amount of time trying to make the system as safe as possible for civilians," he says. (See pictures of the perils of childbirth in Afghanistan.)

In the aftermath of Benafsha's death, investigators from the Afghan rights commission said the presiding Italian commander contacted them to inquire how compensation could be made. Past settlements have averaged about $2,000, distributed through the Afghan government. In a rare gesture, the commander himself later traveled by helicopter to Benafsha's village in Farah where they say he offered her family several thousand dollars. The family refused to accept the money up front. But when it was agreed the funds would go toward building a school in Benafsha's honor, they relented.

Contacted by phone, Aref Shaheem, Benafsha's father, angrily said that coalition forces were "only killing people." They claim to be in the country to protect Afghans, he says, but they continue to take innocent lives. "They can't be trusted." As a result, he argues, the Taliban in his area only grows stronger. He says it was little consolation to learn the soldiers responsible for his daughter's death were punished, as investigators say they were told. (The coalition would not confirm this.) She is gone, he says, and so is any vestige of faith he had left in the Afghan government and its foreign backers.

Make-or-break week for GM as deadline nears--By EMILY FREDRIX, AP Business Writer

The clock is ticking on a June 1 deadline for General Motors Corp. to restructure, and this make-or-break week is expected to bring more plant closures, employee concessions and other last-minute efforts.

Without changes, the federal government has said, the Detroit-based automaker will have to file for bankruptcy protection by next Monday.

The company has been trying to overhaul its business so it can keep receiving federal money to stay afloat as it deals with soaring costs and slumping sales. On Friday, GM borrowed $4 billion more from the federal government on top of the $15.4 billion it has already received.

In exchange, the Obama administration has demanded moves that include reducing debt, cutting labor costs and shedding dealerships, brands and excess factories.

This week, GM's efforts to cut labor costs continued with the Canadian Auto Workers union announcing its members approved wage reductions and other concessions on Monday.

The company's U.S. workers were expected to vote on their own concessions later this week on a deal reached among the United Auto Workers, GM and the federal government last week.

Details of that agreement, which most likely includes changes to paying for retiree health care, have not been released yet. Plant-level union officials were expected to be briefed on the agreement Tuesday morning in Detroit.

GM was also expected to announce the closing of 14 more plants as part of its previously announced effort to close 16 factories to trim production and cut costs. The moves will lay off 21,000 workers. So far the company has announced two plants it plans to close: an engine plant in Massena, N.Y., and a parts stamping plant near Grand Rapids, Mich.

Union concessions are expected to ease one of GM's biggest problems — labor costs — but even if the union approves those, there's still the issue of debt.

The company's unsecured bondholders have resisted an offer to take a 10 percent stake in the company to wipe out $27 billion in debt. If that's approved, it may keep the company out of bankruptcy. But analysts say that's unlikely because bondholders have argued the proposal is too small a stake for the amount they are owed. Given the amount of money at stake, it's not likely the bondholders will approve it, said Erich Merkle, an independent auto industry analyst in Grand Rapids, Mich.

"That's a tremendous amount of money, and the bondholders are just going to look at it and say, 'We'll take it into court,' and I think they believe they can probably get more," he said.

The bond exchange offer expires Tuesday, though GM has said in a regulatory filing that it would decide Wednesday if it would be extended.

Among other unresolved matters for the automaker:
• The question of its European unit Opel: On Monday German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country hopes to loosen Opel's ties with General Motors before a possible bankruptcy filing. Merkel's government is looking at three bids and expects a decision on Opel's future midweek.

• It's still not clear what will happen with the Saturn, Hummer and Saab brands. GM has said it plans to phase those brands out or sell them.

President Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast Saturday on C-SPAN he had hope for the ailing GM and Chrysler LLC, which is restructuring under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. He said the administration could not let either company simply shutter, which is why it had to intervene.

The president said he had faith in GM's efforts and it would "be a strong company, and we are going to be pulling out as soon as the economy recovers and they've completed their restructuring."

But first, the company has to get through this week, said Tom Libby, an independent Detroit-area auto industry analyst. It's not likely the deadline will be extended, he said.

"This is the make-or-break week," he said. "It appears Mr. Obama's sort of modus operandi is to not keep postponing and postponing."

General Motors Corp.:

Pentagon: Some released detainees return to battle--By LARA JAKES, Associated Press Writer

Five percent of Guantanamo Bay detainees have participated in terrorist activities since their release from the U.S. navy prison, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

An additional 9 percent are believed to have joined — or rejoined — the fight against the U.S. and its allies, according to Defense Department data released amid a simmering political battle over where to send the detainees if the prison closes in January as planned.

Constitutional scholars have long cast doubt on the Pentagon's detainee data, saying it's not proven that at least some of those who were released were even linked to terrorism in the first place.

The Pentagon maintains that all the Guantanamo detainees were captured and, in most cases, held for years, because of suspected ties to al-Qaida, the Taliban or other foreign fighter groups.

"What this tells us is, at the end of the day, there are individuals, that if released, will again return to terrorist activities," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Tuesday.

As of April 7, the latest data available, 74 of approximately 540 detainees that have been released have since taken up the fight, or are at least suspected of doing so. The Pentagon says it has fingerprints, DNA, photos or reliable intelligence to link 27 detainees to the war since their release.

Speaking out against the United States, or participating in other anti-U.S. propaganda alone is not considered terrorist activity, the Pentagon said.

(This version CORRECTS UPDATES throughout with additional information; corrects overline to 9 percent additional suspects, sted 14 percent)

5 Reasons Business Should Cheer Obama's Pick of Sotomayor--by Daniel Indiviglio

This morning President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to replace David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court. Although it's hard to tell exactly where on the judicial political spectrum Sotomayor will fall, for several reasons, I believe Obama's choice is good for business.

Let me start by saying that I'm no judicial scholar. I follow the Supreme Court as an interested observer and took several law courses in college. But I won't be delving too deeply into legal theory.

1. She's a non-intellectual centrist.
An article by Jeffrey Rosen in the New Republic paints Sotomayor as one of the less intellectual, more centrist options that Obama could have picked. Both of these characteristics have interesting implications.

Sotomayor went to Princeton undergrad and Yale Law School. I doubt her intellect is too insufficient. Instead, I take this criticism to mean that she did not try to shape law in an over-the-top fashion to match some intellectual tradition she follows.

But is she an activist judge? It would seem so through her saying, the "court of appeals is where policy is made." The jury is still out on how much of an activist she will be. If you believe Rosen's article, however, actions might speak louder than words. My suspicion would be that she believes in judicial activism where the contrary would defy modern logic, but activism is probably not needed most of the time.

That analysis seems to make sense in light of her being characterized as "centrist." There's little doubt that she leans towards the liberal side of constitutional interpretation. Obama would never nominate someone right-leaning to the court. However, she probably does not lean so far left that she falls over.

This is all great news for business. Unpredictability is almost as grave a problem for business as rulings that would consistently favor its opposition. The more activist a court, the more unpredictable business will find it. From the above analysis, it seems likely that Sotomayor will be approximately as activist a judge as Souter was. Business loves the status quo.

2. Her record is not pro-business, but not anti-business either.
While I don't pretend to have an extensive knowledge of her judicial career, I did a little research. According to Judgepedia (I didn't know it existed until today, either) and a pretty good piece from CNN, Sotomayor ruled on several notable cases where business came into play:

U.S. v. Falcone: This was a case where she ruled that securities fraud did not need to include the purchase of securities under the misappropriation theory of insider trading. While it might seem business would be annoyed that she would extend the law in this case, I find that doubtful. Despite what you see in the movies, no legitimate banker or trader on Wall Street likes the idea that people could be manipulating markets or taking advantage of non-public information illegally. This should be seen as a welcome extension of current law.

Tasini vs. New York Times: Here, some freelance journalists sued the New York Times for putting their writing on databases and archives (including Lexis/Nexis), without permission. Sotomayor sided with the Times based on the 1976 Copyright Act. The appellate court and Supreme Court both disagreed, so the ruling was overturned. But it seems that big business would prefer Sotomayor's verdict. Instead of ruling for the writer/artist continent (the little guys), she instead took the side of big business (the "man"). Others, however, may argue that business should favor strong intellectual property rights. So this one is kind of a mixed-bag.

Major League Baseball Strike: This is perhaps her most famous decision, where she ruled against owners and in favor of the players union to end the strike. The owners tried to end free agency and salary arbitration. In other words, they wanted to be able to pay players less. I think it's a little premature to see this case and say she is pro-union. She may, in fact, be. But given that the minimum salary in 2008 for major league baseball was $390,000, she hardly sided with the little guy scrounging to get by.

To me, none of these cases seem to indicate that she is particularly anti-business, but again, pretty center of the road.

3. Republicans won't block it.
If anything, Republicans probably have an "it could have been worse" attitude towards the pick. It would also be political suicide to attempt to crucify a woman who is also the court's first Latino nominee. They may threaten to block it, but ultimately, they won't.

Many liberals are disappointed that Sotomayor does not have a more distinguished record of turning the constitution on its head. In this case, it looks like Obama went more for the sentimental pick, balancing quotas on the court instead of finding a fiery liberal judge. Republicans' acquiescence means that business will not have to wait long for certainty when it comes to who the new justice will be on the Supreme Court.

4. Obama is acting predictably.
Another thing to consider: her actually being named to the Supreme Court by Obama, after being the obvious front runner. Business should like that because it was wholly predictable. I don't think anyone is really surprised by this pick. The president acting in such a predictable manner is something that the market loves. This lessens political risk, and lets businesses focus on business instead of politics.

5. She's a Yankees fan.
Business leaders should also cheer that she's a Yankees fan. That means she must have a soft spot in her heart for the rich and powerful. So much for her empathy!

California high court upholds gay marriage ban--By LISA LEFF, Associated Press Writer

The California Supreme Court upheld a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, but it also decided that the estimated 18,000 gay couples who tied the knot before the law took effect will stay wed.

The 6-1 decision written by Chief Justice Ron George rejected an argument by gay rights activists that the ban revised the California constitution's equal protection clause to such a dramatic degree that it first needed the Legislature's approval.

The court said the people have a right, through the ballot box, to change their constitution.

"In a sense, petitioners' and the attorney general's complaint is that it is just too easy to amend the California constitution through the initiative process. But it is not a proper function of this court to curtail that process; we are constitutionally bound to uphold it," the ruling said.

The announcement of the decision set off an outcry among a sea of demonstrators who had gathered in front of the San Francisco courthouse awaiting the ruling. Holding signs and many waving rainbow flags, they chanted "shame on you." Many people also held hands in a chain around an intersection in an act of protest.

Gay rights activists immediately promised to resume their fight, saying they would go back to voters as early as next year in a bid to repeal Proposition 8.

The split decision provided some relief for the 18,000 gay couples who married in the brief time same-sex marriage was legal last year but that wasn't enough to dull the anger over the ruling that banned gay marriage.

"It's not about whether we get to stay married. Our fight is far from over," said Jeannie Rizzo, 62, who was one of the lead plaintiffs along with her wife, Polly Cooper. "I have about 20 years left on this earth, and I'm going to continue to fight for equality every day."

The state Supreme Court had ruled last May that it was unconstitutional to deny gay couples the right to wed. Many same-sex couples had rushed to get married before the November vote on Proposition 8, fearing it could be passed. When it was, gay rights activists went back to the court arguing that the ban was improperly put to voters.

That was the issue justices decided Tuesday.

"After comparing this initiative measure to the many other constitutional changes that have been reviewed and evaluated in numerous prior decisions of this court, we conclude Proposition 8 constitutes a constitutional amendment rather than a constitutional revision," the ruling said.

Jay-Z - History

(Jay-Z - History)Jay-Z - History with Lyrics

LYRICS : [Chorus: Cee-lo]
Now that all the smoke is gone
And the battle's finally won
(Gimme a lighter)
Victory (Lighters up) is finally ours
(Lighters up)
History, so long, so long
So long, so long

[Verse 1: Jay-Z]
In search of victory, she keeps eluding me
If only we could be together momentarily
We can make love and make history
Why won't you visit me? until she visit me
I'll be stuck with her sister, her name is defeat
She gives me agony, so much agony
She brings me so much pain, so much misery
Like missing your last shot and falling to your knees
As the crowd screams for the other team
I practice so hard for this moment, victory don't leave
I know what this means, I'm stuck in this routine
Whole new different day, same old thing
All I got is dreams, nobody else can see
Nobody else believes, nobody else but me
Where are you victory? I need you desperately
Not just for the moment, to make history

[Chorus: Cee-lo]
Now that all the smoke is gone
And the battle's finally won
Victory is finally ours
History (yeah), so long, so long
So long, so long

[Verse 2: Jay-Z]
So now I'm flirting with death, hustling like a G
While victory wasn't watching took chances repeatedly
As a teenage boy before acne, before I got proactiv I couldn't face she
I just threw on my hoodie and headed to the street
That's where I met success, we'd live together shortly
Now success is like lust, she's good to the touch
She's good for the moment but she's never enough
Everybody's had her, she's nothing like V
But success is all I got unfortunately
But I'm burning down the block hoppin' in and out of V
But something tells me that there's much more to see
Before I get killed because I can't get robbed
So before me success and death ménage
I gotta get lost, I gotta find V
We gotta be together to make history

[Chorus: Cee-lo]
Now that all the smoke is gone
(Lighters. Up.)
And the battle's finally won
(Lighter. Up.)
Victory is finally ours
(Lighters. Up.)
History, so long, so long
So long, so long

[Verse 3: Jay-Z]
Now victory is mine, it tastes so sweet
She's my trophy wife, you're coming with me
We'll have a baby who stutters repeatedly
We'll name him history, he'll repeat after me
He's my legacy, son of my hard work
Future of my past, he'll explain who I be
Rank me amongst the greats, either 1, 2, or 3
If I ain't number one then I failed you victory
Ain't in it for the fame that dies within weeks
Ain't in it for the money, can't take it when you leave
I wanna be remembered long after you grieve
Long after I'm gone, long after I breathe
I leave all I am in the hands of history
That's my last will and testimony
This is much more than a song, it's a baby shower
I've been waiting for this hour, history you ours

[Chorus: Cee-lo (2x)]
Now that all the smoke is gone
And the battle's finally won
Victory is finally ours
History, so long, so long
So long, so long

Man in the Mirror--By Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson - Man in the mirror

I'm gonna make a change,
for once im my life
It's gonna feel real good,
gonna make a diference
Gonna make it right...

As I, turn up the collar on
my favorite winter coat
This wind is blowing my mind
I see the kids in the streets,
with not enought to eat
Who am I to be blind?
Pretending not to see their needs

A summer disregard,a broken bottle top
And a one man soul
They follow each other on the wind ya' know
'Cause they got nowhere to go
That's why I want you to know

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself, and then make a change)
(Na na na, na na na, na na, na nah)

I've been a victim of a selfish kind of love
It's time that I realize
That there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan
Could it be really me, pretending that they're not alone?

A willow deeply scarred, somebody's broken heart
And a washed-out dream
(Washed-out dream)
They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see
'Cause they got no place to be
That's why I'm starting with me
(Starting with me!)

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself, and then make a change)

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
(Change his ways - ooh!)
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make that..
(Take a look at yourself and then make that..)

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
(Man in the mirror - Oh yeah!)
I'm asking him to change his ways
(Better change!)
No message could have been any clearer
(If you wanna make the world a better place)

Michael Jackson - Man in the mirror

A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cook

It's been a long time coming but a change is surely going to come in America and the World! I am the Future of America and the World and that is the message that each of us must carry with us each and every day that we wake up on Earth! I am the Future! You are the Future! We are the Future of America and the World! That is way every election is important--primaries, special elections and general! So vote every year and hold our politicians accountable. Hold our political officials accountable by writing them, calling them and making sure they attend meetings that we the people have. "The Time for Change is not Now but Right Now!"

"EmPOWERment By Any Means Necessary" should be our anthem and should be our creed as we make the positive differences in America and the world that so many people beg for and hungry for year after year! A Change is Gonna Come, A Change is Gonna Come, that's what we must say as we say "God grants us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, Courge to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference" each morning before we go about the task of making a positive change in America and the world a reality.

Born In The U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen

“When will people realize that we are Americans first and foremost, not Democrats or Liberals, not Republicans or Conservatives, not Independents or moderates. We are Americans. Stop putting a political party above America and stop putting any politican above America. America succeeds because of us the people holding our government responsible no matter the political party because the main two political parties are to blame for the condition America is in."—Hodari P.T. Brown

America with its flaws and all is a country I am proud to have been born in. America is not perfect but my love for it is perfect. That’s why all Americans must realize that we are all Americans. In fact we are Americans first and foremost. We are not Democrats or Republicans. We are Americans.

We are not Muslims, Christians or Jews. We are Americans. Too many times we recognize our differences with others rather than appreciating our similarities which are, we are Americans. We are Americans first and foremost, no matter if we were born here or moved here legally. We are all Americans, here in this country to make not only our lives better but the lives of other Americans better so future Americans can enjoy the rights and freedoms that make us all Americans.

We are all Americans. We are one party united under God. We are Americans and this is the only political party that matters. We are Americans and this is our country so let’s make sure that we make America better than how we found it so future Americans can live prosperous and joyous lives. We are Americans and must not ever forget that.

America will prosper as long we make sure we are doing our part to make it prosper and that means we can’t put any political party or politician above America. Long live America forever and long live America’s service to the world. Together, America and the world will prosper for future generations to enjoy America and the world we live in.

Lift Every Voice and Sing

This video of the ' Negro National Anthem' was originally screened at the historic African-American Church Inaugural Ball in Washington, DC on January 18th, 2009. Many of the esteemed individuals featured in this video in attendance and we presented with the ' Keepers of the Flame' award for the monumental contributions to social justice.

This version of the song was performed by the Grace Baptist Church Cathedral Choir, conducted by Derrick James. The video was produced and donated by Ascender Communications, LLC ( at the request of The Balm In Gilead, Inc.

If I Was President--Wyclef Jean

If I was President that is the people's anthem. We all have ideas of what we can do as President and through this website, we will fulfill our deam as a people!

Somethings Gotta Give--Big Boi ft Mary J Blige

Somethings Gotta Give people and it begins today for all us to make sure that something is us. We the people are sick and tired of suffering. Where is our piece of the Dream that so many people dead for so that we all could see today. This is our time people to change America and the world so that the Next Generation has a better future than the past we inherited.

This is our call to service. This isn't about one political candidate or one political figure. This is about us as people coming together to finally leave up to our potential and achieving the great feats that those before us have achieved. This is our moment to lead our nation and our world to greater heights.

Somethings gotta give people and it starts with us the people making it happen. We have to improve our education system in America. We have to rid the world of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We have to go to the streets and lift a hand to another in order to decrease poverty in this world. We have to take a stand today and make sure that the future of America and the world is brighter than it has ever been.

Somethings Gotta Give and that is why we must "Remember Each One, Reach One and Teach One so America's future and the World's future continues to prosper."

John Legend - "If You're Out There"

If you're out there than you need to get started in helping to change America and the world. The world and America won't change until you get involved in making the changes you want to see in this world. If you're out there, than you must know that tomorrow started now and today started yesterday so you are behind in helping to the change. If you are tired of hatred, racism, poverty, war, and violence than the time to change it is now. If you want universal health care, world peace, democracy for every nation, equal rights, and happiness for all than you must get involved now to help the save world.

You must believe in the change that you want to see and you must act on making that change a reality. If you're out there than say it aloud and show the rest of America and the world that you're out here to make a real positive change in the communities we stay in. If you're out there than get involved now. I'm calling every women and men to join me as we take back our country right here, right now. If you're out there than the future started yersterday and we are already late so we have lots of work to do but I know we can do it together as one.


Yes We Can accomplish anything that we set out to do! We don't need charismatic or inspirational leaders to believe in ourselves and to take responsiblity for our own faith, we just need each other. Yes We Can build a new America and a new world if each of us would take action now to make the changes that we want to see in the world. Yes We Can control government by holding our political officials accountable for their actions by calling them out when they don't pass legislation that supports the common good of all man and by voting in every election to ensure that we have people representing the people locally, state wide, nationally and in the world.

Yes We Can be great! Yes We Can be what we want to be! Yes We Can be glorious in not only America but the world! Yes We can put action behind our worlds and change the world starting right here, right now! Yes We Can as Republicans, Democrats and Independents become one as we freely think about our fellow men and women and make decisions that will be in the best interest of all people and not one single group.

Yes We Can be the change that we want to see in the world! Yes We Can show the world that the youth are ready to lead! Yes We Can put our egos, our social economic statuses, our religions, our educational statuses and our skin color to the side for the better good of the world! Yes We Can be Greater than we have ever been and help others be Greater than they have ever be!

YES WE CAN and YES WE WILL BE VICTORIOUS IN ALL THAT WE DO! YES WE CAN, no matter what others may say, we will be glorious! YES WE WILL and YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!

YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN is what will be sung from every mountaintop, every riverbank, every household, every school yard, every factory, every sporting event, every college campus and even every place you can imagine in the world is where YES WE CAN, will be said and heard!


Keep On Pushing - Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions

Wake Up People! No matter who is elected to any public office, we have to “Keep On Pushing” as a people to make sure they don’t leave us in a worst state than what they inherited. We as a people have to “Keep On Pushing” to make a difference in the lives of others. We have to have an “EmPOWERment By Any Means Necessary” attitude as we continue to push our agenda that we the people deserve and want better. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to bring about change in a positive way that will benefit all Americans no matter their age, their religion or skin color. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to bring about change that will improve our education system, improve our military, improve our national security, improve our healthcare system and improve our economy. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to bring about change that will leave America’s future in a better than how we found it and that will leave the world’s future in a better state than we imagined we could live it. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to make life better for our neighborhoods, our families and even our quote on quote enemies. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to inspire, to uplift and to guide those who need help spiritually, physically and mentally. We have to “Keep On Pushing ” so that our lives, our future generation’s lives and the lives of those who came before us does not die in vein.

“Keep on Pushing”

A War For Your Soul

A War For Your Soul-regular version from Erisai Films on Vimeo.

The moment has come for us as a nation of people to finally wake up and realize that our destiny and fate in society has rests on our shoulders. We cannot allow the forces of evil and darkness to drain us out. We have to continue to overcome all odds in order to make the future of our nation better and the future of future generations of Americans better. We have to continue to pray to our Lord and we have to continue to uplift each other in prayer as well as take action against those things that are trying to destroy us. We have to stand up once and for all and be the future that we want to be. Now is our time and we shall do together by any means necessary.

This video was created to inspire young African-Americans not to fall prey to some of the problems they face in society. The use of the voice "Master of Darkness" represents evil, which is where the blame of all problems should be placed, and not on any one group of people. This video should not to be used to divide people (Black & White), there are images of heroes that are white in this video, and there are images of Black & White coming together with the words of Dr. King in the background. Some of the images from the past can be unsettling, but they are used to show all Americans how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. This film is being strategically placed in school systems, churches and youth orgs around the country, in hope of helping a lost generation of kids that we as Americans have forgotten. As fellow Americans we must continue to love each other, and take that love and spread it to the rest of the world. **THIS VIDEO IS NOT FOR SALE & I AM NOT ACCEPTING DONATIONS FOR THE FILM, I ONLY WANT THE MESSAGE TO REACH AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE WITHOUT ANY HIDDEN POLITICAL OR FINANCIAL AGENDA.

Sitting On the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding

"The time for sitting is over! The time for action is now! The time for hope without action is hopeless! The time for change without a positive attitude is a change that we can't believe in! We need change that is positive of helping all people! Our time for action is now, our time for hope is now, our time for change is now and our time to believe that we can do whatever we set our minds to is not now but right now!"


The Star-Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming;
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, now conceals, now discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream;
'Tis the star-spangled banner; O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave,
From the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land,
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just.
And this be our motto— "In God is our trust; "
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Black President

Our Time is not now but Right Now! Our Time has finally come to change the world not now but Right Now! If you don't believe that we can change the world than watch as we do it by changing your mind into believing in us and what we can do! This is OUR TIME RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!


We got to FIGHT THE POWER! We can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch injustices take place. We can no longer sit by and allow our right to vote to become unexercised. We must FIGHT THE POWER for our past, present and future! We can no longer allow our rights to be oppressed and our voice to become drained by the powers at be. We must FIGHT THE POWER and show that we have a lot to say that needs to be heard by the mainstream media. We must FIGHT THE POWER and live up to our potential as dynamic, unbelievable and phenomenal people.

We must not believe the hype but we must become the hype. We are not Harriett Tubman, Marcus Garvey, MLK, Malcolm X, Booker T. Washington, Carter G. Woodson, W.E.B. DuBois, the Black Panther Party, SNCC, or any other activists but we are the fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, uncles, aunties, and relatives of those who came before us to pave the way for us to FIGHT THE POWER! We are not next Generation of leaders who will not be honored and praised until they die but that’s the fight we accept. We are not fighting the power for glory or fame but we are fighting the power for just causes that most men and women will not understand until years or decades later.

We are fighting for our sisters and brothers in Darfur, Georgia, Iraq, Iran, China and Mexico. We are speaking for those who are poor and have no food or water. We are fighting for those who are sick and dying. We are fighting for universal healthcare across the world and human rights for all people. We are fighting for rich and poor! We must FIGHT THE POWER no matter how hard and tough the road may be. We must FIGHT THE POWER for a better today and an even greater tomorrow!



“People Get Ready” our time is coming! We have come too far to turn back now. Our train is coming and it is coming in waves. “People Get Ready”, we don’t need a ticket but we need faith and the Lord will help guide us as we take back America and the world. “People Get Ready” our moment is now and we are ready to see the change we want in America and the world. All we got to do is have faith, hope and prosperity. “People Get Ready” to face your fears. “People Get Ready” to face your demons and the challenges of yesterday because today and tomorrow we will conquer & be victorious. “People Get Ready” a change is coming and our actions will make sure that change is a real positive change that lasts forever.

“People Get Ready” because we have had enough of just talking but now is our time to show action. “People Get Ready” to take back America and the world. “People Get Ready” to take back our communities and to make our streets safer and schools better. “People Get Ready” to make all our dreams come true. “People Get Ready” to see a better present for everyone and a better future for future generations. “People Get Ready” to live up to your potential and to help others live up to their own potential. “People Get Ready” to move past hatred, bigotry, racism and sexism. “People Get Ready” to fulfill the dreams of those who came before us and those who will come after us.

“People Get Ready” as we make our actions speak louder than our words. “People Get Ready” to make words mean something again as we put action to back up our rhetoric. “People Get Ready” as we embark on a new journey that will re-write America’s history as well as the world’s history. “People Get Ready” as we make the lives of others better and the lives of future generations better. “People Get Ready” because all we need is faith, hope and action to make this world a better place. “People Get Ready” to make a difference. “People Get Ready” to fulfill the American dream. “People Get Ready" to live out the American Dream as our founding fathers wanted us to live it. “People Get Ready” because our time is now, our moment is now and our moment in time to change America & the world is not now but right now. “People Get Ready” because a change is coming!

(Let me tell you now)
People get ready, there's a train comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
You don't need no ticket, you just thank the lord

People get ready, for a train to Jordan
Picking up passengers coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board them
There's hope for all among those loved the most

There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all man kind just to save his own (believe me now)
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
For there's no hiding place against the kingdoms throne

[Alicia & Lyfe]
So people get ready there's a train coming
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming,
You don't need no ticket, you just thank the lord


God Bless the U.S.A. by Lee Greenwood

Lee Greenwood-god bless the U.S.A