FBI Raids GOP Goose Stepper

ME F.B.I. agents on Tuesday raided and temporarily shut down the offices of a small federal watchdog agency that is charged with protecting the rights of government whistle-blowers but has been accused of retaliating against whistle-blowers in its own ranks.

The raid on the downtown Washington headquarters of the agency, the Office of Special Counsel, and another at the home of its director, Scott J. Bloch, followed accusations that Mr. Bloch had destroyed evidence on government computers that might demonstrate wrongdoing.

Mr. Bloch, who has held the post of special counsel since January 2004, has denied intentionally destroying evidence from his agency’s computers, though he has acknowledged paying $1,000 of public money to a technology company, Geeks on Call, to scrub his own government computer in 2006. He has said he was trying to rid the computer of software viruses, an assertion challenged by members of Congress and by lawyers representing current and former employees of the office… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

Bloch has a long history or religious right activism and abuse of office, especially against the GLBT community.  I’m just geeky enough myself to know that a standard deep format, a task that can be accomplished by anyone with rudimentary computer skills, will rid the computer of viruses and will cost no more than $100 – $150.  A $1,000 wipe overwrites existing data so many times that the original data can never be recovered.

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McCain: Poor Vetting?

mccain3 In addition to having previously referred to Catholicism as “The Great Whore,” controversial pastor John Hagee said on NPR in September 2006 that Hurricane Katrina was the result of God condemning New Orleans because “there was to be a homosexual parade there” the day the hurricane hit — a belief he recently reaffirmed.

Despite Hagee’s radical and bigoted beliefs, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) sought and received Hagee’s endorsement for president — one McCain said he was “very honored” to have. Since then, Hagee’s views have garnered more attention, sparking wider questions as to why McCain would accept such an endorsement.

In a recent article on the McCain/Hagee saga, Newsweek reports that McCain aides attribute the courting of Hagee’s support to “poor vetting.” But some from McCain’s own party wonder how his views could have “slipped through the cracks”:

McCain’s aides attribute the Hagee controversy to poor vetting. But even some Republicans (not affiliated with the campaign) privately wonder how the pastor’s extreme views slipped through without notice. McCain personally wooed Hagee for more than a year.

Indeed, “some Republicans” weren’t the only ones greeting this explanation with confusion. The New York Times’s Frank Rich noted yesterday that “[a]ny 12-year-old with a laptop could have vetted this preacher in 30 seconds, tops”:

Are we really to believe that neither Mr. McCain nor his camp knew anything then about Mr. Hagee’s views? This particular YouTube video — far from the only one — was posted on Jan. 1, nearly two months before the Hagee-McCain press conference. Mr. Hagee appears on multiple religious networks, including twice daily on the largest, Trinity Broadcasting, which reaches 75 million homes. Any 12-year-old with a laptop could have vetted this preacher in 30 seconds, tops

…Newsweek noted that McCain “likes to think of himself as a straight-shooter” but when asked about Hagee’s endorsement, McCain starts “bobbing and weaving” — which is exactly what happened last month during an interview on ABC’s This Week. McCain agreed that the endorsement was “a mistake,” but 30 seconds later said he is “glad to have it.”

In seeking Hagee’s support, perhaps McCain and his staff did not “properly” vet the controversial pastor because they were taking advice from McCain’s buddy Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who just last year compared Hagee to Moses… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Think Progress>

The notion that McBigot did not know Hagee’s views is patently absurd.  I first reported on Hagee’s extremism in November, 2006, less than three weeks after I relocated my blog to Blogger.  Since, I have done so on ten other occasions.  If I have thoroughly vetted Hagee, it’s inconceivable that, with all their resources, the McConJob campaign did not.  Not only did he McFlipFlop within the space of 30 seconds, but also this goes beyond a mere flip-flop.  McLiar is McFullOfIt!

Supply-side Jesus Required in Iraq

26Christian2 When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.

But minutes into the talk, the officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism, Specialist Hall wrote in a sworn statement. “People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!” Major Welborn said, according to the statement.

Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them, according to the statement.

Last month, Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Specialist Hall’s right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. In November, he was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers.

Eileen Lainez, a spokeswoman for the Defense Department, declined to comment on the case, saying, “The department does not discuss pending litigation.”

Specialist Hall’s lawsuit is the latest incident to raise questions about the military’s religion guidelines. In 2005, the Air Force issued new regulations in response to complaints from cadets at the Air Force Academy that evangelical Christian officers used their positions to proselytize. In general, the armed forces have regulations, Ms. Lainez said, that respect “the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs.”

To Specialist Hall and other critics of the military, the guidelines have done little to change a culture they say tilts heavily toward evangelical Christianity. Controversies have continued to flare, largely over tactics used by evangelicals to promote their faith. Perhaps the most high-profile incident involved seven officers, including four generals, who appeared, in uniform and in violation of military regulations, in a 2006 fund-raising video for the Christian Embassy, an evangelical Bible study group.

“They don’t trust you because they think you are unreliable and might break, since you don’t have God to rely on,” Specialist Hall said of those who proselytize in the military. “The message is, ‘It’s a Christian nation, and you need to recognize that.’ ”

Soft-spoken and younger looking than his 23 years, Specialist Hall began a chapter of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers at Camp Speicher, near Tikrit, to support others like him.

At the July meeting, Major Welborn told the soldiers they had disgraced those who had died for the Constitution, Specialist Hall said. When he finished, Major Welborn said, according to the statement: “I love you guys; I just want the best for you. One day you will see the truth and know what I mean.”

Major Welborn declined to comment beyond saying, “I’d love to tell my side of the story because it’s such a false story.”

But Timothy Feary, the other soldier at the meeting, said in an e-mail message: “Jeremy is telling the truth. I was there and witnessed everything.”

It is unclear how widespread religious discrimination or proselytizing is in the armed forces, constitutional law experts and leaders of veterans’ groups said. No one has independently studied the issue, and service members are reluctant to come forward because of possible backlash, those experts said… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

26ChristianFascism Were this a single isolated incident, I would be inclined to pass it off as one man’s fanaticism, but in context with ongoing attempts by the Bush/GOP  Reich to proselytize out troops, this can only be viewed as an intentional violation of the Constitution by the GOP.

I documented HERE, that according to the Treaty of Tripoli, unanimously approved by the US Senate on June 7, 1797, the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.  Thus the claims made by Major Welborn are lies.

Speaking as a Christian, I’m all for Christianity, but the dogma of the religious right is not Christian.  Their attempts to impose their supply-side gospel of hate, war, death, bigotry, greed, and intolerance is criminal.

A Counterpoint to AIPAC

15mcaipac Some of the country’s most prominent Jewish liberals are forming a political action committee and lobbying group aimed at dislodging what they consider the excessive hold of neoconservatives and evangelical Christians on U.S. policy toward Israel.

The group is planning to channel political contributions to favored candidates in perhaps a half-dozen campaigns this fall, the first time an organization focused on Israel has tried to play such a direct role in the political process, according to its organizers.

Organizers said they hope those efforts, coupled with a separate lobbying group that will focus on promoting an Arab-Israeli peace settlement, will fill a void left by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, and other Jewish groups that they contend have tilted to the right in recent years.

The lobbying group will be known as J Street and the political action group as JStreetPAC. The executive director for both will be Jeremy Ben-Ami, a former domestic policy adviser in the Clinton White House.

The definition of what it means to be pro-Israel has come to diverge from pursuing a peace settlement,” said Alan Solomont, a prominent Democratic Party fundraiser involved in the initiative. In recent years, he said, “We have heard the voices of neocons, and right-of-center Jewish leaders and Christian evangelicals, and the mainstream views of the American Jewish community have not been heard.”… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Washington Post>

What a magnificent idea! While I am not altogether comfortable with ANY foreign nation lobbying our representatives, it has been going on for some time, so the issue is who will do the lobbying.

Were I an Israeli, I would feel most uncomfortable to have the primary group fostering my interests to be one focused on the notion that my nation exists to bring about Armageddon, and that, when it happened, I would have to convert or be judged for my faith. That is the AIPAC agenda.

AIPAC, now a neocon theocon tool, is destructive to Israel, because it predicates US support upon having an extreme right government with policies that foster war rather than peace. A lasting peace is in the best interests of both Israel and the Palestinians, but against the interests of the neocons and theocons that control AIPAC.

McBoomBoom is a big AIPAC supporter, and his spiritual mentor, John Hagee, is one of AIPAC’s most prominent leaders.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

Pope to President: Don’t Call Me, I’ll Call You

14benedict_xvi There may be an explanation for this that doesn’t look like an obvious snub, but nothing comes to mind.

Guess who’s not coming to dinner? Pope Benedict XVI.

President Bush and his wife, Laura, will host a White House dinner in honor of the pontiff Wednesday evening. U.S. Catholic leaders from around the nation will attend. The menu will offer Bavarian-style food in recognition of the pope’s German heritage. It’s even the pope’s 81st birthday. But he won’t be there.

“He’s on a very ambitious official schedule,” Anita McBride, Mrs. Bush’s chief of staff, said Friday. “He’ll be meeting with U.S. bishops that night” at a university in Washington.

Now, it’s not that the Pope is avoiding Bush altogether. The President and First Lady will greet the Pope at Andrews Air Force Base, and there will be a formal welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday morning.

But the White House also scheduled a dinner in the Pope’s honor for that evening, and he’s apparently decided he has better things to do on Wednesday night.

Complicating matters slightly, Raw Story reported that there are “no competing events listed on the pope’s schedule.”… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <The Carpetbagger Report>

I’m normally not a big fan of Benedict XIV, but I can’t blame him for not wanting to associate with Texas Torquemada at dinner. Note that the Bush/GOP Reich even lied about Benedict’s non-existent schedule conflict.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

CNN Tonight: Clinton and Obama on Faith

Love CNN will serve as the exclusive broadcaster of a presidential candidate forum on faith, values and other current issues at Messiah College near Harrisburg, Penn., on Sunday, April 13, at 8 p.m. (ET) CNN Election Center anchor Campbell Brown and Newsweek editor and Newsweek.com election anchor Jon Meacham will moderate what is being billed as The Compassion Forum, which will take place nine days before the Pennsylvania primary.

Organized and sponsored by Faith in Public Life, the 90-minute forum will consist of wide-ranging and probing discussions of policies related to pressing moral issues that are bridging ideological divides now more than ever, including poverty, global AIDS, climate change and human rights. It will feature Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the same stage to talk about these topics as each candidate sits down individually with the moderators. The program will also stream live at www.CNN.com

Inserted from <Faith in Public Life>

This could prove most interesting. From my own perspective, my faith impels me to hold progressive views such as tolerance, equality, human rights, concern for the less fortunate, respect for those whose beliefs differ from mine (as long as they are not trying to shove them down my throat), and opposition to the attempts by the religious right to use political power to impose their dogma of greed, war, bigotry and intolerance on others. I do think that there is a place for faith in public life, as long as it does not violate the establishment clause. I look forward to hearing what Clinton and Obama have to say13kissing the ring.

Not surprisingly, McConJob declined an invitation to attend. I’m guessing that he fears having to account for why he is now groveling at the feet of those he formerly and correctly described as “agents of intolerance”. Or perhaps his preference for the rich at the expense of the poor. Or perhaps he doesn’t want to explain the Bomb Bomb Iran.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

Larry Craig Has David Vitter’s Back

craig_bathroom It’s nice to see one subject of a Republican sex-scandal rally to the aid of another.

Embattled Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) is getting support from fellow Republicans who say he should not resign over a public sex scandal — including from someone who can speak from experience.

Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho was among several GOP senators who say Vitter’s testimony in the “D.C. Madam” prostitution case should not compel his resignation.

“First and foremost, in these kinds of issues, it’s the state and the relationship you have with your state that really determines where you ought to go,” Craig said. “That was certainly my case. The Senate itself wasn’t going to judge me. I would allow the citizens of my state to do so. And there is still strong support there.”

Actually, Craig’s Senate colleagues tried to judge him, but he wouldn’t leave.

10David-Vitter Nevertheless, it’s hard to say whether Vitter considers Craig’s endorsement good news or bad. Vitter, who has been called on to testify in the “D.C. Madam” case, is not only facing calls for his resignation, but is apparently getting into car accidents over it. Does support from his scandal-plagued colleague really help?

I suppose, given the circumstances, Vitter will take whatever help he can get.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported yesterday that Vitter’s name is among those listed as potential witnesses in the Deborah Jeane Palfrey trial, and noted that his lawyer insists that Vitter will cite his Fifth Amendment privileges if compelled to testify — a legally sound move that may not go over well in the court of public opinion.

While invoking the Fifth Amendment likely avoids the possibility of embarrassing details being aired in public, political experts say it carries other risks.

“I’d guess the Fifth Amendment response would not play well at all, and would draw a response of ‘What has he got to hide?’ from many people,” said Michael Johnston, a political scientist from Colgate University who has written about the public’s perception of corruption.

Johnston said a better political course would be to “get the story out there and put up with the bad publicity and Jay Leno jokes for a few more days.” Vitter is not up for re-election until 2010.

Washington lawyer Stan Brand said the only member of Congress he remembers taking the Fifth is his former client Dan Rostenkowski, a former Democratic congressman from Illinois. Rostenkowski invoked the Fifth Amendment in the early 1990s when he was asked to testify before a grand jury investigating corruption charges in the House. He survived the political fallout, but lost re-election several years later after being indicted on corruption charges.

“It’s a legal decision, and the political consequences aren’t known,” Brand said.

Ed Renwick, director of the Institute of Politics at Loyola University in New Orleans, said there are no good options for Vitter. “He’s trapped,” Renwick said.

Inserted from <The Carpetbagger Report >

Why is it that Elliot Spitzer resigned quickly when he was caught, but neither Craig nor Vitter has, when the Republicans claim to be the family values party, even though they falsely claim that those values are religious right piety codes. Could it be that the GOP is made of of hypocrites who need to be removed from office in November?

Cross-posted from Politics Plus