Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sarah Palin earned $107,987 as governor in 2007

A Republican donor, defending the $150,000 expense of outfitting Sarah Palin had this as a defense:

Given the short notice and the Palins’ relatively modest means, “she could probably not go into her closet at home in Alaska to come up with a wardrobe appropriate for her status as a vice presidential candidate," he said.

Together with her husband, Palin earned over $166,000 in 2007. That's not on par with McCain or even Obama (and nowhere near the fictional income of Joe the Plumber), but it's hardly "modest means".

It's more than double what the typical 2-earner family in the U.S. or Alaska brings home.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

McCain: "I am not President Bush"

If McCain wants us to think he's different from George Bush then he should stop stealing W's lines.

Here's John McCain last month:
"What what we'd be doing is nominating justices who strictly interpret the Constitution," McCain said during an appearance on the ABC daytime talk show "The View." "We would not impose litmus test."
and here's George W. Bush in 2000 during the debate against Gore:
Q: Should a voter assume that all judicial appointments you make to the Supreme Court will be pro-life?

BUSH: Voters should assume that I have no litmus test on that issue or any other issue. The voters will know I’ll put competent judges on the bench, people who will strictly interpret the Constitution and will not use the bench to write social policy. I believe in strict constructionists.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Obama: Human rights must be a part of trade agreements

McCAIN: Free trade with Colombia is something that's a no-brainer. But maybe you ought to travel down there and visit them and maybe you could understand it a lot better.

OBAMA: Let me respond. Actually, I understand it pretty well. The history in Colombia right now is that labor leaders have been targeted for assassination on a fairly consistent basis and there have not been prosecutions.

And what I have said, because the trade agreement itself does have labor and environmental protections, but we have to stand for human rights and we have to make sure that violence isn't being perpetrated against workers who are just trying to organize for their rights, which is why, for example, I supported the Peruvian Free Trade Agreement which was a well-structured agreement.

April, 2008:

More than 2,500 union members in Colombia have been killed since 1985, and fewer than 100 cases have a conviction, according to the National Labor School, a labor research group in Medellín.

Now these killings are emerging as a pressing issue in Washington as Democrats and Republicans battle over a trade deal with Colombia, the Bush administration's top ally in Latin America. The Colombian government is already struggling to recover from the latest salvo in the fight, a vote by U.S. House Democrats on Thursday to snub President George W. Bush and indefinitely delay voting on the deal.

Since President Álvaro Uribe took office in 2002, there has been a marked decline in union killings, accompanying a broader decline in overall murders and kidnappings. Still, 400 union members have been killed since then, and dozens of his supporters in the Colombian Congress and his former intelligence chief are under investigation for ties to rightist paramilitary death squads, which are classified as terrorists by the United States and responsible for some of the union killings.

Here's Amnesty International's report :

Killings, arbitrary detentions, and death threats -- the reality of trade unionism in Colombia

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

McCain: the challenge is to know when to go to war

McCain: [T]he challenge is to know when the United States of American can beneficially effect the outcome of a crisis, when to go in and when not, when American military power is worth the expenditure of our most precious treasure.

And that question can only be answered by someone with the knowledge and experience and the judgment, the judgment to know when our national security is not only at risk, but where the United States of America can make a difference in preventing genocide, in preventing the spread of terrorism, in doing the things that the United States has done, not always well, but we've done because we're a nation of good.

And I am convinced that my record, going back to my opposition from sending the Marines to Lebanon, to supporting our efforts in Kosovo and Bosnia and the first Gulf War, and my judgment, I think, is something that I'm -- a record that I'm willing to stand on.

Sen. Obama was wrong about Iraq and the surge. He was wrong about Russia when they committed aggression against Georgia. And in his short career, he does not understand our national security challenges.

Kosovo, Bosnia, the first Gulf war..... Isn't he forgetting something here?

For anyone keeping score - John McCain lobbied for a trillion dollar war that's turned into a quagmire. Barack Obama opposed it.

Obama: health care should be a right for every American

Obama: Well, I think [health care] should be a right for every American. In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can't pay their medical bills -- for my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they're saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don't have to pay her treatment, there's something fundamentally wrong about that.


And when Sen. McCain says that he wants to provide children health care, what he doesn't mention is he voted against the expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program that is responsible for making sure that so many children who didn't have previously health insurance have it now.

Senator Obama says that it has to be safe or disposable or something like that.

McCAIN: Now, how -- what's -- what's the best way of fixing it? Nuclear power. Sen. Obama says that it has to be safe or disposable or something like that.

Look, I -- I was on Navy ships that had nuclear power plants. Nuclear power is safe, and it's clean, and it creates hundreds of thousands of jobs.

And what could be safer than life on a nuclear military vessel?

Naval nuclear accidents

United States

* USS Thresher (SSN-593) (sank, 129 killed)
* USS Scorpion (SSN-589) (sank, 99 killed)

Both sank for reasons unrelated to their reactor plants and still lie on the Atlantic sea floor.

Russian or Soviet

* Komsomolets K-278 (sank, 42 killed)
* Kursk K-141 (sank recently, 118 killed)
* K-8 (loss of coolant) (sank, 42 killed)
* K-11 (refueling criticality)
* K-19 (loss of coolant)
* K-27 (scuttled)
* K-116 (reactor accident)
* K-122 (reactor accident)
* K-123 (loss of coolant)
* K-140 (power excursion)
* K-159 (radioactive discharge) (sank recently, 9 killed)
* K-192 (loss of coolant)
* K-219 (sank after collision, 4 killed)
* K-222 (uncontrolled startup)
* K-314 (refueling criticality, 10 killed)
* K-320 (uncontrolled startup)
* K-429 (sank twice, 16 killed)
* K-431 (reactor accident)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

John McCain and the Bankruptcy Bill of 2005*

*Or why even the Democratic Senator from MBNA is a better bet for consumers than the Republican maverick from Arizona.

In 2005, John McCain was an enthusiastic backer of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (S. 256) which ultimately became law on a 75-24 vote. This is the bill that stripped away many of the protections individuals used to have when falling into bankruptcy. Amendments to protect victims of identity theft, those who fell into debt due to medical or natural catastrophes, and to provide homestead exemptions were all rejected. Attempts to place restrictions and regulations on creditors, such as disclosure obligations, restrictions on predatory lending practices and limits on the interest rate that could be charged also failed (the figure above shows how each Senator voted on consumer protection amendments to the bill; red are Republicans, blue are Democrats and green is the Independent Jeffords).

As the name implies Republicans were concerned with what they considered abuses of the bankruptcy laws and McCain was no exception. As this letter to a constituent shows he believed that too many people were gaming the system at a time of prosperity:
The number of Americans filing for bankruptcy has increased dramatically in recent years. What is surprising is that this increase is coming at a time of low unemployment and high wages, when debt problems should be at their lowest. Significant numbers of people who can pay some of what they owe are opting to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which permits them to erase almost all of their debt.
Despite being written explicitly to the desires of the credit card industry, in McCain's view the bill created a "fair and balanced approach" which restored personal responsibility to the system. And while "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention" was the essence of the bill, there was little that could be called "Consumer Protection" in it.

With the exception of an amendment to protect disabled veterans (which passed 99-0), all attempts to add consumer rights to the bill failed. John McCain was one of 50 Republican Senators who voted against adding consumer protections to the bill every single time. McCain even voted against an amendment that would have protected active service members in Iraq from means testing and usury.

S.256 passed the Senate 74-25.

The Republicans were unanimous in their support for the final bill. 18 Democrats and Independent Jim Jeffords voted with the majority.

25 Democrats, including Barack Obama, voted against the bill.

Joe Biden voted for it.
In fact he championed it in the Senate, and his defense of the bill bordered on absurdity. Still he voted for the consumer protection amendments over 40% of the time.

McCain still defends his vote on the bill. His spokesman cites the bill as an example of McCain's bipartisan worldview and believes it compares favorably against Barack Obama.
"Eighteen Democrats and John McCain worked together on the bipartisan Senate bankruptcy bill, and Barack Obama's rigid partisanship and self-promoting political attacks show that he's a typical politician — which is the problem in Washington, not the solution." - McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds