Thursday, February 14, 2008

McCain Needs To Heart Huckabee As Veep


As fast as he could say, "Shazzam!" the Gomer Pyle-esque former Arkansas governor became a presidential player, again.

After winning the Iowa caucus last month, he went from Hucka-who? to “I heart Huckabee” before acting like a downright huckleberry.

The roller coaster campaign of Mike Huckabee was saved by the South and, maybe, Jesus himself.

 While he didn't sufficiently slow the John McCain Straight Talk (soon-to-be-less-candid-GOP-nominee) Express from streaking to the national convention in the Twin Cities, he did boost his chances for a place on the Republican ticket.

The McCain/Huckabee dynamic must be viewed as a mixed bag. The Republican came a step closer to anointing the latest heir to Ronald Reagan, but Huckabee's strong showing in Dixie again reveals an enormous fissure within the God-trumps-your-Constitution set and independent voters who enjoy McCain's willingness to reach across the aisle.

Is there another evangelical Christian in the Republican party up to the task of making conservatives feel whole other than Huckabee?

 If one existed it’s likely they would already be in the race where a bonafide red-meat-eating conservative is nowhere to be found.

Although he was successful early in Iowa, he never had the presidential purse strings or the willing donors to make much of a run, anyway, but his ability to preach to Southern values is his most valuable asset.

McCain has shown that he is unable to win in a Southern state other than South Carolina, where he has a unique history and a boatload of servicemen. Evidently, Huckabee has such sway south of the Mason-Dixon line that he easily won Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and his own state, Arkansas.

Obviously, it seems like a marriage made in heaven and they even like each other or share a common contempt for Mitt Romney.

 Such a ticket has inherent problem, though.

Many attribute McCain's earlier fall from grace, last year, to the fact he sold out his sterling reputation as a maverick politician when he courted President Bush's Christian cohorts. When he bowed at the altar of the late Jerry Falwell, he lost all of his street cred in Independentville, USA.

Now that "Mac is back", he might, again, be forced to court that same constituency or lose the general election. Without someone like Huckabee, McCain would have to cobble together an deadlocked electoral scenario without the GOP's main voting bloc, the Deep South.

McCain's version of the “Southern Strategy” forces a conundrum. Veer hard to right as he unsuccessfully did last year or softly shift to the center of left and make Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter blow steam from their ears.

Outside the political nuts and bolts, Huckabee as VP has many desirable traits. He battle-ready after honing his message on the stump for the last year. He folksy and, by the low standards of politicians, pretty funny.

What's not funny is some of beliefs. 

This is a candidate who, at times, sounds more like a West-hating cleric than an American Baptist preacher. Last week he said, 

"I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards."

He also supports rewriting the 14th amendment by denying citizenship to children born to illegal immigrants.

 Behind his quick affable persona and quick-fingered bass playing lies something as poisonous to McCain's presidential aspirations.

It's a deal with the Devil that he flirted with before, but with the White House within his reach, McCain/Huckabee '08 may be his only chance.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Code Pink Awaits Pre-Dawn Protesters From Across Nation


By Steven Tavares

BERKELEY, Calif - Members of the anti-war group, Code Pink, camped in front of the old Berkeley City Hall Monday night awaiting an early morning clash with pro-war groups angry over the city council’s stand against a Marines recruiting center.

The Berkeley City Council is slated to discuss the controversial decision to draft a letter declaring the Marines unwelcome in the city on Tuesday night.

In the meantime, both sides are girding themselves for a contentious display of protesting in front of the Maudelle Shirek City Hall beginning at 5 a.m.

Code Pink organized an emergency 24-hour demonstration starting at 7 p.m. Monday night that will lead into the city council meeting Tuesday night.

Organizer from the pro-war group Move America Forward countered with a pledge to arrive for their own demonstration at the crack of dawn.

“They believe they’re protecting our children. We’re not at odds with that. Some of us just have different ideas on how to do it,” says Berkeley resident, Patty Bailey.

Erik Freeman, who served time in the Vietnam War, drove his RV from Bakersfield as a member of Move America Forward and arrived early to witness the protesters beforehand.

“This whole thing is about picking on the Marines,” said Freeman, “Our thing is to make it clear to the city council that we’re unhappy with their resolution.”

Freeman was also unimpressed with the manner in which the protesters were behaving.

“For a war protest, they’re having a whole lot of fun,” said Freeman.

The scene on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way had elements of a carnival with protesters clad in pink shirts dancing on the sidewalk, singing protest songs and snacking on vegan meals donated by a local eatery.

“Code Pink showed up for a pajama party,” said Freeman.

Cynthia Papermaster, another member of Code Pink, expects the pro-war protesters, some of which are believed to be traveling from as far as Colorado, will be discourteous and aiming to provoke a physical confrontation.

“We’re planning on being peaceful and non-confrontational,” said Papermaster.

Others are surprised by the worldwide attention this topic has received and see it as a telling sign of how unpopular the war has become.

“This is an indication of how scared they are about losing the war,” said Zanne Joi, who has been affiliated with Code Pink since its inception.

“We live in a country of lies and spin and one of the most successful lies is that if you’re against the war, you’re against the soldiers. I’m proud that our city council did not buckle under the pressure,” said Joi.

Freeman believes these types of demonstrations against the war puts our troops at risk and shows our enemies our weakness.

“They’re just allowing our opponents across the ocean to say, ‘Look, America is against the war’,” said Freeman.

The organizer behind Code Pink has staged weekly demonstrations in front of the recruiting center located on Shattuck Avenue for months.

Using a bullhorn and motherly powers of persuasion they attempt to detour prospective men from enlisting.

According to Papermaster, they have been known to enter the center and dissuade the men on the spot.

Primarily made up of mothers against the war, they successfully closed down an Army recruitment center on Broadway Avenue in downtown Oakland last year after continual protests.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

'Anonymous' Protesters Descend On Berkeley Scientologists


BERKELEY, Calif. - A small, but boisterous group clad in black masks and calling themselves “Anonymous” protested the Church of Scientology in Berkeley yesterday with a globally-coordinated movement that grew momentum through the web and YouTube.

Yelling “You’re cruising for a bruising, Tom” and holding a sign that read “Honk if you are against Scientology”, the protesters, a majority in their in early 20’s passed out leaflets downloaded from the internet, but failed to attract confrontation from the Scientology building on Shattuck Avenue.

Many in the group said that this was their first demonstration of any kind and all were drawn to the protest through articles on the internet and the heavily viewed videos available on YouTube.

One demonstrator, a student who traveled from Cupertino with his friend and calls himself “Anonymous” as many in the group did said he was drawn to the hype that surrounded the viral video.

“I wanted to tag along,” he said, “I heard about it from my friend and it didn’t seem right what they’re doing.”

The original Anonymous clips have been viewed over 2 million times as of Monday night and consists of noir-style backgrounds of clouds and buildings with a soundtrack of a computerized voice detailing the faceless groups manifesto against the Church of Scientology.

A few of the demonstrators admitted that they knew little about Scientology before the YouTube videos or said their only exposure to the church was through the controversial “South Park” episode that told the story of the groups belief that an interstellar warlord named “Xenu” brought misery to Earth.

Anonymous recounted how when he found information about Scientology on the web, he realized there wasn’t much difference between what he found and the cartoon episode.

“Basically, what I saw on that South Park episode was the truth,” he said.

A Cal student named Liz had a different history with Scientology than the others.

Her uncle was a former Scientologist about 30 years ago who left the church when he ran out of money for the group’s dollar-tiered path to enlightenment.

She says that the church still routinely calls her uncle about returning decades later.

The Genesis of the confrontation began weeks ago, when an unauthorized internal video of Scientology’s most famous adherent, Tom Cruise, appeared on the internet.

The extensively edited video of Cruise detailing the pleasures of Scientology intended for followers of the faith was quickly pulled by YouTube after the church, known for being aggressively litigious, complained to the site on the grounds of copyright infringement.

But, what began as a protest by young, computer hackers angry over the suppression of information morphed into a spotlight on the many of the church’s controversial practices of including accepting money to further a believers standing in the group and its standing as a tax-exempt non-profit organization.

A man from San Leandro named Shandu disagrees with the church retaining a tax exemption since 1993 as religious non-profit.

“I have a problem with them having a non-profit status when they don’t help anyone,” said Shandu, “They don’t feed the poor or help children like other churches do,”

Shandu, who once protested Apartheid in the 1980’s, was not alone in being concerned about the church’s reputation for ruthlessly tamping down dissent through intimidation.

“I can’t afford to weather a big lawsuit. Even if it was a B.S. suit, you still have to get a lawyer and they can just keep the case going for years,” said Shandu, “They have that kind of financial power.”

Added Anonymous: “It’s why I brought the mask. I’ve heard rumors about them destroying protester lives.”

The protester named Liz was far more defiant.

“They can’t get me, but part of Anonymous is that they are afraid of Scientology’s power. That’s why we have to hide our identities,” she said.

The Anonymous movement, in fact, detailed a list of 22 rules that followers should adhere to, including, demonstrating across the street from Scientology buildings, cooperating with law enforcement and disguising their identities with masks, sunglasses and hoods.

Many at the three-hour demonstration believe representatives from Scientology were covertly watching the group.
They detailed a man clad in dark blue who intently watched the group for over 30 minutes while intermittently speaking on the phone.

Two women also intentively watch the demonstrators while one video taped the action and the other jotted down notes.
The two were masked similarly to the Anonymous protesters, but when asked to join the group, they said they were “independent”.

Later they handed demonstrators small pieces of paper with a handwritten e-mail address.

With the undercover and mysterious mood of the two groups, few said they were willing to act upon the e-mail address.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

College Students Not Keen On Saving Rebate Checks


HAYWARD, Calif. - The success of the $150 billion stimulus plan that President Bush and Congress agreed to last week depends on one thing: that people will spend the potential $1,800 rebate checks quickly, but many Cal State-East Bay students are not buying the premise.

“I would spend some and save some,” said Joe Pecoraro, a senior majoring in accounting, “I tell my friends to save, too, but they usually don’t.”

In interviews across campus, he and others expressed various preferences for the use of the possible funds, which the Bush administration hopes may jumpstart an ailing economy.

Freshman Aurelio Padilla travels from Oakland to school using BART and buses and might put a rebate check from Uncle Sam towards some new wheels somewhere down the line.

“I would probably save it and put it towards buying a car,” said Padilla.

Others like Angelica Gonzalez, freshman majoring in nursing, are inclined to save the money to use later in the year.
“I would probably save it for books in the fall,” said Gonzalez.

But, she also admitted that she might spend it during her yearly summer vacation in Mexico, which would benefit that country’s economy more than the U.S.

The problem is that saving the money or paying off a delinquent credit card bill is not what the stimulus bill is intended to do.
The Federal Reserve, which oversees the nation’s treasure chest, would rather have people spend, not save the checks, which could run anywhere from $300 to nearly $1,800 for taxpayers who have the maximum four dependents.

Most economists agree that the economy needs a quick injection of money to lessen the burden of a shaky housing market and a precipitous rise in foreclosure due to iffy sub-prime loans.

If the stimulus bill is passed by Congress, the rebate checks, which could arrive in the mailboxes of many households in May, will carry no conditions on how they are spent, but, instead, present a policy gamble by Washington that they will wiggle the economy out of the grasp of a possible recession.

CSUEB economics professor, Lynn Paringer, believes the best way to help the economy is to get the money into the hands of people with lower incomes.

“It’s fair to say that lower income people are more inclined to spend it more quickly,” said Paringer.

Depositing the checks in your savings account will help the economy in the long run, but not as quickly as the government wants.

“If it goes to a bank you won’t see it helping until after a cycle,” but Paringer added, “If you put it under your mattress, nothing happens.”

Paying your debts with the money will help your personal finances, but also won’t do much for the economy in the short term.

Graduate student, Moises De Loera, who is closing in on his teaching credential, might apply the check towards his school loans.

“I need to pay some bills and I have school debts,” said De Loera, “and it’s almost time to pay those bills.”

Paringer says if that paying off your bills will help the economy, but not until that money is able to be invested down the line.

She believes that the key to helping the economy is through targeting the stimulus towards businesses, but details of the stimulus bill will have to limit what areas they invest.

“What if your business is working at capacity? Will you invest? And what’s to say they don’t invest in the U.S.? Will this create incentive for businesses to build new factories or hire more workers,” said Paringer.

The agreement that President Bush; Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader John Boehner arrived at last week did not include demands from Democrats that the stimulus include extending unemployment insurance and bolstering food stamp programs, but did include tax incentives for small businesses that Republicans favored.

Senate Democrats said Monday that they will seek to include benefits for unemployment insurance and food stamps in their plan, both areas that economists believe people will quickly spend their checks on rent or staples food and clothing.

During his State of the Union speech, President Bush said any attempt to deviate from his agreement with Congress will “delay or derail” the stimulus bill.

He also reiterated that the bill must be passed quickly to have any effect on the economy.