Blogs

Is it 3 a.m. at Klan Headquarters?

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 1:50 PM EDT

Orlando Patterson argues in today's New York Times that there's a racial subtext to Clinton's 3 a.m. ad. I didn't see it before and I'm not so sure I do now. But I don't dismiss Patterson—one of my intellectual guide stars—lightly.

More after the jump...

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Senator Alan Stuart Franken?

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 1:06 PM EDT

al-franken.jpg With the exit of trial lawyer Mike Ciresi from the Democratic Senate primary in Minnesota on Monday, Al Franken stands alone as the challenger to incumbent Republican Norm Coleman. Franken has run an exceptionally solid campaign that started early, raised money well, and avoided mistakes — he essentially left no opening for someone like Ciresi, a solid candidate who, under different circumstances, would have gotten a long look from the DSCC and probably could have given Coleman a serious run. It helped that Minnesota Democrats that I spoke to when I visited Minnesota were genuinely carefree about Franken's unconventional past. "Humor is form of common sense," said one man, when I asked him about Franken's history of ribald jokes.

In 2004, Franken kept a diary for us on one of his several USO tours. And in 2006, we spoke to the dudes who made a movie about him.

Coleman is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the Senate, and Minnesota should be a delightful state to watch as we near November 2008. After all, if Obama wins the presidency, we're going to need a new Emmy winner in the Senate. And besides, it would be great to say that a sitting Senator has been in two of the worst movies of all time, Harvard Man and Stuart Saves His Family.

Now It's an Obama Surrogate's Turn to Mouth Off

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 12:02 PM EDT

maxim-thorne.jpg I'm tired of these muthaf-----g surrogates on this muthaf-----g campaign!* First Power, then Ferraro, now this! Here are snippets of an email from Maxim Thorne, a member of Obama's LGBT leadership council:

Hillary Clinton is a disaster for the democratic party. Now she prefers McCain to Obama.... We cannot tolerate her lies and stolen election.
Time for all of us democratics [uh, sic?] to wake up to this disgusting turn. As democratics [again, sic] this should affirm the end of her campaign.
At 3am, Hillary said she and Bill were in bed and she knows of all the calls a President gets at different times of the day and night. Really? So much involvement - so much togetherness. Where was she when Monica was having sex with Bill? 35 years of experience? When he was intimidating Katherine Wiley and Paula Jones? Where was the judgment on the cattle futures and white water. Do we forget Mark and Denise Rich? This was an impeached President who lost his licence to practice law. He committed perjury. They settled with Paula Jones for the full amount of her lawsuit. I haven't forgotten and none of us should.

Congressional Ethics Office Vote Today

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 11:32 AM EDT

Two members of Congress have gone to jail in the past year and another may be on the way. The corruption scandals have prompted the House of Representatives to attempt to create new mechanisms for policing its own. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass) led a bipartisan task-force to create a new Office of Congressional Ethics that would investigate ethics charges against members apart from the dysfunctional House ethics committee. The measure would mark the biggest change in congressional ethics rules in a decade, but the legislation creating the office stalled among partisan fights over who should run the office and whether outside groups ought to be able to file complaints against lawmakers.

The House was slated to vote on the bill late last month, but it was postponed after opposition from various factions. Today, though, it looks like the bill is actually going to go the House floor for a vote. We'll be waiting to see how Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz) votes on this one, as the indicted lawmaker has thus far refused to step down, and without a functioning ethics committee, the House has no way to force him to do so.

Obama and Rezko: Any There There?

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 11:00 AM EDT

rezko.jpg In emails, on conference calls with reporters, on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton and her aides have repeatedly raised the issue of Barack Obama's relationship with Tony Rezko, a developer now on trial on corruption charges. Clinton aides have said over and over that there are "unanswered questions" about this relationship and have encouraged reporters to dig, dig, dig (even though several reporters have already done so). Clinton referred to Rezko during the debates. Though Obama has been accused of no wrongdoing in the Rezko affair, he did--as he has acknowledged--screw up by getting into a personal real estate transaction with Rezko when the developer was under federal investigation.

For anyone wondering if there is any there there to the Rezko matter (as it concerns Obama), the Associated Press has put together a handy primer on Obama and Rezko. A few Q & As from the piece:

Q: What is his relationship to Obama?
A: He's been friendly with Obama for years, even offering him a job after Obama finished law school. Obama turned down the offer, but a political friendship developed. Rezko and his family donated at least $21,457 to Obama - and helped raise tens of thousands more -- for his campaigns in Illinois, though not for his presidential bid. He also advised Obama on the purchase of a new Chicago home and, in his wife's name, purchased a vacant lot next to the new Obama home at the same time....

The Presidential Assasination Attempt That Didn't Bark

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 10:56 AM EDT

McClatchy:

An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network.

The Pentagon-sponsored study, scheduled for release later this week, did confirm that Saddam's regime provided some support to other terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East, U.S. officials told McClatchy. However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime.

What the article doesn't mention is that they apparently also found no evidence that Saddam's regime attempted to kill George H.W. Bush in Kuwait in 1993. We can know this because we can be certain if they had found it, the administration would have let us know loudly and often. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, has there been any such evidence found by anyone else since the invasion.

Meanwhile, all of official Washington has become discreetly mum about this, even though it was spoken of constantly from fall, 2002 through spring, 2003 as part of the case for war. More and more it appears Seymour Hersh was correct back in 1993, and it was all a sham.

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Presidential Campaign Leads to Progress on Earmarks

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 9:45 AM EDT

cartoon_pork.gif Here's something all Democrats, who have seen precious little unity lately, can get behind: Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton are sponsoring the one-year moratorium on earmarks that is being included in the 2009 budget plan. They join John McCain and small band of GOP Senators in the effort.

McCain is one of strongest critics of earmarks in Congress, a position that puts him at odds with many epic porkers in his party. McCain has gone so far as to promise that if he is elected president he will veto any budget bill with earmarks in it. It's one of the few good things about a McCain presidency, though I can't agree with the causes that McCain would put the saved money towards. Like 100 years of war and whatnot.

Clinton and Obama are probably toughening up on earmarks because they don't want to cede the issue of good government and fiscal responsibility to McCain in the general election. In the past, Obama has used earmarks to a mild degree while Clinton has been an ample porker, securing 360 earmarks between 2002 and 2006 at a combined cost of $2.2 billion. (Both candidates voluntarily make their earmarks public.) Senator Clinton's current position on earmarks — and to some extent, Senator Obama's — is something of a change of heart, but we welcome it.

Update: Looks like the moratorium may not be going anywhere.

Update: I got my hands on a Taxpayers for Common Sense spreadsheet that tallies all of the earmarks introduced by each member of Congress in FY08 appropriations bills. Come with me for some exploring, after the jump.

Enraged John McCain Charges Bears

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 11:36 PM EDT

You know, Teddy Roosevelt got a lot of mileage for being nice to a bear. The ubiquitous Teddy bear was the upshot of his refusal to shoot. So you think John McCain would know better. The Washington Post reports a great piece on McCain's standard stump speech fare about a $3 million study of the DNA of bears in Montana. "Unbelievable," he says. Well, what's unbelievable is that no one on McCain's staff has bothered to inform him of the real purpose of the study he's spent so much energy despising since 2003. Katherine Kendall, a kick-ass biologist, and the mastermind of the Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project, is actually doing John McCain and his descendants a genuine favor by tackling the life-and-death issues of biodiversity. According to the WP:

Kendall is one tough field biologist: She's rafted wild rivers, forded swollen streams and hiked through remote backcountry for weeks at a time. She goes to places inhabited by all manner of large creatures with sharp teeth. She was once charged by an enraged grizzly. She stared the bear down… As a scientist with the US Geological Survey, she set out to get the first head count of grizzlies in the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem. She and her co-workers at the USGS have used DNA primarily as a bear-identifying tool… "There's never been any information about the status of this population. We didn't know what was going on—until this study," Kendall said. This was an astonishingly ambitious research project involving 207 paid workers, hundreds of volunteers, 7.8 million acres and 2,560 bear sampling sites [including the bear rub tree seen in the video]. The project did not cost $3 million, as McCain's ad alleges, but more than $5 million, including nearly $4.8 million in congressional appropriations. It had a strong advocate in Congress in Montana's three-term senator, Conrad Burns, a Republican who was defeated in his reelection bid in 2006.

Bear at a rubbing tree.

Bottom line: we need bears. We need tough field biologists whose dedication often means the difference between survival and extinction for their study animals. We need to stand up to McCain when he charges blindly and stare him down. Anyone up for attending a stump speech in a bear costume?

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Geraldine Ferraro: Obama Is Lucky to Be Black

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 11:32 PM EDT

ferraro-clinton.jpg Campaigns make people say crazy things. Here's Clinton surrogate Geraldine Ferraro:

If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.

Hat tip Kos, where DHinMI has some interesting thoughts:

Prescription Drugs Are in our Drinking Water: What to do Now?

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 7:26 PM EDT

The biggest sex story of the day, besides the expensive sex life of the New York Governor, is the revelation that prescription drugs (including sex hormones) are in the drinking water of 41 million Americans. Forget Room 871's minibar. Maybe Spitzer got horny on tap water.

That drugs are in our water isn't new news, but the AP's five-month investigation will be sure to prompt a rush on Brittas and bottled snowmelt from the Alps. It will also probably lead to a reexamination of our wastewater treatment systems, including the policy of spreading sewage sludge on farmland--sort of the stealth turd in the swimming pool of water politics. Sludge, the black goop that comes out of sewage plants, contains drug residues that have the potential to be absorbed into plants and animals and run off into streams. So does the "purified" water that comes out of the same plants, but the sludge has gotten less attention as of late. Now almost forgotten is the high-ranking EPA scientist, David Lewis, who raised a stink over sludge a few years ago. The EPA fired him, though not before he exposed shortfalls in the EPA's science on sludge and some shady ties between government and industry.

For now, consumers will have to sort out how to deal with the drug-laced water problem on their own. In case you're wondering, one sure-fire water filtration method for removing pharmaceuticals from your tap is reverse osmosis. In arid Southern California, Orange County began operating a reverse osmosis system late last year that extracts drinking water from sewage (they call it "toilet to tap'). The superior cleanliness of this source relative to drinking water from lakes and rivers might have struck me as ironic--before Spitzer exploded my brain's irony synapse.