Blogs

It's Officially the Early '90s

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 3:35 PM EST

reality_bites.jpg O.J. Simpson is on trial.

A Clinton is running for president.

The Spice Girls, the Verve Pipe, and the Verve are getting back together.

And Rodney King has been badly injured.

What's next? A 90210 reunion show? Reality Bites 2? Give us some ideas in the comments.

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Free Your Naughty Bits, Free Burma

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 2:10 PM EST

If you felt powerless to help Burma in its struggle for democracy during the country's recent, but so far resultless, protests, well, your panties may help. The Lanna Action for Burma Committee is asking women of all nations to contribute their undergarments to its Panty Power Campaign, which aims to let the generals of the ruling junta know that people around the world don't approve of its rampant human rights abuses. In addition, said generals are superstitious freaks who, according to LABC, believe that contact with ladies' lingerie can render a man feeble.

So take off your panties and send them to the embassy near you; it's easier, more fun, and more direct than writing a letter to the U.N. Try to veto this, China!

Baby Grace: Sleeping in the Bed Her Mother Made

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 12:52 PM EST

You have to be made of stone not to have been following the Baby Grace case. The one that had hardened cops weeping and fondling tiny pink sneakers after her little decomposed body was found floating in Galveston Bay. Even the forensic artist brought in to create her likeness so she could be identified came away moved. After 14 weeks of nature taking its toll on Baby Grace's tortured little body, one would imagine that job to be a horrible one, but the beautiful innocence of a child whose true face she'd only ever see in her mind's eye makes the artists' description of that task simply transcendent:

Village Voice: Giuliani Did Business With Terrorism Supporter

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 12:04 PM EST

giuliani-frown.jpg Wow, yesterday was really not a good news day for Rudy Giuliani. In addition to the fact that he used New York City as a private bank account to finance his extramarital affairs, it was also revealed Rudy is linked to a well-known supporter of Osama bin Laden and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. This was revealed by Rudy expert Wayne Barrett of the Village Voice.

The connection goes like this. Giuliani Security & Safety LLC, a subsidiary of Giuliani Partners, the consulting firm that has made Rudy Giuliani rich, worked for either Qatar's interior ministry or the state-owned company it helps oversee, Qatar Petroleum. The interior ministry is run by a member of the Qatar royal family named Abdallah bin Khalid al Thani. Giuliani went on Larry King with al Thani in late 2001 and vouched for him. The problem is al Thani is alleged to have strong terrorist ties. He is "said to have welcomed Osama bin Laden on two visits to [his] farm, a charge repeated as recently as October 10, 2007, in a Congressional Research Service study." And Barrett notes that many people, including some within the American government, believe al Thani helped "spirit [9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad] out of Qatar in 1996, just as the FBI was closing in on him." Al Thani is a defendant in 9/11 lawsuits still proceeding in Manhattan federal court.

The fact that Giuliani was working with Qatar, which is a very dubious ally on the war on terror, is troubling.

St. Louie Woman: Sickness in the Suburbs

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 11:42 AM EST

This is one of those stories that you just can't stop thinking about and wondering what the hell is so wrong with people. You read the news and suddenly the whole hermit/Walden Pond thing just makes so much sense. If only there was a way to legislate against stupidity and viciousness. There isn't, but that didn't stop suburban St. Louis politicians from doing it anyway. Wrong as the underlying act was, heinous as it was, making online harassment, without a clearly stated threat, a punishable offense only makes things worse. Ninety percent of the blogosphere is prima facie harassment; they better get a lot more jails built and be ready to face a whole lotta 1st Amendment cases.

It's been hard to miss the story about the 13 year old girl who committed suicide after a MySpace boyfriend wooed, then cruelly mocked and dump her. The 'boyfriend' turned out to be the mom of her former best friend and only four houses down the leafy suburban cul de sac. As horrible as was a grown woman intentionally setting out to spy on a child (how dare she de-best friend her daughter), the details are even worse. The New York Times has the goods:

Hillary Clinton Says Bye-Bye to Indicted Trial Lawyer

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 11:16 AM EST

scruggs.imageBad news for trial lawyers, and bad news for Bill and Hillary, too. Famed Mississippi plaintiff's lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, who was slated to host a Clinton fundraiser next month, was indicted yesterday for allegedly trying to bribe a state court judge. The indictment comes a day after the FBI raided his office looking for a document, and two days after Scruggs' brother-in-law, Trent Lott, announced his resignation from the Senate.

When the FBI first raided Scruggs' office, Lott said the timing of his resignation was just a coincidence. But you do have to wonder. The indictment is pretty damning, and includes apparently taped conversations between the judge and some of the other lawyers involved in the alleged scheme.

The indictment will no doubt have other political fallout. Scruggs is a high-profile figure, having just used his private jet to ferry the new University of Mississippi football coach to Oxford hours before turning himself in to law enforcement authorities. He made millions off the state's lawsuit against the tobacco companies in the 1990s and has been leading the litigation against insurance companies over denied Katrina claims, including Lott's. Scruggs has been a generous Democratic political donor, particularly in Mississippi, where he used some of his tobacco winnings to found a now-defunct PAC to help elect liberal candidates to state office.

But his political loyalties have always been a little suspect, and not just because of his in-law status. This year, for instance, he has given nearly $30,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and several thousand dollars to Joe Biden. But he's also contributed to Republican John McCain. Next month, Bill Clinton was scheduled to headline a fundraiser for his wife at Scruggs' Oxford home. Not surprisingly, today a Clinton spokesman tells Mother Jones that the event is "not happening."

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Giuliani Straining to Defend Himself on Hamptons Trysts

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 11:09 AM EST

RudyWingman.jpg By now you may have heard yesterday's big news, other than the fact that the Republicans smacked each other something vicious on CNN. When Mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani took trips to the Hamptons to visit his then-mistress and now-wife Judith Nathan and billed the tens of thousands of dollars in security expenses to obscure New York City agencies like the Loft Board. Giuliani was still married to his second wife at the time. Also billed to small agencies were expenses for campaign trips during Giuliani's aborted 2000 Senate campaign and trips to Los Angeles for his then-wife Donna Hanover. The full, sordid details are available at Politico.

What's less well known is that Giuliani is having a hell of a time explaining himself.

At the debate yesterday, Giuliani pinned the blame on the cops who were assigned to protect him. "They put in their records. They handled them in the way they handled them. I had nothing to do with the handling of their records," he said.

In the Politico story, a Giuliani campaign aide said the problem was due to "accounting."

On a CBS News follow up, the campaign said "this is common practice." A top aide named Tony Carbonetti told the media "these were all legitimate expenses."

But Carbonetti seemed to reverse himself later, saying that he had ordered an investigation.

In 2001 and 2002, Giuliani handled this differently. When city auditors questioned the expenses, the Mayor's staff refused to provide them by citing "security."

The Giuliani campaign clearly was not prepared for this, meaning that the former mayor's New York City staff, who has been dealing with questions over this behind the scenes for over five years, chose not to brief them. Or the campaign's research department didn't ask the right questions. Or Giuliani himself didn't tell them to look into it.

No matter what, though, Giuliani had better figure out what his position is, because every time he takes a new stance, he extends the story through another news cycle. And this is so damaging, he'll want it to go away as soon as possible. If it ever does, and here's betting it doesn't.

The French Nuclear Connection

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 10:24 AM EST

The deal between the French nuclear behemoth Areva and the Chinese to build two nuclear power plants and run others in China may be part of an answer to that country's growing energy demand. Not to mention gross pollution. It also gives the now struggling nuclear business a big shot in the arm, and brings a little known, and growing power into focus as a major energy player: Sarkozy's France.

The Bush administration has hoped it could pump up nuclear as a clean alternative fuel. Since Three Mile Island the business has been in the dumps, mired in controversy over waste disposal and overall safety. As part of its expanding operations, Areva now wants to enter the U.S. market and has cut a deal with Constellation Energy, a Baltimore utility, to sell power plants here. The French, of course, have long played an important role in the oil and gas business with historic interests in Algeria, where the first major LNG exports to the U.S. originated; in West Africa, where the Gulf of Guinea has become a hot spot in the search for what's left of the world's oil and gas; and the Middle East.

Republicans Feud Over Immigration at the Debate: What It Says About the GOP Field

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 1:43 AM EST

romney-giuliani-youtube-deb.jpg Ernie Nardi from Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, did us all a service. The question on sanctuary cities that Nardi asked at last night's Republican YouTube debate—the first question of the night—set the stage for an epic confrontation between the candidates that included some of the sharpest attacks of the campaign season. The fight over immigration, quickly becoming the most contentious issue of the race, lasted for almost twenty minutes, long enough that each candidate got to say his piece. That meant something insightful could be learned about the entire field.

Giuliani began by insisting that "New York City was not a sanctuary city." Giuliani then went on to detail and defend three ways in which New York City was in fact a sanctuary city: the Big Apple opened education and health services up to illegal immigrants, and allowed them to report crimes without fear of deportation. Giuliani stuck up for these three policy moves, while repeatedly insisting that they didn't make New York a sanctuary city (a term, by the way, that is largely meaningless). He didn't help his case by saying "we reported thousands and thousands and thousands of names of illegal immigrants who committed crimes to the immigration service."

Mitt Romney fired right back, saying, "How about the fact that the people who are here
illegally have violated the law?" He went on to say that as Mayor, Giuliani welcomed and protected illegal immigrants.

Throughout the night, host Anderson Cooper gave anyone who was attacked 30 additional seconds to respond. This meant that anyone who got into a tit-for-tat got the lion's share of the airtime. And it meant that fights got extended, as this one did.

Giuliani shot back at Romney, saying, "Mitt generally criticizes people in a situation in which he's had the worst record." Giuliani claimed that there were multiple sanctuary cities in Massachusetts when Romney was Governor. Then it got personal. "There was even a sanctuary mansion," Giuliani said. "At his own home, illegal immigrants were being employed."

Telling Moments from the GOP Debate: Romney Freezes, Rudy Slashes, McCain Shines

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 1:26 AM EST

gop-field-youtube-debate.jpg

Wednesday night's CNN/YouTube Republican debate contained no Hillary Moment--that is, no time when a leading candidate muffed an answer in a manner that created an opportunity for the others to pile on. (Remember Clinton's triple-reverse answer to that question about issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants?) But this latest face-off did produce telling moments.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney had the most difficult ones. He froze more than once--which is odd, considering he's had ample opportunity to ready himself for this Republican Party-sponsored debate. In one video query, a fellow named Joseph from Dallas held up a Bible and said, "How you answer this question will tell us everything we need to know about you. Do you believe every word of this book? Specifically, this book that I am holding in my hand, do you believe this book?" The question first went to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He seemed unsure of how to start, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who was ordained as a Baptist minister, quipped, "Do I need to help you out, Mayor, on this one?" Giuliani recovered quickly and offered the obvious answer: It's "the greatest book ever written....I read it frequently," some parts are "allegorical," some are "meant to be interpreted in a modern context."

Then came Romney's turn. "I believe," he said, "the Bible is the word of God, absolutely." CNN's Anderson Cooper reminded him of the question: "Does that mean you believe every word?" Romney stuttered: "You know--yes, I believe it's the word of God, the Bible is the word of God." He then repeated that answer twice and said, "I don't disagree with the Bible." In other words, he stumbled through a question about the Holy Book. When Huckabee fielded the question, he handled it, naturally, with natural aplomb: "As the only person here on the stage with a theology degree, there are parts of it I don't fully comprehend and understand, because the Bible is a revelation of an infinite god, and no finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their god is too small." For any social conservatives who care about a candidate's relation to the Bible, Huckabee had slammed Romney.

Later in the debate, Romney hit another bad spot in an exchange during which Senator John McCain shined. A college student from Seattle named Andrew offered this question: "Senator McCain has come out strongly against using waterboarding as an instrument of interrogation. My question for the rest of you is, considering that Mr. McCain is the only one with any firsthand knowledge on the subject, how can those of you sharing the stage with him disagree with his position?" Romney went first: "I do not believe that as a presidential candidate, it is wise for us to describe precisely what techniques we will use in interrogating people. I oppose torture. I would not be in favor of torture in any way, shape or form." It was a non-answer, and Cooper pressed him: "Is waterboarding torture?" Romney repeated himself: "I don't think it's wise for us to describe specifically which measures we would and would not use."

McCain moved in: