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Mitt Romney, You're No Jack Kennedy

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 6:32 PM EST

George Packer on why Mitt Romney's upcoming "Mormon speech" should not be compared to JFK's famous 1960 "Catholic speech":

Romney's intention is the exact opposite of Kennedy's. He's caught in a trap of his own and his party's making. Romney can't raise the shield of secularism, as Kennedy did, because he is seeking the nomination of a sectarian party that's built on a religious test. He can't stand on any principle at all, secular or religious; instead, he has to win over the Christianists, who make up a large part of the Republican base, even though he belongs to a faith that most of them consider un-Christian. His eternal truth will be: "Hey, we're not that different." He parades his large and perfect family, he reminds us of his spotless personal life, he is dismissive of the possibility of appointing a Muslim Cabinet member, all to immunize himself against the religious bigotry of the voters he's wooing. He's going to do the same thing on Thursday. So no more comparisons with Kennedy, please.

Read the rest here.

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Government Can't Get Its Story Straight On Iran NIE

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 6:23 PM EST

George Bush, yesterday:

DAVID GREGORY: When it came to Iran, you said in October, on October 17th, you warned about the prospect of World War III, when months before you made that statement, this intelligence about them suspending their weapons program back in '03 had already come to light to this administration. So can't you be accused of hyping this threat? And don't you worry that that undermines U.S. credibility?

THE PRESIDENT: ...I was made aware of the NIE last week. In August, I think it was Mike McConnell came in and said, we have some new information. He didn't tell me what the information was; he did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze...it wasn't until last week that I was briefed on the NIE that is now public.

National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley claimed much the same thing on Monday:

[W]hen the President was told that we had some additional information, he was basically told: stand down; needs to be evaluated; we'll come to you and tell you what we think it means. So this was basically -- as we said, this is information that came in the last few months, and the intelligence community spent a lot time to get on top of it.

As implausible as this seems, the Los Angeles Times reports that, according to "U.S. intelligence officials," Bush was telling the truth:

Party With Saddam

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 6:15 PM EST

Fishbone, a ska/funk/metal/rock band that formed in 1979 and has continued to tour and release albums ever since, has a song from their newest CD, Still Stuck in Your Throat, called "Party With Saddam" that is arguably the cheeriest, most hopeful, and most danceable song I've heard about the former Iraqi president.

The song is a standard ska romp, and it's catchy chorus goes like this: "We won't see the end / If we party till our colors blend / Party till Saddam's your friend / Never drop a bomb again / All right / We can break the chains / If we party like our blood's the same / Party till we lose our aim / Never shoot a gun again." The song was actually released in Europe in August '06, but after Saddam's death last December, the band has since been inviteded to talk about/perform the song (a crowd favorite) on radio stations. Here's one acoustic performance:

Fishbone's been around for decades (I've seen them live a dozen times), and despite having only two original members, they keep making socially-conscious, energetic, up-tempo music that most of their musical peers probably can't—or just don't want to—keep up with anymore.

Lefty Think Tank Sells Itself on eBay

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 6:02 PM EST

I've never even sold so much as a lamp on eBay, but the owners of a Bay Area think tank are taking the idea of peddling wares online to a whole new level: They're selling the whole damn tank. Their ad reads: "Own This Think Tank: BACVR for Sale on eBay - Perfect Holiday Gift for Political Junkies."

Allegedly the first to do so (eBay did not return my call or email), the Bay Area Center for Voting Research (BACVR) has garnered a few bids, one at approximately $5,100, according to co-founder Jason Alderman.

"You don't need to be an Ivy League professor or a former administration official to run a think tank. There's an enormous number of smart Americans out there that can do this, and this is a great way to solicit their help," Alderman told me at the end of last week.

Can Fringe Anti-Mormon Fundamentalists Bring Down Romney?

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 4:57 PM EST

Don't ask me why, but I'm on the email list of several extreme Christian fundamentalist groups. And lately I've received a couple of warnings from them: watch out for Mitt Romney. He's a Mormon.

On Thursday, Romney is scheduled to give (finally) what's being called his "Mormon Speech." Romney recently said, "I can tell you I'm not going to be talking so much about my faith as I am talking about the religious heritage of our country and the role in which it played in the founding of the nation and the role which I think religion should generally play today in our society."

No one really wants to hear Romney expound on the history of religion in the United States. The issue is whether he can persuade conservative conventional Christians that he, as a Mormon, is as good a Christian as they (and Mike Huckabee) are. Why is he delivering such a speech just weeks before the Iowa caucus? Obviously he and his advisers have decided he has no choice, especially with Huckabee, the former Baptist minister, surging in the polls in the Hawkeye State.

There are Christians who consider Mormonism a heretical cult, but there's no telling if the fundamentalists who are gunning for Romney will have any influence on GOP Iowa caucus-goers, a relatively small slice of Iowans dominated by social conservatives.

One outfit called Godvoters.org has put out an email decrying Romney.

Video of The View: "I Don't Think Anything Predated Christians"

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 3:43 PM EST

I don't want to make this "Poke Fun at Christians Who Say Silly Things" day at MoJoBlog (see here), but I just can't believe this went over the national airwaves.

"I don't think anything predated Christians... Jesus came first." Really, Sherri Shepherd? I ask this because you seem like a devout Christian woman: Have you read the Bible? Because there's this part called the Old Testament. Much, dare I say all, of it predates the part with the Christians.

They should have to issue a correction on tomorrow's show, just like a newspaper.

(H/T Ygelsias)

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Deck the Halls with LEDs

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 3:16 PM EST

led-Christmas.jpg

Tis' the season when Bill O'Reilly has been off and running since Thanksgiving, railing against all who dare to secularize Christmas. In the spirit of railing, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss Christmas waste, most notably energy waste. I like a sprightly Christmas tree just as much as O'Reilly (well, maybe not that much), but the energy it takes to light a Christmas tree each holiday season is enough to make you think twice about the tradition.

Robert Balzar at the public utility Seattle City Light estimates that a typical Christmas tree uses about 144 watts of incandescent lights. Let's say you light your tree for five hours a day for a month, that's 22 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy use. On the other hand if you light your tree with new LED lights, you will only use 2 kWhs of energy. Now, 22 kWhs is only 2 percent of the average household's per month electricity use, so admittedly, this doesn't seem like a big difference, but on a citywide scale things start to look more startling. The difference between using incandescent lights and LEDs for the estimated 300,000 Christmas trees in Seattle is as great as 6,540,000 kWhs and $400,000.

The word is already out to many large cities, including Washington D.C. and Boulder, CO, which have converted their city tree lights to LEDs. L.A.'s annual holiday light festival made the switch just this year, and yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg turned on the LED holiday lights at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

—Michelle Chandra

San Francisco GOP Dukes It Out With Paulites

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 2:40 PM EST

The San Francisco Republican Alliance (yes, there are Republicans here) fended off a throng of Ron Paul supporters that threatened to overwhelm its annual pre-election banquet last night at Fisherman's Wharf. The dinner was to be followed by a straw poll, but Alliance leader Gail Neira canceled it after the Paulites showed up in droves. Paul supporters are known for swarming and being locked out of online straw polls, but this may be the first time they've shut down a poll in the meatspace. The pandemonium that ensured, captured on video below, looks like a scene from a Democratic tea party in 1969:

Though Paul supporters may not always be polite (or racially sensitive), they're clearly shaking up the GOP with the kind of energy bordering on fanaticism that is normally associated with the acolytes of left-wing revolutionarios. Among their latest exploits: a Ron-Paul-branded version of Google (RonPoogle), a Bands4RonPaul Myspace page devoted to Paul fight songs (there are 16), and efforts to conscript 40,000 donors to build a nuclear version of the Ron Paul Money Bomb by agreeing to generate $1,000,000 a week. Wonkette calls them Paultards, but I prefer the term embraced by the Weekly Standard: Ronulans.

Huckabee: God Responsible for My Rise in Polls

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 12:59 PM EST

There is so much about Christian evangelicals that coastal liberals don't understand. Like how a man of obvious intelligence can attribute his rise in the polls to mass prayer and God's will.

Huckabee backtracked slightly after this appearance, adding, "I'm saying that when people pray, things happen.... I'm not saying that God wants me to be elected."

Huckabee, who is taking first and second in national polls of the Republican race nowadays, told GQ recently that it isn't fair that he gets so much scrutiny for his faith while the other candidates don't. He can't make those complaints with a straight face if he's going to go around saying stuff like this.

America needs to decide if they are ready for a president who literally sees God in the details. Doesn't the idea of getting God to do what you want through prayer contradict the very idea of being a governor or president? Because you wouldn't need to pass and sign laws to get things done if God can really create new realities if you ask for them.

And speaking of, I'm willing to be bet an awful lot of people (more than those who are praying for Huckabee's rise) have been praying for Roe v. Wade to be overturned. Weird how that hasn't happened.

California AG Petitions EPA to Curb Airplane Emissions

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 12:32 PM EST

According to the EPA, airplanes contribute 12 percent of transportation greenhouse gases, but they disproportionately harm the atmosphere by leaving heat-trapping contrails and cirrus clouds. So California Attorney General Jerry Brown deserves kudos today for petitioning the EPA to start imposing tough limits on plane emissions within six months. Lighter, more fuel efficient jumbo jets are already on the market, and there's no reason why the government shouldn't encourage their use by setting standards.

The move is another green feather in the cap for Brown, who has already sued the Bush Administration to allow the state to regulate tailpipe emissions, the auto industry over damages caused by global warming, and California counties to force them to reduce suburban sprawl and greenhouse gas emissions--using state laws already on the books. In recent polls Brown has topped all other Democrats as the most popular candidate for Governor in 2010. It's harder to think of a bigger public endorsement for backing up green rhetoric with action.