Giuliani Meltdown?

giuliani.jpgIf things weren't bad enough for Rudy Giuliani, he just accepted the endorsement of radical conservative Steve Forbes. In accepting the endorsement, Giuliani even touted Forbes' signature idea, the flat tax he had called a "mistake" and a "disaster" in 1996 when Forbes was running for president. Of the income tax—one of just a few progressive taxes in the United States, a country in which the rich/poor gap is greater than at any time since 1928—Giuliani said: "Maybe I'd suggest not doing it at all, but if we were going to do it, a flat tax would make a lot of sense." Wingnut alert, y'all!

Today's New York Times also reports that Giuliani was briefed on Bernard Kerik's ties to a company with ties to organized crime before he appointed Kerik as police commissioner. Giuliani would go on to support Kerik's nomination for secretary of homeland security. Giuliani claims not to remember the briefing, but hasn't denied it happened.

The charges against Kerik are significant not just because he was ascending towards the nation's top law enforcement positions, but also because he pleaded guilty last summer to letting the "connected" company, Interstate Industrial Corporation, do $165,000 worth of unpaid renovations to his apartment just before Giuliani appointed him. The problem for Giuliani gets a little stickier, too, when you factor in that the ex-mayor's private company does background checks for businesses.

John McCain better respond to this, and fast.

Headline: "Democrats say McCain nearly abandoned GOP"

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was close to leaving the Republican Party in 2001, weeks before then-Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) famously announced his decision to become an Independent, according to former Democratic lawmakers who say they were involved in the discussions.
In interviews with The Hill this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain's chief political strategist.

The strongest allegations come from Daschle...

Daschle said that throughout April and May of 2001, he and McCain "had meetings and conversations on the floor and in his office, I think in mine as well, about how we would do it, what the conditions would be. We talked about committees and his seniority … [A lot of issues] were on the table."

But the story gets murky as it goes on.

Daschle stressed that McCain never considered becoming a Democrat, but was close to becoming an Independent.

And the strongest denial comes from McCain...

McCain said, "As I said in 2001, I never considered leaving the Republican Party, period."

As you notice at the bottom of this post from The Carpetbagger Report, Republican bloggers are up in arms. "If it's true, he's finished," says one. And rightfully so: would you vote for someone for the Democratic nomination if you knew only six years ago they considered becoming an Independent or a Republican? Or course not.

We've hammered John McCain pretty hard in this space for his recent flip-flops, but I've always suspected that John McCain is a fundamentally good human being, one who could be trusted not to suspend habeas corpus for prisoners of war, expose a CIA agent's identity, or let factions of the executive branch manufacture a case for war and then force feed it to the American public. He had a maturity and sense of perspective that George Bush lacked; he wasn't driven by his narrow faith on social issues; he rejected party-line thinking when he felt it was right. I think he lost his way the last few years and submitted to weakness -- he felt he had to backtrack on some of the things he said and did in order to be president, which he clearly wants more than anything. His support for the war, in 2002 and today, I can't excuse -- but I will say that if we are going to have warmonger in office, it might as well be one who knows the peril of battle.

While I obviously want a strong progressive elected in 2008, I've always felt that I could trust John McCain with the presidency -- the country would be in decent, if not ideologically correct, hands. You can define "decent" in several ways, all of them, I think, apt.

Maybe I'm just inclined to eulogize him because if these allegations are true, it's funeral time for John McCain. I'll say this, and I expect to get savaged for it: too bad.

Yesterday I wrote about King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia's statement that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is "illegal." Thankfully, the Bush Administration is responding with sensitivity and a deft touch, seeking out our ruffled ally and finding out exactly what irks him. We've decided that as yet another friend turns his back on our foreign policy, it is high time to look in the mirror and question whether we're on the right path.

Wait, that's not what's happening at all.

"It is not accurate to say that the United States is occupying Iraq," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Oh. Well, then. That'll sort things out. Carry on with the apocalypse.

Elouise Cobell and two other Native American leaders today urged the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to reject a Bush administration proposal to resolve a number of Indian disputes. Some of these disputes have little to do with the long-running lawsuit over the government's admitted mismanagement of the Individual Indian Trust, according to IndianTrust.com. The story was covered in Mother Jones' "Accounting Coup."

Calling the administration's proposal "a slap in the face of every Indian Trust beneficiary," Cobell outline an alternative course that could lead to settlement of the class-action lawsuit she and other Native Americans filed 11 years ago. She also produced a real-life example of the harm the trust problems continue to create for Native Americans--James Kennerly Jr., a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, should be a millionaire. But because the government lost records of the oil leases on his father's lands, Kennerly has been forced into a life of poverty, receiving only $70 a month from lands that continue to pump oil, and that once paid more than $1,000 a month, according an Interior report. What happened? Interior officials can't say. Lease records for the lands have disappeared.

Cobell was joined in her testimony by John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund of Boulder, Colo., and William Martin, vice chairman of the InterTribal Monitoring Association of Albuquerque, N.M. Both denounced the government's efforts to lump settlement of the Cobell case with the settlement of more than 100 separate lawsuits that tribes have filed over the government's mismanagement of their tribal trust accounts.

Committee Chairman Bryon Dorgan, D-N.D, agreed that the government was reaching too far with that proposal. He promised to continue to press efforts for a resolution of the Cobell lawsuit, which affects about 500,000 Indian Trust beneficiaries. Cobell called the $7 billion the administration proposed to settle her lawsuit along with those of the tribes and other issues "an insult, plain and simple." Just last year the Indian Affairs Committee released a proposal that would have called for an $8 billion settlement of the Cobell case alone.--Julia Whitty

Word to Dems: Don't Count Your Chickens

I was born in 1971, and the first president I remember is Jimmy Carter. I "campaigned" for his re-election in 1980, and at such a tender young age I learned that my candidate would nearly always lose. Twelve years of Republican rule molded my young mind into believing that it was impossible for Democrats to win. I was stunned when Clinton won in 1992, and flat out didn't believe the polls that said Clinton was trouncing Dole before the 1996 election.

Nowadays, Democrats seem to have the opposite problem. They are dancing on the graves of folks like Karl Rove (who, by the way, can't dance) and Bush 43. A word of advice from a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist: Not so fast.

Although conservatives are seriously unhappy with their stable of candidates, their people are still dogging the Dems in imagined head-to-heads. In a recent TIME poll, Hillary Clinton loses to John McCain, 42%-48%, and to Rudy Giuliani 41%-50%. Even though Dems favor Clinton over Obama, he fares better than Clinton does against Republicans. TIME has Obama losing by a hair to either McCain or Giuliani. (This despite Firefighter-gate! Astounding!)

TIME attributes the surprising (though not to this hardened loser) results to the fact that the voters shedding their loyalty to the Republican Party don't think of McCain or Giuliani as, you know, Republicans. (I wonder how they feel about that? It's like having your white friends tell you that you're the special black guy! You're OK!)

On the other hand, it may be that Clinton, whom voters know and, err, love, has reached her maximum percentage potential, but that Obama and Edwards still have room to win over additional voters.

Burger King Finally Gives PETA an Inch

Burger King has just announced an initiative to purchase 2% cage-free eggs and 10% of its pork from farms that allow sows "some room to move around." As far as its Canadian and American suppliers are concerned, anyway. In Asia, anything still goes.

Nevertheless, the policy leaves the chain way behind other reduced-cruelty crusaders like Wolfgang Puck and Chipotle. One reason for the slow start is the higher price of humanely-raised meat, which the company is currently negotiating so its menu prices won't change (read: BK is going all Wal-Mart on its suppliers and demanding lower prices, because it certainly wouldn't want to keep the Hamlette Sandwich cheap by diverting money away from video games or an ad campaign featuring the world's creepiest mascot).

An industry VP says that an increase in mindful consumers will require more companies to jump on the bandwagon – that's right, this guy actually calls "social responsibility and social consciousness" a "bandwagon." There are 285 million egg-laying hens and 63 million pigs in factory farms in the U.S., a country in which 9 billion chickens are raised and killed for meat annually. Keep an eye on that bandwagon, which, if it gets big enough, could cause changes of revolutionary proportions when industry giants may not be able to strong-arm farmers into selling their quality goods for less, and companies and consumers alike will finally have to admit that there's not enough room on the planet to give the meat we eat "free-range."

—Nicole McClelland

Security Surge Fails in its Strong Suit

I blogged last Friday about TIME's optimistic assessment of the surge-backed security crackdown in Baghdad (for which General Petraeus was a major source). I was skeptical. But one new tactic even I had to admit was a good idea—if a tad slow in coming—was Operation Safe Markets, where the military uses concrete barriers to prevent cars, and car bombs, from getting close to the crowds markets draw.

Today, a car bomb killed 61 people at a market in the Shaab neighborhood of Baghdad, and 40 were injured. Simultaneously, a car bomb killed 43 and wounded 86 in the predominantly Shiite town of Khalis, north of Baghdad. The Shaab neighborhood is one of the crackdown's key areas.

Convinced yet? Don't just take my word for it. Those who have warned the surge won't work include Colin Powell, the Iraq Study Group, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Petraeus's sacked predecessor, General Abizaid.

Tensions Mounting Between U.K. and Iran

Iran has reneged on its pledge to release the female soldier seized among 15 Britons the nation accused of entering its territorial waters during a sea patrol. Things are a bit hairier than a simple territorial dispute, however. Britain asked the U.N. to issue a press release "deplor[ing]" the marines' capture (how British is that?). In response to that action, Iran reneged on its promise to release Leading Seaman Faye Turney. Iran has now released a letter written by Turney, asking the U.K. to begin removing its troops from Iraq. Blair has called the soldiers' release the "only outcome" to the crisis, and suggests he will "step up the pressure." But Iran doesn't respond well to pressure, so this conflict has the potential to turn into something big.

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I love it: The conservative National Review is planning a cruise to Alaska. Of course, plenty of magazines do fundraising cruises -- but not a lot of them take a boatload of global warming deniers to Alaska, where glaciers are becoming puddles due to climate change.

Speakers on the cruise include William Rusher, who calls global warming the "Big Daddy of all...scare stories," Jonah Goldberg, who says the campaign against climate change a is "half-baked environmental jihad that could waste possibly trillions of dollars," and Robert Bork, who sided with the Bush administration in last year's Supreme Court showdown on global warming.

The cruise's first destination? Glacier Bay -- where glaciers are very visibly on the retreat (check out the photo above, and this NASA video.) I'd love to be a fly on the wall during that stop.


The Unsinkable John Lott vs. "Freaky" Economics

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The world of economics is predictably unpredictable; we know that markets will ebb and flow, but not when or often why. So too it goes with John Lott, the undefatigable conservative economist who is guaranteed to pop up in some new controversy of his own creation every so often. What keeps him going—and why places like AEI embrace him—remains a mystery. Lott is most infamous for his claims that crime rates are inversely proportional to rates of gun ownership; or as his book title put it, More Guns, Less Crime. Small problem: His research is far from bulletproof, and he's been repeatedly exposed and denounced for what could be charitably called sloppy research. In his defense, Lott has blamed "coding errors," claimed that some of his data have been destroyed, and in his finest moment, created a fictitious online identity to take on his critics. But none of this has slowed him down. For a good rundown of Lott's sins, see Chris Mooney's 2003 piece on our website, which shot some more holes into his work. More recently, Lott sued the Freakonomics guys for defamation after they wrote that he had "falsified his results." A judge threw part of his case out. Now Lott's firing back with a new book, Freedomnomics, a defense of the free market against "freaky theories," printed by renowned academic publisher Regnery. Fact checkers, statisticians, and economists, start your BS detectors...