2006 - %3, November

The Infuriating Judy Miller

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 3:38 PM EST

What to do with former NY Times reporter Judy Miller? In a speech to Kansas State students, Miller made several commonsense points about secrecy in government. From the Topeka Capital-Journal:

[Miller] said the balance between national security and civil liberties has been tipped, allowing the Bush administration to become secretive about its decisions, intrusive into public lives and reluctant to share information the public has a right to know..."We are less free and less safe," she said.

Right on. But then there's this gem, which comes during a fret about weakening standards of journalism:

"I'm worried about bloggers," she said. "(A post) starts as a rumor and within 24 hours it's repeated as fact."

Let's talk about standards of journalism, shall we? Judy Miller repeatedly pushed questionable intelligence -- most of which turned out to be false -- on the front pages of the New York Times, influencing public debate on the question of whether or not to go to war. Because Miller was at best a careerist blinded by phenomenal access who simply didn't ask enough questions and at worst the knowing crony of a dishonest administration, the influences exerted on that debate were exactly the ones the Bush Administration, trying to make a case for an unsupportable war to an unconvinced public, wanted. Miller then went to jail, supposedly to protect the first amendment rights of journalists, while actually protecting the reputation and career of a crook of a source (but reliable for high-level leaks!) bent on destroying the reputation and career of a husband-wife team opposed to the administration's policies.

So, yeah, keeping fighting the good fight, Judy.

From the Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline, an example of Judy Miller's role in leading a nation to war.

December 20, 2001: New York Times reporter Judith Miller writes a front-page story for the paper titled "AN IRAQI DEFECTOR TELLS OF WORK ON AT LEAST 20 HIDDEN WEAPONS SITES." The source is a man delivered to Miller by Ahmed Chalabi. The man failed a CIA polygraph test before the article came out, and his claims were discredited by informed intelligence experts. The polygraph is not mentioned in Miller's story. "Government experts" call his information "reliable and significant."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Senate Global Warming Deniers Target Kids' Book

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 3:36 PM EST
tore.gif

The Senate Committe on Environment and Public Works, chaired by global warming-denier James Inhofe, is up in arms over a kids' book. The book, Tore and the Town on Thin Ice, was created by the U.N. to bring the depressing message of manmade climate change to young readers. The committee's resident children's book reviewer summarizes:

The book is about a young boy named Tore [rhymes with "Gore?"] who lives in an Arctic village. Tore loses a dog sled race because he crashes through the thinning ice allegedly caused by manmade greenhouse gas emissions. The book features colorful drawings and large text to appeal to young children.

After the boy loses the dog sled race, he is visited by "Sedna, the Mother of the Sea" in a dream. The "Sea Mother" Goddess informs Tore in blunt terms that the thinning ice that caused his loss in the dog sled race was due to manmade global warming.

"I'm the one who created and cares for the sea creatures—whales and walruses, seals and fish," the "Sea Mother" explains to Tore. The "Sea Mother" then tells the boy she will educate him about the reason the ice is thinning.

It concludes with this ominous anti-freedom message:

The book ends with a section answering the question "What can you do?" The book's answer includes such suggestions as "join or create an environmental club," "only drive cars if you must," and "write to your political leaders."

The book itself is actually pretty lame—embarassingly earnest and numbingly dull—but not because it gets the science wrong or sends the wrong message. (Check it out for yourself here [PDF].) If Inhofe and Co. want to pan it, fine. That they're using their remaining time heading a Senate committe going after a cheesy kids' book says a lot about just how much legitmacy the global warming "skeptics" have left.

Jack Murtha's K Street Connections

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 1:32 PM EST

Last week I brought up the cozy relationship House Majority Leader hopeful Steny Hoyer has sought to cultivate with K Street, but Jack Murtha, who incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi backed for the number two job on Sunday, has lobbyist ties that are worth mentioning as well. The Pennsylvania congressman is often hailed by Democrats for taking a principled stand against the President's stay-the-course policy in Iraq, though some political observers consider him to be among the least scrupulous members of Congress serving today. Among Murtha's critics is the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which listed him in its report "Beyond DeLay: The 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress (and five to watch)." (Murtha, for his part, is designated as one to watch.) CREW's report notes that Murtha's "ethics violations stem from abuse of his position as Ranking Member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee to benefit the lobbying firm of a former long-term staffer and clients of his brother, Robert 'Kit' Murtha, a registered lobbyist."

According to CREW, which decried Pelosi's endorsement in a press release yesterday, some of the beneficiaries of Murtha's powerful position have been clients of PMA Group, which lobbies on behalf of defense contractors and was founded by longtime Defense Appropriations subcommittee staffer Paul Magliocchetti, who worked with Murtha. "In the 2006 Defense appropriations bill, PMA clients received at least 60 earmarks at a total of $95.1 million," according to CREW's report. In turn, PMA and its clients have made generous campaign contributions to Murtha. "In the current campaign cycle, the PMA Group and 11 of the firm's clients rank in the top 20 contributors to Rep. Murtha, having made campaign contributions totaling $274,649.2 In the 2004 and 2002 cycles, PMA and nine of the firm's clients ranked in the top 20 contributors having made $236,7993 in contributions and $279,074, respectively."

Then there's Murtha's brother, Kit, who joined the lobbying firm KSA Consulting in 2002, reportedly at the invitation of a former Murtha staffer, Carmen Scialabba, who is a senior partner at the firm. According to the Los Angeles Times, which reported on Jack Murtha's shady ties to his brother's firm in 2005, Congress passed a defense appropriations bill in 2004, one that Murtha helped to author, that benefited at least 10 of KSA's clients. The firms, according to the Times, received $20.8 million in earmarks in the bill.

One of the clients, a small Arkansas maker of military vehicles, received $1.7 million, triple its total sales for 2004. Several other clients received money that represented more than half of their annual sales from last year.

KSA directly lobbied the congressman's office on behalf of seven companies that received money from the bill, records and interviews show. Among those clients, a firm based in Maryland received one of the larger individual awards, $4.2 million.

Steny Hoyer, the Maryland congressman, was once thought to be the front-runner for Majority Leader. No longer. Pelosi's endorsement levels the playing field and then some. "She will ensure that they [the Murtha camp] win. This is hard-ball politics," Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), a Murtha supporter, told The Hill. "We are entering an era where when the Speaker instructs you what to do, you do it." (We have a word for the new era that Rep. Moran is referring to. It's called a dictatorship.)

Since one of the issues that resounded with voters in Tuesday's election was congressional corruption, it seems unwise for the Dems to use their new mandate to go back to business as usual, installing a Majority Leader that has a questionable past of shilling for K Street and, in the case of both Murtha and Hoyer, a history of working against lobbying reform efforts. As the Democrats become the majority party in Congress after 12 years in the minority, they would do well to remember that, in 1994, when both houses of Congress fell to the GOP, it was rampant corruption that helped to end their long reign.

Word of the Year: Carbon Neutral

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 1:02 PM EST

OK, I know that's really two words. The folks at the New Oxford American Dictionary (think of them as the OED's much hipper cousins) have declared "carbon neutral" their word of the year. The definition, please:

Being carbon neutral involves calculating your total climate-damaging carbon emissions, reducing them where possible, and then balancing your remaining emissions, often by purchasing a carbon offset: paying to plant new trees or investing in "green" technologies such as solar and wind power.

While this term has been on the lips of the likes of Al Gore for a while, it hardly has the currency of last year's winner, "podcasting." Which makes this a significant choice. As NOAD editor Erin McKean explains:

"All the Oxford lexicographers look forward to choosing the Word of the Year. We know that people love fun, flashy words like truthiness or the latest Bushism, but we are always looking for a word that is both reflective of the events and concerns of the past year and also forward-looking: a word that we think will only become more used and more useful as time goes on."

"Carbon neutral" beat out another socially responsible contender, "CSA" (community sponsored agriculture), as well as "Islamofascism." And my favorite, "elbow bump".

Lie-berman Might Bolt to GOP

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 1:00 AM EST

We all saw this coming. After promising Connecticut that he'd vote with with the Democratic caucus if reelected, Say-it-Ain't-Joe is now saying that he might jump ship and vote with the GOP:

"I'm not ruling it out, but I hope I don't get to that point. And, and I must say, and with all respect to the Republicans who supported me in Connecticut, nobody ever said, 'We're doing this because we, we want you to switch over,' " he told Meet the Press' Tim Russert.

What might get him to change his tune?: If the Dems seek to enforce party discipline (heavens forbid!) or if the GOP offeres to keep him as a committee chairman and respect his seniority.

Lieberman added: "I am going to Washington beholden to no political group except the people of Connecticut and, of course, my conscience."

Great.

Iraq's Legal Killings

| Mon Nov. 13, 2006 9:06 PM EST

To the ever-lenthening list of violent ways in which Iraqi citizens are losing their lives, add "legitimate", government-sponsored executions. Dozens of Iraqis convicted of murder and kidnapping have been hung in the past year, and "two or three more batches of 14 or 15 each" are slated for the noose in coming months, Time magazine reports. Those are just the ones the government acknowledges; according to an aide to the Prime Minister, there have been several sets of off-the-record hangings as well. Well, we wanted to give them a democracy just like ours, didn't we?

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Norquist, Pt. 2: Why Sherwood Choked

| Mon Nov. 13, 2006 8:12 PM EST

Conservative wunderkind Grover Norquist continues to insist that the GOP can reclaim its former glory if it can get past its silly associations with endless war, incomptence, and hypocrisy. Last week, he said this meant doing away with pesky little matters like Bush and Iraq. Now, reports the Finanical Times, he's got some more wisdom for glum Republicans:

"Bob Sherwood's seat [in Pennsylvania] would have been overwhelmingly ours, if his mistress hadn't whined about being throttled," said Mr Norquist. Any lessons from the campaign? "Yes. The lesson should be, don't throttle mistresses."

Sherwood, of course, was the (married) Pennsylvania congressman who allegedly choked his girlfriend. Aside from that, he was the perfect candidate.

North Carolina Baptists Expected To Vote To Expel Gay-Friendly Churches

| Mon Nov. 13, 2006 7:55 PM EST

You would think, what with Ted Haggard's issues and many similar issues among the fundamentalist clergy, that the more conservative churches would back off on their oppression of people they do not like, but not so in North Carolina. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is expected to pass a measure tomorrow that would expel any church that "endorses" homosexuality.

The North Carolina convention is the second largest association of Baptist churches in the U.S. In 2003, it expelled a church for accepting two gay men as members and baptizing them, and it has expelled other churches, also. As of 2005, members of the Alliance of Baptists, which supports gay rights, have been barred from serving as trustees of Baptist organizations.

Says convention spokesman Norman Jameson, "We will not view favorably churches that allow that practice." "That practice," of course, is sex, which is the only part of gay relationships in which organizations such as the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina take any interest. About twenty churches will be under immediate investigation if the measure passes. If two people complain to the state conventino about a church, that church is likely to be expelled.

Not everyone is happy. Stephen Shoemaker, senior minister at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, said "We regret very much that the state convention is taking this exclusionary action." Richard Kremer, pastor of St. John's Baptist Church in the Elizabeth neighborhood of Charlotte, said the system will "encourage churches to tattle on others."

Giuliani Forms Exploratory Committee for '08 Presidential Run

| Mon Nov. 13, 2006 7:27 PM EST

Rudy Giuliani has taken the first step toward a presidential run, forming an exploratory committee just a few days after news leaked that John McCain is doing the same.

Interesting quote from the CNN story linked above: "A document from the New York Department of State says Giuliani made the initial filing Friday." What on earth does New York's Department of State have to do with this? And what exactly is the function of an exploratory committee, other than signaling interest in running for president to the national media? I smell an "Explainer" from Slate.

Rudy, by the way, may have been inspired by this recent poll, which identifies him, Condoleezza Rice, and McCain as the frontrunners, in that order. He won't be helped by some fairly idiotic campaigning he did before the 2006 midterms, in which Giuliani crassly invoked 9/11 in defense of the strongly anti-terrorist Rick Santorum.

Update: Quality background material on Giuliani and his presidential ambitions from Slate and In These Times.

TIME Clearly Not Part of the Liberal Media

| Mon Nov. 13, 2006 6:49 PM EST

Media Matters takes a look at TIME's covers from the 1994 Republican Revolution and 2006 Democratic tsunami. Judge for yourself:

 time_cover_1994.gif

 time_cover_2006.gif

I blame Joe "Does Anyone Still Think I'm a Democrat?" Klein.