2007 - %3, January

Sen. Allard (R-Co.) Not Running for Re-Election in 2008, Senate Gets Crazier

| Tue Jan. 16, 2007 2:22 PM EST

The Republicans' bid to reclaim the Senate in 2008 got harder Monday, when Colorado Senator Wayne Allard announced he will make good on a self-imposed term limit of twelve years and not seek reelection.

This is good news for Democrats, who have made recent gains in Colorado, winning the governor's office, two House districts and a Senate seat in the last four years. Further optimism comes from the presence of two strong potential candidates. From the Rocky Mountain News:

Rep. Mark Udall, of Eldorado Springs, has about $1.3 million in a congressional committee campaign fund that he could transfer to a Senate run, although he says he has not made a final decision.
Another Democrat, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, often is mentioned for statewide races. But he downplayed that talk on Monday, citing the need to continue working on city issues such as homelessness and Denver's role hosting the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Allard is described by allies as a "work horse" not a "show horse," with "down-home appeal" and an "affable" nature. He is an "underestimated" politician. Talking about damning with faint praise. I wonder what his critics say about him.

Oh, wait. TIME magazine, April 14, 2006. "The Five Worst Senators. Wayne Allard: The Invisible Man."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Obama to Form Exploratory Committee

| Tue Jan. 16, 2007 1:51 PM EST

Because it's our job to tell you these things, Barack Obama has posted a video on his website declaring his decision.... to form a presidential exploratory committee.

Obama says that what concerns him most about the current atmosphere in America is the "smallness of our politics." He continues, "Today, our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common-sense way. Politics has become so bitter and partisan and gummed up by money and influence that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions, and that's what we have to change."

To bring the field up to date, former VP candidate and senator from North Carolina John Edwards has declared his candidacy, as have Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. Senators Joe Biden of Delaware and Chris Dodd of Connecticut have also said they will seek the nomination.

Other Democrats mentioned as possible candidates include John Kerry, Al Gore, New Mexico Gov. and former ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson, retired Army General Wesley Clark, and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Oh, and Hillary.

Ohio Wal-Mart Refuses Couple's Request For Over-the-Counter Pregnancy Prevention Pill

| Tue Jan. 16, 2007 1:41 PM EST

For the past few years, American pharmacists, clearly in violation of their own code of ethics, have been refusing to fill prescriptions for reproductive health items. The result has led to inconvenience, and--in some cases--pregnancy.

Now, a pharmacist and store manager at a Wal-Mart in Columbus, Ohio have taken the battle a step farther, refusing to sell an over-the-counter product. Tashina Byrd and her partner went to a Wal-Mart to buy
Plan B, and the pharmacist behind the counter just "shook his head and laughed."

Plan B, though an over-the-counter drug, is still stocked behind the pharmacy counter because a prescription is needed for females under the age of eighteen. The Wal-Mart pharmacist said that "I do not believe in ending life, and life begins at conception." The store manager told the couple that "The pharmacist has the law on his side."

Byrd has contacted Ohio governor Ted Strickland, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Wal-Mart Watch about the incident.

34,452 Iraqi Civilians Killed in 2006, Three Times Previous Estimates

| Tue Jan. 16, 2007 9:39 AM EST

The U.N. envoy to Iraq has revealed that the correct number of Iraqi civilians killed in 2006 is 34,452.

The figure is nearly three times higher than calculations previously made on the basis of Iraqi interior ministry statistics for 2006.
Accurate figures are difficult to acquire, and previous UN estimates have been rejected outright by Baghdad.
Mr Magazzeni said his figures were compiled from data collected by the Health Ministry, hospitals, mortuaries and other agencies.

It should be no surprise that the Iraqi interior ministry apparently underreports civilian deaths in a substanial way -- after all, the Iraqi interior ministry has been accused of being one huge Shiite hit squad, responsible for much of the death ongoing in Baghdad, and they work for and are funded by the Americans, who have been revealed time and again to skew the Iraqi death count.

The Bush administration routinely has underreported the level of violence in Iraq in order to disguise its policy failings, the Iraq Study Group report said Wednesday.
On page 94 of its report, the Iraq Study Group found that there had been "significant under-reporting of the violence in Iraq." The reason, the group said, was because the tracking system was designed in a way that minimized the deaths of Iraqis.
"The standard for recording attacks acts a filter to keep events out of reports and databases," the report said. "A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn't hurt U.S. personnel doesn't count."

Mother Jones has reported on the Iraqi civilian death count multiple times. In mid 2006, Adam Shemper wrote about Iraq Body Count, the only nonprofit bothering to come up with a realistic guess as to how many civilian Iraqis have been killed in the war.

"It's a bit like the movie Groundhog Day," he said, his voice weary. "It just keeps repeating over and over and over. There might be new governments, new parliaments, new democracy in Iraq, but the violence just continues." Three years ago, Dardagan, now 45, quit his job teaching computing and dedicated his nights and weekends to sifting through reports from more than 150 news sources, from Fox News to Al Jazeera, trying to determine how many innocent Iraqis were dying in the American invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. By his most current count, more than 37,000 Iraqi civilians have died since March 2003.
This tally is updated daily on his website, Iraqbodycount.net, which Dardagan cofounded and runs with a team of 16 volunteers. The site, also known as IBC, has been the only consistent record of the war's human toll, making it the go-to source for reporters, activists, and even the Bush administration.
...
The Pentagon does keep a tally of Iraqi civilian casualties based on combat reports, but these figures are incomplete and are not immediately accessible. "We say the only reliable source is the Iraqi Ministry of Health," Major Todd Vician, a Pentagon spokesman, told Mother Jones. But the ministry stopped readily providing journalists with numbers in the summer of 2004 as civilian casualties started to rise, and it was recently accused of suppressing the numbers of victims executed by Shiite militias. There have been more than a dozen independent surveys of civilian casualties, including a 2004 report in The Lancet that concluded 100,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed, but IBC remains the most-cited source for casualty numbers.

Additionally, in 2005, Judith Coburn, writing for Tom Engelhardt, discussed the how, when, and why of body count reporting and underreporting.

MoJo Authors Whitty and Ehrenreich Speak!

| Tue Jan. 16, 2007 3:06 AM EST

If you live in San Fran, we have some great back-to-back events to alert you to. Contributing writer Julia Whitty—author of many of our great recent environmetal pieces (here, here, and here)—is speaking about global warming tipping points at the World Affairs Council on the evening of Tuesday the 17th (details here). And our long-time contributor/goddess, Barbara Ehrenreich, is speaking at the Commonwealth Club the next day and at the Herbst Theater on behalf of City Arts & Lectures that same evening.

L'Oreal Slips Through Golden Globe Swag Loophole?

| Tue Jan. 16, 2007 1:09 AM EST

Elizabeth reports below that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (known only for producing the Golden Globes) have, thanks to IRS pressure, eschewed handing out ridiculously lush goodie bags to celebrities earning multi millions at a ceremony designed to up their status and therefore their earnings.

Who's gonna tell Vanity Fair? In the January issue, the FanFair section (which seems designed to get its editors swag aplenty) reports:

The Kwiat Diamonds [their boldface] compact for L'Oreal Paris [ditto], valued at $10,000, will be included in all Golden Globe nominees gift bags. Kwiat's design was inspired by Old Hollywood glamour, complete with a "red carpet" ruby embedded in the clasp. A less expensive version in rhinestones, which benefits the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, is now available.

Ugh, especially love the treachly pinkwashing justification. L'Oreal, btw, is a regular advertiser in Vanity Fair and the sponsor of the Golden Globes — their once-a-break ads star folks like nine-time nominee, two-time winner Diane Keaton. Hey, now that's synergy! (And Heather Locklear, six [!!!] nominations, which is kinda all you gotta say about the Golden Globes.)

Here at Mother Jones, there's not nearly enough swag. Sometimes we get free Clif Bars. I thought for a moment that TerraPass had sent me some swag (free fluorescent lightbulbs!), but then I realized: it was my Mom.

(You can read about other perks of privilege here.)

Advertise on MotherJones.com

MLK Jr's Estate Charges Academics $50 Per Sentence to Reprint "I Have a Dream" Speech

| Mon Jan. 15, 2007 2:59 PM EST

That's one of the more outrageous examples of "Intellectual Property Run Amok" that I put together last year. (Source: McLeod, Kembrew. Freedom of Expression®: Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity, Doubleday: 2005.)

THE CLASSIC civil rights documentary Eyes on the Prize can't be aired or sold because much of its archival footage is copyrighted. (This has since been resolved, read letter to that effect here.)

AFTER ROSA PARKS sued OutKast for using her name as a song title, the group and their label settled by paying for a Parks tribute CD and TV special.

THE VILLAGE PEOPLE refused to let their songs be used for a documentary called Gay Sex in the '70s because they want to be thought of as "mainstream."

Not all the examples are related to Civil Rights, but they're all loony. Read the whole thing here. Sources here.

Dobson: "I Would Not Vote for John McCain Under Any Circumstances"

| Mon Jan. 15, 2007 2:56 PM EST

Bad news for John McCain. His very high profile attempts to make nice with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have not quieted the ire of James Dobson.

Dobson, who is not allowed to pass judgment on political candidates in his capacity as the head of a non-profit ministry, instead passes judgment as a private individual. Thus, we get sentences from a new article that include, "Speaking as a private individual, I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances," and "Well, let me say that I am not in the office. I'm in the little condo so I can speak for myself and not for Focus on the Family... [but] I pray that we won't get stuck with him."

Does Dobson know that as America's most prominent evangelical leader, his thinking on politics is respected and sought out by thousands, maybe millions, of evangelical Christians? Of course. Is it legal for him to do this sort of wink-wink political punditry? Kind of, yeah. We addressed all this and more in our 2005 special issue called "God and Country: Where the Christian Right is Leading Us."

This all has to do with John McCain's former support of gay unions and abortion rights, and statements during the 2000 campaign that the leaders of the religious right are bad for America. Not easily undone, it seems.

(Hat Tip, AMERICAblog)

Update: For Dobson's place in the evangelical universe, see this nifty spread.

Hagel and Lieberman: Just Switch Parties Already

| Mon Jan. 15, 2007 2:48 PM EST

The war in Iraq's unexpected consequence at home: the complete blurring of the line between Republicans and Democrats.

Gates Admits Purpose of Surge is to Scare Iran

| Mon Jan. 15, 2007 2:31 PM EST

The Guardian is on a roll today. In my last post, I mentioned that they sent a man behind the lines of the insurgency to give the public an honest look at what Sunni fighters are up to. Now they're carrying the story that the movement of 21,500 troops to Iraq and an aircraft carrier in the gulf are just chest-puffing intend for Iran.

The defence secretary, Robert Gates, told reporters that the decision to deploy a Patriot missile battalion and a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf in conjunction with a "surge" of troops in Iraq was designed to show Iran that the US was not "overcommitted" in Iraq.
...
The increasingly confrontational pose struck by the US is a repudiation of one of the key recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which called for the start of a dialogue with Iran and Syria in an effort to extricate the US from Iraq.

Analysis from Daily Kos:

It's all a game of chicken with Iran, you see, to show the U.S. is not overcommitted, that we're still the baddest ass superpower on the block. There's no talk in the story of anything resembling military strategy; it's the traditional show of force to get the bad guy to back off (with the emphasis on "show") -- and to "soften up" the American public for war with Iran.
Let's get this straight: President Bush lied just five days ago when he told the American public the troop escalation was devised to help secure a chaotic country and protect its civilians. Of course, many observers suspected as much. And military families will have the comfort of knowing their loved ones in service are in the line of fire, not for an achievable strategic goal but for show – or to provoke a military confrontation over a problem that the Iraq Study Group and most sane Middle East watchers advised should be solved diplomatically.