2007 - %3, February

A Soldier's Take on Cutting the Funding

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 1:54 PM EST

A DailyKos diarist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan weighs in on whether or not cutting funding for the war in Iraq will put the troops in danger. Very much worth a read.

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Romney Follows Papa McCain's Lead on Pandering

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 1:26 PM EST

CNN is reporting that Mitt Romney will give the commencement address at Pat Robertson's Regent University, just as John McCain, one of Romney's chief rivals for the 2008 Republican nomination, delivered the commencement address at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University last May.

First of all, how do all these guys get their own universities? Second, it's incredible how the religious right has these candidates on a leash. McCain's speech was part of a larger campaign to embrace the religious right, including forsaking his previously moderate views on Roe v. Wade; Romney's speech is part of a coordinated effort to fight his own moderate past and convince the right he is a true conservative, an effort that has included pulling a complete 180 on gay rights.

This is why I think Chuck Hagel has a chance to secure the Republican nomination: he is a conservative through and through with no weaknesses in his social record, and has bucked the party line on just two topics, the Iraq War and President Bush. He opposes both vehemently. Isn't that exactly what the polls indicate conservative voters want right now? The Republican nomination may end up depending on how well Chuck Hagel can make all of this apparent to the vast majority of American voters who have little idea who he is.

Evangelicals Protect The Planet, The Planet God Created

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 3:33 AM EST

Evangelicals have been green for some time, but lately it seems like they're going dark green. Deep green. Like a forest green. A Charleston green, even.

The Evangelical "What Would Jesus Drive?" green campaign of a few years ago has now paved the way for a new movement. An unprecedented group of Evangelical and scientific leaders just last month sent an urgent call to action to President Bush on behalf of "Creation Care," urging him to protect the environment and "defend life on earth." They are calling for a "fundamental change in values, lifestyles, and public policies" needed to address global warming and other environmental problems "before it is too late." Olympia Snowe and Barack Obama even jumped on board in support.

Richard Cizik, the pro-Bush vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, told the Inter Press Service News Agency:

"There are people in our community who don't yet accept the science of human-induced climate change and other environmental problems. What we're saying is, let's be in dialogue with the scientists who have the best information about these problems that we can come up with."

Climate change isn't the only turf Evangelicals have been walking on lately. Marcus R. Ross submitted a doctoral dissertation to the University of Rhode Island in December on the existence of mosasaurs, but was vocal about his status as a ''young earth creationist'' who, aside from his academic work, believes that the Bible is a literally true account of the creation of the universe, and that the earth is at most 10,000 years old.

The kicker of it all is that while 38% of Americans call themselves evangelical, only 9% actually agree with key evangelical beliefs. According to a study last year by the Barna Group, one out of every four self-identified evangelicals has not accepted Christ as their savior. Which means the third of our country who are evangelicals are a pretty diverse lot, and many of them are looking to do some saving of their own, all the better for a planet that can use all the help it can get.

—Gary Moskowitz

Still Fewer "Criminals" in the Army Than in Your Neighborhood Bar

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 3:19 AM EST

For years now, the Army has been stretching to keep its numbers up by compromising everything from enlistment standards to the quality of new recruits to the character of recruiters themselves. As Peter points out below, today's New York Times now warns us about the rash of waivers being given to incoming soldiers. Salon posted this snarky response under the headline "Need more recruits for Iraq? Take more criminals":

The good news: As the Times explains, "soldiers with criminal histories made up only" -- only! -- "11.7 percent of the Army recruits in 2006."

There are 52 million individuals in the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System criminal history database; that's about 17% of Americans who've been in trouble for some crime at some point in their lives. So the percentage of recruits with criminal histories, less than 12%, is lower than that of the general population with criminal histories.

Moreover, people with criminal records don't equal lifetime criminals; working at a bank two years ago doesn't make you a teller any more than having sold pot in college makes you a dealer. It's not enough that ex-cons face employment discrimination and legal restrictions on where they can live in some states. The public is, evidently, so opposed to letting them establish legitimate lives that we don't even want them doing it in a war zone six thousand miles away.

—Nicole McClelland

Twisters Create Emergency In New Orleans, Bush Responds With...You Guessed It--Nothing

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 12:06 AM EST

A tornado system with twisters up to 135 miles per hour ripped through three major New Orleans neighborhoods early Tuesday morning, killing one person, injuring a few dozen, and doing what is estimated to be $20 million worth of damage. Several houses that had been rebuilt or almost rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina were torn apart, as were many FEMA trailers. Schools were closed, highways were shut down, piles of rubble were everywhere, trees were uprooted, and thousands of people were left without electricity.

Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency yesterday afternoon, and asked the White House to do likewise. As of right now, late Wednesday night, the response from George W. Bush is that he will present the governor a timetable for when he will "consider" declaring the New Orleans area in a state of emergency.

If this sounds familiar, it should. The scenario lacks playful guitar strumming and a birthday cake at a desert resort, but it is all too similar to what happened in early September of 2005.

Bush declared an emergency within 24 hours of a tornado which recently struck Mississippi.

Army Lowers Recruiting Standards (Again)

| Wed Feb. 14, 2007 10:39 PM EST

army_recruit.jpg

From today's New York Times:

The number of waivers granted to Army recruits with criminal backgrounds has grown about 65 percent in the last three years, increasing to 8,129 in 2006 from 4,918 in 2003, Department of Defense records show.

It's actually a bigger story about the Army's change of standards regarding education, fitness, and criminal history (although not, of course, sexual orientation). For a helpful overview, check out Liz Gettelman's piece in the current issue of the magazine.

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Don't Quit Your Day Job, Fox News!

| Wed Feb. 14, 2007 8:23 PM EST

Looks like Fox News' version of the Daily Show is kicking off. And boy, if this clip is any hint, it really stinks. We're talking worse-than-the-last-half-hour-of-SNL bad. Check it out:

Al Qaeda Wants to Choke off U.S. Oil Supply

| Wed Feb. 14, 2007 8:13 PM EST

Al Qaeda called yesterday for attacks on U.S. oil suppliers worldwide, not just in the Middle East. The call came in the online newsletter of Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. (Yup, Al Qaeda has a website: Check out this nifty guide to jihad on the internet.)

The funny thing is, the new targets include Canada, Mexico and Venezuela. Can you imagine how psyched the Bushies would be to have Al Qaeda take out Hugo Chavez?

Poor Canada and Mexico are busy battening down the hatches, probably trying to figure out why, why this is happening to them.

For a handy-dandy reference on the role of oil in the U.S.'s battle with al Qaeda and the war in Iraq, go to the Mother Jones timeline, and click the oil tag.

State Farm Bails on Miss. Homeowners

| Wed Feb. 14, 2007 7:36 PM EST

State Farm announced today that it will stop writing new policies for homeowners in Mississippi. The action comes in the wake of $1.1 billion in payouts the company has made for Katrina-related lawsuits. The company's post-Katrina claim that water damage was not covered prompted even Trent Lott, notorious critic of frivolous lawsuits, to sue.

It's not global warming and the increasing risk of mega-hurricanes that has State Farm worried—insurance companies have been budgeting for environmental destruction for 30 years. Rather, State Farm's Mike Fernandez told the Washington Post, it's the "political and regulatory and legal environment" in the state. Lott always did call Mississippi "the center of jackpot justice." Too bad the state's residents will have to empty their wallets for pricier policies as a result of State Farm's action.

The Pure Products of America Go Crazy

| Wed Feb. 14, 2007 6:29 PM EST

Americans love their cars. A lot: We take 88 percent of all trips by car, pay high and unfair car insurance rates and tolerate 40,000 annual traffic-related deaths without flinching. Not to mention our parking woes.

Now with global warming hard and fast upon us and Democrats back in power, will the government take action to curb our enthusiasm for driving? Probably not, according to an article in the American Prospect.

Bush's proposed budget cuts funding for Amtrak and increases highway funding. The Democrats have requested a few additional pennies for railroads (remember mass transit?), but haven't said peep about the highway funding. Of course, the highway money could buy bike lanes, but it almost certainly won't. That's because improved mass transit has no one to lobby for it: The largest mass-transit lobby in the country has scarcely a dozen staffers. Meanwhile, big environmental groups tend to focus narrowly on saving land and species, failing to make a persuasive case against new roads or continued car emissions.

Americans' inability to rethink the car is what leads to dubious solutions like corn ethanol, which uses almost as much gas to produce as it replaces.