2008 - %3, March

Geraldine Ferraro: Obama Is Lucky to Be Black

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 12:32 AM EDT

ferraro-clinton.jpg Campaigns make people say crazy things. Here's Clinton surrogate Geraldine Ferraro:

If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.

Hat tip Kos, where DHinMI has some interesting thoughts:

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Prescription Drugs Are in our Drinking Water: What to do Now?

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 8:26 PM EDT

The biggest sex story of the day, besides the expensive sex life of the New York Governor, is the revelation that prescription drugs (including sex hormones) are in the drinking water of 41 million Americans. Forget Room 871's minibar. Maybe Spitzer got horny on tap water.

That drugs are in our water isn't new news, but the AP's five-month investigation will be sure to prompt a rush on Brittas and bottled snowmelt from the Alps. It will also probably lead to a reexamination of our wastewater treatment systems, including the policy of spreading sewage sludge on farmland--sort of the stealth turd in the swimming pool of water politics. Sludge, the black goop that comes out of sewage plants, contains drug residues that have the potential to be absorbed into plants and animals and run off into streams. So does the "purified" water that comes out of the same plants, but the sludge has gotten less attention as of late. Now almost forgotten is the high-ranking EPA scientist, David Lewis, who raised a stink over sludge a few years ago. The EPA fired him, though not before he exposed shortfalls in the EPA's science on sludge and some shady ties between government and industry.

For now, consumers will have to sort out how to deal with the drug-laced water problem on their own. In case you're wondering, one sure-fire water filtration method for removing pharmaceuticals from your tap is reverse osmosis. In arid Southern California, Orange County began operating a reverse osmosis system late last year that extracts drinking water from sewage (they call it "toilet to tap'). The superior cleanliness of this source relative to drinking water from lakes and rivers might have struck me as ironic--before Spitzer exploded my brain's irony synapse.

Bjork "Outburst" Inspires China to Crack Down on Foreign Artists

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 5:58 PM EDT

mojo-photo-bjork2.jpgThere has been a severe reaction from Chinese authorities after Icelandic singer Björk delved into a bit of a touchy subject for China during a concert in Shanghai. The singer ended her performance with the song "Declare Independence," and chanted "Tibet! Tibet!" as the song wound to a close with the lyrics "raise your flag." Subtle. The Chinese Ministry of Culture issued a somewhat petulant statement, saying "Some artist deliberately turned a commercial show into a political performance, which not only broke Chinese law but hurt Chinese audiences' feelings." No word on whether they stuck out their lower lips and kicked the ground a little. Good thing she didn't mention that their rivers are looking a little red lately.

Now Reuters is reporting that the Ministry of Culture may crack down on foreign performers speaking their minds in China, issuing this statement:

Will Spitzer Go To John School?

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 5:25 PM EDT

The details about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's prostitution scandal are still just trickling out—Fox News naturally jumped the gun and had him all but heading off to prison—but if the feds are really going to prosecute Spitzer for ordering up a $4,300 hooker, in all likelihood he would be subject to D.C. and not federal law. (Spitzer was in D.C. when he called the escort service, and unless he was doing something really stupid like using public money to pay the bill, his crime hardly reaches the level of a federal offense and would likely go to local prosecutors.) D.C.s' criminal penalties for prostitution are pretty mild for first-time offenders, as Spitzer would presumably be. He's unlikely to be facing jail time. What he might have to endure, though, is a day-trip to John School.

In D.C., men who get caught trying to pay for sex are frequently required to attend an 8-hour class known as John School, run through the U.S. Attorney's office, where they are schooled about the evils of prostitution, introduced to "survivors" of prostitution, and counseled by a psychologist about sexual addiction. Helpfully, they're also offered free STD testing from the Department of Health. Spitzer wouldn't be the first high-profile person to land in John School. Lots of local professional athletes have been through, including, most recently, Washington Wizards forward Andray Blatche. It wouldn't be fun, but it definitely beats the alternative, which could be a stint in the D.C. jail.

Samantha Power and the Poison Pen

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 5:06 PM EDT

(Samantha Power is a friend, so factor that in as your read.)

How weird is it that Peggy Noonan, of all people, argued for Samantha Power not to lose her job with the Obama campaign after she let the truth slip out? Ok, after she bellowed to the skies her anger and frustration at Senator Clinton. I'm all paranoid now, what with the Limbaugh-ites giggling about voting for Hillary so they won't have to face Barack in November, but the piece rings true. I think she actually means it.

Noonan's argument is:

Waxman Committee Urges Scrutiny of Blackwater's Employment Practices

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 4:44 PM EDT

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Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform are after Blackwater again, this time in relation to the private security firm's compliance with federal tax, small business, and labor laws. Blackwater's controversial practice of treating its employees as "independent contractors" first surfaced last October, shortly after company founder and CEO Erik Prince testified before Waxman's committee to account for a Blackwater team's involvement in an unauthorized shooting in a Baghdad traffic circle that killed 17 and wounded 24 others. Since then, Waxman's staff has been looking into the applicable federal laws and has apparently concluded that Blackwater may be in violation.

Today, Waxman sent letters to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao (.pdf), IRS Acting Commissioner Linda Stiff (.pdf), and Small Business Administration Administrator Steven Preston (.pdf), urging the officials to probe Blackwater's compliance with their respective agencies' rules and regulations.

More after the jump . . .

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Eliot Spitzer: Screwed

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 4:41 PM EDT

littlebird.jpg

Having sex with prostitutes is always a risky proposition for any public official. But when you've pissed off some of the richest and most powerful people in the world, paying for sex may be one of the more stupid things you could do. Jezus, Eliot, what the hell were you thinking?

In case you haven't heard yet, The New York Times reported this afternoon that New York's Governor Eliot Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet a high-priced prostitute at a Washington hotel last month. In a press conference that lasted nanoseconds—there were no questions taken—Spitzer admitted that he had violated "his obligation to his family," but he said nothing else about the news report and gave no hints on whether he intends to remain (that is, try to remain) in office.

Spitzer is so loathed on Wall Street and in the business community that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has devoted entire conferences to figuring out how to bring him down. Tom Donohue, the president of the Chamber, once accused Spitzer of using the "most egregious and unacceptable form of intimidation that we have seen in this country in modern time" in his investigation of Wall Street firms back in 2005, when Spitzer was the state's attorney general.

Business leaders despise Spitzer for his holier-than-thou press conferences in which he denounced them as slimeballs. Among his enemies: former chief of the New York Stock Exchange, Dick Grasso; the entire mutual fund industry; dirty power-plant owners; trillion-dollar banks. Spitzer went after all of them, with an aggressive use of state and some federal law that was derisively known as "Spitzerism." His election as New York's governor showed that he had the ability to win over upstate Republicans, a sign that he might have a future in national politics. And imagine the business world's horror at the possibility of a Spitzer-led U.S. Department of Justice, or worse, the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Meet David Paterson, the Next Governor of New York

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 4:03 PM EDT

patterson-nygov.jpg When David Paterson was elected Lieutenant Governor of New York in November 2006, he was overshadowed by his media darling of a boss, but he was a unique success story in his own right. Paterson is currently New York's first African-American Lieutenant Governor and is the nation's highest ranking visually-impaired elected official (Paterson is legally blind). On election night in '06, he reflected on the promise of the new administration. "Eliot and I have a vision for New York," he said. "I can't see it in my eyes, but I can feel it in my heart."

Now it will be up to him to institute that vision by himself. Not much has been made of Paterson's gubernatorial prospects in the past; reporting on television this afternoon suggested that Paterson, who is supporting Hillary Clinton for president, was weighing a run for Senate in the event of a vacancy coming open in New York on January 20, 2009. Paterson has one of the biggest challenges of his life ahead of him.

But Paterson has already been tested. In fact, he has made a lifetime of "firsts." He was elected to represent Harlem in the New York State Senate in 1985 and was elected minority leader in 2002, making him the first non-white legislative leader in New York's history. When he spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, he was the first legally blind person to ever do so. The son of the first non-white Secretary of State of New York, Paterson will become the first black Governor in New York history and the third black Governor in United States history if/when Eliot Spitzer resigns.

Note: An African-American named P.B.S. Pinchback served as acting governor of Louisiana for just over a month during the 1870s while the sitting governor of LA was being impeached. If you count Pinchback, Paterson will be the fourth Governor in U.S. history.

The NSA Is Monitoring... Everything

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 2:55 PM EDT

Excellent reporting from the WSJ on the NSA's scary domestic reach.

According to current and former intelligence officials, the spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records. The NSA receives this so-called "transactional" data from other agencies or private companies, and its sophisticated software programs analyze the various transactions for suspicious patterns. Then they spit out leads to be explored by counterterrorism programs across the U.S. government, such as the NSA's own Terrorist Surveillance Program, formed to intercept phone calls and emails between the U.S. and overseas without a judge's approval when a link to al Qaeda is suspected.

Read the whole thing. And you thought Total Information Awareness was dead.

Clinton Press Team Tries Again

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 1:49 PM EDT

clinton-clark250x200.jpg The Clinton press office trotted out a bunch of foreign policy types last week to criticize Samantha Power's statement on Barack Obama's Iraq plan, raising David's hackles. They tried again today, with General Wesley Clark, Lt. Gen. Joe Ballard, and Admiral/Congressman Joe Sestak.

All three men said that they trust Hillary Clinton's foreign policy judgment. Ballard repeatedly referred to the "courage of her convictions." They criticized Obama for campaigning on a plan for withdrawing from Iraq that, according to Power, is just a "best-case scenario" that will be revised when Obama takes office and speaks with advisers. Those advisers won't have a "magic plan," said Clark. "It really comes down to the resolve and conviction of the president." Ballard added that "[Clinton] has been unwavering in her commitment to withdrawal... When people vote [for her] they know what they're going to get."

I asked the military men on the call if they were criticizing Obama fairly. Wouldn't they want the president to speak to advisers, including military advisers like themselves, before executing a military maneuver such as a withdrawal?