2008 - %3, May

Pity the Lobbyists

| Thu May 22, 2008 6:31 PM EDT

The Onion asks, "Are Politicians Failing Our Lobbyists?" H/T Sunlight.



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McCain Finally Renounces Hagee; What About Parsley?

| Thu May 22, 2008 4:09 PM EDT

John McCain today finally denounced and rejected the endorsement of fundamentalist Pastor John Hagee. It wasn't Hagee's comments on the Catholic Church "the great whore") or gays (God sent Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans as punishment for a gay pride parade) that went too far for McCain. It was Hagee's claim on a 1990s television show that Hitler was doing "God's work" during the Holocaust by setting in motion events that forced Jews to return to Israel.

Now what about Rod Parsley? This political ally of McCain has decried Islam as a "false religion" and says it's the historic mission of the United States to eradicate Islam. McCain has yet to reject the endorsement from Parsley, with whom he campaigned in February. It's tough to figure out McCain's moral universe. Attributing Hitler's mass-murder of Jews to God--that's a no-no. Calling for the destruction of an entire religion? So far, that's no reason for McCain to reject an endorsement.

UPDATE: After McCain rejected Hagee's endorsement, Hagee withdrew his endorsement of McCain. In other words, you can't fire me, I quit.

BTW, McCain is also finally releasing his medical records--after postponing doing so for a year. But he's making these records available for only three hours on a Friday before a holiday weekend--to guarantee less media coverage--and his campaign has sort of banned New York Times reporter Lawrence Altman, one of the leading medical reporters in journalism, from reviewing the records. Only a handful of media outfits selected by the campaign will be permitted to send reporters to a conference room in Phoenix to examine the records. And the Times was not chosen. None of the reporters will be allowed to make any copies of the records.

Downstream of the Tar Sands, Canada Launches a Comprehensive Review of Cancer Rates

| Thu May 22, 2008 3:45 PM EDT

Canadian health authorities announced today that they would launch a "comprehensive" review of cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan, a small town 70 miles downstream of Canada's massive tar sands mines. In 2006, local doctor John O'Connor reported unusually high rates of cancer and other diseases in the town, where many locals subsist on fish and wild game. A few months later, when authorities filed a complaint against O'Connor for "raising undue alarm," they kicked off an epic dispute between the government and industry on one side and O'Connor, locals, and environmentalists on the other.

At the heart of the debate is whether Canada can continue to mine the tar sands, which now serve as the single largest source of U.S. foreign oil, without destroying its environment and poisoning its citizens. The impact of the tar sands on global warming is clear, but the health concerns of Native American groups may ultimately do more to curtail the sands--the world's largest strip mines. In the weeks since Mother Jones published a comprehensive story on O'Connor's fight, environmental pressure on the government has mounted. In late April hundreds of ducks were poisoned in a tar sands tailings pond, prompting renewed protests and a government pledge to investigate. The latest move by health authorities shows that the environmental health threats of the Canadian tar sands remain, to say the least, a sticky issue.

Are Whites Taking Over Historically Black Colleges?

| Thu May 22, 2008 2:35 PM EDT

Morehouse, flagship of HBCUs and Dr. King's alma mater, graduated its first white valedictorian this year, Joshua Packwood. Homey, and he is officially that now, is a Rhodes Scholar who turned down an Ivy League scholarship for Atlanta and earned a perfect 4.0. Weird, huh? How did Stewart and Colbert miss this? I'd love to see Larry Wilmore 'interview' this guy.

ABC "Exclusive" On McCain and the Anti-Islam Pastor: Was MoJo Robbed? UPDATED

| Thu May 22, 2008 2:11 PM EDT

I'm glad that Good Morning America covered the connection between John McCain and Rod Parsley, the Ohio megachurch pastor who has said it is the United States' historic mission to see the "false religion" of Islam "destroyed."

But did ABC News' top investigative reporter, Brian Ross, have to swipe the story from us?

In the lead-in to piece, Diane Sawyer calls it an "exclusive Brian Ross investigation." Exclusive? How so? On March 12, Mother Jones first reported that Parsley, whom McCain had recently campaigned with and hailed as "a spiritual guide," had written a book in 2005, Silent No More, in which he essentially called for the eradication of Islam and branded the entire faith as a satanic conspiracy. The article noted that McCain had accepted Parsley's endorsement and explained that Parsley is a key political player in Ohio, where he has registered and driven to the polls tens of thousands of social conservative voters. Many websites and blogs linked to the article.

Following up on this piece, two weeks ago, Mother Jones and Brave New Films released a video which showed Parsley railing against Islam "as an anti-Christ religion that intends, through violence, to conquer the world" and basically calling for its destruction. The video juxtaposed Parsley's extreme anti-Islam rhetoric with video of McCain hailing Parsley at a February 26, 2006 campaign rally (the same rally featured in Ross' report). The footage of an excitable Parsley came from the DVD companion to his Silent No More book that is still sold by his World Harvest Church. It took me about six weeks to obtain the version of this DVD set that included Parsley's extreme anti-Islam remarks. One version of the DVD collection does not contain the disc covering Islam, and his church's store (which does not ship by first class or any overnight delivery service) was very, very slow in sending out the full collection that did.

McCain: Contradicting His Record on Gay Rights

| Thu May 22, 2008 1:45 PM EDT

John McCain is going on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" today to express moderate support for same-sex couples. He urges gay couples to enter "legal agreements" for the purposes of "insurance and other areas, decision that have to be made." You can see McCain's comments and Ellen's eloquence on the issue here:

Problem is, in 2006 McCain campaigned for Arizona Proposition 107 (video here), which, according to the proposition's website, sought to ban not only gay marriage and but also "giving recognition or benefits to marriage counterfeits, like 'civil unions' or 'domestic partnerships.'" That would suggest McCain's record doesn't match his words. Maybe his thinking has evolved in two years?

Hap tip to Cliff Schecter, who has more.

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Billions of Dollars Unaccounted For in Iraq, Pentagon IG Reports

| Thu May 22, 2008 1:45 PM EDT

379443006_cf0e6b4b8f.jpg

Want to see a signature worth $320 million? Click here. It belongs to Jack Gardner, an official with the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority, who in July 2003 authorized that amount to be transferred to the Iraqi Ministry of Finance for the payment of Iraqi salaries. There are no other records of the transfer, just Mr. Gardner's John Hancock. Now that's power.

The payment is but one example of the process by which U.S. dollars have disappeared without a trace into the confusion (and, yes, corruption) of Iraq reconstruction, confounding Pentagon auditors who are now trying to find out where all that money went... and what exactly, if anything, the U.S. got in return.

One such auditor is Mary L. Ugone, the Pentagon's deputy inspector general for audit. Her testimony this morning before Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-Calif.) Committee on Oversight and Government Reform coincided with the release of a new report from Pentagon's Office of Inspector General, which reviewed over 180,000 payments made by the Pentagon to contractors in Iraq, Kuwait, and Egypt, totaling approximately $8.2 billion. Of that, the Pentagon admits that it cannot properly account for how $7.8 billion—"a stunning 95% failure rate in following basic accounting standards," Waxman said in his opening statement.

What Are the Possible Florida/Michigan Outcomes?

| Thu May 22, 2008 1:14 PM EDT

By the way, if you want an explanation of how Clinton and Obama's delegate totals will change based on various Michigan and Florida solutions (the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee will resolve the situation in a meeting on May 31), see this post at the Demconwatch Blog. Moral of the story: Clinton may be placing monumental importance on seating Michigan and Florida, but doing so will not change the race.

But we knew that.

Axelrod: Okay, Fine. Just Take Michigan and Florida

| Thu May 22, 2008 11:39 AM EDT

Obama's top strategist seems aware that the Democrats can seat the Florida and Michigan delegations under almost any calculation and Obama will still have the lead in pledged delegates. From an upcoming NPR interview:

"We are open to comprise [sic]. We are willing to go more than half way. We're willing to work to make sure that we can achieve a compromise. And I guess the question is: is Senator Clinton's campaign willing to do the same?"
Axelrod continues: "Well, obviously, any compromise is going to involve some give, and that means if there's something on the table, we're willing to consider it. That may include us yielding more delegates than perhaps we would have, simply on the basis of the rules."

Now if you seat Florida and Michigan and Clinton does better than expected in the remaining primaries, including Puerto Rico, she may take the popular vote lead. The Clinton campaign will likely hammer that point while making its case to the superdelegates. It's probably worth pointing out that if popular vote was the key criteria in the race from the beginning, both campaigns would have run different races.

George H. W. Bush: "Personal Diplomacy Can Be Very Useful and Productive"

| Thu May 22, 2008 10:12 AM EDT

china-diary-bush.jpg One week ago, George Bush told the Israeli Knesset that those who would negotiate with "terrorists and radicals" are akin to appeasers of the Nazis. It was a clear jab at Barack Obama and his stated willingness to sit down with leaders of rogue states. John McCain later echoed Bush.

Forget the fact that Bush once offered to sit down with the president of Sudan, Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Forget that Israel is now negotiating with a rogue state, Syria. Forget that James Baker, a man John McCain once called "the smartest guy know," said in 2006 that negotiation isn't capitulation.

This may best all of those in the irony department. On the cover of a new book titled "The China Diary of George H. W. Bush: The Making of a Global President," edited by Jeffrey A. Engel, our 41st president is quoted as saying, "I was a big believer then, and still am, that personal diplomacy can be very useful and productive." That's not a quote from the diary, which covers Bush's time as the head of the United States Liaison Office in Beijing from 1974 to 1975. It's from a preface Bush penned specifically for this book.

In that preface, written in October 2007, Bush points approvingly to President Nixon's willingness, in 1972, to be "the first American leader to speak directly with his Chinese counterpart, Mao Zedong." The young Bush chose to go China, instead of London or Paris, in part because relations with China were still new. He could not formally be an ambassador because "we still did not have formal diplomatic relations with Beijing."

He cites the personal relationship he cultivated with Deng Xiaoping in the 1970s as an asset in his presidency. "I took some hits for not being tougher on the Chinese," he writes, "but my long history with Deng and the other leaders made it possible for us to work through the crises without derailing Sino-American relations, which would have been a disaster. I was a big believer then, and still am, that personal diplomacy can be very useful and productive." At no point in the preface does Bush object to establishing relations with a tyrannical regime. Presumably his son, and the current Republican presidential candidate, would disagree.