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Finger-Pointing on the Right

| Tue Oct. 28, 2008 9:57 AM EDT

A quick tour through some morning headlines and columns that offer a glimpse into the right tearing into each other over who's to blame over everything from Palin's wardrobe expense to the Palin pick.

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen ridicules the conservative magazine writers who cruised up to Alaska and championed Sarah Palin. "Especially in the Weekly Standard, Palin was acclaimed as a tribune of the people. As for her critics, they were dismissed as 'liberal media' types who were not, like conservative editors and TV commentators, one with the people. [Weekly Standard editor Bill] Kristol hit this theme hard, having somehow absorbed Wal-Mart sensitivities while living most of his life in either New York or Washington where, as I can personally attest, real Americans are encountered only when summoned to carry out home repairs. ... It is the height of chutzpah, you betcha, for a coterie of ideologues to accuse Palin's critics of political snobbery. It is also somewhat sad for a movement once built on the power of ideas -- I am speaking now of neoconservatism -- to simply swoon for a pretty face and pheromone-powered charisma. But it is, I confess, just plain fun to see all these expense-account six-packers be so wrong."

From Politico's Mike Allen: "In convo with Playbook, a top McCain adviser one-ups the priceless 'diva' description, calling [Palin] 'a whack job.'"

Meantime, the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes and Kristol are reportedly blaming Palin's extravagant wardrobe expense on Nicole Wallace, the McCain staffer and former Bush White House official whose spouse heads a new anti Iran group. Is Standard blogger turned McCain campaign blogger Michael Goldfarb the Standard's campaign mole? whispering the secret skinny that Wallace is only a "real American" poseur who is responsible for defiling Palin's Joe Six-Pack image and Wal-Mart cred?

A shame to see these expense-account six-packers as Cohen calls them turn their wrath and whispered smear campaigns on each other with their usual humility.

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Mosul

| Tue Oct. 28, 2008 2:53 AM EDT

MOSUL....For years, Iraq observers have been warning about the ongoing tensions in Kirkuk between Sunni Arabs and ethnic Kurds. That tension is now in danger of exploding into outright war, but it turns out the initial flashpoint isn't Kirkuk after all. It's Mosul:

The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is squeezing out Kurdish units of the Iraqi Army from Mosul, sending the national police and army from Baghdad and trying to forge alliances with Sunni Arab hard-liners in the province, who have deep-seated feuds with the Kurdistan Regional Government led by Massoud Barzani.

...."It's the perfect storm against the old festering background," warned Brig. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, who oversees Nineveh and Kirkuk Provinces and the Kurdish region. Worry is so high that the American military has already settled on a policy that may set a precedent, as the United States slowly withdraws to allow Iraqis to settle their own problems. If the Kurds and Iraqi government forces fight, the American military will "step aside," General Thomas said, rather than "have United States servicemen get killed trying to play peacemaker."

I don't blame Thomas for taking this attitude. At the same time, if American troops aren't there to keep the peace, what are they there for?

More on U.S. Syria Raid

| Mon Oct. 27, 2008 11:56 PM EDT

Back in May, I reported that the US government was using stepped up channels to try to persuade Syria to turn over to Iraq a top alleged Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia figure, Abu Ghadiya, whose real name is Badran Turki Hishan Al Mazidih. A group assembled at the US government's request "concluded," I wrote, "'that the US needed to send a message requesting Damascus' assistance on Abu Ghadiyah. But it should not be seen by Damascus as an American message.' Ideas were floated to ask the Turks, or the French to play the intermediary. 'A request will be made to the Iraqis to ask the Syrians for Abu Ghadiya's extradition.'"

"It will be worth watching to see if Badran Al Mazidih one day finds himself pushed over the Syrian border into Iraq," my post concluded.

Apparently, that's not exactly how things went down. Tonight, the Washington Post and New York Times report that the figure targeted in the US raid in Syria this past weekend was indeed Abu Ghadiya, and that he was killed in the operation:

American officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the raid said the mission had been mounted rapidly over the weekend on orders from the Central Intelligence Agency when the location of the man suspected of leading an insurgent cell, an Iraqi known as Abu Ghadiya, was confirmed. About two dozen American commandos in specially equipped Black Hawk helicopters swooped into the village of Sukkariyah, near the Iraqi border, just before 5 p.m., and fought a brief gun battle with several militants, including Abu Ghadiya, the officials said.
It was unclear whether Abu Ghadiya died near his tent on the battlefield or after he was taken into American custody, one senior American official said.

Abu Ghadiya was reportedly one of four major Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia figures operating in Syria, including one Mazidih brother and two cousins, according to the Treasury Department.



Thoreau's Wildflowers Wilt In Warming Climate

| Mon Oct. 27, 2008 11:38 PM EDT

800px-Walden_Pond_1.jpg

The plants and flowers that Henry David Thoreau lovingly inventoried around Walden Pond 156 years ago are disappearing due to climate change. Researchers from Harvard and Boston Universities have tracked how warming temperatures have shifted the flowering times of 473 plant species in the woods at Walden Pond and elsewhere in Concord. Orchids, dogwoods, lilies, and many sunflower relatives are declining more swiftly than other species.

Climate-induced loss of plant diversity in Concord is alarming—especially since 60% of the area has been protected or underdeveloped since Thoreau's time. But rapid temperature changes have led to changes in the timing of seasonal activities. Since Thoreau's time, species now flower an average of seven days earlier—bad news for those dependent on pollinators, like bees, who have not responded in kind, or who are suffering population declines as well. The species in decline include anemones, buttercups, asters, campanulas, bluets, bladderworts, dogwoods, lilies, mints, orchids, roses, saxifrages, and violets.

Sounds like a poem, doesn't it? A poem falling silent. . . The mean temperature in the Concord area has risen 2.4 degrees Celsius over the past 100 years and is expected to climb between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees Celsius during the next 100 years. The paper is appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

The War Against Gore

| Mon Oct. 27, 2008 8:39 PM EDT

THE WAR AGAINST GORE....Today Bob Somerby finds yet another excuse to remind us all of how badly Al Gore was treated by the press during the 2000 campaign. And, as usual, he's pissed that the rest of us aren't as obsessed by this as he is:

To this day, our side has agreed to keep its traps shut about the trashing of the Clintons and Gore. As we've done so, we've given away a giant political advantage. Millions of people [] hear that the press corps just hates Big Republicans. And they rarely hear a peep from our side. We've agreed not to tell them the truth.

In large part, our side has kept its traps shut about the Clinton/Gore era for corrupt, careerist reasons....Kevin won't tell you. Josh won't tell you. Ezra spoke once, then shut the f*ck up. Your "nominal allies" are very quiet. Atrios rarely offers a peep.

First things first: Yes, Gore was indeed treated badly. He never said he invented the internet, he never said he discovered Love Canal, he wore pretty much the same clothes he'd always worn, he didn't hire Naomi Wolf to teach him how to be an alpha male, and he wasn't a serial liar. Etc. Bob is right about all that stuff.

But here's what I don't get: why does Bob think that liberals are giving away a "giant political advantage" by not harping on this constantly? Frankly, I'd be delighted to harp away if I actually thought this was one of the top 100 issues that might help the future of liberalism, but it's not, is it? Media criticism in general helps our side, but what exactly would it gain us to relate everything back to Al Gore's decade-old mistreatment with the Ahab-like intensity that Bob does? Wouldn't it just cause everyone to tune us out as cranks and fogeys? Anyone care to weigh in on this, on either side?

Stevens Guilty

| Mon Oct. 27, 2008 6:34 PM EDT

STEVENS GUILTY....Ted Stevens, whose defense against corruption charges was that he was just "borrowing" stuff from campaign donors, lost his case today:

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was convicted today of lying on financial disclosure forms to hide tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and renovations to his Alaska home that were financed mostly by a powerful business executive and his oil services company.

....Despite the guilty verdict, Stevens remains on the ballot in Alaska, where he is locked in a tight race with Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.

If he can pull off an upset victory, Stevens could remain in the Senate for months, if not longer, if he chose to appeal the verdict. Tradition allows him to exhaust his appeals before the ethics committee begins expulsion hearings, according to the Historical Office of the Senate.

A reader asks, "If Stevens is re-elected and the US Senate then kicks him out, can Palin then name herself to replace him?" I assume the answer is no, and I further assume that even if the answer is yes Palin wouldn't have the chutzpah to do it. But of course, those are my big city values talking, so I might be off base here.

In any case, I assume that Stevens is now considerably more likely to lose his seat next week, thus making this point moot. Any Alaskans care to weigh in on how this is going to play up in the Great White North Last Frontier?

UPDATE: False alarm. Sorry. After Frank Murkowski appointed his daughter Lisa to an open Senate seat in 2002, Alaskans approved a ballot initiative to change the law. An open Senate seat in Alaska is now filled via a special election.

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Ted Stevens Will Have One Fewer Vote Next Tuesday

| Mon Oct. 27, 2008 5:30 PM EDT

His own. Stevens won't be allowed to vote for his own reelection because dude is a felon as of half an hour ago.

The longest serving Republican in the Senate and a man many consider to be the most corrupt politician in Washington DC was found guilty earlier today of making false statements on his Senate financial disclosure forms. The seven felony counts could put Stevens behind bars for as many as 35 years, though that seems unlikely.

Alaska state law prohibits felons from voting until their time is served. (No word on whether Stevens will get to vote in the event he is sentenced to no jail time.) Stevens is currently neck and neck in his Senate race against Anchorage mayor Mark Begich. We'll soon see if Alaska is red enough that a Republican can win reelection despite being a convicted felon and despite being unable, by law, to support his own cause. More here.

Wright Happens

| Mon Oct. 27, 2008 5:13 PM EDT

The other shoe finally drops. A group called the National Republican Trust PAC is making a $2.5 million ad buy with the first Jeremiah Wright ad of the campaign. You have to wonder how this campaign would have been different if McCain hadn't chosen the Wright issue to make a stand (his only such stand, it seems) for dignity, respect, and positive campaigning. I can't be the only one who sees a far more difficult path for Obama if ads like the one below are playing regularly from August to November.

By the way, why was McCain willing to go whole hog on Ayers, but unwilling to even touch Wright? It makes no sense to me. As for this ad, it is damaging to Obama but almost certainly too little, too late.

Watching the Polls

| Mon Oct. 27, 2008 2:56 PM EDT

WATCHING THE POLLS....I sometimes feel a little guilty for not posting poll results more often, but I figure you hardly need me for that, do you? Still, we're down to the wire and it's worth seeing the big picture of public opinion as the race careens to its end. And the big picture is....no change. In the RCP poll of polls, Barack Obama is still way ahead of John McCain.

Obama and the Courts

| Mon Oct. 27, 2008 2:29 PM EDT

OBAMA AND THE COURTS....I see that Drudge is blaring a headline about how Barack Obama believes it's a tragedy that the Supreme Court hasn't confiscated all your money and given it to poor people. Turning on the TV, I see that Fox New is all over it too. So is John McCain. Clearly, the guy's a total socialist.

Except, you know, he's not. The whole thing is based on a distinctly academic radio panel Obama was part of seven years ago, and over at the Volokh Conspiracy even conservatives Orin Kerr and David Bernstein aren't buying this nonsense. After all, Obama specifically says in the interview that it's a mistake for liberals to rely too heavily on the courts, rather than on public opinion and the legislative process. And supporting a progressive income tax or equal funding for school districts is hardly a sign of incipient socialism.

I dunno. Maybe this stuff would have worked four years ago. But now? After eight years of stagnant middle class wages and an epic collapse of the world financial system? Not so much. Is this really the best McCain can do?

UPDATE: Meanwhile, in other "Obama is a secret radical" news, ABC's Brian Ross is busily trying to dragoon washed-up terrorist and noted Obama pal Bill Ayers into an interview as he tries to catch a cab. Enlightening stuff.