Blogs

Why Clinton Says She's In

| Wed May 14, 2008 12:20 PM EDT

We're running a long blog post today titled "Is Clinton Staying In To Say, 'I Told You So'?" None other than Hillary Clinton has taken a stab at answering. Not surprisingly, her answer is no.

In an email to supporters titled "Why I'm In," Clinton says:

...let me tell you why I'm still running.
I'm in this race for everyone who needs a champion. For the hardworking families who are losing sleep over gas prices and grocery costs and mortgage payments and medical bills -- but who never lose that American can-do spirit and optimism.
I'm in this race for the more than 16 million people like you who have supported me -- for the people who have put their hearts into winning this race. You never gave up on me, and I'll never give up on you.

Then there's a fundraising pitch, then...

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Smart Car Puts Detroit to Shame

| Wed May 14, 2008 11:58 AM EDT

800px-Smart_car.jpg
For years, Detroit automakers have claimed that they couldn't make cars that get better mileage because those cars just wouldn't be safe. And for some reason, people believed them. But here comes the Smart car, the tiny two-person vehicle made by--who else--Germans, which not only gets 33 mpg in the city and 41 on the highway but this week passed new crash tests with flying colors. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports today that the 2008 Smart fortwo won the institute's highest rating for side and front impact tests. The car had already aced government safety testing as well. The car, unlike, say, the Hummer, is selling like hotcakes. Maybe its arrival will finally put rest to the Big Three lies that safe cars can't be fuel efficient.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

About That "Dems Must Win West Virginia" Argument...

| Wed May 14, 2008 11:18 AM EDT

Hillary Clinton has been hammering the point that "no Democrat has won the White House without winning West Virginia since 1916."

No Democrat has won the White House without winning Minnesota since 1912. Obama won Minnesota by 34 points.

Is Clinton Staying In To Say, "I Told You So"?

| Wed May 14, 2008 2:15 AM EDT

hillary-clinton-told-you-so-250x200.jpg

Why is Hillary Clinton still in the race?

Ever since she failed to cream Barack Obama in Indiana, pundits and analysts have been chewing this over--and now that the West Virginia primary is done, even though she won by a more than two-to-one margin, the question still hovers. After all, Obama has racked up an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates and has pulled ahead in the superdelegate count, meaning the race is essentially complete. Clinton and her campaign advisers have argued that she can still win the nomination if she does well in the last few primaries and then persuades superdelegates she is the better candidate to do battle with John McCain. But the superdelegates don't seem receptive to her case. And the fact that she has throttled back on the anti-Obama rhetoric in recent days--she barely criticized him in her not-so-jubilant West Virginia victory speech--is a signal that she may not believe her own spin and is merely halfheartedly trudging toward the last primaries (Montana and South Dakota) on June 3.

Yet there she is--an active and hard-working candidate. And the commentators have come up with several obvious explanations:

* She wants to remain in the hunt just in case something happens. (A video appears of Wright calling for armed revolution? Fox News produces Obama's Secret Muslim Membership card?)

* She is staying in for one last round of fundraising. (Her campaign is $20 million in debt and owes her $11 million.)

* She wants to end her historic campaign with a string of victories: West Virginia, Kentucky, and Puerto Rico. (Puerto Rico? She is a senator from New York.)

* And the most obvious of them all: she's not yet ready to face the music.

No doubt, a combo of these rationales is fueling Clinton's impossible ride. But let me add one more to the mix: Clinton is setting up the biggest I-told-you-so in recent American political history.

Primary Sources: The WWII Ration Book

| Tue May 13, 2008 7:29 PM EDT

rationing_token_holder2.jpg

Our current issue on energy includes a timeline of energy milestones from 1748 to the present. In researching the tale of our energy use, I came across this website, an archival treasure trove of rationing during World War II. Most basic goods were rationed during the war, and the government and media launched a propaganda campaign to rally Americans to this patriotic cause. Rationed items included tires, cars, bicycles, gasoline, fuel oil and kerosene, solid fuels, stoves, rubber footwear, shoes, sugar, coffee, processed foods, meats, canned fish, cheese, canned milk, fats, and typewriters.

ration_poster.jpg1946_nylons.jpg

Most of us have made no such sacrifices for the war in Iraq, but we may have to for other reasons: Our energy future will be defined by limited supply of once-unlimited commodities, and already some cities here in the Bay Area are preparing to ration water due to low reserves. As alien as the idea seems, we might do well to revisit those patriotic sacrifices after all.

—Casey Miner

Record Opium Crop Funding Resurgent Taliban

| Tue May 13, 2008 5:58 PM EDT

2167828533_0cd4dd945a.jpg

Going on seven years since U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan and sent the Taliban running, opium production in that country—the primary source of funding for Islamist fighters—has grown beyond anyone's imagination. During its reign, the Taliban regulated the heroin trade, strictly enforcing production quotas and making certain that they got a cut of every ounce sold. Oddly enough, the existence of a narco-state kept the size of the crop under control, relatively speaking. Now that the bearded clerics are gone (at least temporarily), market forces have taken over and poppy cultivation has exploded.

According to a report released today by the National Security Network (NSN), Afghanistan's poppy crop, in terms of the acreage of land used for its cultivation, goes beyond anything Colombia's cocaine kings would dare to dream. It's the country's largest export, worth more than $4 billion per year and employing some 3.3 million Afghans. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that last year's harvest was of "unprecedented size in modern times and unseen since the opium boom in China during the nineteenth century." So much for the War on Drugs.

An excerpt from the NSN report:

In plain view of the United States and the international community, the opium trade is overwhelming Afghanistan's legitimate government. The facts are stunning: in 2001, after a Taliban ban on poppy cultivation, Afghanistan only produced 11 percent of the world's opium. Today it produces 93 percent of the global crop; the drug trade accounts for half of its GDP; and nearly one in seven Afghans is involved in the opium trade. In Afghanistan, more land is being used for poppy cultivation than for coca cultivation in all of Latin America. The trade strengthens the government's enemies and – unless its large place in the Afghan economy is permanently curtailed by crop replacements and anti-poverty efforts – poses a potentially fatal obstacle to keeping the country stable and peaceful.
Afghanistan is caught in a vicious cycle. The fall of the Taliban brought the end of their highly coercive crop reduction program. A combination of U.S. inattention and widespread insecurity and poverty allowed poppy cultivation to explode. As the opium economy expanded, it spread corruption and empowered anti-government forces, undermining the Afghan state, leading to more poverty and instability, which in turn only served to further entrench the drug trade. Meanwhile the illicit activity has been a boon to the Taliban insurgency, which has traditionally used poppy cultivation as a lever to improve its own position. Today, the Taliban relies on opium revenues to purchase weapons, train its members, and buy support.


Photo used under a Creative Commons license from laughlin.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Adelson Questioned by Israeli Detectives As Part of Olmert Bribery Probe

| Tue May 13, 2008 4:12 PM EDT

Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson was questioned today by Israeli fraud squad detectives in connection with their fast moving probe of possibly illegal payments from an American businessman to Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reports:

Fraud squad detectives on Tuesday questioned American real estate mogul Sheldon Adelson in connection to the new corruption investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Adelson, 73, earned his fortune developing huge hotel, convention and gambling properties in Las Vegas and, recently, in China.
The billionaire was asked whether Olmert had requested he acquire for his hotels mini-bars marketed the key witness in the probe, American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky, from whom the prime minister is suspected of illicitly accepting large sums of cash.
Adelson is one of the owners of the free Israeli daily Israel Hayom paper and is considered a close associate of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli media report that a second American businessman, Daniel Abrams, has also been questioned by Israeli fraud police as part of the same investigation. "Daniel Abrams is suspected of transferring money from New York financier Morris Talansky to Olmert," the Jerusalem Post reported. "Abrams, a broadcast executive and former news correspondent, is also allegedly involved in two other scandals involving the prime minister - the Bank Leumi affair and the case of Olmert's Jerusalem home purchase."

World leaders including President Bush are descending on Israel these days for events to mark the country's 60th anniversary, including a conference slated to feature Bush and Olmert hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres.


(Photograph of Adelson via Ha'aretz).

McCain Confuses Voters (and Himself?) on Spending Cuts

| Tue May 13, 2008 3:11 PM EDT

John McCain either (1) has gotten himself so confused about earmarks that he no longer has a coherent plan to cut spending, or (2) has intentionally been uttering obfuscations on the subject that make voters falsely think that his anti-earmark jihad is going to balance the budget. Either way, this discussion of McCain's plans (that word is too generous) to cut spending needs to be read.

For Mother Jones on earmarks, see here and here.

Brent Scowcroft on the Cuba Embargo: "It Doesn't Do Anything"

| Tue May 13, 2008 12:33 PM EDT

Brent Scowcroft, the dean of George H. W. Bush's foreign policy brain trust, was, as you likely know by now, in favor of the first Gulf War and the war in Afganistan but was opposed to the Iraq War from before it began. Though a Republican, he has shown the flexibility and disdain for ideology that comes from being a true adherent of the realist approach to foreign policy.

That doesn't just apply to the Middle East. Here he is talking to Steve Clemons about the long-standing Cuba embargo:

If you couldn't hear the soft-spoken Mr. Scowcroft, here's what he said: "My answer on Cuba is Cuba is not a foreign policy question. Cuba is a domestic issue. In foreign policy, the embargo makes no sense. It doesn't do anything. It's quite clear we can not starve Cuba to death. We learned that when the Soviet stopped subsidizing Cuba and they didn't collapse. It's a domestic issue."

What he's saying is that domestic politics, embodied in this case by the powerful and hard-line Cuban exile lobby in Florida that no politician with national ambitions can alienate, is keeping the embargo in place. Common sense, on the other hand, suggests that decades of the embargo have not produced any results in the island nation, other than a less prosperous and less healthy Cuban people. After all, Castro is leaving on his own terms and has hand-picked his successor.

You never know. With Scowcroft and Obama on board for reform, common sense may pull off a come from behind victory.

Which Dictators Are Too Awful?

| Tue May 13, 2008 12:20 PM EDT

We blogged the other day about how two McCain staffers, including one who was supposed to run the Republican convention in Minneapolis, were booted from the campaign because they had lobbied for the repressive military junta in Burma.

Turns out, the staffer who was supposed to run the convention, Doug Goodyear, was actually McCain's second choice. His first choice was Paul Manafort (naturally, a lobbyist), who had to be removed from consideration because he too had lobbied for authoritarian figures, specifically Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and former Ukrainian prime minister Viktor Yanukovich.

Okay, it's a bit odd that McCain can only seem to find shills for dictators to run his campaign. But what's even more odd is that Charlie Black, one of McCain's most senior and most loyal aides, also worked for Ferdinand Marcos, as we reported yesterday. In fact, he's worked for Marcos, Zaire dictator Mobuto Sese Seko, Somalia's Mohamed Siad Barre, and Nigeria's Ibrahim Babangida.

Either there is something particularly objectionable about Viktor Yanukovich, or John McCain is willing to selectively punish moral outrage. If you lobby for dictators and are easily replaceable, you're out the door. If you lobby for dictators but you are McCain's right hand man, you get to stay.