Blogs

McCain Recycles His Green Image...From MoJo?

| Wed May 14, 2008 3:25 PM EDT
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In the past few days, we've seen John McCain turn green faster than David Banner. Just in case this sudden transformation shreds his clothing, he can now suit up in his campaign's new line of "Go Green" merchandise. Items include 70% bamboo polo shirts, organic cotton baseball caps, and a travel mug made from recycled plastic. All feature a new twist on the militaristic McCain logo—the little star has been replaced with the recycling symbol. That's okay—the symbol is all about reuse, even if it's being used to woo voters who want their trash to biodegrade in less time than it takes to get US troops out of Iraq. But how to explain why the lead image on McCain's climate-change page (top) is oddly reminiscent of the logo from our latest cover (bottom)?

(Tip of the organic hat to Tim Dickinson.)

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Contempt in Court

| Wed May 14, 2008 3:18 PM EDT

On Friday, White House lawyers filed a motion in civil court, arguing against the House's own filing last month in its attempt to enforce subpoenas against Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers. As I reported at the time, the White House appears to be arguing that the courts ought to stay out of the fight and let the House use other means of leverage to get the information it seeks from the executive branch.

the Legislative Branch may vindicate its interests without enlisting judicial support: Congress has a variety of other means by which it can exert pressure on the Executive Branch, such as the withholding of consent for Presidential nominations, reducing Executive Branch appropriations, and the exercise of other powers Congress has under the Constitution.

The entire document runs 83 pages. I'll try to get my hands on a copy, to see what other dubious arguments the administration is making.

Compromise in Michigan Draws Closer

| Wed May 14, 2008 2:23 PM EDT

The Obama campaign is now praising a compromise plan created by Michigan's Democratic leaders that would seat the Michigan delegation with 69 delegates for Clinton and 59 delegates for Obama. The Clinton team objects, seeking a full recognition of the January vote (Clinton took 55 percent of the vote in Michigan, "uncommitted" took 40 percent), but if Obama gets the delegates he needs to become the nominee through the superdelegates and the pledged delegates of the other 48 states, he can seat the delegations however he pleases.

What say you, Florida?

24-Hour Prayer: Good Times in Montana

| Wed May 14, 2008 2:15 PM EDT

From the Billings Gazette:

Rather than putting up posters and distributing bumper stickers, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Fischer said he is focusing on prayer.
Fischer, a Lakeside logger and excavator, acknowledged that he and running mate Steve White of Kalispell are running an unconventional campaign.
"We are basically asking people to pray for our state and for our government and that whichever candidates will bring the greatest blessing to Montana and the greatest blessing to God will be the ones that will be elected," Fischer said. "I obviously believe I fit that role, or I wouldn't have run."
...Fischer said he would establish a continuous prayer schedule for Montanans 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People would sign up for time slots and pray for the state regularly.

You can meet the candidate here (he seems like a really, really nice dude!) and learn more about his call to prayer here. Note that this isn't the strangest thing to happen in recent Montanan politics. This is.

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...

Smart Car Puts Detroit to Shame

| Wed May 14, 2008 11:58 AM EDT

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.