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McCain: Sunni? Shia? What?

| Tue Mar. 18, 2008 12:42 PM EDT

Where did all that vaunted national security experience go? WaPo:

Sen. John McCain, traveling in the Middle East to promote his foreign policy expertise, misidentified in remarks Tuesday which broad category of Iraqi extremists are allegedly receiving support from Iran.
He said several times that Iran, a predominately Shiite country, was supplying the mostly Sunni militant group, al-Qaeda. In fact, officials have said they believe Iran is helping Shiite extremists in Iraq.
Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back."
Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it was "common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that's well known. And it's unfortunate." A few moments later, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, standing just behind McCain, stepped forward and whispered in the presidential candidate's ear. McCain then said: "I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda."

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McClatchy Skewers Cheney

| Tue Mar. 18, 2008 10:56 AM EDT

TPM has a nice catch for Snarky Headline of the Day, courtesy of McClatchy:

Cheney cites 'phenomenal' Iraqi security progress as bombing kills 40

Sometimes I think living in the reality-based community is good for some laughs, but then I realize the crazy people are running the world.

Iranian Agent of Influence? An Interview with Author of New Ahmad Chalabi Biography

| Tue Mar. 18, 2008 8:14 AM EDT

Emmy award-winning investigative journalist Aram Roston, a producer with the NBC Nightly News, has just published a biography of long time Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi, The Man Who Pushed America to War: The Extraordinary Adventures, Life and Obsessions of Ahmad Chalabi, reviewed by Bruce Falconer in the current issue of Mother Jones. I asked Roston about allegations that Chalabi had such a close relationship with elements of the Iranian security services, that the FBI reportedly investigated him for passing highly classified U.S. intelligence to Iranian intelligence.

Roston's conclusion: "In the end, I came away thinking that the key question, from a U.S. perspective, was not whether or not Chalabi was an Iranian agent, but whether he was more useful to Iran's intelligence services and government, or to America's intelligence services and government," Roston told me. "Here I think it was indisputable that he was far more useful to Iran." Go read the rest.

Mother Jones: What is the conclusion you drew about Chalabi's relationship with Iran?
Roston: Actually, I really didn't find evidence that Chalabi was or is an "Iranian agent," as some have speculated. In other words, I found no evidence that he was controlled or directed by Iranian intelligence. I also did not come across evidence that Chalabi was paid by Iran, or that he received funding from them. (Some Iraqis close to him claim he is but I really didn't find hard corroboration.) Maybe Iran preferred funding other groups, or maybe he preferred simply getting his money from the Americans.
Some former intelligence officers who know him well believe that he was in part an "agent of influence" for Iran, rather than a controlled agent. And a lot of Iraqis who know him well say that he has bolstered his ties to Iran's government to give him more leverage in his work in Iraq.

New (Leaked) Music: The Breeders - Mountain Battles

| Mon Mar. 17, 2008 9:00 PM EDT

mojo-photo-breedersmb.jpgNobody disputes the greatness of the Pixies, but the Breeders are, it must be said, underappreciated. Their first album, 1990's Pod, is an innovative and listenable gem, proving Kim Deal had a unique songwriting style, more melodic and lighthearted than the Pixies. This is even more evident on the title track from their 1992 EP Safari, a hypnotic, almost Krautrock-y number more in tune with their UK contemporaries. Of course, 1993's Last Splash was the commercial breakthrough, but remember what an unlikely hit "Cannonball" was: a bendy guitar melody that evoked My Bloody Valentine, and winking vocals that seemed like an in joke. Of course, the Breeders' story gets complicated after that, seeming to mirror the general state of alternative rock as the '90s progressed: drug problems, side projects, aborted attempts at reconvening. A reconfigured Breeders released Title TK in 2002: a far less ambitious work, not without its charms, but very different from classic Breeders. Could the worldwide hysteria for the Pixies reunion have rubbed off on Kim a little, giving the new album some of the old playful confidence?

Green Buildings Cut CO2 Fastest

| Mon Mar. 17, 2008 6:29 PM EDT

The fastest and cheapest way to cut deeply into CO2 emissions is to overhaul old buildings for efficiency and build new ones green from the start. Turns out that buildings are responsible for more than one-third of North America's CO2 emissions, says a new report by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. Promoting green design, construction, renovation and operation of buildings could cut North American building emissions from more than 2,200 megatons of CO2 annually to 500 megatons. Rapid deployment of emerging advanced energy-saving technologies could bring about these savings by 2030.

Currently, green buildings routinely reduce energy usage by 30 to 50 percent over conventional buildings. The most efficient now outperform them by more than 70 percent. The authors recommend ways to accelerate greening our homes and offices, calling upon government, industry and nongovernmental leaders to:

 

Create national, multi-stakeholder task forces for achieving a vision of green building in North America • Support the creation of a North American set of principles and planning tools for green building • Set clear targets to achieve the most rapid possible adoption of green building in North America, including aggressive targets for carbon-neutral or net zero-energy buildings, together with performance monitoring to track progress towards these targets • Enhance ongoing or new support for green building, including efforts to promote private sector investment and proper valuation methods • Increase knowledge of green building through research and development, capacity building, and the use of labels and disclosures on green building performance.

 

We need some national vision here. Yet another reason why 308 days, 19 hours, 37 minutes, and 1 second left (as of this writing) can't fly by fast enough.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

SF Chronicle to No Longer Run Stories of Cats, Celebrities on Page A2

| Mon Mar. 17, 2008 6:15 PM EDT

funny-cats-a10.jpg


Baby steps. But perhaps there's hope that under new leadership the Chron will no longer suck quite so bad.

That would deprive locals and industry watchers a reliable source of cocktail party chatter (why does it suck) since at least as far back as 1976, when Jason Robards playing WaPo editor Ben Bradlee in "All the President's Men" cracked that the Chron was the place to place "yesterday's weather report."

Still, worth the sacrifice.

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Fox News Sunday Introduces "Obama Watch"

| Mon Mar. 17, 2008 5:21 PM EDT
Obamawatch.png

There have been subtle and not so subtle messages to voters throughout this election painting Barack Obama as radical and un-American. Most recently, over the weekend, there was wide-spread media coverage of Obama's "anti-American" and "racial" reverend in Chicago.

But none of these are quite as dramatic as Fox's new "Obama Watch." If you aren't already convinced that Barack Obama is an extremist, you might want to tune in to Fox News Sunday. The new feature, announced by Chris Wallace, will give its viewers "a weekly update on Barack Obama." Under the auspices of the network's ongoing hopes to urge the Dems to debate on Fox, "Obama Watch" will be set to a ticking time clock a la 24. I'll give Fox News credit for one thing, they left no subliminal message unturned. If the beep beep, beep beep of Jack Bauer's hit show doesn't say "Obama is a terrorist" I don't know what does.

Are Genetically Engineered Organics the Future of Farming?

| Mon Mar. 17, 2008 5:12 PM EDT

corn200.jpg This past weekend in the Boston Globe, Pamela Ronald, a U.C. Davis plant pathologist, tackled the debate over genetic engineering in organic farming. Without mincing words.

It is time to abandon the caricatures of genetic engineering that are popular among some consumers and activists, and instead see it for what it is: A tool that can help the ecological farming revolution grow into a lasting movement with global impact.

Bold, to be sure. But are these fightin' words? Probably.

Under for Fire for Pastor's Remarks, Obama To Give Major Speech on Race

| Mon Mar. 17, 2008 5:05 PM EDT

I was at a fancy Washington party of politicos this weekend and the No. 1 topic of conversation was the Reverend Jeremiah Wright--that is, what could Barack Obama do about Wright's assorted controversial statements. (Was Jesus really black?) With Fox News and others leading the charge--the cable news network had found videos of Wright's over-the-top sermons for sale at his church's gift shop--Obama quickly distanced himself from his onetime pastor's more provocative statements. ("No one ever said it was going to be easy to elect a black man president," an Obama supporter told me at this party.)

But Obama is not just hunkering down. Today his campaign announced he would deliver a "major address on race, politics, and how we bring our country together at this important moment in our history." Do you think this was scheduled prior to the Wright dustup? Not likely. Will it do anything to counter whatever political damage has been (or can be) done by Wright's remarks? Probably not. Still, it might be necessary. Then again, Obama has done rather well so far by not emphasizing matters of race. With the racial divide apparently growing starker in the recent Democratic primaries (with whites voting for the white candidate and blacks voting for the black candidate), one can only wonder if addressing race explicitly in this rather political manner is to Obama's advantage. But when a preacher speaks, sometimes you have no choice but to take action.

And the dog that didn't bark: There's been no Hillary Clinton campaign conference call in which Clinton aides decry Wright's remarks and push reporters to devote more attention to this matter. After the South Carolina primary and after Geraldine Ferraro, the Clintonites certainly realize they must treat gingerly any matter that involves race. And why yelp when there's already plenty of noise?

GOP Hatchet Man "Predicted" Spitzer's Downfall

| Mon Mar. 17, 2008 1:28 PM EDT

Robert Novak's column yesterday carried this interesting nugget: Apparently Spitzer-nemesis and longtime GOP operative Roger Stone predicted the New York governor's political downfall a good three months before it came to pass, telling a talk radio host in early December that ''Eliot Spitzer will not serve out his term as governor of the state of New York." This would seem to suggest that Stone can either see the future—or had a hand in shaping it. According to Novak, though, the former is closest to the truth: "Stone had nothing to do with the investigation and said he had not heard about it when he made a prediction based on his general view of Spitzer."

However, Stone was coy when asked point blank by Newsday columnist Ellis Henican if he had any role in outing Mr. Clean as Client 9:

"No comment on that," Stone said. "I will say I knew it was coming. That's why I wasn't too upset about the results of the special election," where a Democrat grabbed a supposedly safe Republican State Senate seat, leaving Democrats just one vote shy of control.