Blogs

Bill Clinton: President Hillary's Lead Negotiator in the Middle East?

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 4:36 PM EDT

rabin-clinton-arafat.jpg

I was reading Matt Yglesias' summary of Hillary Clinton's foreign policy plan (one-line synopsis: just like Edwards' and Obama's, but a shade more hawkish) and noted this paragraph from Clinton on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Getting out of Iraq will enable us to play a constructive role in a renewed Middle East peace process that would mean security and normal relations for Israel and the Palestinians. The fundamental elements of a final agreement have been clear since 2000: a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank in return for a declaration that the conflict is over, recognition of Israel's right to exist, guarantees of Israeli security, diplomatic recognition of Israel, and normalization of its relations with Arab states. U.S. diplomacy is critical in helping to resolve this conflict. In addition to facilitating negotiations, we must engage in regional diplomacy to gain Arab support for a Palestinian leadership that is committed to peace and willing to engage in a dialogue with the Israelis. Whether or not the United States makes progress in helping to broker a final agreement, consistent U.S. involvement can lower the level of violence and restore our credibility in the region.

It will be nice to have a president come into office with this mindset. In comparison, George W. Bush announced at his first National Security Council meeting, "We're going to tilt back toward Israel." When Colin Powell warned that such an attitude might lead to excessive uses of force by the Israeli army and a victimized Palestinian population, Bush responded, "Sometimes a show for force by one side can really clarify things."

So we're miles ahead of nonsense. In fact, a commander-in-chief with Clinton's position on the issue would mean that we're roughly back to the attitudes that led to the last serious shot at peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, under President You-Know-Who. Which begs the question, if Bill is looking for role as First Gent ("If Hillary wins, I want to do whatever she wants me to do."), maybe he can be America's lead negotiator on this issue. Lord knows he's got the gravitas and the experience.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Fossil Fuel Hangover

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 4:00 PM EDT

394755691_1ac74b85af_m.jpg The ocean will likely nurse a hangover from our fossil fuel use for hundreds of thousands of years. Researchers at Southampton University modeled the movement of carbon through the ocean and the atmosphere. In the model, they dosed the planet with 4000 gigatons of carbon to simulate the burning of all fossil fuel reserves between 1900 to 2300, reports Environmental Science and Technology. At first, the ocean became more acidic. But over many millennia, it became more alkaline and had higher levels of dissolved inorganic carbon, finally achieving a steady state with atmospheric CO2 levels exceeding those prior to fossil fuel burning. As a result, the researchers suggest, Earth probably won't ever completely recover, as it did in the past when CO2 levels were high. "The system converges to a new equilibrium," the authors write.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, "The Fragile Edge," and other writings, here.

Greed: Why You Pay A Higher Tax Rate Than Buffett

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 3:34 PM EDT

wow.jpg

The incomparable Mark Shields (any News Hour fans out there?) quotes Mr. Warren Buffett:

In my office, I have 18 or so people there, and I ask them to compute line 63, which is their tax, and then add payroll taxes, and compare it to line 43, which is their taxable income. And these people who make anywhere from $50,000 to $750,000 a year ... and the lowest person in the office pays a higher rate than I do. I paid 17.7 percent last year, counting payroll taxes. ... The [employees'] average was twice mine. [Private equity managers] say they fix up companies and they get paid for doing that. On balance, they're paying a 15 percent tax rate on that and no payroll taxes, and somebody that fixes up the restroom is paying 15.3 percent in payroll taxes, just to start with. [The janitor who works] for peanuts pays a higher tax rate than people who fix up companies [for] hundreds of millions of dollars annually in income [emphasis added].

That's right: on average, Warren Buffett's employees pay twice as much of their income in taxes as he does. That means you probably pay a higher percentage of your income in taxes than the second-richest person in the world. Thank God the new Democratic Congress is ignoring the fact that the industry gave "77 percent of its $8.2 million in donations to Democratic candidates" and cracking down on unfairly regressive taxation anyway. Oh, wait:

In Washington, D.C. last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office confirmed that the Senate will take no action this year on closing the tax loophole that saves private equity and other private investment fund managers an estimated $12 billion a year.

So what does all that money buy besides huge yachts? Well, it looks like there's a sale on politicians! Get them while the getting is good!

Spray Cleaners Cause Asthma

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 3:29 PM EDT

385097057_0f25ddef34_m.jpg Yet another reason to procrastinate about house cleaning. A new study from Spain shows that using household cleaning sprays and air fresheners as little as once a week can raise the risk of developing asthma in adults, reports the American Thoracic Society. The risk increased with frequency of cleaning and number of different sprays used, but on average was about 30 to 50 percent higher in people regularly exposed to cleaning sprays than in others. Air fresheners, furniture cleaners, and glass-cleaners, had a particularly nasty effect. Sprays have been associated with increased asthma in cleaning professionals, but not amateurs. Until now. Good enough reason to retire my spray gun. Or get a respirator.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, "The Fragile Edge," and other writings, here.

Led Zeppelin to Be Available Digitally; Bulge Now Available in the Times

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 3:26 PM EDT

mojo-photo-zep.jpg
One of the last digital holdouts are finally giving up and joining Soulja Boy, Feist and Britney Spears in the exciting new world of online music sales, reports the New York Times. Led Zeppelin resisted digital sales for years, but a new set of contractual agreements with their label, Warner/Chappell, now includes downloads. Their catalog will be available on iTunes starting November 13th, but Verizon Wireless gets first dibs, somehow, with what the Times calls "mobile features" available starting this week. One can only hope those mobile features will include phone screen savers featuring the crotch bulge of Jimmy Page, which the Times apparently wanted to get in its hallowed pages so desperately they used a shot that the photographer couldn't even remember the date for.

The Times has a couple choice quotes about the band; first, David Dorn, the senior vice president of Rhino Entertainment, gushes a bit optimistically about them, saying:

"The great thing about this band, unlike almost any other band that you could think of, is that every single day there is a new 13-year-old kid who's just starting to get into music" and will discover the group.

Call me crazy, but aren't 13-year-olds listening to High School Musical these days? Later in the article, the music supervisor for School of Rock boasts of licensing the band's music for the film, calling them "the holy sound of the temple of rock." Jeez, he's been spending a little too much time around Jack Black.

Anyway, as we've covered here before, the surviving members of Led Zeppelin will reunite November 26 for a show in London; Jimmy Page promises two extra socks will be stuffed down his pants for the occasion.

Losing the War in Afghanistan in Four Steps

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 2:47 PM EDT

Terrorism expert Peter Bergen writes in the New Republic's most recent cover story, "Today, Afghanistan resembles nothing so much as Iraq in the fall of 2003, when the descent into chaos began." In searching for why that's the case, he identifies four primary factors.

1. Allowing Osama bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora.

2. Under-funding and under-manning the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and refusing international help early in that process.

3. Turning the military's attention to Iraq before Afghanistan could be stabilized.

4. Appeasing, and not demanding more out of, Musharraf and the Pakistani government.

The whole thing is worth a read, but if you want an easily digestible yet expanded list, take a look at something Bergen put together for Mother Jones this past summer. We call it "The Iraqization of Afghanistan."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

The SecDef Tells The Truth

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 2:35 PM EDT

missiled.jpg

From McClatchy:

"Following contentious and unproductive encounters with Russian officials on Friday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates Saturday said he isn't certain that Russia is interested in cooperating with the United States to defend Europe against Iranian missiles or whether Moscow simply wants to stop the U.S. from building missile defenses in Eastern Europe."

It's pretty shocking that news reports on this subject haven't made Russia's objection clear (maybe because U.S. and Russian diplomats have been beating around the bush to the press). But let's spell it out: Russia does not want American missile defenses in Eastern Europe. They do not want them on a train, they do not want them on a plane, they do not want them here or there, they do not want them anywhere.

US News: "Waxman Hunting for Bush Lies"

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 2:06 PM EDT

US News' "Washington Whispers" columnist Paul Bedard reports:

Rep. Henry Waxman, considered the meanest dog in town by the GOP, is still sniffing around the White House for proof the president lied when making the case for going to war in Iraq. We hear that he's been quietly summoning former Bush aides, especially speechwriters, to testify behind closed doors about what they knew and how they phrased his words on the issue. Whispers hears that one called in was John Gibson, a former National Security Council speechwriter. He wouldn't spill to us. The committee had no comment either, but an administration official says, "It is yet another item on the ever growing fishing expedition list from Representative Waxman."

After interviewing those NSC officials, here's another reference Waxman's investigators can peruse.

Comcast's Fee to the Government and Policy on Domestic Surveillance

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 1:58 PM EDT

The Federation of American Scientists' government secrecy guru Steve Aftergood reports:

Upon lawful request and for a thousand dollars, Comcast, one of the nation's leading telecommunications companies, will intercept its customers' communications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The cost for performing any FISA surveillance "requiring deployment of an intercept device" is $1,000.00 for the "initial start-up fee (including the first month of intercept service)," according to a newly disclosed Comcast Handbook for Law Enforcement.

Portrait of Presidential Sadness, in Dots

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 1:20 PM EDT

The failures of the Bush presidency are not lost on the stipple portraitists at the Wall Street Journal.

bush_stipple.jpg

Spotted on Trailhead.