Blogs

Canadian Study Reveals New Class of Organic Pollutants

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 5:36 PM EDT

A Canadian team reports in this week's Science that efforts to crack down on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) may have missed an entire set of them. Dioxin, PCBs, and DDT are considered among the most dangerous pollutants on the planet because they don't break down easily, are highly toxic, and build up in the food chain. These chemicals persist in our body fat, and even miniscule amounts in food can add up over time and contribute to health problems such as cancer. More than 140 countries have endorsed the 2001 Stockholm Convention, which aims to banish a dozen POPs from the environment. The Convention's target list is based on risk assessments of these POPs accumulating in fish food webs. But that assumption, the authors argue, could be missing chemicals that fish remove from their bodies but that mammals and birds don't, due to their different respiratory physiology. One-third of the 12,000 or so organic chemicals on the market in Canada fit this new category. . . Whoa. Here comes Silent Spring, Summer, Fall & Winter. JULIA WHITTY

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Peggy Noonan: Bush is "Extremely Irritating," "Unnatural," and "Weird"

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 5:13 PM EDT

Conservative mouthpiece Peggy Noonan has a delightful op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today.

I received an email before the news conference from as rock-ribbed a Republican as you can find, a Georgia woman (middle-aged, entrepreneurial) who'd previously supported him. She said she'd had it. "I don't believe a word that comes out of his mouth." I was startled by her vehemence only because she is, as I said, rock-ribbed. Her email reminded me of another, one a friend received some months ago: "I took the W off my car today," it said on the subject line. It sounded like a country western song, like a great lament.
As I watched the news conference, it occurred to me that one of the things that might leave people feeling somewhat disoriented is the president's seemingly effortless high spirits. He's in a good mood. There was the usual teasing, the partly aggressive, partly joshing humor, the certitude. He doesn't seem to be suffering, which is jarring. Presidents in great enterprises that are going badly suffer: Lincoln, LBJ with his head in his hands. Why doesn't Mr. Bush? Every major domestic initiative of his second term has been ill thought through and ended in failure. His Iraq leadership has failed. His standing is lower than any previous president's since polling began. He's in a good mood. Discuss.
...
Americans have always been somewhat romantic about the meaning of our country, and the beacon it can be for the world, and what the Founders did. But they like the president to be the cool-eyed realist, the tough customer who understands harsh realities.
With Mr. Bush it is the people who are forced to be cool-eyed and realistic. He's the one who goes off on the toots. This is extremely irritating, and also unnatural. Actually it's weird.

To me, watching a Bush press conference has been a maddening experience for a number of years. I suspect it's the same for many of our readers. Looks like Peggy, and her conservative friends, are just catching up. Read the whole op-ed here.

Vitter's New Orleans Prostitute Same One He Was Linked To In 2004

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 3:19 PM EDT

The woman who calls herself, among many other names, Wendy Cortez, is a former employee of the famous "Canal Street Madam" who has acknowledged that Louisiana Sen. David Vitter was a client at her establishment more than once in the 90s. Cortez outed Vitter yesterday, saying that she was "perturbed that he portrayed himself as a politician who would bring moral authority to his office when he was using her services on the side."

It turns out that Cortez is the same woman allegedly linked with Vitter when he ran for the Senate in 2004. At the time, Vitter said that the accusation was "absolutely and completely untrue," and part of "crass Louisiana politics." He continues to deny any association with Cortez, and his attorney continues to point out that Vitter was not part of the federal investigation that closed the New Orleans establishment in 2001, and that his name was never found in any records by either the lead defense attorney or the U.S. attorney during the investigation.

A former romantic partner of Cortez's has told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he believes Vitter was not only a client of Cortez's, but that they also had a romantic involvement of some kind. He describes some photographs of the two of them together, one of which shows a woman with her hand on Vitter's crotch. However, Canal Street Madam Jeanette Maier says the woman in the photos is not the woman whom she knew as Wendy Cortez.

Cortez has no known arrests for prostitution, but she does have an arrest record for forgery, parole violation, fleeing from justice, and fraudulent use of credit cards.

Morning Political Trivia for July 13

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 1:22 PM EDT

We promised we'd keep going with the trivia, so here's today's question (with thanks to CQ Politics):

Which two current U.S. Senators once served as congressional pages?

Remember, no Googling! We'll be competing every morning here at Mother Jones' DC Bureau, and I'll let you know the results (and how we fared) each afternoon. If you have a good question, submit it to mojotrivia@gmail.com. I'll credit you if we use your question (please let us know if you got it from another source).

Submit your answers in the comments section, and good luck!

— Nick Baumann

Daily Republican Sex Scandal Roundup

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 1:01 PM EDT

The question of whether Florida Rep. Bob Allen, co-chairman of John McCain's Florida campaign, tried to pay an undercover male cop $20 to give or receive a blowjob has been answered. According to the police officer's report from the arrest (via Pandagon):

Allen engaged me in a conversation in which it was agreed that he would pay me $20.00 in order to perform a "blow job" on me. Allen stated that he wanted me to ride with him accross [sic] the river before he performed the act and gave me the money. Before entering Allen's vehicle I identified myself as a police officer and detained him.

I'm glad we cleared that up. I should also mention that between 2003 and 2006, Allen voted with the Christian Coalition over 90 percent of the time.

Speaking of hypocritical Christian conservatives... Jack Burkman, a GOP political operative, conservative pundit, and former lobbyist for James Dobson's Family Research Council, was just exposed as being on the DC Madam's list.

Iraq Status: Duck and Cover, Wait and See

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 1:00 PM EDT

Even as President Bush begs for more time to allow the so-called 'surge' to work in Iraq, the outlook from his own National Security Council is not all that encouraging. In yesterday's status report on 18 benchmarks to be achieved by the Iraqi Government, only eight showed "satisfactory" progress, while the status of the remaining ten was characterized as "mixed" or "unsatisfactory." Among those that failed to make any headway at all: easing de-Baathification laws to allow those who worked as lower-level civil service employees under Saddam's regime to return to work; disarming the country's various ethnic and religious militias; ensuring that Iraqi police enforce the law fairly, without consideration of sectarian ties; allowing Iraqi military commanders to operate without interference from politicians in Baghdad; and increasing the number of Iraqi military units capable of staging operations without American assistance.

These would seem huge (and sadly familiar) obstacles to Bush's vision of "victory" in Iraq, whatever that might mean... Still, the president remains sanguine about our prospects there. At a White House news conference yesterday, at which he unveiled the depressing results of the NSC report, the president, true to form, chose to look on the bright side:

I believe we can succeed in Iraq, and I know we must... Those who believe that the battle in Iraq is lost will likely point to the unsatisfactory performance on some of the political benchmarks. Those of us who believe that battle in Iraq can and must be won see the satisfactory performance on several of the security benchmarks as a cause for optimism...
The bottom line is that this is a preliminary report and it comes less than a month after the final reinforcements arrived in Iraq. This September, as Congress has required, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will return to Washington to provide a more comprehensive assessment. By that time, we hope to see further improvement...

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Leaked Army Karbala Report Shows Iraqi Police Collaborated in Ambush on US Troops

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 10:32 AM EDT

USA Today has obtained the internal US Army investigation report on the ambush, kidnapping and killing of five US troops at a meeting with local officials in Karbala last January 20, and its findings are devastating.

A previously undisclosed Army investigation into an audacious January attack in Karbala that killed five U.S. soldiers concludes that Iraqi police working alongside American troops colluded with insurgents.

Why Wait for McCain's Big Speech?

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 9:42 AM EDT

When Mike Cooper of the NYT's Caucus blog has it already?

In a speech he plans to deliver in Concord, N.H., Mr. McCain, who just returned from Iraq last week, plans to cast the 2008 presidential election as a referendum on the war in Iraq – a risky stance, given polls that show the war is increasingly unpopular.
"In November, 2008 the American people will decide with their votes how and where this war will be fought or if it will be fought at all," Mr. McCain plans to say, according to excerpts of the speech obtained from the campaign.
"I have told you how I intend to fight this war," he plans to say. "Other candidates will argue for a different course. Democratic candidates for President will argue for the course of cutting our losses and withdrawing from the threat in the vain hope it will not follow us here. I cannot join them in such wishful and very dangerous thinking. Peace at any price is an illusion and its costs are always more tragic than the sacrifices victory requires. I will stand where I stand today and trust you to give me a fair hearing. There is too much at stake in this election for any candidate to do less."

I'll say this about John McCain: He's a brilliant strategist! Must be that military background. Following a week where seemingly everyone in his campaign quit, was fired, or got caught soliciting gay sex, John McCain did not quaver. No, he looked (or is about to look) straight into the cameras and told the American people he's all for a massively unpopular war.

I tell you, he doesn't need aides, he's so savvy.

What Happens in Starbucks Stays in Starbucks

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 9:29 AM EDT

Idle observation from the morning coffee run:

When did American adults start having more calories at breakfast than they do at dinner? Triple mocha caramel extra whip type drinks now seem to be the norm. And let's not forget the pastries!

I'm guessing the reason is that no one is around to see you cheat, and, since it's a cash-based economy, the only trace you've done so is a swelling waistline. Or a diabetic attack.

Some Men's Trash More Treasured Than Other's

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 2:08 AM EDT

There's a garbage strike going on across the San Francisco Bay. Waste Management of Alameda County, serving the 7th largest county in the state with 1.5 million residents (that's more than all of Idaho), has locked out its 500 workers over contract disputes, and there's no end in sight. So for now 200 replacement workers are scrambling to keep up.

Here's the rub: Turns out that while pickups are proceeding in the county's wealthy neighborhoods, the less well-to-do areas are becoming giant trash heaps. Manicured enclaves like Castro Valley and Montclair in Oakland—where seven-figure homes are commonplace—and even most of Berkeley are just fine; pickups have stayed on schedule.

But trash is piling up in poor neighborhoods. West and East Oakland have been the most neglected (two of our editors live in East Oakland, myself included), with garbage cans overflowing and bags stacking deep and wide from block to block. This, despite the fact that the monthly fees we pay are exactly the same as those in Piedmont, Oakland's Bel Air.

All Waste Management, has to say to the discrepancy is that the irregularities are no fault of the company's and to "have patience." Yeah? Tell that to the raccoons hanging out outside our houses at night.

Luckily our city's patience has also worn thin. Today Oakland filed a lawsuit against Waste Management saying that the accumulated waste is "a clear and compelling safety and health and welfare issue," with potential health risks if garbage piles up in such dense urban areas.

That, yeah, but it's also an issue of dignity and echoes of the Superdome reverberate. All in all, it stinks.