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Winner for the 'Man Takes Crap' Headline of the Day...

| Mon Jun. 18, 2007 1:56 PM EDT

Headline: "Dallas Elects Businessman As Mayor"

Lede paragraph: "Choosing a wealthy retired businessman over an openly gay city councilman, voters elected Tom Leppert as Dallas mayor Saturday by a wide margin."

Duh.

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Coming Soon to a Courthouse Near You: The DOJ Scandal

| Mon Jun. 18, 2007 1:40 PM EDT

Now the sh-t is really hitting the fan: In a spate of cases nationwide, defense attorneys are claiming that prosecutors brought charges against their clients for political reasons. Even minor instances of prosecutor misconduct notoriously create a rash of appeals. Given the scope of the Justice scandal, there is likely to be a waterfall of legal filings—some legit. and some far-fetched. For example, Missouri lawyers have referred to the DOJ's habit of charging Democrats with corruption to question a 2006 indictment of a company owned by a prominent Democrat. (The company was allegedly in violation of federal wage laws.) The case sounds fishy, to be sure:

The indictment, which came two months after the owner announced that she was running for political office, was obtained by a Republican U.S. attorney who also has been criticized because he charged workers for a left-leaning political group on the eve of the 2006 midterm election.

But defense attorneys have been known to grasp at straws, and for every legitimate charge of political shenanigans, there will be 10 accusations. The lawyer representing a man charged with child pornography has argued that the case is politically motivated. And attorneys for a prominent county-level Democrat in Delaware forced the Republican prosecutor in the case to respond with an inch-and-a-half thick brief denying partisan considerations before the judge determined that corruption charges against the Democrat were initiated before scandal-ridden AG AG took office.

We're likely to see more of these claims in the future, and judges around the country will be forced to weigh the merit of each and every one. Still further travesty of justice undertaken by the department charged with guarding against it.

Fred Thompson: Not Conservative Enough? Or Just Lazy?

| Mon Jun. 18, 2007 11:53 AM EDT

Newsweek has gone hunting through Fred Thompson's eight years worth of Senate records that are stashed in a public archive at the University of Tennessee, and they've come to the conclusion that Thompson is not quite as conservative as his admirers on the right believe. Abortion is a big problem:

On a 1994 Eagle Forum survey, Thompson said he opposed criminalizing abortion. Two years later, on a Christian Coalition questionnaire, he checked "opposed" to a proposed constitutional amendment protecting the sanctity of human life. He struggled with the question of when life begins. "I do believe that the decision to have an early term abortion is a moral issue and should not be a legal one subject to the dictates of the government," he wrote...
[Thompson told the Conservative Spectator], "I'm not willing to support laws that prohibit early term abortions ... It comes down to whether life begins at conception. I don't know in my own mind if that is the case so I don't feel the law ought to impose that standard on other people."

Thompson told a different paper, "The ultimate decision on abortion should be left with the woman and not the government." But Big Fred likely won't have to make like Romney and disavow his previous stance. For all his ambivalence, Thompson maintained a straight pro-life voting record in the Senate. No matter what his personal beliefs, it seems he always knew what was good for him politically.

But what about campaign finance? The McCain-Feingold bill that irritated a number of conservatives and has badly hurt John McCain's fundraising was supported strongly by Thompson. In fact, he helped write the bill.

My response: eh. Thompson will have to flip-flop on that one. It's not like flip-flops are hurting anyone this campaign season -- king of the flip-flops, Mitt Romney, is in the lead. The more damaging claim against Thompson might be that he's too lazy to campaign for president, or serve as one. That's been getting a lot of traction. I mean a lot. Really, like, a ton.

Update: The Thompson-is-lazy links keep on coming. Here's one more. And another. This guy must really not like to work hard.

John McCain Trying to Dance the Big Money Dance, and Failing

| Mon Jun. 18, 2007 11:29 AM EDT

The New York Times has an article today that focuses on how John McCain's uncompromising style of politics (until late, anyway) has created the presidential candidate's current fundraising woes.

For example, McCain has repeatedly hit defense contractors for being corrupt and wasteful, instead of using his position on the Armed Services Committee to become chummy with the industry. And he pays the price: his contributions from the military industry are less than half of what Chris Dodd has been able to pull in.

The problem is one McCain should have seen coming. One of his signature pieces of legislation is McCain-Feingold, which sought to limit the power of big money in politics. Now he has to do the big money dance, and no one with deep pockets wants to be his partner. Obama doesn't take money from lobbyists or special interests, so he would seem to be in the same position as McCain. So how does Obama raise so much while McCain is able to raise so little? One might argue that Obama has more momentum and a more magnetic personality. Or one might argue that Obama isn't America's single strongest supporter of a disastrous and badly unpopular war, and isn't alienating his own party over a surprisingly electric issue.

At Swampland, Joe Klein is getting sentimental over McCain's failings, and I can't quibble. I was victim to the same sort of thing when it was revealed in The Hill that McCain almost abandoned the GOP a few years back. I assumed that the news effectively meant the end of the McCain campaign, and I was sad to see McCain go. Klein disagrees with McCain's stance on the war but calls him an "essentially honorable man." I disagreed with McCain's stance on the war and lot of other stuff, but called him "decent." Surprisingly, Klein is taking worse jabs in his comments section than I did in ours.

A Justified but Tiring Hit Job on The New Republic

| Mon Jun. 18, 2007 10:40 AM EDT

There seems to be nothing liberals inside the beltway and on the internet enjoy carping about more than The New Republic, which has certainly earned its share of criticism. It has provided Republicans with liberal cover for some of their most outrageous wrongdoings, the Iraq War being the most obvious. It's been a haven for an incredibly long list of conservative writers, and it has often taken more joy at being contrary and at slamming liberals than in defending the causes one would expect a liberal magazine to defend. Oh, and its long time owner and top editor who just sold the mag is an Arab-hating neocon who allowed a pro-Israel fever to overtake all else. We're all familiar with the problem.

Eric Alterman has a solid piece in the American Prospect arguing all of this and more. It's worth reading, but let me just say that while I get that deconstructing liberalism's past, and TNR's place within it, is important because it helps illustrate the present, pieces like Alterman's often feel like they are done for gossipy reasons, to draw stark lines and remind everyone that one or two influential people stood on the wrong side of divisive issues. We all know Marty Peretz is only ironically called a "liberal" and we all know that TNR has a nasty past. We all know they screwed up on health care in the '90s and screwed up the Iraq War in a horrible, horrible way. But if we focus on getting our pound of flesh instead of hitting the mutual foe we now share with a much-improved TNR, aren't we in a way committing the same sin as TNR did for many years?

I never thought I'd defend The New Republic. I guess my point is this. We all know the magazine has gotten better under Frank Foer and we all know the criticisms -- so what's the point in drudging up the old hits and slamming the magazine all over again?

OSC's Investigation of Rove May be Legit. Very Legit

| Sat Jun. 16, 2007 10:10 PM EDT

Now that the Office of Special Counsel is done with Lurita Doan, it's intensifying its investigation of Karl Rove that we're worried is a sham. The scope of the investigation is staggering -- check out the details here.

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Ripened Yet Rocking: Young @ Heart Chorus Keeps it Real

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 6:30 PM EDT

I thought my grandma was cool because she uses e-mail. Little did I know the only reason she uses it is because my parents tricked her into thinking Web TV isn't the real Internet.

But Internet-using grandmas aside, there exists a set of elderly folks in their 70s to 90s that are possibly cooler than that. Not only do they go on tour and dance choreographed routines, they have the musical taste of hip 25-year-olds.

Singing songs by Radiohead, Coldplay, the Clash and Outkast, the group, called Young@Heart, has been around since 1982. The members range from once-professional musicians and actors to those with virtually no experience.

Check out the group's heart-wrenching live version of Coldplay's "Fix You".

—Anna Weggel

Pale Blue Dot

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 6:18 PM EDT

Go forth into the weekend with this video in your sights. . .

For my part, I'm going to hoist a shotglass of anything but tequila (damn) to CS, The Man. . . --JULIA WHITTY

Intensive Tequila Farming Harms Biodiversity

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 6:03 PM EDT

New Scientist reports that a huge and growing appetite for tequila made from Agave tequilana is harming the genetic diversity of other agave species. Furthermore, the area available for traditional food crops is also falling, and the intensive agave farming is leading to soil erosion, creating an overall decline in biodiversity. Local farmers says that traditional agave varieties can be grown with staples such as maize, beans and squash without recourse to herbicides, but Agave tequilana is grown in monocultures that require the use of herbicides. . . Que lastima. --JULIA WHITTY

CITES Meeting Decides Fate Of Endangered Species For Better & Worse

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 5:30 PM EDT

The annual Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) closed today in the Hague. This international regulatory body--convened to slow or reverse the accelerating rate of extinction--adopted more than 100 formal regulations governing the worldwide wildlife trade. A bitterly-fought consensus allowed a one-time-only sale of African elephant ivory from four southern African nations (East African countries argued that any sales would continue to fuel the black market and hence poaching). The European eel—a favorite in Japan--was added to the CITES list for the first time, along with a new timber species, Brazilwood. Trade was forbidden for the slow loris, a small nocturnal primate native to South and Southeast Asia; the Guatemalan beaded lizard; the slender-horned gazelle and Cuvier's gazelle of northern Africa; and sawfishes, whose rostral saws and other body parts are valued as curios and in traditional medicine.

As Nature reports, CITES also accepted the US proposal to limit the trade of all corals of the genus Corallium, the red and pink corals used to make jewelry. Sadly, CITES also allowed Ugandan exports of leopard skins, despite weak science on the issue. The convention also rejected European Union proposals to regulate trade of the Spiny dogfish (Squalus acandthias), the fish used in much of Britain's fish & chips. Wildlife protection groups protested the decision as pandering to commercial fishing interests. . . Another short-sighted triumph of Homo sapiens avaricious. --JULIA WHITTY