Blogs

NASA: You Can't Handle the Truth on Air Safety

| Mon Oct. 22, 2007 2:20 PM EDT

Via AMERICAblog, check out this story:

Anxious to avoid upsetting air travelers, NASA is withholding results from an unprecedented national survey of pilots that found safety problems like near collisions and runway interference occur far more frequently than the government previously recognized.
NASA gathered the information under an $8.5 million safety project, through telephone interviews with roughly 24,000 commercial and general aviation pilots over nearly four years. Since ending the interviews at the beginning of 2005 and shutting down the project completely more than one year ago, the space agency has refused to divulge the results publicly.
Just last week, NASA ordered the contractor that conducted the survey to purge all related data from its computers.
The Associated Press learned about the NASA results from one person familiar with the survey who spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to discuss them.
A senior NASA official, associate administrator Thomas S. Luedtke, said revealing the findings could damage the public's confidence in airlines and affect airline profits. Luedtke acknowledged that the survey results "present a comprehensive picture of certain aspects of the U.S. commercial aviation industry."

Inspires confidence, no?

Advertise on MotherJones.com

All Huckabee, All the Time

| Mon Oct. 22, 2007 1:17 PM EDT

Tons of Huckabee content here, I know. But Big Mike's momentum can't be ignored: he just scored the Chuck Norris endorsement!

It's over, folks. Obama in 2016?

Factory Conditions Sicken Chinese Workers

| Mon Oct. 22, 2007 12:52 PM EDT

6331.jpg

The fact that lead-laced toys put kids at risk is bad enough, but Chinese factories also cause big problems for another population—workers.

A few of the ways factory employees risk their lives to produce goods bound for the U.S., according to the Salt Lake Tribune's series on the hazards of manufacturing plants in China:

Huckabee Rising

| Mon Oct. 22, 2007 11:55 AM EDT

Over at TNR's campaign blog, The Stump, Noam Scheiber makes a very astute observation. I'll summarize in short form. The Republican primary has four frontrunners, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and John McCain. None of the four has a perfect conservative record. Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney have dealt with their respective apostasies by covering them up and vying to be the most conservative candidates in the race. Rudy Giuliani and John McCain have stood by the stances they've taken that put them at odds with the conservative base and are hoping the honesty and integrity this displays will matter more than complete fealty to conservative values.

What's the better option? Neither, it appears. None of the candidates have caught fire, possibly because both approaches open up the candidates to attacks—they are either flip-floppers or RINOs, and their opponents are more than happy to point this out. Every indication from the Republican base shows that it isn't satisfied with any of the available options.

That's why I think the next month or two will be focused on the rise of Mike Huckabee. The Arkansas governor is a true conservative, and always has been, so he isn't faced with the dilemma faced by the four frontrunners. He's got the evangelical vote, he's got a long history of executive experience, he's achieved some significant results in Arkansas—if he can manage to start raising some cash, he might be the top candidate in this race before long. And that's not a good thing for Democrats.

Reporting the Redactions

| Mon Oct. 22, 2007 11:29 AM EDT

plame.jpg Just Out: my 80 page reported afterword to Valerie Plame Wilson's spy memoir, Fair Game. Nice review here. First chapter here.

Stay tuned, Mother Jones may be publishing some excerpts soon.

Donald Rumsfeld, Responsible for Yet Another Blunder

| Mon Oct. 22, 2007 10:24 AM EDT

Sometimes I can't believe Donald Rumsfeld (a very committed liar, by the way) was ever in a position of power. At almost every opportunity, he showed himself to be petty, incompetent, and completely lacking in perspective. He showed those qualities most blatantly when dealing with the State Department, an entity the folks at Defense saw as an enemy.

Instead of using State's planning for post-war Iraq, the DOD ignored it. Instead of using State's long-time Middle East experts, the DOD shunned them. And we now know that instead of protecting State's diplomats that were trying to put Iraq back together, the DOD hung them out to dry, and in so doing, gave rise to Blackwater. From the Post:

The next year, as the United States prepared to return sovereignty to the Iraqis and the State Department began planning an embassy in Baghdad, Rumsfeld lost a bid to retain control over the full U.S. effort, including billions of dollars in reconstruction funds. A new executive order, signed in January 2004, gave State authority over all but military operations. Rumsfeld's revenge, at least in the view of many State officials, was to withdraw all but minimal assistance for diplomatic security.
"It was the view of Donald Rumsfeld and [then-Deputy Defense Secretary] Paul Wolfowitz that this wasn't their problem," said a former senior State Department official. Meetings to negotiate an official memorandum of understanding between State and Defense during the spring of 2004 broke up in shouting matches over issues such as their respective levels of patriotism and whether the military would provide mortuary services for slain diplomats. […]
State chose the most expedient solution: Take over the Pentagon's personal security contract with Blackwater and extend it for a year.

(H/T Think Progress)

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Family Research Council Straw Poll Results: Romney and Huckabee Tie for First Place

| Sat Oct. 20, 2007 3:02 PM EDT

huckabee_romney_paul.jpg

This is big. Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's tie for first place here at the Family Research Council's Washington Briefing (aka the "Voters Value Summit") should mark his emergence. It's not clear he's a first tier candidate just yet, but he has the heart of the Christian evangelicals, and that's a great base if you're seeking the GOP nod. Here are the results in full:

Mitt Romney: 1,595 (27.6%)
Mike Huckabee: 1,565 (27.1%)
Ron Paul: 865 (15.0%)
Fred Thompson: 564 (9.8%)
Sam Brownback: 297 (5.1%)
Duncan Hunter: 140 (2.4%)
Tom Tancredo: 133 (2.3%)
Rudy Giuliani: 107 (1.85%)
John McCain: 81 (1.4%)

Total votes: 5,776

Other notes, some quite stunning:

- Mike Huckabee crushed all other contenders amongst those voters who submitted their votes on-site. (FRC members have been able to vote online since August.) A whopping 51.3 percent of on-site voters pulled the lever for Huckabee, which reflects the enthusiasm that greeted his speech earlier today. Romney only got 10.4 percent of on-site votes. Fred Thompson placed third, with 8.1 percent.

- Ron Paul's third place finish puts him ahead of frontrunners Thompson, Giuliani, and McCain, but it is a product of his strength on the internet. Paul's speech had a lot of content (on the economy, on foreign policy) that was out of style during a weekend filled almost exclusively with talk of abortion, family issues, and gay rights. He took just 25 votes from on-site voters; that's 2.6 percent. The rest of his votes came online.

- The poll also asked respondents who would be "least acceptable" as president. Hillary Clinton ran away with that one. She took 71.7 percent of all votes. Second, amazingly, was Rudy Giuliani, with 9.2 percent.

- John McCain and Rudy Giuliani couldn't break two percent, which is pretty pathetic. Giuliani has a reason: he's pro-choice and multiple evangelical leaders, including Tony Perkins, president of FRC, have said they refuse to vote for a pro-choice candidate. John McCain, on the other hand, has no excuse for becoming persona non grata. Miserable weekend for the Arizona senator.

You can find MoJoBlog's summary of Huckabee's speech here; the summary of Romney's is here. Sam Brownback would have been a strong contender in this straw poll had he not dropped out; my Brownback experience from yesterday is here.

Huckabee Fever: Catch It!

| Sat Oct. 20, 2007 11:10 AM EDT

MikeHuckabeehomeboy.jpg Mike Huckabee is the closest thing to a rock star here at the FRC's WB. He is the only candidate who actually comes from the evangelical community. (That's actually a Huckabee talking point, but it's true. He's a former Baptist minister, after all.) As I've mentioned before, Huckabee is making a strong pitch for the Brownback votes. His main competitor, Mitt Romney, spoke yesterday.

Huckabee's speech today had an anger and ferocity to it that is well outside the conventional wisdom on Huckabee. The guy who is commonly described as easygoing, warm, and funny seemed seriously pissed that the "holy word of God" is being violated, according to Huckabee, on abortion and on gay marriage. He emphasized that America needs to "make it constitutionally clear that life begins at conception" in order to end the "holocaust of liberalized abortion." Yikes.

He also railed against candidates who "lip sync" the hymnals of the evangelical Right. You listening, Rudy? And he raged against candidates who have more positions on the core issues than "Elvis had waist sizes." You listening, Romney?

After a sea of biblical stories, Huckabee had this core point to make: "I do not spell G-O-D as G-O-P. Our party may be important, but not as important as our principles." He urged the attendees not to conflate their loyalty to their Christian values with their loyalty to the party that most frequently represents them. If the Republican Party doesn't speak for the Christian Right, said Huckabee, stand up, do something, stay true. (When I heard that, all I could think was, "Let's go third party!")

The crowd ate it up. Can Giuliani win this nomination without the evangelical vote? Can Huckabee win it without anything else?

Photo courtesy of mikehuckabeeismyhomeboy.com.

Latino Head of RNC Resigns in Frustration

| Sat Oct. 20, 2007 10:33 AM EDT

martinez-mel.jpg

Hispanics were supposed to be a key part of Karl Rove's permanent Republican majority. The comprehensive immigration reform plan pushed by President Bush was both the product of the president's immigrant-friendly views and Karl Rove's belief that allowing Hispanic immigrants a path to citizenship would lead thousands of those immigrants (and their kids) into the arms of the GOP. Instead, the issue of immigration has been so bungled by the GOP (and so captured by the rabid anti-immigrant portion of the party's base) that Mel Martinez, the Cuban-born senator from Florida, is resigning his post as head of the RNC.

Rudy Giuliani's Appearance Before the Value Voters: A Mixed Bag

| Sat Oct. 20, 2007 8:58 AM EDT

rudy_giuliani_drag.jpg Rudy Giuliani just faced his toughest crowd of the campaign to date. After some waffling early in the campaign, Giuliani has been honest about his pro-choice and pro-gay rights beliefs. In so doing, he's written off the folks who are likely to attend the Family Research Council's Washington Briefing (aka the Value Voters Summit).

So how did Rudy handle the situation? Unimpressively. He spent as much time apologizing for not pandering to the crowd on abortion and gay rights as he did making the case for why he ought to be the next president of the United States. Let's dig in.

Rudy started by saying, "I've come here to speak to you about our shared values and our shared goals. What unites us is far greater than what divides us." Any suspicion that he would ignore the tension between his positions and the crowd's by raving about "Islamic fascism" went out the window immediately.

Early in the speech, he said, "Christians and Christianity are all about inclusiveness." He went on to explain the early Christians drew people to the faith by accepting doubters, sinners, and outcasts. There are two reasons why this is a dicey line of rhetoric. First, Rudy explaining Christian history to some of America's most devout Christians is kind of insane. In addition to sounding unauthentic, he had no room for error. Second, it's unclear if he was trying to say that the crowd here ought to accept him (as a candidate that doesn't "check their boxes"), or that the crowd here ought to accept gays, immigrants, and other folks that these Christians don't like so much. Either way, he's telling these folks how to improve themselves, which is a bit presumptuous, no?

Giuliani explained that because he too often finds himself failing his moral and religious beliefs, he is reluctant to hold himself up as a model of faith. And that he comes from a background that keeps religion out of public life. Despite that, he said, "You have nothing to fear from me." That's a pretty stunning statement for any presidential candidate to make.

Few campaigns are won on the defensive, but that's where Rudy found himself. "Isn't it better that I tell you what I really believe," he said, "than to change all my positions to fit the prevailing wind?" It isn't leadership in any meaningful sense to pander, he explained, and so, if you'll forgive him, he's not going to pander to you. But don't write him off as a result. "Ronald Reagan said, 'My 80 percent friend is not my 100 percent enemy,'" Rudy pointed out. To rephrase that: "I know we don't agree 20 percent of the time, but please don't hate me as a result." The unspoken but universally acknowledged truth here is that the 20 percent on which Rudy and the crowd disagree are the 20 percent that are most important to the crowd.