Blogs

Interim U.S. Attn. and Rove Protege Timothy Griffin Resigns

| Thu May 31, 2007 1:25 PM EDT

I wrote yesterday about the rumors that Thompson's campaign-to-be was courting Karl Rove lackey and interim U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Timothy Griffin. Griffin's appointment caused a stir as it became apparent during the imbroglio that is the U.S. Attorneys scandal that Bud Cummins (the former U.S. Attn. Griffin replaced) had been forced out to make way for a Rove protégé. Yesterday, the Arkansas Times blog (thanks to ThinkProgress for spotting this) reports that Griffin has resigned, effective June 1. No word on whether he is joining the Thompson campaign, but the timing seems opportune, no? Griffin is the young prosecutor Monica Goodling mentioned in her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last week. According to Goodling, former coworker Paul McNulty was being untruthful when he told the Senate Judiciary Committee in February that he knew nothing of Griffin's involvement in "caging" (a voter suppression technique). I stand by what I said yesterday. This not the best move for Thompson's campaign. Stay tuned.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

FOX Loves New Debate Lineup: Biden, Kucinich, and Gravel

| Thu May 31, 2007 12:42 PM EDT

You've probably heard about this FOX News debate that is slowly bleeding participants. You see, it's a debate for the Democrats, and while some Dems thought it might be a good idea to get their ideas in front of FOX's largely conservative viewership, others felt it legitimized FOX's place at the serious-news table. And serious news FOX is not.

So everyone's been bailing. Edwards, Obama, and Clinton left a while back. Now, Richardson and Dodd have announced they will not participate either. So who's left? Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, and Joe Biden.

You're kidding yourself if you don't think this will be the most entertaining debate of the season. FOX would probably just cancel it if they weren't certain this circus will make Democrats look completely silly and extremist.

George Bush is Concerned About America Losing its Soul

| Thu May 31, 2007 10:56 AM EDT

Dan Froomkin notes at White House Watch that George Bush was recently asked why he cares so much about the issue of immigration.

"I'm deeply concerned about America losing its soul," Bush said. "Immigration has been the lifeblood of a lot of our country's history." He added: "If we don't solve the problem it's going to affect America. It will affect our economy and it will affect our soul."

He was not concerned about our soul when he mislead a country into war and questioned the patriotism of anyone who objected, nor when he failed to provide health care for the wounded of that war, nor when he suspended habeas corpus, nor when he fought Congress to keep it from passing an anti-torture bill. He was not concerned when he authorized the government to spy on American citizens, nor when the Abu Ghraib photos were released, nor when he underfunded the very education reform bill he touts as his greatest domestic achievement. He was not concerned when federal agencies left a city to drown, nor when Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, and Duke Cunningham turned Congress into a cash register, nor when a congressman was exposed preying on little boys. He was not concerned when he rang up the biggest budget deficits of all time, nor when he appointed a man who had just attempted an end-run around the Justice Department to run the Justice Department, nor when his vice president invited energy companies to help make energy policy, nor when his administration ignored global climate change, the greatest threat to our nation and the world in his lifetime. He wasn't concerned when he pushed to enshrine bigotry against homosexuals into the Constitution, nor when his Administration paid American journalists to support its policies, nor when it was revealed that the military was planting stories in the Iraqi media while simultaneously teaching Iraqis about the freedom of the press.

No. After six and a half years of turning this country into a banana republic that is hated by most of the world, our president is finally concerned. Well, thanks George. We're glad to see you're paying attention.

British Contractors Outnumber British Soldiers Three to One -- Is This the Future of Iraq?

| Thu May 31, 2007 10:08 AM EDT

On AMERICAblog, I spotted an article from the UK's Independent that says there are 21,000 British private contractors in Iraq. That's approximately three times the number of British soldiers in Iraq.

Is this the future of Iraq? Let's say September comes and goes the surge hasn't improved security conditions in Baghdad or elsewhere. Republicans may abandon the president in large numbers, forcing a withdrawal to begin over a presidential veto. The Defense Dep't can simply pay more and more private contractors -- who have no oversight over their spending or their actions on the ground -- to execute a bastardized version of their current mission.

The Democrats can enact laws that mandate stronger accountability over contractors, or even limit the number of contractors the Pentagon can employ. While a bill did pass in May that supposedly provided for stricter oversight over contractors, the bill was criticized by anti-contractor activists and suffered a credibility deficit because it had the support of the contracting industry itself. Congress may not want a strong light shone on the business of contracting, and the military probably likes it that way, but until we know exactly how many contractors operate in Iraq, and specifically what they are doing, we will never be fully sure the war is over.

As an example of the murkiness that surrounds contractors, estimates for the number of private contractors in Iraq range anywhere from 44,000 to 130,000. Mother Jones rode along with a couple of them in our latest issue.

Eat Less Meat To Save The Planet, Brits Say

| Wed May 30, 2007 8:26 PM EDT

Eating less meat and dairy could help tackle climate change by reducing the amount of methane gas emitted by cows and sheep. Reuters reports on an email leaked to a vegetarian campaign group, Viva, wherein a British Environment Agency official expressed sympathy for the green benefits of a vegan diet, which bans all animal product foods. The official said the government may in future recommend eating less meat as one of the "key environmental behaviour changes" needed to combat climate change… Blimey, the Brits threaten to take the lead again. --JULIA WHITTY

The Worldbike: Cargo-Carrying Bicycle Designed For Africa

| Wed May 30, 2007 7:20 PM EDT

Alex Steffen blogs at WorldChanging on the Worldbike--a cargo-carrying bicycle designed for Africa, where most bikes are used by small entrepreneurs to transport goods for a living. Now, Steffen reports, the bike has appeared in the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum exhibit, "Design for the Other 90%." According to WorldBike:

The Worldbike [is] a new platform for developing world bicycle entrepreneurs. With a lighter weight, stronger frame, V-brakes for stopping power, an ergonomic seat and riding position, a seven-speed drivetrain for hill climbing and integrated cargo racks, the Worldbike is the bike people are calling out for in developing countries. Why hasn't it been built before? Because American recreational customers are the singular focus of the bicycle industry. But things are changing. The Design for the Other 90% is one example of a growing awareness of the importance of developing products that can assist the world's poor.

In my perfect world: You could only shop at CostCo if you carried back what you bought on one of these… --JULIA WHITTY

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Swedish Cancers Traced To Chernobyl

| Wed May 30, 2007 6:33 PM EDT

The incidence of cancer in northern Sweden increased following the accident at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl in 1986. This was the finding of a study from Linköping University in Sweden that asked: Was the increase in cancer caused by the radioactive fallout from Chernobyl or could it be explained by other circumstances? In two studies using different methods, Martin Tondel showed a small but statistically significant increase in the incidence of cancer in northern Sweden, where the fallout of radioactive cesium 137 was at its most intense… --JULIA WHITTY

Torture Double-Header: Immoral and Idiotic, and Aided and Abetted

| Wed May 30, 2007 4:42 PM EDT

In the lead-up to an expected executive order outlining new standards for military interrogations, social scientists from around the country are telling the government that, in matters of intelligence, pain does not equal gain. In fact, many of the coercive interrogation tactics—AKA torture—the military has been using since September 11 were adopted from a Cold War training module in which American soldiers were subjected to the worst and most sinister forms of abuse they might receive if captured by the Soviets. No evidence exists that such methods were effective, or even employed. Most of the post-9/11 "torture light" methods date from the Cold War, but at least one military interrogator claims that the even older World War II methods were both more humane and more fruitful—partly because the interrogators spoke the detainees' languages. (There are only 6 Arabic-speakers are on staff at the palatial new American embassy in Baghdad; numerous government employees fluent in the language have been fired because they were gay or, well, Arab.) Bush's executive order is expected to ban waterboarding (or mock drowning) but to authorize aggressive techniques not currently allowed by the Army Field Manual.

Now for part two of your double-header: A subsidiary of Boeing—the same company tapped to build a virtual fence along the border with no government oversight—helped the government enact its immoral and ineffective torture policies, according to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU. The suit charges that the company, Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., of San Jose, "facilitated more than 70 secret rendition flights over a four-year period to countries where it knew or reasonably should have known that detainees are routinely tortured or otherwise abused in contravention of universally accepted legal standards." In an article in the Oct. 30 New Yorker, Jane Mayer reported that a former Jeppesen employee told her that a senior company official announced at a board meeting, "We do all of the extraordinary rendition flights — you know the torture flights."

But don't get excited about learning something about the ultra-secret rendition program. The Bush administration will almost certainly request that the case be dismissed on the grounds that it will reveal state secrets. And even though the ACLU is basing the suit on "publicly available records" and a New Yorker article, the government will probably be granted its request because the "state secrets" privilege is wrongly recognized as a get-out-of-court-free card.

Thompson Campaign Courts Rove Protege, Not Their Best Move

| Wed May 30, 2007 1:55 PM EDT

Amidst the "Fred Thomspson to announce" clamor, TPMmuckraker spotted a Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) article that claims Thompson's campaign is courting Timothy Griffin. Griffin is the young prosecutor and Karl Rove protégé who was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas in December of 2006. His appointment has received a great deal of criticism within the broiling U.S. Attorney firings scandal, as it is believed that former U.S. Attn. Bud Cummins was removed only to make room for Rove's lackey.

But that's not all the dirt on Griffin according to Monica Goodling's long-awaited testimony last week. Goodling claimed that her former coworker Paul McNulty falsely testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee when he claimed he had no information about Griffin's involvement in "caging" (a voter suppression technique). Greg Palast noted back in March that according to BBC Television, Griffin headed up a scheme to suppress 70,000 citizens' votes before the 2004 election, targeting black soldiers and homeless men and women. This, by the way, is illegal. Strangely, no one in the media is touching this, except, of course, Palast, who after Goodling's testimony cried out for people to pay attention to this scandal. Although, in doing so, he got McNulty's name wrong, calling him Kyle Sampson. (Oops, wrong resigned-DOJ official, Greg.) There is bound to be more news on this front but in the meantime a note to Thompson: I don't think this is your best move.

State Dep't Official Takes on the Bushies

| Wed May 30, 2007 1:16 PM EDT

Price Floyd left his post as the head of Media Affairs at the State Department just a few weeks ago and he is already going public with how difficult it was to make America's intentions and actions clear to the world with the Bush Administration in charge.

We have eroded not only the good will of the post-9-11 days but also any residual appreciation from the countries we supported during the Cold War. This is due to several actions taken by the Bush administration, including pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol (environment), refusing to take part in the International Criminal Court (rule of law), and pulling out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (arms control). The prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib and the continuing controversy over the detainees in Guantanamo also sullied the image of America.
Collectively, these actions have sent an unequivocal message: The U.S. does not want to be a collaborative partner. That is the policy we have been "selling" through our actions, which speak the loudest of all...
I was not a newcomer to these issues. I had served at the State Department for more than 17 years, through the Persian Gulf War, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, numerous episodes of the Middle Eastern peace process and discussions in North Korea on its nuclear programs.
During each of these crises, we at least appeared to be working with others, even if we took actions with which others did not agree. We were talking to our enemies as well as our allies. Our actions and our words were in sync, we were transparent, our agenda was there for all to see, and our actions matched it.
This is not the case today. Much of our audience either doesn't listen or perceives our efforts to be meaningless U.S. propaganda.

The full op-ed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is definitely worth reading. Spotted on Laura Rozen's War and Piece and Think Progress.