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U.S. Attorney Says Firing Was Politically Motivated

| Thu Mar. 1, 2007 12:57 PM PST

iglesias.jpgThe Bush Dept. of Justice finds itself in even deeper doo-doo today, as Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias has charged that weeks before the November election, members of the New Mexico congressional delegation asked him to turn up the heat on the investigation of a Democrat for corruption. Iglesias declined and was fired, effective yesterday. (The reasons given include frequent absence, to which Iglesias responded that he serves in the Navy Reserve.)

Iglesias won't name the members of Congress unless subpoenaed, but the only New Mexico delegates who haven't categorically denied involvement are Rep. Heather Wilson and Sen. Pete Domenici, both Republicans. Domenici is, moreover, the White House's state contact for the U.S. attorney in the state.

Congressional Democrats have indicated that they will issue subpoenas.

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Enticing New Health Care Plan from Little Known Corner of Congress

| Thu Mar. 1, 2007 12:21 PM PST

A new Slate article by Jacob Weisberg examines that state of American health care, from the status quo to Bush's plan to John Edwards' plan to... Ron Wyden's plan?

Yup. The Democratic senator from Oregon has a plan, and it sounds mighty attractive. Imagine if the giant, Byzantine mess that is the current health care system in this country was reduced to this:

Under Wyden's plan, employers would no longer provide health coverage, as they have since World War II. Instead, they'd convert the current cost of coverage into additional salary for employees. Individuals would use this money to buy insurance, which they would be required to have. Private insurance plans would compete on features and price but would have to offer benefits at least equivalent to the Blue Cross "standard" option.

And Wyden is serious about the "universal" aspect of universal health insurance. From a summary of his plan: "Every time an individual interacts with state, local and federal government — registering their car, enrolling their children in school, applying for a driver's license or paying their taxes — they can be required to verify their enrollment in a private health insurance plan." Also, I'm sure this is music to some people's ears: "Previous and existing health problems, occupation, genetic information, gender and age will no longer be allowed to impact eligibility or the price paid for insurance."

Now you might say, "That's very well and good, but what about the unemployed, low-wage workers, and freelance bloggers? If they can't afford private health insurance now, why would they be able to afford it under the Wyden plan?" Wyden's website is stocked with information on the subject, and in all the "Before Wyden Plan"/"Under Wyden Plan" scenarios you can find there, previously uninsured individuals pay for private insurance at affordable rates. But how? From the same summary:

Employers who do not currently provide health benefits will be required to begin making phased in "Employer Shared Responsibility Payments." These payments will be used to ensure that everyone can afford their health plans by funding premium reductions.

After two years, all employers will pay these "Employer Shared Responsibility Payments," driving down the cost of premiums for employees across the country, the semi-employed, and the unemployed.

Now it's just a matter of getting this thing off the ground. As Weisberg writes in Slate, it might actually have a chance to succeed because Wyden is building support methodically and effectively.

He has support from CEOs, labor leaders, and even one maverick health-insurance executive. And instead of trying to flatten the opposition, as the Clintons did in 1994, Wyden is courting Republicans. He recently got five of the most conservative men in the Senate to join him and four other Democrats as co-signers of a letter to Bush responding to the White House proposal. The letter endorses the principles of universal coverage and cost containment, and proposes that they all work together on a compromise.

Godspeed.

Seriously Mixed Signals from the Commanders in Baghdad

| Thu Mar. 1, 2007 10:06 AM PST

About a week ago I highlighted an important story in Newsweek that explained how completely different the discussion about Iraq in America is from the reality on the ground. Congress may be debating (kind of) how to end the war, but over in Baghdad, Gen. Petraeus is embedding our troops with the Iraqi citizenry and "putting down roots." We're in it for the long haul, said Newsweek. Petraeus is trying to fight the war over again from scratch.

But today the Guardian reports that Petraeus and the Brainy Bunch are giving themselves six months to turn things around.

An elite team of officers advising the US commander, General David Petraeus, in Baghdad has concluded that they have six months to win the war in Iraq - or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat.

This could mean several things. (1) That Petraeus really does have a long-term strategy but he will scrap it if there is no discernable progress in the next six months. (2) This Guardian story is just a bit of masterful PR by the Army to show that the new commander is aware of the war's failing support back home, and the long-term strategy moves forward unimpeded. Or (3) one of the two stories is wrong.

I'm guessing some combination of all three. But Petraeus -- who was basically set up to fail -- appears to have an even more impossible situation.

What Doug Feith Left Off His New Website

| Thu Mar. 1, 2007 9:56 AM PST

Doug Feith, the former undersecretary of defense who helped set up the Pentagon operation that stovepiped bad intel about WMD and Saddam-Al Qaeda links to the White House, has been trying to clear his name recently. Now he says he was just asking "tough questions" about the CIA's work, not trying to peddle bogus theories to justify an invasion of Iraq. Just a skeptical public servant holding those in power accountable. And if you believe that, I have a war to sell you. Feith's latest effort in name-clearing is a website that promises to challenge the "media myths" and offers glowing quotes about his character from Donald Rumsfeld and General Peter Pace. Funny, but Feith has conspicuously left off what's probably the most memorable quote about him by a military man he used to work with. Here, let us fix that:

feith.gif

Global Warming...Are You Ready?

| Thu Mar. 1, 2007 9:56 AM PST

Diesel shoppers surely are. I can't believe I missed this. Diesel's new ad campaign for their Spring/Summer '07 collection, is out, and my oh my, just wait until you see what they have in store. The campaign is based on the premise of whether or not you (their client) are ready (Read: Do you have the right clothing and accessories?) for the hot temps of global warming. Yes, this is for real. There is even a video which warns of the dangers associated with a warming climate, but urges fashion lovers not to distress, and instead take action (of course, in the form of bolstering your wardrobe with warm-weather essentials). You really have to see it for yourself.

Keep up on the latest news about global warming at the MoJo science and health blog, The Blue Marble.

Democrats Will End War in Iraq with... Pork?

| Thu Mar. 1, 2007 9:52 AM PST

With John Murtha's plan to slowly end the war in Iraq mired in controversy and unable to get broad support, and the Democratic leadership's plan to rewrite the 2002 authorization for war going nowhere, the Democrats have turned to a different tactic.

Loading a war spending bill with pork.

Seriously, that's the best the Dems, who control both houses of Congress, can do. From today's Washington Post:

While Democrats try to restrict how President Bush can spend the $100 billion he wants for Iraq, they also hope to load his measure up with $10 billion in add-ons...
Lawmakers from the Great Plains are pressing for about $4 billion in disaster aid for farmers suffering under drought conditions.
The California delegation is demanding help for citrus, avocado and other Central Valley farmers facing $1.2 billion in losses from a devastating January freeze.

And so on and so on. Mind you, the idea here isn't to pump the bill so full of special interest spending that Bush has to veto it. No, the idea is to take advantage of the fact that Bush and Congressional Republicans would never have the cojones to stop a war spending bill, and thus push through a lot of favorite projects.

What? Seriously, what? Talk about having a tin ear. Didn't the Democrats ride into Congress promising to end the march of bills swollen on earmarks and Republican pork barrel projects? Are they seriously proposing this right now?

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Sumatran Ground Cuckoo Sighting!

| Wed Feb. 28, 2007 6:51 PM PST

sumatranbird1.jpg

Orinthologists just got a hold of one of these iridescent green birds, received from a trapper in Indonesia. The foot-and-a-half long bird hurt its foot, and they are currently rehabilitating it until it is fit to be released into the wild.

The species was taken for extinct until 1997, when a single specimen was spotted. A camera trap snapped a pic of another bird in 2006. But even now, scientists classify the flashy avian as "critically endangered" and say it is at risk from human activity encroaching on its Indonesian jungle habitat.


While the bird was in captivity, biologists recorded its distinctive, high-pitched cry for the first time ever. The bird call—which sounds like a combo ofa rooster's cock-a-doodle-doo and someone getting stabbed—will help authorities find out just how many Sumatran ground cuckoos exist.

The shrieking call of the cuckoo might have another use: cell phone ring tone.

The Center for Biological Diversity offers bird calls and wolf howls as ring tones with hopes that people will want to help the creatures who produced them. The strange ring tones might also make some humans shriek, but not so nicely on the ears as the call of the Sumatran ground cuckoo.

—Jen Phillips


AsianWeek Columnist Had a Penchant for Hate Speech

| Wed Feb. 28, 2007 6:16 PM PST

The San Francisco weekly, AsianWeek, which calls itself "The Voice of Asian America," has come under fire for a column last week titled "Why I Hate Blacks."

The column (since deleted from AsianWeek's site but reprinted here) lists, among other things, four reasons why "we should discriminate against Blacks." Yikes.

In response, the newspaper issued this apology:

AsianWeek sincerely regrets and apologizes for publishing New York-based contributor Kenneth Eng's column in the issue of February 23, 2007. AsianWeek rejects Eng's biased views on a critical segment of American society, African Americans. While AsianWeek continues to truly believe in diversity of opinion and freedom of the press, we are also very aware that the promotion of hate speech is not appropriate, nor should it be encouraged.

Given that the genesis of the American civil rights movement was borne primarily by the African American community through blood and perseverance, the failing of our editorial process in allowing this opinion piece to go forward, was an insensitive and callous mistake that should never have been made by our publication. Readers of AsianWeek over the past 27-year history clearly know that we reject any racist agenda. On the contrary, our editorial policy has led the way in interracial and multicultural strength and diversity.

As a publication whose motto is the "voice of the Asian American community," we are humbled and overwhelmed at reader response not only chastising our editorial process, but strongly urging our paper to sever all ties to this contributor. We have heard the call and Mr. Eng has been terminated from writing for the paper.

That's a pretty egregious slip past the editors. And here's the thing: Kenneth Eng, a self described "Asian supramicist" wrote two previous columns for AsianWeek titled, "Why I Hate Asians" last month, and "Proof that Whites Inherently Hate Us" in November.

I'm curious to know why the editors didn't feel impelled to reject his "hate speech" and "racial agenda" back when they published these other columns? If his aim was to get people thinking, enraged, but thinking, and they stood behind that premise before, why not stand behind him now? Instead they fired him, and they look irresponsible on the national stage.

And if publishing this column was indeed a mistake, then so were the others, and they've let a few too many mistakes slip on by.

— Neha Inamdar

Making Sustainable Design Fun

| Wed Feb. 28, 2007 6:07 PM PST

How could humans become their own renewable source of energy? This is only one of the many questions Myriel Milicevic explored while heading-up the Human Powered Workshop during the Interaction Design Workshop Week in Belgium earlier this month.

Projects participants designed at the workshop include the Dirt Annihilator, a street-cleaning trike, Energy on Wheels, a shopping cart that generates power, and an energy generating rocking chair. The objects were inspired by from a Colombian eco-village and electricity-generating turnstiles in Japanese train stations, among other things.

Organizer Milicevic recently spoke to the folks at the interactive design blog, We-Make-Money-Not-Art. She claimed "there is not much difference between politics and play." This realization was the outcome of a workshop she collaborated on with artist and designer Amy Franceschini, called The Politics of Play. (For another example of the intersection between politics and play, you also might want to check out Amy Franceschini's project, Victory Gardens 2007, currently at the SF MOMA.)

The essence of the Human Powered Workshop and the Politics of Play can be summed up in Myriel Milicevic's statement, "I like to remind people that they can make their own observations, share them,…and see grass-roots movements evolve. People can come up with very powerful and creative solutions even with very limited resources."

You can read more about Milicevic's socially and environmentally concerned design projects on here.


--Rose Miller

Desperate Evangelicals

| Wed Feb. 28, 2007 4:23 PM PST

The American Prospect is calling Romney a joke of a candidate—all hair. But, meanwhile, in Newsweek's version of the "The Evangelicals Have No Candidate" story, we find this:

The Bush family seems to be moving its chips to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Several of Jeb's gubernatorial staffers have signed on with Romney, and Jeb's sister, Doro Bush Koch, is cohosting a fund-raiser for him. Mom and Dad are reportedly telling friends he's a fine man and the class act in the race. With front runner John McCain faltering and Rudy Giuliani an unlikely fit with Republican primary voters, Romney looks like the Bush Dynasty's best bet.

Suddenly it's the Republicans floundering for a half decent candidate! And in another echo of bad Democratic moments past, evangelicals are threatening to throw the vote. Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, told Rolling Stone in its "The Evangelicals Have No Candidate" story, "It's true we have nowhere else to go, except to stay home. [But] we would rather go down on our principles. We lose? You lose!"

Predictably, the evangelical groups are blaming the media (these guys actually compare the influence of the liberal media to slavery!) for making a deal out of Romney's Mormonism. But The Nation documents some instances of religious groups calling Mormonism a cult.

The truth is, and I've said this before, Romney made his own bed by running on a holier-than-thou platform. And then there's the simple fact that it's really cool to watch the religious right Goliath fall.