Blogs

Follow Up on Barack Obama's "Muslim Problem"

| Sat Jan. 20, 2007 12:29 PM PST

I posted yesterday about how the right is attacking Barack Obama's past -- dude allegedly was educated in a madrassa for a few years as a child in Indonesia -- and how it actually makes me like him more. I called Obama's campaign to see if I could get some information on the situation beyond what's in Obama's books:

Dreams of My Father:

In Indonesia, I'd spent 2 years at a Muslim school, 2 years at a Catholic school. In the Muslim school, the teacher wrote to tell mother I made faces during Koranic studies. In the Catholic school, when it came time to pray, I'd pretend to close my eyes, then peek around the room. Nothing happened. No angels descended.

The Audacity of Hope:

Without the money to go to the international school that most expatriate children attended, I went to local Indonesian schools and ran the streets with the children of farmers, servants, tailors, and clerks.

But I couldn't get a call back. As it turns out, Media Matters has a very thorough run-down of the whole situation, including a description of the ways Fox News has inflamed the story. Take a gander.

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As Does Sam Brownback

| Sat Jan. 20, 2007 12:16 PM PST

Filling the social conservative void left by the candidacies (or theoretical candidacies, anyway) of "moderates"/"mavericks" John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas has announced today he will pursue the Republican nomination.

Brownback, the very, very pro-life and very, very anti-gay candidate in the field (think Rick Santorum, with less of a tendency to put his foot in his mouth), is so polarizing that his only real hope for the nomination is that McCain, Romney, and Giuliani split the moderate vote and no other bedrock conservative emerges. Not likely. In announcing his candidacy, Brownback said, "My family and I are taking the first steps on the yellow brick road to the White House.'' An odd choice of words for a guy running a fairy tale campaign...

Hillary Announces Candidacy

| Sat Jan. 20, 2007 12:03 PM PST

Senator Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for president today, via a statement and video.

Mother Jones will have plenty on this in the coming days and weeks, put for now, take a look at our latest cover story, "Harpy, Hero, Heretic: Hillary. Why she stokes our deepest fears and darkest hatreds."

Lawsuit Against Corcpork, Inc.'s Animal Cruelty Revived

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 6:46 PM PST

Corcpork, Inc., a California company, confines breeding pigs in 2-foot cages for most of their lives. They cannot turn around, lie down, or stand on anything but slatted boards. They are constantly inseminated, and their lives are total torture and misery. Corcpork, not surprisingly, is in blatant violation of California's animal cruelty laws. However, a suit filed against Corcpork in 2004 by Farm Sanctuary was dismissed in 2005 because of California's Proposition 64, which substantially limits third-party lawsuits.

Despite the unfair restrictions of Proposition 64, there was nothing stopping the Attorney General of California (other than the obvious special interests) from going after Corcpork on his own. He did not, however, so Farm Sanctuary is arguing in court that unless it or a similar organization is allowed to speak on behalf of the animals, they have no protection from abuses of California law.

It has taken a long time, but Americans are slowing beginning to rebel against the extreme cruelty of factory farming, which is also an environmental threat. Both Florida and Arizona have gone after factory farms, and it is only a matter of time before other states do, and then, one hopes, Congress will act.

Lawsuit Against Corcpork, Inc.'s Animal Cruelty Revived

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 6:46 PM PST

Corcpork, Inc., a California company, confines breeding pigs in 2-foot cages for most of their lives. They cannot turn around, lie down, or stand on anything but slatted boards. They are constantly inseminated, and their lives are total torture and misery. Corcpork, not surprisingly, is in blatant violation of California's animal cruelty laws. However, a suit filed against Corcpork in 2004 by Farm Sanctuary was dismissed in 2005 because of California's Proposition 64, which substantially limits third-party lawsuits.

Despite the unfair restrictions of Proposition 64, there was nothing stopping the Attorney General of California (other than the obvious special interests) from going after Corcpork on his own. He did not, however, so Farm Sanctuary is arguing in court that unless it or a similar organization is allowed to speak on behalf of the animals, they have no protection from abuses of California law.

It has taken a long time, but Americans are slowing beginning to rebel against the extreme cruelty of factory farming, which is also an environmental threat. Both Florida and Arizona have gone after factory farms, and it is only a matter of time before other states do, and then, one hopes, Congress will act.

Gonzales Argues Against Certainty of the Right Of Habeas Corpus

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 5:20 PM PST

Very strict constructionism, in the form of creating backwards syllogisms and thereby violating the spirit of the Constitution, has been a hallmark of the Bush administration conservatives. The latest is this gem from U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: "There is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution; there's a prohibition against taking it away."

Gonzales uttered these words yesterday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Committee chairman Arlen Specter then asked the Attorney General: "The Constitution says you can't take it away except in case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there's a rebellion or invasion?"

Gonzales: "The Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States or citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn't say that. It simply says the right shall not be suspended" (except in cases of rebellion or invasion).

Robert Parry, writing for Consortiumnews.com, asks a logical question: If Americans do not possess the right of habeas corpus because that right is presented via its negative, then what about other rights that are presented the same way? He uses the First Amendment as an example.

Perry also goes on to cite the Sixth Amendment, which presents habeas corpus as a right in a positive syntax, thereby nullifying Gonzales's strange logic.

(Thanks to Project for the OLD American Century for this lead, and POAC, by the way, could use some help.)

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A Showdown at the GSA

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 5:11 PM PST

Back in December, the Washington Post reported that GSA Chief Lurita Alexis Doan had compared her agency's Investigator General, Brian Miller, to a "terrorist." His audting work had "gone too far," she'd said in August at a staff meeting, and was "eroding the health of the organization."

Today we learn that "going too far" might have meant investigating Doan.

Citing internal documents, WaPo reveals Doan attempted to give a no-bid contract that summer to a company founded and operated by a friend, which would have violated federal law. A former government contractor appointed by Bush, Doan "personally signed the deal to pay a division of her friend's public relations firm $20,000 for a 24-page report promoting the GSA's use of minority- and woman-owned businesses, the documents show."

Not surprisingly, continues the Post:

The GSA's Office of Inspector General has launched an investigation into the episode and briefed Justice Department lawyers, according to sources who said they were not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation. Officials at the inspector general's office and the Justice Department declined to comment.

If Miller is a terrorist, then I wonder what Doan would call the FBI.

Carbon Offsets... Buyer Beware

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 2:17 PM PST

Carbon offsets are in. Everybody's doing it. And Wall Street knows it, which is why here and abroad companies from London's Marks & Spencer to Dell Computers are clamoring to make you, too, "carbon neutral." A crowded field of for-profit offset providers have sprung up, promising to do everything from reforesting the California redwoods to building solar powered greenhouses in India.

But if Expedia can make that flight from LaGuardia to Heathrow guilt free for only ten extra bucks, how is one to know whether the offsets one has bought are really making that cross-Atlantic trip carbon even-steven? At the moment, it's pretty much a crapshoot (with carbon offset prices ranging from $3.56 to $30 a metric ton). But the UK hopes to change that before the Greenland ice sheet melts into their precious gulfstream. The country's Ministry of Environment announced yesterday that it would set standards for rating the new club of carbon merchants. That way would-be-offsetters can distinguish between quality outfits and those just full of hot air.

The standards will be based on the same "system used to certify credits from the established Kyoto market." Ideally, this will mean the credits have a "clear audit trail" and be linked to real emission reductions, but don't go back to building your carbon-neutral beachfront villas just yet.

Even long-established projects, endorsed by the World Bank and certified for cap-and-trade under Kyoto's rules, don't always deliver their promised bang for the buck. Last week, The Wall Street Journal ran a great piece on the chemical industry in China. A particularly dire snippet:

"Regulators worry that the carbon market is encouraging companies in the developing world to make more of the underlying refrigerant than they otherwise would—so they can produce more of the global warming gas, destroy it, and sell the credits."

Kudos to the UK for holding the carbon traders to a higher standard, as the EU has in regulating the toxics industry. Still, for now, and for us unregulated Americans, riding a bike may be your best bet.

-- Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell

Carbon Offsets... Buyer Beware

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 2:17 PM PST

Carbon offsets are in. Everybody's doing it. And Wall Street knows it, which is why here and abroad companies from London's Marks & Spencer to Dell Computers are clamoring to make you, too, "carbon neutral." A crowded field of for-profit offset providers have sprung up, promising to do everything from reforesting the California redwoods to building solar powered greenhouses in India.

But if Expedia can make that flight from LaGuardia to Heathrow guilt free for only ten extra bucks, how is one to know whether the offsets one has bought are really making that cross-Atlantic trip carbon even-steven? At the moment, it's pretty much a crapshoot (with carbon offset prices ranging from $3.56 to $30 a metric ton). But the UK hopes to change that before the Greenland ice sheet melts into their precious gulfstream. The country's Ministry of Environment announced yesterday that it would set standards for rating the new club of carbon merchants. That way would-be-offsetters can distinguish between quality outfits and those just full of hot air.

The standards will be based on the same "system used to certify credits from the established Kyoto market." Ideally, this will mean the credits have a "clear audit trail" and be linked to real emission reductions, but don't go back to building your carbon-neutral beachfront villas just yet.

Even long-established projects, endorsed by the World Bank and certified for cap-and-trade under Kyoto's rules, don't always deliver their promised bang for the buck. Last week, The Wall Street Journal ran a great piece on the chemical industry in China. A particularly dire snippet:

"Regulators worry that the carbon market is encouraging companies in the developing world to make more of the underlying refrigerant than they otherwise would—so they can produce more of the global warming gas, destroy it, and sell the credits."

Kudos to the UK for holding the carbon traders to a higher standard, as the EU has in regulating the toxics industry. Still, for now, and for us unregulated Americans, riding a bike may be your best bet.

Attack of the Methodists

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 2:12 PM PST

The habitually timid clergy of the United Methodist Church is on a rampage. Well, at least as far as Methodists go. Horrified by the prospect of Bush's presidential library marrying itself to Dallas' Southern Methodist University, ten Methodist Bishops have signed a petition opposing the move. Rev. Andrew Weaver of Brooklyn, an SMU theology school grad, told the Houston Chronicle:

What this (petition) will show is there are a lot of Methodists out there who don't wish to give him the gift of our good name because he doesn't deserve it. . .Bush has not been willing to speak with Methodist bishops about the war, but he will meet with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Why now is he choosing a Methodist school for his library and think tank?