Blogs

Bob Ney Sentenced to 30 Months

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 8:52 AM PST

The AP reports that Bob Ney, the former Ohio congressman who pled guilty on corruption charges stemming from the Abramoff scandal, will spend the next two-and-a-half years at a federal prison in Morgantown, West Virginia. Apparently, the sentence was even harsher than prosecutors had originally recommended. Explaining her reasoning to Ney, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle said, "Both your constituents and the public trusted you to represent them honestly."

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You Go Katie Couric (Er, Um)

| Thu Jan. 18, 2007 11:33 PM PST

Never thought I'd say it, but I feel a deep bond of solidarity with Katie Couric right now. Or at least a little twinge of sisterhood or something. Here's Katie blogging a couple of days ago about being invited to what she cringe-inducingly (sorry, can't help it, sisterhood be damned) calls "the little-known Big Meeting" before the Big Speech -- the president's, that is, speech about Iraq, that is. The Big Meeting was a White House background briefing with TV anchors and talk show hosts. Katie's post gets off to a slow start:

And even though I've been in this business for more years than I'd like to admit, and interviewed countless Presidents and world leaders, it's still thrilling—and even a little awe-inspiring—to get "briefed" at the White House, no matter who is sitting in the Oval Office.

But then we start going somewhere:

And yet, the meeting was a little disconcerting as well. As I was looking at my colleagues around the room—Charlie Gibson, George Stephanopoulos, Brian Williams, Tim Russert, Bob Schieffer, Wolf Blitzer, and Brit Hume—I couldn't help but notice, despite how far we've come, that I was still the only woman there. Well, there was some female support staff near the door. But of the people at the table, the "principals" in the meeting, I was the only one wearing a skirt. Everyone was gracious, though the jocular atmosphere was palpable.
The feminist movement that began in the 1970's helped women make tremendous strides—but there still haven't been enough great leaps for womankind. Fifty-one percent of America is female, but women make up only about sixteen percent of Congress—which, as the Washington Monthly recently pointed out, is better than it's ever been...but still not as good as parliaments in Rwanda (forty-nine percent women) or Sweden (forty-seven percent women). Only nine Fortune 500 companies have women as CEO's.
That meeting was a reality check for me—and not just about Iraq. It was a reminder that all of us still have an obligation to ask: Don't more women deserve a place at the table too?

Me, I'd love to hear more on the revelation-about-Iraq part, but maybe that's for another day. Meanwhile, Katie, if you ever need a few more good stats on this front, we can help.

Ted Nugent's Racist Spectacle at Texas Governor's Inaugural Ball

| Thu Jan. 18, 2007 7:27 PM PST

Is Texas Governor Rick Perry crazy, or is he just a big fan of Cat Scratch Fever? The final act at Perry's inaugural ball in Austin Tuesday night featured redneck rocker Ted Nugent, who, according to the San Antonio Express News, "appeared onstage wearing a cut-off T-shirt emblazoned with a Confederate flag and shouting unflattering remarks about undocumented immigrants, including kicking them out of the country, according to people who were in attendance. Machine guns, including an AK-47, were his props."

The funny thing for those who know Nugent is that he was actually being pretty tame. Two years ago, when I saw him speak at a National Rifle Association conference in Houston, he had this to say:

Remember the Alamo! Shoot 'em! To show you how radical I am, I want carjackers dead. I want rapists dead. I want burglars dead. I want child molestors dead. I want the bad guys dead. No court case. No parole. No early release. I want 'em dead. Get a gun, and when they attack you, shoot 'em.

That one was widely reported. But the AP didn't relate several other Nugent gems from that day. Among them was something he said while recounting a USO tour of Iraq: "I was just hoping somebody would take me hostage," he said. "Just aim for the laundry." (Which was even more odd when you consider that Iraqis generally don't wear turbans). Much of this was said while Nugent was holding an assault rifle. He wound up the tirade by concluding that Democrats, guilty of tax-raising and gun muzzling, should be "eliminated."

There has been a lot of talk in Texas that Gov. Perry could be tapped to run for Vice President. Maybe McCain should just nominate Nugent instead. The bigot vote would be in the bag.

Ted Nugent's Racist Spectacle at Texas Governor's Inaugural Ball

| Thu Jan. 18, 2007 7:27 PM PST

Is Texas Governor Rick Perry crazy, or is he just a big fan of Cat Scratch Fever? The final act at Perry's inaugural ball in Austin Tuesday night featured redneck rocker Ted Nugent, who, according to the San Antonio Express News, "appeared onstage wearing a cut-off T-shirt emblazoned with a Confederate flag and shouting unflattering remarks about undocumented immigrants, including kicking them out of the country, according to people who were in attendance. Machine guns, including an AK-47, were his props."

The funny thing for those who know Nugent is that he was actually being pretty tame. Two years ago, when I saw him speak at a National Rifle Association conference in Houston, he had this to say:

Remember the Alamo! Shoot 'em! To show you how radical I am, I want carjackers dead. I want rapists dead. I want burglars dead. I want child molestors dead. I want the bad guys dead. No court case. No parole. No early release. I want 'em dead. Get a gun, and when they attack you, shoot 'em.

That one was widely reported. But the AP didn't relate several other Nugent gems from that day. Among them was something he said while recounting a USO tour of Iraq: "I was just hoping somebody would take me hostage," he said. "Just aim for the laundry." (Which was even more odd when you consider that Iraqis generally don't wear turbans). Much of this was said while Nugent was holding an assault rifle. He wound up the tirade by concluding that Democrats, guilty of tax-raising and gun muzzling, should be "eliminated."

There has been a lot of talk in Texas that Gov. Perry could be tapped to run for Vice President. Maybe McCain should just nominate Nugent instead. The bigot vote would be in the bag.

Closest Place With No Clear Channel Ads: Bergen, Norway

| Thu Jan. 18, 2007 4:10 PM PST

A small city in Norway shows us that activism can be effective and that advertising doesn't have to consume our (uh... their) lives. Activists in Bergen, a small university town on the Western coast, took on Clear Channel -- not wanting their beautiful town to be overrun with advertisements -- and succeeded. (Well almost -- more later.) I know! As an American, I can't imagine a life without constant ads that are plastered everywhere -- on every highway billboard and on public transit. And then there is product placement in movies and TV shows, and of course, there's cable and local television's 40:20 rate of show-viewing to ads. It's nauseating, really. Mother Jones reported on this very topic in our current issue. "Ad Nauseum" is chock full of statistics, including that children alone are exposed to 40,000 ads per year.

But in Bergen, Norway, citizens weren't going to let their children, or the adults, face this ominous future. Faced with budget constraints, the City Council began negotiations with Clear Channel and one other company in 2004. The winning company would fund the building of the city's bus shelters and in return, the company would gain ad space in the city (on the bus shelters as well as on some lighted billboards elsewhere). It looked like Clear Channel had sealed the deal, when out of the blue, activists in the community showed up on the scene with its "Keep Clear Channel Out of Bergen" campaign. They started a mailing list and instead of demonizing the corporation they rallied around keeping their aesthetically pleasing city, with its deep roots, just the way it is. In the end, the Bergen City Council nixed the deal. Clear Channel of course sued them for breach of conduct and the outcome is pending, but regardless, it is a pretty cool victory.

So, is it that Norwegians are just way more progressive and efficient than we are? Or is it just easier for small towns and universities to take on a clear and concise enemy? Why can't big cities do this type of work or the entire nation for that matter? Are the problems just too large? Or are they just too far away for people to feel the impact enough to activate?

Closest Place With No Clear Channel Ads: Bergen, Norway

| Thu Jan. 18, 2007 4:10 PM PST

A small town in Norway shows us that activism can be effective and that advertising doesn't have to consume our (uh... their) lives. Activists in Bergen, a small university town on the Western coast, took on Clear Channel -- not wanting their beautiful town to be overrun with advertisements -- and succeeded. (Well almost -- more later.) I know! As an American, I can't imagine a life without constant ads that are plastered everywhere -- on every highway billboard and on public transit. And then there is product placement in movies and TV shows, and of course, there's cable and local television's 40:20 rate of show-viewing to ads. It's nauseating, really. Mother Jones reported on this very topic in our current issue. "Ad Nauseum" is chock full of statistics, including that children alone are exposed to 40,000 ads per year.

But in Bergen, Norway, citizens weren't going to let their children, or the adults, face this ominous future. Faced with budget constraints, the City Council began negotiations with Clear Channel and one other company in 2004. The winning company would fund the building of the city's bus shelters and in return, the company would gain ad space in the city (on the bus shelters as well as on some lighted billboards elsewhere). It looked like Clear Channel had sealed the deal, when out of the blue, activists in the community showed up on the scene with its "Keep Clear Channel Out of Bergen" campaign. They started a mailing list and instead of demonizing the corporation they rallied around keeping their aesthetically pleasing city, with its deep roots, just the way it is. In the end, the Bergen City Council nixed the deal. Clear Channel of course sued them for breach of conduct and the outcome is pending, but regardless, it is a pretty cool victory.

So, is it that Norwegians are just way more progressive and efficient than we are? Or is it just easier for small towns and universities to take on a clear and concise enemy? Why can't big cities do this type of work or the entire nation for that matter? Are the problems just too large? Or are they just too far away for people to feel the impact enough to activate?

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Maybe His Bus Will be Called the 'Flip-Flop Express'

| Thu Jan. 18, 2007 1:50 PM PST

With news that John McCain has reversed course on a key component of his 2005 lobbying reform bill, the Carpetbagger Report has updated its list of McCain flip-flops.

A quick sample:

McCain went from saying he would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade to saying the exact opposite.
McCain went from saying gay marriage should be allowed, to saying gay marriage shouldn't be allowed.
McCain used to oppose Bush's tax cuts for the very wealthy, but he reversed course in February.
McCain was anti-ethanol. Now he's pro-ethanol.
McCain decided in 2000 that he didn't want anything to do with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, believing he "would taint the image of the 'Straight Talk Express.'" Kissinger is now the Honorary Co-Chair for his presidential campaign in New York.

It's a long list. Read it in full.

Hagel Gets a Boost as McCain Totters

| Thu Jan. 18, 2007 10:56 AM PST

Yesterday's Senate circus on the war had one useful purpose. It became a presidential beauty pageant for candidates to strut their stuff on TV. As always, Hillary got headlines, but the most impressive presidential hopeful on the scene was Nebraska's Chuck Hagel. With John McCain looking sick and tired (he had melanoma removed from the left side of his face in 2000) and wobbling all over the place on the issues, Hagel is emerging as the most attractive Republican presidential possibility, and, as the conservatives like to say, the most "principled." Hagel is important in all of this because he was among the very first, if not the first, member of Congress to get behind George Bush's presidential push before the 2000 election. Things have changed. Last week Hagel said Bush's new plan is "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam." Hagel is a decorated Vietnam vet. He's now calling the war a "bloodbath."

The proposed Senate resolutions on the war are not binding in any way. "There is very little chance in the short run that we are going to pass any legislation," Hillary told reporters yesterday as she announced her own initiative. How so, she was asked. "I can count," she replied. Or to put it another way, Congressman John McHugh, a New York Republican who traveled with Clinton to Iraq said, "Congress right now has no effective role in this process."

The politics over the war is likely to be fought out—not on the Senate floor—but in John Murtha's appropriations subcommittee which oversees defense funding. Money bills must come from the House, not the Senate. Murtha, you will remember, was given up for dead when he was beaten by Steny Hoyer to be House majority leader, and sent back to his old job. Recently, Murtha has talked about cutting off war money. He's the one person who actually has the power to make life plenty tough for Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the White House.

It may appear that the Congress is fast congealing around some sort of opposition to Bush with Republicans like Olympia Snowe jumping on board. Not quite. The administration forces are hoping to spring a trap. If anyone sets an actual withdrawal date, they'll be up and screaming the Dems are cut and run, leaving our troops in the lurch. For now, they wait to see whether Reid and/or Pelosi spring for the bait.

Update: For Jonathan Alter on Chuck Hagel's presidential chances, see here.

The Mysterious Case of the Federal Prosecutor Firings

| Thu Jan. 18, 2007 10:17 AM PST

Josh Marshall weighs in today with an interesting column in The Hill about the rash of federal prosecutors who have apparently been forced out by the Bush administration in recent weeks. Among the latest to go is San Diego US Attorney Carol Lam, whose office prosecuted the Randy "Duke" Cunningham bribery case and who announced her resignation on Tuesday. "The current work of the other fired USAs has less direct political implications," Marshall writes. "But several seem to have had ongoing investigations of allegedly corrupt Republicans."

While the motivation behind the firings remains a mystery, a look at the people who are being appointed to fill the vacancies is instructive.

Consider the estimable J. Timothy Griffin, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas since Dec. 20 of last year.

If you hadn't heard about Griffin's appointment, don't feel bad; the guy he replaced hadn't either. Griffin's appointment was announced Dec. 15, before the then-U.S. attorney Bud Cummins had even been given a chance to resign. Cummins got the call on his cell phone telling him he was out the same day the announcement was made. He was out hiking with his son at the time....

A quick perusal of Griffin's resume shows that his more-or-less exclusive vocation has been doing opposition research on Democrats on behalf of the Republican Party. Until recently, he was head of oppo research at the White House, working directly for Karl Rove. In 1999 and 2000, he was deputy research director for the Republican National Committee. In 2002 he returned as research director for the national GOP and stayed on for the next three years.

Before getting involved formally in oppo research he worked in what you might call de facto oppo research positions. In 1995 and 1996 he was associate independent counsel in the Henry Cisneros investigation. And after that he headed up to the Hill to work for Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) investigating political contributions from Asian-Americans to Bill Clinton.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, according to Time, back in 2000, when he was in charge of digging up dirt on Al Gore, he apparently had a poster hanging on the wall behind his desk which read: "On my command — unleash hell on Al."

Cutbacks to Earth Satellites Blind Us to Global Warming, Hurricanes

| Wed Jan. 17, 2007 7:11 PM PST

The Doomsday Clock just lurched two minutes closer to midnight. Yet the Bush administration thinks sending a couple of dudes back to the Moon or a handful of exiles on to Mars is more important than seeing what's going down here on Earth. The National Academy of Sciences reports that half the scientific instruments on our environmental satellites are expected to stop working by 2010. That will amount to a huge loss of data. But if the bad news isn't streaming in, we don't have to worry about tracking global warming or the arrival of pesky natural disasters. Right? The Washington Post reports:

The two-year study by the National Academy of Sciences, released yesterday, determined that NASA's earth science budget has declined 30 percent since 2000. It stands to fall further as funding shifts to plans for a manned mission to the moon and Mars. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, meanwhile, has experienced enormous cost overruns and schedule delays with its premier weather and climate mission.

"If things aren't reversed, we will have passed the high-water mark for our Earth observations," said co-chairman Richard Anthes of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. "This country should not be headed in this direction. . . . We need to know more, not less, about long-term aspects of climate change, about trends in droughts and hurricanes, about what's happening in terms of fish stocks and deforestation."

Could it be those oil boys in DC have dibs on the first tickets off our failing planet? If so, do we have to wait for space colonies? Can't we send them offworld now? Then we could crank the clock back a minute or two.