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You Could Be the Next Senator From Wyoming!

| Wed Jun. 13, 2007 1:19 PM EDT

Live in Wyoming? Ever wondered what it's like to listen to Robert Byrd drone on and on in a barely conscious state? Want to shin kick have a few words with Joe Lieberman?

Then it's your lucky day. Over at Wonkette, they've discovered that the Wyoming GOP is honoring the recent death of Republican senator Craig Thomas by posting an application for his job on its website. Jeez, Craig, why'd you die? Your job couldn't have been that taxing. It's basically reality TV show fodder.

Anyway, there's a PDF application that you have to fill out, and apparently it helps if you're a member of the GOP/have served the state of Wyoming previously/have a platform. But whatevs, MoJoBlog readers could probably do a better job than a lot of the goofs currently in Congress. Go give it a shot.

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Americans Favor Amnesty by Wide Margins: Poll

| Wed Jun. 13, 2007 1:01 PM EDT

Looks like a vast majority of Americans favor preserving the American dream.

A new LA Times/Bloomberg poll shows that two-thirds of Americans support giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, assuming they have no criminal record, pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English, and meet other requirements. Those numbers cut across party lines -- roughly two-thirds of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans feel this way.

The immigration bill is dead for now, but these findings bolster the president's claim that the conservatives who opposed it because its amnesty clauses were too lenient on illegal immigrants were nothing more than a very vocal minority far detached from America's mainstream. The population at large apparently feels like Barbara Ehrenreich.

One last note: only 34 percent of Americans favor the much-maligned point system for distributing visas that would weigh professional qualifications and command of English more heavily than having family already in the States.

When Tort Reformers Slip And Fall

| Wed Jun. 13, 2007 12:34 PM EDT

So-called "tort reform" is one of the Republican Party's favorite issues, and this administration in particular has done a lot to limit the power of employees and victims of government, industrial and consumer discrimination and negligence to bring lawsuits against employers and corporations.

Like so many things, however, the concept of tort reform is easier to talk about than to incorporate into one's own life. George W. Bush, the nation's tort reform cheerleader, is a good example. When he was the governor of Texas, he also conducted a major tort reform campaign, but he took time out to file a lawsuit against a rental car agency because of an accident involving one of his daughters. According to legal experts, the lawsuit was probably not necessary because the insurance company would have handled the settlement. Bush's attorney said the suit had to be filed because of problems with the insurance company, a statement that is easy for most of us to accept.

Now it is another major tort reformer, Robert Bork, who has filed a lawsuit against New York City's Yale Club because of a fall he sustained there a year ago. Bork claims that the exclusive club failed to provide a handrail or stairs that would lead to the dais from which he was scheduled to speak at a banquet. In trying to ascend, his leg hit the side of the dias, and he whacked his head on a heat register.

Bork suffered a hematoma on his leg. It burst, and he had to have surgery, medical treatment and physical therapy. His lawsuit claims that he suffered "excruciating pain" and continues to walk with a limp.

Eric Turkewitz, who publishes the New York Personal Injury Law Blog, describes Bork's lawsuit as "frivolous," and you can read his reasons here.

Assume, for a moment, that the lawsuit is frivolous. That would make Bork a world-class hypocrite. Now assume that the lawsuit is justified: Does that make Bork a changed man? It will be interesting to hear what he has to say.

Clinton Loads Up on Earmarks, Cementing Status as Big Money Candidate

| Wed Jun. 13, 2007 12:13 PM EDT

Because there are few substantive differences between the Democratic presidential candidates on the issues, primary voters are left with less-than-ideal metrics like "likeability" and "who Oprah favors."

I'd like to propose a new and better issue with which to make a distinction: Big Money. That is, Hillary Clinton plays the game of money in politics -- and plays it well -- while Obama opts out, arguing that a political system awash in cash can't possibly serve everyday American citizens. The impetus for this argument comes from an article from today's Hill that reveals "Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has secured more earmarks in the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill than any other Democrat except for panel Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.)." The article goes on to explain the bill has $5.4 billion in earmarks, 26 of which were requested by Clinton, to the tune of $148.4 million in federal spending. (To be fair, most of the earmarks requested by Clinton were also requested by the senior senator from New York, Chuck Schumer.) According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, Clinton secured 360 earmarks in the four years between 2002 and 2006, worth a combined $2.2 billion.

Contrast all that with Barack Obama, who has only one earmark request in the defense bill. It's a request made by several senators on behalf of a Department of Education program for children with severe disabilities.

This shouldn't be mind-blowing stuff. Consider that after Clinton's bid for comprehensive health care reform failed in the nineties, she went on to become the Senate's second-largest recipient of healthcare industry contributions. Or that her advisers "represent some of the weightiest interests in corporate America." Or that she happily takes campaign contributions from lobbyists and special interests, while Obama has pledged to take no money from such folks, even going so far as to return $50,000 in contributions after he discovered the givers were lobbyists.

Clinton is a divisive figure who voted for the Iraq War, occasionally takes ideologically troubling positions, and whose presidency would perpetuate the dynastic nature of America's presidential politics. I'm not saying I can't support her, but I do find it trying. And her willingness to eat from the money trough while other Democrats try to clean up Washington makes it even more difficult.

Daft Punk Movie to Screen in the US

| Tue Jun. 12, 2007 5:41 PM EDT

mojo-photo-electroma.JPGGuys in robot masks and silver pants everywhere can start computing their travel plans now: NME is reporting Daft Punk's highly anticipated new feature length film, Electroma, will screen at various locations in the US and Canada this summer. The film premiered at Cannes last year, and apparently involves a couple robots who travel around America in a quest to become human. Why do robots always want to be human? Don't they know about, like, acne?

Electroma will screen in LA on June 29th and Miami on July 29th, as well as in Toronto, Calgary and Montreal.

A couple previews have made it onto YouTube. First, the official trailer, which is pretty great, and gives you a sense of the film's pace:

Then there's this, which is apparently an actual excerpt. NME is reporting the film is "silent," but I think they mean it's not accompanied by dialog or any Daft Punk music, and indeed, this segment features Todd Rundgren, to spectacular effect.

While this is the first directorial effort by the French duo, Daft Punk have been involved in some superb visual product in the past, including great videos for "Around the World" and "Revolution 909", and the underappreciated Interstella 5555, which brilliantly merges an animated tale about a rock band from space with the unaltered entirety of Daft Punk's Discovery album, also without any dialog. Most of the movie appears to be on YouTube, so go crazy.

Electroma screenings and Daft Punk concert dates after the jump.

Pace Out at Joint Chiefs of Staff Because of Opposition to War With Iran?

| Tue Jun. 12, 2007 2:34 PM EDT

You may have noted late last week that Gen. Pete Pace got bumped as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the choice to name Michael G. Mullen, chief of naval operations, to the post was a product of how difficult and "divisive" Pace's reconfirmation would have been -- after all, Pace was intimately involved in overseeing the war in Iraq for a number of years and the Democrats in Congress would have had the knives out. Or so the argument goes.

Will Bunch over at Attytood doesn't buy it. He thinks Pace's consistent opposition to military action against Iran was the main problem, and that Cheney and his crew were the leading forces in Pace's ouster. Check out Bunch's thoughts here. Check out Mother Jones' coverage of the possibility of war with Iran here, here, and here.

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Duncan Hunter Keeps Bogus Plane Alive Through Earmarks

| Tue Jun. 12, 2007 12:05 PM EDT

Presidential candidate and Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter has kept a useless defense project alive for years even though it has been repeatedly rejected by Pentagon officials because the project's maker is a regular contributor to his campaigns, reports ABC News.

An experimental plane that is designed to take off straight up and then fly 700 mph has never gotten more than a few feet off the ground and has crashed four times in four years. Useless, you say? Completely. And the Pentagon agrees. Military analysts have consistently rejected the aircraft as technically flawed since 1986.

So why does the plane continue to be funded? Because San Diego-area congressmen, who have tons of defense interests and contractors to represent, consistently create earmarks to keep it alive. The biggest offenders are presidential candidate Duncan Hunter, former chairman and now ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and former congressman Christopher Cox, who is now chairman of the Securities Exchange Commission.

Cox received $18,000 in contributions from the plane's creator, DuPont Aerospace. Hunter has received at least $36,000 from DuPont for his congressional campaigns and current presidential campaign.

There will be a hearing on the plane tomorrow -- you have to love Democratic leadership in Congress; oversight exists! -- and Hunter is expected to testify. Representatives from DuPont will be right there with him, which is fitting because together they've bilked American tax payers for millions.

(Hat tip, POGO blog.)

Bill Richardson Has Great Ads, Is Incapable of Answering Questions

| Tue Jun. 12, 2007 11:05 AM EDT

If you watched the last GOP Democratic debate, you know Bill Richardson has trouble answering questions that are posed to him. Instead, he tends to recite his resume. Well, his campaign is well-aware of this little problem (how could they not be) and is looking to capitalize on it. Check out Richardson's latest campaign advertisement.

Spotted on Politico.

Update: As the person who manages our News and Politics page, I am aware that Bill Richardson is a Democratic candidate. Apologies for this gaffe.

OSC Recommends Exceedingly Harsh Punishment for Fallen GSA Chief

| Tue Jun. 12, 2007 10:49 AM EDT

First the exceedingly troubled Office of Special Counsel nailed General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan for violating the Hatch Act. Then Doan responded that if she was guilty Karl Rove and his crew of goons were guilty too. But even though the OSC is supposedly investigating Rove for potential violations of the Hatch Act, it is unsympathetic to Doan's arguments. In its official recommendation on how to punish Doan, it pulled absolutely no punches yesterday, with OSC chief Scott Bloch writing that Doan's actions were "the most pernicious of political activity" and that he "recommend[s] that Administrator Doan be disciplined to the fullest extent for her serious violation of the Hatch Act and insensitivity to cooperating fully and honestly in the course of our investigation."

Yikes. All that's left now is the denouement: Doan's sentencing by President Bush. Bush is a notoriously loyal man -- is Doan valuable enough for Bush to go out on limb to protect her? Or will he gladly fire a relatively low-level civil servant in the hope that the action takes some of the heat off Alberto Gonzales and all the Bush Adminstration's other scandals?