Mojo - January 2007

White House Purges Courts Of Independent Prosecutors

| Mon Jan. 22, 2007 1:36 PM PST

In his January 19 New York Times column (here, if you have access), Paul Krugman does a good job of crystalizing the recent goings-on at the White House in its purge of independent prosecutors. One by one, federal prosecutors are being relieved of their jobs in what Attorney General Alberto Gonzales describes as "a personnel matter." More like a personal matter: The kinds of prosecutors that are being heaved out (like San Diego's Carol Lam, who successfuly prosecuted Duke Cunningham) are the kind of attorneys who seek to bring justice for the people, and that appears to be making the Bush administration very uncomfortable.

According to Krugman, the White House has gotten rid of as few as four and as many as seven prosecutors (Gonzales is having trouble with the math) since the middle of December. As a rule, once a federal prosecutor is appointed, she serves for the remainder of the president's term. Now that Democrats are in control in Congress, one might feel relief that none of Bush's new appointees will be confirmed. Enter Sen. Arlen Specter.

When Specter was still chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he slipped a little gift for Bush into the revised Patriot Act bills--a proviso that eliminates the requirement that federal judicial appointees have only 120 days to be confirmed, and then replacements are named by federal district courts. One need only remember the chilling scene of Michael Moore's driving an ice cream truck around the Capitol grounds and reading the Patriot Act through a loudspeaker to understand how easy it is to slip just about anything into a lengthy bill.

So now it does not matter whether the Senate confirms Bush's new nominations--we are all stuck with them. I'm sure that Tom Maciulis and his media colleages do not care, but I do. If there is no one left to prosecute the corrupt and treasonous people at the top of our government, they have an absolute license to do whatever they wish.

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Prominent Republicans Warner and Boehner Take Action Against the Surge

| Mon Jan. 22, 2007 1:21 PM PST

Opposition to the president's surge is building on the eve of his State of the Union. The senior senator from Virginia, John Warner, who is the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a respected voice on military affairs, has completely reversed his support of the president's policy, going from being a steadfast backer to introducing a Senate resolution against the surge. The resolution is rumored to be a kinder, gentler version of the one introduced roughly a week ago by heavy-duty war critics Biden, Levin, and Hagel.

In the other house of Congress, House Minority Leader John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, will lead a effort by key House Republicans to get the White House to report to Congress every 30 days on the progress made by the Iraqi government. It's kind of amazing that this sort of oversight has not existed until now.

Saving the Planet a Real Bargain

| Mon Jan. 22, 2007 6:37 AM PST

With the Pelosi Congress blazing climate change denial is quickly going out of style, which makes sky-is-falling economics the next-best stalling tactic. The way ExxonMobil and its political stalwarts frame it, you'd think a cap-and-trade on greenhouse gasses is going to send us into the next great depression—one where we will look up wistfully at over-priced windmills with the downtrodden expression from a Dorothea Lange dust-bowl photograph.

Admittedly, averting climate change won't be cheap, but what is? (check out iconoclastic Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz' predictions on the final dollars and cents costs of our escapades in Iraq). The two proposed bills (the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act and the much more timid proposal offered by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), which would only reduce carbon-intensity as a percentage of GDP, but would not necessarily reduce total emissions) are in fact more of a bargain that one may realize. As for content, neither bill calls for the kind of emission reductions likely necessary to avert the cataclysmic global warming tipping points Mother Jones contributing-writer Julia Whitty warns about, but an imperfect bill would be a good start towards showing the world that we don't have our head completely in the sand. (Pew knocks out a superb comparison of the two bills).

On whether a climate bill will break the bank, economists at the Federal Energy Information Administration--who have produced arguably the most objective bean counting on the subject—don't seem to think so. They project a shockingly small negative impact on the economy from either choice of legislation. Bingaman's proposal would put a 29 billion dollar dent in our inflation adjusted GDP by 2025. McCain's would hit the pocketbook a bit harder at $89 billion. Put that into perspective by checking out a clever recent New York Times' graphic showing war-time spending against some other possible uses for making our world a better place.

-Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell

What Would Jeb Do?

| Sun Jan. 21, 2007 1:06 PM PST

A really good examination of (1) how Jeb Bush would have made a different Commander-in-Chief than his brother these past six years, and (2) whether or not Jeb has legitimate national prospects, from the Washington Post today. Check it out.

Bill Richardson Throws Hat in the Presidential Ring

| Sun Jan. 21, 2007 12:52 PM PST

Gov. Bill Richardson (D) of New Mexico has declared that he is forming an exploratory committee, with the intention to run for president in 2008.

Richardson may be the most qualified man in America to be president: he has been a Congressman, a cabinet secretary, an abassador to the U.N., and (obviously) a governor. He ran the Democratic Governors Association during the last campaign cycle, when Dems picked up six state houses. His experience with foreign affairs is vast, including negotiating with Saddam Hussein for the release of two hostages in 1995 and brokering a cease-fire in Darfur earlier this month. If unable to secure the Democratic nomination, Richardson would be a great candidate for VP or Secretary of State.

He would also be the first Hispanic president in American history, and is wildly popular in a border swing state.

Update: A friend from New Mexico tells me Richardson's influence has left the state an ethical cesspool. Hmmmm... see here for more.

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.

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.)