Mojo - March 2007

Castro and Chavez Yuck It Up Over Ethanol

| Wed Mar. 14, 2007 1:36 AM EDT

Heading into the presidential campaign both Hillary Clinton and John McCain, both of whom once detested ethanol, are slobbering all over the place in its support. That's because they want votes in Iowa's caucuses.

Meanwhile, in a March 4 radio chat on the Venezuelan program "Hello President," Hugo Chavez warmly welcomed the recovering Fidel Castro, and in short order the two fell into an animated discussion on the same subject:

Chavez: Do you know how many hectares of corn are needed to produce one million barrels of ethanol?

Castro: To do what?

Chavez: To produce one million barrels of ethanol?

Castro: Ethanol. I believe you told me about that the other day. Somewhere around 20 million hectares.

Chavez:[Laughing] Just like that.

Castro: Go ahead, remind me.

Chavez: Indeed, 20 million. You are the one with an exceptional mind, not me.

Castro: Twenty million. Well, of course. The idea of using food to produce fuel is tragic, is
dramatic. No one is sure how high the price of food will rise when soy is being used for fuel, with the need there is in the world to produce eggs, milk, to produce meat. It is a tragedy. One of many today.

I am happy to know that you have taken up the flag to save the species because... there are new problems, very difficult problems and therefore to see someone become a great preacher of the cause, a champion of the cause, an advocate of the life of the species. For that, I congratulate you. Continue fighting [words inaudible] to educate the people so they can understand.

There are things that I read and review every day. I am very aware of the threat of war,
environmental threats and food threats. We have to remember that there are billions of people famished. These are realities, and for the first time in history, the governments are getting involved. Governments that are able and have the moral authority to do it, and you are one of those rare examples...

The two heads of state reminisced as they rambled along over the radio...

Castro: Venezuela has a territory of nearly one million square kilometres. We are just a nut shell that the Gulf current pushed too close to our friends to the north. [Chuckles]

Chavez: [In English] Our friends Fidel, listen.

Castro: Well, you say that I know English. I did at one time.

Chavez: Did you forget it?

Castro: The trauma afterwards has made me forget it. This is why I no longer have that excellent memory you have, the capacity to summarise or your musical ear, your talent to remember songs. I cannot believe that you have partied so much as to remember all those songs.

Chavez: I never partied as much as you.

Castro: I envy you that.

When it came time to say goodbye, Chavez said, "Do you know how many people listen to the first hour of the programme? Forty percent. As you know, the audience of "Hello President" is huge. Let's gain ground. We will win the battle for life. We will win that battle. Thank you for your call."

Castro thanks Chavez and they continue.

Chavez: Let's give Fidel a round of applause. [Applause] A hug. Comrade, companion, and you know, I do not have any qualms about calling you father in front of the world. Onward to victory.

Castro: Onward to victory.

Chavez: We will prevail.

Castro: We will prevail. [Applause]

You can read the entire transcript, originally provided by the BBC, at the National Post of Canada's site.

-- James Ridgeway

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Conference of Pro-Israel Group Brings Applause for Attack-Iran Backers

| Tue Mar. 13, 2007 7:58 PM EDT

The annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference this weekend may have taken us a step closer to war with Iran. One featured speaker was John Hagee. Hagee is a powerful evangelical leader who founded the Christians United for Israel lobby last year. Hagee is a staunch supporter of Israel; that much is clear. But he is a literal reader of the Bible who thinks Armageddon in the Middle East is a good thing, and conveniently misinterprets most of Judaism to make it a helpmate for Christianity.

Even so, AIPAC delegates may be right to conclude that Hagee is good for the Jews, but The American Prospect's Sarah Posner argues:

Whether Hagee is good for Israel is beside the point. The real problem is that he represents a catastrophe for the United States and its standing in the world -- not because he might love the Jews too much, or might in fact secretly hate them, but because…the notion that Hagee -- whose status is only elevated by invitations like AIPAC's -- is leading a political movement based on nothing more than a supposedly literal reading of his Bible only reinforces the view that the United States is being led by messianic forces at odds with world peace and stability.

Hagee's speech, which compared Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Pharaoh and Hitler, went over big.

Nancy Pelosi also spoke at the AIPAC meeting, but she didn't make quite as big a splash. In fact, she was booed when she called the war in Iraq a failure. She was using a much more pragmatic rubric: "whether it makes the U.S. safer, the U.S. military stronger and the region more stable." Just moments before, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) had received a standing ovation when he said that the U.S. had no choice but to win in Iraq. (By the way, Stephen Cohen has a powerful take-down of that argument in The Nation today.)

So why does this pro-Israel group need us to stay in the war in Iraq? It wants to turn up the heat on Iran. One of its priorities is to push Congress to approve tougher sanctions on Iran, which is hostile to Israel. For a rundown of the ears most primed to receive reasons to attack Iran, read this.

(AIPAC is also skeptical about candidate Barack Obama because he once told the Des Moines Register that "nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.")

New Mexico Will Require HPV Vaccine

| Tue Mar. 13, 2007 6:00 PM EDT

Merck, the maker of the new vaccine to protect against the strains of the HPV virus that cause cervical cancer, succumbed to pressure from Christian groups to cease lobbying for mandatory vaccination programs. As Salon put it, "New [Parenting] Rule: If you don't think your daughter getting cancer is worse than your daughter having sex, then you're doing it wrong." (The other metaphors in this article are a bit, err, saltier, but it's laugh-out-loud funny.)

The only state Merck had persuaded was Texas, where Governor Rick "Goodhair" Perry circumvented the legislature and mandated vaccines by executive order. Lawmakers are now rallying to supersede his order because they're more frightened of their daughters having sex than they are of them getting cancer.

It's not clear if Merck had made significant headway in New Mexico when it called off its lobbying efforts, but the legislature there has delivered a bill to Governor Bill Richardson's desk. Richardson, whom Jonathan would like to see become Secretary of State, has said he will sign the bill.

Newspapers Cutting Along the Color Line

| Tue Mar. 13, 2007 5:07 PM EDT

What do you cut when your publication's in a financial pinch? Diversity programs, of course. The Associated Press just announced its decision to terminate the 2007 "Diverse Visions / Diverse Voices" minority mentoring program—a week after the Feb. 15 application deadline. Students received a letter informing them that due to limited resources, the 5-day workshop would not take place. Applicants were required to submit a resume, three writing samples, a 500-word essay, and two letters of recommendation. The AP said it would run the program "every other year." We'll see.

The AP isn't the only program to add insult to injury in cutting minority programs. The Village Voice pulled a similar stunt last spring, when it announced days after the application deadline for its Mary Wright Minority Fellowship that the program would be suspended because of the paper's purchase by New Times (now Village Voice Media). Again little comfort to those who hustled to get the lengthy application form to the paper's Cooper Union headquarters on time. The program is, however, happily back on track and now offers a weekly stipend of $400, instead of the previous $150.

Village Voice also recently replaced its self-declared "white male Jew from the Upper West Side" editor-in-chief, David Blum, with a Latino, Tony Ortega, after Blum's mostly-white hiring policies were challenged in a story meeting. Blum didn't apologize for who he was, and was, the Huffington Post reports, the subject of complaints from minority staffers. Blum argued that there were only so many qualified minority candidates, and that journalism schools like Columbia University, where he was formerly an adjunct professor, were "98 percent white." As a Columbia J-school alum, I can say that the program at least felt diverse with tons of international students, plenty of Hispanics, a couple of Asians, and an ample helping of Jews—thought it was woefully lacking in African-Americans. Ortega will be the Voice's 5th Editor-in-Chief since the publication was bought by New Times, revealing that maintaining diversity may be one of the Voice's lesser problems.

Speaking of faltering New York papers, Newsday announced last week that it is losing Mira Lowe, associate editor of recruitment, and John Gonzales, the paper's court reporter. Lowe, whose always-friendly face was a regular at media job fairs in New York City, is moving on to Chicago to work on recruitment at Ebony and Jet, and she's taking her African-American husband, Newsday reporter Herbert Lowe, with her. Gonzales is going to New Orleans to join the AP in covering Hurricane Katrina recovery. Seems they're interested in minority issues.

Newsday has lost 6 other journalists of color since December of 2006. This is a serious blow to the publication, which prides itself on covering issues in the heavily-ethnic New York boroughs and Long Island that papers like The New York Times tend to ignore.

For Mother Jones' coverage of newspapers in peril, click here.

—Jen Phillips

Chuck Schumer to Bush on Prosecutor Purge: Explain Yourself

| Tue Mar. 13, 2007 4:30 PM EDT

Today, Senators Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein held a press conference (above) to discuss the most recent developments in the case of the fired U.S. Attorneys, namely how shady the Justice Department and the White House appear to have been, and to make clear that the stepping down of Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' chief of staff, "does not take heat off the attorney general." If you haven't been following the investigation, both Schumer and Feinstein give a good chronology of events. (TPMmuckraker was nice enough to transcribe for us.)

There were several things worth noting from both Feinstein and Schumer's speeches. Schumer called again for Alberto Gonzales to step down and said:

"Attorney General Gonzales has either forgotten the oath he took to uphold the Constitution or just doesn't understand that his duty to protect the law is greater than his duty to protect the president."

Schumer called on Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and George Bush to come forward and explain themselves. Schumer says of Bush:

"The president must clarify his role in this whole matter...the cloud over the U.S. attorneys, the cloud over the Justice Department is getting darker and darker."

Feinstein went on to discuss most notably the Patriot Act:

"We now know that it is very likely that the amendment to the Patriot Act... might well have been done to facilitate a wholesale replacement of all or part of U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation."

This is an interesting part of the probe because it not only implies careful calculation on the part of the White House and the DOJ but it may implicate Senate Judiciary Committee (the senate committee investigating the firings) Ranking Minority Member Arlen Specter, whose chief of staff Michael O'Neill, under "orders from the DOJ," slipped the amendment into the Reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Specter is now co-sponsoring a bill to reverse the amendment -- perhaps to save face?

I love divided government!

The Continent Itself is Obese on Worldmapper

| Tue Mar. 13, 2007 3:24 PM EDT

worldmapper.pngIf you prefer to process global politics visually or if you just have a map fetish, Worldmapper is worth checking out. The site hosts several "density-equalizing" maps that depict the world according to demographic statistics ranging from total population, to the slightly more unique and topically relevant carbon emissions increases, greenhouse gasses, and nuclear waste. While other maps typically portray these statistics using icons and color-coding, these density equalizing maps resize landmass to account for the statistics in question. The maps depicting nuclear waste and wealth both show a hugely ballooned Northern Hemisphere and an atrophied Southern Hemisphere.

—Rose Miller

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Bob Novak and the Horse's Mouth

| Tue Mar. 13, 2007 2:33 PM EDT

Bob Novak, the columnist affectionately known among Washington journalists as the prince of darkness and author of the Valerie Plame scoop, hosts an Off The Record luncheon from time to time with high officials, such luminaries as Dick Cheney, John Bolton, Condi Rice, Colin Powell, Al Gore, Bill Frist and so on. You might think these people are inaccessible, but for Novak they talk, answering questions, participating in the conversation. For a moment, however brief, you are on the inside track.

But, like all good things, there is a hitch. Novak only takes 70 people into his off the record briefings so there is a real scramble to get a seat. To obtain a seat at his April 26 lunch costs $595. (You can bring guests for $395 per person.) The affair is sponsored by the conservative paper Human Events.

The result: "I was able to get the straight scoop on the economic forecast," says Fred Jones, former president of Citicorp, in one blurb. "With that guidance, I was able to make the correct business decisions in the following months -- saving my company millions."

If you want to go, originate your petition here.

Attack of the Career-Killing Girlfriend

| Tue Mar. 13, 2007 2:28 PM EDT

JennSiebel.jpg

Just as the media hype surrounding the backstabbing sexual exploits San Francisco's glossy-haired, white-wine-guzzling mayor was being artfully supplanted with promises of free bus rides and bon fires on the beach, Gavin Newsom's penchant for loquacious women has the mayor's career-damaging personal life front and center once more.

Mayor girlfriend and actress, best known for her role as "Younger Woman in Market" in Something's Gotta Give Jennifer Siebel (shown right in happier, more sultry times) defied all reason and PR manuals when she told the San Francisco Chronicle the "the woman was the culprit" in the Mayor's recently revealed affair with the wife of his friend and campaign manager. But the real meltdown didn't occur until Siebel took it upon herself to defend her comments in a post to local blog, the SFist, which had criticized her remarks. A sample of the ramblings, which begin so innocently, with "hey there" and quickly spiral out of control to the point that the Chronicle declined to reprint the entire post:

i am not going to blindly support a woman who has cheated on her husband multiple times and watch while my boyfriend is the only one who gets punished..and, what, for something a long time ago when the man was going through a crises- divorce, the loss of his mother, the pressures of being mayor, etc. and he was vulnerable and lonely? and, what's your definition of affair? he's been so hurt by this all -- personally and professionally- and it was a few nothing incidents when she showed up passed out outside of his door. come on guys, have a heart. I have tried to see Ruby's side of the story but unfortunately everyone near to her has stories and says she is bad news.

And, most sadly, especially since she's about to get dumped, ends:

gavin is and has taken responsiblity and it's not like i haven't given him tough love through this at times. but anyone close to him knows he is a good man and a great mayor and think what you want of me, i'm just trying my best and obviously making mistakes here and there. i didn't know i was getting into this mess in the first place and it's been a hard position to be in. i hope you all will just leave me out of this...and let the past stay in the past.

Siebel apologized (concisely) earlier today, but so much for the Mayor's 1 month sober.

New Ad Plans to Scare You Into Voting for McCain

| Tue Mar. 13, 2007 11:02 AM EDT

We're with Wonkette: this is one of the worst campaign ads in a long time. From the weird Survivor-like wind pipes at the beginning, to the ominous music, to the scary echoing audio, to the complete lack of coherent message... just terrible all around. Wonkette's hypothesis: "McCain's depressed campaign team clearly wants him to drop out and settle at one of those Del Webb retirement communities in Phoenix, where he'll have far less opportunity to start a nuclear war with somebody. This isn't a campaign ad so much as a cry for help." Hard to argue.

It seems like the kind of campaign that other aging dark war horse, Dick Cheney, might run. (And, yes, I've blogged about four candidates for the Republican nomination in one morning.)

New Poll is Very Good News for Hagel

| Tue Mar. 13, 2007 9:23 AM EDT

I wrote yesterday about how a Chuck Hagel presidential bid would directly question whether or not there is room in the Republican Party for an anti-war candidate. (On this issue, Hagel announced yesterday that he had nothing to announce.) According to a new New York Times/CBS News poll, the answer is a resounding yes.

Let's start with some of the other interesting numbers from the poll. Republicans are dreary, depressed, and despondent: while only 12% of Democrats think the opposition party will win the White House this year, a whopping 40% of Republicans do. And it's justified: if the election were held today, an unnamed Democrat would beat an unnamed Republican by 20 percentage points, according to the poll. Further, Republicans acknowledge that backing Bush's war policies will be a huge disadvantage in 2008 and suggest they are open to supporting a candidate who breaks with the president on Iraq. From the Times:

Asked what was more important to them in a nominee, a commitment to stay in Iraq until the United States succeeds or flexibility about when to withdraw, 58 percent of self-identified Republican primary voters said flexibility versus 39 percent who said a commitment to stay.
 hagel130.gif

That's got Chuck Hagel's name written all over it: he's easily the loudest and most prominent GOP critic of the war. Also, consider the fact that in the same poll 60 percent of Republican respondents said they wanted more choices in the race for their party's nomination. So the frontrunners -- Giuliani, McCain, and Romney -- aren't satisfying the base and Republicans would prefer someone who isn't an ardent supporter of the Iraq War. Are you listening, Chuck?

Oh, and about Giuliani's supposedly massive lead in the polls? About 50 percent of respondents say they don't know enough about the candidates -- even the frontrunners -- to form an opinion. When they do learn more, I think Giuliani's in trouble (see "How to Swiftboat Rudy Giuliani" below). It's time for Hagel-Huckabee, people. How many times do I need to say it?