Mojo - April 2007

Guess How Many People are Running for President? (Now Add One More)

| Thu Apr. 26, 2007 6:30 PM PDT

Because former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore just announced he's in too.

If you're like, 'Jim who'? That's OK. It was my reaction and I'm from Virginia.

Gilmore is unknown to most Americans and a recent filing to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) showed that he has just $90,000 in his campaign account — well behind the totals reported by other Republicans. Gilmore said today that the presidential campaign is a "very long race" and that he will reach voters and increase his name recognition through the Internet. Gilmore's speech was broadcast live over his campaign Web site. (NYT/CQ)

Love that his campaign is trying to spin his virtual announcement as a sign that he's web savvy. And not, you know, the guy who couldn't get reporters to come to his press conference.

Seriously, how many people are running for president? I've lost count.

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Rare Lung Disease Found In Food-Flavoring Plant Employees

| Thu Apr. 26, 2007 6:28 PM PDT

Bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare, life-threatening lung disease, has been found in eight in eight individuals who worked in California food-flavoring plants between 2003 and 2007. Contracting this disease was apparently the result of inhaling diacetyl, which is also linked to the occurrence of bronchiolitis obliterans in people who work in the microwave popcorn industry.

And the latest issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that women who work in battery manufacturing plants have elevated lead levels.

"Bronchiolitis obliterans is a severe lung disease that can be prevented with appropriate measures, such as engineering controls, work practices, medical surveillance, and a respiratory protection program," according to report co-author Dr. Rachael Bailey, an epidemic intelligence service officer at the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

There are no regulations governing U.S. food flavoring plants.

Gov't Watchdogs Call the OSC's Rove Investigation Dead in the Water

| Thu Apr. 26, 2007 5:20 PM PDT

As Dan Schulman reported this week, the Project on Government Oversight—a reputable nonprofit dedicated to rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse in government—has expressed doubt that Scott Bloch and the Office of Special Counsel have the authority to investigate Karl Rove as they've promised to do. Today, POGO and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility issued a joint press release detailing their objections. First the obvious: OSC head Bloch is under investigation by the White House, so how can he impartially investigate the White House?

Bloch aside, PEER and POGO claim it is "unclear at best" whether the OSC has the authority to oversee White House (and RNC) activities. The office almost certainly doesn't have the authority to look into former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias's claim that his firing amounted to discrimination against an armed services member (one of the rationales the DOJ gave for firing him was that he was out of the office too often; he serves in the Navy Reserves). Finally, the OSC can issue subpoenas, but can't enforce them. Do you really think Rove would submit to such a weak legal request?

Finally, as Dan reported in the current issue of the magazine, Mr. Bloch has hardly been an overachiever in the past, and has very little experience conducting large-scale investigations. PEER director Jeff Ruch put it this way: "Scott Bloch brings the investigative acumen of an Inspector Clouseau to a very complicated and delicate matter."

Ecuador Asks Us to Pay for the Amazon

| Thu Apr. 26, 2007 4:22 PM PDT

20070424_monkey.jpg

This dilemma cuts to the core of environmentalism today. Ecuador is asking for international financial compensation to leave alone a major oilfield in the heart of the Amazon. Ecuador's president says he will wait up to one year for a response before drilling. At stake are not only plant and animal species, but also the homeland of tribes living in voluntary isolation. Environmental groups are in disagreement. To pay or not to pay? Keep reading on The Blue Marble.

Military B.S. Alert

| Thu Apr. 26, 2007 2:05 PM PDT

Remember James Yee, the poor Guantanamo chaplain who was charged with a laundry list of offenses, all of which were later dropped?

There's a new James Yee. His name is Lt. Col. William H. Steele. He's been accused of aiding the enemy, a charge that can bring a death sentence. The reason? He allowed detainees at Camp Cropper near the Baghdad airport to use an unsecured cell phone. All the charges against him sound suspiciously floppy:

He was also accused of illegally storing and marking classified information, disobeying orders relating to his possession of pornography, dereliction of duty regarding government funds and conduct unbecoming of an officer for fraternizing with the daughter of a detainee since 2005 and for maintaining "an inappropriate relationship" with an interpreter in 2005 and 2006.

The military is mum on the charges, but outside analysts who have seen them say the fraternizing charge probably did not involve a sexual relationship.

Now get this: The military accused Yee of disturbingly similar violations, including aiding the enemy, failure to obey a general order, adultery and storing pornography on government computers.

So the real question isn't whether detainees were using Steele's cell phone to harm Americans (much less whether Steele knew it, which would have to be proven for the charge to stick), it's what Steele did to piss off the Pentagon. Or is this simply an attempt to distract the public from the security surge's failure? (Now even Gen. Petraeus is saying things will get worse before they get better.) Stay tuned.

McCain Neglects to Vote on Iraq War Spending Bill and Everything Else, Really

| Thu Apr. 26, 2007 1:45 PM PDT

I just updated my McCain post below with this news, but decided it deserved its own slot. The LA Times reports that presidential candidate John McCain was one of three senators who did not show up to vote today on the Iraq war spending bill (it just passed in the Senate). "This is the fourth major Iraq-related vote missed by McCain." But, it's not just Iraq votes that McCain skips. Politico points out that according to Congressional Observer Publications, McCain doesn't show up to vote for much these days. In fact, since January, he has missed one in three votes. Need a little context? The senator's Democratic cohorts, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have both missed just three.

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FOX's John Gibson: Iraqis Are "Knuckle-Dragging Savages"

| Thu Apr. 26, 2007 12:51 PM PDT

In a logically questionable and morally reprehensible tirade about how Americans are not responsible for the sectarian warfare in Iraq, FOX personality John Gibson said on his radio show, "Who is doing this killing? Give me a break. These are Iraqis killing each other. So what did we do? If you're saying it's our fault that we unmasked them as knuckle-dragging savages from the 10th century -- fine! I'll take credit."

Worse than Imus?

You have to smirk at the "They ruined our war!" petulance of the whole thing. We deconstruct more of John Gibson's idiocy here.

Somebody Needs to Put a Lid on McCain's Straight Talk Express

| Thu Apr. 26, 2007 11:56 AM PDT

I know people seem to like John McCain's candid manner of speaking, but come on, there needs to be some sort of filter on the Straight Talk Express, right? Last month, as I'm sure all of you remember, McCain took a fair amount of heat for claiming the Baghdad market was safe enough for a leisurely afternoon stroll. Sure, sure, everything is safe with a cadre of more than 100 soldiers. But, I think our aging Senator has really hit a new level of carelessness, er... candidness.

On Tuesday, McCain made a guest appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, during which Stewart asked about the aforementioned shopping excursion. McCain replied, "I had something picked out for you, too — a little IED to put on your desk." Not really funny, right? Am I being too uptight? Well, I'm "sticking to my guns" and going with "end the war slowly" John Murtha on this one. The Rep. from PA was livid when he heard about McCain's cracks about explosives. But there's more, McCain's response to Murtha was as straight-talking as one can get. On Good Morning America this morning, McCain sent this message to Murtha: Lighten up and get a life. The video is right here. Really? Lighten up about a war that costs this nation $1.9 billion a week and has taken more than 3,000 American lives? I think what upsets me the most is I can remember all too well a straight-talking presidential candidate that talked his way to the White House, twice.

Update: Apparently, McCain is too busy straight-talking to vote on the Iraq war spending bill that just passed in the Senate. This is the fourth Iraq-related vote the senator has missed.

I'm with Salon, All Roads Do Lead to Rove

| Thu Apr. 26, 2007 10:35 AM PDT

Ok, so Jonathan and I are both on Rove's case today. See below for more haranguing.

Yesterday, Dan reported on the irony of a man like Scott Bloch, the head of the Office of Special Counsel investigating Karl Rove for his recently revealed dirty dealings. Bloch himself is under investigation by the Office of Personnel Management's inspector general, spurred on, in part, by his staff who claimed "he engaged in the very retaliatory practices his agency is charged with investigating." We're wondering, "courageous effort to expose White House malfeasance, or a last ditch attempt to save his own hide"?

Bloch and the OSC plan to investigate Rove's involvement in, among other things, that politicized power-point presentation given to political appointees at the General Services Administration (GSA) by a Rove deputy, which, once again, is front page news. Yes, Bloch's job just got even more involved. As Jonathan notes in his post about the Hatch Act below, there wasn't just one power-point presentation, but 20 given to 15 different agencies and all -- you guessed it -- by Rove deputies. I know, it's overwhelming and a little tough to keep track of the various transgressions these days by WH and government officials, but it might be more simple than it appears. I think Salon had some great foresight when they titled this piece: "All Roads Lead to Rove."

Violation of Hatch Act Now Clear: Rove's Team Gave 20 Partisan Briefings to Fed. Employees

| Thu Apr. 26, 2007 9:57 AM PDT

I blogged yesterday about how the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from using government resources on partisan political activities. One might argue that having Karl Rove as the deputy chief of staff is a violation of the Hatch Act in and of itself, since his only job, really, is to get Republicans elected. But that's not specific enough to be a real allegation. I understand.

You know what is specific enough? This:

White House officials conducted 20 private briefings on Republican electoral prospects in the last midterm election for senior officials in at least 15 government agencies covered by federal restrictions on partisan political activity, a White House spokesman and other administration officials said yesterday.

The violations of the Hatch Act seem pretty obvious:

In the GSA briefing -- conducted like all the others by a deputy to chief White House political adviser Karl Rove -- two slides were presented showing 20 House Democrats targeted for defeat and several dozen vulnerable Republicans.
At its completion, GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan asked how GSA projects could be used to help "our candidates," according to half a dozen witnesses.

Currently, the administration's defense is that these were "informational briefings about the political landscape." Whatever that means.

Now, Henry Waxman will probably hold a hearing or two on this, but the entity specifically tasked with investigating violations of the Hatch Act is the disturbingly partisan Office of Special Counsel, who has a history of neglecting its core responsibilities and instead toeing the Bush line.

That's why we're worried the OSC's investigation of Karl Rove and his shop (for these partisan presentations and other things) is just a crafty diversion. We'll see.