Mojo - May 2007

Wildfire Tracker

| Wed May 9, 2007 5:13 PM EDT

Your MoJo weird weather watcher evaluates the weird-quotient for wildfires now burning in Southern California, Florida, and Minnesota on The Blue Marble.

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Air Traffic Controllers In Newark Call For Criminal Investigation Over Carbon Monoxide Incident

| Wed May 9, 2007 4:28 PM EDT

Last month, several air traffic controllers at the Newark Airport claimed they were forced to direct planes while they were suffering from dizziness, confusion, headaches, and disorientation brought on by carbon monoxide poisoning. It turns out that a test of the facility's backup generator sent exhaust fumes into the building's ventilation system, thus releasing the carbon monoxide fumes. The controllers also say that they were not allowed to leave the building, or even to leave their posts, and that management refused to call the fire department. Some of the employees said they would call the fire department to come and test the air, and that they were told by the operations manager that, 'If you make the call, I will not let them in the gate and I will refuse them entry into the control room."

Later, after the sleepy, confused and physically ill controllers directed hundreds of planes, some of them went to the hospital, where it was confirmed that significant levels of carbon monoxide was in their blood.

Now the air traffic controllers are calling for a criminal investigation of the incident. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer has sent a letter to the FAA, asking for such an investigation. "We've sent a letter to the FAA today asking for a thorough investigation to what's happened," Schumer said, "and I have to tell you given my past experience here, the FAA does not have a good record."

WABC Eyewitness News has already done a series of reports on how staffing cutbacks have led to an increase in controller errors at the Newark Airport.

Murdoch Goes Green

| Wed May 9, 2007 4:17 PM EDT

Rupert Murdoch's speech this morning is a watershed in the history of climate change denial. Arguably the most powerful media mogul--and one of Bush's most powerful fans--has pledged to weave more global warming news into coverage.

"Our audience's carbon footprint is 10,000 times bigger than ours," Murdoch told employees. "Imagine if we succeed in inspiring our audiences to reduce their own impacts on climate change by just 1 percent. That would be like turning the state of California off for almost two months." Grist has the story.

If These Walls Could Talk, They'd Say the U.S. Army is Dumber than a Doornail

| Wed May 9, 2007 3:53 PM EDT

I blogged in late April that the Iraqi P.M. had vociferously opposed a U.S. military plan to wall off a particularly troublesome Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad. Despite their deep regard for Iraqi democracy, military commanders ignored the P.M.'s request and built the wall anyway.

Al-Maliki's opposition was echoed by both Sunnis and Shiites in the area. The military is now using that opposition as to argue that the wall has successfully improved security:

"At first I attributed [the decline in violence] to the American presence and the Iraqi presence," said Capt. Matthew Koehler…."I thought that was the extent of it, until I saw the insurgents trying to blow up those barriers."

That's right: If insurgents blow up the barriers, it must be because they're improving security. The gauge used to pronounce a decline in violence in the first place is the number of bodies dumped within the walled area—not how many deaths there are in the vicinity, but how many bodies are disposed of within the walled area. You have to wonder if even military spokesmen believe what they're saying.

Ninth Purged U.S. Attorney Found

| Wed May 9, 2007 1:05 PM EDT

Over at TPM, Josh Marshall thinks they've identified a ninth U.S. Attorney pushed out for being ideologically out of step with Alberto Gonzalez's Justice Department. His name is Todd Graves and he was formerly a U.S. Attorney in Missouri. Graves was on the DOJ firing lists shortly before resigning, and while he hasn't said outright that he was purged for political reasons, he has given quotes to the media like, "When I first interviewed (with the Department)…I was asked to give the panel one attribute that describes me. I said independent. Apparently, that was the wrong attribute."

Further fueling speculation is evidence of nefarious meddling by Republican Senator Kit Bond and the fact that Graves' replacement, Bradley Schlozman, has a history that matches the priorities of the Gonzales DOJ. According to Josh, Schlozman's "entire tenure at DOJ has been dedicated to turning back the clock on minority voting rights in the United States and more broadly to suppressing Democratic vote turnout."

Gonzales and Scholzman are being brought before Congress to explain the situation later this month.

Popular Conservative Blog: "Rudy's Done"

| Wed May 9, 2007 12:48 PM EDT

Many people have wondered when conservatives would get past the Rudy Giuliani 9/11 hero worship and recognize that he's badly out of step with them on gays, guns, and abortion. Well, on abortion at least, it's happening.

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Giuliani in Drag, and Leather, and Fur, and Pearls... A Compendium

| Wed May 9, 2007 12:09 PM EDT

This is horrifying but also kind of awesome. It's a Slate sideshow of all of Rudy Giuliani's moments playing dress up -- as a crack addict, a greaser, the beast from Beauty and the Beast, and most commonly, a woman. Check it out.

Combine all this with the also horrifying but kind of awesome "ferret moment" from Rudy's radio show and you get the sense that Rudy is a guy who either didn't intend to run for president before 9/11 vaulted him to the national stage, or he did intend to run for president but didn't give a damn and insisted on living his life the way he wanted to live it. Which is kind of refreshing. His current reversals on all the positions he staked out in that carefree period, however, are not so endearing.

Update: While you're over there at Slate, take a look at this detailed dissection of Rudy's truly disastrous private life (three marriages, ugly and public divorces, adultery, and multiple estranged kids -- that enough?). Writes Slate, "It's not only the religious or the uptight that can be put off by an utter lack of personal morality in a presidential candidate."

Late Update: I feel bad calling Rudy's private life "truly disastrous." Who am I to judge? What say you? Is judging candidates on their private lives part of presidential politics? A legitimate evaluation of a man or woman's character, or part of the sordid underbelly of our political system? Leave thoughts in the comments...

Deflating the "Independents in '08!" Meme (and Taking a Knock at Howard Fineman)

| Wed May 9, 2007 11:27 AM EDT

Howard Fineman is once again following my lead. Hot on the heels of my blog post speculating about a Hagel-Bloomberg independent ticket in the 2008 presidential race, Fineman writes in Newsweek that, yes, an independent ticket in 2008 is a real possibility, but no, Hagel shouldn't be considered its most likely torchbearer. He cites Bloomberg, Gore, and get this, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  fineman_serious.jpg It takes Fineman until the end of the piece to acknowledge that Arnold can't run and Gore likely won't. And having retracted two of the three heavy-hitters at the center of his article, Fineman somewhat lamely mentions Lieberman and Hagel as possibilities.

So I was right -- Hagel and Bloomberg. And maybe Lieberman. But one gets the sense that Fineman was on deadline, and wanted to take the "Independents in '08!" meme for a test drive without really having all the material he needed as fuel.

In fact, this whole "Independents in '08!" thing feels a little like a media creation -- something political journalists daydream about when bored of covering the same six frontrunners for... well, how long is the campaign season now? Two full years? It has a sideshow feel to it -- I should have conveyed that better in my post about Hagel and Bloomberg.

Witness, for example, Fineman's reasoning for why an independent candidate could win this year when such candidates have failed in every other year. The early primary schedule means that the winner of each party's nominations could be identified by early February of 2008, seven months before the parties' conventions. In those seven months, speculates Fineman, buyer's remorse will set in for some members of both parties and they will go looking for someone else to support.

Okay, I guess, except no committed Republican or Democrat treats party identification that trivially, and the independent voters won't have made up their minds that early, meaning buyer's remorse won't have time to set in. Besides, the GOP and the Dems probably realize there is too much time between the deciding primaries and their conventions and will likely move the convention dates up. Problem solved.

Fineman ends by saying, "Keep an eye on the independents. There's where the action is, and will be." I say, meh. Take it all with a grain of salt.

No Domestic Partner Benefits For State Employeees In Minnesota

| Tue May 8, 2007 11:19 PM EDT

After Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty made it clear that he would veto any bill giving domestic partnership benefits to several state employees, the Minnesota legislator dropped the matter last week. Members of the House and Senate eliminated language in a major spending bill that would have given such benefits to domestic partners, including gay partners.

The original language provided benefits for gay couples only, but was expanded to cover other domestic partners, including siblings. The language was changed because of Pawlenty's threat to veto any bill that included giving benefits to same-sex partners of state employees. A spokesman for the governor said: "we really haven't had a chance to review" the new language, but added that "generally, the state government finance bill has a lot of question marks."

Extending insurance coverage to non-married partners had the backing of the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota Association of Small Cities.

Weird Weather Watch

| Tue May 8, 2007 6:07 PM EDT

MoJo is tracking the effects of changed weather patterns on towns and wildlife. Read about the Southern California spring with no flowers or berries—but with serious economic impacts—on The Blue Marble.