Mojo - November 2007

Bush's Shaky Line on Attorney Firings, Leahy Needs to Read Between the Lines

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 6:06 PM PST

I just want to add to our take on the slow-but-steady progress of the U.S. attorney firings investigation. Today, Senator Patrick Leahy ruled illegal Bush's claim that executive privilege allows him to withhold documents related to the firings. The Senate Judiciary Chairman pointed out that if the President didn't have anything to do with the case, as the White House has repeatedly claimed, his privilege is irrelevant. The White House turned Leahy's statement on its head, saying the whole case should be invalidated: If Leahy says the President had nothing to do with it, they contend, the investigation is essentially kaput.

Au contraire. If Bush wasn't involved, why would he bother claiming executive privilege in the first place? If anything, the White House's eagerness to close the case signifies that it's far from over. Call me crazy, but methinks the Decider doth protest too much.

—Casey Miner

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A Good Question for Peter Osnos

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 6:05 PM PST

Bob Fertik of Democrats.com has a very good question for Peter Osnos. Osnos is the widely-respected head of Public Affairs, the publisher of the book by former White House spokesman Scott McClellan coming out next year.

Last week, Public Affairs put a section of McClellan's book-to-be online. It included this, regarding the outing of Valerie Plame:

Kucinich Considers Ron Paul as Running Mate

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 4:40 PM PST

They both opposed Gitmo, the Patriot Act and the invasion of Iraq; want to legalize medicinal marijuana; and look like elves. On the psycho-political level, they appeal to idealists and the disaffected with simple, consistent speech and action, a feat normally associated with third-party candidates, but which they've achieved within the shark's mouth of mainstream politics. hell-freezing.gif Beyond this, however, they're oil and vinegar, a classic libertarian and a classic liberal, opposites on everything from abortion to gun control, the United Nations to health care. Yet here was Kucinich on Sunday, at the home of Joanna Dennett in Acworth, Ohio, floating the idea of a joint ticket. Is he crazy?

Probably not. Ron Paul has money, the best Internet campaign in America, and growing legions of dedicated, often rabid, supporters (they number some 60,000 on Meetup.com), many of whom have never volunteered for a political campaign or even voted. Given their disdain for the GOP, Kucinich is wise to court them, if not with his platform, then by dint of his conspicuously independent voting record. Many people support Paul less for his policy proscriptions than his courageous votes against the grain of his own party and the "Establishment." Several Paulites have told me that in past elections they voted for Nader.

But alas, Paul is not interested in this marriage of opposites. A GOP contender who is viewed by his party as too liberal gains nothing by locking arms with one. On the other hand, just by proposing the idea Kucinich appears to fellow Democrats as more moderate (Or at least that's the idea; those familiar with how Paul handles race matters might conclude Kucinich has gone off the deep end). Kucinich also appeals to the Internet energy of the Unity08 campaign, which could yet gain steam in future elections. The idea of fringe bipartisanship is just crazy enough to be a hit online, and perhaps even with Paul's techno-publicans.

The Bottom Line Six Feet Under

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 1:16 PM PST

Good Magazine has found a way to neatly wrap up the absurdity of funeral costs into a great little YouTube video. Really. I recommend you watch minus the sound. There is something somewhat creepy about death stats accompanied by music. The figures on the other hand are informative and fairly astonishing. I mean, it's definitely not news that the funeral industry is a boon to certain markets. There's cosmetics, casketry (I'm sure that's not a word), and of course real estate. The average funeral costs $6,500 in the U.S. No wonder I vaguely remember hearing relatives complaining about money at, well, all the funerals for each of my grandparents. And that cost doesn't even include the plot of land for burial. But don't despair: While apartment hunting, you can pick up a burial plot for $1,000 on Craigslist. We happen to not be the most out of control funeral industry. An average funeral in Japan costs $45,000, which is why nearly 98 percent of its citizens opt for cremation.

Good also reminds us that death can be bad for the environment. Cremation adds to global warming and the formaldehyde leached into the ground water from burials is not so great for Mother Earth either. There are other options though. You could be buried in a forest or in an eco-friendly cardboard coffin (like the Aussies), have your ash turned into 250 pencils (like the Japanese), or if cost is not your issue, spend $12,500 and be left on the moon.

Get Ready for the Ron Paul Blimp (Blimp? Blimp!)

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 1:00 PM PST

If you're one of the skeptics that Ron Paul supporters are for reals, you probably won't believe that they're about to launch a Ron Paul blimp. Oh, but they are. There's a posting on Daily Paul, and YouTube videos (one set to Electric Light Orchestra), and a website, which has generated nearly $500K in pledges so far—not to mention spoof videos (one set to Journey).

Get ready to see the blimp at the Super Bowl, and to accept once and for all that Ron Paulites are an incredibly devoted bunch who may be capable of doing pretty much any wild thing they put their mind to.

It's Officially the Early '90s

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 12:35 PM PST

reality_bites.jpg O.J. Simpson is on trial.

A Clinton is running for president.

The Spice Girls, the Verve Pipe, and the Verve are getting back together.

And Rodney King has been badly injured.

What's next? A 90210 reunion show? Reality Bites 2? Give us some ideas in the comments.

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Free Your Naughty Bits, Free Burma

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 11:10 AM PST

If you felt powerless to help Burma in its struggle for democracy during the country's recent, but so far resultless, protests, well, your panties may help. The Lanna Action for Burma Committee is asking women of all nations to contribute their undergarments to its Panty Power Campaign, which aims to let the generals of the ruling junta know that people around the world don't approve of its rampant human rights abuses. In addition, said generals are superstitious freaks who, according to LABC, believe that contact with ladies' lingerie can render a man feeble.

So take off your panties and send them to the embassy near you; it's easier, more fun, and more direct than writing a letter to the U.N. Try to veto this, China!

Village Voice: Giuliani Did Business With Terrorism Supporter

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 9:04 AM PST

giuliani-frown.jpg Wow, yesterday was really not a good news day for Rudy Giuliani. In addition to the fact that he used New York City as a private bank account to finance his extramarital affairs, it was also revealed Rudy is linked to a well-known supporter of Osama bin Laden and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. This was revealed by Rudy expert Wayne Barrett of the Village Voice.

The connection goes like this. Giuliani Security & Safety LLC, a subsidiary of Giuliani Partners, the consulting firm that has made Rudy Giuliani rich, worked for either Qatar's interior ministry or the state-owned company it helps oversee, Qatar Petroleum. The interior ministry is run by a member of the Qatar royal family named Abdallah bin Khalid al Thani. Giuliani went on Larry King with al Thani in late 2001 and vouched for him. The problem is al Thani is alleged to have strong terrorist ties. He is "said to have welcomed Osama bin Laden on two visits to [his] farm, a charge repeated as recently as October 10, 2007, in a Congressional Research Service study." And Barrett notes that many people, including some within the American government, believe al Thani helped "spirit [9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad] out of Qatar in 1996, just as the FBI was closing in on him." Al Thani is a defendant in 9/11 lawsuits still proceeding in Manhattan federal court.

The fact that Giuliani was working with Qatar, which is a very dubious ally on the war on terror, is troubling.

Hillary Clinton Says Bye-Bye to Indicted Trial Lawyer

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 8:16 AM PST

scruggs.imageBad news for trial lawyers, and bad news for Bill and Hillary, too. Famed Mississippi plaintiff's lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, who was slated to host a Clinton fundraiser next month, was indicted yesterday for allegedly trying to bribe a state court judge. The indictment comes a day after the FBI raided his office looking for a document, and two days after Scruggs' brother-in-law, Trent Lott, announced his resignation from the Senate.

When the FBI first raided Scruggs' office, Lott said the timing of his resignation was just a coincidence. But you do have to wonder. The indictment is pretty damning, and includes apparently taped conversations between the judge and some of the other lawyers involved in the alleged scheme.

The indictment will no doubt have other political fallout. Scruggs is a high-profile figure, having just used his private jet to ferry the new University of Mississippi football coach to Oxford hours before turning himself in to law enforcement authorities. He made millions off the state's lawsuit against the tobacco companies in the 1990s and has been leading the litigation against insurance companies over denied Katrina claims, including Lott's. Scruggs has been a generous Democratic political donor, particularly in Mississippi, where he used some of his tobacco winnings to found a now-defunct PAC to help elect liberal candidates to state office.

But his political loyalties have always been a little suspect, and not just because of his in-law status. This year, for instance, he has given nearly $30,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and several thousand dollars to Joe Biden. But he's also contributed to Republican John McCain. Next month, Bill Clinton was scheduled to headline a fundraiser for his wife at Scruggs' Oxford home. Not surprisingly, today a Clinton spokesman tells Mother Jones that the event is "not happening."

Giuliani Straining to Defend Himself on Hamptons Trysts

| Thu Nov. 29, 2007 8:09 AM PST

RudyWingman.jpg By now you may have heard yesterday's big news, other than the fact that the Republicans smacked each other something vicious on CNN. When Mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani took trips to the Hamptons to visit his then-mistress and now-wife Judith Nathan and billed the tens of thousands of dollars in security expenses to obscure New York City agencies like the Loft Board. Giuliani was still married to his second wife at the time. Also billed to small agencies were expenses for campaign trips during Giuliani's aborted 2000 Senate campaign and trips to Los Angeles for his then-wife Donna Hanover. The full, sordid details are available at Politico.

What's less well known is that Giuliani is having a hell of a time explaining himself.

At the debate yesterday, Giuliani pinned the blame on the cops who were assigned to protect him. "They put in their records. They handled them in the way they handled them. I had nothing to do with the handling of their records," he said.

In the Politico story, a Giuliani campaign aide said the problem was due to "accounting."

On a CBS News follow up, the campaign said "this is common practice." A top aide named Tony Carbonetti told the media "these were all legitimate expenses."

But Carbonetti seemed to reverse himself later, saying that he had ordered an investigation.

In 2001 and 2002, Giuliani handled this differently. When city auditors questioned the expenses, the Mayor's staff refused to provide them by citing "security."

The Giuliani campaign clearly was not prepared for this, meaning that the former mayor's New York City staff, who has been dealing with questions over this behind the scenes for over five years, chose not to brief them. Or the campaign's research department didn't ask the right questions. Or Giuliani himself didn't tell them to look into it.

No matter what, though, Giuliani had better figure out what his position is, because every time he takes a new stance, he extends the story through another news cycle. And this is so damaging, he'll want it to go away as soon as possible. If it ever does, and here's betting it doesn't.