Mojo - January 2008

GOPers Debate (Nicely) in Florida; Here Are the Whoppers of the Night

| Fri Jan. 25, 2008 12:31 AM EST

At Thursday night's Republican presidential debate, the GOP contenders did their best not to make any news. No one attacked anyone; no one disagreed on any major policy matter--except regarding a proposal to establish a national catastrophic insurance fund that would back up private insurance firms. (Rudy Giuliani, playing to Florida homeowners, voiced his support for it; Mitt Romney supported the general notion; John McCain attacked legislation that would set up such a fund as a $200 billion boondoggle.) Generally, the candidates made up a chorus for tax cuts and fighting--make that, winning--the Iraq war. (Then there was Ron Paul.) At times, the candidates hailed their rivals. It was so.... un-Democratic. No nastiness--even though McCain and Romney, essentially tied for first place in the Florida polls, have been hurling negative ads at each other. (A Romney ad assails McCain for flip-flopping on tax cuts; a McCain spot blasts Romney for...flip-flopping on tax cuts. McCain is actually comparing Romney to John Kerry.)

If you were forced to pick a winner--and in the absence of policy disputes, the debate was all about the horse race--you'd probably have to choose Romney, who seemed quasi-commanding and who this night, for some reason, looked more like Hollywood's idea of a president than usual. But no candidate hurt his own prospects. That doesn't mean, though, they didn't come out with some whoppers. Here's a sampling:

* Moderator Tim Russert asked McCain about a comment McCain had supposedly made--"I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues; I still need to be educated"--and McCain shot back, "I don't know where you got that quote from; I'm very well-versed in economics." Well, McCain did tell the Baltimore Sun, "The issue of economics is something that I've really never understood as well as I should." So much for being "well-versed."

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Blinded by McCain, Michelle Malkin Misreads MoJo

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 9:16 PM EST

Michelle Malkin, my old sparring partner at Fox News, ought to reread my colleague Jonathan Stein's dispatch on the feverish McCain hatred among right-wing commentators (including Malkin). On her blog, Malkin cites the article as--a-ha!--yet more proof of the "left-wing media's love affair" with Senator John McCain. But in the piece, Stein shows McCain no affection. He merely reports on the rage McCain triggers among conservative leaders, writers, and bloggers, noting that this gang, already upset with McCain's recent success in the GOP primaries, will go ballistic if he does well in Florida and--gasp!--on Supersaturated Tuesday. Her item confirms the point of the piece: McCain sure pushes these guys and gals over the edge. And consider this: McCain is the only major Republican party candidate who's done any heavy-lifting in support of George W. Bush's war in Iraq. Yet he gets no love from these war cheerleaders. What ingrates.

Saddam Gambled And Lost, Says FBI Agent

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 6:28 PM EST

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Saddam Hussein played up his mythical WMD stockpile in the belief that the U.S. would not invade, according to George Piro, an FBI agent who interrogated him after his December 2003 capture. Apparently, he was convinced that the U.S. would only drop a few bombs, not send in ground troops. He'd survived a similar air attack in 1998, he told Piro, and thought he could do it again. But why, you ask? He wanted to keep up his tough-guy image. "For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam," Piro says. "He thought that would prevent the Iranians from re-invading Iraq." Piro will appear on 60 Minutes this Sunday.

Michelle vs. Bill: In the Democratic Race, the Spouses Go at It

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 4:22 PM EST

Can Michelle Obama take down Bill Clinton?

Well, can she at least exploit the spouse of her spouse's chief rival to raise money for her own spouse?

On Thursday afternoon, the Obama campaign sent out a fundraising appeal signed by Barack Obama's wife that uses Bill Clinton's recent swipes at Senator Obama as its main get-out-your-checkbooks motivator. She writes:

We knew getting into this race that Barack would be competing with Senator Clinton and President Clinton at the same time.

Happy 2008! Your Prius' Fuel Efficiency Just Dropped 16%

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 3:00 PM EST

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Old-school Detroit must be smiling just a bit right now. After decades of providing unrealistic fuel-efficiency estimates—those big numbers touted in magazine ads and printed in large fonts on the vehicle-details stickers in new car lots—the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finally modified its method for calculating average miles per gallon, and the most fuel-efficient cars on the road have taken the biggest hit. Then again, they have a lot farther to fall.

The new method, which applies to all 2008 models and beyond, still doesn't quite reflect actual driving conditions, but unlike the old numbers, which basically reflected your mileage in heaven (or, if you prefer, in an idealized lab setting), the new ones take into account things like acceleration, winter driving, air conditioner use, and realistic speeds (ever tried doing 55 in a 55 zone on a moderate-traffic day? It's a recipe for abuse). Alas, the new formula appears to favor the gas guzzlers. Combined mileage for a 2007 Toyota Prius (automatic, 4 cylinder, 1.5 L engine) is down 16 percent under the new formula, to 46 mpg. The '07 Honda Civic Hybrid is also down 16 percent, to 42 mpg.

"The Man's" Morse Code and the Continuing Blight of White Racism

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 2:40 PM EST

Well, all my subliminal advertising worked: I'll be on Colbert today, barring death, famine, or a Britney Spears sighting.

If Tuesday's show is any indication, Colbert has still got it, writerless or not. If you didn't see it, you missed something sweet, wonderful and daring. I had extreme fun the first time last year and am determined to do so again. Here's hoping that I actually speak, given Colbert's nonstop high jinx. If I do, here's what I hope to get around to saying: Barack, don't let The Man force you to pull a Sister Souljah and apologize for being black.

In Slate, Mickey Kaus gallantly provides a primer for Barack to "escape the ghetto." Here's the thinking of no doubt many oh-so-post-racial white politicos (though Kaus doesn't endorse the entire idea; he just pubs it up): The moment Barack allowed the dreaded Reverend Al Sharpton to defend him against criticism for his past drug use, Obama became a race hustler, dealing the (oh dear, not this again) race card from the bottom of the deck. Sharpton is the embodiment of black perfidy, and to align oneself with him is to reject any claims of race transcendence or racial fair dealing, no matter whom whites ally themselves with. In other words, Caught ya being black, Obama! And we thought you were different. Funny how playing the race card is something only liberal blacks can do (though Secretary Rice's frequent invocation of girlhood segregation and knowing one of the Four Little Girls in Birmingham, not to mention Thomas' "high tech lynching," are never invoked as examples).

One of the things I didn't want to accept in Hillary's "it took a President to get the job done" was that she was sending The Man's Morse code—for President, read "white person," and for MLK, read "nice sermon, oratory boy, now step aside so the grown ups take over." Now I'm beginning to wonder. Are white folks calling up their new and improved inner night riders? SUVs instead of horses, but the demand, the expectation, of supremacy, remains the same.

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Giuliani Foreign Policy Advisor Says 'Bomb 'Em'

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 1:50 PM EST

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With Rudy Giuliani hanging on at least until I-Can't-Believe-We-Have-Nine-More-Months-Of-This Tuesday (February 5), his candidacy still matters, if a little bit less than before. You might be interested to know, then, that one of the Hero of 9/11's neocon foreign policy advisors has just written an astoundingly long-winded piece in the conservative journal Commentary advocating that the U.S. military bring its shock and awe to Tehran. Norman Podhoretz, intellectual godfather to the neocons who goaded us into the Iraq mess, argues that the only way to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is a preemptive bombing campaign—this despite the latest National Intelligence Estimate finding that Iran suspended its nuclear program in 2003. The only question, says Podhoretz, is of "who should do the bombing." Israel? Nope, they don't have the necessary military capability to ensure success and, besides, the Iranians would blame us anyway. "If Iran is to be prevented from becoming a nuclear power," he writes, "it is the United States that will have to do the preventing, to do it by means of a bombing campaign, and (because 'If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long') to do it soon."

So, does Rudy agree with this assessment? After all, as of October, Podhoretz was still among the group of hawks whispering in his ear (along with the likes of Daniel Pipes and Michael Rubin). According to Giuliani's chief foreign policy advisor, Charles Hill, a State Department veteran who also worked as an aide to U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali, the answer is no. "Norman's position is unique to Norman, and it's well thought out," Hill told the New York Sun last fall. "It is not a far out, radical position, and it is deeply felt and held intellectually, but it is unique to him. Rudy Giuliani has Rudy Giuliani's view." What's that exactly? That we should give tougher sanctions a chance. As for Podhoretz, he says, "I express my views mainly through email communications to the foreign policy team. Rudy is free to accept or reject them."

Still, having Podhoretz in the mix (not to mention Pipes and Rubin) is enough to make you question where Rudy's really coming from. He might as well add the Filipino Monkey as his communications secretary...

A Quick Hebrew Lesson for the Obama '69 Campaign

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 1:39 PM EST
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Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson notes that Obama is now selling gear with his name in Hebrew. One small mistake: That '08 should really be a '69, since the election occurs in year 5769 in the Jewish calendar.

Update: I misread the Obama website; it doesn't call the pin the "NY for Obama button." But speaking of New Yorkers, you can get Hebraicized Hillary tote bags and t-shirts from Jews for Hillary.

Prepping for Bush's State of the Union

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 10:55 AM EST

President Bush's final State of the Union is coming up in just four days (yeah, we hadn't really heard about it either). The video below puts last year's SOTU into context and gets your bullsh*t force-field up and running, so you won't kill yourself on the 28th.

A Black Box for Botox?

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 10:51 AM EST

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In a move likely to be protested by TV anchorwomen and medi-spas everywhere, the consumer group Public Citizen has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to place a black box warning label on Botox indicating that the popular anti-wrinkle treatment can be deadly. The FDA has received reports of at least 16 Botox-related deaths, including four in children under 18, as well as 180 cases of serious adverse reactions to the drug.

The adverse reactions are much worse than a few laugh lines. The botulism toxin, which smooths wrinkles by relaxing muscles, occasionally migrates far beyond the creased brow. Botox can paralyze the respiratory muscles or cause difficulty in swallowing, a problem that leads to food and liquids lodging in the lungs and causing life-threatening pneumonia.

European regulators have already widely publicized the risk, but the FDA has been slow to react, leaving Americans blissfully ignorant about the perils of vanity and doctors free to administer the drug for all sorts of unapproved uses. (The only cosmetic use of Botox approved by the FDA is for smoothing wrinkles between the eyebrows.) While the new FDA data are striking, didn't we all sort of know, deep down, that paralyzing your face with a deadly poison was probably a bad idea? Here's hoping that Public Citizen helps make wrinkles fashionable again.