Mojo - January 2008

Charlie Wilson's War FY'08: New Defense Authorization Bill's 1,168 Earmarks

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 2:34 AM EST

Good government group, Taxpayers for Common Sense' Laura Peterson writes, "With all the fuss about Bush putting the brakes on the 2008 defense authorization bill, which the Senate passed for the second time on Tuesday, one could almost forget about all the money the bill potentially contains. Authorization bills are intended to lay policy foundations for an agency, while the appropriations bills lay out the cash. Yet authorizations still contain earmarks—1,168 in this particular case, way more than the House version's 449 and the Senate's 309 combined. Even if authorization bills are passed after appropriations, as DoD's was this year, authorization earmarks are worth tracking because they often crop up as programs in the following years' budget request or pork added to future spending bills.

"Though we have not yet been able to database all the earmarks in the authorization conference report (you can see the House and Senate versions here) I have picked through them to ferret out 'airdrops,' meaning earmarks not included in previous versions. Some notable items:

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New Iraq Timeline

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 8:58 PM EST

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In a much-heralded move, the Center for Public Integrity has gone live with "The War Card: Orchestrated Deception on the Path to War," a searchable database of 380,000 words of "Iraq-related public pronouncements" by top officials, including 935 "false statements" made by President Bush and seven of his deputies before the war.

Mother Jones released its own searchable Iraq timeline, titled "Lie by Lie," back in 2006. (Watch for a major online update soon.) So check out both timelines and while you do, it's worth bearing in mind an important point made by CPI's Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith:

Bush and the top officials of his administration have so far largely avoided the harsh, sustained glare of formal scrutiny about their personal responsibility for the litany of repeated, false statements in the run-up to the war in Iraq. There has been no congressional investigation, for example, into what exactly was going on inside the Bush White House in that period. ... And, of course, only four of the officials—Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz—have testified before Congress about Iraq.

Maybe next someone will make an accountability timeline. Course, it'd be awfully sparse.

—Justin Elliott

New 'Manifesto' Suggests Preemptive Nuclear Strikes

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 6:15 PM EST

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The West should strike first, and with nuclear weapons, if necessary. So says a new, 150-page "manifesto" penned by five retired senior NATO officers and military strategists and distributed over the last 10 days to Pentagon officials and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. First reported yesterday by the Guardian's Ian Traynor, who managed to obtain a copy of the secret document, the manifesto forms the collective opinion of prominent military thinkers from the United States, the UK, Germany, France, and the Netherlands—including former NATO commander and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman John Shalikashvili.

"The risk of further [nuclear] proliferation is imminent and, with it, the danger that nuclear war fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible," the report's authors conclude. "The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction." The former military chiefs go on to characterize the "first strike" nuclear option as "indispensable" and claim flatly that there is "no realistic prospect of a nuclear free world."

To Serve You Better, I Will Not Appear, but 'Appear' at your Life-Changing Event

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 5:54 PM EST

Prince Charles 'Appears' at an Energy Summit (NY Times)

Prince Charles gave a keynote lecture at a summit meeting on advanced energy technologies in Abu Dhabi on Monday — not in the flesh, but as a three-dimensional hologram. By not flying there and back, he avoided adding about 20 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere (the carbon cost of flying him and his entourage).

Hello, kids. It's Mommy! I can't believe you both graduated valedictorian and saved some stinky, homeless losers from a burning flophouse! I'm so proud of you both, I could just cry. But the programmers' quote for tears was ridiculous. You still want to go to Harvard, right?

Don't worry—no, please, don't try to hug the hologram. I know where your hands have been. I'm 'here.' Just not here. I love you, Mommy does. I just love the planet more. Were I not menopausal, I could have more kids—but another planet? Be reasonable. Just think; by not driving those five minute down Main Street from home, my entourage and I (you remember Bob the mailman, right? And that cute contractor over-charging the Smiths next door?) have spared our poor planet 1/20,000th of a ton of carbon di-whateverit's called. You know, the yucky stuff that makes the Earth cry. You don't want the Earth to cry do you? You do? OK, buck up, kiddies and stop that wailing. I'll be home soon, I promise. Just as soon as the local Indian casino cuts me off. Mommy can't be in two places at once, can she? That's my guys! You are soooo brave. Give Mommy a kiss. I mean, 'kiss'. Oops, careful. Who put that marble column there? I'll call Dr. Paul about that contusion tomorrow. Or next week, I promise. That's better, the bleeding's stopped, almost.

Here—have some holographic cupcakes. Such a deal I got on the holographic snack options. And NO!, I do not want to hear another word about Janey's Mom's famous whole wheat vegan, fako bacon beet juice and quinoa muffins! What harm could a little lard and a lot of high fructose corn syrup do? Besides, I happen to know little Miss Whole Foods drinks tap water. And she's having an affair. With your art teacher.

Cheer up and remember: this is for the good of the planet. Mommy will 'see' you as soon as my 'entourage' and I... finish entourag-ing. Kisses!

This Is the Iraq Recession

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 2:03 PM EST

Think Progress reminds us that before the Iraq War, economists were predicting that a prolonged occupation could lead to a recession here at home and around the world. Witness:

"A war against Iraq could cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars, play havoc with an already depressed domestic economy and tip the world into recession because of the adverse effect on oil prices, inflation and interest rates, an academic study [by William Nordhaus, Sterling professor of economics at Yale University] has warned." [Independent, 11/16/02]
"If war with Iraq drags on longer than the few weeks or months most are predicting, corporate revenues will be flat for the coming year and will put the U.S. economy at risk of recession, according to a poll of chief financial officers." [CBS MarketWatch, 3/20/03]
"If the conflict wears on or, worse, spreads, the economic consequences become very serious. Late last year, George Perry at the Brookings Institution ran some simulations and found that after taking into account a reasonable use of oil reserves, a cut in world oil production of just 6.5 percent a year would send the United States and the world into recession." [Robert Shapiro, former undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration, 10/2/02]

And lo and behold...

What a Peaceful Palestinian Crossing Means for Egypt, Israel, and Hamas

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 1:29 PM EST

gaza.jpg At 2am on Wednesday morning, the iron fence between Gaza and Egypt came down. Residents of Gaza, lacking basic supplies since Israel imposed a blockade nearly a week ago, have been crossing as quickly as they can and bringing back all that they can carry.

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's decision not to beat back the surge so far has not backfired on him, not least because of how little violence has accompanied the crossing. One news report described the scene as a bazaar; another called it a carnival. Though Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman claimed that the breach of the fence was rife with opportunities for terrorist activity, so far it seems that the Palestinians have sought mostly to bring food and staple goods across the border. Though both Egypt and Hamas have sent police to the site, they are mostly directing traffic, and on the Israeli border, not a single rocket has been fired all day.

If this potentially volatile situation continues to unfold calmly, it will be as difficult for Israel to justify a renewed crackdown as it will for Hamas and Fatah to continue their refusal to work together. The citizens of Gaza can't meet their basic needs, and right now it seems that the government most friendly to their plight is that of Egypt, though that country too is walking a fine line. If the next few days continue peacefully, perhaps tensions will dissipate enough for the governments to at least begin to reassess.

—Casey Miner


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More From the Church Newsletter

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 12:31 PM EST

If you're the New York Times and you need a new columnist who'll cover foreign policy, you obviously want William Kristol. After all, he's the guy who said just before the war began, "we'll be vindicated when we find the weapons of mass destruction and liberate the people of Iraq."

Likewise, if you're the Washington Post and need a long piece for last Sunday's paper about the onrushing economic crunch, you obviously want Kevin Hassett. After all, he wrote Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting From the Coming Rise in the Stock Market.

I think the NY Times and Washington Post are much more comprehensible if you just think of them as the church newsletters for a peculiar religion. Of course the church elders choose writers who believe in transubstantiation.

My, What Rotten Teeth Poor People Have: The Hidden Health Care Crisis and The Dems

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 12:03 PM EST

On my deathbed, I will contend that the Clintons got a bad rap on their failed 1994 attempt at health care reform. An excellent piece in The American Prospect (hat tip: Washington Monthly) agrees and argues that this time, the Dems can pull it off. Here's (partially) why:

Help Save Manassas (Some Cash to Expel "Illegals")

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 12:00 PM EST

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In the November/December issue of Mother Jones, I wrote of how Virginia political blogger Greg Letiecq and Help Save Manassas, a grassroots anti-immigration organization he founded to combat the presence of "illegals" in Virginia's Prince William County, had helped to draft a series of nativist measures targeting the growing multitudes of illegal day laborers that have followed in the wake of the region's building boom. Having passed a vague motion last July to curtail "public benefits" to illegal immigrants, the county's Republican-led Board of Supervisors waited until October to detail the services that would be denied: substance-abuse counseling, homeless assistance, and elderly care programs. The proposed measures also provided local police with expanded powers to check immigration status during traffic stops.

But now that it's time for the county to put its money where its mouth is, problems are beginning to surface. A new report by the Board of Supervisors' staff has found that implementing the anti-immigration measures may be more expensive than simply allowing things to continue as they are. For one, state rules may prohibit the county from denying certain public services. For another, so few people use the services under consideration that auditing them would only increase their expense.

Another Solid Example of Campaign Journalism: BHO vs. HRC on Voting Records

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 11:47 AM EST

clinton_obama_130_140.gif Continuing our effort to encourage good campaign journalism by praising those who take the time to do it well (don't worry—we slam those who do it poorly), we point you to the Guardian, which has done an excellent job of parsing the very small differences between Clinton's and Obama's voting records. To give you a sample...

Obama voted to ban cluster bombs, "which explode and scatter thousands of tiny weapons over a vast area." Perhaps because cluster bombs were used unapologetically by Israel in its short war with Lebanon, and perhaps because banning such bombs would limit a commander's options, Clinton voted to keep them.

Obama voted to rewrite the immigration law banning supporters of terrorism from gaining entry into the United States, in order to ensure that legitimate refugees were not being kept out. Clinton opposed such a rewrite.

Clinton voted for a measure that would allow law enforcement officials to seize citizens' firearms if they saw fit after a national emergency. Obama voted to let people keep their guns. It was Obama's single "pro-gun" vote in the Senate.

Clinton voted against the confirmation of Bush's interior secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who had a 1% lifetime score on environmental policy from the League of Conservation Voters. Obama voted for confirmation.

There are some others as well. As you can see, these are minor differences. They are overshadowed by many, many more moments of agreement, which tells you that either the two candidates are very similar ideologically, or that they are simply party-line Democrats most of the time. I continue to argue that it is entirely legitimate for the press to report on how the candidates' experiences, character, and approach to government differ, even though such reporting would not be "on the issues."