Mojo - April 2008

How Many Calories In a Big Mac? NYC Residents Soon To Know

| Wed Apr. 16, 2008 6:51 PM EDT

It looks like residents of New York City will no longer be able to delude themselves about the potential damage a Big Mac will do to their waistlines. A federal judge today upheld New York City's requirement that fast-food joints disclose calorie information on their menus. The city's restaurants had sued over the measure, arguing that somehow providing the information violated their free speech rights, and if not that, the city's regulation was preempted by federal law, which doesn't require any such thing. Judge Richard Hollwell was having none of that, and found that while the calorie listings (Double Whopper w/cheese: 990 calories) might not end the obesity epidemic, it might help a few people lose a few pounds, which was, he thought, a worthy public goal. The decision paves the way for other cities to follow suit.

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High Court Rules in Favor of Lethal Injection, But Throws the Debate Wide Open

| Wed Apr. 16, 2008 6:35 PM EDT

The Supreme Court this morning ruled that lethal injection is not "cruel and unusual punishment," at least not in Kentucky, that is. The case under review, Baze v. Rees, originated from the appeals of two death row inmates in Kentucky and will likely end the nation's de-facto death penalty moratorium by establishing the standard with which states can determine whether their lethal injection protocol violates the Constitution.

But despite the Court's 7-2 decision, there are strong indications that the debate surrounding lethal injection is nowhere near over and in fact the case may be a springboard for new challenges to capital punishment. The Court's opinion was badly splintered with no opinion garnering more than three votes, which means that while the majority of justices agreed that Kentucky's procedure was not unconstitutional, they did not agree on the reasons why. Justice John Paul Stevens, although he voted with the majority, issued his own opinion stating,

Instead of ending the controversy, I am now convinced that this case will generate debate not only about the constitutionality of the three-drug protocol, and specifically about the justification for the use of the paralytic agent, pancuronium bromide, but also about the justification for the death penalty itself.

As Justice Stevens noted, pancuronium bromide, the second drug administered during lethal injection's three-drug procedure, is likely to remain at the center of the firestorm.

Preserving White House Emails... Eventually

| Wed Apr. 16, 2008 5:38 PM EDT

The missing White House email scandal raises one very obvious set of questions. Namely: Where'd they go and what did they say? Those questions will hopefully be addressed as Congress investigates the controversy, but the inquiries won't answer another, perhaps equally important question: How can this be prevented from happening again?

The solution may lie in a new piece of House legislation, a summary of which was circulated at an unexpectedly pre-empted Oversight hearing that had been scheduled for today. Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), chair of the Information Policy, Census, and National Archives subcommittee has sponsored the Electronic Communications Preservation Act, which modernizes the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act and "directs the Archivist [of the United States] to issue regulations requiring agencies to preserve electronic communication in an electronic format."

The bill comes on the heels of two recent reports--one by the Government Accountability Office and another by the non-profit government watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington--each of which found that federal agencies, lacking uniform guidelines for preserving electronic records, have regularly resorted to "print and file" systems, resulting in significant losses of official documents.

The hearing itself was postponed at the last minute because of a series of votes on the House floor, but in prepared testimony (which remains unofficial and subject to change until the rescheduled hearing is conducted) one open-government advocate suggests that the bill doesn't go far enough. Addressing the portion of the bill which updates the Federal Records Act, Patrice McDermott, director of openthegovernment.org noted that the National Archives and Record Administration "has been talking since at least 1996 about working 'with agencies on the design of recordkeeping systems for creating and maintaining records of values.'"

"[T]he agencies," she wrote, "have done nothing. NARA and the agencies don't need another 18 months to 'establish mandatory minimum functional requirements...' Nor do the agencies need three more years--beyond the 18 months--to comply with a requirement to implement the regulations and an electronic records management system." The bill summary notes that the Archivist will have "18 months to promulgate the regulations," and that agencies "will have no more than four years following the enactment of the Act to comply."

The Romney Flip Flop Is Back!

| Wed Apr. 16, 2008 2:33 PM EDT

Happy days are here again!

Three months after Mitt Romney said Washington experience does not translate into economic wisdom, the former Republican presidential contender was on television Tuesday touting the economic credentials of John McCain in part on the strength of his congressional tenure.
The change comes as Romney tries to boost his former rival's chances of winning the White House -- and after he acknowledged he would be interested in serving on the GOP ticket if McCain asked...

Warning Warning Warning: Nader at 8-10% in Michigan

| Wed Apr. 16, 2008 1:10 PM EDT

nader-michigan.jpg The Clinton campaign woke up with a big case of the I-told-you-so's.

A Michigan poll from Lansing-based polling outfit EPIC-MRA shows 78 percent of Michigan voters think the country is on the wrong track, 42 percent think the economy is the most important issue in the election, 75 of the country has a negative estimation of how the President has performed, and oh yeah, eight to ten percent plan to vote for Nader.

The polls shows these general election match-up results:

McCain 46%, Clinton 37%, Nader 10%
Obama 43%, McCain 41%, Nader 8%

Michigan is a battleground in November, and the Dems can't afford to lose eight to ten percent to Nader. In 2000, Nader took two percent in Michigan. In 2004, it was one percent. It's possible that voter dissatisfaction with the Democrats, who do not plan on using the results of the Michigan primary, will push McCain over the edge. Especially if homestater Mitt Romney is his VP pick.

Michigan's 17 electoral votes aren't a foregone conclusion, of course. Obama beats McCain in the poll, and a lot of angry Democrats will "come home" to the Democratic nominee before election day. But if the Democrats aren't going to heed the Clinton campaign's (admittedly self-serving) advice to hold a do-over in Michigan, the nominee is going to have to do a lot of make-up work there.

Freedom's Watch Broke Law, Dems Tell FEC

| Wed Apr. 16, 2008 12:15 PM EDT

Conservative advocacy group Freedom's Watch illegally ran advertising in coordination with the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), Democratic officials charge in a lawsuit they plan to file today with the Federal Election Commission, the Washington Post reports:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the fundraising and campaign arm for House Democrats, alleges that the script for a television ad purchased by Freedom's Watch, an independent conservative political committee, can be traced to the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Federal election laws prohibit the independent group from coordinating its efforts with the NRCC, the campaign arm of House Republicans, or any political candidate.
The Democratic officials said the advertising script carried an electronic identifier that shows it originated in the Republican committee.
"Freedom's Watch is coming to the NRCC's rescue. The problem is that they're doing it illegally," said DCCC Executive Director Brian Wolff, adding that the group's "own document clearly shows that the script of their ad came from the NRCC." ...

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Tehran "Anti-Vice" Chief Caught With Six Naked Prostitutes

| Wed Apr. 16, 2008 11:36 AM EDT

Move over Eliot Spitzer... and let us now puzzle over yet another humiliation of a public figure: General Reza Zarei, chief of police in Tehran and (until now) the figurehead for the Iranian regime's crackdown on feminine "immodesty." Zarei was reportedly arrested in an underground brothel in the company of six naked prostitutes. For now, the fallen police chief sits in an Iranian jail, pending further investigation. It's unclear how his arrest might impact Tehran's enforcement of its anti-vice laws, which forbid women from showing their hair or wearing make-up in public and have subjected young people to floggings for the crime of dancing together at house parties. One can only wonder at how the clerics might punish General Zarei.

Obama Wins the Springsteen Primary

| Wed Apr. 16, 2008 11:18 AM EDT

the-boss.jpg

Just as Senator Barack Obama's connection to working-class voters is being questioned (unfairly) by Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator John McCain (two true populists, right?), the Bard of the Blue-collar America, Bruce Springsteen, has endorsed Barack Obama, declaring that Obama "speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music." Prior to the start of the Democratic primaries, Springsteen was not jazzed by anyone in the Democratic race, according to a source quite close to him. But the Jersey boy has now jumped in with a full power chord, at an important moment in the race. It's doubtful his endorsement--or that of any singer, celebrity, artist, writer or intellectual--can shift large number of voters. But it's sure better to have the Boss on your side that against you.

From Bruce Springsteen's website:

Dear Friends and Fans:

Like most of you, I've been following the campaign and I have now seen and heard enough to know where I stand. Senator Obama, in my view, is head and shoulders above the rest.

So Why Are Pennsylvanians Bitter?

| Wed Apr. 16, 2008 11:05 AM EDT

The good folks at 23/6 ("Some of the news, most of the time") have a couple ideas.

bitter-pennsylvanians.jpg

More of 23/6's stuff can be found here.

McCain's Frightening Foreign Policy Vision From 2000

| Wed Apr. 16, 2008 10:00 AM EDT

At least Bush claimed that he wanted a "humble" foreign policy back in 2000. Apparently John McCain was gung-ho about adventures like the Iraq War and willing to say so publicly. Here's McCain in a February 2000 Republican debate:

"I'd institute a policy that I call 'rogue state rollback,'" said McCain. "I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically- elected governments."
"As long as Saddam Hussein is in power," he added, "I am convinced that he will pose a threat to our security."

He would "arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow" governments that we don't like? That's a recipe for chaos, and you shouldn't need the Iraq War to tell you so. In my view, the fact that McCain was ever this much of an out-and-out hawk is more scandalous than the fact that he slept with a lobbyist or that he was involved in the Keating Five. Holding positions this extreme and this dangerous ought to be considered worse than ethical or moral transgressions. After all, sleeping with a lobbyist doesn't get people killed.

McCain is now denying that this was his position. Specifically, his recent statement on "rogue state rollback" was: "I wasn't saying that we should go around and declare war." If you look at his quote, though, it sounds pretty much like he was suggesting we go around and declare war. Or at least we train and equip people who declare war for us.