Political MoJo

Understatement of the Day

| Tue Jul. 24, 2007 12:15 PM EDT

From Daniel Benjamin (Brookings Institution) and Steve Simon (Council on Foreign Relations) in their op-ed in today's New York Times, which suggests that we use the CIA to root out Al Qaida in Pakistan:

While the C.I.A. doesn't have an unblemished record...

Posted without further comment.

— Nick Baumann

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Hatch Act Violations Extend to Diplomatic Corps

| Tue Jul. 24, 2007 12:40 AM EDT

We've blogged in the past about Karl Rove's political PowerPoints that Rove's deputies went around Washington showing to federal employees, acts of politicalization that are obvious violations of the Hatch Act.

The Post has an A01 story revealing that those PowerPoints even reached foreign policy folks, specifically top diplomats.

White House aides have conducted at least half a dozen political briefings for the Bush administration's top diplomats, including a PowerPoint presentation for ambassadors with senior adviser Karl Rove that named Democratic incumbents targeted for defeat in 2008 and a "general political briefing" at the Peace Corps headquarters after the 2002 midterm elections.
The briefings, mostly run by Rove's deputies at the White House political affairs office, began in early 2001 and included detailed analyses for senior officials of the political landscape surrounding critical congressional and gubernatorial races, according to documents obtained by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Why members of the foreign service need to know which Democrats are targeted for removal in 2008 is beyond me, but if you're going to taint the federal government, you might as well taint all of it. Go big or go home: it's the American way.

Update: The original headline of this article said "diplomatic corp" instead of "diplomatic corps." Mea culpa.

CNN/YouTube Debate Live Blog! Part 4

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 9:14 PM EDT

A question in the form of a rap song about No Child Left Behind. Kind of cringe-inducing, but kind of neat. Richardson and Biden, who have differences on Iraq, as documented below, both agree on scrapping it. This is Bush's single greatest domestic accomplishment! What an awful legacy!

Wait, Biden's wife and daughter were killed? Did he just say that? How can everyone talk about John Edwards' dead son without ever mentioning the fact that Biden has lost his wife and daughter? I'm hitting Wikipedia.

Okay, here's what Wikipedia says (authoritative source, I know): "In 1966, while in law school, Biden married Neilia Hunter. They had three children, Joseph R. III (Beau), Robert Hunter, and Amy. His wife and infant daughter died in an automobile accident shortly after he was first elected to the U.S. Senate [in 1973]. His two young sons, Beau and Hunter, were seriously injured in the accident, but both eventually made full recoveries. Biden was sworn into office from their bedside." Biden remarried in 1977.

We just had a question from two fake hillbillies and a question from a snowman. CNN's producers are punchy tonight. (Boy, awkward transition.)

CNN/YouTube Debate Live Blog! Part 3

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 8:51 PM EDT

Gravel = righteous anger. Seriously. The man is a cauldron of fury. If you think lives were lost in vain in Vietnam and lives are being lost in vain in Iraq, and more importantly, you want a president who is willing to say so loudly, Gravel might be the guy for you.

Question from a soldier in Japan for Hillary Clinton. Islamic states see women as second class citizens, he says. Given that, how can she hope to be taken seriously by leaders of those states? Hillary blows the question out of the water, saying as First Lady she visited 82 countries, including many Islamic ones, and that as a powerful senator she regularly has high-level talks with those folks. Also, there are and have been female leaders across the globe, including some in Muslim-dominated states, like Pakistan. Hillary has been really hammering her credentials and experience — usually by saying that she has the best ability to hit the ground running if elected — and it's hard to argue with her.

CNN/YouTube Debate Live Blog! Part 2

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 8:20 PM EDT

Obama has a zinger. Asked about whether or not he has authenticity as a black man, he says he proves his credentials when he tries to catch a cab in Manhattan.

Hillary has a good one on whether or not her femininity is in question: "I can't run as anything but a woman." Now Edwards is taking on the question of women — more women than men have trouble getting the health care they need, more women are affected by the minimum wage, and so on. He commends Senator Clinton for her lifetime of work on behalf of women, but claims he is the best advocate for them.

A couple totally awesome questions on gay rights. A lesbian couple asking if the candidates would allow them to marry if they were elected, and then a Baptist pastor who said, if religion was used to justify slavery, banning interracial marriage, and other injustices, and we recognized that was wrong, how can we use religion to deny gay Americans the right to vote. This is the sort of stuff conventional moderators would not have brought up. At least one cheer for YouTube, and Politics 2.0!

CNN/YouTube Debate Live Blog!

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 7:55 PM EDT

We'll be here all night, folks, watching the Dems debate at the Citadel. Big question, according to the mainstream media anyway: will someone try to distinguish themselves by attacking Hillary Clinton, who leads in all the polls?

Today's questions don't come from moderators — they come from YouTube users who submitted 3,000 questions in the weeks leading up to the debates. CNN showed polls before the debate showing that the younger you are, the more likely you are to use the internet to follow campaign news. But the older you are, the more likely you are to watch a debate on television. What that means is, today is as an inter-generational affair, with old fogies tuning in only to be befuddled by all the youngsters with webcams appearing on their TV screens.

Okay, kicking things off. The first two questions are all crazy and in-your-face. I'm willing to bet CNN could have found enough serious and almost boring questions to make this a conventional affair. But they've been billing this as revolutionary for days, so things are going to have to be edgy. This might be a loooong night.

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Do-It-Yourself Mad Scientistry: Environmental Edition

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 5:23 PM EDT

Hey, cool! Via Instapundit, I found a site that tells you how to make your own ethanol.

To make it, whether in home stills or factories, cornmeal is put in vats with water and enzymes that convert some of the corn to sugar. Yeast added to the "mash" converts the sugar to alcohol. In a few days, the alcohol concentration tops 10 percent and the yeast goes inactive, having, ironically, rendered its own environment toxic.
Distillation increases the alcohol concentration: 50 percent is vodka, 95 percent is fuel. Alcohol vaporizes at a lower temperature than water, so heating the fermented mash turns the alcohol to vapor that collects on a cold condenser.

Uh, okay. The process is illegal, dangerous, unlikely to help the environment all that much, and possibly hazardous to all of our long-term respiratory health. Other than that, it's great! Find your lab goggles and get to work!

More Wanton White House Secrecy

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 4:47 PM EDT

ThinkProgress picked up this interesting little item in last Friday's Oregonian. Apparently Peter DeFazio, the Oregon Democrat and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, requested access to the administration's continuity of government plan in the event of a terrorist attack. Access denied, the White House said.

The American Enterprise Institutes's oft-quoted political scientist Norm Ornstein told the paper that this is an unprecedented move. "I find it inexplicable and probably reflective of the usual, knee-jerk overextension of executive power that we see from this White House," he said.

The White House has yet to weigh in on the matter, but given the administration's track record when it comes to wanton secrecy you can likely expect a creative and legally fraught explanation (or simply none at all) for why DeFazio's request was denied. (After all, the Veep's office briefly advanced the argument recently that it was not part of the executive branch and thus not subject to an information request from the National Archives.)

But why was DeFazio looking into the classified portions of the continuity of government plan anyway? It turns out that some conspiracy-minded Oregonians called his office concerned that there might be something fishy in the fine print. Under normal circumstances this would seem to be another tinfoil-hat-type theory. But now DeFazio's not so sure. "Maybe the people who think there's a conspiracy out there are right," he said.

News You've Been Waiting For, Mother Jones Takes on Washington

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 3:11 PM EDT

We've been telling you for a few days that Mother Jones has some big news. Here it is. We're bucking the mainstream news downsizing trend while getting our investigators' noses into places that drive the political elite crazy. Right after Labor Day, non-profit Mother Jones will be the first American news organization in years to open a major bureau in Washington D.C. We're more than doubling our commitment to fearless, independent reporting in the nation's capital.

Jay Harris
President & Publisher

Trash Continues To Pile Up, Threaten Public Health

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 1:48 PM EDT

An update on the trash talks going on east of San Francisco in Alameda County, where Waste Management has locked out 500 garbage truck drivers since July 2nd.

Amidst accusations that more affluent neighborhoods were getting regular pickup service by replacement workers, leaving others to languish as block dumps, on Friday state legislators introduced an emergency bill in Sacramento that would allow cities to declare a public health emergency in the case of a garbage stalemate, where they could commandeer garbage trucks and/or hire locked out workers or another contractor, at the expense of the original company.

"Enough is enough," said assemblywoman Loni Hancock, whose district includes Berkeley and parts of Oakland. "I find it completely unacceptable for trash to remain uncollected and left to rot in the streets. This is creating a public health crisis and it's time to take out the trash." Hancock compared garbage pickup to police and fire, calling it an essential service for public health and safety.

Talks between the labor and management resumed yesterday but after 12 "slow and tedious" hours the parties came to no resolution, meaning service will remain spotty at best. As of Friday the city of Oakland had received more than 2,300 complaints from residents regarding trash pickup.