Political MoJo

Iraq's Legal Killings

| Mon Nov. 13, 2006 9:06 PM EST

To the ever-lenthening list of violent ways in which Iraqi citizens are losing their lives, add "legitimate", government-sponsored executions. Dozens of Iraqis convicted of murder and kidnapping have been hung in the past year, and "two or three more batches of 14 or 15 each" are slated for the noose in coming months, Time magazine reports. Those are just the ones the government acknowledges; according to an aide to the Prime Minister, there have been several sets of off-the-record hangings as well. Well, we wanted to give them a democracy just like ours, didn't we?

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Norquist, Pt. 2: Why Sherwood Choked

| Mon Nov. 13, 2006 8:12 PM EST

Conservative wunderkind Grover Norquist continues to insist that the GOP can reclaim its former glory if it can get past its silly associations with endless war, incomptence, and hypocrisy. Last week, he said this meant doing away with pesky little matters like Bush and Iraq. Now, reports the Finanical Times, he's got some more wisdom for glum Republicans:

"Bob Sherwood's seat [in Pennsylvania] would have been overwhelmingly ours, if his mistress hadn't whined about being throttled," said Mr Norquist. Any lessons from the campaign? "Yes. The lesson should be, don't throttle mistresses."

Sherwood, of course, was the (married) Pennsylvania congressman who allegedly choked his girlfriend. Aside from that, he was the perfect candidate.

North Carolina Baptists Expected To Vote To Expel Gay-Friendly Churches

| Mon Nov. 13, 2006 7:55 PM EST

You would think, what with Ted Haggard's issues and many similar issues among the fundamentalist clergy, that the more conservative churches would back off on their oppression of people they do not like, but not so in North Carolina. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is expected to pass a measure tomorrow that would expel any church that "endorses" homosexuality.

The North Carolina convention is the second largest association of Baptist churches in the U.S. In 2003, it expelled a church for accepting two gay men as members and baptizing them, and it has expelled other churches, also. As of 2005, members of the Alliance of Baptists, which supports gay rights, have been barred from serving as trustees of Baptist organizations.

Says convention spokesman Norman Jameson, "We will not view favorably churches that allow that practice." "That practice," of course, is sex, which is the only part of gay relationships in which organizations such as the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina take any interest. About twenty churches will be under immediate investigation if the measure passes. If two people complain to the state conventino about a church, that church is likely to be expelled.

Not everyone is happy. Stephen Shoemaker, senior minister at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, said "We regret very much that the state convention is taking this exclusionary action." Richard Kremer, pastor of St. John's Baptist Church in the Elizabeth neighborhood of Charlotte, said the system will "encourage churches to tattle on others."

Giuliani Forms Exploratory Committee for '08 Presidential Run

| Mon Nov. 13, 2006 7:27 PM EST

Rudy Giuliani has taken the first step toward a presidential run, forming an exploratory committee just a few days after news leaked that John McCain is doing the same.

Interesting quote from the CNN story linked above: "A document from the New York Department of State says Giuliani made the initial filing Friday." What on earth does New York's Department of State have to do with this? And what exactly is the function of an exploratory committee, other than signaling interest in running for president to the national media? I smell an "Explainer" from Slate.

Rudy, by the way, may have been inspired by this recent poll, which identifies him, Condoleezza Rice, and McCain as the frontrunners, in that order. He won't be helped by some fairly idiotic campaigning he did before the 2006 midterms, in which Giuliani crassly invoked 9/11 in defense of the strongly anti-terrorist Rick Santorum.

Update: Quality background material on Giuliani and his presidential ambitions from Slate and In These Times.

TIME Clearly Not Part of the Liberal Media

| Mon Nov. 13, 2006 6:49 PM EST

Media Matters takes a look at TIME's covers from the 1994 Republican Revolution and 2006 Democratic tsunami. Judge for yourself:

 time_cover_1994.gif

 time_cover_2006.gif

I blame Joe "Does Anyone Still Think I'm a Democrat?" Klein.

Next RNC Chair Hates the Elderly

| Mon Nov. 13, 2006 6:17 PM EST

According to breaking reports, Florida Senator Mel Martinez will be the next head of the RNC, replacing Ken Mehlman.

Martinez is best known nationally as the senator whose staffer wrote a memo calling the Terri Schiavo situation a "great political issue." The memo suggested ways Republicans could exploit the issue in the media and created a firestorm of criticizism surrounding the freshman senator. The staffer eventually resigned.

But the public might soon know Martinez for other reasons. He has the standard GOP connection to Jack Abramoff: Before Martinez was a senator, he was Bush's head of HUD. Convicted former Congressman Bob Ney lobbied Martinez on behalf of Abramoff's Indian clients; the clients got $4 million in HUD money in two years and Martinez later got $250,000 at a fundraiser co-chaired by Abramoff. Martinez also may have had an inappropriate relationship with a major Florida engineering firm that got government business in exchange for making donations to Martinez's campaigns through straw donors.

But let's not forget Martinez's ethical problems that Mother Jones drudged up.

In the run-up to the 2002 midterm election, for instance, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez appeared in New Hampshire with GOP Senate candidate John Sununu to announce more than $1.6 million worth of grants to cities in the state from the Community Development Block Grant program, which he called "one of the most successful ways the federal government provides funding for...communities across the nation." At the time, Bush was proposing that $1.3 billion be chopped from the program, which provides money for everything from housing rehabs to Meals on Wheels for the elderly.

So there you have it. The new RNC chair hates old people.

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Abortion Clinics Resurrected as Fundamentalist Chapels

| Mon Nov. 13, 2006 5:18 PM EST

In a practice at least as old as the Crusades, Christian fundamentalists are converting conquered territory—in this case, abortion clinics—into chapels. According to the right-wing Family News in Focus, pro-lifers have purchased mothballed abortion clinics in five states for memorials to the "pre-born." FNIF happily notes that the number of abortion clinics in America has dwindled from a high of around 2,000 in the early '90s to only 750 today—presumably creating a buyer's market for the faithful.

The practice seems reminiscent of the Dark-Age sacking of mosques or the Spanish razing of Cuzco, right down to the hasty plans for remodeling. Notes FNIF:

[R]edeeming an abortion clinic means tearing down a few walls. When Central Women's Services in downtown Wichita closed, Troy Newman of Operation Rescue purchased it, then gutted the building.

"We're thrilled by the prospect of being in this building – having a chapel here where women can come and even mourn the loss of their baby."

He wants to build a prayer garden behind the building so women can leave flowers for the babies they lost to an abortion.

Cheney: The Business Record Revisited

| Sun Nov. 12, 2006 3:54 AM EST

In the "Headlines you don't see often enough" department, a favorite recent entry is "Buying Cheney's Blunder," over a Floyd Norris piece that the New York Times tucked away in the Friday business section. You'll recall how, back in the Bush honeymoon days, we heard about Cheney's successful record as a businessman, cf. his tenure at Halliburton. Now comes news that Halliburton is selling off Kellogg Brown Root, the subsidiary that handles most of its overpriced work in Iraq, at what may quite possibly be a fire-sale price. But the liability of owning KBR is not, in fact, mostly the Iraq stuff: The division is tangled in legal problems that, for Halliburton, "serve as a reminder of a deal gone awry." Now then:

That deal was Halliburton's $7.7 billion 1998 acquisition of Dresser Industries. Engineered by Dick Cheney, then Halliburton's chief executive, the merger accomplished a major strategic goal, making Halliburton the world's largest provider of oil field services.

But Halliburton's due diligence failed to either uncover or appreciate the importance of some significant issues. There were asbestos liabilities, which ended up forcing some Halliburton units into bankruptcy and cost the parent company billions.

Halliburton also failed to notice what it now says may have been illegal behavior overseas at Kellogg, a Dresser subsidiary that is now part of KBR. It says that there appears to have been bribery of Nigerian officials for years in connection with contracts there and that similar behavior may have occurred elsewhere. The Justice Department is investigating possible violations of the foreign corrupt practices act, and Britain has a similar inquiry.

While looking into those charges itself, Halliburton found evidence that Kellogg "may have engaged in coordinated bidding with one or more competitors on certain foreign construction projects, and that such coordination possibly began as early as the mid-1980's," KBR says in its prospectus.

[...]Halliburton began unloading parts of Dresser soon after Mr. Cheney became the vice president of the United States in 2001, and while some Dresser operations have been integrated into Halliburton, the disposal of KBR would remove a major reminder of that deal. That it will have taken more than eight years is a reminder of how long an ordeal can result from a big decision made with poor information.

So to review. Cheney led a major takeover, ignoring evidence that it was going to lead to a quagmire, overlooking possible illegal behavior, and leaving, in the end, to an ignominious bailout. (Oh yeah, and helped create the monster in the first place). Companies, to paraphrase the old saw, sell their mistakes. Countries bury theirs.

Iran, Al Qaeda Endorse Dems

| Sat Nov. 11, 2006 4:26 PM EST

It's nice to have friends abroad, but there are some that should probably be left off the Ramadan greeting card list. Nancy Pelosi is undoubtedly less than pleased that both Iran and Al Qaeda in Iraq have hailed the Democrats victory as a triumph for their causes as well. At least Rush Limbaugh is enjoying himself.

How Did Robo Calls Affect the Election?

| Sat Nov. 11, 2006 12:58 PM EST

According to TPM Muckraker.com, voters in more than two dozens districts throughout the country were barraged with sometimes-harrassing robo calls in the weeks prior to the election. In at least seven of those districts, Democrats lost by margins of only a couple of thousand votes.

In Florida's 13th District, Democrat Christine Jennings, who is involved in a recount, lost the election by only 386 votes. In the last three weeks of the campaign, the Republican Party spent over $58,000 on robo calls against Jennings. In the case of Jennings and other candidates, people receiving such a call at first thought the caller was the Democratic candidate because of the call's misleading opening. Several voters complained about this. If a voter listens to the entire call, only then does she discover that the call comes from the Republican Party. But the majority of people, of course, hang up. The problem is that the phone rings again...and again and again and again, until the voter listens to the entire call. Since most people do not want to listen, voters are left with the impression that they are being harrassed by Democratic candidates.

Democrats have asked the FEC, the FCC and the Department of Justice to investigate the nature of campaign robo calls.