Political MoJo

Democrats Lose NM-01 in Nail-Biter: Maybe Hillary Can Pay for the Recount?

| Tue Nov. 21, 2006 4:31 PM EST

Democratic challenger Patricia Madrid conceded the race for New Mexico's 1st Congressional District to incumbent Republican Heather Wilson today, even though the final margin of 875 votes is less than one-half of one percent of the total number of votes cast.

In many other states, such a small vote differential would automatically trigger a state-funded recount—but not in relatively poor New Mexico (the state's coffers are filled —or not filled—by taxes from the third-lowest per capita income in the nation). A recount is expected to cost between $250,000 and $300,000, but the Democrats don't have the money. Madrid notes that a single-vote swing in each precinct would reverse the outcome.

With such a small differential and State Democratic Party Chairman John Wertheim accusing state Republicans of "systematic vote suppression" (Democrats had to file suit against Republicans calling non-republican voters with misleading information) the 2006 race for NM's 1st looks to have gone the way of Florida's 13th District and other places in the nation where misleading and harassing phone calls paid for by the GOP—one of the "dirtier, yet mostly legal, tricks in a political operative's bag of last-minute campaign tools"—may have tipped the balance in some very tight Congressional races.

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New Poll: Vast Majority of Iraqis Want U.S. to Go Home

| Tue Nov. 21, 2006 1:40 PM EST

A new survey by WorldPublicOpinion.org reveals the depth of Iraqi antipathy towards the contiued American presence in their country. Now a solid majority of all Iraqis, including once pro-U.S. Baghdad Shias, say they want us out of there in a year:

Eight out of ten Shias in Baghdad (80%) say they want foreign forces to leave within a year (72% of Shias in the rest of the country), according to a poll conducted by World Public Opinion in September. None of the Shias polled in Baghdad want U.S.-led troops to be reduced only "as the security situation improves," a sharp decline from January, when 57 percent of the Shias polled by WPO in the capital city preferred an open-ended U.S presence.

This brings Baghdad Shias in line with the rest of the country. Seven out of ten Iraqis overall—including both the Shia majority (74%) and the Sunni minority (91%)—say they want the United States to leave within a year.

One statistical difference worth noting: Baghdad Shias, unlike most other Iraqis, do not favor disarming sectarian militias even though 59% say a U.S. withdrawal will lead to more interethnic violence. That's not just a sign of how bad things are in the capital but also an ominous hint of the power struggle to come. But while the U.S. may be providing a temporary buffer, that doesn't mean it's seen as the good guy who simply needs to holster his gun and ride into the sunset. Nearly 60% of all Shias say they support attacks on American-led troops. And 100% of Baghdad Sunnis and 91% of Sunnis elsewhere say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces.

Palestinians Form Human Shield, Israelis Back Off

| Tue Nov. 21, 2006 2:59 AM EST

Hundreds of Palestinians, many of them women and children, formed a human shield around a Gaza building targetted by the Israeli military - a novel tactic that got the Jewish state to call off their planned air strike. The Israelis, as they often do, had given advance notice to the militants whose homes they were aiming to blast with missiles so that their families could be evacuated. Instead, they sent out a call for supportive protesters, at the prompting of a female Hamas activist who had also led a group of women to form human shields to help a group of trapped gunmen escape an Israeli siege earlier this month.

Now, no one can deny that Israeli military actions have killed lots of innocent Palestinian civilians, and that's a terrible thing. But this whole episode does point out a difference between them and their suicide-bombing opponents. Israel doesn't intentionally target civilians; Hamas and other Palestinian groups do. In fact, the same day that the Israelis called off their missilie attack lest it harm innocent people, Palestinian missiles fired into the town of Sderot injured three people. Is there a difference between extreme disregard for the possibility of civilian casualties as a side effect of a military strike and deliberately killing civilians? Discuss.

FBI Conspired To Frame Innocent Men In Murder Convictions 40 Years Ago

| Mon Nov. 20, 2006 10:04 PM EST

Thousands of recently released FBI documents from the U.S. Justice Department show that the FBI, in an attempt to cultivate mobsters Vincent "Jimmy the Bear" Flemmi and Joseph "The Animal" Barboza, allowed them to frame four innocent men for murder forty years ago.

Flemmi and Barboza conspired to murder Edward "Teddy" Deegan, a fact well known to the FBI agents who bugged the mob office for several months. Yet these agents allowed Flemmi and Barboza to frame four men, two of whom are still alive, and who are seeking over $100 million in damages from the federal government. The survivors, Joseph Salvati and Peter Limone, are basing their case largely on documents discovered by a special task force of the U.S. Department of Justice during an investiation of law enforcement corruption in New England.

Salvati, Limone and two other men, Henry Tameleo and Louis Greco, are described as victims of an FBI run amok during the J. Edgar Hoover/Robert Kennedy Mafia crackdown. After the Deegan murder, Barboza agreed to confess to his participation in exchange for a reduced charge that would actually have netted him no prison time (he was in prison on another charge and was to be released). He refused, however, to name Flemmi as an accomplice in the conspiracy, and he is alleged to have talked the FBI into letting him name four innocent men as accomplices. In exchange, both Barbosa and Flemmi became FBI informants.

Three of the men were sentenced to death by electrocution, but their sentences were later commuted to life terms; the fourth man, Salvati, had already by given a life sentence. Tameleo and Greco died in prison.

The U.S. Justice Department has challenged the lawsuit, claiming immunity, but the judge disagreed, and his decision was upheld by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.

What Color is Richard Pombo's Parachute?

| Mon Nov. 20, 2006 9:33 PM EST

I try to ignore press releases like this, but this post-election PR stunt caught my attention when it popped into my inbox:

After the mid-term elections, six senators and twenty-one representatives are now out of a job, with five House incumbents still waiting to hear. To help these civic-minded men and women in their search for a new career and a new life, Ten Speed Press is donating a copy of What Color Is Your Parachute?—the world's best-selling job-hunting, career-changing, and soul-searching manual—to every incumbent who lost a seat in the election. Books have been mailed out and will arrive on the desks of the outgoing legislators in time for Christmas.

Pretty clever—who knew that book was even still around? I like this bit of career advice for soon-to-be former California Rep. Richard Pombo, who has said he will become a lobbyist for property-rights (read: anti-environmental) groups as soon as the revolving door is opened for him: "Mr. Pombo may be an experienced agenda-pusher, but perhaps he may be better suited for a job as an actuary or a florist." I dunno. I think Pombo's parachute is any color but green.

"Go Big"..."Go Long"...or "Go Home"?

| Mon Nov. 20, 2006 8:03 PM EST

Today, during a news conference in Bogor, Indonesia, President Bush said, "I have not made any decisions about troop increases, troop decreases, and won't until I hear from a variety of sources, including our own United States military."

Yet just last Thursday, the Guardian reported that "President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations."

All of this decision-making for the President comes just as the Baker Commission is set to release its recommendations, which Bush's comments about troop increases appear to mirror. You can read the leaked parts of their recs. here. The Pentagon is also getting in on the planning action. Today, the Washington Post reports that the review of Iraq, commissioned by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Peter Pace, is looking at three options which have been deemed "Go Big," "Go Long" or "Go Home."

"Go Big" = a large increase in U.S. troops in Iraq to try to break the cycle of sectarian and insurgent violence. That option has been all but rejected by the study group, which concluded that there are not enough troops in the U.S. military and not enough effective Iraqi forces.

"Go Home" = a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops. It was rejected by the Pentagon group as likely to push Iraq directly into a full-blown and bloody civil war.

"Go Long" (Read: "stay the course") = Planners envision [it] taking five to 10 more years to create a stable and competent Iraqi army.

The review team seems to be leaning toward an amalgam of "Go Big" and "Go Long," which looks very similar to the initial recommendations of the Baker Commission, a sharp increase of 20,000- 30,000 troops and then a transition from the suppression of insurgent violence to training and advising the Iraqi Army. They call this one "Go Big But Short While Transitioning to Go Long." I think someone is having fun over there.

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Uranium Poisoning Still Plagues the Navajo Nation

| Mon Nov. 20, 2006 8:02 PM EST

They built their homes out of uranium mill waste because "it made good concrete." They drank the water of lakes that appeared "as if by magic" on the arid reservation in the 1950s and 1960s. What they didn't know was that these lakes were actually pools covering abandoned uranium mines.

Fifty years ago, reports Judy Pasternak in the Los Angeles Times, cancer rates on the Navajo reservation in the desert southwest were so low that a medical journal published an article titled "Cancer immunity in the Navajo." Then, from 1944 to 1986, 3.9 million tons of uranium ore were chiseled and blasted from the mountains and plains, with radioactive waste piles, open tunnels and pits left behind. Few companies bothered to fence the properties or post warning signs. Federal inspectors seldom intervened.

Not until 2000 were some families warned that they were living in homes as radioactive as uranium mines. The U.S. government still hasn't cleaned it up. Read more about the cruel legacy uranium has left for this tribe in Pasternak's heartbreaking series, running this week.

—April Rabkin

"This Just In..." A Fair and Balanced Daily Show

| Mon Nov. 20, 2006 7:39 PM EST

Via Think Progress comes a great tidbit reported by Forbes today. It looks like Jon Stewart has some future competition. Fox News and Joel Surnow, the executive producer of "24," are scheming to put together a news satire show for the right. Surnow thinks it's time for the left to have it handed to them, Fox News style. "The other side hasn't been skewered in a fair and balanced way," says Surnow. The working title for the show is "This Just In" and is set to air this winter, on Saturdays during primetime. The impetus for the show appears to be the change in power in Congress and Surnow wants to be ready: "By January, we will have a whole bunch of new people to do material about." Watch out Pelosi.

John McCain and the Religious Right -- Increasingly Comfortable and Not So Odd Bedfellows

| Mon Nov. 20, 2006 6:56 PM EST

Before you can be Commander-in-Chief, you have to be Panderer-in-Chief. Or so thinks John McCain, anyway, who continues to discard his "moderate" and "maverick" labels in favor of listing very strategically to the right. A run-down:

Yesterday on ABC, McCain said that he supports the overturning of Roe v. Wade. A few years ago, McCain told the San Francisco Chronicle this:

I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations.

McCain yesterday on ABC:

I do believe that it's very likely or possible that the Supreme Court should — could overturn Roe v. Wade, which would then return these decisions to the states, which I support... I don't believe the Supreme Court should be legislating in the way that they did on Roe v. Wade.

Of course, this all recalls the McCain-Falwell saga, where McCain told reporters during his 2000 presidential run that Falwell, Robertson and their ilk were bad for the country, and that Falwell specifically was an "agent of intolerance."* Early this year, McCain took back the "agent of intolerance" quote and gave the commencement address at Falwell's Liberty University.

And two days ago, ThinkProgress blogged that McCain is hiring Falwell's staffers. Specifically, the debate coach at Liberty University, who will advise McCain on communications issues. So we can look forward to McCain's new position on fighting the war on terror: "Blow them all away in the name of the Lord."


* That is a pretty easy case to make. Here's Falwell on the causes of 9/11:

I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'

Obama to Reporter: I'm Sorry for "Messing Up Your Game"

| Mon Nov. 20, 2006 6:11 PM EST

In the past Barack Obama has been accused of many things -- having ties to a crooked political fundraiser, for one -- but this, I dare say, is a first. In a recent column in the Henry Daily Herald of McDonough, Georgia, reporter Nicklaus Lovelady lambasts Obama for ruining his chances with a love interest working for a rival paper. Best to let Lovelady take it from here:

I had the looks, I had the charm and I had my eye on this pretty young thing who was doing an internship for a competing paper.

It took me nearly two months of running into each other at various news events before I worked up the nerve to begin talking to her.

And then Obama shows up.

The senator made his way to SIUE one day to introduce some legislation that would increase grants for students. Prior to that, me and the girl became really cool as I let her in on a few tricks of the trade.

The day Obama came, there was a huge press conference at the university's student center with about 100 people inside the conference room and hundreds more viewing the conference on a big screen in the lobby.

Obama did his thing, and at the end there was segment for questions by the media.

After about five questions from different television and newspaper reporters, I stood up to ask mine.

"Wait a minute son, this is for professional media only," Obama said to me.

"What do you mean? I work for the local paper," I said with a crackling nervous voice.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were a college student. You have such a baby face," he said with an unremorseful grin.

At that point everyone in the room turned to look at me and laugh. The 800 people in the lobby laughed as my face was projected on the big screen.

Alas, the "pretty young thing" was laughing, too. And, after that humiliating episode, she was no longer interested in Lovelady's "tricks of the trade." "Obama owes me a public apology for making me look like a court jester and for blocking my shot," Lovelady's column concludes. "Until that time, Hillary or Giuliani will get my vote."

Not about to lose Lovelady's vote, Obama, who has yet to declare whether or not he'll seek the presidency in 2008, phoned the reporter "to publicly apologize for messing up your game. I read that; I felt terrible. I didn't know there were any ladies around. I just wanted to let you know that I'm deeply sorry."

Presidential material? Definitely.