Political MoJo

Richard Doll Turns Out To Have Been Monsanto's Own

| Sat Dec. 9, 2006 3:13 PM EST

Sir Richard Doll is famous for proving that smoking causes cancer, but I hope that, after a recent disclosure, he also becomes famous for having no integrity whatsoever. It turns out that Doll took money from the devil--otherwise known as Monsanto--for twenty years. During this period, Doll was "investigating" cancer risks within the chemical industry. For $1,500 a day, Doll found the inspiration to declare that Agent Orange did not cause cancer.

Doll also found the inspiration to forget to mention that he was on Monsanto's payroll. And that he was also on the payroll of the Chemical Manufacturers Association, Dow Chemicals and ICI. For this gig, he "proved" that vinyl chloride does not cause liver cancer, a finding disputed by the World Health Organization.

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Gay-Lovin' Skeletons in Romney's Closet

| Fri Dec. 8, 2006 6:23 PM EST

Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has been the very picture of paranoid homophobia in the last few years, becoming an almost-comic figure when he filed a bogus law suit last month in an attempt to force an anti-marriage amendment onto the 2008 ballot in Massachusetts. This from a man who opposes "activist judges" and favors tort reform. Coincidentally (or not), most pundits expect Romney to be a presidential candidate on the ballot in 2008.

But, according to the Boston Globe, Romney sang a different tune in a recently re-released 1994 interview with Bay Windows, Boston's gay paper. Romney said that the gay-lesbian community "needs more support from the Republican Party." Romney advocated letting states decide whether to allow same-sex marriage. "People of integrity don't force their beliefs on others, they make sure that others can live by different beliefs they may have," Romney said. (Note to Bay Windows: SNAP on the re-release, but lose the cutesy name!)

Golly Gee, it turns out that Mitt Romney, like so many other Republicans, has been cynically gay-baiting all these years in hopes of earning kudos and votes from the religious crazies who actually think gay marriage is a pressing issue. (In reality, only about 8,000 same-sex couples have married in Massachusetts. Not only has the sky not fallen, but support for gay marriage has increased statewide.) Well, either Romney has been exaggerating his anti-gay feelings as governor of Massachusetts or he disingenuously downplayed them as a candidate, in efforts to woo gay votes away from his opponent, the notorious liberal Edward Kennedy.

So, did he lie then, or is he lying now? Frankly, I don't give a damn. Romney won't win in 2008, thanks, in a stroke of poetic justice, to prejudice. In this case, against him. A recent Gallup Poll says Americans aren't ready for a Mormon president. See how hating doesn't pay?

-- Cameron Scott

Rummy Reads. Finds Out Civil War Caused American Deaths.

| Fri Dec. 8, 2006 5:27 PM EST

Via Think Progress comes a hysterical soundbite from outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a Pentagon Townhall meeting today.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I'm wondering what books you read while you were secretary that you found most useful and edifying.

RUMSFELD: I started reading a number of books about the Civil War...But I stopped. I found the struggle going on — gosh, those years, there were so many people killed and wounded, and they were all Americans.

Goodness, for old Rummy's sake, let's not wait 12 days to swear in Robert Gates.

Things Get Nastier in Lebanon

| Fri Dec. 8, 2006 3:30 PM EST

Beirut was once called the Paris of the Middle East. Not anymore. The war-torn Lebanese capital is again perched on the precipice of civil war.

As I blogged last week, the Shiite militia Hezbollah, invigorated by its pyrrhic victory over Israel in August, is trying to oust Lebanon's Western-backed Sunni prime minister, Fouad Siniora. Earlier today, the Washington Post reports, the situation in Beirut took yet another turn for the worse. Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, accused Siniora of asking the U.S. to cut off Hezbollah's weapon supply lines.

Israel has been accused by the U.N., Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch of indiscriminately targeting civilians in Southern Lebanon, where most of the country's Shiites live (Israel claims Hezbollah was using civilians as human shields). Essentially, Nasrallah accused the prime minister of offering the country's Shiites to Israel as sacrificial lambs.

Those are fighting words. If there's any truth in them, no self-respecting Shiite would allow Siniora to remain in office. Then again, many of Hezbollah's followers may believe the charges simply because Siniora criticized Hezbollah for picking a fight with Israel.

Siniora, for his part, made some personal jabs at Nasrallah but didn't directly deny the charges.

-- Cameron Scott

Follow Up: Iraqi Refugee Problem Escalates Sunni-Sh'ia Conflict in Jordan

| Fri Dec. 8, 2006 2:44 PM EST

Today, the New York Times reports from Jordan on the Iraqi refugee problem there. (Leigh blogged yesterday about the new reports from Refugees International and Human Rights Watch the Times mentions.)

Refugees International has called the exodus of Iraqis at a rate of some 3,000 a day "the fastest-growing humanitarian crisis in the world." What's more, mushrooming Iraqi refugee populations are causing tension in the countries that begrudgingly host them. Whereas Jordan initially turned a blind eye to illegal Iraqis, security forces are increasingly seeking them out and deporting them, and more and more are being turned away at the border.

A few highlights from the Times piece:

-- [R]efugees …say the authorities of this officially Sunni country have paid more attention to deporting Iraqi Shiites, fearing that their militias are trying to organize here.

-- Many refugees say the crackdown has focused attention on Shiites....Even before this, Shiite prayer halls, known as Husseiniyas, were strictly banned here....A prominent sheik representing Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani of Iraq was deported late this summer.

-- "We don't have a problem with someone trying to advance his Shiite faith," [a] security official said. "But we do have a problem with someone proselytizing and being political."

If Sunni-majority countries continue to antagonize the Shiite refugees in their midst, will the Shiites have anywhere to turn but Iran?

-- Cameron Scott

NYC Sues (More) Out-Of-State Gun Dealers. Does This Mean Bloomberg's Running for Prez?

| Thu Dec. 7, 2006 8:48 PM EST

Today, NYC sued a dozen out-of-state gun dealers that it says are recklessly selling guns that are then used in Big Apple crimes. The latest suit brings the total number of suspected straw dealers sued by NYC to 47. As the Washington Post reports: "A straw sale is where one person fills out the paperwork to purchase a gun meant for someone else. The scam is often used by those who cannot own firearms, like convicted felons."

This tactic is just the latest innovation that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been willing to employ to staunch the flow of weapons into NYC. In a Mother Jones piece that appeared last year, Greg Sargent wrote about how a law firm with its own tragic history of gun violence teamed up with Bloomberg

"to wage a landmark lawsuit against more than three dozen gun manufacturers and distributors. The companies—including Beretta, Smith & Wesson, Glock, and Browning—constitute virtually the entire firearms industry. New York City's case is built on the theory that gun companies know their products end up being trafficked to criminals and could take easy steps to stop it, but fail to do so."

New York vs. Beretta so terrified the gun lobby that it got Congress to pass (and not for the first time) sweeping liability protection for the industry, though whether it would retroactively apply to the NYC case is still up for grabs. The gun lobby has managed to defeat most other municipal cases, and has filed a motion to dismiss New York vs. Beretta "based on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act." Nevertheless, gun-control advocates see in New York vs. Beretta model way to force manufacturers to change the way they market and distribute their products.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg—a man not to be screwed with, and also a mayor (and presidential candidate?) who relies on dems and moderates for his political power—sent out PIs wearing hidden cameras to try and make straw purchases at some 45 out-of-state dealers. The Post reports:

"They focused on shops where hundreds of guns have been traced back there from New York City killings, muggings and other crimes in recent years. Bloomberg said the majority of gun dealers refused the sale, but those who allegedly allowed it have been targeted in the [latest] lawsuits."

So there you have it. The politician taking a real stand on gun control is a Republican. Any guesses as to whether a Dem-controlled Congress will follow his lead?

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If You Can't Beat 'Em, Hire 'Em

| Thu Dec. 7, 2006 8:25 PM EST

Sen. John McCain, who was smeared mercilessly by the Rove machine when he ran for president in 2000, has hired Terry Nelson to manage his 2008 presidential campaign, if such a campaign materializes. Nelson was national political director of George W. Bush's 2004 campagin, but his most recent fame comes from having masterminded the "Call me" spot that is considered to have stirred up every racist thought in Tennessee.

For the record, Nelson is also a protege of Karl Rove, who managed a stunning smear campaign against McCain in South Carolina in 2000, publicizing his wife's problems with prescription drugs, and suggesting that McCain had fathered a black child out of wedlock (he had not). Instead of condemning Bush's 2000 South Carolina campaign tactics, McCain (literally) embraced Bush. In his interview with Amy Goodman:

AMY GOODMAN: They were very personal, very harsh, and they questioned your war record.

JOHN MCCAIN: And I had to get over it. And I got over it, and I don't look back in anger. I look back as running for president as the greatest experience of my life.

AMY GOODMAN: It's one thing to get over it. It's another to stand with and campaign with the man who did it to you, George Bush.

JOHN MCCAIN: I put it behind me. I put it behind me. Absolutely, we have a very good, friendly relationship.

AMY GOODMAN: Has he ever explained himself to you, why he attacked your wife, Cindy, and your kid?

JOHN MCCAIN: I can only––my discussions with the president are private. Okay? Thanks, good.

But wait...there's more. Nelso was also James Tobin's supervisor. Tobin, you will recall, is the New Hampshire Republican who was recently convicted of scheming to jam Democratic Party phone lines in New Hampshire during the 2002 elections. He is also an ally of Swift Boat veteran Chris LaCivita, and also part of Tom DeLay's PAC problems in Texas.

In other words, if there is sleaze in the vicinity, Terry Nelson will be found wallowing in it. Exactly the kind of person "independent," "maverick," "straight shooter" McCain likes best.

Gov. Richardson In and Then Out of Presidential Race

| Thu Dec. 7, 2006 6:29 PM EST

If you don't refresh Google News every fifteen minutes, you probably missed Governor Bill Richardson's (D-NM) brief dip into the 2008 presidential waters.

Today at 3:02 pm PST, according to Google News, FOX News posted this story, indicating that Richardson told them that he is running for president. The key quote seems to be, "I'm not running as an Hispanic, I am running as an American who is proud to be Hispanic."

Then at 3:17 pm PST, again according to Google News, the Albuquerque Tribune shot back, posting this story, saying that no, Richardson had not in fact announced. They quote a rep as saying, "The governor didn't say that. He said, like he's been saying, that he'll make a decision in January."

Hope you like horse races! Wheeee....

Toxic Toys

| Thu Dec. 7, 2006 5:02 PM EST

To hear that lead paint is still the leading cause of poisoning among children is somewhat surprising. But to hear that some companies are still using lead in manufacturing children's jewelry, despite increased awareness about its dangers, is downright baffling. The perils of this were brought home in March when four-year old Jarnell Brown died after swallowing a charm from a promotional bracelet from Reebok. It was 99 percent lead.

Due to pressure from the Sierra Club, the staff of the Consumer Product Safety Commission is finally taking action, calling for a ban on toy jewelry containing 0.06 pecent lead by weight, the Washington Post reports today.

According to the Post, the risk of lead poisoning has resulted in the recall of more than 160 million items since 2004.

But while one agency is taking steps to impose stricter regulations to reduce lead exposure, another agency is contemplating relaxing its existing standards. According to the Post, this week the EPA suggested "it might consider revoking national lead air quality standards."

Update: More on the EPA's baffling contention that we've taken enough lead out of the air already, and that it's time to start moving backwards, here.

Bush Prepares to Talk to MORE Axis of Evil States; I Feel Like I'm Taking Crazy Pills

| Thu Dec. 7, 2006 3:48 PM EST

Did I miss a memo? Are the terrorists winning? Continuing a trend mentioned earlier today, President Bush is giving indications that he may open up discussions with Iran and Syria as part of regional talks on how to stabalize Iraq. There are rules, however. For Iran to come to the table, it has to "verifiably suspend" its nuclear program. For Syria, it has to "stop destabilizing" Lebanon's government.

Now, this gives Bush a ton of wiggle room. Iran and Syria can say in upcoming weeks and months that they are hemming to Bush's rules, and Bush can always respond by saying, "Our evidence indicates the opposite." So, in essence, Bush can decide to allow Iran and Syria to join regional talks whenever he's good and ready.

So, in the end, the Bush Administration continues to present the image of progress, while hedging on any genuine change. I wonder if this is part of Bush's grand plan to make bloggers question why they bother going through the trouble...