I've written at great length about the presidential chances of Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel. For a Republican base grown tired of the war and a bumbling president, but still committed to conservative positions on social issues, the anti-war but very culturally conservative Chuck Hagel is the closest thing out there to a perfect candidate -- he's certainly better than the flip-flopping and socially moderate trio of Romney, McCain, and Giuliani.

And as Hagel grows into the role of the White House's chief GOP antagonist (he's the first Republican to say Wolfowitz should step down at the World Bank), he has announced he's mulling an independent run for the presidency. The chance to grab anti-war voters from across the spectrum and Republican voters enchanted by his purist stances on social issues must be mighty appealing. Throw in the rumors that Hagel might partner on the ticket with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is highly effective and almost post-partisan, and you've got some worthwhile '08 drama. (The rumors, by the way, were started by Hagel and Bloomberg themselves in a delectable bit of stagecraft. They had dinner together in early May, then leaked the news and denied its significance in Bloomberg's own wire service.)

So my predictions of a Hagel-Huckabee ticket may not come to pass. Sadly, Hagel-Bloomberg just doesn't have the same ring.

About as different as can be, the Republican senator from Kansas and the Democratic senator from Delaware now have the same plan on Iraq: split it up into three loosely federated regions with one religious sect in each.

A young man shot his roommate at Keene College and then shot and killed himself as police approached. Clearly, the problem was the gun-free zone Keene College had established in the young men's room.

(The roommate survived.)

There's already some derisive buzz about QubeTV, the video sharing site for conservatives who claim that liberal media giant YouTube won't let them play in its digital sandbox. I haven't had time to wade into its archives, but I notice that it's off to a great start by appropriating part of its logo from Altria (A.K.A. Philip Morris). Are the Qubers just lazy graphic designers or image-remixing copyfighters? We'll see what happens when the first cease-and-desist letter arrives...

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Oh. My. God.

Just when you thought things couldn't get worse for Alberto "Gonzo" Gonzalez, ohmygod! A Washington, D.C., TV news program did some digging and discovered that the Justice Department hasn't just neglected civil rights and voting rights and prosecuted the first ever "reverse discrimination" voting rights case on record—it also fails to hire any non-white lawyers! Now Rep. John Conyers, who leads the House Judiciary Committee, is promising yet another investigation. Among the specific charges is that the key department of the—wait for it—civil rights division has failed to hire a single black attorney since 2003 to replace those who have left. Currently, only two lawyers in that department are black.

In case you're scratching your head saying, "Local news did this?", The reporter who led the investigation for WJLA-TV had recently come from the Center for Public Integrity. The investigation also relied on a consulting firm's analysis of D.O.J. diversity. That report found that "minorities perceive unfairness," are "significantly under-represented in management ranks," and are "more (about 50 percent more) likely to leave than whites."

Snap, Alberto. Join Clarence Thomas in the Top 5 of big-time affirmative action beneficiaries who become reactionary extremists in order not to admit that maybe they got a little more of a leg-up than the next non-white guy.

And resign already.

A task force commissioned by the Pentagon itself concluded that repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan are resulting in higher instances of mental health problems among troops, which the military health system is in no way prepared to handle. The panel found that nearly 40 percent of soldiers report psychological concerns. Nearly half of guardsmen report problems, due to repeated deployments—which are expected to continue. The task force labeled the Pentagon's mental health care system conservative and out-of-date, and proposed a paradigm shift from relying on soldiers to self-report to focusing on prevention and screening. Sometimes it takes a task force to state the obvious. Mother Jones has reported all this (and then some) before.

Ecologists and economists have put a controversial dollar figure on biodiversity, but this week marks the first time the UN has ever put a price-tag on the climate. What would it cost to keep greenhouse gases close to their current levels? One estimate of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is shockingly cheap.

"The cheaper scenario would mean going out to dinner one time less a year, whereas the higher figure gets into the range of having or not having a car," says Ralf Martin of the London School of Economics. "The higher figure might be a hard sell. However, I would suggest that whether either figure is acceptable depends largely on how it will be sold to voters."

The problem is, this calls not for individual asceticism like scrimping on toilet paper, but new government policies like a carbon tax. Predictably, the White House had a knee-jerk response, saying the least ambitious target "would cause a global recession." Well, what recession would catastrophic climate change bring? What dent would losing the Eastern seaboard put in the US GDP? The IPCC should estimate that too, if only as a talking point.

Policy wonks have to speak the language of the economic growth. But what is that saying--you can't solve a problem within the mindset that created it? Bill McKibben pointed out how we got stuck in this mindset and why wonks need tolook beyond the framework of the GDP as a measure of progress. The GDP doesn't even correlate with happiness among nations.

Until today, I didn't know that the Iraq War had cost my home county $4.1 billion dollars. I also did know that for that price, our county could have insured 2.5 million kids or hired 72,000 new public school teachers. The reason I know is because of a nifty website called www.costofwar.com. Check it out, and next time your congressman votes to fund the war, calculate what your community is missing out on and let him or her know.

When reasonable, Constitution-abiding people argue that no one--and especially "suspects" and "persons of interest"--should be imprisoned (and denied legal representation) without being charged with a crime, we are often told that we are "unpatriotic" and "weak." What will our accusers, then, tell members of the National Rifle Association, who are arguing that suspected terrorists should not be denied firearms?

The NRA is lobbying the Bush administration to drop its support of a bill that would prohibit suspected terrorists from buying firearms. In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, NRA executive director Chris Cox said that the proposed bill "would allow arbitrary denial of Second Amendment rights based on mere 'suspicions' of a terrorist threat."

Cox went on to say: "As many of our friends in law enforcement have rightly pointed out, the word 'suspect' has no legal meaning, particularly when it comes to denying constitutional liberties."

Are the NRA members "unpatriotic" and "weak"? Stay tuned...literally.

Jose Padilla's trial is ongoing and it turns out jury selection has run into a speed bump. The problem? Too many potential jurors who are so disillusioned by the government and so distrustful of the news media that they doubt the official story on 9/11.

For real. It's this nation's dirty secret that a huge number of people think 9/11 was an inside job. According to mid-2006 poll, "Thirty-six percent of respondents overall said it is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them "because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.""

No one in government on in the news media takes these people seriously, which probably just entrenches their estrangement from the mainstream further. But the government has to deal with them in the Padilla case, big time:

Many potential jurors in the Jose Padilla terrorism-support case say they aren't sure who directed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks because they don't trust reporters or the federal government....
To be sure, most jurors without a Sept. 11 opinion are aware that the attacks have been blamed on terrorists of some sort. But many seem unwilling to blame al-Qaida and its leader, Osama bin Laden -- the conclusion reached by the national Sept. 11 Commission and the Bush administration and widely reported by news media.
One female juror agreed that was a "general public consensus" but still held out skepticism.
"I don't have an opinion. I don't tend to trust the news media," she said.
Many jurors seem to be unwilling to state the al-Qaida connection as fact because they don't have firsthand knowledge. An older male juror said he answered "al-Qaida and bin Laden" on his questionnaire because "that was what the news said."

As is the case with these trials, the lawyers are trying to find people who have no interest in the news and no knowledge of Padilla. Which means jurors who haven't read Mother Jones' extensive coverage of his case.

Spotted on Wonkette.