Political MoJo

Bill Richardson Throws Hat in the Presidential Ring

| Sun Jan. 21, 2007 3:52 PM EST

Gov. Bill Richardson (D) of New Mexico has declared that he is forming an exploratory committee, with the intention to run for president in 2008.

Richardson may be the most qualified man in America to be president: he has been a Congressman, a cabinet secretary, an abassador to the U.N., and (obviously) a governor. He ran the Democratic Governors Association during the last campaign cycle, when Dems picked up six state houses. His experience with foreign affairs is vast, including negotiating with Saddam Hussein for the release of two hostages in 1995 and brokering a cease-fire in Darfur earlier this month. If unable to secure the Democratic nomination, Richardson would be a great candidate for VP or Secretary of State.

He would also be the first Hispanic president in American history, and is wildly popular in a border swing state.

Update: A friend from New Mexico tells me Richardson's influence has left the state an ethical cesspool. Hmmmm... see here for more.

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Follow Up on Barack Obama's "Muslim Problem"

| Sat Jan. 20, 2007 3:29 PM EST

I posted yesterday about how the right is attacking Barack Obama's past -- dude allegedly was educated in a madrassa for a few years as a child in Indonesia -- and how it actually makes me like him more. I called Obama's campaign to see if I could get some information on the situation beyond what's in Obama's books:

Dreams of My Father:

In Indonesia, I'd spent 2 years at a Muslim school, 2 years at a Catholic school. In the Muslim school, the teacher wrote to tell mother I made faces during Koranic studies. In the Catholic school, when it came time to pray, I'd pretend to close my eyes, then peek around the room. Nothing happened. No angels descended.

The Audacity of Hope:

Without the money to go to the international school that most expatriate children attended, I went to local Indonesian schools and ran the streets with the children of farmers, servants, tailors, and clerks.

But I couldn't get a call back. As it turns out, Media Matters has a very thorough run-down of the whole situation, including a description of the ways Fox News has inflamed the story. Take a gander.

As Does Sam Brownback

| Sat Jan. 20, 2007 3:16 PM EST

Filling the social conservative void left by the candidacies (or theoretical candidacies, anyway) of "moderates"/"mavericks" John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas has announced today he will pursue the Republican nomination.

Brownback, the very, very pro-life and very, very anti-gay candidate in the field (think Rick Santorum, with less of a tendency to put his foot in his mouth), is so polarizing that his only real hope for the nomination is that McCain, Romney, and Giuliani split the moderate vote and no other bedrock conservative emerges. Not likely. In announcing his candidacy, Brownback said, "My family and I are taking the first steps on the yellow brick road to the White House.'' An odd choice of words for a guy running a fairy tale campaign...

Hillary Announces Candidacy

| Sat Jan. 20, 2007 3:03 PM EST

Senator Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for president today, via a statement and video.

Mother Jones will have plenty on this in the coming days and weeks, put for now, take a look at our latest cover story, "Harpy, Hero, Heretic: Hillary. Why she stokes our deepest fears and darkest hatreds."

Lawsuit Against Corcpork, Inc.'s Animal Cruelty Revived

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 9:46 PM EST

Corcpork, Inc., a California company, confines breeding pigs in 2-foot cages for most of their lives. They cannot turn around, lie down, or stand on anything but slatted boards. They are constantly inseminated, and their lives are total torture and misery. Corcpork, not surprisingly, is in blatant violation of California's animal cruelty laws. However, a suit filed against Corcpork in 2004 by Farm Sanctuary was dismissed in 2005 because of California's Proposition 64, which substantially limits third-party lawsuits.

Despite the unfair restrictions of Proposition 64, there was nothing stopping the Attorney General of California (other than the obvious special interests) from going after Corcpork on his own. He did not, however, so Farm Sanctuary is arguing in court that unless it or a similar organization is allowed to speak on behalf of the animals, they have no protection from abuses of California law.

It has taken a long time, but Americans are slowing beginning to rebel against the extreme cruelty of factory farming, which is also an environmental threat. Both Florida and Arizona have gone after factory farms, and it is only a matter of time before other states do, and then, one hopes, Congress will act.

Gonzales Argues Against Certainty of the Right Of Habeas Corpus

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 8:20 PM EST

Very strict constructionism, in the form of creating backwards syllogisms and thereby violating the spirit of the Constitution, has been a hallmark of the Bush administration conservatives. The latest is this gem from U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: "There is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution; there's a prohibition against taking it away."

Gonzales uttered these words yesterday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Committee chairman Arlen Specter then asked the Attorney General: "The Constitution says you can't take it away except in case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there's a rebellion or invasion?"

Gonzales: "The Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States or citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn't say that. It simply says the right shall not be suspended" (except in cases of rebellion or invasion).

Robert Parry, writing for Consortiumnews.com, asks a logical question: If Americans do not possess the right of habeas corpus because that right is presented via its negative, then what about other rights that are presented the same way? He uses the First Amendment as an example.

Perry also goes on to cite the Sixth Amendment, which presents habeas corpus as a right in a positive syntax, thereby nullifying Gonzales's strange logic.

(Thanks to Project for the OLD American Century for this lead, and POAC, by the way, could use some help.)

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A Showdown at the GSA

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 8:11 PM EST

Back in December, the Washington Post reported that GSA Chief Lurita Alexis Doan had compared her agency's Investigator General, Brian Miller, to a "terrorist." His audting work had "gone too far," she'd said in August at a staff meeting, and was "eroding the health of the organization."

Today we learn that "going too far" might have meant investigating Doan.

Citing internal documents, WaPo reveals Doan attempted to give a no-bid contract that summer to a company founded and operated by a friend, which would have violated federal law. A former government contractor appointed by Bush, Doan "personally signed the deal to pay a division of her friend's public relations firm $20,000 for a 24-page report promoting the GSA's use of minority- and woman-owned businesses, the documents show."

Not surprisingly, continues the Post:

The GSA's Office of Inspector General has launched an investigation into the episode and briefed Justice Department lawyers, according to sources who said they were not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation. Officials at the inspector general's office and the Justice Department declined to comment.

If Miller is a terrorist, then I wonder what Doan would call the FBI.

Carbon Offsets... Buyer Beware

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 5:17 PM EST

Carbon offsets are in. Everybody's doing it. And Wall Street knows it, which is why here and abroad companies from London's Marks & Spencer to Dell Computers are clamoring to make you, too, "carbon neutral." A crowded field of for-profit offset providers have sprung up, promising to do everything from reforesting the California redwoods to building solar powered greenhouses in India.

But if Expedia can make that flight from LaGuardia to Heathrow guilt free for only ten extra bucks, how is one to know whether the offsets one has bought are really making that cross-Atlantic trip carbon even-steven? At the moment, it's pretty much a crapshoot (with carbon offset prices ranging from $3.56 to $30 a metric ton). But the UK hopes to change that before the Greenland ice sheet melts into their precious gulfstream. The country's Ministry of Environment announced yesterday that it would set standards for rating the new club of carbon merchants. That way would-be-offsetters can distinguish between quality outfits and those just full of hot air.

The standards will be based on the same "system used to certify credits from the established Kyoto market." Ideally, this will mean the credits have a "clear audit trail" and be linked to real emission reductions, but don't go back to building your carbon-neutral beachfront villas just yet.

Even long-established projects, endorsed by the World Bank and certified for cap-and-trade under Kyoto's rules, don't always deliver their promised bang for the buck. Last week, The Wall Street Journal ran a great piece on the chemical industry in China. A particularly dire snippet:

"Regulators worry that the carbon market is encouraging companies in the developing world to make more of the underlying refrigerant than they otherwise would—so they can produce more of the global warming gas, destroy it, and sell the credits."

Kudos to the UK for holding the carbon traders to a higher standard, as the EU has in regulating the toxics industry. Still, for now, and for us unregulated Americans, riding a bike may be your best bet.

-- Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell

Attack of the Methodists

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 5:12 PM EST

The habitually timid clergy of the United Methodist Church is on a rampage. Well, at least as far as Methodists go. Horrified by the prospect of Bush's presidential library marrying itself to Dallas' Southern Methodist University, ten Methodist Bishops have signed a petition opposing the move. Rev. Andrew Weaver of Brooklyn, an SMU theology school grad, told the Houston Chronicle:

What this (petition) will show is there are a lot of Methodists out there who don't wish to give him the gift of our good name because he doesn't deserve it. . .Bush has not been willing to speak with Methodist bishops about the war, but he will meet with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Why now is he choosing a Methodist school for his library and think tank?

Spindletop in Baghdad

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 4:25 PM EST

If all goes as expected, Iraq will soon put in place a plan for a revamped oil industry that offers big international oil companies a free ride.

Iraq has bigger oil reserves than any country on earth – the reserves of just one Iraqi field oil equal those of ExxonMobil. As an added bonus, in Iraq exploration isn't really necessary. Everyone knows where the oil is, all you've got to do is start drilling. Then, on top of these virgin fields, there are numerous unmapped areas in the western desert which promise to yield billions more barrels.

Under Iraq's nationalized system, Saddam gave numerous contracts to companies from a variety of countries from Brazil to Vietnam, France to Russia. But these deals aren't likely to hold up. Rather, people who have been carefully studying evolving law, expect the existing deals will be subsumed as minor appendages of the agreements with Big Oil.

The probable Big Oil winners are:
*Exxon-Mobil and Chevron of the US
*BP and Shell of the UK
*BHP Billiton of Australia.

The final arrangement ensures continuance of a single but weak state company — so nobody can say we are "privatizing" Iraq's oil industry. But under the new law the state enterprise can cut contracts with private companies. This will be done through production sharing agreements (PSAs), where the nominal control of the oil will remain with the state, but for all practical purposes, it will be under control of the private firms. James Paul, executive director of the Global Policy Forum, a New York-based non-profit public interest group that tracks the Iraq play, told Mother Jones, "These reserves are estimated to cost $1 per barrel to produce and the sale of the crude will yield $50-plus on the world market."

"The law allows for concessions to global oil companies as a way to achieve the highest benefit for Iraqis, taking into consideration fair competition between these companies regardless of their nationalities," Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad told the Financial Times, adding, "This law stresses that all oil revenues will go to a central fund and then will be distributed to all Iraqis in all regions and provinces according their populations."

The details of the law are not known. The law will go first to the cabinet, then to parliament for final approval. Jihad said the government hopes to get the law passed and loose ends tied up within one month.

Hard line conservatives in the U.S. originally wanted to privatize the industry, but, Paul notes, the oil companies didn't like the idea of getting tarred as old fashioned colonists. So they opted for the PSAs.

Iraqi oil profits can be parceled out to the different warring groups according to a formula now being worked out. It's not feasible to just break up the business, handing bits and pieces to the Kurds, Sunnis and Shia, because Bush is talking about strengthening the central state with a workable army, police force, revamped commerce, etc. Since oil provides virtually the only revenues coming in, oil money is going to have to underwrite the economic future of the country.

The new oil law, which will shape the country's future, says Paul, "is grossly undemocratic." But there's no fear oil will get re-nationalized. The International Monetary Fund has negotiated a financial arrangement with post-war Iraq with its usual conditions: Everything has got to be privatized and the free market must rule.