Political MoJo

Kerry says he deserves 2nd chance in '08

| Sun Oct. 15, 2006 4:25 PM EDT

The AP reports: "The Massachusetts Democrat, who lost to President Bush in 2004, said it is a basic principle that 'Americans give people a second chance. And if you learn something and prove you've learned something, maybe even more so. Now, I don't know what I'm going to do yet. We'll make that decision down the road.'"

Transcript here.

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Abramoff and the White House: More Than Photo Ops

| Sun Oct. 15, 2006 4:44 AM EDT

Just the kind of story that's going to get buried on a Saturday: GOP bigwig and former White House political director Ken Mehlman pitched in with various pet projects of superlobbyist Jack Abramoff's. Yes, it turns out that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue now works just like your basic Congressional office: Any agenda, no matter how picayune, is worthy of top-level attention, as long as the money is right. Want a State Department official who's been making trouble for sweatshops fired? Want subsidies for a project the government itself says is unnecessary? Call the White House, and make sure you let them know what you've done for hte GOP lately. Not that we didn't sort of know this; but there's something in seeing it laid out quite this plainly:


"I was a gateway," Mehlman said in an interview. "It was my job to talk to political supporters, to hear their requests, and hand them on to policymakers."

Fight Big Oil with Clinton-Gore in '06!

| Fri Oct. 13, 2006 8:42 PM EDT

California's Proposition 87, which would impose some $4 billion worth of taxes on oil companies and use the proceeds to fund alternative energy development, got a much-needed publicity boost today when every Democrat's favorite (living) ex-president, Bill Clinton, exhorted voters to support it at a Los Angeles rally. That's a nice addition to the support his former veep, Al Gore, has already thrown behind the measure. The petroleum industry is lobbing tens of millions of dollars at the initiative in an effort to sink it - with disheartening success. Support for it has dropped from 52 per cent to 44 per cent among Golden State voters in recent weeks.

State Pols: Kill Child Molesters

| Fri Oct. 13, 2006 8:33 PM EDT

With the November elections just a few weeks away, a number of state-level politicians are baying for the death penalty to be extended to repeat child molesters. Oklahoma and South Carolina have already passed such laws this year, and now law-and-order candidates from Texas to Minnesota want to see their states do the same. Never mind the usual ethical arguments - critics point out that these laws could easily backfire: if child rapists know they could face execution anyway, why not silence their victims by murdering them?

Police In Virginia Threaten To Arrest Anti-Marriage Amendment Canvassers

| Fri Oct. 13, 2006 5:30 PM EDT

Pam Spaulding notes that people canvassing houses in Warrenton, Virginia in an attempt to educate citizens about the dangers of passing the proposed marriage amendment are being threatened by police. Members of local law enforcement are dragging out an ordinance meant to control door-to-door sales. There is no evidence that the ordinance is being used to threaten candidates going door-to-door--only opponents of the marriage amendment.

The amendment reads as follows:

Shall Article I (the Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to state:
That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions.
This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.

The ACLU of Virginia has intervened.

Jeb: "I Wasn't Hiding in the Closet"

| Fri Oct. 13, 2006 1:42 PM EDT

NewMax.com,the up to the minute conservative site has the latest in the Jeb Bush saga:

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has disputed media accounts that said he hid in a closet to avoid anti-Republican protesters during a visit to Pittsburgh last week.

Bush encountered protesters Oct. 6 while on his way to a fund-raising event for Republican Sen. Rick Santorum at Pittsburgh's exclusive Duquesne Club.

Curiously, those media accounts seemed to focus more on the "closet" aspect of the story than on the behavior of the unruly, obscenity-shouting mob. The stories mentioned prominently that Bush sought "refuge in a subway station supply closet."

Bush said it was actually a boiler room.

Bush said he had to seek safety in the boiler room when he came across the protesters, but also said he was never concerned for his safety because he was taller and "more burly" than most of the protesters who chased him.

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Anna Politkovskaya's Last Article Hits Close to Home

| Fri Oct. 13, 2006 12:21 PM EDT

Russia's Novaya Gaeta newspaper has published the last article written by murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya. It's a short, yet unsparing, look at the use of torture on Chechens accused of terrorism. Even if you haven't been following Russia's long, brutal anti-terrorist campaign in Chechnya, the piece rings some depressingly familiar themes. The New York Times has a translation. It's worth a read:

Before me everyday are dozens of files—copies of the criminal cases of people jailed for "terrorism" or of those still under investigation.

Why is the word "terrorism" in quotation marks? Because the overwhelming majority of these people are designated terrorists. The practice of "designating terrorists" did not simply supplant in 2006 some kind of earnest anti-terrorist war. It came to breed on its own potential terrorists and a desire for vengeance. When prosecutors and the courts work, not for the sake of the law, but on political commission and with the only goal of providing good reports for the Kremlin, then criminal cases are baked like pancakes.

An assembly line producing "open-hearted confessions" effectively guaranties good data on the war on terror in the North Caucasus. ...

The practice of designating terrorists is the area in the sphere of "counterterrorist operations in the North Caucasus" where, head to head, two ideological approaches clash: Are we, the lawful, fighting against the unlawful? Or, are we battling "their" lawlessness with "ours?" This clash of approaches is guaranteed to exist for the present and future. The result of this "designation of terrorists" is the increase in number of those who won't put up with it.

Senate Investigators Accuse Norquist of Fraud

| Thu Oct. 12, 2006 9:19 PM EDT

In a report issued today, Senate investigators say that five conservative non-profit groups, including one headed by Grover Norquist, sold their clout to Jack Abromoff and thereby perpetrated a fraud on taxpayers.

Officers of the groups "were generally available to carry out Mr. Abramoff's requests for help with his clients in exchange for cash payments," said the report, issued by the Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee after a one-year investigation.
The report states that the groups probably violated their tax-exempt status "by laundering payments and then disbursing funds at Mr. Abramoff's direction; taking payments in exchange or writing newspaper columns or press releases that put Mr. Abramoff's clients in a favorable light; introducing Mr. Abramoff's clients to government officials in exchange for payment; and agreeing to act as a front organization for congressional trips paid for by Mr. Abramoff's clients."
The five groups include: Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (co-founded by Norquist and Gale Norton), Citizens Against Government Waste, the National Center for Public Policy Research, and Toward Tradition

In one email examined by Senate investigators, Jack Abramoff referred to Norquist as a "hard-won asset" of his lobbying empire. In exchange for Norquist's opposition to taxes on Brown-Forman products, he required, according to an email, a "donation" of $50,000 for his group. Other emails indicate explicit discussions of money exchanged for support.

In Missouri, No Talent for Winning

| Thu Oct. 12, 2006 7:44 PM EDT

Via Taegan:

In Missouri's U.S. Senate race, a new SurveyUSA poll shows Claire McCaskill (D) leading Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO), 51% to 42%.

In the last month, McCaskill has gained eight points on Talent.

Key finding: "Most of the movement in the race comes from Independent voters, who supported Talent by 12 points in September but now support McCaskill by 13 points, a 25-point swing."

An Anxious World, Contemplating a Fiery Extinction, Turns to...Harvard

| Thu Oct. 12, 2006 7:12 PM EDT

It's easy to make fun of Harvard (but why is it so easy?) -- and it's also fun, so let's. As "malign narcissist" Kim Jong-Il poises a manicured finger over the nuclear button and all of humanity cringes in fear, the Harvard Crimson will not (will not!) be distracted from Topic Number 1.

This is a headline. A real one:

Nukes in Korea, But Eyes Turn To Harvard

And this is a real lead paragraph:

North Korea's alleged nuclear test this week occurred deep underground in a mountain tunnel in the North Hamgyong Province, but in its aftermath, the world's eyes are on Harvard Square.

Harvard is on this.

Harvard's experts are in demand because the University's extensive infrastructure, including the MTA Project at the Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard Negotiation Project at Harvard Law School, has been geared toward resolving the stalled talks and nuclear problem in North Korea since long before Monday's approximately half-kiloton nuclear blast.

harvard.gif

Um...okay. (Heckuva job!)

So what should we think? What can we do? What does this all mean?

  • "This is what happens when you are long on heated rhetoric but short on consequences." -- Ashton Carter of Harvard's Preventative Defense Project

  • "[I am] shocked but not surprised" -- Carter again (we laypeople may be surprised, but only experts get to be shocked.)

  • "Despite the fact that [North Korea] has previously been warned, they disregarded it at a cost they were prepared to take." -- Graham Allison of the Kennedy School

  • "The next step should be to stop, take a deep breath, look the reality in the face unblinkingly, and recognize that the policy we and others have followed has failed." (Allison again)

  • "One may consider a few sanctions, but those would be largely symbolic since North Korea is pretty isolated." -- Jeffrey G. Lewis, head of Harvard's Managing the Atom project.
  • Next up: Harvard psychologists on Foleygate ("Clearly, this is a guy who's into young boys"); Harvard literature profs on Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Prize ("This will undoubtedly raise his profile."); and the stars of the Kennedy School on the Iraq war ("We stay, we lose; we leave, we lose; Oy!"). Where would we be without Harvard?