Political MoJo

Sudan Allows U.N. Aid in Darfur, Thanks to Mia Farrow?

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 7:14 PM EDT

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir says he will allow U.N. aid in Darfur after three years of thumbing his nose at the U.N. and blocking humanitarian work there. Today he says he'll accept what a "heavy support package" including 3,000 well-equipped military police, six attack helicopters, and other aviation and logistics into Darfur.

What does Mia Farrow have to do with this? Quite a lot, believe it or not. As a good-will ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund, she launched a campaign last month to coax (or shame) China's leaders into cooperation, as I blogged on Friday, by linking the genocide to the Beijing 2008 Games. China had until then used its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council to thwart international sanctions on Sudan. (More than half of Sudan's oil exports go to China, and Beijing is the Sudan's leading arms supplier.) But upon Farrow's suggestion, Steven Spielberg sent a letter of concern to the officials he is working with as artistic adviser to China on the Games. Within days China dispatched a diplomat to the Sudan. It's possible that this recent step is just lip service. But even so, it has major ramifications. It's a sign that China cares more about its reputation as an ethical, rising global power than any sleazy oil source.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Watch the Daily Show? You're Smart. Read Blogs or Watch FOX? Not So Much

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 3:18 PM EDT

It's always a treat when studies come out that link how much individuals know with where they get their news. In the following tables, the percentage next to a media outlet's name represents the number of viewers of that outlet that can answer 15 of 23 questions about political and world affairs correctly. Not a particularly high bar.

Daily Show/Colbert Report 54%
Major Newspapers' Websites 54%
NewsHour w/ Jim Lehrer 53%
Bill O'Reilly 51%
NPR 51%
Rush Limbaugh 50%

Those are the folks who did well. Here's the group that did just okay.

Newsmagazines 48%
Local Newspaper 43%
CNN 41%

Ouch, CNN. Clean up your act. And here's the folks that did really poorly. This is the funniest group.

Network Evening News 38%
Blogs 37%
Fox News 35%
Local TV News 35%
Network Morning Shows 34%

I'll let you digest all of that without making the numerous easy jokes. But I'll point out two facts: First, other questions from the same poll reveal that people are about as aware of major news events today as they were 20 years ago, so the information explosion has not helped anything. And second, the national average? 35%. So the majority of the country either gets their news from FOX, local news, morning shows, or doesn't get the news from anywhere at all.

For shame, Regis and Kelly.

Update: Some other tidbits that I love. Only 69% of people in America know Dick Cheney is the vice president. Also, this: "Democrats and Republicans were about equally represented in the most knowledgeable group but there were more Republicans in the least aware group."

Vice President Bush?

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 10:29 AM EDT

Jeb Bush, that is. Mitt Romney discussed potential running mates on the campaign trail recently (counting your chickens, Mitt?), and three southerners came up: South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, former U.S. House Speaker and current crazy person Newt Gingrich (of Georgia), and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Frankly, I would rather have years 13-17 with a Bush in the White House than years 1-4 with Gingrich in it. Romney said that the three gentlemen he mentioned would be prospective veeps for anyone who secured the Republican nomination, a fact that isn't really true. First of all, Romney was in South Carolina when he made the statement, so the southern flavor of his VP list is clearly a product of his circumstances. Second, the Massachusetts-based Romney needs some southern appeal. While that would also be the case for New Yorker Giuliani and maybe the Arizona-based McCain, a southern VP wouldn't be necessary for former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, nor current Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Also, it is way, way, way too early to be talking about this.

PS - Did you know Jeb Bush's full first name is not Jebediah? It's John. Very, very disappointing. A President Jebediah would have been kind of neat.

Sadr Pulls Ministers Out of Iraqi Government

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 9:50 AM EDT

Shiite cleric and political leader Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his ministers to quit the Iraqi government on Monday because Prime Minister Maliki won't set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The Shi'ite Alliance is a coalition of Shiite political parties that includes Maliki and al-Sadr. Al-Sadr's followers hold a quarter of the Alliance's parliamentary seats (al-Sadr's members of parliament will not abandon the government), in addition to six ministries. The withdrawal of al-Sadr's ministers, though it has happened before, puts an already embattled Maliki in an even more tenuous position, and drives the Iraq government closer to the brink.

The problem here at home is that is makes clear that al-Sadr's priorities and the Democrats' priorities are one: a timetable for withdrawal. Not a good thing when you are perceived as being in lockstep with a war zone's most powerful thug.

New Email Released Shows Sampson's a Fibber

| Sat Apr. 14, 2007 1:44 PM EDT

On March 29, Kyle Sampson, former chief of staff to AG Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys. Sampson's testimony incriminated Gonzales, who had claimed he was not involved in the firing process. Sampson finally spoke -- it had been the most awaited testimony during the case that has preoccupied Washington for months. Well, now it looks like Sampson lied under oath. The former aide, as Michael Scherer reported in Salon, had trouble answering many questions that day; he tallied 127 "I don't remembers" uttered by Sampson throughout the hearing. Perhaps Sampson should have said "I don't remember" to this inquiry put forth by committee member Charles Schumer:

Schumer: Did you or did you not have in mind specific replacements for the dismissed U.S. Attorneys before they were asked to resign on December 7th, 2006.

Sampson: I personally did not. On December 7th, I did not have in mind any replacements for any of the seven who were asked to resign.

A January 6, 2006 email just released to the House Judiciary Committee shows that Sampson had named replacement recs for each USA on the list of to-be-fireds. Oops. This news comes during the heating up of the email controversy over the administration using RNC emails to avoid communicating through their own email system. The White House now claims to have lost 5 million of these emails, many of which relate to the firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys. It's a pretty tangled mess -- Karl Rove is back on the hot seat (I guess he's never really off) and Plamegate is back in the news.

But the new email released revealing Sampson's fibbing does more than just point to the fact that a former justice official lied under oath and reveal a concerted effort by the administration and the DOJ to conceal their communication, it shows that many of the potential replacements named were Bushies; that the mass purge of USAs in December was indeed a way to make room for "partisan loyalists" (an accusation the DOJ has denied). This Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee authorized subpoenas for all DOJ and White House documents relating to the firings that they say they will issue if Gonzales is not forthcoming in his testimony this Tuesday. Senate Dems say that the documents released thus far have been incomplete. I'm banking on there being more juicy bits of information buried in the DOJ and WH's trails of paper and electronic mail. Stay tuned.

Today is National Day of Climate Action

| Sat Apr. 14, 2007 1:27 PM EDT

Many of you likely know that today is the National Day of Climate Action. There are lots and lots of cool events around the country, which you can search by zip code at the Step It Up 2007 website. Got some free time on a spring Saturday? Try saving the planet for a little bit.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Another Haditha?

| Sat Apr. 14, 2007 12:50 PM EDT

A new report from Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission says that a U.S. Marine unit used excessive force when escaping a suicide attempt last month. Twelve Afghani civilians were killed and 35 were injured by the Marines, who apparently did not distinguish between civilians and insurgents when responding to an attempt on their own lives. From the Times:

Following the March 4 attack in Nangahar province, when an explosives-rigged minivan crashed into a convoy of Marines, the unit shot at vehicles and pedestrians in six different locations while driving along a 10-mile stretch of road, according to a report by Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission.

And this isn't a toothless non-prof spouting off, either. This could result in actual prosecution.

A U.S. military commander also determined that Marines used excessive force, and he referred the case for possible criminal inquiry.

As if the United States needs any more bad press in the Arab world...

Could Those Lost E-mails Cause Fitzgerald to Re-open Leak Case?

| Fri Apr. 13, 2007 9:33 PM EDT

Whoopsie! We lost 5 million e-mails! Thus spoke the White House, as Dan blogged earlier today. And a particularly huge number seem to belong to a certain Mr. Rove. All of these e-mails were exchanged during the period of time U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald investigated in connection with the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity. Fitzgerald had been led to believe that he had a full accounting of official communications during the period in question. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington—a watchdog group that is also representing Joe and Valerie Wilson in their civil suit against administration officials—is now calling on Fitzgerald to re-open his investigation, given that the source of the leak may well have covered his electronic tracks. This is getting fun, isn't it?

Paul Wolfowitz: Anatomy of a Scandal

| Fri Apr. 13, 2007 9:06 PM EDT

Part of the Bush administration's M.O. is promoting those who screw things up, as long as the ideology of their screw-ups is sufficiently conservative. Case in point: Paul Wolfowitz, one of the major architects of the Iraq War, who went on to become president of the World Bank. Did you think he would lose his ideological zealotry? No, dear reader. Despite his claims to the contrary yesterday on NPR, Wolfowitz, through a managing director he hired himself, pushed the World Bank to purge any references to family planning—which has long been part of the World Bank's standard development plan—in its strategy documents.

Wolfowitz is also in hot water at the bank because he promoted his "companion" into a State Department position that paid almost $200,000—some $60,000 more than she had earned previously. Wolfowitz is divorced. How, you might wonder, could anybody date this guy?

images.jpg

That is a question I cannot answer. But I can tell you that the woman who does so is an Arab feminist who shares Wolfowitz's passion for bringing democracy to the Middle East—by hook or by crook, apparently, since she was part of the reason he was so hell-bent on invading Iraq. Possible translation: Wolfie led the United States into war with Iraq to butter up his girlfriend.

He has apologized for his role in landing her the plum job, but claims he didn't understand the ethics rules fully. That seems to be a chronic problem.

Updated to reflect that Wolfowitz and the woman in question, Shaha Riza, are still together, and that Riza's new salary constituted a hefty raise.

Carbon Confusion

| Fri Apr. 13, 2007 8:34 PM EDT

Two steps taken this week to combat global warming are not all that: One, the EPA relaxed pollution standards for corn milling plants that make ethanol fuel. Two, Australian states vowed to set up a carbon trading market. Why do I doubt them? Keep reading on The Blue Marble.