Political MoJo

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

| Thu Dec. 7, 2006 9:48 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 9:25 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 7:29 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 6:02 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 4:48 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...

Iraq's Refugee Crisis More Dire than Darfur?

| Thu Dec. 7, 2006 4:04 PM EST

The Guardian reports today that Iraq could be become the biggest refugee crisis the world has witnessed, overtaking even that of Darfur. The warnings about this impending situation come from a report released on Tuesday by Refugees International documenting that as of November 2006, 1.8 million Iraqis have fled the country and an additional 500,000 have been displaced throughout Iraq. A spokesperson for the group said, "We're not saying it's the largest [refugee crisis], but it's quickly becoming the largest."

The report highlights the fact that Jordan, one of two countries in the Middle East that opened its doors after the U.S. invasion in 2003, have since closed them (Jordan closed its border after the hotel bombings in Amman in November of last year), leaving Syria the sole destination for Iraqi refugees. The UN estimates that 2,000 enter Syria each day. A report released last month by the Human Rights Watch provides a detailed look at the situation in Jordan: "The Silent Treatment: Fleeing Iraq, Surviving in Jordan" looks indepth at the issues facing Iraqi refugees in the country as well as the difficult decisions that lie ahead for the government.

Jordan, historically sympathetic to refugees (Palestinians mostly), has had their patience tested with the current situation in Iraq. Now, Iraqis and Palestinians (entering through Iraq) are being turned away at its border and Iraqis who do sneak in lose their legal status immediately and begin accruing fines of up to $2 USD per day. If the Jordanian police apprehend them, they are sent back to Iraq. Human Rights Watch is claiming that the Jordanian government is violating a principle of international customary law, called refoulement, "the forced return of refugees."

Human Rights Watch has been careful to express that the purpose of their report is not to chastise Jordan but on the contrary to bring to light a humanitarian crisis that can't be ignored and requires international coordination. The group calls on Jordan to admit the refugee crisis exists and to call for assistance from the international community. Refugees International is also calling for international support, but they call on the west to lead the initiative. "The United States and its allies sparked the current chaos in Iraq, but they are doing little to ease the humanitarian crisis caused by the current exodus," said the organization's president.

I think it's safe to say something needs to be done (and fast) if experts are calling this the next Darfur.

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Newsflash: U.S. Negotiates With the Axis of Evil

| Thu Dec. 7, 2006 3:27 PM EST

North Korea, specifically. I'll let Josh do the honors, since he puts it well.

Remember how the whole premise of Bush administration North Korea policy was that we shouldn't be offering 'pay-offs' to the North Koreans in exchange for them giving up their nuclear program?
From today's Times ...
"The United States has offered a detailed package of economic and energy assistance in exchange for North Korea's giving up nuclear weapons and technology, American officials said Tuesday."
So after six long years of incompetence, arrogance, dithering and disaster, in which the president allowed the NKs to waltz into the nuclear club unimpeded, they're now back to the same policy they insisted on ditching in the first place. Only now with a hand infinitely weaker than it was in 2000 since back then the NKs didn't have the bomb.

For Mother Jones' coverage of life North Korea, see the bizarre, the serious, and the pretty dang funny.

Iraq Study Group Exposes New Way Bushies Mislead the Public

| Thu Dec. 7, 2006 3:08 PM EST

A really good catch by Jonathan Landay, writing for McClatchy. He noticed a tidbit from the ISG Report that others missed, namely that the Bush Administration has set up an absurd method of counting attacks in Iraq in order to minimize the appearance of chaos and violence. He writes:

The Bush administration routinely has underreported the level of violence in Iraq in order to disguise its policy failings, the Iraq Study Group report said Wednesday.
...
On page 94 of its report, the Iraq Study Group found that there had been "significant under-reporting of the violence in Iraq." The reason, the group said, was because the tracking system was designed in a way that minimized the deaths of Iraqis.
"The standard for recording attacks acts a filter to keep events out of reports and databases," the report said. "A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn't hurt U.S. personnel doesn't count."

And this was a bit stunning, even to a set of jaded eyes thoroughly accustomed to bad news out of Iraq.

The ISG report said that U.S. officials reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence on one day in July. "Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light more than 1,100 acts of violence," it said.

And here's the Iraq Study Group's way of saying the Bush Administration is misleading to the public and hurting the country: "Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals."

H/T TPM.

Update: For Mother Jones' coverage of Iraqi civilian deaths (and how they are undercounted), see here and here.

The Feds Want In To Your In-Box

| Thu Dec. 7, 2006 3:00 PM EST

In what the Los Angeles Times terms "the latest illustration of the Bush administration's disregard for your privacy", the Justice Department is trying to win court permission to read millions of people's e-mail without obtaining a warrant. Currently, your e-mail is protected -- unless it's been sitting on a server for more than 180 days. That's bad enough, in a time when so many people leave copies of their e-mails sitting in their Hotmail accounts indefinitely. But now the feds want to extend their snooping rights to be able to read any e-mail that the recipient has already opened.

India's "Untouchables" Stand Up

| Thu Dec. 7, 2006 2:46 PM EST

As many as one million low-caste Hindus, known as Dalits or, less politely, "untouchables", rallied in Mumbai to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of their leader, BR Ambedkar. Tensions were high after three Dalits were killed in rioting last week sparked by the vandalizing of a statue of Ambedkar, but the mass rally went off peacefully. It was the latest show of assertiveness by the long-marginalized group, whose efforts to gain international recognition Mother Jones covered a little while back.