Political MoJo

Bush's New Family Planning Czar: Like Appointing Dennis Kucinich as SecDef

| Fri Nov. 17, 2006 4:55 AM EST

To run the federal government's family planning program--no fewer than $283 million in funds serving low-income women nationwide--President Bush has picked Ed Keroack, an ob-gyn who has been running a crisis pregnancy center in Massachusetts that opposes birth control. Not a huge surprise, perhaps, coming from a president who seems to have it in for contraception generally (or at least understands that many of his supporters have moved from fighting abortion to fighting birth control in general). But still. Sometimes you wish it was true about laughter being the best birth control.

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Besides Haditha

| Fri Nov. 17, 2006 12:00 AM EST

It's been a bad week for American war criminals. Yesterday, a 20 year old Marine was sentenced to 18 months for taking part in kidnapping and killing an unarmed Iraqi man. The day before that, an Army specialist plead guilty to raping and murdering a 14-year-old Iraqi girl. That makes a total of at least 16 U.S. military personnel who have been convicted of illegally killing Iraqis since the war began. And we have yet to hear whether the Marine Corps will bring charges against its soldiers accused of massacring 24 Iraqis in Haditha last November.

Counting Casualties in Suburbia

| Thu Nov. 16, 2006 11:54 PM EST

Meet the suburban schlub behind icasualties.org, the independent website that tracks deaths in Iraq so authoritatively that it's used as a reference by media from the New York Times on down:
"He is not a military man, and he has no friends or relatives who serve. He is a guy with a Honda Civic, a mortgage and a job in a suburban office park. A guy with a wife and a 7-year-old daughter who has soccer games to go to.

But for almost 3 1/2 years — for no pay and no glory — White has kept a meticulous tally of every U.S. and coalition military fatality, posting the names and the numbers on his website, http://www.icasualties.org."

Edwards a Go for 2008?

| Thu Nov. 16, 2006 10:51 PM EST

In response to Jon Stewart's hammy attempt last night to get Edwards to declare his candidacy on The Daily Show, former North Carolina senator John Edwards coyly told his supporters that if they go to his website in the next few weeks, "they may see something new and exciting."

"Dude, did you get a shower cam?" mugged Stewart.

Well, no, but Edwards offered another hint at his possible presidential bid in the same appearance. "Do you feel that going back into politics would diminish your effectiveness or enhance it," asked Stewart. "Depends on what's the job," replied Edwards with a smile.

Edwards is showing signs that he's ready to run. There's his new book, Home, in which celebs and everyday folks tell stories about their childhood houses (the proceeds go to charity). Add to that his very well-publicized poverty center in South Carolina, successful attempts to raise the minimum wage in several states, trips to war-torn Uganda, and his appearance tomorrow night on The Late Show with David Letterman, plus various interviews, and you've got yourself a bit of a media blitz.

And of course where would any would-be candidate be without action in the blogosphere? He's got that too, offering up details on his charity work and even the obligatory pics of his adorable offspring.

Edwards (who, remember, got 34% of the vote during the 2004 democratic primary) has been abetted by his faithful wife, Elizabeth, who said in October that Hillary would be "a formidable opponent" to her husband. If he runs.

Hypothetically, that is. Possibly.

—Jen Phillips

Golden Gate Bridge: Your Ad Here

| Thu Nov. 16, 2006 8:57 PM EST
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The rebranding and repackaging of America marches on... The SF Chronicle reports that the cash-strapped Golden Gate has hired a consultant to look for corporate sponsors:

The consultant's recommendations could include installing signs at the south visitors area or on benches and sidewalks at the ends of the bridge.

"This is not a naming rights deal," cautioned bridge spokeswoman Mary Currie. "It's more of a behind-the-scenes, low-key, corporate partnership, much like the Proud Partners Program in the national parks."

[snip]

According to the pending contract, "the sponsorship program must enhance the value of the Golden Gate Bridge's 'brand' and its image as an internationally recognized icon of historical engineering and architectural significance."

Bartram and Currie said the district's plans follow the lead of the National Park Service's "Proud Partners Program," which has raised $100 million from corporations such as Discover and Ford Motor Co. Currie noted that signs at trailheads in some parks greet hikers with: "This trail brought to you by Ford."

Hopefully any Silicon Valley companies thinking about getting a piece of the bridge will consider the cautionary tale of microchip magnate Max Zorin's unsuccessful 1985 attempt to use the bridge in his bid for world corporate domination.

Toward the End of the Week, Everyone Needs A Good Laugh

| Thu Nov. 16, 2006 8:27 PM EST

A center whose focus is freedom is planned for Israel, and will be named for George W. Bush, in gratitude "for his support for the country and its security." Daniel Ayalan, outgoing Israeli ambassador to the U.S., has gotten the go-ahead from Bush to proceed. Ayalan says he does not anticipate any problem in raising funds to build the Bush Center.

And speaking of security, I don't even like to think about the kind of security that will be needed to protect a complex in Israel named after Bush.

When Bush explained to Ayalon the tradition of outgoing presidents building libraries as part of their legacies, he told him that the Bush library in Texas would be an institute to advance freedom. Ayalon is said to have replied to the creator of "free speech zones" that perhaps the Israeli center could be a branch of the Texas library.

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Police Brutality, Brought to You by YouTube

| Thu Nov. 16, 2006 7:35 PM EST

Police tasered an unarmed student at least four times on Tuesday night inside the UCLA library.

23-year-old Mostafa Tabatabainejad did not have or was not showing his ID when he told the police, "Don't touch me," after they grabbed him on his way out with his backpack.

After they stunned him, he screamed and yelled, "Here's your Patriot Act. Here's your fucking abuse of power."

A crowd of dazed and angry students demanded the officers' names, with one saying, "You shocked him repeatedly. It's a violation…." to which an officer warned, back off or "you're gonna get tazed too."

The hair-raising scene is the third LA police brutality case publicized on YouTube this month. The first showed an officer repeatedly punching a suspect in the face after a foot chase in Hollywood. The second showed an officer pepper-spraying a suspect who is handcuffed inside a cruiser.

After the second video surfaced, Councilman Bernard C. Parks, a former police chief, said that for over a year, the LAPD has ignored warnings of an "ongoing discipline problem" in the department. Of course, the LAPD likely isn't fazed by the YouTube phenomenon; they've been starring in on-camera beatings for more than 15 years.

—April Rabkin

McCain Launches Exploratory Committee, Wants GOP to Look Beyond "Self-Interest"

| Thu Nov. 16, 2006 6:59 PM EST

No shocker here:

On the same day he launched a presidential exploratory committee, McCain said voters felt that Republicans valued their incumbency over their beliefs on such conservative standards as limited and efficient government - and he urged a return to those tenets.
"Americans had elected us to change government, and they rejected us because they believed government had changed us," the four-term senator said. "We must spend the next two years reacquainting the public and ourselves with the reason we came to office in the first place: to serve a cause greater than our self-interest."

Influential Economist Milton Friedman Dies

| Thu Nov. 16, 2006 6:55 PM EST

One of the world's most well-respected economists, dead at 94.

As one of the granddaddies of free market thinking -- some would argue the granddaddy -- Friedman was enormously influential in the political philosophies of generations of conservatives.

In the name of equal time, something Friedman likely wouldn't have supported, we offer this bio of Friedman, and this homage to his grand competitor, John Kenneth Galbraith.

Kowtow to Lieberman Watch

| Thu Nov. 16, 2006 4:43 PM EST

Amid Kate Zernike's NYT story about the back-scratching/stabbing, camera mugging, stump practicing, circus that was yesterday's Congressional hearing (ostensibly, the reason was to ask Gen. Abizaid what he thought of the more troops/less troops, timetable vs. facts on the groud debate on Iraq strategy), came sickening evidence of the games that Joe Lieberman is playing with both sides of the asile:

There was the self-described "Independent Democrat — capital I, capital D," who is at risk of bolting and taking his party's new narrow majority with him. (Was that red tie a hint?) And there were the two parties, trying to bolster their positions on the war after an election that each side seemed to interpret in wildly different ways...
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, began acting the role of cross-examiner, leading Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American military commander in the Middle East, to say that such a withdrawal would increase violence and instability.
"I take it by your answer that you profoundly disagree?" Mr. Lieberman asked. With the Democrats, he meant. "We have a window of opportunity and, really, responsibility now, after the election," he said, "to find a bipartisan consensus for being supportive of the efforts of our troops and our diplomats there to achieve success."
To this, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, the leading Democratic contender for the 2008 race, knocked back the remains in her coffee cup [Easy, Hill.]...
As [Flordia Dem. Senator] Mr. Nelson questioned General Abizaid, the Arizona senator [that'd be McCain] stood up to confer with Senator Susan M. Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine. At this, Mr. Lieberman got up and walked to the Republican side to join them in a brief, chuckling huddle, then ambled back to his party's side with a glance at his colleagues as if to say, "You watching?"
In his questions, Mr. Lieberman noted that he was "picking up on" points Mr. McCain and [GOP Sen] Mr. Graham had made.

Sigh. Six more years of this.