Political MoJo

Cobell, Native Leaders Reject Bush Proposal, Seek Resolution From Congress

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 1:54 AM EDT

Elouise Cobell and two other Native American leaders today urged the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to reject a Bush administration proposal to resolve a number of Indian disputes. Some of these disputes have little to do with the long-running lawsuit over the government's admitted mismanagement of the Individual Indian Trust, according to IndianTrust.com. The story was covered in Mother Jones' "Accounting Coup."

Calling the administration's proposal "a slap in the face of every Indian Trust beneficiary," Cobell outline an alternative course that could lead to settlement of the class-action lawsuit she and other Native Americans filed 11 years ago. She also produced a real-life example of the harm the trust problems continue to create for Native Americans--James Kennerly Jr., a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, should be a millionaire. But because the government lost records of the oil leases on his father's lands, Kennerly has been forced into a life of poverty, receiving only $70 a month from lands that continue to pump oil, and that once paid more than $1,000 a month, according an Interior report. What happened? Interior officials can't say. Lease records for the lands have disappeared.

Cobell was joined in her testimony by John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund of Boulder, Colo., and William Martin, vice chairman of the InterTribal Monitoring Association of Albuquerque, N.M. Both denounced the government's efforts to lump settlement of the Cobell case with the settlement of more than 100 separate lawsuits that tribes have filed over the government's mismanagement of their tribal trust accounts.

Committee Chairman Bryon Dorgan, D-N.D, agreed that the government was reaching too far with that proposal. He promised to continue to press efforts for a resolution of the Cobell lawsuit, which affects about 500,000 Indian Trust beneficiaries. Cobell called the $7 billion the administration proposed to settle her lawsuit along with those of the tribes and other issues "an insult, plain and simple." Just last year the Indian Affairs Committee released a proposal that would have called for an $8 billion settlement of the Cobell case alone.--Julia Whitty

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Word to Dems: Don't Count Your Chickens

| Thu Mar. 29, 2007 8:24 PM EDT

I was born in 1971, and the first president I remember is Jimmy Carter. I "campaigned" for his re-election in 1980, and at such a tender young age I learned that my candidate would nearly always lose. Twelve years of Republican rule molded my young mind into believing that it was impossible for Democrats to win. I was stunned when Clinton won in 1992, and flat out didn't believe the polls that said Clinton was trouncing Dole before the 1996 election.

Nowadays, Democrats seem to have the opposite problem. They are dancing on the graves of folks like Karl Rove (who, by the way, can't dance) and Bush 43. A word of advice from a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist: Not so fast.

Although conservatives are seriously unhappy with their stable of candidates, their people are still dogging the Dems in imagined head-to-heads. In a recent TIME poll, Hillary Clinton loses to John McCain, 42%-48%, and to Rudy Giuliani 41%-50%. Even though Dems favor Clinton over Obama, he fares better than Clinton does against Republicans. TIME has Obama losing by a hair to either McCain or Giuliani. (This despite Firefighter-gate! Astounding!)

TIME attributes the surprising (though not to this hardened loser) results to the fact that the voters shedding their loyalty to the Republican Party don't think of McCain or Giuliani as, you know, Republicans. (I wonder how they feel about that? It's like having your white friends tell you that you're the special black guy! You're OK!)

On the other hand, it may be that Clinton, whom voters know and, err, love, has reached her maximum percentage potential, but that Obama and Edwards still have room to win over additional voters.

Burger King Finally Gives PETA an Inch

| Thu Mar. 29, 2007 7:36 PM EDT

Burger King has just announced an initiative to purchase 2% cage-free eggs and 10% of its pork from farms that allow sows "some room to move around." As far as its Canadian and American suppliers are concerned, anyway. In Asia, anything still goes.

Nevertheless, the policy leaves the chain way behind other reduced-cruelty crusaders like Wolfgang Puck and Chipotle. One reason for the slow start is the higher price of humanely-raised meat, which the company is currently negotiating so its menu prices won't change (read: BK is going all Wal-Mart on its suppliers and demanding lower prices, because it certainly wouldn't want to keep the Hamlette Sandwich cheap by diverting money away from video games or an ad campaign featuring the world's creepiest mascot).

An industry VP says that an increase in mindful consumers will require more companies to jump on the bandwagon – that's right, this guy actually calls "social responsibility and social consciousness" a "bandwagon." There are 285 million egg-laying hens and 63 million pigs in factory farms in the U.S., a country in which 9 billion chickens are raised and killed for meat annually. Keep an eye on that bandwagon, which, if it gets big enough, could cause changes of revolutionary proportions when industry giants may not be able to strong-arm farmers into selling their quality goods for less, and companies and consumers alike will finally have to admit that there's not enough room on the planet to give the meat we eat "free-range."

—Nicole McClelland

Security Surge Fails in its Strong Suit

| Thu Mar. 29, 2007 6:44 PM EDT

I blogged last Friday about TIME's optimistic assessment of the surge-backed security crackdown in Baghdad (for which General Petraeus was a major source). I was skeptical. But one new tactic even I had to admit was a good idea—if a tad slow in coming—was Operation Safe Markets, where the military uses concrete barriers to prevent cars, and car bombs, from getting close to the crowds markets draw.

Today, a car bomb killed 61 people at a market in the Shaab neighborhood of Baghdad, and 40 were injured. Simultaneously, a car bomb killed 43 and wounded 86 in the predominantly Shiite town of Khalis, north of Baghdad. The Shaab neighborhood is one of the crackdown's key areas.

Convinced yet? Don't just take my word for it. Those who have warned the surge won't work include Colin Powell, the Iraq Study Group, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Petraeus's sacked predecessor, General Abizaid.

Tensions Mounting Between U.K. and Iran

| Thu Mar. 29, 2007 4:47 PM EDT

Iran has reneged on its pledge to release the female soldier seized among 15 Britons the nation accused of entering its territorial waters during a sea patrol. Things are a bit hairier than a simple territorial dispute, however. Britain asked the U.N. to issue a press release "deplor[ing]" the marines' capture (how British is that?). In response to that action, Iran reneged on its promise to release Leading Seaman Faye Turney. Iran has now released a letter written by Turney, asking the U.K. to begin removing its troops from Iraq. Blair has called the soldiers' release the "only outcome" to the crisis, and suggests he will "step up the pressure." But Iran doesn't respond well to pressure, so this conflict has the potential to turn into something big.

National Review Visits Shrinking Alaska Glaciers (While Sipping Martinis)

Thu Mar. 29, 2007 3:17 PM EDT

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I love it: The conservative National Review is planning a cruise to Alaska. Of course, plenty of magazines do fundraising cruises -- but not a lot of them take a boatload of global warming deniers to Alaska, where glaciers are becoming puddles due to climate change.

Speakers on the cruise include William Rusher, who calls global warming the "Big Daddy of all...scare stories," Jonah Goldberg, who says the campaign against climate change a is "half-baked environmental jihad that could waste possibly trillions of dollars," and Robert Bork, who sided with the Bush administration in last year's Supreme Court showdown on global warming.

The cruise's first destination? Glacier Bay -- where glaciers are very visibly on the retreat (check out the photo above, and this NASA video.) I'd love to be a fly on the wall during that stop.


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The Unsinkable John Lott vs. "Freaky" Economics

| Thu Mar. 29, 2007 1:49 PM EDT
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The world of economics is predictably unpredictable; we know that markets will ebb and flow, but not when or often why. So too it goes with John Lott, the undefatigable conservative economist who is guaranteed to pop up in some new controversy of his own creation every so often. What keeps him going—and why places like AEI embrace him—remains a mystery. Lott is most infamous for his claims that crime rates are inversely proportional to rates of gun ownership; or as his book title put it, More Guns, Less Crime. Small problem: His research is far from bulletproof, and he's been repeatedly exposed and denounced for what could be charitably called sloppy research. In his defense, Lott has blamed "coding errors," claimed that some of his data have been destroyed, and in his finest moment, created a fictitious online identity to take on his critics. But none of this has slowed him down. For a good rundown of Lott's sins, see Chris Mooney's 2003 piece on our website, which shot some more holes into his work. More recently, Lott sued the Freakonomics guys for defamation after they wrote that he had "falsified his results." A judge threw part of his case out. Now Lott's firing back with a new book, Freedomnomics, a defense of the free market against "freaky theories," printed by renowned academic publisher Regnery. Fact checkers, statisticians, and economists, start your BS detectors...

That's Some Gaydar!

| Thu Mar. 29, 2007 12:58 PM EDT

Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear were looking for a reasonably priced place to stay for a while, so they went to Affordable Suites of America in Sumter, South Carolina. At the desk, they asked about rates, deposits, and things of that nature, and then were cut short by the clerk, who said "We don't rent to multiple people of the same sex." "So you don't rent to gay couples?" Pickel asked her. "No," she said, "we don't rent to gay people at all."

There is no law in South Carolina that protects gay citizens from housing discrimination, so Affordable Suites of America has broken no law. But the clerk's comments beg analysis:

If the hotel does not rent to "multiple people of the same sex," that means that a mother and daughter or two sisters traveling together, two women on a vacation, or two businesswomen traveling together cannot stay at the Sumter Affordable Suites of America. They must turn away quite a few people.

"We don't rent to gay people at all" means that a gay person traveling alone could not rent a suite at the hotel. But how do the clerks determine who is gay? Is there a test? And if a presumably heterosexual person is traveling with a gay person, does the heterosexual person get the room and the gay person sleep in the hall? What about bisexual people? Can the clerks determine who they are, too? And do they get to stay?

Aside from the ugly bigotry involved, the "regulation" is absurd. Fortunately, there is at least a chance this nonsense may soon be a thing of the past: A bill in the South Carolina senate seeks to expand the Lodging Establishment Act to include a ban on housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

You Know We're in Trouble When Saudi Arabia Turns on Us

| Thu Mar. 29, 2007 11:11 AM EDT

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From the New York Times:

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told Arab leaders on Wednesday that the American occupation of Iraq was illegal and warned that unless Arab governments settled their differences, foreign powers like the United States would continue to dictate the region's politics.

This is bad news for a number of reasons. The first is obvious -- we've screwed up our foreign policy so badly over the last six years that even a country long committed to our stead and ruled by people who have business connections to the family of our president are bailing on us. The second is not so obvious -- as the United States' influence in the region wanes, the Saudis are emerging as leaders of the Arab League, and losing them may mean ceding the region completely.

Iowans Falling in Love with Edwards (Because He's White and Male?)

| Thu Mar. 29, 2007 10:49 AM EDT

Here are the facts. Ever since Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack dropped out of the presidential race, John Edwards has gained fifteen points in Iowa. Hillary Clinton has dropped one point, and Barack Obama, who continues to draw huge crowds in the state, has dropped seven. Edwards and Clinton have pulled into a dead heat for the lead, months in advance of the caucuses.

Here are two conclusions. One, Edwards has been campaigning in Iowa off and on since he lost the 2004 election and all of that hard work is finally paying dividends. Two, there is a portion of Iowa voters who would consciously or subconsciously prefer to support a white man, and when their favorite drops out, they'll find another.

I'm disposed to the second explanation because, after all, why would Edwards' years of campaigning suddenly pay off right after Vilsack drops out? (Vilsack, by the way, looks like this.) Is that too simplistic? Thoughts?

Note that the poll was conducted before Elizabeth Edwards announced the resurgence of her cancer and Tom Vilsack endorsed Hillary Clinton.