Political MoJo

We're Sorry, But Not THAT Sorry

| Tue Mar. 6, 2007 12:26 PM EST

Suddenly, Sen. Sam Brownback wants to apologize to African Americans and Native Americans for generations of suffering. Such attempts have been made by Congress before, but the twist here is that Brownback, who is an extreme right-wing politician, is running for president in 2008.

The resolution, authored by Brownback and Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen, "acknowledges that the U.S. government 'violated many of the treaties ratified by Congress and other diplomatic agreements with Indian tribes' while taking actions that caused 'immense harm' to native peoples, including forced removal, relocation and extermination."

Brownback has a 20% rating (lower than Harry Reid's!) from the ACLU, which means that he has gone out of his way to deny civil liberties to citizens, many of whom, of course, are minorities. He voted to end special funding to minority-owned businesses and against setting aside highway funds for minorities.

Brownback voted against maintaining the right of habeus corpus in death penalty appeals, has consistently voted against public education, and--despite his talk about Native Americans' stewardship of the land--has consistently voted against conserving the environment (he has a 0% rating from the League of Conservation Voters).

And while it's nice that hypocrites in Congress are falling all over themselves to apologize to African Americans and Native Americans, when is Congress going to consider apologizing to women? We were burned as witches, denied birth control, denied the vote, forbidden to take most jobs, forbidden to enroll in many schools (until the 1970s), had genital mutilation performed on us (until the late 1970s), denied credit, given no protection against spousal abuse, denied the right to divorce, placed in psychiatric hospitals for asking questions or speaking our minds, sexually abused and assaulted in the workplace, denied the right to participate in most sports...the list goes on and on.

The truth, of course, is that "apologies" like Brownback's are shallow and offensive, but at least Congress considers African Americans and Native Americans politically important enough to pander to.

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The Company We Keep

| Tue Mar. 6, 2007 12:18 PM EST

The BBC recently asked 28,000 people around the world to rate a dozen countries plus the EU in terms of whether they have a positive or negative influence on world affairs.

The country that most people believe has a negative affect on the world? Israel. Followed by Iran. Third is the United States and fourth is North Korea. Five years after President Bush named Iran and North Korea to the "axis of evil", we find ourselves rated as dangerous as both by the world community. Awesome.

Breaking: Libby Guilty on Four of Five Counts

| Tue Mar. 6, 2007 12:10 PM EST

CNN reports that the jury in the Scooter Libby trial has returned a guilty verdict on four of five counts. Libby faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.

Update: More from CNN.

Libby was convincted of:


  • Obstruction of justice when he intentionally deceived a grand jury investigating the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame
  • Making a false statement by intentionally lying to FBI agents about a conversation with NBC newsman Tim Russert
  • Perjury when he lied in court about his conversation with Russert
  • A second count of perjury when he lied in court about conversations with other reporters
  • Jurors found Libby not guilty of a second count of making a false statement relating to a conversation he had with Matt Cooper of TIME. Libby's defense team plans to appeal.

    Mother Jones has covered the Libby trial from start to finish.

    "The Libby Trial: Courtroom Theatrics in the Closing Arguments," February 21, 2007

    "The Libby Trial: Tim Russert Takes the Stand," February 7, 2007

    "Leakers Who Lunch: Judith Miller Testifies How Scooter Libby Pushed Plame Story," January 30, 2007

    "Libby Defense Lawyer: Scooter Scapegoated, Culprit is Karl," January 23, 2007

    "Plame Case: Fitzgerald is Getting Nifonged," January 17, 2007

    El-Masri: "I Am Not a State Secret"

    | Mon Mar. 5, 2007 8:53 PM EST

    Don't miss Khaled el-Masri's op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. El-Masri was a victim of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, and was held and tortured even after the CIA realized they had mistaken him for Al Qaeda operative Khalid al-Masri. The CIA can't keep el-Masri, an innocent, private German citizen, from talking about his ordeal. But it's fighting mightily to avoid apologizing to him. El-Masri sued the U.S. government, but the government claimed successfully that the entire case is a "state secret," even though it has been widely reported. For more about the absurd and frightening implications of the "state secret" privilege, click here.

    El-Masri's op-ed is called, simply, "I am not a state secret." I'm betting this is one guy the CIA wishes they'd never touched.

    In Which I Agree with Ann Coulter

    | Mon Mar. 5, 2007 8:38 PM EST

    Ann Coulter's hateful comments at the CPAC this weekend have been condemned by John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and, more blandly, Mitt Romney. That's no surprise, really—these guys yuck it up in a roomful of conservatives and then tell the media what it wants to hear. What is surprising is that a group of conservative bloggers have written a letter to the conference organizers requesting that Coulter never be invited back. They say—and I can only hope this is how it plays to average American voters—that her hate speech coarsens the political dialogue.

    It's funny, though, Coulter and I agree about one thing: Mitt Romney. She supports him and I can't stand the guy, but we have the same take on his past tolerance for gays and abortion: "He tricked liberals into voting for him." (Coulter went on to say, "I like a guy who hoodwinks the voters so easily.")

    Breaking: Cheney Treated for Blood Clot

    | Mon Mar. 5, 2007 3:37 PM EST

    CNN is reporting that Vice President Cheney has been treated for blood clot in his leg after experiencing discomfort in his calf. More info as it becomes available.

    Update: From CNN.

    Doctors found a blood clot in Vice President Dick Cheney's left leg Monday, Cheney's office said.
    The vice president was given blood-thinning medication, which he will need to take for several months, and allowed to return to work.

    Looks like it was nothing serious. For a guy who has had four heart attacks since 1978, this is probably like a little indigestion.

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    The Plight of the Ugliest Endangered Animals

    | Mon Mar. 5, 2007 1:39 PM EST

    aye-aye2.jpg

    Watch this Slate slideshow and you'll come out hating pandas for everything they represent. While millions of dollars have gone into saving the last three thousand pandas just because they're cute, at least one sorry creature—the aye-aye—is bound for extinction because it's ugly. The aye-aye looks like a balding, emaciated gremlin. So even though it minds its own business in life, foraging for bugs in tree bark with claws bigger than its face, superstitious people in Madagascar go out of their way to kill it on sight. "Aye-aye, aye-aye," indeed, as the maudlin Ranchero song goes, "Canta y no llores." The world is not fair. Not even environmental philanthropists are.

    After pointing out injustice, fortunately, the writer poses solutions. Savvy conservationists can market the most charismatic creatures to raise money for the rest. The World Wildlife Federation already does so with its panda logo. "One lovable animal might stand in for an entire ecosystem—the jaguar, for example, could serve as a spokesmodel for the Amazon rainforest where it lived," Michael Levitin writes. To summarize the argument of biologist David Stokes, conservationists "must understand the ways that aesthetic appeal can be used to motivate the public—and then try to promote the "less attractive" creatures by highlighting their most endearing feature."

    To their ideas I'd like to add another. Endangered wildlife t-shirts—the ones painted with blue whales underwater or gray wolves in the snow—went out of fashion by 1990. (I reluctantly retired mine some years later). But can't you picture the aye-aye (or the golden-rumped elephant shrew or the hairy-eared dwarf lemur) becoming an icon emblazoned on ironic t-shirts to raise funds for their conservation? And not just for hipsters. The scrawny, bug-eyed Chihuahua mascot was fast food industry's most effective ad campaign in decades; Americans bought 13 million stuffed ones from Taco Bell and far too many more dashboard bobble-heads. Paris Hilton has one too. And Sam the World's Ugliest Dog ranks among this millennium's most famous canines. Today the t-shirts and mugs made in Sam's memory are sold out. So conservationists who want to draw attention to the less photogenic animals could make use of this trend: in the era of Ugly Betty, a beatific defense of homeliness itself may be garnering popularity.

    —April Rabkin

    Fired U.S. Attorneys Update -- The Ax is Falling

    | Mon Mar. 5, 2007 1:37 PM EST

    Talking Points Memo reports that in anticipation of the fired federal prosecutors testifying before Congress tomorrow, Michael Battle, the director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, has resigned. According to TPM, Battle was the one who made the calls to the prosecutors letting them know they had been fired. Of course, Battle was complicit in a larger scheme orchestrated by higher-ups in the Bush Administration. His resignation in no way means the culprit has been punished or that the scandal is over.

    TPM also reports that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed an ethics complaint against Republican Representative Pete Domenici of New Mexico. Domenici is one of two congresspeople that contacted fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias before the November 2006 elections, pressuring Iglesias to speed up a probe of a Democratic lawmaker up for reelection. Mother Jones recently profiled the woman who is the heart and soul CREW -- possibly the most hated woman in Washington -- Melanie Sloan. Check it out.

    Elsewhere, Slate has an excellent article by Dhalia Lithwick on the reasons behind the prosecutor purge.

    1) Cronyism (Carol Lam was let go for hurting the GOP; her replacement is a card-carrying member of the Federalist Society.)
    2) Candidate grooming (The Bush administration is grooming Republican lawyers for higher office with sweet stepping-stone jobs.)
    3) Presidential politics (an opposition researcher gets a prosecutor's gig in Arkansas right before Hillary Clinton's run for president. Sneaky.)
    4) It's a very short hop from a U.S. attorney gig to the federal bench. I wouldn't be surprised if Rove and Co.—who truly live to makeover the federal bench—were willing to suffer a little short-term political embarrassment in order to better situate some loyalists for future judgeships.
    5) This administration really does see loyalty to the White House as inseparable from loyalty to the law. Historically, the frequent disputes between the DOJ and renegade U.S. attorneys were resolved through compromise. This president doesn't compromise with insubordinate subordinates. He fires them.
    6) The conspiracy theorist in me cannot leave unmentioned the possibility that someone at the Bush White House—let's call him "David Addington"—does nothing all day but mark up legislation to diminish congressional and judicial oversight while increasing executive branch authority. Someone at the White House figured out that with a little Wite-Out and the distractions of the Christmas season, the president could remove both the federal judiciary and the Congress from the U.S. attorney appointments process.
    7) This was merely a monumental screw-up.

    I've rearranged the numbering, but all the words in block quotes are Lithwick's. Check out her full article here. We'll have coverage of the hearings tomorrow as they happen.

    Scary New Stat on Health Insurance

    | Mon Mar. 5, 2007 12:36 PM EST

    "Today, more than one-third of the uninsured — 17 million of the nearly 47 million — have family incomes of $40,000 or more." That's from today's New York Times, and if there is a better explanation for why universal health care has broad support amongst voters or a better argument for why we need a new system, anything at all, I certainly haven't seen it.

    Go Deep Inside the Conservative Movement

    | Mon Mar. 5, 2007 12:20 PM EST

    Nation staffer Max Blumenthal went to the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting (known as CPAC) recently and took some excellent video. Yes, he has Ann Coulter calling John Edwards a "faggot" but he also has Michelle Malkin chewing him out over a kinda-funny joke, Grover Norquist saying some intelligent stuff, a dolphin that hates Mitt Romney, a dude refusing to let the video camera see his Confederate flag pin, and other delights. Check it out here.

    Whenever I think of CPAC, I think of our friend the principled conservative, Daniel Borchers, who was kicked out of the convention one year and denied entrance two others because he has made it his mission to try and convince his conservative brethern that Coulter is hijacking their ideology and ruining America's political discourse. You can read our short profile on him here. It's called "Counter-Coulter."