Political MoJo

Foreign Push Pollers Stealing American Robots' Jobs!

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 9:03 PM EST

No comment:

Callers touting Indiana Republican Rep. Mark Souder's tough stance on immigration apparently have thick enough foreign accents that the congressman himself said he couldn't understand them.

According to the United Press International, Souder complained about campaign calls made on his behalf after listening to a message left on his sister's answering machine in which the only word he understood was "Hayhurst," the last name of his Democratic challenger, Tom Hayhurst.

(Souder had to use live callers since robo-calling is illegal in Indiana.) Via The Hill.

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Silent Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter: WWF Says Global Warming Could Wipe Out Most Birds

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 7:48 PM EST

Even if you spend a lot of time reporting on the depressing facts of global warming, every so often (actually, at least once a week) a study comes out that really drives home how dire things are. Today it is this:

"Unchecked climate change could drive up to 72 per cent [ed: see below] of the world's bird species into extinction but the world still has a chance to limit the losses, conservation group WWF said in a report on Tuesday.

Needless to say, once the birds go, we go with them. They're pollinators, for one thing. And they keep the numbers of dangerous insects down for another.

Update: The folks at Climate Risk--which is an asset management firm that advises companies and governments how to " make better strategic decisions based on the best available climate science" (fascinating)--have pointed out that the newswire gloss on the study is slightly wrong (Can I also add that WWF's site made it impossible to find the actual study? For shame.):

Here's a more precise summary of the study:

The report also shows that birds suffer from climate change effects in every part of the globe. Scientists have found declines of up to 90 per cent in some bird populations, as well as total and unprecedented reproductive failure in others.
Scientists also analyzed available projections of future impacts, including bird species extinction. They found that bird extinction rates could be as high as 38 per cent in Europe, and 72 per cent in northeastern Australia, if global warming exceeds 2 º C above pre-industrial levels (currently it is 0.8ºC above).
"Birds have long been used as indicators of environmental change, and with this report we see they are the quintessential `canaries in the coal mine' when it comes to climate change," said Hans Verolme, Director of WWF's Global Climate Change Programme. "This report finds certain bird groups, such as seabirds and migratory birds, to be early, very sensitive, responders to current levels of climate change. Large-scale bird extinctions may occur sooner than we thought."
If high rates of extinction are to be avoided, rapid and significant greenhouse gas emission cuts must be made, WWF says.

So, not quite as bad. Still really, really bad.

Mike Huckabee's Long Honeymoon

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 7:24 PM EST

Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, whose name is being thrown around as a 2008 Republican contender, seems to have found a nifty way to get around rules preventing public servants from receiving gifts worth $100 or more. State law allows wedding gifts, and it just happens that Huckabee and his wife, who married in 1974, are still accepting unfashionably late contributions:

"Wedding" registries in the names of Gov. Mike Huckabee and his wife, Janet, have been set up at two department store chains in advance of the Huckabees' move out of the Governor's Mansion into a private home.

The term-limited governor leaves office in January, and friends of Janet Huckabee created the registries at Dillard's and Target stores to help facilitate their transition to private life, Huckabee spokeswoman Alice Stewart said Friday.

The Huckabees purchased a 7,000-square-foot home in North Little Rock this year.

"Some ladies who are friends of Janet's are giving her a housewarming party," Stewart said.

If you're looking for gift ideas, the traditional thing to give for a 32nd anniversary is conveyances.

Suddenly Very Important Abramoff Goes to Prison NOW

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 6:49 PM EST

A Florida judge who has granted federal prosecutors several delays in the actual incarceration of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, so prosecutors can continue their investigation of corrupt members of Congress, has had enough, quite frankly. He has unexpectedly ordered Abramoff to report to a prison tomorrow, and it looks like it's for real. Abramoff's convict profile page on the Federal Bureau of Prisons website has him labeled as "in transit."

A ploy by Republican overlords to hamper the investigation of vulnerable Republicans, you say? Wrong! Says ABC's "The Note":

Sources close to the investigation say Abramoff has provided information on his dealings with and campaign contributions and gifts to "dozens of members of Congress and staff," including what Abramoff has reportedly described as "six to eight seriously corrupt Democratic senators."

For Mother Jones on the Abramoff saga, see Barry Yeoman's "Fall of a True Believer."

Robo-Calls May Have Swung FL-13

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 6:33 PM EST

Florida's 13th congressional district was home to the one of the closest races in the midterms. Election night results put the count at 119,102 for the Republican Vernon Buchanan and 118,729 for the Democrat Christine Jennings. That's a difference of 373 votes -- small enough for a recount, which was launched yesterday.

As TPM reports, "The fight will center around the district's Sarasota County, where the electronic machines did not register a vote in the Congressional race for 18,000 voters." Because 53% of voters in Sarasota County voted for the Democrat, a correct counting of votes would have won the district for Jennings, the Democrat, by about 600 votes.

But, frankly, the lost votes shouldn't matter. The Jennings campaign got broadsided by the Republicans' dirty robo-calling operation late in the race. As previously mentioned, the robo-calls are automated calls made to likely voters that carry information about a local candidate. The GOP ones late in the campaign season were particularly insidious because they were "false-flag" robo-calls, lending the impression that they were from the Democratic candidate instead of the Republican. Because a person who hung up on the call would assume they were from the Democrat, and then get called back six or seven or eight times, the overall effect was possibly thousands of voters furious with the local Democrat. See this quote from the Herald Tribune:

"They bugged us with their phone calls something terrible," said Betty, who voted for Buchanan because "with all her calls, Jennings, Jennings, Jennings, I wouldn't have voted for that woman if she were the only one running."

These things were pretty much unavoidable. TPM has the numbers: In the last three weeks of the election, the Republicans paid almost $60,000 for robo-calls against Jennings, enough for somewhere between 400,000 and 1.2 million calls in the district.

Remember, Daniel Schulman of Mother Jones was the first to this story.

MoJo "Hero" Wins California Peace Prize

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 5:40 PM EST

The California Wellness Foundation announced its annual Peace Prize winners this week, and Anthony Thigpenn, who runs a policy education nonprofit in South Los Angeles, is one of this year's winners. Thigpenn has been neighborhood organizing and educating communities on the ins and outs of public policy for more than 30 years, and MoJo knows so. Back in 1982 the magazine featured Thigpenn as one of our "Heroes for Hard Times," for his work as a community organizer in what was then South Central..

The Peace Prize, in its 14th year, awards $25,000 to three activists each year who have shown extraordinary commitment to prevent violence and promote peace in their communities. Other recipients this year are Sahra Abdi, who teaches Somali and African refugees and immigrants in San Diego, and Margaret Diaz, a former victim of domestic violence who established a shelter and transitional housing program for women and children also in Southern California. Find out more about the award and the foundation at their website.

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Is Wal-Mart Rolling Back Organic?

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 5:32 PM EST

Last spring, Wal-Mart made a huge public relations bonanza out of its plan to sell organic produce and dairy products. Now, admittedly, it's easy to nitpick at the retail giant. But is it nitpicking to object to their systematic mislabeling of conventional products as organic? The Cornucopia Institute, a watchdog group of the organic industry, has accused Wal-Mart of labeling—and pricing—conventional produce and "all natural" dairy products, such as Stonyfield Farm yogurt, as organic in its stores in several states. The Institute says the violations continued even after it wrote a letter to Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott alerting him to the problem. Organic producers can't just hang up a sign, as the mega-retailer has done, calling their produce organic. They must adhere to strict production standards for three years before they earn the right to call themselves organic—and to demand the correspondingly higher price.

Al Jazeera English Debuts Tomorrow

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 5:28 PM EST

After many false starts, Al Jazeera reports that its English-language service is ready to launch tomorrow. The new channel will feature some old journalism hands, such as as former ABC correspondent Dave Marash and BBC vet David Frost. It will also introduce a newly minted correspondent, Josh Rushing, better known as the sympathetic Marine PR flack from the 2004 documentary "Control Room." Our Dan Schulman just profiled him in our current issue. Check it out. The Pentagon has, so far, not announced any plans to bomb your local cable affiliate.

(And check out Rushing's new website: Looks like someone just got his honorary kaffiyeh from the Anderson Cooper Correspondence School for Correspondents.)

The Infuriating Judy Miller

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 3:38 PM EST

What to do with former NY Times reporter Judy Miller? In a speech to Kansas State students, Miller made several commonsense points about secrecy in government. From the Topeka Capital-Journal:

[Miller] said the balance between national security and civil liberties has been tipped, allowing the Bush administration to become secretive about its decisions, intrusive into public lives and reluctant to share information the public has a right to know..."We are less free and less safe," she said.

Right on. But then there's this gem, which comes during a fret about weakening standards of journalism:

"I'm worried about bloggers," she said. "(A post) starts as a rumor and within 24 hours it's repeated as fact."

Let's talk about standards of journalism, shall we? Judy Miller repeatedly pushed questionable intelligence -- most of which turned out to be false -- on the front pages of the New York Times, influencing public debate on the question of whether or not to go to war. Because Miller was at best a careerist blinded by phenomenal access who simply didn't ask enough questions and at worst the knowing crony of a dishonest administration, the influences exerted on that debate were exactly the ones the Bush Administration, trying to make a case for an unsupportable war to an unconvinced public, wanted. Miller then went to jail, supposedly to protect the first amendment rights of journalists, while actually protecting the reputation and career of a crook of a source (but reliable for high-level leaks!) bent on destroying the reputation and career of a husband-wife team opposed to the administration's policies.

So, yeah, keeping fighting the good fight, Judy.

From the Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline, an example of Judy Miller's role in leading a nation to war.

December 20, 2001: New York Times reporter Judith Miller writes a front-page story for the paper titled "AN IRAQI DEFECTOR TELLS OF WORK ON AT LEAST 20 HIDDEN WEAPONS SITES." The source is a man delivered to Miller by Ahmed Chalabi. The man failed a CIA polygraph test before the article came out, and his claims were discredited by informed intelligence experts. The polygraph is not mentioned in Miller's story. "Government experts" call his information "reliable and significant."

Senate Global Warming Deniers Target Kids' Book

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 3:36 PM EST
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The Senate Committe on Environment and Public Works, chaired by global warming-denier James Inhofe, is up in arms over a kids' book. The book, Tore and the Town on Thin Ice, was created by the U.N. to bring the depressing message of manmade climate change to young readers. The committee's resident children's book reviewer summarizes:

The book is about a young boy named Tore [rhymes with "Gore?"] who lives in an Arctic village. Tore loses a dog sled race because he crashes through the thinning ice allegedly caused by manmade greenhouse gas emissions. The book features colorful drawings and large text to appeal to young children.

After the boy loses the dog sled race, he is visited by "Sedna, the Mother of the Sea" in a dream. The "Sea Mother" Goddess informs Tore in blunt terms that the thinning ice that caused his loss in the dog sled race was due to manmade global warming.

"I'm the one who created and cares for the sea creatures—whales and walruses, seals and fish," the "Sea Mother" explains to Tore. The "Sea Mother" then tells the boy she will educate him about the reason the ice is thinning.

It concludes with this ominous anti-freedom message:

The book ends with a section answering the question "What can you do?" The book's answer includes such suggestions as "join or create an environmental club," "only drive cars if you must," and "write to your political leaders."

The book itself is actually pretty lame—embarassingly earnest and numbingly dull—but not because it gets the science wrong or sends the wrong message. (Check it out for yourself here [PDF].) If Inhofe and Co. want to pan it, fine. That they're using their remaining time heading a Senate committe going after a cheesy kids' book says a lot about just how much legitmacy the global warming "skeptics" have left.