Political MoJo

2/3rds of Americans think U.S. Should Ban English-Language Al-Jazeera

| Thu Nov. 2, 2006 6:57 PM EST

According to the BBC, an English-language version of the Al Jazeera channel goes live on Nov. 15th, despite the fact that "a recent poll found 53% of Americans opposed the launch of the channel and two-thirds of Americans thought the US government should not allow it entry to the US market."

In light of that, time to read Mother Jones own Dan Schulman's piece on Lieutenant Josh Rushing, the Marine public-affairs officer who was shown dealing with the international press corps in the early days of the Iraq War in Control Room, a documentary about Al Jazeera.

Rushing has since gone to work for Al Jazeera, suffering death threats because of it.

Dan writes: "When he joined the network almost a year ago, he saw himself as a cultural emissary who could help the rest of the world understand the America he loves. Now, 'more and more I see myself as a journalist,' Rushing says. 'It's taking a long time to let go of that spokesperson side of me who wants to control the message and to embrace the side that's about letting the message be whatever you find. There's a real value to this journalism thing.'"

We think so too.

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The Poster Child for Prop 87 Comes to SF

| Thu Nov. 2, 2006 5:53 PM EST

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President Bill Clinton was in San Francisco last night, continuing his campaign for California's Proposition 87. But audience members hoping to catch a glimpse of Big Bill got more than they bargained for. Two hours after they arrived -- following performances and appearances by Third Eye Blind's Stephan Jenkins, Bonnie Raitt, Eva Longoria, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom -- the former president finally took the stage, getting down to the business of continuing his campaign for the ballot measure.  prop87_eva.gif Proposition 87 proposes a higher extraction fee on oil companies (which historically have been lower in California than in most other states in the country), taxes that will generate a fund to be used for the research and development of alternative energy solutions -- solutions that are long overdue. As with most voter initiatives, dollars and debate have ruled the campaign. Oil companies have spent nearly $100 million against Proposition 87, with numerous commercials claiming that gasoline prices will fly through the roof and that revenue for civil service and education will decrease. Check out one example here.

But many don't buy this persuasive tactic. Vinod Khosla, the entrepreneur with all the answers, gives us a rundown on why oil companies are quite full of it, for lack of a better phrase, and why the global price of oil will not change with the increased extraction fee on oil companies in California and therefore why the price you pay at the pump will not be affected by this tax.

Yet Prop. 87 has even some left-leaning environmentally-conscious consumers a bit skeptical. If the tax is going to be used for the increased production of ethanol which is created using a huge amount of petroleum, where does that leave the environmental voter?

Last night in front of hundreds of San Francisco residents, some wondering this very thing, President Clinton addressed this issue, admitting that Prop 87 is not perfect and that:

"The perfect is the enemy of the good -- we never thought we were perfect. All we are trying to do is be better, to do better… We don't have to be perfect to do that, we just have to be better than we are today and that is really easy."

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Pombo Race a Dead Heat

| Thu Nov. 2, 2006 5:52 PM EST

The first independent poll in the California house race between Jerry McNerney and Richard Pombo (R-Ca) shows McNerney leading Pombo 48% to 46%. With a margin of error of plus or minus 3%, that makes the race a virtual dead heat. Previous polling by the McNerney campaign and environmental groups produced similar results but Pombo remains blissfully optimistic. As Pombo spokesman Brian Kennedy said of the poll, "I don't believe it…[Pombo] will win."

Read my interview with Jerry McNerney here, where he says of Pombo, "It's time to get rid of him and put a responsible government back in Washington."

—Amaya Rivera

The Price of Bringing Them Home

| Thu Nov. 2, 2006 5:34 PM EST

Just a quick follow-up to the previous posting on the skyrocketing American casualties in Iraq. The Air Force is requesting $50 billion in emergency funding—that's an amount nearly half of its normal budget. The branch has been stretched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there's another reason it needs more cash:

Another source familiar with the Air Force plans said the extra funds would help pay to transport growing numbers of U.S. soldiers being killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

American Casualties in Iraq More than 44,000

| Thu Nov. 2, 2006 2:05 PM EST

Winslow T. Wheeler, former staffer at the Senate Budget Committee, currently working for the Center for Defense Information, has just published an extraordinary analysis of American casualties in Iraq which he says total more than 44,000 servicemen have died or been injured. (You can read his article at counterpunch.com.)

Here is a thumbnail rundown of his findings, which are mostly based on two well-known sources.

In October 2006, 104 uniformed American military personnel died in the war in Iraq. As of Nov. 1 of this year, 2,817 Americans have died in the war of all causes; 239 military personnel have been killed from other countries (UK: 120; "other": 119), for a grand total of 3,055 deaths from the coalition forces. (See these and more data at Iraq Coalition Casualty Count.)

More from Wheeler: "The leading cause of non-hostile deaths were vehicle accidents (201 deaths, or 7 percent of the total). Other causes included: helicopter accidents: 74, or 3 percent; weapon accidents: 76, or 3 percent; friendly fire: 8, or 0.3 percent; homicides: 7, or 0.2 percent; and suicides: 3, or 0.1 percent."

The wounded category is the most startling. "Contrary to the approximate 20,000 wounded that the press typically reports, the www.icasualties.org website reports the following: 14,414 wounded -- no medical air transport required; 6,273 wounded -- medical air transport required; 6,430 non-hostile injuries -- medical air transport required; 17,662 diseases -- medical air transport required."

Thus, he reports, "Grand Total: 44,779... Counting all forms of wounds, injuries, and illness, the total 'casualties' are more than twice the number typically reported in the press.''

Lay Off the Pot, Cops

| Thu Nov. 2, 2006 12:54 AM EST

Initiatives to make marijuana the "lowest law enforcement priority" are on ballots in five cities this year - California's Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Santa Monica, as well as Missoula, Montana and Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It's not quite as goofy an idea as it sounds - similar measures have already passed in Seattle and Oakland. No big surprise that three coastal California towns are thinking of following suit - but it sure does make me curious about Eureka Springs.

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Elections Are Great Business

| Thu Nov. 2, 2006 12:39 AM EST

Campaign spending on television ads is on track to hit a record $2 billion this year, which means a windfall for broadcasters, reports Bloomberg News (via the Wilshire and Washington blog). In some areas they're literally running out of airtime to sell; in others, they're happily price-gouging. "We start them out at the top fixed rate, which nobody pays by the way, then we double it. It will triple in the final week, " says the general manager of an Albuquerque station.

80% of Americans Think Bush's New Iraq Language is Just Spin

| Wed Nov. 1, 2006 10:00 PM EST

Via Political Wire (an excellent poll and politics site; if you haven't checked it out, you should):

"A substantial majority of Americans expect Democrats to reduce or end American military involvement in Iraq if they seize control of Congress next Tuesday, and say that Republicans would maintain -- or increase -- troop levels to try to win the war," according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

"The poll found that just 29% of Americans approve of the way President Bush is managing the war in Iraq, matching the lowest mark of his presidency. Nearly 70% of Americans said Mr. Bush did not have a plan to end the war, and 80% said Mr. Bush's latest offensive to rally public support for the conflict amounted to a change in language but not policy."

"The poll underlined the extent to which the war in Iraq has framed the midterm elections. It comes at a time when Democratic challengers across the country are running a final sweep of television advertisements attacking Mr. Bush's handling of the war and as even some Republican incumbents -- fearful of being swept out of office because of public opposition to the war -- have become critical of it."

In the generic congressional ballot, Democrats lead Republicans by a stunning 19 points, 53% to 33%.

Ann Coulter's Voting Violation! And Misuse of the Word "Ironic"!

| Wed Nov. 1, 2006 9:35 PM EST

Stop the presses! The Palm Beach Post reports that:

An alleged voting violation by GOP pundit and bestselling author Ann Coulter will be investigated by Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer's office.
Arthur Anderson, Palm Beach County's elections supervisor, said today that he would refer the accusation that Coulter voted knowingly in the wrong precinct Feb. 7 in a town of Palm Beach election to the state attorney "within 48 hours."
Anderson said that Coulter, since the allegations surfaced, made "efforts to distract and divert focus on the process regarding this complaint."
"I did express my frustration to the state attorney in a recent meeting and warned him I may need his services," Anderson said.
Ironically, Anderson said that Coulter's voting rights would not be rescinded for next week's election.

Ok, so that's not "ironic," just like rain on your wedding day or a black fly in your Chardonnay or a free ride when you've already paid aren't ironic either. These are all merely unfortunate (or perhaps, in the case of Coulter, bureaucratic.

Misuse (or abuse) of exclamation points in blog posts is, however, perfectly acceptable. Dontcha think?

There's No Apologizing in Politics!

| Wed Nov. 1, 2006 12:30 PM EST

To dip briefly into the Botchgate fray, when Bush called for an apology from Kerry during a campaign stop in Georgia yesterday it marked the tenth time that the word "apology" has been used in official speeches or remarks by the President and VP in their nearly six years in office. ("Apologize" shows up 24 times, mostly when the press apologize for interrupting, Bush for inconveniencing folks with his bike riding, etc.) Bush has always ducked from apologizing or taking any onus where things go awry, in Iraq and elsewhere. It's not like he hasn't been asked:

April 13, 2004 - Question re 9/11 Intelligence:

Q Two weeks ago, a former counterterrorism official at the NSC, Richard Clarke, offered an unequivocal apology to the American people for failing them prior to 9/11. Do you believe the American people deserve a similar apology from you, and would you be prepared to give them one?

THE PRESIDENT: Look, I can understand why people in my administration anguished over the fact that people lost their life. I feel the same way. I mean, I'm sick when I think about the death that took place on that day. And as I mentioned, I've met with a lot of family members and I do the best I do to console them about the loss of their loved one. As I mentioned, I oftentimes think about what I could have done differently. I can assure the American people that had we had any inkling that this was going to happen, we would have done everything in our power to stop the attack.
Here's what I feel about that. The person responsible for the attacks was Osama bin Laden. That's who's responsible for killing Americans. And that's why we will stay on the offense until we bring people to justice.

April 6, 2006 - Response to a Question re NSA Wiretapping:


THE PRESIDENT: I'd like to describe that decision I made about protecting this country. You can come to whatever conclusion you want. The conclusion is I'm not going to apologize for what I did on the terrorist surveillance program, and I'll tell you why. We were accused in Washington, D.C. of not connecting the dots, that we didn't do everything we could to protect you or others from the attack. And so I called in the people responsible for helping to protect the American people and the homeland. I said, is there anything more we could do.

June 14 2006 – Question re Plamegate:


Q Mr. President, when you ran for office for the first time, you said you would hold the White House to a higher ethical standard. Even if Karl Rove did nothing illegal, I wonder whether you can say now whether you approve of his conduct in the CIA leak episode, and do you believe he owes Scott McClellan or anyone else an apology for misleading them?
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate the job that the prosecutor did. I thought he conducted himself well in this investigation. He took a very thorough, long look at allegations and rumors. And I, obviously, along with others in the White House, took a sigh of relief when he made the decision he made. And now we're going to move forward. And I trust Karl Rove, and he's an integral part of my team.


Katrina, Iraq, the list goes on. No apologies.