Political MoJo

Al Gore Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 11:12 AM EST

Al Gore has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by two Norwegian members of parliament (socialists, by the way) who feel that global climate change is the newest and possibly biggest threat to the earth's welfare. Getting nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize is notoriously easy (Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and uh, George W. Bush have all been nominated), but still, pretty neat.

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Bush Says, "There's Some Racial Insensitivity Going Around? Count Me In!"

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 10:21 AM EST

I love this. President Bush spoke about the Biden/Obama dust-up on Fox News and, well, I'll let the Chicago Tribune explain (via ThinkProgress):

Well-spoken black people hate it when white people call them "articulate." It's the modern-day version of what white people used to say back in the day when they thought that by saying "He's a credit to his race" they were saying something that a black person would welcome hearing.
Those dated words, like Biden's comments, were patronizing at the very least. And they also appeared to carry some pretty negative assumptions about the majority of the race.

Many Americans know this because (1) they aren't stupid, and (2) they've seen the famous stand up routine by Chris Rock where Rock says that anytime white people see an intelligent black person they always say, "He's so well-spoken! He speaks so well!" which is the most patronizing compliment perhaps of all time. Rock used the example of Colin Powell, but this occurs with athletes all the time. Anytime a black athlete gives a post-game interview without saying "um" fifteen times, moms across America say, "Well, he seemed like a nice young man. Very well-spoken."

Anyway, here's the point. Bush on Obama yesterday: "He's an attractive guy. He's articulate. I've been impressed with him when I've seen him in person."

You know, George, usually when a man of any color earns his way into multiple Ivy League schools and gets elected to the Senate, he's able to speak without sounding like a dummy. But I suppose you wouldn't know about any part of that.

Some Day, Hipsters Will Wear "Biden '08" T-Shirts as an Ironic Statement

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 9:38 AM EST

Want a summary of this Joe Biden/Barack Obama situation? You'll find one below; it doubles as a timeline of the Biden campaign, start to finish.

First, Biden gave a crazy interview to the NY Observer in which he said several things about several people. He may have set the record for most scorn and most Fluffernutter references (one) in any interview ever. "I don't think John Edwards knows what the heck he is talking about," he said, beginning a long tirade about John Edwards' lack of sophistication on the war. "John Edwards wants you and all the Democrats to think, 'I want us out of there,' but when you come back and you say, 'O.K., John, what about the chaos that will ensue? Do we have any interest, John, left in the region?' Well, John will have to answer yes or no. If he says yes, what are they? What are those interests, John? How do you protect those interests, John, if you are completely withdrawn?... So all this stuff is like so much Fluffernutter out there." (There it is!)

Hillary Clinton's position on Iraq would be "nothing but disaster," Biden said, and even though "everyone in the world knows her... she can't break out of 30 percent for a choice for Democrats? Where do you want to be? Do you want to be in a place where 100 percent of the Democrats know you? They've looked at you for the last three years. And four out of 10 is the max you can get?"

But a very special kind of blabbering was reserved for Barack Obama and black presidential candidates. "You got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy... I mean, that's a storybook, man." And that's where Biden's comments leave the realm of Democratic rival-bashing and enter some pretty touchy territory.

Following the interview, Biden immediately started backtracking, telling reporters that even though he was "quoted accurately" they should "call Senator Obama. He knew what I meant by it." (He added, "Barack Obama is probably the most exciting candidate that the Democratic or Republican party has produced at least since I've been around.")

Reporters then found Obama, who was conciliatory. "I didn't take it personally and I don't think he intended to offend."

But later that day Obama released a statement that said, "I didn't take Senator Biden's comments personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate... African-American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one would call them inarticulate."

Reporters pressed Biden on what the word "clean" meant. Biden responded, "[Obama] understood exactly what I meant... And I have no doubt that Jesse Jackson and every other black leader — Al Sharpton and the rest — will know exactly what I meant."

So reporters went to Jesse Jackson, and whoops: "I am not sure what he means — ask him to explain what he meant." Jackson pointed out that when both Jackson and Biden ran for president (in 1988), Jackson lasted longer and got more votes. Al Sharpton, god bless him, pointed out that he bathes every day.

Eventually, audio of Biden's comments to the Observer became available and the inevitable arguments over whether the transcription should have included an extra comma or period, thus mitigating the insensitivity of Biden's comments, began. And that was how Joe Biden doomed himself to a lifetime of frustrated irrelevancy in the Senate.

Thank You, Molly Ivins

| Thu Feb. 1, 2007 1:31 AM EST

I was a cub reporter in Minneapolis -- the city where she'd cut her journalistic teeth a couple of decades earlier -- when I first met Molly Ivins. It was one of those damp blue Midwestern early summer days, and we sat outside the clubhouse where she'd just given a reading, on wrought-iron chairs that she made look like doll furniture. She was tall, and incredibly red-headed, and the biggest personality I'd ever met; also gentle, and funny, and patient as I fumbled with my microphone and asked starstruck questions about her life, her politics, and the town we'd both covered. We compared notes about how remarkably venal and corrupt a city run by supposedly squeaky-clean Democrats could be when given half a chance, which having come of age in the Reagan years I'd somehow been too naive to expect. Mostly, though, I didn't say anything: I just drank up what it was like to see a woman be sharply political and yet uproariously funny, unapologetic and uncompromising, completely confident with the good old boys and completely capable of beating them at their own game, and all this without even seeming to try very hard at all. There were not many women writing like that in the 80s, which is why I dreamed of being Molly Ivins when I grew up; there still aren't many like her today, and magazines like Mother Jones are run and written overwhelmingly by men. Why? I don't know exactly: Because most women are not trained, as many men have been, to presume that the world is dying to hear what we have to say? Because having an outsized personality and convictions to match makes you lonely, as a woman more so than a man? Because so many of us, anxious to get along, learn to lace our opinions, even inadvertently, with qualifiers and fudges, with "I think"s and "I could be wrong, but"s? Molly didn't fudge, but neither did she lecture: She just told you what she thought, and often it wasn't what you might have expected at a time when the left had grown timid and self-referential and obsessed with PC nuance. She went for the roundhouse punch when everyone else was busy wringing their hands, and she liked those -- Democrats, Republicans, men and women, good old boys and bad new girls -- willing to do the same. She made us laugh, and she made us smarter, and she cut through a lot of B.S. Now it's time to thank her for it: As she wrote, in her very last column just a couple of weeks ago: "Raise hell." And have fun.

Molly was a contributor to Mother Jones for many years, and in the coming days, you'll hear more from the people who worked with her; we'll also have an archive of her stories for this magazine. For a quick sketch of her life, see Josh Harkinson's story here.

Kissinger Testifies on Iraq Plan; Dems Ask "What Plan?"

| Wed Jan. 31, 2007 5:30 PM EST

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger arrived on Capitol Hill this morning to offer his assessment on Iraq, which he's reportedly been offering to Dick Cheney and the president behind closed doors from some time now. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kissinger, predictably, expressed optimism for the president's troop surge strategy, saying the plan is "the best way to get the maneuvering room to the changes in deployment and strategy that will be required by the evolving situation." He also endorsed the idea of building permanent military bases in Iraq, noting that the U.S. is likely to a have a military presence there "for a long time to come."

Kissinger, echoing the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, also called for diplomatic talks with countries that neighbor Iraq, including Iran and Syria. He was joined in that sentiment by Madeleine Albright, the secretary of state during the Clinton administration, who also testified at the hearing. "I think we need a surge in diplomacy," she said.

But several democrats on the committee pointed out the obvious, that the president's publicly stated strategy does not include diplomatic regional talks. In fact, said Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, "The president has explicitly rejected international diplomacy [in the region]."

Another presumptive presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama, noted that members of Congress are still scratching their heads about what the president's master plan actually is. "The problem in a nutshell is that none of us view the President's projection of forces as his strategy," Obama said. "As far as I can tell no one on this committee knows what this grand strategy is."

-- Caroline Dobuzinskis

Update On Corcpork

| Wed Jan. 31, 2007 2:26 PM EST

California's Second Appellate District Division Three Court has ruled in favor of Corcpork, Inc., which means that Farm Sanctuary still cannot bring suit against the company. The merits of the suit were not heard. In the meantime, the Attorney General of California remains silent. Farm Sanctuary is appealing the case to the California Supreme Court.

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Global Warming: Back to the Future

| Wed Jan. 31, 2007 11:50 AM EST

Against a backdrop of more bad news about global warming coming from top scientists in Paris, the Sierra Club and American Solar Energy Society unveiled a plan in Washington this morning that would dramatically cut carbon emissions. What's so startling about their plan is that it closely tracks similar schemes put forth amidst the energy crisis of the 1970s. And those plans, in turn, were modeled on U.S. experiences with solar energy back in the 1920s. Can environmentalists in Congress override the oil industry to get any of this put into practice? It seems doubtful.

Yesterday Congressman Henry Waxman's oversight hearing on global warming depicted an administration determined to rework scientific findings to coincide with the interests of the oil industry. And while in the president's State of the Union speech he made a vague endorsement of tougher motor vehicle emissions standards, He made no mention of regulations to implement such standards. Bush, his father, and President Reagan were forthright in their opposition to government regulation across the board, including auto emissions. For years the oil and auto industries have successfully blocked tougher standards in one administration after another, and in one Congress after another (Republican and Democratic). Indeed, the two key figures in opposition to standards have been two Democrats -- John Dingell, the Michigan congressman whose wife long worked as a GM lobbyist in Washington, and who is widely viewed as the auto industry spokesman on Capitol Hill. The other powerful opponent of tougher standards has been former Senate majority leader Robert Byrd. He hails from West Virginia, the historic bastion of the coal industry, whose product creates an enormous air pollution problem.

The U.S. can reduce carbon emissions "by 1,100-1,200 million metric tons annually by 2030 with energy efficiency and renewable energy alone," according to the scheme put forward by the Sierra Club and ASES. Most of the reduction in carbon emissions
(82 percent) can be obtained by solar, wind, and increased energy efficiency. The remainder could come from biomass, bio fuels, and geothermal sources.

According to its sponsors, "this plan would achieve the U.S. share of reductions required to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels at 450-500 parts per million and limit additional average temperature rise to 1°C above 2000 levels."

The report goes on to say "renewable energy has the potential to provide approximately 40 percent of the U.S. electric need projected for 2030 by the Energy Information Administration (EIA)."

They Don't Have Ham Sandwiches in the Muslim World, or Petraeus is Nothing More Than an Easy Out

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 8:12 PM EST

Last week, the American Prospect's Spencer Ackerman wrote that Iraq is a waste of General David Petraeus' time and expertise and that we should send him to Afghanistan where his expertise will not be lost on "cauterizing a wound" and "population protection." In fact, he makes this analogy:

"This is like hiring Spanish avant-garde chef Ferran Adria to whip up a ham sandwich."

I do think "God is unfair" to Petraeus, to use Ackerman's words, but I think unfair, moreso, for the following reason: Petraeus has been set up. Last week, following his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made it clear that it is a setup indeed. "If it can't be done under General Petraeus, then it cannot be done at all."

Oh, I get it, so if we fail in Iraq it will no longer be the fault of the Bush administration's years of incompetence before, during and after the war (all of which is thoroughly documented in the Mother Jones timeline). This is the same criticism that has been made about Bush's escalation of troops, that the administration can claim, "we sent 20,000 troops, what more can we do?" Now, they have an even better scapegoat -- the most revered General in the United States Army. That seems fair. "Look, if Petraeus couldn't do it, there was nothing more that possibly could have been done," they'll say, as they wipe their hands clean. What is even more infuriating is that maybe it can be done, maybe Petraeus' insurgency doctrine has all the answers or he has several other tricks up his sleeve. But if the administration's past actions have been any indication of how well they support their military leaders in Iraq, it doesn't matter what the doctrine looks like, Petraeus won't be given the resources or the freedom to show us how talented he really is. Not to mention that it really is way too late for a Hail Mary.

And You Thought There Was No Way Bush Could Grab More Power

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 6:38 PM EST

The front page story in tomorrow's New York Times will be an announcement and examination of George W. Bush's signing of a directive that gives him even greater control over much greater control over "the rules that the federal government develops to regulate public health, safety."

Bush has now declared that every federal regulatory agency must have a regulatory policy office headed by a political appointee. This will tighten the presidential control that already shocked anyone paying attention, especially with regard to the so-called Envrionmental Protection Agency, which is now merely a large sham supported by taxpayers.

Read all about it in tomorrow's Times.

More on Bush Administration's Anti-Global Warming Pressure on Scientists

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 4:49 PM EST

James Ridgeway wrote earlier today about Henry Waxman's ongoing oversight hearings that are looking into the government's role in distorting climate research. In his post, Jim mentioned the new Union of Concerned Scientists report that found the Bush Administration pressured scientists in a number of agencies to suppress evidence of global warming. ThinkProgress has culled some details. Synergy!

46 percent of government scientists "personally experienced pressure to eliminate the words 'climate change,' 'global warming,' or other similar terms from a variety of communications."
46 percent "perceived or personally experienced new or unusual administrative requirements that impair climate-related work."
25 percent "perceived or personally experienced situations in which scientists have actively objected to, resigned from, or removed themselves from a project because of pressure to change scientific findings."