Political MoJo

The New American Image?: All Americans Carry Guns

| Thu Oct. 19, 2006 7:24 PM EDT

When musician and activist Michael Franti was in Iraq in 2004, he was the only American without a gun. He brought a wooden guitar instead. Hear Franti on Mother Jones Radio this weekend talking about his film and book I Know I'm Not Alone featuring laughing and singing Iraqis we never see on TV. And even though violence is spinning out of control, he'd go back now. Seriously. He wants all the troops to come home.

Journalist Sidney Blumenthal calls Bush radical in his new book How Bush Rules. It's a collection of Blumenthal's columns from The Guardian and Salon.com. Here is what he told us on the radio:

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GAO Says Abstinence-Only Education Curricula Must Include Info on STIs and Condoms

| Thu Oct. 19, 2006 6:50 PM EDT

The GAO released a legal opinion yesterday affirming that abstinence-only education materials must include accurate information on sexually transmitted infections and the effectiveness of condoms. To date, HHS had insisted that materials produced by abstinence grantees do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Public Health Service Act, which mandates as much. HHS has instead maintained that:

"Grantees may address issues related to [STIs] in communicating the importance of abstinence, they are to address these issues only within the broader context of abstinence education."

The GAO's legal review came at the request of Congressional dems including the ever-muckraking Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). Remember, it was Waxman's 2004 report on abstinence-only sex education curricula that found rampant inaccuracies.

Waxman's report was roundly denounced by the religious right as partisan. Let's hope the GAO's finding resonates through the politics.

Dems See Pombo Race as an "Emerging Opportunity"

| Thu Oct. 19, 2006 5:36 PM EDT

Jerry McNerney, democratic challenger to Richard Pombo (R-Ca) may finally be getting some much-needed support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The DCCC has just placed Pombo's 11th district seat and John Doolittle's (R-Ca) 4th district house seats on a list of "emerging opportunities" for GOP defeats come Election Day.

Previously, the DCCC had chosen not to focus on ousting Pombo after their chosen candidate, Steve Filson, lost the Democratic primary. Now, even with help from the DCCC, McNerney has a long way to go, cash-wise. So far, Pombo has raised 3.4 million in campaign funds, McNerney 1.16 million (check out the full breakdown here)

So far the National Republican Congressional Committee has spent $545,000 to oppose McNerney and $46,000 to support Pombo, while the DCCC has spent only $5,600 to counter Pombo.

Doolittle's campaign spokesman Richard Robinson says this amounts to "a lot of posturing" but given Pombo and Doolittle's recent links to Jack Abramoff there's no telling what will happen.

--Amaya Rivera

Why Is Congress Even Bothering To Pass Laws?

| Thu Oct. 19, 2006 3:06 PM EDT

George W. Bush has already made it clear that he may ignore parts of the 2007 Defense Authorization Act. To be exact, he has listed two dozens provisions in the act which he may trash, including the budget requirements for the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bush made his stand Tuesday in one of his now-famous "signing statements," which the White House maintains are not unlike other presidential signing statements, but which are, in fact, completely different. Instead of making notes about his personal interpretations of some laws, Bush has used the signing statement to eliminate parts of laws, or the spirit of entire laws, that he does not like.

Some Constitutional scholars say that it is within Bush's legal rights to reject the war budget because, they say, the Constitution does not give Congress the authority to tell the president (or, in this case, Bush) what to request or how to request it.

Bush's other objections include:

• A requirement that he name a "coordinator of policy on North Korea" within 60 days, and submit within 90 days an updated intelligence assessment on Iran.

• A call for reports on subjects ranging from an early education program for military children to a study on assessing the safety of the nuclear stockpile.

• A response plan for remediation of unexploded ordnance, discarded military munitions, and munitions constituents.

• A report on a program for replacement of nuclear warheads on certain Trident sea-launched ballistic missiles with conventional warheads.

• Energy efficiency in weapons platforms.

• A report on participation of multinational partners in the United Nations Command in the Republic of Korea.

• A report on the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement.

• Quarterly reports on Department of Defense response to threat posed by improvised explosive devices.

• A National Academy of Sciences study of quantification of margins and uncertainty methodology for assessing and certifying the safety and reliability of the nuclear stockpile.

Tet

| Thu Oct. 19, 2006 2:36 PM EDT

The apparently popular notion that recent guerrilla strikes in Iraq bear similarities to Tet is succinctly laid to rest this morning by Juan Cole. Here's a paragraph from his Informed Comment blog:

"The current guerrilla war against US troops and the new Iraqi government isn't at all like the Tet offensive. It is deadly serious. Because the US military is not defeating the guerrillas militarily any more. They have succeeded in provoking an unconventional, hot civil war, which was their "poison pill" strategy for getting the US out. The US has alienated the Sunni Arab population decisively. In summer of 2003, only 14 percent of them supported violent attacks on US troops. In a recent poll, 70 percent supported such attacks. And, the guerrilla movement is well-heeled, well-trained, and adaptive.''

You can find Juan Cole's daily analysis at www.juancole.com or write him direct at jrcole@umich.edu.

Christians Counter Climate Change

| Thu Oct. 19, 2006 1:30 PM EDT

Dozens of evangelical Christian leaders, breaking ranks with the Bush administration as well as many of their peers, yesterday launched a new faith-based campaign against global warming. "(M)any of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians," declares their official statement. "But now we have seen and heard enough" to convince them that climate change is real, it's bad, and people of conscience should do something about it. It's signed by 86 people, from Rick Warren, author of the bestseller "The Purpose-Driven Life," to the new head of the Christian Coalition.

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Minnesota Taxi Drivers Seek Religious Exemptions

| Wed Oct. 18, 2006 10:40 PM EDT

It's hard enough to get a taxi in some places if you are not Caucasion, but it's becoming even harder, in some cities, to get one if you do not fit the driver's religious ideal of a passenger. For example, in London, two Muslim taxi drivers were fined for refusing to pick up a blind customer. The same thing has happened repeatedly in Melbouren. The reason? The customer's seeing-eye dog was "unclean." In Minneapolis, Muslim taxi drivers have refused to pick up a transgendered customer. And throughout Minnesota, taxi drivers are seeking a two-tiered system that would permit them to refuse to pick up certain fares because of their own religious beliefs.

This is how the system would work: If a driver refuses to pick you up because you are gay, transgendered, have a seeing-eye dog, are carrying a "forbidden" book, have a peace symbol on your briefcase, or are a woman with part of your abdomen showing (I could go on and on), you go to the back of the queue until someone finds you acceptable enough to ride in his or her cab.

Katherine Kersten of the Minneapolis Star Tribune says:

And what if Muslim drivers demand the right not to transport women wearing short skirts or tank tops, or unmarried couples? After taxis, why not buses, trains and planes? Eventually, in some respects, our society could be divided along religious lines.

Pam Spaulding, writing in Pandagon, says:

I hate to break it to the Star Tribune's Katherine Kersten, but we already are divided. "Christian" pharmacists in some parts of the country are allowed to refuse filling a prescription if they object on religious principles to the use of the drug.

Tom Reynolds in Washington

| Wed Oct. 18, 2006 5:16 PM EDT

Tom Reynolds, head of the House Republican Campaign Committee, and another member of the House leadership mired into the Foley scandal, appeared in Washington at the National Press Club for lunch Wednesday noon. He talked about the House campaigns and identified "Members, money and message" as the most decisive factors in winning this year's midterm election. Reynolds had no message to give on his own involvement in the Foley page scandal. He did say, however, he doubts the scandal will effect any of the races.

Dozens of reporters, and a phalanx of cameras greeted him. Likely the last thing on anyone's mind was Reynolds opinion on the election. The Foley scandal was front and center. But in the harried scrum following the luncheon nobody asked him about it. Instead, it was "Hi Tom," and "How's your house, Tom?'' "Hey Tom, do you notice you are always in my lede?'' and so on. Not like, "What were you doing with Foley, Tom?'' Or: "Are you Hastert's fall guy?"

Reynolds's top assistant had previously worked for Foley. Reynolds reportedly is the one who talked Foley into seeking re-election this year.

Tom is best known of late for dodging questions by surrounding himself with children—just so you know he's no pervert—before blithering on about how he was doing his job just like any other worker, by passing the information on up the line to his "supervisor" House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Reynolds emphasized that the election was being fought by candidates, based on their reputation at the local level. "We are dealing with fierce contests fought by local personalities on local pocket book issues," said Reynolds. "[Constituents] will vote for Candidate A or Candidate B, not for a Republican or a Democratic Congress." According to Reynolds, the G.O.P. candidates are "excelling at the nuts and bolts" of the election at that local level.

Reynolds equated the growing size of Republican candidates' campaign coffers with election success. Said Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who spoke for the Democrats: "There's a real sense in this country that what has been the 'People's House' has become the auction house."

Ford's Fancy Fling

| Wed Oct. 18, 2006 4:51 PM EDT

In Tennessee where Harold Ford, Jr. is battling Bob Corker in what some pros think is the toughest Senate race in the nation, the Republicans have been trying to smear Ford for a ski weekend 'fling' with Julia Allison (formerly Baugher), then a Georgetown University sophomore. Ford was unmarried and celebrating his 31st birthday. He saw her in a restaurant. One thing led to another and the couple had some sort of relationship which Allison later described in a Cosmopolitan article. She currently writes a dating column for AM New York as well as doing a monthly column in Coed, a Maxim like mag for teens. At Georgetown she wrote a sex column for the student newspaper, and later worked on the campaign of an Illinois congressman, then as a congressional liaison for a House member.

Somebody at the National Republican Committee thought the Julia story could add to the GOP's smear campaign which portrays Ford as a high liver, attending parties with Playboy beauties, who actually wore lingerie in his company. And they started putting out stuff under headlines like: Ford's "Fancy Fling" with the opening: "Find out how much Congressmen Harold Ford, Jr. enjoys the good life – including his lavish hotel stays, expensive dinners, and parties with Playboy Playmates."

No one cared. This news doesn't seem to have affected Julia's own career.You can read her blog here, but only if want to bore yourself to death.

"Other than a fabulous weekend ski vacation and a few fancy dinners," the Memphis Flyer quotes Allison as saying,"all Harold gave me was the certainty that dating a [politician] is overrated."

GOP Debates "Pink Purge"

| Wed Oct. 18, 2006 1:34 PM EDT

Shocked, SHOCKED to discover that there are homosexuals among the ranks of their beloved Republican party, hardline Christian conservatives are calling for a "pink purge" of the GOP's ranks, the LA Times reports. The sectarian schism is a win-win for Democrats: if Republican leaders lean too hard on gays, they'll alienate moderate voters, but if they don't, they risk dampening enthusiasm among their social-conservative base, whose high turnout has been key to recent GOP victories.

Seems the soc-cons are upset not only about Foleygate, but over other recent events that have been less well-publicized because, well, they're really no big deal to most people. The list includes Condi Rice swearing in a new, openly gay US global AIDS coordinator and referring to his partner's mother as his "mother in law".