Political MoJo

U.S. to Cuba: Surrender to Rich, Creamy Decadence!

What will bring down communist Cuba once and for all? Will it be the post-Castro power vaccum, the trade...

| Wed Nov. 15, 2006 2:08 PM EST
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What will bring down communist Cuba once and for all? Will it be the post-Castro power vaccum, the trade embargo, or the Cuban people's insatiable yearning for a good box of chocolate? The Miami Herald reports today that a new report from the Government Accountability Office has found some questionable spending by anti-Castro groups getting money from the U.S. government:

One recipient, the GAO says, used USAID funds to purchase a chain saw, Nintendo Game Boys and Sony PlayStations, a mountain bike, leather coats, cashmere sweaters, crabmeat and Godiva chocolates.

Juan Carlos Acosta, executive director of Miami-based Acción Democrática Cubana, told The Miami Herald in an interview Tuesday that except for the chain saw, he bought the items and sent them to people in Cuba.

He said he bought the chain saw to cut a branch that had fallen near the door of his office after a hurricane. He bought ''five or six'' cans of crabmeat and some boxes of chocolate to send to Cuba.

''These people are going hungry,'' he said. "They never get any chocolate there.''

Asked why he'd sent cashmere sweaters to Cuba, Acosta replied, "They [auditors] think it's not cold there." Plus, "At $30, it's a bargain because cashmere is expensive."

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Welcome Back, Lotter: Trent Lott Elected to GOP's No. 2 Spot in Senate

The party that Ken Mehlman repeatedly insists is reaching out to black people, the party that ran several black candidates...

| Wed Nov. 15, 2006 1:22 PM EST

The party that Ken Mehlman repeatedly insists is reaching out to black people, the party that ran several black candidates at the national level in 2006, the party that made a (albeit half-hearted) bid to install failed senatorial candidate Michael Steele as head of the RNC -- that party just elected a man to the No. 2 position in the Senate who said his state proudly voted for a segregationist presidential candidate and that this candidate would have saved America from "all these problems over the years."

So the GOP is officially the big tent party now. It has room for black people (especially when they give the party a veneer of inclusion and equality), but doesn't feel the need to actually get rid of the people who hate black people, or, for that matter, keep them from the party's most powerful positions. Sounds like coalition-building to me.

Fox News: Our Brand is Still Crisis

The Huffington Post has obtained one of those infamous internal Fox News memos. Here's FNC's veep for news rallying the...

| Wed Nov. 15, 2006 12:31 PM EST

The Huffington Post has obtained one of those infamous internal Fox News memos. Here's FNC's veep for news rallying the troops after the election:

The elections and Rumsfeld's resignation were a major event, but not the end of the world. The war on terror goes on without interruption.... [L]et's be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled congress.... The question of the day, and indeed for the rest of bush's [sic] term, is: What's the Dem plan for Iraq?... Just because Dems won, the war on terror isnt' [sic] over.

Fox's website may have gone blue, but it looks like the Kool-Aid over there is still bright red.

No Middle East Experts In Iraq Study Group

Crooks and Liars points out the obvious--that not one member of the Iraq Study Group is a Middle East expert....

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 11:43 PM EST

Crooks and Liars points out the obvious--that not one member of the Iraq Study Group is a Middle East expert. James Baker (remember Florida 2000?), Lawrence Eagleburger, Alan Simpson, Charles Robb, William Perry, and Sandra Day O'Connor have a lot of expertise among them, but none of it has anything to do with the Middle East.

If this sounds familiar, it should. The people planning the invasion of Iraq--the "cakewalk" group--had little understanding of Iraq's religious sects and its divided culture. Now the emphasis is on bi-partisanship. Nothing wrong with that, to be sure, but wouldn't it help if at least one person understood the territory?

Foreign Push Pollers Stealing American Robots' Jobs!

No comment: Callers touting Indiana Republican Rep. Mark Souder's tough stance on immigration apparently have thick enough foreign accents that...

| 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.

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

Even if you spend a lot of time reporting on the depressing facts of global warming, every so often (actually,...

| 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.

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Mike Huckabee's Long Honeymoon

Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, whose name is being thrown around as a 2008 Republican contender, seems to have found a...

| 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

A Florida judge who has granted federal prosecutors several delays in the actual incarceration of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, so...

| 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

Florida's 13th congressional district was home to the one of the closest races in the midterms. Election night results put...

| 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

The California Wellness Foundation announced its annual Peace Prize winners this week, and Anthony Thigpenn, who runs a policy education...

| 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.