Political MoJo

Ken Lay dies...

| Wed Jul. 5, 2006 12:43 PM PDT

..."from what appears to have been a heart attack." (Bloomberg)

enron.jpg

So much for the nest egg...

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"God has no pleasure in the legs of a man"

| Wed Jul. 5, 2006 12:40 PM PDT

Via the Center for Media and Democracy, a good Australian piece on the Exclusive Brethren, a religious group that forbids involvement in worldly politics, but has in recent years ventured into electioneering and campaign giving in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States (three guesses at which presidential candidate they liked in '04). It helps that quite a few members of the group are loaded and while historically publicity-shy, have felt more and more comfortable speaking out about their particular beliefs, which among other things proscribe movies, TV, college, and shorts (thus the bit about manly legs). So let's see your nominations for best photo of Bush in Brethren-prohibited attire.

No helping hand for West Coast commercial fisherman

| Wed Jul. 5, 2006 12:25 PM PDT

First, West Coast fishermen lost 90 percent of their salmon season, which amounts to an estimated $81 million loss. Then lawmakers tried to get federal disaster assistance to help the industry survive. They received $2 million.

At the core of the fishermen's struggle is the protection of Klamath River Chinook salmon, whose numbers have plummeted due to low water flows, unusually warm water, parasites, and dams. Congressman Mike Thompson, (D-St. Helena), has been fighting for disaster assistance for California and Oregon in Congress. He holds the Bush administration is responsible for the loss of fish, and he finds it particularly galling that the government now refuses to declare the situation a disaster, let alone deal with it. Listen to an interview with Mike Thompson.

Duncan MacLean is a salmon troller working out of Half Moon Bay, California. The slashing of his season and disaster relief is threatening his livelihood. Listen to MacLean on his boat 5 miles off the coast collecting his crab gear.

Zeke Grader, Executive Director of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association (PCFFA) says the situation for fishermen this year is disastrous and will be continue to be so for years to come if the Klamath River doesn't get fixed. Listen to Zeke Grader here.

(You can read more about the Klamath in Mother Jones' 2003 article "What's a River For?" and about the fishermen's efforts to organize in protest here.

What the confrontation with Iran is really about

| Wed Jul. 5, 2006 11:47 AM PDT

The Bush administration's building conflict with Iran is about nukes, right? Well, yes and no. As Robert Dreyfuss argues in the current issue of Mother Jones, it has more to do with Great Power politics, 21st century style.

The logic of the Bush administration is inexorable. Its ironclad syllogism is this: The United States is and must remain the world's preeminent power, if need be by using its superior military might. One of the two powers with the ability to emerge as a rival—China—depends vitally on the Persian Gulf and Central Asia for its future supply of oil; the other—Russia—is heavily engaged in Iran, Central Asia, and the Caucasus region. Therefore, if the United States can secure a dominant position in the Gulf, it will have an enormous advantage over its potential challengers. Call it zero-sum geopolitics: Their loss is our gain.

Read the full article here.

Lakoff: Dems trapped in "fallacious war frame"

| Mon Jul. 3, 2006 7:33 PM PDT

Writing at the Rockridge Institute's site, George Lakoff finds (not entirely surprisingly) that "[o]ur nation has been held trapped in a fallacious War Frame that serves the interests of the Bush administration and the Republican Party." The frame goes like this.

There is a war against evil that must be fought. Fighting requires courage and bravery. Those fully committed to the cause are brave. Those who "cut and run" are motivated by self-interest; they are only interested in saving their own skins, not in the moral cause. They are cowards. And since those fighting for the cause need all the support they can get, anyone who decides to "cut and run" endangers both the moral cause and the lives of those brave people who are fighting for it. Those who have courage and conviction should stand and fight.

This seems as true as it is obvious. But what to do? Time for a new setup: The Occupation Frame.

Our troops were trained to fight a war, not to occupy a country where they don't know the language and culture; where they lack enough troops, where they face an anti-occupation insurgency by the Iraqis themselves; where most of the population wants them out; where they are being shot at and killed by the very Iraqis they are training; and where the U.S. has given up on reconstruction and can't do much positive good there. ...

The Occupation Frame fits a politically inconvenient truth. Most people don't want to think of our army as an occupation force, but it is. An occupying army can't win anything. The occupation only helps Al Qaeda, which Iraqis don't want in their country since [the conflict] attracts foreigners who have been killing Iraqis.

Okay, fine. Then what? "[C]ertainly Congress and most Americans should be able to agree on 'End the occupation soon.'" Back to square one, no?

Read the full column here.

"...crime-ridden, obsessed with money and led by an incompetent hypocrite."

| Mon Jul. 3, 2006 7:06 PM PDT

Some special relationship. According to a new poll British folks have never had such a low opinion of the leadership of the United States, with only 12 per cent of Britons trusting them "to act wisely on the global stage." (Twice that number had faith in U.S. leadership in 1975, Vietnam notwithstanding.) Reports the Telegraph.

Most Britons see America as a cruel, vulgar, arrogant society, riven by class and racism, crime-ridden, obsessed with money and led by an incompetent hypocrite. ...

More than two-thirds who offered an opinion said America is essentially an imperial power seeking world domination. And 81 percent of those who took a view said President George W Bush hypocritically championed democracy as a cover for the pursuit of American self-interests.

A U.S. embassy spokesman offered this response: "With respect to the poll's assertions about American society, we bear some of the blame for not successfully communicating America's extraordinary dynamism. But frankly, so do you [the British press]."

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Revealed! How the Republican Party really works (and why Hillary will be the nominee, and...)

| Mon Jul. 3, 2006 2:42 PM PDT

Our man in Washington, Jim Ridgeway, filed a dispatch last week reporting on a breakfast with conservative political guru Grover Norquist (about whom there's lots more in Michael Scherer's Mother Jones profile). Now you, too, can be transported to the American Prospect-sponsored meeting via the magic of audio. Grab some coffee and refrigerator-cold Danishes to recreate the setting, put up your feet, and listen to Norquist explain how the right manages to hold together a "low-maintenance coalition" of gun owners, home schoolers, businesses (not including the kind who want big government subsidies—that's a different coalition) and various faith activists, by catering to them on only their "primary vote-moving issues" and to hell with all the rest.

On the issue that moves their vote, what they want from the government is to be left alone. They want to be left alone to practice their religion and raise their kids in that faith and not have schools throwing prophylactics at kids etc. That's why on the right, we're able to have evangelical Protestants, Pentecostals, as well as conservative Catholics and conservative Muslims and orthodox Jews etc. who may not agree on who goes to heaven and why, but they understand that if they are to have the right to raise their kids and go to heaven, the pagans over there have to have the same right to raise their kids to go to Hades.

So you've got Pat Buchanan and others saying there are all these fissures, on secondary and tertiary issues. But on the primary vote-moving issues, everyone has their foot in the center and they're not in conflict on anything. The guy who wants to spend all day counting his money, the guy who wants to spend all day fondling his weaponry, and the guy who wants to be in church all day, may look at each other and say, "Well that's pretty weird, and that's not what I want to do with my spare time, but that does not threaten my ability to go to church, have my guns, have my property, run my business, home school my kids.

And this handily helps explain why Republicans are the tax-and-spend party these days:

Spending is not a problem because it's not a primary vote-moving issue for anyone in the coalition. If you keep everybody happy on their primary issue and disappoint on a secondary issue, everyone grumbles, but no one walks out the door.

Bonus: How the left works, according to Norquist:


The way I see the vote-moving parts of the left, it's trial lawyers with resources, it's organized labor with resources, it's the two wings of the dependency movement—people who are locked into welfare and people who make $90,000 making sure they stay there—and what we cheerfully call the "coercive utopians" who spend their time telling us that toilets have to be too small to flush and cars have to be too small to have kids.

More (including Norquist responding to questions on his friend Jack Abramoff, on Social Security ("The otherwise very intelligent people at the White House made an error"), on Hillary and the Republican presidential field, on why the Republicans have kept the House and Senate election after election, and what Dems should say on the war:

The best position for Democratic Party is to stand here and go 'Bush and Iraq, how do you like that?' And then shut up. It's like the old joke, 'How's your wife?' 'Compared to what?' I know that there's this constant conversation, we've got to get a theme and all that, and at some point Republicans will say Democrats don't have any answers. But if you've had a problem hung around your neck, 'They don't have any answers' doesn't work as well.

In that spirit (and because a great debate, along with things like this, reminds us of what we love about America), go have a good Fourth.

Afghanistan's opium poppy crop bigger than ever

| Mon Jul. 3, 2006 1:08 PM PDT

What a difference a week makes. On June 26 word came from the U.N. that opium cultivation in Afghanistan was down by a fifth in 2005. Some claimed this as vindication of the U.S. drug interdiction strategy there; others noted the same U.N. report pointed to a likely surge in production this year.

Today, this (Independent):

In 2004, about 130,000 hectares of opium poppy was cultivated, which has been the largest so far, despite poor growing conditions that year. Better conditions across the country this year will help produce the largest tonnage of opium ever. But Afghanistan is already responsible for about 87 per cent of the world's opium and more than 90 per cent of the heroin consumed in Britain.

Hamid Karzai, the President, and his government announced last year ajihad on poppy production, backed by a near-$1bn campaign, led by the UK. It led to a fall by 21 per cent drop in the area under cultivation. Those gains have now been wiped out. [Italics mine]

Feinstein wasn't briefed on the bank monitoring program

| Mon Jul. 3, 2006 12:43 PM PDT

(Via Think Progress.) California' s Sen. Diane Feinstein, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told George Stephanopoulous on ABC that, contrary to administration assurances that Congress was briefed on the government program that monitors bank records, she wasn't told about it until after word got out the New York Times was publishing the story. See the video.

Children's magazine looks like an Army recruiting tool to some

| Mon Jul. 3, 2006 12:06 PM PDT

The latest issue of Cobblestone, a magazine for children ages 9 to 14, features on its cover a photo of a soldier in Iraq clutching a machine gun. Inside, there are articles on boot camp, careers in the Army, and a detailed description of the Army's "awesome arsenal" of weapons.

The issue also contains a set of teachers' guides, one of which suggests teachers invite a soldier, Army recruiter or veteran to the classroom to talk with students and to ask them if they would one day consider joining the Army. Another suggests that teachers assign students to write an essay about which Army career they would like to pursue, and how they would persuade the recruiter to place them in that career.

There have been about a dozen official complaints to Carus Publishing, whose officials say that they will consider these criticisms in formulating future issues of the magazine. A spokesman said the magazine planned the issue a couple of years ago, and that "It just happened to come out at a time when the country's feelings are in a certain place" about the war in Iraq.

Cobblestone has a paid circulation of 30,000 and is distributed nationwide to schools and libraries.