Political MoJo

Can Oil Remain Bullish? Some Call the Commodity on its B.S., But Maybe Too Soon.

| Tue Aug. 22, 2006 5:19 PM EDT

Earlier this month, consumers and investors alike were bracing for another spike in gasoline prices after the Prudhoe Bay oil field shutdown. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal discussed a price hike's impact on Americans' consumption patterns, Bush's "plan" for sustainable energy and the prevalence of ethanol. How will America handle another price increase?

But now investors might be facing a different question—what if there is no increase? The price of oil is on a steady decline this month, down 4.4%. If oil continues to decline, "it is going to be much more difficult to argue that crude oil remains a bull market and that all dips are buying opportunities," says Tim Evans of Citigroup. But, some analysts are convinced this is nothing but a dip in a sturdy market that will soon climb again -- they note Goldman Sachs' decision to reduce its exposure to the commodity and a smaller than expected impact of the Alaska pipeline shutdown as some of the short-term factors contributing to the lower prices. But others warn that the market has become accustomed to the "geopolitical uncertainty" surrounding the oil market. Deutsche Bank's Mark Vonderheide says traders are "balancing the fundamental weakness of this market against the probability of some global event or continuation of global events in Nigeria, Iran or Venezuela....Barring an event, it's very likely we're headed for much lower oil prices." "Barring any event" -- Perhaps, we don't need to be concerned about lower prices quite yet.

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All the President's Fart Jokes

| Tue Aug. 22, 2006 3:42 PM EDT

Washington Whispers provides some insight into what makes our Groper-in-Chief tick:

He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we're learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that.

Perhaps this is what Bush meant when he pledged to "restore honor and dignity to the White House."

MoJo's Ridgeway on C-Span, Talking Subpoenas and Impeachment

| Tue Aug. 22, 2006 3:34 PM EDT

Washington Correspondent James Ridgeway will be on C-Span's "Washington Journal" tomorrow morning at 9:30 EST talking about the story he wrote for our hot-on-the-newstands Sept/Oct issue, "Sweet Subpoena
: Nine Tough Questions for Congress." In it, Ridgeway details what kind of Congressional investigations might take place if the Democrats win back one or both chambers of Congress (and get some guts in the process). Here's the nine, short form:

  • Who lost Iraq?
  • Did Donald Rumsfeld order torture (if not, who did)?
  • Who Blew 9/11?
  • What did the airlines know, and when did they know it?
  • How wide is the domestic surveillance net?
  • Is Big Oil pulling an Enron?
  • Who's making money off your retirement?
  • Why is the morning-after pill not at your 7-11?

and the kicker:

  • Grounds for impeachment?

Oil Spill off Lebanese Coast Rivals the Exxon Valdez Disaster

| Tue Aug. 22, 2006 2:47 PM EDT

Check out these amazing and sad satellite images of the 30,000 tons of oil that has spilled off the coast of Lebanon after an Israeli bombs hit the Jiyyeh power plant last month (first reported here by our D.C. Bureau). To put this in perspective, in 1989 the Exxon Valdez spilled 37,000 tons of oil into the still-recovering Prince William Sound in Alaska. The oil in the Meditereanean Sea has already polluted some 87 miles of Lebanese coast and is moving north into Syrian waters and toward Cyprus and Turkey. It took several weeks to assess the situation and now the United Nations Environment Program requested $50 million euros from the EU to contain the spill. The oil has not only impacted wildlife (green turtle and tuna populations are now thought to be virtually extinct) but also fishermen and an already discouraged tourism industry.

Bush Says He Supports Plan B Over-the-Counter

| Tue Aug. 22, 2006 2:46 PM EDT

At yesterday's White House press conference, President Bush said he supports over-the-counter sale of Plan B to women ages 18 and up.

Q: Thank you very much. Mr. President, some pro-life groups are worried that your choice of FDA Commissioner will approve over the counter sales of Plan B, a pill that, they say, essentially can cause early-term abortions. Do you stand by this choice, and how do you feel about Plan B in general?

THE PRESIDENT: I believe that Plan B ought to be -- ought to require a prescription for minors, is what I believe. And I support Andy's decision.

Bush only recently announced his support for contraception, saying it was acceptable for "responsible adults" to use birth control, but not anyone else. (Because, clearly, irresponsible people make the best parents.) Maybe he's opposed to making Plan B available to women under 18 because he's concerned, like some FDA officials, that it would create teen sex cults. In reality, all medical evidence says the drug is completely safe for over-the-counter sale to minors-- and has no effect on their sexual behavior. But anti-abortion groups are predictably incensed that Bush is supporting the morning-after pill at all.

And speaking of abortion foes, supporters of the South Dakota abortion ban are saying it's a-OK to criminalize abortion because, hey, emergency contraception would still be legal. They declined to mention that pharmacists in South Dakota are allowed to refuse to fill prescriptions for Plan B.

A Good Day in Baghdad: Only 20 Dead

| Tue Aug. 22, 2006 1:57 PM EDT

The new normal: After 20 pilgrims, including several teenagers, were killed and 300 injured by black-and-green-clad gunmen, the U.S. military "reported relatively little violence for the day," reports the Washington Post (via the SF Chronicle) and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki touted the success of Iraqi security forces "in preventing the terrorists from killing innocents."

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IDF Reservists Protest Lebanon Action

| Tue Aug. 22, 2006 2:57 AM EDT

A couple of years ago, Gershom Gorenberg wrote a great piece for Mother Jones about the Israel Defense Force reservists known as "refusniks" because they refused participate in the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Now various groups of IDF reservists are protesting the war in Lebanon as well, as the New York Times reports:

[One] group of Israeli reservist soldiers who served during the recent fighting in Lebanon, angry about the conduct of the war, on Monday demanded the resignations of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and the army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz.

The reservists, most of whom have gone back to civilian life, say that their training was inadequate and that they were sent into Lebanon with unclear missions, inadequate supplies, outdated equipment and a lack of basics, like drinking water. They called for a national inquiry into how the war was waged.

Joe Scarborough Asks: Is Bush An Idiot?

| Tue Aug. 22, 2006 2:11 AM EDT

Last week, I commented that Bush has lost the punditocracy. On Sunday, the Washington Post makes the point that even Bush's most ardent supporters in the media are jumping ship. Exhibit A is from Scarborough Country:

For 10 minutes, the talk show host grilled his guests about whether "George Bush's mental weakness is damaging America's credibility at home and abroad." For 10 minutes, the caption across the bottom of the television screen read, "IS BUSH AN 'IDIOT'?"

But the host was no liberal media elitist. It was Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman turned MSNBC political pundit. And his answer to the captioned question was hardly "no." While other presidents have been called stupid, Scarborough said: "I think George Bush is in a league by himself. I don't think he has the intellectual depth as these other people."

He showed a montage of clips of Bush's famously inarticulate verbal miscues and then explored with guests John Fund and Lawrence O'Donnell Jr. whether Bush is smart enough to be president.

While the country does not want a leader wallowing in the weeds, Scarborough concluded on the segment, "we do need a president who, I think, is intellectually curious."

"And that is a big question," Scarborough said, "whether George W. Bush has the intellectual curiousness -- if that's a word -- to continue leading this country over the next couple of years."

Actually, "curiousness" seems most apt.

Economy Down, Crime Up: Only a Miracle Can Save us Now?

| Tue Aug. 22, 2006 1:39 AM EDT

Eight months ago, we ran a story by Daniel Duane asking, "Why is the 'Boston Miracle -- the only tactic proven to reduce gang violence -- being dissed by the L.A.P.D., the FBI, and Congress?" Those three parties haven't yet changed their tune, but you can add Oakland to the list of cities where police departments are embracing the "Operation Cease-Fire" approach: They target the top offenders, people whom (what a concept) they don't assume are beyond redemption. They haul them into court and tell them to get it together or else; and for the "or else," they offer help. It works. Incredibly well, according to many; in Boston, the number of murders went down in a matter of months.

All of which is great, though there should be a law that anytime you talk about fighting crime you must mention the economy: I live not far from the neighborhood featured in this New York Times story, and all my neighbors--as tough-on-crime a bunch as you'll ever meet--talk about how ten years ago there used to be real jobs for kids, and now there aren't. For what it's worth, they also say that this was "when Clinton was in the White House," and that if anyone by that name runs again, they're voting for them.

Just Do It. But Don't Get Caught

| Mon Aug. 21, 2006 9:16 PM EDT

Today five-time Olympic medalist and four-time world champion track star Marion Jones said she's shocked that her blood test from this summer's US Track and Field Championships came up positive for performancing enhancing drugs. Floyd Landis continues to be equally astonished that his (A and B sample) tests came up positive for synthetic testosterone after the greatest comeback in Tour de France history. These days though, designer steroids are so far ahead of the testing science that professional athletes failing drug tests seems to be more an indication of flubbed misdirection than of innocence lost.

And a quick Google search will lead you to drug-free urine which means even amateurs, read: young ones competing for their shot, can game the equally amateur system. Curiously, these kits are available for shipment to all states but Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, New Jersey, Illinois, North Carolina and South Carolina. So fake urine samples are okay in 43 states? Good to know. I say we're asking for this as consumers: ever faster, stronger, more exciting athletes, same as we are asking for perfection from our movie stars, who enhance their performance in legal, if equally damaging, ways.