Political MoJo

The Roulette of Indian Gambling

| Wed Aug. 23, 2006 5:56 PM EDT

Yesterday's L.A. Times had a fascinating look at how casino-rich California tribes prevent other tribes from opening casinos. It's the same dynamic that was on display in Ralph Reed's work for Jack Abramoff, where Reed assembled Christian anti-gambling coalitions in Texas and Louisiana to help defeat competition to the lucrative casino of Abramoff's client, Louisiana's Coushatta tribe (or, as Abramoff termed his Indian clients, "monkeys" and "troglodytes").

Having recently driven through both the remote Northern California coast, where the Yurok tribe is seeking approval to build a casino, and the busy Central Valley, where casinos and billboards for them dominate the landscape, I found the piece especially poignant. The example of the Yurok tribe below serves as a microcosm of the forces at play but the whole piece is worth a read.

In California's southeast corner, the Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Nation has 3,250 members and a 45,000-acre reservation that bridges California and Arizona. At California's northwest edge, the Yurok tribe has 5,000 members and a reservation that straddles the Klamath River, a mile wide on each side. They are the state's two largest tribes.
Schwarzenegger struck deals with the Yurok and Quechan last year that would have permitted each to build casinos on their own land. Last year, rich tribes' leaders and their representatives, operating from the office of state Senate leader Don Perata (D-Oakland), lobbied against the two tribes' deals. The legislative session ended without a vote on either.
"It's frustrating to have tiny tribes that have benefited so much from gambling stop a far larger tribe such as the Yurok," said Sen. Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata), who has tried to shepherd the Yurok compact through the Legislature.
The Yurok have an annual budget of $12 million — less than what one of its opponents, Agua Caliente, spent on a failed 2004 initiative campaign to gain unlimited gambling rights. Eighty percent of Yurok homes lack electricity, and 75% of the tribe's members have no jobs or phone lines, according to a recent report by the California Research Bureau, an arm of the state library. The tribe wants a 350-slot casino.
"It never entered my mind that we would be challenged," Yurok Chairman Howard McConnell said, sitting in his office in Klamath, near the mouth of the Klamath River and Redwood National Park.

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Forbes to Readers: Don't Marry a Career Woman

| Wed Aug. 23, 2006 5:01 PM EDT

Yesterday Forbes posted a helpful little gem telling men (apparently its only readers): Don't Marry Career Women. Michael Noer writes:

Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career. Why? Because if many social scientists are to be believed, you run a higher risk of having a rocky marriage....Recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children, and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it.

He's mostly saying that marriage, childrearing and housework ("your house will be dirtier" if your wife has a career) are stressful, and a wealth disparity between couples -- likely of any sex I might add -- adds to that stress. To this we can all sigh a collective, duh. That women make less, have to clean the house more, and are the kid raisers all at once isn't new information. I guess we only get from Noer that he and his business-minded audience may not be ready to step up.

Earlier this year Mother Jones looked at the oh so many ways the working woman gets screwed, and getting married is the least of her worries. Herewith, a sample:

-74% of female executives have a spouse who's employed full time while 75% of male execs have a spouse who's not employed.

-42% of female execs over 40 don't have kids.

-For full-time working fathers, each child correlates to a 2.1% earnings increase. For working moms, it's a 2.5% loss.

-40% of married professionals feel that men do less work around the house.

Sources for the above, and the rest, here.

As if Medicare isn't Confusing Enough: 230,000 Seniors Sent Checks They Can't Cash

| Wed Aug. 23, 2006 12:40 PM EDT

Last week the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services mailed 230,000 Medicare recipients checks reimbursing them for monthly premiums on their prescription drug coverage.

By mistake.

Adding to the confusion the checks, totaling $50 million, came along with a letter telling seniors that the Social Security Administration would no longer deduct premiums from their Social Security check. Apparently the agency sent the wrong information to the Social Security Administration about various changes in coverage for beneficiaries, leading to the snafu. This week, CMS officials sent a second letter out telling folks not to cash the checks, which averaged $215, though they fail to mention any of this on their website.

Not only will they have to return the cash, as of January 1.5 million seniors (those with higher incomes) will have higher premiums to deal with.

Americans Aren't Buying Bush's Iraq-Terrorism Link

| Wed Aug. 23, 2006 12:33 PM EDT

A New York Times/CBS News poll just found 51 percent of Americans see no link between the fight in Iraq and the broader anti-terror effort—a ten percent jump since June. The alleged connection was a central part of President George Bush's 2004 campaign against Sen. John Kerry, when Bush repeatedly asserted ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda. But that link has apparently evaporated, according to none other than Bush, who touched on the subject in a Monday press conference:

THE PRESIDENT: The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.
Q: What did Iraq have to do with that?
THE PRESIDENT: What did Iraq have to do with what?
Q: The attack on the World Trade Center?
THE PRESIDENT: Nothing. . .Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.

What hasn't changed is Bush's view that bailing out of Iraq will cause it to devolve into a terrorist base. At the press conference he went on to say:


I have suggested, however, that resentment and the lack of hope create the breeding grounds for terrorists who are willing to use suiciders to kill to achieve an objective. I have made that case. And one way to defeat that -- defeat resentment is with hope.

The United States is creating hope in Iraq? Yeah right. Though many Iraqis do seem to support Condi Rice's "New Middle East," such as those who were rallying in the streets of Baghdad this month in solidarity with Hezbollah.

"People here in the U.S. don't understand these things about constitutional rights"

| Tue Aug. 22, 2006 8:14 PM EDT

That's what a Jordan-born man says he was told by airport security personnel when they asked him to remove his T-shirt before boarding a flight to California at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. The man, whose name is Raed, says he was told "People are feeling offended because of your T-shirt." Raed was wearing a shirt that said in both Arabic and English, We Will Not Be Silent. He was asked to put on another shirt instead, but all of his other shirts were in his checked baggage.

"Isn't it my constitutional right to express myself in this way?" was Raed's question, to which one of the security people replied, ""People here in the U.S. don't understand these things about constitutional rights" Raed's answer: "I live in the U.S., and I understand it is my right to wear this T-shirt."

"You can't wear a T-shirt with Arabic script and come to an airport. It is like wearing a T-shirt that reads 'I am a robber' and going to a bank," was the security man's rejoinder.

Raed explained that he bought the shirt in Washington, D.C. and that they are available in a number of languages. He was told that without a translator, people did not know what the shirt said. "But as you can see, the statement is in both Arabic and English," Raed explained, but securiety personnel had yet another reply: "Maybe it is not the same message."

Raed was asked to wear his T-shirt inside-out, which he refused to do. Security offered to buy him another T-shirt that he could wear over the one he had on. He agreed to do that if they could show him a law that prohibited his wearing his own shirt. He asked to see a supervisor, but was not allowed to; he was told there had been numerous complaints about his shirt. He did not want to miss his flight, so he allowed a woman from his airline to buy him another T-shirt. She innocently asked if he would like to have an I Love New York shirt, and one of the security people said, "No, we shouldn't ask him to go from one extreme to another."

Raed did ask the man why, if he had Arabic script on his T-shirt, did that mean he hated New York? This time, he received no reply. He went to board the plane, and discovered his seat, which he had booked four weeks in advance, had been taken from him. He was seated in the very back.

Raed's final comment: "I grew up under authoritarian governments in the Middle East, and one of the reasons I chose to move to the U.S. was that I don't want an officer to make me change my T-shirt."

Well, Raed--welcome to Amurika.

Women Attack Street "Admirer" in NYC

| Tue Aug. 22, 2006 6:42 PM EDT

The New York Times had a story recently about an altercation that occurred in the West Village after a man made harassing comments to a group of women walking past him on the street. If you take it from the Times, 28-year-old Dwayne Buckle merely said, "Hey, how're you doing?" to one of the women, and then was attacked by the group and stabbed in the stomach with a steak knife.

But unlike the Times, which relied on Buckle's side of the story, the New York Daily News interviewed police and others who were at the scene. Turns out it the fight probably wasn't caused by a violent response to a "harmless" catcall, but by an anti-gay comment and threat. (The women were reportedly lesbians.)

"He called us [homophobic slur] and he said he was going to f- us all," one of the women said hours later as cops led the seven suspects out of the 6th Precinct stationhouse.

"He spit on us and threw a cigarette," another woman said. "This is a hate crime."

Buckle, though, claims he was the victim of a hate crime.

"It was a hate crime against a straight man by a ton of lesbians," he said. "This is what the world is coming to."

It's clear that there's probably more to this story than the Times reported. No matter what Buckle really said to the women (I'm willing to bet, homophobic or not, that it was more offensive than "How're you doing?"), violence was not an acceptable answer. But it's easy to understand how a group of women walking at 2 a.m. could feel threatened by harassing comments from a man on the street. And the Times' headline was absolutely inexcusable: "Man Is Stabbed in Attack After Admiring a Stranger."

After reading the Daily News' quotes from the women, and having been on the receiving end of some "admiring" comments on the street myself, I think the Times' headline writers should have chosen a more accurate verb. Like "catcalling."

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Genetically Engineered. . . Trees?

| Tue Aug. 22, 2006 5:03 PM EDT

For the first time ever, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is weighing whether to commercialize a GE tree in the continental United States. Should the transgenic "C5" plum tree be approved, it could be planted anywhere in the country without a permit. Approval is likely and is being eagerly awaited by farmers who want the tree for its engineered resistance to the plum pox virus. Still, many environmentalists say any benefit from GE trees is far outweighed by their risks, which are compounded in the case of trees by the role they play as the backbone of many ecosystems. Opponents expect the application to open the flood gates to many more ecologically significant creations based on poplar and pine trees.

To date, the only GE tree approved for use in the U.S. is a disease-resistant papaya grown in Hawaii. According to Greenpeace, profits from the papaya fell as counties in Asia and Europe rejected Hawaii's exports.

The Sierra Club weighed in against the plum in a public comment period that ended late last month. "Since plums grow wild and can hybridize, not to mention growing very efficiently from seeds, we'd be opposed because the GE variety would be sure to spread," said Jim Diamond, chair of the club's Genetic Engineering Committee. Having learned from the PR disasters of past GE crops, the GE tree industry employs a sophisticated PR machine that is sure to become more prominent in the coming year.

Sky News Discovers Unsafe Skies - Ten Months After Mother Jones

| Tue Aug. 22, 2006 4:44 PM EDT

We're delighted to see that Rupert Murdoch's Sky News TV channel hasn't canceled its Mother Jones subscription. Yesterday the British satellite channel's website reported that Boeing had "knowingly bought thousands of unsafe and unapproved parts from a subcontractor." The parts in question came from Ducommun, a supplier based in Carson, California, and included chords and bear straps, key elements of the fuselage that the FAA designates as "flight safety critical." Sheila Kaplan's Mother Jones article broke this story last October and followed it with a three-part series on MotherJones.com. Kudos to Sky's U.S. correspondent, Andrew Wilson, for getting the people who made the original allegations, three internal auditors at Boeing, to appear on camera for the first time. Perhaps the further attention will motivate the FAA—which initially dismissed the whistleblowers' claims without even inspecting the aircraft in question—to be more vigilant as it revisits the investigation. Or not. In April, an FAA spokesman told the Washington Post that "We're confident we came to the right conclusions in the first case."

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

| Tue Aug. 22, 2006 4:19 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.

All the President's Fart Jokes

| Tue Aug. 22, 2006 2:42 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."