Political MoJo

Killing Endangered Species To Save Them?

| Fri Aug. 11, 2006 7:56 PM EDT

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That's the thinking behind a program designed to sell a limited number of permits to hunters to help communities conserve indigenous populations of endangered sheep. Daniel Duane went on his first hunt a while ago and wrote about it for Mother Jones, an experience that made him re-think his notions about hunting. ("I felt privileged to be there and I did feel that at least in the one setting in which I participated, hunting could really be an extraordinary way to participate in the rhythms of life.") The radio show Living on Earth is rebroadcasting an interview with Dan this week. Check out the LOE website for more details.

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Significant Drop in Risky Sex Among Teens?

| Fri Aug. 11, 2006 7:44 PM EDT

According to a CDC study released today the number of US teenagers who have had sex and/or are sexually experienced is on the decline, and condom use is on the rise. The report finds that the proportion of high school students who are sexually experienced decreased by 13% from 1991 to 2005. The Washington Times is quick to point out that the percentage of students who said they had ever had sexual intercourse decreased 9%, from 54.1% in 1991 to 46.8% in 2005. Yet the paper fails to mention that since 2001, when the Bush Administration started funding and promoting abstinence only education in schools, the numbers are a wash -- 46.8% said they had ever had sex last year vs. 45.8% four years earlier, a neglible difference at best given the 3.3% margin of error.

In fact, the proportion of teens who had sex with four or more partners and those who had had sex within the preceding 3 months actually increased slightly from 2001 to 2005. Condom use was the only category with a statistically significant improvement with an increase in those four years, by 5% to nearly 63% of teens. Meaning those who are having sex--and the numbers seem to be remaining quite steady these days, are getting smarter about it.

19 Percent of 2004 Bush Voters Say They'll Vote Dem

| Fri Aug. 11, 2006 7:24 PM EDT

Many Americans might not have things quite straight when it comes to WMD in Iraq, and there are those who don't know which state Kentucky Fried Chicken comes from, but large and swelling numbers are starting to get a clue about George W. Bush's administration.

Republicans determined to win in November are up against a troublesome trend — growing opposition to President Bush.

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll conducted this week found the president's approval rating has dropped to 33 percent, matching his low in May. His handling of nearly every issue, from the Iraq war to foreign policy, contributed to the president's decline around the nation, even in the Republican-friendly South.

More sobering for the GOP are the number of voters who backed Bush in 2004 who are ready to vote Democratic in the fall's congressional elections — 19 percent. These one-time Bush voters are more likely to be female, self-described moderates, low- to middle-income and from the Northeast and Midwest.

Two years after giving the Republican president another term, more than half of these voters — 57 percent — disapprove of the job Bush is doing. (AP)

Bombing Pakistan Would Not Be a Good Idea, Whatever the Weekly Standard Says

| Fri Aug. 11, 2006 5:07 PM EDT

Defiantly refusing to draw the obvious conclusion from yesterday's terrorist plot revelations--namely, that rigorous, decidated, internationally cooperative police work is our best weapon in fighting terror; or at least it seems to have yielded better results than, say, invading, occupying, and getting stuck indefinitely in Muslim countries--the Weekly Standard floats the notion of military strikes...on Pakistan.

Pakistan's willingness to fight terrorism has been uneven. While President Musharraf's regime has provided some key al Qaeda leaders and actionable intelligence in the past, it has also arguably not done enough to crack down on al Qaeda's rear bases on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border (and on other terrorists operating on its soil). But if the early reporting is right, Pakistan has now provided crucial cooperation in stopping the largest planned attack since 9/11.

It will be interesting to follow the details of the plotters' ties to Pakistan. Who did they meet with? Why hadn't Pakistan arrested those terrorists previously? Will the U.S. and U.K. pressure Pakistan to arrest those terrorists now, if they have not yet? Or, will the U.S. and U.K. attempt more aggressive measures, as they did earlier this year when America bombed a home thought to have housed al Qaeda's Ayman al Zawahiri?

Pakistan has now been the launching pad for one major attack and one planned attack on British soil. And while the Pakistanis have proven increasingly willing to cooperate with American and British counterterrorism officials, it is clear that a substantive al Qaeda network still operates from there.

Pakistan is not our friend, granted. And Musharraf is playing--perforce--a double game. But if you want to make it even harder for him to pitch in in the war on terror, sure, bomb his country. Way to shore a guy up! And aside from the specifics of Pakistan, it's not my impression that the military-first approach has worked out all that well for us so far...

Conservatives Against the War on Drugs???

| Fri Aug. 11, 2006 4:00 PM EDT

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That's right -- and in Nevada, no less. If an odd coalition spanning the political divide gets its way this fall, it might be as easy to fire up the ol' bong in Reno as in Amsterdam. Sasha Abramsky has the details.

David Beckham Dropped From England Squad. How About Dropping Blair, too?

| Fri Aug. 11, 2006 1:48 PM EDT

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"I told David I'm looking to the future and looking to take the team in a different direction,'' [Steve] McClaren, [the new England coach] who took charge on Aug. 1, told reporters in London today. "He's not part of that.'"

If only Tony Blair had a coach who wanted to take the team in a new direction...

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Feds Say: California and Oregon Salmon Fisheries a "Failure"

| Fri Aug. 11, 2006 11:18 AM EDT

AP's Jeff Barnard reports: "Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez on Thursday declared commercial salmon fishing a failure off Oregon and California this year, based on sharp harvest cutbacks imposed to protect struggling returns to the Klamath River."

This is, on the one hand, good news for fisherman, in that it frees up $80 million in federal aid. But it's bad news for them, as well as all the other people concerned with the plight of fisheries and the ocean (and no one more than us), because it is yet another sign marine ecosystems are crashing.

What, in this case, is to blame? Via the AP:

Gutierrez blamed five years of drought in the Klamath Basin for low water and growing infestations of parasites that are diminishing salmon returns there.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and salmon fisherman Mike Newell of Newport, a member of the Oregon Salmon Commission, blamed the problems on the failure of the Bush administration to deal with long-standing problems of poor water quality and loss of habitat in the Klamath Basin. "It's a long overdue recognition our fisheries are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy because of the lack of a viable season," DeFazio said. "We have a very sick river system that needs a significant amount of investment, or this will just happen again and again."

Both are right. As the AP's Barnard notes, "the Klamath River has been a flashpoint for conflicts between the Bush administration and farmers on one side and fishermen, Indian tribes and conservation groups on the other over allocations of scarce water between farms and fish."

In 2003, Bruce Barcott wrote a nice piece for us on the Klamath called "What's a River For?"

Cheney to Lamont: The Terrorists Have Already Won

| Fri Aug. 11, 2006 10:08 AM EDT

As if being kissed by Bush weren't enough, now Senator Joe Lieberman feels himself in the clammy embrace of Vice President Dick Cheney. Yesterday Cheney held a teleconference with reporters in which he bemoaned the fact that Democrats would "purge a man like Joe Lieberman."

"Purge"? Uh, isn't it called a "primary"? But then the Vice President always chooses his words for maximum fear factor. As the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne points out: "that word 'purge' has a nice Stalinist ring, doesn't it?"

Cheney then told reporters:

"The thing that's partly disturbing about it is the fact that, [from] the standpoint of our adversaries, if you will, in this conflict, and the Al Qaeda types, they clearly are betting on the proposition that ultimately they can break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task."
[Is] "the dominant view of the Democratic Party"…"the basic, fundamental notion that somehow we can retreat behind our oceans and not be actively engaged in this conflict and be safe here at home."

And they're all on message. Yesterday GOP chair Ken Mehlman called the DNC "the Defeat-ocrat Party" … "that once stood for strength now stands for retreat and defeat."

And Tony Snow said: "It's a defining moment for the Democratic Party, whose national leaders now have made it clear that if you disagree with the extreme left in their party they're going to come after you."

And, speaking in his first public appearance since losing the primary, Lieberman used the U.K. terror arrests to call Ned Lamont's goal of withdrawing American troops from Iraq by a fixed date a "victory" for terrorists.

"If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England. It will strengthen them, and they will strike again."

Low blow, Joe.

Is the U.S. really being short-changed by the U.N.?

| Thu Aug. 10, 2006 10:16 PM EDT

The United Nations has an annual budget of $1.8 billion, of which the United States pays 22%. U.S. deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Mark P. Lagon, says that UN member states, especially large contributors, want to know if they are getting their money's worth. He also says that those who look to the U.N. for assistance want to know whether the world is getting the best possible value for U.N. contributions.

Thalif Deen, writing for Inter Press Service News Agency, believes that Lagon is asking this question with his fingers crossed behind his back. The reality, says Deen, is that the U.S. has gotten quite a bit for its 22%. According to the latest U.N. figures, the U.S. has consistently held the number one spot in obtaining procurement contracts, averaging over 22.5% of all U.N. purchases annually.

Russia, which has the next highest average--10.36%--pays only 1.1% of the U.N.'s annual budget. Several western European nations average 4.8% and 8.6%. The European Union contributes a total of 37% of the U.N.'s budget and therefore claims that it is the largest contributor and not the U.S.

According to former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, the U.N. and its agencies contributed about 3.2 billion annually to the city's economy during the late 1990s. Deen points out that that figure is bound to be higher now; however, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton has complained that "the United States doesn't get value for (its) money."

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, has pointed out that "what the United States spent to violate the U.N. Charter with the invasion of Iraq could have funded the entire budget of the United Nations for decades."

Wal-Mart: "The goal of China's unions is to build a harmonious society."

| Thu Aug. 10, 2006 9:09 PM EDT

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Wal-Mart added insult to injury to its 1.3 million U.S. employees yesterday when it announced it would allow its workers in China to unionize. Wal-Mart has fiercely opposed American workers' attempts to unionize—-in one case, closing a meat-cutting division after ten butchers voted to unionize. Nu Wexler, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Watch, says the company "is applying an inconsistent double standard. In the U.S., they aggressively fight unions in their stores. But if unions are a barrier of entry to an emerging market, Wal-Mart is willing to flip-flop on its position."

Labor experts Oded Shenkar of Ohio University and Richard W. Hurd of Cornell both suggest, in Bloomberg News's coverage of the announcement, that the retailer probably agreed to allow unions under pressure from the Chinese government. "Part of getting along with the government in China is accepting government-sponsored unions," says Hurd. Wal-Mart's own statement strikes a similar note, pitching the move as a way "to further strengthen its ties to China and our associates."

Back home, Wal-Mart has cast unions as "desperate and divisive," not to mention bad for the bottom line. But Chinese unions are "different from unions elsewhere," company spokesman Jonathan Dong told Bloomberg. "The goal of China's unions is to build a harmonious society."