Political MoJo

Time Up for Joe Lieberman? Or, Joementum No More?

| Tue Aug. 8, 2006 1:29 PM EDT

Time's Up, Joe: **Lamont Lead Slips

As the candidates head into today's Democratic primary, anti-war challenger Ned Lamont hung on to a narrowing advantage over U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, according to the latest Quinnipiac University Poll.

The poll released Monday showed Lamont ahead 51 percent to 45 percent. He was leading by 13 percentage points a week ago. Both polls had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

"There has been a shift in momentum," said Doug Schwartz, director of the poll.
 Connecticut Post

Martin Peretz on Lieberman

Martin Peretz, New Republic editor, Gore guru, and scourge of the left, makes an impassioned plea for Joe. "If Mr. Lieberman goes down, the thought-enforcers of the left will target other centrists as if the center was the locus of a terrible heresy, an emphasis on national strength. Of course, they cannot touch Hillary Clinton, who lists rightward and then leftward so dexterously that she eludes positioning. Not so Mr. Lieberman. He does not camouflage his opinions. He does not play for safety, which is why he is now unsafe."
 Opinion Journal

E.J. Dionne on the Meaning of it All

"...the effort to play the anti-American card can be seen as a sign of the frustration felt by the architects of a war that no longer enjoys popular support and the desperation of those who realize how pervasive the anti-Bush mood has become."  Houston Chronicle

Newt Gingrich Stands up for Joe

"I will be blunt. In Connecticut, if Ned Lamont defeats Sen. Lieberman on Tuesday, it will be a major blow to those of us who believe that America must stand strong in the face of an emerging Third World War. The defeat of this long-serving senator, who just four months ago seemed invulnerable, will be a signal that the appeasement wing of one of America's two main political parties is gaining momentum." Human Events


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Karzai promotes crackdown on vice

| Mon Aug. 7, 2006 9:16 PM EDT

In Afghanistan (remember Afghanistan?), people are lining up to apply for jobs within a proposed department that would crack down on vice. Plans are for the department staff to monitor people for "correct" Islamic behavior.

Sound like the old Afghanistan? Blame outsiders. Religious officials say that foreign troops and visitors have introduced alcohol, prostitution and the like to the country, and now something must be done to get rid of them. President Karzai is one of the leaders of this movement against vice. He is motivated, according to the Washington Post, partly by pressure from religious groups, but also by a desire to upstage Islamic Taliban insurgents who continue to attack in the south.

The new department may actually be the old Department for the Promotion of Virtue and the Discouragement of Vice. Under the Taliban, this branch of the government was brutal--whipping women whose veils slipped and arresting men whose beards were too short. The police have already destroyed thousands of bottles of alcohol and have detained a number of Chinese women suspected of being prostitutes, some of whom were deported. As things stand now, establishments such as restaurants may serve alcohol to foreigners, but not to Afghans.

"We would be as different from the Taliban as earth and sky," said Sulieman Hamid of the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs, who would oversee the virtue and vice monitors. Government officials insist that a renewed crackdown on vice will not involve beating people or taking away their rights, but would be "educational" in nature.

The Afghan government recently sent 1,200 South Korean Christians back to South Korea because of fear that their presence would offend Muslims. In March, an Afghan man who converted to Christianity underwent a threat of capital punishment, but instead, he was allowed to flee to Italy. In May, angry mobs vandalized several Chinese brothels.

According to Human Rights Watch, many people in Afghanistan--especially women--are very concerned about the reincarnation of the Department for the Protection of Virtue and the Discouragement of Vice. Sam Zia Zarifi of HRW says:

Unfortunately the international [community] has not helped Karzai economically or from a security standpoint as much as it should have. Therefore Karzai is under pressure from groups who we think want to abuse Afghanistan's current situation and in the name of religion put critics and women and girls under political pressure.

Watching Professional Wrestling Ruins High-School Dates

| Mon Aug. 7, 2006 7:31 PM EDT


From Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, more fodder for the debate over the relationship between violence in media and violence in the real world: a report titled "The Relationship Between Watching Professional Wrestling on Television and Engaging in Date Fighting Among High School Students."

There were significant correlations between frequency of watching wrestling on television during the previous 2 weeks and engaging in date fighting, fighting in general, and weapon carrying for both males and females, although the relationships were stronger among females than among males. The frequency of watching wrestling was highest among students reporting date fighting when either the victim or perpetrator had been drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs. When analyzed using logistic regression, the strongest relationships were observed between the frequency of watching wrestling and date-fight perpetration among females in cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. These findings persisted after adjusting for multiple other factors.

This strongly suggests that the violence depicted need not be real--or even convincing--for it to encourage violent behavior.

Conyers on the Imperial Bush Presidency: Still Dangerous to Our Democracy

| Mon Aug. 7, 2006 5:42 PM EDT

Writing from Washington, Mother Jones' Jennifer Wedekind notes the release by the office of John Conyers of a 370-page report describing in full numerous instances of lawlessness and misconduct by the Bush Administration. Conyers isn't buying the idea that recent instances of judicial pushback (see, for example, the Hamdan decision) mean Bush has been reined in. Conyers writes: "The unfortunate reality is we are a long way from being out of the constitutional woods under the dangerous combination of an imperial Bush presidency and a compliant GOP Congress."

Read the piece in full here.

Nets with Holes in Them Reduce Unwanted Fish Catch by 70 Percent

| Mon Aug. 7, 2006 4:24 PM EDT


Some good news, for a change, concerning the oceans: The U.N. is reporting that fishing nets with "exit holes" being introduced under a project to salvage depleted world fisheries are helping shrimp trawlers reduce "bycatch" by up to 70 percent. (Reuters)

Bycatch (whereby large numbers of marine animals are caught "incidentally" in fishermen's nets) is a massive problem, contributing to the already intense overfishing of the seas. One in four animals caught in fishing gear dies as bycatch, meaning that each year millions of animals--especially sea turtles, dolphins, seals (pictured), sharks, swordfish and whales--are killed.

Shrimp fishing (a $12 billion-a-year business) is particularly wasteful owing to the fineness of the nets used, and more than 60 percent of what is currently caught (sharks, turtles and more) is discarded.

(More on the state--and the fate--of the ocean here.)

Urban Poverty: How the Other Half Lives -- and Not Just in New Orleans

| Mon Aug. 7, 2006 3:16 PM EDT


Bruce Katz of Brookings, writing recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education, reminds us that Hurricane Katrina laid bare a New Orleans starkly divided by race and class, with the brunt of the disaster being being borne by poor, minority households. (Before Katrina, African-American residents made up 67 percent of the city's total population, but 84 percent of its population below the poverty line. And those poor African-American households were highly concentrated in 47 neighborhoods of extreme poverty, where the poverty rate topped 40 percent.) But, as he points out, though New Orleans has always been one of the cities with the most geographically concentrated poor populations in the country, it's hardly unique.

[Some] cities—like Baltimore, Cleveland, and Milwaukee—are former industrial giants whose populations have suffered from severe economic restructuring over the past several decades. Others—like Fresno, Los Angeles, and Miami—have faced challenges in integrating new immigrant populations who often arrive in gateway neighborhoods with low levels of education and labor-market skills. Still others—Atlanta, Memphis, and Washington—lie at the heart of growing regions but continue to grapple with legacies of racism, segregation, and intergenerational poverty holding back their most distressed neighborhoods.

The existence in our midst of concentrated poverty--complete with failing schools, unsafe streets, run-down housing, and few local jobs or employment networks --is a standing affront to American values and basic morality, of course. But, as Katz makes clear, it also entails a series of cascading effects that spread the cost to society at large.

  • Cities are forced to pay for the higher cost of delivering health, education, police, fire, judicial, and other services in high-poverty environments, often amounting to hundreds of dollars per city resident.
  • With higher expenses come higher taxes, harming cities in their competition for middle-class families, which are the backbone of resilient economies.
  • Suburbs with weak central cities see less appreciation in housing prices and incomes, given the interdependence of economies.
  • The concentration of neighborhood poverty leads inexorably to the concentration of school poverty.

So, what to do? Katz points out that there are available policy tools, focused on broadening access to affordable housing, employment, and educational opportunities--designed to transform poor neighborhoods into healthy ones attracting families with a broad range of incomes. He concludes:

The bottom line is that America knows how to promote housing choice and build mixed-income communities that work economically and socially. The only question is whether we have the political will to apply the best lessons and innovations not only to the rebuilding of New Orleans but to the housing of Katrina-displaced and other low-income families throughout the country.

(For more on how the poor get poorer--and the rich get richer--see the two most recent issues of Mother Jones, in which Clara exhaustively details how the deck is stacked against poor Americans and very much in favor of wealthy ones -- in ways that aren't always obvious.)

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Things Still Don't Look Good for Lieberman

| Mon Aug. 7, 2006 2:37 PM EDT

The Lieberman camp is cheering," according to AP, with their man generating some belated Joementum the day before Connecticut's Democratic primary election. They're heartened by a Quinnipiac University poll that shows Lieberman cutting into Ned Lamont's lead, which last week hit double digits. Lamont now has "a slight lead of 51 percent to 45 percent" over Lieberman among likely Democratic voters.

Well, it's getting tighter, but a six point deficit still doesn't look good for Lieberman.

(Plus, McJoan at Daily Kos: Lieberman a "principled" politician? Yes -- but not the way you think. Call it "the Lieberman Principle: What is good for Joe is good." And McJoan has the flip-flops to prove it.)

The View from Beirut -- and Tehran; The Day After Tomorrow -- and the Morning After

| Mon Aug. 7, 2006 2:05 PM EDT

As many of you already know Mother Jones is more than a magazine, more than a web site, more than a beacon of hope in these dark, dark times; it's also a radio show! And here's the proof: yesterday's edition of Mother Jones Radio featured:

  • Dahr Jamail, in Beirut, on the latest political developments in the current Middle East conflict, and what things look like on the ground.
  • Laura Rozen on the question whether Bush administration looking for good (or, hell, faulty -- what's the difference!?) intelligence on Iran in support of an invasion. (Rozen's recent article in Mother Jones exposed how several U.S. officials sought bad intelligence from a known liar of Iran-Contra infamy.)
  • Ross Gelbspan on the agreement between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Britain's Tony Blair last week to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sidestepping the U.S. federal government.
  • And Mother Jones' Ann Friedman on the FDA's apparent (and the key word here is apparent) about-turn on Plan B emergency contraception. Is the agency really about to approve the pill, or will politics trump science once again?

Listen to the show, a purely (and proudly) fact-based initiative, here.

Hiroshima, Bunker Busters, and the Nuclear Taboo

| Mon Aug. 7, 2006 1:22 PM EDT


Marking the 61st anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Tom Engelhardt today considers the nuclear history of the Bush era, with a particular focus on the administration's paradoxical drive to overcome, via anti-proliferation wars, the nuclear taboo that since the end of the second world war has restrained members of the nuclear club. He writes:

Of course, in this era, the most obvious nuclear "flashpoint" remains the only country ever to use nuclear weapons -- us. While several American presidents have, in the years since 1945, considered the "nuclear option," they were always held back by the "nuclear taboo." This administration has seemed particularly eager to figure out how to overcome that taboo and turn such weaponry into a usable part of the American arsenal. Its 2002 Nuclear Posture Review was already threatening nuclear use against axis of evil states (among others) as well as suggesting that such weapons might somehow be employed in a "future Arab-Israeli crisis." The administration also developed elaborate plans for building up American nuclear forces, investing in new generations of "mini-nukes" and "bunker-busting" nukes, and planning more generally for the distant nuclear future. ...

In fact, in the name of stopping proliferation, top administration officials, including the President, continually remind us that all options remain "on the table." Thanks to New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh, we learned recently what this really meant in the context of a possible future American assault on Iran's nuclear facilities. In a piece on Pentagon resistance to the administration's desire to attack Iran, he reported: "In late April, the military leadership, headed by [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs] General [Peter] Pace, achieved a major victory when the White House dropped its insistence that the plan for a bombing campaign include the possible use of a nuclear device to destroy Iran's uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, nearly two hundred miles south of Tehran."

Nuclear weapons as anti-nuclear-proliferation devices; anti-proliferation wars as a way to end the "nuclear taboo" and open the door to the "ordinary" use of such weaponry -- talk about diabolical. As can now be seen in Lebanon, in Iraq, and in Afghanistan, so in its nuclear policy, the only thing the Bush administration seems actually capable of doing is exporting ruins to the rest of the world. In this sense, it has offered the world a model drawn directly from the charnel house of nuclear policy which began on a clear day over Hiroshima sixty-one years ago and has never ended. ...

Hacked E-Passports and More From the RFID Files

| Sun Aug. 6, 2006 12:35 AM EDT

Yet again, hackers have proven that they can mess with the Radio Frequency Identification chips that governments, our own included, have been so eager to embed in passports. The concern with such biometric or E-passports is that, among other things, they would allow terrorists to pick Americans and others out of crowds simply by using an RFID reader. According to workpermit.com:

This week a German computer security consultant has demonstrated how to "clone," or duplicate, a specific RFID chip. Lukas Grunwald, a security consultant with DN-Systems in Germany and an RFID expert, says the data in the chips is easy to copy, and he demonstrated the technique at the Black Hat Security Conference in Las Vegas on 03 August. [Bet that's a party.]

The hack was tested on a new European Union German passport, but the method would work on any country's "e-passport," since all of them will be adhering to the same ICAO standard. [International Civil Aviation Authority.] He obtained an RFID reader by ordering it from the maker - Walluf, Germany-based ACG Identification Technologies - but also explained that someone could easily make their own for about $200 just by adding an antenna to a standard RFID reader.

As I reported last year, our own State Department delayed plans to embed passports with RFID tags after privacy advocates publicly demonstrated the poorly encrypted chips could be read from 30 feet away.

On the lighter side of RFID:

Last July, former Wisconsin governor and secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson announced his plan to get an RFID implant.

In 2002, PR firm Fleischman Hillard suggested ways to "neutralize opposition" to RFID technology, including renaming the devices "green tags" and bringing key lawmakers into the "inner circle."

Oh, and some evangelists consider RFID tags to be the biblical sign of the beast and a portent of the Rapture.