Political MoJo

It Depends on What the Definition of "Victory" Is

| Fri Nov. 3, 2006 1:53 AM EST

Via the folks at PRWatch, a fascinating tidbit about what might be behind the administration's baffling confidence that things will work out just fine in Iraq:

The theme of "victory" was chosen, in fact, at the advice of Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University political scientist who had joined the National Security Council as a special adviser. Feaver's research at Duke focused on a problem he called "casualty aversion" or "casualty phobia" - his terms for the negative attitudes that Americans develop upon seeing their soldiers killed in war. He had analyzed opinion polls showing that public support for the war was slipping. Conventional wisdom suggested that the growing death toll and economic costs of the war were the reasons for the change in public opinion, but Feaver believed that this was only part of the story. According to the New York Times, he was recruited by the White House "after he and Duke colleagues presented to administration officials their analysis of polls about the Iraq war in 2003 and 2004. They concluded that Americans would support a war with mounting casualties on one condition: that they believe it would ultimately succeed."

So they may not believe it, but they think we can't handle the truth. Too late, though.

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Nevada GOP Candidate Accused of Sexual Assault

| Fri Nov. 3, 2006 12:24 AM EST

Las Vegas police have released tapes of 911 calls from a cocktail waitress and her sister claiming that the Silver State's Republican candidate for governor attacked her in a parking garage off the Strip. The candidate, Rep. Jim Gibbons, is 61, married and in a close race with a Democratic state senator. Those family-values guys sure have a hard time keeping their hands to themselves....

New Tools in the Battle For Fair Elections: Cell Phone Cameras

| Thu Nov. 2, 2006 10:07 PM EST

Aiming to get around the sort of he-said-she-said disputes over election irregularities that plagued Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004—disputes that may well have decided the fate of the last two presidential elections—two different groups will use the text and video capabilities of cell phones this year to monitor the polls.

Video the Vote, a project of independent filmmaker Jim Ennis and elections activist James Rucker, began six weeks ago with the launch of a popular video by the same name on YouTube (see below). Drawing more than 100,000 page views, the film ended with a pitch to participate in a project that combines citizen journalism with something akin to a flash mob. The 670 people who have signed on as volunteers will receive text messages on election day and will rush to polling places where irregularities have been reported and document them with digital video cameras. They will then download the footage and make it available to the public and the media. Rucker says the project was motivated by a perceived lack of media coverage of election irregularities in years past. "It's all for making sure these stories actually happen," he told me, "instead of kind of happening a few days later."

A similar effort was launched today by Veeker (as in video + peek), a web startup that aims to be the YouTube of cell phone videos. Founded by Silicon Valley heavyweights Roger Raderman, creator of iFilm, and Alex Kelly, the former head of new media for 21st Century Fox, Veeker is promoting itself with the activist set through the website veekthevote.com. Cell phone users can email their videos into a searchable database on the site that will serve as a source for election footage. The site has partnered with Youth Noise, a networking group for socially minded young people with 115,000 members, some of whom have volunteered to film any irregularities at the polls with their phones. The goal, says spokesperson Vijay Chattha, is to "get more of a realistic picture of what's happing out there."

GOP Rep. Don Sherwood Paid Mistress $500K To Keep Quiet About Abuse Allegations

| Thu Nov. 2, 2006 9:24 PM EST

The AP reports:

A Republican congressman accused of abusing his ex-mistress agreed to pay her about $500,000 in a settlement last year that contained a powerful incentive for her to keep quiet until after Election Day, a person familiar with the terms of the deal told The Associated Press.
Rep. Don Sherwood is locked in a tight re-election race against a Democratic opponent who has seized on the four-term congressman's relationship with the woman. While Sherwood acknowledged the woman was his mistress, he denied abusing her and said that he had settled her $5.5 million lawsuit on confidential terms....
According to a police report, Ore called 911 on her cell phone from the bathroom of Sherwood's Capitol Hill apartment in 2004 and reported that Sherwood had choked her while giving her a back rub. Sherwood admitted having an affair with the woman, but vehemently denied ever hurting her, and criminal charges were never filed. But Ore, now 30, sued for damages.

Whole story after the jump.

Lifelong Christian GOP Columnist Quits GOP Because of Sen. Allen's Smears

| Thu Nov. 2, 2006 7:50 PM EST

It's not everyday you open up your Dallas Morning News and read this:

"I'm a Christian, a writer, a military parent and a registered Republican. On all those counts, I was disgusted by an e-mail I just received that's being circulated by campaign supporters of Republican George Allen, who's trying to retain his Senate seat in Virginia.

The message goes like this: "First, it was the Catholic priests, then it was Mark Foley, and now Jim Webb, whose sleazy novels discuss sex between very young teenagers. ... Hmmm, sounds like a perverted pedophile to me! Pass the word that we do not need any more pedophiles in office." Democrat James Webb is a war hero and former Marine, wounded in Vietnam and winner of the Navy Cross. He was writing about class and military issues long before me and has articulated the issue of how the elites have dropped the ball on military service in his classic novel Fields of Fire. By the way, that's a book Tom Wolfe calls "the greatest of the Vietnam novels."...

Mr. Webb also happens to be running against a desperate opponent supported by people who circulated the stupid e-mail, something that reminds me of a 2000 smear campaign aimed at another war hero, John McCain.

I never served in the military. It was my son's unexpected volunteering that connects me to the military family and to my country. And I've been voting Republican for years. My late father – Dr. Francis Schaeffer – was an evangelical theologian, friend to Jerry Falwell and White House guest of Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and the first President Bush. I have nice handwritten letters from various members of the Bush family, including Barbara, thanking me for my books on military service. So I have every reason to stay in the Republicans' good graces. (It's nice to be complimented on television by the First Lady.)

But enough is enough. I've had it with Republican smears."

[Follow the jump. It gets better.]

Say Goodbye To Sushi: Global Collapse of Fisheries Pending

| Thu Nov. 2, 2006 7:16 PM EST

The NYT reports that Science is about to issue a big study on the state of the ocean's biodiversity. "If fishing around the world continues at its present pace, more and more species will vanish, marine ecosystems will unravel and there will be "global collapse" of all species currently fished, possibly as soon as midcentury, fisheries experts and ecologists are predicting."

 net_losses_265x210.jpg Sigh. We know. We had a huge package on the state of the oceans in the spring. It is an essential read to any one who likes to swim with, gaze at, or eat fish. Or, for that matter, cares about our own survival, because if the oceans go quiet, life on land will follow quickly behind.

So read the amazing overarching piece by Julia Whitty. (Julia also wrote our cover story for the current issue, on getting over our denial and dealing with global warming.) Mike Robbins wrote a nice piece about how the U.S. fisheries regulators are falling down on the job. And H. Bruce Franklin wrote about the long-suffering menhaden, the little fish that anchors the east coast food chain, and which is being fished to extinction by a company owned by a big Bush supporter.

And you can do your part, by learning what fish to avoid eating, and which ones are still doing fine (and free of mercury) by reading Dan Duane's piece on how to eat fish without fear.

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2/3rds of Americans think U.S. Should Ban English-Language Al-Jazeera

| Thu Nov. 2, 2006 6:57 PM EST

According to the BBC, an English-language version of the Al Jazeera channel goes live on Nov. 15th, despite the fact that "a recent poll found 53% of Americans opposed the launch of the channel and two-thirds of Americans thought the US government should not allow it entry to the US market."

In light of that, time to read Mother Jones own Dan Schulman's piece on Lieutenant Josh Rushing, the Marine public-affairs officer who was shown dealing with the international press corps in the early days of the Iraq War in Control Room, a documentary about Al Jazeera.

Rushing has since gone to work for Al Jazeera, suffering death threats because of it.

Dan writes: "When he joined the network almost a year ago, he saw himself as a cultural emissary who could help the rest of the world understand the America he loves. Now, 'more and more I see myself as a journalist,' Rushing says. 'It's taking a long time to let go of that spokesperson side of me who wants to control the message and to embrace the side that's about letting the message be whatever you find. There's a real value to this journalism thing.'"

We think so too.

The Poster Child for Prop 87 Comes to SF

| Thu Nov. 2, 2006 5:53 PM EST


President Bill Clinton was in San Francisco last night, continuing his campaign for California's Proposition 87. But audience members hoping to catch a glimpse of Big Bill got more than they bargained for. Two hours after they arrived -- following performances and appearances by Third Eye Blind's Stephan Jenkins, Bonnie Raitt, Eva Longoria, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom -- the former president finally took the stage, getting down to the business of continuing his campaign for the ballot measure.  prop87_eva.gif Proposition 87 proposes a higher extraction fee on oil companies (which historically have been lower in California than in most other states in the country), taxes that will generate a fund to be used for the research and development of alternative energy solutions -- solutions that are long overdue. As with most voter initiatives, dollars and debate have ruled the campaign. Oil companies have spent nearly $100 million against Proposition 87, with numerous commercials claiming that gasoline prices will fly through the roof and that revenue for civil service and education will decrease. Check out one example here.

But many don't buy this persuasive tactic. Vinod Khosla, the entrepreneur with all the answers, gives us a rundown on why oil companies are quite full of it, for lack of a better phrase, and why the global price of oil will not change with the increased extraction fee on oil companies in California and therefore why the price you pay at the pump will not be affected by this tax.

Yet Prop. 87 has even some left-leaning environmentally-conscious consumers a bit skeptical. If the tax is going to be used for the increased production of ethanol which is created using a huge amount of petroleum, where does that leave the environmental voter?

Last night in front of hundreds of San Francisco residents, some wondering this very thing, President Clinton addressed this issue, admitting that Prop 87 is not perfect and that:

"The perfect is the enemy of the good -- we never thought we were perfect. All we are trying to do is be better, to do better… We don't have to be perfect to do that, we just have to be better than we are today and that is really easy."


Pombo Race a Dead Heat

| Thu Nov. 2, 2006 5:52 PM EST

The first independent poll in the California house race between Jerry McNerney and Richard Pombo (R-Ca) shows McNerney leading Pombo 48% to 46%. With a margin of error of plus or minus 3%, that makes the race a virtual dead heat. Previous polling by the McNerney campaign and environmental groups produced similar results but Pombo remains blissfully optimistic. As Pombo spokesman Brian Kennedy said of the poll, "I don't believe it…[Pombo] will win."

Read my interview with Jerry McNerney here, where he says of Pombo, "It's time to get rid of him and put a responsible government back in Washington."

—Amaya Rivera

The Price of Bringing Them Home

| Thu Nov. 2, 2006 5:34 PM EST

Just a quick follow-up to the previous posting on the skyrocketing American casualties in Iraq. The Air Force is requesting $50 billion in emergency funding—that's an amount nearly half of its normal budget. The branch has been stretched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there's another reason it needs more cash:

Another source familiar with the Air Force plans said the extra funds would help pay to transport growing numbers of U.S. soldiers being killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.