Political MoJo

Will Specter Rein In the White House?

| Thu Jul. 13, 2006 4:22 PM EDT

I'm not sure what to make of Arlen Specter's latest proposed bill that would authorize the FISA court to review the constitutionality of the Bush administration's domestic spying program. It seems like a step to bring oversight to the program, and to determine whether it's legal or not, but why couldn't this have been done with from the beginning? And what if the FISA court finds that the administration has been acting illegally all this time? At any rate, as with most "policy shifts" from the White House these days, this strikes me as quite suspicious, so I'll hold off rejoicing until we learn more.

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Ralph Reed's Rank Hypocrisy: Nothing New

| Thu Jul. 13, 2006 3:21 PM EDT

Ralph Reed's bid for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia is looking even iffier today after the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas sued him and Jack Abramoff, among others, for millions of dollars of losses incurred from a casino the tribe says was fraudulently closed in 2001. (NYT)

We reported on this a couple of years ago. Basically, Abramoff, Reed and three others appear to have cooked up a fake religiously themed moral crusade to mobilize the forces of righteousness to block the legalization of gambling in Indian casinos in Texas--their real motive being to protect a competing casino in Louisiana.

Peter Stone's piece on Reed for Mother Jones in late 2004 showed that this was no one-off for Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition and an insufferable moralizer, who often used his credentials with the religious right to further his clients' business agendas--even when the latter were at odds with Christian values.

Since its founding in 1997, his consulting firm, Century Strategies, has racked up millions in fees from companies including Enron, Microsoft, Verizon, and other Fortune 100 companies, according to sources familiar with its client list. ...

Reed's political ties have allowed him to carve out a special niche among political influence merchants. "Ralph has cornered the market in corporate strategic communications and grassroots using his social conservative base combined with his personal communications skills and his influence in the Bush reelection campaign," says lobbyist Scott Reed (no relation), who managed Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign. "This is a unique role for a GOP operative that has huge value for corporate America."

Among Reed's clients is Channel One, a company that provides television equipment to schools in exchange for airing 10 minutes of news and 2 minutes of commercials daily. Prominent conservatives have blasted the company for exposing children to junk-food ads and explicit movie promos. In response, Channel One turned to Reed, who in 2002 helped the company deflect a proposed Texas Board of Education resolution that would have urged schools to jettison Channel One. Reed, who points out that Channel One also runs ads promoting abstinence and anti-alcohol messages, phoned several board members and dissuaded them from voting for the resolution, much to the dismay of conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly, a longtime critic of Channel One. "I'm surprised that any conservative would work for it," Schlafly said. "They're all advertising things that I wouldn't want my children to buy."


Oh, and Reed also helped a powerful coalition of business groups lobby Congress to normalize trade relations with China, which has supplanted the Soviet Union in the Christian conservative universe as a Godless, human rights-abusing evil (would-be) empire.

Read the full article here.

Dems and Hillary

Thu Jul. 13, 2006 3:10 PM EDT

Ah-ha! A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll has finally revealed how Democrats feel about Hillary Clinton. And the answer is—wait for it… wait for it…their feelings are mixed! Most of them think she displays solid leadership and strong family values, and that she's pretty friendly as well. But only 37 percent say they would definitely vote for her at this stage. And those are Democrats; forget independents or, for that matter, Republicans who would gladly empty their bank accounts to help their party defeat her.

The best assessments of the pros and cons of a Hillary candidacy are two Washington Monthly pieces from a few months back, one of which says she's totally electable, the other quite the opposite.

America's Role in the Gaza Invasion

Thu Jul. 13, 2006 3:02 PM EDT

Think what you may of him, but Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh put his finger on a great deal of truth in his Washington Post op-ed a few days ago.

The current Gaza invasion is only the latest effort to destroy the results of fair and free elections held early this year. It is the explosive follow-up to a five-month campaign of economic and diplomatic warfare directed by the United States and Israel. The stated intention of that strategy was to force the average Palestinian to 'reconsider' her vote when faced with deepening hardship; its failure was predictable, and the new overt military aggression and collective punishment are its logical fulfillment. The 'kidnapped' Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit is only a pretext for a job scheduled months ago.
His assessment of the United States' hand in this is particularly revealing. Despite being the self-declared standard bearer of Middle East democracy, the Bush administration has stood by and watched the outcome of Palestinians' clean and fair elections essentially be annulled by force. In an article today for the Century Foundation, Michael Shtender-Auerbach argues that this complicity goes part and parcel with Bush's disengagement from the Middle East peace process. "Let us not mistake American disengagement for neutrality: all of the signs point to a U.S. administration that appears to be in full support of the Israeli agenda to topple Hamas," he writes pointedly.

Bush's response to Israel's retaliatory attacks on Lebanon—warning that ''Whatever Israel does… it should not weaken the Saniora government in Lebanon''—further highlights the double standard. Whatever happens in the present crisis in Gaza, this seems like a great way to make sure it shakes out as badly as possible in terms of our credibility and influence in the region.

Sen. Ted Stevens: "The Internet is a Series of Tubes"

| Thu Jul. 13, 2006 2:21 PM EDT

Sen. Ted Stevens as quoted on The Daily Show: "The Internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes." So there you have it. From the Chairman of the Commerce Committee.


Al Qaeda vs. The Trees of Mystery

| Thu Jul. 13, 2006 12:48 PM EDT

As we've often been reminded, we're fighting the terrorists abroad so we don't have to fight them in the streets of Indianapolis. But should that horrific day ever come, let Al Qaeda be warned that we shall fight in the petting zoo; we shall fight on the beach at the end of the street; we shall fight in Jay's Sporting Goods and in the mall at Sears; we shall fight in the Frontier Fun Park; we shall never surrender. Terrorists could target those places and 77,000 more, at least according to the Department of Homeland Security's database of "crtical infrastructure and key resources." As reported yesterday, the list is chock full of what the DHS's Inspector General politely calls "curious" and "out of place" entries, such as the aforementioned suburban battlegrounds. It seems that when DHS asked the states to indentify potential targets, boosterism combined with antiterrror zeal (and just perhaps the prospect of some sweet homeland security pork) to erase the distinctions between nuclear power plants and strip malls. But then, maybe terrorists don't make such distinctions. If you hate America, maybe hating The Trees of Mystery is just part of the package.

Here's the complete list of less-than-critical assets identified by the DHS IG report [PDF]:

Old MacDonald's petting zoo
Mall at Sears
Bean Fest
Nix's Check Cashing
Amer. Society of Young Musicians
Trees of Mystery
Car Dealerships
Kennel Club and Poker Room
Historical Bok Sanctuary
4 Cs Fuel and Lube
DPW Landfill
Kangaroo Conservation Center
Assyrian American Association
Right to Life Committee
Association for the Jewish Blind
Insect Zoo
Bourbon Festival
Theological Seminary
Jay's Sporting Goods
Nestle Purina Pet food Plant
Auto Shop
Veterinary Clinic
Groundhog Zoo
Sweetwater Flea Market
High Stakes Bingo
Petting Zoo
Community College
Frontier Fun Park
Travel Stop
Mule Day Parade
Beach at End of Street
Amish Country Popcorn
Pepper and Herb Company
Psychiatry Behavioral Center
Order of Elks National Memorial
Ice Cream Parlor
Bakery & Cookie Shop
Donut Shop
Sears Auto Center
Wine and Coffee Co.
Sports Club
Casket Company
Bass Pro Shop
Muzzle Shoot Enterprise
Several Wal-Marts
Property Owners Associations
Apple and Pork Festival
Rolls Royce Plant
Pepsi Bottlers
Yacht Repair Business
Anti-Cruelty Society
Tackle Shop
Elevator Company
Center for Veterinary Medicine
American Legion
UPS Store
Heritage Groups
Parcel Shop
YMCA Center
Mail Boxes Etc.
Night clubs

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Ill Wind

| Thu Jul. 13, 2006 3:02 AM EDT

Should people be entitled not to see windmills on the horizon? Just when you thought it was just the Kennedys & Co. vs. turbines off the Cape, here goes Long Island Power getting locals all worked up with a proposal to put 40 big whirlygigs in the Atlantic. And it's not hard to get bent out of shape about people who get bent out of shape about how horrible this looks. A more complicated, and perhaps more interesting conversation might have to do with why it is that wind, in particular, is catching on so fast with the energy industry--because, of course, it plugs right into the existing energy economy, based on big plants and big power lines and big money. But just maybe we should have that conversation even as we put up every wind mill we can get our hands on. If the feng shui doesn't work, we can always take them down once we've got this climate thing sorted out...

Join a Conversation With Mother Jones Radio Host Angie Coiro

| Wed Jul. 12, 2006 9:53 PM EDT

Angie Coiro, the peerless host of Mother Jones Radio, is being interviewed online for the next two weeks at The Well. If you're unfamiliar with our radio show, it's a smart, lively, hour-long romp through the culture and politics of our time that airs on Air America and affiliates each Sunday. And Angie, who spent 15 years in public radio--picking up multiple awards along the way, including one for the best public radio interview in the country in 2003--is quite simply one of the smartest, most talented, likable radio hosts in the business. Go join the conversation with Angie at the Well.

And don't forget to check out Mother Jones Radio.


More Fun With Kim: The Glorious Failure Who Just Can't Lose

| Wed Jul. 12, 2006 9:19 PM EDT

More Kim comedy, this time of the acerbic variety. Mark Fiore's new cartoon, hot off the Internets, shows that for a guy who's constantly failing, the Dear Leader does a pretty good job at staying in power and giving the rest of the world heartburn. Click on the dictator to watch. (Flash required.)


Colorado legislator declares state is helping create terrorists

| Wed Jul. 12, 2006 8:42 PM EDT

America is known as a melting pot. If that's the case, then Debbie Stafford, a Colorado state legislator, has decided to stir it. Colorado just passed passed an immigration bill that denies public assitance to anyone who is not in the state legally, but which makes exceptions for children to get food and healthcare. Stafford's response?

"We're helping create the next generation of terrorists."

In the meantime, many of Stafford's Republican colleagues were upset because they were unable to get on the ballot a constitutional amendment that would have required all workers in Colorado to have a state I.D. The bill's sponsor, Al White, attacked Governor Bill Owens, who he said was actively lobbied by Colorado homebuilders and Republican donors who did not want to see the state's labor pool decreased.

Colorado's Hispanic population was up to 19% in 2004 and is growing. Stafford apparently has some kind of inside track on the terrorist intentions of illegal immigrants from Mexico and other South American nations.