Ben Buchwalter


Daily Mail Bends Science to Support ‘Global Cooling’
February 2, 2010, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Environment, Media, Mother Jones | Tags: , , , ,

Climate change deniers pop up all over the place. But they’re rarely part of the Nobel-winning International Panel on Climate Change. So when Professor Mojib Latiff of the IPCC was quoted in Britain’s Daily Mail as a convert to the “global cooling” hypothesis, it raised eyebrows. Well it turns out that’s not what he said at all. I wrote a summary of the controversy that got picked up on the front page of the Huffington Post and the lead of HuffPost’s Green page. Here’s an excerpt:

But speaking to the Guardian yesterday, Latif pushed back hard against the Mail, saying that the tabloid took his comments out of context to make an editorial statement. “It comes as a surprise to me that people would try to use my statements to try to dispute the nature of global warming. I believe in manmade global warming. I have said that if my name was not Mojib Latif it would be global warming,” he said. “There is no doubt within the scientific community that we are affecting the climate, that the climate is changing and responding to our emissions of greenhouse gases.”

This is a predictable misstep for the Mail, which has a conservative streak and recently published a set of denialist stories, including Sunday’s David Rose report “The Mini Ice Age Starts Here,” and a special investigation on the Climategate emails last December.



Dem Casting Call: Who Will Replace CO Gov. Bill Ritter?

2010 started off rough for Democrats, due to a stream of high profile Democratic retirements in important districts. When CO Gov. Bill Ritter added his name to the list of Dem retirements, it set off a flurry of speculation about who would run to take his spot. I compiled a run down of the most likely Democratic candidates:

So let’s take a look at the state’s in-house candidates. The top contender seems to be Andrew Romanoff, the state Rep. who has already launched a 2010 Senate primary campaign against Sen. Michael Bennet. Bennet was appointed to complete Salazar’s term last year, but he must win the seat for himself this November.

Some have suggested that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper would be a good fit. Hickenlooper has long been rumored to be a potential Gubernatorial candidate, but declined to run against Ritter in 2006 to replace the term-limited Republican governor Bill Owens, saying “I would not be unraveling the fabric of collaboration.” Asked on the phone by a local reporter if he would run this year, Hickenlooper responded that his cell phone was running out of batteries.

Former Rep. Scott McInnis, the leading Republican in the field, was ecstatic. “We beat the varsity team a little earlier than we thought we would,” said a McInnis spokesman. “They’ve got to go to plan B, or the b-team.”



Dodd Challenger Alpert on Immoral Pols, Term Limits, & Linda McMahon
February 1, 2010, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

As it became increasingly clear that Conn. Senator Chris Dodd was not a viable candidate to hold on to his seat in 2010, speculation began to swirl about which Democrats would rise to pick up the banner. The media discussed Dick Blumental and Ned Lamont, but continually left out Merrick Alpert, who launched his primary challenge to Dodd long before Dodd tanked in the polls. I called Alpert to talk about his realistic chances, immoral politicians, and of course, former WWE CEO Linda McMahon, one of the leading Republican candidates. Here’s an excerpt of the interview:

MJ: Which Republican candidate would you most like to face in 2010?

MA: I’d be happy to go after any of them. They’re taking turns seeing who can be further right. They stand up saying Afghanistan is a good idea and health care reform is a bad idea. As far as I’m concerned, you can pair them all together and I’ll run against them all.

I would have told you 2 months ago that former congressman Rob Simmons would be the nominee, but Linda McMahon is spending such an obscene amount of money. Whether you’re trying to buy an election with your own money or with money from special interests, you’re trying to buy an election. Whoever wins that cage match, I’m happy to take on.

After Dodd decided to resign, I spoke with Alpert again about how this changed the race. I half-expected him to go after Blumenthal, who already showed a huge advantage over all other candidates. But here’s an excerpt of what he said:

But instead of going after Blumenthal, Alpert, a lifelong Democrat who worked for Bill Clinton and Al Gore, was eager to add to his list of McMahon criticisms, saying “she’s bad medicine for Connecticut.” In between brief exchanges with supporters during his 5-day, 90-mile walk through Connecticut, he said over the sound of car honks that McMahon “is as phony as the place that she made her money. In none of her ads does she ever mention world wrestling. You would think that she and her husband owned a deli when in fact they made a fortune on lingerie wrestling matches. I’m not looking to explain that to my kids.”



Bush Legacy Lives On Through State Secrets

A large part of Barack Obama’s campaign message of change was his promise to reverse Bush administration policies regarding torture and state secrets. Since he was inaugurated a year ago, we’ve seen Obama dial back those promises one by one. In December, the American Civil Liberties Union and the US Government faced off before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco regarding five civilians who were detained illegally and transported overseas with the help of Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan and subjected to harsh interrogation tactics. I attended the hearing and wrote this report for MoJo:

At the Mohamed et al v. Jeppesen Dataplan hearing, both sides were equally dramatic. Arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs, the ACLU’s Ben Wizner warned that if the court endorses the government’s sweeping claim to secrecy, “it will do tremendous harm to our democratic principles.” Representing the United States, Douglas Letter doubled down on the government’s assertion that simply allowing the case to be heard would result in the disclosure of classified information that could harm national security….

Under US law, the executive branch can request that a lawsuit be thrown out if it would make public information that could endanger US interests or personnel. In a declaration of support for the government, former CIA director Michael Hayden said [pdf] that the case would expose information that “could be expected to cause serious—and in some instances, exceptionally grave—damage to the national security of the United States, and therefore, the information should be excluded from any use.” Letter argued that courts should defer to such leaders’ judgments about national security. Wizner disagreed, maintaining that the lawsuit could proceed with guidelines to keep truly sensitive information secret. If the judiciary “just went with the executive branch,” he said, “there is no role for this court.”

Wizner argued that the government has not been consistent in its treatment of these matters. Though the CIA claims that it cannot confirm nor deny its contracts, “they do so routinely when it suits their interests,” he pointed out. Earlier this week, for example, CIA spokesman George Little gave specific information about the infamous military contractor Blackwater Worldwide. “At this time, Blackwater is not involved in any CIA operations other than in a security or support role,” he told the New York Times.



Dodd Deemed ‘Unelectable’ in CT Senate Race

It’s been a crappy year for embattled Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd. Toward the end of 2009, it became increasingly clear just how dire his reelection chances were. In mid-December, the respected elections predictor the Cook Political Report called Dodd “as unelectable as unindicted incumbents get.” That was a pretty safe prediction considering that, at the time, Dodd trailed former GOP congressman Rob Simmons and former WWE CEO Linda McMahon by 13 and 6 points respectively. On the MoJo blog, I predicted that Dodd’s retirement was imminent and rounded up the field of potential Conn. Dems to replace him. Looks like I was right about one of them:

As Connecticut Attorney General for the past 20 years, Dick Blumenthal has made ripples most recently for his harsh words about financial badboy AIG, which has offices in the state. Back in March, Blumenthal called the legal justification for AIG bonuses “a joke of a justification for squandering scarce taxpayer resources.”



Alan ‘Die Quickly’ Grayson Seeks 55-Vote Supermajority
February 1, 2010, 10:57 pm
Filed under: General Politics, Mother Jones | Tags: , ,

Alan Grayson continually cracks me up. His basic strategy is to serve as the liberal antidote to firebrand Republicans like Michele Bachmann and Steve King, who never fail to say crazy things. Grayson doesn’t disappoint. But the freshman congressman from Florida has also introduced his fair share of smart, important legislative suggestions. Back in November, for example, he circulated a petition to reduce the Senate super majority to overcome a filibuster from 60 votes to 55 votes. As I wrote in MoJo:

Whether you agree with Grayson’s proposal or not, it is clear that something needs to change. Kevin Drum writes today that “full-blown unanimous obstruction is something new under the sun…Dems, for better or worse, never tried to make every single bill a destruction test of the opposing party’s governance.”  The filibuster was not consistently abused until the Dems reclaimed control of Congress in 2007.  During the Reagan administration, for example, there were as few as 20 cloture votes per congressional term, compared to more than 100 in the 2007-2008 term, twice what was necessary in the preceding six years.

As the debate about the filibuster continues, it’s increasingly likely that congress will come up with some sort of reform. But I wouldn’t expect that reform to garner broad bipartisan support if it’s introduced by Alan Grayson.



Commission to Review Racially Tinged Mandatory Minimums

Mandatory minimum laws apply to an array of crimes, the most controversial of which is drug sentencing. Essentially, thanks to mandatory minimum laws, which were implemented in 1986 after basketball star Len Bias overdosed on crack cocaine, require judges to determine a defendant’s sentence without considering outside mitigating factors. In the most controversial example, crack cocaine users (who are predominantly black) receive a punishment 100 times more harsh than powder cocaine users (typically white). Back in October, the Obama administration asked the US Sentencing Commission to review the minimums. I called the leadership of Families Against Mandatory Minimums about the story:

Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) argues that the requirements have not achieved their intended purpose of reducing crime and scaring minor criminals into giving information about the most flagrant offenders in return for lighter sentences. As any self-respecting fan of The Wire knows, those at the bottom of the drug pyramid don’t get details about what goes on up top. So while the drug kingpins have an avenue through which to reduce their sentences, says Jennifer Seltzer-Stitt, FAMM’s federal legislative affairs director, “[minor users] who don’t have anyone to trade get longer sentences.”