Daniel Schulman

Senior Editor

Based in DC, Dan covers politics and national security. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine, the Village Voice, the Columbia Journalism Review, and other publications. He is the author of the new Koch brothers biography, Sons of Wichita (Grand Central Publishing). Email him at dschulman (at) motherjones.com.

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Calling All Conspiracy Theorists

| Fri Dec. 1, 2006 2:04 PM EST

The Federation of American Scientists' Steven Aftergood unearthed this fascinating nugget in a recent Navy directive on its "Human Research Protection Program," which, much as the name suggests, is tasked with safeguarding human research subjects from inhumane experiments.

The Under Secretary of the Navy (UNSECNAV) is the Approval Authority for research involving... severe or unusual intrusions, either physical or psychological, on human subjects (such as consciousness-altering drugs or mind-control techniques).

Umm, mind control. Part of me is relieved that research, of the Manchurian Candidate variety, if it does indeed exist, requires some form of high level approval. Mostly, though, I'm unnerved by the possibility that government researchers are spending any time whatsoever contemplating this line of inquiry. Perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised. The DoD is known for floating some pretty absurd proposals, such as one in 1994 by researchers at the Air Force's Wright Laboratory who pitched developing "harassing, annoying, and 'bad guy' identifying chemicals." One example:

Chemicals that effect human behavior so that discipline and morale in enemy units is adversely affected. One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior.

Your tax dollars at work folks.

What Kim Jong Il Won't be Getting for Christmas

| Wed Nov. 29, 2006 6:10 PM EST

Kim Jong Il has made a sport of defying U.S. efforts to halt his country's burgeoning nuclear program, essentially thumbing his nose at the international community in October by staging North Korea's first nuclear test. Today, after the U.S. government's latest diplomatic overture failed, the Bush administration was forced to take swift and decisive action intended to hit Kim where it hurts – that is, to cut off exports of luxury goods, such as yachts, plasma TVs, Rolexes, and iPods to North Korea in conjunction with the U.N. Also embargoed is Kim's favorite French cognac, Hennessy, which is certain to agitate "Dear Leader," who is reputed to purchase upwards of $700,000 per year of the stuff. As the AP points out, these trade sanctions seem squarely targeted at Kim, a connoisseur of the finer things in life, who's one of the few people in the impoverished nation who can afford to indulge his taste for extravagances. It remains to be seen whether this effort will bring North Korea back into the diplomatic fold. But one would think that Kim, whose regime has successfully negotiated the nuclear black market, probably won't have a great deal of trouble getting his hands on some outlawed hooch.

Obama to Reporter: I'm Sorry for "Messing Up Your Game"

| Mon Nov. 20, 2006 6:11 PM EST

In the past Barack Obama has been accused of many things -- having ties to a crooked political fundraiser, for one -- but this, I dare say, is a first. In a recent column in the Henry Daily Herald of McDonough, Georgia, reporter Nicklaus Lovelady lambasts Obama for ruining his chances with a love interest working for a rival paper. Best to let Lovelady take it from here:

I had the looks, I had the charm and I had my eye on this pretty young thing who was doing an internship for a competing paper.

It took me nearly two months of running into each other at various news events before I worked up the nerve to begin talking to her.

And then Obama shows up.

The senator made his way to SIUE one day to introduce some legislation that would increase grants for students. Prior to that, me and the girl became really cool as I let her in on a few tricks of the trade.

The day Obama came, there was a huge press conference at the university's student center with about 100 people inside the conference room and hundreds more viewing the conference on a big screen in the lobby.

Obama did his thing, and at the end there was segment for questions by the media.

After about five questions from different television and newspaper reporters, I stood up to ask mine.

"Wait a minute son, this is for professional media only," Obama said to me.

"What do you mean? I work for the local paper," I said with a crackling nervous voice.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were a college student. You have such a baby face," he said with an unremorseful grin.

At that point everyone in the room turned to look at me and laugh. The 800 people in the lobby laughed as my face was projected on the big screen.

Alas, the "pretty young thing" was laughing, too. And, after that humiliating episode, she was no longer interested in Lovelady's "tricks of the trade." "Obama owes me a public apology for making me look like a court jester and for blocking my shot," Lovelady's column concludes. "Until that time, Hillary or Giuliani will get my vote."

Not about to lose Lovelady's vote, Obama, who has yet to declare whether or not he'll seek the presidency in 2008, phoned the reporter "to publicly apologize for messing up your game. I read that; I felt terrible. I didn't know there were any ladies around. I just wanted to let you know that I'm deeply sorry."

Presidential material? Definitely.

Jack Murtha: Ethics Bill "Total Crap"

| Wed Nov. 15, 2006 5:57 PM EST

Yesterday we, among other news outlets, pointed out that Jack Murtha, Nancy Pelosi's pick for Majority Leader, has a few skeletons in his closet when it comes to his ties to lobbying outfits, including one that once employed his brother, Kit. All told, some have suggested, Murtha may not be the best pick for a party looking to place an emphasis on ethics reform and distance itself from the cavalcade of scandals that led, in part, to the GOP's fall from grace. Not helping Murtha's case in the slightest is the fact that, according to Roll Call, he "told a group of Democratic moderates on Tuesday that an ethics and lobbying reform bill being pushed by party leaders was 'total crap.'" Three sources told the paper that Murtha said: "Even though I think it's total crap, I'll vote for it and pass it because that's what Nancy wants." (Perhaps Pelosi is taking a page from the "Hammer," since this is the second time in as many days that I've heard Dems remark that they'll do as she commands. Here's what Rep. Jim Moran, the Virginia Democrat, told The Hill yesterday. "We are entering an era where when the Speaker instructs you what to do, you do it.")

Murtha's alleged ethical lapses don't end with securing earmarks for the clients of favored lobbying firms that he has personal and professional ties to -- unfortunately, that is considered a fairly run-of-the-mill offense in the District these days -- but extend to more serious forms of malfeasance. Back in the late '70s and early '80s, the FBI ran an undercover sting operation, which came to be known as ABSCAM, targeting congressional corruption. TPMmuckraker sums it up nicely:

Around 1980, agents and an informant met with several lawmakers posing as representatives of a fictional "sheik Abdul" to offer them $50,000 in cash for legislative favors. Murtha was one of the lawmakers who met with them.

Ultimately, six lawmakers went down on corruption charges stemming from the operation, nearly all of them Democrats. Murtha wasn't one of them -- but not, as Murtha implies, because his innocence was ever demonstrated.

Though a 13-second video of Murtha's meeting has circulated in the past, The American Spectator, the conservative magazine, recently obtained the tape in its entirety, all 53 minutes and 40 second of it. TPMmuckraker pulls out some of the money quotes:

"I'm gonna be blunt," an FBI man says to Murtha after laying out what favors he was looking to buy. "Are you telling me now. . . you don't want any money on this thing?"

"There's some places I'd like you to invest some money, in the banks, in my district," Murtha responds. "I'd say some substantial deposits." He explains later how he does so many favors for people that, if they weren't all for individuals in his district, "people would say, that son of a bitch. . . is on the take."

"Once they say that, what happens?" Murtha asks the FBI men rhetorically, ignorant of the fact that he was explaining his own M.O. to agents trying to bust him for corruption. "Then they start going around looking for the goddamn money. So I want to avoid that by having some tie to the district. That's all. That's the secret to the whole thing."

At another point on the tape Murtha says:

Lemme tell you something. You came to the right guys in order to get it done. And I think the way I'd handle it, you know, Murphy, and the other guy, they got, all three [Murtha, John Murphy, and Frank Thompson] of us got things we can each do. Each of us got different responsibility in a different area. But I want to do business with you. I mean I want to get the goddamn jobs in the area, you know, a few bank deposits in my area. Nothing I'd like better. Later on, after we've dealt a while, we might change our mind -- we might want to do more business. But right now, I think I can do more this way than any other way. I think I can do more by being completely independent, if you understand what I mean. And listen, it's hard for me, shit it's hard for me to say, just the hell with it. But I think this is the way I can do the best, the most good.

With the heat on, Murtha's claiming that the newly resurrected questions about his ethics record are "swift boat-style" attacks, meaning that they are specious and politically motivated. Maybe he should first explain why was caught on tape saying things like this – and to people whose interests he was not elected to represent: "I haven't been here a long time but I know the right people and I know the system and I went to the ballgame with the president -- in other words there were three of us -- me, Tip [O'Neill, speaker of the House], and that's it -- so I've got as much influence, and I know as much about the goddamn workings as any -- you're not going to have any trouble."

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