Josh Harkinson

Josh Harkinson

Reporter

Born in Texas and based in San Francisco, Josh covers tech, labor, drug policy, and the environment.

Get my RSS |

Why is Hastert Leaving?

| Tue Aug. 14, 2007 6:11 PM EDT

What a week. First Rove, now Dennis Hastert, who, until last year, was the most powerful man in Congress. As recently as January, the former Speaker of the House had emphatically denied that he was thinking about calling it quits. "I just think that was wishful thinking on the part of some people," the Illinois Congressman had told the local CBS station in Chicago. But now CBS says its sources "expect Hastert to announce he will not seek reelection next year."

It's too early to say why Hastert is calling it quits, and we'll probably never know for sure (I'll bet, like Rove, he'll be wanting to get in some quality time with the family). I'd guess Hastert might be tired of hearing about how he helped squander the Republican majority with his botched handling of the Congressional page sex scandal. And it probably hasn't helped that the scandal refuses to go away: the Rev. KA Paul, who was widely discredited even before Hastert discussed the page woes with him last year in a private meeting, was recently arrested in a Beverly Hills hotel on suspicion of "lewd and lascivious acts with a minor." Still, many in Illinois will be sad to see Hastert go, if for no other reason than his ability to bring home giant slabs of pork. While it's true that Speaker Pelosi is also sprinkling some bacon bits these days, at least she hasn't been accused of self-dealing. Hastert won an earmark for a freeway through the middle of nowhere, driving up the value of an adjacent property that he owned, which he then sold at a profit.

"Hastert was one of the key players in rewriting how business on the floor of the House of Representatives is done," says John Laesch, a Navy veteran who ran against Hastert last year and came closer to winning than anyone had thought possible. "The pay-to-play system that he and Tom DeLay created puts the people's business behind closed doors. I think that is probably ultimately what he will be remembered for in Washington, D.C." Laesch is one of three Democrats making a bid for the seat this year in the Illinois primary. What would he do differently if he gets elected? "Well," he says, pausing to think for a moment. "Everything."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Google Reveals Everything Important About America

| Thu Aug. 9, 2007 5:45 PM EDT

For the first time since February, Google has updated its Google Trends database, allowing me to give you an up-to-date look at our nation's most important issues--or at least its most important internet searches, which we all know is the same thing.

War

Iraq: blue / Star Wars: yellow / Halo: red / World of Warcraft: green

Iraq-Google-Trends.gif

When it comes to war, this easily generated chart shows fantasy war has been a more popular Google search this year than real war, except in late April and early May when the "Iraq" search term (blue) claimed fleeting victory over "Star Wars," "Halo" and "World of Warcraft." My guess is that kids were kicking the video game habit for a moment while researching end-of-semester term papers on foreign affairs disasters. If you run the search yourself and look at the localized stats, you'll see that the only cities where "Iraq" won were Washington, DC (of course) and Columbus, Ohio. Will somebody from Columbus explain? On the other end of the scale, Salt Lake City dominated each fictional war category. But then, I'm not sure Salt Lakers consider Star Wars to be fiction. (Mormons believe Native Americans descended from the 12 tribes of Israel, and before that, Jedi Masters). Anyway, combining all three fantasy wars leaves Iraq totally dominated. As for other real wars, the "Global War on Terror" doesn't even rank, but I'm not sure that bothers me seeing how GWOT is only slightly less fictional than World of Warcraft.

Climate Change

Global Warming: blue / Hummer: red / Air Conditioning: yellow / Al Gore: green

Global-Warming-Google-Trend.gif

As of late July, after dominating the field for months, "global warming" has fought "Hummer" to a bitter draw. Meanwhile, "air conditioning" was lying in wait during the cool spring months, only to crank up in May and blow past "global warming" in June in a cloud of CO2 emissions from dirty coal plants in the sweltering South. "Al Gore" came to the rescue when he announced a surprise Live Earth concert on July 7th, but within a week he had dropped to the bottom of the pack. (Al: We need more concerts. Can you play tambourine on a tour with Willie?)

The Presidential Election

Hillary Clinton: light blue / Barack Obama: red / Rudy Giuliani: green / Fred Thompson: yellow / Ron Paul: dark blue

Candidate-Google-Trends.gif

The internet has spoken: Ron Paul will be the next president. Everyone else might as well pack up and go home, because this 71-year-old libertarian from Lake Jackson, Texas is on fire with the power of bored IT workers Googling him on lunchbreak. And Digging him, and searching for him on Technorati, and demanding him on Eventful and befriending him on MySpace and pumping him on Meetup and submitting more questions to him than any other candidate during his rockstar appearance in Silicon Valley at Google Talks. Pretty much anywhere you look in cyberspace, he's kicking ass. Nevermind that he wants to abolish the IRS, the Department of Ed and the EPA. They're already irrelevant. . .

The Role of Government

Government: blue / Google: red

Government-Google-Trends.gif

This is why Silicon Valley rules America.

KA Paul Says Bush Has Brought Death Upon "Thousands of Orphans and Widows"

| Mon Jul. 16, 2007 3:27 PM EDT

The reverend KA Paul is at it again. The self-proclaimed advocate for the Third World poor, conscience of Third World dictators, and peddler of poorly inspected brands of snake oil, has stepped up his rebellion against his erstwhile patrons in the Republican Right, this time, through the court system in his native India. According to a press release, Paul has filed suit in Bangalore on behalf of thousands of widows and orphans who supposedly died after President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice exerted their influence to cancel a peace mission with former Indian Prime Minister Deva Gowda to Iran, Libya, Sudan, Venezuela and Syria. I'm not sure how Bush was allegedly involved, how orphans allegedly died, and why anyone in India is still talking to Paul, who has been widely exposed as fraud, because the release didn't explain it. Still, I can't help but marvel at how Paul manages to keep getting attention. In October, I reported on his meeting with Rep. Dennis Hastert, in which he claimed to have convinced the embattled Speaker to resign over the Foley sex scandal. Ironically, Paul is now wrapped up in his own sex scandal: he was arrested in Los Angeles in May on suspicion of "lewd and lascivious acts with a minor." What's safe to say is that Paul (whom The New Republic once called "The world's most popular evangelist") will crusade on in his pirate ship as reliably as the political winds will blow him to some modicum of fame. Perhaps that explains his uncanny popularity with some evangelists here in America.

Open Source Politics, the Wiki

| Mon Jul. 2, 2007 3:09 PM EDT

When Mother Jones launched its "Fight Different" package about politics and the Internet, it introduced the stories and interviews with a rumination on the term Open Source Politics. The short, irreverent definition was presented as a mock-Wikipedia entry, under the classic Wiki red-flag: "The neutrality of this story is disputed." And I tell you what, the neutrality of our approach has been disputed, and disputed, and disputed. And in this case, that was exactly the point: the new arbiter of truth in politics is increasingly you, dear reader. If you're sick of bias and spin, speak up, and change it.

That, at least, is the idea behind Wikipedia, which now accounts one out of every 200 page views on the Internet. No format on the web is better at reaching a consensus on objective truth in the most touchy and politicized of subjects. For a glimpse of Wikipedia's potential in the political realm, see our interview with Jimmy Wales here.

But don't stop there. Do you disagree with our definition of Open Source Politics? Are there counterpoints to what Wales has told us that you don't think are being aired? Well, feel free to offer your thoughts in this blog. Or even better, check out the real entry for Open Source Politics in Wikipedia, and edit it. If I had to guess, I'd say a Google search of the term will soon yield the popular view of the idea over anything a magazine writer has had to say.

Wed Jan. 22, 2014 8:38 PM EST
Thu Oct. 3, 2013 12:30 PM EDT
Mon Aug. 19, 2013 12:47 PM EDT
Thu Jun. 27, 2013 6:00 AM EDT
Mon Jun. 10, 2013 3:45 PM EDT
Tue May. 21, 2013 9:56 AM EDT
Mon May. 20, 2013 11:38 AM EDT
Mon May. 6, 2013 6:00 AM EDT
Sat Apr. 20, 2013 6:00 AM EDT
Mon Apr. 8, 2013 5:00 AM EDT
Mon Mar. 4, 2013 10:56 AM EST
Fri Mar. 1, 2013 7:06 AM EST
Thu Feb. 28, 2013 7:31 AM EST
Tue Feb. 19, 2013 6:41 PM EST
Tue Feb. 19, 2013 7:02 AM EST
Mon Feb. 11, 2013 7:36 AM EST