2007 - %3, May

NRA Fights To Let Suspected Terrorists Have Guns

| Fri May 4, 2007 4:18 PM EDT

When reasonable, Constitution-abiding people argue that no one--and especially "suspects" and "persons of interest"--should be imprisoned (and denied legal representation) without being charged with a crime, we are often told that we are "unpatriotic" and "weak." What will our accusers, then, tell members of the National Rifle Association, who are arguing that suspected terrorists should not be denied firearms?

The NRA is lobbying the Bush administration to drop its support of a bill that would prohibit suspected terrorists from buying firearms. In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, NRA executive director Chris Cox said that the proposed bill "would allow arbitrary denial of Second Amendment rights based on mere 'suspicions' of a terrorist threat."

Cox went on to say: "As many of our friends in law enforcement have rightly pointed out, the word 'suspect' has no legal meaning, particularly when it comes to denying constitutional liberties."

Are the NRA members "unpatriotic" and "weak"? Stay tuned...literally.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Jose Padilla Case Stalled by Jurors Who Doubt Official Story on 9/11

| Fri May 4, 2007 4:17 PM EDT

Jose Padilla's trial is ongoing and it turns out jury selection has run into a speed bump. The problem? Too many potential jurors who are so disillusioned by the government and so distrustful of the news media that they doubt the official story on 9/11.

For real. It's this nation's dirty secret that a huge number of people think 9/11 was an inside job. According to mid-2006 poll, "Thirty-six percent of respondents overall said it is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them "because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.""

No one in government on in the news media takes these people seriously, which probably just entrenches their estrangement from the mainstream further. But the government has to deal with them in the Padilla case, big time:

Many potential jurors in the Jose Padilla terrorism-support case say they aren't sure who directed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks because they don't trust reporters or the federal government....
To be sure, most jurors without a Sept. 11 opinion are aware that the attacks have been blamed on terrorists of some sort. But many seem unwilling to blame al-Qaida and its leader, Osama bin Laden -- the conclusion reached by the national Sept. 11 Commission and the Bush administration and widely reported by news media.
One female juror agreed that was a "general public consensus" but still held out skepticism.
"I don't have an opinion. I don't tend to trust the news media," she said.
Many jurors seem to be unwilling to state the al-Qaida connection as fact because they don't have firsthand knowledge. An older male juror said he answered "al-Qaida and bin Laden" on his questionnaire because "that was what the news said."

As is the case with these trials, the lawyers are trying to find people who have no interest in the news and no knowledge of Padilla. Which means jurors who haven't read Mother Jones' extensive coverage of his case.

Spotted on Wonkette.

Post-Veto, Dems Work on New Plan for Iraq

| Fri May 4, 2007 4:07 PM EDT

I'll say this: I admire the Democrats' effort. They aren't always super organized, and they aren't always as ballsy as I'd like, but they've decided they're going to end this war using any politically reasonable means to do so, and they keep plugging away. The spineless Democrat stereotype from a few years back -- when people were saying there was effectively no opposition party in this country -- is dead.

Now that the president has vetoed the Democrats' timeline for withdrawal, here's what the Dem leadership has in the works:

The plan would split the now vetoed supplemental spending bill into two bills, one that would provide two months of funding for the Iraq War and another that would fund the agricultural programs contained in the earlier bill, aides said.
In addition to the two months of Iraq funding, the bill would provide a $10 billion cushion to allow the military flexibility. It would also require the president to report back to Congress by July 13 on the extent to which the Iraqi government had met certain benchmarks for progress.
The plan would "fence off" additional combat funds until Congress voted to "unfence" them. Such a vote would be held on July 24. A vote of the FY08 defense appropriations bill would be delayed until September, one aide said.

I'm okay with this. I know we rally against the surge pretty frequently here at MoJoBlog, myself included, but I'm willing to give David Petraeus two more months to see what progress he can make.

Clinton Gets the Memo: Iraq Is an Election Loser

| Fri May 4, 2007 3:58 PM EDT

Even Hillary Clinton has finally gotten it that to win the Democratic nomination, you have to oppose the war in Iraq. With flair and style. Senator Clinton proposed today that Congress formally repeal the authorization it gave President Bush to go to war with Iraq. This, despite the fact that she has repeatedly refused to apologize for (or, in my opinion more importantly, simply to say she shouldn't have) her support for the war measure.

Not to be outdone in his gold-star opposition to the war (which is a brilliant way to spin his lack of experience—he didn't vote for the war because he wasn't in Congress), Obama issued a statement saying he supported Senator Clinton's proposal. The other hopefuls have been tripping all over themselves all week to out oppose-Iraq Clinton and Obama.

If the proposal won congressional support, it's unclear if it would have any effect on the war, since legally it amounts to unringing the bell. But the message is clear: Whoever most strongly advocates unringing the bell will win the nomination. Which is really good news for America's standing in the world, I think.

No Cheap Seats for the Pelosi-Bush Iraq Showdown

| Fri May 4, 2007 3:04 PM EDT

Think Progress points out that a side-effect of all the recent congressional sword-play, aimed at attaching a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, has been to overshadow the staggering amount of money being sent there (if passed, the new appropriation bill will push total spending on the war over the half trillion mark). Think that's high? That's not the half of it. Check out Mother Jones' interview with Nobel Prize Winning Economist Joseph Stiglitz for some real sticker shock. And don't miss MoJo's Iraq for Dummies to see where all that money has been spent.

—Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell

Obama's MySpace Meltdown

| Thu May 3, 2007 11:17 PM EDT

The blogosphere is abuzz with news of a falling out between the campaign of Senator Barack Obama and Joe Anthony, an unpaid volunteer who created and maintained an unofficial fan page that has evolved into the candidate's most popular site on MySpace, with more than 160,000 friends.

The conflict has been brewing for some time now, but ended messily on Tuesday when MySpace agreed to transfer the URL to Obama.

Micah Sifry of Techpresident writes:

How all this happened is a complicated tale that is still unfolding, and none of the parties involved--Anthony, the Obama online team, and the MySpace political operation--emerge from this story unscathed. Speaking on background, Obama campaign staffers are spreading word that Anthony just wanted a "big payday." Anthony in turn has posted a missive on his blog (that was originally sent to me as an email) accusing the Obama team of "bullying...[and] rotten and dishonest" behavior. However one parses those accusations (more below), the Obama campaign's reputation as the most net-savvy of 2008 has taken a big hit.

Something like this was bound to happen this year as top-down campaign structures have begun to collide with the new bottom-up energy of social networking and content sharing on the Web. Obama's campaign strove for a hybrid model -- Anthony retained control of the MySpace page, but Obama's campaign also had access, and promoted the site. The advantages were obvious: free labor, a sense from the grassroots that they matter, and a populist PR spin. Then the campaign lost faith in Anthony and turned everything on its head. Yesterday, the campaign finally addressed the incident on Obama's blog, but from the looks of the comments, he still has a long way to go to win back the trust of many would-be "friends."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Reagan, Islamophobia, and Slamming Hillary: The Republicans Debate (Also, More Reagan)

| Thu May 3, 2007 10:48 PM EDT

My thoughts on tonight's GOP debate at the Ronald Reagan library in Southern California:

- MSNBC.com and Politco.com, don't you dare advertise live web broadcasts again unless you make that thing work. MSNBC's video player delivered audio and video that would start and stop constantly, causing me to miss endless things and almost punch my computer. Politico's was basically the same, but with bonus out-of-focusness. Thanks, guys.

- Reagan, Reagan, Reagan. The candidates on stage couldn't stop invoking the former president. I know the event was held in a building named after him and overseen by his widow, but Jesus, it's like there was only one inspiring Republican in the last twenty five years. What, Bob Livingston doesn't cut it?

- The first half of the debate was all about foreign policy and everyone tried to out macho one another, claiming in increasingly shrill fashion that Muslim extremists want to end the American way of life. They spoke of Iran in tones that were similar to Dick Cheney's talk of Iraq six years ago. Put in the tough position of being unable to slam the president (because he's from their party) and being unable to praise the president (because he has screwed everything up and has comically low popularity), the candidates resorting to setting up Islamic extremism as a straw man and beating the crap out of it rhetorically. It was kind of scary, if you don't like the prospect of bombing/invading another country sometime soon.

- Talking about hawkish one-ups-manship: Romney said of Osama bin Laden: "He will die." McCain trumped that by saying, "I will follow him to the gates of hell." Good heavens, John.

- It has always bugged me that these guys misunderstand or understand and then deliberately misrepresent the reasons why certain factions of the Muslim world hate the United States. They don't hate our freedoms. Okay, maybe a tiny number of al Qaeda types do, but the 70 percent of the Islamic world (rough estimate) that currently tells pollsters that they can't stand the U.S. don't hate our freedoms; they hate that we have supported pro-Western dictatorships in their region, they hate that we reliably and sometimes unthinkingly support Israel, and they hate that we invaded a country that posed no threat to us and completely destroyed it. These are everyday folks, not terrorists, we're talking about. In their position, we might hate us too.

- John McCain continued the tough talk on Iraq, saying stuff like "We cannot surrender" and "Failure is not an option." And yet he also says that we've got a new strategy and a new general and we need to give them a chance to succeed. Well, what happens if six months pass and nothing gets better? Does John McCain finally advocate pulling out? Does he call that surrender? This war isn't going to get better. John McCain will eventually have to agree to what the Democrats are suggesting now: smartly and strategically redeploying the troops out of the country. Will he call that defeat? For his own sake, he better stop throwing around those words.

- Romney was asked for one thing wrong about America, and he said, completely stunned, "I love America." Then he gushed about the American people for 30 seconds. Why have we reached a point as a country where it is politically dangerous to say one damn thing we could improve about ourselves? We couldn't get health insurance for some portion of the 47 million Americans who don't have coverage, Mitt? You couldn't even say something like, "Improve inner city schools"?

- The day Roe v. Wade is overturned, according to Sam Brownback, will be a "glorious day of human liberty and freedom." According to Tancredo, it would be "the greatest day in this country's history." Really, Tom? Not the day of the Emancipation Proclamation? Or, oh I don't know, the Fourth of July?

- Why can't John McCain stop squinting?

- Ron Paul is the GOP's Mike Gravel and I love him for it.

- Towards the end, Chris Matthews asked if it was a good idea for Bill Clinton to be back in the White House again. Dumb question, clearly, because the answer for everyone (they're running for president after all) is obviously "No." But it gave each candidate a chance to rip Hillary. It was like Matthews strung her up as pinata and handed the GOP a big ol' stick. And boy, they beat the daylights out of her.

Okay, that's it. Last observation: this may be the last presidential primary debate for either party that is composed exclusively of white men. Times are changing, folks. Oh, and Reagan Reagan Reagan.

Blog Interviews Office of Special Counsel

| Thu May 3, 2007 10:47 PM EDT

We've written about how the Office of Special Counsel has abdicated its responsibilities to protect whistleblowers under the guidance of its current director, Scott Bloch, a religious conservative and Bush appointee. We've also written about how Bloch's investigation of Karl Rove is a bit suspicious.

The Cest Moi Political Blog got a hold of a representative from the OSC and gets his thoughts on some of this, and on other things. You can check it out here.

Health and Environment News of the Day

| Thu May 3, 2007 9:51 PM EDT

What do Funyuns, flying squirrels, and octogenarian tortoises all have in common?

You can read news about them all today on The Blue Marble Blog.

Julie MacDonald's Legacy: Fewer Endangered Species

| Thu May 3, 2007 7:59 PM EDT

Good bye and good riddance to Julie MacDonald of the Fish and Wildlife Service. She was forced to resign because documents she leaked to industry lobbyists surfaced later in lawsuits against the federal government. Quite embarrassing, you can imagine.

But there were a ton of even better reasons for her departure. For example, "she demanded that the determined nesting range of the Southwest Willow Flycatcher be shrunk from a 2.1 mile radius to 1.8 miles, so that it would not cross into the state of California, where her husband's family owned a ranch."

As a henchman for the Bush Administration's ungreening of America, MacDonald's work is behind the seeming-miraculous comeback of so many species delisted as endangered in the past few months. To name a few in different states, grizzlies, gray wolves, crocodiles, flying squirrels, and manatees.

It's not that they suddenly bounced back to normal populations. It's that the feds, as Jen blogged, changed the definition of "endangered."

Unfortunately, take out one fool, and there's another standing by to replace her. It appears that her successor, Todd Willens, earned his creds spearheading former California Rep. Richard Pombo's anti-endangered species agenda.

manatee.jpg
You're on you're own, manatee.