Blogs

Oprah's Peace Corps Lite: O Really?

| Wed May 28, 2008 2:01 AM EDT

Hot on the heels of revamping the entire publishing industry, Oprah has apparently decided to reinvent the Peace Corps in her spare time. The new O Ambassadors are essentially younger, poorer, Oprah-backed versions of who I was in Africa after college, as far as I can tell. Good for Oprah, saving the world again and all that...right? Right?

Okay, I'll let her site explain the program's differences to you:

"I'm proud to unveil one of the best ideas we've ever had—it's called O Ambassadors," Oprah says...

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American Jewish Committee Won't Touch Hagee on Holocaust; Silence from AIPAC, ADL

| Tue May 27, 2008 8:57 PM EDT

In an interview today, an official from the American Jewish Committee would not criticize Pastor John Hagee for his explication, in a recently resurfaced sermon, of Hitler as a "hunter" sent by God to drive European Jews to Palestine.

Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, AJC's US Director of Interreligious Affairs, told me that he accepted Hagee's "clarification" of the sermon, which John McCain condemned as "crazy and unacceptable" last week. "I guess I feel like I don't really know how to understand that sermon. I guess I understand that he was trying to say that people can be an instrument of God's will, but in the throes of the passion of giving the sermon, perhaps he didn't stop and think what that meant," Greenebaum said. "But at least now, under reflection and under the current circumstances, he seems to be saying something very different. His statement of clarification I don't have much of a beef with as a free-standing statement."

But as the Huffington Post accurately reported last week, Hagee's clarification doesn't actually include an apology or a disavowal of the sermon. Here's the tape of the sermon at issue, in which Hagee also says that "They [the Jewish people] are physically alive but they're not spiritually alive."

Here's the question I set out to answer last week: would the most prominent Jewish and "pro-Israel" groups in the country finally take Hagee to task for his outrageous comments and for seeing Jews primarily in terms of their role in his eschatology?

Angry Votes Suck

| Tue May 27, 2008 6:49 PM EDT

800px-Prozac_pills.jpg The more anxious or angry you are about the political landscape the less likely you are to actually pay attention to the facts. This according to a new study in Political Psychology. While angry and anxious voters tune into the news more than more relaxed voters, they actually concentrate less effectively on the available information. Researchers from the Universities of Michigan and Texas conducted two experiments in the 2004 presidential campaigns in which people answered questions on a computer that either induced a specific emotional state or a control condition to reduce all emotional arousal. The first experiment found that anxious, angry and enthusiastic people claimed they were more interested than people in a controlled, relaxed setting, and that they would pay closer attention to the debates. However, all three emotional states led people to take less time looking for information that was available to them, with anxiety impacting attention the most. The second experiment suggested that typical campaign coverage can trigger powerful emotions which lead to hasty, uninformed decisions.

So, let's get this straight… the news runs on emotion, which leads to bad judgment, which leads to bad leaders, which pisses us off, which fuels bad news…

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

The White Rapper Show vs. Miss Rap Supreme

| Tue May 27, 2008 2:18 PM EDT

I'm so out of touch, I'm often reduced to wondering if I'm being punk'd by every third article I read. Seriously. I'm starting to expect to find myself on some YouTube footage while depraved young folk, fresh from MySpace'ing drunken, naked pix of themselves, guffaw whilst reading some earnest critique I've posted of their fabricated news. But no. So far, I haven't fallen for any hoaxes though I often which I had. God help us, it's all true.

I have no idea anymore who those bony babies on the red carpets are, nor most of the shows they're associated with. A good 95% of the bands on SNL are utter mysteries to me. (Full disclosure: I have long since been reduced to watching a TIVO'd SNL on Sunday afternoon; 11:30 finds me deep in REM sleep.) 2006 was my last year bothering to bone up on the Grammy or MTV award recipients (again, on the next day. I read the lists; can't stand the music). All their names sound like spoofs to me. I was quite sure I was being made fun of as Onion staffers somewhere snickered at the thought of nerds like me trying to fake discussing System of a Down or Dashboard Confessional over the water cooler. Since they didn't actually exist. I gave up somewhere around something, someone or some band called Nine Inch Nails. Surely picking your band's name at random from one of those refrigerator-magnet poem packs is a joke, right? But, sadly, no.

Levin Urges Tougher NATO Rules of Engagement Along Pakistan Border

| Tue May 27, 2008 12:55 PM EDT

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Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate's Committee on Armed Services, spoke with reporters this morning by phone from the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar, where he was preparing to board a plane for Israel, the final stop on a fact-finding trip that had already taken him to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Discussion of the latter took up most of the conference call, with Levin urging that NATO forces based in Afghanistan amend their rules of engagement to allow troops to engage enemy fighters on the Pakistani side of the border.

"It's not right for our troops to be shot at and not respond," Levin said. "We have every right." In fact, U.S. forces already return fire across the border when attacked, but NATO partners—Germany to the north; Canada and the UK to the south—do not. Levin said that a tougher response from troops based along the border would help prevent Taliban and Al Qaeda from slipping back and forth so easily, a continuing frustration for the U.S. military.

The other side of that coin is the Pakistani government's apparent lack of effort to stop the cross-border flow of insurgents and weapons. Levin told reporters that U.S. intelligence agencies have evidence that Pakistani army troops not only give Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents free passage, they also, in certain cases, have actively aided their military operations—a fact that brings into question continued military aid for the Pakistani regime. The Frontier Corps, in particular, a tribal militia that has become the recipient of millions of dollars in U.S. support, is of suspect loyalty, said Levin. (Read my earlier piece on the Frontier Corps here.) Whether funding for the Corps or other parts of Pakistan's military will continue depends on whether those forces are being used for their intended purpose, namely to crush Taliban fighters and establish some modicum of government control over the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. "We don't want to strengthen the Pakistan side if they're going to misuse the support," Levin said.

Bill Clinton's Autobiography: 1992 Race Was Over in April

| Tue May 27, 2008 12:28 PM EDT

Nat the Dem has a good catch from Bill Clinton's autobiography, My Life:

On April 7, we also won in Kansas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. On April 9, Paul Tsongas announced that he would not reenter the race. The fight for the nomination was effectively over.

Okay? Can we stop with this now?

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A Quick Thought on the VP Debate

| Tue May 27, 2008 11:37 AM EDT

I second the thinking of Josh Patashnik over at TNR: the Democratic nominee shouldn't just pick a VP that helps win in 2008. He or she should pick a VP that can win in 2016, and that the Democratic Party sees as a future standard-bearer. As Patashnik notes, "One of the most important things a party does is cultivate talent for the future... There is no shortage of promising prospects who could achieve much if given that level of stature (the vice presidency)--why pass up the opportunity to put one of your rising stars in that position?"

I think that consideration effectively eliminates Sam Nunn, the oft-lionized foreign policy guru of the left who was born in 1938 and will be 78 in 2016. It probably also eliminates Joe Biden, who will be 74 in 2016, and Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio, who will be 75.

Why Does Bill Clinton Get a Fact-Check Pass?

| Tue May 27, 2008 10:09 AM EDT

Is any fact-checker in the Mother Jones San Francisco office able to lend Bill Clinton a hand? On the campaign trail recently, he echoed the Clinton campaign's argument that the pressure Hillary Clinton is facing to quit the Democratic race is "unprecedented" and that primary races routinely last into June. It's particularly odd because Bill was part of a race where also-ran candidates were pressured to get out and the frontrunner, Big Dawg himself, had the nomination wrapped up in March.

Here's the NYT fact-check that disproves all this. Look, I love Bill as much as the next guy, and I'm weary of the Clinton pile-ons (the RFK assassination stuff was nonsense and we didn't touch it here on MoJoBlog), but Bill is either deliberately misleading Hillary's supporters or he's completely resorted his memory and convinced himself of something that isn't true. And this is far from the first time he's done this. Remember when he defended Hillary's sniper fire comments? He made so many errors that ABC had to footnote them. He claimed after South Carolina that the Obama campaign had played the race card on him, then denied that he had ever said that.

While Hillary Clinton gets something wrong, the press usually debunks it immediately. But Bill Clinton largely gets a pass. Something's going on here. Possible explanations are below. Give us yours in the comments.

McCain and Bush: No PDAs

| Tue May 27, 2008 9:45 AM EDT

Last week I wrote that President Bush's presence on the campaign trail would only be of use to John McCain if GWB stayed out of the spotlight and worked behind the scenes to raise money, primarily from the members of the Republican base who aren't huge McCain fans.

That's basically what's happening. The McCain campaign moved an event with the President scheduled for later today from it's original location, reportedly the Phoenix Convention Center, to McCain's private home. The event went from being open press to being closed press. The cause for the changes? Lackluster ticket sales, a fear of anti-war protesters, and presumably a desire to keep the pair away from the cameras. Writes the Wall Street Journal:

President Bush and John McCain will appear together at a fund-raiser in Phoenix Tuesday, the first time in nearly three months that the Republican presidential candidate will be seen beside the man he hopes to succeed.
With Mr. Bush's popularity at a record low, the McCain campaign has made sure that television footage of the two men together will be minimal. The maneuvering is the latest example of Sen. McCain's aggressive effort to separate himself from the White House, even as he embraces many of the policies that Mr. Bush has promoted throughout his presidency...

Politico adds: "In its daily e-mail update to reporters this morning, McCain's campaign made no mention that the leader of the free world would be appearing with the candidate tonight."

On the Siegelman Scandal, Rove Offers a Very Suspicious Non-Denial Denial

| Mon May 26, 2008 10:42 AM EDT

On Sunday, Karl Rove gave students of spin a prime example of a non-denial denial. He was a guest on ABC News' This Week and after discussing the presidential campaign, he was asked by host George Stephanopoulos about the Don Siegelman controversy. Siegelman is the former Democratic Alabama governor who was convicted and imprisoned for corruption and who charges that the Justice Department prosecution against him was part of a secret campaign mounted by Rove and other Republicans. Last week, the House judiciary committee subpoenaed Rove in connection with the Siegelman case and the firings of U.S. attorneys.

One has to wonder if Siegelman has been trying to save himself by pinning his case to the U.S. attorneys scandal, but the way Rove answered (that is, did not answer) a question from Stephanopoulos about the Siegelman affair was quite suspicious. Look at the entire exchange:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: As we know and our viewers probably know you were subpoenaed this week by the House Judiciary Committee to give testimony on any involvement you may have had with the prosecution of the former Alabama governor, Don Siegelman. He's claiming there was selective prosecution. He's out on bail now even though he was convicted. He said your fingerprints are all over it. Here's what the House report said.
It said, "In May 2007 a Republican attorney from Northern Alabama named Jill Simpson wrote an affidavit stating that in November 2002 she heard a prominent Alabama Republican operative named Bill Canary say that Karl Rove had contacted the Justice Department about bringing a prosecution of Don Siegelman. The question for Mr. Rove is whether he directly or indirectly discussed the possibility of prosecuting Don Siegelman with either the Justice Department or Alabama Republicans."
Did you?
KARL ROVE: Let me say three things, first of all, I think it's interesting -- everybody who was supposedly on that telephone call that Miss Simpson talks about says the call never took place. I'd say...