Blogs

The Primary That Will REALLY Decide the Dem Race

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 1:51 PM EST

Puerto Rico? Don't scoff. This actually sounds legit.

Memo to the editors: I'm buying my plane ticket now. You'll cover me, right?

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Iraq: Private Contractor Deaths Rose 17 Percent Last Year

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 1:34 PM EST

blackwater_fallujah1_nr.jpg

President Bush's "surge" strategy pumped another 30,000 U.S. troops into Iraq last year, something that many (particularly those among the "stay the course" crowd) have credited for reducing the overall level of violence in Iraq. And, yes, violence is down, but 2007 was nevertheless the bloodiest year in Iraq since the invasion—and the bloodshed took an unexpected turn. According to the Houston Chronicle, the number of private contractors killed while in the employ of coalition forces rose 17 percent in 2007, versus a 10 percent increase in U.S. troop deaths. At least 353 contractors were killed last year, up from 301 in 2006, according to Labor Department statistics. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. troops killed rose to 901 from 822 over the same period. Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association, an industry trade group, told the Chronicle that contractor deaths have fallen off dramatically in more recent months, just as the number of attacks against U.S. troops has declined. So, why did the number of private contractors killed in Iraq last year increase at a greater rate than that of U.S. soldiers? Neither the Pentagon nor the Labor Department are saying. Perhaps it's just that there are now more contractors than ever working dangerous jobs in Iraq, about 155,000, according to Brooks, including about 27,000 Americans.

The John Edwards Endorsement: A Last Chance To Prove He's No Phony

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 11:28 AM EST

A few weeks ago, I was talking to an influential Hillary Clinton fundraiser. When the subject of John Edwards (still in the race at that time) came up, she started sputtering about his hypocrisy. His expensive hair cut, his big house--the guy's a phony, she exclaimed derisively, and his populist, anti-Washington, help-the-poor rhetoric was all just for show. He won't last.

She was right on that final point. As for his authenticity, that was a question that chased Edwards. During his six years in the U.S. Senate (1999 to 2005), Edwards was no working-class hero. He did not develop a reputation as a firebrand willing to take on the powerbrokers of the nation's capital. At that time, Senator Paul Wellstone was the populist champion in the Senate (until his tragic death in October 2002). Wellstone waged one fight after another against corporate interests, lobbying influence, and the sway of big-money. I don't recall Edwards standing shoulder-to-shoulder with him during all these uphill battles.

Yet on the campaign trail, Edwards became Joe Hill in a suit.

Wellstone once told me that you always have to allow for redemption within politics. And perhaps Edwards' conversion was genuine. Why not give him the benefit of the doubt? His message was powerful and well-delivered--even if not embraced by a plurality of Democratic voters. But if Edwards wants to prove he was truly speaking his heart and mind, he has no choice when it comes to endorsing one of the remaining Democratic contenders. He cannot support Hillary Clinton.

On Delegates and Democracy

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 10:00 AM EST

The Beamster makes an excellent point over at Slate about delegates and democracy.

The first school of thought says that superdelegates should support whoever wins more pledged delegates. Democratic strategist and delegate guru Tad Devine argued this point in his Sunday New York Times op-ed, in which he called on superdelegates to stop endorsing and wait to see whom the American people choose. Obama said he also believes that "if we end up with the most states and the most pledged delegates from the most voters in the country, that it would be problematic for the political insiders to overturn the judgment of the voters."
The other school of thought says that superdelegates should decide for themselves which candidate they like better. Hillary Clinton articulated this philosophy over the weekend: "Superdelegates are, by design, supposed to exercise independent judgment."

More after the jump.

Wait, What? Fred Thompson Endorsed McCain?

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 9:34 AM EST

Had you heard? No? Neither had anyone else.

And with that, Fred Thompson leaves the national stage forever. (I'm assuming he'd turn down the VP slot if McCain was dumb enough to offer it. Too much work. Duh.)

Video: Using John McCain's Iraq Rhetoric Against Him

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 12:52 AM EST

It was just a matter of time until the forces of the progressive internet turned its sights on the Republican nominee. And it's starting to happen with John McCain. Earlier today we brought you the "Yes We Can" parody that got viewed by almost 400,000 people in a single day. And now this:

One has a hard time seeing how John McCain is going to win the political war on the internet. He and the movement he now leads are ill-equipped to do so: they lag in creativity and know-how, and will probably lag in money. Unless they find effective conservative responses to all of the creative (that's an advertising industry term) that is bound to be put out by the left, the internet may be a progressive free-for-all of the next nine months.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Whales (and Dugongs) Hear Good News

| Mon Feb. 11, 2008 6:41 PM EST

061019192417.jpg In the last week federal courts have twice slapped the Navy for sonar testing in the ocean. The first, by a federal court in San Francisco, is a preliminary injunction against the use of Low-Frequency Active (LFA) sonar, which relies on extremely loud, low-frequency sound to detect submarines at great distances. According to the Navy's own studies, LFA generates enough noise to significantly disrupt whale behavior more than 300 miles away, and under certain conditions can cross an entire ocean basin. Yet the Navy wants to deploy LFA in more than 75 percent of the world-ocean, reports ENN. "This order protects marine life around the world from a technology that can affect species on a staggering geographic scale," said Joel Reynolds of the National Resources Defense Council, lead group in the coalition asserting that an LFA permit issued last year by the National Marine Fisheries Service violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

The second injunction was for Mid-Frequency Active (MFA) sonar in exercises off southern California. MFA sonar, also used in submarine detection, has been linked to mass deaths of whales in the Bahamas, the Canary Islands, and elsewhere, reports the Los Angeles Times. A federal judge in Los Angeles already ruled against the Navy on this. The Bush administration was attempting to reverse that ruling, pleading that "emergency circumstances" prevented normal compliance with the law. No go, said U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper, calling Bush's effort to maneuver around the original court order "constitutionally suspect."

Is Lucy Liu the New All-American Girl?

| Mon Feb. 11, 2008 5:50 PM EST

LucyLiuresized.jpgLast month ABC premiered its new Sex and the City-ish show Cashmere Mafia, starring Lucy Liu as Mia Mason, a high-powered publishing executive in New York City. Not since Margaret Cho's All-American Girl (also ABC) has an Asian American been featured as a main character. But All-American Girl was criticized by some for exploiting stereotypes for laughs, and Cho and network executives argued over just the right formula of "Asian-ness." After the whole debacle, Cho spiraled into various forms of self-destructiveness, and the show was canceled after one season. That was 1994.

Over the past few decades Asian Americans have been slowly eking their way into casting rooms and onto sets in Hollywood. (Think Lost, ER, Grey's Anatomy, Heroes, Entourage, Gilmore Girls, etc.). Exposure is a good thing, but Asian Americans for the most part are still relegated to ancillary roles.

New Music: The Duke Spirit - Neptune

| Mon Feb. 11, 2008 5:47 PM EST

mojo-photo-neptune.jpgOkay, I have to clear my head of all that Grammys negativity by talking about something good. The Duke Spirit hail from Cheltenham, England, a "spa town" off in the west by Bristol; it's a little isolated, and their sound is too: a kind of throwback to '90s grunge with a liberal helping of Queens of the Stone Age-style riffs. Their first album, 2004's Cuts Across the Land, was an underappreciated gem of fuzzy, bluesy rock, made even more unique by lead singer Leila Moss' chiming voice. Critics compared them to PJ Harvey or Patti Smith, but more than anything they reminded me of Salt, another underappreciated female-fronted hard-rock band who had a minor hit in '95 with "Bluster." In any event, The Duke Spirit seemed mysteriously, intriguingly out-of-sync.

The Continued Absurdity of the Missing White House Emails Case

| Mon Feb. 11, 2008 5:23 PM EST

Regular MotherJones.com readers may recall that last spring, the White House reported that it may have lost some 5 million emails. Later last year, two non-profits, the National Security Archive (NSA) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), sued to ensure the preservation of the emails. (That suit is still pending, and you can read about the whole story on our missing White House emails index page).

During the course of the legal proceedings, CREW filed Freedom of Information Act requests for documents prepared by the White House Office of Administration (OA) that analyzed the scale of the missing email problem. But the White House denied the FOIA requests, making the unique and unprecedented legal argument that the OA is not, in fact, a federal agency and therefore not subject to the FOIA. CREW sued, citing OA's previous treatment as an agency and history of responding to FOIA requests as obvious evidence that the White House argument was ridiculous. That brings us to today, when a DC district court ordered (PDF) limited discovery in order to find out whether OA is, in fact, a federal agency.

You read that right: CREW had to get a court order to gather information to prove that a government agency is, in fact, a government agency.