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Hatch Act Violations Extend to Diplomatic Corps

We've blogged in the past about Karl Rove's political PowerPoints that Rove's deputies went around Washington showing to federal employees,...

| Tue Jul. 24, 2007 12:40 AM EDT

We've blogged in the past about Karl Rove's political PowerPoints that Rove's deputies went around Washington showing to federal employees, acts of politicalization that are obvious violations of the Hatch Act.

The Post has an A01 story revealing that those PowerPoints even reached foreign policy folks, specifically top diplomats.

White House aides have conducted at least half a dozen political briefings for the Bush administration's top diplomats, including a PowerPoint presentation for ambassadors with senior adviser Karl Rove that named Democratic incumbents targeted for defeat in 2008 and a "general political briefing" at the Peace Corps headquarters after the 2002 midterm elections.
The briefings, mostly run by Rove's deputies at the White House political affairs office, began in early 2001 and included detailed analyses for senior officials of the political landscape surrounding critical congressional and gubernatorial races, according to documents obtained by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Why members of the foreign service need to know which Democrats are targeted for removal in 2008 is beyond me, but if you're going to taint the federal government, you might as well taint all of it. Go big or go home: it's the American way.

Update: The original headline of this article said "diplomatic corp" instead of "diplomatic corps." Mea culpa.

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Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things: 7/23/07

Oh, life. It's bigger. It's bigger than you! And you are not me! Too true, Michael Stipe; you know, your hometown of Athens, GA, having produced both the warbly melancholy of your very own REM and the cheeky beehives of your buddies The B-52s, seems to embody the yin and yang of this week's Top Ten: the tragedy, the comedy. Sure, life is awful...

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 10:45 PM EDT

Oh, life. It's bigger. It's bigger than you! And you are not me! Too true, Michael Stipe; you know, your hometown of Athens, GA, having produced both the warbly melancholy of your very own REM and the cheeky beehives of your buddies The B-52s, seems to embody the yin and yang of this week's Top Ten: the tragedy, the comedy. Sure, life is awful and you really just wonder what the point of it all is, but also, dude, check out this video of the Muppets with a disco song!!! So, hurry up and bring your jukebox money:

10. Plastic Little – "Dopeness" (video; song from the forthcoming She's Mature)
Okay. I debated about posting this here—Mother Jones is a serious magazine, and this is a serious web site, and this video from the Philadelphia rap crew is pretty much Not Safe For Work, with its, um, kind of freakish opening-scene take on childbirth, and the song's slangy references to, er, genitalia, and "makin' babies," and the shaking of baby-makers. But before you fire me, Mother Jones, please hear me out: it's all done in such a spirit of surreal and silly fun, it's hard to be offended, and if it was a French short film and not a rap video you'd be putting it in a museum. Maybe. But, anyway, that one fake-childbirth moment might be hard to explain to your boss if they catch you watching it, so beware.

9. Blonde Redhead – "The Dress" (video; song from 23 on 4ad)
We've already established that 23 is one of the, well, at least top 23 albums of the year; apparently video director Mike Mills agrees, since he's in the middle of creating clips for five tracks off the album. Four are featured on the 4ad website, and they're all simple ideas, executed with a kind of zen focus: a text-only outline, a series of poses, an emerging rainbow, and this: a series of people doing something that's almost unbearable to watch. (Yes, it's safe for work.) (Watch a higher-quality quicktime stream here.)

8. Flight of the Conchords – "The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room" (from "Flight of the Conchords" on HBO)
Yes, okay, silly parody songs full of non-sequiters are kind of SNL Digital Short territory, and Beck has already done the geeky-white-boy's-ironic-Prince thing pretty well. But still, this entry into the genre from the new HBO series has its own charms, not least of which is the line, "Let's get in a cab / I'll buy you a kebab."

7. This video of Philipino prisoners re-enacting the video to Michael Jackson's "Thriller"
Um, help?

6. Against Me! – "White People for Peace" (from New Wave on Sire)
While the video's colorful East-vs-West war-as-football metaphor isn't exactly ground-breaking, the track itself is oddly moving: a protest song about the futility of protest songs. The Florida punk-ish combo squeezes the line "Protest songs in response to military aggression" into the chorus, a line whose banality, in its repetition, takes on a kind of despair.

CNN/YouTube Debate Live Blog! Part 4

A question in the form of a rap song about No Child Left Behind. Kind of cringe-inducing, but kind of...

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 9:14 PM EDT

A question in the form of a rap song about No Child Left Behind. Kind of cringe-inducing, but kind of neat. Richardson and Biden, who have differences on Iraq, as documented below, both agree on scrapping it. This is Bush's single greatest domestic accomplishment! What an awful legacy!

Wait, Biden's wife and daughter were killed? Did he just say that? How can everyone talk about John Edwards' dead son without ever mentioning the fact that Biden has lost his wife and daughter? I'm hitting Wikipedia.

Okay, here's what Wikipedia says (authoritative source, I know): "In 1966, while in law school, Biden married Neilia Hunter. They had three children, Joseph R. III (Beau), Robert Hunter, and Amy. His wife and infant daughter died in an automobile accident shortly after he was first elected to the U.S. Senate [in 1973]. His two young sons, Beau and Hunter, were seriously injured in the accident, but both eventually made full recoveries. Biden was sworn into office from their bedside." Biden remarried in 1977.

We just had a question from two fake hillbillies and a question from a snowman. CNN's producers are punchy tonight. (Boy, awkward transition.)

CNN/YouTube Debate Live Blog! Part 3

Gravel = righteous anger. Seriously. The man is a cauldron of fury. If you think lives were lost in vain...

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 8:51 PM EDT

Gravel = righteous anger. Seriously. The man is a cauldron of fury. If you think lives were lost in vain in Vietnam and lives are being lost in vain in Iraq, and more importantly, you want a president who is willing to say so loudly, Gravel might be the guy for you.

Question from a soldier in Japan for Hillary Clinton. Islamic states see women as second class citizens, he says. Given that, how can she hope to be taken seriously by leaders of those states? Hillary blows the question out of the water, saying as First Lady she visited 82 countries, including many Islamic ones, and that as a powerful senator she regularly has high-level talks with those folks. Also, there are and have been female leaders across the globe, including some in Muslim-dominated states, like Pakistan. Hillary has been really hammering her credentials and experience — usually by saying that she has the best ability to hit the ground running if elected — and it's hard to argue with her.

CNN/YouTube Debate Live Blog! Part 2

Obama has a zinger. Asked about whether or not he has authenticity as a black man, he says he proves...

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 8:20 PM EDT

Obama has a zinger. Asked about whether or not he has authenticity as a black man, he says he proves his credentials when he tries to catch a cab in Manhattan.

Hillary has a good one on whether or not her femininity is in question: "I can't run as anything but a woman." Now Edwards is taking on the question of women — more women than men have trouble getting the health care they need, more women are affected by the minimum wage, and so on. He commends Senator Clinton for her lifetime of work on behalf of women, but claims he is the best advocate for them.

A couple totally awesome questions on gay rights. A lesbian couple asking if the candidates would allow them to marry if they were elected, and then a Baptist pastor who said, if religion was used to justify slavery, banning interracial marriage, and other injustices, and we recognized that was wrong, how can we use religion to deny gay Americans the right to vote. This is the sort of stuff conventional moderators would not have brought up. At least one cheer for YouTube, and Politics 2.0!

CNN/YouTube Debate Live Blog!

We'll be here all night, folks, watching the Dems debate at the Citadel. Big question, according to the mainstream media...

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 7:55 PM EDT

We'll be here all night, folks, watching the Dems debate at the Citadel. Big question, according to the mainstream media anyway: will someone try to distinguish themselves by attacking Hillary Clinton, who leads in all the polls?

Today's questions don't come from moderators — they come from YouTube users who submitted 3,000 questions in the weeks leading up to the debates. CNN showed polls before the debate showing that the younger you are, the more likely you are to use the internet to follow campaign news. But the older you are, the more likely you are to watch a debate on television. What that means is, today is as an inter-generational affair, with old fogies tuning in only to be befuddled by all the youngsters with webcams appearing on their TV screens.

Okay, kicking things off. The first two questions are all crazy and in-your-face. I'm willing to bet CNN could have found enough serious and almost boring questions to make this a conventional affair. But they've been billing this as revolutionary for days, so things are going to have to be edgy. This might be a loooong night.

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Do-It-Yourself Mad Scientistry: Environmental Edition

Hey, cool! Via Instapundit, I found a site that tells you how to make your own ethanol. To make it,...

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 5:23 PM EDT

Hey, cool! Via Instapundit, I found a site that tells you how to make your own ethanol.

To make it, whether in home stills or factories, cornmeal is put in vats with water and enzymes that convert some of the corn to sugar. Yeast added to the "mash" converts the sugar to alcohol. In a few days, the alcohol concentration tops 10 percent and the yeast goes inactive, having, ironically, rendered its own environment toxic.
Distillation increases the alcohol concentration: 50 percent is vodka, 95 percent is fuel. Alcohol vaporizes at a lower temperature than water, so heating the fermented mash turns the alcohol to vapor that collects on a cold condenser.

Uh, okay. The process is illegal, dangerous, unlikely to help the environment all that much, and possibly hazardous to all of our long-term respiratory health. Other than that, it's great! Find your lab goggles and get to work!

More Wanton White House Secrecy

ThinkProgress picked up this interesting little item in last Friday's Oregonian. Apparently Peter DeFazio, the Oregon Democrat and a member...

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 4:47 PM EDT

ThinkProgress picked up this interesting little item in last Friday's Oregonian. Apparently Peter DeFazio, the Oregon Democrat and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, requested access to the administration's continuity of government plan in the event of a terrorist attack. Access denied, the White House said.

The American Enterprise Institutes's oft-quoted political scientist Norm Ornstein told the paper that this is an unprecedented move. "I find it inexplicable and probably reflective of the usual, knee-jerk overextension of executive power that we see from this White House," he said.

The White House has yet to weigh in on the matter, but given the administration's track record when it comes to wanton secrecy you can likely expect a creative and legally fraught explanation (or simply none at all) for why DeFazio's request was denied. (After all, the Veep's office briefly advanced the argument recently that it was not part of the executive branch and thus not subject to an information request from the National Archives.)

But why was DeFazio looking into the classified portions of the continuity of government plan anyway? It turns out that some conspiracy-minded Oregonians called his office concerned that there might be something fishy in the fine print. Under normal circumstances this would seem to be another tinfoil-hat-type theory. But now DeFazio's not so sure. "Maybe the people who think there's a conspiracy out there are right," he said.

Buju Banton Signs Gay Rights Group's Pledge

My recent posts on reggae have neglected to mention the current controversy over Jamaican stars and anti-gay lyrics. In an attempt to curb the flow of homophobic and often violent lyrics in reggae music, the UK-based OutRage! group organized the "Reggae Compassionate Act," a pledge for artists to sign in which they agree to "respect and uphold the rights of all individuals to live...

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 3:46 PM EDT

mojo-photo-bujubanton.jpgMy recent posts on reggae have neglected to mention the current controversy over Jamaican stars and anti-gay lyrics. In an attempt to curb the flow of homophobic and often violent lyrics in reggae music, the UK-based OutRage! group organized the "Reggae Compassionate Act," a pledge for artists to sign in which they agree to "respect and uphold the rights of all individuals to live without violence due to their religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender." Today the group announced that Buju Banton (right) had signed the agreement. Banton was considered a focus for OutRage! due to his notorious 1992 hit "Boom Boom Bye," which called for "batty boys" (Jamaican slang for gay men) to be murdered in a variety of gruesome ways. The UK Guardian quoted a Jamaican gay rights leader as saying he hoped the singer's actions were "genuine."

His skepticism is understandable. In June it was reported that dancehall artists Beenie Man, Capleton and Sizzla had all signed the agreement, but on Sunday the Jamaica Observer published an interview with Beenie Man in which he denied signing the pledge. He did, however, offer the caveat of renouncing murderous violence against gays, quoted thusly: "We don't need to kill dem. We just need fi tell the people dem the right ting because I not supporting a gay lifestyle because it's not wholesome to me." The Observer reported it was unable to contact Capleton and Sizzla for confirmation of their signing the agreement.

Jamaica has been the scene of multiple incidents of violence against men perceived to be gay recently, including a mob attack on three men in Montego Bay in April, and a near-riot in Kingston in February in which three men were chased into a pharmacy by a crowd of nearly 2,000. The World Policy Institute issued a report (pdf) in 2003 stating that "Jamaica is by far the most dangerous place for sexual minorities, with frequent and often fatal attacks against gay men fostered by a popular culture that idolises reggae and dancehall singers whose lyrics call for burning and killing gay men."

News You've Been Waiting For, Mother Jones Takes on Washington

We've been telling you for a few days that Mother Jones has some big news. Here it is. We're bucking...

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 3:11 PM EDT

We've been telling you for a few days that Mother Jones has some big news. Here it is. We're bucking the mainstream news downsizing trend while getting our investigators' noses into places that drive the political elite crazy. Right after Labor Day, non-profit Mother Jones will be the first American news organization in years to open a major bureau in Washington D.C. We're more than doubling our commitment to fearless, independent reporting in the nation's capital.

Jay Harris
President & Publisher