Mojo - February 2007

House Anti-Surge Resolution Comes to the Fore

| Mon Feb. 12, 2007 1:42 PM EST

As you probably know, the Senate's resolution expressing disapproval of President Bush's troop increase met an ignominious end. After much brou-ha-ha over Sens. Levin, Hagel, and Biden's version being reconciled with Sen. Warner's version, and grand talk about how this resolution would set up the first serious confrontation between the newly Democratic Congress and the Bush Administration.... the whole thing fizzled in a spat of in-fighting and parliamentary maneuvers.

The House, however, because it has a larger majority for the Dems and a less rigid party-line voting tendency, has more hope. A very simple and straightforward anti-surge resolution is to be introduced tomorrow, and it will be debated for three to four days; each member of the House will be given five minutes to speak. Here is the resolution, in full:

Disapproving of the decision of the President announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.
Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That—
(1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and
(2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.

There are some interesting tidbits in the LA Times article about the resolution. First of all, 30 to 60 Republicans are expected to join the Democrats in voting in favor, which is an astonishing number and will result in a lopsided vote total possibly in the range of 290-145, or 2-to-1 in favor.

Second, this:

The resolution will have at least one GOP co-sponsor, North Carolina Rep. Walter B. Jones, a conservative who publicly broke with his party over the war in 2005.

Mother Jones wrote a cover story on Walter Jones' long road from being the "freedom fries" guy to being a leader war critic. Read that here.

I respect but disagree with this argument being put forward by several members of the GOP:

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said, "I call it the status quo resolution. It basically says 'Don't do something' without saying what we should do."

A lack of an alternative is not a reason to vote against the resolution. There is value in telling President Bush that the American people no longer support moving forward -- escalating -- and that any other option is on the table, if he'd please, but this one isn't. Basically, it's a way of saying, "You've had your chance. Enough."

To be frank, making that statement is good enough for me. The administration has not listened to war critics or the Democrats in six years; what makes anyone think that if the resolution had a coherent alternative written into it, the Bushies would even care?

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Coalition of the Willing to Do Anything For Bush

| Mon Feb. 12, 2007 4:24 AM EST

Looks like the Republicans are now pulling the coalition of the willing up onto their bully pulpit. But Australian Prime Minister John Howard's shot at Obama this weekend just may backfire, as it immediately put the Senator on the international stage sparring with a head of state, plus, it keeps the war and its toll in sharp focus.

To refresh, Howard theorized that if he "were running al Qaeda in Iraq," (now that would be something to talk about) "I would put a circle around March 2008 and be praying for a victory, not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats."

This in response to Obama's proposal that the U.S. pull out all troops by the end of next March. "I think that will just encourage those who want to completely destabilize and destroy Iraq, and create chaos and a victory for the terrorists to hang on and hope for an Obama victory."

Obama, not one to back down, responded asking if Howard were to send another 20,000 of his own troops over to Iraq (the country has 1,400 there now), then they could talk. Until then, "it's just empty rhetoric."

This is not the first time that we have heard this chorus, that our enemies will be emboldened with Democrats in power, but to have a foreign head of state slam the Dems? It's a bit like someone outside your family talking smack about your mom, even Republicans are telling Howard to keep his mouth shout. Me, I'm going to go ahead and circle March 2008 so I look out for the chaos and instability that Howard predicts is in Iraq's future.

Another McCain Flip-Flop

| Sun Feb. 11, 2007 11:48 AM EST

It's getting too easy.

Just about a year and a half ago, Sen. John McCain went to court to try to curtail the influence of a group to which A. Jerrold Perenchio gave $9 million, saying it was trying to "evade and violate" new campaign laws with voter ads ahead of the midterm elections.
As McCain launches his own presidential campaign, however, he is counting on Perenchio, the founder of the Univision Spanish-language media empire, to raise millions of dollars as co-chairman of the Arizona Republican's national finance committee.

Past content on McCain reversals here and here.

Update: McCain calls the WaPo article the "worst hit job" of his "entire political career." Doesn't say why it's wrong, though.

Anna Nicole Smith's Death -- Biggest News Event in Recent History

| Fri Feb. 9, 2007 5:22 PM EST

Anna Nicole Smith's death is apparently the biggest story of the 20th and 21st centuries. If you were watching cable news yesterday, you already know that the largest stories of that time period are of course, (5) the Great Depression, (4) Vietnam and the peace movement, (3) the fall of the Soviet Union, (2) WWII and the dropping of the atom bomb, and (1) the death of a former Playboy Playmate who married for money and in some way embodies the perversion of the American Dream.

The good people at ThinkProgress must have a team of 800 research monkeys, because they've tallied the number of times the three major cable news networks referenced Anna Nicole Smith and the number of times they referenced Iraq, just to illustrate the insanity.

The results:


NetworkAnna Nicole SmithIraq
CNN14127
FOX NEWS11233
MSNBC17024

You thought ThinkProgress would stop there? These are very hard-working research monkeys, people, and they are inspired by knowing they do God's work. (As an aside, can you imagine being assigned this project by the boss? "Hiiiii, Peter. I'm going to need you to watch hours of cable news that is saturated with worthless drivel, just to catalogue exactly how much drivel it is saturated with. Mmmmm'kay? Don't forget the TPS reports!")

No, sir. They go further -- courageously, valiantly, with no fear for their own health -- detailing the amount of time NBC, ABC, and CBS spent on Anna Nicole Smith vs. Iraq. (It's particularly bad for NBC, which spent 14 seconds on Iraq and three minutes and 13 seconds on ANS.) And to top it all off, they created a video with the lowlights, in which you can actually see Joe Scarborough scowling in disgust with himself and his producers. I can't post all that here, because you really ought to visit ThinkProgress to see everything in it's full majesty. The devolution of television news is upon us, and I know it makes you want to choke on your own vomit. (Sorry, too soon, I know.)

As Dan Rather would say: Courage!

Border by Boeing, Overseen by Corporate Pals

| Fri Feb. 9, 2007 2:40 PM EST

Since the Bush administration is outsourcing security along the Mexican border to Boeing Co., you'd think they'd want to keep a close eye on how the company is handling the job, not to mention spending the billions of taxpayer dollars that go with it. Turns out, they can't be bothered - they've outsourced that, too. As Rep. Henry Waxman (D-LA) pointed out in hearings yesterday, oversight on the Secure Border Initiative has been handed over to consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. - which just happens to do regular business with their buddies at Boeing. You can get Waxman's full report here.

United? Not With Other Nations We're Not

| Fri Feb. 9, 2007 1:15 PM EST

What is it about global cooperative bodies that Americans are so averse to? The World Cup? Not so into it. The United Nations, Kyoto, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the list goes on. America is not exactly a team player.

A new Gallup poll shows that the American public continues to look down on the supreme international body, with Americans giving the U.N. its lowest approval ratings ever.

Back in 2003 the U.N.'s public image took a southward turn after Bush's go-it-alone strategy took its course. But that was when we thought there were WMDs, etc. and there was actually support for this war. Now, at a time when opposition to the war is at its peak, and Bush's approval rating is at its nadir (32%), the U.N. still can't catch a break.

Gallup's latest measure of the United Nations' job performance is the lowest Gallup has seen since it began asking Americans as much in 1953: Only 29% of Americans believe the U.N. is doing a good job of trying to solve the problems it has face while 66% say it's doing a poor job. That puts the U.N. in the same boat as Bush as far as American's confidence and job approval rating.

The ill feelings could be due to corruption charges against U.N. officials; particularly those involving former Secretary General Kofi Annan's son. But that was nearly two years ago, there's clearly more to it. And if we don't have faith in our president or in the United Nations, who then do we trust? Maybe no one, or maybe we just don't care enough about the issues to value the body tasked with dealing with global challenges.

Worth noting: today's record negative perception of the United Nations follows a period from May 2000 to January 2003 when the organization received some of its most positive ratings from the American people -- routinely exceeding 50%.

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Waxman Hearings: Big Pharma's Institutionalized Kickback Racket

| Fri Feb. 9, 2007 12:45 PM EST

Witnesses before Congressman Waxman's House oversight committee this morning said regulating drugs is literally impossible because nobody knows what they cost to make.

Steven Schondelmeyer of the University of Minnesota said the pharmaceutical industry insists its products make up a relatively small part of the health care budget. Yet, he pointed out, "half of all working adults and three quarters of elderly use one prescription every week… the drug industry accounts for 4 percent of the nation's overall economy and18-19 percent of the health care dollar."

"Let's quit minimizing drugs," said Shondelmeyer. "This is an institutionalized case of kickback."

Different government agencies pay different prices for the same drugs. "There is no way of knowing whether and how the market works," said Gerard Anderson, a Johns Hopkins professor who has tracked the pharmaceutical industry. "Some states pay five times more than other states."

At the same time, it is pretty well established that Medicare Part D plans (covering Medicare recipients) are paying 20 percent more than the government pays for Medicaid recipients. At the same time, the federal and state governments are pushing people off Medicaid into Medicare where they end up paying higher prices.

"News You Already Knew," Iraq Edition

| Fri Feb. 9, 2007 11:58 AM EST

Highlighting this story on MoJoBlog is a formality at this point, because every reader we have must be familiar with the lies and misrepresentations the Bush Administration fed us in the lead-up to the Iraq War.

But there's a new report out from the Pentagon's inspector general that details exactly what role Douglas Feith and his office had in this dirty business.

Intelligence provided by former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith to buttress the White House case for invading Iraq included "reporting of dubious quality or reliability" that supported the political views of senior administration officials rather than the conclusions of the intelligence community, according to a report by the Pentagon's inspector general.

I know, I know, it's old hat. I'm just doing my job...

The New American Dream

| Fri Feb. 9, 2007 11:51 AM EST

A man who served as an interrogator in Iraq has penned a short but powerful article for the Washington Post describing how his actions in that role haunt his thoughts and dreams. A snippet:

Despite my best efforts, I cannot ignore the mistakes I made at the interrogation facility in Fallujah. I failed to disobey a meritless order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated, degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I compromised my values. I will never forgive myself.
American authorities continue to insist that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident in an otherwise well-run detention system. That insistence, however, stands in sharp contrast to my own experiences as an interrogator in Iraq. I watched as detainees were forced to stand naked all night, shivering in their cold cells and pleading with their captors for help. Others were subjected to long periods of isolation in pitch-black rooms. Food and sleep deprivation were common, along with a variety of physical abuse, including punching and kicking. Aggressive, and in many ways abusive, techniques were used daily in Iraq...

Heavy stuff. Worth a read.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't

| Thu Feb. 8, 2007 9:30 PM EST

Looks like John Edwards just can't win. The netroots drama that has transpired over the past few days doesn't show signs of letting up. Not only may Edwards have isolated the progressive online audience he sought to reach through liberal bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan (who he fired yesterday and rehired today), he looks to also have upset religious Democrats, a group he has worked long and hard to win over. His wife, Elizabeth Edwards sits on the board of Call to Renewal, a popular religious left organization. Maybe the lesson learned here is: do your homework. If you want to use liberal bloggers to reach out to a progressive audience, but you don't want to isolate a group whose favor you have worked hard to cultivate, you should read their blogs before you hire them.