Mojo - February 2007

Valentine's Day, Mother Jones-Style

| Wed Feb. 14, 2007 8:08 AM PST

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. Or if you are one of those people, happy grumpy I-hate-this-silly-manufactured-nonsense day. It will assuredly be a day of blissful complaining for you.

Think Valentine's Day is the sort of thing Mother Jones wouldn't cover? Wrong! There's always a MoJo angle. In 2003, we sent a correspondent out to find a truly organic, pesticide-free Valentine's Day rose. The results -- surprise! -- were not good. A year earlier, we examined the environmental and human cost of Ecuador's rose industry -- the world's fourth largest and a major exporter to the United States. Just a loving reminder from Mother Jones that consumer ethics never take a holiday.

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For Love Or Money, Er...Politics

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 11:40 PM PST

Wasn't there a saying back in the day claiming three things lovers should never discuss -- money, politics and religion? Surely things have changed if the presence of online dating services to find your political soulmate is any indication. It seems only natural that our dating habits (and online services for those so inclined) would reflect the increased prominence of politics in our lives and its polarization in the country. Finding a mate is no longer just about attraction and compatibility, it's about your view on abortion (there really is no middle ground) or what place you think religion has within the government. Liberals seeking liberals, conservatives seeking conservatives – you see where they were going when John Hlinko and Brian Barcaro founded political matchmaker sites ActForLove and Conservativematch a few years back.

But, before I get anymore earnest in talking about this subject, let's poke a little fun, shall we? ActForLove's tagline is "take action, get action!" No, really, it says it on the homepage. And they appear to deliver on both, the site has 50,000 members and urges liberals to get involved directing them to sites like the ACLU and StemPAC.org. Conservativematch calls for "sweethearts not bleeding hearts" (not as clever, I know) on their site and has an online mag with headlines like "Abortion Hurts Women: The Hard Proof" and "Male Passivity: The Root of All Evil," which documents the mistakes Adam made with Eve. Really, both sites are worth a quick once-over, even if just for a chuckle, but if you find something more, don't forget who to thank.

Second Blogger Resigns From Edwards Campaign

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 9:25 PM PST

Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare's Sister has joined Pandagon blogger Amanda Marcotte in resigning from the John Edwards presidential campaign. McEwan, in her announcement, makes it clear that she was not forced out by the candidate, the campaign staff, right-wing bloggers, or even the media, but by the vicious and threatening behavior of individuals who opposed her opinions.

How nasty and threatening do people have to be before they force someone out of a campaign? McEwan said she felt increasingly uncomfortable for herself and her family. Visit at your own risk, but here is a small collection of some of the things that were said to Amanda Marcotte, and Marcotte names names.

Naturally, since Marcotte is female, many of the attacks are sexual in nature, and all of them are unspeakably vile.

Fact-Checking Made Easy

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 7:47 PM PST

Here's an interesting tidbit from "News War," the new Frontline documentary that begins tonight on PBS (read our review here). How can you tell if a government leak is true? Simple -- see if the FBI starts a leak investigation.

Below, Frontline's Lowell Bergman interviews former FBI counterintelligence director David Szady:

BERGMAN: How do you conduct [FBI leak investigations]...?

SZADY: Well, first of all, you have a victim agency, the owner of the information, those who classified it. What they have to do is file a report, which consists of 11 questions, and those questions go from was the material properly classified, was the information that was leaked accurate compared to what the actual classified information is?

BERGMAN: The information has to be accurate?

SZADY: Yes.

BERGMAN: So when the government announces a leak investigation and it comes to your office, it's confirming that the report in the newspaper, for example, or on television, was true.

SZADY: Yes. Indirectly, yes.

BERGMAN: That's one way to fact-check. [LAUGHTER]

Romney: Lies, Boring Lies

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 3:26 PM PST

When Mitt Romney entered politics in 1994 with a losing bid to unseat Sen. Ted Kennedy, he packaged himself as a moderate. He promised the Log Cabin Republicans that he would be a stronger advocate for gay rights than Kennedy. He also said that regardless of his personal beliefs, abortion should be safe and legal.

Let's be honest: You can't win in Massachusetts if you say you hate gays and value fetuses more than women.

When he announced his presidential aspirations earlier today, Romney presented himself as a veritable values warrior. He called for smaller government. Apparently, taxes are still too high...on the wealthy.

He also wrapped anti-abortion and anti-gay views into a frighteningly tight little package. (Perhaps he would support gag legislation recently introduced by the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance, limiting marriage to those who can and will have children?)

"America can't continue to lead the family of nations if we fail the families at home," he said, adding that values and morals are "under constant attack" and promoting families where a mother and a father are in each child's life.

Where to begin? Romney's rhetoric is so two decades ago and contradicts positions he's taken in the meantime. And to say values are under attack is downright frightening. I challenge Mr. Mitt to find me one instance of one person of any credibility saying that values and morals are bad: End laws against stealing! Make perjury mandatory! Murder? No problem!

The only way his statement makes any sense is as an assault on the separation of church and state, which is just downright bizarre because Romney isn't protestant, he's Mormon and would join gays and abortionists on the heretics list.

That's the crazy-boring package. Oh, yeah, he also supports continued involvement in Iraq.

Banking Industry Offers Credit Cards to High-Risk Group, Again

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 3:11 PM PST

In just another example of banks targeting high-risk groups, those with bad or no credit, Bank of America is discreetly offering credit cards to people without Social Security numbers, reports the Wall Street Journal today. Now, before my knee-jerk reaction, that this is a really dirty and exploitative moneymaking scheme, gets away from me, I think it's important to consider the positives.

Undocumented immigrants, the obvious target of the new offer (the majority of people in the U.S. who don't have a SS number are illegal immigrants), deserve options for credit as well. It is harder to buy a house, car and really, anything big without credit, and as the WSJ points out, illegal immigrants have "typically relied on loan sharks and neighborhood finance shops for credit." So potentially, this could be a good advancement. Unfortunately, Bank of America's lending scheme appears to be just another example of high-risk groups being taken advantage of.

Illegal immigrants have to pay an upfront fee to obtain Bank of America's Visa card and the interest rate on the card, surprise, surprise, is "unquestionably high," according to a researcher for the Nilson report, a group that puts out newsletters on consumer payment systems. Salon blogger Andrew Leonard, notes, sarcastically, that anti-immigration activists should be shouting from the rooftops, because immigrants' money will no longer be flowing across the border in the form of remittances, but rather staying right here in the U.S. of A.

It's a tough time for banks. Historically they have raked in profits by simply buying other banks, but consolidation regulations are tightening and banks are forced to look for other lucrative avenues. It's really no wonder Bank of America would look to give credit to an untapped population whose financial stability is not guaranteed, one that probably has no idea that the average household that makes less than $35,000 has credit card debt of $4,000.

Higher standards, huh?

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Another PR Firm Poses as an Activist Group

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 1:38 PM PST

The California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights feels your pain. You've been upset about eminent domain abuse—when cities take land from the little guys and pass it to developers of chain stores, car dealerships, and golf courses—haven't you? It's so un-American. Well, the Alliance sympathizes, and it wants to channel your feelings into… opening up nature preserves and greenbelts to developers.

Up close, the "Alliance" doesn't look like much an alliance. It looks more like a public relations firm. The man running the show, Marko Mlikotin, might be on Wal-Mart's payroll. He was spotted recently drumming up community support for two Wal-Mart supercenters in Chico, Calif. But public relations is a tough job, and he's having a rough go at it. Reporter Tom Gascoyne writes, "When I asked him questions, he would say, 'I'm not sure,' or 'Don't quote me.'"

Anyway, "Marko the Mysterious" just sent out a press release trumpeting a recent survey. The pollster is the Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican firm which says, "As our roots are in political campaign management, our research is focused on producing information…." Doesn't sound so objective.

You can guess the poll results: People don't like eminent domain abuse. They would support a law to protect homeowners. But the survey didn't differentiate between the private property rights of homeowners and those of Wal-Mart. And what people weren't asked about is how much they value open space and greenbelts and nature preserves. People don't want a law like Prop 90, which citizens smartly defeated in November, because it would have crippled environmental regulation and cost the states billions of dollars. A "pay-or-waive scheme," Prop 90 would have required the government to compensate landowners for new regulations that devalue their property, or waive the regulations altogether. (In Oregon, which has pay-or-waive, property owners in three months last summer filed more than $5 billion in claims).

As far as I can tell, no news agencies have picked up the survey, which means folks are onto Marko and his "alliance." But the point is, they're back. Special interests behind this "alliance" are drumming up support for another Prop 90. Get ready.

Congressman from Georgia Passes Away

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 1:04 PM PST

Representative Charlie Norwood has died at his home in Georgia, a victim of lung disease and cancer. Norwood, a Republican, was a citizen-politician, serving as a dentist before coming to Congress in 1994. Rest in peace.

Asylum Seekers Greeted With Shackles and Chains

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 11:44 AM PST

The New York Times reported last week that a bipartisan federal commission has found that the Bush administration, "in its zeal to secure the nation's borders and stem the tide of illegal immigrants, may be leaving asylum seekers vulnerable to deportation and harsh treatment."

This comes after a 2005 report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom which found that immigration officials are far from welcoming when it comes to refugees fleeing persecution. The study found that asylum seekers have been incarcerated in prisonlike facilities while they wait to have their claims heard (if they haven't been already expedited), essentially being treated as criminals.

The study also documents inhumane treatment: in one Illinois county jail, the staff used "handcuffs, bellychains, and leg shackles...when detainees leave the facility." In addition, the study found that "the use of segregation, isolation, or solitary confinement for disciplinary reasons was widespread among the detention facilities that we sampled."

Did you get that? You might be fleeing from torture, persecution and violence in your own country. Then you seek refuge in America- "the land of the free" - and guess what you find? More inhumane treatment!

—Neha Inamdar

Matt Taibbi Makes the World Whole Again

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 9:55 AM PST

Want to draw your attention to this article from RollingStone.com, via Alternet, because it does a great job of teasing out and articulating the emotions being felt by those who opposed the war from the beginning and who now have to accommodate buffoons like Joe Klein in their anti-war space.

But mainly because I have a man-crush on Matt Taibbi.

Update: Whoops. That article is almost a week old. Well, whatever. It's not time-sensitive anyway. Take it for what it's worth.