Mojo - March 2007

Bush Knew Tillman was Killed by Friendly Fire

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 9:06 PM PDT

tillman.jpgWell, the Bush administration sure does keep us busy at Mother Jones. We were just kicking back and relaxing a bit after the completion (and nomination for a national magazine award) of our massive Lie by Lie timeline. No rest for the weary: The AP reports today that Bush and the military knew almost immediately that former football star Pat Tillman had probably died from friendly fire. Seven days after Tillman's death, Bush received a memo about the likely circumstances. He eulogized Tillman a few days later with no reference to friendly fire, and the Pentagon then deceptively awarded the dead soldier a posthumous Silver Star—an award for valor in combat. Tillman's family learned a full month after the memo was written that their son died in friendly fire.

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Inhofe Wreaks Revenge on Gore, the Earth, Sane People, and Music Lovers Everywhere

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 5:14 PM PDT

Al Gore's Live Earth concert—performances on seven continents slated for 7/7/07—has been thwarted by none other than the Interior Department. The department refused to grant organizers a permit to host part of the worldwide event on Capitol Hill, claiming that they would not be able to provide enough portapotties. Maybe those reading the application glanced right over the Gore letterhead it was on? Or then again, maybe that's all they saw, given Bush's painstaking efforts to politicize every bureaucratic office in the government.

Gore, who's still got a few connections, headed over to Congress to try to get a resolution that would allow the event to go ahead. Rejected by Senator James Inhofe, climate-change denier and one seriously vindictive dude! Inhofe threw a hissy fit, calling the event partisan (and therefore inappropriate for the Capitol?), though Gore has said climate change isn't a partisan issue but a moral issue, and the resolution he sought was co-sponsored by Republican Olympia Snow.

It's not like Inhofe is confronting a radical proposal to stop climate change. We're talking about a rock concert, for Christ's sake. When will somebody put Inhofe in a rubber room and let the rest of us get on with the baby steps toward sanity we're finally taking with regard to climate change?

Catholic League Displeased by Edible Nude Crucifix

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 3:54 PM PDT

The Catholic League's Bill Donahue, who must not be using the Piss Christ for comparison, has called the six-foot, loincloth-less, milk chocolate Jesus sculpture that is set for April 1st Manhattan display "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever."

What's truly scandalous about this story is that the gallery is "considering its options" after an onslaught of angry protests. That the exhibition could get canceled is preposterous; the Catholic League should be excited that an artist has created a really captivating reminder of how bad it would suck to get crucified naked in the name of saving a bunch of sinning ingrates only to have the sacrifice remembered by a holiday synonymous with chocolate-gorging.

Oh, and also there's some sort of amendment or something that protects free speech.

—Nicole McClelland

Details and Contradictions in the David Hicks Gag Order

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 3:50 PM PDT

As part of the plea bargain that will get David Hicks out of an Australian jail in anywhere from two to seven years nine months, Hicks had to sign a gag order at Guantanamo in which, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented Hicks in the past, Hicks agrees to not speak to the media for one year after his release and to state that he has never been mistreated while at Guantánamo. He also has to agree that his detention was lawful pursuant to law of armed conflict.

Furthermore, he was forced to give up the right to sue over his treatment in the future, and will cooperate with investigators should the need arise. He is forbidden from profiting from his story by, for instance, publishing a book or selling movie rights.

Some portions of the gag order are plainly ridiculous, and contradicted by earlier statements. On December 10, 2004, Hicks filed an affidavit with the Adjutant General stating among other things:

- I have been beaten before, after, and during interrogations….
- I have been menaced and threatened, directly and indirectly, with firearms and other weapons before and during interrogations….
- I have been beaten while blindfolded and handcuffed...
- I have been in the company of other detainees who were beaten while blindfolded and handcuffed. At one point, a group of detainees, including myself, were subjected to being randomly hit over a eight hour session while handcuffed and blindfolded….
- I have had my head rammed into asphalt several times (while blindfolded)…
- I have had medication - the identity of which was unknown to me, despite my requests for information - forced upon me against my will. I have been struck while under the influence of sedatives that were forced upon me by injection…
- I have witnessed the activities of the Internal Reaction Force (hereinafter "IRF"), which consists of a squad of soldiers that enter a detainee's cell and brutalize him with the aid of an attack dog. The IRF invasions were so common that the term to be "IRF'd" became part of the language of the detainees. I have seen detainees suffer serious injuries as a result of being IRF'ed. I have seen detainees IRF'ed while they were praying, or for refusing medication.

You can read the entire affidavit here and learn more about David Hicks here and here.

-- James Ridgeway

Make More than $100 K? Give Me My Money Back!

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 3:34 PM PDT

Did you notice in my last post that the income gap between rich and poor—or actually rich and everyone else—is at its highest point since the ominous year of 1928?

Yes, indeed. Total reported income in the United States increased by 9 percent in 2005, but average incomes for all but the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans were down by .6 percent.

So who got more money? Why, the top 1 percent, of course. Their incomes rose by 14 percent to an average of more than $1.1 million per household. Sweet! The top 10 percent—those who make more than $100,000—also lived off the fat of the rest of us. Nicely done, lads!

The New York Times reports:

[T]he top 300,000 Americans collectively enjoyed almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans. Per person, the top group received 440 times as much as the average person in the bottom half earned, nearly doubling the gap from 1980.

That sounds seriously messed up, right? Well, yeah, but it's probably even worse for two reasons. First, the wealthiest Americans are the most likely to file late, so the data may be slightly skewed. Second—and this is my favorite—the IRS claims to "find" 99 percent of all wage income but only about 70 percent of business and investment income.

Maybe if they stopped wasting their time auditing the poor and starting auditing the rich—you know, the ones with big bucks to hide and tax advisors to tell them how to do it—they might find the untold billions of unpaid taxes on the 30 percent all profits and capital gains.

Giuliani Meltdown?

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 3:02 PM PDT

giuliani.jpgIf things weren't bad enough for Rudy Giuliani, he just accepted the endorsement of radical conservative Steve Forbes. In accepting the endorsement, Giuliani even touted Forbes' signature idea, the flat tax he had called a "mistake" and a "disaster" in 1996 when Forbes was running for president. Of the income tax—one of just a few progressive taxes in the United States, a country in which the rich/poor gap is greater than at any time since 1928—Giuliani said: "Maybe I'd suggest not doing it at all, but if we were going to do it, a flat tax would make a lot of sense." Wingnut alert, y'all!

Today's New York Times also reports that Giuliani was briefed on Bernard Kerik's ties to a company with ties to organized crime before he appointed Kerik as police commissioner. Giuliani would go on to support Kerik's nomination for secretary of homeland security. Giuliani claims not to remember the briefing, but hasn't denied it happened.

The charges against Kerik are significant not just because he was ascending towards the nation's top law enforcement positions, but also because he pleaded guilty last summer to letting the "connected" company, Interstate Industrial Corporation, do $165,000 worth of unpaid renovations to his apartment just before Giuliani appointed him. The problem for Giuliani gets a little stickier, too, when you factor in that the ex-mayor's private company does background checks for businesses.

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It Becomes Obvious John McCain Should Just Pack it Up, and I Grow Sad

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 8:50 AM PDT

John McCain better respond to this, and fast.

Headline: "Democrats say McCain nearly abandoned GOP"

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was close to leaving the Republican Party in 2001, weeks before then-Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) famously announced his decision to become an Independent, according to former Democratic lawmakers who say they were involved in the discussions.
In interviews with The Hill this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain's chief political strategist.

The strongest allegations come from Daschle...

Daschle said that throughout April and May of 2001, he and McCain "had meetings and conversations on the floor and in his office, I think in mine as well, about how we would do it, what the conditions would be. We talked about committees and his seniority … [A lot of issues] were on the table."

But the story gets murky as it goes on.

Daschle stressed that McCain never considered becoming a Democrat, but was close to becoming an Independent.

And the strongest denial comes from McCain...

McCain said, "As I said in 2001, I never considered leaving the Republican Party, period."

As you notice at the bottom of this post from The Carpetbagger Report, Republican bloggers are up in arms. "If it's true, he's finished," says one. And rightfully so: would you vote for someone for the Democratic nomination if you knew only six years ago they considered becoming an Independent or a Republican? Or course not.

We've hammered John McCain pretty hard in this space for his recent flip-flops, but I've always suspected that John McCain is a fundamentally good human being, one who could be trusted not to suspend habeas corpus for prisoners of war, expose a CIA agent's identity, or let factions of the executive branch manufacture a case for war and then force feed it to the American public. He had a maturity and sense of perspective that George Bush lacked; he wasn't driven by his narrow faith on social issues; he rejected party-line thinking when he felt it was right. I think he lost his way the last few years and submitted to weakness -- he felt he had to backtrack on some of the things he said and did in order to be president, which he clearly wants more than anything. His support for the war, in 2002 and today, I can't excuse -- but I will say that if we are going to have warmonger in office, it might as well be one who knows the peril of battle.

While I obviously want a strong progressive elected in 2008, I've always felt that I could trust John McCain with the presidency -- the country would be in decent, if not ideologically correct, hands. You can define "decent" in several ways, all of them, I think, apt.

Maybe I'm just inclined to eulogize him because if these allegations are true, it's funeral time for John McCain. I'll say this, and I expect to get savaged for it: too bad.

U.S. Response to Saudi Statements on Iraq: "What You Talking About, Abdullah?"

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 8:08 AM PDT

Yesterday I wrote about King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia's statement that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is "illegal." Thankfully, the Bush Administration is responding with sensitivity and a deft touch, seeking out our ruffled ally and finding out exactly what irks him. We've decided that as yet another friend turns his back on our foreign policy, it is high time to look in the mirror and question whether we're on the right path.

Wait, that's not what's happening at all.

"It is not accurate to say that the United States is occupying Iraq," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Oh. Well, then. That'll sort things out. Carry on with the apocalypse.

Cobell, Native Leaders Reject Bush Proposal, Seek Resolution From Congress

| Thu Mar. 29, 2007 10:54 PM PDT

Elouise Cobell and two other Native American leaders today urged the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to reject a Bush administration proposal to resolve a number of Indian disputes. Some of these disputes have little to do with the long-running lawsuit over the government's admitted mismanagement of the Individual Indian Trust, according to IndianTrust.com. The story was covered in Mother Jones' "Accounting Coup."

Calling the administration's proposal "a slap in the face of every Indian Trust beneficiary," Cobell outline an alternative course that could lead to settlement of the class-action lawsuit she and other Native Americans filed 11 years ago. She also produced a real-life example of the harm the trust problems continue to create for Native Americans--James Kennerly Jr., a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, should be a millionaire. But because the government lost records of the oil leases on his father's lands, Kennerly has been forced into a life of poverty, receiving only $70 a month from lands that continue to pump oil, and that once paid more than $1,000 a month, according an Interior report. What happened? Interior officials can't say. Lease records for the lands have disappeared.

Cobell was joined in her testimony by John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund of Boulder, Colo., and William Martin, vice chairman of the InterTribal Monitoring Association of Albuquerque, N.M. Both denounced the government's efforts to lump settlement of the Cobell case with the settlement of more than 100 separate lawsuits that tribes have filed over the government's mismanagement of their tribal trust accounts.

Committee Chairman Bryon Dorgan, D-N.D, agreed that the government was reaching too far with that proposal. He promised to continue to press efforts for a resolution of the Cobell lawsuit, which affects about 500,000 Indian Trust beneficiaries. Cobell called the $7 billion the administration proposed to settle her lawsuit along with those of the tribes and other issues "an insult, plain and simple." Just last year the Indian Affairs Committee released a proposal that would have called for an $8 billion settlement of the Cobell case alone.--Julia Whitty

Word to Dems: Don't Count Your Chickens

| Thu Mar. 29, 2007 5:24 PM PDT

I was born in 1971, and the first president I remember is Jimmy Carter. I "campaigned" for his re-election in 1980, and at such a tender young age I learned that my candidate would nearly always lose. Twelve years of Republican rule molded my young mind into believing that it was impossible for Democrats to win. I was stunned when Clinton won in 1992, and flat out didn't believe the polls that said Clinton was trouncing Dole before the 1996 election.

Nowadays, Democrats seem to have the opposite problem. They are dancing on the graves of folks like Karl Rove (who, by the way, can't dance) and Bush 43. A word of advice from a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist: Not so fast.

Although conservatives are seriously unhappy with their stable of candidates, their people are still dogging the Dems in imagined head-to-heads. In a recent TIME poll, Hillary Clinton loses to John McCain, 42%-48%, and to Rudy Giuliani 41%-50%. Even though Dems favor Clinton over Obama, he fares better than Clinton does against Republicans. TIME has Obama losing by a hair to either McCain or Giuliani. (This despite Firefighter-gate! Astounding!)

TIME attributes the surprising (though not to this hardened loser) results to the fact that the voters shedding their loyalty to the Republican Party don't think of McCain or Giuliani as, you know, Republicans. (I wonder how they feel about that? It's like having your white friends tell you that you're the special black guy! You're OK!)

On the other hand, it may be that Clinton, whom voters know and, err, love, has reached her maximum percentage potential, but that Obama and Edwards still have room to win over additional voters.