Mojo - March 2007

Grenade in Green Zone Just Misses al-Maliki and U.N. Secretary General

| Thu Mar. 22, 2007 4:01 PM EDT

A rocket just missed a building in Baghdad's Green Zone that houses both the U.S. embassy and the Iraqi Prime Minister's office. Both al-Maliki and the U.N.'s new Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon were in the building at the time. Both were uninjured, but, tellingly, Ban was frightened where al-Malike appeared unfazed, saying, "Nothing's wrong." Perhaps for obvious reasons, a Secretary-General (in that case Kofi Annan) last visited Baghdad nearly a year and a half ago. And, if you're wondering why the media insists on making Baghdad sound so bad, it's because the folks at the AP office heard whoosh of the rocket launch. That surge is really working, eh?

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SC Passes Mandatory Ultrasound-Viewing Bill, Sees Through Shady Abortion-Getters' Tricks

| Thu Mar. 22, 2007 2:32 PM EDT

In yet another scheme to guilt-trip women out of having abortions, the South Carolina House passed a bill yesterday that requires women to view their own ultrasounds before having the procedure.

Yelling and crying ensued as several representatives begged for inclusion of an amendment waiving the requirement for victims of rape and incest. It failed. So did one that would exempt women in cases in which a judge had found probable cause or issued a warrant for sexual assault charges.

Supporters of the bill, whose churches are evidently not-so-separate from the state building in which they were standing, combatted the pleas for compassion with such infallible arguments as "Are you saying God creates mistakes with the lives he creates?" Others rejected the amendments because women [who want abortions are a bunch of lying, manipulative sluts who] "would make up sexual assaults" in order to get around the bill.

In 2005, Focus on the Family announced plans to spend $4.2 million equipping pregnancy centers nationwide with ultrasound machines. Their ministry is becoming law: Seventeen other states have or are considering some kind of ultrasound-before-abortion legislation. (Mississippi has a "listen to your fetus' heartbeat" offer on the table.)

But South Carolina is the first to require that women actually look at the ultrasound. No one in the House would answer Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg) when she asked whether the women would have to be held down and forced to view the images.

—Nicole McClelland

Creator of Hillary 1984 Owns Up, Proves Me Right

| Thu Mar. 22, 2007 9:39 AM EDT

The creator of the Hillary 1984 ad has owned up, and I firmly believe that the back story proves correct the theory I blogged earlier: this was the creation of a web-savvy person working on their own, and only a response in kind will effectively combat its popularity and power. (See Hillary's response here.)

The Huffington Post did the digging, and got the creator ("ParkRidge47") to fess up in a blog post. His name is Phil de Vellis and he works (well, worked) for Blue State Digital, an internet consulting company with roots in the Dean campaign and a long track record of working for high profile candidates. Thing is, Blue State Digital now works for Obama. Was Hillary 1984 a premeditated and conventionally-conceived campaign ad? Nope -- de Vellis did the work on the weekend, with his own time, equipment, and creative direction. But surely he was doing the work for BSD in a nudge-nudge sort of way, right? Just because he did the work on his personal computer on a Sunday doesn't mean he wasn't working for the company, and indirectly, Obama. Well, de Vellis has resigned upon being outed, which makes a pretty solid case that he was acting on his own, and in a way that the company wouldn't approve of. The ad, after all, is not in the style of the high-minded campaign Obama is trying to run.

So the facts support my theory. This campaign ad was created by someone working on their own -- an insurgent if you will. If it had been created within the official framework of a presidential campaign, it would have been more careful, more respectful of convention and boundaries, and thus far less interesting.

And FYI - the ad in its various forms has now been viewed almost three millions times on YouTube.

Update: Howard Fineman of Newsweek sees this as part of the "New Uncontrollable Campaign." The old, controllable campaign was controlled by the candidates, their staffs, and prominent members of the major media. Wonder who that would include...

UK National Security Priorities Similar To Ours--Oh Baby!

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 11:26 PM EDT

A terrorist can look like this. Or this. Or maybe even this.

Four-month-old Eden Lurie of Manchester tried to get a passport, but her photo was rejected because her hair was judged "too spiky." The rules require that hair and eyes are clearly defined and that the face take up at least 65% of the photo. The British Passport Service says it makes allowances for children in that they may be facing away or have their mouths open, but no spiky hair. Eden was given a really bad "virtual haircut" for her photo.

In other news, it turns out that the British Home Office issued nine passports to Dhiren Barot, Osama bin Laden's "U.K. General." Barot was planning to murder thousands of people in a series of terrorist attacks. Barot, you can see, had a good passport photo, but because of his passports, Baby Eden looks like a wind-blown Marine.

Tom DeLay, Revealed in His Tell-All, Tattle-Tale Book

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 8:10 PM EDT

delay.jpgAll this time, we've thought Tom "The Hammer" DeLay was a vicious partisan. Well, turns out he might just be vicious. As CNN reports, DeLay's new book attacks even his conservative peers, and "[o]nly DeLay's wife and daughter escape unscathed." Gingrich is vain and "an ineffective speaker of the House." Armey is "so blinded by ambition as to be useless to the cause."

On the other hand, anyone who calls W. "compassionate, but ... certainly no conservative," lies far to the right of anything but crazed partisanship, so maybe it's more accurate to say DeLay is a vicious partisan and just a dick.

Stoning Deaths Continue In Sudan

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 5:20 PM EDT

Two allegedy adulterous women were recently sentenced to stoning deaths in North Sudan. The defendants had neither lawyers nor interpreters in a capital crimes trial that wasn't even conducted in their first language.

The man charged in one of the women's cases got off due to a lack of evidence that was for some reason sufficient enough to condemn the woman, who currently has her child with her in prison.

Reuters reports that Sudan's penal code mandates execution by stoning for convicted adulterers. Single people caught having sex out of wedlock are subject to lashing.

Two years ago, a woman's stoning sentence in western Darfur was "reduced" to lashing after activists launched a campaign on her behalf. Since the country seems unlikely to voluntarily clean up its human rights act anytime soon, here's hoping Oprah, or Jesus, will intervene.

--Nicole McClelland

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Stricter Enforcement along Border Effective - Or is it Wishful Thinking?

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 5:12 PM EDT

exodus_265x164.gif "It's as if Mexico and the United States are at war," said one migrant who couldn't make it across for all the National Guardsmen stationed along the border. Border Patrol offices along popular pathways into the United States are reporting significant drops in the number of (failed) migrations, according to the Los Angeles Times. In addition to more patrols, new strategies include jailing everyone, even first timers, for up to 2 weeks. Writing for Mother Jones, Vince Beiser argued that the so-called border fence would be a fiasco. Charles Bowden also rejects worker permits and an open border.

The Border Patrol says with the increased punishments and patrols, apprehensions are down by as much as two-thirds. But Bowden, who has spent his life reporting on the border (and shares some of his sun-baked wisdom in his MoJo piece), writes, "On the line, all numbers are fictions. The exportation of human beings by Mexico now reaches, officially, a half million souls a year. Or double that. Or triple that."

Seasonal declines notwithstanding, one of two facts will have to change before migrants stop coming: There are no jobs in Mexico. There are jobs for Mexicans in the United States. Even the optimistic Times piece acknowledges that. It quotes Wayne Cornelius, director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego, who says "The modes of entry do change. Location of entries change. But the basic dynamics of the process don't change, because the economic factors and family ties that drive the movement haven't changed."

Hillary Responds to 1984-style YouTube Ad, Code Pink Sings to Her

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 9:25 AM EDT

Hillary Clinton has finally responded to the pro-Obama 1984-style ad on YouTube characterizing her as "Big Brother," TPMcafe reports. The amateur video has caused quite the stir. As Jonathan wrote yesterday, the three versions of the ad "have had a combined viewership of more than 1,300,000, and have an average rating of more than four stars." And some were wondering if this would mean trouble for the New York senator. But from me to Hillary, I have to say, nicely played.

"I haven't seen it but I'm pleased that it seems to be taking attention away from what used to be on YouTube and getting a lot of hits, namely me singing 'The Star Spangled Banner.' Everybody in the world now knows I can't carry a tune," said Clinton. "I thank heavens for small favors and the attention has shifted, and now maybe people won't have to tune in and hear me screeching about 'The Star Spangled Banner.'"

This interview was posted just hours before a big fundraising event for her campaign here in Washington, which brought in $2.7 million and a bunch of Code Pink women. Reps from the anti-war group were there to remind Hillary that America wants her to take a stronger stance on the war. (Hillary's refusal to apologize for voting to authorize the war has caused concern among Democrats.) And they were singing. Yup. I still have Frere Jaques in my head.

"Are you listening, are you listening? Hillary, Hillary. Boys and girls are dying, politicians lying. Bring them home, bring them home."

Gore Challenged to Debate "Foofaraw of Pseudo-Science"

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 1:36 AM EDT

Okay, I know this doesn't look for reals, but Lord Monckton, a former policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher, has challenged Al Gore to a Climate Change Challenge (for the fancy cursive you'll have to click on the link). Here's what Monckton recently sent to Gore's Tennessee home:

The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley presents his compliments to Vice-President Albert Gore and by these presents challenges the said former Vice-President to a head-to-head, internationally-televised debate upon the question "That our effect on climate is not dangerous," to be held in the Library of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History at a date of the Vice-President's choosing.

Forasmuch as it is His Lordship who now flings down the gauntlet to the Vice-President, it shall be the Vice-President's prerogative and right to choose his weapons by specifying the form of the Great Debate. May the Truth win! Magna est veritas, et praevalet.

Uh, yeah, truth is surely his endgame. Monckton had this to say about An Inconvenient Truth:

"A careful study of the substantial corpus of peer-reviewed science reveals that Mr. Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, is a foofaraw of pseudo-science, exaggerations, and errors, now being peddled to innocent schoolchildren worldwide."

That science is based on a solid corpus of scientific evidence backed by thousands of scientists, including those involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for starters, and there is documentation aplenty of the truths laid out in Gore's film on Exxon's involvement in climate policy for the U.S. government. How do we know? Because science writer Chris Mooney was the one to unearth the documents and write about the series of events detailed in the movie, for Mother Jones in May 2005. I factchecked the article myself and have a foot-thick file of government documents backing up all of the ways ExxonMobil and the US govt have way-laid climate science. (Oh, and for those of you who want to use "foofaraw" in your next Scrabble game, find the definition here).

Monckton's is merely an effort to distract us into thinking that there is actually anything to debate (his challenge is a hot discussion topic at the official-sounding, Exxon-funded Center for Science and Public Policy.

His Lordship says,

"If Mr. Gore really believes global warming is the defining issue of our time, the greatest threat human civilization has ever faced, then he should welcome the opportunity to raise the profile of the issue before a worldwide audience of billions by defining and defending his claims against a serious, science-based challenge."

Al, tell him yes, as soon as "a serious, science based challenge" materializes, you're there.

Citizen Journalists In a Wired World

| Tue Mar. 20, 2007 7:30 PM EDT

In response to the likes of Wikipedia, MySpace and YouTube, Wired has launched its own brave new media world. It's called Assignment Zero, and is the latest in "new, new journalism" crowd sourcing experiments.

Wired's idea for radical transparency is simple: put a ton of citizen journalists to work by asking them not just to comment on the news, but have them report it. It's a blogger's paradise. But their idea isn't new. offers a similar program for music enthusiasts, allowing them to cover live music events as "Spin Correspondents and get a website byline."

Rolling Stone's in the the game, too. Their I'm From Rolling Stone reality show was essentially televised crowd sourcing for hipsters hungry for a gig with the magazine. Remember Gannett a year ago announced its big crowd sourcing plans to turn its newsroom into an "information center" that asks local residents to help with stories?

Crowd sourcing engages people by putting them right into the action. It has the power to improve content and encourage a broader dialogue from the ground up.

Widespread civic participation in newsgathering is exciting for journalism and content creation. That said, crowd sourcing is also chaotic, unorganized and a little shady. Media organizations can rake in tons of free content while continuing to merge and purge unchecked. And, general public trust in the media is still riding a little low on the hips. Maybe this will help, maybe not.

One 2005 study found that only 45% of the public thinks news organizations generally get their facts straight, a 2007 study says that less than half of Americans have a favorable view of the press, and a 2004 Gallup Poll suggests that people don't particularly trust journalists and haven't since at least the 70s.

So, when pollsters start evaluating citizen journalists about the quality of the new, new journalism they've helped create, what will the people think then?

—Gary Moskowitz