Mojo - April 2007

Tancredo Declares: Who Is Tancredo?

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 6:10 PM EDT

tancredo2.gifRep. Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican, declared today that he, too, is running for president. Tancredo, founder of the Immigration Reform Caucus, has built a name for himself by outspokenly opposing illegal immigration. His comments often veer awfully close to racism, such as when he compared Miami to a third world nation. In the 2004 election, as Bush spoke Spanish to appeal to Hispanic voters, Tancredo was told to quiet his accusations that recent immigrants have "divided loyalties."

Tancredo will have to compete with the fund-raising power of Mitt Romney, who leads the Republican pack with $23 million, and with the anti-immigration verbiage of Duncan Hunter, a California Republican profiled in the current issue of Mother Jones.

For an in-depth look at the why's and wherefore's of illegal immigration, read Charles Bowden's "Exodus."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

What to Make of Zell's Purchase of Tribune Co.?

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 4:21 PM EDT

The Tribune Company has announced that its holdings will be sold off to Chicago real estate tycoon Sam Zell. This is the latest—though hardly the last—chapter in the saga of the Tribune Co., whose attempts to use a "convergence media" model to create editorial "synergy" between its newspapers and TV stations perfectly illustrates the pitfalls of placing profits before reporting. As Eric Klinenberg writes in his article on the sad state of the American newspaper in our current issue, Tribune's "cut and gut" approach has been a disaster, particularly for the once-proud Los Angeles Times, which has been bled dry since being picked up by Trib in 2000.

The company's impending sale made some Angelenos hopeful that a white knight such as David Geffen would buy the paper and save the day. But for now, Zell's the man to watch. He has no experience running a media company, which is a good or a bad thing, depending on whom you talk to. One Tribune Co. critic tells the LAT that "Sam Zell is a hands-off guy, so he will pick good people to run this paper and let them run it. The fact that he is a hands-off, strong player bodes well for journalistic integrity." But as others have observed, Zell has a prickly relationship with the media, including his hometown Chicago Tribune. As Dean Starkman observes over at CJR Daily, Zell's company, Equity Office Properties (EOP), was "famously thin-skinned" when it came to the press. And, he reminds readers, "as the going got tough, EOP resorted to a strategy that will sound familiar to newspaper employees: cost cutting." As Klinenberg writes, once you start to see journalism as just another profit center rather than a public service, you start undermining the very product at the heart of your business. You can't cut finanical corners without hurting editorial quality. We'll soon see if Zell has learned that lesson by watching his new company's past performance.

Arnold: Do My Errands, Lead a State Panel

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 3:35 PM EDT

schwarzenegger.jpg

As Josh blogged on March 8, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's promises to rid state government of its insider ways have been given the lie by, of all things, his handling of the state chiropractic panel. The panel's role has historically been to protect Californians from unqualified or maverick manipulators, but the governator seems to think its role is to "represent the chiropractors"—many of whom cracked and popped his famous bod in his bodybuilding days. The board has taken that mandate and run with it, as Josh's post and this Los Angeles Times article reveal in spades.

Arnold's bone-cracking nepotism is also evident in his appointments to other state panels—many of which he promised to eliminate in his war on bureaucracy:

In February, Schwarzenegger named his appointments secretary, Timothy A. Simon, to the Public Utilities Commission, which regulates the multibillion-dollar telecommunications and energy industries.

Simon isn't just unqualified to sit on one of the most important state bodies: He was actually four years in to personal bankruptcy at the time Arnold nominated him, and his ex-wife claimed he was still taking expensive international vacations.

Also in February, Arnold appointed his personal dentist to the state dental board. So much for conservatives being more ethical than liberals: This one needs a good flossing.

Who's Gunning for Michael Ware?

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 2:59 PM EDT

Someone's gunning for Michael Ware. Yesterday, a Drudge Report "exclusive" accused the wild-eyed CNN newsman, who's covered the Iraq war since the beginning, of heckling Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham during a press conference in Baghdad. Drudge quotes an unnamed "official" — An administration official? Military? A representative of the Baghdad Taxi and Limousine Commission? — calling Ware's alleged remarks "outrageous" and saying, "here you have two United States Senators in Bagdad [sic] giving first-hand reports while Ware is laughing and mocking their comments. I've never witnessed such disrespect. This guy is an activist not a reporter."

Apparently, this is all news to Ware, who, on CNN this morning, said, "I did not heckle the senator. Indeed, I didn't say a word. I didn't even ask a question. In fact, when I raised my hand to ask a question, the press conference abruptly ended." A video of the press conference backs Ware up, so this seems a fairly shameless effort to smear him and discredit his reporting. But who would want to do that? Well, since Ware has been so persistent about reporting the grim realities on the ground in Iraq and debunking the rhetoric coming out of Washington, it could be any number of people who are paid (i.e. military or administration flacks) or otherwise compelled to put a rosy spin on the horrific situation in Iraq. Painting Ware as an activist certainly makes it easier to claim, as the senator from Arizona did yesterday, that the American public isn't getting "the full picture about what's happening" in Iraq. (This after a brief foray to a Baghdad market, where, as the New York Times notes, "scores of people have died this year in multiple car bombings and other attacks." See Jonathan's post below.)

It's also possible that this could be personal. Last week, after McCain commented that "there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today," Ware said on CNN's Situation Room that "to suggest that there's any neighborhood in this city where an American can walk freely is beyond ludicrous. I'd love Senator McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is and he and I can go for a stroll." (Ware, who once came fairly close to being executed by insurgents, would probably know.) In this context it wouldn't be hard to see someone close to McCain, an aide traveling with the congressional delegation perhaps, using Drudge as a conduit to even the score with Ware. Whatever the case, I'd wager there's a lot more to this story.

John McCain, NBC, and Iraqi Insurgents All Make a Fool of John McCain

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 1:28 PM EDT

John McCain got so much flack and ridicule for his "white Americans could stroll through some parts of Baghdad" comment/gaff that he took to the streets to Baghdad to prove his statment true and save his credibility. He ended up doing more damage.

McCain took a walk through a bazaar and followed the event with a press conference, but NBC used its coverage to point out what McCain was trying to hide: his "stroll" came with the aid of 100 American soldiers, three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gunships. The blogosphere had a field day with this.

And now people are just piling on. The NBC reporter who put out the report of McCain's massive protection entourage went on Imus this morning and noted that with the security force McCain had "even Paris Hilton could ride a bicycle in a bikini through Anbar province." And to make things worse, the terrorists are laughing at McCain too. They just unleashed the largest single attack since the Iraq War began in 2003, killing 152 in a single suicide truck bombing in Tal Afar.

Oh, and that bazaar McCain walked through, with his heavily armed white American friends? It got lit up by snipers right after they all left.

Supreme Court Chastises Bush Administration For "Arbitrary, Capricious" Handling of Climate Change

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 12:51 PM EDT

Even the Supreme Court justices appointed by Bush I and Bush II (Thomas, Roberts, and Alito) couldn't stop the Court from repudiating the current Administration's head-in-the–sand approach for dealing with climate change. Today's 5-4 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, called the administration's approach "arbitrary, capricious ... or otherwise not in accordance with law" and found that the EPA does in fact have the authority to regulate greenhouse-causing gases under the Clean Air Act.

The majority opinion contends that the "EPA has offered no reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change." While the decision does not necessarily compel the EPA to regulate carbon emissions (and don't hold your breath), the ruling is significant since it frees the hand of the next President to regulate carbon and methane emissions without Congress passing additional legislation.

What the decision also does is clear the way for states to reduce greenhouse emissions with initiatives of their own. In the past, states like California that have asked the EPA for special permission to apply more stringent carbon emission limits on automobiles have been stymied by the Administration's claim that the Clean Air Act does not provide the authority to do so.

—Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Iraqi Civilian Deaths Up in March

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 9:25 AM EDT

Data compiled by Iraqi ministries indicate civilian deaths in Iraq totaled 1,861 for the month of March, up from 1,645 in February. That 13% increase comes in the face of repeated claims from the government that that the surge is working, and claims from U.S. diplomats that violence is down 25% in Iraq.

More in-depth figures on the number of Iraqis dead and on the number of soldiers lost from each country in the coalition can be found here. Mother Jones coverage of the difficulty of counting Iraqi civilian deaths (and the government's unwillingness to do so) can be found here and here.

On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're a Werewolf

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 2:41 AM EDT

Women writers are subjected to so many more ad hominems than male writers that the Editor in Chief at Salon.com call them "ad feminems." Joan Walsh weighs in on what difference having a female byline makes.

"When Salon automated its letters, ideas that had only seen our in boxes at Salon were suddenly turning up on the site. And I couldn't deny the pattern: Women came in for the cruelest and most graphic criticism and taunting," Walsh writes. "Is there really any doubt that women writing on the Web are subject to more abuse than men, simply because they're women? ...I say this as a mouthy woman who has tried for a long time to pretend otherwise: that Web misogyny isn't especially rampant -- but even if it is, it has no effect on me, or any other strong, sane woman doing her job."

As much as pretending otherwise may help brush it off, like the old "sticks and stones" rhyme, Walsh points out how verbal attacks corrode a writer's confidence, security, and credibility.

Too often hate speech is framed and dismissed as free speech. For starters, the First Amendment doesn't protect death threats and libel. Also, the First Amendment doesn't call for us to honor haters any more than the Second Amendment calls for us to admire our neighbor's collection of assault rifles.

What's disturbing is that it's not just peripheral geeks like RageBoy who turn into werewolves behind their PCs. It's grade schoolers in Novato, Calif., who drove an epileptic girl into home-schooling. It's even Yale Law students.