Mojo - April 2007

New Evidence that White House and Dep't of Justice are Completely Intertwined

| Fri Apr. 20, 2007 1:38 PM EDT

Yesterday at the Gonzales hearings, after almost everyone had gone home, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island busted out some snazzy charts that effectively displayed the breakdown of the wall between the White House and the Department of Justice, a wall that even Gonzales admits is important to maintain because of (1) the need for DoJ work to be impartial, non-partisan, and free of politics, and (2) the need to avoid conflicts of interests in the occasional situation where the DoJ prosecutes someone from the White House.

In the Clinton White House, four White House officials -- the President, the Vice President, the White House Counsel, and the Assistant White House Counsel -- were allowed to make contact with three Department of Justice officials "regarding pending criminal investigations and criminal cases."

In the Bush White House, the DoJ has almost become a wing of the White House. Four hundred and seventeen White House officials, including national security staffers and all members of the office of the White House Counsel, can make contact with roughly 30 Department of Justice staffers.

We probably shouldn't be surprised, though. After all, before Alberto Gonzales was named Attorney General and took his position at the top of the the DoJ, he was the White House Counsel himself. Any hope that the DoJ would function as an independent body went out the window a long time ago.

Spotted on Kevin Drum's Political Animal and Think Progress.

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Vermont Senate Votes to Impeach George W. Bush

| Fri Apr. 20, 2007 1:28 PM EDT

I blogged two days ago about the impeachment drive currently underway in Vermont, and how it had seen success in local governments but had stalled in the state legislature. Well, no longer.

The Vermont Senate this morning approved by a 16-9 margin a resolution calling on the U.S. House to launch impeachment proceedings of Pres. George W. Bush and Vice Pres. Dick Cheney.
The Vermont Senate is the first state legislative body in the country to call on Congress to begin impeachment proceedings. Impeachment resolutions are currently active in Hawaii, Missouri, New Jersey, and Washington.

Next up is Vermont's House of Reps. We'll keep you updated. Thanks to Kos for the tip.

Oh, and PS - I also highlighted some truly fantastic Doonesbury cartoons in that earlier post. Very funny.

Joe Trippi Talks to Us About Joining the Edwards Campaign

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 10:27 PM EDT

Joe Trippi, the manager of Howard Dean's 2004 presidential race, who revolutionized political campaigning by embracing the internet, joined the campaign of Senator John Edwards today. He will serve as a media advisor to a campaign that is already distinguishing itself as one of the most tech savvy in the field: the Edwards website features an interactive blog and 23 different social networking tools; Edwards sends text messages to supporters via the geek-chic site Twitter; and he maintains (an occasionally raucous) virtual campaign office in Second Life. Trippi told me the Dean campaign is already looking like ancient history. Since 2004, the number of blogs on the Internet has grown by a factor of 50 and the launch of Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube has popularized social networking and Web video. "By the end of 2008, I think people will look back at the Dean campaign and say, 'Wow, it was so primitive, it was so yesterday,'" Trippi said. "I still think any of these campaigns are capable of just blowing the doors off and transforming our politics, and that's really likely to happen in 2008."

The campaign landscape on the Web has become much more competitive since 2004, when Dean had the virtual space mostly to himself, but also more volatile in ways that dark horse candidates can harness for quick and dramatic gain, Trippi asserted. "I really believe this: I think we are in a situation where one of these candidates could say something in a debate, or in a major address, or in a response to something that President Bush says, and all of a sudden, on that day, a million Americans decide, 'I'm going to sign up for him.'" He added: "That never would have happened in 2004; (the Web) wasn't mature enough."

Trippi said he's working for Edwards because he likes his stances on poverty, his work on global warming issues, and his position on the war, though, he noted, "it would be maybe a tough call between Obama and him on that issue, but they are both closer to where I am." He's also impressed by Edwards' effort to build a community of voters that would offer policy feedback and support well after Edwards is elected—something Dean was also interested in, he said, but never got to implement.

Abidingly speaking from a commuter train this afternoon, where his cell phone dropped our call probably 20 times and his voice mail quickly filled up, Trippi also pointed out an interesting parallel between his early political life and that of Edwards' wife, Elizabeth. Years ago, Trippi was drawn to the Web through the first bulletin boards on sites such as Prodigy and Motley Fool, and as a lurker and occasional contributor to blogs. "The same with her," he said. "I read her book, and I didn't realize that basically, when her son Wade had died, she was on the Web, and on greeting boards, boards where people came together and talked about what they were going through and the loved one they had lost, kind of consoled and talked to each other, and she had been a part of that community on the web for a long time before Edwards had decided to run for president. And like me, she started hanging out on political boards later in her life, when he was running. And that's why she is doing what she is doing today. But you don't see it in any of the other campaigns"--which Trippi believes have been slow to reach out to the blogs--"It came to her naturally, because of what she's been through."

Sloppy Media Coverage in the Wake of Virginia Tech Shootings

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 7:56 PM EDT

In the wake of the media blitz surrounding the Virginia Tech shootings, some are appalled at the airing of the videos, claiming insensitivity. Others may be wondering why the media has reported on the possibility of a backlash against Asians. Why has the media conjured up a scary threat of possible hate crimes with none forthcoming?

I think part of this answer lies in the media's attempt to address the fears of the post 9/11 climate. Many of us who are of Asian background waited with bated breath when the killer was identified as "Asian." That's a pretty damn big category: "Asian" could mean East Asian, South Asian, or Southeast Asian. And for South Asian Americans, vivid memories of post 9/11 backlash loom. People of South Asian descent were the first victims of deadly hate crimes. And just last month, Kuldip Singh Nag—an Indian American who is an Iraq war veteran—was assaulted by the police in Joliet, Ill., for being a "fucking Arab" and a "fucking immigrant."

So media outlets dutifully remind that entire communities cannot be held responsible for atrocities committed by a lone gunman, but meanwhile they are busy constructing and stereotyping the "Korean American community." Take for example this LA Times article. To its credit, the article points out that there is a history of minorities having to bear the brunt of collective punishment (think World War II). It also highlights how some Asian Americans are irritated that their so-called "community leaders" are falling over themselves to "apologize" and voice their "collective guilt." Minorities in this country shouldn't have to "represent" and "distance" themselves from every act that someone who resembles them commits.

But then, the article goes on to say:

For Korean Americans, the sense of shame may be particularly acute because of their cultural commitment to interdependence. "Here in America, we think of ourselves as much more separate and autonomous," said Stanford University professor Hazel Rose Markus, an expert in cultural psychology.

"Foundational to Korean thinking is the sense that you need to … adjust yourself to expectations. It's very, very important that you protect your family face and reputation, recognize that whatever you do has consequences not just for you, but for others as well."

"Korean thinking"? Wasn't the idea to suggest that you cannot make generalizations about the presumed thinking of entire peoples? The "Korean community" is no more cohesive and homogenous than the "Muslim community" or "South Asian community." When the shooters of Columbine went on a rampage, no one in major media outlets quoted "experts" saying, "You see, foundational to white thinking..." They didn't go looking for loosely defined "white community leaders" to gauge the white community's collective response. Describing "Korean thinking" and treating the 1.3 million Korean Americans as a uniform group that has informal "representatives" who speak for them is just sloppy.

—Neha Inamdar

Carnage in Iraq? Bush Miffed at Criticism; Gates in Israel.

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 3:54 PM EDT

Is this a farce?

Yesterday was the deadliest day in Iraq since the security surge began. Despite the military's attempts to barricade the Sadriya market, a car bomb there killed 135 people. The total death toll for the day was 230. Defense Secretary Gates was in Israel, and promised that troops would "persist." Meanwhile, back at the White House, President Bush became "visibly angered" when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told him, in the Washington Post's paraphrase, that he was pursuing a lost cause at the cost of American troops in order to protect his legacy. The truth hurts, doesn't it?

Young Hawks

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 3:44 PM EDT

If young people are supposedly more idealistic, then idealism has nothing to do with pacifism. People in their twenties, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll, approve of the Iraq War more than their grandparents. And more youth approve of the invasion than disapprove. Janet Elder writes:

Forty-eight percent of Americans 18 to 29 years old said the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, while 45 percent said the United States should have stayed out. That is in sharp contrast to the opinions of those 65 and older, who have lived through many other wars. Twenty eight percent of that age group said the United States did the right thing, while 67 percent said the United States should have stayed out."....
"I think old people tend to want to solve things more diplomatically than younger, more gung ho types," said Mary Jackson, 28, a homemaker from Brewton, Alabama. "Younger people are more combative."
Younger people are also more optimistic. Forty-nine percent of them said the United States was either very likely or somewhat likely to succeed in Iraq, while only 34 percent of older people said the same thing.

For a more realistic young idealist, meet Ava Lowery, the Southern homeschooler whose antiwar videos get 30,000 hits a day.

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New Hampshire to OK Civil Unions

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 2:56 PM EDT

Earlier today, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch said he will sign legislation legalizing civil unions in the state. Lynch explained, ''I believe it is a matter of conscience, fairness and preventing discrimination.'' The measure hasn't yet cleared the Senate, but is expected to do so with ease. Even so—surprise!—state Republicans were outraged. Fergus Cullen, the state Republican Party chairman, told the AP, "The Democrats are going too far, too fast, and Governor Lynch is going along with them. These are not the actions of a moderate governor." The Dems had a pretty handy comeback: ''It's never going too far when you give people their rights," said Democratic state Rep. Bette Lasky.

New Hampshire will make a New England trifecta, joining Connecticut, Vermont and New Jersey among states with legal civil unions. Massachusetts, of course, has legalized gay marriage.

For an economic defense of gay marriage, click here. For an explanation of why the religious right is hellbent on opposing it, click here.

Gonzales: I Didn't View Job Performance Before Firing US Attorneys

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 2:13 PM EDT

Wanted to point out an important moment from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' ongoing testimony on the Hill. After telling multiple irate senators that he was not intimately involved in the firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys (he claims he relied on the judgment of his senior staff), Gonzales admits that he was so out of touch that when it came to actually approve the recommendation of those senior staffers to fire the eight USAs, he didn't bother to examine the USAs performance on the job.

The factors he used in lieu of something as inconsequential as "job performance" go unstated.

Two U.S. Attorneys Fired for Not Prosecuting Cases on... Porn?

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 10:18 AM EDT

For real. And the cases were "woefully deficient" to boot. Check it out.

Is There a Breach of Nat'l Security Protocol in the Wolfowitz Girlfriend Scandal?

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 9:57 AM EDT

Sidney Blumenthal has an excellent article in Salon today about the Wolfowitz girlfriend scandal. The outrage this far has focused on these facts:

In 2006 Wolfowitz made a series of calls to his friends that landed [his girlfriend, Shaha Ali Riza] a job at a new think tank called Foundation for the Future that is funded by the State Department. She was the sole employee, at least in the beginning. The World Bank continued to pay her salary, which was raised by $60,000 to $193,590 annually, more than the $183,500 paid to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and all of it tax-free. Moreover, Wolfowitz got the State Department to agree that the ratings of her performance would automatically be "outstanding." Wolfowitz insisted on these terms himself and then misled the World Bank board about what he had done.

Okay, old hat, right? Well, not exactly. In order to get the job Riza got at the State Department, she'd need a security clearance. And those aren't given to foreign nationals who formerly worked for international aid organizations. Riza is "a Libyan, raised in Saudi Arabia, educated at Oxford, who now has British citizenship" and according to Blumenthal, "Granting a foreign national who is detailed from an international organization a security clearance, however, is extraordinary, even unprecedented." Did Paul Wolfowitz compromise national security just to get his lover a job?

Blumenthal is calling for an investigation. It would be downright Al Capone-esque if the disgrace that finally rid us of Paul Wolfowitz's nefarious influence came about NOT because of the ill-advised and disastrously-executed war he schemed up, but because he gave away a few too many perks on the way to the bedroom.