Mojo - May 2007

State Dep't Official Takes on the Bushies

| Wed May 30, 2007 1:16 PM EDT

Price Floyd left his post as the head of Media Affairs at the State Department just a few weeks ago and he is already going public with how difficult it was to make America's intentions and actions clear to the world with the Bush Administration in charge.

We have eroded not only the good will of the post-9-11 days but also any residual appreciation from the countries we supported during the Cold War. This is due to several actions taken by the Bush administration, including pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol (environment), refusing to take part in the International Criminal Court (rule of law), and pulling out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (arms control). The prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib and the continuing controversy over the detainees in Guantanamo also sullied the image of America.
Collectively, these actions have sent an unequivocal message: The U.S. does not want to be a collaborative partner. That is the policy we have been "selling" through our actions, which speak the loudest of all...
I was not a newcomer to these issues. I had served at the State Department for more than 17 years, through the Persian Gulf War, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, numerous episodes of the Middle Eastern peace process and discussions in North Korea on its nuclear programs.
During each of these crises, we at least appeared to be working with others, even if we took actions with which others did not agree. We were talking to our enemies as well as our allies. Our actions and our words were in sync, we were transparent, our agenda was there for all to see, and our actions matched it.
This is not the case today. Much of our audience either doesn't listen or perceives our efforts to be meaningless U.S. propaganda.

The full op-ed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is definitely worth reading. Spotted on Laura Rozen's War and Piece and Think Progress.

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The Censored Stories of 2007

| Wed May 30, 2007 12:25 PM EDT

From Project Censored (via Ten 95) comes a list of the top 25 censored stories of 2007. Did you know that the Pentagon is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act? Or that the Department of Homeland Security contracts with KBR to build domestic detention centers? Or that six to seven million people have died in the Congo since 1996?

Project Censored has the scoop on all of those and more, so check out the link. But we'd like to point out that Mother Jones extensively covered two of the list's top ten.

6. Federal Whistleblower Protection in Jeopardy
Special Counsel Scott Bloch, appointed by President Bush in 2004, is overseeing the virtual elimination of federal whistleblower rights in the U.S. government. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the agency that is supposed to protect federal employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud, and abuse is dismissing hundreds of cases while advancing almost none.

Yup, we were on that one. Check out "Office of Special Counsel's War On Whistleblowers" from our May/June 2007 issue. Also...

3. Oceans of the World in Extreme Danger
Oceanic problems once found on a local scale are now pandemic. Data from oceanography, marine biology, meteorology, fishery science, and glaciology reveal that the seas are changing in ominous ways. A vortex of cause and effect wrought by global environmental dilemmas is changing the ocean from a watery horizon with assorted regional troubles to a global system in alarming distress.

We did a whole issue on that, with articles like "The Fate of the Oceans", "The Catch", and "Net Losses."

Google Trying to Get Bigger -- and More Evil?

| Wed May 30, 2007 10:24 AM EDT

When Google announced a $3.1 billion acquisition of online advertising company DoubleClick, European Union officials and internet privacy advocates warned that the massive trove of information Google has on virtually every internet user just got bigger.

Count Mother Jones amongst the concerned parties. In 2006, we ran a feature called "Is Google Evil?" that looked into the myraid different ways Google collects information on you -- and the ways it coughs up that information to snooping governments. Should you be concerned? Well, Google's famous founding duo certainly seems to be:

Google Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the two former Stanford geeks who founded the company that has become synonymous with Internet searching, and you'll find more than a million entries each. But amid the inevitable dump of press clippings, corporate bios, and conference appearances, there's very little about Page's and Brin's personal lives; it's as if the pair had known all along that Google would change the way we acquire information, and had carefully insulated their lives—putting their homes under other people's names, choosing unlisted numbers, abstaining from posting anything personal on web pages.

Hmmm. Read the feature here.

Mexico Consumed by Drug Violence, Journalists Feeling the Impact

| Wed May 30, 2007 9:33 AM EDT

Increasingly violent drug cartels have been blamed for 3,000 murders in Mexico in the past eighteen months, according to a story in the Washington Post. But as the death toll rises, media coverage decreases. That's because cartel gunmen target journalists in addition to one another -- more than 30 journalists have been killed in the past six years in Mexico and scores more have been subject to intimidation -- kidnapping, office bombings, and so on. It all adds up to make Mexico the second most dangerous country in the world to be a journalist, according to the Post. First, of course, is Iraq. (The Post story has all sorts of good details and quotes from the reporters and editors on the ground -- worth a read.)

Mexico has gotten bad quickly. In 2005, I created two tables that illustrated how much worse Iraq was for journalists than all other countries around the world. Before the invasion of Iraq, the countries that routinely saw the most press deaths were Russia, Algeria, and Columbia -- they each had three or four a year for ten years running. Starting in 2003, Iraq saw 56 journalists killed in a three year span. Mexico wasn't even on the list.

But we could have predicted this. In a 2006 photo essay called "Born Into Cellblocks," Mother Jones sent a photographer into a Mexican prison to photograph the children who live there with their mothers. Chuck Bowden wrote the accompanying text, in which he explored the drug violence that was even then consuming Mexican towns near the American border. He also mentioned the growing violence against journalists. Snippets are below, the whole thing is here.

Bullets killed the police chief last summer, just a few hours after he took office. This brought in the Mexican army. The ongoing slaughter of many cops and citizens caused the U.S. government to shut down its consulate for a spell last August. This winter the local paper was visited by some strange men, presumably working for the cartels, and they fired dozens of rounds and tossed in a grenade. One reporter took five bullets. The editor promptly announced a new policy: His paper, one of the few Mexican publications on the line actually printing news about the drug cartels, would no longer report on the cartels...
Beneath this gore, women and children muddle on, some in Mexican jails. Incarceration, like law, is a bit different in Mexico. Conjugal visits are permitted; small children younger than six can be locked up with their moms; and men and women peddle goods and themselves within the walls in order to survive. Mexican prisons often do not provide grub. I've stood in line with family members who toted a week's supply of food on visiting day, seen women reel out of cells in disarray after their weekly intercourse sessions with their men. Drugs are commonplace inside the walls, as are gangs. Money can buy anything. For years the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has complained about the posh quarters given to major drug players and how they continue to do business without interference while theoretically being under lock and key.

Update: Journalists of any stripe -- not just those that cover the drug cartels -- are vulnerable in Mexico. After Lydia Cacho exposed a powerful hotel owner as the orchestrator of a child pornography and prostitution ring, she was arrested and almost killed by local police. Mother Jones interviewed Cacho in May.

A Virtual Tour of the Baghdad Embassy

| Tue May 29, 2007 9:22 PM EDT
embassytenniscourt.gif

Tom Engelhardt has come across what might be the first public glimpse of the $1.3-billion U.S. embassy under construction in Baghdad. At 104 acres, and with 1,000 staffers, it's going to be America's biggest embassy anywhere. It might as well have a giant "kick me" sign on its front gates—hence the 15-foot-thick walls and who knows how many Marines and Blackwater guys on duty. Visualizing the fortress-like enclosure has been a bit tough. Until now, thanks to some 3-D renderings Engelhardt found on its architects' website. It almost looks like the next backdrop for Grand Theft Auto, but with tennis courts, a pool, and housing for 380 families. That family housing stat is a new detail. Somehow I doubt that the balmy weather and outdoor pool will convince many embassy dwellers to bring along the kids.

Dems Virtually Assured Victory, Pessimist Reports, Tempting Fate

| Tue May 29, 2007 7:34 PM EDT

A new Rasmussen poll shows that if Barack Obama were to face Mitt Romney in the general election, he would trounce him by 12 percentage points. Fred Thompson fared slightly better against the black Harvard man, losing by just 7 percentage points. Another Rasmussen poll indicated that John Edwards could route Republicans on a scale resembling the 65-13 Oklahoma-University of Texas game of 2003. (Oddly, Rasmussen hasn't run the Clinton matchups, but other polls have predicted Hillary faring poorly in the general election.) I cautioned in a previous post against counting on a Democratic victory, but now I'm wondering, why even bother to hold a general election, when polls show that Americans believe Dems are better suited to lead even on issues that Republicans have historically owned, such as national security (46 percent trust Democrats more) and taxes (the Democrats lead 47 to 42 percent)? Democrats enjoy double-digit advantages on ethics and government corruption and the war in Iraq as well as on their traditional issues, including education, social security, immigration, and health care.

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Anti-War Republican Wins "Iraq Joke of the Day" Contest

| Tue May 29, 2007 4:12 PM EDT

Our buddy Walter Jones (R-N.C.) has a suggestion for Paul Wolfowitz's next job: Mayor of Baghdad. You broke it, you buy run it, Paul.

Ron Paul is Still Throwing Elbows

| Tue May 29, 2007 1:50 PM EDT

Libertarian, internet sensation, and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul takes on Rudy Giuliani, explains why he's the only real Republican in the race, and comments on the importance of the internet for candidates like him who "can't raise $100 million."

I think the campaign needs characters like Paul and Mike Gravel. There will be months and months of dissection of the frontrunners and eventual nominees (some might argue there already has been). If we didn't have other people to focus on in these early months, we'd all be so burned out by the primaries that we wouldn't have any energy or attention span left for the general election. Besides, Paul is a smart, likable guy who I only disagree with 60 or 70 percent of the time. Better than most in his party!

Illegal Immigration - Terrorism Nexus Debunked

| Tue May 29, 2007 11:55 AM EDT

The anti-immigration forces have long pushed the myth that cracking down on illegal immigration is necessary to stop terrorism from seeping into the United States.

They might want to tell the Department of Homeland Security about their game plan. According to a new study that analyzed millions of records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, only 0.0015 percent of cases filed in immigration courts by the Department of Homeland Security have had anything to do with terrorism. Only 0.014 percent pertained to national security.

The rest were mundane immigration cases. According to the study, 85 percent of the charges involved infractions such as not having a valid immigrant visa, overstaying a student visa, or entering the United States without an inspection.

So the Department of Homeland Security's immigration department is protecting our country from over-ambitious graduate students instead of terrorists. Unless there really aren't any terrorists trying to sneak in across the southwestern desert, in which case someone might want to fact-check Michelle Malkin.

UMass Hates Andy Card: Former White House Chief of Staff Booed at Graduation Ceremony

| Tue May 29, 2007 11:32 AM EDT

Former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was lustily booed as he was awarded an honorary degree during the graduate school commencement at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. We're not talking scattered boos from a radical students' group. This was a huge percentage of the commencement's attendees, including professors. Take a look.

The boo birds weren't angry with Card's pathetic involvement in the NSA wiretapping scandal that was recently revealed in former Deputy Attorney General James Comey's testimony before Congress. (Card joined Alberto Gonzales on the rush to John Ashcroft's hospital bed, where they hoped to convince a barely conscious man to authorize a constitutionally questionable domestic spying program.)

No, they were angry with Card over the big issue of the day -- the Iraq War. After all, it was Card who in August 2002 set up the White House Iraq Group, a group of foreign policy experts and political messaging gurus whose job it was to sell the Iraq War to the public. Karl Rove, Karen Hughes, and chief Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson were part of WHIG, as were Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley.

Of course, every member of that group either has or will go on to earn honorary degrees and make tons of money as a lobbyist, consultant, or think tank wonk. Screwing up can be big business in Washington -- the only people who will let you know how badly you blew it, apparently, are college students.