Mojo - May 2007

News for the Commute Home: Gas Prices Hit a New Record

| Mon May 14, 2007 6:36 PM EDT

The average national price for a gallon of gasoline hit $3.073 today, the highest on record according to the AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.

If you still own an SUV, I'd like your justification in the comments. Thanks.

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Baby Bubba's Got a Gun: True Story

| Mon May 14, 2007 4:20 PM EDT

Here's a bizarre tale out of Illinois. A local newspaper columnist decided to see what would happen if he applied for a gun owner's ID card for his 10-month-old son and, well, here's the story...

Little Bubba Ludwig got a 12-gauge Beretta from his grandfather as a present. While it's illegal for minors to buy a gun in Illinois, it isn't illegal for them to own one, and if Bubba was going to legally own his he needed a Firearm Owner's Identification Card.

So like any good (and mischievous) father, Daily Southtown columnist Howard Ludwig sent in a picture of his son (featuring a toothless grin), filled out the appropriate form (2 feet, 3 inches; 20 pounds), and mailed in five bucks. A month later -- boom -- Baby Bubba's got a gun. He's even allowed to carry it unloaded under state law, but as his father says, "he can't walk yet, so that's not an issue."

Check out the father's column on the whole thing here. (Via Fox News and Wonkette.)

I can't tell what to make of this story. The family in question -- particularly the father who wrote the column -- seems to see it as just good fun. They're responsible gun owners, after all, and while this whole episode is kind of absurd, little Bubba will be taught how to use his gun only when he's good and ready. And when that time comes he'll be taught all the proper safety procedures by a family with a long history of responsible gun ownership.

At the same time, good God -- is Illinois insane? Have we reached the point where we are so afraid of gun control that we have no restrictions whatsoever? Why have a gun owner's ID card at all when a bureaucrat somewhere in the state house will stamp "APPROVED" on an application featuring the grinning mug of a 10-month-old baby?

And do you think the NRA would support a bill titled "Keep America's Cribs Gun-Free"? I'm guessing no.

Maybe GOP Voters Should Consult New Yorkers for Thoughts on Rudy

| Mon May 14, 2007 3:23 PM EDT

The New York Daily News has conducted a poll in which it asked New Yorkers who they thought was a better mayor and a better potential president -- current Mayor Michael Bloomberg or former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The results? Bloomberg in a landslide. For both.

Who is/was a better mayor -- Bloomberg 56%, Giuliani 29%.

Who would make a better president -- Bloomberg 46%, Giuliani 29%.

Now I know that New York is a heavily Democratic city, but if America's love affair with Rudy Giuliani is based on the fact that he "protected us" or "showed us strength" on 9/11, what does it say if the people who needed protection most, and who needed to see strength the most, don't like the man? Shouldn't it be a requirement if running for office that the last people you governed are satisfied with your performance?

Actually, if that was the case, Romney and McCain would be out too.

Bill Richardson and Hillary Clinton would be just fine. For some reason, I can't find numbers on Obama, but I'd bet he's doing just fine in his home state.

Update: Yes, I know Bloomberg is technically a Republican, but he was a life-long Democrat before he ran and is about as liberal as any "Republican" can be. He's well-liked across party lines because of his effectiveness. That's why I once called him post-partisan.

"Spousal" Videos: Dem Candidates' Husband and Wives Speak

| Mon May 14, 2007 12:28 PM EDT

The Hillary Clinton campaign has a killer new video out in which Bill speaks directly to the camera about his wife and why she would make a great president. It's quite good.

Seeing this made me think about other "spousal" videos -- videos in which a presidential candidate's spouse talks about the candidate. The campaigns seem to think (rightly, I believe) that having a candidate's spouse explain why he or she fell in love with the candidate is interesting and worthwhile political material, because voters are sometimes looking for the same things spouses are. For example, if Bill Clinton says that he loved Hillary's passion for helping the poor, or Elizabeth Edwards says that she saw John's honesty and decency when they first met, or Michelle Obama talks about Barack's magnetism -- these aren't just crass exploitations of people's private lives. The values and attributes on display are valuable in a spouse and a president.

So with that in mind I went hunting for other "spousal" videos. I found this one starring Michelle Obama -- unfortunately it's not on YouTube and I can't post it here. You'll have to follow the link, but it's worth it. (And you can find video of Michelle Obama speaking at campaign events here.)

As for Elizabeth Edwards, she has her own history, and often the videos starring her cover her battle against cancer instead of her husband. The result is pretty impressive -- you get a full picture of who Elizabeth is, a pretty full picture of who John is, and a sense that together they are a strong and amazing couple.

See for yourself. The first video here is Elizabeth introducing John at a campaign event; the second is Elizabeth thanking the people who have shown support in her fight against cancer. Judge which one is more powerful.

Wow, right? The second video almost brought me to tears.

The Democrats in this race are not only strong candidates for president, they all seem to have incredible people for spouses, too.

Nebraska Teacher Taken Out Of Classroom For Showing Iraq Documentary

| Fri May 11, 2007 7:55 PM EDT

Last year, Michael Baker was one of only forty-seven teachers in Nebraska to obtain National Board Certification. Last month, he showed his students at East High School in Lincoln the documentary, Baghdad ER, which shows the lives of doctors, nurses, medics, and soldiers in Iraq. The next day, Baker was no longer in his geography classroom.

Says former colleague Michael Anderson: "I believe there were students who went home and were troubled about what they saw, and there were parental phone calls to the principal, and the next day she walked him out the door because she didn't have the courage to stand up to the complainers."

Baker was suspended for ten days without pay. Apparently, school administrators have never liked his teaching style. Baker taught history by starting with the present and moving backwards, but the school forbade him to continue doing that. Then his history classes were taken away altogether.

A spokeswoman for the Lincoln public schools says that Baker asked to retire and his request was honored.

Divorce Rates Are Low - Because Fewer Are Marrying

| Fri May 11, 2007 6:04 PM EDT

Golly gee whiz, it must be hard to work at the Heritage Foundation: to have one's doe-eyed innocence dashed again and again. Even what seems like good news proves to be further evidence that Americans are just not as pure and perfect as the Heritage Foundation believes we should and could be. So it was when the righteous ones heard that divorce rates had fallen significantly from their peak in 1981. Further investigation showed that fewer were divorcing because fewer were bothering to marry in the first place. Frowny-faces all around at Heritage: This is bad for the children!

Still further investigation revealed that divorce rates were significantly lower among college-educated couples. You know why? Craziness! It turns out opportunity makes people happier! So perhaps we should reinvigorate our sagging social safety network. You know what else we could try? Letting gay people marry. Some of them actually want to do it, and their joyful celebrations could give the flagging institution a real shot in the arm. And the economy, too.

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CBS Fires Anti-War General; MSM: No Comment

| Fri May 11, 2007 5:41 PM EDT

Here's a prime example of a story the MSM is self-interestedly neglecting to cover. CBS fired General John Batiste, who had served as a consultant for the network, after he appeared in a VoteVets ad opposing the war in Iraq. CBS claims the ad damaged Batiste's credibility by undermining his apparent objectivity. But CBS has now been revealed to allow consultant Nicole Wallace—formerly of the White House communications operation, now on John McCain's campaign staff—to comment on Bush's policies, McCain's beliefs, and life in general. Not only that, but the ad in which Batiste appeared was pretty objective and analytical. Could anyone seriously be accused of diminishing their credibility by saying that we were led to war on false pretenses and don't have an effective strategy for winning? I mean, these are facts.

Evangelical Leader: "Vote for Romney is Vote for Satan"

| Fri May 11, 2007 4:52 PM EDT

Yikes. Take a look at what an evangelical leader is saying about Mormon presidential candidate Mitt Romney. His name is Bill Keller, host of the Florida-based Live Prayer TV, and he writes in his daily devotional (which reaches 2.4 million people):

"If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for Satan! ... Romney is an unashamed and proud member of the Mormon cult founded by a murdering polygamist pedophile named Joseph Smith nearly 200 years ago. The teachings of the Mormon cult are doctrinally and theologically in complete opposition to the Absolute Truth of God's Word. There is no common ground. If Mormonism is true, then the Christian faith is a complete lie. There has never been any question from the moment Smith's cult began that it was a work of Satan and those who follow their false teachings will die and spend eternity in hell."

I particularly like this crazy paranoid line, which betrays a deep insecurity:

"Romney getting elected president will ultimately lead millions of souls to the eternal flames of hell!"

I think it's important to condemn this sort of bigotry and ignorance. I know it's fun to watch a party with a problematic history with race relations -- and that is sometimes openly hostile to minority voters -- turn its prejudice in on its own, but liberal bloggers have an obligation to stay consistent. We would condemn this sort of nonsense if the angry reverend was attacking Muslim legislator Keith Ellison (D-MN), so we have a responsibility to condemn it when he attacks a Republican. Even if that Republican has no principles and is in the process of saying whatever he has to in order to be elected.

Man, this is fun, isn't it?

Round Mound of Rebound Sounds Off: Charles Barkley Knows His Stuff

| Fri May 11, 2007 3:17 PM EDT

Former NBA star and current TV personality Charles Barkley has talked about running for governor of Alabama in the past, and all previous indications were that he leaned right. It appears the events of the last five or six years have really changed him. He's knowledgeable, insightful, and sounds an awful lot like John Edwards in this interview with, of all places, The New Republic.

Curious Details Emerge on the Fort Dix Six

| Fri May 11, 2007 12:17 PM EDT

MSNBC has an update on the six foreign nationals who were arrested for plotting to attack Fort Dix Army base and it looks like they might have been a bunch of bumblers egged on by over-aggressive FBI informants -- leading to speculation that an entrapment defense is upcoming. (Spotted on TPM.)

As for the bumbling plotters: "The FBI learned of the alleged plot when the men went to a Circuit City store and asked a clerk to transfer a jihad training video of themselves onto a DVD."

As for the over-aggressive informants: "One of the [accused plotters]... called a Philadelphia police officer in November, saying that he had been approached by someone who was pressuring him to obtain a map of Fort Dix, and that he feared the incident was terrorist-related, according to court documents."

Also, here's the description of one of the informants actions: "He railed against the United States, helped scout out military installations for attack, offered to introduce his comrades to an arms dealer and gave them a list of weapons he could procure, including machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades."

But that might not be enough for an entrapment defense to fly. Entrapment has become extremely difficult to prove in the post-9/11 world, and as one long-time FBI agent told the AP, "If the source talks them into committing a crime, that is entrapment... [but] if they are predisposed to commit a crime, and you give them the opportunity, that's fine." Pretty easy case to make.

Now I'm obviously in favor of giving the FBI the space and tools it needs to fight crime and violence, terrorism or no. If these guys legitimately had a plan to kill American servicemen, then throw them in the lock-up. But after the FBI and the Department of Justice strong-armed the prosecutions of the Lackawanna Six, John Walker Lindh, and Jose Padilla, you have to apply a skeptical eye to these things. The case of the Lackawanna Six is particularly instructive.