Mojo - June 2007

Mike Bloomberg -- Can an Invisible Man be President?

| Wed Jun. 20, 2007 11:42 AM PDT

With New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg announcing he's dropping his GOP affiliation in favor of independent status, people across the web are speculating about his presidential ambitions.

I'm not buying in. Even though Bloomberg's constituents think he would make a better president than his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, and even though Mayor Mike has billions of his own cash to spend on an independent run, and even though the mainstream media falls in love with independents, and even though we've done a bit of speculating ourselves -- I can't shake the sense that Bloomberg, as a savvy businessman and manipulator of public attention, simply sees an opportunity to keep his name in the spotlight as term limits boot him out of office and is taking advantage. Maybe to further his business interests, maybe to secure the ambassadorship to France, maybe so he can be President Somebody's VP -- who knows? But not to run for president.

Bloomberg cannot possibly be so egomaniacal as to overlook the (incredibly salient) fact that the excited folks at New York- and DC-based news outlets have indeed overlooked -- outside of New York and elite media and government circles, no one really knows who Mike Bloomberg is. This is anecdotally true, no doubt, but confirmed by the only poll that appears to have tested the subject -- according to Forbes, only 23 percent of those interviewed are able to recognize Mike Bloomberg. That's compared to 70 percent or higher for some of the presidential frontrunners. Yes, Bloomberg's been astonishingly effective. Yes, he's made progress on issues the federal government won't take up. Yes, he's avoided partisan wrangling and done so to his constituents' advantage. But the vast majority of the country doesn't know who he is. Aren't we all getting a little carried away?

Late Update: Hmm. This Pew poll directly contradicts the Forbes poll. Maybe I'm way off base here...

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They Made it in New York, But Not at Home

| Wed Jun. 20, 2007 11:24 AM PDT

Wilton, Connecticut School Superintendent Gary Richards had this to say about the play, Voices in Conflict, that Wilton High School Students wrote and planned to perform at the school: "The student performers directly acting the part of the soldiers...turns powerful material into a dramatic format that borders on being sensational and inappropriate. We would like to work with the students to complete a script that fully addresses our concerns."

The students responded to Richards immediately by incorporating his statement into the play. Then their principal banned Voices in Conflict, so two weeks ago, the high school company performed the play off-Broadway. Voices in Conflict incorporates testimonials from soldiers, including letters, blogs, and taped interviews. It also uses Yvonne Latty's book, In Conflict, as a source for material.

Wilton principal Timothy H. Canty said he was concerned that the play might be hurtful toward families who had lost loved ones in the war or who had loved ones serving in the war. "It would be easy to look at this case on first glance and decide this is a question of censorship or academic freedom. In some minds, I can see how they would react this way. But quite frankly, it's a false argument."

Students tell a different story. They say that Canty told them that only someone who had served in the war could understand the experience, and that one student had complained about the play.

If Wilton High School sounds familiar, it should. That is the school that gained publicity for calling Gay-Straight Alliance posters a safety hazard, and for telling students not to wear bandanas because they were associated with gangs.

The Right Has its Own Marion Barry

| Wed Jun. 20, 2007 10:27 AM PDT

The state treasurer of South Carolina and the state chair for Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign, obviously a Republican, was indicted Tuesday for allegedly being a coke dealer.

That is all. Just thought you should know.

New White House Report Pokes Anti-Immigration Foes with Sharp Stick

| Wed Jun. 20, 2007 9:40 AM PDT

The White House has released a report by the president's Council of Economic Advisers that concludes, "Immigration has a positive effect on the American economy as a whole and on the income of native-born American workers."

People on our side of the debate appreciate the White House's efforts, but the report is unlikely to convince these folks. In fact, it'll probably make them more angry.

Bush Administration Under Investigation for Signing Statement Abuses

| Wed Jun. 20, 2007 9:21 AM PDT

Two days ago, we wrote about a GAO report on presidential signing statements. While signing statements can be used legitimately to indicate how the executive branch interprets a law passed by Congress, the Bush Administration has used them to basically nullify laws without having to go through the embarrassment of vetoing them. Moreover, this president has used signing statements in unprecedented numbers. (For a couple examples of laws that were distorted or completely ignored because of this problem, see this article from our March/April 2007 issue.)

Democrats in Congress caught wind of the GAO report -- which is no shock because two Democrats in Congress commissioned it -- and will investigate. No law has been broken, just the spirit of the law violated, so it's unlikely that Congress's inquiry will lead to anything more than a reprimand. But add this to the list of very needed investigations that began only after the GOP lost control of both houses.

Bush Vows to Veto Stem Cell Bill

| Tue Jun. 19, 2007 6:04 PM PDT

President Bush, pushing for more embryo "adoptions," has promised to veto a stem cell research bill that passed the House 247-176. Read more at The Blue Marble.

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Good Job, You're Fired

| Tue Jun. 19, 2007 1:27 PM PDT

The Bush administration's pattern of promoting imbeciles like Paul Wolfowitz while sacking competent lawmakers like Colin Powell continues, with the news that budget director Rob Portman will step down. (His stated reason—to spend more time with his family—suggests that the move was not voluntary.) The Washington Post reports that Portman "is one of the most popular Cabinet members on the Hill, and even Democrats speak highly of his intellect and affability." The timing of Portman's departure is odd, given that the next two years will require someone who can negotiate with the Democrats.

Enter Jim Nussle, who is known for his combative style. The AP reports:

As House budget chairman, Nussle helped draft the blueprint for Bush's signature 2001 and 2003 tax bills....Republican leaders and conservatives such as Nussle regularly rolled over Democrats - and took pleasure in doing so.

Asked what he thought of Nussle, House budget chair Steny Hoyer said, "What's the next question?" So why did this guy get the job, beyond the fact that the Bush White House seems to love to do things that throttle the democratic process?

He's a hawk.

With Friends Like Bush...

| Tue Jun. 19, 2007 12:50 PM PDT

Imagine that somebody in power made it impossible for you to do your job, then watched as you were fired for not doing your job, then appeared on TV with your long-time nemesis, who had participated in making it impossible for you to do your job, and declared his support for you.

That's what President Bush has done to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. After free elections created a government divided between Abbas' moderate Fatah party and the radical Hamas party, Bush and his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Olmert, imposed such strict sanctions on the Palestinians that even those who had jobs weren't getting paid. Hamas would not and did not stand by and let this happen: The group overthrew Fatah in the Gaza Strip. Today, Bush and Olmert stood in the Oval Office together and declared their support for Abbas. Seriously? Here's the kiss of death: Bush called the emergency prime minister Abbas appointed "a good fella." Brownie, anyone?

Musharraf Gets Full U.S. Backing Despite Crackdowns

| Tue Jun. 19, 2007 11:16 AM PDT

As I've pointed out before, the United States has refrained from directly criticizing General Musharraf's assault on the judiciary and his crackdown on the Pakistani media. And once again, the Bush Administration is paying more lip service to its "commitment to democracy" while giving a military dictator full backing in the same breath.

This weekend, during his visit to Pakistan, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte gave Musharraf support by stating, "It is up to him (Gen Musharraf) to decide when to take off his uniform but we do want free, fair and transparent elections scheduled for this fall or early next year." Negroponte makes it clear where America stands: Despite the fact that Musharraf has locked up more than 1,000 opposition activists and shut down Pakistani TV channels that have been critical of him, it's really up to the good General to decide when to stop being a military dictator.

Negroponte and Musharraf also discussed strong U.S. support for Pakistan government's FATA Development Plan, "a $ 750 million five-year US support programme that we will begin implementing in the next few months" Money and political backing—what more could Musharraf ask for?

But the administration's actions certainly aren't winning us any hearts and minds of the people. As one Pakistani teacher puts it, "America is supporting Musharraf against the people...The reason people hate America here is that they always support dictatorship in Pakistan."

—Neha Inamdar

Hillary Clinton Makes Phenomenal New Campaign Vid -- To Introduce Crappy Song

| Tue Jun. 19, 2007 9:42 AM PDT

Okay, I was all set to rip Hillary Clinton's choice of campaign song, but I can't anymore. She's really impressed me.

You probably know the story: supporters were allowed to suggest songs on the Clinton website and Clinton's top folks picked the one they liked best. Just today, they chose "You and I" by Celine Dion, which is great if you like shrieking Canadians and awful if you have taste. (You can hear the song at Clinton's campaign site.)

But boy, have they headed off criticism big time. The video introducing the pick is genius. Pure genius. I've watched it twice and smiled more the second time. It even has Bill Clinton saying, "My money's on Smashmouth!" Check it out here.

Note: After you've watched the video, come back and watch this one -- tell us which is better.