Mojo - July 2007

Chief Justice Gets Reinstated, Victory for Democratic Forces in Pakistan

| Fri Jul. 20, 2007 1:51 PM EDT

Last month, the New York Times asked if Pakistan "can mix well with democracy." U.S. officials, often conflating the small number of Islamic radicals with the entire Pakistani population, fear that fair, free, and democratic elections in Pakistan might put the Islamic radicals in power. Would it not be ridiculous if we sought to dismantle democracy in America for fear that the powerful Christian fundamentalist movement might influence the elections? The media seems to confuse the two, case in point, the recent heavy coverage of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) event and its ensuing violence: ubiquitious coverage of the actions, messages, and movements of a small fraction of Pakistan's population gives the impression that Pakistan is full of crazed mullahs, self detonating martyrs, and anti-democracy elements.

But to answer the question, can Pakistan mix well with democracy, I would say yes. In fact, democratic forces had a resounding victory today: Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has been reinstated by Pakistan's Supreme Court after months of political turmoil. With a 10-3 vote, Judge Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday declared Musharraf's suspension of the Chief Justice as illegal. Chaudhry was suspended, many think, so that the president could put in place someone more likely to bend to Musharraf's authority. This victory marks the first serious challenge to Musharraf's power during his reign. But the judicial victory did not come without cost. Amidst numerous and vigorous protests by lawyers, activists, and ordinary Pakistani citizens, when the Chief Justice was initially suspended in May, more than 40 people were killed in Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan. This prompted opposition senators to demand that Musharraf step down.

Chief Justice Chaudhry, the judges, the lawyers, opposition members, activists, journalists, and civil society groups should be applauded for their courage. In addition, this is definitely a victory for the democratic movement in the country and raises the question as to whether Musharraf can continue his rule, but democracy in Pakistan still has a long way to go. Although the same can be said for us as well these days.

—Neha Inamdar

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King for a Day

| Fri Jul. 20, 2007 1:03 PM EDT

Bush to name Cheney president while he undergoes a medical procedure Saturday. Atrios' thoughts: pray. Everybody else, guard your copy of the Constitution.

Romney Not Even President Yet, Already Abusing Power

| Fri Jul. 20, 2007 12:31 PM EDT

It's a slow news day today, with the exception of the White House's unsurprising-if-you-know-this-crowd assertion that the Justice Department will never take up contempt charges filed by Congress against members of the White House unwilling to testify before Congress.

So let's go with this, shall we:

In an apparent violation of the law, a controversial aide to ex-Gov. Mitt Romney created phony law enforcement badges that he and other staffers used on the campaign trail to strong-arm reporters, avoid paying tolls and trick security guards into giving them immediate access to campaign venues, sources told the Herald.
The bogus badges were part of the bizarre security tactics allegedly employed by Jay Garrity, the director of operations for Romney who is under investigation for impersonating a law enforcement officer in two states. Garrity is on a leave of absence from the campaign while the probe is ongoing....
"They (the aides) knew the badges were fake and probably illegal," said a presidential campaign source...

Spotted on The Plank.

All the King's Horses and All the King's Men

| Fri Jul. 20, 2007 11:38 AM EDT

Can Defense Secretary Gates bring his undersecretary of defense for policy Eric Edelman to heel?

Update: Go read Slate's Fred Kaplan's take.

Here's Gate's reaction, via David Kurtz.

Oh No They Didn't!

| Fri Jul. 20, 2007 11:18 AM EDT

In case you missed yesterday's post, I dropped a tease about some big news in the works for Mother Jones. As fans of quality journalism and strong, independent voices in the press, you won't be disappointed. Back to you on Monday!

Jay Harris
President & Publisher

Morning Political Trivia, July 20th Edition

| Fri Jul. 20, 2007 10:29 AM EDT

This morning's question comes courtesy of my friend Dave Olsen:

Which president has a statue erected to him in the classical municipal style (full figure, bronze) declaring him to be our "least memorable president"?

And where is that statue?

Remember, no Googling, just guessing.

Most Recent Update:

"Retraction, Retraction!" that was the phone message I got from last night, but not before Jonathan had updated the post with the "answer" below, which we now know to be entirely subjective.

Here's what happened: Dave emails me the picture, no comment provided. I reply, "Can't make it out, what does it say below Chester Alan Arthur?" He emails back "least memorable president." I ask: "Where is it." And he replies: "Madison Square Park."

Did my friend Dave intentionally mislead me? No, this comes from a long line of trivia/philosophical questions passed around an extended group of friends, ranging from those that divide into bitterly divided camps—Which kind of bacon is better, floppy or crispy? (IMO: crispy).—to those to which there's an answer to which almost everyone can agree upon—such as: What's the worst album title of all time (Reo Speedwagon's "You Can Tune a Piano But You Can't Tune a Fish").

So "most obscure/least known" president was one such question some time back, the mostly agreed upon answer was Chester Alan Arthur (though all the presidents the commentors named were also bandied about). The next day, Dave spots the statue, takes a cell phone pic, and forgets about it until yesterday morning.

So a bad misunderstanding, and mea culpa for not triple checking with Dave. And special apologies to President Arthur, for obscure though he might be, it sounds like he acquitted himself pretty well in office (see below).

Jonathan's Original Update:
The answer is Chester A. Arthur, as commentor Mark guessed. Before moving to the White House as James Garfield's vice president, Arthur was a deputy to New York City political boss Roscoe Conkling. Arthur was an active participant in the world of graft, spoils, and the like, both while in New York and while the vice president, a fact that so angered the president that he at times refused Arthur entry to the White House. Garfield was shot by a supporter of Conkling's — leading to speculation that Arthur had engineered the situation to assume the presidency, a claim that is now generally thought to be false. Upon taking over for Garfield, Arthur, a native of the tiny town of Fairfield, VT, become a champion for civil service reform and largely acquitted himself in the eyes of history.

Said one historian, "No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted, and no one ever retired… more generally respected." But clearly someone dislikes him. Here's a picture of that statue we mentioned, which is located in New York City:

 chester_arthur250x530.jpg

Bonus trivia: Arthur served as president from 1881-1885, during which time he never had a VP.

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"La Loi, C'est Moi," Part XIV

| Fri Jul. 20, 2007 10:17 AM EDT

A few months ago, Seymour Hersh reported that a White House official and Iran Contra alum, Elliot Abrams, had recently led a "lessons learned" discussion about Iran Contra:

Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal "lessons learned" discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: "One, you can't trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can't trust the uniformed military, and four, it's got to be run out of the Vice-President's office"—a reference to Cheney's role, the former senior intelligence official said.

Today the Washington Post reports that the White House may have taken that lesson to heart. It has determined, the Post reports, that in legal disputes between the Congress and the White House over executive privilege, game over, because the White House has decided no US attorney can uphold a contempt of Congress decree:

Plame Lawsuit Dismissed

| Thu Jul. 19, 2007 4:57 PM EDT

The civil suit filed by Valerie and Joseph Wilson against Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and Richard Armitage was dismissed by a federal judge today. Ruling that the court lacked the jurisdiction to award damages for the disclosure of Valerie Wilson's covert identity, Judge John Bates made the curious argument that blowing the cover of an undercover CIA officer could be considered to fall within the job duties of an administration official. "The alleged means by which defendants chose to rebut Mr. Wilson's comments and attack his credibility may have been highly unsavory," he wrote. "But there can be no serious dispute that the act of rebutting public criticism... by speaking with members of the press is within the scope of defendants' duties."

The Wilson's counsel, Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, is currently reviewing the decision and anticipates filing an appeal. After four years, Joe Wilson isn't about to back down. Here's what he had to say about the setback in a statement: "This case is not just about what top government officials did to Valerie and me. We brought this suit because we strongly believe that politicizing intelligence ultimately serves only to undermine the security of our nation. Today's decision is just the first step in what we have always known would be a long legal battle and we are committed to seeing this case through."

Mother Jones is Going to do What? When?

| Thu Jul. 19, 2007 12:25 PM EDT

After 31 years of path-breaking independent investigative journalism, Mother Jones has decided to really shake things up, and you're part of it. We're launching something bold, something big, and something brand new. Check back with us on July 23rd to find out more.

Jay Harris
President & Publisher

Daughter of Jailed Iranian American Writes About "Brutal Men Going About Their Brutal Business"

| Thu Jul. 19, 2007 11:30 AM EDT

Yesterday Iran's new 24 hour TV channel broadcast a "documentary" featuring two jailed Iranian Americans, Haleh Esfandiari, of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and Kian Tajbakhsh, a consultant to the Open Society Institute. Both are being held in Evin prison. Esfandiari had been robbed of her passport in December while visiting her ailing 93 year old mother in Tehran, and since then has been undergoing interrogation by Iran's secret police, then house arrrest, and for the past 70 days, solitary confinement in Iran's notorious Evin prison. The 63 year old grandmother had run programs at the Woodrow Wilson Center that sought more than any other think tank I am aware of to promote US-Iran engagement. Its president, Lee Hamilton, a co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, has urged the Bush administration to talk with Iran.

Esfandiari's daugther Haleh Bakhash, a lawyer in Washington, writes in the Washington Post today about her mother's interrogators: