Mojo - July 2007

Daily Republican Sex Scandal Roundup

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 12:01 PM EDT

The question of whether Florida Rep. Bob Allen, co-chairman of John McCain's Florida campaign, tried to pay an undercover male cop $20 to give or receive a blowjob has been answered. According to the police officer's report from the arrest (via Pandagon):

Allen engaged me in a conversation in which it was agreed that he would pay me $20.00 in order to perform a "blow job" on me. Allen stated that he wanted me to ride with him accross [sic] the river before he performed the act and gave me the money. Before entering Allen's vehicle I identified myself as a police officer and detained him.

I'm glad we cleared that up. I should also mention that between 2003 and 2006, Allen voted with the Christian Coalition over 90 percent of the time.

Speaking of hypocritical Christian conservatives... Jack Burkman, a GOP political operative, conservative pundit, and former lobbyist for James Dobson's Family Research Council, was just exposed as being on the DC Madam's list.

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Iraq Status: Duck and Cover, Wait and See

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 12:00 PM EDT

Even as President Bush begs for more time to allow the so-called 'surge' to work in Iraq, the outlook from his own National Security Council is not all that encouraging. In yesterday's status report on 18 benchmarks to be achieved by the Iraqi Government, only eight showed "satisfactory" progress, while the status of the remaining ten was characterized as "mixed" or "unsatisfactory." Among those that failed to make any headway at all: easing de-Baathification laws to allow those who worked as lower-level civil service employees under Saddam's regime to return to work; disarming the country's various ethnic and religious militias; ensuring that Iraqi police enforce the law fairly, without consideration of sectarian ties; allowing Iraqi military commanders to operate without interference from politicians in Baghdad; and increasing the number of Iraqi military units capable of staging operations without American assistance.

These would seem huge (and sadly familiar) obstacles to Bush's vision of "victory" in Iraq, whatever that might mean... Still, the president remains sanguine about our prospects there. At a White House news conference yesterday, at which he unveiled the depressing results of the NSC report, the president, true to form, chose to look on the bright side:

I believe we can succeed in Iraq, and I know we must... Those who believe that the battle in Iraq is lost will likely point to the unsatisfactory performance on some of the political benchmarks. Those of us who believe that battle in Iraq can and must be won see the satisfactory performance on several of the security benchmarks as a cause for optimism...
The bottom line is that this is a preliminary report and it comes less than a month after the final reinforcements arrived in Iraq. This September, as Congress has required, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will return to Washington to provide a more comprehensive assessment. By that time, we hope to see further improvement...

Leaked Army Karbala Report Shows Iraqi Police Collaborated in Ambush on US Troops

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 9:32 AM EDT

USA Today has obtained the internal US Army investigation report on the ambush, kidnapping and killing of five US troops at a meeting with local officials in Karbala last January 20, and its findings are devastating.

A previously undisclosed Army investigation into an audacious January attack in Karbala that killed five U.S. soldiers concludes that Iraqi police working alongside American troops colluded with insurgents.

Why Wait for McCain's Big Speech?

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 8:42 AM EDT

When Mike Cooper of the NYT's Caucus blog has it already?

In a speech he plans to deliver in Concord, N.H., Mr. McCain, who just returned from Iraq last week, plans to cast the 2008 presidential election as a referendum on the war in Iraq – a risky stance, given polls that show the war is increasingly unpopular.
"In November, 2008 the American people will decide with their votes how and where this war will be fought or if it will be fought at all," Mr. McCain plans to say, according to excerpts of the speech obtained from the campaign.
"I have told you how I intend to fight this war," he plans to say. "Other candidates will argue for a different course. Democratic candidates for President will argue for the course of cutting our losses and withdrawing from the threat in the vain hope it will not follow us here. I cannot join them in such wishful and very dangerous thinking. Peace at any price is an illusion and its costs are always more tragic than the sacrifices victory requires. I will stand where I stand today and trust you to give me a fair hearing. There is too much at stake in this election for any candidate to do less."

I'll say this about John McCain: He's a brilliant strategist! Must be that military background. Following a week where seemingly everyone in his campaign quit, was fired, or got caught soliciting gay sex, John McCain did not quaver. No, he looked (or is about to look) straight into the cameras and told the American people he's all for a massively unpopular war.

I tell you, he doesn't need aides, he's so savvy.

What Happens in Starbucks Stays in Starbucks

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 8:29 AM EDT

Idle observation from the morning coffee run:

When did American adults start having more calories at breakfast than they do at dinner? Triple mocha caramel extra whip type drinks now seem to be the norm. And let's not forget the pastries!

I'm guessing the reason is that no one is around to see you cheat, and, since it's a cash-based economy, the only trace you've done so is a swelling waistline. Or a diabetic attack.

Some Men's Trash More Treasured Than Other's

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 1:08 AM EDT

There's a garbage strike going on across the San Francisco Bay. Waste Management of Alameda County, serving the 7th largest county in the state with 1.5 million residents (that's more than all of Idaho), has locked out its 500 workers over contract disputes, and there's no end in sight. So for now 200 replacement workers are scrambling to keep up.

Here's the rub: Turns out that while pickups are proceeding in the county's wealthy neighborhoods, the less well-to-do areas are becoming giant trash heaps. Manicured enclaves like Castro Valley and Montclair in Oakland—where seven-figure homes are commonplace—and even most of Berkeley are just fine; pickups have stayed on schedule.

But trash is piling up in poor neighborhoods. West and East Oakland have been the most neglected (two of our editors live in East Oakland, myself included), with garbage cans overflowing and bags stacking deep and wide from block to block. This, despite the fact that the monthly fees we pay are exactly the same as those in Piedmont, Oakland's Bel Air.

All Waste Management, has to say to the discrepancy is that the irregularities are no fault of the company's and to "have patience." Yeah? Tell that to the raccoons hanging out outside our houses at night.

Luckily our city's patience has also worn thin. Today Oakland filed a lawsuit against Waste Management saying that the accumulated waste is "a clear and compelling safety and health and welfare issue," with potential health risks if garbage piles up in such dense urban areas.

That, yeah, but it's also an issue of dignity and echoes of the Superdome reverberate. All in all, it stinks.

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Bush to Congress: Don't Mess With Me on Iran, Either

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 7:39 PM EDT

Spencer Ackerman at Talking Points Memo picked out an interesting detail from a letter President Bush just sent to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). In addition to writing that he'll veto any measures to end the war in Iraq, Bush added that he will veto any congressional attempts to limit his ability to take military action against Iran. This could be the usual executive prerogative-thumping, but does it hint at an anticipated showdown over Iran? And if so, what does the White House think the congressional Democrats are cooking up? (And just as importantly, what the heck is the White House cooking up?)

To get a sense of what Congress could—and couldn't—do to tie Bush's hands on Iran, check out this recent MJ article by Jonathan Schwarz. If anyone in Congress is serious about preempting a strike on Iran, he concludes, they have to act sooner rather than later: "If the Democrats continue to sit tight as the White House decides its next move, the administration will have won the first battle of the next war without firing a single shot."

Want a Dirty Bomb? Just Seal, Stamp, and Send...

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 4:42 PM EDT

As reported on the front pages of today's Washington Post and New York Times, undercover congressional investigators successfully exploited loopholes in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's licensing guidelines to obtain enough radiological material to build a so-called "dirty bomb." Investigators with the Government Accounting Office posing as West Virginia businessmen sent away for a federal permit to purchase radiological materials, which they received just 28 days later. Had the NRC bothered to do any due diligence, it would have discovered that the fictional company had no office location, no website, and no employees. As noted in the Times piece, "its only asset was a postal box."

This was not the first undercover operation to test the NRC's control measures. A similar sting in 2005 also resulted in GAO investigators obtaining small amounts of radioactive materials, for which they created false licensing documents using samples found on the Internet. They then smuggled the material across the U.S. border at two separate locations. Customs and Border Control personnel were unable to identity the forged documents and allowed the shipments to proceed. In this year's operation, investigators employed a similar tactic, counterfeiting the NRC license they received and removing the limit on the amount of radiological material they were allowed to purchase.

Answers for Morning Political Trivia for July 12

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 4:06 PM EDT

Commenter Al did better on our inaugural morning political trivia question than all of the journalists here, going four-for-four. The four state capitals that begin with the same letter as the state they're in are Dover, DE; Honolulu, HI; Indianapolis, IN; and Oklahoma City, OK.

Here at MoJo DC, only Reporter Jonathan Stein and Associate Editor Dan Schulman came close — both quickly guessed three of the four and then got stuck. Dan was missing Dover, DE, while Jonathan spent most of the day trying to get Indianapolis (he eventually guessed it). Points to Jonathan and commenter Al, and consolation prizes for Dan and commenters Frank (1/4), Bradley T Hughes (3/4), and Stephen Jackson, who was the first to get Oklahoma City. Come back for another question tomorrow morning.

—Nick Baumann

John McCain, Florida, Gay Prostitution, $20 - Just Read the Post

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 3:21 PM EDT

Can John McCain get a break? Hot on the heels of the loss of his top campaign management, the resignation of key Iowa team members, and news that the campaign will actually report a debt in the next few days, we've got.... a gay prostitution scandal. What's next? Locusts in campaign HQ?

Florida State Represenative Bob Allen, co-chair of McCain's Florida campaign, has been arrested for offering an undercover male police officer $20 in exchange for a blowjob in a public bathroom.

The detail you're dying to know (I'm sure) isn't clear. This Orlando Sentinel story says Allen was arrested for "offering to perform a sex act". But TV reports out of Florida say Allen was to have the sex act performed on him. It was to sort out details like this that I got into journalism.

And is there an element of hypocrisy here? Of course, there's more than enough to go around these days. Allen recently introduced HB 1475 into the Florida state legislature, a bill called "Lewd or Lascivious Exhibition" that lays a mightier smackdown on offenders of Allen's stripe. (Question: Was he doing research?) And the Rainbow Democratic Club, a central Florida gay rights group, recently identified Allen as one of the region's most hostile legislators towards gays. (Opposition research, then?)

We all know what's at the bottom of this scandal. Gay sweaters.

Update: Big question answered.