Mojo - July 2007

Matches Go To War

| Fri Jul. 6, 2007 11:12 PM PDT

Conflagration.

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National Monument Saved From 4x4 Enthusiasts

| Fri Jul. 6, 2007 12:10 PM PDT

A federal judge recently ruled that Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument may not be used as an ATV playground, putting an end to nine years of heated disputes between off-road vehicle activists and equally dedicated conservationists. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Earthjustice acted as defendants in the case and Kane and Garfield counties, within which the monument lies, were plaintiffs.

The 1.9 million-acre monument, established as such in 1996 by President Clinton under the Antiquities Act, became the second largest monument in the continental United States and and is habitat for countless endangered species.

The Grand Staircase is one of many monuments, for which counties supportive of off-roading have invoked a 1866 mining statute called RS 2477 (a law that allows road construction over public lands), to counteract usage restrictions that monument status brings. Effectively, if the county can prove a road had been established before 1976, they have a shot at re-opening it to the public and, of course, for off-roading. In that spirit, horse trails, boulder-strewn washes, dried up creeks, and even hiking paths became possible ATV highways, sometimes even private property as we reported in our most recent issue.

The recent federal ruling puts ownership of these public lands firmly in federal hands, which hopefully means fewer 18" tires will be traversing (and destroying) the monument's unique ecosystem. But most likely, the ruling will also increase the ire of 4x4 activists dedicated to driving public lands, regardless of what's on them.

This marks one of the first times the federal government has stepped into the debate in favor of environmental conservation. Previously, the Bush administration loosened restrictions on off-roading in national parks and has repeatedly made it easier for counties to claim RS 2477 road rights.

Mike Gravel the "Avant Garde of the New Artpolitical Era"?

| Fri Jul. 6, 2007 10:19 AM PDT

I didn't know we were entering into a new "artpolitical" era. And if this is a new one, was there an old one?

I probably don't know these things because I'm not an art history professor writing in the LA Times. If I was, I would understand that Mike Gravel, what with his crazy campaign ads, is a genius on par with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Jackson Pollack. And the interpretation of Gravel and his campaign goes something like this:

Gravel's works confront us with our own existences and our deaths, the brute thereness of truth, the skull beneath the $400 haircut, the cellulite under the pants suit. His is neo-existentialist, post-apocalyptic, post-post modern art, a silence that screams and cajoles.
Gravel's politics are a politics of the body and of the physical world, of what is underneath our language and above it, what is broken and beautiful, the real world of human beings.
I suggest to you that a Gravel presidency would lead to an entirely new America, doing to us what cubism did to post-impressionism: dragging us moaning in glorious epiphanic pain into a new world.
It may be that Gravel, like Vincent van Gogh, Friedrich Nietzsche or indeed, Crispin Sartwell, is a premature birth of an astonishing future. He may toil in obscurity, misunderstood or ignored in his own time. And yet, whether we can fully theorize him or not, Mike Gravel, though he may never be president, has brought us all to the very brink of political ecstasy.

A ten on the crazy meter? That's probably what most Times readers will say. But I'll go with an eight -- there are some kernels of truth in there.

And good golly, I enjoyed that op-ed more than any other in a long, long time.

Via The Plank.

Why Didn't Libby's Defense Team Focus on Cheney?

| Fri Jul. 6, 2007 9:20 AM PDT

Sorry to be so monotonous, but the holiday week has left people with an absence of news and a lot of time to speculate on all things Libby. So here's some more worthwhile block quoting. Did Libby's defense team threaten to expose Dick Cheney's crimes during the trial? And did they only back off after being guaranteed a commutation or pardon? Follow the clues, it makes a lot of sense...

If you ask any criminal defense attorney, they said we would make Dick Cheney the focus of the trial. He is perfect. He's all over this case. It really was an investigation about what Dick Cheney ordered, what Dick Cheney said, what Dick Cheney did. It's just that Dick Cheney wasn't indicted.
So no one was that surprised when the defense team made it clear they were going to call him to the trial and they were going to take the gloves off. And then suddenly, it changed and they said they were not going to call him.
They barely talked about him in any sinister way. And they adopted what could only be described as a passive defense. They virtually walked Libby into a conviction. I don't mean to be too harsh, but it seemed to me a pretty passive performance.
Well some of us speculated at the time that it seemed to be preserving the chance for a pardon. He was a loyal soldier. He took the hit in court and he remained quiet even after his conviction and even after his sentencing.

Crooks and Liars has video.

Scooter Libby, Ordered to Jail by a Republican System

| Fri Jul. 6, 2007 9:02 AM PDT

Over at TPM, Josh Marshall has an excellent rebuttal to the people who say Scooter Libby's trial, conviction, and sentencing were all politically motivated. He goes down the list of the major players in this sordid drama and identifies them all as conservatives or leaners in that direction.

1. Attorney General John Ashcroft. Decided a special prosecutor was needed and then recused himself from the decision because of his proximity to the probable targets of the investigation.
2. James Comey. Yes, he's the darling of the Dems now because he spilled the beans about the hospital stand-off. But Comey is, dare we say it, a REPUBLICAN. And not just any Republican but a pretty tough law-and-order type who only months earlier had been appointed Deputy Attorney General by President Bush. He had it in for Scooter? He let his partisanship get in the way?
3. Patrick Fitzgerald. Again, a darling of the Dems now for obvious reasons. But anyone who knows the guy's history knows that while this registered independent may not lean ideologically right (in the way movement whacks might recognize) he certainly doesn't lean to the left. It's no accident that his appointments have come under Republicans.
4. Judge Reggie Walton. Let's start with this: He was appointed by George W. Bush. And if that doesn't do it for you, he was appointed to previous judicial appointments by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

There's bonus material in there as well: some bashing of Marty Peretz and Josh's take on why a pardon might have been acceptable but a commutation is just ridiculous. Check it out.

The Real Scooter Libby-Marc Rich Connection

| Thu Jul. 5, 2007 4:18 PM PDT

This is, um, rich: Guess who pardoned financier Marc Rich's lawyer was, circa 1985-2000. Scooter Libby.

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Netroots Sends ActBlue Love to John Edwards

| Thu Jul. 5, 2007 11:36 AM PDT

Our package on Politics 2.0 is all about how the internet will decentralize politics and make it more accessible to the common man. That includes fundraising, mostly in the form of the website ActBlue.

To learn more about the site, check out the link. But suffice it to say, the netroots and online activists use ActBlue to funnel money to favorite candidates, and have sent almost $25 million over ActBlue's wires (average donation: $60). So who are the candidates receiving the lion's share of that cash?

Turns out, it's John Edwards. Just John Edwards. And it's not even close.

For number of lifetime donations through ActBlue, Edwards leads with 41,236. The next highest are James Webb with 16,363 and Ned Lamont with 12,420. Edwards also leads in terms of lifetime money raised, with $3,437,887. Webb is again second with just $894,042.

Obama and Clinton aren't in the top ten in either category. Hmmm... a strong clue on who the internet supports for president.

'08 Campaign's Next Big Issue: Hedge Fund Taxes

| Thu Jul. 5, 2007 11:12 AM PDT

There's an upcoming issue that will test the principles of the Democratic presidential candidates. From Politico:

On the merits, this specific proposal -- which is part of a larger, ongoing re-examination by congressional tax writers of the way Wall Street is treated -- should not be a close call for a progressive leader courting union leaders and activists in Iowa and New Hampshire. It would correct an outrageous loophole that enables hedge fund and private equity managers to have their eye-popping profits (known as "carried interest") taxed as capital gains instead of income.
The net effect of this is that billionaires are getting taxed for their work at a lower rate -- 15 percent, instead of the top income bracket of 35 percent -- than the men and women who clean their offices, drive their cars and tend their gardens.
But when billions of dollars are at stake, the calculus is rarely that simple. Particularly when the billions are being taken away from a group of donors the Democratic Party is literally banking on for a competitive edge in the all-important financial arms race with the business-backed Republicans...

Favoring a fairer tax on hedge fund managers would very directly hurt any Dem's pocketbook: three-quarters of the $1.1 million that hedge fund managers contributed in a single quarter went to Democratic candidates. It's safe to say that anyone who supports doubling the taxes of these folks will be cut off from the money trough.

Politico frames this as an issue most important for Edwards, because he has focused most on bridging the gap between the rich and the poor in America, and because he needs campaign money the most dearly of the top three Democratic candidates.

I agree that it'll be interesting to see what Edwards does on the issue -- Politico recommends that he make it a central part of his campaign, because the loss of campaign cash will more than be made up for by the positive press and character points -- but I'm more interested in seeing what Hillary Clinton does. She's the most business-oriented of the Democratic candidates, and cares most about tending to her donors. Will she take the populist route, or will she disappoint yet again?

Iraq Creating New Terrorists, and Americans Know It

| Thu Jul. 5, 2007 11:02 AM PDT

According to a new poll, 67 percent of Americans believe that the Iraq War is creating new terrorists. And they're absolutely right. Here's the proof.

Political "Outsider" Fred Thompson Happy About Libby News

| Wed Jul. 4, 2007 8:06 AM PDT

When George W. Bush commuted Scooter Libby's sentence, one of the Republicans to speak up on behalf of the action was possible presidential candidate Fred Thompson, who said, "I am very happy for Scooter Libby. I know that this is a great relief to him, his wife, and children. While for a long time I have urged a pardon for Scooter, I respect the President's decision. This will allow a good American, who has done a lot for his country, to resume his life."

You bet he was happy. According to a June 25 article in the Washington Post, Thompson helped run the Scooter Libby Defense Fund Trust, which raised more than $5 million. Yet, as Media Matters for America points out, Thompson's connection to the Libby defense fund was totally ignored by NBC's Today, ABC's Good Morning America, and ABC's Nightline. A story on the Fox News website does mention his connection to the fund.

The Washington Post article describes Thompson's anything-but-outsider position in Washington. He has lobbied for S&L deregulation, liability limits for asbestos lawsuits and nuclear energy, and has increased his income significantly through lobbying.

The news media has also continued to ignore Thompson's recent shutting down of his PAC, an act that became necessary when it was discovered that it had raised only $66,700 for candidates, but had paid Thompson's son $178,000 in consulting fees.