Mojo - October 2007

The Blackwater Suit You've Never Read About

| Tue Oct. 23, 2007 1:13 PM EDT

Private military contractor Blackwater USA is currently facing multiple law suits, including one filed recently on behalf of the victims of the Nisour Square shooting, but there's one you haven't heard about. Filed last Friday in U.S. district court on five handwritten pages—one of them bearing a picture of what appears to be the plaintiff in a towel—the suit accuses Blackwater, among other military contractors, of a litany of abuses, ranging from murder and treason to arson and identify theft. The plaintiff is an extraordinarily litigious inmate named Jonathan Lee Riches, who's serving a 10-year sentence at a South Carolina correctional facility on a wire fraud (and identify theft) rap.

By my count, Riches has filed no fewer than 41 suits this month alone—drafting as many as six handwritten complaints per day—and at least 106 since February 2006. In the past, he's accused Martha Stewart of an elaborate plot to "silence" him; sought "$63,000,000,000 billion" in damages from embattled NFL star Michael Vick; and targeted Senator John McCain for "campaign finance fraud," requesting a restraining order to prevent the presidential candidate and his children "from coming to FCI Williamsburg"—where Riches is incarcerated—"to kill me because I exposed them."

Indeed, Riches' court filings make for some interesting reading. A sampling from his Blackwater complaint:

Plaintiff moves for a temporary restraining order against the contract killing of my life and compels the Defendants' to shut down overseas operations A.S.A.P., under Declaratory Injunctive relief. Plaintiff seeks peace in the world without American companies meddling in the Affairs of other Nations. Plaintiff also seeks to add me on to the 2008 Presidential Ticket, as Plaintiff plans to run as a Independent crime/corruption stopper.

Riches, who occasionally refers to himself as "Teflon Jon," also seeks "the return of Jonathan Lee Riches' copyrighted weapons, grenades, bow and arrows, GPS tracking, mugs and t-shirts." in addition, he requested that the IRS look into Blackwater's tax records—an odd coincidence considering that Henry Waxman's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform unearthed an IRS ruling yesterday that the California congressman pointed to as evidence of "significant tax evasion" on behalf of Blackwater.

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Either Mike Huckabee is Really Bad at Math, or He Has His Facts Wrong

| Tue Oct. 23, 2007 11:59 AM EDT

On Sunday, Mike Huckabee said the signers of the Declaration of Independence were "brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen." CQ's Politifact.com says "not so fast":

Only one of the 56 was an active clergyman, and that was John Witherspoon. Witherspoon was a Presbyterian minister and president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). . .We'd like to give Huckabee every benefit of the doubt, but even if you consider former clergymen among the signers the best you could come up with is four. Out of 56. That's not "most," that's Pants-on-Fire wrong.

Or he could just be bad at math. See, maybe he was trying to make a point: we need better math education in schools so that presidential candidates will know that you need 29 out of 56 signers to have "most." At least that's what I choose to believe.

Garrison Keillor Stops Woman From Sending Him Dead Beetles

| Tue Oct. 23, 2007 11:41 AM EDT

keillor.jpg This is just completely bizarre:

Order Blocks Harassment of Keillor
Oct 23rd, 2007 | ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Garrison Keillor has gotten a restraining order against a Georgia woman he claims has made telephone calls and sent him explicit e-mails and disturbing gifts, including a petrified alligator foot and dead beetles...
Keillor's filing said the e-mails and letters were often "disturbing, unintelligible and rambling," and in one, [the accused, Andrea] Campbell "graphically described making love to me."
He also alleged Campbell showed up at his home in St. Paul in July. His wife was startled awake early one morning by the sound of someone rustling around outside the family's house. She filed a police report.
Campbell denied the allegations in a telephone interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press. She said she only wanted to show her gratitude for Keillor's work.
"I am unclear as to what the problem is," she said.
Campbell said Keillor had misunderstood the letters, e-mails, packages and phone calls. She said she was never closer to his house than the sidewalk.
"I believe that he's paranoid, or some woman, his wife, is upset and told him he has to do something about it," she said...
"It's transcendental love, that's all" she said. "Between a writer and reader."

Kurdish Guerrillas Are Out of Control, and We're Making it Worse

| Tue Oct. 23, 2007 11:01 AM EDT

Here's a top-line summary of all the current news regarding the Kurds. Increasingly aggressive Kurdish guerrillas (i.e. the P.K.K., labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S.) are executing strikes across the Iraqi border into both Turkey and Iran. Because we like Turkey, we are urging the Kurds to stop. But because we hate Iran, we are giving the Kurds advice and possibly direction.

The alternative to tangling ourselves up in microregional conflicts and aligning ourselves with terrorist organizations is to use (gasp!) diplomacy. If we were allowing the P.K.K.'s strikes in Iran to continue because we were using them as a bargaining chip (for example, saying to the Iranians, "In exchange for a concession on your nuclear development program, we will call off the dogs on the Iraqi border.") that would be one thing. But we aren't negotiating in any serious way! Aiding the P.K.K. on its Iranian raids, as the article linked to above strongly suggests we are doing, is apparently intended to destabilize the Iranian regime. The far, far, far more likely result is that it will increase the chance of regional war, keep the Iranians from ever working with us on stabilizing Iraq, and give the Iranians some rhetorical cover when they send Iranian agents into Iraq to attack Americans.

Update: I just want to remind everyone that war with Iran isn't just war with Iran. It means war with Hezbollah, Hamas, and countless hidden terrorist cells across the Middle East, all of which would be unleashed by the Iranian mullahs. Richard Cohen makes this point in a Washington Post op-ed in which he asks Rudy Giuliani to pretty-please consider maybe being possibly less bellicose on the Iranian question.

Alexis Debat Update

| Tue Oct. 23, 2007 10:40 AM EDT

Former ABC consultant Alexis Debat called to ask that I post this, the write up of the results of an ABC investigation into his work, and proposals to change its hiring practices regarding ABC news consultants. I told him that ABC Senior Vice President Jeffrey Schneider had reacted to his sending that around with the emailed comment, "Lol. Does he think he is vindicated? He shouldn't. He is still a big liar." Debat says in response, "I don't think I'm vindicated. But it's a big statement." I used the opportunity of the conversation to ask Debat about parts of his earlier claims that did not check out - how he said it was an administrative misunderstanding on his part that he did not know he didn't have a PhD from the Sorbonne. He said that he changed thesis advisors and departments to the political science department but couldn't further discuss it. I asked him about the mysterious Rob Sherman, who supposedly conducted the interview for him with Senator Barack Obama. Debat said he had met him in a cocktail party in 2003, he was fifty-ish with gray hair, but he wouldn't tell me what cocktail party or why he would have agreed to such an arrangement. About the fake interviews with Obama, Hillary Clinton, and others published under his name in the French journal Politique Internationale, Debat says he was stupid to sign his name to those interviews but it's not fair to say he claimed to conduct those interviews. Asked further questions, he said he had only called to tell me to post the above and he had nothing else to say. More from the NYT.

Earth to Fashion Industry: It's Still Really Hot Outside

| Tue Oct. 23, 2007 10:20 AM EDT

sweater%20coat.jpgThe fashion industry has always been out of sync with normal women's shopping cycles. Stores routinely trot out the latest in fall fashions--corduroy Peter Pan jackets, knee-high boots-when most of us are still in dire need of a new swim suit for the beach. But global warming is making these practices seem even more ridiculous.

Here in DC, for instance, this month may go down on record as the hottest October in 137 years. The average normal high temperature for DC in October is 67 degrees. This month, it's been well over 80 almost every day (we even had a day in the 90s), and yet, just try to find something decent to wear that doesn't involve wool! Eventually, the fashion folks are going to have to come to grips with the fact that D.C. is now basically California, not New York, when it comes to the weather. At this rate, all those cute cord jackets in store windows are going to be obsolete long before the the temperature drops below 70.


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Clinton Supporter Rangel Goes After Giuliani's Family Life

| Mon Oct. 22, 2007 11:40 PM EDT

That "Take it easy, big fella" memo that Hillary Clinton's camp sent to Tom Vilsack? They're going to have to make a copy and send it to Charlie Rangel.

Massive Voting Fraud in Texas State Legislature

| Mon Oct. 22, 2007 5:23 PM EDT

On the blog of the inimitable Lawrence Lessig, we find this gem:

Ya burnt, Texas!

God Bless You, Jonathan Stein

| Mon Oct. 22, 2007 3:25 PM EDT

There's one thing that can't be disputed about the evangelicals who attended the Family Research Council's "Values Voters Summit" in Washington D.C. this past weekend: they are all wonderfully nice people. They may view homosexuals as abominations of nature; they may want to run the United States based on biblical dictates; and they may see immigrants as a corruption of American culture, but they will wish God's blessing upon you a million times over.

As a reporter from Mother Jones at the event, I needed all the blessings I could get. My employer was a constant source of amusement to the attendees I spoke with.

"Who are you with?" asked a heavy-set attendee from Texas who I chatted with outside a Sam Brownback book signing.

"Mother Jones magazine," I said. "It's a national magazine covering prog—"

He cut me off before I could finish. "I read Mother Jones in college," he said, grinning. "Back when I was around your age, I believe. What did Winston Churchill say? 'A young man who is not a liberal is heartless, an old man who is not a conservative….'" He started laughing. I started laughing. Turns out, the end of the quote is "is an idiot" or "is a fool"—the Churchill Centre says the quote is a false attribution, so end it however you please.

Later, as I was perusing books like Last Days Madness and The Criminalization of Christianity, a skinny man standing nearby spotted my press pass and made a beeline in my direction. "Can I introduce you to a candidate?" he asked, pressing a piece of campaign literature into my hand. "Daniel Gilbert, a fourth-tier candidate who believes ordinary citizens should run against professional politicians and win. A strong conservative." I paused to read the handout, but hadn't gotten past the quote "I love America" before the man asked me what news outlet I was with.

How Often Have You Thought, I Wish I Could Reach Two Shotguns While Lying in Bed?

| Mon Oct. 22, 2007 2:33 PM EDT

In case the natives attack...

"It's the smartest money you'll spend in your life." Smarter than paying for college, for example. Or a 401k.

(Via Andrew Sullivan)