When he's not speaking with members of Congress about the Armenian Genocide, System of a Down lead singer Serj Tankian is playing sold-out concerts around the globe. Mother Jones spoke with Tankian about his new solo record, his nonprofit activist group, and Turkey's role in the war in Iraq. To read the full interview, head to MoJo's Media & Culture page.

The Repubs running for president are each in something of a corner. They have to defend the record of their president and party (a record that is mighty unpopular) and propose change. Fred Thomspon ran smack into that challenge yesterday when he called for "revitalizing" the U.S. military. Doesn't such a battle cry imply that Bush has failed the nation and our troops? Here's how I wrote about it for CQPolitics.com:

According to Fred Thompson, George W. Bush has been derelict in his duty as commander in chief. How else to explain Thompson's latest policy initiative?

On Tuesday, Thompson unveiled what he has dubbed his "Four Pillars of a Revitalized National Defense." You might ask, why must the national defense of the United States of America be revitalized after nearly seven years of the Bush administration? And remember that for most of this time, Bush's GOP controlled Congress. Yet Thompson is saying that on Bush's watch, the military has not been properly managed. He is essentially calling Bush a devitalizer.

His Pillar No. 1: boosting military spending. Apparently, Bush's 60-percent hike in Pentagon expenditures since 2001 (in real terms) hasn't been enough--even though U.S. military spending now represents almost two-fifths of the world's total military tab. And at $626 billion, the U.S. military budget is about seven times the size of the military budget of China, the second largest military spender on the planet. It also is much larger than the combined military spending of Iran, North Korea, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Cuba (about $15 billion). But still, six-tenths of a trillion dollars is not enough for Thompson. So he must believe that Bush has imperiled the nation by spending too little during the previous six years.

For Pillar No. 2, Thompson wants to increase the size of the military to create a "million-member" ground force. Right now, the Army has about half a million troops, and the U.S. Marines Corps has about 180,000. Bush has called for increasing the Army to 550,000 and the Marines to 202,000. But yet again, Bush--as Thompson sees it--is not doing enough. Thompson advocates boosting the Army to 775,000 troops and beefing up the Marines to 225,000. Will there be a draft? Thompson doesn't say so. By the way, CBS News on Tuesday reported that Iraq war veterans have a suicide rate two to four times higher than civilians the same age. How's that for a recruitment pitch?

Moving on to Pillar No. 3. "The U.S. must modernize its Armed Forces," Thompson insists. That's obviously one more important task Bush did not get to while he was busy with the Iraq war.

Pillar No. 4: "The U.S. must take better care of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines....We must also take care of our veterans by fixing the VA system." Is Thompson implying that Bush has not done all he can to support the troops and our wounded warriors? (See the suicide stats mentioned above.)

It would appear that Thompson has a low regard for the current military status quo. And who's to blame for that?

Of course, Thompson doesn't point a finger directly at Bush. Now that would take guts, for the GOP presidential contenders don't want to criticize the president and possibly piss off Republican voters....

You can read the rest here.

As Jonathan notes below, the Clintons seem to have won over Richard Mellon Scaife. That's right, Scaife, he of the "vast right-wing conspiracy," the man who funded the American Spectator and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, among other publications and entites, to go after Bill and Hill with a zeal not seen since the Comstock days, is now saying Clinton is "very laudable" and, through his latest media mouthpiece Newsmax.com, is moreover "a political and cultural powerhouse" who is "part Merlin and part Midas—a politician with a magical touch." In reporting on this strange turn of events, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff (who broke the Monicagate story) can only throw his hands up and say "cue the apocalypse."

Well, I don't really have any idea either, but it's perhaps worth noting that Scaife is going through a particularly tawdry divorce, one that was hilariously detailed by the Washington Post's David Segal back in October. It is more than worth reading in full—this accompanying illustration gives you a sense of Segal's itinerary of a divorce/travelogue device, but just to get you to follow the link...

[Scaife] is best known for funding efforts to smear then-President Bill Clinton, but more quietly he's given in excess of $300 million to right-leaning activists, watchdogs and think tanks. Atop his list of favorite donees: the family-values-focused Heritage Foundation, which has published papers with titles such as "Restoring a Culture of Marriage."
The culture of his own marriage is apparently past restoring. With the legal fight still in the weigh-in phase, the story of Scaife v. Scaife already includes a dog-snatching, an assault, a night in jail and that divorce court perennial, allegations of adultery.
Oh, and there's the money. Three words, people.
No. Pre. Nup.
Unfathomable but true, when Scaife (rhymes with safe) married his second wife, Margaret "Ritchie" Scaife, in 1991, he neglected to wall off a fortune that Forbes recently valued at $1.3 billion. This, to understate matters, is likely going to cost him, big time. As part of a temporary settlement, 60-year-old Ritchie Scaife is currently cashing an alimony check that at first glance will look like a typo: $725,000 a month. Or about $24,000 a day, seven days a week. As Richard Scaife's exasperated lawyers put it in a filing, "The temporary order produces an amount so large that just the income from it, invested at 5 percent, is greater each year than the salary of the President of the United States."

But wait, there's more:

Today's the day in California when community activists get a heap of cash ($25,000) for their efforts at social justice, winners of what's known as the Peace Prize. Past winners have included Father Greg Boyle who works with gang youth in Los Angeles, to Connie Rice, Condeleeza's (second) cousin whose apple fell far from Condi's tree, as she runs a civil-rights nonprofit. Yet most awardees are unknowns, people who toil at the grassiest of grassroots for decades in relative obscurity, except to those whom they impact.

The awards this year, the 15th that The California Wellness Foundation has honored such efforts, went to three lifetime advocates, Casey Gwinn, Patricia Lee, and Cora Tomalinas, three folks I can almost guarantee you have never heard of, but who have likely made a world of difference to the hundreds, if not thousands, they have worked with.

Back in June, Cameron Scott reported that George Bush's choice for Surgeon General, Dr. James W. Holsinger, like so many other so-called medical science appointees, has some problems with the concept of human sexuality. Dr. Holsinger, of course, explains it all by reminding us that pipe fittings are named after the parts used in "real" sex, between males and females.

Dr. Holsinger appeared before the Senate health committee in July, in order to answer questions concerning his misgivings about gays and bisexual individuals, which he outlined many years ago in a document in which he warned that gay sex can lead to "lacerations, perforations and deaths." Holsinger, who founded a church to help make gay people straight, told the Senate that his opinions have "evolved" since he first made his famous statements about the dangers of homosexuality. He also has gone from favoring stem cell research to being against it. On July 26, the committee gave him a questionnaire, whose return it requested by August 10. Dr. Holsinger has still not returned the questionnaire, but the recent is now apparent: He does not have to.

Holsinger has resigned
from the board of trustees of Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, and the supposed reason is that he is going to get a recess appointment as Surgeon General.

The folks at the Center for American Progress are looking for opinions on their new ad campaign currently running in the Columbus, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis media markets. Here are there ads:

These first two are great, particularly the first one. The left lost the branding wars over the word "liberal," and this sort of head-on messaging is necessary to win the branding wars over "progressive." I particularly like the line "Progressive. And proud of it." Less success here, though...

By pairing the progressive message with those super smug Mac ads, these spots just reinforce the idea that progressives are coastal elites who think they dress hipper, talk smarter, and know politics better than their middle American cousins. There's also a dangerous degree of oversimplification going on.


New York Governor Elliot Spitzer is dropping his plan to issue drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants, that pesky little issue that caused Hillary to stumble in the last debate.

In explaining why he's changed his position three times in as many weeks, Spitzer told the NYT that, in their words, "opposition is just too overwhelming to move forward with such a policy." Courage, Mary! Says Spitzer: "You have perhaps seen me struggle with it because I thought we had a principled decision, and it's not necessarily easy to back away from trying to move a debate forward."

Well, I guess the Lou Dobbs of the world are winning this debate, which is too bad, because if you supply some simple logic and some basic facts, it becomes obvious why Spitzer's policy (the first one) was a good one.

For starters, according to the "Unlicensed to Kill" study put out for AAA by the Texas Transportation Agency (which is the premier research group on all things traffic/auto related): "20 percent of all fatal crashes in the United States—one fatal crash in five—involves at least one driver who is unlicensed, driving on an invalid license, or of
unknown license status."

Not all of these drivers are illegal immigrants, of course. That figure also includes a lot of kids and DWIers. But here's the thing:


One of the "major" news stories on the presidential campaigns the last few days has been Hillary Clinton's mini-scandal over a planted question at a campaign event in Newton, IA. As Michael Scherer points out in Salon, a planted question is really just par for the course in a political campaign season captured, top to bottom, by artifice.

I was at the event in Newton. And the event there perfectly illustrates the fakery that composes every event for a major candidate. Believe me, it goes well beyond just one planted question. Follow me on a tour of a presidential campaign event, after the jump.

Before David Horowitz began warning America about the dangers of communism in the eighties, he spent years fervently celebrating communists during the sixties.

So it's no surprise that before he began warning us all about the dangers of "Islamofascism," he spent years fervently celebrating Islamofascists. Below is a picture of Horowitz from a 1986 Mother Jones profile. As you can see, his t-shirt reads "Support Afghan Freedom Fighters." There's also a sketch of a man holding an assault rifle who looks vaguely like Osama bin Laden.

Currently Horowitz runs the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Look for his angry denunciations of his current dupes and fellow travelers circa 2027.

According to the New York Times, FBI investigators have concluded that at least 14 of 17 Iraqis killed by Blackwater operators in a Baghdad traffic circle on September 16 were victims of unlawful shootings. The Times story is based on information from civilian and military officials recently briefed on the case. Full story here.