Mojo - November 2007

Surge of Homeless Vets

| Thu Nov. 8, 2007 6:02 PM EST

For those looking into the real costs of the war in Iraq, as Mother Jones did in our Iraq 101 package, it's been evident for some time that as soldiers returned from war, rates of homelessness would spike.

The New York Times reports:

"We're beginning to see, across the country, the first trickle of this generation of warriors in homeless shelters," said Phil Landis, chairman of Veterans Village of San Diego, a residence and counseling center. "But we anticipate that it's going to be a tsunami."

In fact, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are turning heroes into homeless people faster and more efficiently than Vietnam did.

Special traits of the current wars may contribute to homelessness, including high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and traumatic brain injury, which can cause unstable behavior and substance abuse, and the long and repeated tours of duty, which can make the reintegration into families and work all the harder.

If that weren't depressing enough, because women are seeing far more combat in 21st century wars, more of them are turning up homeless, too. One major risk factor is sexual abuse: 40 percent of homeless female vets report being raped by other American soldiers while on active duty.

And in case you weren't thinking it already, all this for what, exactly?

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Huckabee Fever Hits Iowa, Sorta

| Thu Nov. 8, 2007 3:56 PM EST

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Mike Huckabee spoke to a crowd of about 100 people in Cedar Rapids this morning. I hate to confirm all the cliches about the Arkansas Governor, but his campaign appeal really does rest on his folksy, down-to-earth charm and his good humor. People at the event said they were considering supporting Huckabee (there were precious few true believers) because he is "genuine," "honest," and/or "charming."

To wit. He opened his speech with a fictional story that made no point about his campaign or his personal history—it was simply a longish joke about a condemned man who would rather hang than listen to a politician campaign. Ba dum.

And from that, Huckabee moved to another story, this time a true one about a woman at a gala dinner in Arkansas who confused Huckabee with a different politician and was unapologetic about it afterwards. "You politicians all look the same to me," she told Huckabee. It's a head-scratcher why he chose to tell us.

As for the body of the speech, Huckabee spoke at length about how abortion is a moral issue that cannot, like Fred Thompson argues, be decided at the state level. That's Huckabee's bread and butter—as a former Baptist minister, he has unique appeal amongst the Christian Right. He took a hard-line approach on illegal immigration, pimped his fair tax idea that scraps the IRS and the income tax in favor of a "consumption tax," and emphasized that the American health care system needs to focus on prevention. It's time we started "killing snakes instead of treating snake bites," he said.

At one point, when an audience member was asking a question, one of the "Mike Huckabee for President" signs taped behind the Governor fell off the wall. Huckabee turned around while the person was still talking, picked the sign up, and smacked it back on. "I don't want anyone saying Huckabee's campaign is falling in Iowa," he said.

After the event, Huckabee's national field director, who also happens to be his daughter, said that Huckabee has to place in the top three in Iowa to stay in the race.

Oh, and after the event, I asked Huckabee if he was disappointed and/or suprised by social conservative Sam Brownback's endorsement of John McCain.

"I would be dishonest to say I wasn't disappointed, but I wasn't that surprised," he said. "I knew that Sam and John McCain were good friends from the Senate. For me, what's more important than just having the Senator's support is having his supporters' support." Huckabee smiled and said, "John McCain can take Sam, I'll take the supporters."

Bob Novak Sees Everything Through a Political Lens

| Thu Nov. 8, 2007 1:03 PM EST

Bob Novak is claiming that social conservatives have had just about enough of Fred Thompson and his moderate views. On a recent Meet the Press appearance, Thompson opposed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, opposed the congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, and opposed a constitutional amendment to ban abortions (though such an amendment has been part of the Republican Party platform since 1980).

And it's this last that is really getting people. On abortion, Thompson said, "You can't have a [federal] law" that "would take young, young girls... and say, basically, we're going to put them in jail." Despite his 100 percent pro-life voting record, Thompson is clearly just not avid enough. Here's Novak:

Thompson's comments revealed an astounding lack of sensitivity about abortion. He surely anticipated that Russert would cite his record favoring states' rights on abortion. Whether the candidate just blurted out his statement or had planned it, it suggested a failure to realize how much his chances for the Republican nomination depend on social conservatives.

Here's what I want to point out. As should be obvious, Thompson's comments revealed a lack of sensitivity about politics; they showed a high level of integrity about abortion. Novak can't distinguish between the two. For him, evaluating a stand or a position on principle is a non-starter, a moot point. A position can only be evaluated based on politics, and how it will help election chances. Blergh.

Blackwater Implicated in More Killings

| Thu Nov. 8, 2007 10:50 AM EST

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Add another series of killings to our Blackwater timeline. Steve Fainuru reports in this morning's Washington Post that a Blackwater sniper killed three Iraqi security guards employed by Iraq's national television station. The incident, which appears to have been inadequately investigated, occurred a full seven months prior to the most recent spate of killings in a Baghdad traffic circle on September 16. According to Fainuru:

Last Feb. 7, a sniper employed by Blackwater USA, the private security company, opened fire from the roof of the Iraqi Justice Ministry. The bullet tore through the head of a 23-year-old guard for the state-funded Iraqi Media Network, who was standing on a balcony across an open traffic circle. Another guard rushed to his colleague's side and was fatally shot in the neck. A third guard was found dead more than an hour later on the same balcony.
Eight people who responded to the shootings -- including media network and Justice Ministry guards and an Iraqi army commander -- and five network officials in the compound said none of the slain guards had fired on the Justice Ministry, where a U.S. diplomat was in a meeting. An Iraqi police report described the shootings as "an act of terrorism" and said Blackwater "caused the incident." The media network concluded that the guards were killed "without any provocation."
The U.S. government reached a different conclusion. Based on information from the Blackwater guards, who said they were fired upon, the State Department determined that the security team's actions "fell within approved rules governing the use of force," according to an official from the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Neither U.S. Embassy officials nor Blackwater representatives interviewed witnesses or returned to the network, less than a quarter-mile from Baghdad's Green Zone, to investigate.
The incident shows how American officials responsible for overseeing the security company conducted only a cursory investigation when Blackwater guards opened fire.

So, maybe you didn't know that Blackwater had snipers in Iraq? Well, they do. You can even watch them work on YouTube. This footage was taken in 2004. It shows a Blackwater sniper cooly picking off insurgents attacking the Coalition Provisional Headquarters in Najaf.

Homeland Insanity

| Thu Nov. 8, 2007 10:31 AM EST

USA Today: "John William Anderson, who was born on July 4, 2001, is on TSA's watch list. He was first stopped in 2004 when his mother and grandmother took him on his first plane ride to Disney World." Anderson's mom Christine tells the paper, "No one can give any answers to why my son is on the list or really how to get him off." More than 15,000 want to get off U.S. terror list, USA Today reports. With the recent trial and conviction on 13 counts of bribery related charges of U.S. government security contractor Brent Wilkes, his Congressional benefactor/bribee Congressman Duke Cunningham serving eight years in jail, and the endless Orwellian insanities of the post-9/11 system as described above, anyone else get the sense that the whole homeland security project is more about enriching contractors and filling congressmen's ATMs rather than anything to do with security? Then again, just what is under young John Anderson's hat?

House of Representatives Passes ENDA

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 7:36 PM EST

Today marks the first time in U.S. history that either body of Congress has passed employment protections that cover lesbian, gay and bisexual citizens. Unfortunately, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as it is currently written, does not include gender identity, which made it difficult for supporting organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, to continue to support it. However, a decision was made by all involved that it would be better to support the current version of the bill than to let it be defeated.

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Bush Still Peddling Progress in Iraq. Sigh.

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 6:25 PM EST

I'm not sure why it never gets old to bring attention to Bush's constant reiteration that we are freedom fighters and that Iraq is making progress. Maybe because the further along we get in this quagmire, the more absurd these comments become. This from a press conference with French president Nicholas Sarkozy held this afternoon:

If you lived in Iraq and had lived under a tyranny, you'd be saying: God, I love freedom, because that's what's happened...we're making progress.

Well, according to our figures, more than 4 million of these thankful Iraqis have fled this newfound freedom.

Alabama Ends Most Discrimination Against HIV-Positive Prisoners

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 6:07 PM EST

Thanks to several years of work by the American Civil Liberties Union, AIDS Alabama and several state legislators, HIV-positive prisoners in Alabama will now get what other prisoners get: access to visitation, educational programs, substance abuse treatment, and religious services. Though it may seem hard to believe in the 21st Century, HIV-positive individuals incarcerated in Alabama prisons have been kept segregated to the point that they have been denied help taken for granted by other prisoners.

Alabama is the only state in the U.S. that segregates HIV-positive prisoners from the general prison population. At the women's prison in Wetumpka, HIV-positive prisoners have been maintained in total isolation behind barbed wire. Excluding prisoners fom community-based corrections programs, in addition to being a violaton of their rights, has also cost the state of Alabama as much as $7,000 per prisoner.

The Alabama Department of Corrections has agreed to provide HIV-positive prisoners access to visitation, education, substance abuse treatment and other rehabilitation services, and religious services, but not to provide them with any access to work release programs. The ACLU and its allies will continue to work to try to end this last vestige of discrimination against those who are HIV-positive.

Mitt Romney's Gay.com Snafu

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 6:02 PM EST

The newly homophobic Mr. Fantastic is claiming that he advertised on gay.com by accident. I think he's just trying to make nice with these folks.

Pat Robertson is to Giuliani as Cindy Sheehan is to...

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 5:25 PM EST

One final thought on the Giuliani endorsement made by Pat Robertson today. I find it completely wacky that Robertson, who made his career speaking out on social issues like abortion and gay marriage, chose to ignore those issues when making his choice. Here's how Ed Kilgore put it over at Democratic Strategist:

I've tried to think of a Democratic analog for the unlikeliness of this particular endorsement, and the best I can come up with is Cindy Sheehan joining Hillary Clnton's campaign out of admiration for her energy proposals.

Spot on.