Mojo - December 2007

Mitt Romney Keeps the 'Sanctuary Mansion' Going

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 9:39 AM EST

You remember the CNN/YouTube debate from last week when Rudy Giuliani ripped Mitt Romney for keeping a "sanctuary mansion" that employed illegal immigrants as gardeners, right? And you would think that Romney, who defended himself fiercely, would have the sense to make sure those illegal immigrants had either been fired or were fired shortly after, right?

Wrong.

...the very next morning [after the debate], on Thursday, at least two illegal immigrants stepped out of a hulking maroon pickup truck in the driveway of Romney's Belmont house, then proceeded to spend several hours raking leaves, clearing debris from Romney's tennis court, and loading the refuse back on to the truck.
In fact, their work was part of a regular pattern. Despite a Globe story in Dec. 2006 that highlighted Romney's use of illegal immigrants to tend to his lawn, Romney continued to employ the same landscaping company -- until today. The landscaping company, in turn, continued to employ illegal immigrants.
Two of the workers confirmed in separate interviews with Globe reporters last week that they were in the country without documents.... Both were seen on the lawn by either Globe reporters or photographers over the last two months.

The Romney camp learned of the two illegal workers when Globe reporters asked Romney about them on the campaign trail. Romney then proceeded to fire the company that employed the two, claiming that he had made it clear to the company after the Dec. 2006 Globe story that it was to never hire illegal immigrants again.

This whole affair shows poor judgment and a stunning lack of political savviness on Romney's part. His opponents will use it against him mercilessly on the campaign trail. But more important than any of that, two dudes got caught up in political whirlwinds they probably couldn't care less about, and are likely out of jobs today. They might even get deported. And that's a real shame.

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How George Bush Could Win a Standing Ovation

| Tue Dec. 4, 2007 7:49 PM EST

cop13_04_4_348.jpg You know he wants one. Desperately. All he needs to do is follow the lead of Australia's new prime minister Kevin Rudd. As Reuters tells us, Australia raised hopes of global action to fight climate change on Monday by agreeing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, thereby isolating the United States at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali as the only rich nation not in the pact.

Australia's decision won a standing ovation at the opening of tough two-week negotiations on the Indonesian resort isle. The talks aim to pull together rich and poor countries around a common agenda to agree a broader successor to Kyoto by 2009.

Think of it. George, alone in his corner, snarling at the world. He could travel to the lovely isle of Bali, relax, unwind, then stand before the summit and agree to Do The Right Thing. He would get so much more than a standing ovation. Hallelujahs. Laurel Wreaths. A Nobel. The relieved thanks of the world. A kinder place in history.

What a pretty dream…

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

An Inside Glimpse at Gitmo Gets Leaked

| Tue Dec. 4, 2007 6:10 PM EST

Wikileaks, the wiki for whistleblowers, has been bearing fruit lately. It's posted a list of military equipment in Iraq, which we used to calculate how many pieces of government-issue body armor (446,500), grand pianos (1), paper shredders (787), and BMW 735s (1) the Pentagon has over there. The site has also released a copy of the military's official guide to handling detainees, which includes detailed descriptions of how groups of detainees have been transported by plane, providing a new glimpse inside the flights that carried many of the Guantanamo prisoners from Afghanistan and generated the now-iconic images of shackled, goggled, masked, earmuffed, and gloved new arrivals at Camp X-Ray. The schematic below shows a sample seating configuration for 30 such detainees, AKA "cargo." (To insure a more pleasant flight, guards were supposed to receive one hour of training in "Cross Cultural Communications/Verbal Judo.")

Now Wikileaks has posted a copy of the 2004 Standard Operating Procedures guide from Guantanamo's Camp Delta, a treasure trove of information about the detention center's inner workings. Among the details: Upon arrival, detainees were subject to up to 30 days in solitary as part of a "behavior management plan" designed "to enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee in the interrogation process." Guards were prohibited from discussing "world events or history with detainees, or within earshot of detainees," including "the situation in the Middle East [and] the destruction of the Space Shuttle." Detainees who refused to eat or drink weren't on a hunger strike, they were officially on a "voluntary total fast." Wikileaks' own analysis of the document and its 2003 version suggests that new rules were added in response to abuses. For instance, the 2004 manual specifies that "Haircuts will never be used as punitive action" and prohibits guards from using pepper spray on "spitters, urinators or water throwers." And so on, for 238 pages. It's fascinating, revelatory reading, and deserves further scrutiny. Meanwhile, a Gitmo spokesman tells the Washington Post not to take the manual at its word because "things have changed dramatically" there since 2004. Until a more current manual turns up, this one will have to do.

detainee_flight600.jpg

New Info on Dirty Tricks Alleged by Clinton Campaign

| Tue Dec. 4, 2007 3:26 PM EST

Earlier today, Barack Obama's campaign called accusations that its staffers are berating Hillary Clinton supporters in Iowa and New Hampshire a "flat-out falsehood."

The Clinton campaign supplied Josh Marshall with a woman who claims to have received such a call. Here's what she had to say:

Oprah and Obama: The Ultimate Power Couple?

| Tue Dec. 4, 2007 3:26 PM EST

Looks that way. From the New York Times:

BACK in 1992, the Bush White House deemed Oprah Winfrey's daytime talk show insufficiently serious for the incumbent president to visit. But in the intervening years, Ms. Winfrey's couch, along with the easy chairs on other chat shows, became so attractive to candidates that the political world is now wondering whether Ms. Winfrey might actually hold the Democratic nomination in her hands.

Judging from her fans' response, she'll pack much more of a punch than Donnie McClurkin's homophobe-fest for Obama, with none of that annoying bigotry. CNN reports that:

The Obama campaign wants this to be a huge event: The rally will take place at the Colonial Center, an arena here that seats 18,000 people. Oprah and/or Obama fans were camping out in sleeping bags outside Obama headquarters in Columbia on Saturday morning, waiting for tickets.
Assuming every ticket-holder shows up, there will be more people at the arena for a political rally than for an average University of South Carolina basketball game, which aren't usually sell-outs.

There's little question that the sleeping-bag-and standing-room-only crowd will be there to see their goddess but is she using her powers for good this time? I'd have to say yes, even if her fans only show up, and only bother to vote, because of her. The more people vote, the more they vote. Even if you do so only because the most popular girl on campus told you to, hitting either the polls or a political rally (which ain't for the faint of heart) once makes it so much more likely that you will again. Who knows how many women will come for the star power and come away politicized?

If the other candidates can't convince someone with Oprah's moral authority (and, yes, that's what it is), that's on them. Say what you will about Winfrey, she knows exactly how powerful she is and there's just no reason to believe she doesn't take that power seriously. Agree with her choice or not but be glad she cares enough to take a break from housewife makeovers to work for change in her country and in the world. It's because, in fact, she first bothered with the housewives -- a group who else bothered with? -- that ordinary women listen to her now. Women trust her because she spent years proving that they matter to her. Why should they listen to their ministers, husbands or CNN any more seriously than the girlfriend who bothers to help them find exercise short cuts or pick out good books to read while they wait out another ballet class or pediatrician appointment?

So, bravo for Oprah. And here's a warning for Obama: remember what she did when James Frey and someone at her leadership Academy disappointed her? She'll do it to you too, so you better come, and stay, correct. Oprah knows the power of admitting to your mistakes and requiring those around you to do so as well.

Bush and the Iran NIE: Don't Ask, Don't Tell

| Tue Dec. 4, 2007 2:01 PM EST

George W. Bush has some adjustments to make.

At a news conference on October 17, President George W. Bush dropped a rhetorical bomb: "I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

Now that bomb has turned into a rotten egg, for the U.S. intelligence community yesterday released a National Intelligence Estimate that concludes that Iran halted a secret nuclear weapons program in 2003, that Tehran is "less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005," and that Iran probably could not produce enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon until the 2010-2015 timeframe. That is, it seems there is no immediate reason to fret about Iran going nuclear and triggering World War III. This NIE may well make it impossible for hawks in and outside the administration to pull the trigger on any military action against Iran.

At a press conference this morning, Bush, looking comfortable, tried to deal with this new reality. He repeated a mantra: Iran was dangerous before the new NIE, and it's dangerous now. Nothing has changed, he insisted. He said over and over that if Iran transferred knowledge it has about enriching uranium to a "hidden" nuclear weapons program, that would pose a danger to the rest of the world. If. He was pressed by White House reporters asking whether his credibility--whatever existed of it following the Iraq WMD fiasco--was tarnished by the NIE? Of course, he refused to concede any such thing.

The issue is not just that his saber-rattling was not in sync with the intelligence but that Bush did not take care to vet his hyperbole before displaying it in public. At the press conference today, NBC News' David Gregory referred to Bush's World War III comment, noted that the Iranian program had apparently long been suspended before Bush uttered that remark, and asked Bush, "Can't you be accused of hyping this threat."

Bush replied by noting he had only been made aware of the NIE last week. But Bush went on to explain that intelligence czar Mike McConnell had told him in August that the intelligence community had developed "new information" on Iran. (This was obviously intelligence indicating that Iran was not operating an active nuclear weapons program.) McConnell, though, didn't tell Bush what this "new information" was. According to Bush, McConnell said it would take time to analyze the data.

But Bush did not do two things.

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Huck Says No More Gitmo

| Tue Dec. 4, 2007 1:39 PM EST

Mike Huckabee recently met with a group of generals who are touring Iowa in the hopes of convincing presidential candidates to oppose torture. He left the meeting with a couple bold new positions. Huckabee now opposes waterboarding and supports shuttering Guantanamo, joining only John McCain and Ron Paul amongst the Republican candidates to hold these positions.

Maybe the guy is a member of the Christian left. He may not have the best foreign policy chops in the world, but his instincts are good. Would we welcome him even though he's never had a sip of beer?

Gay Ambassador Resigns Over Discrimination at State Dep't

| Tue Dec. 4, 2007 1:10 PM EST

Commend Michael Guest, the former ambassador to Romania and an openly gay man, for speaking up at his retirement ceremony:

Before friends, colleagues and top officials in the State Department Treaty Room, Mr. Guest took Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (who was not present) to task for failing to treat the partners of gay and lesbian foreign service officers the same as the spouses of heterosexual officers. And he revealed — with eloquent sadness, not anger — that this was the reason for his departure.
"Most departing ambassadors use these events to talk about their successes . . . But I want to talk about my signal failure, the failure that in fact is causing me to leave the career that I love," said Mr. Guest, 50, whose most recent assignment was dean of the leadership and management school at the Foreign Service Institute, the government's school for diplomats.
"For the past three years, I've urged the Secretary and her senior management team to redress policies that discriminate against gay and lesbian employees. Absolutely nothing has resulted from this. And so I've felt compelled to choose between obligations to my partner — who is my family — and service to my country. That anyone should have to make that choice is a stain on the Secretary's leadership and a shame for this institution and our country," he said.

Estimates suggest that there are 600 gay men and women currently working as foreign affairs officers. Unlike the spouses of heterosexual employees, their partners are not entitled to "free medical care at overseas posts, guaranteed evacuation in case of a medical emergency, transportation to overseas posts, or special living allowances." (H/T Think Progress)

Blackwater's State Department Contract Renewed?

| Tue Dec. 4, 2007 11:54 AM EST

Since September 16, when its operators were involved in a controversial Baghdad shooting that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead and another 24 wounded, Blackwater's future has been the subject of debate. Several people involved in the security industry have suggested to me in conversation that the company's State Department contract—due to expire in May 2008—would be allowed to lapse, leaving Blackwater's security operators without a client to protect. This would effectively end Blackwater's involvement in Iraq.

But perhaps rumors of Blackwater's demise have been premature. According to a listing posted yesterday on the company's website (and first noticed by R.J. Hillhouse), the company appears have extended it's State Department contract and is hiring for new Iraq-based security positions.

So, in the event you're interested, here's the job posting as it appears on Blackwater's site:

We are currently accepting candidates for WPPS due to contract expansion. 12.03.07
Primary Purpose: Position Type/Job Duration Independent Contractor (IC)/ 1 year (90/30 rotation) Personal Security Specialist (PSS) Designated Defensive Marksmen (DDM) EMT-P with tactical experience in the United States Military, Sworn Law Enforcement Officer or private sector protective security industry Mechanics K-9
Primary Requirement 3 years experience in the United States Military with an honorable discharge, Sworn Law Enforcement Officer or private sector protective security industry The ideal candidate will pass a physical fitness test and be proficient with the Glock and M4 at the time resume is submitted
Esential Functions: Contract Requirements Must be willing and able to deploy for 1 year (90/30 rotation) Must have a solid 3 years of experience in the US Military or Sworn Law Enforcement or private sector protective security industry Must be a U.S. Citizen, proof of citizenship is required Weight must be proportionate to height Must maintain a neat and clean appearance Must be in good health and pass a physical test Most positions require ability to obtain/maintain a secret or higher clearance No history of major illness or mental disorder Must have an Honorable Discharge and DD-214 (Member 4 copy) No felony, violent crimes, spouse or child abuse convictions (NO WAIVERS) No unexplained significant credit problems with-in the past seven (7) years


Clinton Campaign Alleges Dirty Tricks in Iowa and New Hampshire

| Mon Dec. 3, 2007 11:10 PM EST

The Clinton campaign is alleging that some serious dirty tricks are starting against Senator Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire. In an email to supporters, campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle gives some details and asks for corroboration. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Also of note, the Clinton camp implicates the Obama campaign in all this, claiming, "In both Iowa and New Hampshire, we have heard that Obama staffers are berating Hillary supporters on the phone with negative attacks against her." The actual examples included only allege malfeasance by Obama's campaign in Iowa. How will Obama, who is getting better and better at handling stuff like this, respond?

Dear Friend,
I wanted to let you know immediately about reports our campaign has received about possible dirty campaign tactics in Iowa and New Hampshire -- and ask for your help.
In Iowa, we have heard reports that Hillary supporters are getting calls that tell them incorrect caucus locations. Supporters have also told us about push polls -- when they tell the pollster they support Hillary, they are given negative talking points about her and asked which attacks are the most effective.
In both Iowa and New Hampshire, we have heard that Obama staffers are berating Hillary supporters on the phone with negative attacks against her.
Here is one report we got from someone who received a push poll in Iowa: