Mojo - December 2007

School of Shock Staff: Just Following Orders

| Fri Dec. 21, 2007 11:58 AM PST
milgram_setup250.jpg

Maia Szalavitz, who's tracked the "punishment-as-therapy" movement's origins in the discredited antidrug cult Synanon, adds an interesting historical perspective on the latest news from the Rotenberg Center, AKA the School of Shock. Over at HuffPo, she draws a parallel between the incident in which Rotenberg staffers unquestioningly shocked students at the behest of a phone call from a "prankster" to the infamous 1963 Milgram experiment, in which volunteers readily complied with orders to give simulated shocks to unseen subjects. Interestingly, the volunteers were called "teachers" while the recipients of the shocks were called "learners." Yet, as Szalavitz writes:

In that case, the "victims" were actually actors, no real harm was done to them-- and a great ethical controversy ensued over the treatment of subjects, who had been deceived by experimenters about the nature of the research. [...]

Here, however, poorly-trained staff inflicted serious and genuine emotional and physical pain on emotionally disordered children -- at the prompt of an anonymous caller, and outside an experimental setting!

It all adds to the sense that Rotenberg is a nutty science experiment gone very, very wrong.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Start Snitching, Get Killed Part II

| Fri Dec. 21, 2007 10:52 AM PST

Earlier this week, I wrote of the kind of witness intimidation (i.e. murder) that makes sense of the urban 'stop snitching' more, especially when you factor in that few states offer witnesses any protection at all. But you won't believe this:

For prosecutors in New Jersey, much about the 2004 murder of Deshawn McCray was all too familiar: Yet another key witness in a major drug case had been shot dead before he could testify in court.
But there was one aspect of the killing that especially alarmed and infuriated prosecutors. They believed that a defense lawyer — a former prosecutor — had played a role in facilitating the murder.
The United States attorney has said that that lawyer, Paul Bergrin, relayed Mr. McCray's identity to friends of one of his clients, a gang member who was facing life in prison on drug charges. The prosecutors said he had even met with members of his client's gang in person to make clear what was at stake....
Three months later, Mr. McCray was shot in the head by one of the gang members on a Newark street....
...In gang cases prosecuted in cities including Trenton, Newark and Camden, it is not unusual for a witness's statement to be photocopied within days of being turned over to the defendant's lawyer, and then be posted on telephone poles or circulated throughout the neighborhood.

Talk about full-service:

Chris Kelly's Hilarious Take on the Romneys and MLK

| Fri Dec. 21, 2007 10:44 AM PST

Wish I'd seen this when I posted this about Mitt and his Dad bravely marching (not) with MLK. Chris Kelly at the HuffPo made me snort my coffee laughing.

"Present" but Unaccountable: Senator Obama's Illinois Voting Record

| Fri Dec. 21, 2007 10:15 AM PST

Yesterday, the NY Times discussed Senator Obama's penchant for using a quirk of the Illinois Statehouse to sidestep contentious issues that might jeopardize his reelection chances. Or, it's simply a device that allows legislators there to voice legitimate concerns with a bill without voting either for or against it. You decide. It's called voting "present," as opposed to yea or nay, and it's pretty confusing to figure out. Is it a dirty trick or a proof that he's a smart cookie who simply knows how to be an effective politician?

In 1999, Barack Obama was faced with a difficult vote in the Illinois legislature — to support a bill that would let some juveniles be tried as adults, a position that risked drawing fire from African-Americans, or to oppose it, possibly undermining his image as a tough-on-crime moderate.
In the end, Mr. Obama chose neither to vote for nor against the bill. He voted "present," effectively sidestepping the issue, an option he invoked nearly 130 times as a state senator.
Sometimes the "present' votes were in line with instructions from Democratic leaders or because he objected to provisions in bills that he might otherwise support. At other times, Mr. Obama voted present on questions that had overwhelming bipartisan support. In at least a few cases, the issue was politically sensitive
.

Romney Lied and Lied and Lied About His Family and MLK

| Fri Dec. 21, 2007 9:23 AM PST

Not only did Mitt Romney lie about his father marching with MLK, he also used to claim that HE and his father did so:

Mitt Romney went a step further in a 1978 interview with the Boston Herald. Talking about the Mormon Church and racial discrimination, he said: "My father and I marched with Martin Luther King Jr. through the streets of Detroit."

Caught in his lie, he went all Clinton "depends on what the meaning of is is" on us:

Romney said his father had told him he had marched with King and that he had been using the word "saw" in a "figurative sense."
"If you look at the literature, if you look at the dictionary, the term 'saw' includes being aware of in the sense I've described," Romney told reporters in Iowa. "It's a figure of speech and very familiar, and it's very common. And I saw my dad march with Martin Luther King. I did not see it with my own eyes, but I saw him in the sense of being aware of his participation in that great effort."

Homey should have just decried the historic racism of his Mormon Church and used true examples of his, and his father's, anti-racist efforts. Unless there aren't any...

At least now MLK will stop rolling in his grave. That is, until February when all the racists start using his Dream to prove he was opposed to actually doing anything about racism.

Al-Qaeda's Number 2 Answers Journalists

| Thu Dec. 20, 2007 7:10 PM PST

Zawari%202.jpg

Al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgent groups are known for their media savvy. Several of them have sophisticated multi-media websites complete with videos, news updates, and manifestos in English. The Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI) for example, has a "reporter" who posts "special films" and "unique releases."

But Al Qaeda has decided to try something new: Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's second-in-command, will answer written questions from "individuals, agencies and all information media outlets" in an "open meeting" before January 16: "Anyone who would like to ask him a question must be concise and precise," said a press statement quoted in Al Jazeera. Al Zawahiri promises to respond "as much as he is able and at the soonest possible occasion."

This is a break from the past. Usually, its' a one way street —bin Laden and Zawahiri issue their communiqués, and journalists are left to dissect minute details, such as how bin Laden was "looking fit with a full beard of dark black hair, no gray at all." So what gives? Maybe by going interactive Zawahiri hopes to build credibility and accountability. Is Al Qaeda engaging in its own brand of psyops to win hearts and minds?

The war of ideas continues.

— Neha Inamdar

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Huckabee: The Search for a Sobriquet

| Thu Dec. 20, 2007 4:28 PM PST

huckabee_mouth.jpg

Mi·chael Huck·a·bee. It's a hell of a name, the best by far of the Republican field. And now that Huckabee is an anointed member of the top tier, the search for a viable nickname is on. Entries so far include:

The Huckster. Used by: Rush Limbaugh, various right-wing blogs. Verdict: Too obvious.

Tax Hike Mike. Used by: The Club for Growth. Verdict: Lame, uninspired.

Triple Wide. Used by: Arkansans punning on Huckabee's erstwhile heft and the extra large trailer his family lived in during renovations at the governor's mansion. Verdict: Dated.

The Huck. Used by: Headline-writers everywhere. Verdict: Scores points for simplicity.

Since none of those entries quite cuts it, I had high hopes for a new Huckabee appraisal by Paul Greenberg, grizzled Arkansas media eminence (he editorializes for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and has a Pulitzer under his belt—from 1969), and coiner of "Slick Willie." Alas, Greenberg tosses a handful of darts—"one Michael Dale Huckabee," "Brother Huckabee," "this year's Man from Hope," and, of course, "the Huck"—but none really hits bullseye. So, readers, what should we call this guy?

—Justin Elliott

Coming Soon to Texas: A Master's Degree in Creation Science

| Thu Dec. 20, 2007 1:18 PM PST

creation_museum.jpg

Because Baylor University is not doing enough to plumb the seas for Noah's Ark, an advisory committee of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has recommended that the Institute for Creation Research be given the authority to grant Master's degrees in science education. Perhaps the training will help graduates stay employed in the Lone Star State, rather than getting fired like the state's former director of science curricula, a shameless Darwin booster.

Is Texas devolving? Not at all. According to the Institute's mission statement, it will only enroll the self-motivated, responsible student who "is more self-disciplined ('whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God;' I Cor. 10:31) and takes education seriously ('And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;' Colossians 3:23)."

The Texas Observer reports that the same guys brought us the Creation Museum in Kentucky (see Adam frolic with the dinosaurs!), and are at work stumping for Mike Huckabee in Iowa.

Looking to Congress to Stop the FCC's Big Media Giveaway

| Thu Dec. 20, 2007 10:35 AM PST
martin_bed300.jpg

Once again, the Federal Communications Commission has rolled back longstanding regulations that prevented further media consolidation, despite another round of public opposition. (For a detailed look at what this move means for the future of the media, particularly newspapers, check out this piece Eric Klinenberg wrote for us.) The last time the FCC pulled this under chairman Michael Powell, the courts stopped it in its tracks. This time, it could take an act of Congress. MoveOn and Free Press (which has been on the forefront of this issue for ages) have started online letter-writing campaigns seeking to get Congress to overturn the rule change. They may find some sympathy on Capitol Hill: A bipartisan group of 24 senators, including John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Trent Lott, and Ted Stevens, wrote FCC chair Kevin Martin [PDF] before the decision, asking him not to ignore input from the public. Now that he's done just that, will they still be listening?

Image: Kevin Martin (right) in/on bed with the industry he regulates—literally. Via StopBigMedia.com

Mitt Romney's Father Never Marched with Martin Luther King Jr.

| Thu Dec. 20, 2007 9:38 AM PST

In Mitt Romney's major speech on religion in America, he said, "I saw my father march with Martin Luther King." When discussing the Mormon faith's uncomfortable record on race, Romney absolved his family by saying, "My dad marched with Martin Luther King. My mom was a tireless crusader for civil rights."

But an investigation by the Phoenix, a Boston-area alternative paper, shows that Romney's father, George Romney, the former governor of Michigan, never marched with King, nor would Mitt have been able to see it if had, because Mitt was in France on a mission the only time King was marching in Michigan.

The Romney campaign is claiming that George Romney marched in one town on one day, and King marched in a different town on a different day, but that the towns and the days were close enough together that Mitt's statements aren't technically false.