Mojo - December 2007

The Music We Play for Terrorists (and Dictators)

| Wed Dec. 19, 2007 1:34 PM EST

From Newsweek, via Matthew Yglesias:

In addition to waterboarding, Zubaydah was subjected to sleep deprivation and bombarded with blaring rock music by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. One agent was so offended he threatened to arrest the CIA interrogators, according to two former government officials directly familiar with the dispute.

This is unfortunate news for the Chili Peppers. But it does bring to mind another musical attack: the U.S. "Rock 'n' Roll assault" on Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega in 1990. When Noriega was holed up in the papal embassy in Panama City, the U.S. blasted music on enormous speakers as part of an attempt to flush him out. Because of the Freedom of Information Act, the most important details of this operation are now declassified: We know what was played during those fateful days. Some highlights after the jump.

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Forget the 2008 Horse Race, What about Policy?

| Wed Dec. 19, 2007 1:00 PM EST

Okay, for a moment let's forget about attack ads, Iowa, the polls, that floating cross in Mike Huckabee's latest commercial, Hillary's wrinkles, and the question of whether Jesus and Satan are half-brothers--and let's talk presidential race policy!

The smart wonks at the New America Foundation have taken a details-drenched look at the proposals of all the Democratic and Republican presidential wannabes related to the promotion of savings and asset building. This broad category includes retirement security, affordable home ownership, children's savings accounts, the subprime mortgage crisis, bankruptcy, and more. A sample:

Joe Biden plans to incentivize savings by expanding the Saver's Credit, providing eligible families a 50% refundable tax credit for deposits up to $2,000 in certain tax-preferred savings accounts, such as 401(k) plans or Individual Retirement Accounts. A family earning less than 50,000 that deposits $4,000 into savings products eligible for the credit would receive a $2,000 matched refund from this plan.
Chris Dodd proposes to assist individuals saving for a down payment on a home with the creation of Tax-Deferred Individual Homeownership Savings Accounts. The federal government would match up to $500 each year in the accounts of low-income and working families under this plan.
John Edwards proposes the creation of "work bonds" to match household savings. Households earning up to $75,000 would receive a state-provided bond valued at $500 per year. Additionally, he proposes the "Get Ahead" tax credit to match up to $500 in savings for retirement, college education, home purchase or investment in a small business or during a financial or medical emergency.....

Electability: The Lamest Argument in the Rhetorical Aresenal

| Wed Dec. 19, 2007 11:49 AM EST

There is a new USA Today/Gallup poll out that says Barack Obama does better against the Republican candidates than Hillary Clinton, a fact that the Obama camp will no doubt point to when undercutting Clinton's oft-made electability argument. The Edwards folks like to highlight this CNN poll that shows he is the only Democrat who slays all five heads of the Giuliani-Romney-Huckabee-McCain-Thompson medusa.

My take: who cares?

The electability argument is a pander to the basest desire in the political heart: the desire to win. Every campaign makes the argument, ignoring the fact that just because a candidate can get elected, or just because a majority of Americans think a candidate can get elected, doesn't mean that candidate should be elected. As George W. Bush has proved twice, the skills and characteristics needed to get elected are not the same as the ones needed to govern well.

Obama, Clinton, and Edwards aren't going to stop claiming they can win because electability, though a specious argument, matters to people. Voters don't like backing a loser. But if a potential loser would be the best president, he or she deserves support, plain and simple.

That's my overly idealistic blog post for the day. Back to your regularly scheduled snark and cynicism.

Edwards and His Audience

| Wed Dec. 19, 2007 11:15 AM EST

NASHUA—John Edwards and entourage of Bonny Raitt and Jackson Browne arrived in New Hampshire yesterday and immediately set out on a barnstorming tour of the state. At Webster College here last night a packed auditorium of 350-plus waited an hour for crews to hook up the audio equipment, and then applauded politely when Edwards took the stage after a couple of songs.

The Edwards Love-Child Non-Story... So Far

| Wed Dec. 19, 2007 10:58 AM EST

john-edwards-campaigning.jpg On the all-important, critical campaign 2008 issue of whether John Edwards has fathered a love-child—as Matt Drudge reports The Enquirer is "reporting"—let me beg to differ with colleague Party Ben's theory that the Clinton camp "is pushing Drudge" to tear into Edwards. To start with, the Clinton gang generally cares more about stopping Barack Obama than Edwards. If Edwards were socked by a scandal, that would probably help Obama more than Clinton. (Edwards and Obama split the anti-Hillary Democratic vote.) And how close is the Clinton gang and Drudge? Remember Monica? And did you see the picture of a tired and aging Hillary that Drudge posted days ago? Moreover—and it's a big moreover—Drudge (who did recently promoted two Mother Jones stories on Mike Huckabee) does not need encouragement from one political HQ or another to promote a sex scandal article that appears in a tabloid. We need not wonder what hidden forces caused Drudge to highlight The Enquirer's "exclusive." In this instance, a cigar is just a cigar.

As for the Enquirer story itself—in case you care—it's the usual fare. Edwards' purported girlfriend insists that Edwards is not the father of her unborn child and names another fellow (a political operative close to Edwards) as the responsible party. Yet the tabloid quotes exactly one unnamed source saying Edwards is the father. That's enough for it to claim an "exclusive."

Will this become a bigger story? My hunch is that those nice Iowans are not eager to have the final weeks of the campaign dominated by such a tawdry topic. And unlike the Gennifer Flowers case, the woman named in this story is not talking. In fact, she's denying. But, as we've learned, when it comes to sex—and sex and politics—you never know. Still, the shabbily sourced Enquirer piece, without further (real and confirmed) developments, ought not to have much of an impact.

"Why Does It Seem You Are Trying to Stop Hillary Clinton From Becoming President?"

| Wed Dec. 19, 2007 10:41 AM EST

I'm going to post this without comment, other than to say it illustrates exactly the "How dare he??" sentiment floating around the Clinton camp that David reported on a while back.

Also, it's funny.

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Maybe There Is a God...

| Wed Dec. 19, 2007 10:00 AM EST

Building next to White House on fire. From CNN today:

The building, built between 1871 and 1888, is located across a driveway from the White House and houses the vice president's offices.

CNN on Monday:

A small chemical explosion was reported Monday in the building that houses Fox News, officials said. One person was injured.

Responding to MoJo, Huckabee Campaign Explains Difference Between Homosexuality and Necrophilia

| Tue Dec. 18, 2007 7:44 PM EST

It's hard to explain lumping together homosexuality and necrophilia. But that's the mission that Mike Huckabee's campaign research director, Joe Carter, took on when Talking Points Memo asked him about the recent Mother Jones story on a book Huckabee wrote in 1998. In that book, Huckabee decried American culture, equated environmentalism with pornography, insisted that people who do not believe in God tend to be immoral, and associated homosexuality with necrophilia:

It is now difficult to keep track of the vast array of publicly endorsed and institutionally supported aberrations—from homosexuality and pedophilia to sadomasochism and necrophilia.

Now lets turn to TPM:

When we asked Carter if Huckabee stood by this quote, he didn't disavow the comment. But he sought to clarify its meaning, denying our suggestion that the quote equated homosexuality and necrophilia.
"He's not equating homosexuality with necrophilia," Carter told us. "He's saying there's a range of aberrant behavior. He considers homosexuality aberrant, but that's at one end of the spectrum. Necrophilia is at the other end."
Carter added: "No way is he saying that homosexuality is like having sex with dead people. That's not it at all."

Newmont Mining Cleared in Indonesian Pollution Lawsuit

| Tue Dec. 18, 2007 7:10 PM EST

mojo-photo-fairytale.jpg

We called him Mr. Clean for a reason.

And today Rick Ness is a happy man. Newmont Minahasa Raya (a subsidiary of Denver-based gold-mining giant Newmont, where Ness was formerly president) was cleared of pollution and environmental damage charges related to Buyat Bay in Indonesia. Back in April Ness and the company were acquitted of all criminal charges (and in 2006, Newmont settled a civil suit brought by the Indonesian government on charges of environmental pollution).

The judge in the Indonesian case said in today's ruling that "The plaintiff could not prove that Newmont polluted the environment, sickening fish and damaging coral reefs."

But, in fact, evidence abounds.

Huckabee: Shhhh, It's Between God and Me

| Tue Dec. 18, 2007 3:01 PM EST

I'm telling God, not you.

That seemed to be Mike Huckabee's message to the people of Arkansas when he was governor there. Here's an item from the February 19, 1999 issue of the Arkansas Times:

What the people don't know won't hurt me.
In an interview with the Arkansas Baptist news magazine, Gov. Mike Huckabee elaborated on his statement that he had resolved to "trust God more and people less."
The magazine said: "Citing 'the classic Baptist phrase to trust the Lord and tell the people,' he noted, 'I've found you can still trust the Lord, but you better not tell the people everything. Too much information can hurt you more than not giving information."
Huckabee went on to say that being guarded was "the reversal of everything I have practiced and been led to believe."

When Jimmy Carter ran for president in 1976 as an evangelical, he looked voters straight in the eye and promised, "I will never lie to you." Will former pastor Huckabee proclaim, "I will not tell you everything"?

And my pal Robert Wright of Bloggingheads.tv wonders (as he sits in my office) if this Huckabee statement represents the intersection of Baptist theology and the neocon-Straussian concept of the noble lie. In any event, how noble of Huckabee in this instance to ignore a Baptist injunction for the sake of his own administration.