Mojo - February 2008

Scores of Journalists Killed in Action

| Wed Feb. 13, 2008 9:31 AM EST

It's a dangerous time to be a journalist. This is the conclusion of a Doctors Without Borders report out today on press freedom worldwide. Last year, according to their tally, 86 reporters and photojournalists were killed, the most global casualties in a single year since the mid-1990s during the height of the Rwandan genocide.

Iraq accounted for 56 of those deaths, and at least another 25 were kidnapped. Just this week three journalists went missing in Baghdad. The body of an Iraqi reporter, who had been kidnapped earlier this week, was found yesterday. And on Monday two journalists working for CBS, one of whom is an Iraqi working as an interpreter, were kidnapped. There's still no sign of them.

The dangers Iraqis face—working as interpreters, drivers, correspondents, intel-gatherers—are often far greater than the dangers western journalists do; foreign journalists live in compounds, and they are on temporary assignment, where they don't have to a threat of retaliation. There's no offficial tally but as of last summer there were only 20 American print journalists in Baghdad, meaning many of the headlines we see in the west come to be because of the work of local journalists. And for that perilous work, what will it mean for their resumes long-term? And what becomes of these stringers when we leave?

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Sweeps for Obama and McCain

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 10:57 PM EST

Barack Obama and John McCain both scored hat tricks tonight, taking Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

In Obama's victory speech in Madison, WI, he pointed out that tonight highlights the fact that he can win in any setting. "We have now won east and west, north and south, and across the heartland of this country," he told an excited crowd. The Clinton campaign has dismissed Obama's victories from Super Tuesday and this past weekend by saying Obama wins in caucus states (which, due to their format, favor activists and the well-to-do) and in states Democrats never win in general elections. Well, Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. were all primaries, not caucuses. Maryland and D.C. are the Democrats' territory in November, and Virginia is a swing state. As Obama was saying, "We need a new direction in this country," the Clintonites were probably thinking, "We need new spin in this campaign."

Debra Does Don: Update (to update)

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 9:36 PM EST

I'll be doing Don Imus tomorrow (Wednesday Feb 13), 830ish. Here's a good recap on the whole Imus comeback thing. Presumably, this link will work 6-10 am (EST), when's he live.

Update: moved to Friday, same bat time, same bat channel.
Updat-ier: moved to Wed, Feb 20. (Don is sick)

With Obama Wins, What's the New Delegate Count?

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 9:34 PM EST

Chuck Todd of MSNBC is the delegate yoda. According to his calculations, Obama will get 49 to 52 delegates out of Virginia, while Clinton will get 31 to 34. (More info on Obama's Virginia win here.)

If you add those numbers to MSNBC's pledged delegate count, you get totals of roughly 1080 for Obama and 980 for Clinton. Why is that important? Because Clinton has a superdelegate lead of 85-90 over Obama. For the first time, Obama has won enough delegates from various primaries and caucuses to overtake Clinton's advantage with superdelegates. If Obama continues to open up a lead in pledged delegates, I would suspect that more and more superdelegates would come out in support of him, despite all the pressure the Clinton campaign will inevitably bring to bear, because they do not want to create a disastrous situation where the will of the superdelegates overturns the will of the people.

But we're getting well ahead of ourselves. As the Clinton campaign is reminding everybody, Ohio and Texas loom. Heck, we don't even know who won Maryland tonight!

Healthcare as a National Security Issue

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 8:03 PM EST

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Listening to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama debate the minutiae of health insurance mandates, it's easy to forget that while both plans strive for universal insurance coverage, neither one will achieve universal health care (at least not as the term pertains to an inalienable right). Maybe you already knew that, but a two-part article over at the Campaign for America's Future blog drives home why the distinction is important. Invoking our near-mythical neighbor to the north, writer Sara Robinson points out just how dangerous our current system could be. When sick people don't go to the doctor, she says, it's not just their health that's in danger, but national security:

In Canada, people go see the doctor if they're sick for more than a day or two. It was this easy access to early treatment, along with the much tighter public health matrix that enables doctors to share information quickly, that allowed the country's health care system to detect the 2003 SARS epidemics in Toronto and Vancouver while they were still very localized, act within hours to stop them before the disease spread any further, and track down and treat exposed people before they got too sick to be helped. In both cases, the system worked flawlessly. The epidemic was stopped within days and quashed entirely in under a month, potentially saving of millions of lives.

In the U.S., that same epidemic might easily have gone unnoticed for critical days and weeks. If the first people to get sick were among those 75 million without adequate insurance, they probably would have toughed it out a few extra days before finally dragging their half-dead carcasses into an ER somewhere. Not only would they be much farther along in the course of the disease—and thus at greater risk of death themselves—every one of them could have infected dozens or even hundreds of other people in the meantime, accelerating the spread of the epidemic.

Maybe this is a tack one of the candidates should consider exploring. We may not have money for socialized medicine, but we sure have a lot for defense.

—Casey Miner

Potomac Primary: Obama Takes Virginia

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 7:54 PM EST

It's 7 pm EST and polls just closed in Virginia. CNN took about one second to call the race for Obama. That means the exit polls must show a real blowout. On the Republican side, CNN says Huckabee and McCain are in a tight race. I'll go look for some exit polls while we wait one hour for polls to close in D.C. and Maryland.

Okay, CNN exit poll numbers for Virginia Democrats. African-American voters went 90-10 for Obama, in a margin that is getting bigger and bigger. White voters went 51-48 for Clinton, in a margin that is getting smaller and smaller. And women went 58-42 for Obama, in a shocking result. (To break that down a little further, Obama won white men by 12 while Clinton won white women by 16. Obama won both black women and men by huge margins.)

More numbers for Virginia Dems. (If Maryland or D.C. is markedly different from these numbers, I'll let you know.) Obama won the over-$50,000 crowd by 63-37 and won the under-$50,000 crowd 59-40. He won the Social Security crowd by six points. These numbers drive an even bigger spike into the "50-50" theory about Clinton voters.

One of the reasons why McCain is struggling: Virginia is an open primary, meaning people of any party affiliation can vote in either race. The Democratic turnout was large today (certainly larger than the Republican turnout) and about 30 percent of the voters in the Democratic race were independents and Republicans. They went heavily for Obama. Those are potential McCain voters.

For the record, McCain won moderates in the Virginia Republican primary by a whopping margin of 34 points. Huckabee won conservatives in the primary by 23 points. The problem for McCain is that there were far more conservatives voting today.

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Tapped: Senate Passes Bill Expanding Government Spy Powers

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 6:59 PM EST

Voting 68 to 29, the Senate has passed a controverial government surveillance bill, providing telecom companies retroactive immunity.

Bill co-consponsor Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) defended the controversial bill, in a press statement: "This is a very good bill that achieves what we set out to accomplish – restore civil liberty protections through proper FISA court oversight, and allow for targeted surveillance of potential terrorists."

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid disagrees, explaining his vote against the bill in a press statement:

Ron Paul Rallies the Troops; What's His Next Move?

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 5:08 PM EST

ron-paul-smile.jpg Ron Paul released a video yesterday in which he urged his supporters to stick with the campaign even though John McCain has been all but crowned as the Republican nominee. "Keep going and keep fighting," Paul implores.

Paul says that he will devote a larger share of his time to defending his congressional seat from a strong primary challenge, but after that's taken care of on March 4, he will pursue the nomination all the way to the convention. The hope is that he will collect enough delegates so that either a "surprise" will happen and he'll somehow get the nomination, or he will be able to "play a vital role" in giving the nomination to someone else.

For the time being, Paul suggests a new project. "We ought to make a grand display. We ought to have a true march to show what our numbers are," he says. A truly impressive "march on Washington" would mean the "media can't ignore us." He might want to rethink that — the media had an awfully easy time ignoring hundreds of thousands of anti-war protesters before the Iraq War.

My libertarian friend (a big Ron Paul supporter) dropped me an email and suggested that Paul use his cash haul to fund libertarian candidates in a couple key House races, and maybe even a Senate race or two. A couple libertarian House members likely wouldn't have much of an effect, considering the size of the Democratic majority in that body, but a single libertarian senator (needn't be a "Big L" Libertarian, just a "small l" libertarian) could have enormous sway, assuming the close margin of the Senate holds. Tiny minority parties in many other countries stay relevant this way — they partner with larger parties in exchange for key concessions.

The problem is, there isn't an army of libertarian candidates out there.

The Primary That Will REALLY Decide the Dem Race

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 2:51 PM EST

Puerto Rico? Don't scoff. This actually sounds legit.

Memo to the editors: I'm buying my plane ticket now. You'll cover me, right?

Iraq: Private Contractor Deaths Rose 17 Percent Last Year

| Tue Feb. 12, 2008 2:34 PM EST

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President Bush's "surge" strategy pumped another 30,000 U.S. troops into Iraq last year, something that many (particularly those among the "stay the course" crowd) have credited for reducing the overall level of violence in Iraq. And, yes, violence is down, but 2007 was nevertheless the bloodiest year in Iraq since the invasion—and the bloodshed took an unexpected turn. According to the Houston Chronicle, the number of private contractors killed while in the employ of coalition forces rose 17 percent in 2007, versus a 10 percent increase in U.S. troop deaths. At least 353 contractors were killed last year, up from 301 in 2006, according to Labor Department statistics. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. troops killed rose to 901 from 822 over the same period. Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association, an industry trade group, told the Chronicle that contractor deaths have fallen off dramatically in more recent months, just as the number of attacks against U.S. troops has declined. So, why did the number of private contractors killed in Iraq last year increase at a greater rate than that of U.S. soldiers? Neither the Pentagon nor the Labor Department are saying. Perhaps it's just that there are now more contractors than ever working dangerous jobs in Iraq, about 155,000, according to Brooks, including about 27,000 Americans.