Mojo - February 2008

Women in War Zones: Female Correspondents Face a Second Line of Fire

| Fri Feb. 15, 2008 1:10 PM EST

As MoJo's own Elizabeth Gettelman pointed out, journalists are dying by the score in our war on terror. Horrendous, no question. If I were a young journalist today, I doubt I'd have the nerve to go after that story. No, I don't doubt it - I know I wouldn't.

Given the dangers there, it is the brave Iraqi journalists, translators, etc who are suffering, disappearing and dying disproportionately which adds another, special layer to the tragedy. Still, it's one thing to be kidnapped or killed by inexcuseable terrorists. What of female journalists being raped, harassed and exploited while working as foreign correspondents? It's ok if they both matter, isn't it, though death and imprisonment are surely worse?

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Hearing Regrets

| Fri Feb. 15, 2008 12:00 PM EST

So even Rep. Henry Waxman thinks the steroids-in-baseball hearing this week was a three-ring circus he wishes he'd never convened. But come on, what did he expect? Roger Clemens gave a preview of his performance on national television a few weeks ago. The fact that he was under oath this week probably wasn't going to change his tune much. Besides, Waxman should recall that one of the side-effects of performance-enhancing drugs is extreme mood swings and occasional violent outbursts. And of course, extreme denial (see Floyd Landis and Marion Jones et. al.)

John Lewis Dumps Clinton for Obama: A Tipping Point?

| Fri Feb. 15, 2008 9:30 AM EST

If there are tipping points in presidential contests, this surely is a possible one: Representative John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights era, has flipped. He had endorsed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic contest. But on Thursday, Lewis, a superdelegate, said he would vote for Barack Obama at the Democratic convention.

Up to now, it's been the Obama camp and Obama supporters who have seemed the most worried about those hundreds of superdelegates who could decide the race. Many Obama fans have expressed the fear that these Democratic insiders will pour into some backroom at the convention and throw their votes to Clinton, even if she places second in the race for the pledged delegates produced by the primaries and caucuses. But Lewis, who cited the "sense of movement" and "sense of spirit" in Obama's campaign, is proof that the wind can blow the other way. Put simply, insiders like a winner.

Lewis noted that he could not vote against the clear wishes of the voters in his Georgia district, who voted overwhelmingly for Obama in that state's Democratic primary. And as perhaps the leading African American member of the House, he was, with his opposition to Obama, in an awkward position. How could he stand against the first African American (and Democratic) candidate with a decent chance of becoming president? But it turned out not to be such a tough spot to escape. The Clintons must be seething. Not just because they have lost Lewis's vote but because of the signal he sends to other superdelegates committed to or leaning toward Clinton: Yes, you can.

Lewis paves the way for others who are also moved by Obama's "movement"--or, to be polite about it, motivated by his momentum. While Clinton appears to have a modest lead in superdelegates, it is far from insurmountable. And like Lewis, many of the superdelegates will look to see what's happened on the ground before deciding how to cast their votes. If Obama's march does end up winning more popular support than Clinton's, many of these powerbrokers will not want to be left out of the parade.

The SEIU Picks Obama

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 8:53 PM EST

seiu_logo.gif

The national executive board of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) endorsed Barack Obama Thursday evening. The members of the board voted electronically following a conference call that was scheduled for 6 p.m. A high level union official tells Mother Jones there was "overwhelming support" for Sen. Obama during the call. The endorsement doesn't become official until union locals representing 60 percent of the SEIU's members actually email in their vote, the official said. The locals have until 7:00 a.m. on Friday to do so, but given the results of the conference call any change in course seems highly improbable. An email from the union confirmed it will make a "major political announcement" on Friday at 1:00 p.m.

The SEIU has stayed neutral in the national contest until now, allowing its state affiliates to endorse any candidate. Many of the state organizations backed former Sen. John Edwards. But Edwards dropped out of the race shortly after a poor showing in South Carolina, where where he was born.

The SEIU's endorsement comes at a crucial time. Hillary Clinton, who has lost eight straight contests since Super Tuesday, is leading in the polls in Ohio and Texas, two delegate-rich states that will vote on March 4. Wins there could conceivably help her narrow the lead Obama has recently opened up in the delegate count. But the SEIU endorsement could alter the balance.

Dems Win on FISA! (Momentarily)

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 4:56 PM EST

It looks as though House Democrats are going to head into the President's Day recess without acting on FISA, meaning that the Protect America Act will expire in a few days.

Most Democrats were happy to pass an extension of PAA, which allows the federal government to spy on foreign-to-foreign communications routed through the United States without a warrant, but the White House insisted it would veto the bill if it didn't include retroactive immunity for telecom companies that have helped the Bush Administration spy on Americans. (Chris Dodd recently lost this fight in the Senate.)

The House leadership (which is getting ballsier and ballsier) decided to risk the political attacks Republican will surely launch about leaving America unprotected instead of caving and passing a bad bill that helps undermine the Constitution. Kudos to them!

More info here.

Why NOT Lie To Congress?

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 3:11 PM EST

After yesterday's day-long congressional hearing on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, the consensus on the matter here at our F Street headquarters boils down to two things: Roger Clemens was lying (duh), and devoting federal resources to baseball players is a colossal waste of time and taxpayer money. What makes it particularly "f*ing stupid," to quote my colleague Nick, is that nothing is likely to come of it. Sure, we got to learn some interesting things about Clemens' ass and the complications of injecting yourself with foreign substances. But here's the rub:

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Mitt Romney to Endorse McCain

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 1:41 PM EST
CNN's Dana Bash reports that former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will endorse senator John McCain. The endorsement is expected to happen at a Boston event at 3:30 p.m. ET today.
Two sources familiar with the decision confirmed the news, and said Romney now wants the delegates he won during his campaign to back his former rival.

Movement in the Making: Stop the Superdelegates!

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 1:37 PM EST

Folks across the internet are upset that the nearly 800 members of Congress, state governors, and Democratic Party honchos known as superdelegates could decide the winner of the Democratic nomination. If the pledged delegate count (i.e. the delegates won through primaries and caucuses) is close going into the convention, the superdelegates' votes will be decisive, and who knows what they will do: they may vote for the candidate who got the most pledged delegates, or the candidate who got the larger share of the popular votes, or the candidate who won their state, or whomever they think is best for the country, or whomever guarantees them the most/best patronage in the next administration.

Point is, everyday folks are angry that the nomination won't be decided in a purely democratic fashion. MoveOn.org and Open Left are taking action: if you're worried about superdelegates, check them out.

To Protect White House, GOP Disrupts Congressman's Memorial Service

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 11:50 AM EST

lantos.jpg Congressional Republicans, specifically Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida, just interrupted the memorial service of recently deceased Congressman Tom Lantos.

At 11:05 am this morning, Diaz-Balart offered a motion to adjourn, which, if passed, would have ended the House's legislative day. It appears the intent was to keep the House from debating contempt citations for former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, which were on the agenda. According to the Congressional Research Service, "A motion to adjourn is of the highest privilege, takes precedence over all other motions, is not debatable, and must be put to an immediate vote." That means that the members of the House had to leave the Lantos memorial where they were paying their respects to vote on the House floor, for nothing more important than to keep the day's business open.

The memorial service began at 10:00 am in Statuary Hall, which is an old House chamber in the Capitol. Speakers included Lantos' relatives, Bono, and Elie Wiesel. Diaz-Balart's vote was called during Joe Biden's tribute to Lantos.

It was purely obstructionist move by Diaz-Balart, made all the more crass and classless because it was used to disrupt the services of a widely admired public servant who was Congress's only Holocaust survivor. Accusations are flying back and forth about the matter. Incidentally, the motion to adjourn failed and debate of the contempt citations is currently underway.

Video after the jump.

How He Went Down: Mugniyah Assassination Plot Follow Up

| Thu Feb. 14, 2008 11:31 AM EST

As a tense south Beirut buried assassinated Hezbollah militant Imad Mugniyah Thursday and Israel and the region braced for feared retribution and an escalation of tensions, analysts continued to speculate on who killed the elusive terror suspect. (See this piece for a primer).

Former CIA officer Robert Baer, who served in Beirut and extensively researched Mugniyah, offered a model about how things might have gone down. "An old friend of mine," Baer emailed. "Friend may not be the word. Anyhow the Israelis persuaded him to set off a car bomb in a Damascus bus station. He used the Guardians of the Cedars, paid them something like $200,000. Bomb went off as requested."

"Point two is Syria these days is completely corrupt," Baer added. "You buy what you want."