Mojo - April 2008

What Does Mike Huckabee Have Up His Sleeve?

| Thu Apr. 10, 2008 3:07 PM EDT

I suspect that good dude and total crazy person Mike Huckabee is going to be in our lives for a while. Why? Because this development has to be connected to this little mystery.

Update: Let me add that I have high expectations for Mr. Huckabee. I think he could be the king of all (Christian) media if he doesn't get sidetracked by some quixotic FairTax crusade.

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McCain Gets the Boot From Project Vote Smart

| Thu Apr. 10, 2008 1:52 PM EDT

ProjectVoteSmart.gif Project Vote Smart, the nonpartisan voter-education nonprofit, confirms today that it has kicked John McCain off its board. Mother Jones reported on Monday that PVS was prepared to make the move due to McCain's nine-month refusal to fill out its Political Courage Test. According to PVS President Richard Kimball, the nonprofit has a rule that bars nonrespondents from serving on its board.

PVS contacted the McCain campaign 25 times from June 2007 to February 2008 in the hopes of avoiding the embarrassment this move entails for both the organization and one of its long-time board members. Eventually, however, they were simply left with no choice. The senator who made his career on straight talk couldn't spare some for the organization he served.

You can see the full story in Monday's report.

Bush Limits Iraq Tours to 12 Months - Too Little, Too Late?

| Thu Apr. 10, 2008 1:00 PM EDT

tiredsoldiers.jpg

Bolstered by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker's assurances that progress is being made in Iraq, if a bit slower than they'd like, President Bush this morning announced that he plans to cut Army combat tours from the current 15 months to 12 months, restoring the pre-surge pace of deployments. The President also officially embraced Petraeus' recommendation that the Pentagon freeze troop levels at 140,000 this July, pending "a 45-day period of consolidation and evaluation," followed by "a process of assessment" before any further withdrawals take place. The strategy will effectively end the recent build-up of troops, returning the U.S. military's Iraq posture to what it was in January 2007, before the surge began.

The move to reduce the duration of combat tours enjoys the support of Bush's supporters and critics alike. Questions remain, however, about how the new 12-months tours will be implemented in practice and whether they will be sufficient to help the Army recover from the intense strain of its recent Iraq experience. Both the Army and the Marine Corps, the services bearing the brunt of the fighting in Iraq, have complained that the pace of deployment has severely undercut their overall readiness and, particularly in the case of the Army, may even threaten the future of the all-volunteer force. Following on his recent appearance on the Senate side, General Richard Cody, the Army's outgoing vice chief of staff, testified yesterday afternoon (.pdf) before the House Armed Services Committee, where he repeated his warning that the Army is "out of balance" and the current demand for its forces "exceeds the sustainable supply."

Cody's concerns may not be eased by today's decision to return to 12-month tours. According to the Washington Post:

ABC: Top Bush Advisors Were "Personally Involved" in Planning Interrogations

| Thu Apr. 10, 2008 12:42 PM EDT

You already knew that there was no way John Yoo was shooting around memos authorizing interrogation techniques that amount to torture without the White House and Bush's top advisers knowing about it. Now ABC News proves it — they have Cheney officially signing off and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft asking, "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

That's the kind of administration this is: John Ashcroft is the most reasonable guy in the room.

More Evidence of John McCain's Naivete on the Economy

| Thu Apr. 10, 2008 10:35 AM EDT

John McCain has an economic plan for this country that could only be thought up in the mind of a Republican: somehow balance the budget while cutting taxes and continuing the war. That McCain's plan should strike any reasonable person as impossible is irrelevant: all McCain or any other Republican needs to do to brush those fears away is claim that cutting taxes generates money for the government in massive, fantastical ways.

But what's particularly dangerous about McCain is that he doesn't seem to understand his own voodoo economics.

When Senator John McCain was asked here this afternoon how he plans to balance the budget, he said that he hoped to do so by stimulating economic growth – and approvingly cited the example of President Ronald Reagan.
There was one thing he did not mention during his response: the deficit nearly tripled during the Reagan presidency, partly due to tax cuts and increases in military spending.

If you're going to pretend like supply-side economics work miracles, don't use the perfect counterexample as your example! You can read the full context of the episode, which happened at investment firm Bridgewater Associates, at the New York Times.

Multimedia Essay: The Torch's Secret Trail

| Thu Apr. 10, 2008 1:02 AM EDT

UPDATE: /photos/monk-tank-500x331.jpg Hear the subject of this photo, and others in the photo essay, speak here. Read more coverage of the torch relay events by Mother Jones reporter Josh Harkinson here and here.

In a day of raucous protests and angry confrontations, human rights activists stalked the Olympic torch through the hilly streets of San Francisco in an elaborate game of cat and mouse. As planned, the torch was lit shortly after 1:00 p.m., but a phalanx of bodies clogging the streets prevented it from proceeding down the anticipated route along the downtown shoreline. Instead, a different torch was driven across town to Van Ness Avenue, a rolling artery that divides the city, where it proceeded towards the ritzy Marina District under the heavy cover of SUVs and motorcycles.

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What If There'd Been Fox News or CNN During Slavery?

| Thu Apr. 10, 2008 12:15 AM EDT

If nothing else results from the conversation America is having, however dysfunctionally, about Rev. Wright and Obama's speech, we can't help but learn to take the black church seriously as the ultra-complicated reality it truly is. It's not just about rousing gospel songs, old ladies in big hats, and ministers foaming at the mouth—all insulting sins even I have long committed.

I was raised a hard-core black Protestant and considered myself well versed in its contours, but I now find myself challenged and informed in ways I'd never expected. I never really understood the significance of the black prophetic tradition, or that it even was one. Nor did I properly understand or evaluate the schism that the modern black church's focus on prosperity, vice prophecy, represents. That history is rich and troubling. It also situates the black church at a Gladwellian tipping point; will the current controversy silence the voice of black prophecy and strident critique and replace it with a 'feel good, get rich' religiosity to which whites won't object?

From CNN this week:

San Francisco Dispatch: The Torch's Gauntlet of Protesters

| Wed Apr. 9, 2008 6:15 PM EDT

The outcome of today's Olympic torch relay in San Francisco could determine whether the torch will continue along its planned route—the longest in Olympic history—or be cut short due to the boisterous, disruptive protests that have accompanied it in Athens, London, and Paris. International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said the Committee's executive board will discuss on Friday whether to end the relay after this afternoon's event, which is shaping up to be a tense stand-off between police and protesters.

The City of San Francisco has called in extra law enforcement officers from the California Highway patrol and nearby suburbs, banned flights above the city and boats near the waterfront where the torch will pass, and sequestered the the flame in an undisclosed location. During the relay the city plans to encase the torch in a three-layer babooshka doll of police officers: cops on foot, cops on bikes, and cops on motorcycles. If protesters still manage to block the relay, the city will load the torch onto a boat and sail around them.

Only once crowds begin to line the route this afternoon will anyone be able to tell whether San Francisco is in for the same experience as Paris. An activist with Save Darfur in Paris told me roughly 15,000 protesters showed up for the torch relay there. Organizers in San Francisco predict half as many. Some American activists, particularly on the left, are reluctant to protest China's human rights record while the U.S. government continues to occupy Iraq and operate Gitmo. Moreover, many leaders of San Francisco's Chinese-American community (Asians comprise 30 percent of the city), see the protests as a pall on what they'd hoped would be Chinese-American community's moment in the sun. Near the start of the route this morning, protesters exchanged shouts with supporters of the Chinese government as police stood between the two groups. San Francisco was chosen as the torch's only stop in North America because of its sizable Chinese-American community, but the strength of feeling on both sides could prove to be a powder keg of a kind not seen across the Atlantic.

Asbestos Company Settles, Leaves Montana Residents in the Dust

| Wed Apr. 9, 2008 5:30 PM EDT

W.R. Grace & Co., the mining company responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Libby, Montana residents, is finally going to pay for the damage it did. Well, sort of. On Monday, the company reached a $3 billion settlement with the families of people killed and those made ill by asbestos from the company's vermiculite mine between 1963 and 1990.The problem is the effects of asbestos don't immediately present themselves, so Grace's battle with Libby residents should be far from over because future diagnoses and lawsuits are sure to arise. But this week's settlement encompasses all future lawsuits as well, meaning current and future victims are going to get measly sums. The company isn't saying how it will calculate everyone's share but if the $3 billion were to be evenly dispersed to settle only the existing 120,000 lawsuits, each victim would receive $25,000. And that doesn't even account for the folks who will undoubtedly contract cancer and other asbestos-related diseases in the years to come. As the company's vice president told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Grace "want[s] to get on with business."

Mother Jones investigated the presence of asbestos in Eldorado Hills, CA in our May/June 2007 issue. But unlike the people in Libby, residents there only have government officials and themselves to blame.

—Celia Perry

Former Polygamist on Polygamy

| Wed Apr. 9, 2008 5:26 PM EDT

yearning200.jpgIt's been five days since authorities raided the Yearning for Zion Ranch, a compound outside Eldorado, Texas owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Tipped off by a phone call from a 16-year-old girl who said she had been repeatedly "beat and hurt" by her middle-aged husband, the cops stormed Yearning for Zion and took 419 children into custody, accompanied by 139 of their mothers, into custody.

To be sure, Yearning for Zion sounds like a horror show. But is it polygamy's fault? I mean, "the principle" seems to work okay on Big Love, right? I wanted a plural marriage expert to weigh in. After an admittedly quick Internet search, I decided on John Llewellyn, a retired Salt Lake County Sheriff's Lieutenant who has been involved with a bunch of polygamy investigations. Once he started talking, though, it was clear that Llewellyn had some pretty strong opinions about plural marriage, and with good reason: He used to be a polygamist himself.

At the beginning of his career with the Salt Lake City Sheriff's Department, Llewellyn and his young family became active in Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (the Mitt Romney kind of Mormons; they will be the first to tell you that they have noting—they said NOTHING—to do with polygamy). A young single mother asked him to be her children's godfather, and somehow that turned into a request to be his second wife. To Llewellyn's surprise, his first wife acquiesced, and thus began his involvement with the Apostolic United Brethren. He quickly discovered that polygamy wasn't for him—he didn't like how it pitted women against each other. Twenty years later, he left the church with his second wife. (His original wife, he says, chose to be "the fifth wife in a more affluent family.")

Since then, Llewellyn has written several books about life in polygamist communities. These days, he's made it his mission to spread the word about the evils of plural marriage, which he calls "a barbaric custom...to accept it is like going back to the Middle Ages." And he's given up church life, too. "I don't want anything to come between me and God," he says. "If there is a God, I'll handle my own salvation. I don't need a pope or a prophet to come between me and God." I asked Lewellyn a few questions about the Yearning for Zion raid, and, uh, he didn't mince words. Q&A after the jump.