Mojo - May 2008

Dean Calls for Unity, Hints at Pro-Obama Solution to Florida-Michigan Mess

| Sat May 31, 2008 10:56 AM EDT

The Democrats' Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) is meeting today in Washington, D.C., to decide whether the delegates from Michigan and Florida's rule-breaking primaries will count in the race for the nomination. Both states lost all of their delegates as a punishment for moving up their primaries without DNC approval. Hillary Clinton's campaign has argued that the delegates from both states should be restored in full, a move that would net her some 40-odd delegates. Barack Obama's campaign has said it is willing to compromise, but will not accede to all of the Clinton campaign's demands.

A DNC staff analysis released earlier this week seems to indicate that the RBC cannot restore more than half of Florida and Michigan's delegates—it's supposedly an "automatic" penalty. The 30-member RBC includes 13 Clinton supporters, 8 Obama supporters, and 9 people who have not committed to either candidate. So Clinton only needs the votes of 3 of the 9 uncommitted members to force a decision in her favor.

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Tracing an Iran Oil Blockade Meme

| Fri May 30, 2008 10:44 AM EDT

On Wednesday, Wall Street Journal opinion editors proposed a plan for a naval blockade on Iran of refined gasoline imports. But they don't say where they got the idea.

The Journal:

The Administration would do better to withdraw from this international charade and consider means by which the mullahs might be persuaded that their regime's survival is better assured by not having nuclear weapons. A month-long naval blockade of Iran's imports of refined gasoline – which accounts for nearly half of its domestic consumption – could clarify for the Iranians just how unacceptable their nuclear program is to the civilized world.

Here was Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz in January explaining the idea of thirty year Israeli intelligence veteran Shmuel Bar:

Tom Friedman Is an Insufferable Blowhard

| Fri May 30, 2008 4:09 AM EDT

Sorry, I know that headline degrades the national conversation and is emblematic of why bloggers get a bad rap and yada yada yada. But sometimes you just gotta say what's in your soul. And my soul just watched this video clip from five years ago today, and my soul is pissed.

I know Tom Friedman writes some decent columns and some influential books. But watch this video clip all the way through and try not to hate the man.

I can't imagine what an Iraqi citizens feels like being told to "suck on this" by Tom Friedman, and that we went to war with Iraq "because we could."

McClellan and Me: Why this White House Stonewaller Has No Right To Complain About the Press

| Fri May 30, 2008 3:08 AM EDT

Excuse me if I'm resentful of the attention Scott McClellan, George W. Bush's onetime presidential press secretary, is receiving for finally telling the obvious truth that the Bush White House deceived the public about the Iraq war. Though McClellan's account has punch coming from an insider, he's late to the party. Some of us made the case when it counted--back in 2002 and 2003, before the war was launched, and in the following years--and we also maintained that the deceptive measures of the Bush administration extended beyond its PR campaign for war in Iraq. Yet back then McClellan was doing what he could to thwart such efforts. Now he says the media failed to confront the Bush administration forcefully enough. Which is true. But when reporters did try, McClellan put up a stonewall. So his complaint is like that of a thief who, after pulling off a caper, gripes that the incompetent police did not nab him. This is absurd. After all, before each press briefing, did McClellan go to the men's room and use a bar of soap to write on the mirror, "Stop me before I spin again"?

Let's turn to one example of McClellan's complicity--one that I know well, for it was an instance when McClellan spoke falsely to me.

McClellan's daily press briefing on September 29, 2003, was a rough one for him. The news had broken that the CIA had requested that the Justice Department investigate the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's CIA identity. This meant that presidential aides could end up facing criminal charges. The reporters in the White House press room were in a justified frenzy. The CIA leak episode was now a full-force scandal. (Two months earlier, I had been the first reporter to note that the Plame leak was possibly a White House crime, but in the intervening period most of the media had ignored or neglected the story.)

Much of the press briefing that day was devoted to the CIA leak investigation. Answering questions about the Plame leak, McClellan declared, "that is not the way this White House operates." (Actually, it was.) He insisted that Bush knew that Rove was not involved in the leak. (Actually, Rove told at least two reporters about Valerie Wilson's CIA connection, which was classified information.) And McClellan said that Rove told him that he had played no role in the leak mess. (Actually, as just noted, Rove had.)

I was at the briefing, but by the time McClellan called on me, all of the leak-related queries had been asked. Even though I was keen on covering that story, I turned to another matter: the missing WMDs in Iraq and the prewar intelligence. A few days earlier, the House intelligence committee had sent then-CIA director George Tenet a letter saying that there had been "too many uncertainties" in the prewar intelligence on WMDs in Iraq. I asked,

More War Profiteering, KBR-style

| Thu May 29, 2008 4:20 PM EDT

Believe it or not, 12 soldiers have died in Iraq by electrocution from their own faulty equipment. Like showers and power washers for vehicles. Twelve. Unless they all died on one day, something's rotten in Denmark, that is, if that's where our old pals Kellogg, Brown and Root are headquartered.

Border Harassment

| Thu May 29, 2008 3:54 PM EDT

On May 11, the Rio Grande Guardian reported that customs agents in the Rio Grande Valley have devised a plan to check the documents of evacuees who attempt to board evacuation buses in the event of a hurricane.

The article [no link] reads:

Anyone who is not a citizen or is not a legal resident will be held in specially designed areas in the Valley that are 'made to withstand hurricanes' said Dan Doty, a Border Patrol spokesperson for the Valley sector.

When the weather clears, of course, they'll be deported.

This incident--and with several other examples of the threat the national security state poses to civil liberties--have come to the attention of Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who chairs the House Judiciary committee. On Friday, he brought the issue up before the Congress: "[T]he Border Patrol [has] said that they have reassessed the policy in light of last week's exercise. They told us that [their] 'primary role in such events will be the safeguarding of life. No enforcement role will be undertaken that will in any way impede the safe and orderly evacuation of any member of the south Texas population.'"

That's a slightly different tune. And unfortunately, we may only learn the Border Patrol's true intentions when a real disaster strikes.

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Sen. Feinstein Kills Off False Iran Report

| Thu May 29, 2008 2:58 PM EDT

The office of Senator Dianne Feinstein has weighed in to kill off once and for all a false report that appeared in Asia Times earlier this week that claimed she had been briefed about planned air strikes on Iran. The report is "plain wrong," Feinstein's spokesman said.

"Sen. Feinstein has not received any briefing classified or unclassified from the administration about any plans to strike Iran," Scott Gerber, a spokesman for the California Democrat, told me today. "And we're seeking a correction to the Asia Times report."

As I reported yesterday, Asia Times ran an article Tuesday saying "Bush plans air strikes" on Iran by August: "After receiving secret briefings on the planned air strike," the outlet reported, "Senator Diane Feinstein, Democrat of California, and Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, said they would write a New York Times op-ed piece 'within days', the source said last week, to express their opposition."

Yesterday, I reported that Senator Lugar's spokesman had called the report flat out untrue. Lugar "wasn't briefed, there's no oped," Lugar spokesman Andy Fischer told Mother Jones.

Clinton at Rushmore: Our Soundbite Culture Paralyzes

| Thu May 29, 2008 1:17 PM EDT

I find this interaction sad:

Clinton stood before the four former presidents [on Mount Rushmore] and listened in as a park ranger explained some of the history. At one point, she was asked if she could one day picture herself up there. She smirked and shook her head as she contemplated whether to offer a quick soundbite.
"I …" she started to say, before throwing her hands up.
"You think Bill Clinton should be up there?" another reporter asked.
"Why don't you learn something about the monument," Clinton finally said, before walking away to greet some more tourists.

Maybe Clinton is fatigued and frustrated and beleaguered. Maybe the soundbite-hungry nature of our culture, our technology, and our media weighed so heavily on her mind she was unable to say anything, paralyzed by the fear that she would again make instant, accidental, and unwanted news.

I don't know. Whatever the reason, I'm strongly and perhaps irrationally sympathetic.

CA Gay Marriage Will Start June 17

| Wed May 28, 2008 10:11 PM EDT

The California state Office of Vital Records just announced that gay couples will be able to legally marry in the state starting June 17. The marriages, unless some legal impediment arises, will be valid until November, when a state-wide ballot gives Californians the opportunity to ban gay marriage. However, a poll released today showed that 51 percent of Californians approved of gay marriage, while only 41 percent disapproved. The remaining 7 percent had "no opinion."

If gay marriage stays legal in California, it may be a boon for everyone, not just the couples getting married. Gov. Schwarzenegger has already said that gay couples traveling to California to get married could provide a nice economic boost. California has the highest number of same-sex couples in the nation. If only a quarter of the 184,500 cohabiting, same-sex couples got married, it would mean 46,125 weddings. Multiply that by $27,852, the average cost of a wedding according to study by Conde Nast Bridal Group, and it would mean more than $1 billion for the state economy.

If you wanted to take things further, you could calculate in money saved by shared health care coverage, being bumped up a tax bracket on joint returns, and other similar measures, which could add up to more than $3 billion.

Gay marriage: good for the economy, bad for bigots.

The Similar Governing Philosophies of George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein

| Wed May 28, 2008 8:17 PM EDT

From the Politico story about Scott McClellan's new book:

Bush was "clearly irritated, … steamed," when McClellan informed him that chief economic adviser Larry Lindsey had told The Wall Street Journal that a possible war in Iraq could cost from $100 billion to $200 billion: "'It's unacceptable,' Bush continued, his voice rising. 'He shouldn't be talking about that.'"

From the CIA's 2004 report on Iraq's WMD: