Mojo - June 2008

Are You a Blog Troll? Collect Your Points at JohnMcCain.com

| Tue Jun. 24, 2008 12:15 PM EDT

On McCain's "Blog Interact" page, where the candidate's supporters can find recommended blogs of all ideological stripes, the campaign is actually awarding points for trolling.

Help spread the word about John McCain on news and blog sites. Your efforts to help get the message out about John McCain's policies and plan for the future is one of the most valuable things you can do for this campaign. You know why John McCain should be the next President of the United States and we need you to tell others why.
Select from the numerous web, blog and news sites listed here, go there, and make your opinions supporting John McCain known. Once you've commented on a post, video or news story, report the details of your comment by clicking the button below. After your comments are verified, you will be awarded points through the McCain Online Action Center.

The site even has "Today's Talking Points" that McCain supporters can cut and paste into the comments sections of liberal blogs.

The lack of online savvy on display here is just stunning. But at least "John McCain is aware of the internet." (Via Andrew Sullivan)

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Google to Set a Porn King Free, In Court?

| Tue Jun. 24, 2008 11:50 AM EDT

A novel defense in an obscenity case, down in Florida:

Judges and jurors who must decide whether sexually explicit material is obscene are asked to use a local yardstick: does the material violate community standards?
That is often a tricky question because there is no simple, concrete way to gauge a community's tastes and values.
The Internet may be changing that. In a novel approach, the defense in an obscenity trial in Florida plans to use publicly accessible Google search data to try to persuade jurors that their neighbors have broader interests than they might have thought.
In the trial of a pornographic Web site operator, the defense plans to show that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like "orgy" than for "apple pie" or "watermelon." The publicly accessible data is vague in that it does not specify how many people are searching for the terms, just their relative popularity over time. But the defense lawyer, Lawrence Walters, is arguing that the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that interest in the sexual subjects exceeds that of more mainstream topics — and that by extension, the sexual material distributed by his client is not outside the norm.

The defense attorney isn't just freeing a porn king; he's holding up a mirror to our lives: "Time and time again you'll have jurors sitting on a jury panel who will condemn material that they routinely consume in private," he told the press. The Google data will expose "how people really think and feel and act in their own homes."

Well, I Feel Better: John McCain Is "Aware of the Internet"

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 6:17 PM EDT

Worried that America might elect to the presidency a guy who openly admits he can't use a computer without assistance? Have no fear. Mark SooHoo, John McCain's "deputy e-campaign manager," says:

You don't necessarily have to use a computer to understand, you know, how it shapes the country. … John McCain is aware of the Internet.

Imagine if Barack Obama had a gaping lack of knowledge on something integral to our lives as Americans and to the success of the country going forward. Would you be satisfied if one of his staffers told you, "Barack Obama is aware of the economy"?

FISA, Feingold, and a Filibuster?

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 5:56 PM EDT

In the wake of the House of Representatives' passage of a bill last week that grants the White House wide latitude to spy on American citizens, and that effectively forces courts to throw out lawsuits against lawbreaking telecommunications companies, Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wisc., predicted today that the Senate would likely follow suit, despite strong protests from civil liberties groups and a majority of Democratic party members.

"I'm very worried we're not going to be able to prevail," Feingold said.

Rove Empties Out the Obama Smear Catalog

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 2:56 PM EDT

prettyinpink-768996.jpg This has gotta be sign of desperation, right? Rove's newest frame on Obama:

Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.

Yup. Because when I think of a half-black guy who grew up with a single parent in Kansas, Hawaii, and Indonesia, I definitely think of a 1980s teen movie prepster/villain. The picture of classic American privilege, that Obama.

Bush Administration "Shot Down" Army Contract Oversight Measure

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 2:21 PM EDT

bush76.jpg

By this point, war profiteering in Iraq has become legend. The conflict has generated well over a hundred billion dollars in contracts for private business—many, like KBR's contract with the Army, awarded without competitive bidding and featuring a "cost-plus" arrangement, essentially entitling companies to name their own price for services rendered (or not rendered, as the case may be.) As contracts have swelled in size, so, too, has the size of contract-related fraud, waste, and abuse. Last year, the Defense Contract Audit Agency identified $4.9 billion wasted on overcharging or fraud, and an additional $5.1 billion spent without any documentation. Just imagine what the IRS would say.

In response to such reports, the Army sponsored a blue-ribbon commission to study the problem and propose possible fixes, which it did in a report (.pdf) issued last November. Among the recommendations was the assignment of five generals to oversee the contracting process and guard against the sort of waste and abuse that had plagued Army operations up to that point. The Army took the suggestion to heart and included $1.2 million in a budget request to fund the new positions—an amount so modest compared to the scale of the larger problem that the measure would surely be approved, right? Wrong. The Office of Management and Budget slammed the brakes on the proposal.

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The VP Frustrations of John McCain

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 1:09 PM EDT

Joe Klein reports over at Swampland that McCain's top three choices for VP, according to a source Klein trusts, are all automatic non-starters.

1. Former Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania--McCain loves the guy, I'm told, and Ridge might bring Pa. into the Republican fold...but he's pro-choice. Fuggedaboutit.
2. Former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida--Ahhh, Florida. But, oy, that last name.
3. Senator Mel Martinez of Florida---Ahh, Florida....and brings Latinos, too! But born in Cuba, so ineligible for the office.

The same goes for McCain's top sidekicks, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham. The first is technically an Independent Democrat and thus a big believer in choice and the second is dogged by persistent rumors about his sexuality.

War Disappearing From Television News

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 12:31 PM EDT

Good grab by hilzoy, who points to a NY Times article about the dwindling coverage of the Iraq War on network television:

According to data compiled by Andrew Tyndall, a television consultant who monitors the three network evening newscasts, coverage of Iraq has been "massively scaled back this year." Almost halfway into 2008, the three newscasts have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage, compared with 1,157 minutes for all of 2007. The "CBS Evening News" has devoted the fewest minutes to Iraq, 51, versus 55 minutes on ABC's "World News" and 74 minutes on "NBC Nightly News." (The average evening newscast is 22 minutes long.)
CBS News no longer stations a single full-time correspondent in Iraq, where some 150,000 United States troops are deployed.
Paul Friedman, a senior vice president at CBS News, said the news division does not get reports from Iraq on television "with enough frequency to justify keeping a very, very large bureau in Baghdad." He said CBS correspondents can "get in there very quickly when a story merits it."

Hilzoy notes that 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage equals two minutes per network, per week.

Good Day for Ombudsmen

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 12:23 PM EDT

Taking care of business at the WaPo and the NYT.

Sad Update to NY13

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 12:15 PM EDT

Just FYI. Remember that post about the New York congressional seat that is being vacated by the super-disgraced Republican congressman Vito Fossella? The one where the Republican candidate was being challenged by his son, a carpenter, punk rocker, and libertarian, who admitted he was in the race because he didn't want his dad to win?

Well, the father, a guy named Frank Powers, died of a heart attack on Sunday morning. Sad for the Powers family, and yet another bizarre turn for the district. Powers was settled upon by the Republican Party after other, more attractive candidates all declined to run.