Mojo - July 2008

Hunting Season is Open on Polar Bears' ESA Listing

| Thu Jul. 31, 2008 4:12 PM EDT

Even before the polar bear received "threatened" status under the Endangered Species Act in May, a host of organizations were already laying the groundwork for a legal challenge. As early as last January, Jim Sims, the president and CEO of the Western Business Roundtable, which reps for oil and mining interests, sent an email to colleagues detailing a strategy to "quite possibly reverse" the ruling, if the worst came to pass. Part of it would involve litigation filed by a "truly extraordinary plaintiff": Roy Innis, the chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a decades-old civil rights group that has taken a sharp turn to the right under his leadership, joining forces with conservative activists particularly on issues related to the environment.

It looks like the plan is finally in motion. On Wednesday, the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative legal advocacy group that is representing CORE, the California Cattleman's Association, and the California Forestry Association, has sent what's known as a "60-Day Notice" (which is required before formally filing suit in this case) to Dale Hall, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. "You are advised immediately to withdraw the Final Rule as unlawful and unwarranted," the letter states. "Failure to do so will result in legal action to invalidate the final rule."

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Have Your Say on Proposed Government Transparency Legislation

| Thu Jul. 31, 2008 3:33 PM EDT

While it continues to press its "Let Our Congress Tweet" campaign, the Sunlight Foundation—a Washington-based non-profit that pushes ways for technology to increase transparency in government—today released a revised version of another of its projects, the Transparency in Government Act 2008. The model legislation, which intends to update congressional disclosure requirements to meet modern technological standards, is the product of a period of public comment hosted electronically at PublicMarkup.org. Since March, interested netizens have been able to use the site to add their input to the bill on subjects like whether Congressional Research Service reports should be made public, whether political action committees and candidates should be compelled to disclose campaign finance receipts, and whether disclosure requirements for lobbyists should be expanded. You are now free to comment on the revised version if you wish, while Sunlight continues negotiations on Capitol Hill for the bills introduction in Congress.

Richest 1 Percent Get Biggest Share of Income Ever; Inequality At Record High: What Do We Do?

| Thu Jul. 31, 2008 3:32 PM EDT

In 2006, the richest one percent of Americans garnered the largest share of the national income since 1929, the Wall Street Journal reported last week. The Journal, which based its conclusions on the most recent available IRS data, also noted that in 2006 the richest one percent's average tax rate fell to its lowest level in 18 years. Who are these richest one percenters we hear so much about? Well, in 2008, the richest one percent of Americans make at least $462,000 a year, and the average income of the group is almost $1.5 million. Bush administration tax policies have been especially kind to this group, which has reaped the bulk of the country's economic gains since 2001. That has led to record income inequality, and, of course, to hearings on Capitol Hill. More on that after the jump.

Primary Sources: DOJ Memos to CIA

| Thu Jul. 31, 2008 2:44 PM EDT

Last week, the ACLU released three previously sealed memos written by various CIA and Department of Justice officials, from George Tenet on down the line, that outlined the departments' policies on torturing prisoners. The heavily redacted notes shed more light on just how slyly the two agencies sidestepped the law to escape any blame for torture.

One memo from 2004 indicates interrogators should only use "interrogation techniques, including the waterboard" if they clearly understand the "legal and policy matters" of those devices. The problem is those policy matters contradict each other and ultimately present an incredibly narrow opinion of what constitutes torture. The memo reminds the interrogator the US has implemented Article 16 of the UN's Convention Against Torture. Article 16 outlaws "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" during an interrogation that do not necessarily amount to torture.

Judge: Current and Former White House Aides Must Comply With Congressional Subpoenas

| Thu Jul. 31, 2008 1:56 PM EDT

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U.S. District Judge John Bates issued a ruling today that former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten must comply with the subpoenas issued to them by the House Judiciary Committee. The subpoenas were issued as part of Congress's investigation into the allegedly politically-motivated firing of eight US attorneys. The White House had argued that Miers and Bolten were immune from testifying or sending documents to Congress, but Bush-appointed judge John D. Bates was having none of it. Bates, regarded as a pro-administration judge, said in his decision that the White House's claim that its aides were always and in all circumstances immune from subpoenas was "unprecedented" and "without any support in case law." Glenn Greenwald, who goes deeper into the legal implications of this ruling, pointed to a passage from page 78 of the ruling as especially important:

The Executive cannot identify a single judicial opinion that recognizes absolute immunity for senior presidential advisors in this or any other context. That simple but critical fact bears repeating: the asserted immunity claim here is entirely unsupported by case law. In fact, there is Supreme Court authority that is all but conclusive on this question and that powerfully suggests that such advisors to not enjoy absolute immunity.

That's a pretty serious smackdown of the administration coming from the same judge who said in 2002 that Dick Cheney could keep his Energy Task Force records secret from the Government Accountability Office. The White House will likely appeal the ruling, but it's unlikely to get a judge more favorably inclined towards the Bush administration than Bates. Still, the appeal will keep Bates' ruling—which would have required Miers to testify and required both Bolten and Miers to hand over documents—from being enforced until there is a final judgment. And as in the White House emails case, the Bush administration may be able to simply run out the clock.

Photo by flickr user dcjohn used under a Creative Commons license.

Leaders of "Al Qaeda in Iraq" Now in Afghanistan?

| Thu Jul. 31, 2008 1:29 PM EDT

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With this morning's report by the Washington Post that senior leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq may now be operating in Afghanistan, it's difficult not to see the decreasing violence in Iraq in a new light. Attacks are way down, yes, and the number of insurgents crossing into Iraq from neighboring countries has fallen to about 20, down from an average of 110 last summer, according to an intelligence analyst interviewed by the Post. But Al Qaeda, despite the intense military pressure being brought to bear on it, has proven to be remarkably resilient and tough to kill, organizationally-speaking.

The problem, according a new report (.pdf) by the RAND Corporation, lies in how we've chosen to deal with Al Qaeda. The "War on Terror" paradigm is fundamentally misguided, says Seth Jones, the study's lead author. "Police and intelligence agencies, rather than the military, should be the tip of the spear against al Qaeda in most of the world."

To make their case, RAND researchers analyzed 648 terrorist groups that operated between 1968 (the year Palestinian extremists inaugurated terrorism's modern age) and 2006. How did these terrorist groups meet their end? The study found that 43 percent of them entered the political process, whereas 40 percent were dismantled by the efforts of police and intelligence organizations or by decapitation strikes against their leadership. Just 7 percent were subdued by military force. (The remaining 10 percent of terrorist groups achieved their goals... so don't believe the mantra that terrorism doesn't work. Unfortunately, it does, at least on occasion.)

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Mary Lou Sapone the Runner Up for Olbermann's "World's Worst Person"

| Thu Jul. 31, 2008 9:54 AM EDT

On Countdown last night, Mary Lou Sapone narrowly avoided being named the "world's worst person" by Keith Olbermann. In the end, that distinction went to Fox & Friends for mistakenly showing a picture of Osama bin Laden when discussing presidential candidate Barack Obama. Though Sapone was dubbed "worser" than Olbermann nemesis Bill O'Reilly.

Brady Campaign Prez Weighs in on MoJo Story

| Wed Jul. 30, 2008 6:00 PM EDT

In a blog item titled "NRA Dirty Tricks," Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, has just weighed in on today's MoJo article on gun lobby mole Mary Lou Sapone (a.k.a. Mary McFate). He writes:

When the National Rifle Association asks its members for their next contribution, they might want to disclose how much of that money will be spent to spy on gun violence victims and their families.

Mother Jones Magazine today reported that someone the gun violence prevention movement believed was a committed gun control activist was, in fact, a gun lobby spy.

Have You Seen This Woman? She's a Spy

| Wed Jul. 30, 2008 1:44 PM EDT

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This morning Mother Jones broke the news that, for more than a decade, a prominent gun control activist has actually been a mole for the gun lobby. In addition to infiltrating gun control groups, Mary Lou Sapone (who also goes by Mary Lou McFate and Mary McFate) has, in the past, spied on animal rights and environmental groups. Has she been involved in any other operations? Targeted any other citizens groups? If you recognize the woman pictured below (and above), let us know: dschulman[at]motherjones.com.

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Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Prison Song Playlist

| Tue Jul. 29, 2008 6:22 PM EDT

johnny-cash-250.jpgIn conjunction with Slammed: The Coming Prison Meltdown, Mother Jones' investigation into the prison system, the MoJo staff compiled some of our favorite prison songs by the Bobby Fuller Four, ACDC, Sam Cooke, Thin Lizzy, Johnny Cash, and more.

We're locking up 1 in every 100 American adults—and going bankrupt in the process. Are there alternatives to a total meltdown? Our MoJo Prison Guide tells you everything you wanted to know about prison but were afraid to ask. And, a comprehensive guide to all Mother Jones articles, audio, and video on the prison system and links to resources will help you find out more.

Why not listen while you read?

Prison Song Playlist