Mojo - August 2008

John Edwards Confirms that the National Enquirer is Credible

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 4:05 PM EDT

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about today's revelation that John Edwards—in the midst of launching a presidential campaign—indeed had an affair, is that the National Enquirer was spot on, eight months ago. In his ABC confessional, to air tonight on Primetime, Edwards points out that the Enquirer got it right when it reported that he met with his lady friend at the Beverly Hilton two weeks ago. Edwards still denies the baby-daddy accusation, saying he is not the father of Rielle Hunter's child, though DNA may be called for given his truth track record here.

Makes one wonder, did the DNC finally have its act together on this one? Think about it, if his "friends and supporters" knew enough to perhaps pay her living expenses (which Edwards suggests in tonight's interview) then perhaps some organized party machinery pushed him out of the limelight just in time. I mean, the man with the Plan to Build One America, set out some lofty plans for this country. But Americans want their politicians faithful and straight (or at least as far as they know).

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New Liberal Group Gets Tough With Conservative Donors

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 2:44 PM EDT

You could call it an attempt by long-beleaguered liberals to finally stop Swift Boat groups before they to attack Democratic candidates. You could also call it scare tactics.

Tom Matzzie, the former Washington director of Moveon.org and Judd Legum, the research director for Senator Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, have teamed up to create Accountable America, a group independent of the Obama campaign and the DNC that will identify, publicize, and potentially create legal headaches for donors who fund conservative attack groups.

Accountable American will "deter Swift Boating groups by discouraging contributions to the groups," said Matzzie on a conference call Friday afternoon with reporters. By publicizing the misdeeds of the groups and the sometimes sordid histories of the people who enable them, Matzzie said, the group will "create a sense of scandal around donating to these groups."

The Politics You'll See As You Watch 100M Hurdles

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 11:51 AM EDT

I mentioned earlier that the presidential campaign will essentially go on a short hiatus, starting today and lasting for a week or so. Don't think the lack of news will mean a stop to the TV ads, though, especially if you live in a battleground state.

Barack Obama has released his ad that will play during the Olympics. It's here:

A new McCain ad that will also be showing in the next few days is here:

U.S. Places Violent Iraqi Prisoners In Standing Coffins

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 11:21 AM EDT

The United States. Not China. Not Zimbabwe.

The U.S. military is segregating violent Iraqi prisoners in wooden crates that in some cases are not much bigger than the prisoners.
The military released three grainy black-and-white photos of what it calls the "segregation boxes" used in Iraq. They show the rudimentary structures of wood and mesh. Some of the boxes are as small as 3 feet by 3 feet by 6 feet tall, according to military officials. They did not release a picture of a box that size.
The military said the boxes are humane and are checked every 15 minutes. It said detainees, who stand in the boxes, are isolated for no more than 12 hours at a time.

Here's how the story was uncovered. You can see the photos at the link — they're like something out of the Great Escape.

So, Why Do We Hate Us? New Book Tries to Explain

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 9:54 AM EDT

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I was born in the 1970s, and even at my tender age, have fallen victim to a creeping cynicism (too often expressed in the form of easy sarcasm) that has me worried lately. I'm too young for such negativity. I haven't earned that badge. Not yet, anyway. For years, I chalked it up to a generational entitlement: after all, isn't my brood, Generation X, defined by its feelings of apathy and emotional confusion? That was the message of popular culture at the time. (Just watch "Reality Bites" or read Douglas Coupland's Generation X.) And it's the culture that is the problem, writes Dick Meyer in his new book, Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millennium.

Meyer, the editorial director of digital media at NPR, ticks off the many widely shared annoyances of everyday life: telemarketers, pedestrians with eyes glued to their iPhones, t-shirts emblazoned with vulgar or stupid messages, and the ever-expanding menu of inane reality TV shows.* Lest you think he's just a grumpy old man, he also takes on weightier subjects, such as the impact of social networking sites, the decline of "organic communities," the all-pervasive presence of marketing, and our national worship of celebrity, among many other things. All told, it's a composite of exactly the sort of cultural ugliness that feeds our collective distrust of government, the media, entertainment, and each other.

If, like me, you believe that something is rotten in the state of Denmark, but you're not sure what, give Meyer's book a read. You'll laugh, if nothing else, and might just find that it helps you to look on the bright side of things.


*I have an iPhone, some stupid t-shirts, and have been known to enjoy certain reality TV shows. I have never worked as a telemarketer.

Okay, Folks. Ready for a Deep Breath?

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 9:48 AM EDT

Because here's your chance to grab one. I just got a copy of Barack Obama's public schedule and it looks like this.

Friday, August 8: "Welcome to Hawaii" Event in Honolulu, HI.

Saturday, August 9 to Friday, August 15: No public events.

That's called a vacation. It will be interesting to see if Obama will come out of hiding to react to major international news, an important investigative report, or a particularly vicious attack by the McCain campaign. To not do so would be a pretty foolhardy attempt to impose his will on the furiously paced 24-hour news cycle. I assume he'll do it. He might even get in a couple photo-ops along the way — as someone remarked to me earlier, he's just got to be careful to avoid the windsurfing.

Meanwhile, the Olympics start tonight, meaning that what little news there will be in the presidential race will get even less coverage. The McCain campaign might do well to think of next week like a NBA coach: when the other guy removes his big, you do the same to get yours some rest. Surely McCain could use it.

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Did the Son of the NRA-Connected Private Spy Lose His Job Because of Mom?

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 9:28 AM EDT

Is Sean McFate the first casualty of Gun-gate?

Sean McFate is the son of Mary Lou Sapone (a.k.a. Mary McFate), the NRA-connected private spy who infiltrated the gun control movement for about 15 years. Her tale was first disclosed by Mother Jones last week. That article noted that Sean, a Brown- and Harvard-educated paratrooper, and his wife, Montgomery McFate, a controversial Pentagon adviser, had once both worked for Mary Lou Sapone's business, which specialized, according to an old version of Montgomery's resume, in "domestic and internal opposition research" and "special investigations." Sean and Montgomery McFate might also have been involved in Mary Lou Sapone's penetration of the gun control community.

More recently, Sean McFate was program director of the national security initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank boasting an advisory board composed of four former Senate majority leaders: Howard Baker, Bob Dole, George Mitchell, and Tom Daschle. That is, he was until the appearance of the Mother Jones story on his mother.

As that story was being posted last week, McFate was listed on BPC's staff list on its website. Days later, his name was gone.

Asked about McFate's fate, the BPC issued this statement:

Hamdan Taken Out of Bush's Hands

| Thu Aug. 7, 2008 4:57 PM EDT

Salim Hamdan, convicted earlier this week of providing material support for terrorism (a.k.a. being Osama bin Laden's driver), has been sentenced to five and a half years. Because he'll get credit for time served, he could be released in as few as six months. The government asked for 30 years of prison time.

The Bush Administration, which plays by a set of rules that exist only in its collective brain, made it clear before the verdict that it was prepared to continue detaining Hamdan even if he was found not guilty. Presumably, a Bush White House would keep Hamdan locked up well past the six month mark. But half a year of jail means that Hamdan is essentially John McCain or Barack Obama's responsibility — statements from both explaining how they would handle Hamdan's detention would be very interesting.

Circumstantial Evidence Against Ivins Called "Compelling"; Widow Presses Lawsuit

| Thu Aug. 7, 2008 3:53 PM EDT

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Shortly after the 2001 anthrax attacks, U.S. bioweapons researcher Bruce Ivins emailed some poems he'd written to a friend, including this one: "I'm a little dream-self, short and stout. I'm the other half of Bruce—when he lets me out. When I get all steamed up, I don't pout. I push Bruce aside, then I'm free to run about." The previous year, he'd confided to a friend that he was feeling deeply depressed and acknowledged that his psychiatrist believed he might be suffering from "Paranoid Personality Disorder." Combined with everything else we've learned about Ivins in the last week—his late nights at the Fort Detrick lab; his professional disappointments; his obsession with sorority girls; his threats against his counselor; his long history of sociopathic and psychotic behavior; his custody of an anthrax vial considered to be the "parent flask" of the material used in the attacks; and even his possession of what the FBI has declared to be a suspicious book, The Plague by Albert Camus (couldn't he just have been well-read?)—Ivins seems to fit the profile of someone capable, personally and professionally, of sending the anthrax letters.

The Justice Department and the FBI appear to be satisfied that he did, declaring at a press conference yesterday that Ivins was "the only person responsible" for the attacks. Even after it described its evidence against him, while ordering the simultaneous public release of 14 affidavits and search warrants, the Justice Department's case remained largely circumstantial—something US Attorney for the District of Columbia Jeffrey Taylor freely acknowledged. "Circumstantial evidence?" Sure, some of it is," he told reporters. "But it is compelling evidence."

Easiest Comeback Ever

| Thu Aug. 7, 2008 3:15 PM EDT

It's time for dueling web videos! From the McCain campaign:

And the obvious Democratic response: