Mojo - November 2008

US Embassy Guard Suspended After Anti-Obama Comments

| Fri Nov. 21, 2008 1:56 PM EST

An American working as a security guard at the US embassy in London has been fired following comments he made on his website about President-elect Obama. Those comments, according to the Guardian, included:

"… ideals that are the very cornerstone of American liberty and democracy could very well become an ephemeral memory of American history under the socialist leadership of the incumbent Barrack Obama.
"… The real question of concern, now that Obama is the president-elect, is what promises have Obama's camp given in return to these socialist, communist, fascist and terrorist supporting nations and special interest groups? Such accolades and endorsements do not come easy in this nuclear age."

The decision to let the guard go appears to have been made jointly by the American diplomats at the embassy and the Wales-based company that employed him. Not sure how I feel about this. Employees of the federal government don't owe their fealty to the president, they just have to work their hardest for him. I understand how high-level civil servants and political appointees would be let go if they weren't on the same page as the president. They exist to implement his vision. But low-level employees, in my opinion anyway, should be allowed to have a wide range of opinions on their leadership, just as everyday Americans do.

The difference here may be that the man works in security, and his comments call into question whether or not he can be trusted to keep the American embassy, which is functionally on extension of Barack Obama on foreign soil, safe.

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Consequences of Gay Marriage, Illustrated

| Fri Nov. 21, 2008 12:18 PM EST

Speaking of things that are falsely hyped as bringing about the apocalypse, here's a graphical representation of gay marriage's ramifications. Enjoy.

gaymarriage.gif

From GraphJam via Andrew.

The War on the War on Christmas Kicks Off With Biggest Logical Leap of the Year

| Fri Nov. 21, 2008 11:13 AM EST

henninger-santa-hat.jpg It's that time of year again. From now until December 26, expect over-the-top proclamations from your favorite conservative hacks about how our inability to say the words "Merry Christmas" is a sign of this country's imminent downfall. And it's not just our culture that suffers because of our overzealous political correctness, says Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger. In the most absurd (and least substantiated) logical leap of the year, he claims our economy is being destroyed as well.

"And so it will come to pass once again that many people will spend four weeks biting on tongues lest they say "Merry Christmas" and perchance, give offense. Christmas, the holiday that dare not speak its name.
"This year we celebrate the desacralized "holidays" amid what is for many unprecedented economic ruin — fortunes halved, jobs lost, homes foreclosed. People wonder, What happened? One man's theory: A nation whose people can't say "Merry Christmas" is a nation capable of ruining its own economy."

Yup. It has nothing to do with the government's financial overseers being asleep at the switch, or a decades-long conservative push for deregulation, or even the greed of lenders who gave out bad loans in order to make millions and Wall Street types who created financial instruments they could not understand in order to make billions. Nope. The stock market is tumbling, unemployment is growing, and people across America are feeling the pinch at their kitchen tables because your local Target has a "Happy Holidays" banner out front.

You aren't getting away with it any longer, Target. Daniel Henninger has exposed your scam. Angry mobs are coming to your locations to scrawl "Merry Christmas" over your "desacralized" signs, and then everyone will feel better and start buying TiVos and the economy will be great again.

The Young Turks Illustrate Progressives' Web Video Dominance

| Thu Nov. 20, 2008 6:03 PM EST

My piece out today on frustrated internet activists in the Republican Party begins with a story from Michael Turk, a conservative activist who ran the eCampaign division at the RNC after the 2004 presidential election. In short, the RNC killed an exciting opportunity for web video just as it began to get some coverage because it badly misunderstood the conventions of the genre. (See the piece for more detail.) That episode presaged the current state of affairs. Four years later, Barack Obama used and is using web video as one of many technological tools to reach out to hundreds of thousands of his supporters, while John McCain had a lackluster YouTube channel and generated little excitement around his web operations.

But it isn't just Obama who is capitalizing on the power of web video. It's the left more generally. Consider The Young Turks. A radio show originally on Air America and now on XM satellite radio, The Young Turks has been broadcasting on the web since the pre-YouTube era. Now that it operates a YouTube channel, it is absolutely killing the game. Just this week the channel passed 50 million views, with 32.4 million views coming in a period that maps with the election cycle (January to October 2008). By comparison, the John McCain YouTube channel has just 25.7 million views in its lifetime.

A progressive satellite radio show did better traffic online than the Republican presidential candidate. The Republican activists that I spoke with have a seriously uphill battle.

Judge Orders Five Guantanamo Detainees Freed

| Thu Nov. 20, 2008 2:18 PM EST

After hearing the Bush administration's evidence for holding six Algerians as enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, a federal judge appointed by the first President Bush and who had been expected to be sympathetic to the government, sided with the defense and ordered the government to free five of the six men. The New York Times reports:

After the first hearing on the government's evidence for holding detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, a federal judge ruled on Thursday that five of the prisoners are not being lawfully held and ordered their release.
The case, involving six Algerians detained in Bosnia in 2001, was an important test of the Bush administration's detention policies, which critics have long argued swept up innocent men and low-level foot soldiers along with high-level and hardened terrorists.
The hearings for the Algerian men, in which all evidence was heard in proceedings closed to the public, were the first in which the Department of Justice presented its full justification for holding specific detainees since the Supreme Court ruled in June that Guantánamo detainees have a constitutional right to contest their imprisonment in habeas corpus suits.
Ruling from the bench, Judge Richard J. Leon of Federal District Court in Washington said that the information gathered on the men had been sufficient to hold them for intelligence purposes, but was not strong enough in court.

Even more notable, the judge issued an appeal to the government, asking that it not appeal his decision that five of the six were not enemy combatants. He told the government that it would be able to make all its legal arguments when the defense makes it appeal concerning the one detainee whom the judge ruled did qualify as an enemy combatant. In other words, the judge, not exactly a jurist most predisposed toward the defense, emotionally requested that the government let these five fellows, who were detained in the first place under suspicious circumstances, go after many years of unjustified imprisonment.

The Iraq "Surge" Is Working, But Will It Be Enough?

| Thu Nov. 20, 2008 1:45 PM EST

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The Fund For Peace has released its eighth in a series of reports about the progress (or lack thereof) of the US occupation of Iraq. The "surge," says the report (.pdf), has been successful at reducing violence, but "a false sense of security is emerging" that this alone will be enough to set Iraq on the course to long-term stability.

Analysts and journalists everywhere seem to have bought into the Bush administration's line that things are looking up—a view reflected in John McCain's campaign claim that we are "on a path to victory." General David Petraeus, however, has been more cautious in his assessment, describing the emerging peace in Iraq as "fragile" and "reversible." This is closer to the truth, say the report's authors.

Yes, violent deaths are down, but not even close to what we'd expect in a functioning civil society. The "surge" has reduced killings by 80 percent over the past year, but even at current levels, 800 people continue to die each month from political violence. "Putting this into a comparative context," the reports reads, "this means that nearly as many people were dying violently in four to five months in post-surge Iraq as had died in three decades of civil conflict in Northern Ireland."

And whatever sense of security Iraqis may enjoy, at least compared with a year ago, remains somewhat fragile—and primarily an outgrowth of the ferocious ethnic cleansing that occurred in Iraqi cities and towns before the "surge" began. Today, Iraqis live highly segregated communities, divided by ethnicity and religion. According to an August 2008 poll, 74 percent of Iraqis said they felt safe at home. But outside of their segregated neighborhoods, only 37 percent felt that way... and fewer still, just 31 percent, agreed that today's Iraq could be described as "stable."


Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Army.mil.

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Think You Can Run the Minnesota Recount? Here's a Test

| Thu Nov. 20, 2008 12:17 PM EST

Minnesota Public Radio has been photographing ballots in the Franken/Coleman Senate recount to illustrate just how hard it is to determine voter intent. What do you do, for example, when someone votes for Franken but also writes in "Lizard People"? What do you do when someone votes for Franken, but then draws an arrow to the Coleman circle? What do you do when someone doesn't mark a circle, but puts a scribble next to one of the candidates' names? Take a look for yourself here, and vote on whether each ballot should count here. (You know who could run this recount? David Corn. He has experience from Florida in 2000.)

Victory on Capitol Hill: Waxman Takes House Energy Committee

| Thu Nov. 20, 2008 11:53 AM EST

henry-waxman250x200.jpg Huge news. Great news. Michigan Representative John Dingell, who has spent over 50 years in the House of Representatives being the auto industry's babysitter, has lost his position as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to the younger and more liberal Henry Waxman. The House Democratic caucus voted by secret ballot this morning. Members had a choice between voting for seniority or the possibility of bold and necessary action on climate change. They made the right choice, 137-122.

Who's Really Calling The Shots on The Economic Bailout?

| Thu Nov. 20, 2008 11:30 AM EST

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a non-partisan watchdog group that advocates transparency and accountability in Washington, today fired off a letter to leaders of a half dozen relevant House and Senate committees, requesting more information on how lawmakers decided to approve the $700-billion economic bailout package. Danielle Brian, POGO's executive director, complained of a "continued lack of openness concerning the government's response" to the financial crisis and urged Congress to ensure that appropriate safeguards are put in place to prevent fraud and abuse.

From the letter:

We take no position on the merits of the various actions over recent months to address the crisis. However, Congress needs to act now to ensure that the ongoing expenditures of billions—even trillions—of the taxpayers' funds are subjected to extraordinary scrutiny.
Too few questions are being asked about the how, and even the why, behind these enormous undertakings. Even when questions do get raised, as at recent hearings, numerous important questions go unanswered. This issue is so critical we feel compelled to urge you to demand those answers, either directly from policymakers and recipients of these taxpayer funds, or through your own independent investigations.
At this writing, nearly half of the $700 billion appropriated under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) has gone out the Treasury's door with little openness. The public needs to know how the beneficiaries of their tax funds are chosen, how conflicts of interest are guarded against, and whether the integrity of the process has been assured...
Our overriding concern is the utter lack of information about who is making critical decisions involving untold billions of taxpayer dollars. It is not clear how banks or other institutions are chosen to be bailed out or allowed to fail. It is a mystery to us and to the public why one industry is favored and another is left to suffer. We are at a loss to understand how particular companies or institutions within particular industries are blessed and others are not. Irrespective of whether the decisions are made by political appointees, career employees, or Members of Congress, the decision-making process has been a nearly perfect black box.

Right-Wing Paranoia About an Obama Supreme Court

| Thu Nov. 20, 2008 11:17 AM EST

The conservative legal powerhouse, the Federalist Society, is holding its annual convention in Washington this week. In past years, the group has had smug gatherings highlighting all of its many members who've been installed in lifetime appointments to the federal judiciary and into other top government jobs. It's crowning moment: the confirmation of longtime member Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

This year, though, the right-wing scholars and judges headlining the events seem a bit more subdued. Barack Obama has put a huge brake on their quest to remake the federal courts into bastions of conservative legal thought (and dashed the career plans of a new generation of conservative lawyers). Among the rank and file this morning, talk revolved around fear of the direction the Supreme Court might take under an Obama administration. There was wild speculation that Obama would be replacing moderate liberals like John Paul Stevens (who was actually appointed by Gerald Ford), with "radical leftists."