Mojo - June 2009

We're Still at War

| Tue Jun. 9, 2009 2:48 PM EDT

Iraq and Afghanistan aren't in the news as much as they once were, but it's important to remember that our troops are still there.

Spc. Andrew HarveySpc. Andrew Harvey, a 1st Infantry Soldier, patrols along steep cliffs of the Korengal Valley's surrounding mountains during Operation Viper Shake, Afghanistan, April 21, 2009. Photo courtesy army.mil.

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More Structural Issues in the AF 447 Crash

| Tue Jun. 9, 2009 2:00 PM EDT

In response to the loss of Air France 447, a French pilots’ union today asked its pilots not to fly the Airbus 330–the design of the crashed plane. Much has been made of the possible pitout tube failure on Air France 447. These tubes are sensors on the wings which might be prone to freezing up and distorting air speed, which in turn might mean the pilots were flying at too slow or too fast a speed to get through the thunder storms in the region.

There is a different theory having to do with the plane’s possible structural flaws, which brings us back to the question of composite aircraft materials, which I wrote about last week. Parts of the tail, recovered Monday, appear intact; the tail looks like it was ripped off the plane at the points of attachment. You can get some idea of what it looks like from thisFrance 24 video.

To some observers, this bears a striking resemblance to the loss of the tail in the devastating American Airlines 587 crash in New York in November 2001. That plane was an Airbus 300. In an interesting comment on the Whatsupwiththat blog, a reader, Adoucette, writes:

A Victory in the Anti-Abortion Terror Campaign

| Tue Jun. 9, 2009 12:04 PM EDT

Scott Roeder and his fellow supporters of "justifiable homicide" in the service of the anti-choice cause are doubtlessly celebrating this morning's news, reported by the AP:

The family of slain abortion provider George Tiller said Tuesday that his Wichita clinic will be "permanently closed," effective immediately.

In a statement released by Tiller's attorneys, his family said it is ceasing operation of Women's Health Care Services Inc. and any involvement by family members in any other similar clinic.

The fact that the family made clear that it would not be involved "in any other similar clinic" suggests that they are traumatized and fearful--in a word, terrorized. And no wonder, since Roeder, as I detailed yesterday, has issued warnings from his jail cell of further attacks on abortion providers--an act which, coming from just about any other comparable source, would certainly be deemed terrorism, and treated accordingly.

If that wasn't enough to intimidate the family (or other prospective abortion providers), local anti-abortion groups had also promised to step-up their longstanding protests at the clinic, as Mark S. Gietzen, president of the Kansas Coalition for Life, told the New York Times:

Gitmo Detainee Arrives In US, Turns Out Not to Have Superpowers

| Tue Jun. 9, 2009 11:43 AM EDT

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani arrived in New York today to face 286 counts related to the 1998 embassy bombing in Tanzania. Despite widespread warnings from conservatives that bringing Guantanamo detainees to US shores might mean the end of western civilization, New Yorkers escaped without harm. (The National Security Network issued a press release headlined "World Does Not End As Gitmo Detainee Finally Brought to Face Justice.") Either Ghailani did not have the superpowers conservatives seem to think terrorist suspects have, or the fact that there are already lots of terrorists in US prisons (355, according to one count) gave US authorities the experience they needed to deal with Ghailani's super-strength and X-ray vision.

Palin vs. Gingrich: Democrats Win!

| Tue Jun. 9, 2009 10:50 AM EDT

Among the Washington politerati, the dishy subject of the week has been Sarah Palin's disinvitation from and then re-invitation to a fancy GOP fundraising dinner. It's been fodder for cable pundits and bloggers. Here's my take from elsewhere:

There was a lot of teeth-gnashing over Sarah Palin's no-show-turned-show at the GOP's Monday night gala in Washington, where Newt Gingrich spent an hour delivering a policy-laden speech that reportedly did not electrify the well-groomed crowd of Republican donors and did not send them pouring into the streets in search of pitchforks. Still, Gingrich stole the show from Sarah Palin, who couldn't give an hour-long address on policy without generating accusations of plagiarism.

But this silly episode demonstrated, yet again how the Republicans are in a pickle. Choosing between Gingrich or Palin? Would you rather have hemorrhoids or shingles? In reporting on this mini-controversy, The Hill noted:

Why Would Anyone Buy A Volt?

| Tue Jun. 9, 2009 10:21 AM EDT

Perhaps it really is time to just let GM die. Today's Washington Post story on the next generation Toyota Prius explains how Japanese automakers are putting their money into better hybrids, giving the Prius a bigger trunk, more power and even better mileage at 50 mpg. By contrast, GM is banking its future--and billions of taxpayer dollars--on the Chevy Volt. If the Volt is GM's future, we're in big trouble.

The new electric car, due out next year, will only be able to go 40 miles--40 miles!--without recharging, meaning a Volt wouldn't get me from my house to Bagel City and back on a Saturday morning. To get around this problem, the Volt has a back-up gas tank that will stretch the car's usefulness another 400 miles at 50 mpg. In an age of 100-plus mile commutes, lots of people would presumably drive primarily on the gas tank (after all, the only charging station they're likely to find is one in their own garage). Meanwhile, the savings achieved are relatively small. The Volt needs 80 cents worth of electricity to go the same distance as a Prius with $1.50 worth of gas in the tank. But here's the rub: At $40,000, the Volt costs almost twice as much as a Prius, a difference that all but obliterates any savings at the pump. Does the Obama administration really, truly believe that GM can transform itself with this car?

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Lieberman-Graham Photo Suppression Bill Dead For Now

| Tue Jun. 9, 2009 9:02 AM EDT

Last week, House liberals got together to try to block Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham's bill that would have allowed the administration to unilaterally override the Freedom of Information Act when it wanted to withhold photos of detainee abuse. The liberals won this battle. Jane Hamsher reported Monday afternoon that the photo suppression legislation, which President Barack Obama supported, will not make it into the final war supplemental.

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent post on what this all means, but the bottom line is that you can be sure that Lieberman and Graham will try to bring this up again. This time around, House liberals got lucky because Republicans opposed the addition of IMF funding to the war supplemental, ensuring that liberal votes would actually matter. If Lieberman and Graham can find a bill to attach the photo suppression amendment to that Republicans and non-liberal Democrats will support, it'll stand a better chance of passing, because liberal votes won't matter.

The Next Wave of Mortgage Profiteering

| Mon Jun. 8, 2009 6:49 PM EDT | Scheduled to publish Mon Jun. 8, 2009 6:44 PM EDT

If there’s a lesson to be learned from the housing meltdown, it’s likely this: Where there’s a buck to be made, odds are there’s a scam being played.

At the peak of the housing bubble, it was mortgage companies like Countrywide, Wells Fargo, and Ameriquest, among many others, that used predatory lending practices and encouraged falsifiying homeowner information to sell now-toxic sub-prime mortgages. Today, as homeowners struggle to save their homes and search for any kind of lifeline to do so, a new brand of mortgage-industry profiteering is spreading: foreclosure rescue rip-offs.

Abortion Doctor Murder Suspect Makes Further Threats from Jail (but Don't Call Him a Terrorist)

| Mon Jun. 8, 2009 4:07 PM EDT

Excuse me, but is Scott Roeder, the man charged with killing Dr. George Tiller outside his church last Sunday, in jail, or on vacation at a Wichita hotel? In a call to the Associated Press over the weekend, the murder suspect complained about his living conditions and then warned of more violence against abortion providers. "I know there are many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal," Roeder said. When asked by the AP what he meant and if he was referring to another shooting, he refused to elaborate further.

In an understatement, Nancy Keenan president of NARAL-Pro-Choice America, said Roeder's comments "continue to escalate that kind of activity, that kind of violence." The Justice Department said it was investigating and has ordered increased protection for "appropriate people and facilities last week."

But as yet—and despite Roeder's threats—the crime is apparently being treated as an isolated incident of violence, rather than part of a deadly crusade with political aims—which in this day and age is what usually gets called terrorism.

Blackwater/Xe Sued For War Crimes

| Mon Jun. 8, 2009 2:45 PM EDT

Blackwater has lost its Iraq contract, but the firm continues to be dogged by scandal stemming from its five-year run protecting diplomats in the country. You might remember the story of how Blackwater operator Andrew Moonen allegedly shot and killed the Iraqi vice president's bodyguard in the Green Zone in December 2006 after drunkenly stumbling away from a Christmas party with a loaded Glock at his side. The incident was just one in a string of questionable shootings that ultimately led the State Department to cancel Blackwater's contracts earlier this year, though that may have done little more than compel Blackwater's shooters to change teams.

But the Moonen shooting, despite Blackwater's alleged attempts to cover it up, is back in the news. The wife and two orphaned children of Raheem Khalaf Sa'adoon, the slain Iraqi guard, have filed suit against Erik Prince and Blackwater/Xe in Alexandria's District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The written complaint (PDF) charges Prince and his web of companies with war crimes; assault and battery; wrongful death; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent inflication of emotional distress; negligent hiring, training, and supervision; and tortious spoilation of evidence. They demand compensation for the Sa'adoon's death, as well as an unspecified punitive award "in an amount sufficient to strip Defendants of all of the revenue and profits earned from their pattern of constant misconduct and callous disregard for human life."

According to the complaint, Moonen now works as a prison guard at the Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, Washington. His attorney, Stewart Riley, told the Seattle Post that Moonen's defense will be that "he was shot at in the Green Zone and he ran for his life."