Mojo - July 2009

Corn on Hardball: What Role Did Karl Rove Play in the Attorney Firings?

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 8:30 PM EDT

David Corn and Michael Isikoff joined Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball this evening to discuss the new evidence about Karl Rove's role in the U.S. Attorneys firing scandal.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

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Procedural Revolution: Klein Responds

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 7:27 PM EDT

Earlier this week, our own Nick Baumann pointed out the "revolutionary cynicism" espoused by lefty bloggers Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein. Their radical views, he wrote,  indicate "a near-total loss of faith in the system." Yglesias was quick to respond that his cynicism is nothing new because he "always knew that Barack Obama wouldn’t be able to get anything done."

Ezra Klein weighed in on the issue this afternoon. Here's an excerpt (with a sweet graph!):

To make a related point to the previous post, I'm not sure I'd term calls for procedural reform "radical," much less "revolutionary." The history of Congress is, in part, a history of procedural reforms. Newt Gingrich made a bunch of changes in 1994. Democrats made a bunch of changes in 1975. John F. Kennedy made some big changes in the early 1960s. FDR changed the way Congress worked, and so too did Woodrow Wilson. This isn't something invented by a bunch of bloggers in the early 21st century.

There's nothing abnormal about changing the rules of a governing body in response to changes in the country. It's pretty common, for instance, for political scientists to remark on the incredible rise in party polarization in recent decades. According to Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthale, political polarization is at its highest point since Reconstruction:

partypolarization.jpg

Now You HAVE to Love Wedding Dance Couple

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 4:43 PM EDT

Surely you watched this week's viral sensation, JKWedding Entrance Dance. The funky-as-you-wanna-be nuptual entrance of Jill Peterson and Kevin Heiz to Chris Batterer Brown's Forever led to a bizillion downloads, lining the pockets of YouTube and the girlfriend beater himself. Which is not what this St. Paul couple had in mind, so they've created their own site, jkweddingdance.com, where you can watch the video and make a donation to the Sheila Wellstone Institute, which fights to end domestic violence.

Sheila, as you may know, was married to Senator Paul Wellstone, an old college professor of mine. Both were truly inspirational advocates who died when the Senator's plane went down in a snowstorm. I don't know if they knew Jill and Kevin or their families, but I'm sure they'd find this to be a pretty cool wedding gift all around. Bravo. Now, will Chris Brown step up and donate the money he's made off the downloads? (H/T the always interesting Jezebel.)

Update: The inevitable, but still funny, divorce parody.

Clara Jeffery is Co-Editor of Mother Jones. You can read more of her clips here and follow her on Twitter here.

 

Single-Payer to Get A Floor Vote In the Fall?

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 3:05 PM EDT

House liberals have struck a deal with Henry Waxman to bring legislation that would establish a single-payer health care system up for a floor vote this fall, a senior House Democratic staffer tells Mother Jones. H.R. 676, a bill that would create a national single-payer system—essentially Medicare for all—has been languishing in Waxman’s Energy and Commerce committee for months. "Waxman is saying our request will be honored," the staffer says.

The agreement came after a week of bitter in-fighting among liberal and conservative Democrats over health care. The battles were especially intense on Waxman’s committee. After the panel’s conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats successfully pressured Waxman to weaken the so-called "public option," progressives rebelled. Fifty-seven signed a letter refusing to vote for the bill unless the concessions made to the Blue Dogs were thrown out. Late on Friday, Waxman told reporters that he had brokered a final deal that would move health care reform out of his committee.

Any vote on single-payer is likely to be symbolic, but even bringing the bill to the floor is a big step, and one that liberal pressure groups will be happy to see.

UPDATE: Politico says Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, has promised a vote on single-payer, too.

The We're-Out-of-Beer Summit

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 12:53 PM EDT

The always funny XKCD:Understocked

Having Their Earmarks and Investigating Them Too

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 11:36 AM EDT

It appears members of the House ethics committee want to have it both ways. When it came time to vote yesterday on a series of amendments to strip earmarks from the pork-laden defense appropriations bill, each of the panel's ten members voted "present," declining to support or oppose the measures. Presumably these lawmakers were trying to demonstrate their impartiality, since they are presently investigating earmarks steered  to clients of the PMA Group, the now defunct lobbying firm founded by an ex-aide to Jack Murtha. (Under scrutiny along with Murtha are Democratic Reps. Peter Visclosky of Indiana and James Moran of Virginia, who also had PMA ties.) Yet, at the very same time as these lawmakers were abstaining from these votes, they had their own pet projects tucked into the approps bill. Twenty nine of them, according to the Washington Post, worth $59 million.

Congressional ethics experts said the ethics committee earmarks create at least the appearance of a conflict of interest, and some in the public would naturally question how thoroughly the committee might investigate members on the subcommittee that granted their funding wishes.

"At the same time the committee is investigating the ties between lobby shops and earmarks and appropriators, they are actually playing the game themselves," said Steve Ellis, of the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. "It's hard not to see some conflict of interest in that."

Ethics committee chair Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who has three earmarks in the bill, explained to the Post: "When one is appointed to the ethics committee, one is not relieved of the responsibility to represent one's district." That is, just because she's leading an investigation into the corrupting powers of pork, doesn't mean she's going to stop bringing home the bacon herself. Then why vote "present" on the earmark amendments? Perhaps to avoid news stories questioning whether ethics committee members can truly investigate earmarks, when they themselves rely on them to direct funding to their districts. Too late.

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Inside the Jawad Case: One Hopping Mad Judge

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 10:17 AM EDT

Libby Lewis has a piece for MoJo today explaining the government's climbdown in the case of Guantanamo detainee Mohamed Jawad. One thing I don't think the press coverage has fully captured is just how caustic the presiding judge, Ellen Huvelle, has been towards the government throughout the proceedings. Below the jump are some crackling exchanges from a July 16 hearing that reveal Huvelle's intense frustration at the government's stalling tactics—it sounds more like an episode of Judge Judy than a terrorism case. (There's a particularly great bit where Huvelle really lays into a DOJ lawyer for seeking a delay in order to go on vacation.)  It's well worth reading. Full transcript is here.

 

Max Baucus: God's 2nd-Greatest Gift to Harry Reid

| Fri Jul. 31, 2009 7:01 AM EDT

The Lord has been kind to Senate majority leader Harry Reid lately. First, John Ensign, his fellow senator from Nevada and a Republican, got caught having an affair with a staffer. Then it was revealed that Ensign's parents gave the staffer's family nearly $100,000 as part of a "pattern of generosity." That distracted the Nevada media from Reid, who has a tough reelection battle coming up in 2010. Lately, another of Reid's colleagues has been helping him out: Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee. With Baucus enraging the left by reaching out to Republicans to put together a deal (or not) on health care reform, liberals have less energy for a once-popular pasttime: slamming Reid. The left used to obsess about getting Reid out of his leadership post. Now all the talk is about dumping Baucus from his chairmanship.

Meanwhile, the White House has been lending Reid a hand by making moves that could delay or cancel the proposed nuclear waste depository at Yucca Mountain, which is extremely unpopular with Nevadans. Reid has also stayed out of Nate Silver's list of the 10 Senate seats most likely to change hands in the 2010 elections, as prominent Republicans have decided not to run against him. And then there's the not-so-small matter of Reid's war chest. He raised $3.25 million between April and June, has $7.33 million in cash on hand, and aims to have raised $25 million by next November. With the media distracted by Ensign, the White House boosting his cause, Republicans shying away from the race, the blame for the health care mess falling on Baucus, and the coffers filling up, it's been a good month for the majority leader.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 31, 2009

Fri Jul. 31, 2009 7:00 AM EDT

Soldiers from Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, pause at the end of a patrol near Wynot, Iraq. (Photo courtesy army.mil.)

Need To Read: July 31, 2009

Fri Jul. 31, 2009 6:55 AM EDT

What you need to read today:

Like most bloggers, I also use twitter. I mostly use it to send out links to interesting web content like the stuff above. You can follow me, of course. David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, is also on twitter. So is my colleague Daniel Schulman.