Mojo - July 2009

Oh, This is REAL Classy

| Thu Jul. 9, 2009 5:44 PM EDT

rather be waterboarding

I'm of the firm belief that you should be able to wear whatever stupid or offensive t-shirts you want to wear. But I also believe that other people should be able to call you a moron if you wear something really dumb or spectacularly offensive.

Needless to say, there's nothing funnier than torture.

The site that sells these beauties notes that "The InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds, his wife Dr. Helen Smith, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin, Drew Curtis of Fark.com, Mary Katharine Ham of Townhall.com, CNET.com Senior Editor Wil O'Neal, and author/blogger Bill Whittle" also wear their shirts. None of those folks seem to be sporting this particular gem, however.

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Firefighters To Testify Against Sotomayor

| Thu Jul. 9, 2009 4:22 PM EDT

The Senate Judiiciary Committee has released the witness list for Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings next week, and suprise surprise! Testifying for Republicans will be Frank Ricci, the name plaintiff in the now-infamous Connecticut firefighter case in which Republicans have accused Sotomayor of sanctioning "reverse racism." What he has to offer about Sotomayor's qualifications for the bench seems pretty limited, but we in the media can only hope Ricci will liven up what promises to be a pretty perfunctory proceeding. (Sadly, the Republicans don't seem to have invited that nunchuck guy, who also has a bone to pick with Sotomayor.)

Democrats plan to counter such testimony with witnesses of their own, most notably, former Major League Baseball pitcher David Cone. Cone was one of the beneficiaries of Sotomayor's decision ending the baseball players' strike. Presumably Democrats are thinking that Cone will mitigate whatever nasty things Ricci has to say about Sotomayor's view of the white male.

(Hat tip to The BLT.)

Time Goes Gaga for Palin

| Thu Jul. 9, 2009 10:41 AM EDT

In a classic example of newsmagazine overthink, Time profiles Sarah Palin with a cover story that practically celebrates her thin résumé and essentially makes the case that know-nothingism could be good for America. Seriously:

Palin's unconventional step speaks to an ingrained frontier skepticism of authority — even one's own. Given the plunging credibility of institutions and élites, that's a mood that fits the Palin brand. Résumés ain't what they used to be; they count only with people who trust credentials — a dwindling breed. The mathematics Ph.D.s who dreamed up economy-killing derivatives have pretty impressive résumés. The leaders of congressional committees and executive agencies have decades of experience — at wallowing in red ink, mismanaging economic bubbles and botching covert intelligence.

If ever there has been a time to gamble on a flimsy résumé, ever a time for the ultimate outsider, this might be it. "We have so little trust in the character of the people we elected that most of us wouldn't invite them into our homes for dinner, let alone leave our children alone in their care," writes talk-show host Glenn Beck in his book Glenn Beck's Common Sense, a pox-on-all-their-houses fusillade at Washington. Dashed off in a fever of disillusionment with those in power, Beck's book is selling like vampire lit, with more than 1 million copies in print.

Citing Glenn Beck as proof that many Americans are eager to turn to a pol with little expertise in national policy? But didn't the country just have an election? And didn't a significant majority vote for the guy with two Ivy League degrees who talked about bringing professionalism, science, and expertise back to policymaking in Washington? (Anyone remember Palin's climate change denialism? Not the Time people.)

The Time crew obviously was punching up the subject matter so it could punch up the copy—and sell magazines. One dramatic theme in the piece is that Palin is pure Alaska and that to know her—really know her—you have to know Alaska and the rugged individualism and practical fatalism this far-away land breeds in its denizens:

Palin's breakneck trajectory from rising star to former officeholder — with more twists sure to come — has everything to do with her Alaskan context.

Only to a degree. The sole reason most Americans know anything about Palin is that a fellow from Arizona picked her to be his running mate. Without that, she would still be the answer to a political trivia question. So, obviously, it was the unique and rough-hewn libertarian frontier spirit of the American Southwest, where lone riders settled on arid plains to escape the confining conventions of back-East civilization, that was responsible for Palin's comet-like ascent to public prominence. Or maybe not. Perhaps it was just John McCain's bad judgment.

Without breathlessness and a contrary-for contrary's-sake thesis, Time would not have much to add to all the words spilled and spewed about the Palin pull-out. But give the newsmagazine credit. Through the efforts of five of its talented journalists, Time has managed to craft a more coherent depiction of Palin and her decision to resign than she has herself. So what's her beef with the media?

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

More Human Rights Allegations Against Mexican Army

| Thu Jul. 9, 2009 12:10 AM EDT

If you're a MoJo reader, you're already aware that the Mexican army is committing gross human-rights abuses under the guise of fighting the cartels. Chuck Bowden's amazing profile of a Mexican journalist forced to flee to the US and seek asylum put it best:

There are two Mexicos.

There is the one reported by the US press, a place where the Mexican president is fighting a valiant war on drugs, aided by the Mexican Army and the Mérida Initiative, the $1.4 billion in aid the United States has committed to the cause. This Mexico has newspapers, courts, laws, and is seen by the United States government as a sister republic.

It does not exist.

There is a second Mexico where the war is for drugs, where the police and the military fight for their share of drug profits, where the press is restrained by the murder of reporters and feasts on a steady diet of bribes, and where the line between the government and the drug world has never existed.

Today, Steve Fainaru and William Booth of the Washington Post have come out with a fine piece rounding up other stories of horrific treatment at the hands of the Mexican Army:

Racist Outrage of the Day (Year?)

| Wed Jul. 8, 2009 4:42 PM EDT

Blood, prepare to boil. According to the NBC affliate in Philadelphia, the Valley Swim Club booted a day camp of inner city kids—which had paid $1900 for summer swimming rights—after members refused to swim with black kids. Really.

"I heard this lady, she was like, 'Uh, what are all these black kids doing here?' She's like, 'I'm scared they might do something to my child,'" said camper Dymire Baylor....

"When the minority children got in the pool all of the Caucasian children immediately exited the pool," Horace Gibson, parent of a day camp child, wrote in an email. "The pool attendants came and told the black children that they did not allow minorities in the club and needed the children to leave immediately."

The next day the club told the camp director that the camp's membership was being suspended and their money would be refunded....


The explanation they got was either dishearteningly honest or poorly worded.
 
"There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club," John Duesler, President of The Valley Swim Club said in a statement.

In a statement! Wow. The mind reels. First at the racism. And then at the PR bungling. When I posted this to Facebook, a got a note from a (white) friend who grew up in Philly. It didn't surprise him, he said; racism in that 'burb is entrenched. Worth noting that the comments on the NBC site, many of which were horrifc a hour ago, have been disabled.

You can follow this link to let Valley know what you think.

 Update: Senator Arlen Specter has said he'll investigate. And the nice people at Girard College, "a private Philadelphia boarding school for children who live in low-income and single parent homes," have offered their pool. (H/T Tim Dickinson via FB)

The Dodd Squad Fires Back

| Wed Jul. 8, 2009 4:42 PM EDT

The Chris-Dodd-is-no-K-Street-pawn campaign is ramping up. I just received an email from Colleen Flanagan, communications director for the Connecticut Democratic Party. She'd seen my blog item commenting on today's Roll Call story on the senator's recent efforts to "distance himself from K Street" and wanted to direct my attention to a press release the party issued earlier today defending Dodd's record.

It’s tough being a lobbyist in Washington these days, and Senator Chris Dodd isn’t making it any easier. Yet another story today in the DC press features unnamed lobbyists, who will speak only on the condition of anonymity, whining that they aren’t getting their way with the Banking Committee Chairman and Senator Kennedy’s top deputy on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

The release goes on to list a series of quotes in which lobbyists whine that Dodd's shutting them out and ends with a quote from Flanagan:

“It speaks volumes that these industry insiders aren’t willing to be named, yet they continue to peddle their stories to anyone who will listen, trying to gain sympathy and a leg up on these critical legislative measures. The only sympathy these unnamed sources deserve to get is that they sound so silly in article after article complaining that Main Street has Dodd’s ear and not K Street.”

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Torture in Iran

| Wed Jul. 8, 2009 4:35 PM EDT

For weeks, I have been reading Twitter messages from Iran with reports of opposition supporters being detained and beaten to extract forced confessions. Now Human Rights Watch confirms these accounts. From a statement accompanying a report it has released:

The Iranian authorities are using prolonged harsh interrogations, beatings, sleep deprivation, and threats of torture to extract false confessions from detainees arrested since the disputed June 12 presidential election, Human Rights Watch said today. The confessions appear designed to support unsubstantiated allegations by senior government officials that Iran's post-election protests, in which at least 20 people were killed, were supported by foreign powers and aimed at overthrowing the government.

One detail:

A 17-year-old boy who was arrested on June 27 and released on July 1 told Human Rights Watch how his prison interrogator forced him and others to sign a blank statement of confession:

"On the first day, while blindfolded, the interrogator took me to a parking garage. They kept everyone standing for 48 hours with no permission to sleep. On the first night, they tied up our hands and repeatedly beat us and other prisoners with a baton. They kept cursing at the prisoners. The atmosphere was very frightening. Everyone had wet themselves from fear and stress. There were children as young as 15 and men as old as 70; they'd be begging and crying for mercy, but the guards didn't care.

"After two days of interrogation while blindfolded, we were asked about everything: where we had studied, what our parents do, who we voted for, who is educated in the family, if anyone in our family is part of the military. We were forced to give the names of everyone. It was a scary situation because they were threatening us and were very harsh. All we could hear were other people crying and screaming.

"They provided us with a big piece of bread once, but no water. On the last day, they took away the blindfold to force us sign a paper that was blank on top but said at the bottom: ‘I agree with all of the above statements.'"

While many Americans have been obsesing over Sarah Palin or Michael Jackson, there have been a series of Stalinesque confessions broadcast on Iranian television:

State-backed media already have broadcast the confessions of some detainees. Amir Hossein Mahdavi, editor of reformist newspaper Andishe No, confessed on Iranian TV on June 27 that reformist groups had laid plans to create unrest before the June 12 elections. Friends of Mahdavi who saw his confession told Human Rights Watch that it was clear from his demeanor that he confessed under duress.

All of this violates Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party. And the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment states, "No detained person while being interrogated shall be subject to violence, threats or methods of interrogation which impair his capacity of decision or judgment." (The Bush administration clearly did not hold this accord dear.) Is any government going to raise Iran's treatment of opposition supporters at the UN?

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 8, 2009

Wed Jul. 8, 2009 1:39 PM EDT

Staff Sgt. Ronal Cantarero (right), from Belton, Texas, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Snyder, from Pontiac, Mich., sit down and watch their children's high school graduation live in Belton, Texas, through a video teleconference from Camp Taji, Iraq. (Photo courtesy army.mil.)

Dodd: Biting the Hands That Fund Him?

| Wed Jul. 8, 2009 10:02 AM EDT

When Chris Dodd's first quarter campaign disclosures were released this spring, revealing that just five of the hundreds of donors to the veteran senator's reelection bid were residents of his homestate of Connecticut, the political attack ads basically made themselves. One, released by one his Republican challengers, features a map showing the home states of his out-of-town contributors and the amounts derived from each locale: $90,000 from Massachusetts, $100,000 from Maryland and New York, $81,000 from Texas. And then, as game show style music plays, the zinger: just $4,250 from residents of the Nutmeg State.

Here at Mother Jones, Jonathan Stein and I focused on another aspect of Dodd's first quarter disclosures: the fact that, with his political future in jeopardy, the five-term senator and chair of the powerful Senate banking committee appeared to be receiving a personal bailout from his friends in the finance industry.

Despite his waning appeal in Connecticut, Dodd's fundraising effort picked up steam in the first three months of 2009. He raised just more than $1 million during the quarter, according to federal campaign disclosure records. Almost a third of that money—at least $299,000—came from banking and investment executives, financial industry trade groups, and finance-oriented political action committees (PACs). An additional $68,000 came from lobbyists, many with clients on Wall Street. And that doesn't count the formidable financial support Dodd has received from insurance and health care interests.

Gonzo Finally Gets A Job

| Wed Jul. 8, 2009 9:58 AM EDT

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been the butt of many jokes over the past year thanks to media reports suggesting that he was unable to secure gainful employment after his disasterous tenure in the Bush administration. Sadly, it looks like those jokes will have to stop, as the Harvard Law grad has landed a teaching gig for the fall at a prestigious institution of higher learning: Texas Tech, in Lubbock, Texas. The guy once predicted to be the first Latino Supreme Court justice won't be teaching law or anything like that. Instead, he'll headline a poli-sci course on contemporary issues in the executive branch, based, apparently, on what little he can remember of it.