Mojo - August 2009

Next Sunday on "This Week": Jeremiah Wright!

| Mon Aug. 3, 2009 11:11 AM EDT

Michelle Malkin, a person who wrote a book defending the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, was a panel member on This Week With George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. Paul Krugman asks the obvious question, then goes a bit further:

When I saw that Michelle Malkin will be on the Stephanopoulos panel this week, my first thought was that nobody as far to the left as she is to the right would ever appear on such a panel. But then I started to wonder (a) what I mean by that (b) if it’s true.

I don’t want to be like Bill O’Reilly, who considers anyone he disagrees with a "far-left" activist. So we need some objective metric. The most natural would seem to be voter opinion: what fraction of the American public is to Malkin’s right? Would somebody with an equally small number of people to his or her left get on a Sunday morning panel?

Clearly there's a kind of Doppler effect when it comes to politics. Paul Krugman probably sees little difference between someone who's an "8" on the conservative scale and someone who is a "10." The same thing, in reverse, goes for Bill O'Reilly. What to do? Media Matters has some data about the Sunday shows' ideological balance, but right-wingers will obviously dispute some of MM's categorizations of various people as "liberal," "neutral," or "conservative."

Still, Krugman's idea of basing "scaling" on voter opinion is a bit odd. Shouldn't the Sunday shows try to expose viewers to a variety of viewpoints, even if some of those viewpoints are more marginal than others? Minority viewpoints will never become majority ones if people aren't exposed to them.

In other words, even if dramatically more people agree with Michelle Malkin than do with, say, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi (and I don't mean to suggest an equivalence between the two), that doesn't mean people shouldn't hear what Taibbi has to say.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Obama's Anger Problem?

| Mon Aug. 3, 2009 10:34 AM EDT

MoJo DC bureau boss-man David Corn has an interesting post over at AOL Politics Daily arguing that President Obama needs to get mad. Money quote:

In the debate over health care reform, Obama has tried to bring all the parties together: the medical profession, the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies. The plan is obvious: buy off the various special interests and prevent them from trying to kill an effort to remake a system by which they now profit greatly. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, has called insurance companies "villains"—a view that many Americans, according to the polls, are sympathetic toward. (I've always believed that an easy way to win an election in this country is to run against health insurance companies and cable companies. Don't most people despise both groups?)

That's right. I read somewhere (anyone remember where this is from?) that Sarah Palin learned during the campaign that mass politics is all about creating a drama with yourself at the center. Barack Obama did an excellent job of that during the campaign. But every drama needs a villain, and right now, the health care fight doesn't have one. People hate their insurance companies, so insurance companies would be a great target. David's right: if Obama's mad, he needs to tell us who he's mad at.

Simple Answers to Simple Questions, Birther Edition

| Mon Aug. 3, 2009 10:05 AM EDT

WorldNetDaily, which has been riding the birther traffic train all the way to the bank for the past few months, has a document that purports to be President Barack Obama's Kenyan birth certificate. They ask: "Is this really smoking gun of Obama's Kenyan birth?"

No. No, it isn't.

(Simple Answers to Simple Questions is an Atrios trademark.)

GITMO in Kansas?

| Mon Aug. 3, 2009 9:44 AM EDT

Obama’s leaked plan to move Gitmo to either Fort Leavenworth in Kansas or the Standish state prison in northeastern Michigan has set off a fresh set of political battles over how to close down the detention facility. The Kansas congressional delegation firmly opposes the idea. "Enemy combatants should under no circumstances be housed at Fort Leavenworth," Sen. Sam Brownback told the AP.

However, some key Michigan Democrats are more receptive to the plan—seeing an influx of detainees as a possible source of relief for a state hit particularly hard by the economic crisis. Because of a state budget squeeze, Michigan aims to close up to 8 state prisons, including Standish, whose prisoners are already being moved out of the facility. Michigan Democrats Rep. Bart Stupak and Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin have both endorsed the idea, according to the Hill, with Stupak touting the notion as a means to save jobs and provide economic stimulus to the area. However, their GOP counterparts aren't so enthusiastic: Pete Hoekstra, the House Intelligence Committee's ranking Republican, opposes the plan.

In January, former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius—now Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services—wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying that she supported shutting Gitmo down but opposed transferring the detainees to Leavenworth. Here were some of her arguments:  

  • If GTMO detainees are sent to Fort Leavenworth, it is likely that eminent domain would be used to obtain additional land around the Fort… Some of the land expected to be included in eminent domain is prime development land for the region…
  • Fort Leavenworth currently does not have a medical facility, and it is estimated that it will take three to five years to build the required class three medical facilities for GTMO detainees. In the meantime, high risk detainees would be transported through the community to a nearby VA hospital. Based on past escape/break out experiences with the United States Penitentiary, this is an unacceptable risk to local citizens.
  • The local airport is on Fort Leavenworth, and that airport will most likely no longer be available to local citizens. Furthermore, Congress granted a right of way to a rail line to pass through the installation more than 100 years ago, and today more than 50 trains a day use the line to transport goods to Omaha. Additionally, the river running through the Fort has commercial barge traffic. The airport, rail line and river traffic can become security risks, and making them inaccessible will significantly impact the economics of the area.

Will Health Care Reform Happen?

| Mon Aug. 3, 2009 7:05 AM EDT

You might have missed it in all the hubbub about the so-called "beer summit," but health care reform passed a major milestone on Friday. By a vote of 31-28, the Energy and Commerce committee became the third and final committee in the House to pass a version of reform legislation. The three committees' very similar bills will now be combined. Meanwhile, in the Senate, legislation has passed the more liberal Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee but remains stuck in the Max Baucus-led Finance committee, where a group of three conservative Democrats and three even more conservative Republicans is supposedly trying to craft a bipartisan bill. (I've already written that we should worry about whether Baucus is making a sincere effort.)

There won't be votes on the House or Senate bills this month. The House has already recessed; the Senate has another few days. That means any momentum health care reformed gained from Friday's vote will be long gone by the time Congress gets back from its vacation.

But while the action in DC cools down, the fight across the country will be heating up. Liberals will be gearing up to support the public option and conservatives will be trying to stall reform altogether. What members of Congress see and hear back to their districts will definitely affect their votes when they return to DC. The biggest open question is what impact Barack Obama's campaign organization, Organizing for America, will have. Will OFA put pressure on members of Congress to get reform through? Or will OFA members' voices be drowned out by well-funded and extremely motivated right-wing groups? I'll be listening in to some OFA strategy calls over the next few days and talking to organizers to see what kind of impact the group is having. We'll also be taking a look at the opposition's strategy and reporting on its tactics. It's sure to be a contentious month.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 3, 2009

Mon Aug. 3, 2009 7:00 AM EDT

Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commander of 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, addresses local Nawa men and key officials of the Nawa District during a shura July 23. The purpose of the shura is for Helmand Provincial governor Gulav Mangal to address the reestablishing of the Afghan National Government in the Nawa District. (Photo by Lance Cpl. James Purschwitz courtesy of marines.mil.)

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Need To Read: August 3, 2009

Mon Aug. 3, 2009 6:55 AM EDT

The one piece you must read today:

The best of the rest:

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. Follow them, too!

The World According to Me

| Sat Aug. 1, 2009 8:44 PM EDT

[News release condemning President Obama’s choice of epidemiologist David Michaels to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration]

WASHINGTON, July 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/—"Michaels supports the use of junk science as a basis for public policy and court decisions, representing a threat to employers, employees, consumers and taxpayers," said Steve Milloy, publisher of JunkScience.com. ... Michaels runs something called the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy.

Source: JunkScience.com

For Immediate Release

Legendary Journalist Raises Really Good Questions About the Ethics of Cloning Steve Milloy

WASHINGTON (or maybe Phoenix, AZ), July 30 /CompletelyLegit Newswire, Inc./—

Taking valuable time away from his work saving the planet, journalist Osha Gray Davidson issued a statement today that should be read by everyone, sources close to Davidson say.

"Frankly," revealed eminent newsman Davidson, "I’m alarmed. The implications of cloning something called Steve Milloy are disturbing for Americans, humans living outside the United States, and all species, genera, families, orders, classes, phyla, and kingdoms -  with the possible exception of some spirochetes I haven’t had a chance to interview."

Davidson’s restrained yet amazingly spot-on remarks were a reference to a news release issued by Steve Milloy Wednesday repeatedly quoting Steve Milloy, including, in one instance, bolstering an argument made by Steve Milloy by quoting a WSJ article written by Steve Milloy.

"Clearly, someone has cloned the guy," deduced the Sherlock Holmes-like Davidson. "My hunch is the North Koreans. But the real question is: how many Milloy clones are out there? The existence of two has been proven by Sound Science©. With the WSJ citation, we are now forced to consider the possibility of Milloy triplets."

Such an occurrence, if true, would be nine times more dangerous than a single Milloy, according to the Davidson Formula of Danger Squared, as obliquely referenced in this press release, added Davidson.

Milloy, a commentator for Fox News, is best known by this reporter for his spirited defense of corporate pariahs Philip Morris and ExxonMobil, braving charges of bias and conflict of interest based solely on documented allegations that Milloy and his groups have received more than $100,000 from these companies.

There is a possible upside to cloning Milloy, however, pointed out the always fair and balanced  (some have said "saintly") reporter Davidson.

"If there really are three Milloys," said Davidson, "I can imagine a scenario in which two of them become shills for opposing sides. Then the third Milloy could play the role of media analyst, debunking the tortured logic of the other two."

"If that happens," added an upbeat Davidson, "we could ignore all of them at the same time!"

Source: DavidsonInstitutefortheAdvancementofSophistry.wtf

[This piece appeared first in Grist in a slightly different form]

Photos: Air Force One's Botched NYC Flyover

| Sat Aug. 1, 2009 10:28 AM EDT

Remember that horribly planned photo op the Air Force staged in April over lower Manhattan so they could have a new stately picture of Air Force One flying over the Statue of Liberty? The one the Air Force forgot to tell New York officials about, which led to a bit of a panic when un-warned New Yorkers saw a giant airplane and two F-16 fighter jets flying low near the tip of the island?

Well, the DoD has finally released the pictures from that morning, and I must say, they're not very impressive. The Air Force photographer snapped 146 photos—you can see them all here in the PDF the DoD released—and I've picked out the best one for you. It's fine, but I still think the photo the Air Force wanted to replace with the Statue of Liberty flyover—Air Force One flying over Mount Rushmore— is much more impressive.