Mojo - September 2009

Sen. Curt Schilling (I-Mass.)?

| Thu Sep. 3, 2009 8:03 AM PDT

Curt Schilling - Photo from Wikimedia CommonsCurt Schilling - Photo from Wikimedia CommonsFormer Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is reportedly considering a run for Ted Kennedy's senate seat.

Schilling does have a reputation as a bit of a blowhard, even among Red Sox fans. Back in 2007, Jeff Pearlman wrote an ESPN column about Gary Sheffield in which he called Schilling a "dangerous moron" who doesn't "read and pay attention to world events" but instead "equate[s] volume with veracity."

Schilling stumped for former president George W. Bush in 2004 and is among Massachusetts' best-known Republicans Correction: actually, he's an Independent—just one that supported George W. Bush. But if there's a brand in the Bay State that can redeem the GOP by association compete with the Democratic brand, it's the Red Sox. Things could get very interesting if Schilling runs. (Actually, they'll be interesting either way—with Senate openings in Massachusetts so few and far between, much of the state's Democratic talent will be battling it out in the primary. That should be fascinating to watch.)

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Number of the Day: Feds Need To Hire 270,000

| Thu Sep. 3, 2009 7:27 AM PDT

Get those resumés ready! Job-seekers, check out this info from Thursday's Washington Post:

The federal government needs to hire more than 270,000 workers for "mission-critical" jobs over the next three years, a surge prompted in part by the large number of baby-boomer federal workers reaching retirement age, according to the results of a government-wide survey being released Thursday.

The numbers also reflect the Obama administration's intent to take on several enormous challenges, including the repair of the financial sector, fighting two wars, and addressing climate change.

One question, though, is can the federal government find the talent it needs for all these positions. And this job forecast doesn't include any new government-run insurance plan—which may or may not come into being. But it does include 5,500 new hires for intelligence agencies.

By the way, the Animal House in Afghanistan episode illustrates the need for the feds  to reverse the trend of hiring contractors to do the government's work. When there are big challenges at hand, sometimes you do need big government.

Cheney, Wrong? Come On, Really?

| Thu Sep. 3, 2009 7:01 AM PDT

Does the Democratic Party really need to remind the world that Dick Cheney was wrong on Iraq—especially when he predicted that American invaders would be greeted as liberators and that Saddam Hussein had amassed oodles of WMDs? Apparently, the party's strategists believe Cheney remains a useful target. Today, it's releasing this ad:

Need To Read: September 3, 2009

Thu Sep. 3, 2009 4:19 AM PDT

Today's must-reads think it's panic time on health care:

  • "It’s so important to get a deal," a White House official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to be candid about strategy. "He will do almost anything it takes to get one." (NYT)
  • Obama set to address Congress on health care. (WaPo)
  • Jacob Hacker, public option godfather: dropping public option would be "stupid" and "premature." Jerrold Nadler, liberal Dem congressman: dropping public option could "split" the party. (MoJo)
  • Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) may end up basically writing the health care bill, if there is one. (Ezra Klein/WaPo)
  • Another jobless recovery? The Fed thinks "maybe." (WaPo)
  • Ted Kennedy's soon-to-be-published memoir addresses Chappaquiddick. (WaPo)
  • Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling to run for Kennedy's senate seat? (AP)
  • Arizona's school voucher program is breathtakingly messed up. (Education Sector)
  • Embassy Guards Gone Wild: The NSFW Pictures (MoJo)
  • What libertarians really think about health care reform. (The Economist)

I post articles like these throughout the day on twitter. You should follow me, of course. David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, also tweets. So do my colleagues Daniel Schulman and Rachel Morris and our editors-in-chief, Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein. Follow them, too! (The magazine's main account is @motherjones.)

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

Thu Sep. 3, 2009 3:24 AM PDT

U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Carabello, of Ft. Drum, N.Y., shows Afghan children how to exchange the informal 'fist bump' greeting while on a patrol through the streets of Asadabad city in Kunar province, Afghanistan, Aug. 19. Carabello is deployed with 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, which is currently serving as part of Task Force Mountain Warrior. Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith

Debating the Future of Journalism

| Wed Sep. 2, 2009 3:15 PM PDT

The folks over at Free Press invited Dave Westphal from USC’s Annenberg Center (until a few months ago he ran McClatchy’s Washington DC bureau—one of the best commercial news sources around) and me to join their readers in a conversation about foundation-funded journalism this week.

This is a hot issue right now in the media punditry trade. MoJo editors Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein’s ed note in the latest issue of the magazine takes it on directly (interesting comments there, too), and Clara’s dissection of Sheri Fink’s (foundation-funded) Katrina piece for the New York Times is an illuminating look at what it takes to do investigative reporting these days.

I think Free Press asked me to weigh in because (a) this is something nonprofit Mother Jones has been living with from day 1 back in 1975; (b) I run MoJo’s fundraising program; and (c) I’ve written earlier about the topic here, here, and here.

Dave and I will be doing a live chat on Thursday, September 3rd at 8PM Eastern Time, if you want to drop by.

Read my Free Press post here.

Steve Katz is Vice President for Strategy and Development at Mother Jones and its nonprofit parent, the Foundation for National Progress. He blogs at www.maimonidesladder.com about fundraising, journalism and technology. These are his own words; they don’t represent the opinions, points of view, or attitudes of Mother Jones or the Foundation for National Progress.

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Is Obama Dumping the Public Option?

| Wed Sep. 2, 2009 1:31 PM PDT

"It had better be wrong."

That was the response of Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) to Wednesday's Politico story  that the Obama White House, as it retools its strategy for health care reform, has no intention of fighting for the inclusion of a public option that would offer government-run health insurance to companies and people who can't obtain affordable coverage elsewhere. And Jacob Hacker, a health policy expert who can be called the godfather of the public option, says, "The White House...has to be told in no uncertain terms that dropping the public plan is stupid and premature."

The Politico piece did not quote by name President Barack Obama or his senior advisers saying they were dumping the public option from their must-include list. So it's possible this was a trial balloon that could burst. But even though Obama had already declined to vow he would go to the mat for a public option, the story did rile up progressives on and off Capitol Hill. 

"Without a public option, this bill will do a lot of nice things but only by throwing a couple hundred billion dollars at insurance companies," says Nadler, adding that a public option is necessary to hold down the cost of health insurance. "What is the point of passing a bill that mandates people to buy insurance that is going to be unaffordable?" he says.

Nadler insists that a bill lacking a public option cannot pass the Democratic-controlled House, noting that in July, he and fifty-six other House Dems sent a letter [PDF] he had drafted to House Speaker Pelosi declaring they would not vote for health reform legislation without a public option. (At the moment, it looks as if there's practically no Republican support for any health care reform measure that might be crafted by House Democrats.)

Though a public option can likely make it through the House without much assistance from Obama, Nadler notes points out that no such bill could succeed in the Senate absent pressure from Obama. If Obama doesn't make an effort, Nadler says, "I believe it will cause a very big split" in the Democratic Party.

Off Capitol Hill, progressives pressing for health care reform with a public option immediately began calling contacts in the White House to register objections. "We'll make our feelings known privately first," one says. "Then we'll come up with a public strategy." In an email to me, Hacker maintained that retreating on the public option will buy the White House nothing:

Haven't Democrats learned to stop preemptively negotiating with themselves? Let Democrats work the issue out in the House and Senate caucuses (that's where any deal will be made, because there will be virtually no Republican support for any element of the President's proposals). Meanwhile the President should push for the public plan.

Hacker noted that Obama had already

offered the Right an olive branch when he suggested he might prefer coops to the public plan, and the Right basically immolated the olive branch....I don't know what he gets by backing off. The public is supportive. The non-Maine Republicans will vote nay no matter what. And the wavering Democrats will probably go along, or at least not filibuster legislation over it -- if the President sticks to his guns.

"From a progressive point of view," Nadler says, "we've already compromised five or six times." He cites liberal Democrats' willingness to give up on a single-payer approach and to agree to several restrictions on a public insurance plan. But he acknowledges that voting against a bill without a public option will be a "test" for progressive Democrats: "A lot of them have said they will vote against such a bill, but will they?"

What of the argument that the House Dems should not permit the perfect to be the enemy of the good? Isn't half a loaf better than none? "I am convinced," Nadler remarks, "that you can't take a loaf without the public option because that's not sustainable, with the costs going up. If we did this, what will we accomplish in the end?"

On Wednesday afternoon, the news broke that Obama will deliver a major address on health care to a joint session of Congress on September 9. Now that it's crunch time, that speech could signal what Obama will actually be fighting for in the weeks ahead. If the president bails on the public option, Nadler warns, Democrats should prepare for a family feud that sure won't be pretty.

 

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

 

Tea Party off Broadway

| Wed Sep. 2, 2009 9:52 AM PDT

We've heard a lot about the antics of astroturfers opposing health care reform at angry town hall events across the country. But rarely to do we get to see these events in the flesh. And even more rarely than that, do we experience the performance along with music and dancing. TPM shows us that video from an event sponsored by the "Tea Bag Express" that will visit 33 health care reform protests nationwide until it arrives in Washington DC on September 12. This is amazing:

Embassy Guards Gone Wild: The Pictures (NSFW)

| Wed Sep. 2, 2009 7:09 AM PDT

Warning: The pictures you are about to see are graphic—and may result in you swearing off vodka (and other varieties of hard liquor) permanently. The Project on Government Oversight provided me with a series of photographs—a dozen in all—that depict the bacchanalian goings on at Camp Sullivan, home to the ArmorGroup personnel who guard the nearby US embassy compound in Kabul. On Tuesday, POGO sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton detailing a host of explosive charges relating to ArmorGroup's management of the embassy contract, including evidence of "near-weekly deviant hazing and humiliation of subordinates." According to POGO, "witnesses report that the highest levels of AGNA management in Kabul are aware of and have personally observed—or even engaged in—these activities, but have done nothing to stop them."

As you'll see below, POGO really wasn't exaggerating when it spoke of the "Lord of the Flies environment." Here's the jaw-dropping proof:

The cover shot for a soon-to-be-released Contractors Gone Wild: The Asses of Afghanistan video?

Need To Read: September 2, 2009

Wed Sep. 2, 2009 4:34 AM PDT

Today's must-reads:

  • US Increasing Troop Strength in Afghanistan (LAT)
  • Afghanistan's President Forged Votes, Opponents Say (NYT)
  • Misbehaving US Embassy Guards in Kabul: Animal House In Afghanistan (MoJo)/State Department Responds to Allegations (MoJo)
  • The Torture Docs the CIA is Still Withholding (FDL)
  • Anderson Cooper Headed to Afghanistan (MediaBistro)
  • Va. Gubernatorial Candidate's Crazy Thesis (MoJo)
  • The Rationales for Passing Health Care Through the Reconciliation Process (WaPo/Ezra Klein)
  • Maria Bartiromo Asks 44 y/o Congressman "If Medicare's So Good, Why Aren't You On It?!" (TPM)

I post articles like these throughout the day on twitter. You can follow me, of course. David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, also tweets. So do my colleagues Daniel Schulman and Rachel Morris and our editors-in-chief, Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein. Follow them, too! (The magazine's main account is @motherjones.)