Mojo - September 2009

Need To Read: September 4, 2009

Fri Sep. 4, 2009 7:26 AM EDT

This morning's must-reads are working for the weekend:

  • At least 80 killed in NATO airstrike in Afghanistan (NYT)
  • Obama's Afghanistan contradiction (MoJo)
  • The internal White House battle over troop strength in Afghanistan (NYT)
  • Hey, What's in That New Afghanistan Report? (MoJo)
  • GOP Campaign Against Blue Dogs: More Bark Than Bite (The Washington Independent)
  • Republican Sen. Bob Corker wants to compromise on health care reform? (WaPo)
  • Maybe California's legislature actually can do something! (NYT)
  • What's Obama going to say in that health care speech next week? (WaPo)
  • A new Israeli government TV ad compares children of intermarriage to kidnapping victims (The American Prospect)

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.)

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for September 4, 2009

Fri Sep. 4, 2009 6:54 AM EDT

Mr. Ali Jadaan, a local contractor in Scania, Iraq, welcomes members of Alpha Company, 2-162 Infantry, Oregon Army National Guard, into his home for a pre-Ramadan feast. The feast was also an invitation for the Alpha Company, 2-162 new command to sit and have a non-business meeting. The meal consisted of chicken and rice, soups, fresh fruits and vegetables, pickled vegetables and dates. (US Army photo via army.mil.)

Fiore Cartoon: Dough for Drug Lord

Thu Sep. 3, 2009 6:19 PM EDT

First there was Cash for Clunkers. Now, there's...Cash for Karzai?

According to satirist Mark Fiore, America's love of alliteration doesn't end there. Watch his cartoon after the jump.

MoJo on MSNBC: Contractors Behaving Badly Edition

| Thu Sep. 3, 2009 3:21 PM EDT

A clip from my appearance on MSNBC this morning, where I spoke with Monica Novotny about the latest developments in ArmorGroup-gate. What is the State Department going to do about this debacle? Good question, Monica.

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


Follow Daniel Schulman on Twitter.

 

Hey, What's in That New Afghanistan Report?

| Thu Sep. 3, 2009 3:00 PM EDT

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just finished a press conference at the Pentagon. The subject: the strategic assessment of the Afghanistan war submitted this week by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander of US and NATO troops there.

Pentagon reporters repeatedly asked the pair if McChrystal would be requesting more troops and pressed the two on how the Pentagon would process such a request were it to come. One journalist asked if it would be possible for the White House and the Pentagon to say no to a request for more soldiers.

Gates and Mullen over and over said that McChrystal had not yet asked for anything, noting that a request for more "resources" would not come until later in the review process.

After Gates and Mullen fielded queries for about half an hour, the press conference ended. As the two got up to leave, a reporter yelled, "What does the McChrystal report say?" The men kept on walking.

That's right. For the entire press conference, no one had asked the obvious question: what's in the report?

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

Obama "Indoctrinating" Kids?

| Thu Sep. 3, 2009 2:01 PM EDT

On September 8, Obama's all set to give a back-to-school speech to American students, in which he will encourage them to study hard, set goals, and take responsibility for their own education. Sounds pretty innocuous, right? Wrong! That is, according to Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer, who "as the father of four children," is "absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology."

I won't spoil the rest of the press release for you, but suffice it to say that the phrase "Christmas Parties are now Holiday Parties" is invoked.

Via Politico.

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Does the President Have a Poker Tell?

| Thu Sep. 3, 2009 12:55 PM EDT

It's well-known that President Obama is a poker player. But is he any good? All signs right now point to "no." In poker, it's crucially important that the other players not know what your hand is. If you have a tic or a habit that tips people off about what you might be holding, you're much more likely to lose. This morning's New York Times suggests that the Obama White House has just that problem:

"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."

Telling the New York Times that you are desperate to make a deal on health care is the political equivalent of telling your poker opponent that you have the hammer. The President is giving a prime-time speech on health care to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday. If you're rooting for health care reform, you had better hope Obama's slow-playing a monster hand, and not just on tilt.

CIA Withholding 48 Pages of Photos

| Thu Sep. 3, 2009 11:22 AM EDT

On Monday, the CIA gave a judge a list of documents it is still withholding in its ongoing Freedom of Information Act battle with the ACLU. The list, known as a Vaughn index, includes descriptions of dozens of documents that the agency is refusing to release in whole or in part. Marcy Wheeler has analyzed the index, and one thing sticks out: the withheld materials include 48 pages of photos, including five pages of photos that are attached to a document that describes the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah and 26 pages of photos that "detail a classified intelligence method."

All this really gives us is more questions. The Obama administration was originally set to release more torture documents on Monday. That didn't happen. Instead, the government submitted the Vaughn declaration. Will just explaining why the documents are being withheld be enough for the court? You can bet the ACLU will call foul on at least some of the CIA's rationales for withholding. This battle is far from over.

POGO: ArmorGroup Whistleblower Forced to Resign

| Thu Sep. 3, 2009 11:07 AM EDT

How is ArmorGroup North America responding to the allegations that its Kabul embassy guards were engaging in a range of unbecoming conduct? The firm (and its parent company, Wackenhut) has so far declined to issue any comment. Behind the scenes, however, swift action has been taken, though not against ArmorGroup employees who engaged in or approved of lewd behavior, humiliating hazing rituals, and other practices that put the embassy at risk. Rather, says the Project on Government Oversight, one of the whistleblowers who brought these explosive allegations to the watchdog group's attention has been retaliated against by his employer, an ArmorGroup client:

One of the whistleblowers who helped expose the guard scandal at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul has just been forced to resign after his company—whose client is ArmorGroup, North America (AGNA)—came to believe that he had reached out to D.C. for assistance. The company told POGO that the whistleblower’s resignation was voluntary.

However, information obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) strongly suggests he was pressured into resigning to avoid being fired, an action often referred to as constructive dismissal.

POGO is deeply concerned about the action allegedly taken against the whistleblower. He is being forced out at a time when three of the supervisors responsible for allowing the misconduct at Camp Sullivan have been allowed to quietly resign and escape accountability. As per our letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of September 1, 2009, POGO calls on the State Department to take immediate action to protect both the physical and employment security of whistleblowers who have stepped forward with allegations of serious misconduct involving ArmorGroup, North America and others.

Sen. Curt Schilling (I-Mass.)?

| Thu Sep. 3, 2009 11:03 AM EDT

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.)