Mojo - October 2009

Pimpin' All Over DC

| Tue Oct. 20, 2009 10:36 AM EDT

Rapper Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, of "Yous A Ho, "What's Your Fantasy," and "Obama is Here" fame, will be speaking at a National Press Club luncheon on Friday. The event follows "Accelerating Energy Innovation: Lessons from Multiple Sectors" and precedes a "New and Old World Wine Tasting Benefit," so please don't get confused. You want more details? I've got more details:

The entertainer created the Ludacris Foundation in 2001 to increase leadership through education, healthy lifestyles and community engagement. The luncheon precedes the Foundation’s annual Benefit Dinner, to be held for the first time in the nation’s capital on October 24 at the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center.

Yes, Ludacris is headed to the Ronald Reagan building after his luncheon at the National Press Club. No word yet on when Lil Jon gets his luncheon. If you want a preview of the kind of insights you can expect from the luncheon, behold this, from the press release:

In today's world we have new issues and new challenges. The old way of looking at these issues and challenges have not rendered the outcomes we want. Logical thinking, while necessary is not sufficient - we need lateral thinking (thinking outside our current frame of reference). We need a new type of leadership.

I'm not paying the admission fee ($17/$28/$35 members/guests/general admission) for this, but please let scoop [at] motherjones [dot] com know if you go.

Also, quick question for @APStylebook: What's the appropriate style for rendering Lil Jon's (and Lil Wayne's and Lil' Kim's) names?

 

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Chicago Prosecutors' Innocence Project Vendetta

| Tue Oct. 20, 2009 9:50 AM EDT

Why are Chicago prosecutors hounding a group of journalism students? The Chicago Tribune on Monday had a story about the Innocence Project, an initiative at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in which students seek to gather evidence of wrongful convictions. In their latest investigation, the Medill students discovered new evidence that they say shows Anthony McKinney, found guilty for murdering a security guard in 1978, didn’t actually commit the crime. McKinney has spent 31 years in prison, and as a result of this development has won a new hearing that could eventually lead to his release. But rather than focus on the details of the case, the Cook County state's attorney has turned with a vengeance on the students, the professor and the Innocence Project itself, seeking to show that the students are promised good grades if they free the inmates in the cases they are working on. According to the Tribune

A Challenge to Kos

| Tue Oct. 20, 2009 9:41 AM EDT

Conventional wisdom, as personified by the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, says Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the senate majority leader, has to be careful about appearing too liberal lest he anger his state's "conservative-minded voters." Lefty conventional wisdom says exactly the opposite, arguing that Harry Reid is unpopular with Nevadans (who went for Obama by 12 points) because he's not liberal enough. "We Have Leverage On Harry Reid," OpenLeft's Chris Bowers assured readers late last month. That's one reason the Progressive Change Campaign Committee is now running ads in Nevada urging Reid to force through a health care bill with a public option—or face the left's wrath. The Las Vegas Sun's J. Patrick Coolican explains why Cillizza could be wrong and the left could be, well, right:

Nevada was once a conservative state, and that’s when the Daschle analogy would have made sense. But Cillizza glosses over the single most significant fact of Nevada’s recent political history: Obama’s crushing 12.5-percentage-point victory here last year.

Cillizza: "While Obama carried the state by 12 points in 2008, George W. Bush won it — albeit narrowly — in 2004 and, aside from Clark County (Las Vegas), the state is populated with conservative-minded voters who are more likely to disagree than agree with the direction that Obama (and Congressional Democrats) are taking the country."

The key phrase here is "aside from Clark County." Well, that’s 70 percent of the state’s population. And most of the state’s Democrats.

It’s like saying Utah is secular, aside from the Mormons.

Fair enough. But none of that proves that a significant portion of Nevadan Reid-haters disapprove of him because they think he isn't bold enough or liberal enough. Thankfully, this problem is easily solved. The Daily Kos/Research 2000 polling operation last polled Nevada at the end of August (well, 8/31-9/2). When they poll the state again, Markos should consider spending some extra dough to prove that liberals are right about Harry Reid and the Cillizza CW is wrong. Then we'll have a better sense of what's really going on—and Sen. Reid will have some guidance, too.

Iran Nuclear Talks: Tehran Giving France the Silent Treatment?

| Tue Oct. 20, 2009 9:17 AM EDT

What do hawkish conservatives in the United States and the top officials of the Tehran regime have in common? Both groups don't trust the French. Julian Borger, a reporter/editor for The Guardian, has been covering the multilateral talks in Vienna on Iran's nuclear program, and he reports on his blog that Iran has been pushing to keep France out of the final deal:

Diplomats involved in the Vienna talks on the possible export and processing of Iran's uranium have confirmed that Iran does not want France to be part of any formal agreement.

Their objection is based on their experience of being a 10% shareholder in a uranium enrichment plant in Drôme, Eurodif, that dates back to 1975 - the Shah era. The investment was made to provide Iran a steady supply of enriched uranium, but that supply has been denied to Iran under UN sanctions.

This is all history and the Iranians were well aware of it when they made an agreement in principle in Geneva on October 1, to send their low enriched uranium to Russia for further enrichment and then to France for fabrication into fuel for the Tehran research reactor. This may be more about punishing France for taking the toughest line on Iran in recent months.

The people I have been talking to say this is not a show-stopper. The formal agreement could be between Iran and Russia, and Russia could enter into a separate commercial arrangement with France, or the US could do the fuel fabrication....

Here at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, all the negotiating teams have left the chamber and are holding smaller group meetings in their allotted rooms downstairs. This, say the optimists here, is a good sign. It means the real work is being done. That may just be spin, but there are still plans for the IAEA director general, Mohamed ElBaradei to make some public closing remarks some time this afternoon.

In an update, Borger adds, "Work is underway on drafting an Iranian-Russian bilateral agreement, but it is still not clear whether that would be acceptable to the French and Americans."

Imagine if progress is actually made in these negotiations. Then what will American hawks (like John Bolton, who recently seemed to have called for an Israeli nuclear strike on Iran) do? Look to France to block the deal?

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

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 20, 2009

Tue Oct. 20, 2009 7:10 AM EDT

Bundles of bottled water attached to parachutes fall from an aircraft during an aerial resupply on Combat Outpost Herrera, Paktiya province, Afghanistan, Oct. 15, 2009. (US Army photo via army.mil.)

Need To Read: October 20, 2009

Tue Oct. 20, 2009 6:41 AM EDT

Today's must-reads:

Get more stuff like this: Follow me on twitter! David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, also tweets, as does MoJo blogger Kate Sheppard. 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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Video: Rachel Maddow and Kate Sheppard on the Yes Men's Chamber Prank

Mon Oct. 19, 2009 8:40 PM EDT

Mother Jones reporter Kate Sheppard appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show to discuss the Yes Men's Chamber of Commerce press conference stunt and the recent controversies surrounding the Chamber's stance on climate change.

 

You can follow Mother Jones reporting on the Chamber of Commerce here.

US Chamber Spends a Record $300,000 Per Day on Lobbying

| Mon Oct. 19, 2009 6:49 PM EDT

There's at least one part of the US Chamber of Commerce that is not shrinking: its lobbying spending. 

The Chamber's third-quarter lobbying expenditures, released today, tally to a jaw-dropping $34.7 million.

That record-breaking amount translates into more than $300,000 in lobbying per day. Or, as Politico notes, more than the sum of the next 18-highest filers so far, including UPS, General Dynamics, Koch Industries, and Microsoft, which together spent less than $14 million.

This quarter's Chamber filing is notable only in trumping previous ones; the group has consistently led Washington in lobbying expenditures in recent years. Roll Call reports that the Chamber is weighing in on appropriations bills, economic stimulus and trade legislation, health care reform, weapons acquisition reform, energy and climate change, union organizing, and transportation issues.

Working from within the Chamber allows companies to influence legislation anonymously, avoiding the negative publicity associated with controversial policy positions.

Some of the Chamber's lobbying interests are more obscure than others. According to Roll Call, one lobby report lists a proposal "to amend title 18 United States Code, to include constrictor snakes of the Python genera as an injurius animal."

Too bad that a recent government report found that giant pythons, boas, and anacondas may wreak havoc on South Texas and Florida--a trend that can only be exacerbated by global warming. Maybe if melting ice caps can't get the Chamber on board for a climate bill, the prospect of being eaten by giant reptiles on the next trip to Disney World will.

 

US Chamber of Commerce Responds to Yes Men Hoax

| Mon Oct. 19, 2009 3:20 PM EDT

The US Chamber of Commerce (the real one) issued a response to the fake press conference we reported on earlier, saying they will be "asking law enforcement authorities to investigate this event."

The "irresponsible tactics" that the Yes Men used "are a foolish distraction from the serious effort by our nation to reduce greenhouse gases," said Chamber Senior Vice President for Communications and Strategy Thomas J. Collamore said in the statement. "Public relations hoaxes undermine the genuine effort to find solutions on the challenge of climate change," he added.

"The U.S. Chamber believes that strong climate legislation is compatible with the goals of improving our economy and creating jobs," he said. "We continuously seek opportunities to engage in a constructive dialogue to achieve these goals."

It's not clear exactly what legal course the Chamber can pursue. Copyright infringement, for using their logo? Misrepresentation? Fraud? In any case, the seriousness with which they're taking the prank far outweighs the seriousness with they've taken climate change for all these years—underscoring the point of today's parody.

Notably, the press release the real Chamber sent out today repeats the claim that the group represents "more than 3 million businesses and organizations," a figure that Josh Harkinson set straight last week. The Chamber was then forced to correct their number. The fake press release, however, says they have 300,000 members--a figure closer to their real membership total.

A Yes Man Talks About the Chamber Prank

| Mon Oct. 19, 2009 3:00 PM EDT

As news of the Yes Men's prank on the Chamber of Commerce spread this morning, I phoned the contact listed on their phony press release announcing the Chamber's change of heart about climate change. I left a message for supposed Chamber flack Erica Avidus, and a couple of hours later I received a call from Andy Bichlbaum, one half of the Yes Men (he's the one on the right). "Are you Erica?" I asked him. "I guess so," he said, sounding a little giddy. He'd been watching some "hilarious" cable clips from his fake press conference and was basking in the absurdist glory. Speaking as himself, he talked more about the Yes Men's latest feat and why it took a sham Chamber of Commerce to reveal that the real Chamber's climate policy is "a big hoax on the American public." Bichlbaum, who's gone by aliases such as Jude Finnisterra and Hank Hardy Unruh, also did some linguistic analysis of the real Chamber spokesman's name, concluding that he, too, is just another fake.

MJ: How long have you been planning this? When did the Chamber of Commerce show up on your radar screen as a potential target?

AB: They showed up as soon as these defections started happening. We planned this about a week and a half ago. The Chamber's absurd stance is really what inspired us, of course. The US is the one thing that's holding up the talks in Copenhagen and we have to send Obama to Copenhagen with a climate bill; even though the Kerry-Boxer one isn't great, it's something. And the chamber is opposing climate change legislation and the whole rest of the world is saying we need to do something. Even a lot of big companies are saying we need to do something. The chamber, representing the biggest and stodgiest and most powerful corporations in America is just saying, "Nah, let's let the whole planet go to rot." We just wanted to show what it would look like if they didn't take that absurd stance. And none of the reporters in the room were really surprised.

MJ: The press conference was interrupted by the Chamber's spokesman, Eric Wohlschlegel.

AB: Well, he claims to be.