Mojo - November 2009

Fiore Cartoon: Ugly Democracy

Thu Nov. 5, 2009 1:17 PM EST

America is known for doing undemocratic things in the name of democracy. Recent example: Afghanistan.

Watch Mark Fiore's cartoon below, as he muses: Democracy isn't always pretty. But shouldn't it at least be kind of attractive? 

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Boxer Overrides GOP Boycott, Advances Climate Bill

| Thu Nov. 5, 2009 12:25 PM EST

Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee on Thursday voted to send the climate and energy bill from Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) out of committee without amending it—thus overriding the Republican boycott of the markup.

According to committee rules, two members of the minority need to be present in order to begin marking up the bill. So the Democrats took advantage of a rule that allows them to simply report a bill out of committee with a simple majority vote, bypassing the markup altogether. It passed by 11 to 1. "It's unfortunate we had to go the route we did, but the Senate can't be paralyzed," said Boxer after the vote.  "We did what we had to do."

The only Democrat to vote against advancing the unamended bill was Max Baucus (D-Mont.). He outlined two specific areas that he had wanted to change—lowering the 2020 emissions reduction target to 17 percent, with the ability to raise it back to 20 percent if other nations follow suit, and adjustments to the agricultural provisions. But Baucus affirmed that he will work with others in the Senate to "get climate change legislation that can get 60 votes."

Senate Source: Protesters Arrested on Hill

| Thu Nov. 5, 2009 11:11 AM EST

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has encouraged opponents of the Democrats' health care reform to show up at Capitol Hill today at "high noon" to "look at the whites of their eyes and tell them, 'don't you dare take away my health care.'" Nothing "scares members of Congress more than freedom-loving Americans," Bachmann says. But the Capitol Police don't seem too scared—they're already rounding up protesters by the handful. A Senate source emails:

We had five people arrested in Hart [Senate Office Building] this morning. Two were literally carried out by Capitol Police, their arms and legs restrained, all the while screaming at the top of their lungs, drawing crowds of staffers and senators to the balconies and office windows of the east wing of the building.

The source couldn't say whether or not the protesters were associated with Bachmann's event—and since ABC News is reporting that eight pro-health care reform protesters were arrested near Sen. Joe Lieberman's office this morning, it's quite possible that the freedom-loving Americans weren't involved. Our own Stephanie Mencimer is on the hill today to cover the protest, so we'll keep you posted.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 5, 2009

Thu Nov. 5, 2009 6:21 AM EST

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Samson Barini, assigned to Charlie 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion, tries to communicate with a small Iraqi boy, as they sit in the court yard of the Manara primary school, north of Mosul, Iraq, Oct. 24. (US Army photo via army.mil.)

Need To Read: November 5, 2009

Thu Nov. 5, 2009 6:11 AM EST

Today's must reads have discovered tweetdeck:

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.)

Bloggingheads.tv: Corn and Pinkerton Spin the NY-23 Election

Wed Nov. 4, 2009 8:09 PM EST

David Corn and James Pinkerton battled it out in another one of their classic Bloggingheads.tv sessions. Items on the menu: the ongoing purge of GOP moderates, Obama's Afghanistan gamble, and Tuesday's elections in NY-23, Virginia, and New Jersey.

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Is There a Tri-Partisan Path Forward for a Climate Bill?

| Wed Nov. 4, 2009 6:21 PM EST

With the climate bill stalled in the Environment and Public Works Committee, a bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday announced that they're working on an alternative path to passing legislation.

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said they are meeting with fellow senators and with administration officials to work out a proposal on climate and energy legislation that they will hand over to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The proposal will incorporate the components of legislation being crafted within the various committees of jurisdiction, along with work with senators outside those committees.

Kerry emphasized that this process won't replace the work being doneby the Environment and Public Works Committee, where chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is currently trying to work around a Republican boycott of the markup. "We'll take the best of what Sen. Boxer produces and we will build on it," said Kerry. "Our effort is to try to reach out to broaden the base of support beyond the six committees of jurisdiction."

I don't think this announcement is as big a deal as some have suggested. It has always been the case that Reid would have the ultimate authority to combine and tweak a final bill with the goal of garnering 60 votes. And in the weeks since Kerry and Graham coauthored their editorial calling for climate action, it has become clear that there is a separate track of negotiations occurring outside of Boxer's committee, designed to appease senators who want a greater role for nuclear, coal, and domestic oil.

School Using Lap Dances to Treat ADD Closed, Your Tax $ Involved, But Will It Re-Open?

| Wed Nov. 4, 2009 2:46 PM EST

This story first appeared on the Huffington Post website.

Are lap dances an effective therapy for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or drug addiction? It doesn't seem like a question that should require a serious answer—but a state investigation of Oregon's Mount Bachelor Academy (MBA) has substantiated allegations made by students and staff that such "therapy" was part of the school's "emotional growth" curriculum and forced an emergency shutdown of the campus.

Just this June, the Supreme Court had decided in favor of a couple who sued for payment of MBA's tuition to treat their son's ADHD and marijuana problem. The Court determined [pdf] that parents of disabled children do have the right to seek such taxpayer support from a school district, even if they haven't tried public special education first.

While the decision didn't specify whether MBA itself was appropriate, some districts across the country are already reimbursing parents for its current $76,000 annual tuition, despite decades of allegations of similarly inappropriate and unproven practices. [Just one example is here [pdf]

23 CIA Agents Convicted in Rendition Case

| Wed Nov. 4, 2009 12:58 PM EST

In 2003, CIA agents snatched an Egyptian cleric in Milan, Italy, and flew him to Cairo, where he was, predictably, interrogated and tortured by Egyptian security forces. The case of Abu Omar would have been like many of the extrajudicial "extraordinary renditions" secretly carried out by the Bush administration except that an Italian prosecutor stepped in and indicted 26 Americans involved in the daylight abduction. Today, an Italian judge ruled against 23 of the defendants, sentencing them to as much as eight years in prison. None will serve any prison time since they were tried in absentia, but the ruling is a rebuke to the US government—and the nearly 15-year-old rendition policy, which remains in place.

The policy of transferring suspected terrorists to third countries, implemented during the Clinton administration, has led to at least 67 people being detained by American agents and then taken to one or more countries where they were tortured, imprisoned without trial, and/or killed. In his investigation into the Italian case in Mother Jones' special package on torture, Peter Bergen described how the Bush administration's insistence that it was not handing over suspectes to be abused was demonstrably—and knowingly—false. The Obama administration has made similar assurances. It has not ruled out the use of rendition (AKA "transfers") but has said that it will ensure that "any affected individuals are subjected to proper treatment." And presumably, if the CIA still is playing body snatcher, it's no longer doing it on Italian soil. 

Deep Thought

| Wed Nov. 4, 2009 11:26 AM EST