Mojo - July 2010

WikiLeaks Suspect Faces Long Stay in Pretrial Solitary Confinement

| Sat Jul. 31, 2010 7:53 PM PDT

“The Army private charged with leaking an airstrike video and downloading documents remained in solitary confinement Saturday,” according to CNN. “Military officials told CNN that Pfc. Bradley Manning is also the prime suspect in the latest leak of documents to the WikiLeaks website.”

The 22-year old military intelligence analyst was arrested in Iraq in May for leaking the video, and has been held in military detention in Kuwait. On Thursday he was transferred from Kuwait to the Marine Corps Base Quantico Brig in Quantico, Virginia. There, according to a military spokesperson, Manning “was routinely processed…The suspect is in solitary confinement and is being observed in accordance with normal operating procedures.”

“Manning remains in pretrial confinement pending an Article 32 investigation into the charges preferred against him on July 5. Manning was transferred because of the potential for lengthy continued pretrial confinement given the complexity of the charges and ongoing investigation,” a spokesman for the military said in an email to reporters. As CNN reports:

Manning’s legal future is complex. He has already been charged with leaking a 2007 airstrike video and downloading documents from classified military systems. And he is suspected in the latest leak of thousands of Afghanistan field reports to the Wikileaks.org website…

Manning could go before a military judge in August in Washington, but given the complexity of the case it could likely be delayed, the military official said. Investigators are gathering evidence on the initial charges, which they will present to a military judge who will approve a court martial if the case adds up, the military official said.

What all this strongly suggests is that Bradley Manning can look forward to a long period in solitary confinement before he is convicted of any crime. Considering the charges, it would be surprising if he were not also subjected to severe restrictions on his communications with the outside world and even his family, along the lines of the Special Administrative Measures, or SAMs, that have been widely used (and abused) against terrorism suspects. Complete isolation will be key to silencing this man who knew too much, and who shared what he knew with the American public.

This post also appears on Solitary Watch.

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Wall Street's Dead Soldier Problem

| Fri Jul. 30, 2010 12:37 PM PDT

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the state's top candidate for governor, is a brazen headline-grabber. But that doesn't preclude him from occasionally doing the people's work. His office announced Friday that it would investigate top life-insurance companies Prudential and MetLife over allegations that they're defrauding dependents of service members—and others—out of their full death benefits.

"It is shocking and plain wrong for these multi-national life insurance companies to pocket hundreds of millions in profits that really belong to those who have lost family members and have already suffered immensely," Cuomo said in announcing his office's investigation. "To make matters worse, the insurance industry appears to be hoarding millions that belong to military families whose loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country."

The firms are accused of a fairly simple, yet devious, scheme to keep (and grow) their cash as long as possible before giving a red cent to the spouses and parents of the dead. Bloomberg Markets first revealed the activity this week after a months-long investigation. "It's institutionalized bad faith," an insurance-law professor told the news organization. "It's turning death claims into a profit center."

Here's how it works:

Sandoval: "My Children Don't Look Hispanic"

| Fri Jul. 30, 2010 7:53 AM PDT

Republican Brian Sandoval, who's trying to become Nevada's first Hispanic governor, is under fire for saying that his "children don't look Hispanic," suggesting that they wouldn't be subject to racial profiling by law enforcement officials.

Sandoval, a former US district judge, made the remarks during an interview with Univision when asked how he'd feel if his children were stopped in the street and asked for their immigration papers. An adamant supporter of Arizona's harsh immigration law, Sandoval first tried to deny that he had made the comments, which weren't aired by the television station. "I've never heard that quote before and I've never described my children as looking Hispanic or not Hispanic," Sandoval told a local news anchor. But as the accusations continued to fly, Sandoval hurriedly tried to backpedal. "If I did say those words, it was wrong and I sincerely regret it. I am proud of my heritage," he said in a statement.

A reporter for the Las Vegas Sun confirmed on Thursday that Sandoval had made the comments on videotape. His Democratic opponent Rory Reid has swiftly pounced on the remarks and Sandoval's attempt to deny them. In a press release on Thursday, Reid slammed Sandoval for making "yet another untruthful statement," accusing him of flip-flopping on whether Nevada should issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

The controversy shows some of the cracks in the Republican Party's strategy of pushing right-wing, anti-amnesty Hispanic candidates in major 2010 races. Sandoval seemed to be making some inroads with Hispanic voters on the campaign trail, despite his inability to speak Spanish and hardline views on views on immigration. "Hispanic voters just assume he's lying to get elected," one Democratic consultant told Slate. But Sandoval's recent gaffe could leave voters wondering whether he's simply trying to have it both ways.

Tea Partiers Freak Over Six Flags "Muslim Day"

| Fri Jul. 30, 2010 3:00 AM PDT

The Six Flags amusement park chain has had its share of bad press lately, what with kids getting decapitated or having their feet chopped off on roller coaster rides, filing for bankruptcy and other Dan Snyder-related disasters. But the latest flap is more political. Tea partiers and other anti-Islam activists are freaking out about a Muslim Family Day planned for several Six Flags parks around the country on Sept. 12, the day after the World Trade Center attacks. The event, sponsored by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), offers Muslim families a chance to hang at the amusement park and be catered to by modestly dressed employees and halal food vendors.

While Six Flags has been holding these events since 2000 for the 42-year-old Muslim nonprofit, apparently this year, it's getting more attention, both because it falls on the weekend of Sept. 11 and also because of the ongoing controversy about the Muslim center planned a few blocks away from Ground Zero in New York. Naturally Glenn Beck, who mocked the event on his show last week, and Fox News have stoked the paranoia and opposition, giving the day ample coverage. Last week, Fox hosted guests who have suggested that the ICNA is a front for Hamas and other terrorist groups. Now, tea partiers are in a full froth about the event and there are already calls to boycott the bankrupt amusement park chain.

On the Tea Party Patriots website, a member posted an item entitled, "Stop Six Flags Muslim Family Day" which includes a missive from Annie Hamilton, an L.A. woman leading the charge against the park. She writes:

Muslim Day at Six Flags is inappropriate for a multitude of reasons and I'm saddened and shocked by the ignorance of the Corporate folks and by the action that now must be taken by the rest of us.

First, Islam is NOT a religion, it is an ideology - the religious portion only encompasses 11 % (the qur'an) the rest is the Sira and Hadith and the closest parallel to Islam is the Ku Klux Klan - if that is Six Flag's idea of 'appropriate' then by all means, hold your day on September 12th but don't plan on expanding any time soon because not only will we ensure that you don't grow, we'll make sure that your parks become a thing of the past...

STOP THE SILENCE. STOP THE NONSENCE. STOP THE MUSLIM DAY - THEY ARE NOT AMERICANS. THEY DO NOT ABIDE BY OUR CONSTITUTION - THEY ARE NOT ONE OF US - YOU ARE EITHER WITH US OR AGAINST US - MAKE YOUR DECISION.

None of the tea party commentaries mention that one of the men who first established the Muslim Family Day event in 2000 was himself killed in the attack on the World Trade Center. Nor do they seem to understand that the scheduling issue has far more to do with the Muslim calendar than any intentional desire to link the event to 9/11. The event is designed to celebrate the end of Ramadan, which ends on Sept. 10 this year. ICNA obviously didn't want to have its festivities on 9/11, so scheduled it for the next day. (Some tea partiers, meanwhile, have actually scheduled a big political rally on the National Mall for the anniversary of 9/11, but they don't see a big problem with that.)*

Those nuances seem utterly lost on the tea partiers. So far, though, their freakout hasn't yet persuaded Six Flags to cancel. The company is either nobly standing firm in their commitment to diversity, or is in dire need of the 50,000 customers the day typically brings to their parks. Either way, a Six Flags spokeswoman told Fox News last week that the day would be nothing more than a "fun-filled family outing that typically coincides with Eid, the end of the Ramadan holiday."

*UPDATE 8/25/10: The original version of this story misstated the name of the ICNA president. He is Zahid Bukhari.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 30, 2010

Thu Jul. 29, 2010 11:55 PM PDT

 

A US Army CH-47 Chinook crew chief receives a high-mobility multi-wheeled vehicle slingload during Air Assault School at Camp Smith, N.Y., on July 25. Photo via the US Army.

This Week in National Insecurity

| Thu Jul. 29, 2010 1:59 PM PDT

Whichever side of the fence you land on, chances are you agree that America's not a very secure nation these days: economically, electorally, and of course, physically. So we grabbed our lensatic compass, rucksack, and canteen, then mounted out across the global media landscape for a quick recon. Whether you're scared because our military isn't good enough—or you're scared because it's too good—here's all the ammunition you need, in a handy debrief.

In this installment: Fine, WikiLeaks. Also, Newt Gingrich fancies himself an imam; military women win and lose; soldiers are fat; lightning is bad; Condie plays piano; Danger Room scares the hell out of everyone; and Al Qaeda states the obvious.

The sitrep:

The United States government's national threat level is Elevated, or Yellow. You're welcome.

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"Let Them Eat Want Ads"

| Thu Jul. 29, 2010 8:48 AM PDT

Following in the footsteps of Nevada conservative Sharron "the unemployed are spoiled" Angle, another GOPer, Delaware congressional candidate Michele Rollins, recently claimed that jobless benefits make people "continue to do nothing." Ouch. Via Greg Sargent, the Democratic National Committee got Norris, who's running for Republican Mike Castle's open House seat, on tape saying this:

"I know this is a bad market and a very bad time. But you just cannot keep paying people, cannot keep taxing us to pay people to do nothing, because they will continue to do nothing for a very long time."

Any chance of Rollins winning over the 8.5 percent of Delaware citizens who are unemnployed just plummeted. Indeed, I'll bet that those 37,000 or so jobless people in her state would take offense to her claim that unemployment insurance is the same as "pay[ing] people to do nothing" and that aid makes people "do nothing for a long time." I'll bet most of them would tell Rollins they're sending out resumes every week, showing up at job fairs, dropping in on employers to ask about openings—hardly sitting around and continuing "to do nothing."

The very premise of Rollins' belief about unemployment aid—that it makes people "continue to do nothing for a very long time"—is factually wrong. As Harvard economist Raj Chetty has found, unemployment aid almost always is not a disincentive to finding a new job. And in the few instances where aid does somewhat prolong the duration of unemployment, it's not because some mom or dad found their check in the mail and got lazy; it's because that dad, who'd stopped spending time with his family or keeping up on medical appointments or going grocery shopping because he was looking for work nonstop, can now afford to see his kids once in a while. All told, Chetty says, general economic well-being increases when the unemployed receive aid. (For a thorough debunking of the jobless-aid-makes-people-lazy meme, I recommend watching Chetty's two-part presentation, here and here.)

Seeing as this bloc of jobless-aid bashers—Angle, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson—continues to grow, Greg Sargent has crowned them the "Let Them Eat Want Ads" Caucus. T-shirts, anyone?

Rich "Populists" Surge Ahead in Florida

| Thu Jul. 29, 2010 7:31 AM PDT

Florida candidate Jeff Greene might succeed in buying the Democratic nomination for US Senate after all. A new Quinnipiac poll out today shows Greene leading his Democratic opponent, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), by 10 percentage points, at 33 percent to 23 percent. Notable, though, is the fact that while most Floridians with their minds made up back Greene, the majority of those polled—35 percent—are undecided. Their support is up for grabs between now and the August 10 primary, and they will likely decide Florida's primary.

Florida's other wealthy dark horse candidate, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott, has likewise jumped out ahead of his opponent, state attorney general Bill McCollum. Scott leads McCollum 43 percent to 32 percent, with 23 percent undecided, the Quinnipiac poll found.

The takeaway here: "If there was any doubt that enough money can make a political unknown into a front-runner, the Democratic Senate primary and the Republican primary for governor should lay them to rest," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Both Greene and Scott have come from nowhere to hold double-digit leads with just a little more than three weeks until the voting."

Talking with reporters yesterday, Meek, whose Senate bid has mostly floundered so far, bashed Greene for his profligate spending and vast array of investments and financial holdings. After delays, Greene filed his financial disclosure forms earlier this week, showing holdings topping $50 million in US Treasury bonds, scores of real estate holdings, and even investments in Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petroleos De Venezuela. Meek also suggested that, should Greene beat him in the primary, he wouldn't support the Democrat in the general election. As Meek saw it, a general election pitting Greene, Crist, and Rubio would be a race "of three Republican candidates."

Read billionaire Jeff Greene's long-awaited financial disclosure filing here:

Jeff Greene Financial Disclosure Filing

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 29, 2010

Wed Jul. 28, 2010 11:55 PM PDT

 

US Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters depart from Forward Operating Base Warhorse in Diyala province, Iraq, on July 21, 2010. Black Hawks are used to transport troops that are redeploying home after serving in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo via the US Army by Spc. Brandon D. Bolick.

Arizona's Immigration D-Day

| Wed Jul. 28, 2010 4:00 PM PDT

Hours before it was set to take effect, a federal judge blocked some of the most controversial parts of Arizona's harsh immigration law, issuing an injunction applauded by its opponents. But starting Thursday at midnight, there will still be a slew of anti-immigration measures that will take hold in the state. And it's only the beginning of the political and legal firefight surrounding the law.

In her decision on Wednesday, US District Judge Susan Bolton blocked parts of the law that would have required police to determine the immigration status of everyone they stop and suspect to be in the country illegally, saying that the measure could cause "irreparable harm" if they were implemented. "Even though Arizona’s interests may be consistent with those of the federal government, it is not in the public interest for Arizona to enforce preempted laws," Bolton wrote in her injunction. The ruling also prevents Arizona from enforcing provisions making it illegal to be caught without immigration documents and allowing the arrests of suspected illegal immigrants without a warrant.