Mojo - July 2010

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 2, 2010

Fri Jul. 2, 2010 5:00 AM EDT

 

Army 1st Sgt. Tina Brown, Army Maj. Jennifer Reed, and Army Sgt. Rosalyn Anderson, deployed with the 525th Military Police Battalion in support of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, run in front of the Honor Bound sign at Joint Task Force Guantanamo’s Camp Delta during a physical fitness session, on June 16, 2010. Photo via the US Army by Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Nistas.

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Video: Mac on Countdown with Keith Olbermann

Fri Jul. 2, 2010 1:12 AM EDT

On Thursday night MoJo's human rights reporter Mac McClelland appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann to discuss BP's stonewalling tactics and the health impact of the oil disaster. Watch the video below.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Corn on "Hardball": Why Did Clinton Buck Obama in Colorado?

Thu Jul. 1, 2010 9:33 PM EDT

David Corn and Politico's Roger Simon joined Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss Bill Clinton and Barack Obama's differing endorsements in the Colorado Senate race.

Mac on Countdown with Keith Olbermann: Post-Spill Mental Health Response

Thu Jul. 1, 2010 4:52 PM EDT

Tune in to Countdown with Keith Olbermann tonight at 8pm EST to watch MoJo's human rights reporter Mac McClelland discuss the mental health crisis the oil disaster has had on Louisiana residents. To get warmed up check out her recent piece on some of the hardships faced by fishermen's wives. A peek:

Young, fresh-faced Julie with the toddler on her lap doesn't want her husband doing cleanup anyhow. She tells him to stop doing it because it's dangerous. He says, "How do you want me to feed you?" She says, "How are we gonna eat when we're dead from chemical contamination you're bringing into the house?" He says, "We'll live on the check." At this point in Julie's re-creation of this daily fight, everyone yells, "But we're not getting the check!"

Mac continues to report on the spill and its ripple effects from Louisiana. If you want to support her efforts, and those of our other reporters covering the BP disaster, with a donation you can do so here. And you can catch up on all of MoJo's BP coverage here.

Why the Senate Can't Cut Aid and Have Its Jobs, Too

| Thu Jul. 1, 2010 2:46 PM EDT

Millions of Americans are slated to lose their unemployment benefits next week, and millions more could lose their jobs due to state budget cuts—and it’s all the Senate’s fault. On Wednesday night, Democrats were unable to overcome a Republican-led filibuster of a bill that would extend unemployment benefits, which failed for the fourth time due to intransigent Senate moderates.

By the time members of Congress go home for July recess next week, nearly 2 million jobless Americans will be without assistance, threatening to put an even bigger damper on our economic recovery. And despite the claims from conservatives like Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle—who called jobless beneficiaries “spoiled” and insisted that “there are some jobs out there”—it’s clear that job growth, like the rest of the economy, has yet to recover from the recession.

Recent figures have shown that there are five jobseekers for every job available. And kicking those looking for work off the government dole won’t make more jobs magically appear. In fact, cutting back the stimulus is more likely to slow short-term growth than speed it up: Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moodys.com, has estimated that unemployment benefits generate $1.61 for every dollar spent. Economists from Goldman Sachs call the Senate’s inaction “an increasingly important risk to growth.” And the human cost of the cutbacks is quickly becoming clear. "I'm drowning," one unemployed 45-year-old woman told the Huffington Post, having recently discovered her benefits would be cut off. "I didn't get any warning...What do I do now?"

Compounding the problem is the massive budget cuts that states will be forced to enact if the Senate fails to take action. Last week, the Senate's earlier jobs’ bill—which included the unemployment benefit extension and Medicaid aid to state budgets—also failed, due to the same conservative fear-mongering about deficits. Most states are required to balance their budgets by law and were counting on the federal aid to help them after stimulus funds expire this year. Now nearly a million jobs could be chopped as a result of the state budget shortfalls, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Why are US lawmakers willing to wreak such havoc upon the economy and job-seeking Americans, who are largely unemployed through no fault of their own? The problem might be summed up as follows:

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that most Americans think that states should solve their budget crises without federal help. Paradoxically, however, most respondents also said they oppose reductions that would have to be made for states to balance their budgets.

So Americans don’t want state governments to lean on the feds to solve their fiscal woes. At the same time, they don’t want to suffer the consequences of the cutbacks that will result if the states do try to balance their budgets without federal help. (The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait points to the same schizophrenic dynamic among New Jersey voters.) But you can’t have it both ways in the current economy. And that’s a reality that both the American public and our dysfunctional Senate need to own up to.
 

Kagan Confirmation Hearings: Day Four

| Thu Jul. 1, 2010 2:30 PM EDT

While most commentators agree that the Senate will confirm Solicitor General Elena Kagan as our next Supreme Court justice, the high theater hasn't yet run its full course. On Thursday, both parties will call witnesses to testify on Kagan's fitness—or lack of it—for the high office, and judging from the GOP's slate of speakers (including these curious military vets), there may yet be some fireworks—or, at least, some red meat for both party bases to chew on. For a compilation of Kagan's best one-liners from earlier in the week, check out DC reporter Stephanie Mencimer's fantastic work here. And follow the action in real time on my Twitter feed:

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Obama on Immigration: Send Me Your Brightest and Best

| Thu Jul. 1, 2010 1:58 PM EDT

President Obama’s speech on immigration at American University on Thursday offered very little in terms of a path forward for a comprehensive immigration overhaul. Though the president made a concerted effort to emphasize the aspects of immigration that might appeal to more moderate voices in the debate, stressing the economic contributions of highly skilled immigrant workers and the assimilation of earlier waves of non-Hispanic immigrants. But in terms of substance, Obama stuck to the basic outline that Democratic Senators have already hammered out, without giving any concrete goals or deadlines for moving the ball forward.

Obama did suggest, however, that the White House might push for some smaller reform measures, perhaps even ahead of a comprehensive overhaul—a move that could placate some reform advocates and that’s bound to infuriate others who are already frustrated with the administration’s foot-dragging on a big reform package.

From start to finish, Obama made reference to the European and Asian waves of immigration that had bolstered the nation’s economy. Calling the US “a magnet for the best and the brightest,” he reeled off a list of names of highly skilled immigrants who’d come to the US—Einstein, Tesla, Carnegie, and Google’s Sergey Brin—all white, European immigrants. “This steady stream of hard-working and talented people made America the engine of global economy,” he said. Asians also got a few nods, including a reference to a South Asian woman whose small business employed 100 people, as well as a group Chinese immigrants who’d been detained and interrogated in San Francisco a century ago. There was just one Hispanic immigrant singled out in the speech—a military servicewoman who’d been recently naturalized. Obama closed out the speech by describing how New York had absorbed “Jewish people driven out of Europe” in the last century—and how an American immigration advocate, Emma Lazarus, had helped fund the Statue of Liberty and wrote the famous words on its pedestal.

By framing his speech this way, Obama was clearly trying to expand the current debate’s almost singular focus on low-skilled, illegal Hispanic immigrants—the target of Arizona’s immigration law and other flashpoints that have fueled “demagoguery” around the issue, in the president’s words. The focus on highly skilled workers—who do more frequently come from Europe and Asia—is also at the heart of the business community's support for immigration reform within the high-tech sector, a constituency that's also one of the biggest Obama donors.

This argument, of course, is nothing new: it was also part of the Bush administration’s ultimately futile push for an immigration overhaul in 2006 and 2007. Obama even made reference to Bush’s “courageous leadership” on the issue today. And the nuts-and-bolts of Obama’s plan—as he and the Democrats have laid out before, and as he repeated in his speech today—are essentially the same as they were in the Bush days: ramping up border security, cracking down on illegal hires by employers, reforming the visa system, and providing a pathway to legalization for illegal immigrants to “get right with the law.”

Obama Immigration Speech: Live Coverage

| Thu Jul. 1, 2010 10:44 AM EDT

President Obama is giving a major speech on immigration this morning at American University. It's only his second time addressing the issue in a big public address. He's expected to address the administration's decision to file suit against Arizona's harsh immigration law and, per usual, urge Republicans to join him in pushing for a comprehensive overhaul—but without offering any kind of specific timeline. Follow my live coverage of the speech here:

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 1, 2010

Thu Jul. 1, 2010 5:00 AM EDT

 

A US Soldier from Bravo Company, 5/20 Infantry, 2nd ID provides supporting fire during a squad live fire exercise in Kirkush Military Training Base, Diyala province, Iraq, on June 10, 2010. Photo via the US Army by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ted Green.

Elena Kagan's Tea Party Vetting

| Thu Jul. 1, 2010 4:50 AM EDT

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan may become the first modern justice whose vetting was designed to placate people in tricornered hats. Her three-day, nationally televised comfirmation hearings gave Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee lots of air time to pander to their constituents back home. And it was clear from the get-go that their talking points weren't intended to elicit Kagan's legal philosophy (they knew she was a liberal, after all) but rather to convince the unruly tea party movement that incumbent GOP senators are the standard-bearers of constitutional conservatism.

No one actually mentioned the tea partiers during the hearings, but they were there with their pitchforks in spirit. In past Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Republicans have traditionally focused on the usual hot-button social issues—abortion, gay rights, maybe even porn for good measure. And Kagan’s hearings certainly had all of those (crush videos instead of porn, though). But many of the main Republican themes about government overreach came straight from the tea party playbook—and for good reason.

Tea partiers revere the Constitution, which is at the heart of the Supreme Court’s work. They study it like evangelicals study the Bible. While much of their understanding of the document seems derived from Glenn Beck and 5,000 Year Leap author Cleon Skousen, many tea partiers are remarkably well versed in a wide range of constitutional law debates on everything from 2nd Amendment gun rights to whether the 10th Amendment check on federal power renders health care reform unconstitutional. And while public interest in the Kagan hearings seemed pretty low, if anyone was paying attention, it was tea party activists.