Mojo - July 2010

Is Palin Tough Enough?

| Fri Jul. 23, 2010 10:34 AM EDT

Sarah Palin attacked journalists yesterday as "sick puppies" for talking about her on a private email list when she was picked as veep candidate. But in that attack, she made a startling admission, as David Corn points out over at Politics Daily:

Palin "said the media became a key reason she decided not to finish out her term as governor."

Consider that for a moment. Eight months after the grueling 2008 campaign was over, Palin, by her own admission, was not tough enough to handle the media and had to quit her job as Alaska governor. After confessing that, how can she possibly present herself as presidential timber? If she allowed herself to be hounded out of office in Juneau by the big bad press, could she withstand the slings and arrows of the media while under pressure in the White House?

This part of her reaction to The Daily Caller article is a tell. Looking to scapegoat the media for her decision to quit -- a decision widely described at the time on the left and right as bizarre -- she displays her own weakness. Does a true commander in chief turn tail when "sick puppies" bark?

The rest is here.

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The Jeff Greene-Climate Change Connection

| Fri Jul. 23, 2010 10:17 AM EDT

It's been a bruising week for Jeff Greene, the billionaire "populist" running for US Senate in Florida. Greene, you'll remember, has quite the backstory: He made millions betting against the housing market before the subprime debacle; Mike Tyson was the best man at Greene's wedding; and his circle of friends and acquaintances has included celebrities like Heidi Fleiss and Lindsay Lohan. Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported on what appears to be a classic case of pay-to-play involving Greene and a member of the Democratic National Committee, Jon Ausman of Tallahassee, who endorsed Greene.

Now comes news that the next biggest threat to barrier reefs after global warming is, well, Jeff Greene's three-story, 145-foot yacht Summerwind. The St. Pete Times reports today that, five years ago, Greene's yacht dropped anchor onto one of the planet's most treasured barrier reefs off the coast of Belize. (Greene wasn't aboard at the time.) According to Belize environmental officials, the case remains open, and Greene or Summerwind's captain at the time of the incident face fines of up to $1.9 million if they ever return to that country. If they don't, then there's nothing Belize officials can do.

Greene's campaign denied to the Times that the reef incident ever occurred, even though Belize officials have a two-volume case file containing evidence of the episode. "Jeff Greene doesn't take a penny of special interest money, so career politicians are attacking him with ridiculous stories about something that didn't even happen five years ago on a boat he wasn't even on,'' a campaign spokesman told the Times. "That's our position. That's our quote."

The Public Option, Redux

| Fri Jul. 23, 2010 8:30 AM EDT

Moments after what foes call "Obamacare" passed in the House this spring, Progressive Caucus cochair Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Ca.) vowed to bring back the so-called public option. The notion of a government-run insurance program was the biggest rallying point for liberals in the debate, but never made it into the final bill due to a conservative opposition railing against "socialized medicine." Woolsey has since made good on her promise, introducing a stand-alone public-option bill that has gathered 128 supporters so far, according to the Tribune.

Woolsey and her liberal colleagues admit that there's dim hope of passage, given the current political climate. And things are likely to be even more difficult in the next Congress, with Democrats predicted to lose upwards of 25 seats—and quite possibly the majority.

But I agree with Jonathan Chait, who argues that a public option is likely to become more popular, not less so, as the country continues to struggle with the escalating costs of health care. Supporters of the option say it will help contain costs and reduce the deficit; Woolsey has touted new data from the Congressional Budget Office that suggest it could save the government some $68 billion between 2014 and 2020, partly due to lower administrative costs.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 23, 2010

Fri Jul. 23, 2010 2:51 AM EDT

 

US Army Cpl. Daniel Lehman, a rifleman with Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, provides security during a shura at a village in the Zabul province of Afghanistan, on July 19, 2010. Photo via the US Army by Senior Airman Nathanael Callon, U.S. Air Force.

Wars Don't Make Heroes

| Thu Jul. 22, 2010 4:04 PM EDT

Consider a strange aspect of our wars since October 2001: they have yet to establish a bona fide American hero, a national household name. Two were actually "nominated" early by the Bush administration—Jessica Lynch, a 19-year-old private and clerk captured by the Iraqis in the early days of the American invasion and later "rescued" by Army Rangers and Navy Seals, and Pat Tillman, the former NFL safety who volunteered for service in the Army Rangers eight months after 9/11 and died under "enemy" gunfire in Afghanistan.

Both stories were later revealed to be put-up jobs, pure Bush-era propaganda and deceit. In Lynch's case, almost every element in the instant patriotic myth about her rescue proved either phony or highly exaggerated; in Tillman's, it turned out that he had been killed by friendly fire, but—thanks to a military cover-up (that involved General Stanley McChrystal, later to become Afghan war commander)—was still given a Silver Star and a posthumous promotion. Members of his unit were even ordered by the military to lie at his funeral, and he was made into a convenient "hero" and recruitment poster boy for the Afghan War. Both were shameful episodes, involving administration manipulation and media gullibility. Since then, as TomDispatch regular and retired lieutenant colonel William Astore points out, US troops as a whole have been labeled "our heroes," but individual heroes have been in vanishingly short supply.

Confessions of a Journolister

| Thu Jul. 22, 2010 12:42 PM EDT

It's shocking that progressive journalists have progressive ideas and share them with other progressive journalists.

Wait, no, it's not? Then I suppose I am misreading the series of stories in the conservative Daily Caller that have revealed the exchanges of the now-defunct Journolist, a supposedly off-the-record listserv for nearly 500 journalists and policy wonks, most of whom were progressive. (My deep dark confession: I was a member, mainly a lurker; I haven't posted anything in years. And, truth be told, when I did post it usually was to promote a column or article I had written, seeking links.) The Daily Caller and other conservatives have depicted the Journolist gang as practically a secret society coordinating the so-called liberal line in the media. But an ex-Daily Caller reporter was part of the group—which has gone unreported on by the Caller.

Sarah Palin today called Journolist participants "sick puppies" and has pointed to the Daily Caller's articles as proof that anti-free-speech libs control the mainstream media and have subverted it for their own nefarious purposes. But that's a foolish analysis, for equating the Journolist group—predominantly self-identified liberals writing or working for self-identified liberal outfits—with the MSM is absurd. The listserv was mainly a fun place for folks to kibbitz, trade ideas, and argue over published pieces. Think of it as a bar for journalists—without the booze, but with the occassional brawl. Sure, some participants wrote intemperate comments, just as they would mouth off in a tavern with friends, colleagues, or antagonists. Journalists—liberal and conservatives—do hold strong opinions and often are not shy about sharing. While I do not begrudge the Daily Caller the fun copy it has obtained by gaining access to Journolist archives—I would certainly write stories about a similar conservative listserv if I could—this is not an instance when a conspiracy has been exposed (especially since Politico and others have already written about the existence of Journolist).

The latest Journolist piece hit close to home, for it features a headline based on a Journolist comment made by Nick Baumann, a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington, DC, bureau. (See Nick's take on the Journolist flap here.) The article zeroes in on the hours following John McCain's announcement that Sarah Palin would be his running mate. Journolist was exploding with comments from members wondering what was behind this odd selection and what was the best way to write about it—and to attack it. (Hey, they're liberals.) In years past, this sort of conversation would have happened in a restaurant or hotel lobby—presumably the bar next to the lobby—where reporters would gather. In this instance, it occurred electronically. I believe that at the time I was in a rented house in St. Paul—the site of the GOP convention—with Baumann and Jonathan Stein, another Mother Jones reporter (now a grad student in California). Like good journalists, we each immediately began to contact people (in Alaska and elsewhere) who could explain this choice or who could tell us anything interesting about Palin. While doing this, Nick and Jonathan participated in the ongoing Journolist conversation about Palin.

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Journolist and Me

| Thu Jul. 22, 2010 10:58 AM EDT

I was going to write about the "scandal" surrounding Journolist, a private email listserv for wonks, academics, and liberal journalists on Tuesday. Instead, I went to an event at the National Press Club featuring the Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg, the dean of the Guantanamo Bay press corps. (She's been there more times than pretty much any other journo.)

Rosenberg was at the press club to talk about the restrictions that media face covering the most important civil liberties story of our times; in May, she and three other reporters were banned from the prison camp after they reported the name of an interrogator who had already outed himself to the media years before. During the event, Rosenberg's lawyer, David Schulz, said that the Miami Herald and the other major news outlets he represents are close to suing the Pentagon and the Obama administration over the draconian rules and press restrictions at Gitmo. That was an actually important media story; the Journolist flap is ultimately inside baseball DC b-s that doesn't matter.

Unfortunately, this morning I awoke to find an email in my inbox from a friend. "I had no idea that you brought down Sarah Palin," he wrote. Indeed. I am the latest person to be "outed" as a member of the hated Journolist, and something I wrote on the list in 2008—that McCain's pick of Palin was "classic GOP tokenism"—is the banner headline at the website covering the "controversy" right now. So I guess I feel somewhat obligated to respond. The funny part, of course, is that anyone who read my work knows that I think the Palin pick was tokenism. I wrote a blog post at the time saying just that:

The selection of Palin smacks of tokenism. Every four years, the Republican party trots out its few non-white, non-male leaders for the Republican National Convention. Many get prime speaking spots. Apparently Sarah Palin gets the Vice-Presidential nomination. The pick is clearly partly directed at disaffected Hillary voters with the idea that simply putting a woman on the ticket will win their votes. This is obviously wrong, as Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro will tell you. But the GOP and their mouthpieces don't get it: on Fox this morning, an anchor said: "It looks like the glass ceiling hasn't been broken by Hillary Clinton, but by Senator McCain." There is just so much wrong with that sentence, but for starters: it's obvious that this pick is more about John McCain than Sarah Palin. It's not about women succeeding on their own; it's about them being given something by a man. Frankly, the comparison to Hillary Clinton is just insulting.

No one should be shocked that liberal bloggers have liberal views. (See David Corn's take of the Journolist flap here.)

My Congress Is So Unpopular...

| Thu Jul. 22, 2010 10:28 AM EDT

...that even "Big Business"—think Wall Street, corporations, big-box retailers, the payday lenders—is more trusted by the American public than the 111th United States Congress. That's just one punchline for this sad, unfunny joke. Want another? Trying swapping out big business for, say, the criminal justice system. Yes, that broken criminal justice—the one that imprisons 1 in every 100 Americans, that sentences petty marijuana users to life behind bars without parole, that currently imprisons more black men than were enslaved in 1850, that each year eats away the anemic budgets of states like Michigan and California—is more popular than Congress.

At least that's what a new Gallup public confidence poll shows. Right now, the public's confidence in our federal legislative body, Gallup finds, is a meager 11 percent; the president fares somewhat better, with 36 percent of the public's confidence, tied with the US Supreme Court. Only three groups have more than 50 percent of the public's confidence: the police (59), small businesses (66), and the military (76). 

Here are the results from the Gallup poll:

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 22, 2010

Thu Jul. 22, 2010 5:00 AM EDT

 

A US Army Soldier maneuvers onto some piled up logs in order to look for anything suspicious during a reconnaisance mission near the village of Lagar Jay Kalha, Jaghato District, Wardak province, Afghanistan, on July 14. Photo via the US Army.

Corn on "Countdown": What Went Wrong with the Sherrod Case?

Wed Jul. 21, 2010 11:34 PM EDT

David Corn appeared on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann to discuss the right-wing media's fabricated accusations against Shirley Sherrod and the Department of Agriculture's pitiful reaction to them.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.