Mojo - November 2011

Arizona Supreme Court Reinstates Redistricting Chair

| Fri Nov. 18, 2011 12:15 PM EST
Gov. Jan Brewer

The Arizona Supreme Court issued a stern rebuke to Gov. Jan Brewer on Thursday, reinstating the chairwoman of the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) that Brewer tried to oust earlier this month, the Arizona Republic reports.

In 2000, Arizonans voted to create a non-partisan commission to run the redistricting process. States re-draw their district lines once every decade to reflect changes in population, drawing on data from the latest US Census. But, in many states, if one party controls the state's legislature, as well as the governorship, it can push through an electoral map that favors its interests for the coming decade. Because so much is at stake, redistricting fights frequently devolve into bitter, partisan warfare (like in Texas in 2003, when Republicans pushed through a GOP-friendly plan even though it was a non-Census year)—something that voters in Arizona hoped to change by creating the IRC. 

But earlier this month, Brewer and state Republicans forcibly removed Colleen Mathis, the independent chair of the five-member commission. Brewer accused Mathis of drawing a Democrat-friendly map. She also alleged that Mathis violated the state's open meetings law by negotiating a backroom deal with a map-making firm with ties to the Democratic Party.

On Thursday, the Arizona Supreme Court heard arguments from the IRC's attorneys challenging Mathis' removal. They found that Brewer's reasons for the ejection failed to demonstrate "substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in office or inability to discharge the duties of office." The court also sent a strong message to Brewer: that it holds the last word when it comes to removing public officials from office. 

In her response to the court, Brewer argued that reinstating Mathis showed that the court had "averted its eyes from the Commission's misdeeds," and that her "actions to meet in secret, arrange critical votes in advance of meetings and twist the words and spirit of the Constitution have been forgiven—if not endorsed outright... The clearest victim in this matter is a redistricting process that voters intended to be honest, impartial and transparent. In the coming days, I'll be considering my options as to how best to proceed."

One option: presenting a case to the court that more specifically spells out her argument for removing Mathis. For Brewer, this isn't over yet. 

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 18, 2011

Fri Nov. 18, 2011 6:57 AM EST

Army Spc. James Elliot, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, observes a target through his weapon's optic scope while taking part in a training mission at the National Training Centerin Fort Irwin, Calif., Nov. 11. Photo by the US Army.

Tracking Journalists Arrested at Occupy Protests

| Fri Nov. 18, 2011 6:30 AM EST

Josh Stearns of media-reform group Free Press has been tracking journalist arrests at Occupy protests since September (see his complete list below). He constantly scans Twitter for mentions of latest arrests, tries to verify by contacting publications affiliated with the journalists in question, and updates their status on the list he maintains at Storify, the social-media curation site.

Unlike the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, where riot police ripped press credentials off journalists' necks and tampered with recording equipment, Stearns doesn't believe there's an intentional effort by law enforcement officials to target journalists covering Occupy protests. "Journalists are just getting swept up as part of the general 'nuisance,'" he says, "and cops are finding it easier to sweep house and get the details later." And in the age of smartphone reporting, Twitter, and livestream video, it's hard to tell who's a credentialed journalist and who isn't—or what that means for journalism.

"These arrests are a symptom of a larger debate about how we understand the First Amendment in a digital age, as the institutions that traditionally embodied those freedoms shift and change," Stearns writes on his blog. "As more and more of our speech moves online and over mobile networks, and as our press is distributed across vast human and technological networks, we need to contend with new kinds of First Amendment issues."

Read more of his thoughts here, and send tips and tweets on journalist arrests to @jcstearns.

PHOTOS: Occupying Bank of America in SF

| Thu Nov. 17, 2011 8:06 PM EST

When I heard the helicopter, I knew something was up. Living in downtown Oakland, I've come to learn the dull thumping of helicopter rotors means there's probably Occupy action not far away.

Like any other day, I was walking around the Financial District in downtown San Francisco on my lunch break—shooting pictures, being indecisive about where to eat. I heard the helicopter before I could see it. But once I pinpointed its location, near 1st and Market streets, I changed course and headed up Market towards the Ferry Building. Protesters gathered in front of a Bank of America.

Once I caught up I saw they were not only outside the bank, but crawling everywhere inside the bank, filling the place, standing on desks, sitting on the floor, chanting, waving flags. One banker sat at his desk, calmly gathering his things as protesters surrounded him and photographers surrounded the protesters. It was an amazing picture, the banker at his desk, utterly surrounded. I needed inside. 

Just as that thought hit my mind, I realized I left the office with my film camera and only one roll of film on me. Thirty-six frames. That's all I had. I'd have to shoot judiciously. If shit hit the fan, or this lasted very long, I wouldn't be able to get the photos. I found my way inside the bank. The banker, an assistant vice president it turns out, was still at his desk, getting ready to leave.

I took a few other photos: signs protesters put up around the bank, general shots of the group, some of the tellers.

The cops would be here soon. A police officer in the bank made an announcement that anyone who didn't want to be arrested needed to leave immediately.

Given that I didn't have a press pass on me and only 10 pictures left, I left the bank and went to the lobby of the building. No need to get swept up and stuck. Sure enough, a large contingent of police gathered in the lobby and was preparing to storm the branch. Two cops in riot gear blocked the door. "No one gets in. No one gets out." I was stuck in the lobby.

A dozen cops in full riot gear ran into the branch. Click. Click. Down to five frames.

Hundreds of people lined Davis Street in front of the bank. Police formed a semicircle perimeter around the front of the building. Inside the lobby, a security guard was trying to get workers from other floors who'd come down to see the action to return to their offices and random protesters to exit the building. Police stood at each entrance as another security guard locked the revolving doors.

Things seemed to be settling down. Inside, the bank was quiet, protesters likely getting arrested, one by one. Outside there was chanting, but the police and protesters stayed respectful of each other's position. No pushing, no fighting. They'd both been here before. Pros on both sides. I burned the last two frames and slipped out of the building with a guy who got kicked out for not having a press pass. He was incredulous that I left on my own volition.
I walked through the crowd outside. A group gathered right up against the police perimeter and another group kept more of a distance, lining the other side of the street. Workers in the building across the street pressed against the windows, taking photos with their phones. I said hi to a few people I knew in the crowd and made my way back to the office, finally grabbing lunch on the way.

Tweet Forensics: Occupy vs. Tea Party

| Thu Nov. 17, 2011 3:13 PM EST

Occupy Wall Street Twitter network 15 Nov 2011.: Credit: Marc Smith, Social Media Research Foundation.Occupy Wall Street Twitter network as of November 15 2011. [Click the image for a larger version] Credit: Marc Smith/Social Media Research FoundationHere's an interesting analysis by Marc Smith at the Social Media Research Foundation in Belmont, California, of the difference between Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party tweeters. The above image shows the OWS network. Here's how it's described on Marc Smith's Flickr page:

These are the connections among the Twitter users who recently tweeted the word occupywallstreet when queried on November 15, 2011, scaled by numbers of followers (with outliers thresholded). Connections created when users reply, mention or follow one another. Relies and mentions edges are highlighted in blue, follows connections are grey. The data set starts on 11/15/2011 23:08 and ends on 11/15/2011 23:34 UTC, a total of 26 minutes of traffic.

Tea Party Twitter network 15 Nov 2011.: Credit: Marc Smith, Social Media Research Foundation.Tea Party Twitter network as of November 15th 2011. [Click on the image for a larger version] Credit: Marc Smith/Social Media Research Foundation.And here's the Twitter network formed by Tea Party users. From Marc Smith's Flickr page:

These are the connections among the Twitter users who recently tweeted the word teaparty when queried on November 15, 2011, scaled by numbers of followers (with outliers thresholded). Connections created when users reply, mention or follow one another. Relies and mentions edges are highlighted in blue, follows connections are grey. The data set starts on 11/15/2011 14:22 UTC and ends on 11/15/2011 17:23, a total of 3 hours and 1 minute of traffic.

As you can see, the OWS network is bigger, more diffuse, more active, and less centered on already established Twitter relationships. Basically, it's more viral. The Tea Party network is more contained, less contagious. Peter Aldhous at New Scientist writes:

Compared to Occupy, the Tea Party supporters have a much denser network of following relationships. "The Tea Party is an 'in group' thing," Smith argues. But for now, at least, the conversation within this group is muted compared to that surrounding Occupy—not only is the rate of tweets much slower, but fewer of the relationships show up in blue, indicating an active response to a post.

Obama Threatens To Veto Defense Bill Over Detention Provisions

| Thu Nov. 17, 2011 1:51 PM EST
President Barack Obama.

The Obama administration released a statement of administration policy Thursday afternoon that threatens to veto the upcoming defense spending bill if it retains provisions further militarizing domestic counterterrorism operations. 

The detention provisions in the Senate version of the defense spending bill authorize the indefinite military detention of American citizens, and requires that any non-citizen terrorism suspect be held in military custody. It also forces the Secretary of Defense to personally approve transfers of detainees out of Gitmo*. When the bill was introduced, it created a rare moment of consensus between former Bush administration officials and civil liberties advocates who warned against constraining the president's "flexibility" in counterterrorism operations. 

The administration's statement harshly criticizes the bipartisan Senate compromise hammered out by the Senate Armed Services Committee, noting that rather than take out provisions that critics warned would impede the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and apprehend terrorism suspects, the committee's revised language merely "directs the President to develop procedures to ensure the myriad problems that would result...do not come to fruition."

Broadly speaking, the detention provisions in this bill micromanage the work of our experienced counterterrorism professionals, including our military commanders, intelligence professionals, seasoned counterterrorism prosecutors, or other operatives in the field. These professionals have successfully led a Government-wide effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates and adherents over two consecutive Administrations. The Administration believes strongly that it would be a mistake for Congress to overrule or limit the tactical flexibility of our Nation's counterterrorism professionals.

The section on detention provisions concludes with the statement that "any bill that challenges or constrains the President's critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the Nation would prompt the President's senior advisers to recommend a veto."

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned the Senate earlier this week that the provisions would harm national security, but until now it was unclear whether the administration would threaten to veto the defense bill over the Senate detention language. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated he wants to pass the bill as soon as possible. 

UPDATE: In his floor statement, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich) said that "the Administration and others expressed misgivings about the detainee provisions in the initial bill, although the provisions in our initial bill represented a bipartisan compromise that was approved by the Committee on a 25-1 vote. Many of these concerns were based on misinterpretations of the language in that bill. Nonetheless, we have worked hard to address these concerns...I look forward to working with my colleagues to promptly pass this important legislation. "

*A previous version of this post incorrectly states that the bill would prohibit transfers of Gitmo detainees to US soil for trial. 

 

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Leon Panetta: New Detention Provisions Will Harm National Security

| Thu Nov. 17, 2011 12:28 PM EST

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that the bipartisan compromise mandating indefinite military detention of non-citizen terrorism suspects apprehended in the US would damage national security. 

The detainee provisions may "needlessly complicate efforts by frontline law enforcement professionals to collect critical intelligence concerning operations and activities within the United States," Panetta wrote in a letter first reported on by the Associated Press, and "restrains the Executive Branch's options to utilize, in a swift and flexible fashion, all the counterterrorism tools that are now legally available." (The detainee provisions would also authorize the indefinite military detention of American citizens suspected of being members of Al Qaeda or an "associated force.")

At a press briefing yesterday, Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said Panetta had not yet recommended vetoing the bill. "He has not, to our knowledge, recommended to veto this," Kirby said. "Again, he really—he wants to work with them as they move forward [on] this." Critics of the bill contend that the administration's skittishness in issuing veto threats suggests that the White House's warnings about the bill's detention provisions won't be taken seriously by Congress. 

"If Congress is going to take the president seriously, it has to believe the president is prepared to use the National Defense Authorization Act as toilet paper," says Ben Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "If it's not convinced of that, the president has given away his negotiating leverage."

In an interview with the Associated Press, Senator Lindsey Graham suggested that the armed services committee had altered the bill in response to the administration's concerns:

The military custody provision has been changed to accommodate what I thought were some legitimate concerns of the administration...There's been a criminalization of the war that makes a lot of members uncomfortable and this is congressional involvement that brings balance.

The Obama administration has largely maintained the trajectory of Bush-era policies on national security, and the detention provisions represent a substantial militarization of the Bush-Obama policy, not a return to the status quo ante. Moreover, the White House threatened a veto over similar detention provisions in the House version of the defense bill in May. White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan blasted the detainee provisions in September, and Pentagon Counsel Jeh Johnson criticized them in a speech at the Heritage Foundation in October. Graham is concern-trolling the White House. 

"What has to happen is the president needs to express that this is something that they're going to veto over, and make very clear that threat is real," says ACLU Legislative Counsel Chris Anders. "These are provisions that really deserve a veto if they end up on the president's desk."

Report: No One Giving Money to Rick Perry Anymore

| Thu Nov. 17, 2011 11:46 AM EST
Texas Gov. Rick Perry may have to start eating off the dollar menu soon.

If Rick Perry had one thing going for him as a Presidential candidate (well, other than the execution thing), it was his bank account. The Texas Governor, we were told going to the campaign, had access to the deep pocketbooks of Lone Star State donors, folks like homebuilder Bob Perry and businessman James Leininger. He had not one but two Super-PACs to his name, including one, Make Us Great Again (MUGA!), that was helmed by a former chief-of-staff turned lobbyist, Mike Toomey. MUGA expected to raise and spend $55 million to support Perry during the primary alone.

But Perry didn't actually start off with all that money. It was just supposed to come in once he established his dominance as the Anti-Romney prophesied by the ancients. Except he hasn't done that, and as the Houston Chronicle reports, the donors have stopped showing up. Literally:

Perry’s loyal backers are running into resistance from Republican donors. One Perry fundraiser, who asked not to be named, said he received 15 RSVPs for a recent event from potential donors saying they might attend. But after a gaffe-marred Perry debate performance, none showed up.

"The debates have taken a toll," the fundraiser said. "The national numbers have taken a toll. People see the campaign on a negative trajectory."

Perry is currently peppering the airwaves in Iowa and South Carolina with advertisements, tarring President Obama for his "privileged" upbringing. But unless the money spigot turns on again, he won't be able to keep that up forever.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 17, 2011

Thu Nov. 17, 2011 6:57 AM EST

Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company and Alpha Company, 1-125 Infantry Regiment, 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, practice medical evacuation during training at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Miss., November 11, 2011. The 37th IBCT is deploying to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (37th IBCT photo by Sgt. Kimberly Lamb)

WATCH: MoJo's Josh Harkinson Describes the OWS Raid

Wed Nov. 16, 2011 9:47 PM EST

Mother Jones reporter Josh Harkinson appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann to describe his eyewitness account of what happened when the NYPD raided the Occupy Wall Street camp at Zuccotti Park and evicted protesters.

Read Josh's liveblog from the raid of Zuccotti and check out all the rest of our #OWS coverage.