Mojo - May 2012

Scott Olsen, Iraq Vet Hurt by OPD Projectile: "I'm Not Alright."

| Tue May 1, 2012 1:13 PM EDT

Scott Olsen visits the site of the Occupy Oakland protest in downtown Oakland on November 27, 2011. The Iraq War veteran and Occupy activist suffered a head injury after being hit with a police projectile in Oakland in October 2011.

As protesters from Occupy Oakland marched through Downtown Oakland, picketing from bank to bank as Wells Fargo preemptively shut its doors and cops in riot helmets stood by for trouble, I ran into Iraq veteran Scott Olsen. As you might recall, he's the former Marine who suffered a serious brain injury last October, when Oakland Police fired a beanbag projectile into the Occupy crowd, striking him in the head at close range.

It was two and a half weeks before Olsen could speak at all, and about a month "before I was comfortable speaking," he told me. "It took a while." Olsen, who is in his mid-twenties, is now out of formal therapy and has been focusing on activities involving Iraq Veterans Against The War. In the meantime, he is filing a claim against the City of Oakland, which is "already playing games," he says. "The police department is blatantly at fault." He is optimistic, he adds, because "I have the support of the people."

So, is he okay? "I'm not alright," he replies. "I'm good enough to do stuff like this."

He explains that still has PTSD from Iraq, and still has a brain injury from the OPD incident. But he wasn't about to miss the May Day action. "I think today is going to be a real testing day for Occupy," he says. "I don't think people have given up on it. They're afraid to come out for several reasons." Namely, the police presence. Olsen says he's been seeing fewer and fewer children on marches since start of Occupy Oakland. But, he adds "I think we're emulating the society we want to create, and I think that's the main element of Occupy."

Click here for our on-the-ground coverage of May Day protests on both coasts.

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What Obama's Counterterrorism Chief Won't Say About Drone Strikes

| Tue May 1, 2012 12:25 PM EDT
White House Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan briefs President Barack Obama in the Oval Office in 2010.

White House Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan officially acknowledged the administration's targeted killing of Al Qaeda members abroad for the first time in a speech on Monday. But Brennan didn't tell the whole story: He largely rehashed the legal rationale for targeted killings of specific Al Qaeda suspects, instead of defending the use of more controversial "signature strikes," in which targets are selected based on a "pattern of behavior." 

Brennan defended targeted killings as an effective tool against Al Qaeda that helps minimize civilian casualties and likened the use of drones to laser surgery, saying: "It's this surgical precision—the ability, with laser-like focus, to eliminate the cancerous tumor called an al Qaeda terrorist while limiting damage to the tissue around it—that makes this counterterrorism tool so essential."

Although Brennan told the audience that there are "rigorous standards" for determining who can be targeted for death, he declined to explain how the supposedly careful, even surgical process for deciding who to kill could possibly apply to signature strikes, which target people who are "suspected of militant activities but who haven't necessarily been identified by name." The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the Obama administration is planning to expand the use of signature strikes in Yemen. 

To borrow Brennan's cancer metaphor, if targeted strikes on particular suspected Al Qaeda militants help excise cancerous tumors, signature strikes sound a little like flicking a scalpel around inside a patient's abdomen. I'm no medical expert, but that sounds to me like it would inevitably kill the patient.

Scott Walker Raises $13 Million—Or 670 Percent More Than His Rivals

| Tue May 1, 2012 11:10 AM EDT
Scott Walker.

For those needing more confirmation of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's rock-star status in the Republican Party, look no further than his latest fundraising haul: $13.2 million.

That's how much Walker raised from January to late April of this year to protect himself in his June 5 statewide recall election. His haul is 670 percent more than that of his four Democratic rivals combined. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the leading Democrat vying to oust Walker, raised $831,500, while former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk pulled in $977,000.

Walker has jetted around the country in recent months to amass a war chest to fend off his Democratic challenger in June. As the Associated Press reported, Walker attended the Christmas party for anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist, fundraised alongside former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg in Manhattan, and this month asked for money at an Oklahoma fundraiser co-sponsored by Koch Industries. Not surprisingly, out-of-state donors accounted for $8.8 million—or two-thirds—of Walker's 2012 haul. They include some of the GOP's biggest bankrollers, including casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and Texas homebuilding giant Bob Perry.

Walker has raised $25 million for his recall campaign since January 2011. He benefited from a quirk in state election law that let him raise unlimited recall defense funds for months while his opponents gathered the necessary signatures to trigger a recall election. Democrats, however, did not get to raise unlimited funds because they were not targeted for recall.

Here's more from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Walker's fundraising is on par with that of second-tier presidential candidates. For instance, Rick Santorum raised $18.5 million between Jan. 1 and March 31, and Newt Gingrich raised a little less than $10 million during that period.

[...]

Conservative billionaire Diane Hendricks gave Walker $500,000. Hendricks co-founded Beloit-based ABC Supply, a roofing wholesaler and siding distributor, with her husband, Ken, who died in a 2007 fall.

Her donation was the single largest ever to a gubernatorial candidate in the state and tied the $500,000 given to Walker over recent months by Bob Perry, owner of Houston-based Perry Homes and a chief backer of the Swift Boat Veterans ads against Democrat John Kerry in the 2004 race for president.

"Wisconsin's never seen anything like this kind of money," said Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. "This is all to persuade a relatively tiny universe of undecided voters. It'll be the highest cost per voter spent in the history of the nation in terms of the cost of persuading people."

Elizabeth Warren Is Part Native American

| Tue May 1, 2012 11:00 AM EDT
Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (D).

Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren is in a little bit of trouble in her race against GOP Sen. Scott Brown. 

The Boston Herald has been going after Warren for identifying herself as "Native American" while she was a professor at Harvard Law School (she's currently on leave) and for listing herself in the Association of American Law Schools' annual directory as a minority professor due to her American Indian heritage. Warren and her colleagues have insisted her heritage was not an issue during her hiring, but she seemed to hedge in her comments on Tuesday: "Not that I can recall," she said, when asked if she had mentioned her ancestry during the application process. That's different than "No."

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for May 1, 2012

| Tue May 1, 2012 10:27 AM EDT

Sgt. 1st Class Raja Richardson, platoon sergeant with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, Task Force 2-28, 172nd Infantry Brigade, leads a patrol across a ridgeline outside of Forward Operating Base Tillman. Photo by the US Army.

Charts: The Real Cost of Killing Bin Laden

| Tue May 1, 2012 5:00 AM EDT

In a message released in November 2004, Osama bin Laden declared, "We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy." The United States' reaction to the September 11 attacks, he reasoned, proved that terrorism's power lay not simply in its potential for carnage but in its ability to prod a superpower to incur costly, crippling financial expenses in its pursuit of security. "The real loser," he concluded, would be "the American people and their economy."

Bin Laden was killed a year ago, ending what was arguably the most costly manhunt in history. However, his death did not mark the end of the massive expenses racked up during the decade following September 11, many of which will be with us for the forseable future. A quick look at the numbers:

Estimated amount Al Qaeda spent on the September 11 attacks:
$400,000 to $500,000
Estimated homeland security spending, 2002-2011:
$690 billion
Estimated costs of airport delays due to security screening, 2002-2011:
$100 billion
Estimated economic impact of the September 11 attacks on New York City:
$82.8 billion

 

Freedom Isn’t Free
Homeland security expenditures and opportunity costs (in billions of 2010 dollars)

Share of federal terrorism cases since September 11
that did not involve any terrorism-related charges:
53%
Estimated cost of US military operations in Afghanistan, 2001-2011:
$443.5 billion
Estimated annual cost per soldier of US operations in Afghanistan in 2011:
$694,000
US soldiers killed in action by hostile forces in Afghanistan, 2001-2012:
1,507
US soldiers wounded in action in Afghanistan, 2001-2012:
15,560

Outspending the Cold War
Pentagon spending including supplemental funding and overseas operations after 2002 (actual and projected, in billions of 2011 dollars)

Reported US drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2004-2012:
296
Estimated share of drone casualties who were not militants:
17%
Civilians killed in Afghanistan, 2006-2011:
12,793
Death toll on September 11:
3,389