Mojo - August 2012

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 9, 2012

Thu Aug. 9, 2012 10:54 AM EDT

Two Humvees dangle below a CH-47 Chinook during a sling load demonstration at Campbell Army Airfield on August 7, 2012. This demonstration was a rehearsal for the air assault that will occur on August 11 as part of the Fort Campbell Air Show. Photo via the US Army.

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Mitt Romney's Dad Got Corporate Handouts: Free McDonald's For Life

| Thu Aug. 9, 2012 9:18 AM EDT

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is too often accused of being stiff, awkward, soulless, hardly the type of guy you'd want to drink a beer with. (Romney, like most Mormons, doesn't drink alcohol, anyway.)

And so it's news when Romney offers up a new detail, however minor, about his personal life or childhood, as he did Wednesday with a group of donors in Chicago. At a fundraiser, ABC News reported, Romney recounted how, as a kid, he used to rifle through a sock drawer belonging to his dad, former Michigan governor George Romney, and how little Mitt once struck gold in that drawer:

You know how boys liked to go through their dad's top drawer, just to sort of see what he has in there, maybe find an old coin he might not miss or whatever.

I found a little paper card, a little pink card, and it said this entitles George W. Romney to a lifetime of a hamburger, a shake, and French fries at McDonald's. It was signed by the hand of [former McDonald's executive] Ray Kroc. My dad had done a little training lesson or whatever for McDonald's when there was just a handful of restaurants and I saw this thing and was like, 'This is a gold mine, Dad! What are you doing?' So I had it laminated. My dad, as you know, would go almost every day to a McDonald's restaurant and get either a hamburger or a fish filet sandwich. And he would present this little card and of course the person behind the counter would look and say, 'Well, what is that?' They'd never seen something like that, but he said it was never turned down. They always honored it.

George Romney's love of McDonald's hamburgers and fish filets doesn't seem to have worn off on his youngest son. Mitt's preferred fast-food joint apparently is Carl's Jr.

Snooki Reads Mother Jones

| Wed Aug. 8, 2012 5:29 PM EDT

What does the cast of Jersey Shore do when they're not going to the gym, tanning, and doing laundry? Read Mother Jones, of course:

MTV filmed the skit to promote Power Of 12, its effort to get out the youth vote this November. Jason Rzepka, MTV's vice-president of public affairs, told me that its producers wanted Snooki to be reading a political magazine, and their choice of Mother Jones "reflects the impact of your brand and reporting." (It could also reflect the fact that Snooki is soon to be a mother).

Whether Mother Jones actually appeals to Snooki is less clear. Last month she told Newt Gingrich: "I'm trying to be like you," but then, she might have just been making fun of his efforts to cash in on his celebrity. Whatever Snooki's political affiliations, we're happy for the endorsement. Snooki fans can sign up for a subscription here

Romney Spokeswoman Promoted Climate Change Denial on Behalf of Exxon

| Wed Aug. 8, 2012 2:53 PM EDT

Andrea Saul is the press secretary and chief spokesperson for Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. But before Romney hired her, Saul worked for a DC-based public affairs and lobbying firm that worked to undermine climate science on behalf of corporations like ExxonMobil, according to a detailed new report from Greenpeace's Polluter Watch project.

While working for DCI Group, Saul worked on anti-climate-science campaigns on behalf of Exxon. That included creating the faux news site Tech Central Station, which was used to promote columns from climate deniers like Willie Soon and Pat Michaels. Saul is listed as the contact person on the archived version of the Tech Central page. 

She was also listed as the point person on a press release claiming that there is "no link between increased storm activity and a massive change in global climate" that was released in 2006, several months after Hurricane Katrina. DCI Group also created a video news release downplaying the climate-storm connection, though it's not clear which DCI client paid for that work.

In late 2006, Saul also handled press for group of 17 climate skeptics who were trying to get the American Meteorological Society to weaken its statement on climate change by adding terms like "data uncertainty issues," "natural variability," and "imperfect climate models."

DCI Group also hosted a "strategic discussion on the Clean Air Act" in 2006 that featured a climate skeptics from right-wing think tanks like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute as well as a number of Exxon employees, according to a guest list that Greenpeace obtained.

As Greenpeace notes, Saul's "role in shaping Romney's climate and science policy is not known." Romney has always been a bit squishy on climate change, but has only gotten more so over the course of his past two presidential runs. Given Saul's past, it's no surprise the Romney campaign's most mealy-mouthed statements on climate—including "CO2 is a naturally occurring gas" and "he believes it's occurring, and that human activity contributes to it, but he doesn't know to what extent"—have come directly from her.

Bostonians Freak Out About Mural Because..SHARIAHH!

| Wed Aug. 8, 2012 11:12 AM EDT

On August 1, Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art unveiled this new mural on the side of a building on the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway:

Courtesy of Os GemeosCourtesy of Os GemeosThe mural depicts a boy in a pajamas with what looks like a jacket tied around his head. It accompanies a new exhibit by a Brazilian duo known as Os Gemeos. Maybe you see where this is going?

A vivid mural on the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway in Dewey Square is the subject of some controversy after Fox 25 aired a piece in which passersby told a reporter that the painting resembles a terrorist. The TV station then posted an image of the cartoonish figure on its Facebook page and invited people to comment on it. Several dozen people responded, many of them saying it looks like a Muslim terrorist and urging it be removed.

Or as another critic put it, "I don't care what it is 'supposed to be' or who the 'artist' is, it looks like a kid in his pajamas trying to look like an Al Quieda operative."

The city offers a helpful explanation of the mural, noting that Os Gemeos' characters "inhabit fantastical, dream-like landscapes of joy and color; other times we see them in more everyday situations—riding the subway, sitting at home with their families or, in the case of the figure on the Greenway mural, just peering at the busy city life unfolding below." Likewise, "The figures are frequently shown wearing whimsical hats, colorful hoods or scarves—another hallmark feature of the artists' work."

So, you know, this is a totally normal mural and everyone should take a deep breath and go back to freaking out about the Red Sox.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 8, 2012

Wed Aug. 8, 2012 10:47 AM EDT

US Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Daniel Nelson, a Security Force member of Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah, provides security during a key leader engagement at Malaa Lay Maiwand School in Farah City, Farah province, Afghanistan, on August 1, 2012. The PRT members are engaging local school officials to assess the condition of city schools and encourage student participation. PRT Farah's Security Force is made up of National Guard infantrymen out of Alaska who are responsible for ensuring the safety of everyone assigned to PRT Farah. Photo by the US Army.

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Texas Executes Mentally Disabled Man Based on Rules From John Steinbeck Novel

| Tue Aug. 7, 2012 10:41 AM EDT

Update, 7:02 p.m. EDT: The Supreme Court has denied a stay of execution for Marvin Wilson.

Update 2: Wilson was declared dead at 7:27 EDT on Tuesday.

Marvin Wilson sucked his thumb into his adulthood, reads at a second-grade level, has an IQ of 61, doesn't know the difference between left and right, and as a child couldn't wear a belt without cutting off his circulation. On Tuesday, barring a last-minute intervention from the US Supreme Court, he'll be executed in Texas.

In 1992, Wilson murdered a police informant who had caught him dealing cocaine. Wilson had help—his lawyers still maintain that he didn't pull the trigger—but the larger question isn't about his guilt; it's about his mental competence. The Supreme Court ruled in the 2002 case Atkins v. Virginia that states can't execute the mentally disabled because it would violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. The evidence for Wilson's incompetence is manifest. In addition to the facts listed above, his lawyers noted in a brief filed for the court that the only expert to professionally examine Wilson, a neuropsychologist, "concluded that Mr. Wilson had mild MR, the cognitive condition that precipitated the Atkins exemption."

Texas's interpretation of Atkins isn't that mentally disabled people can't be executed; it's that there's a threshold of disability at which execution is no longer acceptable. In other words, you can be mildly disabled and still fall beneath the "level and degree of [MR] at which a consensus of Texas citizens" would have a problem with your state-commissioned death. That is where things get really weird—because why should a "consensus of Texas citizens" have any input on what constitutes mental incompetence? Isn't that what neuropsychologists are for?

It gets weirder. Texas' standards for determining a convicted murderer's mental competence came from the least scientific document imaginable—a John Steinbeck novel. As the Guardian's Ed Pilkington explained:

The determinants were posited around the character Lennie Small in Steinbeck's 1937 novel Of Mice and Men.

"Most Texas citizens," the argument ran, "might agree that Steinbeck's Lennie should, by virtue of his lack of reasoning ability and adaptive skills, be exempt" from execution. By implication anyone less impaired than Steinbeck's fictional migrant ranch worker should have no constitutional protection.

Wilson is scheduled to be executed sometime after 7 p.m. EST.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 7, 2012

Tue Aug. 7, 2012 9:58 AM EDT

Cpt. Wayne Griffin, brigade aviation officer for 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division "Ready First" salutes as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter lifts off from forward operating base Denver at the National Training Center on August 4, 2012. Photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph Wilbanks.

The Sikh Temple Shooter's Racist Tattoos, Deciphered

| Mon Aug. 6, 2012 3:54 PM EDT
Wade Michael Page

Law enforcement officials in Wisconsin say that Wade Michael Page's tattoos tipped them off to the possibility that his shooting spree in a Sikh temple was domestic terrorism. But what exactly did those tattoos tell them? Using photos of Wade from his white-power band's Myspace page, it's possible to see what concerned police: Much of his body reads like a poster text for white nationalism.

In particular, a tattoo on Page's left shoulder (pictured below) suggests he was a committed devotee of white-power ideology. The tattoo consists of a large "14" in Gothic lettering superimposed on a black cross in a circle. The cross, known elsewhere as "Odin's Cross," is "one of the most popular symbols for neo-Nazis and white supremacists," according to the Anti-Defamation League. It's also used as a logo by Stormfront.org, one of the world's most-visited racist web forums.

Wade Michael Page, with a white-power tattoo visible on his shoulder. MyspaceWade Michael Page, with a white-power tattoo visible on his shoulder Myspace

The "14" itself is particularly telling: It's a reference to "the 14 words," a racist credo first set down by David Lane, the cofounder of a white nationalist terror group known as The Order. (The Order—whose name was inspired by a similar group immortalized in William Luther Pierce's racist novel, The Turner Diaries, a favorite of Timothy McVeigh's—has been active for nearly 30 years and was implicated in the 1984 murder of Alan Berg, a liberal Jewish radio host.)

As formulated by Lane, the 14 words are reportedly inspired by a longer passage from Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and form the basis for Lane's "88 Precepts" (PDF), in which he lays out The Order's founding philosophy—including its condemnation of homosexuality, abortion, and "mixing and destruction of the founding race." (88, too, has special significance for neo-Nazis and other white hate groups.)

In their entirety, the 14 words—commemorated on Page's skin—read: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."

Mother Jones has also obtained a copy of a 2010 interview with Page, courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center, conducted by his band's white-power record distributor, Label 56—you can read the full text below.

In the interview, Page describes how he traveled to Southern California to play bass for a series of skinhead bands called Youngland, Celtic Warrior, Radikahl, Max Resist, Intimidation One, Aggressive Force, and Blue Eyed Devils. He also spoke openly about the frustrations with society that led him to start his own racist band, End Apathy, in 2005. "A lot of what I realized at the time was that if we could figure out how to end peoples apathetic ways it would be the start towards moving forward," he said. "Of course after that it requires discipline, strict discipline to stay the course in our sick society."

Update: For more info on Page's tats—including a 9/11 tribute and a Confederate stars and bars—check out The New Yorker and Lawyers, Guns & Money. And for a full rundown on the Sikh temple shooting, jump over to our explainer.

 

Pregnant? No School for You in This Louisiana Public Charter

| Mon Aug. 6, 2012 2:10 PM EDT

A public charter school in Louisiana is getting national attention for requiring female students to take pregnancy tests if they are suspected of being pregnant and, if they are, forcing them to leave school. The ACLU of Louisiana sent a letter to the Delhi Charter School on Monday arguing that the policy is unconstitutional and "in clear violation of federal law."

Delhi is a kindergarten through 12th grade public school in a town by the same name in northeastern Louisiana. Its "student pregnancy policy" states that the school seeks to ensure that students "exhibit acceptable character traits"—and in order to do so, allows the school to force any "suspected student" to take a pregnancy test. Here's the policy:

If an administrator or teacher suspects a student is pregnant, a parent conference will be held. The school reserves the right to require any female student to take a pregnancy test to confirm whether or not the suspected student is in fact pregnant. The school further reserves the right to refer the suspected student to a physician of its choice. If the test indicates that the student is pregnant, the student will not be permitted to attend classes on the campus of Delhi Charter School.

Any student who is pregnant will be forced to go on home study. The policy goes on to state that any student who refuses to take a pregnancy test "shall be treated as a pregnant student" and also put on mandatory home study.

"I am not aware of anything else like this," said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "This so blatantly illegal and discriminatory. This is about as draconian as anything I have ever seen." Esman said the policy is not new, but had been brought to the ACLU's attention this summer.

In the letter to the school, the ACLU argues that the policy violates the Title IX federal protections against educational discrimination on the basis of sex as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

School administrators did not respond to requests for comment via email and telephone at press time.