Mojo - August 2012

Can an iPhone Keep Election Officials From Blocking Your Vote?

| Fri Aug. 31, 2012 9:01 PM EDT

This fall, restrictive new voting laws in more than a dozen states could keep millions of people from exercising their constitutional right to vote. ID and birth certificate requirements, restrictions on early voting, and shutdowns on election day registration happen to affect non-rich, non-white, non-middle-aged, non-male voters most. This flurry of regulatory activity could confound Jane and John Q. Public: how are citizens supposed to know whether they need an ID, license plate number, proof of insurance, blood sample and baptism certificate in order to cast their vote? The answer might be in the interwebs.

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Corn on "Hardball": Postgame Analysis of the Clint Eastwood Spectacle

Fri Aug. 31, 2012 7:04 PM EDT

David Corn and Nia Malika-Henderson joined host Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss Clint Eastwood's bizarre imaginary dialogue at the Republican National Convention. See a full video and transcript of the Eastwood speech and read translations of the baffled responses from foreign newspapers.

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

The Holographic Zombie Reagan Lives!

| Fri Aug. 31, 2012 5:29 PM EDT

National ArchivesNational Archives

For anyone disappointed that the GOP convention "mystery speaker" didn't turn out to be a hologram of President Ronald Reagan, but was instead a strange and disheveled Clint Eastwood, we have good news for you.

He lives!

A hologram of the late 40th president was scheduled to appear outside the Republican National Convention hall this week, but GOP officials nixed the idea...But the Reagan hologram is expected to premiere later this year or in 2013, A KickIn Crowd founder Tony Reynolds told Yahoo! (Reynolds works with AV Concepts, a hologram company.) "Even in a hologram form, I think Reagan's going to beat a lot of people in terms of communicating," he said.

In fact, the communicative potential of the holographic zombie Reagan is so great that the original idea was scrapped by event planners out of fear that the hologram would overshadow Mitt Romney accepting the party's nomination.

As of press time, three-dimensional undead laser Reagan has yet to endorse Mitt Romney.

And now, here is footage of another (crude, motionless) holographic Ronald Reagan, from 2010:

 

Investigation of Bush-era Torture Concludes With No Charges

| Fri Aug. 31, 2012 3:07 PM EDT
Attorney General Eric Holder.

[UPDATE: For more on this issue, check out Kevin Drum's latest: "It's Official: No One Will Ever Be Prosecuted for Bush-Era Torture."]

Afghan detainee Gul Rahman would never leave the CIA prison known as "The Salt Pit" alive. Interrogators left Rahman in his cell, reportedly "naked from the waste down," after shackling him and dousing him with cold water. In the morning, they discovered that the Rahman, who had reportedly been "uncooperative" with his captors, had died of hypothermia.

Military medical examiners said Iraqi detainee Manadel al-Jamadi died of asphyxiation, a result of his being hung by his arms, and other mysterious injuries sustained during interrogation, such as his five broken ribs. After his death, US Army Reservist Charles Graner Jr. was photographed grinning next to al-Jamadi's frozen corpse. The Associated Press notes that the CIA official who oversaw Rahman's treatment "was reprimanded" and "now works as a defense contractor."

The Justice Department announced Thursday that the investigation into Rahman and al-Jamadi's deaths would be closed with no charges. This means that the Obama administration will be turning the page on the Bush years with almost no accountability for anyone linked to the legalization and implementation of Bush-era interrogation techniques.

Does Navy SEAL's New Book Suggest Bin Laden Killing was a War Crime?

| Fri Aug. 31, 2012 1:11 PM EDT

The famously shifting Obama administration narrative of the special forces raid that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden left some understandable doubts about how the operation actually went down. The key question, from a legal perspective, is whether or not the administration had ordered Bin Laden killed no matter the circumstances, and whether or not he had tried to surrender or was otherwise "hors de combat" or "out of the fight" as defined in the Geneva Conventions

No Easy Day, the memoir by "Mark Owens" (later outed as Mark Bissonette), a former Navy SEAL who participated in the raid, sheds light on both questions. According to Owen, Bin Laden was unarmed when he was shot. Here's the description from the Associated Press:

Bissonnette says he was directly behind a "point man" going up the stairs. "Less than five steps" from top of the stairs, he heard "suppressed" gunfire: "BOP. BOP." The point man had seen a "man peeking out of the door" on the right side of the hallway[.]  

Bissonnette writes that bin Laden ducked back into his bedroom and the SEALs followed, only to find the terrorist crumpled on the floor in a pool of blood with a hole visible on the right side of his head and two women wailing over his body.

Bissonnette says the point man pulled the two women out of the way and shoved them into a corner and he and the other SEALs trained their guns' laser sites on bin Laden's still-twitching body, shooting him several times until he lay motionless.

Graphic. But as far as international law is concerned, not necessarily illegal. While most of the legal experts I contacted were reluctant to comment, Daphne Eviatar, senior counsel for Human Rights First, told me that "based on the AP's reporting of what's in the book...the Navy SEALs handled the OBL raid properly," Eviatar said in an email. "They were targeting someone who was a legitimate target under the laws of war, they seemed to legitimately believe it was too dangerous to arrest him under the circumstances, and he didn't seem to be surrendering." Eviatar clarified that while the SEALs would have been obligated to accept a genuine offer of surrender, "they don't have to endanger themselves or others to give him that opportunity."

Another key question, however, is whether or not a Bin Laden surrender would have been accepted, and whether the White House, fearful of the political consequences of bringing Bin Laden back alive to stand trial, urged the SEALs to eliminate him no matter what. According to the Huffington Post's Marcus Baram, Bissonette writes that isn't the case, recalling a White House lawyer who informed him, "I am not going to tell you how to do your job. What we're saying is if he does not pose a threat, you will detain him."

Kevin Jon Heller, a senior lecturer at Melbourne Law School and a blogger for Opinio Juris, has quite a different take. Heller argues that the shots fired at Bin Laden's body after he was already wounded make his killing a war crime. "[Bissonette] and his fellow SEAL thus intentionally killed bin Laden while he was 'otherwise incapacitated by wounds' and hors de combat," Heller writes. "That was a war crime—the war crime of wilful killing." Heller had previously defended the operation as legal.

Kenneth Anderson, a law professor at American University Washington School of Law, disagrees. "Being wounded does not necessarily render one hors de combat; hors de combat means they’re not actually posing a threat to you," Anderson says, citing moments where wounded combatants have used hidden guns or explosives to kill American servicemembers who thought they were surrendering or incapacitated. "There have been far too many incidents in the past, including in Afghanistan and Iraq...cases where American soldiers get killed because they were mistaken about the other side, or parts of the other side surrendering... There’s still no obligation to pause the attack, you’re allowed to put your own safety first."

Bissonette's account is just one of many of course, and unless the video of the operation leaks, only a limited few will ever truly know what happened. 

News Outlets Around the World Totally Confused by Clint Eastwood

| Fri Aug. 31, 2012 12:22 PM EDT

Americans on Twitter were not the only ones confused by the bizarre speech made by actor/director Clint Eastwood at the 2012 GOP convention last night: It was the speech heard 'round the world. Eastwood's conversation with a chair, which presumably held an imaginary President Obama, has been featured in many international news outlets. And while the Obama camp is asking the media to refer all questions about the speech to deceased surrealist painter, Salvador Dalí, it might be useful to also look to the global press for an outside perspective.

Here's a roundup of what various non-English outlets have been saying about Eastwood. Translations courtesy of the extensive language skills of Mother Jones' staff and Google. If you see another good clip from a foreign news source, or have a suggestion about a translation below, please send it our way in the comments. We'll update with the best submissions!

France

Best Quote: Alone facing thousands of hardcore Republicans, Eastwood looked to something familiar for support. He started a laborious name-dropping routine to undercut the image of a denizen of Hollywood (that bastion of socialism)...Then, in a hesitant voice (did he forget his script? was he improvising? had he lost his mind?) he turned to an empty stool, upon which he found Barack Obama, invisible for the moment, but that didn't matter: Clint is nothing but the shadow of his former self. And the gimmick he used, which was halfway between Beckett (Waiting for Barack) and Ionesco (The Chairs) hardly worked for him. Unless all this is nothing but a sham—something along the lines of Brechtian distancing. (GQ Magazine-France)

Germany

Best Quote: The 82-year-old cut off the applause with a brief, "save some for Mitt." But then his coolness suddenly evaporated. Eastwood spoke without a script or a teleprompter, which evidently can be a problem even for an experienced actor. He leapt from topic to topic without ever carrying one argument through to a satisfactory conclusion. Granted, it did not seem to bother the Republicans. Over and over, applause and cheers rang out. But on the outside, away from the Republican base in Tampa, the reaction to Eastwood's appearance was a disbelieving shake of the head. (der Spiegel)

Taiwan

Best Quote: Hollywood star Clint Eastwood took the stage at the Republican National Convention, performing an impromptu one-man show with imaginary Obama in an empty chair. However, experts found his performance lackluster. The convention's mystery guest used his superstar charm and signature gruff voice on stage to warm up for Romney's nomination speech. (Central News Agency)

Spain

Best Quote: The actor, who came onstage to the theme from "The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly," started his speech with a biting dialogue in which he pretended to speak with a chair in which an imaginary Obama was seated. Eastwood asked him various questions that, obviously, didn't draw a response. (La Gaceta)

Iran

Best Quote: "Nonsense from Clint Eastwood, anti-people Hollywood actor, in defense of Mitt Romney, the Right's candidate for the U.S. elections.    For friends who know English, if you understand what this guy said, let me know too." (The Atlantic)

Italy

Best Quote: Not to mention Hollywood sacred cow Clint Eastwood, who came on as a surprise speaker to take part in the "coronation" of the former Massachusetts governor. His performance wowed the crowd, though it was not without its grotesque moments: the great actor and director interviewed an empty chair, pretending that Obama was sitting there. He asked questions and gave answers... concluding with a diss that Obama had turned out worse than Vice President Biden. (Corriere della Sera)

Brazil

Best Quote: With the image of a cowboy in the background, award winning actor and director Clint Eastwood spoke at the National Republican Convention in Tampa, showcasing a different ability: stand-up comedian. (Folha, with translation assist from Brazilian-American journalist Mario Furloni)

Additional reporting by Erika Eichelberger.

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WATCH: Mitt Romney Accidentally Calls the United States a "Company"

| Fri Aug. 31, 2012 12:20 PM EDT

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney held a rally in Lakeland, Florida, on Friday morning, just hours after his much-anticipated acceptance speech at his party's national convention.

Romney must still be tired from last night's big hurrah. In his stump speech on Friday, he mistakenly referred to the United States as a "company." With his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), Romney told supporters, "We will reach across the aisle and find good people who, like us, want to make sure this company deals with its challenges. We'll get America on track again."

Here are Romney's full remarks on the US' tepid economic recovery:

"It's not that [Obama] wasn't trying, in my view. He was pulling the wrong direction. He didn't know what it takes to actually make the economy work. Paul Ryan and I understand how the economy works. We understand how Washington works. We will reach across the aisle and find good people who, like us, want to make sure this company deals with its challenges. We'll get America on track again."

It's not surprising Romney would make this slip. He made his name—and his fortune—turning around failing companies first at the consulting firm Bain and Company, and then at private equity firm Bain Capital. Indeed, his experience turning around failing or bloated companies is central to his pitch to voters for why he should be elected president. But voters may not appreciate Romney confusing the USA with an LLC.

Adamize: Live From Tampa Edition

| Fri Aug. 31, 2012 11:50 AM EDT

National Review's Dan Foster and I discuss humanizing Mitt Romney, what the anti-abortion movement thinks of Todd Akin, and Ann Romney and culture wars on the latest episode of my new Bloggingheads show, Adamize:

More on Ann Romney and her favorite show, Modern Family, here. And yes, I'm dressed very casually while the rest of the MoJo crew is in Tampa. Please don't tell David.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 31, 2012

Fri Aug. 31, 2012 11:24 AM EDT

Marines at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, conduct an early morning hike to a grenade range. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Aaron Hostutler.

Karl Rove Jokes About Murdering Rep. Todd Akin

| Fri Aug. 31, 2012 10:59 AM EDT
Karl Rove.

GOP political guru Karl Rove convened a group of roughly 70 Republican mega-donors Thursday morning at the elite Tampa Club to pitch them on giving millions more to his two-headed outside political juggernaut: American Crossroads, a super-PAC, and Crossroads GPS, a secretive nonprofit organization.

A Bloomberg Businessweek editor managed to get inside Rove's exclusive meeting—and from her report, we now know precisely why reporters are usually kept out. During a discussion of the state of various US Senate races nationwide, Rove allegedly cracked a joke about whacking Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.). "We should sink Todd Akin," Rove quipped. "If he's found mysteriously murdered, don't look for my whereabouts!"

Ouch.

Leaving aside Rove's joke, the entire account of the Rove fundraiser makes for a fascinating read. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) spoke at the event, and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour joined Rove in making the pitch to donors, who included hedge fund guru John Paulson and investor Wilbur Ross.

One point Rove stressed to donors is that his Crossroads groups coordinate closely with the activities of other powerful outside groups, including the political operation run by the Koch brothers. "As many of you know, one of the most important things about Crossroads is: We don't try and do this alone," Rove said. "We have partners. The Kochs—you name it."

Rove also put Crossroads' total budget at $300 million—$200 million of that for the presidential race, the rest on House and Senate races. Here's how the final pitch went down:

After screening a collection of television ads aimed at such Senate battleground states as Massachusetts, the fundraising began in earnest. CEO Law said that because of the “tremendous generosity" of many of the people in the room, American Crossroads is two-thirds of the way toward reaching its $300 million goal. But it still needs much more. With advertising rates going up and the necessity of “dealing with the gender-gap issue,” they could easily spend more than $300 million.

Barbour made the final pitch. "You all give so unbelievably generously. But you know what, I don't have any compunction about looking you in the eye and asking for more,” he said. He compared the importance of a donation to American Crossroads in this cycle to donations made to "the charity hospital" or a "big not-for-profit cancer research program that you give to."

"This is a high-stakes election," he continued. "The consequences are greater than any election, and I know everybody in here wants their children and grandchildren to inherit the same country we did. I honestly believe those are the stakes."