Political MoJo

Rush Limbaugh Compares Anti-War Vet to Suicide Bomber

| Wed Oct. 3, 2007 9:52 AM EDT

It might be time for Rush Limbaugh to shut up. After he called active duty members of the armed forces who criticize the Iraq War "phony soldiers," an organization of veterans called VoteVets released an ad starring an injured Iraq veteran who told Rush, "Until you have the guts to call me a 'phony soldier' to my face, stop telling lies about my service." (See the ad here.)

Limbaugh's response was to make the situation worse by comparing the vet to a suicide bomber. And here's the final twist: the veteran revealed in a post at Daily Kos that the traumatic brain injury he suffered in Iraq was actually caused by a suicide attack.

Rush, stop digging.

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Maybe The Lawyers Should Have Gone on Oprah

| Wed Oct. 3, 2007 9:35 AM EDT

Author James Frey got more than just a tongue lashing from Oprah after his memoir, A Million Little Pieces, was exposed as a fraud. Disgruntled book buyers also filed a class action against Frey and his publisher asking for a refund. The case settled and Frey and Random House agreed to pay up to $2.35 million to people who got duped into buying the book.

Frey and his publisher, though, must be breathing sighs of relief. The Smoking Gun reports than despite newspaper ads urging people to claim their refunds, only about 1300 of the 4 million people who bought the book actually did, meaning that damage to Frey and Random House will be far smaller than expected. (And in case you were thinking about filing a claim now, it's too late. The deadline was Monday.) Clearly the lawyers haven't noticed that no one reads newspapers anymore. Now if they'd put the ads on say, Craigslist...

Afghanistan Seeing Most Violent Year Since 2001: Does Anyone Care?

| Wed Oct. 3, 2007 9:35 AM EDT

Here at Mother Jones we've tried to draw some attention to the fact that Afghanistan is going horribly, horribly wrong right under our noses. Peter Bergen tracked the Iraqization of Afghanistan, Kevin Patterson poignantly illustrated the lack of adequate frontline medicine in that country, and Lana Slezic documented the awful plight of women there in a series of beautiful photographs.

But it doesn't seem to be working. Afghanistan is currently enduring its most violent year since the 2001 intervention, according to the U.N. Department of Safety and Security, and few members of the American press seem to care.

Thankfully, McClatchy has been paying attention, at least. Here's excerpts from their reporting:

There were 525 security incidents — attacks by the Taliban and other violent groups, bombings, terrorism of other kinds, and abductions — on average every month during the first half of this year, up from an average of 425 incidents per month in 2006.
[snip]
Guerrillas have been staging fewer conventional attacks on U.S.-led NATO forces and Afghan troops and relying more heavily on suicide attacks, improvised explosive devices, assassinations, intimidation and abductions.

Sound like any place you know?

I have no idea why the Democratic leadership in Congress and the Democratic presidential candidates don't shove this information in the faces of American voters. It serves, from my point of view, as a pretty persuasive argument for redeployment out of Iraq. But then, maybe they are afraid that voters weary of one Middle Eastern conflict don't want to see troops thrown right into another one. Even if it's one we still have a chance to win.

Vladimir Putin in Charge for Life - Someway, Somehow

| Wed Oct. 3, 2007 9:15 AM EDT

You've probably heard by now that Vladimir Putin has an interesting solution to being term-limited out of the Russian presidency — become Prime Minister.

Here's an explanation from Slate:

For the past 15 years, [the Prime Ministerial post] has gone to figureheads, technocrats, and relatively unknown economists, some very young. Presidents Yeltsin and Putin both hired and fired prime ministers at will: Russia has thus had 10 prime ministers in the past 10 years, many of them unknown to the general public.
There is, however, nothing in the Russian Constitution that prevents the Russian prime minister from becoming the de facto leader of the country—if the president doesn't object. And if the president is going to be Victor Zubkov, or some other figurehead from Putin's secret inner circle, presumably he won't object. Or he'll be paid not to object. Or he'll be blackmailed not to object. Or he'll deem it in the best interests of his own personal safety not to object. Thus Putin can go on ruling Russia, presumably indefinitely.
It's quite a neat trick, if you think about it: It's as if George W. Bush decided to step down from office, run for Congress in 2008, declare himself speaker of the House, and declare that the speaker of the House would, from then on, take over the president's responsibilities, and run the executive branch. We would call that a de facto coup d'etat. In Russia, it's constitutional politics.

And the Russians don't really seem to mind. Witness this quote from an ABC News story: "What would you expect? He's a fit man of only 55, raised the country from ruin to prosperity," said Rita Aliyev, a teacher. "It never crossed my mind that he'd retire. It's great that at least he's now looking for a democratic way to stay in power."

Putin's approval rating is at 77 percent, ruling out the possibility of Dick Cheney trying this ploy.

Does the Virtual World Need Virtual Lawsuits?

| Wed Oct. 3, 2007 9:14 AM EDT

A Pennsylvania lawyer has sued the creator of the online virtual universe Second Life after the company banned him from the game and confiscated his virtual winnings. Apparently he'd been cheating in the game's land-auction process. The lawyer is asking for $8,000 in restitution. Maybe the game needs to be expanded to include "virtual litigation," complete with jury pools and subpoena power...

New Evidence: Republicans Losing Key Chunk of Their Base

| Wed Oct. 3, 2007 8:54 AM EDT

Put this in the Schauenfreude department:

The Republican Party, known since the late 19th century as the party of business, is losing its lock on that title.
New evidence suggests a potentially historic shift in the Republican Party's identity -- what strategists call its "brand." The votes of many disgruntled fiscal conservatives and other lapsed Republicans are now up for grabs, which could alter U.S. politics in the 2008 elections and beyond.
Some business leaders are drifting away from the party because of the war in Iraq, the growing federal debt and a conservative social agenda they don't share. In manufacturing sectors such as the auto industry, some Republicans want direct government help with soaring health-care costs, which Republicans in Washington have been reluctant to provide. And some business people want more government action on global warming, arguing that a bolder plan is not only inevitable, but could spur new industries.

In addition to citing several major long-time GOP donors who are now supporting Democrats, the WSJ has numbers: "In the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in September, 37% of professionals and managers identify themselves as Republican or leaning Republican, down from 44% three years ago."

And, "Hedge funds last year gave 77% of their contributions in congressional races to Democrats, up from 71% during the 2004 election... Last year the securities industry gave 45% of its money to Republicans, down from 58% in 1996."

The end result of all this is a near-bankruptcy for the party that is going to seriously hamper its national campaign efforts. It's amazing they could screw things up this badly just seven years after taking the White House and five years after taking Congress.

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U.S., the Biggest Global Arms Dealer

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 8:18 PM EDT

We're leaders in everything, from outsourcing to having the highest rate of child poverty among industrialized nations. We are also, according to a Congressional Service Research (CRS) report released yesterday, the top seller of arms to the developing world, followed by Russia and Great Britain. Its biggest recipients are Pakistan and India.

With this $28.8 billion market, the U.S. is effectively fueling a long standing rivalry between two nuclear states on the Indian subcontinent by arming both sides and pushing along a regional arms race. By selling F-16's to both sides, the Bush administration claimed back in 2005, it was "trying to...solidify and extend relations with both India and Pakistan, at a time when we have good relations with both of them...and at a time when they have improving relationships with one another."

This is certainly nothing new: the U.S. doesn't hesitate to arm both sides of a conflict. Let us remember Turkey and Greece, as well as Iran and Iraq.

—Neha Inamdar

Jena Just Isn't Enough: Protest or Participation?

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 1:24 PM EDT

In the wake of news, both good and bad, about minority crime, Congress finally coming to grips with the crack/powder cocaine sentencing travesty, and actionable analyses of the prison-industrial complex gaining traction, the question remains one of finding a way forward to inner city uplift. (Of course, for some, the question remains "how can we get those ig'nent black people to accept that all their problems are entirely of their own making. That they, and they alone, live in a socio-historical vaccuum, untouched by the doings of the dominant group.")

White apologists to the contrary, and except in Louim-ian circumstances, we do not need a "21st Century Civil Rights Movement." Not if that means an emphasis on marching, protesting and denunciations of racism. Been there. Done that. Move along, now. Whites' consciousness isn't going to be raised any higher until the black one undergoes some major renovations and maybe not even then; people see what they want to see. In fact, we'd do best to assume whites will never be any more enlightened than they are now because, to paraphrase Chris Rock, it wasn't the white media chasing him home from the subway.

Is it whites' fault that Ray-Ray was chasing Chris? Ok, let's go with that, but to stop there is to fetishize white people. It's to assume that whites are all-malevolent, all-powerful and there's nothing blacks can do to protect, let alone better, themselves. On the other hand, to procede to figuring out a way to reach Ray-Ray is to love black people and the black future. It's to believe in them. And, here's the hard part: believing in someone or something has to mean a willingness to critique it closely for flaws, for failing to live up to its potential, then working to correct those flaws.

So when I hear of organizations like this one, I know I've encountered a true "nigger lover." They didn't just harp on blacks' disproportionate unemployment levels and how the prison-industrial complex keeps black men forever on the margins; they opened the "Homeboy Bakery" and created jobs with futures for America's despised. And talk about a work ethic when you know your boss, and your clientele, wants to see you shine. Leaders like this talk about "watching people become the truth of who they are." The other kind talk about white people.

Here's another way forward vice back, yet again, to whites:

The plan to put 10,000 men on the streets for an initial period of 90 days starting late this year is the latest effort by Philadelphia's black community to curb violence that drove homicides to a nine-year high of 406 in 2006.
Groups of volunteers will be stationed on drug corners and other trouble spots in a bid to stop the shootings and other crimes that have given Philadelphia the highest homicide rate among the nation's 10 largest cities. They will not be armed, will not have powers of arrest, and will be identified only by armbands or hats during their three-hour shifts.
They will be trained in conflict resolution, and are intended to be peacekeepers and mentors rather than law enforcers. Each patrol, however, will include a police officer.

Sure would be a lot easier to walk a picket line once a year or so and yell stuff at TV cameras.

Needless to say, the folks who secretly believe that all the lies are true, that black dysfunction and underachievement is the truth of who we are, are putting far more effort into derailing the plan than volunteering for it: "Critics say the plan will fail to meet its recruitment goals, partly because it is too closely identified with the police, who will be responsible for selecting the areas to patrol and who are distrusted in many neighborhoods." It doesn't take a CIA analyst to see who here is invested in black progress and who in preserving a status quo that enables their fascination with Anglos and absolves blacks of any responsibility for their own uplift.

My frustrations with the problematics of the Jena protests has me stuck on this topic, I know, but never fear: I'll move on. I'd planned to today; my umbrage isn't even close to fully taken and it's a target-rich environment out there. But then I happened upon the following article early this morning. One participant at a recent conference of marginalized black/migrant European women summarized their goal thusly: "We don't want to protest, we want to participate." Sounds good to me. It also sounds like a critique.

Hillary's Fundraising Numbers

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 11:59 AM EDT

I brought you Obama's numbers yesterday, so here are Hillary's.

In comparison to Obama's 93,000 new donors this third quarter of 2007, Clinton had 100,000.

In comparison to Obama's $20 million raised, Clinton raised $27 million. (Just FYI, John Edwards raised $7 million. Richardson raised $5.2 million.)

Clinton's the frontrunner, all right. Overall, she's raised $90 million to Obama's $80 million. What on earth are they going to do with all that money?

New Poll Shows War Opposition

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 11:44 AM EDT

There's a new Washington Post/ABC poll on Iraq.

The question: Do you think Congress should approve $190 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next year or reduce the amount?

The response:
- Approve all money: 26%
- Reduce somewhat: 23%
- Reduce sharply: 43%
- Approve no money: 3%

It's clear that a majority of Americans oppose constantly handing more money over to George W. Bush to prosecute his wars.