Political MoJo

No Cheap Seats for the Pelosi-Bush Iraq Showdown

| Fri May 4, 2007 2:04 PM EDT

Think Progress points out that a side-effect of all the recent congressional sword-play, aimed at attaching a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, has been to overshadow the staggering amount of money being sent there (if passed, the new appropriation bill will push total spending on the war over the half trillion mark). Think that's high? That's not the half of it. Check out Mother Jones' interview with Nobel Prize Winning Economist Joseph Stiglitz for some real sticker shock. And don't miss MoJo's Iraq for Dummies to see where all that money has been spent.

—Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell

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Obama's MySpace Meltdown

| Thu May 3, 2007 10:17 PM EDT

The blogosphere is abuzz with news of a falling out between the campaign of Senator Barack Obama and Joe Anthony, an unpaid volunteer who created and maintained an unofficial fan page that has evolved into the candidate's most popular site on MySpace, with more than 160,000 friends.

The conflict has been brewing for some time now, but ended messily on Tuesday when MySpace agreed to transfer the URL to Obama.

Micah Sifry of Techpresident writes:

How all this happened is a complicated tale that is still unfolding, and none of the parties involved--Anthony, the Obama online team, and the MySpace political operation--emerge from this story unscathed. Speaking on background, Obama campaign staffers are spreading word that Anthony just wanted a "big payday." Anthony in turn has posted a missive on his blog (that was originally sent to me as an email) accusing the Obama team of "bullying...[and] rotten and dishonest" behavior. However one parses those accusations (more below), the Obama campaign's reputation as the most net-savvy of 2008 has taken a big hit.

Something like this was bound to happen this year as top-down campaign structures have begun to collide with the new bottom-up energy of social networking and content sharing on the Web. Obama's campaign strove for a hybrid model -- Anthony retained control of the MySpace page, but Obama's campaign also had access, and promoted the site. The advantages were obvious: free labor, a sense from the grassroots that they matter, and a populist PR spin. Then the campaign lost faith in Anthony and turned everything on its head. Yesterday, the campaign finally addressed the incident on Obama's blog, but from the looks of the comments, he still has a long way to go to win back the trust of many would-be "friends."

Reagan, Islamophobia, and Slamming Hillary: The Republicans Debate (Also, More Reagan)

| Thu May 3, 2007 9:48 PM EDT

My thoughts on tonight's GOP debate at the Ronald Reagan library in Southern California:

- MSNBC.com and Politco.com, don't you dare advertise live web broadcasts again unless you make that thing work. MSNBC's video player delivered audio and video that would start and stop constantly, causing me to miss endless things and almost punch my computer. Politico's was basically the same, but with bonus out-of-focusness. Thanks, guys.

- Reagan, Reagan, Reagan. The candidates on stage couldn't stop invoking the former president. I know the event was held in a building named after him and overseen by his widow, but Jesus, it's like there was only one inspiring Republican in the last twenty five years. What, Bob Livingston doesn't cut it?

- The first half of the debate was all about foreign policy and everyone tried to out macho one another, claiming in increasingly shrill fashion that Muslim extremists want to end the American way of life. They spoke of Iran in tones that were similar to Dick Cheney's talk of Iraq six years ago. Put in the tough position of being unable to slam the president (because he's from their party) and being unable to praise the president (because he has screwed everything up and has comically low popularity), the candidates resorting to setting up Islamic extremism as a straw man and beating the crap out of it rhetorically. It was kind of scary, if you don't like the prospect of bombing/invading another country sometime soon.

- Talking about hawkish one-ups-manship: Romney said of Osama bin Laden: "He will die." McCain trumped that by saying, "I will follow him to the gates of hell." Good heavens, John.

- It has always bugged me that these guys misunderstand or understand and then deliberately misrepresent the reasons why certain factions of the Muslim world hate the United States. They don't hate our freedoms. Okay, maybe a tiny number of al Qaeda types do, but the 70 percent of the Islamic world (rough estimate) that currently tells pollsters that they can't stand the U.S. don't hate our freedoms; they hate that we have supported pro-Western dictatorships in their region, they hate that we reliably and sometimes unthinkingly support Israel, and they hate that we invaded a country that posed no threat to us and completely destroyed it. These are everyday folks, not terrorists, we're talking about. In their position, we might hate us too.

- John McCain continued the tough talk on Iraq, saying stuff like "We cannot surrender" and "Failure is not an option." And yet he also says that we've got a new strategy and a new general and we need to give them a chance to succeed. Well, what happens if six months pass and nothing gets better? Does John McCain finally advocate pulling out? Does he call that surrender? This war isn't going to get better. John McCain will eventually have to agree to what the Democrats are suggesting now: smartly and strategically redeploying the troops out of the country. Will he call that defeat? For his own sake, he better stop throwing around those words.

- Romney was asked for one thing wrong about America, and he said, completely stunned, "I love America." Then he gushed about the American people for 30 seconds. Why have we reached a point as a country where it is politically dangerous to say one damn thing we could improve about ourselves? We couldn't get health insurance for some portion of the 47 million Americans who don't have coverage, Mitt? You couldn't even say something like, "Improve inner city schools"?

- The day Roe v. Wade is overturned, according to Sam Brownback, will be a "glorious day of human liberty and freedom." According to Tancredo, it would be "the greatest day in this country's history." Really, Tom? Not the day of the Emancipation Proclamation? Or, oh I don't know, the Fourth of July?

- Why can't John McCain stop squinting?

- Ron Paul is the GOP's Mike Gravel and I love him for it.

- Towards the end, Chris Matthews asked if it was a good idea for Bill Clinton to be back in the White House again. Dumb question, clearly, because the answer for everyone (they're running for president after all) is obviously "No." But it gave each candidate a chance to rip Hillary. It was like Matthews strung her up as pinata and handed the GOP a big ol' stick. And boy, they beat the daylights out of her.

Okay, that's it. Last observation: this may be the last presidential primary debate for either party that is composed exclusively of white men. Times are changing, folks. Oh, and Reagan Reagan Reagan.

Blog Interviews Office of Special Counsel

| Thu May 3, 2007 9:47 PM EDT

We've written about how the Office of Special Counsel has abdicated its responsibilities to protect whistleblowers under the guidance of its current director, Scott Bloch, a religious conservative and Bush appointee. We've also written about how Bloch's investigation of Karl Rove is a bit suspicious.

The Cest Moi Political Blog got a hold of a representative from the OSC and gets his thoughts on some of this, and on other things. You can check it out here.

Health and Environment News of the Day

| Thu May 3, 2007 8:51 PM EDT

What do Funyuns, flying squirrels, and octogenarian tortoises all have in common?

You can read news about them all today on The Blue Marble Blog.

LAPD at It Again: Beatings of Protestors and Journalists Caught on Tape

| Thu May 3, 2007 4:08 PM EDT

This May Day, immigrants again rallied in Los Angeles. Though not as well attended as last year's national news-making rallies in L.A. and Chicago, the L.A. event drew tens of thousands of participants. The event was peaceful—until the end, when police tried to clear out a city park after having a few bottles thrown at them (8 officers were treated for minor injuries on the scene).

I saw this story yesterday, but decided against blogging it because the video clip made the hubbub look pretty tame. But apparently the clip I saw was misleading. The police "wielded batons and fired 240 'less-than-lethal' rounds at demonstrators and reporters" In the process, they injured 10 people—including 7 reporters who were covering, rather than participating in, the incident.

The LAPD is like one big cautionary tale for insensitivity. The officers had told everyone to clear the park—in English only. Seriously? In Los Angeles, at a rally for Latino immigrants? And here's what the cops did to reporters:

[KPCC reporter Patricia] Nazario said she was walking away from riot police when she was hit in the back.

Wearing a press pass and holding a microphone, she turned around and told the officer, "Why did you hit me? I'm moving. I'm a reporter," Nazario recalled.

Then the officer hit her on the left leg, she said, knocking her to the ground and sending her cellphone flying.

"I was shocked, trying to scramble to my feet," she said. "At that point, I just started crying…. I just felt totally vulnerable."

Pedro Sevcec was anchoring the evening news for Telemundo when he saw the riot police moving slowly toward the news crews.

…Police knocked over monitors and lights and hit reporters and camera operators with batons, he said.

Sevcec said police hit him three times and pointed a riot gun at his face before pushing him out of the park.

The best thing those in power have going in this country is that the middle class really likes to believe that life is fair and that authority operates with equanimity. Most members of the media share that bias. Making them feel under attack is a huge strategic mistake: When a reporter is beaten to the ground, that reporter is going to get up radicalized—and pissed off.

L.A. news crews won the right to cover public protests even when police declare it an unlawful assembly as part of a lawsuit brought on behalf of a handful of journalists who were assaulted by the L.A.P.D. while covering the 2000 Democratic National Convention in L.A.

These guys never learn!

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Are You "Devoting Your Life to Weasels"? If So, Rudy Giuliani Hates You

| Thu May 3, 2007 12:42 PM EDT

Rudy Giuliani had a well-earned reputation for strong-arm tactics when he was mayor of New York. Whether it was homeless people, graffiti artists, or ferret-lovers, nothing was going to stand in his way of enacting the change he deemed best for the Big Apple.

Wait, ferret-lovers? Yup. In 1999, Giuliani unloaded on a caller who phoned in to the mayor's radio show because the caller was a ferret-owners advocate and Giuliani supported a law that took away the poor guy's pet. Prepare to be entertained. Audio here and a transcript here.

I'm guessing presidential hopefuls will avoid hosting their own radio shows in the future. Or they'll get better call screeners...

Bush: And You All Thought I Was 'the Decider'

| Thu May 3, 2007 11:43 AM EDT

Bush is at it again, giving himself great little nicknames that I think are meant to assuage our fears that he makes extremely important decisions without paying mind to Congress, the military, or the American people. Yesterday, Bush, in his explanation as to why he vetoed the $124 billion war spending bill that passed in both the House and the Senate last week, which would have set a timeline for withdrawal, designated himself "the Commander Guy." It's priceless:

The question is, 'Who ought to make that decision, the Congress or the commanders?' As you know, my position is clear – I'm the commander guy.

Thanks to Think Progress, you can watch it here.

Republicans Debate Tonight in LA, 10 Candidates Attending!

| Thu May 3, 2007 10:58 AM EDT

When the Democrats debated last week, nothing happened. I think that's largely because there is little ideological difference between the candidates: all they can really do is disagree on how to achieve the goals they all value.

Not so with the Republicans. When 10 GOP candidates get together tonight in Los Angeles, there will be some who support abortion (Giuliani) and some who are violently against it (Brownback). There will some who hate illegal immigration in their bones (Tancredo) and some who have a kindlier position on the issue (McCain, Giuliani). There will be true conservatives (Huckabee, Brownback, others), some mushy conservatives (Romney, McCain, Giuliani), and one libertarian (Paul). I think the frontrunners will play it safe, but the rest of the pack might take a few nasty stabs in order to distinguish themselves.

Should make for good times. You can find a full lineup and a list of things to watch for at the New York Times' political blog, The Caucus.

Army Cracks Down On Military Blogs, Emails

| Thu May 3, 2007 9:15 AM EDT

If you are the husband or wife or sibling or parent of a U.S. Army soldier serving in Iraq and you blog (and according to the new rules, email) about the war, you are now in official trouble with the U.S. Army.

The Army is getting strict about its rule that soldiers sending emails or posting items on blogs must first clear the content with a superior officer. Since, to avoid possible court-martial, a soldier would have to check with her commanding officer before making every blog post, soldiers' blogs about the Iraq war can safely be called a thing of the past.

The guidelines also appy to civilians working for the Army, Army contractors and soldiers' family members.

"This is the final nail in the coffin for combat blogging," said retired paratrooper Matthew Burden, editor of The Blog of War anthology. "No more military bloggers writing about their experiences in the combat zone. This is the best PR the military has--its most honest voice out of the war zone--and it's being silenced."