Political MoJo

Ozomatli: Diplomacy You Can Dance To

| Wed Aug. 1, 2007 8:46 PM EDT

Ozomatli, the Los Angeles-based Latin-rock-funk band, is touring the world on the government's dime.

U.S. officials, who I'm sure are eager to present an image of an America different from the footage of soldiers fighting insurgents in Iraq, recently sent the Grammy-winning band to Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, and Tunisia on a U.S. State Department grant. Their trip included visits to orphanages, schools, and community centers. They also hosted master classes and music workshops.

A government-sponsored trip of diplomacy really does suit this funk band, which was founded 12 years ago—at a labor workers' protest—to promote issues of social justice and community involvement.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Questions for GOP YouTube Debate Not Friendly

| Wed Aug. 1, 2007 1:32 PM EDT

Want to know why most of the Republican presidential candidates are ducking their scheduled YouTube debate? Just take a look at some of the questions they're getting. Brutal.

Body Blow to John Edwards: Unions Might Not Issue Endorsement

| Wed Aug. 1, 2007 12:52 PM EDT

Bad news for Jedwards. Union leadership is "so happy" with the Democratic candidates for president that it might not endorse a contender in the primary, according to the NY Times. John Edwards, of course, has spent literally years courting organized labor in the hopes of getting its endorsement, which would be a huge boost for him in Iowa, where as many as one-third of Democratic caucusgoers come from union households, and elsewhere.

What's particularly sad is that poor Edwards hasn't done anything wrong. "There's a pretty strong sentiment across the labor movement for Edwards," said Steve Rosenthal, a former political director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. "But I think some unions are a little leery of endorsing him without more evidence that he can win."

Ouch. How's that for a catch-22? Edwards can't get the labor endorsement because he can't win, and he can't win without the labor endorsement. It's tough being number three.

The Power of Wind Energy

| Tue Jul. 31, 2007 8:35 PM EDT

This Friday, the House is voting on bill H.R. 969, including the Udall-Platts Amendment that will require more of our electricity to come from renewable power sources like wind. In addition to creating jobs, the amendment is designed to keep electricity bills low, reduce our dependence on sources of power that aren't created in the U.S., and curb greenhouse gas emissions. Check it out.

Big oil & coal are fighting it. Fight them. Renewables are good for all stakeholders on planet Earth. JULIA WHITTY

Finally Some Progress on Darfur

| Tue Jul. 31, 2007 5:05 PM EDT

Reuters is reporting that the United Nations Security Council has authorized 26,000 peacekeepers for Sudan's Darfur region. Member countries will have 30 days to decide how many troops and police they will be contributing to the mission (American ground troops seem unlikely). The unanimous vote came only after the peacekeepers' mandate had been watered down several times, but this is unmistakably progress:

The resolution allows the use of force in self-defense, to ensure freedom of movement for humanitarian workers and to protect civilians under attack.

Language that allowed confiscating illegal weapons would have been nice, but being able to act to protect civilians under attack is what is most important. And while 26,000 blue hats probably isn't enough to stop the widespread killing in Darfur, it's a lot better than 7,000 African Union troops. It's a sign that the international community is finally starting to move on this issue. It's a start. We can be grateful for that.

— Nick Baumann

Dep't of See to Believe: Professionally Enraged Man in Every Press Photo Ever

| Tue Jul. 31, 2007 3:25 PM EDT

Okay, I can't vouch for this site, but it seems to have found an omnipresent Islamic protester who is very angry and has a knack for finding the camera. It's literally the same dude in tons of different photos. Take a second and make your day.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Lock Him Up Already: Second Ted Stevens Investigation Underway

| Tue Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 PM EDT

When Ted Stevens (R-Corruption) isn't busy getting his home raided by the FBI and the IRS due to a possibly illegal sweetheart deal he got when an Alaskan oil company remodeled his house for him, he's landing earmarks that (possibly illegally) enrich his former aide and his son's current business partner. Now — who'da thunk it? — he's getting investigated for that, too. For more info, see Think Progress.

Also, CREW thinks it's a good idea if the most egregious mishandler of cash in Washington isn't sitting on the committee that doles out all the cash. They're calling for Stevens to lose his seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. (He's also the ranking member on the Commerce Committee.) No one thought of this earlier?

New Job for Justice's No. 2.

| Tue Jul. 31, 2007 11:00 AM EDT

Former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, whose testimony this past spring that the US attorneys had been fired because of poor performance helped open the can of worms at the Justice Department, has found a new job. Roll Call reports that McNulty will become a partner starting September 1 at Baker & McKenzie. Specialties? How about defending administration official clients being investigated for perjury, politicizing federal agencies civil services, violations of the Hatch Act, with a smidgen of obstruction of justice and contempt of Congress defendees thrown in?

(Via TPMm.)

Iraq: Yes, It's As Bad As You Think

| Tue Jul. 31, 2007 9:55 AM EDT

There's a lot of talk lately about how the Iraq troop "surge" is working and how, at long last, we may finally be close to turning a corner in the struggle to stabilize the country. I call bullshit. (So does George Packer.) Isn't this the sort of self-serving delusion that got us in there in the first place? No? Well, take a look at this report released yesterday by Oxfam International and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI), a consortium of non-governmental organizations. From the report's executive summary:

Iraqis are suffering from a growing lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation, health care, education, and employment. Of the four million Iraqis who are dependent on food assistance, only 60 per cent currently have access to rations through the government-run Public Distribution System (PDS), down from 96 per cent in 2004.
Forty-three per cent of Iraqis suffer from 'absolute poverty'. According to some estimates, over half the population are now without work. Children are hit the hardest by the decline in living standards. Child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 per cent before the US-led invasion in 2003 to 28 per cent now.
The situation is particularly hard for families driven from their homes by violence. The two million internally displaced people (IDPs) have no incomes to rely on and are running out of coping mechanisms. In 2006, 32 per cent of IDPs had no access to PDS food rations, while 51 per cent reported receiving food rations only sometimes.
The number of Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies has risen from 50 per cent to 70 per cent since 2003, while 80 per cent lack effective sanitation. The 'brain drain' that Iraq is experiencing is further stretching already inadequate public services, as thousands of medical staff, teachers, water engineers, and other professionals are forced to leave the country. At the end of 2006, perhaps 40 per cent had left already.

It's highly unlikely that any meaningful corners can be turned in Iraq until the population's basic needs are met. Yes, lack of security is the primary reason for the lag, but aren't we responsible for that, too? For those of you who missed it, NPR's "On Point" aired an interview with filmmaker Charles Ferguson, whose documentary, "No End in Sight: The Occupation of Iraq," won a special jury prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival. It opened in theaters last Friday. You may think you've heard it all before, but you haven't. Take a listen.

Classically-Trained Hipsters Release New Album

| Mon Jul. 30, 2007 10:20 PM EDT

The world-renowned "little orchestra" known as Pink Martini recently released their third album, and it's damn good.

What started out as a a quintet playing fundraisers for causes such as affordable housing and public broadcasting in 1994 is now a 12-piece ensemble that tours the world as Portland, Oregon's "international ambassador of culture."

Check out Mother Jones' review of their new material on the Arts and Culture page.