Political MoJo

When the Netroots Attack! MoJo's Politics 2.0 Package

| Tue Jun. 26, 2007 2:25 PM EDT

Are we entering a new era of digital democracy—or just being conned by a bunch of smooth-talking geeks? That's the central question behind Mother Jones' Politics 2.0 package, which went up on the home page today. (Monika's and my ed note on the topic can be found here.)

In it we explore whether A-list netroots bloggers are acting more like political bosses of old. And chart the GOP/Pay-Pal connection: a bunch of Silicon Valley conservatives now trying to build the right-wing MoveOn from the top down. In light of the Supreme Court's campaign finance decision yesterday, our piece on how despite the advent of viral video like "macaca" and "Hillary 1984," the 30-second TV campaign spot ain't going anywhere yet seems more pertinent than ever.

And we published great excerpts (and full interviews) with 27 netizens, digerati, and politicos including Lawrence Lessig, Esther Dyson, Jimmy Wales, Howard Dean, and the "Hillary 1984" guy.

Oh, and I interviewed Digg founder Kevin Rose to get the scoop on whether his site can be gamed, and what's up with those Ron Paul supporters, and the perils of making video while drinking heavily.

Check it out.

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Taking Cheney at His Word

| Tue Jun. 26, 2007 1:43 PM EDT

Two can play this game. In response to Dick Cheney's claim that he's not part of the executive branch, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Il.) is taking him at his word and proposing cutting the vice president's office from executive branch funding. Says Emanuel: "If the vice president truly believes he is not a part of the executive branch, he should return the salary the American taxpayers have been paying him since January 2001 and move out of the home for which they are footing the bill." Should the proposal pass, Senate President Cheney would presumably receive full funding to execute his constitutional duty to periodically tell lawmakers to go F themselves.

Free Speech Takes a Big Hit in "Bong" Case

| Tue Jun. 26, 2007 1:34 AM EDT

Well, that sure ended badly. The Supreme Court ruled today that public schools can limit students' speech if they express themselves in a way that might be construed as pro-drug. The case in question involved an Alaska student who'd been suspended after he unfurled a tongue-in-cheek banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at a school event. Chief Justice Roberts argued that because the banner just might give someone the idea that toking up is OK, it could be suppressed: ''The message on Frederick's banner is cryptic. But Principal Morse thought the banner would be interpreted by those viewing it as promoting illegal drug use, and that interpretation is plainly a reasonable one." By that standard, couldn't someone reasonably interpret the banner as a religious message and therefore demand its protection? Apparently not.

When this case hit the docket a few months ago, I figured it would be a novelty. Boy, was I wrong. The decision was 5-4, but you already knew that, right?

Cheney Stovepipes Climate Policy; Christie Todd Witman Declares Herself A Candidate, Er, Innocent

| Mon Jun. 25, 2007 10:29 PM EDT

Over at Rolling Stone, MoJo alum Tim Dickinson has a great piece on how Dick "I'm
My Very Own Branch of Government
" Cheney skillfully got a clueless Bush to gut all meaningful climate policy.

"By having control of the energy plan, the vice president also had the reins on the climate policy," says Jeremy Symons, who sat in on Cheney's energy task force. "The ideology is simple: You don't put limits on greenhouse-gas pollution, because that might put limits on coal and oil - and that would hurt industry's performance. Everything else flowed from that."

Though many details in the piece have been reported before—Mother Jones, for example, published a huge investigation into ExxonMobil's role in the Bush administration's climate change policy, and nobody's done better work on this than the NYT's Andy Revkin—Tim got a big document dump from unnamed former administration sources, including, no doubt, the former head of the EPA, Christie Todd Witman, who spends much of the article claiming on the record that she was shocked, shocked that Bush & Cheney put the task of carrying industry's water over protecting the planet.

"The consequences of climate change are very real and very negative, but Cheney is not convinced of that," says Christie Todd Witman. "He believes - not quite as much as Senator James Inhofe, that this is a 'hoax' - but that the Earth has been changing since it was formed and to say that climate change is caused by humans is incorrect."

You know, if she was so appalled, she coulda just gone public and resigned. (She did resign in 2003 to "spend more time with her family.") She also coulda spoke out on this subject forcefully before, say, the most recent meeting on the Koyoto protocols. As it is she's just another Tenet-come-lately to the abandon Bush brigade.

Witman keeps denying she's interested in running for president (more like VP). But she recently wrote a book called It's My Party Too. As a pro-choice(ish) moderate Republican, a former governor, and a chick armed with a formidable family political pedigree—CTW could make an interesting addition to a ticket. Except for the whole "I allowed global warming to go unchecked on my watch" problem. That and telling everyone it was safe to go back to Ground Zero two weeks after 9/11.

Let's see if she can blame Cheney for that!

Update: CTW spent the entire day today on Capitol Hill, defending her 9/11 record. It did not fly with Rep. Jerry Nadler (more after the jump). And the timing of the RS article is fortuitous? Perhaps.

Update #2: Tim has given generous shout-outs to Revkin, Ron Suskin, as well as Chris Mooney and Ross Gelpspan-who along with Bill McKibben-wrote MoJo's ExxonMobil investigation.

Dubai Energy Tower Is Sexy and Sustainable

| Mon Jun. 25, 2007 4:08 PM EDT

A new energy tower designed by German architect Eckhard Gerber is the tallest zero-emissions skyscraper in the world. Read more at Mother Jones' science and health blog, The Blue Marble.

Indie Pubs and Bay Area Media Hit Hard

| Mon Jun. 25, 2007 4:01 PM EDT

Read more about the demise of indie publishing and the incredible shrinking Bay Area media at Mother Jones' arts and culture blog The Riff.

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Republican Immigration Scandal in California

| Mon Jun. 25, 2007 2:55 PM EDT

The right-wing blogosphere has been apoplectic since the San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday that a top official hired by the California Republican Party was ordered deported in 2001, jailed three years later for visa violations, and has filed a $5 million wrongful arrest suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Party COO Michael Kamburowski resigned a few hours later, after Jon Fleischman of the Flash Report blog asked, with typical talk-radio rhetoric, "Is our COO suing America?"

The short answer is of course, "yes," but what bemused GOP border watchers have failed to consider is that Kamburowski may have filed his suit with good cause. He was jailed for about a month for visa violations, but an immigration court later overturned his deportation order. This is not to say that Kamburowski is innocent in the matter; at minimum he exercised colossally bad judgment by not disclosing the issue. Still, the GOP rush to condemn him says a lot about the way the party treats immigrants these days. The most interesting question raised by the scandal: why did someone who says he was traumatized by overzealous DHS goons go to work for a party inimical to civil rights and immigration reform?

This latest twist comes after the Chronicle reported earlier this month that the state GOP hired another immigrant as a top consultant using an H1B visa, a specialized work visa that requires employers to make a good-faith effort to hire Americans first. "Apparently," Jay Leno said that evening, "working for Republicans is one of those icky jobs Americans just don't want to do." And perhaps that explains Kamburowski. If I had to guess I'd say he has a lot in common with the migrant laborers who were busted by ICE in Southern California after they'd helped build the border fence.

Title IX--35 Years Old And Still Misunderstood

| Sat Jun. 23, 2007 11:39 AM EDT

Title IX is 35 years old today. The brainchild of former Congresswoman Patsy Mink, Title IX establishes equal opportunity for girls in all schools that receive federal funding. Unfortunately, the term "Title IX" is now associated with equal athletic opportunity, but the law covers much more than that.

Also unfortunately, many people who write and argue about Title IX, including many journalists who should know better, are clueless about how the law works.

The ACLU website, in recognition of the 35th anniversary, has an entire section devoted to Title IX. Here, you can learn about what the law means, look at actual Title IX case summaries, and find out what you can do to help promote the ideals of Title IX.

More on Our New Fourth Branch of Government

| Fri Jun. 22, 2007 6:20 PM EDT

Ever-helpful White House spokesperson Dana Perino addresses the curious question of whether Dick Cheney is his own special branch of government:

Q: Do you agree with the contention that the Office of the Vice President is not part of the executive branch?

MS. PERINO: What I know -- and I am not a lawyer; and this is an interesting constitutional question that legal scholars can debate and I'm sure you'll find plenty of them inside the beltway -- is that the Vice President has a unique role in our United States government. He is not only the Vice President of the United States, but in that role he is also the President of the Senate. I will let him go ahead and --

Q: So there's a fourth branch of government.

MS. PERINO: -- I will let that debate be held.

So Cheney's not part of the executive because he's part of the legislative branch. Fascinating. And you gotta love Perino's deft use of the old "We've Made Up Our Minds, But You're Welcome to Debate This" move from the Bush Rhetorical Playbook.

Sheriff Obama To Clean Up Town -- On the First Day

| Fri Jun. 22, 2007 4:47 PM EDT

The Obama campaign has released Barack Obama's plan to reform Washington -- a plan they say he will enact on his first day in office. Some of it goes a good bit further than the measures Democrats in Congress have enacted, some of it is short on details. Regardless, he definitely has his heart in the right place. Highlights from a fact sheet sent out by the campaign:

- Closing the revolving door: No political appointee in an Obama Administration would be able to lobby the executive branch during the remainder of the Administration. Huge change from the current way of doing things.

- Ending the abuse of no-bid contracts: Admirable, but no details given.

- Stopping the influence of lobbyists: President Obama would issue an executive order banning lobbyists from giving gifts in any form to executive branch employees.

- Ending politicization of the federal government: Tougher enforcement measures in the Hatch Act.

- Cute/nutty stuff: Obama would not sign any bill without giving the public an opportunity to comment on the White House website for five days. Cabinet officials would be required to host national broadband town halls. And there's this sort of Big-Brother-for-federal-employees thing: "Obama will require his appointees... to conduct the significant business of the agency in public, so that any citizen can see in person or watch on the Internet as the agencies debate and deliberate the issues that affect American society. Videos of meetings will be archived on the web, and the transcript will be available to the public." American citizens can watch in person as bureaucrats do their jobs?? How incredibly boring and ripe for trouble.

- Disclosure on earmarks and tax breaks: President Obama would ensure that tax
breaks to special interests and all congressional earmarks are posted on the Office of Management and Budget's website.

- No more political operatives with sweet jobs: "Obama will issue an Executive Order requiring that political appointees possess relevant professional qualifications and experience related to the core mission of the agency for which they are nominated."

You can read more about Obama's plans for corruption, oversight, etc. at this campaign web page.