Political MoJo

Health and Environment News of the Day

| Thu May 3, 2007 9:51 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.

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

| Thu May 3, 2007 5:08 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!

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

| Thu May 3, 2007 1:42 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 12:43 PM 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 11:58 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 10:15 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."

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The Real D.O.J. Scandal: Infringement of Voting Rights

| Wed May 2, 2007 7:29 PM EDT

An article on AlterNet today offers yet more proof that one of the major preoccupations of Bush's overzealous Department of Justice is voter fraud. Voter fraud is trying to vote when you're not eligible.

First, the background. The Bush D.O.J. has all but completely dropped the ball on voting rights cases, with only a single case alleging that black voters were disenfranchised. As Leigh blogged last week, Justice has also neglected civil rights cases in general. But the department did find the time—and I'm sure it took a while to find this case—to prosecute the first ever "reverse discrimination" case, alleging that Noxubee County, Mississippi, has systematically tried to disenfranchise white voters.

The AlterNet article traces a straight line from New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias's determination that voter fraud cases filed against ACORN weren't substantial enough to prosecute to his appearance on the D.O.J.'s "buh-bye" list. First, State Republican Chairman David Weh encouraged Iglesias over coffee to reconsider. Iglesias held firm. Then Weh went to a Rove staffer he knew and said, "Man, you guys need to get a new U.S. attorney. This guy is hopeless." The next time Weh saw Rove, he asked again about Iglesias. And Rove replied, "He's gone."

Indeed he was. Washington U.S.A. David McKay was also fired shortly after Republican officials complained that he was unwilling to prosecute voter fraud. Both Iglesias and McKay worked in potential swing states. Stricter voter requirements—purportedly to ward off voter fraud—result in lower turnout among minorities and the poor, who usually vote Democrat.

Despite repeated Republican assertions that voter fraud is a widespread problem, the D.O.J. has only convicted 86 people in 5 years. Most of them mistakenly filled out forms or misunderstood the eligibility requirements. These honest mistakes have resulted in serious punishments. Kimberly Prude, 43, has been jailed in Milwaukee for more than a year for voting while on probation. Usman Ali was deported to Pakistan from Florida, where he had lived legally for more than 10 years, for incorrectly filling out a voter-registration card while renewing his driver's license.

All Quiet on the Digital Front

| Wed May 2, 2007 5:50 PM EDT

With the bounty of cell-phone-camera footage and blog accounts uploaded out of Iraq (see here and here), the accumulating online absurdities of war feel like a Vonnegut novel being written in real time.

Samantha Shapiro, in a profile of teen anti-war animator Ava Lowery in Mother Jones, describes the new phenomenon:

If the innovation of cable news shaped the representation of the first Gulf War, then this war is partly being defined by another new form of media, one practiced by amateur diarists and commentators. Soldiers blog and upload their footage to Google Video or YouTube more quickly than the government can pull it down.

No one understands this better than the Army, which felt the need to enact stricter rules, effective as of April 19, governing what soldiers can put up on the web.

Since 2005--when the Army first tried to reign in the explosion of unofficial "mili-blogs" citing their potential to reveal classified, and otherwise unflattering, information--active duty soldiers in Iraq have been required to register their blogs with a commanding officer. A special unit of the Virginia National Guard is tasked with monitoring "official and unofficial Army Web sites for operational security violations." Meanwhile, in March, the Army started its own YouTube channel so its version of the "boots on the ground perspective" could reach cyberspace.

The language of the most recent regulations require that soldiers' posts go through an operational security review prior to being published. The previous policy only required soldiers to consult with their commanding officer before launching a blog, not posting. Moreover, the new restriction extends the same level of scrutiny to soldiers who have returned home, whose web sites, blog postings, and message board discussions will now come under review, essentially putting the kabbash on the most honest accounts of a war where politicized proclamations of success and failure tend to wander from reality.

-Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell

It's Over: Obama Gets Oprah's Endorsement (Again)

| Wed May 2, 2007 4:20 PM EDT

Oprah Winfrey, appearing on the Larry King Live show, threw her support behind Barack Obama. Her explanation: "I know him personally; I think that what he stands for, what he has proven that he can stand for, was worth me going out on a limb for him. I haven't done it in the past; I haven't felt that I knew anybody well enough to be able to say I believe in this person."

She wishes no ill will on anyone, especially Hillary. "I have great respect for Hillary Clinton. I have said before that because I am for Barack, does not mean that I am against Hillary or anybody else. . . . I have not one negative thing to say about Hillary Clinton."

She's kind of done this before. In the past, though, Oprah avoided saying directly "I endorse Barack Obama." Instead she would say things like Obama is "her guy," or "her choice," or "her favorite senator." Now it's more official.

I'm not kidding around folks. If Obama uses Oprah to chip away at Clinton's base amongst women, it's over. Obama should just start campaign for re-election.

Presidents and Palm Trees: What to Take on a Desert Island

| Wed May 2, 2007 1:57 PM EDT

The AP recently asked the presidential candidates what item they would want with them if they were stranded on a desert island. The answers, and their subtexts:

Democrats:

- Sen. Joe Biden: "Jill, my wife." ("Someone has to be around to hear me talk.")

- Sen. Hillary Clinton: "A good book." ("I am unwilling to commit to any particular book. I will focus group Crime and Punishment versus Ulysses and get back to you.")

- Sen. Chris Dodd: "Coffee with cream and sugar." ("Why didn't I choose water? Because I really love coffee. And because I am too short-sighted to be president.")

John Edwards: "A book." ("I don't have time for this question.")

Rep. Dennis Kucinich: His wife, Elizabeth. ("Have you seen my wife? You'd take her too.")

Sen. Barack Obama: "Other than my wife and my kids, an inanimate object I would have to have would probably be a good book." ("Please note, Hillary didn't mention her family. I did.")

Gov. Bill Richardson: "Blackberry and a Davidoff cigar." ("I am an old-style political boss. I am the fattest of fat cats.")

Republicans:

Sen. Sam Brownback: "Tarp." ("I would surely be America's most practical president.") Ed. Note: Hahahahahaha. A tarp!

Rudy Giuliani: "Books and music." ("If terrorists attacked my desert island's palm tree, I would stand strong. 9/11. 9/11. 9/11 9/111/1/1/9/1/1//11.")

Mike Huckabee: "Laptop with satellite reception." ("I don't understand the spirit of the question.")

Rep. Duncan Hunter: "Mrs. Hunter." ("I have strong family values, as proven by the fact that I awkwardly refuse to use my wife's first name. I call her Mrs. Hunter at all times. However, in an ironic twist, I have left no one to care for our children.")

Sen. John McCain: "Books." ("I am a flip-flopper. In 2000, I chose sun-screen.")

Mitt Romney: "My wife, Ann." ("I'll need something to eat, after all.")

Rep. Tom Tancredo: "Boat." ("I will be president because all the other candidates will be stuck on that damn island.")

Spotted on Political Wire.