Political MoJo

Bomb Kills 2 Iraqi Lawmakers

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 2:32 PM EDT

The lawmakers were having their midday meal in a restaurant in the Green Zone after concluding the day's parliamentary session. Both were Sunni. According to the U.S. military, 8 people died in the attack and 23 were injured.

A separate attack blew up a 70-year-old bridge across the Tigris River as commuters were driving across. At least 10 people died.

Again, I say the surge is not working.

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Hear from the Soldiers of Iraq and Afghanistan Tonight

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 1:13 PM EDT

We've covered the perspective of the everyday soldier a fair amount here at Mother Jones. Our 2004 feature "Breaking Ranks" told the story of GIs who refused to fight in Iraq -- and were bravely speaking out when the majority of the country was still in favor of the war. The story came out well before such dissent from soldiers was common, or commonly reported. At that time we also listed the veterans groups that were rallying against the war; the organizations on that list have since grown and gained strength.

And we stayed on the story. We covered military families speaking out against the war, we photographed the rehabilitation of soldiers who came back wounded, and covered the films and books that gave the folks at home the perspective of those in battle.

Anthony Swofford has been a big part of that. The Gulf War veteran and author wrote the text of our photo essay "Coming Home: Seven Families Lay Their Fallen Soldiers to Rest" and we interviewed him when his book Jarhead was made into a feature film.

Swofford's at it again. In "Voices From The Front: Iraq and Afghanistan," Swofford will be moderating a discussion with soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan and the filmmakers, photographers, and journalists who have worked on those wars. The writing and photography of former soldiers is the focus of the evening. (Examples below.)

The event is tonight at 7 pm at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York City. You'll find it at 126 Crosby Street, one block east of Broadway between Houston and Prince. Check it out if you can.

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Obama (Kind of) Wins MoveOn Poll Following Iraq Town Hall

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 12:32 PM EDT

The results are in from the MoveOn virtual town hall on Iraq that I live blogged on Tuesday. (See parts one, two, three, and four.)

MoveOn polled its members after the town hall to see whose position on Iraq they preferred, and the results are in. Barack Obama, whose comments are found in part four, has won. As Ben Smith at The Politico mentions, the news comes as a bit of a surprise because Obama has not courted the netroots nearly as much as John Edwards has. To Edwards credit, he did come in a close second. Here are the numbers.

Obama 27.87%
Edwards 24.84
Kucinich 17.18
Richardson 12.26
Clinton 10.70
Biden 6.19
Dodd 1.05

To address Ben Smith's concerns, I would say that the MoveOn members are not necessarily the avid members of the blogosphere that are generally termed the "netroots." They are folks who participate in local events organized online, and they receive a flood of emails from the MoveOn folks, but I'm not sure that level of internet engagement means that they are on par with the bloggers and blog readers that Edwards has been courting. Admittedly, there is some overlap. I would wager that a lot of Daily Kos writers and readers are MoveOn members, but a lot of TAPPED writers and readers aren't.

But the numbers from the poll are tricky. MoveOn members could vote in the poll if they attended one of the house parties where people gathered to watch/listen to the town hall online (there was audio but no video; the technology can definitely improve), but they could also vote if they listened to the town hall online from their homes, or if they listened to the town hall on Air America, or if they did not listen at all.

The only way to guarantee that you are polling people who actually saw/heard the town hall is if you poll people who attended a house party. If you do that, the numbers change dramatically.

Edwards 24.56%
Richardson 20.93
Obama 18.61
Kucinich 15.61
Biden 10.27
Clinton 7.22
Dodd 3.65

It would appear that MoveOn members just like Obama, and even if they didn't catch the town hall, they voted for him to win this thing. Those who did hear the town hall thought Obama was third best, behind Edwards and Richardson, two candidates who spoke with the most passion and advocated the boldest moves for an exit from Iraq.

One last note. I neglected to mention in my live blog that MoveOn actually invited five Republican candidates who, from what I understand, all declined to participate.

MSNBC Drops Imus, Charges Against Duke LAX Players Dropped

| Wed Apr. 11, 2007 8:22 PM EDT

And somewhere in these two stories (here and here) is a perfect snapshot of race relations in America.

Wish I knew what it was. After all, Imus had pulled this kind of crap before (see Ifill, Gwen.) And the Duke situation is so muddy...for one thing, the state attorney general who just cleared the guys is up for reelection. Not so different from DA Nifong, who may pushed for prosecution as a way to further his own ambitions. Having changed her story many times, the accuser certainly doesn't seem credible at this point (legally anyway), but then there remains the email of one of the LAX players saying that he wanted to kill strippers and rip off their skin. And the insults. Testimony of other witnesses about abusive behavior, etc.

Words are not deeds, of course. But whatever happened that night, it is hardly something for anyone to celebrate.

Anyone Up For an NCLB Rewrite?

| Wed Apr. 11, 2007 7:30 PM EDT

With No Child Left Behind up for a re-hash this year, dissident voices are gaining traction and even supporters are acknowledging that its language needs some tweaking.

The nonprofit Educator Roundtable, a division of the Vermont Society for the Study of Education, has collected nearly 30,000 signatures for a petition asking to completely dismantle NCLB. One blogger is inviting educators to picket the annual national school board conference on Saturday in San Francisco. An Education Week blogger was dumbfounded that only 20 states have tried to roll back all or parts of the law.

California Congressman George Miller, the Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee who helped author NCLB, told Tavis Smiley that after five years, the law is only in its "infancy" in terms of meeting the needs of poor and minority students.

According to reports, there have been successes. Total federal funding for No Child Left Behind rose 34% between 2001 and 2006. Funding for schools serving low-income students rose 45%. States and school districts also allegedly have unprecedented flexibility in how they use federal funds, in exchange for greater accountability for results.

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has a plan. She says we've learned some things "organically" over the years, and that now is the time for a growth model that charts progress over time with annual assessment systems. She also says it's time to turn attention to high schools, which are becoming increasingly "critical."

At this point what isn't critical when it comes to education reform?

—Gary Moskowitz

Najaf Estimates Split along Liberal/Conservative Reliable/Unreliable Divide

| Wed Apr. 11, 2007 5:41 PM EDT

Jonathan blogged on Monday about the disturbingly wide range of estimates of the number of Iraqis who attended an anti-American rally in Najaf that day. Dutiful wonks at ThinkProgress, to the rescue! ThinkProgress points out that credible sources like The New York Times, the Washington Post, Reuters, AP, and the Wall Street Journal all put attendance in the "tens of thousands" (which, at least according to strict Mother Jones rules, means at least 20,000). Mother Jones also reports, in our Iraq 101 package, that Muqtada al-Sadr, who called for the rally, has "tens of thousands" of followers. The military, however, put attendance at 5,000-7,000, and conservative bloggers jumped on that figure.

ThinkProgress claims that a photo used to support lower estimates is, in fact, cropped. Check it out: It sure looks cropped.

najaf3.jpg

ThinkProgress then shows another photo, of a side road not included in the allegedly cropped photo.

iraqflagprotest3.jpg

Problem is, neither of these photos have credible sources. The conservative blog Gateway Pundit, in a post including the photo in question, claims ThinkProgress's photo was taken before its photo, and therefore may well show some of the same people, not additional attendees as it claims. I'm gonna say touché on that one, but ThinkProgress has a solid record—and when you pair it with The New York Times, the Washington Post, Reuters, AP, and the Wall Street Journal and, ahem, Mother Jones, its reliability veritably trounces Gateway Pundit's. One caveat: It does seem a little bit odd that all the sources have used precisely the same wording in providing their estimates—but this is Iraq, and it's not like the Park Service is out there counting.

As for why Mother Jones believes papers of record and not the military, see below.

mission_accomplished.jpg

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Will Cancer Kill Candidate Thompson?

| Wed Apr. 11, 2007 1:45 PM EDT

thompson2.jpgFred Thompson, the actor and former Tennessee Senator, announced earlier today that he had lymphoma. Thompson claimed that the lymphoma, a form of cancer, was slow growing and probably wouldn't affect either his life span or his quality of life. The fact that Thompson allowed his doctor to speak about his condition makes it pretty clear that the announcement was a final trial balloon before formally announcing a bid for the White House.

It's a cancerous year on the campaign trail, to be sure. Have Americans moved beyond their ban on sick presidents (or presidents with sick wives)? Wait and see—Fred Thompson is.

Rudy Pulls a George Bush Sr. Moment on Price of Bread, Milk

| Wed Apr. 11, 2007 11:53 AM EDT

It's no wonder that a guy who makes millions on shady law firm consultations and high-flying speaking engagements is a little out of touch with the common man. Asked by a reporter in Alabama about the prices of a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread, Rudy Giuliani answered:

"A gallon of milk is probably about a $1.50, a loaf of bread about a $1.25, $1.30."

Reality?

A check of the Web site for D'Agostino supermarket on Manhattan's Upper East Side showed a gallon of milk priced at $4.19 and a loaf of white bread at $2.99 to $3.39. In Montgomery, Ala., a gallon of milk goes for about $3.39 and bread is about $2.

Two observations: (1) This is a classic "gotcha!" question that reporters love, and every presidential candidate should be given a commodities rundown with their morning briefing ("Mrs. Clinton, bags of potatoes are down 30 cents, closing yesterday at $3.49."). You have to believe Mitt Romney's and John Edwards' people are scrambling to get this sort of information to their candidates this very second, because reporters are probably salivating about the idea of catching a second candidate looking silly today.

And (2) I'm not sure I would know the exact price of those things. In my mind, living in New York, the answer is "Too much." I remember seeing a gallon of orange juice at almost $10, and I stopped caring completely. "Just take all my money," I say to the checkout counter lady. "I don't care how much anything costs anymore. You win."

Of course, this all recalls a classic George Bush Sr. moment:

His difficulty with grocery items recalled another Republican's supermarket run-in. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush expressed amazement at a high-tech supermarket scanner, prompting critics to argue that he was out of touch with average Americans. The White House cried foul, pointing out that during a grocers' convention Bush had been impressed by a special scanner that could read torn labels.

Via Kos.

George W. Bush: Soft on Crime

| Wed Apr. 11, 2007 11:31 AM EDT

Excellent article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer today about the dwindling efficacy of the FBI. The Bush Administration restructured the FBI after 9/11 to focus on national security, but did not eliminate any of the FBI's traditional responsibilities. And to handle all the extra work, the FBI was given no additional money. ("Do more with less," it was told.) The result? You guessed it. Lower prosecution rates. Says one retired FBI official, "we realized we were going to have to pull out of some areas -- bank fraud, investment fraud, ID theft -- cases that protect the financial infrastructure of the country."

The White House and the Justice Department have failed to replace at least 2,400 agents transferred to counterterrorism squads... Two successive attorneys general have rejected the FBI's pleas for reinforcements behind closed doors.

As the quote from the retired official would indicate, it appears the lack of manpower has mainly hit the FBI's ability to prosecute white collar crime. The P-I's findings:

Overall, the number of criminal cases investigated by the FBI nationally has steadily declined. In 2005, the bureau brought slightly more than 20,000 cases to federal prosecutors, compared with about 31,000 in 2000 -- a 34 percent drop.
White-collar crime investigations by the bureau have plummeted in recent years. In 2005, the FBI sent prosecutors 3,500 cases -- a fraction of the more than 10,000 cases assigned to agents in 2000.

The paper looks at specific cases of Native Americans and elderly residents in the Seattle area who were fleeced by sophisticated financial scams -- the sort of thing that has been traditionally part of the FBI's jurisdiction. In the cases examined by the P-I, none of the victims got the help they requested from Bush's FBI.

It's a long, long article. If you're interested, you can read the whole thing here. Also, I can tell you what the FBI was busy doing from 9/11 until the invasion of Iraq: partnering with the Department of Justice to scare the bejeezus out of Americans with show trial terror prosecutions and conveniently timed terror alerts, all of which are documented in the "DoJ/FBI" section of the Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline.

Imus Doesn't Deserve a Face-to-Face With the "Rough Girls From Rutgers"

| Wed Apr. 11, 2007 12:23 AM EDT

The Rutgers women's basketball team just played in the biggest game there is. They made it to the national championship game in the Big Dance. Did you hear about their upset win over #1 Duke in the Sweet 16 last month? You probably hadn't even heard of the team at all last week when Don Imus went and called them "nappy headed hos."

Which is too bad. They deserve to be lauded as student athletes, but instead they are, unwittingly, part of the Imus Show. And the most recent turn? They've gone and agreed to meet with Imus, to "reserve judgment" on whether he should be fired untill they hear his side of the story. His side? He's an ignorant shock jock who doesn't deserve their energy and attention. He's not going to give "ho a whole new definition," as one player wondered.

What he is going to do is continue to apologize, backpeddle, and do whatever he can to save his job. The sad fact remains that Imus has gotten more attention in these past few days than the Rutgers women have gotten all season. Which in the end reinforces his behavior. The more outrageous he is, the more play he gets on the national stage.

At least now though, people are interested in women's basketball, or at least the players, the "rough girls," involved. The Scarlet Knights, it seems, have more backers now than ever before.