Political MoJo

Hillary Hearts the Holidays: Senator Clinton Visits "The View"

| Wed Dec. 20, 2006 7:39 PM EST

What War on Christmas? Hillary hit the couch on "The View" this morning as part of a PR blitz for the reissue of It Takes a Village. Her big revelation? That "we are probably as fanatic about Christmas as anybody you'll meet." Really? Have you met Melody Howell, who decorates her home with 52 fresh-cut Christmas trees, including one in her bathtub? Now that is Christmas fighting back with the big guns.

The Viewsters did try to ask Hillary the big questions, with Joy Behar asking if she was sorry for voting for the Iraq War (and getting the usual "if we had known then..."), and guest host Crystal McCrary Anthony asking the world's most torturous version of "are you running?" Crystal's wind-up was so labored that she gave Hillary lots of lifelines to grab; Hillary went with some blather about the "hyper-connectedness" of today's world, which gave her ample opportunity to be worried "for our kids," bringing us back safely to It Takes a Village territory. Responding to the question of whether we are ready for a female president, Hillary made the point that there's only one way to find out, but conceded: "It's such a leap of faith, and I'm well aware of that—it's way out there."

But line of the day goes to Rosie, who capped a discussion of Hillary's love of crafts (hey, it was "The View," not "Meet the Press") with "you'd be surprised how crafty she is." Yep, the ability to take the innocuous and turn it into a backstabbing—now that is presidential. You heard it here first: Rosie for President!

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Shop for America! (It's a Very GWB Christmas!)

| Wed Dec. 20, 2006 6:48 PM EST

In light of George W. Bush's recent instruction that Americans do their part to hold off economic recession by shopping more, Mother Jones brings you a collection of GWB action figures and dolls -- perfect for that unreconstructed hawk or delusional hard-line right-winger on your gift list!

First, the "Top Gun" George W. Bush 12-inch action figure:


Says the product description: "Comes dressed in a full flight suit, helmet, goggles, breather, and tanks that are identical to the ones George Bush wore when he landed on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln." Who doesn't want to relive that great moment in American history! Can we get some boilerplate hero-worship, please? "Lambasted by his political critics for using the opportunity to boost his political career, President Bush remained as unflappable as ever. His flight outfit features pouches, pockets, straps, buckles, and all the accessories of an original. This item does not talk." Even better!

Also comes with "Turkey Dinner" George W. Bush, commemorating the time our President surprised the troops in Iraq with a Thanksgiving visit carrying a fake turkey! Hooray for photo ops!

Up next is "Elite Force Aviator" George W. Bush:


This 12-inch action figure is a "meticulous 1:6 scale recreation of the Commander-in-Chief's appearance during his historic Aircraft Carrier landing." Oh no, not that again! How does it compare to our first action figure? "The realism and exacting attention to detail demanded by today's 12-inch action figure enthusiast are met and exceeded with this action figure." Well, if you're an "action figure enthusiast," maybe you'll want two!

Third in line is Frowny Face President Bush:


Ever wanted to hear an unhappy-looking doll with a massive tie and crazy shoelaces tell you that he is "glad to be in the midst of patriots"? Then this is the doll for you! Comes with a biographical pamphlet detailing George W. Bush's life before he was a disastrous president!

And finally, the Mr. Eloquence President Bush:


How many times have you given an all-American child an all-American doll on Christmas, only to find out the doll was made in China? Well, no problem here! This doll speaks, and it actually says, "I come from Texas." It also says, "...working hard to put food on your family." Countries get the leaders they deserve, and people who want this gift probably won't know what that means!

* Brought to you by Liberal Bloggers Fighting the War on Christmas.

The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Reports

| Wed Dec. 20, 2006 5:44 PM EST

The Bush Administration has made a habit of discontinuing regularly-produced studies and reports that reflect poorly on its performance. TPMmuckraker has put together a list, and we have an addition. Some from their list, which started at the Carpetbagger Report:

In March, the administration announced it would no longer produce the Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation, which identifies which programs best assist low-income families, while also tracking health insurance coverage and child support.
In 2005, after a government report showed an increase in terrorism around the world, the administration announced it would stop publishing its annual report on international terrorism.
When Bush's Department of Education found that charter schools were underperforming, the administration said it would sharply cut back on the information it collects about charter schools.
In December 2002, the administration curtailed funding to the Mass-Layoffs Statistics program, which released monthly data on the number and size of layoffs by U.S. companies. His father attempted to kill the same program in 1992, but Clinton revived it when he assumed the presidency.

As for our entry. In January 2006 we noted that the Bush Administration's reaction to the lack of progress women have made in the workplace is to stop collecting the facts: "Under Bush, the Labor Dept. has eliminated 25 publications on pay inequity and child care."

The source is a report titled "MISSING: Information About Women's Lives," which can be found here [pdf]. From the introduction: "Vital data have been deleted, buried, altered, or otherwise gone missing from government websites and publications: priorities have changed, funding cut, research findings distorted, important social differences masked, critical committees and programs dismantled."

Who Will Stop the Drunk Pilot, Flying Solo over Iraq?

| Wed Dec. 20, 2006 5:11 PM EST

Last week, in my local vegetarian co-op, there was a sign that said "Troops HOME by Christmas." I was disgusted, and blamed the sign-posters for giving leftists a bad name. If the troops had left Iraq the day after I saw the sign, they wouldn't have been home—or even in the U.S.—by Christmas. More importantly, the time for opposing Bush just to oppose Bush is over. It's time to figure out what we should actually do in Iraq.

So my first response to Bush's decision to increase the size of the armed forces, announced yesterday, wasn't complete outrage. Bush hasn't officially said he will send more troops to Iraq, but the sequence of events—Rumsfeld's departure, an announcement that Bush will not follow the Iraq Study Group's recommendations, a Pentagon leak that top brass is advocating a bigger standing military, repeated reports that Bush is considering sending more troops, and General Abizaid's impending retirement—certainly suggests that is what he will do. If sending more troops is the best way to get out of Iraq without leaving a regional bloodbath in our wake, then we should do it.

However, the sources that have proven themselves most reliable on Iraq are against the deployment of more troops. Colin Powell. The Iraq Study Group. The Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Abizaid (not that he's especially credible, but he is on the ground in Iraq). They don't think more troops can contain the chaos clutching Iraq. Hell, I don't know what will fix Iraq, but I'm pretty confident the president doesn't, either. By ignoring the professional advice Bush finally admitted he needed, the president is leaving himself with absolutely no alibi for failure. We're peering over an historical precipice.

We also tried throwing more troops at our last ideological war, Vietnam. This morning, as I rode the bus to work, there were two Vietnam vets chatting—one in a wheelchair, the other with a cane.

Wheelchair vet: Just think, we've probably being doing serious damage to our lungs for about 40 years now. You probably started smoking in Nam like I did, right?

Cane vet: Yup.

Wheelcair vet: It seemed like a good idea at the time. I could take a 10 minute break from policing or unloading trucks.

Cane vet (who is manly and handsome, but looks to be on the verge of tears during the entire conversation): They found a spot on my lung.

Wheelchair vet: That doesn't mean anything. Only about 40 percent of them are cancer. It could just be damage to your lungs. You're getting counseling right? I mean, I get counseling and antidepressants.

Cane vet: Yeah, they have me on Paxil.

Wheelchair vet: It's funny, after two back surgeries and the fact that I can't walk, it was for depression and PTSD that they finally gave it [disability compensation?] to me. But you know, once you're on anti-depressants, you have to take them forever. I was reading a Toronto study that said people get psychotic if they stop taking Paxil. You'll basically be a Paxil addict your whole life.

Cane vet: Mmm. I was taking one a day, now I'm taking two.

A few stops later, the vet with the cane comes back and quietly unhooks the vet in the wheelchair from the bus seat. They both get off and go their separate ways.

Sending more troops in will create a whole generation of men like this: physically and mentally broken, betrayed by their country. And, unless Bush's last ditch effort is successful despite the chorus of predictions to the contrary, it will also create a new set of killing fields. This isn't about George W. Bush anymore, or our military pride. It's much bigger. Will we stand by and watch, muttering "I told you so"?

Pentagon Preparing "Show of Force" Against Iran; MoJo is All Over the Story

| Wed Dec. 20, 2006 2:28 PM EST

The AP is reporting that the Pentagon is considering "a major buildup of U.S. Navy forces in the Gulf as a show of force against Iran." While seemingly insane -- Thanks for suggesting diplomacy with these folks, Iraq Study Group. Now get out of town. -- this should come as no surprise to regular Mother Jones readers.

In July 2006, we published "Next We Take Tehran: The confrontation with Iran has very little to do with nukes—and a lot with the agenda of empire."

Also in July 2006, we published "Three Days in Rome: In which a neoconservative jack-of-all-trades, a pair of Pentagon hawks, and an Iranian exile with a knack for tall tales try to outflank the CIA and conjure a coup in Tehran."

In October 2006, we published "Meet the "Whack Iran" Lobby: Exiles peddling shaky intelligence, advocacy groups pressing for regime change, neocons bent on remaking the Middle East. Sound familiar?"

And also in October 2006, we published "Has Washington Found its Iranian Chalabi?: Introducing the talented Mr. Fakhravar."

So get educated! (Oh, and in a recent issue of Vanity Fair, Frank Gaffney, assistant secretary of defense under Reagan and president of the hawkish Center for Security Policy, which has close ties to the top levels of the Pentagon, said, "I would say that the likelihood of military action against Iran is 100 percent." So there you go.)

Gen. John Abizaid, Who Opposes Sending More Troops to Iraq, to Retire

| Wed Dec. 20, 2006 1:56 PM EST

There are two possible explanations for the impending retirement of Army General John Abizaid, who currently commands all U.S. troops in the Middle East.

The first is that Abizaid has led the fight in Iraq for three years and we've lost thousands of lives and moved backwards over that time (see graphic on left side at this link), to the point where, amazingly, the most stubborn-minded segments of American society are admitting we're not winning. Even in an administration where accountability doesn't exist, those responsible for failure sometimes leave on their own.

The second is that Abizaid opposes adding more troops to the war effort, saying publicly that it will exacerbate problems in country. Since Bush and the Pentagon are formulating plans to send more troops to Iraq, Abizaid may be receiving the boot out of respect or out of a desire to make the troop movement easier.

Who knows? Maybe Abizaid will write a book telling all, like his predecessor. All we do know is that he'll get a fancy award.

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The Muslims Are Coming!--Rep. Goode Freaks Out

| Tue Dec. 19, 2006 11:36 PM EST

Virgil Goode, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia, is concerned about immigration. "I fear," he said in a letter to his constituents, "that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt strict immigration policies."

Goode also made a reference to newly elected Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a Muslim, and asked Americans to "wake up" or more Muslims will be elected to office. He warned:

I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.

Goode has proposed an amendment to the Constitution to make English the official language of the United States. Part of his reasoning is that if things continue to go as they are, language-wise, we could wind up like Canada.

My personal fear is that, in the next century, we will have many more Congressional bigots in the United States.

In the Battle for the Public's Right to Know, ACLU Wins a Round

| Tue Dec. 19, 2006 6:28 PM EST

Count one for the good guys. In the government's ongoing fight to control information in the public sphere, someone with the right combination of chutzpah, legal expertise, and media savvy finally got the government to back down in a stand off.

That "someone," of course, was the ACLU, who as of late has be enmeshed in a battle with federal prosecutors over a document detailing the Army's new internal regulations on photographing detainees. (The document is now available on the ACLU website and is relatively harmless.)

What's remarkable is that there is no national security justification for suppressing the document. It was a use of the legal apparatus by the government to quash unflattering news, which is pretty draconian. Of course, the ACLU has some boasting to do: "This was a legal stand-off with enormous implications for free speech and the public's right to know, and today the government blinked," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "The Bush Administration's attempt to suppress information using the grand jury process was truly chilling and is unprecedented in law and in our history as an organization. We could not be more pleased to have turned back the government from its strong-arm tactics."

This is part and parcel with the Bush Administration's fight with the press. "In this case," said Floyd Abrams, a First Amendment lawyer, "the ACLU's function is presslike" in that is acts as a government watchdog and delivers important information to the public. A while back, Mother Jones mentioned that the number of subpoenas that the Heart Co. has received of its lawyers has increased twentyfold over the last few years. Other examples of press suppression abound, which is why the United States tied for 53rd in the last Press Freedom Rankings.

Brownback: Judicial Activism A-OK When It Favors Austere Religious Values

| Tue Dec. 19, 2006 5:45 PM EST

Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican who sits on the Judiciary Committee, was holding up a roster of 13 judicial nominees by refusing to vote on the appointment of Judge Janet Neff to a Federal District Court. Yesterday, he relented, agreeing to vote on the nomination.

Brownback was stonewalling, as it were, because he had learned that Neff had attended the (lesbian) commitment ceremony of a longtime neighbor's daughter. That's right, Neff was a guest at one same-sex ceremony. Brownback had graciously offered to move forward if only Neff would agree to recuse herself from all cases related to same-sex unions.

Let's follow this to its illogical extreme. Any judicial nominee who has attended a party sponsored by Budweiser or Absolut must recuse him or herself from all cases related to the alcohol industry. Any nominee who has hugged a woman or in anyway offered support after an abortion must recuse him or herself from all cases related to Roe v. Wade. And so on.

In some cases, more judicial independence could be a good thing. But Brownback hasn't taken that position in the past. Indeed, he has supported appointees who had been outspoken opponents of abortion and same-sex marriage but claimed they would rule based on their legal expertise, rather than their personal opinions. Neff, who hasn't made any outspoken claims supporting or opposing same-sex marriage, has, however, said that her legal expertise would guide her through any decisions on the matter.

What's more, legal scholars have voiced widespread concern that Senator Brownback's request that Neff agree, as a condition of his vote, to handle cases in a certain way is unconstitutional.

When (metaphorically) confronted with a copy of the constitution, Brownback was unabashed. He indicated that he needed more reassurance from Judge Neff that her presence at the ceremony did not indicate insurmountable bias. Brownback would now like Neff to testify before the Senate about her neighbor's ceremony. Neff, and everyone else involved in the private commitment ceremony, are now essentially on trial.

Compare Brownback's single-handed delay of the Senate's confirmation process to the suits filed by Gov. Mitt Romney and Vote on Marriage claiming that the Massachusetts legislature violated their right to due process by tabling an anti-gay marriage amendment. It doesn't take long to see that their homophobia is making a perverse mockery of democracy.

MoJo's Best of Books, Music, Television and Film, 2006

| Tue Dec. 19, 2006 3:18 PM EST

Just in time for the holidays (and holiday shopping), Mother Jones presents our list of 2006 media favorites. We think you'll like these books, albums, shows, and movies; act fast, before the War on Christmas ruins the gift-giving season for everyone.

Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America. By Cynthia Carr. A photograph of a 1930 Indiana lynching is the central mystery and motivating force behind Our Town. As Carr tries to figure out what really happened on the night captured in the picture, she uncovers her own family's shameful history. One of the most fascinating and challenging explorations of race to arrive in a long time.
Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984. By Simon Reynolds. Reynolds convincingly argues that '80s postpunk was the most fertile and influential musical period since the Summer of Love. Encompassing everything from Joy Division to Gang of Four to the Specials to Talking Heads to (gasp!) Human League—it's the perfect nostalgia trip for the perennial grad student who still rocks the stovepipe jeans.
The Discomfort Zone. By Jonathan Franzen. The novelist recounts his childhood fears ("spiders, insomnia, fish hooks, school dances, hardball, heights, bees, urinals, puberty, music teachers, dogs, the school cafeteria, censure, older teenagers, jellyfish, locker rooms, boomerangs, popular girls"), awkward adolescence, and adulthood struggle to become a wildly successful writer. Along the way, he discovers bird-watching, which becomes an obsession and his connection to environmentalism.
Pick a Bigger Weapon. The Coup. This Oakland rap duo has been around since the early '90s, but this album, its first in five years, is the most musically rich. Not that the group has smoothed down its political edge. (Sample lyrics: "War ain't about one land against the next/it's po' people dyin' so the rich cash checks.") And don't miss the catchy pre-apocalyptic slow jam, "BabyLetsHaveABabyBeforeBushDoSomethingCrazy."
The Information. Beck. Moving past Guero's cheesier, poppier tunes, Beck offers honest yet fresh melodies without sacrificing the succinct beats we've come to expect. And how can you resist an album that comes with D.I.Y. cover art and features the line, "Carry my heart like a soldier with a hand grenade"?
This Film Is Not Yet Rated. Director Kirby Dick goes on an undercover quest to expose the opacity and hypocrisy of the the folks who decide whether to slap a PG, R, or a distribution-killing NC-17 on our movies. For his trouble, he earned a NC-17, but don't let that scare you away.

For the full list, go here.