Girls 2 Women? Not Yet, Not Even in Baghdad

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 9:37 AM EST

Check out CNN's video on "the girls gossiping" in a Baghdad beauty shop. Not one of "the girls" looks a day under 35 and most look middle-aged. I guess what "the boys" do in Baghdad barber shops is "discuss affairs of state." Given that much of "the girls" "gossip" revolved around wondering whether that thing in the road was a bomb or not and whether they'll be bombed in their sleep, it says volumes about the world's need to juvenilize women, no matter how dire their circumstances. It's as if, to honor their bravery in congregating in a verboten place, the world must first regress them to childhood. It's just perfect that the reporter was a woman. Sorry, girl.

When I saw the headline ("These Girls Will Gossip, Even in Baghdad"), I clicked, expecting to see teenaged girls taking a break from the drudgery of their lives, doing each other's all-too-hidden hair and teasing each other about that cute boy down the road. So, it was jarring to watch those mothers and grandmothers reduced to silly teens. No doubt, that reporter thought she was helping show that Iraq's women have to be brave too and how life goes on if you'll let it, but all she did was embarrass herself and demean them. Hard to take Iraq's women seriously when they're constructed as gossiping teens.

You can say this is a minor point, but you'd be wrong. Not all stories from war zones need be about the war, as this very piece proves. Sometimes stories from war zones can inadvertently highlight how half the population has yet to be taken seriously, no matter how serious their lives.

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Destroyed Torture Tapes Inquiry: Once Again, It's All About the Cover Up, Not the Crime

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 7:46 AM EST

When members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence gather Wednesday afternoon to take the special unmarked elevator to the secure "crypt" to hear a closed briefing on the destruction of CIA videotapes, they won't be hearing from their star witness. Jose Rodriguez Jr., the former CIA director of operations, who has been identified as having ordered the destruction of two videotapes recording the waterboarding of two terrorism suspects, "remains under subpoeana," says a committee staffer. But the committee has agreed to defer his appearance. "His lawyer has indicated he is not going to answer questions," without immunity, the staffer continued. "The committee reserves the right to call him" at a later date.

"We're pleased that the committee is considering our request for immunity," says Robert S. Bennett, Rodriguez' attorney. "It's only fair in light of the fact that he has not been given access to the documents he needs to defend himself with."

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that among those documents which might explain Rodriguez' order to destroy the tapes are a late 2005 classified cable from the retiring Bangkok station chief asking if he could destroy the videotapes recorded and stored in Thailand. Perhaps more influential on his decision, the Post reports, in the same time period as the retiring station chief's request, "the CIA had a new director [Porter Goss] and an acting general counsel [John Rizzo], neither of whom sought to block the destruction of the tapes, according to agency officials."

Couple Additional Debate Thoughts

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 1:54 AM EST

I just wanted to add a couple of notes to the post-debate analysis David has up.

I thought one of the most interesting moments of the debate was when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama debated which management style was better for the president to have. Clinton argued that the president needs to be both the "head of state and the head of government." A good "head of government" can "manage and run the bureaucracy" and avoid the mistakes of a Washington greenhorn. This obviously plays to her eight years of experience in the White House.

Clinton added that President Bush didn't know how to manage things on a day to day level, and as a result we got rampant cronyism and problems like Katrina. Obama responded that Bush's failures are greater than that:

GOP in Michigan: Every Man Has His Surge

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 1:17 AM EST

romney-wins-michigan.jpg Michigan made Mitt comfortable. First of all, he knew the state (he was born there) and the state knew him (his father was governor from 1963 to 1969). Second, the state has ridden the flagging auto industry to the highest unemployment in the country, and is badly in need of an economic miracle-maker of the type Romney was when he was turning companies around as the head of Bain.

And so, for once, Mitt Romney was the perfect fit. The evangelicals of Iowa could have Mike Huckabee and the independents of New Hampshire could have John McCain. The economically depressed voters of Michigan wanted their favorite son.

Romney did his part. He retooled his campaign, dropping much of the social conservative pabulum that hadn't been resonating with voters and ran as a businessman hell-bent on delivering results. And the voters responded, according to exit polling. Fifty-five percent of exit poll respondents identified the economy as the most important issue. Those economically minded voters chose the native son by a wide margin: 42% for Romney, 29% for McCain, and 14% for Huckabee. Those who prioritized immigration also went heavily for Romney. Those who prioritized Iraq went heavily for McCain.

Just over 40 percent of voters said that Romney's personal connection to Michigan was "somewhat important" or "very important" to them. Those voters selected Romney by massive margins.

Dems Debate in Nevada: All's Calm on Iraq and Race, But Not on Nuclear Energy

| Wed Jan. 16, 2008 12:55 AM EST

dems-debate-nevada250x200.jpgWhat did the umpteenth Democratic presidential debate, held in Nevada on Tuesday night, demonstrate? That Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton each need a nap. The trio looked worn out. Perhaps that was why few punches were thrown. The Iraq war, the politics of race, tears (or near tears)--the Democratic contest had become rather heated in recent days. Clinton, using misleading information, had accused Obama of being a disingenuous hypocrite regarding the war. Obama's camp had seized on a comment Clinton had made to Fox News and assailed her for supposedly dissing Martin Luther King Jr. And Edwards had snidely insinuated Clinton might not be strong enough to be president (after she became emotional at a campaign stop in New Hampshire). It was getting nasty.

But in Las Vegas, there was relative calm. And no one hit the jackpot.

NBC Calls it for Mitt in Michigan

| Tue Jan. 15, 2008 9:58 PM EST

Perhaps in an effort to get the Republican news out of the way before it airs the Democratic debate, NBC News has called the Michigan primary for Mitt Romney. Currently, there is 12 percent of the vote counted, and the totals are these:

Mitt Romney 37%
John McCain 31%
Mike Huckabee 14%
Ron Paul 6%
Fred Thompson 4%
Rudy Giuliani 3%

Polling before the primary put it this way:

Mitt Romney 25%
John McCain 21%
Mike Huckabee 18%
Rudy Giuliani 7%
Ron Paul 7%
Fred Thompson 5%

Good night for Mitt Romney. I'll be honest: I never thought it would happen. After seeing Romney in person on a number of occassions, I really felt that Mitt Romney would alienate any state that saw him up close. Turns out, every dog has his day.

Updated numbers after the jump.

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Michigan Exit Polls: It's the Economy, Stupid

| Tue Jan. 15, 2008 9:46 PM EST

Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the country and a badly hurting economy. It isn't surprising, then, that roughly 50 percent of Michigan primary voters (Republicans only, since the Dems had a meaningless contest tonight) picked the economy as the most important issue. Just 26 percent of Republican caucus-goers said the same in Iowa, and 31 percent of voters said the same in New Hampshire's Republican primary. Seven of ten voters in the Minnesota primary said they were unhappy with the primary economy. [Ed. Note: My mistake.]

Twenty percent of voters today said Iraq is the most important issue, 15 percent said immigration, and 10 percent said terrorism.

It appears that Mitt Romney won economically minded voters tonight, perhaps because he has the most experience of any of the candidates in the private sector, and spent years at Bain turning companies around.

FDA Approves Cloned Animals for Store Shelves

| Tue Jan. 15, 2008 8:50 PM EST

cloned-pigs.jpgThe FDA announced today that cloned animals (and offspring and milk produced by said clones) are safe to consume. The agency said that cloned cows and pigs and other farmed animals "are as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals." Which, as you may have read, isn't saying much.

But with cloned animals costing tens of thousands of dollars each, it's unlikely they will become a staple of our diet unless the technology that produces them is radically less expensive. Their offspring, instead, may be killed to provide consistent meat and milk products.

If you don't want to buy clones or cloned offspring, caveat emptor: the FDA "is not requiring labeling or any other additional measures for food from cattle, swine, and goat clones" or their offspring because the agency considers clones and non-clones identical. Food retailers and consumers, I think, will see the issue differently. I can just see the ads now: "the Carl's Jr. 100% ORIGINAL beef burger! No clones!"

To Eat or Not to Eat? That Ain't the Question

| Tue Jan. 15, 2008 7:25 PM EST


Yesterday the LA Times suggested that Americans overeat because our environment gives us no other choice. That might be news to the marketers who bank on you knowing exactly what you're being told.

Read more over at Mother Jones' environment and health blog, The Blue Marble.

—Casey Miner

Iraq to U.S.: Hang Tough Until 2018?

| Tue Jan. 15, 2008 7:20 PM EST

Washington's been buzzing all day about Thom Shanker's New York Times story in which Abdul Qadir, the Iraqi defense minister, said that his country would not be ready to take responsibility for its internal and border security until 2012 and 2018, respectively. Such a prolonged U.S. presence in Iraq would go far beyond anything previously floated on the American side—unless, or course, you count John McCain saying he'd be happy to have U.S. troops in Iraq for the next 100 years... no, 1,000 years!... no, make that a million years!!

Responding to Qadir's claims, the Center for American Progress, a progressive DC think tank, released a revised budget projection for U.S. involvement in Iraq. Including monies already appropriated, it shows that expenditures could exceed $1 trillion by 2018, assuming a troop level of 70,000—less than half the current number.

Beyond costs, though, the major drawbacks to sticking around may simply be that it would work against our larger interests. Earlier this afternoon, Larry Korb, a former Reagan-era assistant secretary of defense, now a senior fellow at CAP, explained the reasons why in a conference call with reporters:

We're increasing the dependence of the Iraqis on us because, obviously, since the president has agreed we might stay for 10 more years, they feel no pressure to take over security responsibilities or to make the hard political choices that are necessary for reconciliation. It also reinforces the perception, in particular among Al Qaeda and other groups in the Middle East, that we are an occupying power and it enhances, if you will, their narrative…