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Meet David Hicks and his Beleaguered Counsel

| Tue Mar. 6, 2007 1:28 PM EST

 david_hicks65x70.jpg Few people in America know who David Hicks is. He's an Australian man who was captured in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 and last week was the first person stored away at Guantanamo to be formally charged by the United States government under the new system of military tribunals. Hicks had been in Gitmo for five years (he claims he was subject to beatings), and was there under an allegation of attempted murder until the charges came down. At that point attempted murder was dropped because of lack of evidence (see Padilla, Jose) and Hicks was instead charged with material support of terrorism, which wasn't illegal until 2006.

Well, now that Hicks's case is actually going to trial, the government is considering charging Hicks' lawyer with "using contemptuous language towards the president, vice-president, and secretary of defense." Apparently that's illegal for a military lawyer (free speech is notoriously lacking in the Armed Services). Never mind the obvious question of how the man is supposed to do his job without violating that law; penalties for that offense include jail time and loss of employment and Hicks' lawyer -- Major Michael Mori of Massachusetts, who has been criticized by the military for repeatedly traveling to Australia to speak out against Hicks' treatment and taking part in events like vigils on Hicks' behalf -- is saying that he may resign from the case because he can no longer speak out for Hicks' without endangering his own legal status. It's a total conflict of interest, one that the government may have created intentionally and in my mind amounts to an obstruction of due process.

The newest reporting on Hicks is that if he is willing to accept a plea bargain and plead guilty to supporting terrorism, he might get off on time served and return to Australia a free man.

To learn more, see the David Hicks wikipedia page, which has links to dozens of Australian newspaper articles about him.

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We're Sorry, But Not THAT Sorry

| Tue Mar. 6, 2007 1:26 PM EST

Suddenly, Sen. Sam Brownback wants to apologize to African Americans and Native Americans for generations of suffering. Such attempts have been made by Congress before, but the twist here is that Brownback, who is an extreme right-wing politician, is running for president in 2008.

The resolution, authored by Brownback and Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen, "acknowledges that the U.S. government 'violated many of the treaties ratified by Congress and other diplomatic agreements with Indian tribes' while taking actions that caused 'immense harm' to native peoples, including forced removal, relocation and extermination."

Brownback has a 20% rating (lower than Harry Reid's!) from the ACLU, which means that he has gone out of his way to deny civil liberties to citizens, many of whom, of course, are minorities. He voted to end special funding to minority-owned businesses and against setting aside highway funds for minorities.

Brownback voted against maintaining the right of habeus corpus in death penalty appeals, has consistently voted against public education, and--despite his talk about Native Americans' stewardship of the land--has consistently voted against conserving the environment (he has a 0% rating from the League of Conservation Voters).

And while it's nice that hypocrites in Congress are falling all over themselves to apologize to African Americans and Native Americans, when is Congress going to consider apologizing to women? We were burned as witches, denied birth control, denied the vote, forbidden to take most jobs, forbidden to enroll in many schools (until the 1970s), had genital mutilation performed on us (until the late 1970s), denied credit, given no protection against spousal abuse, denied the right to divorce, placed in psychiatric hospitals for asking questions or speaking our minds, sexually abused and assaulted in the workplace, denied the right to participate in most sports...the list goes on and on.

The truth, of course, is that "apologies" like Brownback's are shallow and offensive, but at least Congress considers African Americans and Native Americans politically important enough to pander to.

The Company We Keep

| Tue Mar. 6, 2007 1:18 PM EST

The BBC recently asked 28,000 people around the world to rate a dozen countries plus the EU in terms of whether they have a positive or negative influence on world affairs.

The country that most people believe has a negative affect on the world? Israel. Followed by Iran. Third is the United States and fourth is North Korea. Five years after President Bush named Iran and North Korea to the "axis of evil", we find ourselves rated as dangerous as both by the world community. Awesome.

Breaking: Libby Guilty on Four of Five Counts

| Tue Mar. 6, 2007 1:10 PM EST

CNN reports that the jury in the Scooter Libby trial has returned a guilty verdict on four of five counts. Libby faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.

Update: More from CNN.

Libby was convincted of:


  • Obstruction of justice when he intentionally deceived a grand jury investigating the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame
  • Making a false statement by intentionally lying to FBI agents about a conversation with NBC newsman Tim Russert
  • Perjury when he lied in court about his conversation with Russert
  • A second count of perjury when he lied in court about conversations with other reporters
  • Jurors found Libby not guilty of a second count of making a false statement relating to a conversation he had with Matt Cooper of TIME. Libby's defense team plans to appeal.

    Mother Jones has covered the Libby trial from start to finish.

    "The Libby Trial: Courtroom Theatrics in the Closing Arguments," February 21, 2007

    "The Libby Trial: Tim Russert Takes the Stand," February 7, 2007

    "Leakers Who Lunch: Judith Miller Testifies How Scooter Libby Pushed Plame Story," January 30, 2007

    "Libby Defense Lawyer: Scooter Scapegoated, Culprit is Karl," January 23, 2007

    "Plame Case: Fitzgerald is Getting Nifonged," January 17, 2007

    EPA Wants Train and Ship Emissions Cut 90%, Starting Next Year

    | Mon Mar. 5, 2007 10:28 PM EST

    EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson held a press conference last Friday in one of the busiest ports of one of the reputedly dirtiest states: Newark, New Jersey. Johnson's goal is to make Newark and the rest of the nation cleaner, by reducing fumes and soot from diesel transport like cargo vessels and container trains by 90 percent. The changes will apply to a variety of vehicles, including freight and passenger trains, tugboats, yachts, ferries, and cargo ships.

    This is one of the first times the Bush administration's EPA has made such an innovative proposal. As we reported last year, the EPA has had its libraries closed and Bush's latest budget is kind to corporations but harsh on wildlife.

    When the EPA's proposed changes are completed, diesel engines would have reduced soot and other airborne matter by 90 percent. Most likely, Johnson said, the plan would not be fully implemented until 2030, and would cost $600 million to fulfill. But, he added, the savings from reduced respiratory illnesses and other air pollution-related maladies would be around $12 billion by 2030.

    A timeline of the proposed changes:

  • 2008: New eco-friendly fuel, emissions systems are certified for locomotives, implemented as available
  • 2009: New diesel-powered trains and ships required to use "new emissions technology"
  • 2010: All older locomotives required to have "new emissions technology" implemented
  • 2012: Ships and trains required to use a cleaner diesel fuel which has very low sulfur levels
  • 2014: All marine vehicles using diesel engines required to use catalytic converters
  • 2015: All trains with diesel engines required to use catalytic converters
  • 2015: Final rules regarding manufacturing clean vehicles and their fuels implemented
  • 2030: Goal for all diesel-powered marine vehicles and locomotives to adhere to new environmentally-friendly regulations. Air-borne soot reduced by 90%
  • —Jen Phillips

    El-Masri: "I Am Not a State Secret"

    | Mon Mar. 5, 2007 9:53 PM EST

    Don't miss Khaled el-Masri's op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. El-Masri was a victim of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, and was held and tortured even after the CIA realized they had mistaken him for Al Qaeda operative Khalid al-Masri. The CIA can't keep el-Masri, an innocent, private German citizen, from talking about his ordeal. But it's fighting mightily to avoid apologizing to him. El-Masri sued the U.S. government, but the government claimed successfully that the entire case is a "state secret," even though it has been widely reported. For more about the absurd and frightening implications of the "state secret" privilege, click here.

    El-Masri's op-ed is called, simply, "I am not a state secret." I'm betting this is one guy the CIA wishes they'd never touched.

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    In Which I Agree with Ann Coulter

    | Mon Mar. 5, 2007 9:38 PM EST

    Ann Coulter's hateful comments at the CPAC this weekend have been condemned by John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and, more blandly, Mitt Romney. That's no surprise, really—these guys yuck it up in a roomful of conservatives and then tell the media what it wants to hear. What is surprising is that a group of conservative bloggers have written a letter to the conference organizers requesting that Coulter never be invited back. They say—and I can only hope this is how it plays to average American voters—that her hate speech coarsens the political dialogue.

    It's funny, though, Coulter and I agree about one thing: Mitt Romney. She supports him and I can't stand the guy, but we have the same take on his past tolerance for gays and abortion: "He tricked liberals into voting for him." (Coulter went on to say, "I like a guy who hoodwinks the voters so easily.")

    More Music Recommendations (For People Who Still Buy CDs)

    | Mon Mar. 5, 2007 9:09 PM EST

    Hey, my last roundup of albums-to-watch-out-for turned out pretty well, didn't it. Everybody's got Arcade Fire Fever! Although now that I've heard the Ken Andrews CD in its entirety I may have to rescind that recommendation (sorry Ken--too syrupy). But let's not look back in anger. Let's look forward… in anticipation, at some more CDs coming out soon-ish, along with a brief description, similar artists, and pertinent links. Let that raga drop:

    Tuesday 3/6/07:

    mojo-cover-%21%21%21.jpg!!! - Myth Takes (Warp)
    NY dance-punkers get funkier and more focused
    For fans of: The Rapture, Can, dancing in basements
    Stream three tracks at their MySpace page here

    mojo-cover-rj.jpgRJD2 - The Third Hand (Definitive Jux)
    Ohio hip-hop producer morphs into multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter
    For fans of: Moby, Brian Wilson, chilling on rooftops
    Again, stream three tracks at his MySpace page


    Tuesday 3/20/07:

    mojo-cover-dilla.gifJ Dilla - Ruff Draft (Stones Throw)
    Re-release of hard-to-find first solo effort from late hip-hop innovator
    For fans of: DJ Shadow, Marvin Gaye, having your life changed
    Everybody's got a MySpace page!


    Tuesday 3/27/07:

    mojo-photo-timba.jpgTimbaland - Shock Value (Interscope)
    Studio genius takes center stage with high-profile guests
    For fans of: Missy Elliott, Nelly Furtado, bringing sexy back
    Stream the first single, "Give It To Me," here


    Tuesday 4/10/07:

    mojo-photo-blonde.jpgBlonde Redhead - 23 (4AD)
    NY art-rock trio gets shoegazey (again)
    For fans of: My Bloody Valentine, Serge Gainsbourg, the pot
    Grab an mp3 of the first single, "23," here


    Tuesday 4/24/07:

    mojo-photo-arctic.jpgArctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare (Domino)
    Hyped (and hyper) Brit foursome gets serious on sophomore album
    For fans of: Franz Ferdinand, The Jam, dancing to electropop like a robot from 1984
    Here's a blog where somebody posted an mp3 (recorded from the radio) of a new song, "Brianstorm" (sic)

    Breaking: Cheney Treated for Blood Clot

    | Mon Mar. 5, 2007 4:37 PM EST

    CNN is reporting that Vice President Cheney has been treated for blood clot in his leg after experiencing discomfort in his calf. More info as it becomes available.

    Update: From CNN.

    Doctors found a blood clot in Vice President Dick Cheney's left leg Monday, Cheney's office said.
    The vice president was given blood-thinning medication, which he will need to take for several months, and allowed to return to work.

    Looks like it was nothing serious. For a guy who has had four heart attacks since 1978, this is probably like a little indigestion.

    The Plight of the Ugliest Endangered Animals

    | Mon Mar. 5, 2007 2:39 PM EST

    aye-aye2.jpg

    Watch this Slate slideshow and you'll come out hating pandas for everything they represent. While millions of dollars have gone into saving the last three thousand pandas just because they're cute, at least one sorry creature—the aye-aye—is bound for extinction because it's ugly. The aye-aye looks like a balding, emaciated gremlin. So even though it minds its own business in life, foraging for bugs in tree bark with claws bigger than its face, superstitious people in Madagascar go out of their way to kill it on sight. "Aye-aye, aye-aye," indeed, as the maudlin Ranchero song goes, "Canta y no llores." The world is not fair. Not even environmental philanthropists are.

    After pointing out injustice, fortunately, the writer poses solutions. Savvy conservationists can market the most charismatic creatures to raise money for the rest. The World Wildlife Federation already does so with its panda logo. "One lovable animal might stand in for an entire ecosystem—the jaguar, for example, could serve as a spokesmodel for the Amazon rainforest where it lived," Michael Levitin writes. To summarize the argument of biologist David Stokes, conservationists "must understand the ways that aesthetic appeal can be used to motivate the public—and then try to promote the "less attractive" creatures by highlighting their most endearing feature."

    To their ideas I'd like to add another. Endangered wildlife t-shirts—the ones painted with blue whales underwater or gray wolves in the snow—went out of fashion by 1990. (I reluctantly retired mine some years later). But can't you picture the aye-aye (or the golden-rumped elephant shrew or the hairy-eared dwarf lemur) becoming an icon emblazoned on ironic t-shirts to raise funds for their conservation? And not just for hipsters. The scrawny, bug-eyed Chihuahua mascot was fast food industry's most effective ad campaign in decades; Americans bought 13 million stuffed ones from Taco Bell and far too many more dashboard bobble-heads. Paris Hilton has one too. And Sam the World's Ugliest Dog ranks among this millennium's most famous canines. Today the t-shirts and mugs made in Sam's memory are sold out. So conservationists who want to draw attention to the less photogenic animals could make use of this trend: in the era of Ugly Betty, a beatific defense of homeliness itself may be garnering popularity.

    —April Rabkin