Blogs

U.S. Places Violent Iraqi Prisoners In Standing Coffins

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 11:21 AM EDT

The United States. Not China. Not Zimbabwe.

The U.S. military is segregating violent Iraqi prisoners in wooden crates that in some cases are not much bigger than the prisoners.
The military released three grainy black-and-white photos of what it calls the "segregation boxes" used in Iraq. They show the rudimentary structures of wood and mesh. Some of the boxes are as small as 3 feet by 3 feet by 6 feet tall, according to military officials. They did not release a picture of a box that size.
The military said the boxes are humane and are checked every 15 minutes. It said detainees, who stand in the boxes, are isolated for no more than 12 hours at a time.

Here's how the story was uncovered. You can see the photos at the link — they're like something out of the Great Escape.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

So, Why Do We Hate Us? New Book Tries to Explain

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 9:54 AM EDT

41GORi-mMxL._SL500_AA240_.jpg

I was born in the 1970s, and even at my tender age, have fallen victim to a creeping cynicism (too often expressed in the form of easy sarcasm) that has me worried lately. I'm too young for such negativity. I haven't earned that badge. Not yet, anyway. For years, I chalked it up to a generational entitlement: after all, isn't my brood, Generation X, defined by its feelings of apathy and emotional confusion? That was the message of popular culture at the time. (Just watch "Reality Bites" or read Douglas Coupland's Generation X.) And it's the culture that is the problem, writes Dick Meyer in his new book, Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millennium.

Meyer, the editorial director of digital media at NPR, ticks off the many widely shared annoyances of everyday life: telemarketers, pedestrians with eyes glued to their iPhones, t-shirts emblazoned with vulgar or stupid messages, and the ever-expanding menu of inane reality TV shows.* Lest you think he's just a grumpy old man, he also takes on weightier subjects, such as the impact of social networking sites, the decline of "organic communities," the all-pervasive presence of marketing, and our national worship of celebrity, among many other things. All told, it's a composite of exactly the sort of cultural ugliness that feeds our collective distrust of government, the media, entertainment, and each other.

If, like me, you believe that something is rotten in the state of Denmark, but you're not sure what, give Meyer's book a read. You'll laugh, if nothing else, and might just find that it helps you to look on the bright side of things.


*I have an iPhone, some stupid t-shirts, and have been known to enjoy certain reality TV shows. I have never worked as a telemarketer.

Okay, Folks. Ready for a Deep Breath?

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 9:48 AM EDT

Because here's your chance to grab one. I just got a copy of Barack Obama's public schedule and it looks like this.

Friday, August 8: "Welcome to Hawaii" Event in Honolulu, HI.

Saturday, August 9 to Friday, August 15: No public events.

That's called a vacation. It will be interesting to see if Obama will come out of hiding to react to major international news, an important investigative report, or a particularly vicious attack by the McCain campaign. To not do so would be a pretty foolhardy attempt to impose his will on the furiously paced 24-hour news cycle. I assume he'll do it. He might even get in a couple photo-ops along the way — as someone remarked to me earlier, he's just got to be careful to avoid the windsurfing.

Meanwhile, the Olympics start tonight, meaning that what little news there will be in the presidential race will get even less coverage. The McCain campaign might do well to think of next week like a NBA coach: when the other guy removes his big, you do the same to get yours some rest. Surely McCain could use it.

Did the Son of the NRA-Connected Private Spy Lose His Job Because of Mom?

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 9:28 AM EDT

Is Sean McFate the first casualty of Gun-gate?

Sean McFate is the son of Mary Lou Sapone (a.k.a. Mary McFate), the NRA-connected private spy who infiltrated the gun control movement for about 15 years. Her tale was first disclosed by Mother Jones last week. That article noted that Sean, a Brown- and Harvard-educated paratrooper, and his wife, Montgomery McFate, a controversial Pentagon adviser, had once both worked for Mary Lou Sapone's business, which specialized, according to an old version of Montgomery's resume, in "domestic and internal opposition research" and "special investigations." Sean and Montgomery McFate might also have been involved in Mary Lou Sapone's penetration of the gun control community.

More recently, Sean McFate was program director of the national security initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank boasting an advisory board composed of four former Senate majority leaders: Howard Baker, Bob Dole, George Mitchell, and Tom Daschle. That is, he was until the appearance of the Mother Jones story on his mother.

As that story was being posted last week, McFate was listed on BPC's staff list on its website. Days later, his name was gone.

Asked about McFate's fate, the BPC issued this statement:

Just Say No To Biofuels

| Thu Aug. 7, 2008 9:50 PM EDT

The Kenyan courts are considering doing just that. A judicial review is weighing whether or not to halt the first stage of a US$370 million biofuel project that aims to replace up to 50,000 acres of coastal grassland with irrigated fields of sugarcane.

The project is based at the Tana River Delta on the northern Kenyan coast. It's opposed by environmental groups Nature Kenya, the East Africa Wildlife Society, and nomadic pastoralists, reports ENN.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai doesn't like it either. "We cannot just start messing around with the wetland because we need biofuel and sugar."

Could this be the beginning of a new movement?

Hamdan Taken Out of Bush's Hands

| Thu Aug. 7, 2008 4:57 PM EDT

Salim Hamdan, convicted earlier this week of providing material support for terrorism (a.k.a. being Osama bin Laden's driver), has been sentenced to five and a half years. Because he'll get credit for time served, he could be released in as few as six months. The government asked for 30 years of prison time.

The Bush Administration, which plays by a set of rules that exist only in its collective brain, made it clear before the verdict that it was prepared to continue detaining Hamdan even if he was found not guilty. Presumably, a Bush White House would keep Hamdan locked up well past the six month mark. But half a year of jail means that Hamdan is essentially John McCain or Barack Obama's responsibility — statements from both explaining how they would handle Hamdan's detention would be very interesting.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

New Music: Keane, Jay-Z, Annie & Sam Sparro, M.S.K.

| Thu Aug. 7, 2008 4:50 PM EDT

mojo-photo-newmusic0807.jpg

British popsters Keane have always seemed like Coldplay imitators, and since Coldplay are just U2 imitators, we're talking a pretty washed-out copy. But on Keane's new song "Spiralling," they take a crazy left turn towards '80s synth pop and Billy Squier beats, and it's kind of intriguing. They're offering up a 256kbps mp3 of the track on their website in exchange for your e-mail address, which isn't such a bad deal, I guess.

Jay-Z continues to use his recent feud with Noel Gallagher as creative fodder, dropping a line about "that bloke from Oasis" into a new song the rapper debuted last night in an appearance at Kanye West's show at Madison Square Garden. The track, "Blueprint 3," is pretty awesome, although it too sounds like it stole the rhythm from Billy Squire's "The Big Beat." What's going on?

After the jump: Australian pipes beat Norwegian pipes, and asteroids beat Earth

Circumstantial Evidence Against Ivins Called "Compelling"; Widow Presses Lawsuit

| Thu Aug. 7, 2008 3:53 PM EDT

anthrax_evid1.jpg

Shortly after the 2001 anthrax attacks, U.S. bioweapons researcher Bruce Ivins emailed some poems he'd written to a friend, including this one: "I'm a little dream-self, short and stout. I'm the other half of Bruce—when he lets me out. When I get all steamed up, I don't pout. I push Bruce aside, then I'm free to run about." The previous year, he'd confided to a friend that he was feeling deeply depressed and acknowledged that his psychiatrist believed he might be suffering from "Paranoid Personality Disorder." Combined with everything else we've learned about Ivins in the last week—his late nights at the Fort Detrick lab; his professional disappointments; his obsession with sorority girls; his threats against his counselor; his long history of sociopathic and psychotic behavior; his custody of an anthrax vial considered to be the "parent flask" of the material used in the attacks; and even his possession of what the FBI has declared to be a suspicious book, The Plague by Albert Camus (couldn't he just have been well-read?)—Ivins seems to fit the profile of someone capable, personally and professionally, of sending the anthrax letters.

The Justice Department and the FBI appear to be satisfied that he did, declaring at a press conference yesterday that Ivins was "the only person responsible" for the attacks. Even after it described its evidence against him, while ordering the simultaneous public release of 14 affidavits and search warrants, the Justice Department's case remained largely circumstantial—something US Attorney for the District of Columbia Jeffrey Taylor freely acknowledged. "Circumstantial evidence?" Sure, some of it is," he told reporters. "But it is compelling evidence."

Easiest Comeback Ever

| Thu Aug. 7, 2008 3:15 PM EDT

It's time for dueling web videos! From the McCain campaign:

And the obvious Democratic response:

Pop Culture Debate Seems to Favor McCain

| Thu Aug. 7, 2008 3:10 PM EDT

I know, what with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears taking over the presidential race, we're all a bit sick of trivialities being injected into the campaign. But aren't you just a little curious about the candidates' favorite movies, music, TV shows? Well, Entertainment Weekly did the tough job of tracking down Barack Obama and John McCain's answers on various pop culture topics, including the first movie they saw, which onscreen president they admire the most, and all sorts of completely useless and irrelevant questions. What emerges kind of confirms my suspicions: personality-wise, Obama is kind of boring, and McCain has a pretty good sense of humor. For instance, for favorite TV show, McCain said Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm while Obama said M*A*S*H and The Dick Van Dyke Show, two programs that you could use to torture me if you thought I was a terrorist. Now, I get the sense that Obama is cooler than he's letting on—didn't a Riff reporter uncover his admiration for The Wire?—so maybe he understands the ridiculousness of the exercise enough to feed milquetoast answers to the public. But it is Entertainment Weekly, not Reader's Digest. Anyway, after the jump, see the candidates' answers in a variety of categories.