2007 - %3, February

Why We Should Close Guantanamo (Quick and Dirty Version)

| Mon Feb. 12, 2007 4:50 PM EST

Today's In These Times features "8 Reasons to Close Guantánamo Now." The reasons are likely not unfamiliar to Mother Jones readers, but here are a few highlights:

Not one individual among the nearly 800 incarcerated at Guantánamo has been charged with a crime recognized under either U.S. or international law….86 percent of detainees were arrested by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and "handed over to the United States at a time when the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected enemies."

For more on how this happens, check out Mother Jones' "One Detainee's Story," and "Why Am I in Cuba?"

The In These Times article suggests that, while life in Guantánamo is bad, life in the other 20 secret prisons the U.S. is operating is, in all likelihood, worse: "Guantánamo may have been a smokescreen for more inhumane, less legal incarceration and interrogation practices elsewhere." It also reports that "two of Europe's leading terrorism magistrates pointed out that attempts to infiltrate terrorist cells had become much more difficult in the wake of rising public anger over Guantánamo."

But its final conclusion is far from shrill. It suggests that it's just time to move on: "In the wake of 9/11, the United States' pledge to do everything in its power to protect its people from further harm led to a policy of overreaction.…We must no longer act like scared victims, willing to make any bargain with any devil to create the illusion of safety. We must reassert our confidence in the rule and wisdom of law."

Amen to that.

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Mother Jones Editors Speak to the Progressive Web Community

| Mon Feb. 12, 2007 2:24 PM EST

My original title for this post was "Sometimes People Want Jobs in Journalism, So They Treat Editors Like Newsmakers and Interview Them." But then I decided not to be a jerk and made it the first line of my post instead.

Last week, Mother Jones editors Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein spoke with CampusProgress about "men, women, and journalism." More specifically, the lack of female writers and editors at thought-leader magazines, MoJo's recent cover story on Hillary Clinton, and how the starving interns and fellows here at Mother Jones really shouldn't be complaining about their wages. Little is said about the quality or professionalism of Mother Jones' bloggers.

All jokes aside, it's worth a read. Have a look!

Iran Gave Some Bombs to Iraqi Shiites, Clearly to Blame for Mess'opotamia

| Mon Feb. 12, 2007 2:02 PM EST

Yesterday, the military backed up its claim that Iran is fueling the violence in Iraq by showing reporters a PowerPoint presentation that contained evidence on bullet hole sizes, bomb construction, etc. Together, the evidence was supposed to make the point that Iran is arming and training extremist militias in Iraq.

It's an interesting story because (1) the Bush Administration is taking a much more public tack in its allegations against Iran than it did with Iraq, (2) it makes me even more worried that we are headed for a violent confrontation with Iran, because otherwise why would the Bush Administration be putting justifications in the public sphere, and (3) the evidence is already running into skepticism.

See the PowerPoint here. Read Josh Marshall's very good "So What?" response here. Read Juan Cole's very detailed "Bullshit!" response here. See General Peter Pace already back off the assertions against Iran here.

Afghanistan: At Least It's not Iraq!

| Mon Feb. 12, 2007 1:02 PM EST

Here's Robert Gates urging increased NATO involvement in Afghanistan at the Munich Conference on Security Policy this weekend:

[NATO] should be able to generate the manpower and material needed to get the job done in Afghanistan -- a mission in which there is virtually no dispute over its justness, necessity, or international legitimacy. (Emphasis mine.)

In other words, it's not Iraq.

House Anti-Surge Resolution Comes to the Fore

| Mon Feb. 12, 2007 12:42 PM EST

As you probably know, the Senate's resolution expressing disapproval of President Bush's troop increase met an ignominious end. After much brou-ha-ha over Sens. Levin, Hagel, and Biden's version being reconciled with Sen. Warner's version, and grand talk about how this resolution would set up the first serious confrontation between the newly Democratic Congress and the Bush Administration.... the whole thing fizzled in a spat of in-fighting and parliamentary maneuvers.

The House, however, because it has a larger majority for the Dems and a less rigid party-line voting tendency, has more hope. A very simple and straightforward anti-surge resolution is to be introduced tomorrow, and it will be debated for three to four days; each member of the House will be given five minutes to speak. Here is the resolution, in full:

Disapproving of the decision of the President announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.
Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That—
(1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and
(2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.

There are some interesting tidbits in the LA Times article about the resolution. First of all, 30 to 60 Republicans are expected to join the Democrats in voting in favor, which is an astonishing number and will result in a lopsided vote total possibly in the range of 290-145, or 2-to-1 in favor.

Second, this:

The resolution will have at least one GOP co-sponsor, North Carolina Rep. Walter B. Jones, a conservative who publicly broke with his party over the war in 2005.

Mother Jones wrote a cover story on Walter Jones' long road from being the "freedom fries" guy to being a leader war critic. Read that here.

I respect but disagree with this argument being put forward by several members of the GOP:

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said, "I call it the status quo resolution. It basically says 'Don't do something' without saying what we should do."

A lack of an alternative is not a reason to vote against the resolution. There is value in telling President Bush that the American people no longer support moving forward -- escalating -- and that any other option is on the table, if he'd please, but this one isn't. Basically, it's a way of saying, "You've had your chance. Enough."

To be frank, making that statement is good enough for me. The administration has not listened to war critics or the Democrats in six years; what makes anyone think that if the resolution had a coherent alternative written into it, the Bushies would even care?

The Chicks Were Brave, Give Them Grammys!

| Mon Feb. 12, 2007 3:28 AM EST

So yeah, the Dixie Chicks wiped up at the Grammy's, but they were careful to let their lyrics do the talking, for the most part. Each of their five wins came with the refrain of "Not Ready to Make Nice," their song about singer Natalie Maines' we're-ashamed-Bush-is-from-Texas comment in 2003. Maines treaded lightly during their acceptance speeches, but did manage this: "In the words of the great Simpsons, 'ha ha.'" That, and her "I think people are using their freedom of speech here tonight and we get the message" comment were all the political juice we got. Oh, and Joan Baez asking everyone to "listen carefully to the lyrics" when she introduced their performance.

It sort of seemed like the Chicks were feted for their prescience. I mean, they said what few were willing to back when this war started, so tonight was kind of like a you-told-us-so-and-got-slammed-for-it nod from the mainstream music world.As for their core country roots, the band had lots of trouble packing stadiums on their latest tour and didn't even score a single nomination at November's Country Music Awards. Their base, perhaps, remains unforgiving.

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Coalition of the Willing to Do Anything For Bush

| Mon Feb. 12, 2007 3:24 AM EST

Looks like the Republicans are now pulling the coalition of the willing up onto their bully pulpit. But Australian Prime Minister John Howard's shot at Obama this weekend just may backfire, as it immediately put the Senator on the international stage sparring with a head of state, plus, it keeps the war and its toll in sharp focus.

To refresh, Howard theorized that if he "were running al Qaeda in Iraq," (now that would be something to talk about) "I would put a circle around March 2008 and be praying for a victory, not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats."

This in response to Obama's proposal that the U.S. pull out all troops by the end of next March. "I think that will just encourage those who want to completely destabilize and destroy Iraq, and create chaos and a victory for the terrorists to hang on and hope for an Obama victory."

Obama, not one to back down, responded asking if Howard were to send another 20,000 of his own troops over to Iraq (the country has 1,400 there now), then they could talk. Until then, "it's just empty rhetoric."

This is not the first time that we have heard this chorus, that our enemies will be emboldened with Democrats in power, but to have a foreign head of state slam the Dems? It's a bit like someone outside your family talking smack about your mom, even Republicans are telling Howard to keep his mouth shout. Me, I'm going to go ahead and circle March 2008 so I look out for the chaos and instability that Howard predicts is in Iraq's future.

As Go the Dixie Chicks, So Goes the Country

| Mon Feb. 12, 2007 1:17 AM EST

After being shunned by country music stations in retaliation for lead singer Natalie Maines' critical remarks about fellow Texan George Bush before the invasion of Iraq, the Dixie Chicks scored a major victory at the Grammy awards ceremony tonight. The Texas trio walked away with best song and record of the year for the pointedly titled "Not Ready to Make Nice" and best album of the year for "Taking the Long Way."

Just one more way for the country--or at least Hollywood--to tell Bush he's wrong about Iraq. For her part, Maines was gracious and largely apolitical, but did praise the L.A. audience for "using their freedom of speech tonight with these awards."

Party Ben Pre-Live-Blogs the Grammys

| Sun Feb. 11, 2007 5:05 PM EST

This will be so much easier than actually watching the thing.

8:00 PM - Ceremony opens with alleged "mashup" of Gnarls Barkley and the Dixie Chicks. There's some confusion because Gnarls Barkley are in Dixie Chicks costumes. Randy Newman saves the day by descending from ceiling to sing 15-minute extended version of "Crazy"

8:16 PM - First Award, for Best Spoken Word Album. It's a tie: Al Franken and Jimmy Carter! They accept with a witty back-and-forth that puns "tied" with "apartheid." Polite laughter

8:19 PM - Reba McEntire and Diddy emerge as presenters. McEntire: "Hey Diddy, can you believe it, the Police are here!" Diddy: "Hold on, I gotta call my driver!" Slightly less polite laughter

8:23 PM - Carrie Underwood wins Best Country Song for "Jesus, Take the Wheel," forgets to thank him in acceptance speech. Camera shows Jesus in audience smiling uncomfortably. Guy behind him pats him on back. You kind of get the feeling maybe things aren't going so great, like Jesus heard a suspicious message from Buddha on the answering machine and you can see in his eyes this kind of confirms everything. Of course he forgives her but it just seems like she's already moved on

8:27 PM - John Mayer and Tony Bennett perform "Candle in the Wind" accompanied by a montage of moments from the life of Anna Nicole Smith

8:43 PM - Chamillionaire wins Best Rap Song for "Ridin'," sends Weird Al to accept

Another McCain Flip-Flop

| Sun Feb. 11, 2007 10:48 AM EST

It's getting too easy.

Just about a year and a half ago, Sen. John McCain went to court to try to curtail the influence of a group to which A. Jerrold Perenchio gave $9 million, saying it was trying to "evade and violate" new campaign laws with voter ads ahead of the midterm elections.
As McCain launches his own presidential campaign, however, he is counting on Perenchio, the founder of the Univision Spanish-language media empire, to raise millions of dollars as co-chairman of the Arizona Republican's national finance committee.

Past content on McCain reversals here and here.

Update: McCain calls the WaPo article the "worst hit job" of his "entire political career." Doesn't say why it's wrong, though.