2008 - %3, August

Musharraf to Face Impeachment Proceedings

| Thu Aug. 7, 2008 8:05 AM PDT

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Today, at a press conference in Islamabad, the leaders of Pakistan's ruling parties announced the decision to pursue impeachment proceedings against President Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani general and US terror-war ally who seized power over the country in a 1999 coup. Asif Ali Zadari of the Pakistan People's Party and Narwaz Sharif of the PML-N, the leaders of an uneasy ruling coalition that defeated Musharraf's allies in February's national election, reached agreement on the impeachment after three days of talks. "We have good news for democracy," Zardari declared. "The coalition believes it is imperative to move for impeachment against General Musharraf." It will be the first impeachment process in Pakistani political history.

After his party's loss in the February election, Musharraf gave up his military commission, but retained the power to dissolve parliament—a step he could now take to head off his impeachment. He has not yet issued a public statement on today's events. And despite widely circulated reports that he had decided to remain in Pakistan to manage the political crisis, Musharraf's staff announced today that he will attend the opening ceremony of Beijing Olympics on Friday evening.

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A Brief History of Claims the White House Has Called "Absurd"

| Thu Aug. 7, 2008 8:03 AM PDT

This week, after a new book by journalist Ron Suskind reported that the White House had ordered the CIA to plant a forged letter that alleged that 9/11 lead hijacker Mohammad Atta had trained extensively in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, a White House spokesman called Suskind's allegation "absurd."

"The notion that the White House directed anyone to forge a letter from [former Iraqi intelligence chief] Habbush to Saddam Hussein is absurd," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.

Today, washingtonpost.com columnist Dan Froomkin lays out a brief history of other recent White House statements calling past allegations similarly absurd. Froomkin:

Fratto's response is also highly reminiscent of some previous White House non-denials.
One of my favorites has always been former press secretary Scott McClellan's response to a British press report in 2005, to the effect that Bush had raised with British Prime Minister Tony Blair the idea of bombing al-Jazeera television headquarters. All McClellan would say about that is: "Any such notion that we would engage in that kind of activity is just absurd."

Dems Hitting McCain Hard on Lobbyist Ties

| Wed Aug. 6, 2008 6:02 PM PDT

Democrats began today what is sure to become a long-term campaign of attacking McCain for his ties to lobbyists. Democrats seek to target McCain's reliance on lobbyists for fund raising and, frequently, upper-level staffing.

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The Democratic National Committee launched a strategy today of using images—always tinged deep Republican red—to disseminate the idea that McCain is owned by big oil. One such image, a fake check for $2 million from "Exxon and friends" comes on the heels of some suspicious donations from Hess employees.

The campaign finance watchdog group, Public Campaign Action Fund, also piled on today, launching a website dedicated to cataloging McCain's lobbyist ties.

Top 5: Stoner Metal

| Wed Aug. 6, 2008 4:26 PM PDT

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My good old Honda motorcycle is pretty reliable, if a bit beaten-up-looking, but it does need its regular tune-ups almost as much as its owner needs his sit-ups. When I dropped it off at the shop yesterday, the guys there had a classic album from Monster Magnet on the stereo, a band who, along with Kyuss and Sleep, basically invented stoner metal, a sludgy genre inspired by both '60s psychedelia and '70s hard rock. I haven't been anywhere near weed in, like, 15 years (I know Jonathan Stein doesn't believe me, but it's true!) and yet I still love the music's combination of rumbling weight and melodic complexity; here's five classic tracks to zone out to from the genre's mid-'90s heyday. They're enjoyable even if you're not on the, er, Pineapple Express.

Tape of Beatles Chuckling Sells for $23,000

| Wed Aug. 6, 2008 12:56 PM PDT

mojo-photo-beatlesbw.jpgA recently discovered reel-to-reel tape of The Beatles "chatting and laughing" during a recording session has sold for $23,446 in an online auction. Okay, it's also got pieces of songs, including "I'll Follow the Sun," and "I Feel Fine," but still. The man who found the tape wished to remain anonymous, revealing only that he had found the tape in his father's attic in northern England. Two lessons here: 1) Record everything you do, whether it's just chatting with your friends or having a snack, then distribute the tapes to friends and relatives with storage, and 2) Go up to your parents' attic right now and look for treasure.

Indie Pop Playlist: Loquat and Thao Nguyen

| Wed Aug. 6, 2008 11:45 AM PDT

loquat-250.jpgOn my earphones this week are two bands I just recently got turned onto: Loquat and Thao Nguyen. Both are sweet with a touch of melancholy, and both remind me just a bit of previous decades.

Hear tracks after the jump:

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Fact Checking John Tierney

| Wed Aug. 6, 2008 11:31 AM PDT
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In June 1996, the New York Times Magazine ran a story by John Tierney titled "Recycling is Garbage." In the now-infamous piece, Tierney argued that recycling was environmentally unnecessary, fiscally burdensome, and ideologically laughable. "Recycling," he concluded, "may be the most wasteful activity in modern America." Having provided comfort to millions of non-recyclers—particularly New Yorkers—. Tierney has since migrated to the paper's Science Times section, where he writes a regular column, "Findings." Despite the whiff of empiricism, the column is often a platform for his libertarian-tinged environmental skepticism.

Last week, Tierney struck again with a column listing "10 Things to Scratch From Your Worry List." The article displayed the typical Tierney M.O.: Take an environmental or health issue and dismiss it with a less-than-thorough glance at the research.

Future President Paris Hilton Responds to McCain Ad

| Wed Aug. 6, 2008 11:30 AM PDT

Paris Hilton, never one to pass up an opportunity to display money or pander for attention, has produced a video response to Sen. McCain's attack ad comparing Sen. Obama with Hilton.

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

The helpful wonks over at The New Republic actually fact-checked Hilton's energy spiel (slow news week, guys?), so check that out if you want. Ok, so maybe she won't be our next Secretary of Energy—and she's not that funny, either.

But, unlike the two senators actually running for the most important job in the free world, she demonstrates a working knowledge of satire and the ability to make a simple joke without offending the entire English-speaking world. With both candidates gaffing their way through the summer, Republicans protesting in dark, empty rooms, and Democrats plotting secret back-room strategies that get immediately leaked, Paris Hilton may actually be the political MVP of these first few days of August.

And that is the state of American politics today. How long until Rasmussen starts tracking her in the polls?

—Max Fisher

Hamdan Guilty on One Count

| Wed Aug. 6, 2008 10:52 AM PDT

Salim Hamdan, he who will always be detained, was found guilty of one charge today, providing material support for terrorism. Considering Hamdan never denied he was Osama bin Laden's driver, it's stunning that it took the United States government seven years to get this verdict. Here's an interesting point from Ken Gude, Associate Director of the International Rights and Responsibility Program at the Center for American Progress Action Fund:

The worst aspect of this whole episode is that the Bush administration has completely devalued the concept of a war criminal. War crimes should be reserved for the most serious offenses and war crimes trials are extraordinary. Charles Taylor is a war criminal. Radovan Karazdic is a war criminal. Salim Hamdan is a chauffer. He is clearly guilty of the crime of material support for terrorism. But now he has been elevated to the status of warrior, legitimizing al Qaeda terrorists' belief that they are waging a holy war against the United States and our allies.
We waited seven years to convict a low-level al Qaeda figure of a crime he never denied.

Ivins Accused FBI of Stalking; Investigation Details Forthcoming, Says FBI

| Wed Aug. 6, 2008 7:25 AM PDT

In the absence of specific evidence linking Bruce Ivins to the anthrax attacks, there is gathering speculation that the FBI's case against him might not be as strong as first thought. To be sure, the circumstantial case is there, but Steven Hatfill will tell you: circumstantial evidence doesn't always lead in the right direction. According to NPR, the Department of Justice could be preparing to put doubts to rest by releasing the details of its case against Ivins, perhaps as early as today.

In the meantime, reports are emerging that before his suicide Ivins had accused the FBI of stalking him and his family. This included, Ivins claimed, offering his son $2.5 million to give evidence against Ivins and attempting to turn his hospitalized daughter against him. From the Associated Press:

Ivins complained privately that FBI agents had offered his son, Andy, the money plus "the sports car of his choice" late last year if he would turn over evidence implicating his father in the 2001 anthrax attacks, according to a former U.S. scientist who described himself as a friend of Ivins.
Ivins also said the FBI confronted Ivins' daughter, Amanda, with photos of victims of the anthrax attacks and told her, "This is what your father did," according to the scientist, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The scientist said Ivins was angered by the FBI's alleged actions, which he said included following Ivins' family on shopping trips.
The FBI declined to describe its investigative techniques of Ivins.

UPDATE: The Justice Department has released a file of court documents related to the investigation. Read them for yourself.