2009 - %3, October

Quote of the Day

| Wed Oct. 28, 2009 12:21 PM EDT

, a Jesuit-trained Catholic turned Anglican, on Pope Benedict's decision to allow conservative Anglicans to join the Catholic church while retaining some of the Anglican rites:

If personal experience and lifelong immersion in a sub-culture is any form of persuasive evidence, I can tell you that conservative Anglo-Catholicism — at the clerical level — is totally dominated by gay men.  Mostly repressed.  What used to be called when I was in seminary, the pink mafia.  And the thing that is the initial trigger for this decision is the upcoming very likely to happen decision to ordain women as bishops in the Church of England (there have already been women priests there for about 15 years or so).  Which has a certain irony in this case.  If these Anglo-Catholics join the Roman Communion they can join up with very conservative Roman Catholic groups like Regnum Christi and The Legionaries of Christ, also totally dominated by closeted gay fellows.  You don’t need to be Sigmund Freud to see the awesome tragic humor in a bunch of non-wife having grown men wearing pink dresses (and in the Pope’s case super expensive fabulous Prada shoes!!!) telling everybody else they shouldn’t be gay.

Well, OK then.  Always nice to see a happy ending.

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Race and the LAPD

| Wed Oct. 28, 2009 12:07 PM EDT

I don't have a lot to say about this (I don't live in LA and don't know its politics well), but thought it was interesting enough to highlight:

The Los Angeles Police Commission forwarded to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Tuesday the names of three finalists to become the next police chief -- a list that contained no women or minorities, but sparked little initial criticism.

....In the not-so-distant past, when tensions between the LAPD and minority communities in the city ran high, the selection of three white men as finalists would almost certainly have set off intense criticism. On Tuesday, however, news of the decision was met generally with praise as officials and outsiders said reforms made under [Bill] Bratton had largely rendered racial and gender politics a moot point.

John Mack, the commission president and a prominent African American civil rights activist, said he was struck by how little attention was devoted to race and ethnicity when the panel held community meetings throughout the city seeking the public's guidance on a new chief, including in Watts, Crenshaw and the San Fernando Valley.

The day is young, and racial politics may yet rear its head, but if Bratton has really accomplished this it's a helluva lot more impressive than any of his other reforms.

Americans Support Cap and Trade After All?

| Wed Oct. 28, 2009 11:55 AM EDT

As I noted last week, Americans seem to be more confused about the science of climate change than they used to be. But even if they're less sure whether global warming is occurring and if so, what causes it, they still support cap and trade, according to a CNN poll released yesterday.

The poll found that 60 percent of Americans favor legislation to cap emissions, a substantial increase in supporters. The last CNN poll on this subject in April found only 44 percent supportive of cap-and-trade, and 51 percent opposed. The number was even higher for younger adults—68 percent of Americans under age 50 back cap-and-trade." Seventy-five percent of Democrats support cap-and-trade, as do nearly six in 10 independents. Perhaps most surprising, even 40 percent of self-identified Republicans said they support the policy.

Last week I suggested that part of the problem is that Americans just don't understand climate policy, and the opponents of action have dominated the conversation. But this latest poll seems to indicate that Americans do support key climate policy goals—lower emissions, clean energy, less dependence on foreign energy—even if they're still confused about the science.

Either that, or it indicates that polls on the subject are not all that useful. But at least this one has positive results!

Karzai's Brother A Spook?

| Wed Oct. 28, 2009 11:53 AM EDT

Afghan National Army soldiers display more than six kilograms of opium discovered in a former insurgent safe house in the Farah province of Afghanistan Dec. 16, 2007. (Photo courtesy of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Afghanistan) Afghan National Army soldiers display more than six kilograms of opium discovered in a former insurgent safe house in the Farah province of Afghanistan Dec. 16, 2007. (Photo courtesy of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Afghanistan) Today's biggest news is that Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected drug kingpin, is "said to be" on the CIA's payroll. The scoop by the New York Times' Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti, and James Risen adds even more drama to the already Hollywood-worthy tale of the Karzai brothers. The six Karzais have done very well for themselves since the Americans invaded Afghanistan in 2001. But it's very clear from the Times story that not everyone in the US establishment is happy for the brothers. Filkins et. al. say it outright: "The ties to Mr. Karzai have created deep divisions within the Obama administration." But you could tell that from the very fact the story exists. CIA agents don't get outed to the press unless someone is very upset with their behavior. So exactly who is chafing at the payments to Ahmed? Sometime General McChrystal adviser Andrew Exum says he doesn't know if the story is true, but he does know that the military establishment in Afghanistan doesn't much care for Ahmed Karzai:

[N]umerous military officials in southern Afghanistan with whom I have spoken identify AWK and his activities as the biggest problem they face—bigger than the lack of government services or even the Taliban. And so if AWK is "the agency's guy", that leads to a huge point of friction between NATO/ISAF and the CIA. Again, I am not currently serving as an advisor to ISAF and cannot speak for Gen. McChrystal's command.

Of course, as Exum points out, the military folks are already on the record saying Ahmed is a problem. The lead quote in the Times piece is from Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, a top military intelligence guy and a McChrystal honcho. And later in the story, Flynn basically accuses the CIA of supporting crime in Afghanistan. "The only way to clean up Chicago is to get rid of Capone," he says. Exum says this is "yet another example of NATO/ISAF carrying out one campaign in Afghanistan while the CIA carries out another." Bottom line: the message from this story, and the leaks to the Times, is pretty clear. McChrystal and his team are telling the CIA they've had enough.

Obama Still Fighting to Cover Up Rendition-to-Torture

| Wed Oct. 28, 2009 11:14 AM EDT

Back in April, five torture victims won a big victory when a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit court of appeals reinstated their lawsuit against a Boeing subsidiary for allegedly flying them to other countries to be tortured under the CIA's extraordinary renditon program. The Obama administration—and before that, the Bush administration—had unsuccessfully pushed for the case to be rejected under the controversial "State Secrets" doctrine. And now the Obama administration has won a second chance to make that happen. On Tuesday, the full Ninth Circuit agreed to rehear the case, Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, and reconsider whether it should be thrown out after all.

The issue at stake in the appeal is whether the government can declare an entire area of its activity off-limits from judicial oversight because it would expose state secrets. The three-judge panel had argued that the courts are perfectly capable of treating such cases with discretion without throwing out the whole thing in advance. If the government could block Mohamed v. Jeppesen, the panel said, that would effectively "cordon off all secret government actions from judicial scrutiny, immunizing the CIA and its contractors from the demands and limits of the law."

The full Ninth Circuit could now reverse that ruling. But why is the Obama administration pushing to keep the rendition-to-torture program secret in the first place? After all, it says the most egregious parts of the program are no longer operative. One possible explanation could be that the administration is worried that exposure of the participating countries—many of which are presumably undemocratic—could make those governments vulnerable and less likely to cooperate with future US intelligence efforts. In other words, in order to continue gathering intelligence about terrorism without torturing people, the Obama administration may be more inclined to cover up the Bush administration's torture program. This is speculation, of course, but it illustrates one of the many ways in which the Bush administration has put its successor in a real bind. 

One final interesting detail: six of the Ninth Circuit's 27 judges have recused themselves from the case—including Jay Bybee, who authored several of the Bush administration's most controversial torture memos.

Kentucky Basketball, Brought to You by Coal

| Wed Oct. 28, 2009 10:40 AM EDT

The University of Kentucky's men's basketball team will soon be sleeping in Coal.

No, you read that right. A group led by Alliance Coal CEO Joseph Craft recently agreed to donate $7 million for a new dorm for the Wildcats—if the school agreed to name it after his favorite thing, coal.

Craft has asked that it be named the "Wildcat Coal Lodge." I can't cover this better than Rachel Maddow did last night, so here's the video:

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 28, 2009

Wed Oct. 28, 2009 6:30 AM EDT

Sgt. Gregory Opoien, a Bloomington, Minn., native and an information assurance officer with the 34th Infantry Division, skates on a box Oct. 13, in Contingency Operating Base Basra, Iraq. The box was given to him by a member of "Bikes Over Baghdad," an extreme sports group that toured Iraq recently. (US Army photo via army.mil.)

Where Are All the Lady Bloggers?

| Wed Oct. 28, 2009 6:30 AM EDT

UPDATE: If you're on Twitter, lots of conversation arose out of this piece. Keep up with it by checking out the new hashtag, #followwomenbloggers. Lots of great suggestions for smart, sassy women whose blogs you should follow.

After the release of The Shriver Report, which lauded our becoming "a woman's nation," the media have been abuzz with talk of the gender gap in the American workplace. Joanne Lipman, former deputy editor at the Wall Street Journal and founding editor in chief of the now-defunct Portfolio, wrote an op-ed tempering the soaring proclamations of progress. Then, yesterday, Vanity Fair released a feature by Nell Scovell, one of seven female writers to ever staff Late Night with David Letterman.

Scovell described what she had considered a hostile work environment and noted, of the late night gender imbalance, "There are more females serving on the United States Supreme Court than there are writing for Late Show with David Letterman, The Jay Leno Show, and The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien combined."

And that's not all.

Last week, Technorati released its annual State of the Blogosphere report. Given that women rule the world of social networking, I was interested to find out that the opposite is true of the blogosphere. According to the report, 67 percent of bloggers are men—up a little from the year before.

That's a worse gender imbalance than in American newsrooms, which is saying something. (Mother Jones is a rare exception—by my quick calculation, our editorial department is 61 percent female, but that's hardly the case everywhere.) Women represent only 37 percent of American newspaper staffers, according the American Society of News Editors. And if newspapers are doomed and blogs are to take their place, then this can't be good for the supposed diversity of voices we're getting online.

Need To Read: October 28, 2009

Wed Oct. 28, 2009 6:28 AM EDT

Today's must-reads are brought to you by the letters C, I, and A:

Get more stuff like this: Follow me on twitter! David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, also tweets, as does MoJo blogger Kate Sheppard. So do my colleagues Daniel Schulman and Rachel Morris and our editors-in-chief, Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein. Follow them, too! (The magazine's main account is @motherjones.)

Conventional Wisdom Watch

| Wed Oct. 28, 2009 1:27 AM EDT

Mainstream hawkish pundits rarely have a change of heart that leads them fully into the withdrawal camp.  They'll often get to the point where they hem and haw a bit, explaining all the downsides of continued engagement and the longs odds against success, but then they'll conclude with either a reluctant insistence that we have to keep on fighting anyway, or else a murky affirmation that there's no good choice to be had, just a least bad one.

But Afghanistan is changing that.  Tom Friedman has now joined George Will in flatly recommending that we leave.  "China, Russia and Al Qaeda all love the idea of America doing a long, slow bleed in Afghanistan," he says today. "I don't."  The conventional wisdom is slowly but surely shifting before our eyes.

So who will be the next bigfoot pundit to jump ship?  Vote in comments.