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The Peace Movement and Darcy Burner

| Wed Mar. 19, 2008 1:49 PM EDT

iraq-evacuation250x200.jpg This week, as anti-war activists descended on Washington to mark the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, key members of the peace movement gathered at Take Back America, the annual progressive convention, to discuss their next moves in their ongoing mission to end the war. Up until now, the peace movement has relied on fiery rhetoric and tactics, including large-scale protests and congressional pressure campaigns, that have so far failed to produce the desired results. In part, this may be because the peace movement has always known when it wants to get out of Iraq ("Now!"), but not how it intends to do so.

Speaking at a Take Back America panel on Monday, Leslie Cagan, co-chair of United for Peace and Justice, stressed the need to "mount serious opposition" to Congress' next authorization of funding for the war. "Constant public protest activities," Cagan said, are needed to build pressure on the new president and Congress. She also said that continued counter-recruiting efforts are needed to curb the military's ability to wage war.

But these time-worn protest strategies haven't worked. Congress has never seriously considered denying any of the president's many war funding requests, and troops levels in Iraq today are near their highest point.

Nita Chaudhury of MoveOn.org said that the peace movement needs make it clear to Republicans that voting to continue the war won't just imperil their jobs, but send their political movement into a "death spiral" that would "doom it for a decade." Evidence of the death spiral's imminence is hard to find: The economy is outpacing the war as the most important issue in every primary, and the vehemently pro-war John McCain is polling evenly with Democrats in the presidential race.

Tom Swan, the national coordinator of the Iraq/Recession Campaign, explained that his coalition will try to convince the public that the war is causing America's economic ills. What Swan was missing was persuasive data showing that the link between the war and the recession was real, and not just an opportunistic PR tactic by the peace movement. Swan is supported by a Nobel-winning economist, but serious questions remain.

In all, five anti-war leaders spoke during the Take Back America panel discussion and not one of them devoted more than a half-sentence to the surge, which any reality-based observer would admit seriously complicates the anti-war movement's efforts to generate popular opposition to the war. And none made any mention of how America ought to withdraw.

But then Darcy Burner spoke.

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Replaying the Iraq War's Greatest Hits, Five Years On

| Wed Mar. 19, 2008 7:01 AM EDT
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It's been five years since we headed down the rabbit hole to Iraq. Reflecting on this milestone while visiting Baghdad a couple of days ago, Dick Cheney declared that "we've come a long way" since the days of "Mission Accomplished," describing the war as "a difficult, challenging, but nonetheless successful endeavor." Which in the topsy-turvy, up-is-down world of Iraqspeak means that we are still horribly, gut-wrenchingly screwed.

To commemorate the war's fifth birthday, here's a brief collection of some of Mother Jones' coverage of the challenges and difficulties of the past few years. Or, as the vice president might put it, the Iraq War's greatest hits:

What's Worse? Exxon or Comfortable Footwear?

| Tue Mar. 18, 2008 8:22 PM EDT
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The Consumerist is having fun with its first-ever "Worst Company in America" survey. Today's corporate death match is between oil giant ExxonMobil and Crocs, the much-hated-upon yet oh-so-comfy rubber clogs. So who's worse? Here's a hint. And it looks like the Consumerist's readers are starting off on the the right foot, too.

New Deadline in Missing WH Emails Case

| Tue Mar. 18, 2008 8:10 PM EDT

A federal judge told the Bush administration today that it has three days to give him a good reason why he shouldn't order the White House to make copies of every computer hard drive in the Executive Office of the President (EOP). Judge John M. Facciola's ruling (PDF) is a major victory for two Washington non-profits, the National Security Archive (NSA) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), who have been battling the administration in court to ensure the preservation of missing White House emails.

The emails, which could number in the millions, are from between 2003 and 2005 and could include information about the runup to the war in Iraq and the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert CIA agent. (Need to catch up? Read our full coverage of the missing White House emails story.)

In another victory for the plaintiffs, the Judge noted the fact, reported by Mother Jones in January but largely ignored in the mainstream press, that the White House's regular 'recycling' of email backup tapes prior to October 2003 indicates that emails between March and October 2003 are probably not preserved anywhere. This contradicts what Theresa Payton, the White House Office of Administration's (OA) Chief Information Officer, said in January when she claimed that "substantially all" the missing emails would be preserved on backup tapes (PDF). From the Judge's order:

It is nevertheless true that if e-mails have not been properly archived as plaintiffs allege, and copies of those e-mails do not exist on back-up tapes, then the obliteration of data upon which those e-mails may be reconstructed threatens the plaintiffs with irreparable harm. This appears to be the case for any e-mails that were not properly archived between March 2003 and October 2003, during which time no back-up tapes exist. [Emphasis added.]

Facciola's ruling indicates that he takes the plaintiffs' concerns seriously and understands that time is of the essence, since every day that goes by makes it increasingly likely that potentially recoverable email data will be permanently lost. If Facciola does order copies made, it will mean that "while the clock is ticking [the emails] are not going to disappear," explains Meredith Fuchs, the NSA's General Counsel.

Arthur C. Clarke Dies at 90

| Tue Mar. 18, 2008 8:06 PM EDT

mojo-photo-2001.jpgScience fiction pioneer Arthur C. Clarke has died at age 90 in Sri Lanka, where he had lived since 1956. Clarke wrote the short story on which Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey was based; his accompanying novel was actually completed after the film. In one of the most famous examples of science fiction becoming science fact, Clarke was the main proponent of the concept of geostationary satellites being used for communications (although whether he was the first to come up with the idea is apparently in doubt).

For an author so clearly interested in "hard" science (and who famously dismissed UFO enthusiasts as signs of how rare intelligent life is on Earth) there is a surprising level of mysticism in Clarke's work, something evidenced by the third of his "three laws" governing prediction: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Clarke's approach to the mystical (and mystifying) was one of both awe and humility, and while it's Philip K. Dick's dystopian paranoia that seems to best reflect our current reality, Clarke's visions of the future are both reassuringly optimistic and comfortable with the universe's mysteries.

Photo used under a creative commons license from Flickr user Travelin Librarian.

Jack White Thumbs Nose at Music Critics

| Tue Mar. 18, 2008 7:15 PM EDT

mojo-photo-raconteurs2.jpgWell, I suppose it's our own fault. In a move that echoes Radiohead's surprise announcement of an impending album last fall, Jack White's wear-whatever-colors-we-want band the Raconteurs have just announced via their website that they'll release a new album, Consolers of the Lonely, next Tuesday on all formats. But unlike Radiohead, Jack White seems to be a little bitter about, ulp, music critics who jump the gun by reviewing promotional releases or leaks:

We wanted to get this record to fans, the press, radio, etc., all at the EXACT SAME TIME so that no one has an upper hand on anyone else regarding it's availability, reception or perception… the Raconteurs would rather this release not be defined by it's first weeks sales, pre-release promotion, or by someone defining it FOR YOU before you get to hear it.

Wow, and all-caps, even. That's internet for shouting!

After the jump: critics, can't live with 'em, can't crush their heads in vices.

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China Accuses Dalai Lama of "Sabotage," but Olympics Still On For Beijing

| Tue Mar. 18, 2008 6:18 PM EDT

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Chinese premier Wen Jiabao today accused the exiled Dalai Lama of orchestrating the protests sweeping through Tibet in recent days, with the express purpose of inciting "the sabotage of the Olympic Games." (The Dalai Lama denied the charges.)

But the Chinese needn't worry. Though the information emerging from the region is intermittent and often secondhand—estimates of the number of dead range from the Chinese government's 13 to the Tibetan's 99—what news there is seems to have satisfied the international community: The games must go on.

Dueling SNL Endorsements: Tina Fey vs. Tracy Morgan

| Tue Mar. 18, 2008 3:49 PM EDT

You probably saw Tina Fey endorse Hillary Clinton on SNL's Weekend Update a few weeks back. It was good stuff:

But you may have not have seen Tracy Morgan's rebuttal/endorsement of Barack Obama. Honest to God, I'd pay good money to see Tracy Morgan talk about politics for an hour.

(H/T Prezvid)

Satellites to Rescue Starving Arctic Animals?

| Tue Mar. 18, 2008 3:47 PM EDT

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In the Artic, a lot still goes unseen. Take the weird weather event of October 2003 that killed 20,000 musk oxen on Canada's Banks Island above the Arctic Circle. Rain fell for days atop 6 inches of snow and seeped through to the soil. When the temperature plunged, the rain froze into a thick layer of ice that persisted all winter. Browsers couldn't dig through to feed on lichens and mosses, and one-third of a 70,000-herd of musk oxen perished. "Starvation happened over a period of many months and no one knew until they went up to do the population count the next spring," says Thomas Grenfell, research professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington. The closest weather station, 60 miles away, didn't record any rainfall at the time and few people recognized the oxen's distress.

Now Grenfell and Jaakko Putkonen, also of UW, have found evidence of the 2003 rain-on-snow occurrence in passive satellite microwave imagery. This could provide a signature to help detect similar events in the future, throughout the sparsely-populated Arctic, including in Alaska, northern Canada, Siberia, and Scandinavia. They looked for patterns in data from 10 different satellite microwave channels that correlated with rain-on-snow events. "The subtleties in the microwave levels mean there can be high error margins on this information, but the Banks Island event stood out like a sore thumb in the data," said Grenfell. He hopes satellite data might make up for a scarcity of weather stations and enable native people, who depend on musk oxen, reindeer and caribou, to get food to the herds to prevent mass starvation.

Not explicitly stated but worrying nontheless—expect more rain-on-snow events as the Arctic warms. Which means, this is what we've come to, essentially taming wildlife to keep it alive. Sad benchmark. The study will be published March 25 in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

"Black and More Than Black": Obama's Daring and Unique Speech on Race

| Tue Mar. 18, 2008 2:42 PM EDT

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With racial sentiments swirling in the 2008 campaign—notably, Geraldine Ferraro's claim that Barack Obama is not much more than an affirmative action case and the controversy over his former pastor's over-the-top remarks—Senator Obama on Tuesday morning responded to these recent fusses with a speech unlike any delivered by a major political figure in modern American history. While explaining—not excusing—Reverend Jeremiah Wright's remarks (which Obama had already criticized), he called on all Americans to recognize that even though the United States has experienced progress on the racial reconciliation front in recent decades (Exhibit A: Barack Obama), racial anger exists among both whites and blacks, and he said that this anger and its causes must be fully acknowledged before further progress can be achieved. Obama did this without displaying a trace of anger himself.

Speaking in Philadelphia, Obama celebrated his own racial heritage but also demonstrated his ability to view the black community with a measure of objectivity and, when necessary, criticism—caring criticism. But this was no Sister Souljah moment. He did not sacrifice Wright for political ends. He hailed the good deeds of his former minister, noting that Wright's claim that America continues to be a racist society is rooted in Wright's generational experiences. And Obama identified the sources of racial resentment held by whites without being judgmental. With this address, Obama was trying to show the nation a pathway to a society free of racial gridlock and denial. Moreover, he declared that bridging the very real racial divide of today is essential to forging the popular coalition necessary to transform America into a society with a universal and effective health care system, an education system that serves poor and rich children, and an economy that yields a decent-paying jobs for all. Obama was not playing the race card. He was shooting the moon.

Obama delivered his speech in a stiff manner. The melodious lilt and cascading tones that typically characterize his campaign addresses were not present. This was a speech in which the words—not the delivery—counted. He began with a predictable notion: slavery was the original sin of the glorious American project. Removing that stain has been the nation's burden ever since, and he tied his campaign to that long-running endeavor: "This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign—to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America." And he proclaimed that due to his own personal story—"I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas"—he both recognizes the need to heal this divide and possesses an "unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people." Unlike the black leaders of recent years, Obama identified with both the winners and losers of America: "I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible." He is E Pluribus Unum.