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No Wontons for Fred Fielding This Week

| Tue Oct. 9, 2007 1:42 PM EDT

Every month, the right-wing legal group, the Federalist Society, meets at a D.C. Chinese restaurant, where they hear from an impressive array of conservative luminaries, including the occasional Bush administration official who comes to brief the faithful on various legal developments. This Friday's scheduled guest was Fred Fielding, who we now know is not Deep Throat (as had long been suspected) but who is currently the White House counsel.

This morning at 10:02 a.m., the Federalists sent out word that Fielding would be a no-show. One hour, 52 minutes later, the Washington Post uploaded a story blaming the Bush administration for blowing the cover off a private intelligence company's Al-Qaeda spy operation. The company had given the administration an advance copy of the latest bin Laden video, with warnings to keep it under wraps. Naturally, the administration leaked it to cable news outlets, allegedly destroying years of undercover work by the company. The first White House official to get the video? Yes, that would be Fred Fielding, who probably didn't need a fortune cookie to see his future this week.

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Disgraced Mexican Politician Cheats on Marathon, Too

| Tue Oct. 9, 2007 1:09 PM EDT

Favorite story of the week:

After a humiliating defeat in Mexico's presidential election last year, Roberto Madrazo appeared to be back on top: He'd won the men's age-55 category in the Sept. 30 Berlin marathon with a surprising time of 2:41:12.
But Madrazo couldn't leave his reputation for shady dealings in the dust. Race officials said Monday they disqualified him for apparently taking a short cut -- an electronic tracking chip indicates he skipped two checkpoints in the race and would have needed superhuman speed to achieve his win.
According to the chip, Madrazo took only 21 minutes to cover nine miles -- faster than any human can run. "Not even the world record holder can go that fast," race director Mark Milde said.
In a photograph taken as he crossed the finish line, Madrazo wears an ear-to-ear grin and pumps his arms in the air. But he also wore a wind breaker, hat and long, skintight running pants -- too much clothing, some said, for a person who had just run 26.2 miles in 60-degree weather.
Madrazo's outfit caught the attention of the New York-based marathon photographer Victor Sailer, who alerted race organizers that they might have a cheater on their hands.
"It was so obvious to me, if you look at everyone else that's in the picture, everyone's wearing T-shirts and shorts, and the guy's got a jacket on and a hat or whatever," Sailer said. "I looked at it and was like, wait a second."

Thank heavens for vigilant cameramen.

Madrazo's history of corruption and lies while in Mexico meant everyday citizens were unsurprised by the news of his marathon shenanigans. It's all in the AP article.

Another Nail in the Coffin for the Gitmo Tribunals

| Tue Oct. 9, 2007 10:46 AM EDT

More evidence has emerged that the military tribunals set up by the Pentagon to review the legal status of Guantanamo detainees are nothing more than kangaroo courts. Last week, federal public defenders in Oregon filed an affidavit describing an interview with an army reserve officer who has sat on 49 Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT). The officer, a prosecutor in his civilian life, is the second to speak out publicly against the tribunals.

According to the affidavit, in at least six cases where the CSRT unanimously found the detainee did not qualify as an enemy combatant, the military ordered a new CSRT or forced the first one to re-open the case. The findings were then reversed with no new evidence, according to the officer, whose name was withheld. Tribunal members were poorly trained, pressured by higher-ups to rule against the detainnes, and despite congressional rules requiring the military to allow detainees to present evidence in their favor, the only witnesses allowed to testify on their behalf were other Gitmo prisoners. (Surely those Uighurs were a big help!)

The lawyers filed the affidavit in the case of Adel Hassan Hamad, a Sudanese father of four who worked at a charity hospital in Pakistan, where he was captured and sent to Cuba in 2002. The military actually ruled that he could be released a few years ago, but he is still languishing in captivity. It's this kind of stuff that makes it hard to imagine that the Supreme Court, conservative as it is, will rule that the tribunals are a perfect substitute for real constitutional rights.

Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things - 10/08/07

| Tue Oct. 9, 2007 12:02 AM EDT

This week, I already covered the Detour festival so none of that can go in here, and on most of my drive down to LA I passed the time with French lessons, so I didn't delve into a lot of new recorded music, I'm afraid. Thus, the presence in the Top Ten of a TV show, some new stuff by people I've already covered, and a lot of hyper beats, cause when you're driving up the Grapevine and heading for Hollywood traffic, you need tunes that keep you on your toes.

Timberlake10. Justin Timberlake – "LoveStoned" (Justice remix)
(mp3 via Bridging the Atlantic)
One of the most underwhelming tracks from the Trousersnake's album is turned into an epic disco megajam by the reigning kings of electro, and the fact that this doesn't come out sounding like Jamiroquai is a tribute to everyone involved. Instead, it's somewhere between the French duo's own "D.A.N.C.E." and classic Boney M, with totally up-to-date production values. What's not to love?

Weeds9. Weeds (Monday nights on Showtime)
Maybe this is a new tactic for TV shows: jump the shark immediately and get it out of the way. This dark comedy has always walked a very thin line between ridiculous melodrama and finely-honed satire, and at the end of last season, with everyone in a zany predicament, you had to wonder if it was just turning into a soap opera with pot. But this season, the writers seemed to remember that the show isn't called "Weed," and it's not really about drugs, it's about the weed-y people: flawed, scarred, not like everybody else, and barely keeping up on the payments for their "little boxes made of ticky tacky." For instance, a recent moment where a cancer survivor revealed her scarred breasts had surprising pathos, even though it was in a sex scene with Matthew Modine.

mojo-photo-tt-jayz.JPG8. Jay-Z – "Blue Magic" (from American Gangster, out Nov 8 on Island Def Jam)
(Stream at the Island Records site)
Hova's surprise return to the music biz turns out to be a concept album based on the Frank Lucas biopic of the same name, and the lead single has an urgent intensity that we've come to expect from one of our greatest rappers ever. He addresses the complicated topic—drugs and dealing—with complex lyrics: "Blame Reagan for making me into a monster/Blame Oliver North and Iran-Contra/I ran contraband that they sponsored." So, everybody out there who doesn't like gangster rap: is it okay if it's about a gangster movie?

Look ma no hands7. Arcade Fire – "Neon Bible"
(crazy interactive video thing that you can watch here)
Well, the secret Arcade Fire website turned out to be an interactive video for the title cut from the Montreal combo's critically-acclaimed album. What, you were hoping for an Arcade Fire remix album produced by James Murphy? Who gave you that idea? Anyway, this song wasn't my favorite from the album, but the video is a lot of oddly creepy fun: you can do stuff to it! Go click around!

Goose6. Goose – "Bring It On" (from Bring It On on Skint)
(listen at their MySpace here)
While this track is over a year old, I just can't escape it these days; it keeps turning up in DJ mixes all over the place, and seeping into my brain. The multi-part harmony in the chorus elevates what could be typical hoover-y blog-techno into something that just plain rocks. Go, Belgium. Apparently they started out as an AC/DC cover band, so there's that.

Bad Moon Rising

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 7:52 PM EDT

Along with the esteem and credibility this administration has cost us in the world, will it also end African Americans' storied role in the armed forces? Blacks are fleeing in droves from the recruiters' offices they once thronged. According to the Boston Globe:

Defense Department statistics show the number of young black enlistees has fallen by more than 58 percent since fiscal year 2000. The Army in particular has been hit hard: In fiscal year 2000, according to the Pentagon statistics, more than 42,000 black men and women applied to enlist; in fiscal year 2005, the most recent for which a racial breakdown is available, just over 17,000 signed up.

No other groups' enlistment figures have dropped more. No wonder, with 83% of the black community opposing the war and this administration. One has to wonder about the long term implications most, though. The military, for all its racial problematics (which the article thoroughly lays out) has long been the black and working class safety valve; if you couldn't go to college, you could serve your country, be respected, and make a good living. You could help out the folks back home and make yourself much more employable after either a hitch or a career. One can only wonder how this turn of events will affect already bad black socio-economics and even crime rates because it's doubtful that the majority of those blacks who pass on the uniform will either head off for college or a high paying job. We'll all be dealing with the ripple effects of the Bush years for a long, long time.

Coffee or Microchips? Costa Rica Faces Tough Decision

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 7:35 PM EDT

The United States' war on Latin American populism has been around for decades, but this time it is being played out in the last place that the U.S. could have predicted: Costa Rica. This peaceful (they don't have an army) and U.S.-friendly country voted Sunday on whether or not to ratify the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Costa Rica is the only country in the region that has not done so.

The country is divided. President Oscar Arias won the general election last February based on a platform supporting the referendum, although he doesn't have much of a mandate; Arias beat his opposition by only 2 percent. Costa Ricans are split almost evenly between those who wish to ratify this neo-liberal agreement and those who side with the rising tide of leftist politics in Latin America. Last weekend, 100,000 Costa Ricans opposed to the agreement marched in the capital of San Jose.

The arguments for each side mirror the ideological arguments surrounding the issue in both North and South America. Supporters, including the president, say that the pact is necessary in order to create jobs and expand its fledgling technology sector. Opponents fear that it will make the rich richer, the poor poorer, and saturate the market with cheap imports from multinationals, hurting local business.

This is an ideological battle on the most general grounds as well, between privatization and nationalization. As part of the Act, the United States is demanding that Costa Rica privatize its nationalized telecommunications and insurance sectors. This might seem like a somewhat innocuous political battle in a tiny country that has little to no influence on the global economy, but symbolically this is an incredibly important decision. Costa Rica is now centrally positioned not only geographically but as a battlefield in the opposing ideologies of North and South America.

—Andre Sternberg

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Marijuana Laws Cost Taxpayers Billions

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 7:23 PM EDT

A new study finds the marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers $41.8 billion a year in law enforcement, diverts $113 billion from the legal economy, and loses a whopping $31.1 billion in revenue annually. The Marijuana Policy Project reports the sad numbers. I mean, think how many wars we could fund with that kind of money. Not to mention the cost of all the enviro-damage from growing in national parks and supposedly pristine wilderness areas. Not to mention the good medicine never taken.

And—shhh—don't tell the boozers, but Lawrence Welk—or Myron Floren—was on the toke many, many moons ago. Clearly the weed's been mainstream forever. Check out the video, sans bubbles:

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, "The Fragile Edge," and other writings, here.

Marijuana Laws Cost Taxpayers Billions

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 7:12 PM EDT

A new study finds the marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers $41.8 billion a year in law enforcement, diverts $113 billion from the legal economy, and loses a whopping $31.1 billion in revenue annually. The Marijuana Policy Project reports the sad numbers. I mean, think how many wars we could fund with that kind of money. Not to mention the cost of all the enviro-damage from growing in national parks and supposedly pristine wilderness areas. Not to mention the good medicine never taken.

And—shhh—don't tell the boozers, but was Lawrence Welk—or Myron Floren—on the toke many, many moons ago? Clearly the weed's been mainstream forever. Check out the video, sans bubbles:

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, "The Fragile Edge," and other writings, here.

It's a Curse but is it Really That Bad?

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 7:08 PM EDT

I'm not sure my eyes are working properly. Can it really be that a British mom wants to give her severely disabled 15 year old daughter a hysterectomy to "save her the pain and discomfort of menstruation"? One can only imagine how difficult caring for such a disabled child must be but major surgery to avoid four or five days each month?

The mom defends her decision (which is far from settled) saying,

"Katie wouldn't understand menstruation at all. She has no comprehension about what will be happening to her body. All she would feel is the discomfort, the stomach cramps and the headaches, the mood swings, the tears, and wonder what is going on."

If Katie doesn't understand menstruation, I doubt she understands defecation, the flu she's probably gotten lots of in sunny old England or the conversations going on around her either. I know this sounds cruel and cavalier but there seems a big difference between this case and the "pillow angel" case from earlier this year. In that case, the brain damaged child was immobile; having her reach full growth would certainly have made it much harder for her parents to include her in activities, especially outside the home. I don't know what the right answer was, but choosing to stunt her growth can certainly be seen as the best of only bad options. That one didn't seem nearly as disturbing as this one where they have the option of just dealing with her periods along with the myriad other issues already burdening them.

Given the mother's word choice, Katie hasn't begun to menstruate yet; why not at least wait to see if she has easy periods or the kind that send women round the bend?

Trading Unqualified Support for Qualified Skepticism

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 6:37 PM EDT

Amidst all the outrage expressed after last Thursday's new torture revelations (for those who missed it, the New York Times reported more ex post facto legalization of abhorrent practices and the continued operation of secret overseas prisons), Glenn Greenwald's excellent essay on Salon was one of the only media responses to point out that "outrage" is hardly an acceptable emotional response to something you've known about for years. "None of this is new," he writes. "And we have decided, collectively as a country, to do nothing about that." Our indignance at the front-page announcement of each new atrocity seems based less on our objection to the policies themselves than on our annoyance at being left in the dark.

If anything, our representatives have eagerly sought to legalize broad swaths of moral gray area, offering not only future endorsement but retroactive immunity to the perpetrators of crimes for which other countries enact Truth Commissions. Eager to demonstrate patriotism during wartime, we fail to notice how the doubt sown by secrecy gradually shifts our assumptions away from rational discourse. This cycle represents the Administration's greatest psychological triumph. Each new layer of secrecy imposed on the "War on Terror" has made it easier to believe that we, the people, don't understand what's at stake, don't realize how dangerous the situation is, and therefore, don't have the expertise to devise a democratic way to deal with it. Demanding answers doesn't just show respect for American values; it proves we respect ourselves as skeptics and patriots alike.

—Casey Miner