Blogs

Powell: We Should Call it Civil War

| Wed Nov. 29, 2006 4:20 PM EST

CNN's Hala Gorani reports today that in conversation, Colin Powell told her that "if he were still heading the State Department, he probably would recommend to the Bush administration that those terms [civil war] should be used in order to come to terms with the reality on the ground."

This debate of whether or not to finally apply the label "civil war" began with the eruption of violence over the weekend, with CNN's Michael Ware reporting, "For the people living on the streets, for Iraqis in their homes, if this is not civil war, or a form of it, then they do not want to see what one really looks like.... We're talking about Sunni neighborhoods shelling Shia neighborhoods, and Shia neighborhoods shelling back."

Soon after, NBC decided it would use the phrase, Dan Froomkin nodded approvingly, and we were off to the races. The Nation writes today that this may signal the true awakening of the mainstream media.

The real confusion here, of course, lies in the fact that no firm or commonly accepted definition of "civil war" exists, coupled with the fact that we live in time in which words and phrases, bent in a million different ways and co-opted for the purposes of spin, retain little meaning. Unsurprisingly, The Daily Show makes this point best.

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2008 Prez Candidates Update

| Wed Nov. 29, 2006 3:58 PM EST

Movement amongst the longshots. Joe Biden is in, though we kind of already knew that. Bill Frist, officially the least likeable Republican in America, is out.

No word on Barack Hussein Obama.

Polish Kid: "My Half-Year of Hell With Christian Fundamentalists"

| Wed Nov. 29, 2006 2:46 PM EST

There are a million things that are funny about this. It's almost like someone made it up; if they did, we're playing the willing suckers here at Mother Jones.

The facts are simple. (1) A Polish student named Michael came to America for a study abroad term. (2) He was placed with an evangelical family in North Carolina. (3) Hilarity ensued.

Here are the highlights:

- The first thing the family told Michael when he landed at the airport was "Child, our Lord sent you half-way around the world to bring you to us." Michael immediately wanted to get back on the plane to Poland.

- Every Monday, the family gathered around the kitchen table to talk about sex. The parents had not had sex in 17 years.

- The family told Michael that he had the devil in his heart. The family told Michael that his mother had the devil in her heart.

- Michael realized part of the way through his stay that the family had only agreed to house him because he could help them set up an evangelical church in Poland. A bit opportunistic, no?

How is this not a sitcom already? To Mike, we're not all like that, we promise. Perhaps you should swing by the Bay Area next time and sample some of our "San Francisco Values." And to Wonkette, who found this on Der Spiegel, keep fighting the good fight, folks.

Columnist Says Gay Marriage Is Linked To Out-Of-Wedlock Births

| Wed Nov. 29, 2006 1:47 PM EST

You have to stretch your neck and spin your head around to even try to grasp Brendan Miniter's reasoning in his Wall Street Journal column of yesterday. Miniter writes that there is a connection between gay marriage and the rise in out-of-wedlock births in the U.S.

What? Okay, Miniter has an explanation for this assertion, right? Wrong. He claims that "Although advocates of same-sex marriage will deny there is any connection..." between gay marriage and increased out-of-wedlock births, he does not utter a word about why there would be such a connection.

Miniter says that, according to reports from the National Center for Health Statistics, teen pregnancy is down, but more unmarried women in their 20s and 30s are having children. The only possible related explanation, of course, is that those women are lesbians and that they are in gay marriages. However, very, very few gay Americans are married, since gay marriage is rarely permitted. And lesbians and gay men who want children have children, regardless of whether they are fortunate enough to be married (if that is what they choose).

So add to marriage to family members and children and marriage to dogs and cats, an increase in out-of-wedlock births if gay marriage is permitted. And I'll add some: divorce, spousal abuse, child abuse, and infidelity. Oh, wait...we already have those.

Video: Inside the Home of an Iraqi Civilian Family

| Tue Nov. 28, 2006 9:41 PM EST

Via Show Us the War, filmmaker Mark Manning goes inside the home of a civilian family in Fallujah that has lost loved ones in the war. Very powerful stuff.

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Five Children (One an Infant) Killed In Ramadi

| Tue Nov. 28, 2006 9:18 PM EST

A clash between Iraqi insurgents and U.S. Marines has resulted in the deaths of five girls, the oldest of whom was ten and the youngest of whom was six months. Insurgents standing on the roof of a house fired at the Marines, who responded with tank fire.

The incident occurred in Ramadi, which is seventy miles west of Baghdad. It was triggered by the Marines' discovery of a homemade bomb on the side of the road. They were working at diffusing the bomb when insurgents on the nearby rooftop opened fire.

Ramadi is a stronghold for Sunni Arab militants.

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Limitations to Robo Calls May be Forthcoming

| Tue Nov. 28, 2006 3:33 PM EST

A Federal Trade Commission proposal likely going into effect in January will prohibit telemarketers from making "robo calls" to any customer -- unless a customer gives written permission to do so.

It is impossible to tell if this is a long-planned development, a product of Barack Obama getting serious, or a result of Mother Jones' strenuous coverage of the issue. I think we all know the answer.

Michael Crichton Plugs Mother Jones

| Tue Nov. 28, 2006 3:26 PM EST
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Well, not exactly. In our big package on global-warming deniers last year, Bill McKibben dinged Michael Crichton's State of Fear for combining "all the clichés of pulp fiction (heaving breasts, cannibals, poisoning by octopi)" with a deliberate misreading of the science of climate change. After quietly stewing for two years, Crichton has struck back. From today's New York Times review of his latest distraction for cross-country fliers: "Next does occasionally turn ham-handed: one of its resident idiots is a whiny environmentalist who reads Mother Jones and thinks genetic modification could make cool protest art." Snap!

Meanwhile, having conclusively disproved global warming, Crichton has moved on. According to his website, "Michael has completed all interviews/speaking engagements regarding State of Fear and related themes and will not be revisiting these subjects in the future." Guess not even breasts and cannibals could convince Hollywood to buy that screenplay. Better luck with this one, Michael!

Supreme Court Rules Against NY Times; Press Freedom Continues to Die a Slow Death

| Tue Nov. 28, 2006 2:46 PM EST

The Supreme Court ruled against the New York Times yesterday, refusing to block the government from reviewing telephone records of two reporters in a leak investigation concerning a terrorism-funding probe.

In a series of stories in 2001, the Times revealed the government's plans to freeze the assets of two Islamic charities, the Holy Land Foundation and the Global Relief Foundation. The cast of characters here are old and familiar: the reporters are Judy Miller and Philip Shenon and the U.S. Attorney trying to track down the reporters' confidential sources is Patrick Fitzgerald. (For the record, the Fitzgerald fetishizing that was so abundant during the Plamegate scandal may have missed an important point: Fitzgerald is still an agent of a hyper-aggressive government that frequently targets reporters in an effort to curtail their ability to do their jobs. Sometimes his duties put in him the right, sometimes in the wrong.)

Just yesterday, Mother Jones blogged about the Hearst Co. lawyer who is trying (and, unfortunately, frequently failing) to protect the rights of reporters in her company who find themselves under subpoena more and more these days.

And on Sunday, the San Francisco Chronicle demonstrated their concern on the subject with a very good and very thorough piece entitled "ASSAULT ON PRESS FREEDOM." No mucking around there.

Put it all together and there's little wonder we're tied with Botswana, Croatia and Tonga for 53rd in the 2006 Press Rankings.

Chris Carney, the Fighting Dem With Intel Creds. How Will He Use Them?

| Tue Nov. 28, 2006 2:34 PM EST

Newly elected Democrat Chris Carney of Pennsylvania is the only member of Congress with a background doing pre-war intelligence on Iraq. A New York Times profile today looks at whether he'll aide congressional investigations into the flawed intel that led to war. Not likely:

Mr. Carney is not enthusiastic about the possibility of a new Congressional investigation of prewar intelligence, which he said would be a major distraction. For Mr. Carney, there is an element of been there, done that to looking back at the now-familiar cast of prewar characters, including Mr. Feith; Mr. Tenet; Paul D. Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary; and Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi opposition leader who was a prewar favorite of many in the Defense Department to take the reins of a future Iraqi government.

"Let's win the war first, then maybe look at how we got into it," Mr. Carney said. "The more energy spent on answering Congressional investigations, the less time will be spent on winning the war."

The Times story makes passing mention of Republican efforts during the campaign to smear Carney for his intelligence work, which, ironically, had been part of a pre-war intel review led by high ranking members of the GOP (a group first covered by Mother Jones). Also, for an early rundown on the swift boating of Carney, and his response at the time, see my MJ story, Swift Boating the Fighting Dems.