The United States' involvement in Afghanistan is growing deeper and more costly--30 US soldiers have died there since the start of July, making it the deadliest month since the US invasion in 2001. Vice President Joe Biden was probably right when he said in a radio interview on Thursday that the war is "worth the effort." Still, now is a good time to better understand exactly why it has been so hard to turn Afghanistan into a more peaceful place. A new book by two US journalists explores some less well-known historical explanations.

In 1981, Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald were the first US journalists to enter Afghanistan after the Western press corps had been expelled from the country a month after the 1979 Soviet invasion.  The footage that they shot for CBS News painted a far different picture of the occupation than had been portrayed in the US media. Yet they say that the story that Dan Rather aired that spring buried the most important revelations--a problem that they've seen with US media coverage of Afghanistan ever since. In January 2009, they published "Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story," a book that Selig Harrison, the Washington Post's former South Asia bureau chief, calls "a much needed corrective to five decades of biased journalistic and academic writing about Afghanistan that has covered up the destructive and self-defeating US role there." Mother Jones spoke with Gould and Fitzgerald last month.

Mother Jones: In your view, what do most people not understand about the US government's early involvement in Afghanistan?

Paul Fitzgerald: In the major media, you get the story about a Soviet invasion. What you don't get are all the politics and motivations that were behind that.

Elizabeth Gould: When the Soviets crossed the Afghan border, President Carter exclaimed that this was the greatest threat to peace since the Second World War. The claim was that the Soviets were running out of oil and this was their first step to the Persian Gulf to get our oil. So that became the mantra.

MJ: So when did a different explanation catch on?

Just yesterday, gun-toting Senate Republicans and their Democratic allies were narrowly defeated in their attempt to allow gun owners with concealed weapons permits legally take their arms across state lines. (No thanks to Harry Reid for his wonderful leadership... Even Kirsten Gillibrand voted nay on this one!)

However, for residents of Tennessee, everything isn't so hunky-dory. As the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported last week, it became legal for "people with valid handgun-carry permits to go armed—the gun concealed or not—into Tennessee restaurants serving alcohol, provided the restaurant doesn't ban guns on the premises." This makes one wonder, what are these lawmakers smoking (or drinking)? A similar law was also just passed in Arizona.

Even our foes friends at FoxNews have acknowledged that alcohol consumption and gun violence are linked—"Heavily consuming alcohol can greatly lower inhibitions, increase confidence and potentially release violent impulses," according to a University of Pennsylvania study—so it's ludicrous that legislators would go out of their way to endanger the lives of innocent people who are at a bar or restaurant looking for a non-violent good time, and instead have to be around individuals living out their Wild West fantasies.

The Hollywood Reporter recently gathered Emmy Award nominees Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, Christina Applegate, Jane Krakowski, Mary-Louise Parker, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus to discuss the entertainment business. Surprisingly, the conversation turned to Mother Jones:

For the record, Mother Jones doesn't have an age limit for our cover girls.

On the other hand, we do have strict accuracy requirements, and it's a pretty sure bet that our team of fact checkers would catch a discrepancy like casting Amy Poehler to play Rachel McAdams' mom (she's only 8 years older) or Sarah Silverman to parent Jonah Hill (a 13 year difference). Then again, this is the same Hollywood that thought we'd buy Winona Ryder as Zachary Quinto's Star Trek mom—she would have been a mother at the age of six.

As you may have heard, The Onion has been sold to the Chinese. Not really, of course, but you could be fooled by their site this week. It's a much-needed comedic shot in the arm after the recent sad news that their California print editions are shutting down.

The funniest bit isn't actually any of the China-related content on the Onion homepage, but the website they set up for their fake Chinese parent company, Yuwanmei Amalgamated Salvage Fisheries and Polymer Injection Corp. From the "Company History":

Founded in 1998 without incident or legal complication, what is now a glorious 300,000-square-foot processing center began as a humble 230,000-square-foot warehouse.

Clicking through the Yuwanmei website I can't help but think that we're witnessing the birth of a new—and potentially game-changing—comedic genre: the fake website. While fraud and deception are nothing new to the internet, and fake websites have been sometimes innovative promotional tools for movies and TV, the culture is still barely scratching the surface. Besides the Chinese Onion, the best example I've come across is an extensive spoof website featuring the comedian Charlie Murphy as Leroy Smith, the man who motivated Michael Jordan. Nike is apparently behind this project, which explains the bells and whistles, like the Leroy Smith video game. The ease with which this stuff can go viral (Leroy's website comes fully equipped with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and iPhone apps) has to have entertainment execs salivating.

Look for Hollywood to follow the lead of the website for the new Apatow flick, "Funny People", which features long fake trailers for the fake movies its protagonists star in.

Have a favorite fake website? Leave your links in the comments. But first, watch a video of Charlie Murphy (yes, Eddie's brother) as Leroy Smith, the man who motivated Michael Jordan, after the break.

Update: The Onion has taken it even farther than I had realized. Check out the Yu Wan-Mei Corp. Twitter feed (h/t to commenter Yu Wan Mei).

Recently, MoJo published a story about the GOP's hackneyed attempts to crack the web.

Their latest straw-grasp: A YouTube video called "Just Tax," set to Lady Gaga's hit "Just Dance." According to The Guardian, the parody of Obama (sample lyric: "This shouldn't happen, man/Go on and ask Japan") was recently featured at a Republican party meeting as a way to attract young people.

The fact that this got play at an official gathering reveals just how desperate the party has become. Then again, maybe it's not such a bad idea. After all, if Lady Gaga + YouTube + "tax and spend liberals" won't appeal to potential young converts…what will?

Watch below:

A co-worker's tweet this morning drew my attention to a blog post on how to respond to rape jokes. The author of the blog post lays out 5 possible responses when someone jokes that a woman wanted it, or was so unattractive she should be glad to get raped:

1. Keep quiet and feel uncomfortable.

2. Try to top the joke with a more offensive one.

3. Initiate a Very Serious Conversation in which you state rape is never funny.

4. Initiate a Very Serious Conversation II in which you disclose your own rape, and mention that you were definitely NOT laughing during it.

5. Talk outside the box. As in, "I knew this guy in college, and he totally got raped during rush and had to go to the doctor! He's in therapy now! It was hilarious!"

 

When I was a junior in high school, I was pretty sure the only other feminist in my small town was my AAUW card-carrying mother. I also thought that a dial up modem was the height of technology.

Since then, technology has made it possible for teenaged feminists to do much more to connect with each other and the world.

Miranda, a soon-to-be high school senior, is the brains behind Women's Glib, a feminist community blog made up of self-proclaimed "nerdy foul-mouthed youth." Since starting the blog this winter, she has already been featured as a guest blogger on long-running blog Feministe.

The fantasticly titled FBomb was started by 16-year-old founder Julie Zeilinger and has been highlighted by Feministing and other feminist blogs, and caught like wildfire after being highlighted on Jezebel.

Both blogs are at once accessible and enlightening, wittily covering everything from the gendered implications of high school popularity and dating to Sonia Sotomayor's nomination. But not all attention has been positive. A week after the online media blitz, F-Bomb founder Zeilinger Tweeted:

"older feminist readers I'm a teen its for teens can't be perfect don't have a degree. get some perspective plz & stop writing mean comments!"

Miranda ended her Feministe guest blogging stint with remorse for a post that asked for the community's advice on being a womanist ally.

Here at Mother Jones, we've had our own share of contentious conversation on generational feminism. But these young women also point out other rifts contemporary feminism is working to untangle.

Not only are these young women actively working to expand their political viewpoint—and the tools they need to work within their communities—they are negotiating their personal and online identities in real time for the world to see. As both of the blogs note, simply claiming the title "feminist" is a powerful act, for both teenagers and adults (there is a reason Julie Z. called her blog The FBomb), and these bloggers are actively working to ensure more people claim it, grapple with its meaning, and work towards achieving its goals.

As Julie Z's twitter bio screams: "badass teenage feminists who give a shit unite!"

In a world...of disappointing literary movie adaptations, one film must make it to the screen with its nuance, political integrity, and 50-page monologues intact: Atlas Shrugged. At least that's the hope of Ayn Rand fans in Hollywood, who have long sought to bring the Objectivist tome to the silver screen, without much luck. Angelina Jolie was recently rumored to be interested in starring in the tale of top-down class warfare, but the latest reports from Tinseltown say that Charlize Theron is eyeing the project—on the condition that it be made into a cable TV miniseries so its subtleties aren't diluted. Assuming this gets off the ground in the next three years, this could be exciting news for the Go Galt crowd, the folks who, as Amy Benfer writes in our current issue, are creatively reading (or skimming, or just Wikipedia-ing) Atlas Shrugged for clues on how to rebel against the United States' recent transformation into a collectivist totalitarian gulag, i.e., the election of Barack Obama. So far, the Galt movement—named after Atlas' protagonist, capitalist übermensch John Galt—hasn't done much more than inspire lots of online fist shaking. But with Theron playing kinky railroad magnate Dagny Taggart, things could really pick up for it. Now who to play her lover and the namesake of the current recessionist movement? For some reason, I really like the sound of the line (use your best movie trailer voice here): "Nicholas Cage IS John Galt." And this one, too: "This summer, America is going, going...Galt!"

In 2009, when you hear the word "terrorist," who and what comes to mind is no secret. However, many of us forget that in the 1970s, leftist terrorism was a major cause for concern. In the US, it was the Weather Underground, Symbionese Liberation Army, and Black Liberation Army who were the main proponents of these unlawful tactics. But Italy was the true global epicenter of these movements. From the late 1960s through the early 1980s, legions of Italy's most radical communists (led by the Red Brigades)  terrorized their country with regular bombings and murders in an era that became known as "The Years of Lead."

In Pushing Past The Night, journalist Mario Calabresi (currently the managing editor of Italy's La Stampa newspaper), takes readers back to these troubled times, starting with the events that led to the brutal murder of his father Luigi on May 17, 1972, when the author was just two years old. Calabresi goes to great lengths to explain why misguided left wing radicals have for years symbolically invoked the name of Luigi Calabresi when using propaganda to justify other heinous actions. With a remarkably beautiful translation into English by Michael F. Moore, Calabresi weaves back and forth between the 1970s and the present day, illustrating the lack of justice for Italy's criminals (many obtained immunity by moving to France or have been let off because of the statute of limitations, and some have even become high-ranking elected officials) and the falsehoods in the national consciousness surrounding the death of his father. To debunk the claims made by leftists that his father was guilty of a crime, Calabresi carefully and scientifically has many experts recreate the events of the death of Giusseppe Pinelli (whom the leftists claim his father killed), leading to the solid conclusion that Luigi Calabresi is innocent of all wrongdoing. Calabresi's discussion of how many of Italy's former terrorists became acclaimed scholars, intellectuals, and philosophers while serving little to no time for their crimes depicts the chaos and inadequacy of the Italian justice system, as well as how faux-revolutionaries are made into pop culture heroes.

What I appreciate so much about this work is Calabresi's ability to create such rich emotion while retaining his own values and morals. For instance, when writing about the Italian government's failure to inform his family that one of his father's murderers was released from prison, Calabresi notes, "I don't think the government should be required to seek victims' permission before passing laws or deciding whether to grand a pardon, parole, early release or supervised furloughs. Such matters should be carried out in the general interest, which might not coincide with the interests of the 'families of the victims.' If the state, the judiciary, the government or the president thinks that an act is appropriate, necessary, and justified, then the pain of private citizens should obviously not be an impediment."

This memoir presents history through many angles on poignant subjects that most Americans would likely only be aware of if, during the 1970s, they attentively read the foreign section of a national newspaper. For the rest of us, catching up on what we missed by reading Pushing Past The Night is the next best thing.

Get your Chimichurri Chicken Wrap on! That's the message of a new Jamba Juice website that blatantly rips off the late, great comic strip Get Your War On. It's got the familiar clip-art office drones, but they're no longer ranting profanely about the murderous absurdities of the Bush years and the depredations of global capitalism. Instead, these guys just want to "capitalize on a Gobble'licious Sandwich." GYWO creator David Rees, rightfully annoyed, has declared "No Juicetice, No Peace!" But he also gets that there's not much he can do about a big company appropriating appropriation from the cool kids. His advice to his supporters:

Pray. Pray for the destruction of the Temple of Juice. No, seriously? Just remember that most corporations are lame, and most advertising/marketing agencies are lame, and this kind of lame, dispiriting appropriation happens all the time. Just always keep that thought somewhere in your head. And drink wine instead of juice.

Though I'm kind of wondering if Rees didn't plant the seeds for the Jamba "tribute" site with his penultimate strip in January. Did this...

...get some ad team thinking it would be clever to answer with this?