Mojo - January 2007

D'oh! We Still Don't Have Any Good Iraq Intel

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 3:01 AM PST

Belatedly (because, er, I lost my blog password and BOTH my computers melted down and the dog ate my keyboard), let us praise CQ's Jeff Stein for pointing out that among the casualties of Baghdad's continuing meltdown is... the CIA.

According to several well informed intelligence sources, hundreds of CIA operatives have become virtual prisoners in the Green Zone, the sprawling American enclave whose high walls and guards separate the U.S. embassy, military command and related civilian agencies from the raging sectarian violence in Baghdad's streets.
The CIA operatives cannot safely roam the city to meet their few agents, much less recruit new ones.
It's just too dangerous. CIA chiefs don't want to risk one getting kidnapped, tortured on camera and beheaded.
That would certainly dampen the allure of a career in the CIA.
So "they spend their days playing cards and watching DVDs," said a former senior CIA operations official who maintains close ties in the agency.

You can't make this stuff up.

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Clueless White Writer + Hipster = Clipster?

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 1:22 AM PST

Yesterday's NY Times plays the race card with an article on, well... black people who like indie rock. Or make indie rock. Or, um, skateboard. Cause white people totally do that! Idolator already has some choice comments about this strange piece (correctly pointing out that UrbanDictionary.com is a kind of lazy source, even for the Gray Lady), and some bloggers and journos have taken exception to the Times' unironic use of the term "blipster" (as in, "black hipster"). Some other blogs point out that blacks didn't just saunter away from rock music because they felt like rapping (see Colonel K's blog entry here)...

See the full version of "Clueless White Writer + Hipster = Clipster?" on Mother Jones' new Arts and Culture blog, The Riff.

Air America Goes Green (& Al Franken Takes the Green and Runs)

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 10:13 PM PST

The latest chapter in the looooong saga of Air America has evidently been penned, but I must say that even those of us who'd wondered if the network's tortured history had become parody/proof of the right's criticism of the left didn't quite see this one coming. AA or Ax2 or Asquared will, it seems, be acquired by NYC real estate mogul Stephen Green, brother of perennial NY mayor/senate/attorney general candiate Mark Green. "Speaking only as the brother of the purchaser," Mark Green, who's also played guest host on AA, told the NYT that "no hiring or programming positions had been decided for the network, should the deal go through."

None 'cept one, I'd guess.

And if Brother Green becomes a permanent AA personality, he won't have to live in the shadow of Al Franken. Franken, who'd been paid a truly outrageous $2 million a year—10 times more than "many other syndicated hosts with a similar audience reach"—will host his last show on Valentine's Day. Franken's outsized salary makes him an easy target for those who mourn AA's passing, but to my mind it's just further proof that the people behind the network (and there have been lots) just had too much money and little idea of the media terrain. Wishing you (and why would you?) had a lefty 24-hour equivalent to Rush/Imus don't make it so people.

Meanwhile, Spinsanity Alert: Green said the sale will, in the words of the NYT, "usher in a new phase for Air America, focused on digital content distribution rather than radio."

"In this digital era, the tech changes by the day and Air America Radio has to become something of a new media company," Mark Green said. "We look forward to an A.A.R. 2.0 that has sharp smart content better distributed over a variety of platforms. And what better time to try this than with progressive and democratic values obviously on the rise?"

So does this mean that Stephen is buying his brother a podcast? If so, Senator Chris Dodd has some programming suggestions.

One Important Question in the Blossoming Health Care Debate

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 5:46 PM PST

Universal health care is already shaping up to be a central theme of the 2008 presidential campaign, with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards all strongly in favor.

Here's my question. If

(1) Obama, Clinton, and Edwards are prepared to stand by their pledges to provide health care for all Americans, and

(2) Congressional democrats are prepared to stand by their pledges for a balanced budget, then

(3) Are the aforementioned candidates prepared to raise taxes?

Edwards is on the record with a response, and I respect it. "Edwards: Universal Health Care Trumps Balanced Budget." Barack and Hillary, what say you?

Update: More evidence that Edwards has taken the lead on this from Ezra Klein. Worth checking out; the man speaks honestly and openly about the tough choices America will have to make when setting its priorities for the next presidential term.

Introducing Two New Blogs: The Blue Marble and The Riff

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 2:04 PM PST

Though still a bit beta, please check out our two new blogs. The Blue Marble is our blog on the Environment and Health (and related policy) while The Riff is our culture blog: basically the space where we can rant about books, music, movies, TV, celebrities, eating, gaming, and whatever other leisure activities come to mind. MoJo staff will contribute to both new blogs, but we're also fortunate to have MoJo contributing writer and science geek extraordinaire Julia Whitty anchor Blue Marble. And over at The Riff, DJ Party Ben (aka Ben Gill), king of the mashups, will provide us with occasional mashups, music reviews, and rants on whatever he damn well pleases.

So we expect some tasty mashups from Ben in a day or so*. Meanwhile, if you want to learn why we chose the name Blue Marble, read this.

*Update: Party Ben has just posted his first 2007 Mother Jones Mashup: Faithless vs. George W. Bush's SOTU. Go take a listen at The Riff.

BBC Reports GlaxoSmithKline Paid Academics to Fudge Data on Child Paxil/Suicide Link

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 12:27 PM PST

The BBC is broadcasting a report later today alleging GSK tried basically tried to make up for studies that showed that Paxil did not help depressed children (and put some at risk of suicide) by issuing other studies, studies that just so happened to be conducted by scientists on their payroll, that found guess what? Just the opposite...

Read the rest of this post over at The Blue Marble, our new Environment and Health blog.

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A Reader Writes In...

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 12:03 PM PST

Loyal reader Gordon writes in with a late observation about the interview Cheney gave to CNN last week in which the vice president called suggestions that the war is going badly "hogwash" and summarized conditions in Iraq by saying, "Bottom line is that we've had enormous successes and we will continue to have enormous successes."

Gordon's question: Mr. Vice President, given that things are going so well, how do you explain the need for 20,000 more troops?

Joe Lieberman: "Yeah, Sure, What's Wrong With Supporting a Republican for President?"

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 11:50 AM PST

Lieberman sat down with Fox News on Sunday and said that he is considering supporting a Republican for president. I'm going to put some block quotes below so you can read for yourself, but consider this question: Is this a product of (1) Joe's anger from the treatment he received from the Democrats in the last campaign cycle, when Democratic Party support for Ned Lamont almost ended Joe's political career, (2) a genuine rightward shift in Joe's thinking, or (3) Joe's desire to scare the crap out of the Democratic Party to gain leverage and to force it into buying him off with deferential treatment and plum positions/gigs? Hard to tell.

WALLACE: Let's look ahead to 2008. Are there any Democrats who appear to be running at this point that you could support for president?
LIEBERMAN: Are there any Democrats who don't appear to be running at this point? Look, I've had a very political couple of years in Connecticut, and I'm stepping back for a while to concentrate on being the best senator I can be for my state and my country.
I'm also an Independent-Democrat now, and I'm going to do what most Independents and a lot of Democrats and Republicans in America do, which is to take a look at all the candidates and then in the end, regardless of party, decide who I think will be best for the future of our country.
So I'm open to supporting a Democrat, Republican or even an Independent, if there's a strong one. Stay tuned.

There's a ton of smarmy Lieberman being Lieberman. Bashing Democrats, agreeing with the president... Read it for yourself.

Republican Sens. Snowe and Collins -- Hurting Their Own Chances in Future Elections?

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 11:24 AM PST

I saw on TPM's Election Central that moderate Republican senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are endorsing John McCain for president. It's a bit odd because Snowe and Collins, both from Maine, have come out against the surge that is so thoroughly associated with John McCain that is being called the "McCain Doctrine." But they have years of experience working together in the Senate back when John McCain was a moderate, so I can understand the move.

But it got me wondering. A ton of people are talking about John McCain's presidential hopes like they are dead in the water, because McCain is the main proponent of a failing and miserably unpopular war and because McCain's move rightward to embrace social conservatives/extremists has lost him support amongst independents and failed to convince some of the most important figures of the religious right. If McCain becomes persona non grata in a few months -- previously unthinkable, right? -- will House and Senate candidates avoid him on the '08 campaign trail the same way Republicans avoided Bush in 2006?

Let's say that is the case. The folks who are going to eat it the worst are the moderates, because a leftward shift in American voting (I won't say a leftward shift in America, because I think this is still a conservative country) will swallow up those closest to the water mark. Witness the loss of Lincoln Chafee in last year's midterms. That means Snowe and Collins are up next. Snowe was just reelected in 2006, which is why she can afford to align herself with a potential political landmine like McCain, but Collins has a reelection battle coming up in less than two years. Trouble brewing...

Fox News Admits Obama/Muslim Story Was Toxic

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 10:43 AM PST

The New York Times has a story that gets a comment from all the major players in the "Is Obama Secretly a Muslim??" semi-scandal that we wrote about as long as ten days ago.

The story -- that Obama was educated at a madrassa for a few years as a child, and has hidden the fact that he was raised Muslim -- was originally published by Insight, a website run by the Moonies that is closely associated with the conservative Washington Times. It carried no byline and used anonymous sources. Not surprisingly, the whole thing was thoroughly debunked by CNN only days after it hit the web. The Times reports that even the Wash Times wouldn't touch the story with a ten-foot pole.

Its national editor sent an e-mail message to staff members under the heading "Insight Strikes Again" telling them to "make sure that no mention of any Insight story" appeared in the paper, and another e-mail message to its Congressional correspondent instructing him to clarify to Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama that the Washington Times had nothing to do with the article on the Web site.

That's funny, because you know who didn't have the journalistic chops to identify a real stinker of a story? Fox News, that's who. They ran with the story big time, with multiple members of their talking head stable hashing it out over and over. Now, they're sorry.

...in an interview, John Moody, a senior vice president at Fox News, said its commentators had erred by citing the Clinton-Obama report. "The hosts violated one of our general rules, which is know what you are talking about," Mr. Moody said.

I suppose there is a joke to be made about how if the standard at Fox actually was "know what you are talking about," they'd put nothing on the air at all, but that'd be.... well, I guess I've already gone and said it, haven't I?

Anyway, Insight's editor, Jeffrey Kuhner, won't back down. "Our report on this opposition research activity is completely accurate," he told the Times. In fact, he thinks CNN got duped when it sent a reporter to Indonesia to talk with officials at the school Obama attended. Fighting words: "To simply take the word of a deputy headmaster about what was the religious curriculum of a school 35 years ago does not satisfy our standards for aggressive investigative reporting."

Hmmm. I guess that makes this little gem even funnier.

Mr. Kuhner, in an editor's note on Insight, said the Web site could not afford to "send correspondents to places like Jakarta to check out every fact in a story."