Mojo - February 2007

Rampant Abuse of GLBT Students in US Schools

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 8:32 PM EST

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A study released last week by Human Rights Watch reads, in part:

In the United States, only 55 percent of students say they feel safe in school. Human Rights Watch found that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in many U.S. schools are particularly vulnerable to unrelenting harassment from their peers. Despite the pervasiveness of the abuse, few school officials intervened to stop the harassment or to hold the abusive students accountable; in fact, some teachers and administrators encouraged or participated in the abuse. Over time, verbal harassment often escalated into sexual harassment and other forms of physical violence.

Turns out all the drumming up of anti-gay sentiment Republicans have been doing to win elections has real consequences. For kids.

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Thought Things Couldn't Get Worse in Iraq?

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 7:39 PM EST

Wrong again. Today, our last ally of note, the UK, announced that it had seen the writing on the wall and will begin withdrawing troops. (Denmark and Lithuania are also going to begin withdrawal.) Add to that a new tactic being used by insurgents: bombs that dispense lethal chlorine gas. Three such bombs have exploded in the last month, killing 27 and wounding 180, and insurgents haven't yet learned how to use the bombs most effectively.

The insurgents have another new tactic: Shooting American helicopters out of the sky. They've had success with that as well, shooting down their first chopper today since the military said it was changing flight patters to thwart the emerging trend.

Add to that that the much-touted crackdown in Baghdad is a flop (with violence spilling out of the security zones and continuing within) and what you have is a situation anyone in their right mind would get the hell out of, post-haste.

So?

Guess Who's Coming to the GOP Fundraiser?

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 6:21 PM EST

jimmy_camp.gifOne of the GOP hard-hitting political campaign managers in California is a punk musician and one-time druggie who disappears for days at a time running from the police. Said chairman of the state Republican party: "Some of the more conservative (politicos) are taken aback by the tattoos and leather jacket, but that goes away as soon as they realize how good he is at what he does."

If only social conservatives could grant the rest of us the same largesse.

Read a complete (two-part) profile here and here.

John McCain Might as Well be Gay

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 4:40 PM EST

Asked if they'd be willing to vote for a "generally well-qualified" candidate with the following characteristics, here's how Americans responded in a Feb. 9-11 Gallup poll.

Black 94%
Jewish 92%
A woman 88%
Hispanic 87%
Mormon 72%
Married for third time 67%
72 years of age 57%
A homosexual 55%
An atheist 45%

Several things stand out. First, Americans are much more tolerant of inherent characteristics (race, sex) than of things they view as a candidate's choice (religion, sexual orientation, marriage tendencies), which means we've moved past racism to simple prejudice. Take that for what it's worth.

Also, John McCain is old -- so old that his age puts him at the same disadvantage as a gay candidate for president, the very idea of which must horrify a huge portion of our (obviously) homophobic electorate and would galvanize the religious right. I suspect we should take these numbers with a grain of salt, but... wow.

(H/T Crooks and Liars)

Increase in STD Vaccines Signals Trouble for Abstinence Industry

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 4:35 PM EST

Via Feministing, we learn that there is a new shot to prevent chlamydia in the works. It seems STD prevention in the form of needles is the new black. A few weeks back, Cameron plugged this Prospect piece on the new HPV vaccine. The article discussed that low income girls do not have access to the vaccine, due to lack of funding, but are most at risk. Today, Feministing discusses "the clam" as well as what the proliferation of STD-prevention shots could mean for the abstinence-only education industry. (Mother Jones did a profile on this billion-dollar industry in our November/December 2006 issue.)

"If the scientific community continues to develop STD vaccines, abstinence-only programs are going to have to resort to their far-weaker arguments about the emotional/moral consequences of sex rather than the straight-up medical risks."

Sadr City On the Table for Security Crackdown

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 3:30 PM EST

The LA Times reports today that, due to political pressure from Sunnis, the U.S. military is now considering entering Sadr City as part of its security crackdown. This signifies a shift in strategy that many feared. Bush's top advisers on the recent surge warned last month that entering the Shi'ite neighborhood would "unnecessarily unite the country's now-splintered Shiite leadership" and "would almost certainly force the [Al Mehdi militia] into [a direct] confrontation with American troops." There has been careful consideration of the military's failed attempt to control the city in 2004 and that of the fact that among ruin and chaos in Baghdad, the neighborhood is a beacon of prosperity and calm (due to a hefty chunk of reconstruction funds from the government).

But according to the Times, all this consideration will likely be thrown out the window and surge advocates are doing a 180. It looks like once again, we are about to make a military error. What is most interesting about this shift is that, in part, it stems from rumors that Mehdi Army leader Muqtada al-Sadr has fled to Iran, opening a window for the U.S. military to move in. This rumor appears not to be true. Military analyst and surge adviser, Frederick Kagan also says that he "overestimated the Sadrists and underestimated Maliki." So, let's get this straight. We are going to enter a relatively secure (the surge is about security, right?) area, because of false intelligence and due to a lack of respect for our enemy.

In addition, there are broader consequences that a mistake like this could have within the Iraqi government. As Tim Grieve points out over at Salon's War Room:

Sadr and his supporters make up one of the key constituencies of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; if Sadr were to withdraw that support, Maliki's government might well collapse."

Rest assured, a collapse of the Iraqi government would do nothing for the security of the country. And, yes, we can't ignore the fact that Sadr City is a safe haven for the Mehdi Army and has spawned death squads, but I guarantee a few thousand troops can't do anything about that, except, maybe, make the situation worse.

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Follow Up to the Rape of Sabrine

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 12:57 PM EST

Two days ago, Jim blogged about the rape of an Iraqi woman named Sabrine that was making headlines. Sabrine had the courage to go to Al Jazeera after she was assaulted by Iraqi security forces, and her story was so powerful it was hard to ignore.

Sheikh Ahmad Abdul Ghafoor al-Samaraei, who according to the New York Times is "the head of the Sunni Endowment, whose organization cares for Sunni mosques and shrines in Iraq," came forward after Sabrine's story went public and said that he knows of many cases of rape by Iraqi security forces. (Sabrine had been taken to a police facility on suspicion of helping Sunni insurgents, and was raped there.)

Prime Minister Maliki, a Shiite and widely considered to be in the pocket of the powerful Shiite militias that control parts of Baghdad, decided to go the strongman route: He fired Samaraei and had his office release a medical report indicating that there were no signs that Sabrine had been raped. The report has some nasty things to add: "We expected this fabricated propaganda... It seems that the success of the law enforcing plan was resented by some people because it foils some political calculations."

The United States has supported some disgusting characters in the past 50-100 years, but as a country we've always had some distance from the chaos and pain our goons created. Now we're getting a history lesson.

Update: Maliki has called the woman an imposter and a criminal and has made her name public. He is insisting that the officers accused of the rape be honored.

Hillary the Hawk

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 11:38 AM EST

Out of the Hillary fog bank, comes a voice of reason in the form of Bob Scheer's Truthdig blog. He says what every politician knows: Hillary is the Democrats' stealth war candidate.

Let's face it: No matter how much many of us who oppose the war in Iraq would also love to elect a female president, Hillary Clinton is not a peace candidate. She is an unrepentant hawk, à la Joe Lieberman. She believed invading Iraq was a good idea, all available evidence to the contrary, and she has, once again, made it clear that she still does.
"If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast a vote [to authorize the war] or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from," she said in New Hampshire last week, confusing contempt for antiwar Americans — now a majority — with the courage of her indefensible conviction that she bears no responsibility for the humanitarian, economic and military disaster our occupation has wrought.

Read the whole thing here.

This election already is resembling 2004: Moneybags Hillary coming out of the Democratic Leadership Council, as the candidate of the middle class, i.e. status quo. Like Lieberman before her, Hillary is ranked against the so-called left. In 2004 the DLC gang saw Howard Dean as the commie slime. (Dean,of course, is a conservative doctor whose major left wing interest as Vermont governor was providiing children with health care.) But much to the chagrin of the rightwing Dems, Dean is still hanging around. He can be a real pain in the ass. As head of the Democratic National Committee, he knows where the bodies are buried in the Dem garbage dump.

Obama remains a curiosity in all this. The one person who actually might win the election for the Dems is John Edwards. He was a DLCer in 2004, but appears to have shaken off the deadly soccer mom image and is flirting with populist notions. Then there's Gore, who almost surely will get a pat on the back from Oscar for his climate movie and could turn out to be the Hollywood candidate. If that's the case, Gore will have money to fight Hillary.

Mother Jones Exclusive: How the Iraq War Inspired a Wave of Global Terrorism

| Tue Feb. 20, 2007 9:30 PM EST
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The White House has long claimed that our presence in Iraq attracts terrorists who might otherwise attack American interests. This assertion has always seemed dubious, but in a new Mother Jones exclusive study, Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank put the "flypaper" theory firmly to rest. They've crunched the numbers and found that the Iraq War has, in fact, led to a significant increase in jihadist terrorism across the globe. Call it the "Iraq Effect." If you include Iraq and Afghanistan, terror attacks have increased 609% since the U.S. took Baghdad; take away Iraq and Afghanistan and the increase drops, but it's still a hefty 35%. Rather than eliminating terrorists, Bergen and Cruickshank explain, the war has energized terror groups and become a "catalyst for the increasing globalization of the jihadist cause." It's a sobering assessment of an overlooked consequence of the Iraq debacle.

The full study will be posted tonight at 10 PM Eastern/7 PM Pacific, when Bergen and Cruickshank will be appearing on Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN to discuss the Iraq Effect. Bergen will appear on C-Span's Washington Journal tomorrow morning at 9:15 AM Eastern/6:15 AM Pacific.

And stay tuned as we roll out more of our "Iraq 101" package tonight. It's loaded with info on everything you wanted to know about the war but were afraid to ask.

Hip-Hop On the Couch, PBS Tonight

| Tue Feb. 20, 2007 8:48 PM EST

Don't miss Beyond Beats and Rhymes, a documentary on violence, sexism and homophobia in hip-hop, airing tonight on PBS. Including interviews with some big timers -- Mos Def, Fat Joe, Chuck D, Russell Simmons -- as well as a slew of hip-hop insiders and rap fans, the filmmaker goes there, and some balk (like Simmons and the head of BET).

Byron Hurt, a novice documentarian but veteran hip-hop head, calls out his fellow black men asking how the bravado that encourages guns, violence, sexual violence and homophobia is also the pride of the community. Rap artist Jadakiss asks in response, "Do you watch movies? What kind of movies do you watch?" pointing out that what sells in hip-hop is no different than what sells in Hollywood: sex and violence. In one scene Hurt asks some unknowns to rhyme for him and all they spit are lines about sex, drugs, killing. He calls them on it and one of them starts rhyming about poverty, and drugs in the community, then stops and says, "no one wants to hear that." And more to the point, no one can get a record deal rapping thusly.

Sexism? Just look at politics -- there's a clip of Schwarzenegger's "girly man" comment illustrating that hip hop is not misogyny's first, or only, rodeo. Homophobia, says Hurt and others, comes in part from the macho over-the-top display of physical dominance in hip-hop that means power, where powerful white men, like say Donald Trump, can hide behind the desk (and hair) and still have power.

Other scenes are set in Daytona Beach at BET's annual Spring Bling and show firsthand the sexism at play, and the disconnect between the music and message. Hurt talks with one white kid from suburbia whose blasting rap from his dad's truck. The guy says he's loved hip hop "since forever, the beginning," identifies with it, then in the next breath refers to Byron and black folks as "colored people." (Hurt calls him on it.)

Hurt is knee deep in this one, expressing his conflicted feelings about making the documentary, feeling such allegiance to the medium, hip-hop being part of him, but also wanting to ask the questions no one seems to be asking.

Indeed, there are lots of questions, for every level of the industry, really provocative stuff. And if you are a teacher, or an educator, or a provider of some kind who has an audience for the film Independent Lens is putting together an educational program to match, check it out here.

And for a steady stream of posts on music, films to watch, and general cultural commentary bookmark The Riff.