Mojo - March 2007

Obama's Poor Showing on the Gay Immorality Question

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 4:34 PM EDT

This morning, I wrote about Hillary Clinton's refusal to give a straight answer to a question about whether she agreed Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who got in hot water for saying homosexuality is immoral. Instead of saying, "No, I don't agree with General Pace. I am a long time supporter of gay rights," Clinton said, "I'm going to leave that to others to conclude." Realizing the insanity of the situation, Clinton's campaign later released a statement saying that Clinton does not agree with the General.

Looks like Obama did the same thing, at least sort of. A Newsday reporter caught Obama as he was leaving Capitol Hill and asked him if he agreed with Pace. Obama said, "I think traditionally the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman has restricted his public comments to military matters. That's probably a good tradition to follow." When asked for a straight answer, the senator from Illinois, in an attempt to reframe the question as one about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," said, "I think the question here is whether somebody is willing to sacrifice for their country."

Actually, the question is, "Do you think homosexuality is immoral?" And the answer is "Of course not." Recognizing that, the Obama campaign did like the Clinton one and released a statement later in the day saying Obama disagrees with Pace.

I truly look forward to a time a generation from now when America will have politicians who will face questions like the ones Obama and Clinton faced today, and say, "Don't be ridiculous." I know homophobia won't be stamped out, but at least being a homophobe won't be acceptable publicly and even desirable (!) politically.

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Emergency Contraception, Is It Just Around Your Corner?

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 1:01 PM EDT

I love Feministing for finds like this. They call it "Head-banging emergency contraception." Ha. It's a Planned Parenthood commercial for ec.

More on the KSM Confessions

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 12:17 PM EDT

In addition to Jonathan's post below, there are other reasons to think something is fishy with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confessions. Kyle Hence at the 9/11 Citizens Watch puts it this way: "For a number of reasons I am just not buying this so-called confession by KSM. Why can't we hear the audio of the so-called confessions? And why is it no one in the media or general public, not a single person, has a seen but two photos of this man and not a single clip of video? Think about it. It's been three years since his capture and we have only two photos of the man whose story was at the core of the 9/11 Commission Report. Why are there no cameras, even military ones, in the tribunal courtroom? Were there no photographers, even military photographers, on the flight that transferred him to Guantanamo? What national security concerns could possibly nix cameras or digital audio recorders from documenting the professed 'mastermind' of the worst terrorist attack in history?"

Readers: Any idea what's going on here?

KSM Admits to Planning 9/11 and Every Terrorist Act Ever: Should We Be Suspicious?

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 10:37 AM EDT

So it looks like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al Qaeda No. 3 long-reputed to be the mastermind behind 9/11, was a worse dude than anyone thought. Last night, the Pentagon released a 26-page transcript of a closed hearing in which KSM (as he's called) admitted to planning or executing 31 terrorist acts, some successful and some unsuccessful. I think it's safe to assume he's sealed his death sentence.

From the AP, snippets of things KSM reportedly admitted to:

- The 9/11 attacks.

- The 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

- The failed Richard Reid shoe bombing.

- The beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

- Attempted assassinations of Pope John Paul II, President Clinton and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

- The 2002 bombing of a Kenya beach resort.

- The 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia.

- Planned but unexecuted attacks on the Sears Tower, the Empire State Building, the New York Stock Exchange, the Panama Canal, the Big Ben clock tower in London, and Heathrow Airport.

The two questions I have are:

(1) Were these admissions the product of torture? I mean torture in the immediate sense and in the "KSM has been through the black site prison system for three years and has probably been tortured dozens of times, creating a lasting psychological effect that might impair his ability to think, judge, and communicate." If KSM were to be tried in a court of law, would his confessions hold up?

(2) Should we be suspicious of the timing? Who knows when these admissions were actually made. All we do know -- as Josh Marshall points out -- is that their release is timed to knock Alberto Gonzales and the Attorney General flap off the front pages. Remember when Jose Padilla's arrest was announced? John Ashcroft interrupted a trip to Russia to declare that the U.S. had arrested a domestic terrorist and heroically stopped his "dirty bomb" attack. As it turned out, Padilla had been arrested a month before and Ashcroft's announcement was timed to knock a bunch of bad news out of the headlines. And the government could never prove the "dirty bomb" charge.

It's a true shame that even when a really nasty guy is caught and proven guilty, alert citizens have to be suspicious and skeptical of the Administration's behavior. But it poisoned the well from which we all drink.

Brownback Doing Just Fine in the Polls, Thank You Very Much

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 9:54 AM EDT

In an encouraging sign for right-wing Bible thumpers who want to see the American government run like a Christian theocracy, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback ("God's Senator"!) has done surprisingly well in recent head-to-head polls against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Sen. Hillary Clinton - 46%
Sen. Sam Brownback - 41%

Sen. Barack Obama - 49%
Sen. Sam Brownback - 34%

I hope we can chalk this up to the fact that most Americans don't know much about Sam Brownback. Like how he refused to sign Newt Gingrich's Contract with America because it wasn't conservative enough. Or how his political idol is Jesse Helms. Or how his wife boasts, "Basically, I live in the kitchen." Or how he once stonewalled a judicial confirmation because the nominee had attended the lesbian commitment ceremony of a longtime neighbor's daughter. Or how he said that abortion has become such a problem in America that youth today "feel they're the survivors of a holocaust." Either Americans are willing to answer poll questions about people they are almost completely ignorant of, or there's some divine intervention going on here.

Prosecutor Purge: Senate Doesn't Care What Bush Says, Going to Subpoena White House Officials

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 9:19 AM EDT

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on whether to authorize subpoenas for top White House officials who have been implicated in the recent firings of eight U.S. Attorneys. Throughout his presidency, Bush has asserted his executive privilege often. If Bush denies requests by the Senate and House to speak with Harriet Miers, Miers' top aide William Kelley and Karl Rove, it could get ugly. From TPMmuckraker's news-culling of today's papers, we see that the senate committee doesn't really care whether the president authorizes the officials to explain themselves or not. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy said, "Frankly, I don't care whether Fielding (White House counsel who will report the President's decision to Congress) says he's going to allow people or not. We'll subpoena the people we want.... If they want to defy the subpoena, then you get into a stonewall situation I suspect they don't want to have."

Did I mention I love divided government?

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Giuliani and Hugo Chavez, Quite the Couple

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 9:18 AM EDT

Found this hilarious: Rudy Giuliani's law firm is paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby on behalf of Citgo, the Houston-based oil company controlled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Chavez, as you know, refers to Bush as "the devil," once claimed at the U.N. when speaking a day after George W. Bush that the podium shared by both smelled "of sulfur," and lobbed insults at Bush repeatedly as our beloved presidente traveled South America on his recent tour.

Giuliani's people are claiming that even though the law firm is named Bracewell & Giuliani, Giuliani had nothing to do with the account. Whoops!

Seriously, WTF? Hillary Clinton Waffles on Whether or Not Homosexuality is "Immoral"

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 8:39 AM EDT

What a pathetic little saga. When ABC News asked Hillary Clinton yesterday if she agreed with General Peter Pace's comment that homosexuality is "immoral," Clinton responded, "Well I'm going to leave that to others to conclude." This despite her long history of supporting the gay community and her previously stated opposition to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

It was either the biggest brain fart of the campaign season to date, or a really, really ugly attempt to tack to the center -- what's a little bigotry in the name of campaign-season moderation? I've always agreed with the sentiment that Clinton is running for the general election, not the primary -- everything she says and does is geared towards making her palatable to the country as a whole, not just the hardcore Dems that vote in primaries. But nonetheless, this is insane.

And the Clinton camp thought so too. So later in the day, the communications folks there released a statement from Clinton saying, "I disagree with what [Pace] said and do not share his view, plain and simple.... It is inappropriate to inject such personal views into this public policy matter, especially at a time in which there are young men and women in such grave circumstances in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in other dangerous places around the world."

There are rumors that Barack Obama also dodged the question when asked about it yesterday. If so, expect another indignant blog post later in the day.

Mother Jones Nominated for Two National Magazine Awards

| Wed Mar. 14, 2007 9:14 PM EDT

Well, the moment long awaited by a couple hundred magazine editors and virtually unnoticed by the rest of the world has finally arrived! Finalists for the 2007 National Magazine Awards (read: stuff we all printed in 2006) were announced today, and Mother Jones scored two nominations, which is less than the New Yorker, but just as many as Time.

We got the big one, General Excellence! Which is sort of like being nominated for Best Picture. OK, in our circulation size (between 100,00 and 250,000), it's probably more like Best Foreign Feature. But still! Our fellow nominees are: Foreign Policy, Philadelphia Magazine, Salt Water Sportsman, Seed. If we get just a little bigger (hint: subscribe, you webbies) we'd be up against the likes of (this year) The Atlantic, New York, Audubon, Texas Monthly, and Cookie (sadly, not as yummy as it sounded).

Check out the three issues that got us this far here, here, and here.

And we were also nominated for Best Interactive Feature, for our fabulous(ly labor intensive) Lie by Lie: Iraq War Timeline. Learn more about it here.

MoJo last won in 2001, for General Excellence. Last year we were nominated for Public Interest for our ExxonMobil exposé.

A list of the mags that got multiple nominations is after the jump. You can go to the full breakdown here.

Meanwhile, thanks to everyone involved. Staff, former staff, writers, illustrators, photographers, fact-checkers, web designers, subscribers, donors, advertisers, to say nothing of our agents, personal trainers, life coaches, Harvey Weinstein....

Military Man in a Pickle Over Anti-Gay Remark

| Wed Mar. 14, 2007 8:26 PM EDT

pace.jpgComments made by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune may make his, from a PR perspective, one of the most disastrous interviews ever given.

Pace said he believed homosexuality was immoral and that he doesn't "believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way." He compared homosexuality to adultery, I suppose to avoid the obviously delusional comparisons conservatives such as Rick Santorum have made. But his comparison raises the question: Will the military institute a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy with regard to adultery?

Of course, Pace was only saying what most military men think—but the military, led by Colin Powell, carefully crafted an alibi for its homophobia when it demanded in 1993 that Clinton not allow out gays to serve in the military. It's not that we're homophobic, the brass said; it's that the grunts are so homophobic they'd sooner fight a gay platoon-mate than the enemy—and that's OK.

Pace also violated another military stance in speaking the truth that dare not speak its name. The military is, at present, desperate not to revisit the gays in the military issue, because commanders know now would be an opportune time to repeal the rule. Homophobes can get down with the idea of sending gays and lesbians off to die for them, as evidenced by the drop by half in the annual number of soldiers discharged for being gay since 9/11. More than half of all Americans support lifting the ban.

John Warner, a Republican on the Armed Services Committee, suggested that the policy will at least be reviewed when he said, "I respectfully but strongly disagree with the chairman's view that homosexuality is immoral." A Republican! This could only happen with the military desperate to boost its numbers.