Mojo - August 2007

Seven Active Duty Soldiers in Iraq Take to the Pages of the NY Times

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 10:45 AM EDT

I would consider this a direct rebuke of Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack.

VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal... The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework...
Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, "We need security, not free food."
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Read the full thing here.

Update: There is a really good reported piece on life in Baghdad in Newsweek today. Here's the passage with the most direct summary, but the rest is filled with captivating details and personal stories:

While security is returning to some areas of Baghdad, modern conveniences aren't necessarily following. The Iraqi capital is no longer the place described in the old guidebooks, a metropolis of casinos, culture and Western-run hotel chains, although vestiges of that city can still be found. Instead, unceasing violence has thrust Baghdad back to a more primitive era, forcing its people to take up pre-industrial occupations and rediscover almost forgotten technologies. The collapse of municipal water services has revived the profession of well-digging... Donkey and horse carts are increasingly common on the capital's streets...

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"Tepid" Interest for a Rummy Iraq Book

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 9:49 AM EDT

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been fishing for a deal for a book that would justify the Iraq war. There's just one problem, the New York Post reports. Publishers aren't very interested.

IN the latest development in the quest by Donald Rumsfeld to snag a book deal, a well-placed industry source said the former Secretary of Defense has received only tepid interest from a handful of publishers.
As a result, he now plans to make it a full-blown autobiography rather than simply a treatment of his six years in the cabinet. ...

More Wikipedia Fun (Waaaaah!)

| Sun Aug. 19, 2007 2:06 AM EDT

So the Times has gotten around to a story on Wikiscanner, the new online tool that allows you to look up Wikipedia edits made from computers at various organizations, companies, etc. (Check out our favorite editing wars here, and our interview with Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales on politics 2.0 here.) It's got some choice tidbits—someone at the Gray Lady edited the entry for Condoleezza Rice to change "pianist" to "penis"—but overall, the BBC take a couple of days ago was more amusing (h/t to our own Cameron Scott). There's the CIA bit Bruce blogged on:

On the profile of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the tool indicates that a worker on the CIA network reportedly added the exclamation "Wahhhhhh!" before a section on the leader's plans for his presidency.

There's also this:

The site also indicates that a computer owned by the US Democratic Party was used to make changes to the site of right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

The changes brand Mr Limbaugh as "idiotic," a "racist", and a "bigot". An entry about his audience now reads: "Most of them are legally retarded."

[...]"We don't condone these sorts of activities and we take every precaution to ensure that our network is used in a responsible manner," Doug Thornell of the DCCC told the BBC News website.

And the list goes on... someone at Diebold removed a reference to the company chairman Walden O'Dell being a top Bush fundraiser... the Vatican edited an entry on Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams... But why let other people have all the fun. Try it yourself. (A "Mother Jones" search, sadly, finds no entries. But why is someone at the Republican Party editing the "Baking" entry to add a citation for "bottom broiler"?

Man Arrested For Holding "Impeach" Sign

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 7:16 PM EDT

Jonas Phillips, a native of Asheville, North Carolina, sometimes stands at an Interstate overpass near his workplace and holds a sign that reads Impeach Bush-Cheney. Wednesday morning, he'd been standing there about ten minutes when he was approached by one Russell Crisp of the Asheville Police Department. Crisp asked Phillips how long he intended to stay in his spot, and Philips said not long--he had to be at work shortly. The officer then asked Phillips for his ID. Phillips asked if he had done anything wrong, and Crisp said only that a sergeant was on the way.

Sergeant Randy Riddle then appeared, told Phillips to put his sign down and to place his hands behind his back. He then arrested and handcuffed Phillips, and—when asked—informed him that he was in violation of County Ordinance 16-2, and that he was obstructing the sidewalk. Phillips replied that Officer Crisp had witnessed a man walk by him and his sign and could therefore attest that the sidewalk had not been obstructed.

According to Phillips, Riddle then yelled "You were obstructing the sidewalk!" "I'm sick of this shit!" and "Here's your fifteen minutes of fame, buddy." (Do you think Crisp has a working knowledge of Warhol?)

Once at the jail, Phillips says he was repeatedly questioned about his memberships in particular groups—Veterans for Peace and the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action. He was then searched, photographed and given a court date.

Phillips reports that in Asheville, it is legal to stage a protest on a city sidewalk without a permit. According to his wife, he has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union for help. Also, the police are considering changing the charge to a state violation of endangering motorists. After all, he must be guilty of something.

Breaking: Tony Snow Resigning

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 6:55 PM EDT

After less than a year and a half as the White House spokesman, Tony Snow plans on leaving the gig. So says CNN. Props to them for throwing in this bit:

Snow told conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday that "financial reasons" may prevent him for serving the remainder of his boss's presidency.
"I'm not going to be able to go the distance, but that's primarily for financial reasons." Snow said. "I've told people when my money runs out, then I've got to go."
According to The Washington Post, Snow makes $168,000 as the White House spokesman.

Maybe this is all an elaborate ruse to get a raise...

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Jenna Tidbit

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 4:34 PM EDT

From the NYT, almost too good to believe:

Jenna Bush recently finished a book based on her experience working with Unicef, called "Ana's Story," about a teenage single mother living with H.I.V. Ms. Bush is working on a children's book with her mother about "a mischievous little boy who likes to do everything but read," according to the publisher, HarperCollins.

Too many jokes...

Also getting married: Andrew Sullivan.

Clinton Leaving Obama in the Dust: New Cali Poll Results

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 4:01 PM EDT

Wow, the gap is worse than Obama's people might have feared. As Ryan Lizza wrote in GQ, back in the spring:

Obama's pollsters were finding alarming evidence that their candidate was vulnerable to the same phenomenon. When they compared the percentage of Democrats who said they strongly approved of Obama with the percentage who said they would vote for him, they found that the latter number was significantly lower than the former. Inside the campaign, aides dubbed this "the Gap." It was a sobering, hard number that quantified the difference between vague enthusiasm and actual votes. For Hillary Clinton, the gap is much smaller. The majority of voters who strongly approve of her also say they will vote for her.

And that seems to be borne out by some shocking new poll results (California only folks) today (via the SF Chron):

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, bolstered by an aggressive campaign organization in California, has amassed a whopping 30-point lead over Illinois Sen. Barack Obama &mdash and enjoys more support among likely voters in the state Democratic primary than all of her Democratic presidential rivals combined, a Field Poll released today shows.
The poll solidifies Clinton's position as the clear front-runner in the nation's most populous state &mdash and raises questions about Obama's effort in California, whose primary is Feb. 5. The Illinois senator has seen his support drop by one-third since the previous Field Poll taken in March....
Clinton's strengths in California include a crushing 4-1 lead among Latino voters, a more than 2-1 lead among women and African American voters, and at least a 2-1 lead in every geographic region in the state, the poll showed. She is also the overwhelming favorite in all age groups and ethnic groups and at every education level.
The robust poll findings, DiCamillo said, suggest Clinton may be putting to rest some of the commonly cited worries of Democrats regarding her campaign — that she could be too divisive and therefore less attractive to independent and swing voters.
"I was looking for hints of vulnerability... and it's not really there in the data," DiCamillo said. "One theory was she is going to do very poorly among Republicans ... (but) you don't really see any evidence to support that."
The poll showed that all three top Democratic candidates would defeat the four leading Republicans: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and Arizona Sen. John McCain.
But Clinton appears strongest in head-to-head matchups &mdash leading all the GOP candidates by 15 to 20 percentage points.

Did Obama peak too early? Or is it too early to tell much from poll numbers? It's an impressive ground effort in California, that much seems clear.

More Recalls: Flaming Fords Back in the News

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 3:41 PM EDT

If you own one of the 3.6 million Ford cars and trucks now being recalled due to a cruise control mechanism that can spontaneously catch fire (full list of vehicles here), don't be surprised. Media outlets have been reporting on the faulty part for years now, and Ford has been recalling vehicles that include it in fits and starts. This last batch of cars and trucks brings the total vehicles recalled because of the part to 10 million.

Mother Jones is one of those news outlets that has reported on the issue. For more info on the recall, the faulty part, and the damage done to Ford's customers because of it, see "Flaming Fords" from our March/April 2006 issue.

Sometimes Fame Isn't Enough...

| Fri Aug. 17, 2007 12:48 PM EDT

Two stories of mistaken identity:


  1. Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu mistaken for a bag lady.

  • Writer Stephen King mistaken for a vandal.